Figuring Out Religion

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Kshartle
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Kshartle » Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:59 am

Mountaineer wrote:
Gosso wrote: Does the search for truth ever end?
My quick response:  At our death?  At Judgement Day?  Whose truth?

My very slighty pondered response:  In this life it may depend on whether one believes the truth is within (e.g. postmoderns) or external (e.g. moderns and premoderns) to themselves as well as on whether one has a curious mind.

... Mountaineer
For some it ends before it starts. These are the uninteresting people in our lives. It also makes places like this forum a little oasis where interesting people can get together and discuss ideas and everything under the sun.
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Gosso
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:04 pm

Kshartle wrote: For some it ends before it starts. These are the uninteresting people in our lives.
A little off topic, but, this reminds me of the first two brothers in "The Golden Bird" from The Grimm's Fairy Tales.

"The Golden Bird" is one of my favorite fairy tales and represents a simple allegory for the Christian life and journey (at least that is how I read it).

In case anyone thinks I have completely gone off my rocker, here are a few quotes regarding fairy tales:
Albert Einstein wrote:“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”? - Albert Einstein
CS Lewis wrote:“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”? - CS Lewis
Charles Dickens wrote:“In an utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected." - Charles Dickens
GK Chesterton wrote:“If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.”? - GK Chesterton
Albert Einstein wrote:“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”? - Albert Einstein
Joseph Campbell wrote:"The folk tale is the primer of the picture-language of the soul." - Joseph Campbell
GK Chesterton wrote:“Can you not see, […] that fairy tales in their essence are quite solid and straightforward; but that this everlasting fiction about modern life is in its nature essentially incredible? Folk-lore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and full of routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming. The problem of the fairy tale is-what will a healthy man do with a fantastic world? The problem of the modern novel is-what will a madman do with a dull world? In the fairy tales the cosmos goes mad; but the hero does not go mad. In the modern novels the hero is mad before the book begins, and suffers from the harsh steadiness and cruel sanity of the cosmos. ”? - GK Chesterton
Joseph Campbell wrote:"If ever there was an art on which the whole community of mankind has worked--seasoned with the philosophy of the codger on the wharf and singing with the music of the spheres--it is the ageless tale." - Joseph Campbell
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:43 pm

Mountaineer wrote:
Pointedstick wrote:
Mountaineer wrote: (THE RESURECTION IS A WELL DOCUMENTED FACT).
Would you be willing to provide links or citations in support of this well documented fact that are not a part of the Christian canon itself?
I just did a very quick Google search and here are links from that.  I did not read every word so if there are more questions, feel free to ask.  You can do more research easily if you wish.  Hope this helps.

http://www.xenos.org/classes/papers/doubt.htm

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there ... aig-ehrman

http://witness.lcms.org/pages/wPagex.as ... IssueID=32

http://witness.lcms.org/pages/wPage.asp ... IssueID=32

... Mountaineer
That's a nice selection of links.

What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  There has been a very high interest in Christian apologetics research and writings in recent years.  I think the evidence available is sufficient to support the reasonableness of the Christian beliefs.  But the evidence is not coercive.  It might take a lifetime to study each and every point in sufficient detail to prove Christianity to oneself, while disproving all other religions in the process.  But I don't think many are converted to Christianity through a lifetime of study.  Nobody would put in that kind of effort unless they felt that there was something of utmost importance to be discovered.  Rather, I think the apologetics exists to show that a belief in the deity of Jesus is reasonable.  This can at least allow the ideas to be considered seriously rather than ridiculed.  Then the study of God's word, the Bible, opens our hearts and minds to the reality of God's presence.  In my case, other books along with the Bible (Pascal, Tullian Tchividjian, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Keller ) really helped to open my mind to the possibility of God's existence. 

In summary, I think the truth is available and verifiable.  But it's just as possible to convince ourselves that there is no truth, no God, no afterlife.  And I think it has to be so, for humans to have free will.  If God merely imposed his will on us, we would be nothing but robots or slaves.  But he doesn't, and offers us so much more than that in the process. 
Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter. 
- D.L. Moody

Diversification means always having to say you're sorry.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Mountaineer » Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:22 pm

Desert, nice post.  Even though I'm preaching to the choir.  ;)

... Mountaineer
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Desert » Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:37 pm

Thanks Mountaineer.  And just to be clear, there's not a choir in the land that would let me sing with 'em.    ;)
Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter. 
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Mountaineer
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Mountaineer » Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:20 pm

Desert wrote: Thanks Mountaineer.  And just to be clear, there's not a choir in the land that would let me sing with 'em.    ;)
Ditto!  I can't carry a tune in a bucket.    :o
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:07 pm

Desert wrote: What sets Christianity apart from all other religions is the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  There has been a very high interest in Christian apologetics research and writings in recent years.  I think the evidence available is sufficient to support the reasonableness of the Christian beliefs.  But the evidence is not coercive.  It might take a lifetime to study each and every point in sufficient detail to prove Christianity to oneself, while disproving all other religions in the process.  But I don't think many are converted to Christianity through a lifetime of study.  Nobody would put in that kind of effort unless they felt that there was something of utmost importance to be discovered.  Rather, I think the apologetics exists to show that a belief in the deity of Jesus is reasonable.  This can at least allow the ideas to be considered seriously rather than ridiculed.  Then the study of God's word, the Bible, opens our hearts and minds to the reality of God's presence.  In my case, other books along with the Bible (Pascal, Tullian Tchividjian, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Keller ) really helped to open my mind to the possibility of God's existence. 

In summary, I think the truth is available and verifiable.  But it's just as possible to convince ourselves that there is no truth, no God, no afterlife.  And I think it has to be so, for humans to have free will.  If God merely imposed his will on us, we would be nothing but robots or slaves.  But he doesn't, and offers us so much more than that in the process.
That's a beautiful post!

I agree that Christianity is a process or perhaps a journey towards knowing God and the life of Christ.  It won't be easy, there will be plenty of dragons to slay (metaphorical of course), but the prize at the end is worth it.  If there is no prize at the end then at least we'll have a good story to tell.  Some people get further along the journey than others in this life, while some won't even attempt it (ie. Parable of the talents).

Another thing that pulls me towards Christianity is that it provides a good blend of enabling us to participate in the "mystery and joy of the universe" aka God, while also remaining grounded in our community with the Church, family, virtue, etc.  So it beautifully combines the spiritual and material worlds.

There is also the fact that I was born in a Christian country which makes the Christian symbols more appealing to my subconscious (I have been seeded in a Christian field).  This doesn't mean I have to reject other religions, but rather accept that they won't work as well for me.  I personally believe that love for God/Christ (ie. circumcision/baptism of the heart) and the attempt at a virtuous life (ie. accepting Jesus as a teacher) are enough for salvation, but I'm willing to revise my position as I learn more.
Last edited by Gosso on Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by 6 Iron » Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:59 pm

Forgive me if this has been asked and answered, but I also am struggling with the doctrine of election, particularly as it is described by Paul in Romans 9: 11-13.

I was curious how you have found peace with this. I recently finished a bible study of Romans and feel less at ease, and less Calvinist about this than before.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Mountaineer » Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:52 pm

6 Iron wrote: Forgive me if this has been asked and answered, but I also am struggling with the doctrine of election, particularly as it is described by Paul in Romans 9: 11-13.

I was curious how you have found peace with this. I recently finished a bible study of Romans and feel less at ease, and less Calvinist about this than before.
6 Iron

I will attempt to address your concern from the perspective of the "Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod"  of which I am a member.  First of all, your struggle is a very common one.  Here are some Q&A's from the LC-MS that discuss the issue.  Romans 9:11-13 is not specifically addressed but other references are given.  I will go look in my Romans Commentary shortly and see if there is a better analysis that would help.  If I find something, I'll put it in a second post.

Romans 9:11-13
English Standard Version (ESV)
11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”? 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”?

... Mountaineer

Q:  How does the church feel about the theological tension between the universal offer of salvation (Matt 11:28, John 3:16, John 6:40) and divine election (John 15:16, Eph. 1:4, Acts 13:48)? If God already predetermined who was saved, what is the point of witnessing?

A:  Let me first of all refer you to a couple of resources that set forth the position of the Synod on Election and objective or "universal" justification. The doctrine of Election is summarized in the Synod's A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod. You may also find helpful the Commission on Theology and Church Relation's 1983 Theses on Justification (see esp. section VI The Universal and Finished Results of Christ's Work of Obedience).

From the standpoint of human reason, the scriptural teachings that God has objectively justified (objective justification) the whole world through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and wants all people to be saved through faith in Him (subjective justification), and that He elected by grace from eternity those who are saved, cannot be resolved. We must say with Paul when he contemplates the mystery of our election, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"

And yet, we can say this on the basis of God's Word. By faith we hold that it is precisely because we Christians are God's elect that we proclaim the good news of salvation. We see this in Ephesians, where Paul begins by praising God for His election (the purest of Gospel and only meant for our comfort; Eph. 1:3-10), while at the same time and in the same breath declaring "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ...." (Eph. 3:7-8).  This same Apostle, who regarded himself as among God's elect, wrote to the Corinthians, "For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). We witness, therefore, because God commands us to make known His saving will to others and because we are in fact part of God's elective plan being carried out in history (Eph. 3)!


Q:  One of your FAQ answers states that it is possible for one to lose his salvation. However, in your Theses on Justification (1983) on this website it says plainly that believers have eternal assurance (paragraph 58). Which is it?

A:  Lutherans believe both are true and Scriptural: It is possible for a believer to fall from faith and lose salvation, and it is possible for a believer to have complete assurance of eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. If this seems paradoxical to human reason, then (Lutherans say) this is only because the teaching of Scripture itself on this issue (as on many other issues) appears paradoxical to human reason.

For Lutherans, this is essentially a matter of properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel: Warnings against falling from faith are the strongest form of God's Law, intended to warn against "carnal security" based on "good works" or against the attitude that "since I'm saved, I can do anything I want to do." Assurances of God's constant and eternal love in Christ are the sweetest and purest form of Gospel, intended to comfort those who are plagued by their sins and by their failures to keep God's Law perfectly.


Q:  I understand that God chose those for salvation before the very foundation of the world. The Bible does not say that there are those who are chosen and that there are those who are not. So, does that mean then that God chose everyone to be saved before the foundation of the world and therefore it is man's choice whether he will accept God's saving grace or not? However, one cannot come into God's grace by himself, but by the Holy Spirit "leading" him unto salvation. Is that the correct interpretation? I am confused by the fact that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, yet the very action of choosing can mean that there were those who were not chosen. I know that God wishes everyone to be saved. Can you help me?

A:  The question you are wrestling with is really the question, "Why are some saved and not others?" Theologians throughout history have referred to this question as the "crux theologorum" ("the cross of the theologians") because of the difficulty (and from the Lutheran perspective, the impossibility) of giving an answer to this question which is satisfactory to our human reason.

Some answer this question by pointing to man's "free will"--only those are saved who "choose" to be saved. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible even man's will is "dead" and powerless to "choose" God and his grace in Christ. We are saved not because we "choose" to be saved but because the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart through the Gospel (even faith is a gift!). Others answer this question by pointing to God's sovereign will: God himself predestines from eternity some to be saved and others to be damned. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible God sincerely desires all to be saved and has predestined no one to damnation.

So how do Lutherans answer this question? The answer is that Lutherans do not try to answer it, because (we believe) the Bible itself does not provide an answer to this question that is comprehensible to human reason. Lutherans affirm, with Scripture, that whoever is saved is saved by God's grace alone, a grace so sure that it excludes all human "action" and "choice" but rather rests on the foundation of God's action in Christ and his "choice" (predestination) from before the beginning of time. Lutherans also affirm, with Scripture, that those who are damned are damned not by God's "choice" but on account of their own human sin and rebellion and unbelief. From a human perspective, there is no "rational" or "logical" way to put these two truths together. Lutherans believe and confess them not because they are "rational" and "logical," but because this is what we find taught in Scripture.

For a further discussion of this issue, you may want to read Of the Election of Grace in the Brief Statement of the LCMS, and/or Articles II and XI in the Formula of Concord (contained in the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions).
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:04 am

6 Iron wrote: Forgive me if this has been asked and answered, but I also am struggling with the doctrine of election, particularly as it is described by Paul in Romans 9: 11-13.

I was curious how you have found peace with this. I recently finished a bible study of Romans and feel less at ease, and less Calvinist about this than before.
I lean towards Arminianism, and even more towards Catholicism, so I am skeptical towards the Calvinist interpretation of election.  Only with the concept of free will can I rationally believe in a good God...I would appreciate it if anyone could help provide me with arguments for the other side.

There are a series of videos on YouTube posted by Dr. Jerry Walls, an Arminian and professor at Houston Baptist University, explaining where he (and his student Paul Sloan) disagree with Calvinism.  Here are the videos focusing on Romans 9:

Part IV - This sets the background necessary to interpret Romans (27 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6rmrX5p44Y

Part V - This gets into the heart of Romans (36 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5cx2H1rS6E

I didn't understand everything in these videos, but it seems to be all about context.  Romans 9 is not about individual salvation but rather the election of Israel to be the light of the world.  It is not about a narrowing of God's mercy but rather an expansion of His mercy.

The first three videos are more philosophical than biblical, but also really good.

I hope this helps.
Last edited by Gosso on Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Gosso » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:21 am

6 Iron wrote: Forgive me if this has been asked and answered, but I also am struggling with the doctrine of election, particularly as it is described by Paul in Romans 9: 11-13.

I was curious how you have found peace with this. I recently finished a bible study of Romans and feel less at ease, and less Calvinist about this than before.
I think this saying sums up God's relationship to us perfectly, "If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, it was meant to be."

Peter Kreeft has a good article on the problem of free will and predestination:
I do not think either truth needs to be compromised. I think we can do as much justice to the sovereignty of God as a Calvinist and as much justice to the free will of man as a Baptist. Yet it would not compromise the very essence of God to deny predestination. Arminianism, the theological viewpoint that denies predestination and emphasizes the role of man's free will in receiving grace from God, may be wrong. But it is wrong at a relatively technical, theoretical level. Denying human free will, on the other hand, would cut out something immediately essential to the Christian life: personal responsibility. If I am a robot, even a divinely programmed robot, my life no longer has the drama of real choice and turns into a formula, the unrolling of a pre-written script. God loves me too much to allow that. He would sooner compromise his power than my freedom.

Actually, he does neither.  It is precisely his power that gives me my freedom. Aquinas reconciles freedom with predestination by saying that God's love is so powerful that he not only gets what he wants but he also gets it in the way that he wants. Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less than total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely.

In other words, freedom and predestination are two sides of one coin. The omnipotent author chose to write a story about free human beings, not just trees or machines. That means we are really free. We are free precisely because God is all-powerful.

If love and power were not one, we would have the classic standoff, an unending conflict between the two. Once you see the center, love, everything else falls into place like spokes in a wheel.
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/ ... nation.htm
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Re: Figuring Out Religion

Post by Jan Van » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:27 am

So what about Jesus going to India?

BBC Documentary: "Jesus Lived in India"
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