Religious texts and seemingly picking and choosing

(104 Posts)

I can't help but notice lots of the religious people i know (largely Christian but not all) seem to pick and choose which bits of their religious texts they follow.

For example in the bible there are many examples which just don't fit with society values today but my question is: who told you you could choose which bits to follow..? Wouldn't you try and follow all the rules? If not, why?

I'm sorry if I'm not putting this across right, it's difficult to think of the right words to not sound rude! grin

The Bible is not a book of "Rules" it is a collection of books which were written at different times, by different people, for different purposes. Therefore what interpretation you put on any piece will depend on a lot of context.

The biggest one is that the Old Testament was 'superceded' by the New Testament, when Jesus came to earth and gave us a new way of looking at God and religion. So Christians will put far more weight on the New Testament than the Old Testament, specially where the two have very different viewpoints (eg dietary laws vs 'it's what comes out of your mouth not what goes into it that matters')

But even in the NT, you have to remember that the books were written for different audiences and different situations - the epistles were letters written to specific churches, and often part of a stream of correspondence where this is the only bit we still have. So you have to interpret what the situation there was and why the writer was maybe giving advice - eg 'women should keep quiet in church' may well have been in response to a comment about the women 'chatting' during the service, not an overall 'for all people at all times' rule.

So, there are a lot of good reasons why Christians can't treat it as a 'just ollow the rules' kind of book.

Additionally, of course, people are biased and think some bits are more important because they fit their own opinions - there's a great 'letter' that gets copid online about homosexuality being sinful because of certain OT passages, but the ones around it are about not mising fibres in clothes, not eating milk with meat, etc - which the same readers don't pay as much attention to.

niminypiminy Sun 06-Oct-13 21:57:22

What AMuminScotland said. The Bible isn't primarily and book of rules - if it's mainly anything it's a book of stories. There are the kind of stories that we call myths -- stories that were never intended to be taken literally -- and stories that we call history (although they were written by people with very different ideas about what history was all about than we have), and stories that we call biography (though again written with a very different idea about what a biography might be than we have). There's a lot of poetry in the Bible, and sayings, and there are writings where people try to tell people what's going on in the world in symbolic terms. And running through it all is a great mega-story of how God has reached out towards human beings, and how human beings have understood what God is trying to say to them.

ColdFusion Mon 07-Oct-13 17:28:45

Context is rather important.

A good rule for reading the bible is to think about what the passage says, what the message is within its own cultural context, and what it means in our lives today.

It should be read prayerfully and mindful of the character of God, and in the company of other Christians, of possible (face to face or via commentaries) as the Christian faith is about relationships.

lisad123everybodydancenow Mon 07-Oct-13 17:31:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 19:48:47

It should be read prayerfully and mindful of the character of God, and in the company of other Christians, of possible (face to face or via commentaries) as the Christian faith is about relationships.

And yet you still have very distinct sects within Christianity. How come with this process you're not all 'on the same page' as it were?

I've got a better idea. How about god edits the bible and makes it clear what bits are for 2013 and so on. That'd make sense? Why muddle it all together which leads to many many different interpretations?

niminypiminy Mon 07-Oct-13 20:28:30

headinhands: as I know you've been told before, God did not write the Bible. Why are there so many interpretations? Because all texts are capable of multiple interpretations -- that's the nature of language.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 21:02:28

Okay, so why would god use a method of communication that is so open to abuse? Why would god inspire men to write such an ambiguous text? Why didn't Jesus just write the NT himself or at least dictate it clearly and concisely. If you're going to say it's written by men as an excuse for the contradictions how do you then know what is to be taken literally other than your own bias, which is what every other Christian does and hence comes to wildly different interpretations. And god knew all this! He knew that his message to earth would be vague, contradictory, ambiguous and downright offensive in places.

timidviper Mon 07-Oct-13 21:15:46

There is no method of communication that isn't open to abuse though is There headinhands. You have only to look at the news and how stories are spun by the media to see that. Add to that the fact that the Bible was not dictated word for word but was "breathed"

I wish I knew more of the Bible so I could quote relevant verses but I don't so I rely more on what I think Jesus would do or want. Not infallible but I think it works for me.

To a point though this is asking for definite answers which is like wanting proof and that does not tie in well with having faith

technodad Mon 07-Oct-13 21:26:36

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 07-Oct-13 21:30:09

Head, I can't think of any system that isn't open to abuse. Can you tell me which medium (IYO) is?

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 22:10:21

So this god who's so powerful that he created a universe with just words, a universe so vast that inconceivably large stars would float like specs of dust caught in a sunbeam, and this same god couldn't think of a better system than the same one fallible sinful men would use. He chose a way that would make it look like all the other religions. That defies logic sorry.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 22:16:19

so I rely more on what I think Jesus would do or want. Not infallible but I think it works for me.

And I suspect that's exactly what the op was driving at. What you think Jesus would do can be very different to someone else who is using their own same set of reasoning. If he trusts us to use our reasoning to determine what he wants then doesn't that do away with the need for the bible? Someone unthread said that god put his ideals in our hearts anyway, why give us a book that often requires us to suspend that supposed god given set of values? Isn't that a very very dangerous system?

ColdFusion Tue 08-Oct-13 05:17:51

Are you a Christian, head?

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 06:16:56

If I am, I'm doing a really shit job smile

crescentmoon Tue 08-Oct-13 06:56:53

It depends how you see it. Is difference to be celebrated though or is it a punishment like the Tower of Babel story?

FavoriteThings Tue 08-Oct-13 09:16:12

headinhands. The hatred that you have for God is understandable. But God wont keep on ignoring what you are doing on mumsnet.

FavoriteThings Tue 08-Oct-13 09:18:03

op. I completely agree with you.

1919 Tue 08-Oct-13 09:51:49

Favouritethings - assuming headinhands is an atheist, it seems absurd to claim that atheists hate God when the very definition of atheism is not believing in God. You are essentially an atheist with regards to every other God that humankind has proposed, does this mean that you hate Thor?
An atheist does not feel threatened by a supposed authority which they do not believe exists, however this kind of scaremongering is exactly why I view Christianity negatively. Are you saying that thinking critically and rationally and questioning belief is frowned upon by God and is therefore bad? This makes no sense if that same God created us with the faculty of reason and frankly demonstrates a petty, unforgiving and unjust God.

headinhands The 'point' of the Bible is that it tells us what Jesus did, and what his early followers did, and what the religion he grew up in did. From that, Christians have a 'base point' with which they can compare what their own thoughts and attitudes tell them.

When there are major discrepancies, they have to decide whether -
- the Bible was too specific to a situation different from ours to be relevant
- the Bible was too much based on earlier patriarchal systems to be relevant
- it's all a pile of nonsense and they might just as well stop referring to themselves as Chrsitians
- they are too much influenced by modern culture and have got it wrong themselves

Christians believe that Jesus set an example that was worth following, therefore they want to read about what he said and did, as best we can manage since he didn't write it down himself. So the Bible is the best record we have.

The idea that God could have dictated something a lot more specific is quite true. But, if he did that, and announced it with thunderbolts etc, then we wouldn't have any choice about whether to believe it or not. I know that's a circular argument, but you wouldn't then be dealing with anything in the category of 'religion'.

Oh and from my point of view God didn't 'give' us a book. We wrote it. Because we're like that. The only difference (I would guess) between your view of that and mine is that I think it was based on some things that actually happened (and were caused by God) rather than imagination and wishful thinking.

FavouriteThings The God I believe in does not go around being nasty to people for not believing in Him. Bad things happen to everyone, not on the basis of whether they are in God's 'good books' this week.

You should celebrate the fact that people consider religion important enough to have an opinion on, and express strong views about.

Atheists don't hate God. I don't hate the flying spaghetti monster. My feelings are so far beyond neutral that there isn't a beige enough colour to describe them. That isn't hatred.

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 13:09:20

Hi favourite smile <waves excitedly>

The hatred that you have for God is understandable.

Firstly personally I don't feel there is any good reason to think there is a god who is interested in mankind, secondly when you say you understand my hatred, you mean you agree that the god of the bible isn't nice?

But God wont keep on ignoring what you are doing on mumsnet.

What is it that I'm doing? What will he do?

ColdFusion Tue 08-Oct-13 18:08:31

So, if you are not a Christian, you don't have a horse in this race.

Do you see moulding God in your image, rather than him moulding us? It looks like it.

It's easy to discount the bible as worthless because people (yes, sinful fallible people) don't agree. That is hardly God's fault.

It is very difficult for non-Christians to 'get' the bible. When the Holy Spirit is absent, it probably does look like a very long and confusing book.

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 19:35:36

It is very difficult for non-Christians to 'get' the bible. When the Holy Spirit is absent, it probably does look like a very long and confusing book.

How come the Holy Spirit gives different people different interpretations on the issue of homosexuality etc? Why would it do that?

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 19:38:43

For that matter why doesn't the Holy Spirit just talk to people without the need for the bible?

1919 Tue 08-Oct-13 20:04:02

Why can't non believers discuss Christianity?

I think it's probably impossible to understand and believe in something without first defining (contextualising?) it internally. In that respect I think that anyone who claims to believe in God has subjectively defined God within the context of their own mind and experience and therefore constructed him in their own image. How else could you comprehend something so ambiguous and supernatural? I think that this is demonstrated quite well in the fact that not all people of religious faith have the same concept of God.

I wouldn't discount the bible as entirely worthless, it has cultural and historical value.

Stop trying to smuggle God into your arguement when non believers do not accept his existence as fact.

Yes the bible is confusing (which reflects its cobbled together nature). It's also extremely contradictory and illogical in parts (have a look at the sceptics annotated bible website). You utilise blind faith to jump over these gaps but without the 'Holy Spirit' to obscure my ability to think critically, I find it extremely difficult to justify belief in something so explicitly flawed.
Atheists recognise that faith is not a virtue.

1919 Tue 08-Oct-13 20:06:35



The bible is not a book of rules. If you try and treat it this way you will end up picking a choosing the bits you like and ignoring the rest which is what I presume the OP is referring to.

There are two tasks with studying the bible. The first is about the text itself. Unless you can read Biblical Greek or Hebrew you have to read in translation. There is the genre - are you studying a letter, poetry, myth, gospel? Who wrote it, when and why? Does this piece of writing show evidence of later editing and reediting? What was the culture, family relationships, politics of the time? What were the issues that faced the writers such as the exile in the old testament or the growth of the new churches in the new testament.

Once you have got to grips with all of the above you can get on with the second task which is application. Often that interpretation is provisional and up for discussion.

In studying the Bible I'm trying not to pick and choose which bits to follow and this is especially true of the hard bits which I don't like so I come back to them time and time again rather than just dismiss because I find them hard.

I hope that makes sense.

headinhands Wed 09-Oct-13 17:46:33

Would it have made sense if god had inspired or put a few extra chapters at the start of each book explaining that? Why would he not say that? And even with that knowledge of history and ancient languages, people still come to very different interpretations. I've often thought how foolish it would be to take the same approach when writing important instructions like flying a plane. Imagine you were as ambiguous, vague and contradictory. And arguably the bible is supposed to be more important than that.

niminypiminy Wed 09-Oct-13 20:04:30

headinhands, I suggest you try to write a set of unambiguous instructions -- say, for tieing a shoelace. Then, ask someone to tie a shoelace using only your instructions. The problem, as you will soon find out, is that language is inherently ambiguous, and the more complex the linguistic structures you use, the more ambiguity results. Even very codified uses of language, such as in legal reports or scientific articles, is not immune from ambiguity and multiple interpretations. Your demand that the Bible should be unambiguous is impossible for anything written in any human language. And whether, and how, you believe God might have inspired the Biblical texts, we have still nothing more than human language to record that inspiration.

Fugacity Wed 09-Oct-13 20:55:41

Don't blame God.

If humans are ambiguous in their interpretation, blame humans!

There are very few areas of scripture which are controversial. Most of those areas are only controversial because they go "against the flesh". Most Christians agree on most matters of doctrine. Differences are often "petty". They seem to bother atheists far more than they bother Christians.

I'd disagree with you there Fugacity as currently there are areas of scripture that are controversial - women in leadership and gay marriage to name but two. Also Christians don't agree on doctrine and debates around atonement are just one of those areas where Christians have different approaches. As long as Christians can say the Nicene Creed we are in the same building which is good!

I do understand why non Christians find the Bible frustrating. A short and easy to read manual would be so much easier than a library of material written over thousands of years by different authors all trying to get to grips with a relationship with the divine in their time and their culture.

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 13:19:02

I wouldn't say I find the bible frustrating. It's fascinating yes, even more so when you have come to the conclusion that it, as with all the other religious texts, was written by people who thought they were having a relationship with a god and sought to fit the reality of life into that belief. There's also the political element of utilising the text to subjugate certain groups with society.

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 13:25:18

And niminy your assertion that the written word is open to abuse only backs up my point that a super intelligent god would know this gaping flaw. I'm not sure what he could have done but the message is not clear and distinguishable from other religious texts. A loving god could not blame a rational person for deciding that they are all made up.

technodad Thu 10-Oct-13 20:44:50

If god is so powerful that he can make the whole universe. Surely he could use our telecommunications network to contact all the world's leaders and explain everything to them. If he can create a sun, then he can manipulate electrons to transmit a radio signal with any message.

Why would just he right some crappy old book?!

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 10-Oct-13 23:35:18

And you would believe their ex

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 10-Oct-13 23:38:40

Oops blush

Technodad, what do you think your reaction be to the news coverage of our world leaders claiming to have received an e-mail from god?shockgrin

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 14:36:00

I don't think I ever said that the written word was open to abuse. I said that language is inherently ambiguous -- that's a very different thing.

It's a bit wearisome to have to keep on repeating that the Bible was written by human beings and not by God, and that it is made up of an extremely various collection of texts written (and re-written) over many hundreds of years. It's wearisome to have to keep on repeating that it records the Israelites' and later on the early Christian church's evolving relationship with God, their growing understanding of him, and their up-and-down relationship with him. It's wearisome to have to keep on insisting that not all Christians have the one-dimensional, literal, inerrant view of the Bible that is so often imputed to them -- on this thread, most notably by headinhands.

The kinds of questions you are coming up with (why didn't God write the book so that it couldn't be misunderstood, why didn't he send a radio message) sound clever, but they aren't really. They're not genuinely engaging with what people are saying, and they're not taking account of the fact that people read the Bible in the light of the tremendous amount of historical and textual scholarship that has been done in the past two hundred years.

I'm happy to talk about the Bible. I love talking about the Bible. But I get tired of having to say the same old things again and again, and never get past the first point in the discussion.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 15:58:26

But surely the point is, the fact that is was written by humans, has huge numbers of errors, and can be interpreted in many ways is the problem. I don't disagree that it may be (in some small part) backed up by some supporting evidence, but it seems crazy for people, in this modern age, to believe any of the supernatural nonsense.

To make a star, god would have to have manipulated trillions and trillions of electrons. To send a radio or TV signal he would only need to manipulate a relative few electrons. Has he now lost his powers? Or is he just too busy killing children in Africa to stop for a chat?

So... Why does he allow us to all keep arguing and having wars, when he could talk directly to us all. Why does he only talk to some people, and in the form of dreams and visions. It doesn't make any sense.

Generally, when things are too strange to be true, it generally means it is made up! Should we not just all wake up and spell the roses?

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 16:19:26

Sorry, Technodad, I'm just going to have to take that line by line:

"But surely the point is, the fact that is was written by humans, has huge numbers of errors, and can be interpreted in many ways is the problem." Problem in terms of what? I'm not sure what kind of errors you are thinking of (does the book of Psalms have errors?), but I don't see that the fact that it can have multiple interpretations is itself a problem. On the contrary, it means the Bible is a hugely (and uniquely) rich resource.

"I don't disagree that it may be (in some small part) backed up by some supporting evidence, but it seems crazy for people, in this modern age, to believe any of the supernatural nonsense." Modernity is no defence against the proliferation of nonsense, as a quick look at Twitter shows. I think you are saying that there is no evidence that the supernatural events narrated in the Bible are true (but you have phrased it very badly so I am guessing): but belief in the supernatural is normally founded upon experience. People who believe in God have the evidence of their experience that he exists.

"To make a star, god would have to have manipulated trillions and trillions of electrons. To send a radio or TV signal he would only need to manipulate a relative few electrons." The problem is not God's powers but our limited human understanding.

"Has he now lost his powers? Or is he just too busy killing children in Africa to stop for a chat?" How many times do Christians have to say that they do not think that God is responsible for atrocities in Africa or elsewhere -- rather it is human beings, using their free will, that do these things?

"So... Why does he allow us to all keep arguing and having wars, when he could talk directly to us all. Why does he only talk to some people, and in the form of dreams and visions. It doesn't make any sense." Do you think God likes us arguing? He wants us to make peace -- but we're not in a hurry to do it, are we? He is trying to talk to everyone all the time. Some people aren't listening.

"Generally, when things are too strange to be true, it generally means it is made up! Should we not just all wake up and spell the roses?" Um, even if we discount the fact that there are different types of truth, and that many things are both made up and true (such as theoretical physics, or mathematical theorems), this resounding bit of apparent common sense really is just nonsense.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 16:46:08

but I don't see that the fact that it can have multiple interpretations is itself a problem.

You should! Two interpretations means that one, or both person is wrong. You can't both be correct. You will probably talk about beauty or love now, but you will be confusing the discussion with a debate about aesthetics, rather than a debate upon facts, so don't bother going there.

but belief in the supernatural is normally founded upon experience. People who believe in God have the evidence of their experience that he exists.

Hmmm, people who believe in God THINK they have the evidence of their experience that he exists. Sadly, they use confirmation bias and do not assess the evidence in a way that does anything other than support their existing views.

The problem is not God's powers but our limited human understanding.

This is a perfect example of where you are just gaffing off the point with some words that mean nothing. You are just making up some words to fill a hole which you can't answer with any credibility.

I know for a fact, that IF God could make a star, then he could make a TV signal. You can't counter that, so you say "it doesn't work like that, silly boy", which is not based on any facts and doesn't counter the point at all. You might have well thrown in the word transcendence to get the full bingo card!

How many times do Christians have to say that they do not think that God is responsible for atrocities in Africa or elsewhere -- rather it is human beings, using their free will, that do these things?

Utter rubbish. How did "free will" cause Malaria? Malaria existed before humans did. Your response does not make sense. Please give provable evidence than other meaningless words.

Do you think God likes us arguing? He wants us to make peace -- but we're not in a hurry to do it, are we? He is trying to talk to everyone all the time. Some people aren't listening.

I don't think god exists to care about us arguing. We are not all listening, because there is nothing to hear! I can't prove that, but I am not the one claiming someone I can't see is talking to me. You need to do the proving!

Um, even if we discount the fact that there are different types of truth, and that many things are both made up and true (such as theoretical physics, or mathematical theorems), this resounding bit of apparent common sense really is just nonsense.

You clearly don't understand what a "theory" is. A theroy is a guess, which is then challenged again and again, until there is sufficient evidence that it is very likely to be true, and then it is still challenged and peer reviewed.

Made up stuff is when someone guesses, and then stops trying to challenge that view. AKA - a belief system!

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 11-Oct-13 17:47:51

Techno, would you believe a "transmission" on tv, radio or the Internet if it came from god?

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 17:49:37

1. Two interpretations can both be correct. In the humanities this happens all the time, even where so-called 'questions of fact' are concerned. The concept of the fact is complex and used differently within different disciplines (see brief wiki guide here. Saying that 'this is a debate on facts' as if a fact was self-evident is overly simplistic.

2. Confirmation bias is also frequently used by people who think that God does not exist.

3. Who is using persiflage here? Since I believe that God is greater than our human capacity to understand or describe, and that it is a life's task to come nearer him, it is perfectly reasonable for me to say that human understanding is imperfect compared to God's perfection. You don't believe in God, and that's fine, but it doesn't mean that I am using words that mean nothing. I'm using words you don't like.

4. Well, there's a good argument that human actions and inactions lead to people dying of malaria.

5. I don't think that the existence of God is amenable to proof in the way you mean it (although his existence can be proved philosophically, though I don't think you'd accept a philosophical proof as proof), and, of course, positive proof of anything is impossible to achieve. As I say, that's a blind alley. As Francis Spufford argues in Unapologetic it is more useful to ask, whether believing in God makes sense. When I listen to God, does it make sense? Does it make sense of the world, and the messy business of being human, and the pain and joy that being human involves? For me, yes, it does.

6. In natural science a theory is not a guess but is a well-confirmed explanation, as wiki explains. All theories are 'made up', but not all can be experimentally confirmed. For example, you develop a theory in history that can never be confirmed because the evidence has been destroyed in the course of time. In that case, you have to rely on a convincing story, lateral thinking and corroboration. Doesn't mean it isn't true, though.

SatinSandals Fri 11-Oct-13 17:55:53

You can use the Bible to say whatever you want it to say! If someone gives you a quote you can always find one saying the opposite!

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 18:05:55


Probably. If it was impossible to happen through any other means, then it would be a good bit of proof.

It isn't going to happen though is it! 'Cos he doesn't exist.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 18:24:12


1. Please give me an example.

2. This is a fair point. However, it is nowhere near as common. Furthermore, when professionals within thier field have debates then it is not the case. Prof. Brian Cox does not use confirmation bias, the Arch Bishop of Cantebury does.

3. What I am saying is, that you are making no attempt to explain why. You just fill the empty conversation with noise. Why did he take the time to help write a book, but make no effort today, when he could remove all doubt easily? The reality is, you can't explain why he doesn't communicate using sensible means, so you just say "it is complicated".

I want to know WHY he doesn't attempt to communicate using more sensible methods, when he is clearly capable of doing so.

4. My point is, that Malaria has been around for between 50,000 to 100,000 years. Long before humans existed. How did free will create maleria? Yes, farming causes more cases of maleria, but it didn't cause maleria. Please explain your argument and provide evidence of your position, rather than the confirmation bias that you have just demonstrated.

5. Sorry, if you can't prove it, then it don't exist! Simple!

6. But I am not talking about history. I am talking about the now. Ignore the old book, and open your eyes to reality.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 11-Oct-13 18:32:03

So, all it would take for you to believe in god Techno is a transmission that cannot be explained or replicated by people.

Thank you for your answer, I find it very

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 19:13:45

Technodad, I think we should agree to disagree. We're not going to get anywhere with this discussion in which you think I'm making meaningless noise interspersed with confirmation bias, and I think you're a nitwit. Let's take a break, eh?

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 19:18:32

just popping in to say hello smile

Niminy I'm reading Unapologetic - it's quite good, isn't it? I like how Spufford says that he wrote it as a caffeine fuelled diatribe in a Cambridge cafe - that alone is enough to endear it to me! smile

niminypiminy Fri 11-Oct-13 19:41:29

Hello Holo! Good to see you! Yes, it's a book I really enjoyed. I especially like the description of prayer and the chapter 'Jeshua' will stay with me for a long time. I like the sweariness too.

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 19:48:35

I haven't got that far yet. I liked his re-definition of sin - have been soooooooooo tempted to share that one far and wide! Might shock a few of my more genteel co-Christians though!

Re. the Bible, what are your (or anyone else's on the thread) favourite books / authors? Or what books have you fund particularly helpful? I'm quite a fan of Walter Brueggemann on the Hebrew Bible - his Theology of the Old Testament is very good and I've really enjoyed his more recent books too.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 19:54:07


Why the smiley face. What is wrong with changing your mind after seeing evidence that is clear to everyone and not open to interpretation? I know it isn't very Christian to use evidence, but I would willingly convert if there was some.

That is the difference. You give me evidence, I review it and change my theory.

Sadly, you and Niminy don't do this. You see the evidence and make up some fluffy words to make the evidence go away!

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 20:01:19

Liked the song, Techno! Clever and articulate. I've got to say, I don't believe in the god that Tim Minchin doesn't believe in, too. Oh no - that god he is singing about is nothing like the God I do trust in.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 20:07:19

Fair enough.

The Church of England god is the god I don't believe in.. Or the others for that matter.

It is a catchy song.

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 20:43:21

Yes, it is catchy, but possibly, dare I say it, irrelevant to this discussion as no-one is claiming the reality of the god described therein?

Surely it's more sensible to listen to what people are actually saying and to respond to that, rather than wheeling out an obviously straw man? (sorry, Tim. I'm sure you're very nice in real life.) People have said some really intelligent, good things on this thread about the Bible. It'd be a much more interesting thread if we focus on those.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 20:46:29

Fair enough. I will let you crack on with that then. Is it difficult to move out of your comfort zone with my unintelligent discussion?



HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 21:00:26

No, don't be like that, Techno!

It's just that this could be a good conversation. Certainly from my POV the Bible is something I'm very interested in and am happy to chat about from various perspectives. Stay and chat!

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 21:04:45

I can't - I haven't read it since I was 10 years old, and didn't believe it then.

I have nothing to offer other than semi-clever quips and funny Tim Minchin videos. Have you heard his "pope" song?

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 11-Oct-13 21:15:11

Techno, when I read my reply, I worried that it could be construed as snidey or sarcastic. The smiley face was to counter that and indicate that my thanks and interest in your reply were genuine.

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 21:23:50

No snags.

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 21:25:45

No, I've not heard his Pope song. I really like Pope Francis though, so it'd better be good, ;)

technodad Fri 11-Oct-13 21:37:42

You won't like it!

HolofernesesHead Fri 11-Oct-13 21:49:22

Actually I think it's great - I'm not just saying that to be perverse, I do honestly agree with him 100% and I'm not even slightly offended by sweary language. Sometimes swearing is the most appropriate response to terrible things.

It opens up the huge issue of child abuse within churches, esp the RC church. Yes, there has been much covering up of that, although I hope I'm right in saying that the pendulum has swung considerably the other way towards protecting thevulnerable, inc children, and exposing abusers within churches. I know this is true in the C of E, very strongly so, and very rightly so. So I hope, hope, hope with all my heart that Tim Minchin's pope song becomes anachronistic.

Pope Francis has changed the tone of the arC church hugely in the very short time he's been Pope so far, so I have high hopes for him. I've read lots about him, his interviews and so on, and I really do think that his head and heart are in the right place.

Yougotbale Sat 12-Oct-13 00:10:34

Not sure the pendulum swung? The pope quit because one of the bishops he helped get a senior position was found guilty of child rape and abuse. I think he thought he'd run and let someone else deal with it

technodad Sat 12-Oct-13 07:04:09


If you have got over thinking I am a nitwit, I was wondering if you had any further thoughts on my number 3 and 4 comments from 18:24 last night?

HolofernesesHead Sat 12-Oct-13 08:27:19

Yougotbale - I've got a busy day today but I'll try to come by later and talk to that one. (Just didn't want you to think I'm ignoring you!)

HolofernesesHead Sat 12-Oct-13 08:30:09

And if you're interested Techno, I'll have a crack at your points / questions, although I kinda fear that I might be 'white noise' to you...No offence to you intended there, more a recognition that we probably talk very different languages when it comes to ultimate meaning.

niminypiminy Sat 12-Oct-13 09:02:41

Technodad, I do wish you wouldn't just label things you don't agree with 'confirmation bias'. Of course I use arguments that support what I think: so do you, and so, heaven help us, do Brian Cox and Tim Minchin. Eliminating confirmation bias may be an important thing to do in writing a scientific paper, but conversation would hardly exist without it.

Returning to your points 3 and 4.

On 3, the first thing to say, yet again, is that God did not write the Bible. Humans wrote it. It's the record of a sustained attempt to understand God, and to see his purposes working out in human history. But between God and humans there's always a translation problem (to use a metaphor). The prophet Isaiah framed that problem this way: 'my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways'. In the Book of Job, one of Job's friends says, 'for God speaks in one way, and in two, though the people do not perceive it'. The people who wrote the Bible knew that they were trying to discern God's purposes through the imperfect medium of human language, and they stressed the need to listen very carefully to try and understand. That is what prayer is. Simply listening. Sometimes when I feel that it wouldn't hurt God to pick up the phone, I remember that I don't get to tell him where and when and how to speak. He will do it in his own way and time.

Doubtless you will say that is all empty words that don't mean anything. All I can say is that I have done my best to answer your point: but I am never going to say 'hey, yes, God wrote the Bible so why can't he just email us!', because I think that's missing the whole point.

On your point four, it's true that Malaria has been around for millennia. But your view, if you don't mind me saying so, is a very anthropocentric one. God loves the Malaria-carrying mosquitos as much as he loves us; they too are part of his amazing creation (no, I'm not a creationist - evolution is how life forms came to be as they are now). Who am I to demand that God should have wiped out the mosquitos in order to prevent human suffering? Who am I to say, even, that the Malaria parasite does not have a special place in God's heart (metaphorically speaking)? And, as I have said before on these boards, if we make the demand that God steps in to prevent human suffering, where are we to stop: will we have a means-tested misery audit so that only the most serious suffering gets stopped -- but then, is that fair to the sufferers just below the cut-off point? Do we want him to make all suffering, even the most trivial, go away? What would the world be like then? Would it affect how we experience joy?

But you are not really, seriously, entertaining those points, because human suffering is just a convenient stick with which to beat God.

niminypiminy Sat 12-Oct-13 09:08:45

Holo, thinking about your question about books about the Bible. Something I read recently that I actually thought was pretty good was Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. Though obviously informed by serious scholarship I thought it was an interesting and thought-provoking and not too difficult presentation of liberal understandings of the Bible. And the chapters on Paul I thought were very good.

technodad Sat 12-Oct-13 09:19:00

Niminy, I am not beating god with a stick, he doesn't exist.

So, just coming back to free will. Earlier you said that free will is the reason for African babies dying, but you are now saying that god has chosen to allow the Malaria virus to evolve.

So, which is it? Gods choice to kill babies or free will? I am confused.

Can you clarify which of the two it is, or is it both? Or... Neither?

niminypiminy Sat 12-Oct-13 09:31:54

Technodad, it's a figure of speech.

I don't quite understand what is confusing you so much. My point was that it is an anthropocentric point of view to see the malaria parasite purely in terms of its effects upon humans. It exists in and for itself, and it's effects on humans -- though bad for us -- are not its primary purpose in existing.

The whole of God's creation is dear to him - including humans, pathogens and parasites.

technodad Sat 12-Oct-13 10:13:19

What is confusing me, is that you said that babies dies because of human free will, and not because god is murdering them. But since Maleria has nothing to do with free will, and god created Maleria, that means that it is gods fault and not human free will.

So, you have contradicted yourself and I was seeking clarification of what exactly causes babies to die. Is it god killing them, or not?

God did not write the Bible. Humans wrote it. It's the record of a sustained attempt to understand God

Just passing and saw the above. Niminy you wrote that, but I'm not just pointing to you as many religious people say the same thing. Even others in this thread.

Problem 1# You can imagine a guy 1000s of years ago adding a book or chapter to the bible which to him clarified god's intent. He'd be basing this on all the rest that god had said in the earlier books.

That's fine, but if you go back to the earliest writer he had no such basis. It had to come out of his own head unless god contacted him directly. Which posters have shown isn't practical (or god would do it now)

Problem 2# There are millions of devout christians out there who know the bible to be the literal word of god. Faith, prayer and the holy spirit - not to mention numerous miracles - have confirmed this so they can't be wrong.

But those christians who believe that humans wrote the bible can't be wrong either as they have had this confirmed by faith, prayer, the holy spirit and their own miracles.

So either god is deliberately deceiving millions or it's possible for millions of sincere christians, who through faith and prayer and life long devotion to their god, have come to a clear and sure knowledge of his love and plan for them, to be totally and absolutely wrong and to have been talking not to god all this time, but to their own imaginations.

madhairday Sat 12-Oct-13 10:53:18

<sneaks in>

I can't join in with this as my brain fog is immense, I can barely follow it much to my frustration (drugged to the nines) - but I had to come and wave to all the regulars, and say I'm here in spirit, and wish I had more to say.

I am going to order 'unapologetic' now niminy and holo - your description of it has convinced me smile

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 12-Oct-13 18:51:46

Techno, what evidence do you have that
a). It isn't very Christian to use evidence (actually, what does this even mean?)
b). I would not reconsider a previously held position following evidence to the contrary?confusedangry

technodad Sat 12-Oct-13 22:59:39

A) your posts on this and other threads.

B) your posts on this a s other threads.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 12-Oct-13 23:44:22

Would you please be more specific Techno? I don't know which posts you mean.confused

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 12-Oct-13 23:53:41

Also Techno, can you explain what you meant when you said I know it isn't very Christian to use evidence?confused

technodad Sun 13-Oct-13 07:51:05

Erm, it is hardly rocket science. The OED definition of "faith" is:

strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof

I am not sure why you find my comment either difficult to understand, or offensive in any way.

technodad Sun 13-Oct-13 08:26:20


So you have any answer to my post at 1013 yesterday?

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 13-Oct-13 14:34:52

Techno, where on this thread have I demonstrated that I would not change my mind when presented with evidence to the contrary? We are talking about evidence here aren't we? Because I have not mentioned faith once.

volestair Mon 28-Oct-13 20:06:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hello all log time no see. Been super busy on other threads and waned to say hi.

Mad sorry you are unwell.

Ninny you write so brilliantly, I can't keep up with you.

Dione hi and Techno hello, how lovely to see the discussions still raging on in this section.

Volestair unless you have some understanding or knowledge in addition to this then the reference to all congregations foes with verse 33 which speaks of God as a God of peace and not disorder.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35

New International Version (NIV)

33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

34 Women[a] should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.[b]

You said So I think what people are saying is that if you reject that part, why? and why follow any of the other rules? Why not take whatever criteria you're using to decide which bits of the bible to keep and which bits to throw away, and just… use those criteria for living instead? The internal sense you have of what's right and what's wrong, combined with your societal conditioning, are what you're presumably using to sort through which biblical instructions are right and worth following and which aren't, so why do you have the intermediate step of the Bible? It all seems very confusing to an outsider.

I think that is a very good question. For me as a Christian the answer is that the Bible gives me an understanding of how God has revealed himself or how people have perceived God through a number of ages and in different settings. At the time when that passage was written (1 Corinthians 14:33-35) women were not taught about the scriptures (the Hebrew scriptures, which we Christians call the Old Testament). They would have found it very confusing, they were being taught and must have felt they had tons of questions so it was better to ask the questions later. If a group were running an Alpha course for non-Christian enquirers they might say 'Don't ask questions during the talk but wait until the discussion time afterwards.' Because that would promote a more peaceful time than lots of people asking questions.

Techno if I may say, just in answer to your questions about the world, and this is my opinion and not necessarily that of others on this thread. The world was made perfect and it is now not perfect because all of creation was given free will. That means the angels who were created before humans and the humans. And this free will brought death into the world. That is my understanding of it. I expect you have heard this elsewhere. I cannot offer any proof of this (irrefutable proof) but I can see evidence of it in the world, in that people do have free will to kill each other, which is terrible but we have that free will.

I find Tim Minchin's songs very good and entertaining, I think he makes lots of interesting points and is very good on a comedy rating. His speech about how to get the most out of life is brilliant. As I listen to him sing I imagine that one day he will find God. Call me crazy but if he ever does remember that I predicted it! grin

long not log! And hi to greenheart too.

Volestair sorry - then the reference to all congregations goes (not foes) with verse 33

Hi 'Italiangreyhound* good to see you back.

I think the Bible is confusing to the outsider. It is pretty confusing to the insider too as it is not a book of rules or an ethical handbook. It would be a lot easier if it was but no amount of wanting it to be will change what we have.

headinhands Wed 30-Oct-13 08:03:49

How do you interpret 'but must be in submission, as they law says'. And that question is to the Christians. When Paul cites laws it doesn't seem like he's talking to a specific church. There are churches that still apply these verses literally today, and yet they have the same 24/7 access to the Holy Spirit as any other Christian, couldn't god just clear this up by speaking the same thing to all of the them, or maybe have made the scriptures less ambiguous and contradictory.

Simple answer as I have to go to work and that is patriarchy and culture. The Bible is culturally conditioned as are we. The focus of Christianity is Jesus and not a book. The book we have is written in story and poetry and myth and letters and reflection. So that is what we have to work with.

JanuaryMadness Wed 30-Oct-13 08:21:01

I would just like to say that AMumInScotland has put the most reasonable arguments across that I have ever seen! It is indeed a rare site to see so much logic placed when it cones to religion.

I personally dont believe there is any real evidence or reason to believe that a man named Jesus was the litteral son of God, which makes Christianity pretty much out of my reach. But if I did believe that bit I would support her kind of Christianity.


headinhands Wed 30-Oct-13 08:31:19

How does one go from 'this book mentions a bloke called Jesus' to 'I believe the claims this book makes about Jesus but reject the claims of the other religious books?'

volestair Wed 30-Oct-13 18:38:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

volestair Wed 30-Oct-13 19:08:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

headinhands you said How do you interpret 'but must be in submission, as they law says'. The Bible talks about submitting to one another.

Ephesians 5:21 New International Version
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

I like to think we are being willing to bend to others and to care for others but not in the sense that if they are doing something wrong we just go along with what they think.

I agree it would be better if things were not so ambiguous but just because of the the ambiguity I don't want to throw God out of my life.

I also agree with Greenheart when she says The Bible is culturally conditioned as are we.

The Bible tells us about Jesus and about the history that led up to Jesus and about how people have tried to relate to God. I think lots of things in the Bible actually happened but clearly the way that people behave in the Bible is not a pattern for us all to behave. So it is not a rule book.

I am not sure I understand the question "How does one go from 'this book mentions a bloke called Jesus' to 'I believe the claims this book makes about Jesus but reject the claims of the other religious books?"

Do you mean why do those who are Christians choose to believe?

volestair I can't prove that the meaning of the passage was not for all the women to keep quiet, maybe it was. But as a Christian and a feminist in this day and age I most certainly do not think God wants all women to keep quiet in church. Other passages say things like

Galatians 3:28 New International Version
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."


Joel 2:28 New International Version (NIV)
“And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions."

You said Aaaanyway, so you are saying you view the Bible as a way of seeing how people have interpreted God's message in other times, right? I don't want to misrepresent you at all.

Kind of/not exactly, it is more than that. It is also factual for me about Jesus, it tells us about his life and death for us on the cross and resurrection and ascension to heaven and seating at the right hand of the father. And it tells us so much more, and it guides us and I think the greatest commandment is fabulous, because if you don't love yourself, how can you love others...

Matthew 22:36-40 The Message (MSG)
"The Most Important Command

34-36 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

In answer to your question I would say that there is guidance in the Bible but we are also given our intellect and we are required to make sense of life and lots of choices we need to make in this current age are not mentioned in the Bible!

So if we were trying to say the Bible is a guide book we would be pretty much unable to answer some of the things we face.

Actually in it's day, when it was written, the Old Testament way of responding to wrongs/injustice things may have been quite restrained and compassionate for those days (the Old Testament) but I will not pretend to be a huge scholar of either the old or new testaments.

So I may not be able answer your questions well. smile

Maybe you could tell me what amuminscotland and greengeart have answered for you!!

My apologies I can't explain more. I am just trying to live my life in the best way I can and I feel the Bible has some useful wisdom to impart.

Jesus did not abolish the law but he fulfilled it, he was the sacrifice that was necessary, I do not feel we need to try and keep all the complicated laws about diet. We will never be perfect and Jesus is the sacrifice who makes up for all our failings but we are still expected (I believe - IMO) to be the best we can be, compassionate and kind, caring etc and that is what I would like to be. I am well aware the church has a pretty patchy past on fulfilling this.

How much of the old testament do we take seriously or think is true? That's a massive question. If you follow the idea of it being the story of a people's struggle to know God then I could say it is all true. How much is about rules we should follow? Well, I said earlier I believe what is called the greatest commandment, or the new commandment, is the thing that really counts.

So for example is it wrong to eat certain foods, no for me not, is it wrong to mix fibres in cloth, no for me it is not, but maybe when those rules were being written down there was a reason! I don't know.

I have heard that a coat made of mixed fibbers came apart more easily, so maybe that was the reason!

My dear old dad told a story of lunch with a Jewish man. Dad was tucking into a meat product and drinking a glass of milk. His Jewish dinner companion pointed out that it was forbidden for him. Dad must have smiled and said well not for me. That night he said he was rather unwell! I hope I have remembered that rightly, I can expect my dear old dad would have been quite smug about not having to stick to such rules! Sadly, he is dead now so I can't ask him. sad

At its heart I believe faith is about making sense of life, relating to others and most of all relating to God. It should not ever make us worse people, sadly I fear it does sometimes.

volestair, can I ask what you believe about all this?

volestair Wed 30-Oct-13 23:14:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

volestair thank you for your quick reply.
I am not sure even fundamentalist Christians take it all literally, as someone Ninny (?) pointed out, the Bible is prophecy, poetry, history and all kinds of things! So not sure anyone takes it all literally, even if they say they do, but willing to be proved wrong!

I am not sure what the offical Church of England line is! my own story is I became a Christian 30 years ago in an evangelical Anglican church, have attended URC and baptist churches and visited many other types but have only ever been an official member of the C of E and of late in our free church.

Why I chose a general passage over a specific one is that I feel the Bible may speak about lots of specific areas but these are not what I feel God is overly concerned about. Other passages speak of the wider idea of God and this makes so much more sense to me. For example there is a lot in the Old Testament about sacrifices and yet God says...

Amos 5:21-24

New International Version (NIV)

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

So although I am sure the various passages about how to do this or that could be very important when they were being practised (as you know there is no temple now for Jews so none of those sacrifices can be offered) and yet for the world, for the future, what is vital. God speaks a lot of justice and you will find many Christians engaged in work for justice. (And also many who wish to deny it to others for a whole host of complicated reasons!)

And why does God allow this confusion. Here I am stumped. Yet I can say life with God is so much better than life without him, (and I say him to distinguish from it, not to distinguish from she). So for me I would like to find the bigger picture and not get too bogged down in the details but of course I would also want to hold on doctrine. So for me personally it does matter whether people think Jesus was real, or lived, or not, or was human, or was divine etc. These things contribute for me to doctrine, where as how to perform this or that ritual etc are not quite the same.

Bless you.

volestair Thu 31-Oct-13 10:02:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

That is a really interesting insight about reading the Bible volestair and really helpful.

Different traditions in Christianity give different weights to sources of authority. It is the protestant tradition that give the most weight to the bible alone - known as sola scripture and it is in this tradition that you will find those (a minority) who take every word of the Bible literally. The Roman Catholic tradition gives more weight to the teachings of the church whereas the charismatic traditions give a lot of weight to the prophetic words of the Holy Spirit in prayer. As an Anglican (C of E) we traditionally have three sources of authority which are scripture, reason and tradition. There is another source which is experience and the voice of liberation theology from South America and groups such as women and gay theology are being heard more and more in the last 50 years.

In practice it is more muddy than this but that is a general outline. It can look as if we are picking and choosing which bits we like but it is a lot more complex than that as we have had just short of 2000 years of interpretation and thought about the Bible to draw on and new stuff continues to come through.

* volestair* were you reading the Bible for a study or for pleasure or for something else?

I am sure people study bits of the Bible for all kinds of reasons.

In a sense it is hard to imagine that all bits of the Bible could have the same importance, there are so many translations etc.

volestair Fri 01-Nov-13 23:23:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wow volestair reading it for fun, that is impressive.

volestair Sat 02-Nov-13 00:48:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

volestair Sat 02-Nov-13 00:49:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

volestair I think this is why some people like to use a study guide they like so they know things will be looked at in the way they look at them. I think we (21st centuary folk) also need guides to say what was normal in that time and helps us understand. E.G. when you know it was normal for women to have their heads covered then you know that it is normal for the leaders to say it is important. A small number of Christians still apply this today and if we thought it was a rule for all time we might feel we need to (as I guess they do).

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