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What The Hell Are Churches Teaching!

There is a religious shift happening. People on the inside and outside are questioning Christianity’s centuries-old practices, teachings, and doctrines more than ever. With the rapid spread of information, culture, and ideologies (thanks to amazing social media technologies –  Twitter, Facebook), will the powerful message of Jesus be heard?

I’ve never had so many spiritual quotes and videos flashed in front of me. Many are good. Others tend to be shallow and misleading. Good or bad, right or wrong, they’re influential. Few take the time to plumb the deeper meanings of these quotes or explore the framework from which they’re derived. Yet folks grab onto to them. They’re reeling in people left and right, and folks, like Jesus, get ignored.

People may even get offended when you start talking about Jesus – or quoting him. Why? Why is even a Bible quote subject to disdain these days? The message of Jesus has been tarnished through the years through  incorrect teaching and misunderstanding. This is often the lens through which people envision (not see) Jesus. This is a tragedy.

At the same time, the teaching of Jesus is naturally offensive. The guy claimed to be God. He didn’t call upon a higher power – he claimed to be the higher power. This offends many. But is it true?

As it is, we take all these other religious and spiritual ideas (a la carte) and create our own belief system? Is this truth?

If Christians have the greatest story to tell, they must really suck as storytellers. People have stopped listening. At this point, people will listen to anything (or go it alone) because so much trust has been broken. So much hypocrisy has been exemplified. So much judgment passed.

So what the hell are churches teaching? In many cases, hell. They’re focused on sin. Focusing on the negative does one thing. It increases negativity. To be clear, we’re full of a lot of junk – greed, envy, sloth, pride, ego, anger, malice, jealously, rebellion from God, idolatry and more. Sin needs to be addressed. But it’s addressed by focusing on Jesus and his life-transforming power. As we reflect on the teaching of Jesus and what he’s “done” for us, we see God’s amazing grace, and our lives are transformed into his likeness.

What did Jesus teach? Life. He offered Life to the fullest – in him. It’s an amazing and personal relationship with God. Many argue that Jesus was a great teacher – he’s not – he’s much more – his own teaching tells us that. Check it out for yourself.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson

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  1. Julie Bond Genovese says:

    “If Christians have the greatest story to tell, they must really suck as storytellers.” HAW HAW! Love the way you cut to the chase <3

  2. Kate Morgan says:

    Thanks Ted. Need that YouTube today. ~Kate

  3. “If Christians have the greatest story to tell, they must really suck as storytellers.” I dunno… the annoyance I find is in the whole circular logic… “Book is infaillable. How do you know that? Because the infalliable God wrote it. How do you know that? Because the infalliable book says so. ” Rather ridicilous…no?

    Why? Why is even a bible quote subject to disdain these days? Is the message of Jesus not enough? Is it no longer relevant? Can we take all these other religious and spiritual ideas (a la carte) and create our own belief system? Well, yes. And that’s what’s happening.

    Well, the lack of research might have something to do with it. A bible quote on its own isn’t enough. Same reason I don’t spout Shakespeare to convince people, the fact that he’s The Bard is beside the point. Just as the fact that you (general you) worship the Jewish carpenter is irrelevant – if his teachings are that good, you don’t need me to believe in him – believing in his code will do.

    Or, take another one. Pascal’s wager

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gamble) is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or does not exist. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in God or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.)

    Yeh, but that would be just as valid with Allah or whoever – Thor or heck, me as God. Look:

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gamble) is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that Sia exists or does not exist. Given the possibility that Sia actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in Sia or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though Sia exists and seek to believe in Sia. If Sia does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.)

    Sounds silly, huh?

    In other words, you (general you again) needs to do better than your Book says so. Other Books say the same about Others. So, until we can get some agreement there, I’ll stick to using my brain, thanks. I mean, if I was God, and gave creatures a brain, I’d expect them to use it!

    • Ted Olson says:

      Sia –

      Thanks so much for your comments and questions. I appreciate the time you took to respond to this post. The original intent of this post (poorly executed) was to highlight how the message of Jesus gets trampled by incorrect teaching by the very people who are supposed to be teaching about Jesus, as well as how other religious ideas often take center stage (and believed blindly). Thanks to you, I’ve gone back to clarify this a bit more as time and reflection always adds further insights.

      Your questions are good ones. Circular logic is indeed frustrating. There are a lot of unknowns and this makes folks uncomfortable – they may resort to circular reasoning because of this. What we do know, very clearly from the Bible, is that God created us and God loves us. This alone is profound. One can spend a lifetime reflecting on the implications of this.

      Questions of infallibility must always be placed in context. For example, if looking at the Bible as pure history (based on today’s standards) it would never measure up. Ancient religious texts follow different standards. For that matter, interpretation of these texts is another ball of wax entirely – lots of disagreement, fights, denominations – all things we humans are so good at. But none of this discredits the fact that God created us and loves us, and wants to be in relationship with us. If you haven’t already, consider checking out the film, Life of Pi – he talks about this a bit.

      As far as believing in the teachings of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus taught us to believe in Him. His teachings were important – they showed us who He is and how to live – they showed us his amazing power, grace, and love. But the object of our faith is Jesus – we do need to believe in Him – he’s Life. When Jesus taught that he’s the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he was making an astounding claim – one that many still wrestle with. But if He is who He says He is (i.e., God – three in one) – then it makes perfect sense to make such a statement. The only question becomes is it true.

      Pascal’s wager is interesting – I like that it encourages seekers to seek out God. I would add that 1 step toward God is always met with 1000 steps by God toward us.

      And yes – we should always use our brain. Jesus teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind – we often forget the latter.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.
      Ted

  4. “Thanks so much for your comments and questions. I appreciate the time you took to respond to this post. The original intent of this post (poorly executed) was to highlight how the message of Jesus gets trampled by incorrect teaching by the very people who are supposed to be teaching about Jesus, as well as how other religious ideas often take center stage (and believed blindly). Thanks to you, I’ve gone back to clarify this a bit more as time and reflection always adds further insights”

    You’re welcome. Now, cards on the table time here: I don’t believe in Jesus or any particular God at all, really. In day-to-day life, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. Honestly. Say that God is proven to exist today, tomorrow or next week or next year… then what? People go to work, the earth turns, churches and mosques and what-have-you will continue to behave the way they do since their assumption is that a God of some sort exists. It just doesn’t matter in small scale. Sure, news will have a field day.

    Still, I may not believe in a God as such… but I can accept that not stealing and/or not killing is generally a good idea. Obviously, my views are likely to change very quickly if someone’s trying to murder me!

    “Your questions are good ones. Circular logic is indeed frustrating. There are a lot of unknowns and this makes folks uncomfortable – they may resort to circular reasoning because of this. What we do know, very clearly from the Bible, is that God created us and God loves us. This alone is profound. One can spend a lifetime reflecting on the implications of this.”

    Can you tell me how the Bible clearly gives us the knowledge that God created us and loves us? Lots of things are profound and lots of things are capable of being reflected on for a lifetime, along with their implications. Lots of things possess both qualities. Love and creation don’t necessarily follow from profundity.

    “Questions of infallibility must always be placed in context. For example, if looking at the Bible as pure history (based on today’s standards) it would never measure up. Ancient religious texts follow different standards. For that matter, interpretation of these texts is another ball of wax entirely – lots of disagreement, fights, denominations – all things we humans are so good at. But none of this discredits the fact that God created us and loves us, and wants to be in relationship with us. If you haven’t already, consider checking out the film, Life of Pi – he talks about this a bit.”

    This is rather too close to special pleading, for my liking. Still, I’ll bite – ancient religious texts follow different standards (and the inference is should therefore be measured by different standards) – that doesn’t actually mean ANYTHING. The Qu’aran is an ancient religious text, as is the Guru Gran’ath Sahib as are all sorts of things – what makes the Bible special? I’m not stupid enough to ask for 100% agreement, either! Even science can’t do that, with its more rigorous methods. It’s not about discrediting that God exists, created us and loved us or not – it’s about crediting the claim in the first place! What is Life of Pi and why should I trust it?

    “As far as believing in the teachings of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus taught us to believe in Him. His teachings were important – they showed us who He is and how to live – they showed us his amazing power, grace, and love. But the object of our faith is Jesus – we do need to believe in Him – he’s Life. When Jesus taught that he’s the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he was making an astounding claim – one that many still wrestle with. But if He is who He says He is (i.e., God – three in one) – then it makes perfect sense to make such a statement. The only question becomes is it true.”

    So? There are plenty of things that are true that don’t make perfect sense to say. There are plenty of astounding things that also don’t make perfect sense to say. Something being astounding and a fact, are not, per se, enough to go shouting it from the rooftops – really! I mean, think about it, the odds against my even being conceived were astronomical – I’d beat the lottery before I was ever born … that’s amazing and it’s also true … it’s also amazing and true that the egg that would eventually become me existed in my mother’s body before she was even born. I don’t exactly tell every new person I met “Hi, I’m Sia. Did you know the odds against me being here were huge? Also, did you know, there was part of ‘me’ existed before my mother was even born?” I mean, come on, who does that?

    However, is it true? That’s a very big question. If it is true, how do we know that it is true? That’s another big question.

    “Pascal’s wager is interesting – I like that it encourages seekers to seek out God. I would add that 1 step toward God is always met with 1000 steps by God toward us.”

    I think you’re rather missing the point about Pascal’s wager. I’ll even put your addition in … because I’m generous like that. Just read all of these and see if it still makes sense… once devoid of the aspect of God.

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gamble) is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that Ted Olsen exists or does not exist. Given the possibility that Ted Olsen actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in Ted Olsen or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though Ted Olsen exists and seek to believe in Ted Olsen. If Ted Olsen does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.) I would add that 1 step toward Ted Olsen is always met with 1000 steps by Ted Olsen toward us

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gamble) is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that Allah exists or does not exist. Given the possibility that Allah actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in Allah or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though Allah exists and seek to believe in Allah. If Allah does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.) I would add that 1 step toward Allah is always met with 1000 steps by Allah toward us

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gamble) is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal. It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that 1+1 = 3 is true or is false. Given the possibility that 1+1 = 3 actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in 1+1 = 3 or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though 1+1 = 3 is true and seek to believe in 1+1 = 3. If 1+1 = 3 is not actually true, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.) I would add that 1 step toward 1+1 = 3 is always met with 1000 steps by 1+1 =3 toward us

    “And yes – we should always use our brain. Jesus teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind – we often forget the latter?” My mind tells me that there isn’t evidence for the particular Judeo-christian God … even if I made some lenience for it being an ancient religous text, well… again, so is the Guru, so is the Qu’aran so are lots of things.

    Do you know what frightens me though? And this scares me on almost … primal … level.

    An awful lot of religions say that a)they’re the one true religion and b)non-believers are going to hell. Since people are members of only one religion (as a general good-enough rule), the inescapable logical conclusion is that we’re all going to roast for eternity and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing, zilch, nada, zip, bugger all. Pascal’s wager – replace it with any God human civilisation has ever believed in and they’re all EQUALLY VALID. If we ever want to be happy, NOW is our chance … our only chance … we only have one life to be happy in and there’s no spare one, either.

    • Ted Olson says:

      Hi Sia –

      More great comments. Thanks.

      You say you don’t believe in Jesus or any God. What do you believe? You obviously have a lot of thoughts and opinions – which is great – but where do you stand your ground? You say you don’t believe in killing people – that’s good news. But some people do think it’s okay to kill people – they have no problem with it raping babies, shooting innocent people, or strapping on a bomb and walking into a public square full of people. Is this world view okay? If not, then you have a worldview that you consider superior. It can’t be that anything goes and that nothing matters. It does matter – you implied this yourself.

      As far as the Bible telling us that God created and loves us – another really good question. It starts in Genesis and goes right through to Revelations. All scholars agree this is what the Bible says. Many differ on what it means or if it’s actually true. But no one is saying it’s not there – that would be denying what the words say.

      What makes the Bible special? Great question! Judaism was totally unique when they came out and said there is only one God and this God wants us to behave a certain way – scholars call it Ethical Monotheism. It was also unique in saying it’s a God that makes promises and loves us. Jesus, of course, took this to the next level and came as God in the flesh. Whether you believe that or not – that’s what Jesus taught. It’s totally unique – no other religion makes the claims Jesus did in regards to himself. As far as the film, Life is Pi – it’s just a movie that sets up religious ideas and ideas about God in a neat way – you may or may not like it – it’s fiction. I’m assuming you like movies?

      You asked why you should trust it? If there is no God – if there is no intelligent designer that created us with purpose – why should you trust anything? If you are just the result of happenstance and evolution, with no intelligent design, why should you trust anything your brain tells you?

      I’m not entirely clear on what you’re saying in regards to shouting nonsense from the roof tops. Jesus actually went and did the things that were announced about him – he healed the sick, cured the blind, calmed the storms, raised people from the dead. The eyewitness testimony to these event is astounding. It can certainly be argued – scholars will argue anything. But Jesus backed up everything he said and did.

      As far as what is knowing what is true. When I was seeking God, I had know idea who he/she/it was. Then a friend suggested, “just ask him.” He said, just ask God to show himself to you, but then don;t go denying it – take the next step.” I did, God did show himself. Despite this, I became an atheist – an angry atheist. I discovered the “holes” in the Bible – I found errors in logic – I was trained by some of the best minds to tear the Bible apart – and I did. Years later, in the end, when I had built the life that I had built upon money, pride, and success crumbled, I found myself turning back to God. And He showed up again more powerfully than ever. This is how I know truth – my experience with God – others may have a different experience. And you’re right – it is a big question – what is truth? God is real, Sia. I’d encourage you to ask Him yourself, and to explore what Jesus says about himself versus what others “think” he says, or what they portray.

      I see you like Pascals’ wager. I’m not too smart, so I’m not sure the best answer to your point. What I do know is that I could never believe in God based on the off-chance that He “might” exist. I have to know. In other words, I wouldn’t take a bet – I literally said, “prove it!” And He did! I fought God every single step of the way – starting with Genesis – to ensure He was the real deal – it’s been a long road. I was not going to “just” believe, I wanted proof. But finding proof of God, when my heart was full of anger, pride, greed, as well as my own agenda (e.g., what I think God should or should not do), does not often bring the results we seek.

      Your final point – I hope I got them all – is that you’re saying all religions or belief systems are equal. This is a common refrain, but it’s not logical. There are some religions that are okay with body mutilation and human sacrifice. Others are oppressive to women. Others do some pretty weird things altogether – but I hope the point is clear – they can’t all be equal. It is not closed-minded to say that their can only be one true religion. In fact, if we say that it’s closed-minded we’re simply creating a superior belief. In other words, you’re saying that no one can make such an “absolute” claim about religion; yet, you’re making an absolute claim about religion.

      As far as happiness and having just one life, I again turn to the Creator and find Life in all its fullness.

      Thanks for the great conversation, Sia.
      Ted

  5. “You say you don’t believe in Jesus or any God. What do you believe? You obviously have a lot of thoughts and opinions – which is great – but where do you stand your ground? You say you don’t believe in killing people – that’s good news. But some people do think it’s okay to kill people – they have no problem with it raping babies, shooting innocent people, or strapping on a bomb and walking into a public square full of people. Is this world view okay? If not, then you have a worldview that you consider superior. It can’t be that anything goes and that nothing matters. It does matter – you implied this yourself.”

    Me… I believe in doing the right thing and following the rules where possible. When it starts to conflict, then you start writing angry letters and arranging peaceful protest. When it fails though and push comes to shove… screw the rules, I’m doing what’s right! Sometimes stupid rules need to be broken. I think there has got to be context … when we talk about raping babies for example… are we talking about babies as in infants/ young children or as in statuory(sp)-only rape of teens? I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter … just not something you actually think about on a day-to-day basis. Like how England is ruled by a queen and we have constant reminders of that in the form of coins if we choose to look. Still though… I don’t actually go “Oooh, Elizabeth II is reigning” every time I purchase something or sell something. And I think I gave you the wrong impression with the no-God thing. It would be more accurate to say that I don’t believe in a particular God… I think there may be Something/Someone out there but …. the specifics? I dunno about those. I agree with the PTerry witches, in other words… they may or may not exist but there’s no point in believing in them, it only encourages them. I’m not suggesting for a minute that I got that idea from PTerry though … just that it sums it up in a better way than I could.

    “What makes the Bible special? Great question! Judaism was totally unique when they came out and said there is only one God and this God wants us to behave a certain way – scholars call it Ethical Monotheism. It was also unique in saying it’s a God that makes promises and loves us. Jesus, of course, took this to the next level and came as God in the flesh. Whether you believe that or not – that’s what Jesus taught. It’s totally unique – no other religion makes the claims Jesus did in regards to himself. As far as the film, Life is Pi – it’s just a movie that sets up religious ideas and ideas about God in a neat way – you may or may not like it – it’s fiction. I’m assuming you like movies?”

    Exactly. No-one is denying what the words say. That includes me. I do read the Bible… the thing is I also read English translations of Qu’aran, Guru Granth Sahib and such. I don’t necessarily want to argue about meaning either … all I want to know is true or not. That’s it. The Son of God thing makes it less convincing, not more. Extraordinary claims…. Whether I like films or not is irrelevant – the interesting thing here is it’s fiction. Fiction isn’t really proof of fact … for what should be blatantly obvious reasons.


    “I’m not entirely clear on what you’re saying in regards to shouting nonsense from the roof tops. Jesus actually went and did the things that were announced about him – he healed the sick, cured the blind, calmed the storms, raised people from the dead. The eyewitness testimony to these event is astounding. It can certainly be argued – scholars will argue anything. But Jesus backed up everything he said and did.”

    Yeh… that would be because you’ve deemed it nonsense. The thing is it is SENSE and it’s also TRUE. That is not enough to go around telling everyone about it. He backed up everything he said and did IF the bible is a reliable source. That is a big if, though.

    As for exploring the Bible and such, I have. I just explored other religious texts too.


    I see you like Pascals’ wager. I’m not too smart, so I’m not sure the best answer to your point. What I do know is that I could never believe in God based on the off-chance that He “might” exist. I have to know. In other words, I wouldn’t take a bet – I literally said, “prove it!” And He did! I fought God every single step of the way – starting with Genesis – to ensure He was the real deal – it’s been a long road. I was not going to “just” believe, I wanted proof. But finding proof of God, when my heart was full of anger, pride, greed, as well as my own agenda (e.g., what I think God should or should not do), does not often bring the results we seek.”

    So you started with Genesis to prove it…. ummm… that is circular logic. I don’t like Pascal’s wager as such … I was just trying to show you the point I was making.


    Your final point – I hope I got them all – is that you’re saying all religions or belief systems are equal. This is a common refrain, but it’s not logical. There are some religions that are okay with body mutilation and human sacrifice. Others are oppressive to women. Others do some pretty weird things altogether – but I hope the point is clear – they can’t all be equal. It is not closed-minded to say that their can only be one true religion. In fact, if we say that it’s closed-minded we’re simply creating a superior belief. In other words, you’re saying that no one can make such an “absolute” claim about religion; yet, you’re making an absolute claim about religion.”

    Actually, my final point was not that all religions are equal. It’s that in terms of being actual historical records, all religions are equal. Are they oppressive to women or is it the way the men choose to read it that oppressing women? I mean, I could read the bible in such a way as to oppress men. Adam (and by extension, all men) was made of clay, dirt… Eve was made from Adam’s rib (bone) … Do you know what I do if I find dirt in my room? (Go read Much Ado About Nothing sometime … Beatrice makes this point better than I can) I clean it up and throw it away … let’s throw away men…. yeh… or how about no? I’m not making an absolute claim about religion.. I’m just pointing out the two absolute options… it’s not a false dillemma if the choices really are limited. You can either treat religous texts by historical standards or by a different standard … if by historical standards, none of them are correct. If by other standards, the underpinning beliefs of the chosen diety are all equally as correct. So you start choosing based on the morally right thing to do.

    As for trusting my brain… say there is an intelligent creator … do you think he gave us a brain for shits-and-giggles or for us to actually use it? I think the latter. Say there isn’t an intelligent creator … our brain has kept us alive for a few thousand years … we had the modern religions for what … a few hundred years? In terms of ratio, not actual time.
    If there isn’t, our brains have better track records.

    • Ted Olson says:

      Thanks Sia –

      What is right? And who is saying it’s right? What moral law are you providing as grounds for “right,” when you say, “screw the rules, I’m doing what’s right!”? It’s fine to “screw the rules,” especially ones that cannot take into account higher moral laws. But what’s your basis for “right?”

      As far as specifics, the Bible and Christianity are clear on a lot (not everything), but they’re clear on self-sacrificial love, grace, the supremacy and goodness of God, and loving God with all one’s heart, mind, and soul – it’s also clear that belief in “this” God is central. Again, folks will disagree.

      True about fiction – it’s obviously not fact – but story, good story, often speaks to higher truths. Like poetry.

      In regards to what makes sense. If something does make sense (e.g., an important truth of some kind) are you suggesting that it shouldn’t be told? Or shouted from the roof tops? Everyone pitches an agenda – both the religious and non-religious. In the US, advertisers and marketers scream out to us that you’ll be thinner, healthier, happier,and more complete if we use their product. Is this okay? It’s certainly acceptable. It’s business. Are you saying when someone tries to teach that “God loves us and wants what is best for us,” that it’s nonsense – or not allowed?

      Starting in Genesis is simply another way of saying “starting with God” versus circular reasoning. Pascal’s wager calls to the forefront one’s foundation – either it’s based on God – or it’s based on man. Pascal is saying that’s ultimately what it comes down to. I choose God – though not on a wager, but experiential evidence, reason, and evidence. You are suspicious of my choice, or anyone’s choice of a specific God or absolute Truth for that matter – if I’m reading you right.

      Religious historical records vary greatly – they are far from equal. The eyewitness accounts from the New Testament are some of the best and most accurate historical sources in existence. Others are total fabrications. As far as your interpretation, the Bible can indeed be read a number of ways, but the ways in which you’re suggesting conflict with the written record as well as the traditions – so it’s certainly not open season on interpretation.

      Yes – we’ve been given a brain to use. It sounds like you think that those who believe in a faith tradition are not using their brain. Is this what you’re saying? As far as I can tell, you believe in some type of god, though not the Biblical God. It sounds too that you’re suspicious of everything. Suspicion is a common teaching these days. Essentially, we’re taught to find cracks and holes and look at things through a hermeneutic of suspicion. This is indeed necessary at times. However, it’s not complete, nor is it the only lens through which to view faith, the world, or life in general. At some point, one must land – they must stand on something – and feel good about their choice.

      You said, all you want to know is, “if it’s true or not” in one of your comments. This is a great desire. I chased the truth for years via empirical evidence, facts, deeper and deeper knowledge and education and question after question. And it was all wonderful, and necessary. However, knowledge (the power of my brain) breaks down at a certain point – especially in relationships. I know my wife’s birthday. I know the color of her hair. I know her history. But I had to spend time with her to really discover who she is. So it is with God.

      You’re obviously smart, gracious, and passionate. If God is who He says He is, He will show himself to you. Ask Him. Ask Him to make it clear. And then ask that He open your heart to the larger Truths of His creation, you, and your purpose. If Jesus is who He said He was, He will show you the Way.

      Thanks Sia,
      Ted

  6. Honestly, Ted, I don’t know what to call the moral basis for such things. In that context rules is more like laws and lease rules. I guess it’s a conscience thing. Let me give you an example. The plain fact is that back in Rosa Park’s day, the conductor had the legal power to move or remove black/coloured people. By extension, disobeying the conductor meant that Rosa Park’s actions were illegal. Note that I said illegal. However, I do think she did the right thing. I don’t think I could name what system I’m using – it’s just that I’m an adult and really if I don’t know right from wrong by now, something is horribly horribly wrong with our society.

    You’re right – I do disagree with self-sacrificial love. Simply because I don’t think there’s such a thing – if you sacrifice yourself, there is no SELF to love with. Sacrifice: verb (used with object) I really don’t think there’s much point in arguing with you about poetry there – simply because I never really “got” poetry.
    7.
    to make a sacrifice or offering of.
    8.
    to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.
    9.
    to dispose of (goods, property, etc.) regardless of profit.

    “In regards to what makes sense. If something does make sense (e.g., an important truth of some kind) are you suggesting that it shouldn’t be told? Or shouted from the roof tops? Everyone pitches an agenda – both the religious and non-religious. In the US, advertisers and marketers scream out to us that you’ll be thinner, healthier, happier,and more complete if we use their product. Is this okay? It’s certainly acceptable. It’s business. Are you saying when someone tries to teach that “God loves us and wants what is best for us,” that it’s nonsense – or not allowed?”

    No. I’m saying that something making sense, being astounding and shouldn’t be the only two criteria for saying it. If it’s important, that’s different. I could stand somewhere and yell that situs inversus doubles someone’s chances of congenital heart disease. That’s technically true – I also find it amazing that y’know .. people can survive with their organs flip-flopped. Now, the thing is that in the general population, the incidence of CHD is 1-1.5%. For situs inversus, it’s 2-3%. All I’m doing is inciting panic, since it’s not doubling in the way that say 10% to 20% is in terms of real-life impact Other than that, If I want people to know things, I either find a reliable source or make one myself and show how it’s reliable. Do an experiment; Pick up a textbook, flip right to the back. Notice that list of books that made the textbook what it is? Yes, exactly. As for advertising, there are limits. Eyewitness testimony? I don’t think there’s eye witness testimony of Jesus being the Son of God somehow. A brilliant teacher, sure. An awesome magician, sure. A good carpenter, probably. No, I’m not trying to say it’s nonsense or not allowed – I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be allowed to be represented as the One Truth unless you have sources. Freedom of speech is not an absolute right in the U.S. – see Truth in advertising laws, inciting panic laws (e.g. yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre). In the U.K … it’s not even like that.

    “Starting in Genesis is simply another way of saying “starting with God” versus circular reasoning. Pascal’s wager calls to the forefront one’s foundation – either it’s based on God – or it’s based on man. Pascal is saying that’s ultimately what it comes down to. I choose God – though not on a wager, but experiential evidence, reason, and evidence. You are suspicious of my choice, or anyone’s choice of a specific God or absolute Truth for that matter – if I’m reading you right.”

    Yeh, damn right I’m suspicious of your choice. Don’t take it personally though, I’m suspicious of my own belief in a general God-like being – you’ve got no chance! I find it curious that the bibilical God has been assigned such a curiously human flaw as needing to have his ego appeased. Come on… I don’t go around demanding that ants need to worship me but the fact is by virtue of our superior weight and tool-wielding capabilities, even the young of our species have the power of life and death over them. Of course, my interpretation is rubbish – that’s the whole point! Again, if you read other things, take the Muslim Qu’ran as an example… both sexes should dress modestly. The fact that the middle east has chosen to only really enforce it with women is a tradition thing – that doesn’t change what the words say. People do twist words in horrible ways, regardless of whether tradition or context say they can read the words that way.

    “You said, all you want to know is, “if it’s true or not” in one of your comments. This is a great desire. I chased the truth for years via empirical evidence, facts, deeper and deeper knowledge and education and question after question. And it was all wonderful, and necessary. However, knowledge (the power of my brain) breaks down at a certain point – especially in relationships. I know my wife’s birthday. I know the color of her hair. I know her history. But I had to spend time with her to really discover who she is. So it is with God.”

    Yes, but I can establish the existence of your wife as your wife, most of the time, anyway. There’s birth documents, marriage certificates, passports and other legal evidence that your wife is who you say she is and is who she says she is. There are behavioural indicators in how you and your wife behave towards one another. Google “green card red flags.” Your wife may well have told you that she has 2 brothers for example – well, then, it follows that there should be records of 2 male babies being born to her parents around the time she indicates. Granted, the system isn’t perfect – because there are people who are fraudsters and forgers but most of the time, people aren’t THAT good at acting. Can you imagine Customs or your bank asking your name and just taking your word for it, regardless of evidence to or from the contrary?

    You’re right – at some point, you have to make a decision and feel good about it. Personally, I feel better if I have some sort of proof before I make my decision.

    “You’re obviously smart, gracious, and passionate. If God is who He says He is, He will show himself to you. Ask Him. Ask Him to make it clear. And then ask that He open your heart to the larger Truths of His creation, you, and your purpose. If Jesus is who He said He was, He will show you the Way.”

    Did you ever consider that I might have y’know, tried that? Sorry, but by that logic, God is not who He says He is. Or any of that.

    • Ted Olson says:

      Thanks so much for your comments Sia –

      Self-sacrificial love can indeed seem odd. I wrote about this at length @ http://holisticfaith.com/healthy-thinking/why-did-jesus-have-to-die/. Here’s an excerpt…In short, true love is profoundly sacrificial. I have a friend – years ago his dog was really sick. He spent a fortune trying to save him. One surgery was $3,000. Another was $1500. There was a lot of medicine, time, and trips to the vet. He sacrificed a lot for his dog. He did this even though his dog was over 10 years old, and only had 3 legs. He still made the sacrifice. Why? A few years later, this same friend repeated this scenario, but the stakes were much higher – it was his wife – she had cancer. He burned through all the insurance money. He refinanced his home and sold his motorcycles and cars to pay for alternative therapies that the insurance company wouldn’t cover. He stayed up late – took care of his two young kids – he was always there to give his wife her injections. He must have aged 20 years in the 2 year battle. Why? Why did he do it? He loved her. True love is profoundly sacrificial.

      More on “what makes sense” – The Gospel message is important. It’s still being discussed and changing lives after 2000 years. So I think it meets your criteria. Also, it’s not inciting panic, but salvation (gift, grace, love, hope). Consider the book by John Ortberg, “Who Is This Man.” Ortberg takes a historical look at the life and influence of Jesus – just the facts.

      As far as credible sources, scholars (both faith-based and secular) have determined that the four Gospels reflect some of the best eye-witness testimony in history of the world, as well as some of the best and most thorough historical documentation. Are there holes? Absolutely! But there are holes in all ancient documents. But we have more than the Gospels – we have the results still reverberating and growing to this day.

      As far as who Jesus is – there were three responses from those that met Jesus face-to-face:

      1) Fear
      2) Hatred
      3) Worship

      That’s it. No one ever walked away from Jesus saying, “Wow, great sermon or great trick, can you do that again?” People were absolutely awe struck – they didn’t even know how to make sense of Him – which makes sense, really. How can we expect to “easily” grasp the Creator of the universe – an entity that exists beyond time and space.

      When I was seeking God via textbooks, historical documents, and a scholarly and thoroughly skeptical pursuit, I didn’t find Him. It wasn’t until I let go of the desire to “know” and “understand” (which was really my agenda and fact-finding hunt) and opened up to allow God to show me, that He appeared. This is not to suggest that logic, critical thinking or study is not important. Rather, it’s to suggest that knowing God starts with awe versus understanding.

      Finally, if God is who He says He is, especially the God in the Bible, He is 100% faithful – His faithfulness (to you, me, and all who seek) is another theme that runs through the entire book.

      Thanks again Sia – great questions and comments as always.

      Grace and peace to you and your loved ones,
      ~ Ted

  7. “More on “what makes sense” – The Gospel message is important. It’s still being discussed and changing lives after 2000 years. So I think it meets your criteria. Also, it’s not inciting panic, but salvation (gift, grace, love, hope). Consider the book by John Ortberg, “Who Is This Man.” Ortberg takes a historical look at the life and influence of Jesus – just the facts.”

    Oh, I’m not saying that it isn’t important or that it incites panic – I was just making a point. I will have to look at that book you recommended. I do think it’s true – but I’m saying that the Gospel message is true in the way that justice is. Justice doesn’t exist – it’s a blatant lie that can only exist because we all agree on it (to a reasonable extent) and insist on it being present. But you can’t literally see, hear, touch, smell or taste ‘justice’. The same thing with Love. Or any abstract noun really.

    But most of the tenants in that message are to my mind … well, stuff we should be doing anyway under the banner of “being a decent human being and not a dickwad.” However, maybe we need practice. All of us and that includes you and me.

    You know what I think Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are? Little lies we tell children for them to practice on so that when they’re grown up, they can believe in the big lies like justice and the value of money. In the same way, I’ll be glad when we don’t believe. Not because I think it’s rubbish but because I want us to be decent human beings for its own sake… not because we were told to.

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