Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is a popular blogger from Dayton, Tennessee, and author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”
By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
On "The Daily Show" recently, Jon Stewart grilled Mike Huckabee about a TV ad in which Huckabee urged voters to support “biblical values” at the voting box.
When Huckabee said that he supported the “biblical model of marriage,” Stewart shot back that “the biblical model of marriage is polygamy.”
And there’s a big problem, Stewart went on, with reducing “biblical values” to one or two social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring issues such as poverty and immigration reform.
It may come as some surprise that as an evangelical Christian, I cheered Stewart on from my living room couch.
As someone who loves the Bible and believes it to be the inspired word of God, I hate seeing it reduced to an adjective like Huckabee did. I hate seeing my sacred text flattened out, edited down and used as a prop to support a select few political positions and platforms.
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And yet evangelicals have grown so accustomed to talking about the Bible this way that we hardly realize we’re doing it anymore. We talk about “biblical families,” “biblical marriage,” “biblical economics,” “biblical politics,” “biblical values,” “biblical stewardship,” “biblical voting,” “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood,” even “biblical dating” to create the impression that the Bible has just one thing to say on each of these topics - that it offers a single prescriptive formula for how people of faith ought to respond to them.
But the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own.
When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.
Nowhere is this more evident than in conversations surrounding “biblical womanhood.”
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Growing up in the Bible Belt, I received a lot of mixed messages about the appropriate roles of women in the home, the church and society, each punctuated with the claim that this or that lifestyle represented true “biblical womanhood.”
In my faith community, popular women pastors such as Joyce Meyer were considered unbiblical for preaching from the pulpit in violation of the apostle Paul's restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"), while Amish women were considered legalistic for covering their heads in compliance with his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5 ("Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head").
Pastors told wives to submit to their husbands as the apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:1, but rarely told them to avoid wearing nice jewelry as the apostle instructs them just one sentence later in 1 Peter 3:3. Despite the fact that being single was praised by both Jesus and Paul, I learned early on that marriage and motherhood were my highest callings, and that Proverbs 31 required I keep a home as tidy as June Cleaver's.
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This didn’t really trouble me until adulthood, when I found myself in a childless egalitarian marriage with a blossoming career and an interest in church leadership and biblical studies. As I wrestled with what it meant to be a woman of faith, I realized that, despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” from the Bible, any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle requires some serious selectivity.
After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, “biblical” for a woman to be required to marry her rapist, “biblical” for her to be one of many wives.
So why are some Bible passages lifted out and declared “biblical,” while others are explained away or simply ignored? Does the Bible really present a single prescriptive lifestyle for all women?
These were the questions that inspired me to take a page from A.J. Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Biblically", and try true biblical womanhood on for size—literally, no “picking and choosing."
This meant, among other things, growing out my hair, making my own clothes, covering my head whenever I prayed, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church (unless I was “prophesying,” of course), calling my husband "master,” even camping out in my front yard during my period to observe the Levitical purity laws that rendered me unclean.
During my yearlong experiment, I interviewed a variety of women practicing biblical womanhood in different ways — an Orthodox Jew, an Amish housewife, even a polygamist family - and I combed through every commentary I could find, reexamining the stories of biblical women such as Deborah, Ruth, Hagar, Tamar, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia.
My goal was to playfully challenge this idea that the Bible prescribes a single lifestyle for how to be a woman of faith, and in so doing, playfully challenge our overuse of the term “biblical.” I did this not out of disdain for Scripture, but out of love for it, out of respect for the fact that interpreting and applying the Bible is a messy, imperfect and - at times - frustrating process that requires humility and grace as we wrestle the text together.
The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others. This, I believe, will elevate the conversation so that we’re using the Bible, not as a blunt weapon, but as a starting point for dialogue.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rachel Held Evans.
Simple: For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, so that who so ever believes in Him, will not perish, but have ever lasting life.
That's Biblical... it's our choice to believe it or not. Whether you believe it or not does not make it true. The fact that Jesus was, to the point where he split time in two (BC and AD)... The fact that hundreds saw him die, and hundreds saw him ascend, resurrected... should help the cause towards believing. The fact that History lines up with the old and new testament, and that Historical events that would come to pass were predicted in scrolls which predate those same events... that should also contribute towards the cause for believing. The impeccable universal, natural design structure, it's biology, it's ecology, astronomy and the precise laws which govern that design... that should bring evolution into rational question, and place creation as a viable option...
Yet still, when it comes to "seeing is believing", all things above considered... we can't see first hand... we only have what those who saw first have said... which is not that bad. So why would I change what they said because I don't like what they said. Maybe, it's time we came to grips with the fact that we are coming so far away from, yes, "biblical" values, that we have to try to find a way to change them, because some like where they are too much to adhere to the bible... It tell you though, it's us that need to change, for our own good, not the word. It's as true as it was, it is and it will ever be.
God killed himself. Okey Dokey.
" The fact that Jesus was, to the point where he split time in two (BC and AD)" LOL
actually, it is BCE and CE, thank you very much.
Anyway, look up how that happened, because it wasn't Jesus (whoever that is) that caused it, it was Dionysius.
I really liked your response, especially the part about how we need to change, not the word of God.
man created god. nothing else but this makes sense. end of story.
A scattering is upon us in these trying days and Age. Leave therefore your harshest wantings behind and never take wind of one's longings for the weightiness of one's longings will smite even the most influential. Carry away nothing and leave. Head to the places inside one's being and do not keep ajar your door for many will want to enter in and should not. Your loving this Life is for the world to have needs of and you should not heed the rumors from others as to just what is truly right. It is therefore best for mankind to simmer in their yet unfinished juvenile pottages never rationalizingly 'assaying' one's diffuse detriments, the very smallest of life's grains. As smitten breeds, our splendors reveal one's characters to be traitorous to one's analogous fold. Where then does true life really end and real living truly begin?
For this world knows not the time nor the place for the 'son of man' and his coming upon this world to make judgement upon the world's governance. Behold you now the time is upon mankind for this 'son of man' is now placed in mankind's midsts. He does see much goodness upon many lands and he does also see much bitterness as well. This son of but a simple minded man knows well the bitterness of torments and much of the social egress. The tears that flows from this man's son is bitter with much consolations gathering together as wasted nuptials being leveraged by time's undoing. The angst of one man's son is but now the two-folded spark of leavened thanks giving and no more trickeries to be unfolded upon mankind!
Though my sights are now set my heart there maintains a pleasing maleable notion. I do so love my brother beyond the bounds of the wateriness of baptismal complacencies. My brother and I are one blood and nothing dare comes between us lest they be but friendly natured. God as my soul's judge and Christ Jesus is my defender of my ongoing maleable heart hell-bent to be my brother's keeper foresaking the watery conditionings of religious persuasion. May men nor women scorn my lot in this Life's consortium in brotherly assets. God forbade me in time's past and did allow me the freedoms to be hung with! May the son of man be never found unwilling to set things right no matter what was so done in passing!
AMEN, my brother!
Watch Bill Mahr's "Religulous". Its so funny
Proverbs 17:22 reads: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dried up the bones.
Great flick. Loved it.
Cults believe in very bizarre things. When cults become large enough, they are called religions.
Christianity – the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...
Whether you believe it or not, like it or not, He loves you and is waiting for you. Nothing, NOTHING, can separate you from God's love. It's up to you to come back.
Sergex – you are the cult member in this story – you just can't see it. You must honestly look at every other religion with their gods, goddesses, supernatural beliefs and think – 'wow, they must be deluded to think that'. And yet you are unable to turn that critical eye upon yourself and your own beliefs. You will be OK when you deprogram yourself. You will still be a moral person. Right now, you are a cult member – you just can't accept that.
Think about it – really think about it: Christianity – the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree... Does that even seem rational? Even a little?
Akira, I am waiting at the bar...
I have orderd special Sashimi for you. Yellowtail, with just a dab of onion and Jalepeno pepper and drizziled in Ponzu. Melts in mouth.
Apple, I'm having problems with the jet...
Akira, you have captured my heart. Please get here soon! I want to feed you and shower you in gifts. Also, this food is freaking awsome! Hurry!
Apple, I'm trying, I'm trying! Damn thing is being tempermental.
Akira, do you live on the west coast by any chance?
God cannot exist. It is absurd.
If God did exist, he would be the most reprehensible horrifying monster in the history of the universe.
If god does exist, he created Hitler.
Of course. Thank you.
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Modern Jews live in a post-Talmudic world, to say the least, and continue to read the Tanach (or "Old Testament") every week because we don't want to forget where we came from. I have no idea why Christians think it should govern the lives of anyone in the 21st century, and least of all Bible Belt America. It's ridiculous. But religion is what it is. Fundie Christians claim it for themselves, so whatever. But Christians using an ancient people's book to hate and control and legislate is offensive on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin.
DUMP HINDU ATHEISM, SELF CENTER ISM AND BE A TRUE AMERICAN IN FOLLOWING OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD, I can't find the nonsense translator on Google... can you help me?
Godless and the ungodly, for these are the choices from which commonwealth atheists do make felt upon their habitual senses denying the goodly upon ever moving ways of godly intent. Many young-bucks of godlessness and the ungodly tender to avail themselves with the nailed doldrums' sciatica and do abound with much societal unpleasantries toward the abaters of wanton deniabilities against them, those ungodly and godless beings of smirked vials of randomized intention-abilities. Their deniabilities are not without compromising or so they do entail and also do weave upon the where-with-all seasoned laments.
The mockeries of these godless and ungodly against the goodly who do themselves believe upon godly importance may well live on past all and onto every generation's aged endings. How else could Life Truly End and Real Living thusly Begin? To believe or not believe for these are Life's choices. Christ Jesus came to this world to condemn its ways and yet did He come here to also show how tenderly are His graces upon those being most merciful to others who did so deserve mercy to be freely given by those being most merciful! To believe or not believe for these are Life's choices. Still yet and forever are to be found many grascious mercies, for the mercifilled are one of Life's greatest treasures and livings' sweetest unending rewards.
You are using one hindu, ignorant, not me.
"But Christians using an ancient people’s book to hate and control and legislate is offensive on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin."
lionlylamb = schizophrenic
No, lionlylamb is not a schizophrenic, he/she is most likely foreign language speaking person who tried to translate what he/she wanted to say into English. If you had spiritual understanding, you would gather the meaning out of the post he/she wrote. But as it is, to you it is only a gibberish! So, don't jump to conclusion too quickly!
If you had the knowledge of prior posts by him, you would know that he is definitely a native English speaker, who prides himself on his neologisms and gibberish. Schizophrenic also? Dunno; but "out there", yes.
So, wrong again, PRISM...
LOL! Hold onto your points, you gonna need them, otoh!
their is no word for religion in Hebrew language, but Theen, consti tution of truth absolute, THE WAY OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD, religions and customs are hinduism corruption of truth absolute, never desired nor commanded.
When you post your first comment that actually makes sense, using standard rules of English grammar, then I'll read what you have to say.
It is called free English, American way.
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"It is called free English, American way."
I'm sorry, but that didn't make any sense either. As soon as I can understand at least one sentence of one of your posts, then I'll read what you have to say, and not a moment sooner.
I cannot stand reading articles written by people who aren't lead by the spirit. You cannot pull revelation from the Bible to understand Gods Word without the gift of the Holy Spirit. You are considered Blind, until the Blinders are removed from your eyes. The Paul instructed women shouldn't preach, but knowing how God used a donkey you can easily receive the revelation that God can use WHATEVER HE WANTS; women or men.
Explaining things. what is the word for holy spirit in Hebrew language, if you understood.
"You cannot pull revelation from the Bible to understand Gods Word without the gift of the Holy Spirit."
"The author argues that there are many meanings of the adjective 'biblical.'"
Really? Astounding insight! I must make a point to buy the book! It sounds like so much fun with all its stories and poems and prophecies. I can't wait to read it and tell all my friends about it and then make my kids read it and then write to my congressmen and demand they read it and to make a law that it has to be in every public school so all the kids can learn the real truth.
So Rachel makes her point that the word "Biblical" is way overused, but she seems to also be making the point that the Bible is unclear about how we should live. It is not unclear. We should not forget that Christianity was once called "The Way." This was because early Christians lived differently from the Greeks and the Jews.
Considering how many letters Paul had to write concerning improper behavior in his Churches not many early Christians had a clear idea about "the Way". Christians did their own thing from the very beginning.
Whoops, regarding the "biblical model of marriage", you forgot about the 10 commandments, this one in particular: Honor your father and mother. A male and female get married, have children, and become a "father and mother". Help us Lord.
No, people have biological male and female parents, but this has nothing to do with marriage because there's nothing to prevent children from several mothers all calling the same man "father" in that Commandment.
Any biblically literate person realizes that biblical marriage means holy matrimony between one man and one woman. To say otherwise is to confuse that standard and to bring in a non-biblical agenda.
Here is why G.ay marriage is fine by me.
1. It's simply the right thing to do.
2. G.a.y parents have been proven to be just as good parents as straight parents. Also, there are countless children waiting to be adopted and G.a.y persons in wedlock are more likely to have children.
3. Children that are raised by G.a.y parents have no more chance of being G.a.y children than any other child. This is a notorious lie that has been perpetuated by hate and the extreme conservative right-wing of American politics. Being G.a.y results from nature, not nurture.
4. To support the troops. "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has been repealed but this doesn't alleviate stress caused by not allowing G.a.y partners to marry. It's not good policy to let G.a.y combatants fight for their country with the uncertainty they have for what might happen to their partner if they die while fighting.
5. To give survivors rights to G.a.y couples. Currently G.a.y partners are not able to fully exercise their right to handle the legal matters of their dying partner and cannot fully be there for them in their final years. This is an insult to humanity to deny G.a.y persons of the dignity of having their most loved and trusted person in the world be there during their last days.
6. For economy stability. Not just for the tax credits that straight married people enjoy, but also for the stability of the American economy. Allowing G.a.y people to get married would give a growing population increased spending power. The tax benefits and extension of credit with two incomes in a married relationship could increase spending in industries such as durable goods, home improvement, automobiles, childcare, services, event planning, the economic benefits are endless!
7. G.a.y people deserve happiness just as much as straight people. Happiness derives from the love and devotion that comes from marriage. While it's true that many G.a.y people are happy with the arrangement they currently have. They have two incomes, successful careers, and if they don't have children they more have more disposable income, but they commonly still feel like something is missing.
8. To reduce depression in adolescents. Giving G.a.y children the hope that they can get married some day and have children in a socially acceptable country will reduce depression among G.a.y young people. Straight children are allowed this freedom and should be no surprise that many G.a.y teenagers experience extreme depression.
9. To reduce G.a.y bullying in schools. If we legalize G.a.y marriage, there will be one less reason for G.a.y children to get teased. They will be less reluctant to be ashamed of their personal preference and will have hope that they can be just as happy as their straight counterparts.
10. To help end the hate and intolerance of h.o.m.o.s.e.xuality in America. Just because America has a long history of prejudice that's no reason to keep perpetuating it. The unwelcoming fringes of our society seems to become accustomed to moving from alienating one demographic to another and the resistance to G.a.y marriage is just another example of prejudice in America.
Oh, also because Gay marriages should be legal everywhere because I would watch the sh.it out of gay divorce court.
charles: there is not once single secular reason to deprive gay people the right to marry whoever they choose.
not everyone believes in your imaginary god. get stuffed.
you should be ashamed to be so ignorant.
It is very obvious that biblical marriage is God's design of one man and one woman united in holy matrimony. To deviate from that standard is to bring confusion into the beautiful understanding of God's intention. And to deviate from that standard is to bring in a non-biblical agenda.
No need to hind, lie on name of truth absolute GOD, but way of hindu Magi's, filthy tricksters, not to spare any one to make a point.
Chuck, according to the bible, biblical marriage is to kill your brother and fuck your mother. Why do you blaspheme brother?
Your statement is meaningless unless you can prove there is a god.
Good for you, and your undersanding of marriage. But I don't believe your Bible is an authoritative text, and I don't believe your concept of marriage is valid. However, I do believe that love is all that matters, and that you haven't moved one inch toward convincing me otherwise.
"It is very obvious that biblical marriage is God's design"
And considering that God is man's design, your entire argument goes nowhere.
those of you who would deprive others of their liberty or equality deserve absolutely no liberty or equality.
you and your ilk shame america.
I'd be happy to find out how many people started doubting their god thanks to these blogs. Probably in the hundreds if not thousands. On the same note, I'd like to know how many started doubting their atheism... probably nobody.
This is true:
2Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.
RazMor, I think you missed my point completely.
If I started quoting bible verses to you, they'd be considered out of context; but, when believers do, it is perfectly fine.
The only way a believer can reason about their faith is through logical fallacies.
What doctrine is there for disbelief? I have no idea what you're talking about.
It's okay, I understand:
Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables:
The Bible cannot be used to prove that the Bible is correct. EnjaySea 1:1.
James 4:5 Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?
I can quote my way out of any argument. Razmor 15:6
Amanda, the toddler who was beaten so severely, she had to have part of her intestines removed is only 2 years old.
To say the mother was a bad judge of character is a gross understatement…also, the Department of Family Services allegedly visited the trailer where this child lived a week before and found her with a broken leg and allegedly did NOTHING to protect her.
Amanda is still in critical condition in the ICU at Cardinal Glennon Hospital. Doctors had to remove 18 inches of her intestines. Police say the child was repeatedly beaten by her mother’s boyfriend, Kraig Monroe, 24, of Belleville. He punched the toddler in the stomach when she would not stop crying while her mother was at work. She is now in a medically-induced coma.
Where is your God now?
John Stewart and you both rely on the old testament: the new testament brought a new covenant. Look there for guidance and decision making.
Jennifer, what makes the NT better than the OT? Doesn't the NT rely on the OT for relevance? If there where not OT, there could be no NT. You make no sense.
Then why bother including the OT in the Christian bible? Think of how much less trouble you'd have without the Genesis stories, the Ten Commandments, and all the ethnic cleansing messing with your idea of God being "good" and the "ultimate truth"?
Yeah, because the NT god changed his mind.
How 'perfect' of it.
Their is no new covenant , but hinduism absurdity of hindu, pagan Paul, father of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism, called christianity to hind, fool humanity.,
Old Testament is word per word. New Testament is more spiritual life.
2Co 3:6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Sure... pick and choose what you like out of your holy book to base your life decisions on. Maybe you should try reality.
He changed it again and we got the Qur'an, and yet again with the Book of Mormon. The guy flip-flops more than Romney.
The OT God is evil , but the NT God is only partially evil. Got it.
That is not picking and choosing and that is not saying that the NT is better than the OT. This is the argument that many atheist use against the Bible...the problem is that it is a very weak argument because it is the very basis of our belief system. The old testament needed these laws and rules to follow because there was no savior. They needed to make sacrifices because nothing had been sacrificed yet. But Jesus has changed that. We are no longer under the Jewish law but under the Grace of Christ. I know many of you will condemn and mock me....and that really is okay... I get it.. I have not always been a Christian and I understand where many of you are coming from. I just pray that your heart is softened as mine was. That is really the only thing that is going to change the way you think about the Bible. None of these arguments mean anything if you don't believe that his word is true. I hate that this lady has given such a weak arguments over a good thought.
I'm not intersted in what the Old Testament has to say, Jennifer, and I couldn't care less what your "new and improved" New Testamant has to say either.
The New Testament lost me on "abandon your mother, your father, your husband, your wife, your children and follow me". Jesus was just another cult jerk, leading people astray with with his charisma, hubris, and idiocy. Why should I believe a single word he said, or Jim Jones, or David Koresh, or Joseph Smith, or Mohammed, or any of the rest of them?
The Bible makes me sick. Poor Constantine needed those slaves to win a civil war, and had no idea what the results would be. Ugh.. watch out who you use to fill your ranks in times of need. You might end up with Jews and Christians running things for 2000 plus years.
Joel sounds like a jew name
I believe it is. I am named after a new york jew billy joel.
What exactly are you asserting? That constantine invented the biblical text?
He was an incredible prophet of God in the OT.
I will have nothing to do with the text in the bible. I will leave that speculation for you all.
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God forgives all people for their crimes, but especially brown people.
to agree sets a very dangerous precident for this worlds beautiful children.
do the 56,000,000 aborted children count?
They count on some tallies. But not on a tally of possibly abused children who are abused with an intent to disprove a God's devotion to jews and christians in the midst of a religious awakening and moral decline.
@cindy lou who
According to the bible, God is resposible for every abortion and miscarriage that has every happened in all of history.
"The problem of evil in the world" is a really, really troubling one.
Why does God allow so much pain and suffering, especially when so much of it seems to be gratuitous (unnecessary).
If you are going to criticize the God of Israel, you need to understand that the bible tells us that the problem is not one of Gods making. Humans chose disobedience, as a result all of creation was affected, and evil entered Gods creation.
Horrific things happen every day, the answer is to sign up for a different existence; eternity with God.
So Apple Bush, because PEOPLE DO EVIL THINGS, are you asserting that God does not exist?
Chad, god made us. He knows everything about us. He knows when will be born and when we will die. All fear, hatred, violence and death is God's will. To deny this is to deny God. Blaspheme.
My God has always been there...Without him no one would even understand the concept of right and wrong. And he can make the best out of any situation....I know you can't understand this but that is why he is God and you are not.
Right and wrong? God? Who is more evil than God???
@Apple Bush "god made us."
@Apple Bush "He knows everything about us. He knows when will be born and when we will die"
@Apple Bush "All fear, hatred, violence and death is God's will."
@Chad "Whoa.. .tremendous leap to that.. how do you induce that? Where does free will fit in?
remember, knowing ahead of time what we will do by the exercise of our own free will, doesnt obviate that free will, it just means that God can exist outside our time/space and isnt limited by it.
It is not God that is evil...it is man...I think that is pretty easy to see when you look around....It is God who shows us what love is and how we are to live...This is not a concept that man is able to come up with on his own. We are a selfish from day one...it is the love of God that can change you.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.