Originally posted by twhitehead
I would have loved to give my take on why threads fizzle out, but I guess this is not the right place for that.
So here goes:
1. Do you consider the Bible to be the word of God in its entirety. If so, what are your reasons for this belief?
2. What are the main reasons why you think God exists and that Christianity is the correct religion?
Thank you twhitehead. Characteristically two very pertinent questions.
1. No, I do not consider the Bible to be verbally inspired,
i.e. that every word is directly the Word of God.
There are several reasons for this, some obvious and some not so. Firstly, there ARE many contradictions in the Bible, which people have tried to explain away with various degrees of success. For example, the different accounts of the resurrection in the gospels cannot all be right; and this would indicate that these were indeed eye-witness reports, but (just as happens today with any car accident) people remember stuff differently. but the authors wrote honestly what they remember they saw.
Secondly, very clearly many portions of the Bible, particularly in the OT but equally in the NT, are directed at a particular culture with particular beliefs. This would confirm that in the primary instance one should interpret such passages in the way they were presumably INTENDED for the hearers of the day, and you and I have had a discussion on that subject.
I believe that the Bible was inspired probably in the same way as any Christian writer's books today are inspired. If you take the WHOLE of current belief and consider what "gels" you will soon pick out what is closest to the Truth (as you understand it). After all, we are told that we have the SAME Holy Spirit as they had.
Also, the books of the Bible were (as you well know) collected at some church council (Trent?) were the Canon was agreed on out of a hundred odd other books. Who is really to say what was "inspired" and what not?
Having said that, there does seem to be a consistent and non-contradictory thread running through the 66 books of the Bible which is uniquely different from any similar set of ancient literature (if such exists) that spans several millennia. This indicates that there is, after all, something very special about the Bible.
If the bible is merely literature (I hear you say) why do I take it seriously? Another good question, but that will touch on your next question.
2. Actually, this question is made up of two distinct parts, and I will split them accordingly.
2a. Why do i think God exists? Here I must confess that this is totally subjective. I was raised in a very strict Calvinistic household, where God was the Great Policeman In the Sky who saw everything that you did and approved of very little. I lived in constant fear - actually, I believe that I related some of this in another thread some months back.
However, as I began to think for myself, (this happened round about age 15-16) I had some amazing personal encounters with God. Without going into detail, these consisted of very specific prayers which were answered in very specific and unique ways. Once would have been a coincidence, even twice. But during one year I had three of these experiences. This turned my picture of god on its head.
Much later, after many meanderings through several Christian denominations, I experienced as an adult, together with my wife, several more such unique experiences. This shouted to me: God is real, and He is interested in me and loves me.
I have resisted from sharing these with many other people, because i have often heard that : personal experiences are flawed, subject to (hear this!) even demon activity, you cannot build doctrine on it, etc etc. However, my experience has been like that of the story of the man related in the Bible who was born blind and healed by Jesus. The scholars of the day said to him: Impossible! This man is a sinner, so how can he heal? And the response was (as is mine) "I cannot tell you how it works, or why it happens, but what I CAN say is that i know I was blind, and now i can see".
A similar sentiment was expressed by the person who said: "the man with an experience is never at the mercy of the man with an argument".
Yes, i have seen Christians fall by the wayside and renounce their faith - as has been recorded on this site. But i will venture the guess that such persons have never truly experienced for themselves an intervention of the divine. Have I been lucky, or specially favoured? I would have to confess, with all humility, yes, and for the life of me I cannot tell why.
2b. Is Christianity (or more generally my own religion) the correct religion and why?
This is currently in my life the most difficult question. In another thread I have related the hypothetical problem of ten people representing the world's most common religions (including atheists) answering this question in the affirmative as relating to themselves. One cannot avoid the simple conclusion that EACH AND EVERY one of them has the same right to claim for their religion what I claim for mine, i.e. Being the Ultimate Truth.
This inevitably brings me to my own concept of god, and who she really is. This god, who has deigned to interact with me on the occasions that I have related, cannot be confined to the "Christian box". Why should everybody else be so wrong? How could it be possible that this merciful and loving god NOT have revealed herself to all these other nations, but only to the Middle East?
My disillusionment with current mainline Christianity (as demonstrated in its raw excesses only too clearly on RHP) could not dampen, never mind kill, my strong belief that I HAD experienced the divine, and needed to bring the two into harmony.
My son becoming an ardent Buddhist catalyzed my further enquiry into other religions, and I found only good, loving and kind people - people who lived out the teachings of Jesus which most Christians blatantly ignored. Then I was reminded of the many verses in the bible about god being the God of ALL the earth, and ALL people. That is why I say that I see the spark of god in Buddhists, in Muslims and (yes!) also in atheists.
Which brings me to this final conclusion:
1. God is far bigger than Christianity
2. I respect every other persons world view and belief. I may not agree with them, and I will be willing to share mine (as I do now) with them, but I will not declare them wrong or going to hell.
3. However, I cannot be a spiritual hermit, or smorgasbord diner, I have to have a base which I call home. And this is Christianity, because for better or worse, it best fits with my experiences and is the "box" that I found myself in when I was born. Yet I accept most other boxes as valid expressions of spirituality.
Thanks for listening. Sorry this became so long. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!