Hello Richard and all
The problem we have is that there are many religions. Those which are centered on God and those that are not. We should only have one religion if God is ONE as He claims and there is none else beside Him, but alas, we have many variations of God's intended way of conduct and worship which we call religion.
I can see Richard's point about Muslims or whoever, that they must ask the same questions as Christians must ask themselves. There is no point to Christians arguing with Muslims about moral or social teaching or aspects of their faith. The argument that always will remain concerns the God at the center of their faith. In the case of Evolution, there is no God, so what is the point of arguing with anyone who does not believe in God? I can help a person come to understand what I believe, but there is no point arguing about prophecy in the Bible or any such thing with anyone who does not share the same fundamental belief in God. Does God exist or not? The answer must be yes or no? If the answer is "yes", what do we know about this God? Where does that knowledge of God come from? If we have no source other than a work of human fiction, then we have no basis at all for believing in God. Either, the ancient scriptures were inspired by God (as self-declared), or they are fiction. It might seem a very narrow focus I have to consider only the Bible (God's word) and will use this as the basis for all my arguments, but this is because I have narrowed the field of competing religions down to what I accept is the one True religion.
I appreciate that Richard can ask fundamental searching questions of us all. Many of those questions I find irrelevant having narrowed the field down to the belief in the ONE GOD. Richard knows what is recorded in the Bible and challenges Bible believers (as he has done with me), but conversing with me, as one who has built his house on the rock, is not going to have the house blown own by any wind Richard can now blow against it. Alas, Richard has deconstructed his own house that was built on the same rock. From what I see of Richard's understanding about some doctrines, I can see why Richard was right to demolish it. Unfortunately,Richard is not rebuilding his house on the firm foundations that remain in place to be built on.
Holding on to my belief in God is not to be held down by dogma (as Richard calls it), but I have a freedom to hold on to a certain way of life at the center of which are the promises of God to all those who are obedient to Him and who do His will. That will, if complied with, is to the ultimate benefit of mankind. So at the center of my life can only be a belief in the ONE God. It does not make any difference that there are many religions, as God is ONE, so there can only be one understanding that God intends us to have. That is what I have to concentrate on. It might sound dogmatic, but as Richard likes to say; "The Bible states clearly..." It does not surprise Richard that I am fixed on what I believe, because (like Richard) I can read and understand what the Bible clearly states. There is an obvious difference in the clarity that we each see, but that does not change the Truth that is to be understood. There is no point discussing issues in the Bible, when the foundations to those issues have not been agreed. To me; God IS. All I can tell form Richard is; God MIGHT BE. Hence we have no common foundation on which to build.
What was the common foundation on which the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote? The whole of the history of Israel up to the time of Jesus was centered on the ONE GOD. The writer's faith and hopes were based on the promises to Abraham (the father and patriarch of the Nation of Israel). Those promises are the main thread that runs through the whole of scripture, and the coming of Jesus has not changed those promises of God, which are still in force. Abraham has not received his inheritance that God promised him, and therefore, the promises to him remains to be fulfilled. Because of what God had done for His chosen people;like their deliverance of from Egypt, God set them the task of keeping memorial feasts annually. They were commanded to teach their children of the things that God had done for Israel.
Deut 4:9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
It was this tradition and the fact that God had instructed the Nation of Israel to remain separate from the other nations that the Jews (to this present day) have retained their identity. God has not cast off Israel and that is evident because of the nation that was reformed in 1948. The Jews have remained witnesses to God by their existence to this day; not individually, but as a nation, even though modern Israel are blind to that fact and will be until God removes the spiritual veil from their eyes. What other nation has survived persecution and dispersion? Where are all the governments of the past? They have all vanished and we only have historical records.
In the history of the nation of Israel up to the time of Jesus, we can get in context the opening words to chapter 11 of Hebrews (also known as the 'faith chapter');
(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Just as the Jews hoped for the restoration of their kingdom in the time of Jesus, hence the disciples question to Jesus when on the Mount of Olives, it was the same hope that the Apostle Paul speaks of when he says;(Acts 20:28) "for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain..." The hope of Israel will be realized when Abraham finally receives his inheritance. Abraham's inheritance is more than the value of the land promised to him, it is the same promise God has made to all those like Abraham, who have proved faithful. Their inheritance is eternal life in God's Kingdom on earth. That inheritance has been made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Whilst the resurrection is my "hope of things to come", the evidence of things unseen is the evidence based on the scriptures that have been handed down through the generations of the Nation of Israel and to us from the time the New Testament documents were written. The Jews are spiritually blind to Jesus, but they have continued to pass on the eye witness accounts that are recorded in the ancient scriptures, which they have never disputed took place.
It was the eye witness experience of the disciples of Jesus that so transformed them. Their writings and testimony have been recorded along with the words of Jesus and have been handed down through the generations to us. Richard is making us question these words; what they mean and when they apply, as well as questioning the authenticity of the original scriptures. How can you question eye witness accounts that have been handed down through many generations? For a long time, the Exodus story was considered a fable because there was no record of it found in Egyptian records. It has been discovered now that the Egyptians attempted (and were quite successful) to erase parts of their history in which they had not been successful and was an embarrassment to them. Historians and archaeologist have found out what the Egyptians did and have a better picture of events that took place and can now date more precisely when the Exodus took place. The evidence is there; supported by the history of places and times mentioned in the Bible.
Anyone who does not want to accept this evidence, cannot be made to, but why should the words of doubters change the mind of those who accept the evidence for the Exodus? The Egyptians tried to cover it up and erase parts of their history. Where is the evidence from the Egyptians refuting the Exodus proclaimed took place? The onus is on the dissenters to prove their case and not on the part of those who accept the eye witness account. Moses was one eye witness and we have the writings of Moses that form part of the ancient scriptures that were copied (as correctly as possible) and handed down from one generation to another. These are facts, which if one does not want to accept, then no amount of evidence will satisfy. To the doubters of Jesus's day he said; (John 5:46)"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me". It was not that they did not believe in the writings of Moses about the Exodus, but they had not made the connection in the writings of Moses concerning a coming of a prophet, who would be Jesus. Jesus never questions the scripture of his day which was their equivalent to our Bible today and which their scriptures forms the Old Testament in the Bible. The survival of the word of God is a miracle when one considers the various attempts throughout history to destroy it. God has performed another miracle by preserving His word. We have the same evidence today about things unseen as the writer declares in Hebrews 11:1
Peace to all,