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Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'
Conservative Christians say their churches have been unprepared for cultural shifts on same-sex marriage.
June 28th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.

Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.

But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.

An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.

“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson disagreed, and filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. The ACLU also sued on behalf of the customer, Robert Ingersoll, who has said Stutzman’s refusal “really hurt, because it was someone I knew.”

Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword - part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.

Websites call her a freedom fighter. Tributes fill Arlene’s Facebook page. Donations to her legal defense fund pour in from as far away as Texas and Arkansas.

“For some reason, her case has made a lot of people of faith worry,” said Stutzman’s lawyer, Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.

Those anxieties have only increased, conservative Christians say, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to gay marriage in California.

Taking a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's sharp dissent, Southern Baptist scholar Albert Mohler said it’s only a matter of time "before the other shoe drops" – and the high court legalizes same-sex marriage from coast to coast.

“Christians will have to think hard — and fast — about these issues and our proper response,” Mohler wrote on Wednesday.

“We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”

His fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore put the matter more succinctly.

“Same-sex marriage is coming to your community.”

`The debate is over'

Well before the Supreme Court’s rulings, many conservative Christians said they saw the writing - or the poll numbers - on the wall.

Survey after survey shows increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young Americans. That includes many religious believers.

Most Catholics and mainline Protestants, not to mention many Jews, support same-sex relationships, according to surveys. The bells of Washington National Cathedral pealed in celebration on Thursday.

Even among those who oppose gay marriage, many think it’s a losing battle.

Seventy percent of white evangelicals believe that legal recognition for gay nuptials is inevitable, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, though just 22 percent favor it.

“The gay marriage debate is over,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical writer on faith and culture. “Statistically, all the numbers move in one direction.”

Young Christians have grown up in a far more diverse culture than their forebears, Merritt noted, and many have befriended gays and lesbians.

Pew found that more than 90 percent of Americans overall personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a 30 percent increase since 1993.

“It’s far easier to wage war against an agenda than it is to battle a friend,” Merritt said.

At the same time, many conservative young Christians say they’re weary of the culture wars, and of seeing their communities labeled “judgmental.”

When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.

Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.

“The shrill angry voices of retrenchment are no longer getting a broad hearing either in the culture at large or in the evangelical community,” Merritt said.

But the battle over same-sex marriage is far from over, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

“I don’t believe most Christians are going to give up the fight,” said Brown, who is Catholic. He said his movement includes many young evangelical and Orthodox Christians.

“And they are more energized than ever.”

Love thy gay neighbors

Energized or not, conservative Christians must prepare for the moral dilemmas posed by the country’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, said Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?” Moore asked, while promoting a special session on homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston in June.

Many evangelical pastors have seen homosexuality as a distant culture-war battle that’s fought far from the doors of the churches, Moore said.

Now, it’s as close as their front pews.

“I think it’s not so much that churches haven’t wanted to talk about it,” he said, “but they haven’t recognized how much the culture has changed around them.”

The first step, said Moore, is learning to defend traditional marriage without demonizing gays and lesbians.

Walking through Washington’s Union Station last Thursday, Moore said he saw several lesbian couples kissing in celebration of the Supreme Court rulings.

“If we can’t empathize with what’s going on in their hearts and minds, we’re not going to be able to love and respect them.”

Then come a host of secondary questions: How should conservative pastors minister to same-sex couples? Should Christians attend same-sex weddings? Should florists like Barronelle Stutzman's agree to work with gay couples?

`Don't give in' 

Florist Barronelle Stutzman.

In the 17 years she’s owned Arlene’s Flowers, Stutzman said, she’s worked with a number of gay colleagues.

“It really didn’t matter if they were gay, or blue or green, if they were creative and could do the job,” she said.

Stutzman suspects that some of her eight children privately don’t agree with her on homosexuality, even as they publicly support her decision.

Online, Stutzman has been called a bigot, and worse.

She said she’s lost at least two weddings because of her refusal to provide services for the same-sex marriage.

Conservative activists say her case is the first of what will surely be many more, as gay marriage spreads across the country.

As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.

“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Discrimination • Faith • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Politics • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (5,210 Responses)
  1. Quincy

    The seller has reasons for not wanting to sell flowers to the man that are based in her religion. She's not making it up–it's there in her two thousand year old religious text. Whether or not you believe it should be interpreted the way she's interpreting it, there's no denying it could be interpreted that way.

    I believe there are legitimate reasons for a business to decide not to provide service to someone, and religious conviction is one of them (I'm not religious, by the way). Our government should not be forcing people to go against their religious beliefs.

    July 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Just Call Me Lucifer

      Yep... you should always do what your religion tells you to do. Like me, for instance. I'm gonna kill each and every christian, muslim and weatherman I can because my religion tells me to do so.

      July 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Peter

      What if she were refusing to serve black people, citing the Noah story as biblical justification, which she could just as easily do as well, correct?

      July 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Peter; Quincy does raise the point that the law has moved in the direction of NOT allowing for religious objections. I think it is fair for all of us to step back and ask ourselves; Is denying her rights taking this too far (especially when there was no actual damages). There was a discussion about KKK members asking a black owned sewing shop to sew for them. Should this black owner be forced to service these KKK members? If NOT, how is that legally different than this flower shop owner. Also, what is the remedy that results from the lawsuit? A monetary reward for the gay couple? Fining the women when she caused no monetary damages is somewhat odd in my view.

      Also, should churches be forced to perform SSMs? If hurting feelings is the reason this women is being sued than if the RCC denies gays to marry in their church, they also hurt someone's feelings. (PS: I'm 100% for gay rights and SSM).

      July 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Humanity

      Quincy and jazzguitarman are right–all that happened here is that someone got their feelings hurt because someone thinks they're doing wrong and they went crying to their big government daddy to take care of it for them.

      July 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Stepp

      Thanks,someone with a brain of reasoning,Law suit by ACLU should not be allow with their SLAP to intimidate others to force all other to accommodate those of different beliefs.

      July 7, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @Peter

      What "Noah story" would justify racial prejudice? Seriously?

      July 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • corrie

      NOT TO SELL FLOWERS IS THE SAME AS NOT TO SELL TOBACCO... IN PRINCIPLE... WE KNOW ITS AGAINST OUR AND GODS WILL WHY SHOULD WE ? WE NEED TO STAND FIRM FOR WHAT WE BELIEVED IS RIGHT ... ... WE ARE NOT VICTORIOUS BECAUSE WE DON'T STAND FIRM & TRUST GOD ... AS SAID IN Mt. 24... ONLY THOSE WHO WILL STAND FIRM 'TILL THE END WILL BE SAVE....YES WE WILL EXPECT PERSECUTION ... BUT STILL WE CAN DO SOMETHING OUT OF LOVE... WE MUST PERSUADE AND WARN, THEN IF THEY DIN'T LISTEN.... WE ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE....FOR WE'VE DONE OUR PART.... GOD IS NEVER A LIAR... HE SAID IT BEFORE THAT THIS THINGS WILL HAPEN IN THE END TIMES LETS STAND FIRM BELIEVED WHAT THE GOD OF THE BIBLE TEACHES US... LETS PREPARE THEN FOR THE END IS NEAR "

      July 8, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Peter

      jazzguitarman
      Yet, take away the religious justification for her actions what she did is just bigotry that we wouldn't otherwise tolerate. Ask yourself if the bigotry still doesn't hurt the people it's aimed at, then maybe you should consider if any justification is warranted. Why is religion the one excuse for behaving badly?

      July 8, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Peter

      Cpt. Obvious
      Google the "Curse of Ham". Ham, Noah's son, saw his father naked when Noah got himself drunk and disgraced himself. Noah's embarrassment led him to curse his son for witnessing his personal depravity and, as legend goes, Ham was black, thus supplying the excuse for racial bigotry. Just one of the many nasty things read between bible lines.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I wondered if that was what you meant. You do realize that the bible never says that Ham was black, right? I'm familiar with people using the story, but there's no biblical/scriptural basis for using it. Logically, it would be like using the story of Ehud to say that people shouldn't smoke cigars.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Peter

      Humanity
      Yup, that pretty much sums up the whole Civil Rights Movement as well. Just a bunch of whiny people crying to big government when they didn't get their way. How unfair to all those nice whites who were just choosing who to serve and how, right?

      July 8, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Peter

      Cpt. Obvious
      The fact that it's illogical shouldn't surprise you, should it?

      July 8, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • tallulah13

      The simple fact remains: It is illegal to deny service to anyone because of sexual orientation in the area in which this woman operates her business. This is why she is facing prosecution. If anyone has objections, they are certainly welcome to move to Washington and try to pass laws that allow religion-based discrimination.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

      It really doesn’t matter is SHE made it up or someone else did. Marriage is older than your religion and TRADITIONALLY had nothing to do with religion. It was a social contract to consolidate wealth and power. The concept of marriage for love didn’t catch on until the 1800s.

      July 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ames IA

      ...said the owner of a lunchcounter in Greenboro NC circa 1963 to seven men with the audacity to order coffee. "Why do they need to cause trouble?" people said.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Peter

      jazzguitarman
      As far as I know, nobody has ever argued that they were born racist and that they were incapable of changing because it was their nature. I don't think that you can argue successfully that racism is your particular "creed".

      July 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  2. tony

    Once we get a computer or robot or whatever to be come self-aware, this whole religion thing is going to fall apart all over the world.

    July 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • MikeF

      Unfortunately, it'll probably be just as easy to program a robot to be religious as as person.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  3. A Human being

    Who you marry or who or what you pray too should be as much the business of the government and the public as your medical history, dental records and the color of your undies.

    July 7, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • jazzguitarman

      So the legal contract of Marriage should be disolved? Doing so would create the need for many different types of legal contracts and would likely be a major legal mess.

      July 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You may be A Human being...........To bad you don't have a brain like one.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  4. CSX

    Amazing is to read the ignorance of man in the Bible, yet, we see it now.

    Great ignorance as millions run to hell.

    July 7, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ignorance is the very place religions come from. Men created the bible, and all religious writings in response to thier own ignorance. It all came from their imaginations and the bible is clearly based on stories from previous cultures.
      It is further willful ignorance to think the bible is the word on any gods.
      Read up on the real history of your bible.

      July 7, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • rick

      hell is man's invention

      July 7, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  5. tony

    The good thing about the belief blog is not that it exposes the falsehoods that prop up the sham of belief, but that the pro-faith posters themselves do that, most of them without even realizing.

    And it wakes up so many "moderate" or less sure believers, who realize that such really crazy folk are in fact high up in the hierarchy or the status of their religion. And thus they begin to see the falseness for themselves, without merely hearing it as an "opposing view" from those who they have been told are the "enemies" or the wicked, or both.

    July 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • A Human being

      Look my complaint about belief blog, all this and politics in general is this. I have a spiritual life, I also have a love life and if the two are ever at odds with eachother for any reason I file that in the category of my own personal business. I for one hope for marriage equality and absolute equality so that the "moderate" can go back to having a personal life again.

      July 7, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • jazzguitarman

      Tony, what you say is true. Most of the people I know fall into that moderate category. They often claim 'oh, our Church doesn't really believe that' or 'ok, our chuch leader said that,, but that really isn't what the church supports'.

      July 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  6. Observer

    marine1

    "Observer Dude, Stop with the random caps! Seriously, it is sooooooooo annoying. I get your message, stop already."

    I have to use caps to try to emphasize simple concepts such as that drowning is torturous since people like justice for all are so clueless that they think that drowning is instantaneous.

    July 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • marine1

      Observer- I am very proud. You said all of that without the caps. Kudos my Du.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Austin

      say what man?

      July 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Austin

      you dont have the right marry two men as a society, you are in violation of God's code.

      It is obvious. people need their demented society. thats all they want. to pervert and dig their nails in.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Observer

      marine1

      "Observer- I am very proud. You said all of that without the caps. Kudos my Du."

      What happened? No caps!!!! OH NO!

      July 6, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • marine1

      @ Austin
      From one Christian to another, do not judge. It is not our will but Gods will. Stop with the hate. Our Father in Heaven will judge, not us.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Observer

      Austin

      "you dont have the right marry two men as a society, you are in violation of God's code. It is obvious. people need their demented society. thats all they want. to pervert and dig their nails in."

      There is practically zero chance that you believe and support all of "God's code" on marriage. So why do you pick and choose?

      July 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • marine1

      Observer- I thought maybe we could have an intelligent discussion, but perhaps not. I was simply saying that WE get your point.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Observer

      marine1

      "Observer- I thought maybe we could have an intelligent discussion, but perhaps not. I was simply saying that WE get your point."

      WE??? Looks like my training program may be working.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • marine1

      Observer- Never, not that stupid. Maybe you should rethink your way of thinking.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • Observer

      marine1

      "Observer- Never, not that stupid. Maybe you should rethink your way of thinking."

      How, for instance, would you emphasize that drowning is a terrible torturous event when you are dealing with a dim bulb that thinks death by drowning is instantaneous?

      July 6, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Austin

      hey marine, I can understand what you are saying, but i am not judging any individual. this matter is allready spoken for in the Wiord of God.

      Society does not have the right to marry two men. I have judged no one, we are talking about and proclaiming an upright standard. There is no let down buddy. if an issue is at hand, do no cower. someone has to do somethin. are you defeated on the issue. go penetrate your wife ana.ly then, you are supporting perversion and the downfall of decency.

      July 7, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Observer

      Austin

      Sorry you missed this. See if you can answer this time.

      There is practically zero chance that you believe and support all of "God's code" on marriage. So why do you pick and choose?

      July 7, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Austin

      thats a good question. no i do support what ever Gods' code is. ill be back in fifteen minutes. has the church been diluted?

      yes.

      July 7, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Observer

      Austin,

      "i do support what ever Gods' code is."

      Get serious.

      Do you believe, like God does, that love is not a part of marriage and that marriage should be forced on people even if they hate each other?

      Have you actually read a Bible?

      July 7, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Austin

      i don't live in the old testament . what are you conveying from the new testament? anything at all?observer. God's statutes are for the good and blessing of man kind. I want to inform you that i have personal proof of God. you can too. but you need to rely on God's character and not your feelings.

      July 7, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Observer

      Austin

      "i don't live in the old testament ."

      lol. Get serious. God put out all sorts of commands. Was it the same God in the New and Old Testaments or did the "unchanging God" change?

      In other words, you don't believe nor support all of God's commands about marriage. Hypocrisy is nothing new for Christians.

      July 7, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • MikeF

      Austin
      Can you prove that God invented marriage and codified it? Actually prove it, and not just express your opinion that he did?

      July 7, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  7. Observer

    Here's a Bible quote for the many Christians who have never read it or ignored it:

    – Matthew 7:12 “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the law and the prophets are all about"

    July 6, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Ron

      Observer, so then, you believe the law and the prophets?

      July 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Observer et al,

      Mat 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

      July 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • aallen333

      If I were living in deception and had no clue that I was in a battle for my soul, I would want someone to warn me (even though I would probably hate them while they were doing it). No one likes an intervention while it is happening. But even in the midst of the struggle, you realize those who would take the time to confront you were the ones who truly loved you.

      July 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Observer

      Ron,

      I firmly support the old principle that was called the Golden Rule in the Bible. You don't have to believe in God to support that.

      July 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • tony

      Do as you would be done by. Sounds like what most normal people (and most animals) do, and have done, for upwards of millions of years, regardless of whether they have religious belief or not.

      So much of that the bible claims to invent of define is just stolen from ages of previous civilized or socially necessary behavior.

      July 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I understand your concern aalen. Perhaps you should try to understand our perspective?

      July 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I wonder how many Christians like to be told they are wrong? They certainly seem to enjoy telling others...

      July 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • MikeF

      aallen333

      "If I were living in deception"

      What makes you so certain that you aren't? A deceived person is, after all, deceived. So, how do you know that the tables aren't turned, and we're not the ones trying to do a necessary intervention on you?

      July 7, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  8. tony

    If prayer changes things, then this world with all it's horrors and terrible people is what good prayer has wrought.

    July 6, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  9. tony

    Sorry, I posted this in the wrong place.

    understand Catholic nuns are all married to the same "person". And to his Father. . . .

    July 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Mary

      So do they, like, get it on with him/them? And what do they scream then, OMG??? That would be TOO FUNNY.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Wayne's Planets

      Mary, that is pretty funny. But it's an old joke.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  10. Observer

    Since extremely few (if any) Christians fully agree with God's version of marriage, why should they care about gay marriage?

    July 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • marine1

      What's up Observer?

      July 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Observer

      marine1,

      Nothing new. Still angry.

      July 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • marine1

      Lmao Whats new. lol

      July 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Observer

      marine1,

      Still fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Ooops! Just found out someone else is using that motto.

      July 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • marine1

      I will check some of the comments later and see if you are still angry. Right now gotta run to the hospital.

      July 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  11. Ellen

    Why are so many Christians posting here so often backward, bigoted, bitter, and so full of hate?

    July 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Athy

      Hey, they're christians. That's just the way some of them are. They can't help it, it's just their nature.

      July 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • MikeF

      They're elitists so, of course, heaven would have very little value if everyone were allowed in. They also need some out-group to call their "enemy" so that they can claim persecution even though they are a majority, and hold way too much power to have their actual right taken away. Besides, outside "enemies" distract members from the inner problems of the group. Very useful, indeed!

      July 7, 2013 at 1:32 am |
  12. Brian

    God can be violent if he wants.
    Who's to say that he can't be?
    You seem to be implying that violence is immoral.
    If you think that violence is wrong, then you are imposing your subjective human anti-violence morality on God.
    It's ironic that the heathens out there want to impose their morality on God, but don't want to have any morality imposed on them.
    Nature is violent.

    July 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yes, nature is violent. But nature is a single word encompassing a number of phenomena which occur without need of thought. The violence is mindless.

      Christians claim that their god thinks, so any violence done by that god is deliberate. In several instances related in the bible, that god called for violence upon innocents. I cannot see any virtue in that.

      Honestly, I think that your god was invented in violent times by people who wished to excuse their own violent actions. People can give the gods of their invention any characteristic they choose. It makes it easier to commit atrocities when one claims it was sanctioned by a god.

      July 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • OTOH

      Nature is violent. Sure, the best we can do is to co-exist with it... and get out of the way when it blows. Worshipping it, praying to it, sacrificing to it does not do one iota of good (other than perhaps causing you to *think* you are having some control).

      That petulant, violent "God" character from The Bible cannot be trusted. Why would you adore such a being?

      July 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • MikeF

      Brian
      How do you know that God is "good", or means by "good", if he has his own morality apart from human standards?

      Also, if you believe that God is good then you must be making a judgment based on your own, inherent morality. You can'y just be accepting the claims that God is good without judging them for yourself because that would just be taking someone's word on it instead of judging it for yourself. So, why are you now calling that inherent morality flawed if it tells you that God is good?

      July 7, 2013 at 1:41 am |
  13. tony

    Another point that kinda blows the "gods plan" outta the water.

    God supposedly changed the the worlds "universal language" to thousands of local incompatible languages at the tower of babel. But then created the ten commandments tablets in just one language LATER!

    July 6, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Vic

      God chose the Israelites to carry out His mission.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • bostontola

      Vic,
      Does it ever concern you the temporal nature of the Judeo-Christian story? The Old Testament is a story of an exclusive group of people with a god that uses violence on earth against their enemies and sinners. The New Testament introduces god 2.0, forgiving, loving, etc. that wants to be inclusive. it's supposed to be the same god. An omniscient god that already knows everything that did and will happen. Such a change makes no sense in that context. It makes complete sense if man learned that exclusivity is a poor marketing scheme and changed the basis of the religion. Doesn't that bother you?

      July 6, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • tony

      But Vic your religion (and its "missionaries") is about spreading the "word". Which your god back then acted to make impossible for thousands of years. What part of "opposite direction" don't you understand?

      July 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  14. Bob

    Gerry, please answer the question, as directly as you can:

    The bible presents your god as having killed most of the members of a civilization. Do you agree with that statement?

    July 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Observer

      Bob,

      Gerry prepared his latest excuse for not answering: he made note that he's watching a 23-minute clip below. Guess the amount of time was checked for an escape.

      July 5, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Bob: the cross makes it very clear...
      1) it's worse than we want to admit (we all deserve that sort of death)
      2) it's better than we ever dared hope (he was willing to die in our place)

      July 5, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • tb63

      Can I throw this into the mix just for fun? I'm paraphrasing another poster from awhile back, but it's just too rich not to repeat.

      One can't actually build a viable wooden boat 440' long. It has never been done successfully by much more advanced boat builders. Wood is way too flexible and unstable for the stresses of the ocean. Said ark would be way too small for all the animals needed, much less their provisions. Six people (or was it eight – doesn't matter) could not keep all those animals alive. When they did reach shore, the animals would all die. With only two of every kind, predators would wipe out the prey within a day or two, then starve. Let's not forget the issue of Asians and Africans and all variations coming out of three or four Middle Eastern couples, and getting to the right places.

      The belief in Noah's Ark is a perfect litmus test for how gullible someone is.

      July 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Bob

      I'll wait for Gerry to answer for a short while, but let's hang onto the question and ask him again if he reappears elsewhere without answering directly.

      July 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Observer

      tb63,

      Don't you have any sympathy at all for Noah's family? Do you have any idea what it's like doing pooper-scooper duty for millions of caged animals every day?

      July 6, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Bob

      Russ, we argued over that tripe of yours before. You never did explain why your omnipotent being needed the whole Jesus hoopla to do his saving gambit. Please stay out of this thread. Let's let Gerry answer, if he can. I'll keep on him if he doesn't, or tries another dodge.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Bob

      tb63 and Observer, thanks for your additions. Fun stuff!

      July 6, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • tb63

      I know, right? Just goes to show the story is full of

      aw, never mind.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Observer

      Bob,

      The funniest part of the Noah's ark science fiction story is what happened when they got off. After months of inhumane treatment stuffed in bobbing cages, the animals finally got back on land. Noah celebrated their safe passage by immediately killing some of them as sacrifices since God loves the smell of burning animal flesh. From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • tb63

      Must have been Unicorns they roasted.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • Russ

      @ tb63:
      1) the term 'earth/land' and the way it is used in this text does not necessarily mean the entire planet.
      if so, the number of animals would also be much less.

      2) many folks object to the historicity of the account of the flood based on the widespread various accounts (i.e., Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.) – but you can't have it both ways. If it happened, it makes sense that there would be widespread accounts.

      3) go read the biblical narrative again. some animals are two by two, but those that were edible were more pairs (like 7).

      4) wikipedia (while not the most reliable resource) gives several ANCIENT wooden ships that were close to those proportions (note Caligula, Chinese, etc.).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest_wooden_ships

      we continue to make archeological discovers that blow open our preconceived notions of what the ancients could & couldn't do. aside from the pyramids themselves (which we still haven't figured out exactly HOW they did it), google the Khufu ship.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Russ

      @ Bob:
      I'm not interested in Gerry's opinions. I'm interested in Jesus.

      As for our former conversation, I think your memory is failing you. I answered you directly then, and will gladly do so again: God doesn't *need* anything. He *chooses* to reveal his character by what he does.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Observer

      “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings”

      Sounds pretty inclusive.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer:
      "Although God intends the flood to destroy every person and his remarks have a strong universal emphasis, this in itself does not necessarily mean that the flood had to cover the whole earth. Since the geographical perspective of ancient people was more limited than that of contemporary readers, it is possible that the flood, while universal from their viewpoint, did not cover the entire globe. Indeed, Genesis implies that prior to the Tower of Babel incident (see 11:1–9), people had not yet spread throughout the earth. Many interpreters, therefore, argue that a huge regional flood may have been all that was necessary for God to destroy all human beings. The expression “all the earth” (7:3; cf. 8:9, “the whole earth”) does not exclude such a possibility: later, “all the earth” came to Joseph to buy grain (41:57), with “all the earth” clearly referring to the eastern Mediterranean seaboard."
      -ESV Study Commentary

      July 6, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Observer

      God could take less than 5 seconds to conclusively prove his existence. He chooses not to. The billoins of souls that could be saved by this action is unimportant.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Observer

      Russ.

      You do realize, of course, that no local flood could go to the height over Mt. Ararat without being worldwide.

      I do understand. God's inspired words don't mean the definitions we all understand for them. "earth" means "just a small part of earth"; "day" means "1,000 years"; "circle" means "sphere"; "dead" means "alive but spiritually dead"; etc.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • tb63

      Ok, since we can now reinterpret the stories from what I was taught as a child, how about Adam and Eve? We're supposed to all have descended from those two, yet they bore two sons. Um, where did their kids come from? And don't just cop out and say that the bible doesn't say where their wives came from.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer: but notice what you have done... you have shifted the discussion from *how* God acts to *your assessment* of God's action – you have moved the seat of authority from the Objective to the subjective.

      Philosophically speaking, on what basis does the finite dictate the terms to the Infinite (or in particular, to the Infinite's chosen means of self-revelation)? it's a bit preposterous – like characters in a play trying to dictate terms to the author.

      It's the whole joke in the Talledega Nights
      "I like my Jesus to wear a tuxedo shirt... because it says I want to be formal, but I'm here to party." -Ray Noughton, Jr
      The God of self-projection is simply yourself.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Observer

      tb63,

      That's easy. Remember all the Bible commands strictly forbidding incest? That's what God used to populate the earth the two times he did it.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer: that's an anachronistic reference. Despite those folks who seem to insist on the 'frozen ark' theory on top of what is currently called Mt Ararat, today's name & location of the biblical Mt Ararat is unknown. that's not unique to the bible. it's a frequent fact of ancient history.

      and i'm not pushing for an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. nonetheless, one should read with an eye for genre. a figure of speech is a figure of speech – even in a historical narrative (hence the reference to Joseph & "all the earth" coming to Egypt).

      July 6, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • tb63

      an historical

      July 6, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer & tb63: on the contrary, when you read the text honestly – and not just looking for a reason to dismiss it – you can ask honest questions of the text. and sometimes, there is simply no given answer. the Bible tells us everything we NEED to know, not everything we want to know.

      for instance, "in the beginning" is clearly not the beginning for God or the "hosts" of the "Lord of Hosts" (which he is called in the Hebrew here). Angels (literally, just 'messengers') are created beings. There are clearly stories *prior to* the opening lines of the Bible... but this is *our* story. Jesus himself said "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Lk.10:18). When was that? before Gen.1:1. again, the Bible tells us everything we *need* to know, but not everything we want to know.

      i'm not going to make up answers for questions that the Bible itself leaves unanswered.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • tb63

      Satisfactory for you Observer?

      Me either.

      July 6, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • redzoa

      Genesis flood as allegory, fine. Genesis flood as fact; even under the heavily revised circ-umstances suggested here, still not remotely plausible. In fact, the whole Genesis creation account is rather laughable in light of what is readily observable within the fossil record and the available artifacts of various civilizations and indigenous cultures around the world.
      http://www.theonion.com/articles/sumerians-look-on-in-confusion-as-god-creates-worl,2879/

      July 6, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • Russ

      @ tb63: the goal was not to satisfy you, but to be honest with you.

      and on that theme, you're barking up the lesser tree. the resurrection is the primary issue. if Jesus was who he claimed to be, lived the life we couldn't, died the death we deserved... and then *rose from the dead* (the central claim of the Christian faith)... then "where did the people in the land of Nod come from?" becomes a rather minor objection. if the resurrection happened, it changes everything. if not, Christians are idiots.

      so, why not go after the most clear, most central & most ridiculous claim of the Christian faith? if that falls, then yes, by all means, throw Christianity aside. but if it's true...

      July 6, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • I wonder

      Russ,
      " the Bible tells us everything we NEED to know, not everything we want to know."

      If that is the bottom line, it is sidling very close to "Just shut up and believe."

      July 6, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • Observer

      Russ,

      The Noah's Ark story could have been the ultimate proof of God's existence but instead it turned into a laughable science fiction plot. All of the logic and changes to so many laws of science could have been discussed if it actually happened. Can you image the impact if details were supplied about how the animals were teleported (with oxygen masks?) to the ark, for instance. Where did all the food come from? How did Noah feed and clean cages for millions of animals? Why didn't they kill each other? How did carnivores get their necessary fresh meat to kill? How did animals arrive from Australia? How did the animals exercise? How did fresh vegetables arrive for vegetarian animals? How did the animals go back where they came from?

      Silliest of all, what did Noah's family eat afterwards? All the animals and plants were dead. They couldn't kill any of the paired animals to keep the species going. No logic to the story at all and no details to try to make excuses. Pitiful.

      All of those details would go a far way to show the existence of a God that planned it. Instead, we got bumpkis. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Just fantasized magic. Major failure.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Russ

      @ redzoa: I am not a young earth creationist, so your appeal to the Onion's parody really doesn't apply.

      you might find this helpful:
      http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf

      July 6, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • Russ

      @ I wonder:
      much to the contrary, there is plenty to wrestle with in what is clearly stated. as i pointed out to tb63, the resurrection itself is a much more salient and central tenet for one assessing the claims of Christianity. far from 'just shut up & believe', i think the entire point (as well as method) of the early Christian Church was discussing the reality of an ostensibly ridiculous historical claim... yet one they found world-shattering.

      and within 250 years, the same Greco-Roman culture that gave us cynicism and the foundations of all philosophy was now – for all intents and purposes – Christian.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer: your presupposition appears to be that for 3000 years Jews have been idiots, but there are entire fields of discipline here. your questions have been posed for millennia, and some have answers (while others remain unanswered).

      but again, the text does not require that Australia was flooded... nor that animals were teleported from there. and as for plant life, before they even get off the boat there is evidence that plant life exists outside of it (remember the dove had a plant in its beak when it returned to the ark).

      but more importantly, as i said above, the resurrection is a much more germane debate for assessing the miraculous as well as the merits as a whole of Christianity. to accept the resurrection while objecting to the flood would be swallowing a camel & straining a gnat.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Observer

      "@ Observer: your presupposition appears to be that for 3000 years Jews have been idiots"

      Nope, but that seems to be the position of many Christians who fluff off all of the ridiculous commands in the Old Testament as just meant for them. Kill anyone working on the Sabbath? Nah, that was just for Jews. Kill adulterers? Nah, just for Jews. Kill fortune tellers. Nah, that's for Jews. Kill unruly kids? Nah, too stupid for Christians, God saved that for Jews.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Russ

      @ Observer:
      1) all the earliest Christians (not to mention Jesus himself) were Jews.

      2) the NT deals rather thoroughly with those points (Sermon on the Mount – as a whole, but esp.Mt.5:17 – Acts 10, 15, 1 Cor.10, Rom.9-11, etc.). again, you seem to be ignoring BOTH the rest of the canon AND 2000 years of voluminous scholarly discussions.

      i think i've given you this piece before... maybe even in the last few days... directly on this point.
      http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=363

      3) most to the point, as i already stated in this thread, the cross rather clearly states that we ALL deserve death. ALL of us. the OT laws that make that so abundantly clear are the very reason he went to the cross for me. i deserve to die, but he already paid the penalty. no double jeopardy.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Observer

      Russ,

      Any time God's commands to kill people are brought up to Christians, the standard answer is "not us. That was just for Jews in the Old Testament." They got blamed for all the stupid ones like killing unruly kids.The funniest of all was that after people followed the killing commands, they were to "kill anyone who kills anyone".

      So is the Old Testament an excuse to dump the stupid laws on Jews, but not Christians?

      July 6, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • redzoa

      @Russ – As I stated before, I have no issue with those who adopt the allegorical view of the creation accounts, i.e. non-literal, which is effectively the position adopted by your linked essay. But I do believe you argued in defense of a localized flood wiping out humans and referenced a requisite limited distribution of humans to allow for the apparent complete destruction of humanity. It was to this premise I was directing the onion piece, but I also referenced the available evidence indicating complex and widespread indigenous cultures which pre-date the alleged chronologies of the Bible.

      Still, when one attempts to reconcile either literal or allegorical creation accounts with available evidence in the context of theistic evolution and other intelligent design positions, there is a host of available physical evidence which undermines these claims. In the broader sense, one can point to the redundant and poorly designed forms which rose and fell in multiple rounds of mass extinctions. In a more narrow sense, once can point to the vestigial anatomical and molecular structures indicating non-directed processes. But the more fundamental problem in the evidentiary sense, is that in invoking any supernatural causation, one losses any reliable explanatory power, i.e. a mechanism which can explain any and all possible outcomes effectively explains nothing. This is the case with theistic evolution and ID because there is no possible outcome which cannot be explained by "God's mysterious ways." But this is also the case with the major claims of all religions and their principal foundational events, including the resurrection. Suffice it to say that were religion in general, and Christianity more specifically, grounded in anything firmer than pure faith, and if there really was a divine intent to effectively communicate with mortals, one might reasonably presume there would not be such a continual and desperate need for essays targeting the "proper" hermeneutics and thereby, the "proper" apologetics responses.

      July 6, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • Observer

      Russ,

      I went to the website you mentioned. If I read it right, it says that the Old Testament commands all kinds of killing because it was in a single state and the New Testament reflects a more global att-itude where separate countries call the shots. Is that your take?

      July 6, 2013 at 2:18 am |
    • tallulah13

      I find people like Russ to be disgusting because A) he believes he's evil enough that he deserves to be punished forever; and B) He's really, really happy that some innocent guy got tortured to death so that he won't get the punishment he deserves.

      I fail to see any virtue in this scenario.

      July 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Observer:
      1) no, the NT is not an attempt to dump the laws on the Jews. As I said above, Jesus is a Jew, as were all of the original disciples and most of the first generation of Christians. As Jesus said, he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Mt.5:17).

      2) there are 3 forms of laws in the OT:
      a) ceremonial – for ritual & spiritual cleansing
      b) judicial – laws for the particular nation state & theocracy of Israel
      c) moral – universal moral norms

      the ceremonial laws (like the Holiness Code in Leviticus) that were necessary to make God's people clean were all foreshadowing of Christ. He's the ultimate sacrifice that makes all such rituals and cleansing no longer necessary. To continue following those laws is to ignore the effects of the cross (see Acts 10 or Acts 15, for example).

      the judicial laws were particular to the ancient nation state of Israel. while they are useful to see God's character in how he dealt with their particulars, the bigger picture is the foreshadowing that the only king Israel needs is God himself – and any other ruler would fail them. Guess what message Jesus came proclaiming? "Repent, the Kingdom is at hand."

      the moral laws (like the 10 Commandments) always apply. they are simply reflecting God's character.

      bottom line: the entirety of the OT points to Jesus (as Jesus himself says: Lk.24:27,44).

      July 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Russ

      @ redzoa:
      1) no, the framework hypothesis is not allegorical. it is primarily pointing out the genre (like Judges 4-5 or Exodus 14-15) – there are parallel historical accounts. one is narrative, the other is a song. Gen.1 bears very similar markings (at the very least, it's elevated prose).

      your critique of 'literal' is not the same as noting literary genre. literal often implies just a shallow reading of the immediate text, ignoring genre, potential nuance or idioms, etc. In other words, like a 5 year old. very few people actually read the bible that way. we conservatives want to be literarily minded – meaning we want to read the text faithful to the Author's intent (including varying nuances and differences in genre). for example, when it says God wraps himself in light like a garment and stretches out the heavens like a tent (Ps.104), we recognize similes. we're not claiming that's 'literal' in the sense you mean. but it DOES mean he's the Creator, and he's utterly transcendent.

      also, there are several views that recognize there is no set time frame prior to Abraham. the events of Gen.1-11 are virtually impossible to date. while some of my fellow Christians disagree, it is not necessary to argue for a young earth.

      you then seem to press for other prior civilizations (as though that would somehow debunk the claims of the Bible), but that is a failure to understand what is being claimed. we don't believe that people *invented* God (i.e., your argument is contingent on your foregone conclusion), but rather God invented them... and he reveals himself to them in his own chosen manner. if – as the Bible claims – Moses wrote the Pentateuch, it is not a claim that the some mythology began with Moses. instead, God is revealing historical truths Moses could never have known himself.

      2) it is ironic that you would appeal to "God's mysterious ways" as ridiculous, and yet an atheistic evolutionary premise is the ultimate purposelessness yet somehow ordered development. As Alvin Plantinga has pointed out, that appears to be a foundational philosophical flaw when built upon methodological naturalism (as scientists often presume).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism

      In other words, you are mocking order while appealing to entropy when you have the same problem from the opposite end.

      furthermore, to claim that only religion is based on faith is mistaken. as I just said before, science is built on methodological naturalism – an unprovable, philosophical system... a metaphysical faith, if you will. as Nietzsche said, "it is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science." faith in science is not the same thing as science.

      3) as for "pure faith", that is simply ignoring the vast archeological evidence supporting the historical claims of the Bible. while not enough alone to 'prove' the faith, it certainly debunks the claim that it is "pure faith." furthermore – and more notably – unlike most of other religions on the planet, Christianity is built on the *historical* claim that God entered time and walked the planet. Christianity is "Good News", not ethical advice (in stark contrast with virtually every other religion) – it is what Jesus did (in time & space), not what we do, that saves us. the foundation of Christianity is necessarily historical. as Paul said, "if there was no resurrection, we are to be pitied above all men."

      along those lines, historians recognize that Christianity cannot fully be explained without a recognition that something unique happened in history (not just the largest human movement in history, but the manner in which it grew):
      "Why, among all the cults and philosophies competing in the Greco-Roman world, did Christianity succeed and outstrip all others? Why did it succeed despite getting more severe opposition than any other? Why did it succeed though it had no influential backers in high places, but consisted mainly of the poor and slaves? How did it succeed so completely that it forced the most powerful state in history to come to terms with it, and then outlive the very empire that sought to uproot it? It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy perhaps unequaled in our history. Without it, the future course of the Christian religion is inexplicable."
      -Yale scholar Kenneth Scott Latourette

      July 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Russ

      @ talullah...
      a) ironic, the skeptic is finding me too skeptical of myself. do you turn that skepticism on yourself?
      on what basis do you think so highly of yourself?

      b) the whole point of Christianity is that the real virtue is his, not mine.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @Russ

      Although you don't come out and say it in your last paragraph, you imply that Christianity is true and its god exists because the formation of the religion is implausible. Of course this is an obvious fallacy because 1. implausible things occur all the time, 2. other faiths have sprung from beginnings just as unlikely or more unlikely, and 3. you don't know if the religion grew as you claim.

      The Christian god can be logically rejected for hundreds of reasons, and your arguments only serve to make it a fairly interesting rejection.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Cpt. Obvious:
      1) so you admit that implausible things occur all the time and yet you preclude the possibility of Christianity? how is that not contradictory?

      and note: the argument is not solely based on the fact that Christianity is inexplicable historically.

      2) also, no other religion is making the same sort of claim. every other major religion's founder claims to point TO the way to the divine/nirvana/etc. Jesus uniquely claimed to BE the way. in other words, the other founder's system of ethics is sufficient to "save" (it's what you do in following the 'rules'), whereas with Jesus it is not an ethical system but the claim that he is who he says he is and what HE does saves.

      3) now you're just denying historical reality as recognized by atheist & theist scholars alike. read Rodney Stark's "the Rise of Christianity," for example.

      4) logic alone is not sufficient for any metaphysical claim... the claims of naturalism included. your argument is self-refuting.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Peter

      Russ
      What's the real difference between pointing to and actually being the only way? Each religion still claims to be the only one to have the answer and, besides, plenty of ancient religions also had their savior figure like Christ, so that's not at all unique. That old saying about there being nothing new under the sun extends way before the time of Jesus.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @Russ

      1. Implausible things happen all the time. Christianity forming was implausible and yet it occurred. Obviously I am aware that Christianity formed. I have no doubts about it.

      2. Any rational person that does not give into irrational arguments somewhere along the way will logically determine that Christianity is false. Believers who are also logical thinkers have no (for whatever reason) followed the arguments to their logical end or they would be atheists.

      3. And note: Christianity is explicable historically just like all the other religions.

      4. All religions make different claims. That's why they're different. You are welcome to think that your religion is unique and therefore accurate, but so is everyone else about their own religion or world view. It's a stupid argument, and I'm surprised that you use it. LOL.

      4 Logic is all we have for any claim. If a metaphysical claim can't be tested, then its as worthy as any other nontestable claim. If you think my "argument" is self-refuting then you are welcome to explain how, but if the reasoning uses "logic" as unfounded and immaturely constructed as the rest of your arguments, then it will probably be pretty worthless and I will reject it for being worthless.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Also, Russ, I make no claims or arguments for "naturalism." Nobody knows the why or how of the "big questions." However, what we can perform experiments on and detect, we can make predictions and claims about. (It's called "science.") Since we can only experiment and build knowledge about the natural world, why would we make claims about what isn't natural or within our ability to test? Why not do the logical thing and admit that you don't know (agnosticism) and not believe in what cannot be observed (atheism)? How illogical are you?

      July 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Peter:
      1) "pointing to" the way means "here's a pattern to follow" (moral exemplar to emulate). it's what we do that saves us.
      being "the way" itself means HE does what I can't. He's not asking me to earn my way by following the rules. he followed the rules when i couldn't.

      2) pluralism is equally guilty of exclusivism. in the old parable of the blind men & the elephant, in the story, who is uniquely claiming to be able to see the truth? the narrator exclusively claims to have sight. the pluralist is criticizing the claim of exclusive knowledge by each religion while claiming to have that same sort of unique insight himself. it's self-refuting if used against exclusivism.

      3) "the old saying about nothing new under the sun" comes from the Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:9.

      July 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Peter:
      1) "pointing to" the way means "here's a pattern to follow" (moral exemplar to em.ulate). it's what we do that saves us.
      being "the way" itself means HE does what I can't. He's not asking me to earn my way by following the rules. he followed the rules when i couldn't.

      2) pluralism is equally guilty of exclusivism. in the old parable of the blind men & the elephant, in the story, who is uniquely claiming to be able to see the truth? the narrator exclusively claims to have sight. the pluralist is criticizing the claim of exclusive knowledge by each religion while claiming to have that same sort of unique insight himself. it's self-refuting if used against exclusivism.

      3) "the old saying about nothing new under the sun" comes from the Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:9.

      July 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Cpt. Obvious:
      1-2) these two statements do not work together. you allow for the implausible yet turn around and preclude Christianity as a premise. you can't have it both ways.

      3) your argument is with the historians here. Latourette is pressing out the fact that Christianity overtook a major (if not THE) major world power without military force, political maneuvering by the powerful, or any of the normal sociological means seen in such a cultural revolution – particularly religious ones. Rodney Stark echoes the sentiment in his book.

      4) the argument is not that uniqueness makes right. unique can also be uniquely wrong. no, the primary reason Christians believe solely in Jesus is first & foremost because we believe it's true. again, if the resurrection happened, it changes everything. if not, we're idiots.

      5) your appeal to logic here fails to understand that you (necessarily) are making metaphysical claims – even if you are a pure naturalist. by definition, you are presuming those things. for example, (as some naturalists often state) "i only believe what empirically verifiable" is itself NOT an empirically verifiable statement. to base ALL of your logic on a logically flawed premise is self-defeating.

      6) naturalism and science are NOT the same thing. i love science. it's great. i'm thankful for it. but naturalism is a philosophy – a faith-based philosophy, notably. and failing to understand the difference is why you continue to use arguments against faiths without realizing you have one of your own.

      also, you claim "since we can only... build knowledge about the natural world..." is an unprovable assertion. again, you preclude the possibility that the transcendent/Infinite/spiritual/etc. can break through and speak for him/her/itself. and you have staked your entire existence on that *unprovable* assertion... that's an enormous leap of faith on your part. the question to ask yourself: why am i so biased against that possibility?

      July 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Russ, when I do harm to someone, I admit it, I apologize and I try to make amends. If punishment is required, I accept that punishment. I was raised to be responsible for my own actions and as a result, I have always tried very hard not to hurt others.

      I would never let another person take my punishment for me. To me, that would be immoral, lazy, selfish and simply wrong. The fact that you expect to be rewarded for letting an innocent be tortured to death for your "sins" is disgusting to me.

      July 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Peter

      Russ
      You still have to believe in him, supposedly, so that still qualifies as something YOU do to save yourself. No difference then.

      Wouldn't Christianity just be another of the "blind men", where science would be whatever brave soul who dared to feel beyond his little area, gradually forming a clearer, broader understanding?

      The writer of Ecclesiastes probably knew about Hercules, Horus, and other demigods with similar stories to the one that would form around Jesus.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Russ

      @ tallulah
      1) again, it certainly sounds like your skepticism toward others does not extend to yourself

      a) you are confident in your own faculties to *always* accurately perceive whether or not you have wronged someone. sociologically speaking, i would think that is demonstrably untrue for virtually anyone.

      b) you also seem so confident in your own efforts not to wrong another. i would not only question the consistent sincerity of those efforts, but i also would call attention to your standards.
      i) first of all, are there things worth fighting for (i.e., against racism, b bigotry, etc.)?
      ii) furthermore, have your position ever changed? have you ever fought passionately for something only later to find you were on the wrong side?
      iii) and finally, are you actually under the delusion that you have faithfully lived by your own standards? as one famous writer put it: imagine you had an invisible recording device around your neck all day which recorded everything you said about other people. if you were simply judged by the standards with which you live (not even an external set of standards, much less divine ones), no one could stand.

      2) you have missed what is being stated on the cross

      a) you are still under the delusion that you can earn your way out of punishment. you cannot. the cross is stating rather clearly your just punishment, if you so defiantly continue to try to be your own savior, will leave you utterly desti.tute.. and here comes a benevolent being to pay the cost for you, but you repudiate any charity. why? pride. in some misguided sense of being self-sufficient, you reject charity – the very charity we all need.

      b) you claim you would never "let" that happen... and yet it has *already* happened. you are simply refusing to allow someone else's charity to be applied to your account. you have no way to pay for yourself. to repudiate the grace Jesus is offering is to demonstrably state "I can do it myself!" when everything he is saying and has done states quite clearly the opposite.

      c) it is immoral to kill the innocent. and yet *we* did it. the Bible makes it clear, we all are responsible for Jesus' death – regicide, theocide, etc. however you stack it, it is a horrible thing. you are right to be disgusted. but you are wrong to equate the horror of what we did with the incredible grace of what God has done. he has made the very place that shows the depth of our depravity into the same place that demonstrates the greater depth of his love. who loves enemies like this? who comes after people who want you dead only to make them into his own family?

      as i said above, the cross tells us two things very clearly:
      1) we are worse off than we want to admit (we killed him)
      2) we are much more loved than we ever dared to hope (he was willing to die for us)

      July 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Russ

      @ Peter:

      1) actually, the Bible states rather clearly that even faith is a gift.
      "It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no man can boast." (Eph.2:8-9)

      2) you are attempting to mix the metaphors on the blind men & elephant parable.
      bottom line: what is the truth? is it the elephant or sight itself? either way, the narrator is *uniquely* claiming insight on the metaphysical nature of existence that no one else has. that's not a scientific discussion (something to which ALL of us have insight), but a metaphysical one. this is not a religion vs. science discussion. the debate is with your underlying philosophy – which (from what I'm hearing) is probably naturalism. but again, that is a FAITH in science, not science itself. as i quoted to redzoa above, even Nietzsche said: "it is STILL a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science."

      July 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @ Russ:
      1-2) No, Russ. You just can't read and comprehend very well. Implausible things happen all the time. Christianity is implausible and it happened, just like other implausible things happen. This shouldn't be that hard for you to understand. Read it a few times.

      3) Yes, implausible things happen all the time. How plausible was it for the other religions to form and continue and last as long as they did? How plausible is it that some guy in America would claim to have magic plates he could read in the dark by shoving them and his face into his hat and then people would buy into that and it would be Mormonism? How plausible is Scientology? Stupid, stupid, stupid religions are all over the place and they've grown from stupid ideas, but they're there.

      4) Correct. The resurrection never happened. Russ, all you have are stories in a book whose origins you've not properly researched. Your stamina on these boards demonstrate your confirmation bias, so any research you do will likely find you tossing out facts that don't agree with your preconceived notions and a priori decisions/beliefs, but you should at least research a little bit better.

      5) I'm not appealing to "naturalism" or any other philosophy or belief, Russ. I'm saying that YOUR belief system is so stupid that anyone moderately intelligent shouldn't believe it. It's not capable of holding the belief of a critical thinker. I'm not claiming to know the correct "answer" to the problem; I'm simply pointing out that yours is obviously wrong.

      6) Of course naturalism and science are NOT the same thing, Russ. Duh. You're the only one talking about naturalism, here. I'm not. I'm saying that your beliefs are in error because of the stupidity contained in the religion and in the book it is based on.

      And, no, I do not "preclude the possibility that the transcendent/Infinite/spiritual/etc. can break through and speak for him/her/itself" And no, I have NOT "staked [my]entire existence on that *unprovable* assertion.' You're simply building strawmen since I do NOT do state that and have never stated that. In fact, liar, I assume the opposite, so even your guesses designed to mock me are precisely and exactly WRONG. I imagine that a transcendent being WOULD "break through and speak for itself.' However, that transcendent being would not put forth something so amazingly stupid as what Christians believe.

      Russ, you're horrible at comprehending what other people are saying to you. You only want to argue about what you think your opponent thinks; you don't seek to understand the other person's perspective. You have simply ignored my position and built your own strawmen based on what you want me to have said. In essence, you lie about what I has written in order to make the statements you feel show better reasoning. Do you see how this is a problem for you? If you never address my concerns, but you only address your own, what is being accomplished? In order for you to have meaningful conversations you'll have to start processing and understanding the other person you are talking to.

      You can't use the same technique with us as you use with your god. You can't just assume that you know what the other person thinks regardless of the fact that they aren't stating that at all and then respond in the way you've already prepared. At some point you're going to have to address what the other person ACTUALLY thinks and says, or it's just more of this useless wheel-spinning you do so much, here

      July 8, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Russ

      @ Cpt Obvious:

      1-2) you are equivocating. you allow for a purely sociological explanation of Christianity (which you claim is implausible) but not the most glaring implausibility: a spiritual & transcendent explanation. i think you knew that's what i meant, too.

      3) speaking of preconceived bias... what do you call your rant here? considering your speech about listening to others, i'd put yourself to that test in light of what you wrote in your #3 above.

      4) much to the contrary, i have done the research. i have a postgraduate degree in this field. i'd challenge you to actually do the research as well: read NT Wright's "The Resurrection of the Son of God" – or even just a decent scholarly review of it. it will challenge most of what you are assuming in your arguments here... notably, through the EVIDENCE cited. and it's rather comprehensive: historically, philosophically, sociologically, etc. While he's not the only definitive authority on the subject, he distills a lot of broader work in one location for you.

      and as for your assertion that stamina on the billboards = confirmation bias... pot, meet kettle.

      5) do you claim NOT to have a philosophical point of departure? or are you simply unaware of it? you said: "since we can only experiment and build knowledge about the natural world..." you don't allow for the possibility that knowledge might come through revelation. hat is naturalism, by definition. that's your own words.

      and it is one thing to honestly admit you don't have a consistent philosophical basis, but to criticize others as not being a "critical thinker" while being unaware of your *own* philosophical basis is not only self-refuting but also self-discrediting.

      6) again, you seem unaware that you are using (at the very least) a functional naturalism as your grid for assessing religion – by your own words cited above. the fact that you are unaware of that is probably why you are conflating science with your underlying presuppositions *about* science (and all of existence, for that matter).

      and yet again you make two opposite claims: a) you say you don't preclude the possibility of the Infinite speaking into the finite (despite your opposite words cited above), but b) you mock ALL religions for being stupid. what am i to deduce from that? obviously, you have some standard you are using to assess metaphysical reality... and yet you continue to insist you do not or you are unaware of what it is.

      on what basis do you dictate the terms upon which the Infinite might self-reveal? isn't that – by definition – something the Infinite alone dictates? and wouldn't holding that authority as your own necessarily put you in a position of greater authority than the Infinite? again, you seem unaware that your position is logically self-contradictory. If God is God (whomever he/she/it is), God will show himself on WHATEVER terms he decides... even if you find those terms ridiculous.

      I am seeking to address your concerns and have an honest discussion here, but that includes holding you up to your *own* standards. at the very least, do you not see that I am not "guessing" what you think but basing my responses on *your own words*? read above – do you deny writing those words? if i have misunderstood you, then clarify. but let's not have this dodge of a feigned moral high ground because you say I insulted you by guessing when in fact my comments were not a guess but were based upon your words. you are calling my integrity into question as a dodge for the real content of the conversation. ironically for you, i could say the very same thing about you in light of what you said above.

      July 8, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Peter

      Russ
      "1) actually, the Bible states rather clearly that even faith is a gift."
      You still have to sign up for the subscription first in some way, right? Some Hindu who never even talked to a Christian before living in India isn't just going to wake up one morning and realize that he believes in Christ.

      "2) you are attempting to mix the metaphors on the blind men & elephant parable."
      Nope, Christians are just feeling their particular part of the whole and content to make a declaration based on that limited knowledge. It's science that maps out the whole animal.

      I don't have "faith" in science. Science has proven time and again that it works, and self-corrects when it doesn't. Faith is for things that you can't trust based of hard evidence.

      July 9, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • Russ

      @ Peter:
      1) the sovereignty of God goes hand in hand with evangelism in the Bible. we are God's chosen means to take the Good News to the world – and we are responsible to do that.

      2) it's clear from your response you are not hearing my critique.

      a) you are still claiming to *uniquely* have sight (i.e., to know the metaphysical truth) in a room full of blind people – the very claim that you are attempting to debunk in religion.

      as Lesslie Newbigin puts it:
      "In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has."

      b) in claiming to be able to see the metaphysical truth, you are *necessarily* making metaphysical truth claims. science – by definition – cannot do that. you are not doing science, but metaphysics under the guise of science. that has been called scientism (putting metaphysical faith in science).

      your ongoing insistence without qualifying makes it clear you are conflating science with scientism. science cannot speak to metaphysics because it *presupposes* them (notice the words: metaphysics vs. physics). the debate at hand is not between science and religion, but rather the metaphysical grid underlying how you interpret the scientific data. you are conflating the two. do you realize you have an underlying grid? even to say "the material world that science studies is all there is" IS itself a metaphysical position (naturalism / materialism) – in other words, notably UNprovable by empirical means.

      i have no problem with science. it's a wonderful tool for observation.
      my problem is with your scientism – which is inherently a competing metaphysical grid... i.e., faith.

      July 9, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The physicist should confine herself to the rules of reality and not question why there are rules because that is the purview of metaphysics? Russ, I don't see that metaphysical questions can be separated from the "legitimate" questions of science. If a question can be framed in such a way that it can be answered, I think it is fair game for science.

      July 9, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • Russ

      @ Tom Tom: physics cannot address what it *presupposes.*
      we are not merely talking about the laws of physics, but what undergirds the laws of physics.

      in scientific classrooms, the basis for scientific inquiry is "methodological naturalism."
      but that is ADMITTEDLY a presupposed philosophy – NOT scientific observation.
      it's a point of departure... a metaphysical point of departure. FAITH-BASED.

      unless – of course – you are talking about revelation... but that renders naturalism moot.

      July 10, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  15. Bob

    Gerry, the bible presents your god as having killed most of the members of a civilization. Do you agree with that statement?

    July 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      What hermeneutical method are you using to interpret biblical history?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • Observer

      Gerry,

      When God got done TORTUROUSLY DROWNING people, he had KILLED EVERY pregnant woman, child, baby, and fetus on the face of the earth.

      Does that help answer your question where you attempted to avoid answering Bob's question?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      @ Obsrv

      So do you believe that actually happened?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It is astonishing, Gerry, that many people do believe just that and ignore the implications of it. Do you?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Ill wait for Obsrv to answer my question first. Do you believe God actually did those things as recorded in the Bible?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Gerry from Bayonne

      "So do you believe that actually happened?"

      Of course not, but you're the one apparently advocating the truth of the Bible.

      If you think the Bible is UNRELIABLE and you don't believe it, just say so. So do you?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      So then, God is "NOT GUILTY" as charged. Case for the defendant.

      Kind of silly to accuse a god you do not believe in, using evidence from a book you do not believe in, to make a point you do not believe in.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Gerry from Bayonne

      lol. PATHETIC attempt.

      Do YOU think the Bible is an UNRELIABLE source? Yes or no? (any problems with reading comprehension for you?)

      July 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      However, we all know the godless atheists did in fact kill the 100,000,000+ million they are accused of.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      So you don't really have a position to defend or an idea to present other than atheists are not as happy and not as nice as theists are – What kind of theist are you, Gerry? I don't see where you were in support of any particular God.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Observer

      Here's what the Bible says that God did, at least according to those who believe it:

      “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings”

      For believers, that was worse than anything any atheists ever did.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Obsrv = you sound like a very disillusioned former fundi, or someone who's biblical literacy stopped around the time you were reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys

      July 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      whose?

      July 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Observer

      Gerry from Bayonne,

      Speaking of biblical literacy, you have displayed NONE and are TOTALLY CLUELESS whether you believe everything in it or not.

      Get seious. You are making a fool of yourself.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I think you are right, Observer. This one not only has nothing new to say, Gerry has nothing to say at all.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Obsrv says, "Hmm? Which seems more realistic to me? The explanations I got in 3rd grade about how the pictures in my 'Children's Bible' could be true, or the sciencey like rationales I got on Myth Busters? I'll take Myth Busters for the block, Peter."

      July 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Observer

      Tom, Tom, the Other One,

      This is a riot! Have you ever seen such childish attempts to avoid answering a simple yes-or-no question about faith?

      This is classic!

      July 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Bob

    Here's an accurate table:

    http://www.cybercollege.com/fog33.htm

    July 5, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      agitprop

      July 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  17. Bob

    So, Gerry, others can play at your top-posting game too. Now, why is it that you won't even present even one link, of the many that you claim exist to support your "case"?

    Present even one such link, and let's take a closer look at it. You are being called out. Deliver or else retract your statements.

    July 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Gerry from Bayonne:

    ATHEISTS KILL THEMSELVES MORE
    ATHEISTS HATE THEMSELVES AND OTHER PEOPLE MORE
    ATHEISTS KILL OTHER PEOPLE MORE.

    The truth of these things has no bearing on the existence of God or gods. Does Gerry suggest that we should believe because it will make us nicer and happier people?

    July 5, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Well, your last assertion would be a good start for you; e.g. nicer and happier

      July 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gerry. Another non-personal attack? How do you know what Tom is like?

      July 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Gerry, surely you haven't been treated badly by anyone here?

      Justified belief, or something like it, is called for when something with the implications of God is involved, I would think. I don't think I could believe in something so extraordinary and probably untrue simply because it might make me nicer, happier, more acceptable in polite company.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  19. Observer

    Gerry,

    Do you believe that God actually did this or did the Bible lie?

    “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings”

    July 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Again, Obsrv, if you are looking to trap a fundi, you're barking up the wrong tree. Just hang around here long enough, though, and you're likely to have a spirited argument with one.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Answer

      Of course the freaks believe it. Why should they refuse to acknowledge their sacred rubbish? 🙂

      July 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Observer

      Gerry,

      This is a riot. Simple question about your faith.

      Do you believe that God actually did that or did the Bible lie?

      How can you be so STUMPED about whether you BELIEVE something or not?

      lol. Try again.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gerry is a Google-challenged Chad.

      July 5, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  20. Bob

    Gerry's a slippery one. Pin him down.

    July 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Observer

      Bob,

      Just quote from the Bible. He doesn't like to hear about what God did or what his Bible says.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      Reading you quote the Bible, and then trying to "prove" a point is like listening to 1st grader reciting the the Gettysburg Address and then being told by her mother that her child is somewhat of a political wonk.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Bob

      Gerry is telling fibs too. His suggested googling actually shows Christians to be especially criminal. See e..g here, among the many links that turn up.

      http://www.cybercollege.com/fog33.htm

      July 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Bob

      Stow the personal attacks, Gerry. Or are you just representing the norm for your religion....

      July 5, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      I don't know what you're talking about, Bob. I haven't accused anyone of attacking me, nor have I attacked anyone.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gerry, How many people (plus animals, insects, fish, birds, and plants) were killed in the Noah story? How may people were killed when the Red Sea was restored to normal. What happened to Lot's wife? The bible is full of people killed by god. History shows many killed in the name of a god. Current news continues to show many killed in the name of a god.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Gerry from Bayonne

      @santa

      You cannot argue that there is no god and then pin all those deaths on him. IF there is no god, then all those "acts of God" tragedies are nothing of the sort.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gerry, So you agree there is no god?

      July 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gerry, And if you do believe in a god, then you have to admit that it directly murdered millions of people, whereas you have not made your case that atheists are mass-murderers for their lack of faith as religous people demonstrably are.

      July 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
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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.