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Initial post: May 5, 2008 1:55:49 PM PDT
Bonnie S. says:
Why does the Christian Church threaten us with damnation for questioning its doctrine? Is the Church afraid we'll find out something it's hiding? Is it afraid we'll discover Christianity was abducted by a dictator in its infancy and it's scriptures rewritten on his order?
The thrillers DESTINY'S DAMNED

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2008 11:48:16 PM PDT
moronmission says:
The church doesn't threaten people it merely proclaims God's word which does teach that some people are heading for hell to pay for their actions. And no the church isn't scared of truth and it certainly isn't hiding anything. As for scripture being abducted I don't know what you mean. The New Testament has been handed down almost identically from it's origin (it's over 99.5% textually pure). We don't have the originals, but we have early copies and more importantly various early church fathers have quoted the entire New Testament with the exception of only about 11 verses. If you want to learn more about the bible and how it's been passed on go to:
http://www.carm.org/bible.htm

But back to the original question you asked, the church recognizes that scripture teaches that there are essentials in the Christian faith. For example Jesus says in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He also says John 8:24 "for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins." The way in which he uses "I Am" throughout the gospels is an old testament reference to Deity that God alone possesses. Compare John 8:58 (and really the full context is even better) with Exodus 3:14.

However all of this really comes down to if you really trust scripture and if you are really searching for the truth. If you are then I would recommend researching more about the Bible and Christianity. www.carm.org is a great resource as well as www.gotquestions.org There's even an article on Christian Essentials here:
http://www.carm.org/issues/worldviewessentials.htm

Hope that answers your question.

In reply to an earlier post on May 15, 2008 9:29:28 AM PDT
P. Parks says:
Question and question and question. Do it. Do it because you are asked to do it. Do it for yourself because no matter what, you will not end up empty-handed and empty-minded. I am a Christ seeker. Now please keep reading. I understand your point of view and I do hear your frustration. There are definitely some that threaten-that is their tool. I doubt that it has ever healed a wounded heart or really "saved" someone. I read this book, and as someone who loves the Lord, I had mixed thoughts and emotions. But I know God speaks to me and He is loving and compassionate and strong.

I'm not sure about the dictator, but I've read my share of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. And yes, people in the name of religion have not made the wisest choices, to say the least. People are people, no matter what. I cannot base Christ's character on what I see in people. We are all seekers. Good. If we seek, we will find. Don't be distracted by the church.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2008 1:05:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 17, 2008 1:08:02 PM PDT
I agree with the two previous replies to your question. I am 72 and have been active in Christian churches all of my life. I have found that some pastors and churches are so uptight that they cannot handle criticism and hold too hard to their "interpretations" of what scripture is saying. But, the church, in general, does not "threaten us with damnation" for questioning doctrine. There are is a core of Christian belief that is essential to being a true follower of Jesus Christ and most Christian churches agree on that core. Beyond that, there are different interpretations of some things not as essential as those core foundational truths. I have never been a part of a church that did not challenge its people to question and probe and pray over confusing things that people struggle with. My walk has always been one of questioning, probing, researching, and taking my confusions and questions to God in prayer. In the end it is all quite simple and everything else flows out from that. God loves us and calls us to love Him/Her in return. God seeks intimacy with each of his people, you and me included. The whole Old Testament is about God pursuing His/Her (God is not male or female, but has characteristics of both as we are created in His image and likeness according to Genesis) people and those people rejecting their loving God over and over. Read the book of Hosea to see God's passion for us even when we are stiff necked and turn away. God is passionate about you, Bonnie. He/She wants to hold you in His/Her arms and tell you how much you are loved by your creator. That is what it really is all about. We are called to be loved by our Creator and to blessed by our Creator and love back in return. We are loved by our God even with all of our warts and shortcomings. God is all about forgiveness and love, but also about justice.
Press into God in prayer and look to the scripture for the best profile we have of Jesus and His intense loving relationship with the Father. We are called, through Christ, into that kind of deeply intense loving relationship. Yes, the church fails in many ways. Read George Barna for much info on that subject. He is pollster found on Amazon.com, too. But, God forgives and blesses His/Her church in spite of its weaknesses. May God bless you with the experience of the love that only can be received from God.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2008 10:16:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2008 1:17:34 PM PDT
Re: moronmission's post above, It should be noted that CARM's stated purpose is to ". . .equip Christians with the truth, to expose the error of false religious systems. . ." Undoubtedly, CARM's notion of a "false religious system" is anything that disagrees with their own. Bonnie S's comment above regarding Christianity being "abducted by a dictator in its infancy and it's scriptures rewritten on his order", is obviously a reference to Constantine. If we are going to represent the "truth", we must be willing to accept even uncomfortable truths - and Constantine is one of them for Christianity. From the historical perspective, there can be no doubt that Constantine exerted heavy influence over the early Church fathers, their writings, and interpretations. For example, in 443, Sozomenus wrote about the Nicene Creed: "Although this doctrine was not universally approved, no one, during the life of Constantine, had dared to reject it openly."
As to the so-called "Christian Essentials", we would all do well to study the Scriptures and history and prayerfully make up our minds for ourselves. What you are doing is called "proof-texting"; quoting only those scriptures that support the position you like. When you quoted John 8:24 did you forget about 1 John 2:2, which says "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."? That paints a little bit different picture, doesn't it? Proof-texting is dangerous - in the past it has allowed our beloved Scriptures to be used to justify everything from slavery to genocide. It is important that we continue to question and learn all we can about the Scriptures. That includes not only what you may have heard from the pulpit, but also the history, politics, and people from whom these great writings emerged - warts and all.
Faith is not about proving you are right, or who's going to heaven and who's not, it is about a personal relationship with God - when we have that, everything else seems to fall into place.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2008 12:29:16 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2008 12:30:39 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 18, 2008 12:35:20 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2008 1:24:57 AM PDT
moronmission says:
Thank you for your concern (I mean that sincerely) but I do not think I was misrepresenting the bible's stand point on salvation. The bible is clear that some people are going to hell. To say or imply that 1 John 2:2 means Jesus' sacrifice covers everyone including the unbeliever is incorrect. There are multitudes of verses that warn people of judgment and hell. It's flat out contrary to Jesus' message. The belief that Jesus' atoning sacrifice saves every single person is called universalism. There's few other verses that people misunderstand that can lead to universalism too actually. They all tend to be based on what you pointed out that Jesus is the savior of the world. Put simply, Jesus' sacrifice is meant for the whole world in the sense that all Can be saved. There's no culture or group of people that the gospel couldn't save (assuming they accepted this message). The gospel is meant for everyone, though it started with the Jews. If you look through the Old testament God said he would bless the world through the Jews. The Messiah then came through this culture to save the world, not just Israel. So through his cross cultural sacrifice and message he is the savior of the world.

As for Constantine, all I have to say is that he had nothing to do with the formation of the bible. His impact on Christianity really has much more to do with what he did to Rome through it. Many people have tried to unite a people or even start a war through misrepresentation of Christianity. This does not invalidate Christianity however. I'd recommend to anyone reading this to do some research on the bible, its formation and how little it has changed in the last 2,000 or so years.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2008 1:39:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2008 1:40:20 AM PDT
moronmission says:
And to Peter M., I'm glad that your walk with Christ is strong. Anyway, reading through you post I noticed that you don't like to use "he" or "him" in reference to God. I agree with you full heartedly that God is beyond male or female. (Jesus said the father was spirit after all). However, even with all of this being said God refers to himself as he. Women are no less important than males, nor gifted, nor loved. They are in fact also made in the image of God. But for whatever reason he chose he refers to himself as a he in the bible. He always attributes himself with masculine nomenclature. He calls himself the father and son. Jesus Christ himself was a male (though there's actually quite a few other reasons biblically why he was). For some reason known only to God he has inspired the authors of the bible to attribute masculine words to his self. So don't feel scared to call him "He" and only "He".

God bless, and continue to walk with Christ in confidence.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2008 1:57:11 PM PDT
Moronmission: To interpret 1 John 2:2 to mean that all people "Can" be saved goes against the plain reading of the text. The word here describing salvation is, in Greek, "hilasmos", which is usually translated as "propitiation", or more completely, "propitation or reconciliation by blood". In 1 John 2:2; 4:10, Jesus is called the "propitiation for our sins." He is "the propitiation," because "by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured." (Biblos.com)
The Greek text then uses words which amount to "indeed even the whole world." The text does not say "maybe the whole world" or "the whole world IF. . ." The text plainly says that Jesus Christ IS the sacrifice for us AND the whole world. If you choose to emphasize John 8:24 over 1 John 2:2, that is certainly your choice to make, but understand that a person who makes another interpretive choice is not engaging in a "false religious system" - their choice is as valid as yours.

Constantine had everything to do with the formation of the Bible. It is likely that no other single person in history had more influence on what consitutes the New Testament, than the Emperor Constantine. It is well documented that he steered the many Councils toward his political ends. He commissioned ornate "Bibles" to be created for his new churches - but there was no distinct set of books known as the New Testament. The chosen content of those Bibles was most likely the basis for what we know as the New Testament today. There were literally hundreds of Gospels in circulation that might have been included (many early church fathers disagreed with the final cut. It should remembered that the early church/government burned those books that didn't agree). By the way, if you're going to say that a text is "over 99.5% textually pure", you really should define which text you're talking about. There are in existence today, many different early New Testament manuscripts, most of which do not agree with each other within a 99.5% tolerance (see the ending of Mark for an example).

Most importantly, you are correct in stating that "this does not invalidate Christianity." These things enrich Christianity. Knowing the origins and bases for these texts and the politics of those who shaped them not only makes them more "truthful"; it also helps us understand our faith more completely. I praise God that you have such a strong sense of conviction, but please keep an open mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2008 5:42:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2008 5:59:27 AM PDT
Skeptic says:
As a Hindu I find the core belief of Christianity that anyone who has not accepted Jesus are destined for hell ridiculous arrogant, narrow minded and rooted in insecurity. This is like Pepsi forcing people to drink only Pepsi but not Coke. My religion, on the other hand, teaches that people go to haven or hell based on what they do, not based on whom they worship. If Hitler had accepted Jesus as his savior he would be in haven now? and a person born on a remote island did nothing but good things all his life ends up in hell because he never heard of Jesus ? Is God that dumb? Did he appoint Christian church as some kind of authorized distributor on earth?

If OJ Simpson's daughter comes to me for a job and she is
qualified for the job I will hire her. Because I know the most basic principle of justice is you can not punish people for crimes they did not commit. And yet God is punishing me for a crime commited by Adam who was my great great great grandfather ? He ate an apple! The inflation adjusted price of an Apple in Genesis days must be a few cents.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2008 3:13:37 PM PDT
This is a valid concern. I do not know if this is the best way to address, but here goes anyway ...

Heaven and Hell are not places. Heaven is nearness to God. Hell is separation from God. There is a caricature of Heaven and Hell as rewards for passing some sort of cosmic exam - our good and evil deeds being ways to earn and lose points. This is false. The idea of a person demanding to be "let into Heaven" on the basis of all the good he has done in his life on earth is as absurd as the idea of a person being "thrown into Hell" despite his pleas for mercy.

No one who truly desires God will be denied. But it is important to desire GOD. We so often desire lesser things. (Actually, this is not contrary to the teaching of the Bhagvad Gita - "Those who seek ME come to ME ...". I would be interested to hear your comments.)

A loving relationship with God involves us continually submitting to Him. We should say "Thy Will be done" and then "Amen". It is also true that God submits lovingly to us - but without our reciprocal submission, this is disastrous. Because when God says to US "Thy Will be done" and we say "Amen" to THAT - we go to Hell. We go to the place where we get exactly what we strive for - but it is never what we Need. Money, status, power, respect, jobs, eros, national pride - all these things are good if enjoyed in their proper place i.e. if we enjoy them with God. If we seek THEM independent of God - we are in Hell. They can never satisfy the burning hunger and thirst we have. And if we cannot see past them to the Source of all good things, we will burn forever i.e. be in Hell.

Now the very act of desiring something independent of the Source of all good things is rebellion, unholiness. He who is Holy cannot abide that which is not holy. He MUST destroy it. But God is also Love seeking not to destroy but to Redeem. Jesus - the Word Incarnate, Begotten Son of God - EMPTIED Himself and became flesh so that He may live a sinless life and yet DIE - i.e. be separated from the Godhead - paying the penalty for our sins. He bore the Divine Wrath so that we may not have to. And in doing so He justifies us before the Father - we may now approach the very throne of God (filthy and rebellious as we are) and begin a loving relationship with Him.

The start of this relationship is a realization of our sin and hence acknowledgement of the sacrifice of the Son. If we think we are justified independent of the Atoning Sacrifice, i.e. if we think we are already holy enough to approach the throne of the Holy One, we are deluding ourselves. But if we accept the reality of our brokenness we then receive Salvation - the Gift of God. Notice that it is not a gift FROM God. God Himself is the gift. The Gift is the Holy Spirit - the Seal of our Salvation. He will write the Law on our hearts.

So it is not that we do good deeds and we are saved. It is the other way around. It is when we are Saved that we - not by ourselves but by depending entirely on the Holy Spirit working through us - CAN do good deeds. Deeds that are a sweet smelling sacrifice - an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

Thus are we saved. Not by our efforts but through Him who works in us drawing us to Him. This is Heaven. The alternative is Hell.

And this is also true. Saints from every nation and tribe have acknowledged their unholiness - it is a hallmark of a saint. For example. the saints of the Bhakti movement are forever expressing their longing for God - their sense of inadequacy in themselves. So a person who relies on his own works to attain salvation is without excuse.

Finally here is a thought - A Brahmin from Maharashtra, fully satisfied in his own righteousness, would never seek God at all. Chokha Mela, in his brokenness, did. Go and do likewise.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2008 2:42:59 PM PDT
The good thing about it is that the church(es) can damn people all they want but can't do a damn thing about it. Ignore the church. Follow Jesus

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2008 2:50:00 PM PDT
The good thing about it is that the church(es) can damn people all they want but can't do a damn thing about it. Ignore the church. Follow Jesus

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2008 3:57:41 PM PDT
William A. Smith,

I really appreciate your posts, I'm glad there is someone representing another viewpoint, that (at least) questions the validity of the idea of eternal hell based not on emotion or "wishy-washiness"--such as most in the church characterize such a questioning--but rather on Scripture.

Of course, I'm sure you would admit that you yourself are proof-texting. As long as both sides are prroftexting, I might as well chime in! I would add 1 Tim 4:10 "it is for this that we labor and strive, because we have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe." This, to me, drives home your point even more forcefully--if anyone is not saved, then the fact is that Jesus WAS NOT THEIR SAVIOR. Being potentially, possibly, or conditionally someone's savior is NOT the same as being their SAVIOR. The truth cannot be that Jesus is potentially the savior of all, or the savior of all but only if they believe--otherwise this verse is made absurd. Either Paul was confused, or it cannot mean that Jesus is only the savior of those who believe.

"Especially" never, ever, ever means "only." The two words are in fact fundamentally antithetical.

moronmission,

You mentioned that there are multiple verses warning of judgement and hell. Judgement, yes, very, very many. Hell, however, is never once mentioned in scripture. Let's at least be honest--even if someone believes the idea is there, there is absolutely no concrete reference to a place we would think of as "hell." There are three words translated as "hell" in the NT, and one in the OT. The first, in the OT, is "sheol" which refers to the place of the dead or simply to the grave, or death itself. The greek translation of sheol is "hades"--meaning exactly the same thing, that is, the place of the dead. It is clear in the OT, sheol is NOT hell, neither is hades, because ALL people go to sheol when they die. Hades is the word used in greek translations of the OT for sheol. They both mean the same thing, and neither refer to anything at all like eternal hell.

All the other times in the Bible (except one--"Tartarus" which is a place for condemned angels) the only other word translated as "hell" is "Gehenna"--but Gehenna is the name of a smoldering garbage dump outside Jerusalem, where the worst criminals' bodies were thrown, and where brimstone (ie - sulfur) kept fires burning day and night for the purposes of sanitation. Was Jesus talking about some abstract place that we call "hell" and using "Gehenna" as an illustration for showing what it was like there? I guess that may possibly be the case--but we can be sure that nobody hearing Him would have known that--they would have taken what He said literally, and assumed He was talking about being cast into Gehenna (the smoldering garbage/criminal dump).

Anyway, space is far too short to get into why Jesus' proclamations of judgement most often have nothing to do with what we assume is "hell" but for real judgement in this life for the generation He was preaching to--that is, for first-century Israel (which, after all, should not surprise us). The question of what judgement means is a complex discussion.

But the point which it all hinges on is this: while it seems pretty clear some will come under judgement, is it clear that this judgement is an eternal fate, with no chance for salvation after death? The most obvious answer is that it is FAR from clear.

And that changes everything.

Once one finds out that the scriptural case for the doctrine of "no further chances" (that you can't be saved after death) is essentially nonexistant, then the possibility (or strong probability) must be considered that God may be able to save people after death. And if He can, then the possibility (or strong probability) that He actually WILL must be considered--and then, if we are honest and seeking to go wherever the truth leads us, we have nowhere to go but to acknowledge that the truth is that, somehow, eventually, if God is truly loving, merciful, and just, as well as sovereign and omnipotent, then, in the end, all will be saved. Suddenly, what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 15 comes into focus:

"But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man {came} death, by a man also {came} the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then {comes} the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET... When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Cor 15:20-28)

(Also, interestingly, he instantly follows this passage with a question mentioning the practice of baptism for the dead: "Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?" Indeed, and similarly, if the dead cannot be saved, why be baptized for them?)

Anyway, I simply pray that everyone sincerely search for truth, and not be hindered by what "everyone else" says, and then to allow others to have differing opinions, while recognizing that differing opinons on things like these does not make someone else a "fake" or "false" Christian. As Paul said, "Let everyone be convinced in their own mind."

And let us not forget that no matter what we believe about doctrines, in this life we only "know in part"--we see "as in a mirror dimly"--but now "faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

And knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

Grace and Peace

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2008 12:18:29 PM PDT
If you read the New Testament in its most ancient language, Greek, you will see that its core teaching is that ALL will be saved. All will eventually find their way to "Heaven." An evil person may require many ages (AIONS) of fire (PUROS) to return to God, but in the end, we all return to God. I am a believer in Christian Universalism, the most solidly biblical position on who gets saved-- and the answer is All will be saved by the kindness and goodness of Christ, which means purification too. Eric Stetson's book Christian Universalism is a wonderful starting point for studying this old doctrine of the faith.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2008 12:09:45 AM PDT
Amen Booksenthusiast, I too believe in Universal salvation. I even take it a step further, I believe that Christ came to show us who we really are in spirit, and when he died on the cross he took all of humanity into the grave, that is the old man Adam, and when he resurrected he brought us all with Him, into the new creation. Having struggled with this concept of a monster God for 40 years in Christianity, I just could not understand how my father God would ask me to LOVE my enemies, yet he sends His to eternal damnation. I've come to realize that the God we believe in is the God we manifest....look at Islam, and many other primitive religions, it was all based on fear, and just like Constantine with his agenda to control the masses, it's the same today, for many salvation is just a ticket to a better afterlife, and when you get down to it, what would the "churches" do if they didn't have HELL???? I believe Christ came to reveal the "real identity" of all men, and when he went to the cross he killed Adam, we are no longer slaves to that identity, but because we prefer a God made in our image we continue to believe the biggest lie of all, that God is a bigot and respecter of person. My Bible says I was made in God's image, and that God said "all" that he created was "good". My Bible also says I live and breathe and have my being in HIM, does that just mean if I say the right things at the altar or recite the sinners prayer??? It took me a long time to realize that what I was taught was simply that....God Himself has a way of revealing the truth, even without a Bible or a professional Christian. Christ is the essence of God in a man, and that seed is within every man, "whenever the heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away." IT doesn't say whenever the heart turns to the pastor or scriptures or doctrine. We reap what we sow and that can be Hell for sure. If Christ blood was not effective for "all" men and it's left up to us, then doesn't that make us more powerful than God?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2008 6:11:35 AM PDT
T. Mahoney says:
Hey head to offthemap.com, check out there youtube videos they have and go to the ebay atheist section. These are the Christians who are paying outsiders to bring up that scrutiny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubSOF-72uuc

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2008 12:21:48 PM PDT
bhw says:
Where in the Bible does God want man to create "church", Jesus taught God's word among the people not in a building.
How do you explain the political manueverings and heirarchy in organized religion, how is that what gets you to God's word. Churches rewrite their prayer books and everything is set down by man. Men who are flawed and have other agendas. The current church system is one of power and position, not the path through Jesus.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2008 12:27:52 PM PDT
bhw says:
Do you not realize that in the timeframe of the writing of the Bible, women were not scribes. Why would a male scribe use the word "he". You are taking the Bible so absolutely literally and not understanding that God was not the physical author. You are assuming that everything was written verbatim. Didn't you ever play telephone or whisper down the lane? Things got lost in translation and sometimes its on purpose based on the writer's bias. Remember the scribes were human, not God.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2008 2:54:56 PM PDT
Actually the Christian Church, by which I assume you mean Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox denominations together as a whole, is pretty tolerant of criticism, satirism, disrespect, etc...

But now let's contrast the tolerance of Christians with that of the Jews or Muslims. Wth the former, even the slightest criticism, even when they are clearly in the wrong on some issues, will get one branded as an anti-Semite (whatever a Semite is?) and with the latter a mere cartoon with get one a death sentence...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 28, 2008 9:58:41 PM PST
Why does the Christian Church threaten us with damnation for questioning its doctrine?
So what church is this? I've never seen one but a cult. If you're in a church like this, get out and get out quick.
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