My Creed

Recently there’s been some talk about this blog. I’m not sure what’s really going on as no one is really talking to me about it, except for one fellow that pretty much asked me to take down some stuff because it was… well confusing I guess. And it was. I needed to do some work on those posts and instead I just kind of abandoned them.

But regardless I sort of feel that I need to clarify what it is that I believe. For my own piece of mind if nothing else. So you’ll forgive me if I steer away from the usual political/satirical posts that have been here in the past.

With that I bring you this:

My Creed


I believe in God that Father, who created everything. 

          How did He create it? I don’t know. But I do know that there are things that can be seen with our eyes, through observation and study. Zoology, biology, geography, anthropology, paleontology, astronomy…. these are things that cannot be ignored in favor of a world view that just throws these things away. God didn’t give us eyes to see and minds to think only to have us ignore the world around us. Does that mean the Bible can’t be trusted? No. Does that mean we need to reject science in favor of the Bible? No. They exist in the same universe. They aren’t opposed to each other. In fact there isn’t “Bible” over here and science over there as so many would have us believe. They can co-exist. The Bible isn’t a science manual and science manuals aren’t the Bible. It’s unfair to make them enemies. Creation and Evolution are part of the same thing. 

I believe in Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God. Born of a virgin. Crucified to redeem us. Risen from the dead.

     This is one that so many non-Christians trip over. Son of God. Born of a virgin. Risen from the dead. Redeem mankind by allowing Himself to be killed. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around these things. Even for people of faith when they sit and think about it too long. Why was a horrible painful death needed? Why wouldn’t God just ‘fix’ things? Why send his son? And what’s with the Trinity? Is Jesus God? So God killed himself? That’s all so… weird.
     And it really is. I could write many blog posts about it and still not have something that would make sense to most people. And I would love to talk to you about it if you’d like, but let me be the first to say that sometimes I don’t get it either. And I will also be the first to say that some things I just can’t explain to perfect satisfaction. “Why believe it if you can’t explain it?” Well… again, that’s for another time. So let’s just focus on Jesus.
     The Virgin Birth. Necessary for Jesus to be who He was? I believe so. Crucified? What’s that about? Well, it was a common form of execution in those times. Lots of evidence has been found for that, though the exact methods varied. The cross was probably used the most, though trees and posts and fences were used too. But why?
    This is where some people will disagree with me. The most common theology is that Jesus was the Final Sacrifice under the laws of Moses. Under those rules, a lamb was sacrificed to pay for one’s sins. Jesus was The Lamb to redeem everyone. There are issues with this view that make it difficult for me. The view that makes much more sense is the ransom view. A ransom needed to be paid and Jesus’ death paid that price. His resurrection was proof that the price was paid. It’s not a popular view in this day and age, but it is a view that is found in the writings of the early church (writings by church leaders 100-1000 years after the events in the Bible.) Origen, Pelagius, and Saint Athanasius are only a few that wrote about this view.
     There is much more that can be said here, but it would take too much time and space to explain it all. So let’s press on.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

     The third part of the Trinity. The Holy spirit is that part of God that lives and acts in the hearts of people here on Earth. Not through faith healers on TV, not through speaking in tongues in some weird church service, but through the quiet leading and guiding of people that will let themselves listen. In my opinion, these are the people being arrested for feeding the homeless, the ones opening their doors in cold weather to keep the poor warm. They are the ones visiting prisons, helping those with addictions, holding a sign at a gay pride parade that says “I’m sorry for how others have treated you, you are loved”.
     I’m off on a rant. Moving on.

I believe in One Church.

     And no, that doesn’t mean MY church is right and YOUR church is wrong. It doesn’t mean that that denomination over there is bad and this other one is good. It means that there is one, and only one church. Not a building, not congregation, not race or any of that. All Christians are one. Together we are the One church, no matter where we live or what our differences are. We are one.. The one Church. And there are differences. But there’s a quote attributed to many different writers that reads “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” No matter the source of this quote, it is as things should be. All of us as Christians can agree on some things that are essential. On the rest we should not be so nit-picky, and at all times we need to practice love and generosity.

I believe in the Bible.

     This is where I got into trouble recently. And maybe I should address this as it’s own topic, but it flows from all the rest.
     The Bible has become so…. I don’t know. Some people assume we need to take it as it is, word for word, as literal, as actual, as 100% the word of God. Jesus believed the old testament, therefore we should to.
     And that’s where I argue. I do believe the Bible is the word of God. BUT, the Bible contains both divine and human communication. The human part can be seen in the letters from Paul that make up much of the New Testament, such as the writings in Titus chapter 3 where Paul writes “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” If we are to take every word as literal and divinely inspired, are we therefore waiting for Artemas and Tychicus to come to us so we can then go to Nicopolis to visit Paul who is spending the winter there? That’s ridiculous. Not every word is meant to be a rule or a commandment.
     It’s important therefore to figure out what part is meant to lead and guide us in our lives and what part is human communication that can be safely… well, ignored isn’t the best word, but accepted as what it is.
     I also don’t think that every word of the Bible can be taken as literal history. For example, the parables of Jesus. Are these actual things that actually happened? Was there literally a man that built his house on the rock and another on the sand? Maybe, but maybe not. Is it less true if it’s not TRUE? Does the fact that it’s a story make it less true? What about the psalms? Like the 23rd. Were there literal green pastures that David laid in? Was there a literal valley of death that he walked through? Is that psalm less inspira
tional if it’s not literal? What about psalm 91? Verse 4 says God will cover you with the feathers of His wings? Does God have literal wings with feathers? Is it less true if it’s figurative rather than literal?
     And the book of Genesis. This is the heart of my trouble. I suggested in another post that the stories of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s ark don’t need to be literal to be true. Do I personally think that these events happened? At one time, no. At another, yes. At another, no. I struggle. But I like to think I struggle well. (Anyone that doesn’t struggle with what they believe isn’t doing it right in my opinion.) But regardless, the first few chapters of Genesis don’t have to be taken as 100% historical – in my opinion – to be 100% true and 100% trustworthy. Like the parables of Jesus they don’t have to have literally happened to be literally true.
     Some took this to mean that I was saying throw it out. You can’t trust it. That’s not what I said at all. I also suggested that maybe these stories came from an earlier source than Moses. Well, if they are history, they would have to. If Moses wrote Genesis, as most believe, and these things happened long before Moses was born, then SOMEONE had to tell Moses about them. Could God have just told these things to Moses? Well, sure. But it’s equally possible that while living in Pharaoh’s palace as a child Moses could have heard these stories, or read them. Or a visitor from another land brought them and shared them. We don’t really know. Does that make them less trustworthy? No. But does that make them historical? I don’t think it has to. Does that mean we can’t trust them and have to accept the purely scientific view? No.
   But in the end, how much does our salvation as Christians rely on the book of Genesis? It doesn’t change who Jesus was or what he did or what he does if Genesis is taken out of the Bible. Or Leviticus. Or Habakkuk.
     In every bit of the Bible, we can take comfort that it can be trusted, and thankful that it’s here for us to study, but if we’re going to elevate the Bible to the same level as God Himself, then we’re going to miss out on what God can and will do for us NOW. 

…..

There is much more I could put into this personal creed, but these are the essentials. There are other things that lead from this, the concept of sin, the need to repent from it, baptizm, the Golden Rule, etc.

And now that I’ve ranted myself out, I’ll be done.

6 Things the Church Can Learn From Just Chilling The #$%& Out

Today the Supreme Court of the US refused to hear arguments on several same-sex marriage cases. In effect tossing out the cases against the legalization of same-sex marriage and making it officially legal in 11 more states, bringing the total of states in the US that allow same-sex marriage to 30.

(I may be wrong on the exact numbers because as of this time the stories are sometimes vague and often contradictory. One I have been able to verify is the Attorney General of Colorado has ordered all county clerks to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.)

And of course many in the church are losing their minds. The number of angry blog posts, facebook statuses, and tweets has far outnumbered the posts regarding the facts of the matter.

So much energy is being spent by people losing their minds. And it’s not just this issue. Any time something comes up in the news that ‘Christians’ feel is against their scriptures it happens. Hours and hours are spent writing and yelling and arguing and name calling. Hours that are better spent in so many better ways.

So in light of that I give you 6 things the Church can learn from just chilling the @#$& out:

1)  Just enjoy that movie
Almost every year there is a movie that makes us lose our minds. Noah? Oh my gosh! That was so wrong! Not Biblical at all! Transformers? ERHMAHGERD! Dinosaurs are only 6000 years ago and they weren’t robots! New Star Wars movies that aren’t even out yet? FREAK OUT AND LOSE OUR MINDS!! It doesn’t have Jesus in it!

How about we try this. Chill out and just watch the movie. Then good or bad, let’s just talk about it on it’s own merits as human beings and not freak out all over the place? Just try it. And then maybe we can get Chinese food and ice cream after.

2) Music on the radio is more fun than some guy talking

Talk radio shows are everywhere. Even music stations play them late at night and early in the morning. I’m not saying that talk radio shows in and of themselves are ‘bad’, but maybe try this: don’t listen to talk radio. Just try it. For a week. Maybe two. Put on music that you like instead.

Personally I like the oldies channel. (To me, oldies are what I listened to in high school.) God is not going to condemn you to Hell for listening to The Doors instead of Rush Limbaugh. You’re not going to be doomed for hearing Willie Nelson instead of Dr. Dobson.

Seriously, just try it. Just turn of the angry rants and sing along. You might find you like it.

3) Your children learning science/evolution will not turn them into Satan worshippers
Setting aside the pointless argument as to whether evolution is ‘settled science’ or not. (It is, but science is never really settled is it?)

Your children learning it isn’t a bad thing. Seriously, it’s not going to do them any long term emotional or spiritual damage. If you want your children to get ahead in school, college, and life, they need to learn it, whether or not you think it’s real. And this goes for other things like math and history. Teaching them only an ‘alternative’ version of things is harmful to them and to their future.

Try looking at it this way. The ACT/SAT tests require certain answers. Teach your kids those answers even if you and they don’t believe in them. Seriously, they won’t start drinking blood and growing horns if you do.

4) It’s OK that things aren’t ‘Christian’, stop changing history and reality to force things into a Christian mold

This one really gets to me: “America is a Christian Nation!” Um…. ok. Do you have a Christian car too? How about a Christian computer? Or a Christian tree growing in your yard? A country is a political construct defined by its boundaries, laws, and ‘papers’ (In the case of the US that would include the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution). And yes, the people. But ALLLLLLLL the people, not just the people you WANT to include. Other than the people, none of those things is a conscious being. A Christian is someone that has made a decision to follow Christ. Unless the Rocky Mountains or the heads at Rushmore suddenly start talking, I’m going to go with the assumption that the country cannot make a decision to follow Christ.

And guess what? You can’t FORCE someone to follow Christ. So by insisting that we enact CHRISTIAN laws and only have CHRISTIAN politics and so on, you are forcing people to follow laws and rules that they haven’t chosen.

It’s OK! Really, honestly, it’s OK that America is not a Christian nation. Even IF you can prove that it WAS, it isn’t anymore. It’s OK. We don’t have to change how we teach history, we don’t have to change what the news shows us, we don’t have to make things into something they aren’t just to convince our children and others that things are what we want them to be not what they really are.

5) Being friends with someone who isn’t a Christian (and has made a choice not to be one) can be pretty awesome
If all your friends are in your church, that’s great. But if one of those friends is also friends with

someone who ISN’T in your church, IT’S OK! No seriously. And no, you don’t have to go out and try to convert that person. If that’s your thing, fine, but if that person has already made a choice to NOT be a Christian or even (*gasp*) to be Muslim or Jewish or (*double gasp*) Atheist, it’s all going to be OK.

I have many friends, some very
real, some just ‘facebook’ friends, some just casual friends. Few of them are Christians. (*GASP!!!*) No, seriously, very few. All of them (or so I hope) know that I am a Christian. And the reason they know that is not because I’ve directly told them, but rather through my speech and actions. Will I ever ‘convert’ any of them? Why do I care? I mean, yes, I’d like it if it happened, but I’m not going to actively try to do that. Some are atheist, one or two are pagan, at least one is Hindu, another is Buddhist, and one says he’s a devout follower of The Holy Church Of Bill The Cat. And while it’s not a religious stance, two are gay. And they’re all cool and awesome and totally bodacious. If any of them change their mind about their devotion (or non-devotion as the case may be) I would hope they might ask about what I believe, but that’s not why I’m friends with them. I’m friends with them because they are cool and awesome and totally bodacious.

So try it! Go out and make a friend that believes differently than you. The conversations alone will be worth the effort. And who knows? You might find a new best friend.

6)  Not every issue has to be a ‘Christian’ issue

Gas prices. Immigration. Fantasy Football. Breakfast cereal. What do all these things have in common? None of them are inherently “Christian” or “Religious” issues. Yet the church seems to want to Christian-ize everything. So when we talk about Gas prices it’s because the President isn’t a Christian and therefore gas is too high. Immigration? It’s because we aren’t Christian enough to keep them out. Fantasy Football? Obviously my players aren’t praying hard enough before their games. Breakfast cereal? Obviously the most evil thing ever!!! Don’t eat it!!

I might be exaggerating a bit, but so many in the church are convinced that EVERYTHING is a spiritual and therefore a church issue and therefore the church has to be involved in it. Everything from the curriculum at the local high school, to the upcoming election, to the price of beans at the local grocery store. And while, as a Christian, everything in your life should either reflect or enhance that, not everything in the world needs to be Christianized. It’s OK if the kids are reading Spider-Man, it’s OK if your neighbor is listening to Metallica, it’s OK if the beans aren’t grown by a Christian farmer.

And it’s OK for you to not stand up in church and not make a big stinking deal about it. We live in a diverse world with diverse people and diverse tastes and not everything is a challenge to your faith. If it is, then maybe you need to re-examine your faith.

And this includes elections an politicians. Churches and church people need to stop telling people how to vote. It’s OK if this candidate or that one isn’t a religious person. Candidates that present themselves as Christian have rarely turned out to be the best choice in a politician. Politics is a dirty game and someone needs to be dirty to play it. Don’t vote your convictions, vote your needs and intentions. Which candidate, regardless of religion, will do the best job for you? Vote for THAT guy even if he/she isn’t a Christian.

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There are, obviously many many more things that can be on this list. Share your thoughts and comments and maybe I’ll add them!

Until then, chill out my excellent friends.

Is it important to believe every word of the Bible is 100 literal? What if you can't/won't? My experience.

Note: I am not a theologian, nor am I Bible or language scholar. I do study the Bible, but not as a vocation. I also study other religions as well as science, but again, for my own edification not as a career. I write this blog not to be ‘right’, but rather to just share my own journey and to open the door to discussion.  The views presented here are mine unless otherwise noted.

When I started this blog I thought I would pursue any avenue I could to let people know it exists. One of the things I did was join Reddit.

If you are not familiar with Reddit it is a site where… uh… well, hmm… how to describe it… Well Wikipedia says this:

Reddit /ˈrɛdɪt/,[3] stylized as reddit,[4] is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of links or text posts. Users then vote each submission “up” or “down” to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit)

My experience, however, is that you post something on Reddit and then people spend great amounts of energy insulting your intelligence and mother. For example, I shared a link to my first “What the Bible Really Says” post, talking about Genesis 1 and the creation story. So far I’ve gotten 200 responses regarding how stupid I am and how any view that doesn’t take the “Creation in 7 days” story literally is doomed to hell and also that person’s mother must have been a slut. And those are the nice ones.

Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up.

Now I am sure there are many many great communities of people on Reddit and many great discussions going on. Just not in the community I tried to share my link.

It seems the overwhelming point of view there is that the Bible and (in this case) the 7 day creation story have to be taken literally because if you can’t believe that, how can you believe anything?

When I became a Christian I did a lot of studying. Well, before actually. This was in the mid 90s and the Internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now. AOL was still the main way to connect and websites were still in their infancy. I won’t share the whole story as to why I started on that path, but it’s sufficient to say that I didn’t come to my faith lightly. I read. A lot. I read the Bible, I read the Koran, I read books by atheists, I read books by “New Agers”. For a time I was unemployed and spent a lot of time at the library. Needless to say I read a lot. I was on the search for truth. A lot of people claimed a lot of stuff was true. What, if any of it, really was true?

In another post I will share how and why I arrived at Christianity as true. (It’s a long story.) But I did. 

I don’t really remember if there was a point that I felt that everything in the Bible was 100% true. That is to say 100% literal. But as I continue to read and study and grow in my faith I am coming to the conclusion that some of these things CAN’T be true, at least not in a literal history kind of way.

Now to be clear, obviously not everything in the Bible is completely literal. There are long stretches of poetry and songs. If some of the things in Psalms about God are meant to be taken as completely literal, then God has wings like a giant chicken. So already, out of the gate, even those that think the Bible should be taken literally will acknowledge that there are some things that are figurative. The parables of Jesus are another example. They were stories to teach a lesson, not necessarily things that literally happened.

So I’ll focus on the first chapter of Genesis since it was my post on that topic that crushed my self esteem and ruined my life (ok, not really, but some responses were nasty). Are these stories history or are they myths? If they are myths are they less true? By that I mean are they to be discarded or, like the parables of Jesus, are they meant to share a TRUTH that is too big to comprehend otherwise?

In the post that I shared with my friends on Reddit I share a “what if” about the seven days of creation. What if that story isn’t meant to be literal but was used to teach people about God using an easy to remember mnemonic (seven comes up a lot in the Bible)? It was just a “what if” and not something that I had researched or anything, or even really had incorporated into my own belief. But if some of those folks on Reddit had their way, they would have burned me at the stake.

But were they right in their criticism of my theory? Do we HAVE to take Genesis 1 as history? If we don’t believe it then do we have to throw everything else, from Exodus to Revelation, out with the trash?

What if I CAN’T believe it?

I love the Bible. I really do. But I can’t take everything, especially in the early chapters of Genesis, as history. I really can’t.

Why?

Science. Observation. Using my eyeballs and reading books. Logic….

Dinosaurs existed. Genetics and evolution are facts, observable facts. Science is not the enemy of the Bible, in spite of what many would say. In fact there are many that would say you have to throw out science to believe the Bible. Or worse, come up with ridiculous, unprovable, ideas to skirt around proven science.

But to do that you would have to deny some of the very basic things you can observe. The world is round, the earth orbits the sun, dogs can be bred into different bree
ds, insects can develop immunities to insecticides, babies develop from the egg and sperm of their parents and on and on and on. These are things that you can SEE, these are things that are PROVEN. Even a child ‘gets it’. 

But what about the “bigger” things? Like ‘amoebas to man’ evolution? What about million year old rocks? Fossilization? The Big Bang? Those aren’t things that can be directly observed, how can we trust scientists when they talk about these things as fact? Aren’t they just speculating?

The mistake here is to oversimplify the science. Or to make it overly complicated. Or to just keep asking “how do you know you can trust it?” over and over until people start to doubt it. Things like radiometric dating that shows the age of rock and fossils. There are long, complicated equations that explain how it works, equations that I don’t understand. And most others don’t either. So those that would bring doubt to it just say over and over “how do you know? How can you trust it?” until people don’t think it can be trusted.

Do I fully understand God’s creative process? No. Do I understand all the science behind those theories? No. But I understand some. And from the little I do understand, and a basic high school understanding of the scientific process, I can see that these thing can be trusted.

Is it important to believe that God spoke and there it was? Is it important to believe that there was a literal world-wide flood and just some animals in a boat from which the world was repopulated?

No. I don’t think it is. Just because these stories are stories doesn’t mean they aren’t TRUE. Just because they are myth and not history does not mean that there isn’t some truth in them. Let me explain.

Jesus told parables. These were stories meant to teach a lesson. We still use parables today to teach our children, fairy tales and Muppets and talking vegetables. These are things that don’t actually happen, but we use them to give our children important truths about life.

I think that is what the Genesis stories are about. God created the world and the stars and the planets and everything. That is too much for the human mind to comprehend. So rather than explain “well, this is how DNA is formed and this is how the fusion in the center of stars works and this is how a sperm and an egg become a living being”, the early people of Israel shared a story in 7 simple steps. It wasn’t about HOW, it was about WHO. The point isn’t 7 days, the point is GOD SAID and there WAS. The point isn’t a guy, a big boat, and a bunch of animals, the point is GOD SPEAKS and man OBEYED. (Note: it is true that many many cultures have a similar flood story, including a boat and animals – who knows why. Maybe there is a grain of truth there, but still not the point.)

Those who insist on the book of Genesis being literal are missing the point. They are putting the process above the Person. They are putting history above the author. Those that debate miracles over science are not trusting that God is GOD and forgetting that the HOW is not as important as the WHY. 

What do you think? If we are Bible believing people, are we to take it all literally? Or should we just throw the whole thing out? If you’re not a Christian, what do you think of people who insist on the Bible being 100% literal?