A lengthy response to David.

There’s been one helluva religious debate carrying on in the comments to one of my previous entries that has gotten quite lengthy. My latest response to it comes out to over seven pages in Microsoft Word. As a result, I’m starting a new thread just to contain it. If you’re not already participating in it then this probably won’t interest you. Hell, even if you are participating in it this may be more than you care to read. If so, then skip this entry.

Les, your first 2 arguments are so weak you must not be getting enough sleep. Or maybe you dont get the idea of being totally outside of time versus being affected by time.

My first two arguments are weak? Perhaps, but I note you haven’t bothered to address them.

Whether God is “outside of time” or “being affected by time” is irrelevant to my point. Let’s assume for the moment that God is indeed “outside of time,” as I’m often told by various believers such as you, and as such can see the whole of reality at once and thus has knowledge of all that has happened as well as all that will happen. The Universe has a beginning and an end and God is able to examine any aspect of it at any point along its timeline he desires at will. Let’s also assume that he has the power and ability to “reach into” the Universe and make adjustments, move things around, fine tune it, leave little drawings of himself and his “mom” in random objects as messages to the faithful, etc. and the effects of those changes are immediately known to him because he can examine the whole thing at once. This implies that the “future” must already exist and that the “past” continues to exist even though we, as souls traveling through it, are only able to experience it moment by moment.

Let us also assume that everything that exists in this Universe is something God created. From the smallest of elemental particles to the most complex of cosmological systems. He decided when every single thing would come into existence and when it would cease to exist, he designed what things would combine into what other things to make new things and the rules that allow for the “when, where, how and why” of it happening. The nature of all things, how they behave, what they look like, what possibilities they hold are all decisions by God and because he alone is responsible for every single thing’s existence there is nothing that can happen that he wouldn’t know would happen because he has intimate knowledge of all of reality and created the rules and processes by which reality functions. Into this Universe he drops living containers for a thing he’s created called “souls” and he imbues these souls with this intangible concept we call “free will.” Supposedly this means we are free to choose for ourselves what decisions we will make and what actions we will undertake during the course of our lives. Logically, this poses a couple of obvious paradoxes.

First is the paradox of foreknowledge. God, existing outside of time as he does, already knows every decision I will make and every action I will take because, as you have said yourself, “He views the whole thing as a completed work.” An appropriate simile would be the old clichҩ about my life being an “open book” for God. As a result my life must play out to a specific conclusion because God already knows what that conclusion is. Because I am limited to experiencing my life on a moment to moment basis, in the “here and now” as it were, I cannot know what the future will bring and thus I have the illusion of free will, but the reality is that those decisions are the only choices I can possibly make because the end result is already a known conclusion. I can’t make any choices other than the ones God already knows I will make because he already knows how the book will end. Like any character in any book, I can’t rewrite the pages on my own to change the outcome, but presumably God could if he so wanted to. Therefore if at my birth God knows I will ultimately die without accepting him in my life and thus be cast into Hell the only way that outcome will change is if God were to rewrite the story. The only way that true free will can be possible is if the future is unknowable to God. If God doesn’t know what the future holds then he is not all-knowing and could even be fallible (e.g. wrong).

The second paradox that develops from the above model is the paradox of design. If everything in the Universe is the result of a conscious set of design decisions on the part of God and God is able to know all that will ever happen in part because he has the ultimate understanding of how everything fits together and how the rules that govern reality work then logically everything that happens in a certain way does so specifically because God designed it to happen that way. In other words, my decisions that lead me to doubt my faith and eventually become an atheist weren’t a result of free will, but because I was imbued with the qualities during the design process that would invariably lead me to the point I am at now. Indeed, if one accepts the idea that God has a plan and is actively designing everything to see that the plan comes to fruition then it’s entirely possible that I was designed to lose my faith from the beginning and the plan may involve my never returning to the fold. Yet by the rules spelled out in the Bible I would be cast into Hell at the end of my life. Again, an all-knowing and all-powerful God who’s responsible for everything that exists is also responsible for all that is wrong with everything that exists.

Now, let’s move on to the second point I made which you haven’t adequately addressed:

But the point is that God knows the outcome and isnt waiting for you decide, but He is giving YOU time to decide. HeҒs giving you plenty of opportunity to do the right thing.

It amazes me that you fail to see the pointlessness in the above statement. If God knows the outcome then why does he feel the need to give me time to decide? He already knows what I will decide and that decision cannot change because he already knows what it will be (see paradox 1 above). This makes my going through the motions completely unnecessary because the outcome cannot be anything other than what God already knows it will be. Even if you can take the leap of faith necessary to believe in the idea of a God that knows the outcome of everything that will ever happen yet somehow we still retain our free will that makes us responsible for our actions, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that if he already knows what the outcome will be then there is no point in bothering with letting it play out. He could just line us all up and walk down the line pointing to each of us in turn while mumbling “Heaven, Heaven, Hell, Hell, Hell, Hell, Heaven, Hell, Hell, Heaven, Heaven” and probably have us all sorted out before lunch time. What purpose, then, does giving us time to decide have if he already knows what our decision will be?

And in the second situation: it doesnt matter one wit if IҒm omniscient or not. If my kids can choose, then they will make some bad choices, no matter what my hopes and plans are. And yes, the idea is that in the end you will stand by the choice you make.

Yes, it does matter. By not having knowledge of what the future holds you don’t impact on the concept of free will. There is no paradox simply because you can’t know for certain what your kids will ultimately decide to do with regards to your hopes and plans. Trying to argue a point such as this by contrasting your relationship with your children to God’s relationship with his creation isn’t a very good comparison.

I never claimed to spend a lot of time at infidels.org, just long enough to read the material you referenced. And Im not trotting over there to read any of this material this time. The question isnҒt whether someone else thinks there is a contradiction. Its whether you here, the people IҒm conversing with think there is. Its interesting that you already realize that most of that stuff can probably be said to be out of context. They have an agenda at infidels.org, I believe that each of us is much more interested in the truth. Although IҒm beginning to question that.

Of course they have an agenda. You have an agenda or you wouldn’t be here. And, yes, I do feel the Bible has more than it’s share of contradictions. It also has some questionable precepts in my mind as well.

Of course I realize quotes from the Bible can be taken out of context much the same way you took quotes from Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein out of context to support your points, something you didn’t seem to think was a bad thing to do at the time. I believe your exact response to that was along the lines of “I admit that I only used the part of the quote from Albert that supported my point. That may have been somewhat less than fully honest.” At which point you then went on to defend the practice as being acceptable for a couple of reasons. Now you seem to be suggesting that taking quotes out of context is a bad thing. Make up your fucking mind.

Oh wait, I see. It’s OK to take quotes out of context when it supports your point of view, but bad when it detracts from it. Yes, makes perfect sense now.

Yes, I am interested in discovering what the truth is. So far, however, I’ve yet to see much from you that would justify your arrogance in assuming what you’re pushing is the truth.

I will say that the Biblical teaching against murder is often confused with the idea that the Bible teaches against killing. This is blatantly wrong. The Bible teaches that societies have the right to defend themselves by both killing people of other societies and by killing their own citizens as a punishment for crimes. It is also clear that in the Bible, God instructed His people to commit genocide to remove all people from the land of Israel. And it wasnt just genocide, he instructed them to kill everything, even the livestock, and raze the buildings and destroy the belongings of those people. Unlike Islam, He did not instruct his people to do this whenever they wanted to expand the religion, just to clear that one particular place one particular time. Literally, He meant for them to ғkill them all and let God sort them out.

Indeed, acts like that are one of the big problems I have with the God described in the Bible. If he did exist, he has condoned and authorized acts that make him unworthy of worship in my mind. No God that condones and even demands genocide is a “loving and caring” God.

You guys caught me, itԒs true. Im human. Sometimes I use sarcasm, sometimes I attempt to bait you. I donҒt mind that you hold me to a standard, but I never claimed to be perfect, just forgiven. I certainly dont think any of you are inexplicably stupid҅ avoiding the truth, maybe.

Once again with your double standards. It’s OK for you to name call because you never claimed to be perfect, only forgiven, yet you accuse me of engaging in nothing more than name calling simply because I said “Not being based on reason or logic most people of faith are immune from the paradoxes their definitions of God tend to cause.” The reality is that most “believers” are practicing the same faith their parents practiced. In other words, the decision to believe isn’t based on any time spent reasoning out why they believe or developing a logical thought process as to why their religion is the right one, but because they “inherited” their religion from their parents and were raised in it. My observation isn’t an insult, it’s a statement based on reality.

Had I said, “Most believers are too fucking stupid to realize the paradoxes their definitions of God end up causing” THEN I would have been simply name-calling.

I also love how when people don’t agree with your argument you like to claim we are “avoiding the truth, maybe”. You claim you’re not perfect, but it doesn’t occur to you that you could be wrong. Almost like you thought you were, well, perfect.

And its true, I think pride is the root of all sin. Even from a secular viewpoint, I think I could make that argument stick. And yes, IҒm far from free of pride. But I am certainly not posting here out of a sense of superiority. I already have stated my motives, which is far more than any of you have done, so I resent the accusation.

Well, you could have fooled me. You’ve exuded a sense of superiority since the first day you showed up. You leave one with the impression that you’ve come here to set us heathens straight because you’ve got it all figured out and anyone who doesn’t agree is just avoiding the truth, or possibly stupid. No, nothing superior about that.

I’ve stated my motives many times throughout this website, but it appears you’ve limited yourself to this one thread and my wish list so you may not be aware of what my motives are.

Someone needs to tell me what the word spiritual means. If you mean a searching out of the truth about the nature of our existence, I would say that anyone whos not thought about it should. And each person needs to examine their own life in light of the truth they discover. I donҒt think most people do enough of that. But I couldnt say that about anyone whoҒs taken the time to read this thread.

I’d agree with your statement that anyone who’s not thought about it should and that each person should examine their life in light of the truth they discover. That’s how I got to viewpoint I have today. Again, something we agree upon. We just disagree on what the truth is.

This is more ironic than you may think. I use that argument all the time against predestination types. Im going to try to explain something that IҒm pretty sure you wont understand. Not because IҒm superior, but because if youve never experienced it, itҒs not that easy to understand.

He says, and then proceeds to try and explain it. You’ve got this irony thing down pat.

Suppose you went to a Dentist and found out you needed a root canal. You get the work done, and your mouth is better, in fact your overall health is better from not having all that poison from infections in your body. If you didnt know the outcome would be good, youҒd never let someone yank a nerve out of your mouth. And you couldnt do it at all without the dentist. ItҒs the same way with loving others for me. Basically, I got into computers because I dont like people. But when I follow the command to love you, I feel better, indeed I AM better. But IҒd never do it on my own, in fact I know I could not do it on my own. Yes, sometimes, in the beginning, its mechanical, but with a little perseverance, it quickly becomes heartfelt. So itҒs not because I want to, its because I must. I guess in a sense, it is self-serving, but that is hardly the motivation. And even if it was, is that a bad thing? I mean, if someone just does things for you and cares for you and loves you -Җbut their original intent was that they would derive some pleasure from doing that, is that bad? In fact wouldnt that describe your relationship with your significant other?

No, actually, it wouldn’t. Unlike you, I do like people in general and I don’t need an outside agent to command me to love others before being able to do so. Your comparison between Dentistry and being able to love others may be apt for you, but I don’t think it applies to most folks. It certainly doesn’t apply well to me. How then do you explain your need for a God to be able to care about others whereas I have no belief in such a being yet find it easy to care about others? Based on your explanation I should be a completely self-centered, inconsiderate, uncompassionate individual. Perhaps that’s how you view me, but there are others who would disagree.

More ironic still, a fiery furnace is exactly what the worshipers of Baal did give to their children. But the Bible does not say any of us will go to a fiery furnace, that punishment is written for Satan and his angels. The punishment for men that do not choose God is permanent and complete separation from Him. IsnҒt that what they want anyway? And isnt that pretty much what you would do with a child that never loved you? Eventually, after decades of trying to bring them to a relationship with yourself, youҒd sever your ties with them. And its not clear that even after death you cannot yet chose to accept Christ. Try reading ғThe Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, he does a very interesting work on that topic.

No, that’s not what I would do. Even if my daughter were to decide she doesn’t love me and decades were to pass, I would never sever all ties with her. She would always be my daughter and I would always be there if she wanted me to. Perhaps that’s what you would do, but don’t assume everyone else would as well.

I want to know how waiting on others before waiting on yourself is prideful. It seems to defy the very definition. I think itԒs closer to the truth that you just dont believe that anyone would think of someone else before themselves, and you figure I must have some hidden agenda. To the contrary, IҒve been ever forthright in my agenda. Again, I cannot say the same for any of you.

Being one who tries very hard to think of others before himself, I don’t find it hard to believe that quality is possible in others. I will leave judgment on how good a job I do at that task to my friends and relatives, but it is a quality I do try to engender in myself and my daughter.

Have you considered the idea that your actions do not look like you’re trying to put the interests of others ahead of your own? Holding a door open for someone is thinking of others first. Planting your hands firmly in their backs and trying to shove them through the door is not. You admit you have room for improvement in yourself, that you are not perfect, yet you set yourself up as an indisputable dispenser of the truth. That’s not only prideful, it’s arrogant.

Ive never lumped all non-Christian belief together. IҒve taken you each at your word, in fact, Ive rather insisted on that point, not letting you just quote others. Why must you insist that I stand for and represent everyone who ever claimed they were Christian? I do not. You want to attack the Bible, IҒll defend that. But the stuff you quote here offends me a great deal more than it could possibly offend you. As far as I know, the guy on that web-site likely is an atheist thats trying to give people a reason to hate Christianity.

We don’t have to do that. A lot of Christians do a good job of that without our help. One need only pick up a newspaper on any given day to see all manner of reasons to disapprove of the Christian religion in all its forms.

I do not know all that God thinks, I do accept the Bible as a guide to things HeҒd like me to know. I practice what I know the best I can. So yes, I agree, it is good to have the creator-of-all, and the book He provided on my sideӔ. Pretty sure its the other way around, though. And, just like you, I think IҒve got the right answer. The big difference I see is that I extend my hand to you and say let us look at the answers we have found and discuss them together rationallyӔ. But you begin by saying I hate everything you stand forӔ before you even know me. Youre the one making assumptions about me, not the other way around. Again, come up with a specific contradiction, and letҒs discuss it. Since they are so obvious, and there are so many of them, this should be a slam-dunk for you.

You should go back through and re-read this thread. You’ve made numerous assumptions and lay claims to similes that you seem to think apply to everyone without question yet you repeatedly claim not to be engaging in such activities.

As for the contradictions in the Bible, if you wish to insist on playing that game then let’s start with a simple one:

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible?language=english&version=NIV&passage=Mark+15%3A25&x=13&y=10”>Mark 15:25 “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.”
    vs.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible?language=english&version=NIV&passage=John+19%3A14-15&x=0&y=0”>John 19:14-15 “And about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out . . . crucify him.”

    Surely you can explain the three hour difference?

    I agree completely, I could have written this myself, except, I believe that for all practical purposes, standing on your own understanding amounts to believing that you are right.

    Believing you are right and stating unequivocally that you are right are two different things. You have made statements that seem to indicate that you believe that anyone who disagrees with you is either stupid or dishonest (read: avoiding the truth).

    Its just that as soon as I say that I am Christian, tons of assumptions are made about who I am and what that means. Unfortunately, many have false ideas of what that means, or what it should mean.

    Oh, and that never happens to people who admit to being atheist or Pagan or Muslim or what have you. Welcome to the club, pal. Get used to it.

    There are many religions like the JWs and the Catholics that claim to be Christian, and are patently not, which confuses the issue even further.

    There are 33,800 Christian denominations around the world according to the year 2000 World Christian Encyclopedia. What makes you the final authority on which ones are and which ones aren’t “truly” Christian? Why should I accept your claim of being the one-true version over the claims of the Catholics or the Jehovah Witnesses claim of being the one-true version? I’m sure I could find more than a few Catholics and JW’s, along with many other denominations, who’d tell me you’re full of shit.

    The point about pride in this has more to do with saying that you are the final arbiter of right and wrong. When you get to that point, then you have put yourself in the place of God. IҒd call that prideful.

    Seems to me you’re doing just that by categorically stating that Catholics and JW’s are not “true” Christians. So tell me again how you are not being prideful?

    The atheist must do this, as he believes there is no higher authority than himself. Put into practice, this is anarchy, which I would call a bad thing any standard.

    Obviously you’ve never studied up on Secular Humanism. Belief in a God or any kind of “higher authority” is not necessary for morality or for a functioning society. Many of the Founding Fathers valued reason over faith when establishing a new country:

      The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
      John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” [1787-88]

    Sounds like John Adams felt there was no need to go higher than man himself in the process of launching this great nation known as America. In many respects, the United States of America is a perfect example of a society founded in part by men with no higher authority than themselves. Do you consider the USA to be in total anarchy and therefore a “bad thing” by any standards?

    Sorry for the long post, but there is a lot of meat in all this. Many of these areas deserve more depth of discussion, and I hope they get it. BTW, Les, Checked your wish list, did you update it? Wish I knew how yall do that nifty blue box quote thingy.

    I updated it today. As for the quote box, simply start anything you wish to quote with ‹blockquote› and then finish it with ‹/blockquote› and you’ll be all set.

  • 21 thoughts on “A lengthy response to David.

    1. I just popped into this thread, and I am a bit curious about David’s comment about Catholics not being Christian. Now, my comments may be a day late and a dollar short… if so, please forgive me.

      I’m Catholic, and that makes me “patently not” Christian? Why?

      As for myself, my views on Catholism, Mormonism, Islam or Atheism ( or ANY faith) fall under the idea that as long as a person’s faith or belief does not harm me or others, where is the harm?

      I personally don’t think I have the right to “decide” what faith is right, or to “decide” the only true faith… OR if faith in God is a requirement for a person to be good or God like.

      I personally know folks who are atheists that have a healthier set of morals and ideals than some Christians I know.

      Just my two cents worth.

    2. Now Stan, it is exactly that kind of radical immoral openmindedness that causes David to classify you Catholics as non-christian. Where is the mindless hatred of atheism? Where is your sense of superiority over all other religions?

      I don’t know…you sure don’t seem christian to me smile

    3. Oh and Les, the three hour time difference can be explained with a combination of different time zones and/or daylight savings time. Come on…it’s so SIMPLE!

    4. Greetings.

      I haven’t read this post yet in its entirety, but the time differences are fairly easy to explain.

      The key is what hour you start counting your day.  Midnight? Sun-up? There were different traditions then.  You are perhaps imposing your modern view of time on the past, when time-keeping was considerably less accurate.  Some Gospels wrote according to one tradition; others wrote according to another.

      The Jews back then, I believe, started counting at sun-up.  That’s why some say Jesus was on the cross starting at noon, others say around 9 a.m. 

      Now if you want a more difficult question, the Last Supper in the Gospels are actually on different nights, three say the crucifixion happened on Friday, one on Thursday. Now that’s a bigger question to answer.

      BTW, the largest majority of Christians don’t hold to the literal inerrancy of the Bible, a position that I believe, even as a Christian, is simply untenable.  There are mistakes.  And there is truth.  You need a hermeneutical community known as a “church” infused by a hermeneutical spirit known as God to know the difference. 

      That’s also why I don’t get into arguments about the Bible with atheists.  It is impossible for an atheist to understand the Bible.  You can’t pick up and find the sense you’d expect.  In fact, it will probably piss you off.  It is only when one is baptized in the Holy Spirit that one has any chance of understanding the Bible.

    5. OK, Les, now I’ve read the entire piece.  First of all, let me say I’m very impressed by your thoughtful responses and cogent arguments.  Your description of how God works out of time is illuminating.  You’re obviously intelligent and can render your arguments in a clear and concise manner. 

      This is, btw, one reason why I like to occasionally discuss these things with smart atheists—often they can cut through the clutter and show, unvarnished, what we Christians are really saying.  Free of the superstition or wishful thinking that sometimes creeps in.  So your description of God seeing the whole time line, and then reaching in, was very helpful to me. Thanks. I’ve never quite understood it that well until your description.

      In my own case, I used to be an atheist, so I understand many of the objections you’ve mentioned.  The answers of the church, often, are simply “it’s a mystery.”  The mystery of faith.  The mystery of evil. In the Orthodox tradition, they rely a lot on the idea on the argument that “it’s a mystery.” 

      The Orthodox in fact criticize the Roman Catholic Church (and by extension, the Protestants) for dragging all sorts of Greek philosophy into Christianity and pretending to know a lot more than we really do about the Christian faith.

      As a friend of mine, a lapsed Catholic, once said, “When the Church says, ‘it’s a mystery,’ they mean, ‘We’re going to skip over this apparent contradiction, and move on.’”

      All this is a way of saying I don’t have answers for many of the questions you’ve asked.  Love to be able to answer your objections, but I can’t.  (Some I could take a crack at, but I’d be making all sorts of assumptions about God.)

      So how is it I became a Christian? I tried it.  I figured, if this is false, then I should lose nothing by investigating and attempting faith.  And praying to God in Jesus’ name.  But, nothing did NOT happen. Something happened. 

      And to me, that is the mystery, or if you will, the paradox of faith.  It is to hold a very similar viewpoint as you hold (many of us Christians do), but still recognize that my experience of Christ conflicts with my own mental arguments. 

      In turn, that conflict serves as a metaphor for Christ himself, who is both God and man—representing flesh and spirit, if you will.  The struggle between body and mind find union in Christ.  Oh never mind….this is hard to explain.  I’m trying to get at: I think very much along the same lines as you do, but my experience of Christ has forced me to alter my arguments.  Because I can’t ignore my experiences—that would be illogical.  The things I have seen in my spiritual practices—I can’t explain them, but I can’t pretend they didn’t happen, either.

      I don’t want to go more into it than that, because I doubt you would believe my experience or my testimony.  (And I wouldn’t blame you.) It has to be your experience that you believe. Perhaps one day you will experience Christ. Perhaps not.  My hope is you will, if Christ be the truth, and if not, not.

      Anyway, I’ve enjoyed this thread.  Regards.

    6. Actually I probably understand what you’re trying to say better than you might think and I have no problems with it. I can respect any believer who says, in essence, “Yes, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I feel I’m on the right path.” That’s a statement that A) I can’t really argue with and B) actually makes me feel better because it shows you at least acknowledge some of the issues that others insist don’t actually exist.

      You’ve probably not looked around SEB much yet, but this is a discussion I’ve had with numerous people in various threads and I’ve explained elsewhere on the site that at one time I was once a devout Baptist. In other words, I took the opposite path that you took. I went from being a believer to being an atheist in a process that took several years and broadened my understanding of a lot of different religions in the process.

      Unlike David, you come across as someone who is actually looking at your faith with an attempt at rationality and are willing to own up to and deal with its rough edges. You’re also willing to accept the idea that you could be wrong about various aspects of it and are up to the challenge of wrestling with them. That’s all any non-believer, or believer in any other faith, could ask of you. I don’t want to take anyone’s faith away from them if it makes them feel better and gives them a sense of purpose in their lives as that doesn’t do me or them any good in the long run. I do want people to think more about what the believe and why and realize that although it may be the perfect belief system for themselves, it may not be so for a lot of other people. I think I’m right that there is no God or Gods and that existence ends at death, but I could be completely wrong about it. I distrust anyone who claims to have the only “right” answer. I’m glad there’s more Christians such as yourself out there in the world than there are folks like David. The latter group tends to be a bit more vocal though.

      Thanks for contributing, it’s always good to hear from the saner people in your religious group. grin

    7. Thanks, Les.

      David: There are about a billion Roman Catholics and 400 million Eastern Orthodox in the world, and about another 400-500 million Protestants.  As an Anglican, I consider them all Christians.  But the Orthodox and Catholics together do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture.  And they make a majority. 

      The Catholic-Protestant argument boils down to this: Jesus founded a church, he didn’t write a book. As a RC bishop once said to a Protestant clergymen: “Yes, we know what’s in the Bible.  We wrote it.”

      Sola scriptura, yes, but within the context of an interpretive community and with the interpretive spirit of God.

    8. IB Bill, are you really saying that one-fifth of the world’s population is Roman Catholic and another nearly one-fifth are Eastern Orthodox or Protestant? Sorry, but I think you are fudging the numbers a bit (actually a great bit). This means well over one-third of the worlds population agrees with one general definition of Christianity. Where did you get your figures? No wonder their political machinations bear so much fruit and their priests get away with so much wickedness, even if the true numbers were only half that. (I seem to be constantly talking to guys named “Bill”) (grin).

    9. Yes, one-third of the world is Christian … you didn’t know that? Another 1.2 billion are Muslim; nearly another billion are either Hindus or Buddhists.  About two billion are everything else.

      It’s a fact; you can look it up. Here’s a link to information please almanac listing 1.9 billion adherents.

      http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0904108.html

      Amazing, huh?

    10. Well,IB Bill, with your earlier numbers considered, that leaves only about a dozen Christians left as Baptist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Unitarian Universalist and all the rest of the {are-they-really} Christian religions. Their meager numbers don’t seem so threatening to me now. Thanks for cluing me in on the most popular and therefore most likely to be correct religion. Excuse me now, I’ve got to go see how many Hail Marys I’m responsible for.*

      *Post edited to contain nothing but sarcasm, though not to be taken as a personal affront.

    11. Baptists are Protestants, and so are included in the above figures.  The other you mentioned aren’t really Christians; they’re their own religions, like Islam.  The Unitarians are a club of very nice people. No real threat from any of the above groups.

      You said most likely to be true, not me.  But no less likely to be true, either.

      No affront taken; sarcasm noted.  Have a good night.

    12. Hmm I have to say I would imagine that those figures would plummet rather drastically if you used actual regular church attenders and not just people baptised or christened.

      I know that’s most certainly the case here in the UK, we say we are a country with a christian majority, but to tell the truth there are more full mosques than churches here these days.

      Hehe there’s still hope for us pagans as yet!

    13. Les, please take things in context. Are you trying to get my goat? You know the quotes you’re taking from me about baiting you are in the context of my writing about my less than perfect behavior. Sheesh, a guy can’t even be self-effacing without getting beat-up for it! Surely you

    14. IB Bill,
      Just reread you latest post… So when I say Catholics aren’t Christian, I’m judging, but it’s OK for you to say JWs and Mormons aren’t really Christian?

      Your comment about the Unitarians still has me laughing (it’s so true). But I know a couple of Unitarians that say they’re Christian too.

    15. David: 

      There’s a lot of text above, so I don’t see the point where I say you are judging. If I did, I didn’t mean to imply you were judgmental.

      The test of Christian belief is affirmation of the Nicene Creed (ignoring the filoque controversy, which is a tempest in a tea pot, IMO.)  There is also a standardized canon, though the Catholics re-order the psalms and add some wisdom books that they themselves state are non-canonical but nonetheless useful.  And finally there is the spirit of God, that is, the Holy Spirit. 

      My experience is that all Christians are members of the Body of Christ are united by the same Spirit of God and the same fundamental set of beliefs. 

      JW, Unitarians, Mormons, some individual parishes, Muslims (which is a Christian heresy, too) have either different spirits or no spirit at all. Mormons have a completely different set of Scriptures, and the Muslims re-wrote the Bible entirely. Unitarians hold to a non-triune God, so they’re out as Christians. 

      Baptists may consider themselves the new church of the Apostolic Age, but isn’t that pretty much the definition of evangelical Protestantism.  They hold the same beliefs that are stated in the Nicene Creed.  And they have the same Spirit as other Christians, in my experience. 

      I don’t know if God leaves pictures of Mary all over.  Somehow I doubt it.  YMMV.

      You seem to be saying, as many Protestants do, that the RC Church is not Christian because it holds to the necessity of works, not just faith.  This is a very old controversy, very deep philosophically, and Scriptures back both points of view.  As it says in James, paraphrasing here, show me your faith without works.  The Book of Revelations specifically says Christ will judge people by their deeds on Judgment Day. Jesus says, many people will say, Lord, Lord, but only those who do the will of the Father in Heaven will be saved.  St. Paul says by faith ye are saved.  John says whosoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

      You straighten all that out, which at a certain point converges philosophically, anyway.

    16. IB Bill,

      You straighten all that out, which at a certain point converges philosophically, anyway.

      I agree that it does, but even the quote you are looking for in James 2:18 “But someone will say “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” indicates that it can NEVER be the other way around. Works are nothing if faith doesn’t come first. So the idea that is infant baptism confers any kind of salvation at all is pure silliness. Unless you want to say the baby is saved by the faith of it’s parents. An idea which is likewise shot down repeatedly in scripture.

      And your quote from Revelation is in the context of the judgement of believers. There will be two judgments: The beama seat and the white throne. In one, the unsaved are condemed. In the other the saved are rewarded. You are quoting from the description of the later. The judgement of your deeds is not whether you’ll be saved, but what God thinks of your actions as a result of your salvation.

      I’ll take my stand, therefore, with Paul only because that quote is more clear. The other quotes you have are don’t have enough of their surrounding contect to show that they are basically saying the same thing. And Paul is only repeating what Christ said many times, which when taken in their context, boil down to what I wrote originally as my definition of Christianity.

      The thing is that while we might disagree on the exact terms, nowhere in there could I get that I had to be baptized, shrived, take communion, or faithful to a particular man (i.e. the pope). All of which is required according to the RC church. Not that any (except for the last) are all that bad, just that none could be construed as required.

      When you say works, one might think you’re refering to good works. but the additional works we’re discussing are acts of contrition, not good deeds. The works spoken about throughout those verses refer to good deeds. The works the RC church requires for salvation are rituals. That’s quite a stretch.

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