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My Take: How technology could bring down the church
May 15th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: How technology could bring down the church

Editor's Note: Lisa Miller, formerly the religion editor at Newsweek, is the author of “Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife,” recently released in paperback.

By Lisa Miller, Special to CNN

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, and Bible publishers are ostentatiously commemorating the landmark by producing an abundance of gorgeous doorstops. Leather bound Bibles. Two-volume sets. Replicas of the 1611 version complete with “original” illustrations.

The hoopla is entirely justified, since the King James Bible revolutionized Bible reading, bringing Scripture into a common vernacular for the first time for the English-speaking world.

It is not too much to say that the King James Bible - mass produced as it was, thanks to a new technology called the printing press - democratized religion by taking it out of the hands of the clerical few and giving it to the many.

Today, another revolution in Bible reading is underway – one that has nothing to do with gilt-edged paper. If the King James Bible brought the Bible to the English-speaking masses, today’s technology goes a giant step further, making Scripture - in any language and any translation - accessible to anyone on earth with a smartphone.

Just like the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation, which was aided by the advent of the printing press and which helped give birth to the King James Bible, changes wrought by new technology have the potential to bring down the church as we know it.

In the face of church leaders who claimed that only they could interpret the Bible for the common people, Reformation leaders like Martin Luther taught that nothing supersedes the authority of the Word itself.

"A simple layman armed with Scripture,” Luther wrote, “is greater than the mightiest pope without it."

In that vein, digital technology gives users the text, plain and simple, without the interpretive lens of established authorities. And it lets users share interpretations with other non-authorities, like family members, friends and coworkers.

With Scripture on iPhones and iPads, believers can bypass constraining religious structures - otherwise known as “church” - in favor of a more individual connection with God.

This helps solve a problem that Christian leaders are increasingly articulating: that even among people who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and savior, folks don’t read the Bible.

According to a 2010 survey, more than a third of born-again Christians “rarely or never” read the Bible. Among “unaffiliated” people - that is, Americans who don’t belong to a religious congregation - more than two thirds say they don’t read the Bible.

Especially among 18-to-29 year olds, Bible reading has come to feel like homework, associated with “right” interpretations and “wrong ones,” and accompanied by stern lectures from the pulpit.

Young Christians “have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive,” the Christian demographer Dave Kinnaman told the Christian magazine Charisma in 2009, “that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships.”

This yearning for a more unmediated faith - including Bible verses live in your pocket or purse 24/7, available to inspire or console wherever and whenever they’re needed - has met an enthusiastic embrace.

For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning.

Young people want to “consume” their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to dip and dabble, the way they browse Facebook.

Thus the almost-insane popularity of Youversion, a digital Bible available for free on iTunes and developed by a 34-year-old technology buff and Christian pastor from Oklahoma named Bobby Gruenewald. He conceived of it, he told me, while on a layover at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, wishing he had a Bible to read.

“What we’re really trying to address is, how do we increase engagement in the Bible?” he said.

Now available in 113 versions and 41 languages, including Arabic, Youversion has a community component that allows users to share thoughts and insights on Bible verses with friends. It has been installed on more than 20 million smartphones since 2008.

On May 2, Youversion staged its own King James commemorative event: for 400 seconds, starting at noon, more than 10,0000 users logged on and read a portion of the Bible – King James translation, of course - a kind of 21st century Bible-reading flash mob.

Traditionalists worry that technology allows young believers to practice religion without committing to what in the south is called “a church home” - and they’re right.

I did a public Q&A with Michigan pastor Rob Bell on the eve of the publication of his new bestseller "Love Wins" and was astonished, during the book-signing that followed, at how many acolytes felt they knew Rob through his sermons, which they regularly downloaded off the internet, even though they had never met him. They hailed from places like Australia, South Africa and New Jersey.

They listen to Bell while they’re working out, or commuting to work. They get their religion - like their meals - on the run.

It is now possible to imagine the extinction of the family Bible, long given as a gift on graduation day or other big occasions and inscribed with special dates: births, marriages, deaths.

Instead, the Bible may someday exist exclusively online, with features that allow for personalization: Link to photos of weddings and baptisms! “Share” favorite verses!

When Bible study can be done on Facebook as easily as in the church basement, and a favorite preacher can teach lessons via podcast, the necessity of physically gathering each week in the same place with the same people turns remote.

Without a doubt, this represents a new crisis for organized religion, a challenge to think again about what it means to be a “body” of believers.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Miller.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion • Technology

soundoff (1,564 Responses)
  1. TheyNotHim

    Attempt first to open your mind. Consider all the evidence, discard obvious fallacies, adjust your theory, repeat...this is the disciplined art of science...The Method...and many more have faith in this path to truth than any other...

    Here, try it...apply what discipline you have...

    Zecharia Sitchin – The 12th Planet

    May 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  2. Halleluljah

    Heb. 10:25 not forsaking the gathering of ourselves togather, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.

    Mt 24:37-39......took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the son of man will be.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Aesop

    The bible is a book written and assembled by men... It includes some history, but mostly fable and was written to control the masses. Stop blindly following doctrine and do your homework.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • DAISHI

      What masses? When? Where? The Jews or the Greeks? If it was designed to control the masses why was it an elitist religion in its early formation? Why isn't it until after 330 that it gains prominence? Were these same standards used to control the Jewish exiles in Babylon or did they have a unique experience?

      June 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  4. Gilbert

    The real fact of this article is that technology is separating each one of us from our neighbors and friends. Why bother going outdoors at all when you can send a message via email, post pictures via facebook, attend "church" via podcast? Technology will have us voluntarily climbing into pods like in the movie The Matrix. Virtual reality will replace the real world. The beautiful, perfect world that God created. Virtual reality allows us to replace what we really are with what we wish we could be, but without any effort or basis in reality. What happens when the power goes out for good? Books now only digitized will disappear along with our history. No one will have the physical strength to work what land there is left for crops. And we will be a country divided from not knowing eachother. Not knowing our neighbors. There is so much good potential in technology, but humanity is a glutton and we are going to drown ourselves in it.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Rick

    A great man once said "County clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate." He should have added churches as well especially megachurches... unless you put them on the edge of the city like some cities do that have some brains

    May 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  6. bluemax77

    For the educated, science already has...!!

    May 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  7. Stephanie

    One of the good things the internet revolution brought is the wealth of information. Before the internet revolution, I used to attend church at least once a week if not more and I had not read much of the bible honestly. On the internet, I met people who pushed me to evaluate my beliefs critically. I know that most people out there are afraid of doing that but the result is worth it in all honesty. As I researched my beliefs, I realized that I was mistaken in so many different ways. There is no end to the amount of absurdities one will believe and that certainly applied to me. Today, I am very happy to be free from the scourge of religion so that I can live my life according to what I feel is important instead of living my life for some invisible man in the sky.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Greatest fantasy book ever!!!

    It blows "Lord of the Rings" out of the water.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  9. Greatest fantasy book ever!!!

    This is the greatest fantasy book ever. It blows "Lord of the Rings" out of the water.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Ed Smith

    Trying to put it delicately, this article is just plain silly. The fallacies should be rather obvious; I have to wonder if it was meant as a joke.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • big bill

      I agree with you Ed. There were bibles that were available to the masses most people could not read and those that could could not afford to buy a bible. After the printing press and paper became available they were again made available to the masses. but again they were expensive and like phone books were chained up so no one could "borrow" it! Most people forget that some of the stories are moral teachings but the point is it is inspired by God. So those who believe have no problem with scripture those who do not believe in God ....well enough said.

      May 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Eternal Satyr

    No religion, know peace...

    http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com
    http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com

    May 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  12. LN

    What was up with the youversion for the 400 seconds of reading? Divide by 60 seconds in a minute and you got 6.66 minutes to read...really 666?

    May 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Bill

    Your failure to understand scripture correctly doesn't count as a contradiction or error. Have you really taken the time to disect those so called contradictions to see if indeed they are? I doubt it, you probably proof read a passage or heard from someone and you just reaffirmed what you want to believe.

    Sir I have read the bible front to back. My personal favorite book is Job, followed by Ecclesiastes and Matthew. I feel that my faith is strong. That does not make the bible infallible, nor does it remove the vanity from those who claim perfect understanding of an infallible book (95% of fundamentalist laypeople, mostly poorly educated), and an inability to accept that the synoptic gospels were formed in council, by men, called by a secular authority.

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/women_sepulchre.html

    Example. Blatantly inconsistent.

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/wisdom_happy.html

    Example. Blatantly inconsistent. Point of faith.

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/speech.html

    Example. Blatantly inconsistent. Also, how would ANY of the faithful know what happened in a Roman citadel? I doubt it was a public trial

    May 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  14. cj

    there is an apparent need to open this bible and read it sometimes.....there is no private interpretation given or alllowed.
    faith cometh by hearing (not oneself)....and how can they hear without a preacher (God's spokeperson)...and how can he preach except he be sent....(with the true interpretation)....so technology can never bring down the church (the church that the bible speaks of) that body of baptized believers.....

    May 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  15. jim

    My most significant experience in church was when I was 18. As I sat listening to the sermon, I noticed that no one under 30 but me was listening. I listened a bit longer and discovered why. The minister had nothing to say. His speech was all about ways for the church to make money. I never went back.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • George (MD)

      Nothing to say is all to familiar. The "churches" people refer to are more entertaiment centres than places where we learn
      1) to know ourselves
      2) know our neighbour
      2) know a bit about the Divine.
      The church that I have been attending irregularly, is uninspiring and not relevant.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  16. PleaseConsider

    As residents of this Earth, we have been given this gift from God, our creator. There is no other like it, is there? When Jehovah God created the universe and everything in it we have proof of his amazing power and love for us. He created it for a reason, his plan has not changed.

    2 Peter 3:9 states: Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.

    Matthew 5:5: states: Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.

    Ecclesiates 1:4 states: A generation is going, and a generation is coming; but the earth is standing even to time indefinite.

    Isaiah 45:18 states: For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the [true] God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else."

    May 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • TheyNotHim

      I have faith that there are many planets out there that are likely to contain intelligent life, thus contradicting once again the teachings of your little cult. I believe this because I have read it in many places. How is my faith less valid than yours?

      May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • big bill

      @theynothim. The Catholic church has never ever stated that there is no life any place else except here on earth. In fact the Church has a hard time believing that with all the universes and the vastness of space that we are the only ones God created. With that said we on this planet need to be concerned only with our own salvation. But need to explore and welcome any and all life forms as being created by God. After all we are created in God's image not the other way around.

      May 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  17. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    The KJV was NOT the first common vernacular for the English language. The Geneva Bible was, but James, and Elizabeth before him, wished it banned because of the anti-monarchial footnotes found throughout it.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • David

      Glad you mention this, Joe, I was bothered by that statement too – thinking of William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English and smuggled the leaves into Britain a page at a time when he faced death for the translation. And who, in fact, was executed for it only a few years before the same king requested English translations...

      May 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  18. vbscript2

    "When Bible study can be done on Facebook as easily as in the church basement, and a favorite preacher can teach lessons via podcast, the necessity of physically gathering each week in the same place with the same people turns remote."

    One minor problem with this: anyone who actually reads the Bible understands that it commands believers to physically gather.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Of course, there's also the issue of reading the Bible isn't the main reason people gather in the first place. If the ability to read the Bible yourself in your home or where ever would threaten the existence of the church, then it would have been gone long ago, as most families have had multiple Bibles available to them to read at their convenience for the last hundred years or more. While it is often more convenient in online form (especially when searching for something,) it's been available for quite a long time and yet physical church gatherings are still doing just fine. Most people who are actually serious about their faith wouldn't give up physically gathering with the saints on a regular basis, even if it were an optional thing. Personally, I'm there whenever I have a reasonable opportunity to be (usually several times per week.)

      May 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Brandon Q.

    The Bible teaches that we are to submit to our elders (meaning pastors... the New Testament uses 'pastor','elder', and 'overseer' interchangeably). It's hard to submit to your pastor if you don't have one. Also, Hebrews 10 says that we are not to "neglect meeting together as is the habit of some". You can't love the Bible and not go to church, because the Bible tells us to live in community, in assembly, in a body called the Church. If you love Jesus, you will love others who love Jesus. And if you love your brothers and sisters, you will want to be with them, not avoid them like the plague. One's desire to go to church is one of the ways to tell whether someone is truly converted or not. If someone doesn't want to go to church, they may not be a real Christian at all. And if they are, something is terribly wrong.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Agreed.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Minkakross

      "One's desire to go to church is one of the ways to tell whether someone is truly converted or not." I'm sorry but who made you the judge of other people's salvation? I really would have expected Matthew 18:20 to cover this one pretty well as the internet is host to a lot more than 2. and people wonder why athiets just shake their heads, you can't even take care of your own.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Dragonwind

      Going to church doesn't prove you are a Christian, much like having a garage doesn't prove you have a car. I know far far far to many 'Christians' that go to church every Sunday, and pretend they are devout, yet their Monday-Saturday is filled with their evil deeds, behaviors and actions.

      In my many years as a student of theology the two verse's of the Bible that keeps repeating themselves to me when I think of these 'Christians' is Matthew 7:22-23.

      I would rather commune with God privately, in the quite of my home, than attempt to commune with him, in a den of vipers.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Confused...

      But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:6

      May 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Christopher

      I'm getting tired of "devout" Christians and their strict rules and definitions of a "true" Christian. The Christian mindset is just that – a mindset. Does it really matter how often you go to Church or don't? Does it really matter whether or not you scrutinize every word of scripture in the Bible? None of those things mean much if you don't lead a Christian life the rest of the time. I know a kid who criticized a girl at my school for "grinding" at a school dance. Yet, this kid talks about people behind their backs constantly, treats other people as if they were below him, and, in fact, cheated on his girlfriend at a party. He does, however, attend church multiple times a week and loves to read the bible. Does that make him a model Christian?

      I personally believe that to be accepted into Heaven, all that is asked of you is to lead a lifestyle that glorifies our Lord – not in going to Church or reading the Bible, but in how we act with one another, how we make choices in our life, and how we treat the people around us and ourselves.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • John W.

      I am a born again christian and have been for many years...I left the "church" due to political messes within the "body" and haven't been back. I am a truly converted believer but refuse to follow people who are contrary to what they profess. I have yet been able to find a "church" that practices what they preach without belittling others who hold alternate points of view on the same scriptures.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Maurice

      Brandon Q,
      If I am in Afghanistan, and I can Skype with my "brothers and sisters" to discuss the Bible and God in general, are we wrong? If the internet allows another medium for people to gather "physically" how is that wrong? I know many who attend "church" online live every Sunday.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  20. Jon

    Why is it when someone says that the bible is full of contradictions and errors that the common reply is that that person hasn't even read the bible? I can speak from experience here. I was raised in a devout Christian home and have read the bible in all it's detail and can tell you that it is indeed full of contradictions and errors. Of course there are some lovely and inspiritational stories but there is also much that leaves you to question the validity of a loving and kind god. Believing that the bible is the word of god is probably the greatest leap of faith a believer can take.

    May 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Rob

      Dear Jon.
      It is so easy to state that the bible is full of contractions without every being specific about what they are. I am a fan of bible study and I do not find your statement to be true.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Observer

      @Rob,
      Genesis 6:3 “Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days
      will be a hundred and twenty years."
      – Genesis 5:5 “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:8 “So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:11 “So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:14 “So all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:17 “So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:20 “So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:23 “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.”
      – Genesis 5:31 “So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.”
      * Genesis 5:27 “Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.”

      Go ahead. Spin that.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jesus

      Knowledge, science, and logic are the enemies of religious faith. You need to return to the same mentality as in childhood where fantasies such as Santa Claus were credible.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Steve P.

      Jon, the Bible says not to lean on your own understanding. The Bible says that God is not a God of confusion. Contradiction happens when one is void of understanding. Our we trying to reason God's word with our finite mind or the with the mind of God. It would be helpful if you gave some examples of contradiction so that an understanding can be reached. We can't treat God as just some person who's like us. God is not like us. God doesn't possess a sinful nature like we do. God is not a man that He should lie.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • percy chow

      +1 I've heard the "contradictions and errors" from agnostics and atheists – and have yet to have them mention ONE.

      People who read one or two verses and declare "It's an error"... and people who read the rest of the chapter, the rest of the book, etc. learn that in proper context, what was perceived as an error, was in fact... an error in the person's reading comprehension ability.

      TIP: If you find an error in the Bible... read a bit more.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Observer

      @percy chow,

      Please read my comment above and then tell us all about people with reading comprehension problems.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • to Jesus

      What about Santa Claus?

      May 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Socalute

      @Observer...Spin that? Really. This one is too easy. You will have to do better than that. 120 years for people born after the flood. The people you named predated the flood.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Aaron M

      For Observer...
      ...forgive me if I missed the point of the laundry list. But, the first verse you listed is 6:3...which is after all the verses in the laundry list. So, not sure if a contradiction which does not exist chronologically is to be spun. But, if you are questioning the lifespan of men...I'll take a spin: molecular genetics points to mutations as an "of course this is the way it is" explanation of evolution. We also know that the current "countdown" in cells is the chain of telomeres that get clipped every time the chromosome replicates. Perhaps that chain of telomeres that currently starts out as length "n" used to be "n+1,000,000,000" or some such length. Call it mutation, call it the hand of God, but now it's shorter. Just a off the cuff thought there.

      As for Christians always having to defend ourselves with science: would someone please, without hand waving, explain the mutational evolution of the human eye? Or, even better: the human skull is soft in utero to allow it to pass through the birth canal. But, that only had to not happen once to prevent propagation of the species. When exactly did natural selection allow that mutation to propagate?

      My favorite? Mitochondria. So, they are captured/internalized bacteria that generate all the ATP the cell needs for existence? Excuse me, but where did that first cell get the energy it needed to capture/internalize that bacteria?

      Ready? Go.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Chris R

      Of course there is error and contradiction in the bible. It's not a textbook for crying out loud. It's a compendium of history, philosophy, and law that was laid down over the course of millenia. There will be contradiction because different authors had different goals at the time of writing it. Only the most pig headed fundamentalist (or atheist) demands that the bible be read as the 100% real honest happened in the really real world literal truth. Much of it is allegorical. Some of it is proscriptive. Parts of it are in disagreement. However, taken as a whole you can find some truth in there that has an impact on our lives *in * the really real world even if you wish to dismiss the mythic/divine aspects of the message.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • LetsCounttogether

      @Observer
      So... lets count together shall we. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... lets stop there. Obviously, Chapter 6 comes after Chapter 5 and given the keyword "Then," probably means from this day forward... So after Chapter 6, we can deduce that man no longer lived super long lives. And judging by your own citations, you verify that to be true since none of them take place after Gensis Chapter 6:3

      Genesis 6:3 “Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days
      will be a hundred and twenty years."
      – Genesis 5:5 “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:8 “So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:11 “So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:14 “So all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:17 “So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:20 “So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died.”
      – Genesis 5:23 “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.”
      – Genesis 5:31 “So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.”
      * Genesis 5:27 “Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.”

      May 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Drew

      Hahaha well done observer, Atheists sure do have great reading comprehension

      May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • LJ

      @Observer,
      Socalute is correct, the problem is you are reading the book in reverse chronological order.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Drew

      Observer, when we read we go from left to right

      May 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Romas

      wow, the bible thumpesr are really narrow-minded – think about it. Even the idea of someone living 120 years is a stretch. And then I guess the world being created in 6 days is not a contradiction (or for that basis a fable). The bible is just a bunch of tales passed on by people to explain what was happening and probably in many cases to control people. If it makes you feel good to read it, go ahead – just don't make it sound like it is a factually account of anything and don't try and ram the idea down everyone's throat.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Drew

      Observer, larger numbers generally indicate a later placement within a sequence

      May 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • KingOfErehwon

      There is indeed a fundamental Christian contradiction in its teachings, which is as old as the religion itself: You cannot have a god that is all-powerful and all-good. Think about it: No loving god would have created a world in which life is based on the idea that each species of plant and animal must battle it out for existence. Each time you look at that lovely, pastoral scene from a mountaintop, remember the plants that struggle with each other for nourishment and the animals that are busy tearing each other apart. And what sick mind would have allowed such a thing as disease, starvation, and immorality to begin with? Such a being would be fit for the gallows... or worse.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • KB

      @Observer
      There is no need for spin. You have taken care of that by putting the Scripture references in your remarks. You listed a verse from Genesis 6 that says man's days will be 120 years, and then listed so-called contradictions from previous chapters. In other words, you took those verses out of context. Not only did you go backwards in the narrative, but the 120 years spoken of is not age. Genesis 6 is the beginning of the story of the Great Flood. The 120 years is how much time until the flood happens and man is wiped from the earth, except for Noah and his family. I understand that there are things written in Scripture that can be confusing, but if we think we have read a verse that contradicts with another, it is from our misunderstanding, not from actual contradictions.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Drew

      Maybe God's definition of good is more expansive than yours? Maybe he is a bit more broad minded?

      May 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Aaron M

      @Romas...
      Narrow minded? Funny...aren't you saying that 120 year lifespan is a stretch and that the world could not be created in 6 days? You say it can't be...and Christians are narrow minded...okay.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • JW

      To Observer: where is the contradiction?

      May 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Aaron M

      @ Drew...nice.

      May 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Drew

      There isn't any, observer just has a little trouble with numbers

      May 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • David

      Hey, Jon. You challenged anyone to "spin" the references to the lifespan of human beings, and while I've no intention to spin it, I would make three observations:

      1. The passage in which God declares He would so limit man's lifespan to 120 years occurs after the genealogy you list here. I know, a mild point, but Genesis 6:3 is set within the context of God grieving over mankind and the story of Noah. God is clearly establishing that the lives of mankind would not continue to last 900+ years, as did the men you mention here; that He would, instead, limit them to something around 120 years.

      2. God declares here that the days of man "shall be" – the Herbew word hayah here means "shall come to pass," a clear reference to a future reality. He is declaring/decreeing that a man's days will eventually be limited to something around 120 years. This He has basically by our own day.

      3. The 120 years given here is not an exact number of years. When God says, "[Man's] days shall be one hundred and twenty years," we know that He cannot mean every single man on earth will live precisely 120 years. We can grant that most do not live nearly so long, and with the same grace, can grant that a few in our day might even live just beyond 120 years. But He has declared that human mortality is limited to something in this general age.

      Of course, if this particular example *were* an actual inconsistency, do you not suppose that the original authors of what you suppose to be an elaborate fiction would have realised the inconsistency and revised one passage or the other to reconcile them?

      I know these observations do nothing to convince you, and you have plenty of other frustrations with the Bible and toward Christianity, but I did think it might be helpful for you to hear a response which was neither foolish nor belligerent...

      May 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Minkakross

      MT 10:1-8 Jesus gives his disciples the power to exorcise and heal...
      MT 17:14-16 (Yet) the disciples are unable to do so.

      MT 12:30 Jesus says that those who are not with him are against him.
      MK 9:40 Jesus says that those who are not against him are for him.
      (Note: This puts those who are indifferent or undecided in the "for him" category in the first instance and in the "against him" category in the second instance.)

      LK 14:26 No one can be a disciple of Jesus unless he hates his parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters.
      1JN 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.
      1JN 4:20 If anyone claims to love God but hates his brother, he is a liar.

      there are literally hundreds of these throughout the bible, some of them are funny some are just sad but all in all they go a long way in explaining why there are so many different denominations of "the church" as well as people who will never accept the bible as anything other than a nice work of mythology similar to the Iliad or the odyssey.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Drew

      Minkakross

      I'm not disputing your claims, but I notice you are paraphrasing the passages and a lot of context can get lost when you do this

      May 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Observer

      @all the spinners;

      – James 1:17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
      who does not change like shifting shadows.”
      – Malachi 3:6 "“I the Lord do not change.”

      Guess again.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Reply

      War or Peace?
      EXO 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
      ROM 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
      ________________________________________
      Who is the father of Joseph?
      MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
      LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.
      ________________________________________
      Who was at the Empty Tomb? Is it:
      MAT 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
      MAR 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet sp-ices, that they might come and anoint him.
      JOH 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
      ________________________________________
      Is Jesus equal to or lesser than?
      JOH 10:30 I and my Father are one.
      JOH 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
      ________________________________________
      Which first–beasts or man?
      GEN 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
      GEN 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
      GEN 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
      GEN 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
      ________________________________________
      The number of beasts in the ark
      GEN 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
      GEN 7:8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, GEN 7:9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.
      ________________________________________
      How many stalls and horsemen?
      1KI 4:26 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
      2CH 9:25 And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.
      ________________________________________
      Is it folly to be wise or not?
      PRO 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
      ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
      1CO 1:19: "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
      ________________________________________
      Human vs. ghostly impregnation
      ACT 2:30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
      MAT 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
      ________________________________________
      The sins of the father
      ISA 14:21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
      DEU 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
      ________________________________________
      The bat is not a bird
      LEV 11:13 And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
      LEV 11:14 And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;
      LEV 11:15 Every raven after his kind;
      LEV 11:16 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
      LEV 11:17 And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
      LEV 11:18 And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
      LEV 11:19 And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
      DEU 14:11 Of all clean birds ye shall eat.
      DEU 14:12 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
      DEU 14:13 And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
      DEU 14:14 And every raven after his kind,
      DEU 14:15 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
      DEU 14:16 The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
      DEU 14:17 And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
      DEU 14:18 And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
      ________________________________________
      Rabbits do not chew their cud
      LEV 11:6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
      "Gerah," the term which appears in the MT means (chewed) cud, and also perhaps grain, or berry (also a 20th of a sheckel, but I think that we can agree that that is irrelevant here). It does *not* mean dung, and there is a perfectly adequate Hebrew word for that, which could have been used. Furthermore, the phrase translated "chew the cud" in the KJV is more exactly "bring up the cud." Rabbits do not bring up anything; they let it go all the way through, then eat it again. The description given in Leviticus is inaccurate, and that's that. Rabbits do eat their own dung; they do not bring anything up and chew on it.
      ________________________________________
      Snails do not melt
      PSA 58:8 As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pas-s away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
      ________________________________________
      Fowl from waters or ground?
      GEN 1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
      GEN 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
      GEN 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
      ________________________________________
      Odd genetic engineering
      GEN 30:39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
      ________________________________________
      The shape of the earth
      ISA 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as gras-shoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
      MAT 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
      Astronomical bodies are spherical, and you cannot see the entire exterior surface from anyplace. The kingdoms of Egypt, China, Greece, Crete, sections of Asia Minor, India, Maya (in Mexico), Carthage (North Africa), Rome (Italy), Korea, and other settlements from these kingdoms of the world were widely distributed.
      ________________________________________
      Snakes, while built low, do not eat dirt
      GEN 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
      ________________________________________
      Earth supported?
      JOB 26:7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
      JOB 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
      Heaven supported too
      JOB 26:11 The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.
      ________________________________________
      The hydrological cycle
      ECC 1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
      JOB 38:22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
      Storehouses are not part of the cycle
      ________________________________________
      Order of creation
      Here is the order in the first (Genesis 1), the Priestly tradition:
      Day 1: Sky, Earth, light
      Day 2: Water, both in ocean basins and above the sky(!)
      Day 3: Plants
      Day 4: Sun, Moon, stars (as calendrical and navigational aids)
      Day 5: Sea monsters (whales), fish, birds, land animals, creepy-crawlies (reptiles, insects, etc.)
      Day 6: Humans (apparently both s-exes at the same time)
      Day 7: Nothing (the Gods took the first day off anyone ever did)
      Note that there are "days," "evenings," and "mornings" before the Sun was created. Here, the Deity is referred to as "Elohim," which is a plural, thus the literal translation, "the Gods." In this tale, the Gods seem satisfied with what they have done, saying after each step that "it was good."
      The second one (Genesis 2), the Yahwist tradition, goes:
      Earth and heavens (misty)
      Adam, the first man (on a desolate Earth)
      Plants
      Animals
      Eve, the first woman (from Adam's rib)
      ________________________________________
      How orderly were things created?
      #1: Step-by-step. The only discrepancy is that there is no Sun or Moon or stars on the first three "days."
      #2: God fixes things up as he goes. The first man is lonely, and is not satisfied with animals. God finally creates a woman for him. (funny thing that an omniscient god would forget things)
      ________________________________________
      How satisfied with creation was he?
      #1: God says "it was good" after each of his labors, and rests on the seventh day, evidently very satisfied.
      #2: God has to fix up his creation as he goes, and he would certainly not be very satisfied with the disobedience of that primordial couple. (funny thing that an omniscient god would forget things)
      ________________________________________
      Moses' personality
      NUM 12:3: "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the fact of the earth."
      NUM 31:14, 17, 18: "And Moses was wroth...And Moses said unto them, "Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman, ... But all the women children ... keep alive for yourselves."
      ________________________________________
      Righteous live?
      PSA 92:12: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree."
      ISA 57:1: "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart."
      ________________________________________
      ACT 1:18: "Now this man (Judas) purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out."
      MAT 27:5-7: "And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests...bought with them the potter's field."
      ________________________________________
      Jesus' first sermon plain or mount?
      MAT 5:1,2: "And seeing the mult-itudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying...."

      LUK 6:17,20: "And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great mult-itude of people...came to hear him.. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said..."
      ________________________________________
      Jesus' last words
      MAT 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."
      LUK 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."
      JOH 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
      ________________________________________
      Years of famine
      II SAMUEL 24:13: So God came to David, and told him, and said unto him, shall SEVEN YEARS OF FAMINE come unto thee in thy land? or will thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue. thee?
      I CHRONICLES 21:11: SO God came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee. Either THREE YEARS OF FAMINE or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;
      ________________________________________
      Moved David to anger?
      II SAMUEL 24: And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
      I CHRONICLES 21: And SATAN stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
      ________________________________________
      The GENEALOGY OF JESUS?
      In two places in the New Testament the genealogy of Jesus son of Mary is mentioned. MAT 1:6-16 and LUK 3:23-31. Each gives the ancestors of Joseph the CLAIMED husband of Mary and Step father of Jesus. The first one starts from Abraham(verse 2) all the way down to Jesus. The second one from Jesus all the way back to Adam. The only common name to these two lists between David and Jesus is JOSEPH, How can this be true? and also How can Jesus have a genealogy when all Muslims and most Christians believe that Jesus had/has no father.
      ________________________________________
      God be seen?
      EXO 24:9,10; AMO 9:1; GEN 26:2; and JOH 14:9
      God CAN be seen:
      "And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts." (EXO 33:23)
      "And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." (EXO 33:11)
      "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (GEN 32:30)
      God CANNOT be seen:
      "No man hath seen God at any time." (JOH 1:18)
      "And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." (EXO 33:20)
      "Whom no man hath seen nor can see." (1TIM 6:16)
      ________________________________________
      CRUEL, UNMERCIFUL, DESTRUCTIVE, and FEROCIOUS or KIND, MERCIFUL, and GOOD:
      "I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy." (JER 13:14) "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling."
      "The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." (JAS 5:11)
      "For his mercy endureth forever." (1CH 16:34)
      "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." (PSA 145:9)
      "God is love." (1JO 4:16)
      ________________________________________
      Tempts?
      "And it came to pas-s after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." (GEN 22:1)
      "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (JAS 1:13)
      ________________________________________
      Judas died how?
      "And he cast down the pieces of silver into the temple and departed, and went out and hanged himself." (MAT 27:5)
      "And falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all of his bowels gushed out." (ACT 1:18)
      ________________________________________
      Ascend to heaven
      "And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2KI 2:11)
      "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, ... the Son of Man." (JOH 3:13)
      ________________________________________
      What was Jesus' prediction regarding Peter's denial?
      Before the co-ck crow – MAT 26:34
      Before the co-ck crow twice – MAR 14:30
      ________________________________________
      How many times did the co-ck crow?
      MAR 14:72 And the second time the co-ck crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the co-ck crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
      MAT 26:74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the co-ck crew.
      MAT 26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the co-ck crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
      LUK 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the co-ck crew.
      LUK 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the co-ck crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
      JOH 13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The co-ck shall not crow, still thou hast denied me thrice.
      JOH 18:27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the co-ck crew.
      ________________________________________
      How many beat-itudes in the Sermon on the Mount
      MAT 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      MAT 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
      MAT 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
      MAT 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
      MAT 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
      MAT 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
      MAT 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
      MAT 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      MAT 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
      LUK 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
      LUK 6:21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
      LUK 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
      LUK 6:23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

      Does every man sin?
      1KI 8:46 If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;
      2CH 6:36 If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near;
      PRO 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
      ECC 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
      JO1 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
      JO1 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
      JO1 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
      JO1 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • David

      To "Reply":

      I'd like to encourage you to reconsider the cut-and-paste method for arguing a point. I've looked up five or six of the contended points already and found each to be either matters of translation (two translated words are used when the original Hebrew is, in fact, the same word), context (in which the context reveals who/what is actually being addressed, to shed light on the meaning of the contentious term), or simple matters of doctrine (in which both "sides" of the supposed problem are, in fact, true, but relate to natural man vs. the man in Christ, etc.).

      It's foolish to grab another's argument without thinking for one's self and considering one's own words.

      May 16, 2011 at 5:26 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.