Friday, October 28, 2011

The Final Chapter

This is the final chapter of my deconversion story.  For the other pieces of the story, click the "Crumbling Faith" tag.

Throughout the ten year relationship with my wife, we were friends.  We had started as friends at work, at a restaurant while I was finishing high school.  We had progressed to being friends with an attraction to one another.  We got married.  While my attraction for her only weakened slightly, it appeared as though her attraction for me decayed faster than Beryllium-8.  But we managed.  We were friends, after all.  I never strayed.

At the risk of sounding clich√©, I think we had married too young, because I certainly didn't know what I needed in a life partner at that time.  So as we continued on together, it seemed that we grew farther apart.  We remained friends, but by the end we were like friends at work again.  Yet there was a final straw.  I am being purposely vague here, as I'm sure that telling my side of the story would have me appear to be a perfect husband when I am equally sure that that is not the case, but, suffice it to say, some things transpired which should never transpire in a marriage.  So I pushed the separation.

With the separation, and while the divorce proceedings resolved, I decided to abstain from romantic relationships for a year.  I wanted to give myself some time to establish who I really was, and wanted to make sure my judgement was not clouded; make sure I avoided a "rebound" relationship.  It turns out that I am still figuring out who I am, but, hey, life is like that.  :-)

Anyway, living alone and abstaining from romantic relationships left me with a lot of time on my hands.  Early on, as I was sifting through the boxes of my stuff, I came across the notebook where I had jotted down thoughts about the Bible when I had started reading it so many years ago.  I had never finished.  I had never even made it past Leviticus.  So there I was with time on my hands and an unfinished task.  It was a match made in heaven.  ;-)

I remember how I felt at that time.  I was skeptical.  I hadn't really gone to church much at all in the past ten years.  I hadn't felt any divine presence.  I hadn't seen any miracles.

But I was hopeful.  I believed, weakly.  So many people around me, including my family, believed with conviction.  Even more importantly though, with eternal consequences on the line, and the potential reward being so great, I wanted to have a strong faith.

With my feeble, tenuous faith (decimated by the lack of divine interaction as a teen, and withered through the subsequent years of malnourishment), I picked up the Bible again.  Skeptically hopeful.  Starting with Genesis, chapter one.

By the time I reached the story of the Tower of Babel, my skeptical side was amazed, while my faithful side became ever more desperate.  I had started to forget all of the important details of what I had just read, so I started from the beginning again; this time writing summaries for each chapter.

(I tried to only summarize what exactly was written, while keeping my skeptical comments separate.  Those summaries I would eventually share so that anyone could read the story of the Bible quickly.)

For my skeptical side, it seemed like the evidence against faith added up steadily and consistently as I continued to read the Bible.  As I enter into studying the New Testament now, that trend has not changed.

For my faithful side, the losses came in discreet blows.  Passages like the near-sacrifice of Isaac, the passages which seemed to boldly contradict everything I had ever been told about God, evoked a deep, visceral reaction as if my very soul had been stabbed.  Observing how God enacted a world-wide famine to result in the enslavement of the Israelites just so that He could free them 400 years later...  Seeing God almost take the life of a baby due to the matter of circumcision...  Reading how God toyed with the Egyptians, manipulating the free will of the Pharaoh, just so that He could provide a grand spectacle...  Etc...  Etc...

My soul died.  Hemorrhaging from so many shattered beliefs, it could not survive.  My desire for it to live, alone, was not enough to preserve it.

I thought back to my teen years, when I had picked up the Bible and had read some of those very same passages.  They had seemed odd to me back then, but not wrong.  Not abhorrently, morally wrong.  Why?  I'm not sure.  It could be that back then I thought that God was my friend.  Every good friend has faults you are able to overlook in the name of love.

46 comments:

  1. A different perspective, of course, radically changes one's view of these passages. Take, for example, the "near-sacrifice of Isaac." When I first read this, I was initially surprised that God would ask someone to sacrifice a child--a practice that he had said was detestable--but then I realized that God had no intention of allowing a human to be sacrificed, and made certain that this could not happen. It was all a test to see if Abraham believed that God would provide, I concluded. I ended up impressed with Abraham's faith and with God for providing a solution at the last minute (a lesson that has served me well in life, incidentally). In contrast, a friend of mine in high school read this passage and was struck at how vile God was, in his opinion, because he had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.

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  2. In fact the Bible is pretty clear that Abraham believed God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham's "sacrifice" was nothing like the practices where people give up things dear to them so that they might in some way gain God's favor, like Heavy Metal for Lent. That isn't how it works.

    It's one of the things about Christianity that rings true to me. We don't reach up to God, He reaches down to us. That is only logical (IMO), and so contrary to our natural reaction. How can I put on my best behavior for the most significant person I'll ever know? Turns out I can't because He already knows who I am (even better than I do myself).

    I was thinking the other day about Truth and Honesty. We may see the Truth differently, but we pretty much agree what Honesty is. The difference is in the thoughts and intents of the heart. Lawyers are paid to be truthfully deceitful, but I can be honestly mistaken.

    Honest questions can be answered, others not so much. As you read through the NT ask yourself what you are honestly seeking.

    There is a danger here (you mentioned it in your earlier posts on this thread). You WILL find what you seek, I think you have already proved that in your other blog. You need to be honest with yourself about WHAT you seek (because that IS what you will find). I don't mean to be hurtful but the question you need to ask is are you ready to face what you seek?

    With love and trepidation,

    David

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  3. @Ollie Wallflower
    It would be better to debate the particulars of the near-sacrifice and its various extrapolated meanings on my above-linked post, so I'm going to hold back a thorough response for now. Although, by all means, if you'd like to discuss it in greater detail, please don't hesitate to copy-and-paste your comment there.

    However, I will ask you this: When God said “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” to Abraham, how was it a demonstration of God's justice, charity, love, grace, and/or mercy? Or, perhaps to word it another way, what was good about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? For if God is perfectly good, then certainly each individual action, and all the words which come from His mouth, are good.

    It's certainly not that I was stuck on that one issue. I think the Bible paints a pretty consistent picture. ;-)

    @dsholland
    David, I must have missed that Abraham thought that Isaac would have been raised from the dead by God. Would you mind specifying the verses wherein you find that clear proclamation?

    Also, I pose the same questions to you as I do to Ollie Wallflower above.

    I got a laugh over your lawyer comment. Having had to deal with some lawyers recently, I told my wife that I think I could be a good lawyer, but I don't think I could ever be happy with myself doing so.

    In that vein, David, what I seek is the truth. Like in your own Fractals and Faith post, I am willing to let the truth be what the truth is. I think what my Biblical research has shown time and time again is that there are indelible human finger prints all throughout the Bible, OT and NT. I'm not talking humans being in the stories, but rather human manipulation of the recorded history. That's all I can say with 100% certainty. Does that prove that the God of the Bible does not exist? No. However, piecing together the circumstantial evidence, it doesn't look promising. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and swims like a duck, there's probably a quack in there somewhere. ;-)

    Help me understand your closing question though. Is there any reason why I shouldn't be ready to face what I seek?

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  4. Hebrews 11:19 based on Genesis 22:5 I presume, but I did say the same thing in the comment to Forsake All but One (7/22).

    What was good about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? It was good for me as a lesson (and I'm sure countless others over the centuries). Remember, God did not in fact require Isaac's life. It was a perfect statement of the difference between the God of the Universe and the gods of men. Just as I implied above.

    That brings me to the other point of our discussion. Finding what we seek. You and I are talking about the same book. You see the grubby fingerprints of man and I see the glorious hand of God. Neither of us is alone in this perspective. We have both found what we were seeking. This is a characteristic of men and one reason for scientific peer review.

    If you would not be happy as a lawyer I suspect it is because you value honesty. Not everyone is happy when they find what they seek, as our literature tells us.

    I thought I read some disappointment in the outcome of your study, but it is not unreasonable to believe you found what you were looking for.

    Knowing that finding what you seek may mean you have become a fool for what you believe (either way) is a difficult thing to face.

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  5. @dsholland
    To my benefit, or my downfall, I am a person who tries to pay attention to details on important matters. I am wondering, David, if you would do me the courtesy of tracking through this little bit of Scripture in smaller steps.

    1) Forgive me, but I have not made it to Hebrews in my Bible study, and I don't think you had mentioned that verse in your earlier comment. Would you mind telling me where do you suppose the unnamed author of Hebrews got the information about exactly what Abraham reasoned in his head? Alas, I am at a loss if it is not pure speculation.

    2) Your answer to the question I posed to both you and Ollie Wallflower seems to be much more general than the specific aim. I was not asking about the episode as a whole. Rather, I was asking what was good in God's request for Abraham to slay Isaac? I'm just looking at the request itself, here. Would you be so kind as to answer that question? Or are you instead suggesting that there is nothing good in the request, but rather only the outcome of the whole scenario? This is important, because it helps to establish God's character, answering the question if God only does good, or rather if God Himself lets the ends justify the means.

    3) One more parting question: Hebrews 11:17 mentions that this was a test for Abraham, and God's reaction in Genesis 22:16-18 certainly seems to prove that notion, and by those same verses it appears that Abraham passed that test. Also based on God's reaction, it appears as though God would not have honored His earlier promise to Abraham had he failed the test. Do you think that is a fair statement, or what do you think would have happened if he had failed?

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  6. 1. I didn't mention the exact verse earlier, just the assertion. As I said, I presume the author of Hebrews derived Abraham's reasoning from Gen 22:5. Abraham said to his servants, "we will come back...". So either he felt compelled to lie to his servants or he believed "they" would return. Which makes more sense in the context of the story? Had Abraham learned anything from his relationship with God or was he still lying to protect himself (but from whom)? You get to choose.

    2. What I am suggesting is that the motivation and the outcome of the request are good, and that the goodness is of such a nature as to reveal significant aspects of The God of Abraham. I believe that goes a long way toward establishing His character. Can you isolate the request from the context? If so, to what aim? What do you seek?

    3. I believe God planned to honor His earlier promise to Abraham all along. The question you pose opens the door to a discussion about free will and God's omnipotence. Since that discussion has consumed centuries I won't attempt an answer in the context of Abraham's response (I'm not sure I could answer in any context). I can say the question is moot since he did respond and it seems likely God knew he would. Not to be too harsh, but as Dorothy Sayers writes in her discussion on God as the maker of evil(The Mind of The Maker, Maker of all things, - Maker of ill things), "questions which produce meaningless answers usually turn out to be meaningless questions."

    Since it is my nature to question and analyze I am often arguing with myself about the reasonableness of my faith in "a God who hides himself" (Isaiah 45:15). As I thought about this today I reasoned that it is only our collective experience of Time and Space that grants any assurance of the reliability of our senses. The fact that I am not alone in my perception of a God of Love acting in my life reassures me. Hebrews 12:1 advises my to use this fact to press on. I may very well be a fool for what I choose to believe but I find enough Truth and Guidance in the bible to sustain that belief. Anyone can if they are willing to suspend what they know to learn what they don't. Unfortunately you have to be willing to become a fool, nobody approaches God as an equal.

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  7. Let me start out by asking you to describe a god who could be said, in your view, to possess the characteristics of divinity. That is, a god free of the "indelible human fingerprints" that you speak about. Could such a god insist that he alone be acknowledged as God, or must he allow for the belief in other gods, or in atheism, as well? Could such a god allow evil--even if only for a time--and still be considered "good?" Could such a god allow *any* sort of Hell--a place where those who refuse to accept him as Lord will dwell for eternity? I'm very curious to read your responses to these questions. I can't believe I've never asked you them before!

    To answer your question--"What was good about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?"--I would answer "nothing," but nor was it evil, and in the end, the result was very, very good; for Abraham (because he was established as a person of great faith), for the nation of Israel (for obvious reasons), for the ancient world (because God demonstrated to all that the True God did not need or demand human sacrifice (a common practice at the time)), and even for us today (as a symbol of God's grace and provision). Was the request an evil one? No. As God, he had the right to demand such a sacrifice from someone who had sinned. A request to torture his son, in contrast, would be inherently evil and would demonstrate that he could not be a good God.

    As always, the big picture must be in view here. If I were to ask my daughter to sell her doll collection and all her toys as punishment for something terrible (and costly) she had done, could that request be described as "good?" I think not, but nor could it be described as evil, as harsh as the request is. If I, however, stopped her and told her that *I* would pay her fine by selling my car, I believe the whole interaction could be described as good. Very good, in fact.

    I do apologize for debating this one issue that has little to do with your original post! Feel free to move/delete my comment.

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  8. @dsholland
    I hope you will be longsuffering, or patient, in the Ephesians 4:2 sense, with me here as we explore this a little more. It would probably take all of about ten minutes over a cup of coffee, but with over the internet comments such ease is not permitted.

    1) Indeed, in Gen 22:5, you are right to point out that Abraham said “we” (implying he and Isaac) would be back. And to it, add Gen 22:8, where Abraham tells Isaac that God would provide the lamb for the offering. If you take Abraham's words at face value, it might appear as though Abraham knew that God would provide a substitute. And you bring up a good point, why would Abraham lie to his servants to protect himself? However, may I instead posit a different purpose which is, in my eyes, completely reasonable, if not probable? I would ask that you consider the human side of the story, like so:

    If God had told you to sacrifice your son, when would you pass on the information to your son that he was to be sacrificed? If it was me, I would wait to tell him at the last possible moment, not wanting him to suffer long mental anguish in addition to the loss of his life. All the time I was leading him up to his fate, with a heaviness in my heart and tears welling in my eyes, I would be lying to him as necessary to keep him calm; to prevent his hysteria and to keep those last moments with him as pleasant as possible. The lies Abraham told his servants and Isaac were for Isaac's benefit.

    I would go so far as to say the text supports such a position. Obviously, from Isaac's question in Gen 22:7, he didn't know that God had told his father to sacrifice him. Furthermore, from Gen 22:9-10, Abraham's actions indicate that he was going to sacrifice Isaac according to God's request; as an altar was made, wood was put on top, Isaac was tied up, Isaac was put on top, and Abraham “took the knife to slay his son.”

    2) I'm just seeking for the whole truth, and the whole truth considers all of the details as opposed to a comfortable summary. If a man spends 99% of his time feeding the poor, but 1% of his time tripping blind people, then a summary label of “a good man” would probably not be accurate, right? In similar fashion, the nature of God's request does matter. We don't need not remove it from the context, and we should not, but it should not be ignored or glossed over either in favor of the larger picture either.

    So I guess the questions I would pose are these: Is it ever morally acceptable to sacrifice your child via burnt offering? Is it ever morally acceptable to command someone to sacrifice their child via burnt offering? Please correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that you are taking the stance that it depends on the circumstances, and so this particular item is subject to moral relativism.

    3) OK, so we'll skip the speculation. :-)

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  9. @Ollie Wallflower
    Thanks for stopping by again! Please bear with me, as I flip the order of response...

    Conveniently, your reply about what God requested Abraham to do kind of fits with what I responded to dsholland with in the comment immediately above. :-) So it appears that, to you, that it can be OK to tell someone to sacrifice their son in a burnt offering?

    Your example with your daughter is pretty far removed from the situation we are discussing here. Remember that God found such burnt sacrifices of sons detestable (Deuteronomy 12:31). So let's keep things on the same scale. The situation is more in tune with an example where you tell your wife you want her to have sex with another man, you pick out the most disgusting specimen of man you can find and lead her to this guy's bedroom, they both get naked, and then just before penetration, you yank her out of bed and say to her “I swear by myself, that because you have done this and have not withheld your cherished sexual fidelity, I will surely bless you with tons of jewelry and children.” I'm asking is that kind of behavior “good,” no matter how many wives it could inspire to have a greater devotion to their husbands?

    OK, so back to where you started here. :-) The questions you ask are great about defining a god, but they are laced with lots of assumptions. For example, what do you mean by the characteristics of divinity? Just because a god could create a universe does not necessarily mean it would be omniscient, omnipotent, etc. It would not even have to be fair, or good, or any other character trait. Or are you speaking specifically of the characteristics the Bible claims God to have? Hash this out, and I may be able to give you a better answer, and maybe even write a post about it. :-)

    However, I would correct you in your use of my term. I have not explained it well on this post. The “indelible human fingerprints” are evidences in the Biblical text where there is clearly distortion, reframing, manipulation, etc.

    A classic example would be in Judges 1, where despite God being with the forces of Judah, they could not beat the people of the plains in battle because they had iron chariots. Yeah, I'm supposed to believe that iron chariots thwarted almighty God from granting a victory to His people. With God, all things are possible, unless it involves iron chariots? ;-) This does not disprove the Biblical God, but it sure makes it look like the author overstepped his descriptive bounds of accuracy when he says that God was with them but they still couldn't attain victory. That is an indelible human fingerprint.

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  10. I posit that you're confusing harsh and unmerciful with evil. God had the right to take a human life, and he had the right to ask Abraham to take a human life. There is nothing morally wrong with that request. Even the President of the U.S. can--and has--asked his citizens to do that. Remember, too, that God had not yet said that child sacrifice was detestable to him, so it's not like God was asking Abraham to do something that Abraham believed to be wrong. If God had allowed Abraham to go through with it, *that* would have been extremely *harsh* and *unmerciful*, and I, for one, would have very serious problems with such an action... but technically speaking it would not have been immoral. Of course, he did NOT allow Abraham to go through with it, and in fact used the event as a demonstration that he DID NOT WANT and DID NOT NEED a human sacrifice to atone for sins. Again, this kind of practice was common in those times, so he was making a bold statement against it. It's very important to note this fact, as well: Abraham *knew* that God would provide. How do we know? Well, 1) God had already told him that Isaac would have children, which is hard to do when you're dead; 2) Abraham had said that he and the boy would return from the altar; and 3) Abraham told Isaac that God would provide a lamb.

    I think I obfuscated the questions I asked earlier by referring to the term "divinity." What I should have asked is this: Is it *possible*, in your view, for a God who is perfectly good (omnibenevolent) to allow any or all of those three things? If you think you could make a new post based (even loosely) on those questions, I would much appreciate it. I think it could be quite interesting!

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  11. @Ollie Wallflower
    Your reply has some pretty profound implications here, and I'm going to ponder it for a little while and maybe even do a separate post on it.

    In your three points regarding Abraham:
    1) Hebrews 11:19 offers an odd defense to that point.
    2) & 3) Copied from a comment to dsholland above:
    "If God had told you to sacrifice your son, when would you pass on the information to your son that he was to be sacrificed? If it was me, I would wait to tell him at the last possible moment, not wanting him to suffer long mental anguish in addition to the loss of his life. All the time I was leading him up to his fate, with a heaviness in my heart and tears welling in my eyes, I would be lying to him as necessary to keep him calm; to prevent his hysteria and to keep those last moments with him as pleasant as possible. The lies Abraham told his servants and Isaac were for Isaac's benefit."

    I would also add to that the fact that the Bible has previously recorded lies of Abraham, as when he told the story about his wife being his sister instead.

    OK, I'll work up something about that kind of God so you can have fun ripping it apart harshly and mercilessly! LOL! :-)

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  12. Sorry about the delay. This would be easier in another venue.

    I cannot imagine being in that position (planning to sacrifice my son). That said, if (as the author of Hebrews contends) Abraham expected God to raise Isaac from the dead the perspective changes. Agreed it is a hard perspective to entertain, but as vibrant as my prayer life may or may not be I have not yet had face to face conversations with the purported incarnation of deity either so ...

    The whole truth is that God put Abraham in a difficult situation, but (as alluded to above) not without preparing him for it. He (God) then used that situation to make very important statements of historical record about Who He really is. The problem I have with your interpretation is that you consider the actions from the human perspective, where they ARE heinous. But as Ollie points out humans don't have the benefit perfect foresight. Instead of thinking in temporal terms imagine the interaction as driven by someone with perfect foresight. It does change the equation. And as you consider Abraham's feelings remember, God softened him up over many many years.

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  13. @dsholland
    No problem for the delay at all! I'm sure you've got a life of your own. :-)

    I think it takes a great deal of faith to accept the Hebrews account. There was no mention of resurrection anywhere in the Bible in Abraham's time, nor even possible allusions to it well after that. But then, my take may be a bit colored by the fact that, based on my studies, I think poorly of the veracity of the New Testament in general. ;-)

    It also stands off as odd that this little nugget of perception, this knowledge that Abraham thought that God would resurrect Isaac, was withheld for hundreds upon hundreds of years, leaving generations to speculate more inclined with my thinking.

    On the matter of preparing Abraham for this, I think that is a rather tenuous interpolation. Even if I knew with 100% certainty that God would resurrect my son, it would have been impossible for me to tie him up, cut his throat, watch the life bleed out of him as he gasped in agony, and then set his body on fire. This is one of those cases where I think emotion would trump logic in all but the most cold-hearted souls. This is especially true, given that this operation was unique. It's not as though Abraham could mentally reference some other case where a beloved son was slaughtered, scorched, and then brought back to life.

    Certainly you are right to say that if you were omniscient of the future, that would change the perspective of the whole situation. However, I would counter with this final question: In what part of love would God purposefully test someone to this extreme? For reference, one of my favorite, well written sections of verse, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is below:

    "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." NIV

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  14. Your argument assumes the existence of God to refute Him. In the absence of God there was no external influence on Abraham and the story is the result of his inability to act out the imagination of his mind. If God was in fact communicating with Abraham, His perfect knowledge precluded the horrors you describe.

    It can't be both ways.

    I've heard the argument that the idea of life after death was a "late" development in Hebrew theology. That is a different matter (one I don't subscribe to). The idea that God could and did act directly in the affairs of men was well understood. Abraham trusted God and the promise that Isaac not Ishmael was the conduit of his posterity. Or he made it all up. That fact is obvious to all readers of the scripture from the time the story was written.

    I don't disagree with the account of Love from I Corinthians, but I disagree with your perception. In particular your inference that God was not "protecting" Abraham. Does a parent protect their child so that nothing difficult is ever endeavored? No, because they could not grow. Sometimes love lets you strain so you learn. Sometimes love even inflicts the pain to prevent a worse one. God, knowing the end from the beginning taught Abraham to trust and validated that trust through action for Abraham and all his children (of which I count myself one through faith).

    I said it can't be both ways, but it can. If your intent is not to refute the existence of God but rather to accuse Him. In that case you may find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to "best" God. In your synopsis of Job you write that God boasted. But Love does not boast and is not proud. Can God tell the truth about who He is and not have it sound like a boast? He is not proud but He is jealous. He is not easily angered but He can demonstrate His wrath.

    Here's something to ponder, it says Love keeps no record of wrongs but what about Revelation 20:12?

    With continuing affection,

    David

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  15. @dsholland
    Hello again, David! Thanks for taking the time to continue to comment. I think I'll have to split my reply into two parts. So here's part 1 of 2:

    Your argument assumes the existence of God to refute Him.
    You state this like it is a bad thing. ;-) Does it somehow invalidates my argument? If I simply say to you God doesn't exist, then my position is that the entire Bible is inaccurate. If I fervently hold to that position, then you and I effectively have no discussion because there is no point to examine the erroneous text of the Scripture. Whether or not this is the true position, holding stubbornly to that position does not help bridge the gap between people who believe and people who do not believe. Stopping the conversation there is useless on both sides, just like those people who say “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

    So what can I do, then? How can I constructively debate the existence of God, and do so in a way in which the facts are available to all? Looking at the universe is only grounds to debate if a god exists, not if the God of the Bible exists. So the platform of debate must be the Bible itself. Given that the Bible lists the attributes of God (and, in fact, God Himself supposedly dictates most of these attributes), then it becomes easy to debate the existence of God from the very pages of the Bible by discerning how much the God of the Bible is true to His self-ascribed attributes.

    Therefore, yes, in a manner of speaking, I will assume that God does exist, and then examine to see if the God described in the Bible actually, and perfectly, demonstrates those attributes. If God is omnipotent, but shows the Bible shows that He can't do something, then He does not exist. If God is omniscient, but shows the Bible shows that He doesn't know something, then He does not exist. If God is omnibenevolent, but shows the Bible shows that He does not love something, then He does not exist. Or, the Bible is not accurate in its description of God. Or, the Bible has inaccurately described events. Don't you think you owe it to yourself, in your to-be lifelong devotion to the God of the Bible, to verify that it is all accurate in the first place?

    That fact is obvious to all readers of the scripture from the time the story was written.
    Apparently, you and I have different definitions of the word “obvious.” It was not obvious to me twenty years ago when I was walking in faith and believed that Jesus had been resurrected. Maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am. The other commenter, and a friend of mine, Ollie Wallflower, seems to have missed this too. His take is that Abraham believed that God would simply not make him go through with the sacrifice.

    Hey, I'm wondering if you be so kind as to run a little experiment for me, or for both of us, really. The next time you are in church, or run into people from your church, or any church for that matter, break out Genesis 22, without referencing Hebrews 11:19, and ask them what they thought. Do this with about five people, and do so individually so that their answers do not influence the answers of anyone else. See if they come to the conclusion, unprompted by you, that Abraham thought that God would simply resurrect Isaac. Please, let me know what you find out, if you are willing.

    [See part 2 below...]

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  16. @dsholland, comment continued from above...
    [Part 2 of 2]
    With my 1 Corinthians reference, “protect” was just a minor note there, except maybe for Isaac as opposed to Abraham. Trust was the bigger factor. Love always trusts. If I trust you, then I don't test you. In fact, if I know the future, there is no need to test even people who I do not trust! The point you make about learning is accurate, but not applicable here. This was not some great learning experience. Abraham had already demonstrated his trust in God. The miracle baby Isaac himself was proof enough to Abraham to have complete faith in God.

    Furthermore, parents let their children endure hardships in preparation for what they are likely to experience in life, which is why that growth is so valuable. Abraham would never have to experience this God-made hardship ever again. That makes the case for “growth” pretty weak.

    Regarding Job, truth, and boasting. There is a difference for sure. Boasting can be subset of truth telling. So what makes it boasting? It could be exaggeration, but obviously that's not the case because this is God, right? Boasting typically requires communicating a superiority, but this is kind of an inherent truth with God, right? So we can't say He boasts only for that. There is one more type of boastful behavior, though. That involves going on and on and on, unnecessarily listing many of your superior traits and/or accomplishments when a more concise message would have been adequate. That type of boasting we do find in the four chapters of Job 38-41. If God had said to Job: “Job, I have made all things seen and unseen, and I understand it all. And unfortunately, you have a very limited perspective in your mortal status. Therefore, you should trust in Me, in my knowledge and in my power, and then you will see the floodgates of My love pour forth to you.” then I would have been hard-pressed to say that God was bragging, and yet He would have laid out the truth of His superior knowledge.

    So what's your take on the Revelation 20:12 contradiction with love keeping no records?

    All the best to you,
    -TWF

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  17. To continue the discussion :-)

    Assuming God to refute Him only works if you allow Him the characteristics claimed by His existence. So God knew Abraham would trust Him. Your argument is therefore only that God was unloving and thereby inconsistent. The argument that He was inconsistent is based on the mental anguish to which Abraham was subjected. That anguish is your conviction. I am claiming (as the Bible states) that Abraham trusted God. Since you do not believe God exists do you have a difficult time imagining how that might affect Abraham's mental state? Another thing I am claiming is that God spent a lifetime preparing Abraham for that test. I am further claiming that the outcome of Abraham's test was good for Abraham, and all who follow Him in faith because of what it revealed about the character of his God as opposed to the Gods of human creation.

    I therefore claim the God of the Bible revealed in Genesis 22 was not inconsistent. I further contend that your understanding of His purpose may not be perfect and so it would be wise not to assume it is.

    The fact that men believed in Divine intervention (and Abraham in particular) goes to your contention that the idea of resurrection was not common in Abraham's time. How could the author of Herbrews "know" what Abraham was thinking? He might know by revelation, or he may have inferred it from the passages we both identified 22:5 and 22:8. Is the statement inconsistent with the facts?

    I am not certain the survey you suggest is valid given the demographic of the selection pool. I was aware of Hebrews 11:19 because it was taught not because I figured it out. The only thing we will learn is who was paying attention :-)


    I misinterpreted the point of your emphasis.
    If the issue is that you claim God did not trust Abraham and therefore did not love him, then I must point out that God trusted Abraham enough to choose him, to invest in him and to rely on him to carry out an incredibly difficult mission to reveal God's purpose. If the miracle baby Isaac was enough proof to Abraham to have complete faith in God then I was wrong and there is no reason for Abraham to experience the outward manifestation of his faith. However it must also be true there could be no anguish in offering Isaac as a sacrifice because by his complete faith in God he knew Isaac would be the conduit of Abraham's posterity. You have justified the conclusion of the author of Hebrews! Cool.

    The problem with your assessment of God's boasting is that you do not know if a more concise message would have been adequate. It seems a bit superior to correct God on that point ;-)

    The fact is I have not really thought about I Corinthians 13 and Revelation 20:12 much (though I may have noticed it before). I'll have to mull it over.

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  18. @dsholland
    I think we may be getting somewhere here, David...

    Assuming God to refute Him only works if you allow Him the characteristics claimed by His existence.
    It works like this: The theory is that the God of the Bible exists. The Bible lists God's characteristics. The Bible lists several of God's actions. Are God's recorded actions consistent with God's given characteristics? The Scientific Method.

    So God knew Abraham would trust Him.
    That is a presumption, and a logical conclusion if God is omniscient. Does it hold up?

    Gen 22:1 explicitly says that God tested Abraham. “Test” comes from the Hebrew word “nasah,” and means to test, as in to try or to prove. This is the explicitly-given purpose for this anecdote. There could be other purposes, but an explicitly given purpose should take precedence, unless you would posit that God purposely tries to hide His true intentions. It is obvious that if you are future-omniscient there is no need to test someone. On the other hand, if you do not know the future, then testing someone makes sense.

    Gen 22:12 is God's reply to Abraham's actions. After God stops Abraham from slaying his son, God explicitly states that “now” God knows that Abraham fears God. Why? Again, explicitly, because Abraham did not withhold his only son from God. God's word “now” comes from the Hebrew word “attah,” which means now, or henceforth, or at this time. It is exactly what you would say if someone had just passed a test you had given them, but not the kind of word for when you knew what would happen.

    God said that this was a test, and He reacted as though this was a test; a test in which He did not know the outcome from the beginning. That is, if you believe the word of God. You can twist the definition of His words for a more convenient interpretation if you like.

    Furthermore, in Gen 22:2, Gen 22:12, and Gen 22:16 God refers to Isaac as being Abraham's only son, but Abraham had Ishmael before Isaac (Gen 16:16). You could say is that God didn't count the offspring of a maidservant as part of a true family, yet that would be contradicted by Gen 30:1-8, where two of the Twelve Patriarchs, Dan and Naphtali, came from Bilhah.

    Let's look at omnibenevolence:

    Love always trusts. Purposefully testing someone is not consistent with trusting love. If God had already trusted Abraham, then there was no reason to test him. (I don't understand your statement of God relying “on him to carry out an incredibly difficult mission to reveal God's purpose.” To whom?)

    Abraham fears God. There is no fear in love.

    Asking someone to do what is morally wrong, to kill someone without justification, even if you intend to stop them before fruition, is not consistent with an act of love.

    If God uses the morally wrong to produce a good effect, then, to Him, “the ends justify the means.” Such a philosophy is inherently not perfectly good, and does not demonstrate perfect love.

    Abraham could have had mental anguish due to this request, which is evidence that this is not love. (As you rightfully point out, it is possible that Abraham's faith was so strong that he would follow any command from God's without any anguish.)

    Isaac would have had unloving mental anguish. Isaac did not know the plan (Gen 22:7). Abraham tied Isaac up, placed him on the firewood, and raised a knife to kill him (Gen 22:9-10). Acts like that are known as child abuse, not love.

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  19. I understand the principal, I guess I was accusing you of bias in your analysis. While it is obvious I am completely unbiased :-) I think you are heavily slanted toward the no-God position. ;-)

    Test and try are related concepts. If I were going to twist the words that would be my tack.

    Instead let me just say that it is odd such a glaring disjoint has not been noticed by the many, much more able and learned men that have argued these things before us. I would suggest that your conclusion may be less straightforward than it appears. Since we believe we are both reasonable men and we see the "test" in different ways there may be an explanation that accounts for the temporal quality of the test and God's foreknowledge. One such explanation is that it would have been pointless for God to say, "I already knew this would happen", so how does He convey the intent of what He means? Now you have proved yourself, at this point in time the full effect of your conviction has been demonstrated. There is a sense of testing there that still accommodates God knowing the outcome. The specific phrase "Now I know..." does not mean I didn't before (though it is generally implied and not an unreasonable interpretation unless you are talking specifically about God!)

    God expressly excluded Ishmael, as the child of the flesh, not the child of the promise, man's attempt to make God's word true without waiting for God Himself. No such pronouncement was made for Dan and Naphtali because it was not relevant or required.

    I claim Abraham revealed God's purpose to us the readers of his story.

    The fear of the Lord is clean (don't you just love that Psalm). I don't see why you assume the condition of love and fear in a human for the same person at the same time is impossible. I both love and fear God. Did you not both fear and love your father as a child?

    We finally come to the crux of the issue. Can you, a man, judge God? If He does not exist it is pointless, if He does it is perilous. Again I am not the only one who does not see God's action with Abraham as morally repugnant. I see His mercy and love.

    As for Isaac, his perception is not recorded and your assessment is conjecture. Going back to the Scientific Method, if God claims to be merciful and loving is it possible He could alter Isaac's perception to spare him from what he need not know until what he needs to know has been fulfilled?

    He can if He's God.

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  20. @dsholland
    ...it is odd such a glaring disjoint has not been noticed by the many... I would suggest that your conclusion may be less straightforward than it appears.
    I must admit, I had not researched the views of others on this topic. Yet, I think you fall into that same category, or perhaps you have only looked at Christian views on the topic. With just the smallest effort (checking Wikipedia), I easily could refute your claim. Check out the diverse Jewish views (which would not be expected if the solution was obvious) and the modern research sections!

    Also, there is the matter of confirmation bias which may be preventing you from seeing the situation as it really is, despite your obvious intelligence.

    ...Ishmael, as the child of the flesh, not the child of the promise, man's attempt to make God's word true without waiting for God Himself.
    Now you are just making this easy on me. Come on, I know you can do better. In Gen 16, you find that Sarai (Sarah) was barren, so she offered Hagar to Abraham. God committed to make Hagar's offspring “too numerous to count,” which certainly sounds like a promise to me (Gen 16:10). Granted though, it is not THE promise you speak of with biased interest. After Abraham pleads to God, God says in Gen 17:20 that “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.” NIV That sure seems like a promise. And in Gen 17:23, Ishmael, explicitly Abraham's son, gets circumcised.

    OK, now take a look at Rachel in Gen 30. She is barren. So, taking matters into her own hands as opposed to waiting for God, she offers Bilhah to Jacob in desperation to produce children. Hmm, where have I heard that before...

    I claim Abraham revealed God's purpose to us the readers of his story.
    I see. And what part of God's purpose is revealed by Abraham which was not to be revealed by other sources?

    On fear in love, I humbly refer you to 1 John 4:18
    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” NIV

    When you really feared your parents, it was because you had done something wrong. In other words, you had not acted out of love. When you don't act in love, then, yes, you have reason to fear even loving authority figures. Yet if you stand before them blameless, then there is no fear.

    Can you, a man, judge God? If He does not exist it is pointless, if He does it is perilous.
    By your logic here, you should then believe in either all gods or none. I would hope that any god which created us had not given us that god-like faculty of reasoning to fester in us unused. It is up to us to sift the wheat from the tares as far as which gods exist and which do not. That necessitates the judging of gods, and, given the possible eternal consequences, it is far from pointless.

    Regarding Isaac, you are absolutely correct that God, in His mercy, could have spared his perception of what was going on. Yet if God needed to hide His commanded actions to prevent anguish to Isaac, then clearly they were not commands based in love. You proved my point. Cool! ;-)

    Cheers!

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  21. Touche'

    Continuing my reverse response...

    Since there can be only one omni-God then not all are created equal. Given that we are discussing the Christian view I'd say that is a non-trivial vote in His favor.

    I think we had this perfect love and fear discussion in another thread. As I remember I was the one to say my love was not perfect that time :-) In any case it seems we agree Abraham can both love and fear God, since he was by all accounts human.

    I think the beginning of the discussion was that God revealed a distinct difference between Himself and the gods of man's creation because He in fact did not require the sacrifice.

    Rachael's decision to offer Bilhah was the result of her competition for Jacob's favor. Again a completely different situation. Sari said to Abram, "The Lord has prevented me...", so she decided to make it happen on her own. I may have mentioned it elsewhere, but "Terror in the Name Of God" is an excellent (secular) read. One of the observations is how frequently terrorists end up being terrorists because they try to force God to move His program along. It covers Christian, Muslim and Jewish terrorists equally. If you are a fundamentalist it is an eye opening book (and not a little unnerving, like surgery with local anesthesia).

    There is no doubt that the trails of our discussions are well trodden from both sides. That was my point (and yes I try to read diversely). The essence of what I was trying to say was that many of the more learned and insightful travelers before us had no trouble with the idea that God could test Abraham already knowing the outcome. Yet is seemed a great stone to you.

    I had been thinking about how we were discussing sort of microscopically and wondered if a macroscopic view might be more fruitful. Then I read your other blog's Friday (11/4) post and thought some about hearing and seeing. I don't have an answer, but as you can see I am not yet ready to give up the exchange. Revelation may come with a blinding light or a series of small flashes.

    I guess I am still willing to risk it ;-)

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  22. ...that we are discussing the Christian view...
    ...is primarily reflective of our geographic location, at least according to statistics. :-)

    ...we agree Abraham can both love and fear God...
    Sure, but in seasons. If Abraham is doing what God wants him to do, it will be all love. If Abraham defies the will of God, then he should fear Him. So answer these: What was Abraham doing wrong to fear God at that time? If you posit that Abraham both feared and loved God at that time, why would God celebrate the fact that then He knew Abraham feared Him instead of the fact that Abraham loved Him? After all, if you are trying to love someone, would you be happier if they feared you or ir they loved you?

    ...God revealed a distinct difference between Himself and the gods of man's creation because He in fact did not require the sacrifice.
    Refer to Jesus. ;-)

    Again a completely different situation. Sari said to Abram, "The Lord has prevented me...", so she decided to make it happen on her own.
    Yes, and in Gen 30::2, Jacob replies to Rachel's cry of desperation with "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?" Then in Gen 30:3, she gave Bilhah to Jacob to make children for her. Oh yes, they are completely different. Not a shred of similarity among them. I don't know how I ever even came up with such a far-fetched idea. (Dripping with sarcasm.)

    The essence of what I was trying to say was that many of the more learned and insightful travelers before us had no trouble with the idea that God could test Abraham already knowing the outcome.
    Really? That's not at all the vibe I got when you said “That fact is obvious to all readers of the scripture from the time the story was written.” A statement like that makes it sound like there are sparse, if any, dissenting opinions. And on the Christian side of things, there are (not surprisingly) few variations thanks to Hebrews. But in the Jewish world, there is a host different opinions. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia article, the Jewish Views section begins with the sentence “The majority of Jewish Biblical commentators argue that God was testing Abraham to see if he would actually kill his own son, as a test of his loyalty.” Also, I don't know if you noticed, but there were exactly zero mentions in the Jewish views that they thought Abraham figured God would resurrect Isaac. But that is Wikipedia. If you happen to know of a per-Christian Jewish source to the contrary, please let me know and I will gladly concede the point.

    Risk away! And by the way, if you ever catch me going far beyond what could be considered reasonable speculation or interpretation of the text, please don't hesitate to speak up! At this point, I can't deny I have a biased opinion. However, it is far from my desire to represent an opinion without adequate foundation.

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  23. Oh, and by the way David, this isn't really a big stumbling stone to me. Some of the larger ones come later in the Bible. If you grow weary of this one, how about taking a look at how God orchestrated a world-wide famine to enslave the Israelites? Or are you willing to defend God nearly slaying Gershom Himself because of the matter of a little penis skin, a sign which would later be effectively invalidated within Christianity? Or would you prefer some other venue I have not listed? Just let me know, as I (unfortunately) have lots to choose from.

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  24. Two brief comments on what has been written recently:

    "...is primarily reflective of our geographic location, at least according to statistics."

    According to Gallup, 92% of Americans believe in God. As the Bible states, "only a few" find the way that leads unto life (presumably this is referring to salvation), and I think it's quite clear that only a minority of Americans are truly devoted to following God, so... who's to say that this country has more true believers than, say, China? Of its estimated 40,000,000 Christians, I'll bet *most* are sincere and devoted, quite unlike the nominal Christians found here. Just a thought. My point here is just that I don't think that statistics mean much when it comes to matters of faith and religion.

    "God orchestrated a world-wide famine to enslave the Israelites"

    Do you have a post dedicated to this topic? I find this an easy issue to deal with, and would like to debate it further, but don't want to pollute an already extremely long comment thread. (Or have I already debated this issue with you? It seems I have, but perhaps not publicly.) The same goes for the "penis skin" issue--another one I would be happy to defend.

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  25. @Ollie Wallflower
    I would definitely agree with your sentiment that the Bible teaches that few will be saved, so statistics can be misleading. However, my point with David was that he was suggesting that the fact that he and I were discussing God was a vote in God's favor of being the truth, to which I countered essentially that because we are in the United States as opposed to, say, Iran, or China, probably has more to do with the fact that we were discussing God than anything else. :-)

    As a matter of fact, I do have posts for those topics! Links to those posts can be found up above in the original text of this post. And, as of yet, you have not debated them. So, please, feel free to do so! FYI, the world-wide famine one is a three-part post.

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  26. DSH- I gather from most of your arguments that you are trying to find ways that God can do evil without losing his definition of good.

    For another look at Abraham's sacrifice see http://www.youtube.com/user/NonStampCollector?blend=1&ob=4#p/u/53/xHGEELdSHHc

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  27. I hope all goes well with the divorce (that sounds awkward, but I hope you understand). I imagine it would be painful even if everyone agrees it is best.

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  28. Oh, the links are right there! Well aren't I just brilliant? ;-) I'll comment at the bottom of "God Playing God, Part 3." It's hard to believe that was almost three years ago.

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  29. @prairienymph
    Thanks for your kind wishes. The divorce did go well. It was all quite civil, actually. We still get together, though infrequently, and catch up on ourselves and our families.

    Since then I have met a truly wonderful woman, and together in our marriage we share a love that is the way I always thought love should be. For lack of better words, I am truly blessed to have her love, and she feels the same about me, despite my faults. :-)

    @Ollie Wallflower
    Ha, don't beat yourself up too much about that.

    Great, I'll be looking forward to it! I always appreciate your perspective, even when I do not agree.

    It is amazing that it's been three years, isn't it! Time flies, and it has been a lot of fun.

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  30. Gee a lot happened while I was inattentive.

    A point of clarification. I'm pretty confident the fact that we are discussing Christianity has more to do with the strength of our respective feelings on the subject than where we happen to live. The fact that we both feel strongly enough to spend the time (and you far more than I) about it bears weight.

    I think we are not clear on love and fear yet. We agree love and fear can coexist (in humans). I may be doing a poor job of explaining, but I have no problem fearing God even when I'm doing what He wants. I don't fear God because I'm bad (though I am and I should) I fear Him because He is bigger and smarter and stronger than I am, even though I know He loves me. I'm weak and frail and He's not. The idea that the "fear" of God is respect for God is ludicrous to me. He is not my peer, He is God. The idea that somehow that precludes me loving Him is just wrong. He gives me everything I need for life, I love Him because I need Him, I'm desperate without Him. If you don't think that's love you need to read more. It may not be the kind of love you think it should be, un-constrained, gift-love (to use C.S. Lewis's term), but I'm not in any position to love God with gift-love - no one is! Who first gives to God? The idea is nonsense (if indeed He is God).

    ...God revealed a distinct difference between Himself and the gods of man's creation because He in fact did not require the sacrifice.
    Refer to Jesus. ;-)

    Exactly! The thing about Christianity that rings most true to me is God providing for man, not man giving to God. The former makes sense, the latter is fantasy (IMO). Abraham screams that to me.

    In fact what I said was that even if the idea of Resurrection was not obvious the idea of divine intervention was (obvious to Abraham and all who read the story). We are not arguing the fact of divine intervention, just that the idea is well known (to the point of being obvious). However that is not relevant to the bit of text you quote. That bit of text was about how what you see (or portray as) a glaring inconsistency is not so glaring an inconsistency to many other (rather learned) people. Speaking up was what I was doing ;-)

    No I like smiting Uzzah. You have a post about that I can visit ;-)


    BTW - I may have an explanation for for Genesis 20:12.

    True and best wishes.

    David

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  31. @PN
    Interesting cartoon, but it does rather miss the point of this thread, which was that the difference between the God of Abraham, and the gods of men is that He did NOT require that sacrifice. Every argument about how awful God is for telling Abraham to offer Isaac either omits that part (and the implication) or simply assumes Abraham chickened out and then made up this Angel to account for it.

    Of course then you've God the Jews to account for.

    BTW - Hope you are well.

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  32. I think we are not clear on love and fear yet...I fear Him because He is bigger and smarter and stronger than I am...
    We aren't clear yet. ;-) Based on your photo, I would guess you to be about an average size man, or maybe even larger-than-average framed. Me, I am on the underside of average, probably just outside the second standard deviation. Being an engineer as well, I regularly work around people who are bigger, smarter, and stronger than I am. I've never been afraid of any of them. Why? I have no cause to be afraid of them. And I don't think that they even love me. Nor do I fear the water I drink, though it could drown me. Nor do I fear electricity surging through my laptop, though it could electrocute me. Nor do I fear my stove, though it could cook me. The idea of fearing simply because of its potential, without taking into account the likelihood of that fear to be realized, is not rational. That's the foundation of phobias. On the other hand, if you believe that God acts in such an unpredictable manner that your life and/or soul are in danger of torment at any time at the hands of your loving and merciful and just God, well, then, by all means, you are justified in your fears. And it comes back to this: Why did God celebrate Abraham's fear of Him rather than his love for Him?

    The thing about Christianity that rings most true to me is God providing for man, not man giving to God. The former makes sense, the latter is fantasy (IMO).
    I see. Have you read Leviticus? Chapters 1-6 and 16-17 seem to have a lot of man giving to God. You may have also missed the human sacrifice permitted in Leviticus 27:28-29. Do you have any guesses as to why God did not stop Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter in Judges 11?

    And ultimately, you seemed to have missed, or side-stepped my point that God still demanded a human sacrifice for everything in sense of Jesus. Why is there be a need for sacrifice at all? Why does killing something magically make everything alright? These last two questions dive into very deep theology, and probably aren't fit for comment debate either, but feel free to do so, or, if you like, post an answer/exploration/study on your blog.

    ...the idea of divine intervention was (obvious to Abraham and all who read the story)...
    But it was not obvious to all who read the story or all Jewish scholars. And, in fact, most Jewish scholars argue that there was no such faithful-foreknowledge of divine intervention in Abraham's mind. That's what I was speaking up about. ;-)

    No I like smiting Uzzah. You have a post about that I can visit ;-)
    I don't have a post on Uzzah. :-( I've focussed on the first five books and the four Gospels; the foundations of Hebrew and Christian beliefs. By 2 Samuel, God's character was already well established, so I didn't think Uzzah dying for attempting to steady the Ark was much of a revelation. ;-) Besides, God was just enforcing a previously given law (Numbers 4:15). I can't fault or question God for enforcing the laws He provides. However, if you'd like to debate whether the law itself makes sense, we can do that. I mention this law briefly in my post "How Many Levites Does It Take to Move a Tent?."

    BTW - I may have an explanation for for Genesis 20:12.
    Yes, in a technical manner of speaking, Sarah was Abraham's sister. However, Abraham saying that somehow-ravishingly-beautiful-yet-at-least-65-years-old Sarah was his sister and not his wife was done with the intent to conceal his marriage to her, or in other words, to present a false image, a.k.a. to lie. That's why the classic courtroom swear-in is "do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" You can lie using a half-truth.

    Wholly true best wishes to you too!
    -TWF

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  33. My bad, different kind of dyslexia REVELATION 20:12 - Keeping the books.

    >>>
    God acts in such an unpredictable manner that your life and/or soul are in danger of torment at any time at the hands of your loving and merciful and just God, well, then, by all means, you are justified in your fears.
    <<<

    You raise an interesting point here. I do believe He loves me and I do fear Him. As I think about it I do feel like my life is in danger of torment at any time. I have had this discussion with God and even posted about it. Just like a parent loves a child the parent is required to "cause pain" (emotional, physical) to teach the child, to correct it's behavior. We may disagree on the measure but the principle is unarguable. I am like that child and think I know what is best and right for me and what will make me happy. The God who loves me cares enough to bring me out of myself, and my experience is that hurts. I'm a sissy, that's why I fear God. When my father said "this hurts me more than you." I didn't believe him. When I got older I learned he was often physically ill afterwards.

    <<<
    And ultimately, you seemed to have missed, or side-stepped my point that God still demanded a human sacrifice for everything in sense of Jesus.
    >>>
    This is a deep question, but to my point WRT humans providing for God, if He (Christ) is who He claimed then God did provide the Lamb for all men.

    In Leviticus 27 a man chooses he is not required. Are these things required by God (for the Jews of course the Tithe was "required" under the law but wasn't that for the Levites to even things out)? If you re-read these books looking for that distinction I'm sure you will see it.

    Why did Christ have to die? Probably beyond my capability to explain (even assuming I understand it well enough).

    >>>
    That's what I was speaking up about. ;-)
    <<<
    Point. Some things are obvious only after they are exposed.

    <<<
    I don't have a post on Uzzah.
    >>>
    I though I read about him in one of your (recent) posts (I'm sorry, I implied it was about him). I cannot find it now so I must have been wrong. I did look at "how many..." and the sentiment implied by smiting Uzzah is there, "What else would you expect from a loving and merciful God?" Maybe I'll comment there ;-)

    We have to stop meeting like this.

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  34. @dsholland
    REVELATION 20:12 - Keeping the books.
    Oh, OK. I think you were hinting that you had a thought about this verse related to our discussion. Would you care to elaborate?

    I do believe He loves me and I do fear Him. As I think about it I do feel like my life is in danger of torment at any time.
    Well, David, at least you are in good company in your cognitive dissonance. :-) Yours is a Biblical point of view, even if it is not logical. If you struggle with it (I don't think you do), I will point out the following:

    Jesus has forgiven you. Jesus has paid the price for all of your sins; past, present, and future. Jesus loves you.

    If you did something wrong when you were a kid, and your father said "Don't worry about it. I have forgiven you and made everything right. Come to me, because I love you," would you fear your dad?

    In Leviticus 27 a man chooses he is not required.
    True, and it is a valid point that this is a voluntary sacrifice... at least for that man.

    Leviticus 27:28
    But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD -whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD. NIV

    The man that another man is devoting to God is someone he owns, such as a slave or his children.

    But voluntary or not, owned or not, wouldn't you thing God would just flat-out forbid human sacrifice?

    Why did Christ have to die? Probably beyond my capability to explain (even assuming I understand it well enough).
    Don't worry, I probably couldn't understand it anyway. ;-)

    Some things are obvious only after they are exposed.
    Indeed.

    Maybe I'll comment there
    You are always welcome!

    We have to stop meeting like this.
    But a virtual head-on collision is so much better than a real one. :-)

    Have a great Thanksgiving!
    -TWF

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  35. Regarding REV 20:12 and remembering sin, it occurred to me that Love covers (and forgets) sin, but if you have not opted for the Love path then there must be a record to judge from. The books are kept for the folks who choose to argue the point. If you are written in the book of life there is no (lake of fire) judgement.

    To clarify a bit it is my selfish life that is in fear of "torment". God wants to make me "better", that sometimes hurts. My selfish life doesn't much like it. If my Dad had never punished me I would not fear him, but I wouldn't have learned from the discipline either. It is very much a Hebrews 12:10-11 thing. No dissonance, but I do struggle with it in that I want to be more like Him, but I don't much like the discipline involved.

    Again, we don't see it the same way. I see God saying the commitment is eternal, you can't take it back where you see human sacrifice. If you can't take it back why would you then sacrifice (slay) the person? It seems like sin (bad) either way.

    I was thinking how civil this kind of exchange can be because it is so hard to come to blows :-)

    Thanksgiving was great, I hope your's was too.

    David

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  36. Thanks for the clarification on what you were thinking with Rev 20:12.

    If my Dad had never punished me I would not fear him, but I wouldn't have learned from the discipline either.
    I think you may underestimate your capability for learning. I'm sure you've learned many lessons where you were the only one there to discipline yourself. I know I have.

    If you can't take it back why would you then sacrifice (slay) the person?
    I think your answer to this question comes in the very next verse, Leviticus 27:29:

    "No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; he must be put to death." NIV

    Surely you are not accusing God of a sin here. Your next statement: "It seems like sin (bad) either way." seems to suggest that. ;-)

    My Thanksgiving was great family time plus yummy food. It doesn't get any better than that!

    -TWF

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  37. Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday, good food, good company, and the leisure to enjoy them.

    "I'm sure you've learned many lessons where you were the only one there to discipline yourself..."
    I believe it is because I had already learned the discipline.

    WRT-Lev 27:29 My my, I misread the text. The NASB does not translate it as destruction (and the words would imply such interpretation as is rendered in the NIV).

    Interesting, so do we go with the rendition of the NIV or the NASB "No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death"

    The NIV does open the door to human sacrifice. So if you subscribe to biblical infallibility this verse by itself supports that view. Further you are correct that this would be inconsistent with the nature of God as commonly understood and therefore inconsistent with the representation of the God of Abraham as portrayed in the Bible (if the common understanding has validity by virtue of its general acceptance).

    So which is it? Does it all come crashing down on this verse or is there a different understanding such as that rendered in other translations?

    My understanding before looking at the Hebrew was aligned with the NASB, KJV, ASV. That is what I was arguing, that a man who had been consecrated to God could not be redeemed, so there was no reason to redeem them but spite.

    I was not accusing God, but there is room to if a person were so inclined. What do you seek?

    If you were so inclined you could also read this passage to reinforce the idea "once saved always saved" could you not?

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  38. Well David, I think even the NASB, KJV, and ASV all open the door to human sacrifice too, which is the very reason for the concluding clause of "...he shall surely be put to death." If we are down to parsing out individual interpretations, may I suggest looking here for Leviticus 27:28 and Leviticus 27:29. There, you will find that the benign-sounding "set apart" in the NASB translation is the from the Hebrew root "charam" (transliterated). Charam means to destroy. These verses are talking about the irrevocable giving and subsequent destruction of animals and men to God.

    I suppose you could argue that this is like a reference to "once saved, always saved," if you are willing to conceded to "once dead, always dead" in a similar fashion. ;-)

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  39. (1) Is the "restaurant" also the place you met that older Christian woman that you had the fling which sent you back into Christianity? I might go have coffee there -- sounds like a great pick-up place.

    (2) So you were blogging in your other blog, as you through through the OT? You lost your faith in the middle of your other blog? Am I getting this right?

    Pretty amazing, open story! Thanx

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sabio!

      1) Very perceptive! It was, indeed, the same restaurant. But both women worked there, so you may have to do a little more than just have some coffee...

      2) In a manner of speaking, yes, but no. I had started taking notes as I was going through the Bible, chapter by chapter, but at the time, I was not blogging about it. I think I had gotten through Esther when the idea came to me "Hey, I bet other people may want to read the summaries as opposed to reading the whole Bible." And I wanted to process and organize my thoughts on particular passages to show what I learned about God in the Bible and why it may not be a good idea to keep the faith, if for no other reason than to defend my point of view with my religious family. So the idea of the blog was born roughly four years after the start of my studies. (You can tell that I wasn't setting any speed-reading records, taking four years to get to Esther!)

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  40. (1) YOU might have needed to work there, but anyone looking at our two pictures can tell that my mere good looks is often enough whereas we can understand why you'd have to prove yourself. (male humor)

    (2) Interesting about the evolution of the ideas and the blog, thanks.

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    1. 1) Ha, too true Sabio. I needed all the help I could get! You, on the other hand, well, I imagine you have to keep a can of mace handy in case the ladies can't control themselves!

      2) You're quite welcome!

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  41. You should consider a timeline to illustrate these big changes.
    Heck, I should make one too.
    These were fun reading a second time.

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  42. Glad you enjoyed them again, Sabio. I took the easy way out on the timeline, and just put a little age info next to each link on the index.

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  43. You might want to link this line "This is the final chapter of my deconversion story." to the index. I suggest putting ages in the posts too if you have time.
    But now I have inspired myself to make a time line. thanx

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  44. Good idea on the link, Sabio, but I am not yet sold on the ages idea. :-) I look forward to seeing your timeline!

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