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Offline OldChurchGuy

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For my fellow theists
« on: December 29, 2013, 09:06:39 AM »
Some years ago, I was teaching an Adult Sunday School class and one of the members asked to talk with me afterwards.

The family had recently transferred from another church so I didn't know her very well.  Here is her story:

A few years prior she gave birth to a boy with a severely damaged heart so the child lived only a few days.  The pastor fo the church they attended at the time offered consolation and when asked if her boy was in heaven the pastor replied firmly but politely, "no".  The pastor was a "literalist" in his understanding of the New Testament writings and said (as politely as possible as near as I can tell) that since her son did not declare Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, her son was not in heaven.  He was in an area nearby and safe, but not in heaven. 

She asked my opinion and I gave it.  Before I share what I said, I am curious how you would respond to this story and her question.

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
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Online One Above All

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 09:39:09 AM »
BM
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 12:10:35 PM »
Important questions with implications OCG.

I would say to the mother that she has more worries than the boy has, and would the boy want that for his mother?

I also think but might not say that the pastor was a control freak who was talking about things he did not know. What does he know about "nearby"?
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2013, 01:08:22 PM »
While we're waiting for theists to respond, I have a thought on the subject.

To me, situations like this are examples of false complexity making the situation worse.

I have a friend, a young woman, who was pregnant with her second child a couple of years ago. She was quite excited because she wanted two kids, and it would mean a sibling for her year old son. But something went sour at about six months into the pregnancy and she spontaneously aborted.

I asked her how she was feeling. She said she was sad, but too, that she understood that not all pregnancies work out, and that while she wished it had, she had no reason to think that she was immune from the law of averages.

As an atheist, she had no extra stress put on her by wondering if her lost child is in heaven. She dealt with the reality of her loss well. And nine months ago she had a second son, so the story still has a happy ending.

Life is complex enough as it is. If religion is supposed to make people feel better, it shouldn't be concocting more ways to make pain.
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Offline bgb

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2013, 01:12:56 PM »
That is the coldest cruelest thing I have ever heard from a pastor. 
The whole point of science is that most of it is uncertain. That's why science is exciting--because we don't know. Science is all about things we don't understand. The public, of course, imagines science is just a set of facts. But it's not.  Freeman Dyson

Offline magicmiles

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2013, 06:25:35 PM »
I would have told her that I disagreed with her former pastor, but that I couldn't say with 100% certainty of whether her child was in heaven. However, I would tell her that my understanding of God's nature means that I would be very confident that her child was with God in heaven. Her child had no opportunity to either accept or reject Jesus.
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Offline Tero

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2013, 06:30:48 PM »
If you gotta have religion and do good deeds, become Unitarian. Nobody goes to hell.

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2014, 05:56:37 PM »
I confess to being surprised over the lack of response from my fellow theists. 

Regardless, to the best of my recollection I said something to the effect that I could not imagine a caring loving God looking at a child who had died after only a few days on earth and declare they were not allowed in heaven because they didn't declare Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  So far as I am concerned, your son is in heaven.

She thanked me, smiled, and said "I think so too". 

We never talked about it again.  I like to think I gave her some hope and comfort. 

And what I shared is another example why I am not a literalist when it comes to interpreting the Bible. 

As always,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline median

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2014, 07:06:32 PM »
I would have told her that I disagreed with her former pastor, but that I couldn't say with 100% certainty of whether her child was in heaven. However, I would tell her that my understanding of God's nature means that I would be very confident that her child was with God in heaven. Her child had no opportunity to either accept or reject Jesus.


And yet the bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short, that there is NONE that do good (not one), that ALL are born in sin. Thus, the implication (under this thinking) stands - that ALL have sinned and are on their way to hell (even unregenerate babies).

I just love how Christians spin and rationalize their superstitious commitments to fit their desires and psychological wants.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2014, 07:11:09 PM »
I confess to being surprised over the lack of response from my fellow theists.

Then you haven't been paying attention to the average theist on the forum.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Offline Backspace

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2014, 09:28:01 PM »
Realistically, all babies born atheist.  They do not become religious until indoctrinated to be so. Infant circumcision and baptism may placate the parents and church, but the infant knows nothing of why these rituals are being performed.  Therefore the first, literalist preacher was probably closest to the pragmatic target, IMO.

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Offline median

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2014, 04:35:04 PM »
Realistically, all babies born atheist.  They do not become religious until indoctrinated to be so. Infant circumcision and baptism may placate the parents and church, but the infant knows nothing of why these rituals are being performed.  Therefore the first, literalist preacher was probably closest to the pragmatic target, IMO.

Actually, some studies suggest that we are somewhat 'wired' to believe superstitious/irrational things. I found an article here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/09/were-born-to-believe-in-god/
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Offline SevenPatch

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2014, 07:27:06 PM »
Realistically, all babies born atheist.  They do not become religious until indoctrinated to be so. Infant circumcision and baptism may placate the parents and church, but the infant knows nothing of why these rituals are being performed.  Therefore the first, literalist preacher was probably closest to the pragmatic target, IMO.

Actually, some studies suggest that we are somewhat 'wired' to believe superstitious/irrational things. I found an article here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/09/were-born-to-believe-in-god/

Yeah, I can certainly agree with the idea that we're born to believe in something supernatural.  It's an easy way to explain things we don't understand.

I would think if a child were born in complete isolation (not being exposed to any existing religion) he/she would probably invent his/her own supernatural being similar to those believe by the earliest humans.  This supernatural being would be responsible for things not understood by the child.  It would be interesting to see what would happen once the child starts discovering how and why things work.

In some sense Backspace is right though, children don't inherently believe in Jesus, Yahweh, Mohammad, Vishnu, Izanagi or any other god.  Without someone telling a child about a specific existing religion today, then there would be no way of knowing about or reason to believe that religion.


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Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2014, 10:33:06 PM »
Realistically, all babies born atheist.  They do not become religious until indoctrinated to be so. Infant circumcision and baptism may placate the parents and church, but the infant knows nothing of why these rituals are being performed.  Therefore the first, literalist preacher was probably closest to the pragmatic target, IMO.

Actually, some studies suggest that we are somewhat 'wired' to believe superstitious/irrational things. I found an article here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2009/09/were-born-to-believe-in-god/

Interesting article.  There is also a most interesting book titled "Why God Won't Go Away" by Dr. Andrew Newberg along the same lines.

As always,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline b.a.worldchanger

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2014, 04:41:14 AM »
Some years ago, I was teaching an Adult Sunday School class and one of the members asked to talk with me afterwards.

The family had recently transferred from another church so I didn't know her very well.  Here is her story:

A few years prior she gave birth to a boy with a severely damaged heart so the child lived only a few days.  The pastor fo the church they attended at the time offered consolation and when asked if her boy was in heaven the pastor replied firmly but politely, "no".  The pastor was a "literalist" in his understanding of the New Testament writings and said (as politely as possible as near as I can tell) that since her son did not declare Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, her son was not in heaven.  He was in an area nearby and safe, but not in heaven. 

She asked my opinion and I gave it.  Before I share what I said, I am curious how you would respond to this story and her question.

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy

OCG,

Fascinating question.  I would be curious what, from the New Testament, would lead him to the answer (He is in a place nearby and safe, but not in heaven)?  My guess would be Luke 16, but that is a much different situation on many levels.  Seems reckless to make such an assertion, regardless of how politely, given the questionable theological grounds.  Most Christians I know in evangelical traditions would probably not advocate that particular position.  On the other hand, those who practice infant baptism, may hold a similar position as this pastor did.  I would tend to lean, from what I know of Jesus teaching, towards a position of mercy and grace since an infant is incapable of rational thought nor the concept of "belief".  But, I certainly could be wrong.  Without knowing with certainty, this is not how I would have chosen to respond to the mother of the infant who died.

Offline wheels5894

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2014, 06:30:20 AM »
I am assume that the child in question had been baptised as an infant. If that is the case, the god parents would have made a declaration of faith for the child so that the question of heaven or not need not be asked as the child would go to heaven, based on the declaration of faith and promises of the god parents.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline shnozzola

Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2014, 06:50:18 AM »
I like to think I gave her some hope and comfort. 

^ This.  Sometimes hope and comfort are more important than our own views of the truth, or even saying we don't know.  We only get some 80 years if we are lucky, which, in the grand scheme of things, is the same a one year, or a day, and as none know anything past that, we should value hope and comfort so much more than we do.

I work with a very religious, and very smart, 30-ish yr old engineer at my job.  He is an amazing manipulator of client's ideas.  After talking with a client, they will generally feel that it was their own idea to do what the engineer wanted.  He is protestant, and would not believe in infant baptism.  Briefly talking religion one day, I asked him about the death of a young child, and how he feels on the subject.  It can be a hard position for theists, requiring thoughts where a theist will not want to go.  But it is heaven, hell, nearby, whatever - and it is eternal, huh?  How much more  important for theists can these thoughts be?  He said the child would not go to heaven.  I didn't ask anything further.

 If workers knew my atheist position, I would "lose" my job (another reason why debates at places like WWGHA are so important) - not fired, it's still illegal here in the US, but just ostracized, bypassed for promotion, etc.  But that topic is for other threads.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2014, 06:54:49 AM by shnozzola »
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Offline shnozzola

Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2014, 07:32:08 AM »
Hello b.a. worldchanger,
                I can't post in shelter.  In the thread in shelter, for Christians to categorize themselves, you said that there are "Minor doctrinal differences, but not a lot of serious disagreements."  The families of Anabaptists in Europe who were killed because of their beliefs may disagree.

From an article I found:

Quote
Anabaptism was made a capital crime. Prices were set on the heads of Anabaptists. To give them food and shelter was a made a crime. The duke of Bavaria, in 1527, gave orders that the imprisoned Anabaptists should be burned at the stake — unless they recanted, in which case they should be beheaded. In Catholic countries the Anabaptists, as a rule, were executed by burning at the stake; in  Lutheran and Zwinglian states, Anabaptists were generally executed by beheading or drowning.

 How do you feel about that?

edit: spelling
« Last Edit: January 19, 2014, 07:34:40 AM by shnozzola »
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Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2014, 07:51:43 AM »
I am assume that the child in question had been baptised as an infant. If that is the case, the god parents would have made a declaration of faith for the child so that the question of heaven or not need not be asked as the child would go to heaven, based on the declaration of faith and promises of the god parents.

To the best of my knowledge, the child had not been baptized because of the church they attended at the time. 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy
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Offline wheels5894

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2014, 07:59:42 AM »
I am assume that the child in question had been baptised as an infant. If that is the case, the god parents would have made a declaration of faith for the child so that the question of heaven or not need not be asked as the child would go to heaven, based on the declaration of faith and promises of the god parents.

To the best of my knowledge, the child had not been baptized because of the church they attended at the time. 

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy

Ah! I suppose I am thin,king from a UK perspective where many families have children baptised at the local Church of England church almost automatically. I's have to agree with you and what you said then. It is difficult to think how anyone can be more cruel to a grieving mother than to say her dead child don't make it to heaven.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline b.a.worldchanger

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2014, 01:56:24 AM »
Hello b.a. worldchanger,
                I can't post in shelter.  In the thread in shelter, for Christians to categorize themselves, you said that there are "Minor doctrinal differences, but not a lot of serious disagreements."  The families of Anabaptists in Europe who were killed because of their beliefs may disagree.

From an article I found:

Quote
Anabaptism was made a capital crime. Prices were set on the heads of Anabaptists. To give them food and shelter was a made a crime. The duke of Bavaria, in 1527, gave orders that the imprisoned Anabaptists should be burned at the stake — unless they recanted, in which case they should be beheaded. In Catholic countries the Anabaptists, as a rule, were executed by burning at the stake; in  Lutheran and Zwinglian states, Anabaptists were generally executed by beheading or drowning.

 How do you feel about that?

edit: spelling

Well, I definitely "feel" it is horrible and tragic, but it is also very different and far removed from my experience.  It is difficult to compare them to one another.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2014, 02:45:27 AM by b.a.worldchanger »

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2014, 05:54:59 AM »
She asked my opinion and I gave it.  Before I share what I said, I am curious how you would respond to this story and her question.

Why would there be different opinions on what would seem to me to be a pretty significant aspect of a religion?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline wheels5894

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2014, 06:02:26 AM »
She asked my opinion and I gave it.  Before I share what I said, I am curious how you would respond to this story and her question.

Why would there be different opinions on what would seem to me to be a pretty significant aspect of a religion?

Well that's a simple enough question. the woman concerned was in a different religion from OCG. Though they are called 'denominations' in Christianity, in effect in many cases they are al,most a different religion. Thus these different religions have different answers. Things were fine, with doctrine determined by the pope and the bishops until the pope's became corrupt and the church broke up. now denomination have little in common - or else they would not exist.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2014, 06:13:57 AM »
Oh, I get that - but clearly many of those sects have got it wrong.  My question was more on the lines of how that situation could happen in the first place.

I'm also puzzled by OCGs question in the first place.  He clearly realises that different believers will have different responses to the question, and so he seems to accept that there are differences within the broad faith that he follows.  On the "understanding humanity" level, kudos to him.

But.....unless he is saying he believes his answer may be wrong, and is looking for help finding the correct answer, I'm not sure the point of the question?  Again, kudos for continued seeking for the truth, but....

To OCG: assuming I've grokked your motives, can I ask: when you come across aspects of faith like this that carry such clear differences of opinion, does it even make you wonder about the character of the god who would allow such differences to perpetuate?  Not so much with regular FAQs, but by making it clear in the first place?

Just seems to me that - for a religion where eternal afterlife is at issue - the question of what you need to do to get there should be the clearest and least ambiguous part of the faith?
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline wheels5894

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #24 on: January 20, 2014, 06:30:42 AM »
Yes, you would think that the means to get to heaven would be clearly stated by the 'creator' who apparently inspired the writing of the bible but, of course, it isn't. the trouble is that the Jewish faith from which the gospel writers may have come was divided on this too with the Sadducees saying there was only Sheol (sitting around in the dark place) whilst the Pharisees claimed there was some sort of afterlife in heaven. The gospel writers didn't get much from Jesus so they don't feature much in their texts. So what we have is mostly 'made up' from snippets in the gospels.

most people see there's a choice, heaven or hell, mentioned clearly in the gospels but the Catholic Church invented purgatory as a place of punishment from which one could finally get to heaven and then introduced a wonderful system by which one could pay the pope or the bishops to get the time in purgatory shortened from those already there. Indulgences were a wonderful money maker based on nothing more than speculation!

It's not, therefore, surprising that the various denominations have split up, in part, on the distinctions about who goes to heaven and how one qualifies for heaven. After all, ensuring people get heaven is a money making activity which benefits the leadership of each new denomination.  Since the bible has nothing to help on the issue, it is easy to play around with the ideas of purgatory, hell and heaven and pick and choose who ought to be allowed to go sure and certain the the knowledge that no one can argue and there's a nil chance of anyone finding out!

After all, there's no need for a new denomination if there's nothing new about it1
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline Graybeard

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #25 on: January 20, 2014, 06:53:18 AM »
One problem that any philosophy has is that it can only talk in generalities, whereas we know that in a perfect world each case would be judged on its own merits whilst the judge was in possession of all (and I emphasise all) the facts.

The requirement to accept Christ as your Saviour came first. Without considering the later cultural ramifications, this would appear to be a reasonable criterion for becoming a member of a club named after Christ.

Such exhortations were aimed solely at men in a unbelievably strong, patriarchal society where women were property and children were not counted as human until they had survived the first 3 months.

The leader of any cult of personality must have utter loyalty and thus an agreement from would-be members that they understand why they are accepting the absolute leader’s decisions as correct is extracted. This latter point creates a deviant, liar and traitor of any member who then, at a later stage says, “I disagree with that!”

This then makes the group self-policing to the level of the most fundamental member. With the correct minions assigned to the highest positions, the leader’s position is then virtually unassailable.

In the case in point, the thought “What becomes of infants?” came after the statement. Having committed to the proposition that a person must, and without exception, be fully informed of Christ before accepting Him, and with a belief that the leader cannot be wrong, there is only one answer, however unpalatable.

It could be said that there is, within this, an evolutionary advantage – the offspring of the members must at all costs be prevented from dying.

I am reminded (i) of the difficulty that the concept of “The Trinity” causes, but once committed to it, there is no way back regardless of consequence. (ii) the impossibility of the timeline and geographical accuracy of the Nativity – it could not have occurred at the time given, Herod was not alive to order the non-existent Massacre of the Innocents and Bethlehem of Judaea did not exist, but it is now too late to change track.

Such are the failings of “one size fits all” and “My Word is inerrant law.”
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #26 on: January 20, 2014, 07:03:56 AM »
Quote
Oh, I get that - but clearly many of those sects have got it wrong.  My question was more on the lines of how that situation could happen in the first place.

I'm also puzzled by OCGs question in the first place.  He clearly realises that different believers will have different responses to the question, and so he seems to accept that there are differences within the broad faith that he follows.  On the "understanding humanity" level, kudos to him.

But.....unless he is saying he believes his answer may be wrong, and is looking for help finding the correct answer, I'm not sure the point of the question?  Again, kudos for continued seeking for the truth, but....

At various times, I've been asked how I changed from being a literalist to a non-literalist and this event from my past helped explain why.  For me, this literalist theology seemed too cold; too cruel.

Quote
To OCG: assuming I've grokked your motives, can I ask: when you come across aspects of faith like this that carry such clear differences of opinion, does it even make you wonder about the character of the god who would allow such differences to perpetuate?  Not so much with regular FAQs, but by making it clear in the first place?

Just seems to me that - for a religion where eternal afterlife is at issue - the question of what you need to do to get there should be the clearest and least ambiguous part of the faith?

Oddly, it has not occurred to me to question God why such differences are allowed.  I think that is because I take the Bible as attempts to explain what it is like to experience God.  Because each of us is unique, I am OK with each of us having a different experience with God. 

Yes, it would be nice if there were no ambiguity in a given religion so there was total unity in understanding it and applying it to our lives.  Similar, I suppose, to the ultimate computer program that has all the "if-then" variables accounted for. 

I apologize if that is a non-answer to the question.   Not sure how else to explain it.

Sincerely,

OldChurchGuy

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle - Philo of Alexandria

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion - Dalai Lama

Offline Mrjason

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #27 on: January 20, 2014, 07:38:30 AM »
Oddly, it has not occurred to me to question God why such differences are allowed.  I think that is because I take the Bible as attempts to explain what it is like to experience God.  Because each of us is unique, I am OK with each of us having a different experience with God. 


Just out of interest, does your belief that everyone has a unique experience with god stretch to accepting that other religions are as equally valid as christianity because god is accounting to their "if then" variables?

edit fixed quote
« Last Edit: January 20, 2014, 07:42:48 AM by Mrjason »

Offline OldChurchGuy

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Re: For my fellow theists
« Reply #28 on: January 20, 2014, 07:41:13 AM »
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Oddly, it has not occurred to me to question God why such differences are allowed.  I think that is because I take the Bible as attempts to explain what it is like to experience God.  Because each of us is unique, I am OK with each of us having a different experience with God. 


Just out of interest, does your belief that everyone has a unique experience with god stretch to accepting that other religions are as equally valid as christianity because god is accounting to their "if then" variables?

Yes.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle - Philo of Alexandria

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion - Dalai Lama