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Post-Christianity? (probably not the right title)


Bravus

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In another long thread I posted:

"I wonder whether there'd be value in starting a new thread in which you could tell us something about the faith you have now and how you've come to that, Richard. In many ways I'm in the same boat. I'm being told here repeatedly that the Bible is 'all or nothing', and yet there are parts of the Bible that are offensive enough (and I'm not talking about 'the offense of the gospel') to make me lean toward 'nothing'. But I don't want to go there, either. Is there something that can be salvaged as a faith that is Christian in essence but seeks the underlying truths of the gospel past some of what certainly seems like humans seeking Divine sanction for their own power and prejudice in the Bible."

So this is the thread for that discussion. I count myself as a Christian, and yet in the recent Australian election I put all the 'Christian' parties at the bottom of my ballot because they stood for racism, intolerance and rampant capitalism including the deliberate continuation of social disadvantage.

Please try to understand that this is not about rejecting Christianity (for me at least - others' experience may be different) - but about hanging onto it with my last breath.

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John Shelby Spong a retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark presents one way of dealing with this problem for those who still wish to call themselves Christian.

Wikipedia entry on John Shelby Spong

I did a six part series on my journey at Reinventing the Adventist Wheel blog and it starts at the following link...

Memoirs of an atheist

Now atheist is not a term I gave myself. It really means that as far as god as described by the Bible and most Christians, I am an atheist. I don't believe in a replacement god either, but I don't deny spiritual experience and transformation.

The closest I would come to theism is some form of Deism and this is not well defined because there really isn't any basis for proof outside of a very loose theory. And I certainly wouldn't defend Deism on any logical basis.

That should give all of you a fairly detailed background and description of where I am coming from.

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It seems to me that your approach to these things gives no no place for God's existence, God's law or a future judgment. Your view is completely human-centered.

Its human centered because you can't separate the human from any set of laws. Even you can't separate your humanity from your thinking and reasoning. You talk of the Bible as if it can somehow, through no demonstration of reasonable means, can talk for God. It takes some very creative and convoluted thinking to maintain the idea that the Bible is a God generated book.

Even when people claim they are following the Bible, they have no option but to follow their own interpretation of the Bible. This is, in practice, a human solution. So everybody's views are completely human centered. To claim otherwise is to claim a special understanding of God's mind, which is blasphemous by your own book.

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Actually I have given many online Bible Studies online and the number one lesson that gets more attention than any other is the one on hell not being a place of everlasting torture and the other is on the state of the dead. People are so relieved to learn the truth about both subjects and have written me many an email about that fact.

That's certainly an upgrade, but essentially you have to come to an agreement with God or you're dead. And you have to come to an agreement possessing a depraved mind in a world, through no choice of your own, created you with a tendency to desire wrong things. And you have to accept this situation as something given to you by a God who is just.

And you then have to figure out how to explain this to all the people in the world and convince them of the same illogical mess using a book that takes an advanced understanding of various written languages, ancient cultures, apologetics, and conflicting moral systems.

And if you include Ellen White you add a whole other layer of culture, interpretation, apologetics, and mythical story telling to the set of requirements. And after all this, you still have to present the solution to all of life's problems as something so simple a child could accept it.

One simply has to look at all the various debates within Christianity itself to understand that no one really knows what it takes to be saved because its a metaphorical solution that is debated literally and in some cases enforced literally.

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It seems to me that your approach to these things gives no no place for God's existence, God's law or a future judgment. Your view is completely human-centered.

Its human centered because you can't separate the human from any set of laws. Even you can't separate your humanity from your thinking and reasoning. You talk of the Bible as if it can somehow, through no demonstration of reasonable means, can talk for God. It takes some very creative and convoluted thinking to maintain the idea that the Bible is a God generated book.

Even when people claim they are following the Bible, they have no option but to follow their own interpretation of the Bible. This is, in practice, a human solution. So everybody's views are completely human centered. To claim otherwise is to claim a special understanding of God's mind, which is blasphemous by your own book.

Are you denying, then, that God communicates with humans through written language, such as in the Ten Commandments, or through the Holy Spirit?

It seems to me you are saying that the Bible is not from God at all, and that even if it were from God, we're incapable of really knowing His will by studying it. So that humanity is totally ignorant of God.

Do you believe in God? If so, could you describe something about the nature of the God you believe in? For instance, do you view God as being personal and does this God have any concern or interest in human affairs? Does God care anything about you?

Regards,

"John 3: 17"

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Are you denying, then, that God communicates with humans through written language, such as in the Ten Commandments, or through the Holy Spirit?

Well, when you use the term God, you are naturally referring to God as described in the Bible. I believe the description of God in the Bible is completely man made. I also believe that the Ten Commandments are completely man made. I also believe that the Bible is completely a product of men's minds.

This video by Sam Harris does a wonderful job of summarizing many of my views on why I find it unlikely that the Bible is anything beyond the creation of men. I have other reasons, but those will reveal themselves within the context of this dialog.

Sam Harris on religious belief.

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It seems to me you are saying that the Bible is not from God at all, and that even if it were from God, we're incapable of really knowing His will by studying it.

Yes, to be brief, that is what I am saying. I think the previous video really presents the problems of viewing the Bible as an authority of God's will.

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Do you believe in God? If so, could you describe something about the nature of the God you believe in? For instance, do you view God as being personal and does this God have any concern or interest in human affairs? Does God care anything about you?

I don't believe in any of these things. That, I realize, will seem totally unacceptable to you and to even contemplate the idea that there is no God as you understand God, brings forth a whole myriad of emotions.

I believe there is spiritual experiences and transformations, but I prefer to leave these free of explanations and let them express themselves within the experience. What I have learned is that as soon as I say there it is and its this, there it goes. These experiences are encountered through other means than language, theology, and dialog.

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Philosophically we have three options:

1. We trust someone else's perceptions of reality. For example: some form of organized religion, some kind of cult, or modern science.

2. We trust some form of inspired writing. For example: the Bible, the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc.

3. We trust in our own ability to decipher truth. For example, a mix of church tradition and the Bible, a mix of modern science and the Bible or agnosticism.

For some of us, not one of those three is attractive because we have no guarantee it is right. For myself, I long ago realized how susceptible I was to being misled or fooled. I became convicted that my mind is not an infallible source of information with an ability to decipher truth from fable. So in my case, I decided that I would have to choose either option 1 or option 2. I have chosen option 2. Some that fancy themselves intellectuals can not let go of option 3. That is their choice but I feel my life runs much better and my eternal future is much more secure by trusting in the Bible than in my own ability to decipher truth from fable.

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That is their choice but I feel my life runs much better and my eternal future is much more secure by trusting in the Bible than in my own ability to decipher truth from fable.

After spending a little time here on CA ... I have determined that it may not be so easy to trust in my reading of the Bible. I see the Greek and Hebrew scholars hashing it out here and NO one seems to come to an agreement on WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS.

Fables might be easier to figure out.

In the end ... we have to trust our interpretations of scripture on the basis of our personal experience with God. Our faith in Him is what matters. We will all disagree with the interpretations of scripture. IF my salvation depended upon how I obeyed and followed scripture ... then I would be lost from what I have gathered here at CA.

I look forward to Heaven .... when I will really find out about "truth". In the meantime ... I will put my trust in GOD .

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Are you denying, then, that God communicates with humans through written language, such as in the Ten Commandments, or through the Holy Spirit?

Well, when you use the term God, you are naturally referring to God as described in the Bible.

Not necessarily. I'm using it in the sense of Supreme Being, etc., as, for instance, Buddhists or Hindus envision God or gods.

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I believe the description of God in the Bible is completely man made. I also believe that the Ten Commandments are completely man made. I also believe that the Bible is completely a product of men's minds.

Do you believe in true prophecy as in Daniel 2 and Ezekiel 26 and Obadiah?

Do you believe in Christ and the prophecies regarding him, such as Daniel 9: 24-27?

Regards, "John 3: 17"

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That is their choice but I feel my life runs much better and my eternal future is much more secure by trusting in the Bible than in my own ability to decipher truth from fable.

After spending a little time here on CA ... I have determined that it may not be so easy to trust in my reading of the Bible. I see the Greek and Hebrew scholars hashing it out here and NO one seems to come to an agreement on WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS.

Fables might be easier to figure out.

Just because some people don't agree with what the Bible clearly says does not mean the Bible is unclear or that it can't be determined what it says. There are many reasons why some people might not agree. Most of the time it has to do with the fact that some people may not be taking all the Bible into account or it may be that some people have reasons to want to believe it says something besides what it actually says. This also happens in the interpretation of law. Two lawyers may disagree about the particulars of the law, but they also have many agreements. So it is with people discussing the meaning of a text. John 1: 1-3 is very clear, for example, yet there is a great deal of disagreement about what it is saying about Christ. Why? Because there are people who don't want to believe it says that Christ is God. They want to believe he is a god. They don't want to believe what it says, and like the proverbial horse, you can lead some to the water, but you can't make them drink it.

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In the end ... we have to trust our interpretations of scripture on the basis of our personal experience with God. Our faith in Him is what matters. We will all disagree with the interpretations of scripture. IF my salvation depended upon how I obeyed and followed scripture ... then I would be lost from what I have gathered here at CA.

I look forward to Heaven .... when I will really find out about "truth". In the meantime ... I will put my trust in GOD .

If you don't think it matters what you believe the Bible is saying, read what Peter said in 2 Peter 3" 15, 16. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write that some people were twisting Paul's writings to mean something they don't mean, and this twisting was "to their own destruction."

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I think this is a really important discussion and I am glad to see someone here brave enough to post it. My experience has taught me some basics about life and this world. Beyond those basics there is much room for question and doubt. I KNOW that there is good and there is evil or Light and Darkness. I KNOW that the things of the spirit or spiritual things run in BOTH arena's. And I KNOW that The Spirit of Good is at war with the Spirit of Evil. I KNOW that this war takes place on many fronts including but not limited to my life and mind. I also KNOW that EVIL likes to masquarade as GOOD and sometimes Good presents itself as EVIL but these are only initial perceptions and if witnessed over time they eventually show their true colors.

Now where God and the Scripture, fit into all this is the part of the puzzle that is yet to be totally realized. For now, I can only speak from my experience, I see scripture as telling the story of Good and Evil so there are parts of it that are as revolting as the evil we see in the world today. Good is also presented there and gives a pretty good glimpse of what it looks like when present in human experience. The war between the two is also represented well.

The fact that humanity and thus all the ambiguities of Good and Evil are present does not detract from the fact that BOTH are present. The ultimate choice any of us has the capacity of making is the honesty to recognize it when we see it manifested and the personal power of our decisions to choose or reject it for ourselves.

Power to Control is what it boils down to. Each demands surrender and each demands a choice of control. The war that is waged between the two will ultimately mean getting off any fences one has chosen to sit on. When all is said and done it plays out in human experience-PERSONAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE! And that experience becomes our story. Both our HISTORY and our TESTIMONY. Unless we are honest about our HISTORY we cannot be honest in our TESTIMONY.

The story of Jesus in Scripture gave me something good to identify with in the face of the indescribable evil I faced in my life. From Childhood His Presence in my HISTORY has become a crucial part of my TESTIMONY! I can not separate that presence from it, Nor would I want to! It is NOT dependent on religion or creed. It allows me to NOT KNOW it all because I have learned that there is ALWAYS more I have to learn. Who GOD is and what SCRIPTURE is doesn't matter nearly as much to me as the PRESENCE OF GOOD in my life that has come through my identification with the one called JESUS. I am learning new things every day about both GOD and the power of HIS PROMISES. I cannot get enough of it!

AND often I find it bears little resemblance to what I was taught as a child or what so called "Christians" say it is! I do not fear evil any longer. I can look at it or hear about it or know its power but I have EXPERIENCED the POWER that GOOD has over it!!! THAT is ALL I NEED!

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I happen to have more faith in Christians than you do John317. You apprear to be a skeptic and believe the worst in people.

I don't believe that people want to "twist" scripture for their own purposes. I believe most here DO take "ALL" scripture when they interpret scripture. I don't believe that most here have "reasons to want to believe it says something besides what it actually says.." I actually feel it is hurtful for you to have such a negative view of Christians here.

Folks. This pious view of Christianity and religion is harmful. It does not witness well to our neighbors to have such an elitist attitude. I see sincere Christians here on the forum. We study ALL of the Bible. And we sincerely and honestly DISAGREE. There are many sincere scholars IN our church that disagree. Just because they do not come to the conclusion of John317 does not mean that they have "reasons to want to believe it says something besides what it actually says". I feel this is offensive to sincere Christians.

NONE of us agree on ALL issue. We ALL see some issues differently. If we didn't ... then we would not come to CA to express them. When we disagree with John317 ... it does not mean that our faith is any less or we have "reasons" to disagree. Sincere Christians CAN disagree. We will only know all truth when we get to heaven.

Don't believe the "twisted" protrayal of my beliefs by John317. Let me speak for myself. It does matter what we believe the Bible is saying ... contrary to his protrayal. We have to sincerely study to show thyself approved unto God. But we as Christians WILL differ in our understandings. And if we can't show some love and tolerance for those differences ... then well ... we are not being Christian.

Let's not knock down our fellow Christians. We are to study and to "do". But the conclusions that we come to and the works that "do" will differ. God accepts our efforts as our best if we give Him our best. The "one true way" that one person 'sees' may just turn out to not be the only 'one' true way. We are all faulty humans. Let us not place ourselves as God.

I believe firmly in our church and its teachings. But teachings and doctrines are of men. They are our interpretations written down. Each denomination has them. I happen to believe in ours. But I do show understanding and tolerance for those who sincerely believe differently. I refuse to have a judgmental elitist attitude towards those who do not tow the line with my interpretations of scripture. I refuse to say that they have "reasons" to believe differently than I do.

Especially during this Christmas season ... let's try to "love one another" for loving one another will "win" another for Christ for Christ IS Love.

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I think this is a really important discussion and I am glad to see someone here brave enough to post it.

I'm with you on that!

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AND often I find it bears little resemblance to what I was taught as a child or what so called "Christians" say it is! I do not fear evil any longer. I can look at it or hear about it or know its power but I have EXPERIENCED the POWER that GOOD has over it!!! THAT is ALL I NEED!

You have found the real meaning of 'Christianity' - , to put oneself on the side of, or align oneself with the 'good.' What else is more important? - the doctrine of the 2nd coming? I don't think so!!! The Bible itself?? Never!!!

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I refuse to have a judgmental elitist attitude towards those who do not tow the line with my interpretations of scripture. I refuse to say that they have "reasons" to believe differently than I do.

It's the only way to go. I bless you! cool1

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Philosophically we have three options:

1. We trust someone else's perceptions of reality. For example: some form of organized religion, some kind of cult, or modern science.

2. We trust some form of inspired writing. For example: the Bible, the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc.

3. We trust in our own ability to decipher truth. For example, a mix of church tradition and the Bible, a mix of modern science and the Bible or agnosticism.

There are actually quite a few other options than these.

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I have chosen option 2. Some that fancy themselves intellectuals can not let go of option 3. That is their choice but I feel my life runs much better and my eternal future is much more secure by trusting in the Bible than in my own ability to decipher truth from fable.

You have assumed that using one's brain is a matter of pride. As humans its our only option. When you state that you have decided to follow the Bible it is based on thinking that you have done with your mind which you have stated "is not an infallible source of information with an ability to decipher truth from fable."

Choosing to to use reason is a commitment to search for truth. To me, any other choice is simply being lazy. And when you choose the Bible you have essentially chosen your option number one, only its the Bible writer's perception of reality you have given your mind to.

I have seen my mind's ability to self correct through honest evaluation, observing consequences and paying attention to my feelings of compassion and suspicion. I have repeated the benefits of this approach over and over. The major enemies of the mind are pride, which causes us to lie to ourselves, trusting authorities without evaluation and experimentation, and despair.

Otherwise it works pretty good and gets better at making good decisions.

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Just because some people don't agree with what the Bible clearly says does not mean the Bible is unclear or that it can't be determined what it says. There are many reasons why some people might not agree. Most of the time it has to do with the fact that some people may not be taking all the Bible into account or it may be that some people have reasons to want to believe it says something besides what it actually says.

When someone says we need to take the whole Bible into account means that they are trying to avoid the specifics. Its kind of like a "blender" form of reasoning. You kind of put all the messages of the Bible into a blender and take the average. This way you can avoid those difficult passages which are typically dismissed by the "mysterious ways" clause. Or more creatively, we can assign those difficult passages to the personal beliefs of the author and not actually something that God said. Sort of a disclaimer that the publisher doesn't not endorse or support all the beliefs of the author.

An example is every time you see a discussion on the unpardonable sin. What is disturbing is that there actually is an unpardonable sin and that its so ill defined. The resulting effect for Christian believers is the sense that there is still a slim chance that one might have unwittingly committed the unpardonable sin since we aren't exactly sure what it is.

And when we look at the specifics we find no specific condemnation of slavery and when we look at the Bible's application of women's rights its pretty horrendous. And if it is so lacking in these areas, why do we still presume it to be an expert on human sexuality, psychology, sociology, medicine, and science?

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Not necessarily. I'm using it in the sense of Supreme Being, etc., as, for instance, Buddhists or Hindus envision God or gods.

Well there certainly is the more superstitious "man on the street" versions of Buddhism and Hindu, but to assign the idea of God as Christians understand it is to misrepresent what they actually teach.

Buddhism emerged out of Hindu modes of thinking. Most Buddhists would call themselves atheists. Hindus have the idea of Brahma which is the great unknown life force from which all their gods are incomplete representations. This would correspond with the Unknown God of the Greek philosophical school. Most intellectuals of these philosophical schools would clearly see the gods as myths representing exaggerated psychological components of men and consciousness.

What is interesting is that if you do some research on Hindu god Krishna you will find a Christ prototype with many of the same myths and characteristics of Jesus including wise men, virgin birth, born on Dec 25, mad king trying to kill him as a baby, etc. Krishna was the man/god Hercules in the Greek mythos.

Joseph Campbell's books on the Power of Myth explore this in a modern sense. His interview by Bill Moyers is well worth seeing on DVD. On a side note, Joseph Campbell was a huge influence on George Lucas and the way in which Star Wars was developed as a story.

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Do you believe in true prophecy as in Daniel 2 and Ezekiel 26 and Obadiah?

Do you believe in Christ and the prophecies regarding him, such as Daniel 9: 24-27?

No, but they are certainly creative applications of these texts to the myth of Jesus.

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Philosophically, I have not found one world view that doesn't fit into one of these three categories.

1. We trust someone else's perceptions of reality. For example: some form of organized religion, some kind of cult, or modern science.

2. We trust some form of inspired writing. For example: the Bible, the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc.

3. We trust in our own ability to decipher truth. For example, a mix of church tradition and the Bible, a mix of modern science and the Bible or agnosticism.

Now the issue arises that if we choose to trust the Bible, who's interpretation do we trust or how do we know how to interpret it. The Bible itself teaches us to rely on the Holy Spirit so that is where we begin. Logically if we trust the Bible we are going to follow what it says. Since it tells us to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, that is what we will do. Then comes the issue of sola scriptura. That is, letting the Bible interpret itself. That is the difference between category one and category two. Category one relies on a church or something extra-Biblical to interpret the Bible. I have known some Adventists that use Ellen White in such a way they put themselves into category one. Category two uses sola scriptura or the Bible alone (with the aid of the Holy Spirit) to interpret the Bible.

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You have assumed that using one's brain is a matter of pride.

Certainly intellectual pride can blind one to truth but that is not what I am talking about. We have five senses and the ability to reason. Do we trust our own five senses and our ability to reason enough to use them to govern our lives? Some do this and seem to do well in life. That was not the case with me. When I have allowed my senses and reason to govern my life, things have never went well. I have come to a point of distrusting my senses and ability to reason. I have total distrust of self. For me, I had to find something outside of self that I could trust and use to govern my life. So that put me in category one or category two. I decided to place complete trust in the Bible and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth. I do not expect to ever get to a point in my life when I regret having placed implicit trust in the Bible.

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Question: Is there anything more important than your salvation?

A small comic from Russell's Teapot expresses this for me. If you are easily offended then please skip the link below.

So Simple from Russell's Teapot

It makes no sense to me that some god needs to go through this complex bloody sacrificial drama to gain the right to save us from something we simply can't verify is true in the first place.

If there is salvation that provides abundant life here and now then I have that already. I know the power of lies. To put any more effort into gaining some future salvation by simply saying I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior and going through the mental gymnastics required to stay in that favor is a waste of time.

The bottom line that almost every Christian believer retreats to is fear. The fear of the loss of my salvation. This is not what I want to build my life on.

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Now the issue arises that if we choose to trust the Bible, who's interpretation do we trust or how do we know how to interpret it. The Bible itself teaches us to rely on the Holy Spirit so that is where we begin.

Exactly how do you know if the Holy Spirit is interpreting the Bible for you or your mind is doing the interpreting? It would seem that you would have to use your mind somewhere in that equation. And according to you, you can't trust your mind.

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I have come to a point of distrusting my senses and ability to reason.

Then why dialog with us at all? Are you saying that we are getting the Holy Spirit from you in your very words? If you distrust your senses, how do you know you are understading what you read? How do you take a stand on anything if you can't trust anything you perceive?

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I have total distrust of self. For me, I had to find something outside of self that I could trust and use to govern my life.

Well we all have to have mentors, but the gift of a good mentor is that they teach us how to govern ourselves without being dependent on them. That's called growing up. I think its foolish to willfully stay ignorant.

I think its important to be true to one's self in equality with being true to others. If you aren't out there making mistakes then you aren't learning and you aren't being creative.

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Great discussion on the part of all here. I wish I'd had the opportunity to take part more, but the last couple of days have been pretty intense. It's the weekend here now, so hopefully I can take a more active part. I think I find myself more 'betwixt and between' many of these dilemmas than most who have posted so far...

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The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write that some people were twisting Paul's writings to mean something they don't mean, and this twisting was "to their own destruction."

Personally I don't "twist" what scripture says. I study to learn ... not to twist. But if I did try to twist ... that would be destructive. I would call that Blasphemy. I have no intentions to speak for God. I do my best to learn of God. But then we all do and we all disagree on what it is we learn.

I don't think we are condemned for doing our best to learn of Him.

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Exactly how do you know if the Holy Spirit is interpreting the Bible for you or your mind is doing the interpreting?

Faith. That is the simple answer. If I go with option two and decide to believe sola scriptura, then I embrace the promise that God will send His Spirit to me if I am willing to follow Him.

Now what if it is all a lie? A fancy fairytale? Just mumbo jumbo of centuries past? Religious myths of the ancients?

When I come to the end of my life I do not expect to regret loving my neighbor, observing the Sabbath rest, paying a faithful tithe to a church that feeds the hungry, counsels the depressed, nurses the sick and teaches love, hope and faith. If at the end of my life I discover there is no god and all religions are simply myths, I seriously doubt I will regret having followed the teachings of the Bible.

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Are you saying that we are getting the Holy Spirit from you in your very words?

I try to be straight forward and transparent. What anyone gets from me is a Biblical, Protestant worldview. Is that the same as the Holy Spirit? Well, I would like to think some things I say are occasionally inspired but like all others, I am still a sinner, not perfect and certainly not infallible.

The issue really is to decide what the basis will be for our world view. Are we going to trust in an organization, such as the church? Are we going to trust in the Bible alone? Are we going to rely on our own ability to reason and decipher truth and error? OR do we go through life not embracing anything - since we can't be sure of anything we remain skeptical of everything? We have to go down one of these roads.

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