The Bible–What’s True For You, Part II

As I noted in my last posting, my comments on a blog posting by a writer from Boston brought an in-your-face response from him.

Afterward, some of you emailed me about emotional confrontations when you attempt to share your faith. One friend said her brother “becomes enraged” at any mention of religion.

On 01/26/12, another message from Paul. I thought Oh, my, but instead:

“First of all, thanks for your good note. I apologize for the delay in responding, and although I don’t want to take more of your time than this minor dispute between us deserves, surely your note deserves a response.”

Me: Wow! Is this the same guy? He’s really trying to be civil. Apparently courtesy beats conflict.

Paul: “Our difference is minor, at least on the use of the expression to which you took exception. On the larger issue of religion, we’re worlds apart, but I long ago suspended my effort to change the world.

“As I tried to explain, perhaps unsuccessfully, the expression I used wan’t (sic) intended in a theological way at all; rather, it was intended simply to say …”

Paul discusses arcane points about writers knowingly working without pay for a religious organization. Then he launched into the following:

“On the theological implications of the expression, you’re absolutely right:  theologians … claim that the expression denies the role of god in our lives. That view is succinctly put in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works,” etc.  However, the expression — god helps those who help themselves — is perfectly consistent with the strain in Christianity that stresses good works over belief — that we show our faith by our good works — and there are many references to that view … See James: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

“… It’s clear from your note [previous] that you’re a ‘believer,’ and you’ve probably guessed that I’m not. I don’t want to go out of my way to disparage religious belief, but I don’t think it deserves the general respect it receives. It’s a form of superstition that I hope the human race outgrows, as it has outgrown every system of belief that preceded it. Christopher Hitchens was absolutely right adding the subtitle “Why Religion Poisons Everything” to his book God is not Great; it’s a book that believers should read and consider.

Comment: Paul says he doesn’t want to disparage religious belief—and then he does it. Superstition? Religion is poison? Okay, let it go. Don’t get stuck to the tar baby of argument; Paul [and many of your difficult people] like to argue. What’s my objective? If possible, to establish a relationship with Paul.  He’s got a hang-up about religion for whatever reason. If he’s ever to be won to Christ, it won’t be because I proved him wrong. No one wants to be shown up! He will come to Jesus only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul attacks the heart of the Christian faith: “As for Biblical inerrancy, that horse has been out of the barn for a long time: far from being inerrant, the Bible is filled, literally filled, with historical inaccuracies, and modern theologians take more pains these days to defend the inaccuracies than to deny them. Evangelicals, always the caboose on the intellectual train [clever statement, but offered with no support], continue to defend the debunked idea that the Bible is inerrant. Although there are many scholarly discussions of biblical inaccuracies and inconsistencies, one website I’m familiar with does a pretty good job of at least listing them: . In my reading and in discussions with my many religious friends, the ‘defenses’ of these inaccuracies are embarrassingly silly or historically convoluted … unconvincing …”

I looked up this bidstrup link. Briefly put—it’s neither objective nor scholarly. Scott Bidstrup, the author of the site, is an “anti-capitalist, skeptic, and gay activist” with no other listed credentials. He’s put together a mish-mash of errancy claims with contrived research. One example: the claim that Nazareth didn’t exist at the time of Christ is based on a book by a music composer/mental health professional with no archaeology qualifications. On the other hand, he ignores extensive research reported on  and other reputable sites.

If Paul won’t make an objective search for truth on his own, what is my responsibility toward him? Doesn’t I Peter 3:15 exhort us to always be ready to give an answer …? What’s your responsibility toward your brother, your daughter or son-in-law who rail against “religious hypocrites”?

More next time regarding Paul … and what your approach might be toward those God brings across your path.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Risking change/changing the risk and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Bible–What’s True For You, Part II

  1. m kofron says:

    Apart from the gift of faith none of us would seek God or believe in him. I person dead in sin can do nothing to find life, I mean embrace him as a hidden treasure (Jesus’s Words)……….not just repeat a fire insurance prayer.
    We are to love others and show them the Joy and Love of God (only because he lives in us and gives us the desire and power) …….some will believe, some will not, I certainly do not understand the sovereign election process of GOD.

  2. Jerry says:

    Sam, I think the difference in thought about belief mentioned in my earlier post is in the different definitions of the word “belief.” My King James Bible defines “believe” as “trust, rely on, accept.” With those definitions, certainty doesn’t seem to be required. So, I amend my earlier posts in that regard.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, I think we’re getting closer. Faith is really the key element in any belief system. You can believe anything you want–the moon is made of green cheese, that you should have been a brain surgeon, that you should have… but unless you combine it with commitment (leading to action), belief means nothing. James 2:19 brings it home: “You say you believe that God is one; you do well, but so do the demons in hell, and shudder.”
      James makes the point that intellectual assent by itself doesn’t count for much. Satan and his minions not only believe that God is one, they know it! And they shudder with abject fear. Yet that doesn’t change their behavior.

  3. Jerry says:

    A question to consider is “Can a person choose to believe any particular belief system or world view?”. I have come to the conclusion that a person believes involuntarily. Can you, for instance, at this moment believe anything other than what you currently believe? After coming to my involuntary belief theory, I have read that most philosophers agree, as well. A person can choose to research, study, read, etc. However, during that research process, a person’s belief system changes involuntarily. If a person chooses not to continue the research, studying, and reading process, then the belief system may remain the same involuntarily. Given what sources a person studies, that person believes certain things about the world, the Bible, God, Jesus, the disciples, and the method and purpose of writing the scriptures, as well as the compilation and canonization of the scriptures. We may each have come to different conclusions involuntarily but not by choice. You have probably heard the statement, “I can’t believe it.” Might that may be true?

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, interesting thought. On what basis do you reach this conclusion? I’m not really a philosopher but it seems that your approach would lead us to this:
      1) Philosophers involuntarily believe this.
      2) You are likewise powerless to believe anything other than what the philosophers believe.
      However, let me ask you a few questions about your belief:
      a) How do you determine which philosophers to believe? I doubt they all think the same. And why not NOT believe the philosophers?
      b) From whence does their belief ultimately derive–given all their research and experiences?
      c) Is there a master manipulator in the universe controlling everyone’s minds?
      d) If your view is correct, there is no right or wrong, so are you saying that people are not responsible for their actions (which are, of course, based on beliefs)?

      • Jerry says:

        My theory is based on my own experience. As I have learned from reading, viewing, hearing, etc., my own beliefs, which could be called opinions, have changed. I might say that I believe or have a different opinion from what I have, but it would only be a desire or wish to have a different opinion, I think. I suppose that a Biblical example could be the doubting Thomas, who could not (or would not) believe in Jesus resurrection at one point. More evidence was provided him, which changed his belief. As I recall, Jesus indicated that it would be better for people to believe without that extra evidence.

        What philosophers believe may be irrelevent, except for me to realize that my thought has arisen and been addressed before and that someone else seems to agree with my theory. Regarding religious belief, we deal with concepts which a person normally would not accept as believable because they are beyond a rational person’s understanding of natural or physical laws. Whether Jesus was resurrected is an example. I accept that Jesus was resurrected based not on rational belief but on faith. That is a personal choice that I can make. Our free will then would be based on a freedom to have that faith and to take action. Of course, these are just my opinions at this moment, and each of us should have a personal opinion from his/her own experience and learning on such matters.

  4. George Price says:

    Sam, I agree with Tim and John. I have wasted many a moment trying to “argue someone into the Kingdom,” and it has never worked. Although my blood was beginning to boil as I read of your interaction with Paul and some of his statements, I had to remind myself that only God’s Holy Spirit can call someone to Christ. As Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jn 6:44. Better to pray for Paul and invite him, winsomely, to accept’s God’s free gift of Eternal life. Your Brother, George

    • samuelehall says:

      Yeah, George, our emotions tell us to set this guy straight but I Corinthians 1-2 tells us that God’s wisdom is as foolishness to those caught up in the world’s method of doing things.
      That’s why I objected to Boston Paul’s assertion that “God helps those who help themselves.” We do what we need to do for ourselves, our family, etc., but God isn’t pushing anyone to be top dog simply because he’s elbowing others aside/helping himself.

  5. Tim Gilman says:

    The older I get the more I am trying to learn to “listen” . . . Everyone has a story . . . a reason why they believe what they believe. Few, if any, people really have a beef with God what has caused great confusion, doubt, and often disbelief is how God is “represented” by those religions / sects that claim to provide access to the divine.

    Personally I have learned to let people talk and more often than not they are challenged more by the words of their own mouth than anything I might say . . . I often forget this, diving in to wage war and do battle but the warfare model has not served me well of the long haul of my journey of faith.

    The “religious hypocrite” argument is just a smoke screen . . . there are hypocrites in every flavor, size, shape, and religion . . . it is a moot point.

    The real question that often they are avoiding is “what am I going to do about God” . . . that is a much more personal, soul-searching question . . . hard work . . . for many it is much easier to deny God because of what “they” did.

    That would be like refusing to eat all together because you got a hold of some bad beans . . .

    At the end of the day the main question is what are you going to do with the God question.

    Personally I am not willing to throw out the existence of God simply because many of God’s people, in their humanity, have failed to provide me with an accurate reflection of the Divine.

  6. John Pelkey says:

    Interesting when people form a decision and then look for or invent facts or reasons to support it. A relationship with God is a one on one thing. We can share our belief, we can do our best to be a positive influence and not be a stumbling block, and we can ask God to help. We can’t get inside anyone else’s heart to make their decision. When faced with God, so far your Paul appears to have chosen to say no. None of his facts and concerns about others is relevant. There really isn’t any such thing as needing a religious hyprocrite or any other external reason to help you say no to God. There is only God and you. If you say yes to God or no to God, the decision comes within.

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