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  • A reader responds to my article "Why I Quit Christianity."

    I received this message to my article Why I Quit Christianity. It is a good post so I am answering it here in a new article:

    Quote Originally Posted by David
    Dear Richard,

    I don’t know why but I keep stumbling onto your site even though I am not looking for anything on it. But perhaps I can tell you my answers to your questions. I believe God has shown me certain truths:

    (1) The scriptures are simply human writings, which reveal what their authors believed. They contain errors, but also contain a clear testimony of God and his ways and laws.

    (2) The creation bears witness to the laws he set over them, thus declaring his glory and the works of his hands. For the lawmaker is God.

    (3) God wrote his laws in our hearts, thus testifying the same laws as he wrote on the tablets of stone that he gave to Moses, which are the ten commandments.

    (4) The laws of God are for our good, and only become a standard for his judgement to those who are wicked and despise them. But the righteous love his laws and keep them.

    (5) God gives every one such a choice, to either accept or reject his goodness, and he will give to them as they choose. God guides the righteous, but the wicked will receive their own evil.

    (6) Each one is fully responsible for his sin, but God will forgive all who do not want to sin, and God will enable those who truly want to live righteously to live righteously.

    (7) Man is dust and will return to dust and remain as dust until God raises all the dead, and then the righteous will enter into life but the wicked will enter into shame.

    If you would like to discuss anything with me, just email me and I would be glad to. =)

    Peace to you,

    David
    Hi David,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful reply.

    (1) That is a very interesting approach to the Bible. It is good that you are able to see and admit that the Bible contains errors. It is very similar to the approach I held when I was a Christian. I always knew that it contained errors but this didn't bother me because the evidence of the Bible Wheel convinced me that the Bible as a whole was designed by God. Therefore, I could hold the Bible with a "light grip" knowing that none of the incidental problems could trump the overall evidence for design. And as far as I know, the evidence remains valid. It is only my interpretation that has changed. I no longer believe that the evidence for design proves that "God did it" because I can't believe in the God described in its pages. So the whole thing is just a mystery to me now. But that's OK - there are many mysteries in life. There would be mysteries if I believed the Bible. So no matter what path I choose, there will be mysteries. So I choose what seems to be the best path, the path the is most likely to be true. Traditional Christianity doesn't fit that bill.

    The real problem is that the "clear testimony of God and his ways and laws" clearly attributes moral abominations to God. I have no reason to think that is true. And if it were true, then I would not be able to say that God is good.

    (2) The idea that God is the lawmaker and that this is displayed in the physical universe is a fine idea, but I don't see how it could help resolve my problems with the Bible and traditional Christianity.

    (3) The Ten Commandments were given to Israel, not the Gentiles. And it doesn't make any sense to think that the Fourth Commandment (Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy) could be "written in my heart." And worse, consider the Tenth Commandment:
    Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house [property], thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife [property], nor his manservant [property], nor his maidservant [property], nor his ox [property], nor his ass [property], nor any thing [property] that is thy neighbour's.
    See that? The wife is classed right along with all the other property owned by the male property owner. The commandment does not apply to women at all! It is sexist in the extreme like so many other passages in the Bible. How could anyone think that this "law" is written in their hearts? And besides, God commanded his people to violate the Ten Commandments when he commanded them to invade Canaan, kill everyone, and steal their land and possessions:
    Deuteronomy 6:10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you-- a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant-- then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
    See that? God told the Israelites that they would receive all the possessions of the people that they dispossessed out of the land of Canaan. Is that moral? How does it cohere with the teaching of the Ten Commandments?

    (4) Yes, there are many of God's laws that are good, but many are not. For example, do you really think it would be "good" to lop off a woman's hand if she touched the private parts of a man fighting with her husband?
    Deuteronomy 25:11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
    No pity? She was trying to protect her husband! Cut off her hand? That is the kind of abhorrant law that Christians cite when they claim superiority over Islam. So obviously, we need to "pick and choose" which laws are good and which are not.

    (5) It makes no sense to say that God gives everyone an equal choice. First, most people who ever lived never heard of Christ. Second, of those who heard, they were told a false Gospel like Mormonism, JWs, Catholicism (according to Protestants), Protestantism (according to Catholics), and so on and on - ten thousand contradictory "gospels" which a person must decipher and then choose the correct one or be damned to hell for eternity? What kind of insane God would set up such a program? I find such a suggestion utterly unbelievable.

    And besides, what does understanding and accepting a set of propositions about the identity of God and the Jesus have to do with salvation anyway?

    Thanks for the offer to discuss these issues further. I accept.

    All the best,

    Richard
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Dear Richard,


      I never said that "traditional Christianity" fits at all!

      (1) We have to treat the writing as what they are, documents, and evaluate them the same way we evaluate the testimonies of witnesses. We cannot say that everything they testify of God is true just like that, and as you know, your conscience is one witness that guides you in your judgement of their testimonies.

      (2) You may not think this is important, but actually this is very important to the servants of God. It is a clear and unchanging witness to him that cannot be altered by man. Writings can be modified and things on earth can be destroyed, but the laws which the creation obeys cannot be broken. God did not leave everything to perishable things, but as the Psalmists and many of the prophets mentioned, the creation is itself one of the greatest witnesses to God, who he is and what his intention is. The creation is not only beautiful but orderly, and every law is crucial. These laws are but a reflection of the perfect goodness of the God who is over all.

      (3) The ten commandments were given to all those who wanted to be one of Israel. To say that it was only given to those born of Israel is wrong, just as we cannot say that it was only given to those who were with Moses at that time it was given. Clearly God meant for it to be kept by all the generations, including any foreigners who became part of Israel. As for the fourth commandment, I would ask you to read it again in its entirety and look at the intention behind it and not merely the outward "rule". It is the intent that is the law itself. The outward explanation is merely there as an example. The same goes for the tenth commandment, which is not about property but about desiring something that is not rightfully yours. It is the intent behind the preceding four laws. If a person does not covet, he will never murder, nor will he commit adultery, or steal, or bear false testimony against his neighbour, because all these things are to gain something unrighteously. Notice that it does not say, "do not put anyone to death" (for example in the death penalty), nor does it say "do not lie" (which is sometimes the righteous thing to do, but of course very rarely, such as the Hebrew midwifes in Exodus). As for the dispossession of other nations, it is really because they were really evil, and it would be better to destroy them completely than to let them flourish, and worse still, let their evil practices flourish. That said, God carefully excluded those who desired him, such as Rahab. God is righteous and will judge the wicked. When he judges them while they are still on the earth, we should not judge God to be immoral.

      (4) You quote from Deuteronomy, but I already said that not everything must be correct just because it is in the "scriptural canon". Who made the canon? I cannot understand why people think there must be any "canon", because the scriptures themselves do not ever say that these specific set of writings are inspired. Some even say that it is their opinion, not what the lord said, and later changed their mind. In general the writings also were not designed by God. Only when the prophets said "this says Yahweh, ..." do we have some record of what God himself said, if indeed these were preserved somewhat, which may or may not be of course. Rather, we ourselves have to first determine which of the writings were written by honest authors and copied by honest scribes and then see what they say. And we also have to keep in mind that even honest people make mistakes but not usually intentional false testimonies. That is why the writings of the ancient Israelites are indeed of great importance, because generally they honestly report both their successes and failures, attributing these to both God and their relationship with him, and not attributing each wonder of the creation to one God but recognizing that all are the works of the one true God, Yahweh. We still have to sieve out what is not right but we do have good testimonies among them.

      (5) First, I never said anything about Christ, as yet. Second, each of us has a conscience, which we do know is good, and know that we ought to live by it. Third, I did not say that those who reject God would be sent to what you call "hell" for eternity. Fourthly, I never said that accepting propositions about God and about his son has to do with salvation. As the epistle to the Romans also says, God will judge each one on the basis of what he knows, and it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but it is the doers of the law who will be justified. The ones who entrusted themselves to God before Christ came are justified because they, by the strength from God, did the law. Likewise after the Christ of God came, who declared God's ways to us, we still have to choose whether to entrust ourselves to God, believing that he will provide our salvation from our sins. For those who say that their sins are alright and choose not to be cleansed from them, God will honour their choice and thus cannot cleanse them. Jesus is the Christ of God, who came to die on the cross as our sacrifice for sins, as the true passover lamb, but to believe that it is true does not save if one does not even want to be saved! Likewise if one desires to live a righteous life, they will live by faith because God's salvation has been accomplished in Christ's death. Whether they knew about Christ does not change God's salvation of those who desire it. Certainly the ancient Israelites did not know anything about the Messiah but the ones who wanted God were saved, because God provides the lamb, who was willing to do his father's will and not his own.

      As you can see, my views put me at odds with quite every modern-day Christian group, so I think I would not respond anymore on this website. But I sincerely hope all who read this will give careful consideration to what I say. For the truth is more important than any tradition. As for you, I urge you to send me an email instead of responding here, and I will give you fuller answers to your questions.


      Peace to you,

      David
    1. Richard Amiel McGough's Avatar
      Richard Amiel McGough -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      Dear Richard,

      I never said that "traditional Christianity" fits at all!

      (1) We have to treat the writing as what they are, documents, and evaluate them the same way we evaluate the testimonies of witnesses. We cannot say that everything they testify of God is true just like that, and as you know, your conscience is one witness that guides you in your judgement of their testimonies.
      Hey there David,

      I agree we should treat the Bible like any other book. But that's not what you are doing. It seems that you just pick and choose which parts of the Bible are "authoritative" and which are not. This seems entirely inconsistent to me.

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      (2) You may not think this is important, but actually this is very important to the servants of God. It is a clear and unchanging witness to him that cannot be altered by man. Writings can be modified and things on earth can be destroyed, but the laws which the creation obeys cannot be broken. God did not leave everything to perishable things, but as the Psalmists and many of the prophets mentioned, the creation is itself one of the greatest witnesses to God, who he is and what his intention is. The creation is not only beautiful but orderly, and every law is crucial. These laws are but a reflection of the perfect goodness of the God who is over all.
      The people who wrote the Bible were primitive, ignorant, and superstitious. They knew nothing of modern science. So to them things like earthquakes, thunder, and lightening were the "voice of God" that declared "his glory." But now we understand all those natural phenomena as just that - natural phenomena that don't require the hypothesis of God for an explanation. So how then does natural law testify of God? Why should we believe there is a God of the kind taught in the Abrahamic religions?

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      (3) The ten commandments were given to all those who wanted to be one of Israel. To say that it was only given to those born of Israel is wrong, just as we cannot say that it was only given to those who were with Moses at that time it was given. Clearly God meant for it to be kept by all the generations, including any foreigners who became part of Israel. As for the fourth commandment, I would ask you to read it again in its entirety and look at the intention behind it and not merely the outward "rule". It is the intent that is the law itself. The outward explanation is merely there as an example. The same goes for the tenth commandment, which is not about property but about desiring something that is not rightfully yours. It is the intent behind the preceding four laws. If a person does not covet, he will never murder, nor will he commit adultery, or steal, or bear false testimony against his neighbour, because all these things are to gain something unrighteously. Notice that it does not say, "do not put anyone to death" (for example in the death penalty), nor does it say "do not lie" (which is sometimes the righteous thing to do, but of course very rarely, such as the Hebrew midwifes in Exodus). As for the dispossession of other nations, it is really because they were really evil, and it would be better to destroy them completely than to let them flourish, and worse still, let their evil practices flourish. That said, God carefully excluded those who desired him, such as Rahab. God is righteous and will judge the wicked. When he judges them while they are still on the earth, we should not judge God to be immoral.
      I didn't say the covenant was given only to those who were physically born of Israel. That would be foolish because we all know that people could convert. My point stands - the covenant and the Ten Commandments were given to Israel and Israel alone.

      As for the destruction of the Canaanites - it would have been better to treat them like human beings. To say that they deserved to be destroyed dehumanizes them. And it's not true. The Israelites were much worse than the Canaanites because they had the direct experience of God and had received his laws and saw his miracles yet turned away anyway. Scripture plainly states that God did not choose them because of any merit they had.

      A facile solution which simply demonizes the victims is no solution at all for the moral abomination of genocide.

      And if we can't judge that the God of the Bible has commanded something immoral, then we can't judge that he is good in any way at all. Judgment is a two-edged sword. We judge God when we say he is good. If that is allowed, then we can judge he is immoral if that is the case.

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      (4) You quote from Deuteronomy, but I already said that not everything must be correct just because it is in the "scriptural canon". Who made the canon? I cannot understand why people think there must be any "canon", because the scriptures themselves do not ever say that these specific set of writings are inspired. Some even say that it is their opinion, not what the lord said, and later changed their mind. In general the writings also were not designed by God. Only when the prophets said "this says Yahweh, ..." do we have some record of what God himself said, if indeed these were preserved somewhat, which may or may not be of course. Rather, we ourselves have to first determine which of the writings were written by honest authors and copied by honest scribes and then see what they say. And we also have to keep in mind that even honest people make mistakes but not usually intentional false testimonies. That is why the writings of the ancient Israelites are indeed of great importance, because generally they honestly report both their successes and failures, attributing these to both God and their relationship with him, and not attributing each wonder of the creation to one God but recognizing that all are the works of the one true God, Yahweh. We still have to sieve out what is not right but we do have good testimonies among them.
      Your position seems entirely inconsistent. If there is no established canon, then why not just throw out all the books? What is your basis for asserting that any of it is true in an authoritative sense? Why do you feel justified to pick and choose which bits and pieces are "authoritative" and which are not? If you pick and choose, then you have made yourself to be the ultimate authority, and the Bible is rendered meaningless. Now it's fine to pick and choose between the true and the false, but you can't then say that the Bible has any authority. It's just like any other book that contains fact and fiction, truth and error.

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      (5) First, I never said anything about Christ, as yet. Second, each of us has a conscience, which we do know is good, and know that we ought to live by it. Third, I did not say that those who reject God would be sent to what you call "hell" for eternity. Fourthly, I never said that accepting propositions about God and about his son has to do with salvation. As the epistle to the Romans also says, God will judge each one on the basis of what he knows, and it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but it is the doers of the law who will be justified. The ones who entrusted themselves to God before Christ came are justified because they, by the strength from God, did the law. Likewise after the Christ of God came, who declared God's ways to us, we still have to choose whether to entrust ourselves to God, believing that he will provide our salvation from our sins. For those who say that their sins are alright and choose not to be cleansed from them, God will honour their choice and thus cannot cleanse them. Jesus is the Christ of God, who came to die on the cross as our sacrifice for sins, as the true passover lamb, but to believe that it is true does not save if one does not even want to be saved! Likewise if one desires to live a righteous life, they will live by faith because God's salvation has been accomplished in Christ's death. Whether they knew about Christ does not change God's salvation of those who desire it. Certainly the ancient Israelites did not know anything about the Messiah but the ones who wanted God were saved, because God provides the lamb, who was willing to do his father's will and not his own.
      You are correct, you did not speak of Christ in your first post, but now I see my inference was exactly correct. You are asserting many of the traditional Christian dogmas about Christ. You say he "declared God's ways to us" and that he will "provide our salvation from our sins" and that he is the "Christ of God" and so on. And you state these things as if they are founded on the absolute authority of the Bible, but you reject the Bible as authoritative except when it says what you want it to say. Your statements about the Bible are not coherent. They make no sense to me at all.

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      As you can see, my views put me at odds with quite every modern-day Christian group, so I think I would not respond anymore on this website. But I sincerely hope all who read this will give careful consideration to what I say. For the truth is more important than any tradition. As for you, I urge you to send me an email instead of responding here, and I will give you fuller answers to your questions.
      No, I don't see you at odds with Christians except on the one point that you freely reject whatever you don't like in the Bible.

      But why stop communicating here? A public forum is much better since many people can benefit. I don't have the time or the interest to carry on long private conversations that reach only one person.

      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      Peace to you,

      David
      And to you my friend,

      Richard
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