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A few questions from an open-minded agnostic.

OzSpen

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I read this and your "Is Hell an Infinite Punishment" article. Boiled down, it's about semantics. The colloquial usage of infinite is different from the mathematical one. Same for theory and the scientific usage.
JDS,

No, it's not about semantics but about what the meaning is of aiwnios (eternal) from God's perspective. How long will eternal life last for the believer? The exact same length of time as eternal damnation for the unbeliever.

R C H Lenski, in his Greek exegetical commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:9 stated:

Those who find annihilation in it [destruction] would thereby abolish hell, others misunderstand aiwnios and reduce it to a long term which, however, eventually ends. There is no time beyond the last day, either short or long, but only timelessness, eternity, “the eon to come”; this is what the adjective [aiwnios] means, which is true of the zwe or “life” of the blessed as it is true of the “destruction” of the damned. The destruction occurs “away from the Lord’s face” and thus in the outer darkness (Lenski 1937:388-389).​

I've read somwhere that evil only means absence of God and whatever he's not involved in is evil.
As stated above in 2 Thess 1:9, the Lord states, 'They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might'.

This verse is confirming some of what will happen to the damned. They will be 'away from the presence of the Lord' and his glory. They also will be experiencing 'the smoke of torment [that] rises forever and ever' (Revelation 14:10-11), and a 'lake of burning sulfur' where the wicked are 'tormented day and night forever and ever' (Revelation 20:10).

Calling it 'semantics' glosses over the truth of what will happen to you if you remain in agnosticism at your death. We never know when that time comes.

Oz
 
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Calling it 'semantics' glosses over the truth of what will happen to you if you remain in agnosticism at your death. We never know when that time comes.
By calling it semantics, I was trying to imply the article had a lawyerish usage of definitions. I don't think "defending" God in that way does anything. "Infinite punishment", "eternal punishment" "approaching infinite punishment", regardless of however it's called it to be mathematically accurate, if a somebody thinks the concept is unfair, they'll keep thinking it's unfair. Why act like God is in their court though?
 
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JLB

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If the person I killed insulted me, we agreed to duel, there was enough witnesses, and it was the right time period, I think he would. Charles Dickens or Handel or "Sir William Brooke" or the Duke of Wellington and many others probably wouldn't like being called fake Christians. I understand and appreciate your point though. Dueling was never exactly supported by any Church, so it's not a good example. There was things like witch burning though. Maybe the reason witches aren't burned anymore has nothing to do with God's wishes(or maybe hermeneutics would reveal that God didn't want that?) I'm just concerned about precision.

What I meant by bringing up angels is that they are beings which are different and lesser to God, which God loves and shares with. They have never been seperated from God by a veil and are seemingly much more competent and capable than humans. God wanted somebody to share with and he made angels, checkmark. Creating humans, especially in our lowly form, seems unnecessary.
I think most people don’t really understand that it’s about becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God, by turning to God in submission to Jesus Christ as Lord.


There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.


You are either in one or the other.

Either Jesus Christ is your Lord, the one you obey or Satan is your Lord, the one you obey.


What other people believe and do is of no consequence as it comes down to you and God.



JLB
 
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What other people believe and do is of no consequence as it comes down to you and God.
So why is worshipping on your own and ignoring every other human prohibited then? What other people do is of no consequence apparently, even if it's witchcraft, sexual deviancy or blashpemy. I guess for most of Chrisitan history nobody got that memo.
 

JLB

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What other people do is of no consequence apparently, even if it's witchcraft, sexual deviancy or blashpemy. I guess for most of Chrisitan history nobody got that memo.
What other people believe and practice is between them and God, and is no excuse for the way you live your life.

It comes down to you and God.

Either Jesus Christ is your Lord or He is not.

The way He becomes your Lord is you repent.

The way He remains your Lord is you continue to obey Him.


And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, Hebrews 5:9


JLB
 

JLB

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So why is worshipping on your own and ignoring every other human prohibited then?
Worshipping on your own is certainly not prohibited. We need to have daily time of prayer and devotion to the Lord.

We also need to gather with other believers and worship as well.


JLB
 

WIP

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Worshipping on your own is certainly not prohibited. We need to have daily time of prayer and devotion to the Lord.

We also need to gather with other believers and worship as well.


JLB
In addition, Scripture instructs us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Prayer can take on multiple forms. It can be petitioning God with our desires. It can be asking God to help us in times of trouble or fear. It can be giving thanks to God. It can be worship.

If we are praying without ceasing, there will be times when we are alone.
 

JLB

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In addition, Scripture instructs us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Prayer can take on multiple forms. It can be petitioning God with our desires. It can be asking God to help us in times of trouble or fear. It can be giving thanks to God. It can be worship.

If we are praying without ceasing, there will be times when we are alone.

Well said.





JLB
 

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John Doe Smith,

I have been a Theology professor for 12 years and have served as a Teaching Fellow in the Harvard masters program in New Testament and the Harvard Classics undergrad program. My answers to your 3 questions would reflect my academic training. I will answer all 3 of your questions in detail on one condition--that you respond to these 4 questions on this thread or on a new thread devoted to dialogue on your replies:

(1) If your skeptical view of God is fundamentally false, how badly would you want to know why and how and what would you be prepared to do about a new conviction that the Christian God exists that Jesus is who He claimed to be, and that by His crucifixion accomplished what the New Testament claims He accomplished?
(2) How is the validity of your philosophy of life testable, that is, how is it falsifiable in principle? [If you give a serious answer, I will do the same for my Christian faith.]
(3) What spiritual experience might in principle persuade you to become a Christian?
(4) Is there a set of philosophical, theological, and historical questions which, if answered to your satisfaction, might remove the intellectual roadblocks to your Christian conversion?
If you offer serious and detailed answers to these 4 questions, I would start a new thread devoted to responding to them in as much detail as you require. But I don't want to do this until I see that you have a truly open-minded quest for spiritual truth.
 

OzSpen

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By calling it semantics, I was trying to imply the article had a lawyerish usage of definitions. I don't think "defending" God in that way does anything. "Infinite punishment", "eternal punishment" "approaching infinite punishment", regardless of however it's called it to be mathematically accurate, if a somebody thinks the concept is unfair, they'll keep thinking it's unfair. Why act like God is in their court though?
JDS,

Your language, '"Infinite punishment", "eternal punishment" "approaching infinite punishment", regardless of however it's called it to be mathematically accurate, if a somebody thinks the concept is unfair, they'll keep thinking it's unfair', disregards God's understanding of aiwnios - to aeons of aeons.

Try to work that out according to mathematical rules! :horse

Oz
 
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John Doe Smith,
(1) If your skeptical view of God is fundamentally false, how badly would you want to know why and how and what would you be prepared to do about a new conviction that the Christian God exists that Jesus is who He claimed to be, and that by His crucifixion accomplished what the New Testament claims He accomplished?
(2) How is the validity of your philosophy of life testable, that is, how is it falsifiable in principle? [If you give a serious answer, I will do the same for my Christian faith.]
(3) What spiritual experience might in principle persuade you to become a Christian?
(4) Is there a set of philosophical, theological, and historical questions which, if answered to your satisfaction, might remove the intellectual roadblocks to your Christian conversion?
If you offer serious and detailed answers to these 4 questions, I would start a new thread devoted to responding to them in as much detail as you require. But I don't want to do this until I see that you have a truly open-minded quest for spiritual truth.
1) I would want to know as much as I value being alive. I would be willing to abstain from things and change my routine. I don't actually know whether I could change my character. I never really actively tried to shape my personality.
2)I don't connect my philosophy towards life with the explanation for the universe and origin of man I think is most probable. The explanations I "believe in" could be changed by scientific inquiry, but it's largely irrelevant to how I live my life currently. My philosophy isn't something I see as falsifiable unless there really is an objective mindset. I don't see philosophy as being testable. This connection is unavoidable in Christianity and other religions however.
3)I'm not really sure what counts as a "spiritual" experience. If an angel came to me, it could be in any form, but something more spectacular and inhuman would be more convincing, and gave me a prediction of something very specific with no obliqueness involved, like the deaths of specific people on a specific dates, or a planet at specific coordinates will be discovered in a week or something, and these predictions come true exactly as told, I would be convinced there's some kind of deity. If this prediction came with a message saying the Christian God is real, I would take that at face value just in case.
4)I don't see that as probable. I wont lie to you, even though I know lying would make it more probable that you'll answer my questions. I'm mainly interested in answers for curiosity's sake. Maybe it could help other people's conversions though.

I apologize if this response is unsatisfactory.
 

JLB

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1) I would want to know as much as I value being alive. I would be willing to abstain from things and change my routine. I don't actually know whether I could change my character. I never really actively tried to shape my personality.
When you submit to Him as your Lord, He will give you a new nature, and come to dwell within you, in which you will be transformed into His image, through the renewing of your mind.


Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Acts 17:27



And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2





JLB
 

OzSpen

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wondering,

You stated:
The other question that can not be answered is why evil exists. People come up with their own understanding of why it may be...but actually, there is no answer.
I jumped in too quickly with my response. Please forgive me. When you stated 'there is no answer' to the problem of why evil exists, I'd like to know your reasoning behind that statement.

Could you please help me to understand how you reached that conclusion?

Maybe this isn't the thread to do that and we ought to start another thread with a title like, 'From God's perspective, is there any solution to the problem of evil?' Would you and others be interested in pursuing such a topic?

Oz
 
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WIP

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Maybe this isn't the thread to do that and we ought to start another thread with a title like, 'From God's perspective, is there any solution to the problem of evil?' Would you and others be interested in pursuing such a topic?
This is a good idea. This is not the thread for the discussion since we should be addressing the OP's questions and not having another discussion.
 

Serving Zion

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Hi John Doe Smith. I joined this forum two days ago. I see that you've been digging in quickly and lots has been said. If I had been involved from the start, you might have said things a bit differently. It just means that I can't go back and change the direction of your conversation now that it has happened. You've said a lot too, that I would like to reply to, but can you imagine how big and unmanageable that post would be?!

.. So I have read all that you said in this thread. I am wondering, since you've never read the whole bible, where did you get your knowledge of Christianity from? It sounds as though you've been schooled at a Christian school, or you've been otherwise influenced in a big way by people who have a particular type (ie: Westminster Confession) of Christian view. There's a few things you've said that gave me that impression, which I'll go back soon and reply to.

What I'll do now though, just to begin conversing with you at this late stage of the conversation, let me make a general reply to what I think will be useful, then I will go back through the thread and pick out a few things you've said that I think might be best to target, in order to help you get on top of this problem that is confusing you about Christianity.

So go with me here, I want you to picture the perfect world that God made before the fall. There were no fences and gates to keep anyone from wandering around freely. There might have been houses (it's pure speculation) - structures that the human had made for shelter, and implements he had made to assist with his gardening and life in paradise (a chair to sit on, a shovel to dig with, things like that). Remember it is a perfectly innocent world. Nobody had any fear, aggression, malice etc. They were free to eat from any tree in the garden, which is a freedom not known in this world (except in the wild). Just consider that if we had a perfect world like that today, and you looked out your window to see someone eating apples from the tree in your back yard - what is the response of a human that has no sin? It isn't greed and it isn't wrath, is it? It is love. You'd call out "Hi! .. what's your name?" (maybe I have called a memory to mind for you - that sort of innocence actually does exist in the world, because that's what children are like. Those words are exactly the words that children say. They don't have any evil in them until evil learns how to make it's home within them).

So you'd make a friend easily, and he wouldn't be afraid to eat from your tree as a stranger, because the idea of being yelled at for thieving is a completely foreign concept in that world. You'd ask him whether he has apples like that at his place, and he'd say "no, your apples are different my ones. That's why I wanted to try them. If you want to, you can come over and try some of my apples". That's exactly what children are like when they are in their natural state, unimpeded by the system of rules that the world has constructed - boundaries, ownership, "pleases" and "thank you's" etc, and uninfected by the spirit of discontentment that comes through cruel deprivation. So something happened to that perfect world, because we know that the world we have these days is completely not like that at all. It is a world that destroys the child's innate human nature of love and teaches us to become sinners and twisting us to be at odds with the plain and simple good ways of innocence so that we then become instruments (unbeknown to us, as mere instruments) for twisting that innocence out of the children. If you try being a perfectly innocent human and living according to the laws of freedom that nature intended, you'd quickly get locked up for trespassing and theft (or in some other way forcibly treated to correct your "criminal" philosophy).

.. and then there was the tree of life, that interestingly enough, Revelation 2:7 says Jesus has the right to give fruit from that tree. So it is a tree that Jesus has access to, and that He had access to as well, as evidenced by facts such as raising dead to life and healing those who were sick, born with disabilities etc. That's what the perfect world looks like, and it is for that reason Jesus laid down His life, that we all might become instruments for His holy spirit to do the same throughout the world.

So with that backdrop established of what God had in mind for the world when He created it, I'd like to see whether we can't try and bring your enquiry back to square one, so that we can talk one-on-one (I'd have loved to have been talking with you at the start). But anyway, now I will go back through the thread, and, trying not to get too much into the things you had asked of other people, I'll just add a few words in reply to your ideas leading to this point that I think maybe can still help you to straighten things out.
 

JLB

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wondering,

You stated:

I jumped in too quickly with my response. Please forgive me. When you stated 'there is no answer' to the problem of why evil exists, I'd like to know your reasoning behind that statement.

Could you please help me to understand how you reached that conclusion?

Maybe this isn't the thread to do that and we ought to start another thread with a title like, 'From God's perspective, is there any solution to the problem of evil?' Would you and others be interested in pursuing such a topic?

Oz

Yes, I’d love to hear your perspective on this subject.




JLB
 

Serving Zion

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What is the correct canonicity and how do you know?
There is a type of person who is spiritually perceptive, and there is a type of person who only perceives the carnal. Those who are carnal are only convinced by carnal evidence (because they do not even perceive spiritual evidence that they could consider it).

Carnal evidence is things like titles of personage, certificates of qualification etc. Most of the world is carnal, that means that they do not judge a person's character or qualification by discerning the person's value in the moment, but they establish roles and hierarchies, and those systems become their safety and protection.

So the early church began as people who were discerning the spiritual, knowing that truly "one is your father in heaven, and one is your teacher, the Christ" (Matthew 23:8-10). When they were confessing their sin and were seeking absolution (Ezekiel 14:4), it truly was Him they were addressing: "bless me Father, for I have sinned". As the church became more and more filled with carnal Christians (aka: blind believers), it was obvious there was an increasing problem of discernment. That is why the canon is valuable, because even to this day, whenever a Christian wants to bring merit for their ideas from non-canonical scriptures, they are forced to admit that they cannot challenge the authority of the scriptures because they have been officially recognised and established, in the carnal realm, as authoritative "Word of God".

However, we who are spiritual recognise the spirit, and we recognise that sometimes He who is in our midst, is in fact speaking to us through words not originating from the bible. Similarly, we can recognise that some translators or people who handle the scriptures, are doing so of a spirit that is inferior to His. Therefore the things they say, although being based on, making use of, or being derived from the bible, simply are not the Word of God - instead it is their own word (eg: Jeremiah 23:30) or worse still, completely not of their own unction at all! (John 8:44).

Why believe in the perfect word of god if it's clearly been mangled by humans?
The bible is not the Word of God, it is what God says through the bible that is the Word of God. Therefore God can speak through the bible, because the bible was written by people in whom The Holy Spirit was manifesting ("breathing" - 2 Timothy 3:16). But of course, sometimes the spirit of a translator is not the same spirit. Sometimes a translator is manifesting a spirit of sin, so you do not get the grace and love through the words as what was coming through from the heart of the original writer. It is when you catch a breath of that authentic spirit, and you breathe in the right words that it brings you to life - then you begin to breathe of The Holy Spirit and you recognise those words that are not consistent with the breath of life you know. Then you dig deeper, using the tools available, and you arrive at a place having stood firm in your knowledge of who God is and your faith in Him, to be standing firm against all deceptions of those devices (because I still have not found a single translation that is not lacking for want - despite that some I will say are ok while others I will say are harmful).

What about the way i'm supposed to live in life though? The bible should give me all the answers, but how can I be sure that some mistranslation, or specific choice didn't warp the meaning of the text?
Trust in your convictions. If you don't trust it, work out why. But on the other hand, probably much more seriously because you have no justification to blame a translator - if you find that you are wanting to disbelieve the bible because you don't like what it is saying (eg: Matthew 5:28), then sin is attempting to deceive you. In 100% the same way, your only chance to live in life is to trust in your convictions. I know what it means, you think it is going to make life pointless or too hard to enjoy if you obey a commandment like that. But what does Jesus say about that? "If you obey my commandments, you will abide in my love. Just as I have kept my father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so my joy may be in you and your joy may be full". You think there's anything stopping you? I get it. It's a crafty demon that addicts us to sin, and he knows humans well. But He is more reliable, the creator who saves us, and we testify "if we confess our sin He is faithful, and He is just, to forgive us for our sin and then to cleanse us from unrighteousness" that your joy may be full.

If a translator decides to write the same word congregation in positive contexts, and synagogue in negative ones, wouldn't that change the message a bit? Why am I denied a perfect truth?
Only because you would yield to a spirit that is deceiving you. You already know better than that. So be strong! Trample those snakes and scorpions!

How do you know the current consensus on "Christian morality" is correct? : One of the main pillars of Christianity is the idea of objective morality as far as I understand. Even if a person has never heard of Jesus before, they innately have a sense for God's morality, so their sins are not excused. However, the "common morality" of Christians has not remained constant. What was considered a few hundreds of years ago to be morally acceptable by typical Christians: colonialism, marrying people far younger that what is now considered acceptable, etc, is not anymore. How do you know our "modern morality" is the correct one? How do you know secular society and its "common morality" hasn't influenced and poisoned "Christian morality"? What if people from the past were right and we're wrong, even if it's only in a few ways?
That's what I think Jesus is saying "if the blind leads the blind they will both fall into a pit". Our only hope is to have that first-hand relationship with God, where He can personally convict us through the truth of His Word or encourage us to be confident that we are justified in His sight (Isaiah 54:17).

Why did God create man to be so weak and dependent? : God created man to bring glory to him, but god does not need glory because he is complete. Man needs to give god glory to elevate himself. Why though? Why did god create human beings so that they need to give him glory?
Ouch. That sounds like some pretty scratchy-thorny stuff! Yep, certainly not my idea of grace at all. So just understand this bit: that to begin with, there was only God. So anybody who arrived on the scene after Him is going to be consequently lesser in glory. Adam and Eve were just babes, right? What did they know way back then, before a brother ever killed a brother? So it is natural that they were going to be awestruck by God. And so it is, whenever a human comes to really see how real and honorable God is, that they will be awestruck and everything they say about Him will glorify Him. But I don't believe that is mankind's whole purpose in life. I think someone's a bit lacking in creativity or experience if that's the best answer they could come up with. Wouldn't you agree?

Even if Adam and Eve didn't need to do so, why did God create Adam and Eve to be weak enough to succumb to temptation?
Well, you have to realise it was a bit of a gamble on the part of the nachash. If the human had have said "nope, I'm going to check with God first", then guess what? He would have been cursed anyway and the human would have been all the wiser. As it turns out though, the scripture was right (in retrospect, of course): nachash was more shrewd than any other creature God had made - even the sons of light (eg: Luke 16:8).

In fact, why did God give humans free will at all? I looked for answers to this before, and what I found amounted to " well of course he did because you cannot love if you do not have free will". Except God isn't limited by human logic. He created logic. If he wanted to, he could make it so beings without free will can love. He can do anything what so ever with no limitations if he is all-powerful.
It's also for His ability to love them. I mean, when you are a school teacher and you give children a scope of creativity, don't you get far more reward and joy when you see what they have chosen to make? .. and do you see how that reciprocal joy grows to be the completeness of joy when they are praised for the decisions they made? That's why free will is fundamental to the relationship between God and man. It is only because of sin that mankind has become prone to making decisions that earn God's disappointment rather than praise. In a world where sin is foreign and where humans had free will, there could only ever be pleasant surprises. That is a much better definition of the reason why God created man. "To make His joy complete" would be a better answer than "to give Him glory".

If how any sin is defined depends on human consensus, the meaning of idolatry or anything else can be twisted to suit human tastes and feelings.
Yes! Truth is not determined by a majority opinion because majorities can be wrong!
 
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Serving Zion

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A better version of humans seems to me like angels.
Angels are in a better place because they bear witness to the spiritual reality wherein we judge the intentions of the heart. It does not mean that all angels are better than humans. You have to know the angels first in order to discern the intentions of their heart.

Don't angels love god?
I think an angel that is without guilt probably does.

Don't angels share with God and understand his love?
Some have already fallen (2 Peter 2:4).

Aren't angels part of God's family? So why make something as inferior as humans?
You make the assumption that angels existed before humans. Could you show me where you have formed that opinion from?

Angels presumably know the difference between good and evil, yet they are well-equiped to handle this knowledge while humans are not.
Could you explain that a bit more? .. considering that angels are also not as complete of knowledge as God is, what makes you say that you think humans are not well-equipped to handle the knowledge of good and evil and that angels are?

Gabriel, Michael and Satan aren't human though, right? Is the entire concept of seraphim and cherubs and other otherworldly servants of God just poor hermeneutics?
Cherubim and seraphim describe the function of the angels in a large way. Cherubim are the agents with a mission, like a worker or a warrior. The cherub was stationed at the east of the garden to guard the way to the garden of Eden, with a flaming sword. The cherub is a mighty one. He knows the plan and he does it. The seraphim are the spirits that consume, as fire. Satan isn't an angel though. Satan is the name of THE opposer of God. When we say God is holy, God is love, God is light, God is just, God is life and that godly people are reflections of those qualities, then we say Satan is impure, sinful, corrupt, evil, death - it is the essence of the spirit that takes place of all those godly qualities in the fallen. So when an angel becomes fallen, they become satanic in nature rather than godly.



You might think of the story of Job where the satan comes to be among the sons of God. That is a story of the angels in heaven coming to assemble in God's presence, and God discerned that there was impurity among them. The text of Job 1:7 literally attempts to convey this (though it is in Hebrew language) "the sons of the Elohim (the powers of God) offered themselves unto Adonai, and came also the satan in them". So reading on you see that Adonai was addressing the satan who was in the midst of His sons "where did you come from?" .. and he says "roaming to and fro across the earth". Remember that the son is the one who is appointed as heir to the estate, so they are the ones who have been roaming to and fro across the earth. Obviously, from their having seen the earth full of wickedness, some spirit of destruction and opposition to God had come to be among them. The satanic spirit was grumbling against God, and He says "did you notice my servant Job?". The whole story is about what Job endures as God defends His name against the accusations of Satan - and for what? I don't want you to guess, but take a look for yourself: Job 38:4-7 Adonai says to Job "where were you when I laid the foundations of earth? .. who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?". Of course, we know that even if Job's response did make it a rhetorical question, there is still an answer to that question. Do you think Job knew the answer?


God must have created "darkness", right? Or is "darkness" just any opposition to God?
People tend to use the expression "darkness" in different ways, spiritually, but what we see in 1 John 1:6, darkness is the thing that conceals the truth - so that walking in the light means we are not attempting to hide anything. It is like taking a torch outside at night time. There are things we can't see because of the darkness, but when we shine the light on them it becomes visible. St. John says "God is light and in Him there is no darkness". So it says God has nothing to hide, and nothing can be hidden when He is near. That's what the truth of Jesus in John 3:19-21 says too: "For everyone doing evil hates the light and refuses to go near it for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who do what is right will come toward the light so it can be made known that what they have done has been wrought in God". Ephesians 5:13-14 puts a bit more of a tangible twist on the definition of light that isn't so mystical: "everything exposed by the light is made visible, because everything made visible is light". That's the sort of reality we find in a court of law when witnesses begin to be questioned. Things come to light and then it is visible, and then the light that has been brought about also gives clarity to other matters that were being concealed.

I'm an enginering major and I need something to read on the bus and between classes.
Read this: www.adonai-reigns.life/the-gospel

From my point of view, Christianity seems like a more focused, group version of that.
It can be. But you have to realise that not everyone who believes something that is based on the bible is in fact believing what the bible says. There's a lot of false doctrine that prevents people from coming to know the truth that the bible brings. They get locked into their beliefs thinking that their beliefs are going to be a ticket to heaven when they die, but what really happens is that the beliefs close their mind from thinking in a way that threatens those beliefs. So when they happen to get a belief that is not true, their belief serves the purpose of cutting them off from the truth and making them become an enemy of the truth. When they do so in the name of God (the highest authority) and they are convinced that they have to do it in order to evade His everlasting punishment, you'll never be able to reckon with them. It's a total blindness (Matthew 6:22-23). Does it mean they won't eventually be saved? .. who knows. It is Christ who condemns (Romans 8:34). What is important is the decisions you make insofaras they affect your relationship with Him, and your ability to stand without blame against your accusers in judgement. Your quest for faith is all about your vindication by making good decisions and satisfying your search for good answers that can be strength to you on the Way (Romans 14:4).

Special can mean a lot of things, but within Christianity it seems to mean us both being modeled after the perfect maker of everything and us being the most important thing to this creator.
I think it is more the virtue of the power of language (especially written record) and the versatility of the human body, coupled with a creative intelligence and not being subservient to any other creature in that way, we are the gods of Earth. Look around you, can you see a single thing that was not made by a human? Walk out the door, and again, do you see anything that a human has not done? The whole earth has been formed by human creativity, having claimed ultimate authority and power over everything that God has made.
 
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Serving Zion

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I wonder what it means to rule over animals. Is in the image of God a physical similarity or a mental one? Humans did not have knowledge of good and evil, and we are not omniscient, so if there is some mental similarity, wouldn't humans be a partial image? Just how much better are we than everything else? Is the soul what matters?
The human, in absence of sin, is a beautiful life-giving person. Everything it touches in the spirit of love comes to life and is made beautiful. That is what God intended. That is what we don't see enough of, because humans who are fallen and doing sin are not showing forth the spirit of God. So it was meant to be a carnal expression of the function of God, who is spiritual. Just as God is the supreme power of love, creativity and wisdom that we look to in the spiritual, so man is the supreme power of love, creativity and wisdom that creation is meant to look to in the carnal. It is through the carnal that the spiritual is brought to life in the carnal. When you look directly into the eye of a crow, you see how distant and afraid it's soul is. It has no breath of life in it. But as you gaze into its eye, and it realises that you aren't a threat, that you are in fact oozing love, you connect with its heart. (OK, a crow is perhaps not such a good example as a budgie, because they have a deep-set culture of having been scorned by humans - it is a lot of distrust to break through). Do you get the idea though? The spirit manifests itself through the soul that has life. A soul of the spiritually dead (ie: the fallen), they do not inspire that life. But that isn't the world that God made. Sin came into the world through the one man, Adam. This is how, if we purify ourselves and give ourselves to Christ, then His spirit comes to live in us, and we follow Him to think the way that He leads us to think, and we make that soul connection with others around us, and we bring them to know love, to know that that they are a real person in our eyes, that they matter, and that little spark is a way of thinking that stays in them as they go forward: "how much more then, through the sacrifice of the righteous, shall the life overflow to the many" (Romans 5:12,15).

Another thing. What value does living have? If anybody, no matter how young, has a soul, isn't dying as soon as possible preferrable? The heaven someone who died as an infant goes to is just as good as the heaven someone who dies at 100 goes to. Any number compared to infinity is insignificant. Life is one big elaborate test where you're stuck with people and circumstances that will constantly challenge your faith. Who likes tests? The only stopper to this line of thinking is that you can't commit suicide, so dying completely by accident is like winning the lottery. I wonder if smoking to shorten your lifespan counts as suicide?
It's self-centred to think that way. What would become of the world in absence of those who went to heaven without ever having graced the earth? .. further, think about the original purpose of God's creation (that salvation is supposed to restore) - is it for us to simply die in the end and go to heaven afterward? .. or is it for us to praise God for life in the here and now, and to live forever?

I wont assume that's unreasonable actually. God desired to create lesser beings to "share" with in some way for some reason. The physcial body step isn't necessary for this and is ultimately just a dangerous inconvience since compared to the afterlife, life isn't valuable. From what I've gathered based on some of the responses I've gotten, even most believers don't measure up to God's standard. They might not be putting enough effort into the "great commission" for instance. What's appealing about that risk?
Life in the here and now is only not appealing because sin is the master of it. We live in a generation that hasn't learned the value of repentance, and that having rejected the Christ, has been subjected to futility. It is in hope that God subjected creation to futility - hope that by the revealing of the sons of God, it will be liberated from its bondage to decay. Do you understand what that means? Jesus could have raised anyone to life, right? .. but He was limited. "Father if it is not possible that this cup pass away unless I drink it .. may your will be done". He was the only one who had the faith to do that. Aside from Him, there was nobody. The disciples were doing it soon after Him, but do you see anyone doing that these days? No? .. why?

Why is any sin inherited?
Who can possibly answer that question? .. It's a false doctrine invented by someone who couldn't explain why being "born again" is necessary. Do you remember what Jesus said "if the blind leads the blind they will both fall into a pit"? .. exactly. They were a carnal Christian who had thought it was encumbent upon them to answer a question that they were not qualified to do. It is a favourite way for grownups to blame the children for their behavioural problems because they genuinely do not understand how they have inspired that behaviour in them. Plus, they are taught to believe it, and they think that their salvation is the freedom of that curse, so it's a case of the belief blinding them from the plain truth - the plain truth that babies know nothing to start with and it is the world that puts the corrupt, sinful thinking into them over time.

Had Jesus decided to stay on Earth indefinitely, guiding humanity in the flesh and living in some temple that could be visisted, the world would probably be a much better place. Who could question a man who never dies and is visible to everyone?
You would think so, right? .. but there was that cup He spoke of in His prayer (Matthew 26:42). Do you know what He was referring to? (Hint: Luke 10:10-12). He "laid down His life for His friends", right? Think about John 14:9 and John 20:26-29.

Is there a requirement to love "fake christians"?
Yes, there is Matthew 5:43-45 and Romans 13:8. Also Galatians 5:22 shows that it is a natural fruit of the Christian spirit anyway.

So how much merit could worshipping in a group have?
He is the living God. "Wherever two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them". It is an opportunity to see His spirit in person, as He looks us in the eye while His Holy Spirit speaks to the heart. He also is our companion in the world outside of church, but in church and bible study, the environment provides different contexts for His manifestation. It is also fun to participate by offering words that we know He is using as He teaches (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) and I like to sing hymns in a group, which is something that happens only on a Sunday.

So why is worshipping on your own and ignoring every other human prohibited then?
I don't think it is prohibited at all, but just as Jesus said "you must serve each other", and that He knows we have value to offer to others, it is good that we give Him that opportunity - wheter to use us for the building-up of others, or to use what others have to add to our own growth. He wants us to grow, and two heads are better than one.

)I'm not really sure what counts as a "spiritual" experience. If an angel came to me, it could be in any form, but something more spectacular and inhuman would be more convincing, and gave me a prediction of something very specific with no obliqueness involved, like the deaths of specific people on a specific dates, or a planet at specific coordinates will be discovered in a week or something, and these predictions come true exactly as told, I would be convinced there's some kind of deity. If this prediction came with a message saying the Christian God is real, I would take that at face value just in case.
That's how the Koran came to be. An angel claiming to be the Gabriel, came to Mohammed and Mohammed believed him when he said he was speaking for God. That angel brought very serious slander against Jesus Christ and His followers, and some way-out changes to longstanding records of history. It has inspired followers ever since to be at war with Christians as they accuse them of having falsified the bible and blaspheming God.

One very important difference about the bible is precisely that: you know a human is giving testimony to another human of what they have seen and what they are sure of, as a mortal. So, no I don't automatically believe angels are more trustworthy than humans, and do you know what makes you suppose anyone should?

you have to have faith in the people who wrote his book for him and have something to gain from you believing them.
.. so I have to ask you what you think it might be that those people could gain if you were to believe them?
 
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wondering

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Thank you for your response as always.

God seems to judge people on three levels: as a group/society(chosen or not), as families(generational curses?) and as individuals. Adam's children didn't get a second chance. Every person inherited the original sin and every person is responsible for the other people who live near them. If you let a witch live next to you, you're also at fault. God knows every individual and their heart, yet he doesn't seem to always judge them as individuals responsible only for their own actions, not their peers or relatives(especially parents). Why is this? Why is any sin inherited?
I agree and understand that God judges groups/society/nations. Even Jesus said this in Mathew 25:31.....He will judge the nations (at the end) that complied with the anti-Christ and those that did not. How this will be, I don't understand. I'm very bad with eschatology.

As far as judgment concerning families...I believe that the curses that fall on a family, for 3, 4 generations as is stated in the O.T., is a product of that family not adhering to God's laws more than actual curses given by God. He DOES, instead, have actual curses proclaimed for those that do not follow covenants that are bi-lateral in nature. Blessings if the covenant is adhered to and curses if it is not. Deuteronomy 28:15......

Instead we learn in t he N.T. that we are responsible for individual sins, and this is ALL we are responsible for. As humanity we suffer the consequences of Adam's sin...we are not personally responsible for it. The catholic church teaches that we are but this is because this doctrine was taught by Augustine of Hippo and this was NOT believed before him. Infants were baptized for different reasons before him...after him, infants were baptized because he taught that if they weren't they'd go to hell because they were personally responsible for Original Sin. The bible does not teach this. Ezekiel 18:19-20

Had Jesus decided to stay on Earth indefinitely, guiding humanity in the flesh and living in some temple that could be visisted, the world would probably be a much better place. Who could question a man who never dies and is visible to everyone?
Actually, this is what Jesus meant to do. Christians will always talk about salvation and how Jesus saves those that believe---this is true; but Jesus' goal was also to change mankind...to teach how to become closer to God so that we could create a better world. This is what the Kingdom of God would be. Jesus spoke very little about salvation...just a few times; all his teachings were about how we must change in order to enter into the Kingdom.

I don't know enough about the apostles to talk about them.

Continuing with trusting other people, worshiping as a group is required, even though there may not be any good reason to believe those around you are "real christians", which is a growing issue. There aren't exactly any congregations with an entrance exam on biblical knowledge. Knowing something about your religion at least indicates dedication. Is there a requirement to love "fake christians"?
Fake Christians! The requirement is to love everyone. Not the way one would love their parents, or spouse, or sibling, but love in the sense of not wishing harm to anyone and doing our best to help when necessary --- it's not an emotional love, but a love of the will. There is a concept of this even in the secular world: One tribe, one planet, one nation (black eyed peas).

I agree with everything else you've said. The churches seem to be emptying out -- maybe only the "real" Christians will remain?

If you're unfortunate enough to go to a church with nothing but "pew-warmers" and a priest more concerned with pleasing their customer base than God, you don't have many options. You might not even realize it if you've always gone there. You wouldn't even know that your church is "missing figs". If you do notice, but keep going out of a sense of obligation, or you want to avoid driving another half-hour to a church which may not be better, there's potential consequences. Yet trying to worship without other humans isn't really allowed.
Who said it isn't allowed? Paul did exhort us to congregate and encourage each other. It's good to be with other persons that believe as we do. Someone once told me the analogy of a fireplace. Coals burning together, making heat. If you remove one and put it aside, it cools off.

However, I haven't been to church in a really long time and feel no guilt about it. Circumstances are different and sometimes I think it might be better off to worship God alone; although it is not ideal.

Having a personal relationship with God, that's only one-on-one, just isn't an option. God doesn't want that kind of relationship with anyone. Whether God "likes" people as a whole is dubious(at least that's what i'm getting from some people here). He has good reasons for that, yet Christians have an obligation to do so. Worshipping in a building outside of your home with other people is mandatory. Supporting this establishment is expected.

I read an article about this. Apparently worshipping on your own only is "walking in darkness". Except you're not doing it on your own, you're with Jesus, so why should the absence of other humans matter? Is just studying the bible and living the correct lifestyle sinful? If everyone started doing this, churches and priests would not have a good time. There's some room for cynical interpretation.
Actually, we're supposed to have a relationship with God. Isn't this what BELIEVING IN HIM means? Are we trusting God or a bldg called a church/or a priest or pastor? Is the bldg taking us to heaven? Or the priest or pastor? No. I do believe we are to believe in God and trust GOD with our salvation. Isn't this what John 3:16 is all about....

There was a cult led by a former preacher who claimed to be Jesus. Reportedly, he was originally very good at his intended job. Everyone can learn something from this documentary about them.
You can see time and time again just how weak people are, especially if they're young. Even as a group of believers, these people stumbled so hard on the Christian path they fell flat on their face and tumbled down a mountain side. This is an extreme example, but imagine how much like it happens on a micro-scale. So how much merit could worshipping in a group have?
They were worshipping the wrong Jesus!
I haven't seen the video yet,,,but if people could learn about God Almighty as they grow up, they wouldn't be so affected by fake gods. People tend to be lost and searching....children are raised with no God in their life - this is a mistake. Parents are teaching their children atheism these days so they have nothing to latch onto except secular promises and weird cults. I mean, really, why do YOU know about staying away from cults and not others? How needy and alone does a person have to be to fall for a cult? Again, we could worship God without belonging to a group. The group doesn't save -- God saves.

Will watch the video when I sign off directly from YouTube.
 

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