Very large numbers of people feel uncertainty regarding whether God exists, or about whether there is really any value in Christianity or any Religion. Such people usually soon become fearful of expressing such questions or doubts because they tend to be immediately pounced on by all kinds of people! Some Christians are horrified at hearing even the slightest question about Faith or God or Christianity, and they tend to immediately set to work in "educating" the person. After all, Christians are all Taught that people can be "Lost Souls" if they are not Devoutly Christian and Saved! Loads of adversaries also pounce on anyone expressing even the slightest question regarding Faith, and particularly Christian Faith, because they see an opportunity to "steal someone away" from Christianity.
We tend to think that both groups are drastically over-reacting, and each may even be wrong in their actions! We think it is often very valuable if people ask questions or if they decide to personally research subjects that they are not completely comfortable about. More importantly, we believe that the Lord would want people to educate themselves regarding such things. Didn't He provide a good brain and mind for each of us? Doesn't it seem logical that He would want us to USE that brain and mind? This is essentially what this BELIEVE web-site aspires to be for!
During about eighteen centuries of Christianity, the majority of Church attendees were illiterate and so couldn't have read a (usually Latin) Bible even if they could afford to buy one. Therefore, they all necessarily totally relied on the Church leadership to provide every religious thought to them. They never had to actually think! Everything was simply TOLD to them!
During the past couple hundred years, more people have become literate, more have become educated, and more have started to believe that they are capable of thinking for themselves. This represents both good and bad.
The good includes Church-goers who now may not blindly follow the words of a Minister, without checking with the Bible to confirm that what he/she says is Scriptural. This is good because it tends to keep us (human) Ministry close to the Word! There are still some Churches where a Minister "announces" dress codes and such things, and all Members are expected to follow those rules without any hesitation. "Structure" is fine in a Church, as it encourages organized and strict Faith, as long as the human-side of the Ministry does not provide too much of the Lessons! You know how little kids are always asking "Why?" Sometimes that might not be out of place (in a private conversation, not as a confrontation) regarding some unexpected portion of a Sermon.
The bad includes the fact that many modern people have begun to feel that they do not need a Church at all, that they are fully capable of Learning and Studying the Word of the Lord on their own. Within limits, this can be a good thing. However, such independent study can result in a person accepting something as true when it isn't. I will always believe that many of those Branch Davidians who died in Waco, Texas, probably intended to be Devout Christians. Unfortunately, they happened to encounter an individual (David Koresh) who was able to convince them that he was Jesus. If people accepted that premise, and they certainly did, what could anyone expect of them? They would want to Serve the Lord, and they would have felt honored to be able to be near the Lord. Without any external source of information to either confirm or deny things that Koresh told them, it would be expected that they do what "the Lord" instructed them to do, without thinking, without question, without hesitation.
Christians tend to try to give all sorts of arguments, but they tend to all require that an "outsider" person "have Faith" in order to accept the claims they make! And so if anyone questions anything they believe, they then immediately make another assumption, that the "attacker" is a "heathen" and is not a Christian at all! I have a personal experience from my early life, before I became a Pastor, which is related to this. For several months, I attended a Church which gradually seemed (to me) to have rather extreme attitudes toward many things. I am a rather likable person, and very helpful, so the Minister quickly became a friend, and I regularly volunteered to help with needed things around the Church. But one Sunday, my Minister friend had given his Sermon on the precise accuracy of the Bible, and he had made a major point "that even the punctuation of the Bible in his hand was unquestionably precisely accurate and true." So a few days later, in a private conversation, I asked him about that, which I thought was a rather extreme comment to make. His response amazed me! Rather than responding to my comment, he instead suddenly and viciously attacked my character! He said that if I had such a question about something that he had taught, that I was clearly masquerading as a Christian and that I was actually a heathen! The conversation did not last much after that, and he clearly informed all the other Church Members about his new insight regarding me, and nearly immediately, I was shunned by absolutely everyone in that Church! And why? Because I had asked a very simple and innocent question regarding the punctuation of the Bible!
When all the other Members of that Church saw that Church's reaction to my question, knowing how close that the Minister and I had become, do you think that any of them were ever likely to ask any questions of their own? It's hard to see that ever happening. Sadly, it even happened that I was right regarding my question! For the first thousand years of Christianity, ALL copies of the Bible which were copied by Scribes were written in Scriptua continua, continuous script WITHOUT ANY PUNCTUATION AT ALL! (No capitalization and no spacing between words or sentences either.) The punctuation that exists in our modern Bibles was actually later added between 900 AD and 1600 AD.
I tend to have a different perspective than such narrow and absolutist attitudes. I think we are SUPPOSED to ask such questions, but then we must be very careful not to make assumptions in interpreting the Bible in finding the answers. As it happens, I was educated at the University of Chicago and got my College Degree in Nuclear Physics. So I tend to look at things in rather logical ways. I trust that the Lord was extremely careful in Creating a LOGICAL Universe for us to live in, and so I am confident that He has provided logical explanations for EVERYTHING, even if we do not have brains big enough to comprehend things sufficiently! Try this: Take a piece of paper and write down a listing of the specific events mentioned in Genesis Chapter 1 of the Bible, beginning with "Let there be Light". In a careful examination, I find 14 specific events mentioned. Now, take that piece of paper and make a second column to the right with 14 empty spaces, and find an Encyclopedia or other reliable information source. As you find references to the timing of those 14 events, write in the current scientifically accepted dates in each empty space.
When I did that, at age 19 while I was still in College, the Big Bang and stars came before anything else. Isn't that "Light"? Thirteen out of the fourteen events listed in Genesis 1 are now scientifically believed to have occurred in that exact same order! How could that be? How could any ancient writer possibly have known the correct order of all those things? They still thought the Earth was flat! (The appearance of birds is the only thing that does not seem to agree, and even it is only a few words out of place.)
If you are interested in my analysis of Genesis 1, I wrote an essay at: Genesis and Science are Compatible.
OK. Ancient people could not possibly have actually known that Light was first, and man was fourteenth, and all the rest. Could some ancient writer have just been incredibly lucky to have picked just the right order? Well, Physics relies on a lot of Statistics, and so it was easy for me to confirm that there would have only been one chance in over eighty billion that they accidentally got the order correct. In other words, not a chance.
In my opinion, this solid scientific reasoning leaves no alternative but to accept that God Himself provided that information for Genesis 1. No other explanation is remotely acceptable!
Now, if we agree that God must therefore Exist (otherwise, Who would have provided that sequence to Moses regarding the wording of Genesis One?) and that He chose to Inspire the human Scribes who later (after written language was invented) wrote down the written copies of what Moses had said, resulting in the Bible, is there ANY chance that the (Original) Bible could have contained errors or intentionally wrong statements? I hope not! If God is Evil or Deceptive, then we have far bigger problems than just about whether a Book is right or not! If God is Sloppy or Negligent, then He has bigger problems! I choose to conclude that God is Good and that He made absolutely sure that the Original writers of the Books of the Bible were absolutely and perfectly accurate regarding expressing every detail of what God wanted written.
This reasoning confirms to my satisfaction that the Original Manuscripts of the Bible were absolutely Inerrant.
It IS true that Scribes had to copy the 800,000 words of the Bible every generation or so, because the papyrus, parchment and ink tended to fade and disintegrate over the years, that all that copying could have enabled some minor copying errors to creep in. Modern scientific analysis of the approximate 20,000 existing copies has done a lot to find and eliminate such errors.
The Bible had to later be translated into English, for us to read, and there are definitely differences in modern Bibles Versions due to the specific interpretations of various translators. All Bible Versions are based on the exact same Greek and Hebrew source texts, but words and phrases can often be translated in different ways into a second language. This is actually the reason why different Bibles do not always exactly agree (in English). Whenever there's a question, check the original words with a Strongs's (to find the Original source word and its possible translations),
In the first centuries of Christianity, a lot of people were confused by some Verses in the New Testament, where Jesus seemed to be talking to "the Father", God. There was great confusion about how Jesus could have been (the One True) God when He seemed to be talking to a DIFFERENT One, True God! The Trinity concept was developed around two hundred years after Jesus in an attempt to explain how that would be possible. Jesus IS the One, True God, but He is described as one of three "Personalities" of God and that the Father and the Holy Spirit are the other two. Grand total, all that is still describing the One, True God of the First Commandment.
The Trinity argument is extremely difficult to follow. For most Christians, rather than trying to fully comprehend it, they choose to simply accept it on Faith. If you would like to read my description of what I feel the Trinity is, I wrote an essay at: Trinity Concept.
The reasoning above enables me to totally trust the Bible as being true, so I have no reservation whatever regarding Who and What Jesus Was and Is. In addition to that, I like to think that I have Faith in God and in the Bible. However, I realize that there are many people who do not share either of these two. For them, I can point out that there are some Jewish (then adversaries of Jesus) records that mention that a man named Jesus was "hanged" (the word Crucifixion was not yet used and the process was referred to as hanging). In the years shortly after the Crucifixion, Roman Historians recorded that many of the major names in the New Testament were executed in association to their beliefs regarding a new religion based on Jesus. Not much else in the way of actual corroborating evidence exists about Jesus' earthly existence, so the Bible is essentially the only extensive source of such information.
Those external references really only confirm that a man named Jesus apparently lived and was executed, and that people who personally knew Him were apparently impressed enough to be willing to die for Him. There does not seem to be any external confirmation regarding Jesus' Divine Nature. If some Jewish Historian or Roman Historian had been present to witness some of the Miracles that Jesus performed, that would be compelling proof, but that does not seem to have happened.
I choose to think that all this was intentionally arranged by God! Think about it. If a bunch of reporters (Historians) had witnessed and recorded the Miracles of Jesus, then we would all KNOW, and Faith would not be necessary! But God WANTED us to need to develop Faith, something we must each do on our own. I believe that it was intentional that NO absolute confirming evidence remained regarding the Divinity of Jesus, and that God may even have destroyed any such evidence that might have once existed, entirely to FORCE is to confront these uncertainties, and to either develop personal Faith or not.
We Americans are taught to value every human life, a good value to have. But we may get overly absorbed regarding the grander-scale implications when even one life is seemingly senselessly lost. For many years now, I have used the example of O.J. Simpson's ex-wife Nicole and her friend being violently murdered in the early 1990s. They were both young and vibrant, and didn't deserve to die, right? Remember that God has a whole planet of us, six billion of us, to manage, and He must clearly often see "bigger pictures" than we can comprehend. Regarding Nicole Simpson, we should note that, after her murder and the evidence that O.J. had often beaten her up, Nicole's sister spent many months telling other women that they could (and must) escape from such situations. It certainly seems that many, many thousands of women found the courage to speak up, and to get themselves out of abusive relationships. Many of them were therefore saved lives of abuse, and some of them probably therefore avoided being murdered themselves. In this light, would the loss of Nicole Simpson become justified in that it directly enabled many thousands of other women to be able to live much safer lives? We cannot answer such questions, of course, but it seems like an important perspective to consider.
Specifically regarding 9/11/01, Consider these facts: There are about 300 million Americans living today, and we live an average of around 75 years. Seventy-five years is around 27,000 days. Simple math therefore says that, every day (300,000,000/27,000 or) 11,000 Americans die. Every single day. Mostly due to "natural deaths" from cancer or heart attacks or just old age, but some due to murder, car accidents and other human activities. On 9/11/01, around 14,000 Americans died instead of the usual 11,000. Now, this is not meant to minimize the catastrophe of all those people dying that day, but to bring into better perspective just how huge our country is and how many of us there are. If, instead, on a normal day, three Americans died, the additional 3,000 of those terrorist attacks would more closely resemble the view that is generally expressed. But that is not the reality.
Yes, those 3,000 victims were mostly young and vibrant people, which also adds to our outrage, which spills over toward possible bad feelings toward God. But consider that a large percentage of living Americans will eventually die of cancer, generally including intense suffering for long periods of time. If 1,000 of those 3,000 victims were eventually destined to face such a suffering and death, couldn't it be possible that God permitted those people to die more quickly, possibly without so much suffering? What about all the serious car accidents that some of any group of 3,000 Americans will certainly experience? Or injuries, illnesses, heartbreaks, pain, loss? Those 3,000 people of 9/11/01 were saved from ever having to experience such terrible things. Could such possibilities have been considered by God regarding His capability of "stepping in" to keep those terrorist acts from occurring? No one will ever know, but it seems like a line of thought that should be considered before saying or thinking terrible thoughts about God when such events occur.
We Americans seem to conveniently forget that, during World War II, our bombers dropped countless thousands of bombs on German cities. Any newsreel footage of their cities after the war show that many cities were totally demolished by OUR bombs. Killing enemy soldiers may be one thing, but enormous numbers of "innocent German civilians" were killed in their homes. We also are the only country that has ever dropped Atomic Weapons, and we did it on enemy cities, when we killed 80,000 residents of Hiroshima and 120,000 residents of Nagasaki, Japan. If we are going to find criticisms of God regarding 9/11/01, shouldn't we also think about why God did not cause the fuses to not work in those many bombs? We, America, were the intentional and direct cause of far more than 3,000 innocent people dying. We seem to overlook that God should maybe have stopped us from doing that.
It is a dreadful thought, but it seems certain that some future terrorist act will kill far, far more Americans than the 3,000 that died on 9/11/01. All government leaders know that many different Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical weapons could easily kill 3,000,000 Americans, the equivalent of 1,000 days like 9/11/01. In certain ways, American leaders might even wind up tolerating the loss of three million Americans, since some of those weapons have the capability of killing nearly all three hundred million of us, and they might feel comforted that the "majority" of Americans were still alive!
In any case, the point being made here is that the loss of 3,000 lives on 9/11/01 was horribly tragic, but not nearly on the scale of what seems likely to come in the future. We should hope that God might see cause to Intercede in whatever truly horrendous terrorist acts might be to come, but we should possibly not try to blame God for permitting the events of 9/11/01 to occur. More than likely, God sees some "larger prespective" regarding that day that we cannot comprehend.
I choose to be totally confident that God is Loving and Caring about humanity. Therefore, even though I often do not understand why bad things seem to sometimes happen, I Trust that He has full Knowledge and Understanding and Control of all the foolish things we humans do, and He Watches over us.
As examples of this, the Old Testament contains (in its 800,000 words) a few references to the word "red". There are some modern Christian leaders who find some way to apply those references, written 3300 years ago, to the Soviet Union, which was often referred to as "Red" simply because of that word! The Soviet Union only came into existence in 1917, very recently, and there is no realistic reason that any text written 3300 years ago would make direct references to a government that didn't even last 80 years! Some of those same Christian leaders point out another OT Verse referring to "enemies from the north" as also somehow applying to the Soviet Union. Doesn't this all seem simply like HUMANS (and not agents of God) finding ways to promote hatred of distant and unknown peoples?
There are several Denominations of Christians who believe that England is centrally important and regularly referred to in the Bible. It might be noted that those Denominations each began in England. Again, why would the Bible specifically mention some country or some society that would not even exist for many centuries? It is also very popular these days for Ministry to casually mention that the Bible mentions the United States. If their intention is to try to make people in the United States feel especially important, I guess that might help. But the United States has only existed for around two hundred years, and this is all many, many centuries after countless other countries and societies have prospered and disappeared, and even more centuries after the Bible texts were Originally written.
If Christianity (or any religion) is to have credibility, it seems that it should not be adding in many speculative extrapolations by assorted enthusiastic Ministry. (personal opinion!) Our Church believes that we should avoid such hyperbole and simply stick close to what the Bible actually Teaches and Says. We think that if we do that, we can't go far wrong. The BELIEVE Project (and later web-site) was developed to aid people in finding "real Truth" from among the astounding amount of religious information that is now available to all of us. We are convinced that it really entirely up to you to figure out that Truth, and we would not try to "tell" you what to believe. Our BELIEVE site hopefully avoids "personal opinions" such as these included here, and instead simply provides you with each of the arguments for various positions on any subject. If we did it well enough, you would then be able to sit back and contemplate, to Discern the Truth.
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