We Often Become What We THINK God is Like: Angry God Part 1

Many people at some point decide to begin reading the Bible. But the Bible is a very large book; where should they begin? A large percentage begin at the beginning, of course—Genesis! Genesis is an interesting book: there are creation stories, human conflicts, names and genealogies; and then the stories of Abraham appear—even those who have not read the Bible before have heard of Abraham.

But when we read Genesis we don’t get far—long before we encounter Abraham—we don’t get far before we run into a shocking episode in which essentially every person on Earth dies a horrible death. And the source of this massive death and destruction is…angry God.

We are talking, of course, of the story of Noah and the Flood. When we read this story uncritically, assuming it to be an historical account, it is difficult to avoid forming some conclusions about the God who caused this catastrophe. And weighing large among those conclusions is the perception of God as angry, harsh, and vindictive. As we continue to read the Old Testament we will find other stories that seem to confirm this conclusion, but we get a huge taste of it right here in the early chapters of Genesis.

God, the flood, and the vicltims

How Understanding God as Angry, Harsh, and Vindictive Can Affect Us Negatively

Many people assume the stories about God in the Old Testament are true and accurate. Even if it occurs to them as odd that the writers knew all this detailed inside information on God’s thoughts, actions, and motivations, they can further assume that God must have ‘revealed’ it to them somehow.

After reading these stories about God, we can either recoil from from the angry, harsh, and vindictive God of the Flood story and other violent Old Testament stories, or we can decide that all-powerful God can do what all-powerful God wants to do and cannot be accused of any culpability—that is we must accept God as God is represented in the Old Testament.

However, I think there is a better resolution, and that is to realize that the Old Testament was not directed by God but was written by numerous people, over a long period of time, who felt a strong connection with God but wrote within the limitations of their own eras and cultures, and with a very inadequate grasp of God’s character. They wrote stories and dialogues based on WHAT THEY THOUGHT GOD WAS LIKE.

But, once we accept that God is the God of intentional atrocity, it has to affect us. When we decide that God’s character includes bringing cruel pain and retribution on people—the very God who is the moral center of the Universe—a change can occur within us in which we begin to become like what we think God is like, and we ourselves become angry, harsh, and vindictive.

Just think of the many issues among certain believers today: harshness, anger, enmity, exclusion, judgmentalism, condemnation, condescension, deprecation. They act as they think God acts; they think they are following God’s own example—but they are mistaken.

There is a Much Better Insight into What God is Really Like–Jesus

There is a better source than Old Testament stories for insight into what God is like, and that source is Jesus. Jesus teaches us about God. He does this by talking about the loving God but also by personally representing the loving God. There is no clearer insight into God than in the teachings, example, and character of Jesus. In fact, John 3 says that God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus.

Jesus tells a beautiful story relating to God’s love in the parable of the lost son. The son took his inheritance and squandered it until he was destitute, then he crawled back to his father to ask for a menial job as a laborer. However, Luke 15 says:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

God loves us! We are valuable to God. God is NOT angry, harsh, and vindictive toward us. At this point, some might mention the terrible ‘condemnations’ against some of the Pharisees that do seem quite angry, harsh, and vindictive. But I don’t see these as condemnations but as warnings of the natural consequences of their proud and condescending behavior.

Following Jesus in Empathy, Compassion, and Care

The best way for us to become like God in our attitudes is to follow the teaching and example of Jesus, and I do not see Jesus being angry, harsh, or vindictive; nor would he destroy humanity in a flood. Instead, Jesus consistently shows God’s love in empathy, compassion, and care for others. And the more we understand God’s great love for us the more we are able to internalize that love and begin, ourselves, to show empathy, compassion, and care for others.

So let us better understand God’s love so that we can change what we might have thought God to be like, and in doing so we will begin to be more like God in loving others.

Articles in this series: Angry God
We Often Become What We THINK God is Like: Angry God Part 1
We Often Create God in Our Own Image: Angry God Part 2
Did God Pour Out His Wrath on Jesus During His Violent Death on the Cross?: Angry God Part 3

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118 Responses to We Often Become What We THINK God is Like: Angry God Part 1

  1. KIA says:

    The problem with just looking to jesus in the nt and ignoring the old testament is that the nt Jesus is portrayed as accepting completely and endorsing the old concept of God in the only scripture he had as completely valid and accurate. You really can’t honestly separate the two

    Liked by 2 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      While there are a few Gospel verses you can cite to support your position, it seems to me that the thrust of Jesus’ approach to the Jewish Scriptures was of a liberal, not strict constructionist bent. He says, you have heard it said, but I say unto you. He says that Moses allowed divorce only because of our hardness of heart. He says that the whole of the Law and the Prophets are contained in the twin commandments to love God and our neighbor. He says that a scribe trained for the Kingdom of Heaven takes out his storeroom treasures old and new. I could go on, but I think the point has been made as well as I can make it. Is it not dangerous to read inerrancy into the NT along with the Old, to insist that every word attributed to Jesus is authentic or of equal weight, and that the entirety of the Gospel testimony must be harmonized despite apparent inconsistency and contradiction?

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      KIA, I must agree with Newton that Jesus is NOT “portrayed as accepting completely and endorsing the old concept of God in the only scripture he had as completely valid and accurate.”

      Jesus did, indeed, refer to OT passages frequently but he used them freely for his own purposes and sometimes at odds with the original intent of the OT author. This was common with other Jewish authors of his day and with other NT writers. They pulled heavily from the common and familiar literature of the OT but did not treat it as the ‘inerrant word of God’.

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  2. Veronika says:

    I am an avid reader of your blog and you and other similar writers have been instrumental in answering questions that I’ve thought of my whole life. However reading the NT directly causes for me a great deal of dissonance also. In fact I’ve long stopped reading the Bible and rely only on the general precepts, and then I turn to modern Buddhist writers to learn how to apply these universal precepts of loving kindness in my life. I find the majority of Christian writers in the, ‘how to be a more loving person’ genre to have such a tone of passive aggressive judgment, but I often have found the same in the ‘red letter’ words of Jesus. Yes many of his teachings are wonderful and inspiring but a lot of time he comes across as distant, grumpy, vague,harsh and angry. Here’s an article that is better at describing what I’m trying to say. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/aug/26/jesus-judgmental
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • folkevaernet says:

      @Veronika – do you know Todd White? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_g8gfMw_rU

      Yes Jesus is Radical. Radical about Love. Radical about Sin. Radical about forgiveness. Radical about Honesty. And Radical about a New Life. And He wants YOU!

      Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      Thank you, Veronika, for the heartfelt comments and interesting article. Years of reading the Gospels brought me to a similar place. There were certain sayings attributed to Jesus that bothered me, not in the good way of making me dig deeper into my understanding of God, but in the jarring way of thinking that Jesus was portrayed as sometimes deviating from the overall message of love and forgiveness that seemed to be his central theme. My answer was not to stop reading the Gospels but rather, using the critical skills I learned in seminary, to work through all four canonical accounts of Jesus and look for similarities and congruencies, core material that pointed unmistakably toward a consistent person with a consistent message. The upshot was a new version of a synoptic gospel in modern short story form, first published (limitedly) in written format and then later put on The Kindle. You can look at the Amazon Bookstore to read a description of and sample from “Life of Truth: a synoptic gospel.” Or, if you have access to a Kindle, the booklet is available for 99 cents that goes to charity. Don’t know whether you’ll like my little alternative Gospel, but you might want to take a peek.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Veronika, I agree that there are passages in the gospels that depict Jesus as appearing less than loving–especially in his interaction with certain Pharisees. I would say two things: Jesus often used hyperbolic language to make a point, and many of Jesus’ sayings that some consider judgmental and condemnatory I consider to be warnings of natural consequences rather than condemnations.

      Jesus did call out certain Pharisees for putting burdens on the common people, but I believe he loved them as much as he loved others.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Veronika says:

        Thanks Tim, I think that’s a huge problem for me. unfortunately I have in my extended family several family members who use a lot of hyperbole in their everyday communications with people. I find it exhausting to constantly deal with it, it’s so excessive. Don’t get me wrong if someone’s telling a funny story, facts do not have to get in the way! But in communication and every day interactions? I lose trust and so with my family I don’t trust what they say. As a teenager I remember feeling very uncomfortable with the habit of Jesus prefacing remarks with verily verily. Isn’t that how a liar prefaces remarks..? ‘ You gotta believe me!,or, this is the total truth guys!, etc. My BS radar is finely tuned.
        Which is why, although a believer (and honestly maybe I’m a believer because of my christian upbringing or maybe because I want to believe in a heavenly afterlife for all) I’m much more comfortable with the approach of the Buddha who says test it out for yourself, don’t believe it just because I said it. Who teaches by parables also but they are generally much less obtuse. And they have seemed to stand the test of time so much better in their seeming lack of the layers of cultural trappings that one has to plow through to sometimes get to the point of NT teachings.
        Again, some of the Christ’s teachings were and still are so revolutionary but I’m not so sure of “God speaking through his son” as much as God’s power through the Holy Spirit and the energies and laws of the universe.
        Thank you for your response.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Veronika, I know what you mean; sometimes I am also wearied by hyperbole from people. I think, though, that this and other indirect communication techniques were probably common and accepted in Jesus’ culture. And I also strongly agree that people should think for themselves instead of believing things just because someone else said it.

          Good points! You get no argument from me.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Anthony Paul says:

    Tim, thank you for this wonderfully written article which goes right to the heart of what forms the character of a believer. No doubt there are many who may see your discussion of ethnic and cultural biases in the Bible as a sort of humanistic deconstruction of “Biblical Truth”. It is true that Jesus Himself often quoted from The Scriptures (The OT) to make a point in revealing the nature of The Father; but what I find very interesting is that He never used The OT to point the way to an angry and vengeful God. On the contrary, He spoke often of God’s love for humanity in the face of our own endless transgressions. What I hear Jesus say about The Father is that He has an endless supply of forgiveness and love for His creation… but we need to listen with our hearts in order to understand and be healed.

    The Book of Hebrews tells us that in former times God spoke to us through the prophets but that today He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus. So many who read the Bible with such a consuming focus on an angry Father seem to lightly gloss over words and concepts which refer to Jesus as The Tree of Life, or The Living Water. If we are ever to “..put on the mind of Christ…” as Paul writes in Romans, we will need to discover more fully who Jesus is…. And I have discovered from personal experience that unless we allow Jesus to break our hearts as well as penetrate our minds, we will never know Him or The Father at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • folkevaernet says:

      Anthony – in order to be loving and ( – like Jesus) truly on a Mission to Save people, we must re-tell the whole story and not just parts of it. In this case we have to tell everyone we truly love and care about, that The Father has an endless supply of forgiveness and love for His creation… BUT can only save those who WANT to be saved.

      And how can they be saved if noone tells them they are on the wrong path?
      And how can they know what the right path is if noone points them to it?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Yes, Folk, you are right about what you have said here except that, speaking for myself, I am not on any mission to save anyone. But I can’t deny that there is a hell from which some people refuse to be saved… Please forgive me, I am not a Bible scholar although at one time I did try to read the Bible with an eye for discovering the mind of God so that I could live in accordance with His will and thus attain “salvation” as so many call it.

        But I’ve grown old and weary of trying to make sense of so many contradictions in the Bible and that is why I now look only to Jesus… not only what he said but more importantly what he did and how He treated sinners with such tender love and compassion.

        Now I speak to you from that voice of personal experience… the only real teacher we all have — our conscience. How did I know I was on the wrong path? It’s easy… I was angry and bitter all the time (my father was an angry man) even though I knew that Jesus was there ready to heal me and make me feel safe the moment I could believe and say that I am little more than a child trying to grasp what is incomprehensible. Now I am on a journey to a better place — this healing is a process while we live; I am like a reformed alcoholic… taking one day at a time and taking whatever good I can that’s out there and making it part of who I would like to see myself to be. Sure, the Bible suggests that God judges and He may even be angry about some things… fine; who’s in a better position to judge then God? Who of us can say that we aren’t angry about starving children who die every day, or innocent men, women, and children butchered on a regular basis by religious fanatics? But… I’m not God… just a broken human being trying to make it to the finish line. And I’ve discovered that the only way I can hope to do that is to move toward the light and love the good and pray that He will protect us from evil.

        You say, “And how can they know what the right path is if no one points them to it?” Many of us are trying to do that within this very space of time and dialogue. If any of us want to know what “the right path” is we need to look no further than at what Jesus said about the greatest commandments… To love God… and to love our neighbor. Once we grab hold of this thought, Saint Paul reminds us, no law can stand against us.

        Thank you for your comment.

        Liked by 2 people

        • folkevaernet says:

          Anthony – I am not a Bible scholar either. But IF it is the Word of God, should we not then read it INTENSELY – with both eyes open in order to discover the mind of God so that we can live in accordance with His will?

          I don’t really understand what you believe in? If you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Or you just believe the New Testament is the Word of God? Or you only adhere to the red-letter words of Jesus?

          What do you f.eks. think of the LIFE lived here?
          Is this the way Jesus wanted us to live?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Anthony Paul says:

            “I don’t really understand what you believe in? If you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Or you just believe the New Testament is the Word of God? Or you only adhere to the red-letter words of Jesus?”

            I don’t believe you understood me at all. I do believe that the Bible is good and that everything in it can also be of great value to us. However, I believe that when you put your emphasis on what is written there without also looking at what Jesus had to say about men who also put a great deal of emphasis on the teachings of Scripture (i.e. The Pharisees) you miss the point entirely about how the life of Jesus is supposed to change our lives so that He may continue to live in us, and through us the world can experience the reality of a good and loving God. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew everything there is to know about Scriptures, but it didn’t make their lives any better; it didn’t change them from within… Jesus came to start that process (by giving us a “new heart”) but they rejected Him… because he didn’t seem to follow the teachings of what we now call the OT.

            So what do I believe in? I believe in magic and miracles… because written words just don’t do it for me any more. I believe in the outrageously joyful thought that as we dance around here in the dark, Jesus loves us so much that He came to suffer and die a terrible death so that we could find a new life. In the end, I believe that christians worry too much about what we need to believe about the Bible and not enough about living this wonderful gift of life that He has given us. In my opinion, a real live example of what I am talking about is alive and well today in a church in Denver, CO called Church For All Sinners And Saints pastored by a woman who is a reformed alcoholic; this church houses lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, drug addicts, and alcoholics… it even has a few straight people. These are real life sinners whom Jesus loved. If you listen to their podcasts you’ll find a great deal of difference between who they are and where they put their emphasis (as opposed to so many christians who argue chapters and verses endlessly) in that they don’t sit around discussing theology…. instead they have one thread in common… they all just LOVE Jesus for what he has done in their lives and as a consequence they seem to love each other as well. I believe that this is what Jesus was referring to when he spoke about The Kingdom of Heaven already being among us… and, really now, isn’t that far better than sitting around parsing out the meaning of some Bible passages written two millennia ago?

            Liked by 2 people

          • Anthony Paul says:

            I just want to make one point with reference to the video link attached to Folkaernet’s post… I did take the time to watch the first 15 minutes of this video on “Lifestyle Christianity” and I want to make it very clear that when I talk about Jesus “healing us” I AM NOT referring to the kind of physical healing we see in the video. I say this while making no judgement about what is happening in the presentation… and although I do believe that there are people who have the gift to heal, I am opposed to the often cast about generalization that if you believe in Jesus you will be healed of your physical ailments — in this case back pain — and likewise, believing in Jesus will not make your abusive spouse more docile, or that drug-addicted son or daughter free from their addiction, nor will it pay your overdue mortgage payments, etc. The other side of that “christian dictum” is that if you are not somehow healed then it was due to the fact that you didn’t have enough faith. I will state quite plainly that I believe that kind of thinking to be bogus as well as unbiblical… believing in Jesus is not a formula for a worry-free life where all of our problems are solved.

            Jesus Himself suffered to the point of physical death… but even more importantly, He underwent the torment of spiritual darkness where He even had to wonder if He had been abandoned by God. How many of us can say we haven’t felt the same at times in our own lives? His suffering and death are the cause of our healing in the sense that we can join our pain and sufferings to His (“…By His stripes we are healed…”). This is what “the peace of Christ” is all about in my opinion.

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Anthony, I really appreciate all your excellent comments to Folk. Well said!

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Folk, you ask, “And how can they be saved if noone tells them they are on the wrong path? And how can they know what the right path is if noone points them to it?”

            I’m not sure what you mean by ‘how can they be saved.’ Saved from what? Hell? This is what many people mean by saved, but I think it is misguided. But in answer to your question I agree that it is important to point people to the right path by talking about the right path–following Jesus.

            But I am not too keen on telling people they are on the wrong path. Even though much of Jesus without Baggage is about exposing harmful beliefs (collectively the wrong path), I think it better to discuss those misguided beliefs rather than to tell people they are on the wrong path. If it causes them to think differently, then fine. But if they do not think differently it is not my job to try to persuade them.

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        • Dennis Wade says:

          Anthony, I also accept that the best way to share the Good News is to live with the love of our Father alive in us dictating everything we say, do or think. I don’t believe in proselytizing but in being the best example I can be of that message of love.
          Yes, sometimes it involves teaching and sharing, but the personal example of striving to live according to that message of love and being willing to admit it when I fail and ask forgiveness for my failure and then getting back up and trying again is the best example we can give to the world.
          My truth is not in a book, or a church, or old scriptures. My truth is in the one person who was a perfect example of that love to the world . . . a Living Person whose presence I can feel in my life.
          And when I talk to that Person and take the time to listen to His Holy Spirit speaking to me, and then accept what I hear, there is never any confusion from that side.
          I have often been confused from listening to the explanations of others as to how to live and what the real message of the Bible is, but never from Him.
          The real truth is Jesus , a Living Person who abides Now Today with us.
          And to those who would say, well how do you know you are really talking to Jesus and communing with Him?, my response would be:
          – He said we could.
          – He said the Holy Spirit would come and be with us.
          – He said He would always be with us.
          – He said, :Ask and Ye shall receive.
          – And finally, anything that comes is to be measured by the standard of unconditional love and forgiveness for all that ask for it. The Holy Spirit is NOT going to contradict the message of that love!
          I hope these thoughts may be of help, and I welcome all comments that may bring more light to this topic.
          Thank you.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony you say: “As Paul writes in Romans we need to discover more fully who Jesus is.”
      When I post on this site I become conflicted, because I am never sure what is believed concerning Jesus and what is not? Eg. Do you believe that Jesus is “the word of God made flesh”? Do you believe that He is the truth and the life, the way? Do you believe that He is one with the Father? Do you believe that He is coming back to Judge the Nations (Matt. 25)? I guess my real question is just how does one get to know Him better if one doesn’t know what to believe as true or false from scripture? One of my friends says I believe that Jesus is the greatest teacher that ever lived, but I don’t believe he performed any miracles or was resurrected.
      So I’m not sure what makes his Jesus a great teacher if a lot of what is said about him can’t be depended on. And you certainly wouldn’t be able to trust the ones telling about him. In fact my friend says he probably believes the swoon theory. So fact is the gospel writers had to be pretty stupid because they all really died for a Jesus who didn’t die himself, and apparently for a bunch of trumped up nonsense. Go figure. But then again maybe they died for a Truth so profound that knowing that eternity was at stake they were willing to lay down their lives for it, even if it meant hanging upside down on ones own cruel cross. Peter after all had already tried the denial route (three times), and found it only led back into bondage.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Jerry I believe all these things… that Jesus is The Son of God, that He was a great teacher and preacher, that He was our High Priest, that He came to suffer and die for my sins, that He performed miracles, that He arose from the dead, and much more. As regards your point that the writers may have lied and given their lives for a Christ they knew did not die, I can only paraphrase a sage (it might have been C.S. Lewis) who observed that although men may often give their lives for something THEY BELIEVE to be true, it is highly doubtful that anyone would willingly go to their death for something THEY KNOW TO BE A LIE.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Chas says:

          It might be of relevance that some Jihadists are willing to lay down their lives for what they think is true. However, God works to minimize suffering, not to make it happen.

          Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, you say, “No doubt there are many who may see your discussion of ethnic and cultural biases in the Bible as a sort of humanistic deconstruction of “Biblical Truth”. Well you got that right! I am also known to be ‘leading people to hell.’ The fundamentalist mind is very rigid and narrow.

      Like

      • Anthony Paul says:

        I agree, Tim… fundamentalism is the heavily starched cloak which so many good people wear because they have become convinced that this is most pleasing to God. What so many fail to see is that they have sacrificed freedom for some false sense of security based on a rather narrow view of the nature of The Divinity.

        I may be stating the obvious here, but it’s pretty clear to me that people who value and exercise their spiritual freedom have a much more panoramic view of God than those who feel compelled to live by some rigid code of conduct. And really now, if we just looked at this thing on an intuitive level… who can honestly say that we can comprehend the true nature of God from a surface reading of Scripture… so much seems contradictory to us; and yet is it really so, or does all truth at a deeper level contain elements of paradox as the Buddhist tradition teaches us? The Jewish tradition as well has a wonderful teaching which I believe we should all pay heed to as it can be very helpful in reading our Bible… they believe Scripture is like the layered skin of an onion… you must work to slowly peel away the layers to get to the truth of what The Spirit is saying to us. This works for me; and it is wonderful to have a place where we can go to discuss these ideas without being placed under judgement by the grand inquisitor of fundamentalism.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Anthony, you say about some believers that, “they have sacrificed freedom for some false sense of security based on a rather narrow view of the nature of The Divinity.” I totally agree. I think this sort of legalism is a comfort to them because they can compile a list of rules and check them off each day as ‘achieved’. Principles are not as easy to follow as rules.

          I think you are right that those who live in freedom have a richer view of God. And I also think other religious traditions have good insights to offer; they are not ‘enemies’ of the truth just because they are not Christian.

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  4. Charlotte Robertson says:

    Lovely article. Yes, Jesus had only what we now call the Old Testament. But he mainly quoted from the Psalms and from Isaiah, never told grizzly stories or endorsed genocide.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks Charlotte. I agree that Jesus was quite selective in referring to the OT and put his own mark on it.

      Like

  5. Chas says:

    Tim, the problem with the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament is that they were written many years after he lived, although based on memories passed on through several generations, by someone who had their own agenda. There is every reason to believe that the beliefs of those who knew Jesus had been modified by omissions and the introduction of personal opinions. In addition, the person who wrote the stories about Jesus assumed that he had been the Jewish Messiah, and many of his ideas were influenced by the OT prophets. As a result, some of the OT destructive god comes through, with Jesus returning accompanied by his angels to gather his elect, while everyone else is thrown into the fire. This is why it is now necessary for me to set aside the NT, including the Gospels, and trust God to guide me, even though He has guided me through the Bible in the past.

    Liked by 2 people

    • folkevaernet says:

      Chas – Both the Old Testament and the New Testament were produced according to their oral tradition… i.e. recited from Memory. Usually recited in large groups, around the campfires, at meetings, etc. etc. And if anyone got it wrong there were 50 – 100 people or more to correct those who got it wrong. Have you seen: THE CASE FOR CHRIST? Can most certainly be recommended: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abLATf6Q9Ls&t=223s

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Folk, both the OT and NT were written by men for their own purposes, and with their own agenda. That much of it was passed down in the way that you suggest is speculation. We do not know how large a group passed on the story of Jesus, or how many people in that group were trying to change the story to meet their own understanding, or how influential those people were within the group.

        Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      You are so right, Chas. The beauty of historical/scientific criticism of the NT is that it can allow us to get behind some of the spin of the Gospel writers (each had his own) and gain a somewhat (never entirely) clearer picture of what Jesus actually said and did. But so many of these NT critics wind up throwing out the baby of faith in Jesus with the bathwater of scriptural editorial gloss, and thus scare away devoted Christians. Let me suggest you might want to take a look at what, in my opinion, is by far the best book out there on the Historical Jesus, a book written by a respected NT scholar who is also a fairly traditional Christian. The book is “The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus,” and the author is Dale Allison.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Newton, My own studies of the Synoptic Gospels has told me much more about the writer than about Jesus. In regard to scaring away Christians, the Bible appears to achieve that very well, because the faith of many founders on its contradictions and fallacies.

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        • newtonfinn says:

          Chas, these are the kinds of questions and concerns that Allison dives into in his unusually candid assessment of the search for the historical Jesus. Again, I urge you to give Allison a shot at putting some new and useful perspectives on the table. The last chapter of Allison’s book, when he drops the scholar’s role and speaks from his heart as a Christian believer, is so moving that I read it devotionally.

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    • Charles how can you be certain of which god is really guiding you? It seems that if we look back on history there was a multiplied number of God’s to choose from. Some good; some bad; some deceptive; and some truthful? What exactly is your criteria for making a selection?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Jerry, there is only one True God. All the rest come from the imagination of men. I did not choose Him, but He chose me. My certainty comes from experience, through 20 years of testing. He has never let me down when I have trusted Him.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Chas I like your response, but I’m sure that the Apostles had the same kind of experience, yet they felt the need to share the knowledge gained from this one true God. Knowledge about truths that Jesus had promised to send His Spirit to lead them into. I think it was important to them to guard these truths. Much of what the Church is responsible for communicating is contained in those letters. They were charged by Jesus to go and make disciples teaching them (us) to observe all that He had commanded them. Jesus had said: 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
          John 15:4-6 – this sounds pretty important to me, yet the message I’ve encountered on this site refuted this. but how would we know it had they not recorded it? Just before this statement Jesus had said that the words that Had spoken had made them clean. His very words were important and they continued to flow into these men even after He was gone via His Spirit. But if the spirit that is in you does not bear witness that these words that these men have communicated to us as they followed the Lords command; then how do you know that this God you follow is the same God that instructed them?

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          • Chas says:

            Jerry, regarding the phrase: ‘go and make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey everything that I have told you,’ this is the version given by Matthew. The consensus from the three synoptic gospels says something like: ‘Go and proclaim the kingdom of God to all nations.’ This puts the emphasis on a simple action to be taken by the disciples. What the receivers of this were to do was their own responsibility. Those sent out by the writer of the original gospel were not commanded to persuade, or try to force, others to do what they told them to do.
            In regard to your statement ‘how would we know it had they not recorded it’. I very much agree with you. It was necessary for us to receive, in this age, all four of the gospels, as we have them. If God had not made this provision, despite its coming through the words of men, He would have had to tell us about His Son by another means. People who hear the message might do so directly from the Bible, or from somebody else who has derived it from the Bible, or other sources, but they will not be able to receive it and keep it unless they also ‘hear’ the direct prompting from God (the Holy Spirit) urging them to do so.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Help me out with your understanding of Jesus as the word. What should that mean to us as you see it?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            Jerry, the concept of Jesus as the word comes almost exclusively from John’s gospel and it seems to represent his understanding of God speaking all things into existence from the book of Genesis. Along with this goes the idea of Jesus as a pre-existing being, who was sent to earth by the Father, and so it also contributes to the idea of the trinity. It is thus an idea that we have received from one man, in error.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Chas, are you saying the trinity is in error? The entire book of John is in error? Jesus prior existence is in error?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Jerry, I think John was influenced in his introduction by the story of wisdom in Proverbs 8:

            “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.

            “I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side.”

            The opening verses of the book of John seems to equate God’s wisdom (in Proverbs) with the Word (logos), which is actually a good match. So I think it is likely that John is saying that this wisdom (logos) from God was present in Jesus:

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

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          • Chas says:

            Jerry, yes the trinity is in error. In regard to John’s gospel, it is important to us, because it spells out the need to believe in the Son of God, and provides a recognition that we need to receive direct communication from God (the Holy Spirit, although what man has chosen to call the Holy Spirit is really God communicating with us) in order to come closer to Him. Nevertheless, John’s gospel is a man’s words. It is God who enables us to receive from it the messages that He wishes us to receive, when He wishes us to receive them.

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          • I’m glad that you are hearing from God Chas, you obviously believe in Jesus, and are led by the Spirit, so what’s your problem with the trinity?

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, In the Greek, the opening of John’s gospel reads ‘The word was in the beginning and
            and the word was with God, and God was the word. He was with God in the beginning.’ In this, God was the subject of the verb and word the object. Because earlier translations got it wrong, and it was something on which the trinity was based, the more recent translators have not dared to change it back to what was originally written.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I agree with you that John’s introduction does not necessarily suggest the concept of the Trinity. I think the artificial construct of the ‘Godhead’ is confusing and misleading despite what Nicaea declared. And I do not find the promotion of perichoresis as an explanation helpful.

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          • Chas says:

            Jerry, the trinity is just a concept invented by men to try to draw together certain disparate things in scripture written by other men. The idea of the holy spirit is useful, because it can enable people to understand that God is able to communicate with us. Putting the Son of God into a three part god gives an idea of equality, or near-equality of the three parts, but it deifies the Son of God, whereas he had to be a man, otherwise he could not have been an example for all we mere mortals.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Interesting Chas because that’s not what one would get from Jesus words here:
            Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
            Matthew 16:13-14,16-18 NASB

            Also these words from Jesus seem to give Him an ability that no mere man possesses.

            Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
            John 14:23-24

            The ability to make ones abide with millions of believers all at once has to be a God thing — doesn’t it?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I agree that the humanity of Jesus is far more important than any supposed divine membership in the ‘Godhead’. And another point: If Jesus was ‘God’ then what is significant or startling that God raised Jesus (God) from the dead if he was already ‘God’?

            Like

          • He was not God at the time. He gave up His position at the right hand of His Father to pay for our sin. The perfect Son Lamb of God. He willingly died for you Tim, because he loved you. No other reason. He voluntarily left a perfect heaven so that you and I would not have to pay the consequence of our own sin. You know there are consequences don’t you. He who had no sin took on our sin and died for us sinners. He had to give up his Position in order to do that, because as God He could not look on much less take on sin. He had complete and total trust in His Father not to abandon His soul to Sheol, or His body to the grave. He said no man takes my life but I lay it down for my sheep. And that is what makes His humanity far more important than His Godhead if you want to put it that way, because it was a much greater sacrifice than any normal human could possibly make, because He was the only sacrifice that He could come up with to redeem you and I. I know that men reject this, but remember Jesus said that that would be the case. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
            Luke 24:25-27 NASB
            And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
            John 12:44-50 NASB

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Jerry,

            I am sure Chas will have a good response for you, but I would like to respond as well. You said, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’…Also these words from Jesus seem to give Him an ability that no mere man possesses.”

            I don’t think being ‘Son of the living God’ is the same as being part of a Trinitarian ‘godhead’ I believe, instead, it is likely Jesus was chosen as God’s representative to mankind and ‘Son of God’ refers to this special status and relationship.

            “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”…”The ability to make ones abide with millions of believers all at once has to be a God thing — doesn’t it?”

            I think the relationship I already suggested applies. And I also think that Jesus’ resurrection adds a great deal beyond Jesus’ humanity, so that this passage makes sense without Jesus being a prior member of a ‘godhead’.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Jerry, “He who had no sin took on our sin and died for us sinners. He had to give up his Position in order to do that, because as God He could not look on much less take on sin.”

            I am well aware of this belief; it is based on the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, which did not exist until about 500 years ago (Calvin). I believed it myself for decades, so I am quite familiar with it. I no longer subscribe to that theory.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Tim, you state that you used to belief what I have stated here. I would venture that you also used to believe in eternal security, because you now pretty much hold to a universal salvation position. And I would also venture to say that you used to believe in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the penning of the Scripture, and very possibly in the inerrancy of Scripture in its original text. Am I right or about right?

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Jerry, I was raised fundamentalist, so I believed in inerrancy of the KJV translation. But I did not believe in eternal security, as I was a Freewill (Arminian) Baptist. I am not a universalist, though it would be accurate to call me a ‘hopeful universalist’.

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          • So are you no longer you have changed either to a predestined outcome or to eternally secure, which is it?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            Jerry, words supposedly spoken by Jesus, but really written by men, can confer no ability to Jesus whatsoever.

            Like

          • So, l’m not sure your position. You are able to get reliable information from the Holy Spirit, but those chosen by Jesus to spread His good news is not reliable when they were told by Jesus that the same Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth??? Not being critical just trying to understand your approach to determining truth.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Jerry, I neither hold to a predestined outcome nor eternal security. I believe God offers eternal life to everyone, but there may be those who do not choose eternal life and God will not override their free will. I suspect that what happens might be what is called conditional immortality–those who reject eternal life will not be forced to have eternal life with God so they will experience extinction.

            I talk about this in these articles:

            https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/who-would-reject-the-father/

            https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/conditional-immortality-and-natural-death/

            https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/hell-conditional-immortality-something-else-what-happens-to-those-who-reject-god/

            Like

          • So your main differences with what I would believe is no hell unless someone chooses it, and scripture is not inerrant. A third would be creation by evolution.

            Like

          • Chas says:

            Jerry, the question that you need to ask yourself is: Were the men who wrote the gospels being guided by God, or not?

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          • Chas, since my approach to scripture is different than I think most people on this site, I accept the divine inspiration and then attempt to resolve what may appear as conflict or contradiction. You would need to visit my site to see how I do that. But a simple explanation from scripture of how I roll on that front is in Isa. 28 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand the report? Them that are weaned from the milk, withdrawn from the breasts? For [it is] precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little. …
            Isaiah 28:9-10
            In other wise scripture in my understanding is much like a puzzle. This is why we are instructed to study, which I’m sure you do as well, but I just include all of it as my resource. I can find no place in Jesus words where He condemned the Old Testament Scriptures, He did condemn the religious leaders and handlers of these scriptures. But He said not a jot or tidal of the law would not be fulfilled. So I have answered your suggested question with a Yes.

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          • Chas says:

            Jerry, since you believe that the scriptures are all inspired by God, the following applies to you:
            You diligently study the scriptures, because you think that, by them, you possess eternal life. (John’s Gospel)

            Liked by 1 person

          • You know Chas I think I sensed a bit if anger and maybe a bit of judgment in your advise here. I ‘m not sure if you believe as Tim seems to about salvation, but i guess it doesn’t really matter. Your mind seems to be pretty firm concerning your own thinking, and I’ve probably said some judgmental things myself so forgive me for that if you can. Perhaps I enjoy too much controversy. but i do think we are sharpened a bit by it. keep trusting in the Lord.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I agree with you that the gospels were written a few decades after his lifetime and that the authors included some agenda to their stories and arrangement. However, I am not convinced, as some people are, that the stories passed though generations of person-to-person communication as is the case in the telephone game.

      I believe Matthew and John were written from the preaching of early followers of who preached from their memories of Jesus over those decades so that it was not passed from person-to-person through a chain. This is likely true of Mark as well.

      I think we should read the gospels critically and with our eyes open, but I think that the four together give a rather consistent perspective of who Jesus was and what he did.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Chas says:

        Tim, when you compare John’s Gospel with each of the Synoptics, he seems to have had access to all three of these, because wherever John has covered the same topic, an item peculiar to each of the Synoptics has appeared in his version. It seems very likely that he made up the remaining material in his Gospel.
        In regard to the Synoptic Gospels, the more that I have studied and compared them, the more it has convinced me that they come from one original. People who have taught that they came from Mark + Q assumed that Mark omitted hardly anything, whereas he seems to have omitted a lot (that appears in both Matthew and Luke) probably because he found it difficult to explain to others.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I would say that the synoptics actually came from three sources: Mark, a collection of Jesus’ sayings (Q), and additional, unique material that informed Matthew and Luke. I agree with you that the presence of unique material in Matthew and Luke demonstrates that Mark did Not include everything.

          I am not as pessimistic as you in regards to John’s independent witness to Jesus.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, John’s Gospel is very important to us, because it spells out the need to believe in the Son of God and provides a recognition that we need to receive direct communication from God (the Holy Spirit) to come closer to Him. Nevertheless, John’s Gospel is man’s words. It is God who enables us to receive from it the messages that He wishes us to receive, at the time He wishes us to receive them.

            Liked by 1 person

      • newtonfinn says:

        I agree, Tim, which is why I lament that the earliest forms of historical NT criticism, form and redaction criticism, have been largely abandoned by the new questers for the historical Jesus. Form criticism, as you know, dealt with the forms in which memories of Jesus’ words and actions were solidified and passed down to later generations. There seemed to be rather clear categories of parable stories, pronouncement stories culminating in key sayings, miracle stories, etc. Then, again as you know, redaction criticism picked up where form criticism left off and closely examined how each gospel writer took these various forms of remembrance–highlighting some, ignoring others, editing all–and wove them together into connected narratives, inevitably intertwining them with the gospel writer’s own theological and Christological beliefs. While later schools of historical NT criticism have greatly expanded our understanding of the rich and diverse Judaism of Jesus’ day, a most-important contribution, I remain unconvinced that they have brought us any nearer to the earliest Jesus tradition that we can recover 2,000 years after the fact. In some instances, I think they have actually muddied the waters and left us more subjective than ever in our individual takes on Jesus. Thus the radically different messiahs that emerge in recent NT reconstructions. Allison’s book gets to heart of this quandary and sheds some light on how we might move forward at this point as believing Christians open to–and unafraid of–the benefits of scholarship

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Newton, it sounds as though you have been reading Bultmann! Bultmann’s work in form and redaction helped me a lot, though I sometimes thought him a bit too specific sometimes in his redaction reconstructions. I think he made some remarkable contributions.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. fiddlrts says:

    One of the epiphanies I had about the Flood story in the last few years is that pretty much every sermon I have ever heard seems to completely ignore what I think is the most important part of the story: what was the sin of humankind?
    Obviously, I think it is helpful to see the flood story as a parable (both for geological reasons and because it is an obvious re-telling of an ancient myth), but if we wish to take the story *seriously*, then we have to actually read the part before the story starts.
    From the moment of the Fall in Genesis, the story turns to how viciously violent and greedy humans are, boasting about their violence and the women they own, and all that. Eventually, God has had enough because humankind is focused on violence and revenge all the time.
    Instead, in the sermons I heard, it was either some sort of nebulous, undefined “evil,” or in a few cases within Fundamentalism, there was a reference (when the kids weren’t listening) to the Nephilum – interspecies sex, so to speak. But I cannot remember one time that violence was listed. Perhaps that cuts against the “angry God” narrative a bit, or perhaps it seems a bit too inconvenient to theology that *requires* an attitude of violence toward outsiders. But either way, that really struck me as the most important part of the parable. “Hey, God isn’t down with this whole violence and revenge thing…”

    A bit off the topic of your post, but thought it might be relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    How do you feel about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? It states:
    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortions will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Since I do a lot of research about Christianity, this verse was quoted in a recent article I read. It was mostly about sin, and it said that if you sin, apologize, and then continue sinning (like most people tend to do), you are on the list to go to hell (with this verse cited as a reference).

    Now, I DO agree that true repentance involves turning away from sin, not just simply apologizing and continuing down a sinful path.

    But this article I read had very specific instructions as far as “Do this and you can go to heaven,” and “Don’t do that or you WILL go to hell” (whether or not you’re a Christian).

    Is that a conclusion that can reasonably gleamed from this verse? This is the kind of thing that, honestly, causes me a lot of stress. I feel like I’m being held up to standards that I won’t always achieve.

    (Also, apologies if you’ve already talked about this verse)

    Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      My simple rule is that when Jesus’ mercy and Paul’s judgmentalism conflict, go with Jesus. I’m sure that Paul would agree, at least now that he is in the Light.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      Hi strangegirl and welcome… I know that feeling about reading the Bible and then getting the twisted feeling inside because I just know that I will never get to where I’m supposed to be in my life according to the Good Book. I’ve learned to stop trying to make sense of chapters and verse because for every one like 1 COR 6:9 you get another one coming at you like the one a little further down, 1 COR 15:45 about Jesus being The Last Adam… a life giving Spirit bringing us life in the same manner Adam brought us to spiritual death. You didn’t have to do anything to inherit death thru Adam and you will never be able to undo what happened in The Garden… but we don’t have to worry about that because Jesus has done it all for us.

      Secondly, “repentance” is not a doing thing in the sense that you are sorry for your sins and then suddenly you are expected to never sin again… the Greek word refers to a “change of mind” or perhaps we can call it “a change of heart” toward yourself and a loving God. Sounds to me like you may already be there but you are concerned because maybe not much else has changed in your life. Don’t let that worry you… sometimes we just have to take a small step and then just LET GO!!! Don’t worry so much… He loves you and that’s what’s most important… He’ll be there to catch you and carry you to the next step.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Anthony, you said, ” ‘repentance’ is not a doing thing in the sense that you are sorry for your sins and then suddenly you are expected to never sin again… the Greek word refers to a “change of mind” or perhaps we can call it “a change of heart” toward yourself and a loving God.

        I think this is a very important point that many people do not understand at all. When John the Baptist calls people to ‘repent’, or when Jesus does so, the image that comes to many of us is the scenario of preachers calling upon ‘sinners’ to repent of their ‘sins’–meaning that they run to the altar, admit they are a sinner, and confess their evil ways.

        But, as you correctly state, ‘repentance’ simply means to change your mind about something. For John the Baptist and Jesus it meant to abandon one’s previous perspective of life and align with God and his kingdom.

        Well said!

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, you mentioned about 1 Corinthians 6: “this article I read had very specific instructions as far as “Do this and you can go to heaven,” and “Don’t do that or you WILL go to hell” (whether or not you’re a Christian).”

      I think this article reflects a point of confusion from which serious misguided conclusions are formed. The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not heaven (thought to be a good place we go when we die). Jesus teaches a lot about the Kingdom of God; it is a community of believers that spreads, somewhat invisibly, across all nations on EARTH with the stated goal of bringing God’s will to bear on Earth. It is not the same as the visible church.

      There are many, many believers who are Christian but are not involved in the spread of the Kingdom of God; in fact, they often work in opposition to the Kingdom. I think 1 Corinthians is saying that ‘fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals (inaccurate translation), sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortionists’ are not in harmony with the Kingdom and do not represent the Kingdom or Kingdom values.

      It has nothing to do with ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’.

      Like

  8. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    Tim,

    Thank you for your insight. Most of my beliefs align with yours, but I still find myself getting confused and wondering if I’m wrong about everything a lot of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, it is not uncommon for those leaving fundamentalism or evangelicalism to experience fear. Fear is a major component of conservative Christianity, and we are constantly warned about the dire consequences of questioning the ‘truth’ we have been taught.

      On the other hand, one of the marks of those leaving conservative beliefs is thinking for themselves and considering all angles, so ‘what if I am wrong’ is a natural question for them.

      Like

    • newtonfinn says:

      We are ALL wrong about everything a lot of the time. God doesn’t expect us to be right, but He does want us to be loving and humble enough to accept our errors and those of others. Every time I feed my fish, and they peer out at me from inside the aquarium, I think about how we humans, in our own aquariums, try to conceptualize the God who provides for us and how far we can really get in that effort. But at least my fish aren’t arguing and fighting over the nature of that strange fleeting thing that drops in their food..at least I hope not.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Paz says:

    “But while he was STILL A LONG WAY OFF, his father saw him and was filled with COMPASSION for him.” Luke 15
    I think this is one of the most beautiful stories told by Jesus, with a wonderful message to teach us about God’s loving character.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Paz, I agree! I love this passage.

      Like

      • Chas says:

        Tim, there is much to be seen in the parable of the prodigal son, apart from the boy who is initially foolish and rebellious, but experiences a change of mindset and so turns back, we can also see a brother who is jealous of his sibling who is experiencing his father’s favour, and we can see a father who does not show love to the son who stays at home and works hard, and so does not thank him or favour him enough. It is something of a shame that all the emphasis is normally put on the rebellious, but repentant one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I agree with you that this parable is multi-faceted. It is the parable of the wayward son (us), the parable of the angry brother (Pharisees), and the parable of the loving Father. I really like this passage.

          Like

  10. This is what first attracted me to “The River of Fire” years ago: It was basically the antithesis of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Instead, God was presented as loving, and our experience of it as our response to that love. It’s also hard to keep thinking of God as harsh and angry when you learn that scientists find no evidence of an earth-filling flood, and that the attempted genocide of Canaanites probably never happened. If that’s the case, then how can the OT be literal?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Nyssa, No world-side flood. No genocide of the Canaanites. These are only two actions of angry God in the OT that never actually happened. And yet many of us accept those stories uncritically; no wonder so many think God is angry, violent, and vindictive–but that is not true either.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Paz says:

    I think the way Jesus speaks of God is not of this “…violent, and vindictive…” being.
    So the way I see it is… I guess we must ask and consider what did Jesus taught us about God’s character and the way to seek and find Him, to be forgiven, healed, blessed and ultimately transformed into His image!?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: We Often Create God in Our Own Image: Angry God Part 2 | Jesus Without Baggage

  13. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Jerry, I am moving this thread to the left column because it is getting too long and skinny. You said, “So your main differences with what I would believe is no hell unless someone chooses it, and scripture is not inerrant. A third would be creation by evolution.”

    You are correct that I don’t think the Bible is inerrant and that I do believe in evolution. But, if by hell you mean some sort of punishment, I must say that I don’t believe in punishment at all. Self-selected extinction is not punishment.

    What most inerrantist mean by inerrancy is that the words and phrases of the Bible are in some way directed and protected by God–so they are God’s revealed truth. In practice, this means that a passage can be lifted from just about any biblical context and applied in a literal and prescriptive way, often by ignoring the genre and the purpose for which the passage was written. In this way, a number of unrelated passages can be even collected to create a doctrine (or ‘truth’) that actually isn’t taught in the Bible.

    This approach to the Bible produces a number of beliefs that I no longer embrace and on which we might disagree. Here is a list of some of them.

    Angry God
    Eternal punishment in hell
    Legalism
    The fall of Adam and the meaning of sin
    Penal substitution atonement theory
    Young Earth creationism
    Homophobia
    Christian patriarchy
    The existence of Satan and demons

    And there are other beliefs on which we probably disagree. I have written posts on all these issues if you are interested.

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  15. I think you are complicating things by imposing what you want to be true on God’s word. Certainly, Jesus reveals God most clearly to us, by becoming one of us in order to save us from ourselves. But, that is not at odds with God’s justice at all. Without a true understanding of God’s perfect justice, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes unnecessary. What is he saving us from if God has no capacity for anger or punishment? Now, I do tend to lean towards Christ’s Victory over sin as being the main reason for his sacrifice as opposed to penal substitution, if you are familer with that debate. Still, God allowed sin for a reason, to give man a free choice, and without punishment for that sin, we are still back to: Why Christ had to die at all if God is not concerned with justice. And if you don’t believe in Satan, it’s even more ridiculous to believe that Christ had any reason to save us from anything.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild, I don’t believe what I WISH to be true but what I truly THINK to be true after much consideration. And I do not think God is angry, harsh, and vindictive toward us.

      I am familiar with both Christus Victor and Penal Substitution. In my opinion, Christus Victor is the closest answer we have for the death of Jesus. However I see Christus Victor as his victory over the ultimate powers of evil and death (in his public death and his resurrection) rather than victory over ‘sin’ as most conservative believers understand it.

      I also do not believe Jesus had to die in order to satisfy God’s sense of justice.

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  16. What is the difference in believing in the powers of evil and believing in Satan? And sin is just evil in action, so I’m not seeing any difference.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild, I agree with you that sin is just evil in action.

      I believe the powers of evil are all around us. The powers of evil (the Romans and the Jewish leaders) killed Jesus, but Jesus arose from the dead and the powers of evil failed. So the ultimate power of evil was defeated. Jesus’ resurrection is also a defeat of the ultimate power of death, in which we will also participate.

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  17. And the source of evil is? Jesus not only referred to Satan many times, he spoke directly to him while tempted. Should I just cut all these verses out of my Bible?

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wild, I don’t think you need to cut anything out of your Bible, but not everything in the Bible is straight out historical. I believe the temptation in the desert is a midrash on Jesus’ experience in John 6, as I explain this in this article:

      https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/did-satan-really-tempt-jesus-in-the-desert-or-is-there-another-explanation/

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      • Good grief, some people will go to any lengths to deny the simple truths of scripture. And you dodge my questions instead of answering them. Jesus referred to Satan as a real entity multiple times. Of course, I’m being a little sarcastic about cutting those passages out, but you seem to have no problem “cutting out” anything that offends you. Apparently the early believers all understood the Bible wrong…but it’s nice of you to come along a couple thousand years later and set them straight.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Wild, sometimes the ‘simple truths of scripture’ are not as simple as they seem. Simple reading of the Bible is a common concept used by inerrantists, so should I assume you are an inerrantists?

          I don’t know where I have dodged your questions, but you mention that “Jesus referred to Satan as a real entity multiple times.” It is true that Jesus referred to ‘Satan’, but the question is whether he believed in a ‘Satan’ as a real entity or whether he spoke metaphorically using the satan figure from the common literature at that time.

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          • Anthony Paul says:

            “It is true that Jesus referred to ‘Satan’, but the question is whether he believed in a ‘Satan’ as a real entity or whether he spoke metaphorically using the satan figure from the common literature at that time.”

            Tim, this is a very good and important point to which I have been giving a good deal of thought lately… so if I may, I would like to interject some further thoughts at this juncture. In His ministry of teaching, especially among His disciples, Jesus most often spoke in parables which contained images common to that time — the workers in the fields, the harvest, the tree and its roots, etc. We have come to understand that at the core of many of these parables (e.g., The Prodigal Son just to name one) Jesus was trying to teach us something about The Almighty Father. Carrying this thought further, no one takes these parables literally — Our Father is not a rich old landowner who has to worry about bringing in the crop every season. But please bear with me because it all goes much deeper…. in John’s Gospel, chapter 17 just before His death, Jesus offers a prayer of “one-ness” for His disciples with The Father just as He, Jesus, is one with Him also. Does anyone really know what He meant by that prayer? Here is my point: God is spirit and not a physical being… many of us have come to understand God as a sort of Total Consciousness — perhaps the ONE who is dreaming this dream in which we all live. Many in science today are coming to understand that there is no physical reality outside of consciousness. This idea of “one-ness” with total consciousness, for me anyway, makes Jesus sound rather more like a Buddhist than a Jew. As far as the concept of evil is concerned, how far would Jesus have gotten if He had talked about the universality of “the collective unconscious” in which a great deal of evil resides?
            To conclude… Jesus understood that God is much more than what our minds could absorb and so He spoke in terms which could be understood by the men of His time. The same goes for our departure from the physical realm back to the source of all creation for which Buddhism seems to have a more sophisticated view than christianity. For me, Jesus knew a lot more than He was saying about Himself and The Father and the reality of of all life. As so often is true today, He was only limited by the intellect of His audience.

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          • How about the Prince of this world? John 14:30 I suppose he is just a figment in Jesus mind?
            Yes, why would you believe in the resurrection, if anything you don’t like can be taken metaphorically? And Jesus refers to Jonah and the fish and the flood as real history. Perhaps he was confused and you can correct him.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Anthony, you raise a lot of good points. And I agree with you that “Jesus knew a lot more than He was saying about Himself and The Father and the reality of all life” partially because his audience would not have been able to understand it.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Wild, I don’t know why so many people make the accusation you make here: “if anything you don’t like can be taken metaphorically?” It’s just not true. We might be right or we might be wrong (not likely, I think), but believers like me arrived at our conclusions through hard work–not wishful thinking.

            You said “And Jesus refers to Jonah and the fish and the flood as real history. Perhaps he was confused and you can correct him.” Jesus said “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” He was referencing a familiar story; today he might reference some aspect of Huckleberry Finn: ‘Just as Huckleberry Finn…’ Would this mean that Jesus considered the story of Huckleberry Finn to be real history?

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          • I feel like you’re not really answering my questions, but dancing around them. The prince of this world is what? Negative thoughts? Then what does that make the comforter? Positive thinking? This idea that the people of that time were ignorant and couldn’t understand deep things seems to me to be a very arrogant assumption. No one could honestly read Paul’s writings and say he was unable to comprehend complicated truths

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Wild, I don’t know what Jesus meant in his references to the Prince of this world. There is not enough detail or context to determine that.

            You said, “This idea that the people of that time were ignorant and couldn’t understand deep things seems to me to be a very arrogant assumption. No one could honestly read Paul’s writings and say he was unable to comprehend complicated truths.”

            I don’t recall implying that people of that time were ignorant or unable to understand complicated ideas. I agree that Paul, for example, was very deep–but he wasn’t inerrant; he was as liable to mistakes in his thinking as any of us.

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  18. Anthony Paul says:

    Jesus came out of time to reveal God to a people who still believed that the earth was flat. To speak to them in words whose meaning many in our own day are just barely beginning to grasp, would be like trying to explain the power of atomic energy. I believe that Jesus spoke to all men of things that are real, of life and death, of here and the hereafter; but He did so in a manner that could be comprehended by them.

    As far as the existence of real evil is concerned, no one is denying its existence… only the manner in which it’s portrayed. For centuries mankind has soothed its conscience with the belief that evil exists “out there” somewhere in some other being who guiles us and tempts us into doing what we would never do on our own. Such folly springs from the inability to realize that we are much more than just a conscious waking being; beneath this surface lies a whole other unconscious psyche which contains both light and darkness… the latter being things that we can only face in dreams that turn into nightmares.

    Finally, I believe Jesus spoke truth and gave us all we need to know God… He did not give us literal knowledge of all things. To the woman at the well, He called Himself “living water”. In John 6:55 He tells His disciples that they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” for these are indeed “real food”. The disciples found this hard to digest, calling it “a hard saying”. Jesus indeed did say something very important in those words, both to His disciples and to us today… but I don’t hear too many preachers actually explaining what He meant by those words except as a metaphor for something other than dividing up the physical parts of His body for supper. If we understand Jesus and the Bible to be speaking of truth in a literal sense, then we would have to believe that God is a fountain, a potter, shepherd, bread, water, light, lamb, tree, rock, and a lion.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, I wish all people would realize the extent to which Jesus used metaphor and stories–devices that would be understood by his audience. Many understand metaphoric use in the parables, but even here some take literally such teaching stories as The Sheep and the Goats or The Rich Man and Lazarus.

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  20. I politely disagree with you re: OT G-d being vindictive, but respect your thoughts. Here’s what I read from the same Scriptures; mercy. G-d had Noah and Sons build the ark in full view of their neighbors. It was a visual prop, accompanied by their preaching, that human sin separates humans from each other and human to G-d. To my recollection, the neighbors of Noah had at least a generation (40 years) to consider his pleas to change their views before the flood.
    If I had a falling out with a friend, yet he came to me and told me his view on how I hurt him, then gave me 40 years to ponder his thoughts and mull it over. I guess I would see that as pretty patient vs. vindictive.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Pray, I respect you thoughts as well. As a story, I can accept your explanation of how God is depicted; but I don’t think the universal flood was an historical event engineered by God. I really appreciate your politeness and hope you sense my politeness in return.

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      • Thanks JWB! Its always fine to agree to disagree with a kind man like you. May I ask another question? Do you believe that Jesus believed, as an extremely observant Jew, that G-d sent the flood? I’m interested in your take.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Pray, I don’t know what Jesus thought about the flood. He referred to biblical passages a lot, but it was mostly to make a particular point and did not include a lot of detail beyond that. So I don’t even know if Jesus thought the flood was a real, historical event.

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  21. His Divine Beauty says:

    I guess, ironically speaking, you’ve come across many who led you to believe this way. However, if they began reading in Genesis, it would not take the reader long to stumble upon Genesis 6:6, which speaks of God’s heart being grieved; saddened, not angry.
    You also said we can see, if we think of the Bible being written by people who perceived God as being angry, that Jesus models God and only really became upset with the Pharisees. But, then that would mean you would have to perceive the Bible, in its entirety, to be written in the form of man’s perception of God and not the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit; making it seem that God did not or could not keep His Word in the way He intended it to be written, also putting in question His power, faithfulness, and sovereignty.
    Even more so, Genesis 6:6 shows a contrast between the characters of God and Jesus, as both grieved. God knew what was going to happen and Jesus knew Lazarus wasn’t dead. But, they grieved.
    Maybe some believe God to be angry because of what they see. But, to use Genesis, without discussing 6:6 or Jesus’ grieving, your just making doing what you said the writers did…
    There’s no possible way.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Beauty, thank for your contribution. You stated, “then that would mean you would have to perceive the Bible, in its entirety, to be written in the form of man’s perception of God and not the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit; making it seem that God did not or could not keep His Word in the way He intended it to be written, also putting in question His power, faithfulness, and sovereignty.”

      You are correct that I think the various parts of the Bible were written by people, and I don’t know how much, if any, inspiration they received from God in their writings. This does not mean that ‘God did not or could not keep His Word in the way He intended it to be written’; rather it questions whether God intended it to be written as it was. I don’t know how this puts in question God’s power, faithfulness, and sovereignty.

      I don’t understand the point of your reference to ‘grief’ in God and Jesus. God, in his grief, supposedly destroyed humanity–Jesus raised a man from the dead. Yes, this is a contrast, but what do you draw from the point that they are both said to have grieved?

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