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Troubling Doctrines For Christians

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This is for both Christians and former Christians. What doctrines trouble you the most? You could expand your answers to troubling scriptures, as well. Have you solved problems caused by these troubling doctrines, scriptures, teachings, etc.?

My List Includes These:

.Eternal Hell is excessive, and why would souls be predestined to go there?

.The unforgivable sin reference terrified me when I was a kid, and it seems contradictory and out of place.

.The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament.

.Why was slavery not criticized?

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Well Eternal Hell isn't a doctrin per ce, it's an ideology. Biblically, the only people sent into the fiery pits are those who actively side with Satan in the last battle. The doctrine is of Purgatory, whixh is more like Dantes' Inferno and only temporary.

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The whole concept of hell is what turned me away

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This is for both Christians and former Christians. What doctrines trouble you the most? You could expand your answers to troubling scriptures, as well. Have you solved problems caused by these troubling doctrines, scriptures, teachings, etc.?

Well having read the Bible for years and listened to many a sermon on various subject I will do my best to respond. However it should be pointed out that some of the difficult doctrines have been debated for centuries.

My List Includes These:

.Eternal Hell is excessive, and why would souls be predestined to go there?

In Christian doctrine man in his current state is fallen. As such we cannot commune with a holy God. Our sin separates us from God. God provide a sacrifice for our sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He, being God, could and did live a perfect sinless life, and in dying for our sins if we accept His sacrifice His righteous is imputed to us. Therefore when God looks at someone who has accepted this sacrifice he sees the righteousness of Christ instead of the sin of the individual. We are meant to exist eternally, and the acceptance or rejection of this sacrifice seems to be available only in this present life, therefore if we die without this acceptance, we die in a state that cannot exist in the presence of a perfect holy God. And since we are eternal from our conception onward, and God is eternal, an unrepentant sinner would been kept from the presence of God eternally, and that is what hell is, eternal separation. From a human standpoint this seems excessive, but then God went to great lengths to correct our broken relationship, the fact is that many simple reject or disbelieve the offer.

.The unforgivable sin reference terrified me when I was a kid, and it seems contradictory and out of place.

The only place in Scripture that this is mentioned is where the Pharisees say that it is by the power of Satan that Jesus was able to do miracles. Jesus said that this was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and could never be forgiven since, it is by the Spirit that God calls men to faith in Jesus, and to reject this saving power would condemn those doing so. Many commentators believe that what was said was specific to that incident and not universal.

.The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament.

The OT was a history of God's dealing with a particular people (Israel) for a particular purpose, that is to bring the Messiah about through their lineage. He wanted them to be a separate, holy people and therefore gave them particular commands, rituals, boundaries, etcetera to accomplish His purpose. The NT was a story about the Messiah and the beginnings of His Gospel message and how it was disseminated, first among the jews and then throughout the gentile nations. But the theme of redemptions by a coming Messiah and then that fulfillment run from Genesis to Revelation.

.Why was slavery not criticized?

This is not entirely correct. Paul told slaves that if they could gain their freedom they should do so. But the Bible did not gloss over the fact that slavery existed, it merely treats it in a matter of fact manner, because it was the way things were. Conquering nations like Rome would make slaves of many, and it was obvious that the jews, for instance, did not like Roman occupation. There were also different types of slaves. A person might become a type of slave in someones household to pay off a debt. Once the debt was paid, he could go free, but some slaves of this type became so attached to the households they worked for (and who provided for them as well) that they could become a permanent slave in which case the would be marked by piercing the earlobe with an awl. In this case the life they let in another's service was preferable to the life on their own.

Hope that helps.

Edited by Sundew
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God in the OT, some stories he appears counterproductive and even a bit dumb.

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In Christian doctrine man in his current state is fallen.
How did this occur? Did God create us this way?
There were also different types of slaves. A person might become a type of slave in someones household to pay off a debt. Once the debt was paid, he could go free, but some slaves of this type became so attached to the households they worked for (and who provided for them as well) that they could become a permanent slave in which case the would be marked by piercing the earlobe with an awl. In this case the life they let in another's service was preferable to the life on their own.
Only applied to male slaves. He could go free, if the owner gave him a wife, the woman and any children became property of the owner. Edited by Rlyeh

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This is for both Christians and former Christians. What doctrines trouble you the most? You could expand your answers to troubling scriptures, as well. Have you solved problems caused by these troubling doctrines, scriptures, teachings, etc.?

Thanks for sharing that list. For me, I've answered those questions to my own satisfaction (though not necessarily to someone else's satisfaction):

Eternal Hell is excessive, and why would souls be predestined to go there? - I think this is much better looked at with a preceding question - "what is hell"? Once we can actually decide on what it is, perhaps it's not as bad as you think it is? NB- I have found that in a theological sense, Hell is NOT eternal punishment in fiery torture.

As to why souls are predestined to go there, I'd take two roads in answering, and both answers complement each other: 1- Romans 9 hypothesises that people are destined to go there in order that those who make it to heaven can understand what it is that God has saved them from, or in other words, how can we understand God's salvation for us if we don't know what the alternative is? And the other point, 2- "predestination" is a concept that has been argued in Christianity since its earliest days, and I am not adverse to the idea that free will and predestination can both exist in God's world (in this case, a person chose their path, and because they chose it, they are predestined for either heaven or hell [and as I said, what is "hell" even?]).

The unforgivable sin reference terrified me when I was a kid, and it seems contradictory and out of place. - I wasn't a Christian as a kid, so I can't say the "unforgivable sin" terrified me very much during my life. I would argue that the rejection of the Holy Spirit is akin to dying without the forgiveness of Jesus, by which we have not received the Holy Spirit and thus blasphemed its gift. Ergo, we die without forgiveness and therefore are not forgiven.

The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament. - The through-line of God's message is the same going through both Testaments, so while there may be minor differences, I don't see the sweeping differences in tones that people (in my opinion, wrongly) attribute - ie, God doling out death and judgement vs God of Love.

Why was slavery not criticized? - Because as much as it is hard to believe now, slavery was a necessity within the society of the time. Christianity was a grass-roots movement aimed more at the lowly in society than the high. If Jesus began preaching to cast off the shackles of slavery and the slaves did so, society would grind to a halt and destroy itself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That said, the questions and doctrines I find most troubling about my belief are:

The Trinity - while I fully believe it is what the Bible teaches, I cannot wrap my human mind around the concept of a 3-in-1 entity (no matter how many analogies there are, none of them fully capture the triune nature of the Christian God).

Love your enemy - easy to say, harder to do, especially if you're talking about "loving" a mass murderer of a paedophile (especially if one has affected you personally with your family or your child). How can I look at a paedophile who molested my child and say "You have my love" (note, I haven't got any children, let alone a child who had been molested).

Free will vs Predestination - The OP brushed briefly on this, which I addressed in part already. Ultimately I'm led to trust that God knows best and that while God is sovereign and has predestined us, we are also individual beings with the ability to use our God-given free will (yes, in our physical world these concepts are mutually exclusive).

That will do as a start.

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Wasn't Predestination entirely invented by Augustine (who also entirely made up the notion of "Original Sin", which also has no biblical basis at all) and eagerly taken up by that evil charlatan Calvin to blackmail people into following his teachings? One of the most evil men who have ever lived.

Actually, as usual, all the talk about Hell and so on has been very largely extrapolated by later commentators has it not, notably the abovementioned evil Calvin, and neither the OT nor he who is so often forgotten when discussing what the "Bible" teaches, Jesus, really had very much to say about it, did they, as with so much.

.The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament.

Well, naturally, since it wasn't a uniform set of writings but was a collection of many kinds of writing over a very long period of time that set out the basis for God's relationship with Humanity and set out rhe background for the yearning for a Messiah. The NT was much more focussed on a series of events concerning a single individual at a precise period, even if I do think it has been rather padded with, in particular, the Opinions of Paul, even if those aren't strictly relevant to the subject he is discussiing, i.e. Jesus. The OT, to be quite honest, I think, contains an awful lot of superfluous material that has nothing at all to do with the overall theme, and really the only possible purpose for retaining all those interminable Laws would be to highlight how different Jesus' view of how to approach a relationshiop with God was - that you didn't have to bother with all that stuff any more.

Edited by Lord Vetinari

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Wasn't Predestination entirely invented by Augustine (who also entirely made up the notion of "Original Sin", which also has no biblical basis at all) and eagerly taken up by that evil charlatan Calvin

1- The doctrine of Predestination has been in Christianity (and debated within Christianity) for as long as Christianity has existed. It's had its supporters and detractors for nearly 2 millennia, and up until the 18th Century, the predominant belief has always seemed to favour Predestination. It would be wrong to say that it was "entirely invented by Augustine". The doctrine can be found within the Bible in passages such as Romans 9:10-25, so it clearly existed before Augustine.

2- It would also be wrong to say that Original Sin was entirely invented by Augustine. There is biblical backing for the doctrine in Romans 5:12-19. However, Christians do disagree on the exact understanding of "Original Sin". Some say that we are born with the stain of Adam and Eve's sin and therefore and sinful from birth. Others (such as myself) argue that this is not the meaning of the passage but rather that we are born with the capacity to sin, and invariably choose to sin as part of our nature, but we are not born with a stain on our soul that condemns us from birth. I am uncertain of the historical evolution of the belief in Original Sin, it is not something that has ever come up in my life to study about. At the very least it is fair to say that Augustine didn't "invent" the doctrine, but perhaps he was the first to elucidate it, though I think Augustine is often portrayed (unfairly) as the fall-guy for these kinds of thing.

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Predestination didn't always refer to the horrible notion that God had chosen who would be saved and who wouldn't right from the start, though; while that may have always been a strand in Christian thinking, it just meant the idea that God had always known what was going to happen. It may well be unfair to blame Augustine for everything, true, but it was undoubtedly the evil Calvin who added his spin to it that it meant that God had decided who would be "Saved" (i.e., funnily enough, everyone who decided to follow Calvin) and who wouldn't.

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Predestination didn't always refer to the horrible notion that God had chosen who would be saved and who wouldn't right from the start, though; while that may have always been a strand in Christian thinking, it just meant the idea that God had always known what was going to happen. It may well be unfair to blame Augustine for everything, true, but it was undoubtedly the evil Calvin who added his spin to it that it meant that God had decided who would be "Saved" (i.e., funnily enough, everyone who decided to follow Calvin) and who wouldn't.

So if Calvin invented the "horrible notion" why is it directly discussed in Romans 9:10-25, a millennium and a half before Calvin was born?

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So if Calvin invented the "horrible notion" why is it directly discussed in Romans 9:10-25, a millennium and a half before Calvin was born?

What did Paul actually say? What do you consider him as meaning? Do you think he meant the horrible ideas devised by that evil man Calvin, or was he talking about God knowing everything that was ever going to happen?

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What did Paul actually say? What do you consider him as meaning? Do you think he meant the horrible ideas devised by that evil man Calvin, or was he talking about God knowing everything that was ever going to happen?

What he said and what I consider his meaning has been discussed in several previous posts of mine. Of particular note you may want to go back to THIS POST, in which I share how I see his "horrible ideas". The post I linked mostly deals with Romans 9, but focusing only on that, the post is laid out as follows:

(T)he most comprehensive outline on this issue is found in the book of Romans (chapter 9). In this section, Paul asks (and answers) many questions on the issue of predestination that I think every Christian must at least deeply consider before making their judgements on this topic (I have heard some counters to the verse, but I have yet to find one of them convincing). The section I'll be focusing my discussion on is Romans 9:10-24, but it won't hurt to familiarise yourself with the rest of Romans (if you haven't already). Anyway, I'll pick up from verse 10:

10 Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Paul starts in verse 10 by appealing to the Old Testament story of Esau and Jacob. In this Old Testament story, Esau lost his birthright to Jacob, even though he was the firstborn and therefore rightful heir. Paul states clearly in verse 11 - before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad - in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works..... Again this is a very clear statement concerning God's purpose of election in choosing one over the other, not because of anything they had done (works), indeed before they were born or had done anything to deserve it or not, God had chosen one over the other. One could argue that it related specifically to Esau and Jacob and does not directly relate to us today (a valid observation, but for the rest of the passage - which broadens the context to beyond Old Testament patriarchs)..... Continuing on to the next set of verses:

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Paul again draws on Old Testament references, quoting the story of Pharaoh and Moses from Exodus 33 in stating "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy". He repeats this in various wording in this section multiple times. And in verse 17, again talking of Pharaoh - I (God) raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power..... Did Pharaoh have a choice in the matter? I would argue that he did not, especially when Exodus notes that Pharaoh was about to let the Israelites go, except for God's intervention in hardening Pharaoh's heart (however, there is a point worth raising on this issue - I'll discuss this shortly). Moving on to verse 19, and this is where I find the passage getting really interesting:

19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Paul specifically addresses the argument that many today use - "if God made me like this, how can God still blame me for my actions". And the simple answer Paul gives - who are you to talk back to God. God, the King, the creator. You can't understand God. He's too big for you, you're just a human. It's not an answer a lot of people like (heck, I don't like it either, and I'm a Christian). It's not exactly an ideal answer, and I sure wish anywhere in the Bible there was a better answer provided, but this is the answer given. Paul then uses an analogy that any in the day could understand - how can a pot say to a potter "why did you make me like this". The potter can make grand pots or common use pots (a decorative vase, or a chamber pot for example). The pot has no say in the matter - it's all up to the creator of the pot! God, the creator. In any case, I'm going to move on to the next few verses:

22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

I'll end my discussion here after these verses. Here, Paul theorises why people are actually created for destruction - why would God make people destined for destruction? What if God created these "objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction" to show the "riches of his mercy" to those whom he "also prepared in advance for glory". He prepared certain people for destruction, in order to show glory to those who also were prepared for glory - in other words, how can we who are saved truly apprecciate the massive gift of eternal life that God has given us if we didn't have an alternative (destruction) to compare it to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll let you decide what he meant on Romans 9 :tu:

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Well Eternal Hell isn't a doctrin per ce, it's an ideology. Biblically, the only people sent into the fiery pits are those who actively side with Satan in the last battle. The doctrine is of Purgatory, whixh is more like Dantes' Inferno and only temporary.

That's one reason why I expanded possible responses. Different denominations have different views on punishment in the afterlife. That's especially true when it comes to subjects like Limbo (perhaps no longer relevant) and Purgatory. Most Protestant denominations don't share those particularly Catholic conceptions of the afterlife.

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The whole concept of hell is what turned me away

I empathize and sympathize with atheists and agnostics who say that. I often struggle with that, myself. It's not worth rejecting the positive, uplifting views associated with one's faith, though. BTW, I'm not saying that *you're* not a theist.

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Sundew, that indeed was very helpful. Most of your points tracked with my own understanding of those issues. One could start a new thread on whether or not Hell makes moral sense when good people ostensibly go there. Your explanation mirrored traditional Christian teachings on the subject, though. I liked what you said about the ancient Middle East in that certain events, that seem very bizarre in our era, make more sense in the context of those places and times. We often make the same kinds of mistakes when judging other chapters of the historical record through the lens of America in 2013. We may part company on slavery, as it's not severely criticized in the New Testament. I realize that much of that comes from the culture of that era, but the lack of criticism is still troubling.

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God in the OT, some stories he appears counterproductive and even a bit dumb.

The various portrayals probably stem from the disparate interpretations of the chroniclers in the Old Testament. Some of these individuals were influenced by cultural considerations.

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Wasn't Predestination entirely invented by Augustine (who also entirely made up the notion of "Original Sin", which also has no biblical basis at all) and eagerly taken up by that evil charlatan Calvin to blackmail people into following his teachings? One of the most evil men who have ever lived.

Actually, as usual, all the talk about Hell and so on has been very largely extrapolated by later commentators has it not, notably the abovementioned evil Calvin, and neither the OT nor he who is so often forgotten when discussing what the "Bible" teaches, Jesus, really had very much to say about it, did they, as with so much.

.The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament.

Well, naturally, since it wasn't a uniform set of writings but was a collection of many kinds of writing over a very long period of time that set out the basis for God's relationship with Humanity and set out rhe background for the yearning for a Messiah. The NT was much more focussed on a series of events concerning a single individual at a precise period, even if I do think it has been rather padded with, in particular, the Opinions of Paul, even if those aren't strictly relevant to the subject he is discussiing, i.e. Jesus. The OT, to be quite honest, I think, contains an awful lot of superfluous material that has nothing at all to do with the overall theme, and really the only possible purpose for retaining all those interminable Laws would be to highlight how different Jesus' view of how to approach a relationshiop with God was - that you didn't have to bother with all that stuff any more.

It may be fair to say that it comes from personal scriptural interpretations. I think that Calvin is the most influential figure in the latter growth and development of this doctrine, though. "Blame" him for the dissemination of the frightening acceptance and adoption of predestination in its contemporary doctrinaire and dogmatic form in various Protestant denominations. He popularized the belief in the Elect. It seems like it's inescapable, no matter how you word or phrase the concept. An omniscient God has to know who will accept Grace unless the same omnipotent God *chooses* to not know who will accept His gift. That makes some kind of sense to a flawed human like me. It's difficult to penetrate such a conundrum!

I must admit that I take the easy way out when it comes to contradictions and discrepancies in Christian and Jewish holy books. I go with the New Testament when it seemingly contradicts the Old Testament. It's not as exhausting as engaging in cognitive dissonance. It's also less aggravating than hearing nonsensical attempts to explain away some differences.

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Thanks for sharing that list. For me, I've answered those questions to my own satisfaction (though not necessarily to someone else's satisfaction):

Eternal Hell is excessive, and why would souls be predestined to go there? - I think this is much better looked at with a preceding question - "what is hell"? Once we can actually decide on what it is, perhaps it's not as bad as you think it is? NB- I have found that in a theological sense, Hell is NOT eternal punishment in fiery torture.

As to why souls are predestined to go there, I'd take two roads in answering, and both answers complement each other: 1- Romans 9 hypothesises that people are destined to go there in order that those who make it to heaven can understand what it is that God has saved them from, or in other words, how can we understand God's salvation for us if we don't know what the alternative is? And the other point, 2- "predestination" is a concept that has been argued in Christianity since its earliest days, and I am not adverse to the idea that free will and predestination can both exist in God's world (in this case, a person chose their path, and because they chose it, they are predestined for either heaven or hell [and as I said, what is "hell" even?]).

The unforgivable sin reference terrified me when I was a kid, and it seems contradictory and out of place. - I wasn't a Christian as a kid, so I can't say the "unforgivable sin" terrified me very much during my life. I would argue that the rejection of the Holy Spirit is akin to dying without the forgiveness of Jesus, by which we have not received the Holy Spirit and thus blasphemed its gift. Ergo, we die without forgiveness and therefore are not forgiven.

The tone of the New Testament is much different than the tone of the Old Testament. - The through-line of God's message is the same going through both Testaments, so while there may be minor differences, I don't see the sweeping differences in tones that people (in my opinion, wrongly) attribute - ie, God doling out death and judgement vs God of Love.

Why was slavery not criticized? - Because as much as it is hard to believe now, slavery was a necessity within the society of the time. Christianity was a grass-roots movement aimed more at the lowly in society than the high. If Jesus began preaching to cast off the shackles of slavery and the slaves did so, society would grind to a halt and destroy itself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That said, the questions and doctrines I find most troubling about my belief are:

The Trinity - while I fully believe it is what the Bible teaches, I cannot wrap my human mind around the concept of a 3-in-1 entity (no matter how many analogies there are, none of them fully capture the triune nature of the Christian God).

Love your enemy - easy to say, harder to do, especially if you're talking about "loving" a mass murderer of a paedophile (especially if one has affected you personally with your family or your child). How can I look at a paedophile who molested my child and say "You have my love" (note, I haven't got any children, let alone a child who had been molested).

Free will vs Predestination - The OP brushed briefly on this, which I addressed in part already. Ultimately I'm led to trust that God knows best and that while God is sovereign and has predestined us, we are also individual beings with the ability to use our God-given free will (yes, in our physical world these concepts are mutually exclusive).

That will do as a start.

That's a great start! Thanks much for adding your own list. You and I have the same interpretation of the unpardonable sin, which is more like a condition or a state than a sin. Most theologians teach that.

I considered your interpretation of Christ's reluctance(?) to criticize slavery. Was He working within the system to change the system? He evidently took the legal and peaceful route to avoid bloody Spartacus-like revolts that would have caused many deaths, especially those that came from executions and torture. It's tragic that some took silence for an okay to engage in the practice.

As for Hell, it may be instructive to look at how various myths influenced Christianity. We can't really say what such a horrid place is or isn't, but our ideas of it often come from both past and present cultures and teachings. Some conceptions are more cartoonish than scriptural. You can say the same thing about a few linked subjects (devil, demons, evil, etc.).

Saint Patrick allegedly used a shamrock to answer your question when he preached to the pagan Irish. He showed that the Trinity came from the same Unity, the three personalities stemmed from the same origin, three essences of the same source. That story, true or not, made sense to me. I'm not sure that it made sense to Oneness Pentecostals.

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The various portrayals probably stem from the disparate interpretations of the chroniclers in the Old Testament. Some of these individuals were influenced by cultural considerations.

How could one possibly escape one's cultural considerations and context? Aren't we all products of our historic time & culture, inextricably bound however great or small? Is it possible to take one one cultural institution, like religion, and separate it from it's cultural context? Or an economic institution, such as slavery, and separate that from the the host culture?

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So apparently what we're asked to believe is that God, or Pauls' version of God, deliberately set out to make people "destined for destruction", just so that the "chosen few" could feel smug? Doesn't it sound rather as if this idea was devised just to justify the status of society- that some are innately superior to others? And was this not exactly what Jesus taught against?

It seems that the whole concept entirely depends on the fact that this was Paul's idea. Once again, I can only ask, did Jesus say anything about it? Why does Christianity seem to be based on Paul's views of things, more than Jesus'?

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Posted (edited)

So apparently what we're asked to believe is that God, or Pauls' version of God, deliberately set out to make people "destined for destruction", just so that the "chosen few" could feel smug? Doesn't it sound rather as if this idea was devised just to justify the status of society- that some are innately superior to others? And was this not exactly what Jesus taught against?

It seems that the whole concept entirely depends on the fact that this was Paul's idea. Once again, I can only ask, did Jesus say anything about it? Why does Christianity seem to be based on Paul's views of things, more than Jesus'?

How does it suggest that some are innately superior to others? That's not what I got from it at all, and it's a massive leap to believe this is what it was about. Likewise it's not about "feeling smug", though at least on this I can see how you came to that opinion even if I don't agree.

This section of the board is not for arguing, so I won't address the Jesus/Paul issue except to say that Paul and Jesus complement each other in their teachings. Paul's main goal was to glorify Christ, his teachings were with that purpose in mind. At least you aren't arguing this to be a Calvinist invention anymore.

Edited by Paranoid Android
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How could one possibly escape one's cultural considerations and context? Aren't we all products of our historic time & culture, inextricably bound however great or small? Is it possible to take one one cultural institution, like religion, and separate it from it's cultural context? Or an economic institution, such as slavery, and separate that from the the host culture?

That was my point. We were born and raised in a certain place and a certain time that guided our views of reality. That made it impossible to fairly judge 1600s America, for instance. It also made it impossible for many of us to fairly judge Third World countries.

We relate to the here and the now, and it's hard for most of us to relate to other times and other places. We sometimes judge them as barbaric due to our more fortunate perspectives. It's likely that future humans will do the same to us. "Those savages in 2013 constantly waged war."

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So apparently what we're asked to believe is that God, or Pauls' version of God, deliberately set out to make people "destined for destruction", just so that the "chosen few" could feel smug? Doesn't it sound rather as if this idea was devised just to justify the status of society- that some are innately superior to others? And was this not exactly what Jesus taught against?

It seems that the whole concept entirely depends on the fact that this was Paul's idea. Once again, I can only ask, did Jesus say anything about it? Why does Christianity seem to be based on Paul's views of things, more than Jesus'?

How does one get around that? I'm not a fan of the frightening view of predestination, but it might not be possible to contradict or counteract it. How does God *not* know who will be saved? It's not a status symbol. We're not deserving of salvation. We shouldn't brag or boast about it. That said, God must have foreknowledge of the states of our souls in the afterlife. You don't need to be a Calvinist to see that.

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How does one get around that? I'm not a fan of the frightening view of predestination, but it might not be possible to contradict or counteract it. How does God *not* know who will be saved? It's not a status symbol. We're not deserving of salvation. We shouldn't brag or boast about it. That said, God must have foreknowledge of the states of our souls in the afterlife. You don't need to be a Calvinist to see that.

Because the idea of being "saved" or "destined for Destruction" directly contradicts everything that Jesus taught about every single person being able to be "saved" if they would just understand what he was saying. Also, his meaning of being "saved" meant to understand the truth about God and to ultimately become part of God, not a crude, heads or tails choice between being Saved or Destructed. That's how one gets around it, because it was not how Jesus saw it.

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