Monday, January 17, 2011

A Few Reflections on Genesis

We've made it thru the first book, Genesis.  Thank you to everyone who commented during the readings.

As an Atheist, I've been paying very close attention to my Christian commenters.  It's been great to get a perspective that is pretty much foreign to my perspective.  Having said that, I'm experiencing a big disconnect between what I'm getting out of the readings and what the Christians are taking from them.

This difference in interpretation shouldn't be surprising to anyone but, I was really hoping for some more persuasive arguments.  
Future Bible passages and saying that God is setting up mankind for redemption in the future with Jesus are not strong (or even valid) arguments when we continually read stories of a short tempered/vengeful god.

A few questions that came to me while reviewing Genesis:
1. Why are Adam and Eve punished for acquiring knowledge?  Why does he want man to be a lesser being the God and his minions?

2. Man has become wicked after God kicks them out of the garden so all living creatures, save for Noah, his family and select animals are slaughtered without being given a chance for redemption.  If God is going to give man a "do over" starting with Noah, why not allow man back into the garden?

3. Why does God make a covenant with The Family, giving them land only to have man continue to wander around to survive?  Why doesn't God provide for his chosen people?

Thanks you again for your participation and I hope we can continue as strong as we enter Exodus.

And I truly hope my Christian commenters will keep at it.  I really want to understand your beliefs.




28 comments:

  1. Good post Bruce, and good questions. I've really been enjoying the readings and the postings to date.

    I too hope the Christian commenters will keep at it, although I'm not sure there is any argument I could make that would shift them to my worldview, or vice versa. The two groups (ie secularists and christians) have such different approaches to interpreting the same stories, that any rapprochement is unlikely although the debate can certainly be thought provoking and enlightening in terms of the way other people think.

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  2. Due to travelling through the midwest of the US prior to starting my next job teaching in Vietnam I've not been able to participate and I'm catching up on the reading when I get the chance. Will hopefully be synched up by the time I get to Da Nang, keep it up :)

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  3. I've seen people here and elsewhere tell us that The Family's many flaws are proof that God loves us for who we are and doesn't expect us to be perfect. That's all very well and good, but this is what I don't get: The Family over and over again does things that I (from my modern perspective) consider to be terrible. If God also considers these things to be terrible, he has ample opportunity to mention it to his chosen people. Most of them get an awful lot of facetime with God. But he never brings up things like, "Hey, with the multiple wives business -- I frown on that." Or "Murdering an entire tribe of men in retaliation for one man committing rape (or defilement, at least) is disproportionate. Don't do that again." The fact that God never brings these things up, despite being in contact with these people so regularly, tells me that he approves of, or at least isn't bothered by, these actions. God is giving tacit approval to the horrible acts of his chosen people.

    Am I missing, or misunderstanding, something?

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  4. @Dave: I completely agree. Christians and non-Christians approach the text with completely different assumptions. Those of us non-believers handle the text as any other ancient literature, written by ancient people for ancient people about things important to them and subject to all the revision and discontinuity that inevitably occurs.

    A faith-based reading of the Bible assumes that a divine hand guided not only the writing but the preservation of the text's integrity over the centuries and through many revisions. On top of that, as Esdras said in a previous thread, layers upon layers of interpretation have been constructed to read the whole Bible as telling one cohesive story about the redemption of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    With different assumptions we can't really argue about which interpretation is right, but we still manage to have a productive discussion that illuminates and contrasts the different ways of looking at the same text. For the most part I think everyone recognizes that there are multiple interpretations of the texts.

    It's not like anyone is going to say "Oh, I didn't realize there are secular interpretations of the Bible, better abandon my Christian worldview." Likewise, nobody's going to say "Oh, that's how Christians interpret this? In that case I accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior."

    With one book down I want to encourage fellow readers/commenters to stick with it and keep posting ideas that help us understand each other and that aren't just picking fights and proselytizing. Thanks, Bruce, for starting this project!

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  5. @hypatia, some consider the curse/prediction of ill in chapter 50 for Simeon and Levi, the two brothers who murdered all the men in the city for the rape by one of their sister Dinah, to be a punishment for what they did.

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  6. Good questions.

    "1. Why are Adam and Eve punished for acquiring knowledge? Why does he want man to be a lesser being the God and his minions?"

    There's more going on than simply acquiring knowledge though I can sympathize with that reading. However the phrase "good and evil" has to do with discernment or wisdom (2 Sam 14:17, 1 Kings 3:9, Hebrews 5:14). In the garden, Adam and Eve though in adult form were immature. They did not know how to fully use the world they were given. We do this all the time. Stairs are not evil. Roads are not evil. They are both good. However, if a baby gets too close to either we prohibit and scold the baby until the learns the fullness of the danger. Adam and Eve were to learn wisdom and discernment through obedience to God. It's not evil for David or Solomon to have discernment between good and evil and its seems very likely that as Adam and Eve obeyed God that they would one day get to partake of this gift. But babies don't get to drive cars. You have to grow up.

    2. "If God is going to give man a "do over" starting with Noah, why not allow man back into the garden?"

    Redemption is never a do over. We are always going forward never backward (2 Cor 3:18). One reason Noah can't get back to the garden simply because its destroyed in the flood. But lets say it was still there, God appointed an angel with the fire sword to protect the garden signifying that if you want to get back to a restored relationship with God, you have to first die. Sin has to be dealt with and not ignored. To simply let Noah back into the garden would be to ignore sin and God to forfeit holiness.

    "Why does God make a covenant with The Family, giving them land only to have man continue to wander around to survive? Why doesn't God provide for his chosen people?"

    I assume you are talking about the Patriarchs. Are you talking about the times of famine? The three famines that occur with Abraham, Isaac, and then with Jacob's family. The first two allude to the third which brings us into the Exodus narrative. The Israelites can know trust God because Abraham and Isaac both went down to Egypt during a famine and God preserved them. With Abraham, God plagued Abimelech's house just as God will do through Moses. With Isaac, God made Isaac wealthy while in the land and he was sent away. The same thing happens with Israel as they come out of Egypt with many treasures.

    This doesn't really answer the why. Why didn't God just bless his people with treasures in the land? Why didn't God give them all beer and doritoes ex nihilo? This seems to be the same why that occurs at every stage of life. Why God do you act and order the cosmos the way you do? One reason is that we are tested to see if we will trust him. This is really the same test in the garden through the serpent/dragon. Is God really good? Why would he keep this tree from you? Why doesn't God provide for us in the land? Why do we still have famine? Is he really good? If we trust that he is good, then a believer knows that no matter where he may find himself, even if its in the valley of the shadow of death, that God is still a good shepherd and all things work to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).

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  7. Bruce,

    1. Why are Adam and Eve punished for acquiring knowledge? Why does he want man to be a lesser being the God and his minions? They are punished, not so much for acquiring knowledge as for acquiring it by disobeying God, which is a prime evil in the biblical scheme of things. The punishment is a self-inflicted wound. They acquired the knowledge of good and evil through experiencing evil (i.e. doing evil by disobeying).

    Man is a lesser being by virtue of being a creature. If man had not sinned how great would we have become, working within God’s will? Getting ahead: David is fully aware of our fallen condition, but can ask God, “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? You have made him a little lower than God…(Psalm 8)” I think that is pretty decent of God toward us rebels. God as Creator has the right to make all the rules. I realize that ruffles feathers, but humility toward God accepts such a proposition. Taking offense at it shows the same kind of pride that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden.

    2. Man has become wicked after God kicks them out of the garden so all living creatures, save for Noah, his family and select animals are slaughtered without being given a chance for redemption. If God is going to give man a "do over" starting with Noah, why not allow man back into the garden? Adam and Eve became wicked first and then God kicked them out of the garden. All their descendents were wicked. All were given the chance for redemption, but they would not take it. Noah was wicked too, but he was the only one who believed God and obeyed. He was spared not on his own account but because God chose him to repopulate the earth. God will re-create the earth and repopulate it with redeemed people from Adam to some future person - maybe one of your grandchildren. That will be, in effect, letting us back into the garden.

    3. Why does God make a covenant with The Family, giving them land only to have man continue to wander around to survive? Why doesn't God provide for his chosen people? He promised Abraham’s descendents the land. They won’t get it until Israel leaves Egypt and settles in Canaan. They were nomadic shepherds anyway. This is another big theme to keep in mind. The land represents “getting back to the garden.” (BTW wasn’t that a great old song by Joni Mitchell?) Sorry for getting ahead of schedule, but when Israel screws up later, they are exiled from the land. Land and exile are to be watched as we read through the Bible.

    As for provision, they were taken care of when wandering around. (In fact, they had manna for food in the wilderness (getting ahead again), so they were provided for better than any other people of the time. But that is not the point.) God has always provided the world the necessities of life. Unbelievers and believers alike enjoy the sunshine and rain, bread and wine. If you protest that there is famine, etc., remember that this too is a self-inflicted wound. Man introduced evil into the world and has to suffer the consequences. This doesn’t even have to be a religious principle: think of the meth addict who looks like he is 75 years old but is only 35. Suffering the consequences of his poor choices.

    As we move into Exodus, we see that Moses comes on the scene over 400 years after Joseph (we are told that later in the Bible –getting ahead again). The Family has lost all its money and power. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt. Another big theme: the exodus, moving from the “outside” back to the garden. The exodus is also a symbol of moving from unbelief to faith in God. It is a moving from exile to home and from death to life (a NT theme). Sorry for the long post.

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  8. @Euslyss

    "If you protest that there is famine, etc., remember that this too is a self-inflicted wound. Man introduced evil into the world and has to suffer the consequences."

    I'm sorry, but that sort of thinking is reprehensible to me. When children starve or die of disease, well, that is man's fault. If only we had been more pious, these things wouldn't happen, right? Again - blame the victim.

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  9. @ David

    Piety has nothing to do with it. Christians and atheists alike have children die of starvation and disease. We have vaccines, but often we can do nothing about microbes and viruses causing disease, but much of the world's starvation is the result of man's inhumanity to man. North Koreans are hungry because the dictator wants to build a bomb, for example. We are not so much victims as perpetrators. These things happen because of the events we looked at in Genesis chapter 3. So yeah, it's man's fault.

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  10. Well as a Christian I have found it very interesting to read along with you and see your views on the Biblical accounts. I must commend you on choosing to read the Bible as a whole over 2011 and for choosing to allow others to comment on your thoughts. I may well turn out to be a fruitful exercise for all.

    Anyway I thought I may be able to shed some light on the questions you have posed. So below are your questions and my answers, they might be short and sharp at times but I hope they are not in anyway abrupt.

    1. Why are Adam and Eve punished for acquiring knowledge? Why does he want man to be a lesser being the God and his minions?

    Adam and Eve are not punished for acquiring knowledge; they are punished for disobeying God's one rule. God gave them everything they or we could ever dream of, the perfect uncorrupted world. They were given everything with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God did not want to see His creation corrupted by the knowledge of evil and the knowledge of how to carry out this evil. Having said that He did allow them the free will to choose to eat of the tree and bear the consequence, which they did. The sin that was committed by Eve and subsequently Adam was that they;

    a) Ate of the forbidden tree

    And

    b) That they did this in an attempt to become like God, in essence an attempt to be gods themself.

    This is seen in Genesis 3:1-5 – “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, 'You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die." "No! You will not die," the serpent said to the woman. "In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    Secondly, it is not a matter of God wanting us to be lesser beings than He; we just simply are lesser beings. We are not eternal, omnipotent, sovereign, omnipresent, holy, righteous, just, without sin or anything similar. We are fallen, sinful humans who through free will choose to be unholy, unrighteous, unjust, and as I mentioned before sinful. As you may well discover as you progress through the Bible, God has a great desire to restore us to our once undefiled existence. He sent Jesus, His one and only son, to right the wrong which is our sin. As born-again Christians we are constantly being transformed and conformed into the image of Christ (perfection).

    Romans 8:28-30 is one of numerous references to this.

    “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.”

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  11. @ Euslyss

    I think we can all agree that a man, (or a woman, or a group of men and/or women) can through deliberate action or neglect inflict suffering and harm on others. History is littered with people of every creed, belief or lack thereof behaving badly toward their fellow beings.

    What I'm not getting is this asserted link between a couple of naughty humans in the Garden of Eden, and all the suffering and harm that happens without human agency or in spite of human efforts to eliminate or mitigate it. It's man's (as in the human race's) fault because of what happened in Genesis chapter 3?? Sorry, but I just don't buy it. More likely that all the random suffering is just the consequence of living in a pretty inhospitable and violent universe, the natural processes of which can bring on suffering or extinguish life randomly and having no regard for humans' imagined position of special place or privilege within that universe.

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  13. 2. Man has become wicked after God kicks them out of the garden so all living creatures, save for Noah, his family and select animals are slaughtered without being given a chance for redemption. If God is going to give man a "do over" starting with Noah, why not allow man back into the garden?

    Every man and woman from Adam and Eve to Noah and family knew God and knew how it was that God created them to live. They through free will chose to live these wicked and defiled lives. It would seem that God was incredibly patient with them and gave them much time and opportunity to show that they loved Him and would live righteous lives. They however did not and upon hearing of Noah’s plans and God’s, they scoffed and mocked Noah. Had they taken these plan seriously perhaps more would be saves, it is after all not God’s will that any should perish but all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance). God in His utmost grace and mercy chose to save the only righteous man and his family He could find, along with the animals. He would have been completely within His power and right to have wiped us all out, but He did not! Having put us back into the garden would have achieved nothing positive as the garden holds no special power or redemptive qualities.

    In your opinion and understanding of these chapters what do you believe could have been achieved by returning to Eden? How could God have dealt with the almost complete defilement of man better/differently? Why?

    3. Why does God make a covenant with The Family, giving them land only to have man continue to wander around to survive? Why doesn't God provide for his chosen people?

    God made the covenant with Abraham and his descendants due to Abraham’s obedience to God.

    Gen 22:15-18 - Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command).

    God does provide and quite abundantly for His people. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and so forth never lacked anything. They had ample of everything, so much so that they were able to have huge families and still be sustained. Even in Joseph’s case where he was sold into slavery and should have had a horrible existence, God provided for Him. He supplied food, shelter, favour amongst his captors and so forth.

    In what ways do you see that God is not providing for His people? How do you believe He could have provided more abundantly?

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  14. @Bruce,

    Don't know how i missed this thread, but anyway the comments are very good. One thing i want to highlight is your question "Man has become wicked after God kicks them out of the garden so all living creatures, save for Noah, his family and select animals are slaughtered without being given a chance for redemption"

    That last part "without being given a chance for redemption" Man had plenty of chances for repentance and salvation. In Genesis 5:21-24 you read about Enoch, the guy that "was not". Enoch was a prophet that had pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). Why, because of the message that Enoch preached. We can read about it in Jude 1:14-16. Enoch was preaching to these people to repent... they just didn't listen. So God took him. I think people were ready to kill him. It has happened to allot more prophets and teachers after him.

    @Hypatia
    God gave man 1 rule when they knew not good and evil and they failed. Now they are really messed up. If He spent time trying to fix every flaw in man, He would need to program man and then free will would be out the window. God has an eternal perspective on things. He knows He is going to get to giving instructions on how He wants His creation to live. And it's already clear to me that if man does not want to live the way God wants he's not going to, no matter how much, soon, often God tells him.

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  15. As a community of mixed world views, I believe that one purpose here (maybe only my own) is to neither be converted or to convert, but to listen to other people's point of view and learn. As an atheist living in a largely Christian culture, I'm finding this incredibly helpful.

    A part of that understanding is to understand the premises people are taking that they consider unassailable.

    I've noticed two major (and probably pretty obvious) premises many Christian comments appear to use here that have yet to be expressed in our readings: (1) God is a well-defined character with clear motives, and (2) Christ is inevitable/there's a long term plan for redemption.

    There are more; those are the ones, at least for me, been the major ones.

    I'm wondering if the Christian commenters have noticed any major premises that the unbelievers have been assuming.

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  16. "Adam and Eve are not punished for acquiring knowledge; they are punished for disobeying God's one rule. God gave them everything they or we could ever dream of, the perfect uncorrupted world. They were given everything with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God did not want to see His creation corrupted by the knowledge of evil and the knowledge of how to carry out this evil."

    This means that Adam and Eve had absolutely no way of knowing that disobeying God was bad, since god withheld the knowledge of evil (or discernment, it works both ways). Isn't that just setting them up for failure?

    This is especially evident if you go by the "Adam and Eve were like babies" metaphor. If you put an open jar of cookies in the middle of the floor and tell your two-year-old not to eat them, you're not going to be surprised if you come back and the cookies are gone. You wouldn't throw them out of the house and bar the door with a flaming sword, and you certainly wouldn't condemn them and all of their descendants to eternal torture because they didn't comprehend that eating cookies was bad just because you said it.

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  17. I don't get the 'Adam and Eve as immature humans' argument either, at least insofar as it relates to all subsequent people requiring redemption. As a parent, if one of my children does something wilfully disobedient, I'll be annoyed, yes, I'll probably scold and I may punish that child. I won't punish the other child who didn't do it. And punishing the unborn grandchildren later?

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  18. @ Valerie

    "This means that Adam and Eve had absolutely no way of knowing that disobeying God was bad, since god withheld the knowledge of evil (or discernment, it works both ways). Isn't that just setting them up for failure?"

    At the end of the day whether you are mature and can discern between right and wrong or immature and can not, being told to not do something should be evidence enough that it is wrong. Would you not agree?? Further more to my point in previous comments, the sin of Adam and Eve opened their minds to innumerable negative things, the first of which was shame. Shame for being naked, however they had no need to be ashamed as that was exactly how God created them. They knew what was right and what was wrong, they knew they were not to eat of the tree, Adam knew that he was to protect and shepherd Eve, they knew their place and they chose to disobey and make a very feeble attempt at becoming gods.

    @ showinginterest

    I am just wonderng what has given you the impression that God punishes anyone for someone elses sins? God does not punish us for anyones sins but our own. Adam and Eve were banished from Eden for their sins, Cain was punished for his and so forth. God judges everyone according to their own conduct and lives, we are never ever judged by God for another persons sins.

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  19. @Nate

    "I am just wonderng what has given you the impression that God punishes anyone for someone elses sins?"

    Adam and Eve sin by disobeying God, and he keeps all of their decedents out of Eden, forces the men to toil and the women pain in childbirth.

    That's where we get the impression.

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  20. @ Nate "being told to not do something should be evidence enough that it is wrong. Would you not agree?? "
    No I absolutely disagree with that statement. When I make a rule for my children I help them understand why that rule is valid. I don't just say "You may not swim alone" I tell them the consequences of swimming alone and the punishment that will be meeted out should they disobey. As they grow we have the opportunity to make rules together. This god guy just says don't go near that tree Eve. She is wondering what the big deal is. She has been told you will die but seemingly has no concept of what that means.

    @ Euslyss "Unbelievers and believers alike enjoy the sunshine and rain, bread and wine"
    You noticed that too eh? Nature is a beautiful, awe inspiring thing that doesn't require any icing on the cake.

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  21. momofatheists: "For in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." Spiritual death ensues the moment they eat of it. (Speculation on whether they ever would have eaten of it seems unfounded on the terms of the text itself, at least from my point of view, with all due respect to my fellow Christians.) He tells them not to eat of it, and tells them why: they will die if they eat it. He is concerned for their well-being, and lets them know that there are grave consequences to be avoided if

    There seems to be really only one significant assumption that divides the community, at least so far:
    God is vs. God is not. This one underpins pretty much everything else. If there is a God, then the question is whether we can trust this book is in fact something He intended us to have. If there is no God, then that debate is meaningless; we examine the text only as we would any other. That baseline assumption also underlies the views people have of ethics, the possibility of prophecy, etc. Christians assume there is a God, and a few attributes about him (he is knowable, he is good). Atheists assume there is no god. The responses to the text vary in kind.

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  22. @ Chasia

    and yet we all keep on sinning. So perhaps the toiling and birth pangs are well deserved?? God being all knowing would have known we would be this way, and just as any child is punished for disobedience so are we. The reward however for daily life with God spent in joyful obedience far exceeds the 'adam/eve' consequence. Well at least I believe so.

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  23. @ Nate - But God being all-powerful could have devised a system where we didn't immediately fail upon birth, for the terrible sin of existing. You say each is punished for our sins, but if we managed to make it through life without 'sinning' (which is generally defined by which church you attend) and never accepted Jesus, we would still go to hell. The scales are tipped against us from the beginning because of what Adam and Eve did, according to the Bible.

    I've now tried both the Christian and Humanist world views, and the humanist world view is so much more refreshing and less guilt-ridden for me. I am responsible for my actions, I get to take credit for my successes and responsibility for my failures. I ask those who I've wronged for forgiveness, and the laws/morality that I live by are well defined, if personal, and don't require 20 translations and volumes of interpretation.

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  24. @ Valerie

    Ok so I will just cut and paste your comments and add mine below. I hope this is ok with you?

    "But God being all-powerful could have devised a system where we didn't immediately fail upon birth, for the terrible sin of existing"

    God never created us to fail, He gave us the choice and we chose the wide and well walked path of self-gratification, and not His way. We each choose to fail but choosing to follow our ways and not God's ways. We choose to be deceptive, lie, cheat and steal, God allows us the freedom to do exactly that. Quick question! Do you think there would be any joy in having children and kn ow they had no choice but to do exactly as you say and love you, or would there be more joy in knowing that they choose to love you and obey you because they know you love them??

    "You say each is punished for our sins, but if we managed to make it through life without 'sinning' (which is generally defined by which church you attend) and never accepted Jesus, we would still go to hell."

    If we could make it through life without sinning we would not need Jesus. Jesus came, lived a perfect and undefiled life and then died for our sins so that we would not have to. Sinning is not defiled by what church or denomination you attend, sin is defined by God. God lays out the base sins in Exodus 20 aka the 10 commandments. These are what we are judged against. If you could go through life and never break any of these rules, you would have complete access to heaven. You would have lived a life that honoured and glorified God and shown complete obedience as Jesus did. So lets see if you have commited any of the sins besides the ones specifically concerning God.

    a) Dishonouring/disrespecting your parents?
    b) Ever murdered/hated someone? Jesus said hating someone is murdering them in your heart!
    c) Ever committed adultery/lusted after someone? Jesus said looking in lust at someone is commiting adultery in your heart.
    d) Ever stolen anything? even something small as a child?
    e) Ever lied?
    f) Ever coveted/desired after what the 'Joneses' have?

    All of these are sins, just one of these makes you unworthy of the perfection of heaven, but Jesus made the way to right that worng.

    "The scales are tipped against us from the beginning because of what Adam and Eve did, according to the Bible."

    The scales are not tipped against is because of Adam and Eve, we tipped our own scales. What gives you the impression that A&E screwed you and you didnyt screw yourself??

    "...the humanist world view is so much more refreshing and less guilt-ridden for me. I am responsible for my actions, I get to take credit for my successes and responsibility for my failures. I ask those who I've wronged for forgiveness, and the laws/morality that I live by are well defined, if personal, and don't require 20 translations and volumes of interpretation."

    Being a human, regardless of belief system, affords us the joy of being responsible for ourselves, enjoying success, facing up to failure, forgiveness and forgiving, etc. The moral code of God is very well defined and is shown in Exodus 20, as I mentioned above. There was only one translation needed, God telling Moses to write it down. It never changes, it is the same today as it was 1000's of years ago. What makes you think that masses of vloumes and translations were needed to define these basic morals. Morals I might add that we seem to have written on our hearts from birth, even a small child knows what is wrong before they are corrected. For example, a child may snatch a toy from another in selfish covetousness and seem quite content. However had this happened to in reverse the first child would not be so content, as they know instinctively that it is wrong.

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  25. @ Nate: "I am just wonderng what has given you the impression that God punishes anyone for someone elses sins?"

    Pardon my saying, but isn't this the whole "Jesus is redemption" shtick?

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  26. @John

    You are partially right! Jesus did take the punishment for our sins but it is different to what the other commenter and I were talking about. The other commenters appear to believe that God punishes person A for the sins of person B and vice versa, which is incorrect. We are all answerable for our own sins and the impact they have on others.

    To get a greater understanding of Jesus death I have explained sin and atonement below.

    The Old Testament sacrificial system:

    On the Day of Atonement, animals were killed before the altar and the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the most holy place [in the temple]. Under that seat were tablets of stone upon which had been written the Ten Commandments. Looking down from heaven God could see the law, but when the sacrficial blood was sprinkled, the law - as a reminder of the people's sin - was covered. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.

    Hebrews 9:22 - According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness).

    New Testament - Jesus' Death On The Cross:

    Jesus death atoned for our sins in 3 ways.

    1) As High Priest and Sacrifice, Jesus fulfilled the OT sacrificial system of sin atonement (Hebrews 5-10).

    2) Jesus death was a propitiation for our sins

    Romans 3:21-26 - But now, apart from the law, God's righteousness has been revealed — attested by the Law and the Prophets —that is, God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus).

    This means that Jesus' death satisfied God's wrath towards our sin. God poured out His wrath upon Jesus "He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the
    righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    3) Jesus' death was substitutionary, He died for our sins so we would not have to.

    Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life —a ransom for many.

    Galatians 1:3-4 - our Lord Jesus Christ... gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

    Isaiah 53:5-6 - But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

    I hope that clears the whole "Jesus is redemption shtick" up?

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  27. @Nate - "God never created us to fail"

    You believe your god created us, knowing how we would act, what we would do, what we would choose, knowing everything about us before we would open our eyes, do you not? Accordingly this deity creates us knowing we will sin, and certainly he could create us to do otherwise, could he not? If he did not create us to sin, then why do we continue to sin? Do you honestly believe we have free will in this position? It is really the same question. How can we possibly have free will when your god created us to be the way we are? He could have created us to be different, but he didn't, he created us as we are knowing how we would be when he could have created us otherwise. If he truly created us with free will, why does he punish us for failing to obey? It is as they say, when the clock fails to accurately keep time, do you blame the clock or the clock maker?

    "If we could make it through life without sinning we would not need Jesus."

    Quite honestly this is a guilt trip, pure and simple. Jesus came and died for you, he suffered for you, you owe it to him to ask forgiveness for your crimes (real or imagined). This is not the actions of a moral being.

    If I am to be held accountable, I expect to be able to answer my charges, I expect a fair trial, I expect fair representation and council, and I expect to be shown, proven, not only that I did wrong, but what I did wrong, and why it was wrong for me to have done. As a moral being I will accept punishment for my crimes assuming these criteria are met and that the punishment is just. As a moral being I would be horrified to think anyone else was punished on my behalf, especially if they were punished before I committed the crime, before I was even born and able to commit the crime.

    Hell, burning eternally, is not just punishment for any crime I could possibly commit for I am not an infinite being. Death is often suggested as being our punishment for sin, Hell is for those who refuse to believe. But death comes as punishment before I could answer for any charges nor be brought to trial and as such is also not just.

    The story of Jesus is not the greatest love story of all time. Jesus is a scape goat, provided in advance and as such as a debt we are expected to repay with our obedience, our guilt, and the sacrifice of our critical faculties. Jesus is not a sacrifice, rather he is part of a protection racket in which your god claims we will go to hell, that we even deserve to go to hell, but he can protect us if we just obey him.

    Your god is not moral, he is not just, he is not worthy of worship.

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