Month: March 2015

Christianity is not the only religion with a concept of “grace”

grace india

As a preacher I often taught that “the only religion that teaches grace is Christianity, all others teach works-based salvation.” It was an idea I picked up from other preachers, who had in-turn, picked it up from other preachers.

Turns out we were wrong per the evidence surveyed by Dr. Matthew P John (who was an Indian Christian and the president of India’s Society for Biblical Studies) in his paper “The Idea of Grace in Christianity and Hinduism.”

Contrary to the popular opinion, there are indeed other religions, including some sects of Hinduism that teach the idea of Grace.

Why doesnt God reveal himself so clearly that there are only two choices, instead of hundreds?

why doesnt god clearly reveal himselfWhy would God not reveal himself so clearly that the only possible choices would be to:

(a) reject him, having accurate knowledge of who he is

(b) accept him, having accurate knowledge of who he is

———————-

1. Instead of knowingly choosing A or B, people have a more difficult choice, including dozens of different options in their own religion, some of which are claimed to damn one to hell (Trinity, Unitarian, Pentecostal, Catholic, Prosperity, Free Grace, Pelagianism, and hundreds of other views or “heresies,” etc etc).

2. Instead of knowingly choosing A or B, people have a more difficult choice, including hundreds of religions that are active today, each with dozens of interpretations, each filled with millions who sincerely believe they picked the right God.

3. Instead of knowingly choosing A or B, people are in ignorance and choose from thousands of options depending on their historical era, in many cases, the full truth being unavailable to those who lived before the time of the full truth. (i.e., Islam and Christianity only began after thousands of generations of people died).

1, 2, 3 could easily be averted if God simply revealed himself more clearly, and people could still have free will to chose A or B. So why did God not actualize such a system?

Some biblical authors viewed God as having the ability to deceive, others did not

Do the Biblical authors agree on who God is? In many cases they do, in others they do not.

Most biblical scholars say that the Bible was written by a diverse group of people with differing views and opinions about political and social issues (one only need look at some of the differences between the Hebrew Bible with it’s nationalistic focus, to the New Testaments pacifist ethics.)

As the Oxford Companion to the Bible (edited by leading Princeton/Harvard scholars Bruce Metzger and Micahel Coogan) asserts: “The Bible thus speaks with many voices, and, from the time of its emergence as an authoritative sacred text, readers and interpreters have noted its many repetitions, inconsistencies, and contradictions.”

How the biblical writers view god

Does religion make you happier? It may depend on your wealth

religion and happiness by wealth

If you live in a poor country, it’s likely that being religious will give you a boost in your happiness. If you live in a wealthy country, it’s likely that your happiness will not be affected by religion, but if anything you may more depressed/sad if you are religious. Also of note (in retrospect quite obvious) is the fact that secular people in wealthy nations report being significantly more happy than religious people in impoverished nations.

Gallup polls asked respondents from each of the world’s 32 poorest countries and 31 richest countries “did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday” and sorted responses into groups based on subjects religiosity to inquire whether happiness level correlates to religion.

On a related note “Gallup Polls in 143 countries reveal that among countries where average annual incomes are $2,000 or less, 92% of residents say religion is an important part of their daily lives. By contrast, among the richest countries surveyed — those where average annual incomes are $25,000 or more — that figure drops to 44%.”

CS Lewis believed that Jesus made a mistake

lewis jesus mistake

The renowned Christian apologist C.S Lewis, while beloved by conservatives was far more theologically liberal than most realize. For example he considered Jesus to have uttered a false prophecy with regard to the famous apocalyptic prediction of Jesus that members of ‘generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’

Lewis wrote that: “It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created,their Delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ 

And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. ” (1)

If God cannot act contrary to his nature can he have free will?

does god have free will.Most people define “free will” as having a genuine choice between multiple options. For example, in a given situation it would be possible for a truly free being to have a genuine choice between (a) telling a lie or (b) telling the truth.

Yet God, per the formal philosophical definition and the Bible, cannot lie, “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18)

It seems to follow that if God cannot have a genuine choice, but *must* act in accordance to his nature, he cannot have genuine libertarian free will. This point is eloquently argued by the influential philosopher William Rowe in his book ‘Can God Be Free?’ I’ve outlined three of the most popular responses to this dilemma, are there any others?

OPTION 1: “God can act contrary to his nature, he just chooses not to”

RESPONSE 1: The universal consensus of philosophers and theologians is that it’s impossible for God to choose imperfection. If a perfect being could genuinely choose to be imperfect, then its perfection would be contingent upon circumstances, there would be a real possibility of God becoming not-God in the future, or Good-God becoming Bad-God. In any case, even Bible itself says “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18) not “it’s possible for God to lie, but he chooses not to.”

OPTION 2: “God isn’t constrained by his nature, he is characterized by his nature; thus he freely chooses that which he wants. In other words, God would never even desire to lie.”

RESPONSE 2: First, God did not determine or select his nature in the past (this would mean that he previously had a different nature). Second, God cannot change his nature in the future (for he is “immutable” or unchanging). Thus it seems that God is, a “prisoner” of his nature: (a) he did not choose it, (b) he cannot change it, and (c) he cannot act contrary to it, even if all this is willingly accepted, it precludes God from having genuine free will, but only the illusion or feeling of free will.

OPTION 3: “God has the freedom to act within the constraints of his nature. It’s impossible for him to tell a lie, but he can tell many different truths, or the same truth many different ways. Since he is perfect he does not require the option for imperfect choices.”

RESPONSE 3: Certainly this describes a limited form of freedom, but this is a concession that God does not have libertarian free will, but only a limited freedom. The irony with this response is that it means that Satan and humans have a greater amount of freedom than God.” Yet, in my opinion this is probably the best answer to this dilemma.

There are many similarities between the teachings of Buddha and Jesus

parallel buddha and jesus

Some 500 years before Jesus Christ, the Gautama Buddha, a prince who is considered the founder of Buddhism taught many doctrines that were very similar to what Jesus would teach five centuries later.

Numerous scholars have noted the undeniable similarities in teaching and doctrines between Jesus and Buddha, for example, the eminent New Testament scholar, Dr. Marcus Borg (who happens to be a liberal Christian himself) wrote “Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings” which aggregates hundreds of similarities in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

This certainly doesn’t mean the two are the same religion, but does this indicate that Jesus borrowed or stole ideas from Buddha? While there is some historical evidence that ideas from Buddhism reached Judea (and the western world) being brought back from Alexander the Great’s conquests, and some historians like Jerry H. Bentley argue that Buddhism influenced Christianity, this is not the consensus view.

In the end, this indicates that it’s very likely that kind/pacifist teachings and doctrines independently developed all around the world.