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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:09 am 
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I just want to say that this group, though varied, is fortunate enough to include people who do want to be open to real and civil discussion, whatever their own beliefs.

And that the point of this forum isn't to persuade others to share our own beliefs, but to understand each other better.

You fit into this well, SirDennis, and I really appreciate your posts.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:26 am 
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I would like to mention here that there are Christians -- yes, real Christians -- who take a different approach to Scripture and belief.

One of them is Marcus Borg, who wrote an excellent book on this emerging form of Christianity, "The Heart of Christianity." Here's an extended quote from a review of that book, from the Episcoblog. I think it gives a good overview of what I'm talking about.

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In the opening chapters of “The Heart of Christianity” Borg distinguishes between what he refers to as the “emerging” and “traditional” paradigms of Christianity, and this distinction provides the focus for the remainder of the book. The emerging paradigm seems to emphasize grace, mystery, inclusion, and envisions a God whose primary action in history is to seek a relationship of unconditional love with us, while the traditional paradigm seems to emphasize belief, doctrine and envisions God as a god of divine authority with the authority and will to offer God’s love as well as God’s punishment.

Borg’s “emerging paradigm” seeks an understanding of scripture as a human product, not a divine product, yet this understanding, in Borg’s estimation, in no way diminishes scripture. Borg proposes an understanding of the Bible as a culturally conditioned historical product and sacred scripture and asserts that such an understanding can open up scripture. In this way, certain stories of scripture taken on a more expansive meaning when understood in a historic context and then applied metaphorically to our own lives.

Many disaffected Christians who have dropped away from the Church have difficulty in understanding any meaning that can be mined from scripture because they’ve been led to believe that scripture is to always be read proscriptively. Much of scripture simply can’t be read proscriptively and make sense. Borg claims furthermore that whether the events described in a certain text actually happened in a historical past is beside the point; the point, rather is to understand what the text meant in the context in which it was written, and what it might mean for us. To focus on - or argue over - whether an event happened becomes a red herring which could possibly result in our missing the meaning of the text. We simply never arrive at a significant discussion of what the event means because we’re stuck discussing whether it could have happened, did happen, had to have happened, etc. And some of us believe others when they tell us we aren’t entitled to the meaning if we don’t assent to an event’s historical occurrence, so we never discuss either. ...

Robert Farrar Capon has observed when faced with idea of universalism and a God who eternally offers reconciliation to all human life, many churchgoers will insist on having their hell, and they want it to be the same hell that their mama believed in, and their mama’s mama. The point Borg makes is that he doesn’t seek eradication of the traditional paradigm but seeks only to enlarge and enliven the universe of possibilities.

Borg also explores at length how we discern the character of God, and how that discernment of the character of God shapes how each of us comes to our own understanding of what a Godly life or a life in Christ means for us. ... The Kingdom of God becomes a metaphor for what this eternal life we find ourselves in the midst of could be if that life were lived with Jesus’ utter compassion for humankind. However its also clear that Borg believes Jesus’ life reaches beyond the social gospel. Jesus is offered as a sacrament to us, as a revelation of the depth of God’s love for us, and as a revelation of the way of spiritual transformation to which we’re called. ...

Above all, Borg offers a different understanding of the heart of Christianity and seeks to move us away from a one-dimensional and rigidly doctrinal assent to factual statements about the revelation of God through Christ into a relationship with God leading to personal transformation. We are invited to see faith as a radical trust in the faithfulness of God, rather than a belief in certain assertions.


This book is not off-the-wall ravings of a Christianity basher. And he is far from alone with his beliefs; there are a number of churches even in my not-large city that teach a similar understanding of Christianity.

My own church includes people who have a very orthodox view and people who would identify more with what Borg calls "emerging Christianity." We manage to get along together, do good together and talk of faith together, and we make it a point to learn about other paths to God while following our own.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:16 pm 
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Lalaith wrote:
It would be interesting (to me, anyway) for you to list out some of the teachings of Jesus that you find to be harmful.


I also view some of Jesus' moral teachings as harmful, or at the very least very problematic. Though I'd have to go through the gospels to get you something resembling a list (which I'm not inclined to do :P) since it was mentioned earlier, I'd put the "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" statement in that category.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:49 pm 
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River wrote:
axordil wrote:
I prefer my good and evil on the empirical side, personally, but that's neither here nor there.

With all due respect, what are the units on good and evil?


I said empirical, not necessarily quantifiable. :D Though one could construct a test for whether an act is considered good or evil on a simple binary or a more complex sliding scale, adjust for cultural norms, etc., if one had Nothing Else To Do. ;)

My main point was that, as complicated as an act may be, the intent behind it is shrouded not just in the turmoil of the conscious mind at the moment of action but the rails laid down for a lifetime in the unconscious mind, where the decision is likely made anyway.

Let's take the example of kicking the cat about to jump a mouse...actually, I like it when cats do their job, so let's make it an escaped parakeet. :D

An outside observer, if they're careful, will see the cat about to do something undesirable, at least from the parakeet's point of view. The foot comes into the picture and the parakeet is saved. The obvious inference is that the person kicking wanted to save the parakeet. But we cannot know that for sure. Maybe they didn't like the cat in general. Maybe they don't like the parakeet either, but their kids will be upset if it gets eaten. Maybe they are neutral toward both and simply don't want to clean up the mess. Maybe they were forced to watch Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoons on an endless loop as a child and are warped for life on the subject of cats and birds.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:13 pm 
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But that doesn't really address the original point. If you're kicking the cat to save the parakeet that might broadly be considered "moral". If you're kicking the cat because you like kicking cats and you happen to save a parakeet might broadly be considered "immoral". Same action, different moral judgments based on intent.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:33 pm 
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And what I'm saying is that intent is rarely so clear and unalloyed as to be judgable at all. Neurological research points to conscious awareness, and with it intent, being injected into the process a fraction of a second after the decision is actually made unconsciously. The only exception is when we consciously veto something we were lining up to do without thought.

Ultimately, for the vast majority of humanity, our morals depend on a lifetime's worth of conditioning. The conscious morality we espouse sits atop an ocean of unconscious currents: habits and urges, good, bad and indifferent. If one gets into the habit of acting morally (by whatever standard) early, momentum carries one through, assuming nothing intervenes in the system to change those habits.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:37 pm 
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axordil wrote:
And what I'm saying is that intent is rarely so clear and unalloyed as to be judgable at all.


I'd say I like kicking cats (or I don't want my parakeet to die) are usually gonna be pretty easy, clear-cut motives.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:54 pm 
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*waves*

Hey folks, it's been quite a while since I participated in a Halofirian religious debate ... they're always good.

vison wrote:
No, I didn't mean that it wasn't one of the original 10 commandments. Not only is it not one of them, nothing in those commandments can be made to read as if it is - no matter how the words are shifted about and combined. IMHO.


Jesus was basically distilling the essence of the Ten Commandments into two. Summing up the Mosaic Law, as it were. The golden rule is: "do as you would be done by."

I can understand people having issues with certain other things in the Pentateuch (as a Christian I struggle with them myself), but the Ten? :scratch: No adultery? No murder? No covetousness? No false witness in court cases? Honouring God and caring for other people? God is a bad guy for wanting people to live like this? :scratch:

yovargas wrote:
I also view some of Jesus' moral teachings as harmful, or at the very least very problematic. Though I'd have to go through the gospels to get you something resembling a list (which I'm not inclined to do :P) since it was mentioned earlier, I'd put the "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" statement in that category.


IMO, he was firing a salvo at hypocrisy. It's no good being a devout person and keeping the Law and despising those you deem to be sexual sinners, if you yourself are secretly eyeing up women on the sly. That makes you just as culpable as the people you are so quick to condemn. Jesus is all about being the same on the inside as you are on the outside. True spiritual purity goes much deeper than externals.

I'm not denying this verse has caused plenty of angst in (for example) devout young religious men who beat themselves up unnecessarily simply for noticing that women are attractive ;) ... But I just don't think that's what Jesus is aiming his salvo at.

Many years ago I had a discussion with a friend who took issue with Pope John Paul II's statement that a man shouldn't lust after his wife. My friend said -- not unreasonably -- that this sounded completely unworkable.

:rofl:

Of course I understood. :D But, in defence of the Pope (and I don't always defend the Pope ... not being Catholic!), I could see what JP2 meant, too. To quote Richard Foster in Money, Sex and Power, lust always involves sexual desire but sexual desire doesn't always involve lust.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:57 pm 
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JewelSong wrote:
Sunsilver wrote:
I think the Gospel makes it quite clear that those who reject Christ are going to be cast into the lake of fire"


So, Sunny, I must ask you - do you believe that all the devout Hindus and Jains and Sikhs and Buddhists and so on - people who have been totally faithful to the religion they were raised in, who follow the precepts of their faith, who strive to be as good as they can be within those parameters - do you believe they all get "cast into the lake of fire?"

I mean, surely they've heard of Christianity. The same way you've heard of Hinduism and Islam and etc. Do you believe in a God that would require them to reject their OWN heritage? What are the chances of YOU suddenly switching to Jainism, for instance?

If that's what God has planned, you know what? I'll go right into that lake with the rest of them. I'd rather burn up dead than spend eternity with a god like that.


J.S., that scripture does stick in my craw, I must confess, and is a problem for many, many people. It's hard to reconcile a loving God with that scripture. Yet the O.T. also says (and this is the very first commandment, so it must be pretty important!) "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." The second one continues to say: "Thou shalt not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."

It's pretty harsh, I know. Some people like to think that those from other religions who live a truly good life will somehow also be accepted into heaven, but I don't recall seeing this assurance anywhere in scripture. :(
There are certain things in my religion that I struggle with, and this is definitely one of them. I'm sure that holds for other faiths, too.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:10 pm 
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Quote:
It's hard to reconcile a loving God with that scripture


That scripture is not indicative of a loving anything. I think it needs to be taken in historical context, which was based on the formation of a specific kind of community. If it is taken literally...well, why would anyone want to WORSHIP a god like that? If God is a nasty, petty, jealous, SOB who casts good people into a lake of fire for believing the wrong way or calling the wrong name when they pray...why would I worship him/her/it?

Is all of God contained in the Bible? That would mean that the book was as important as God...or, as George Fox (founder of the Quakers) once said, that you worship the book more than the truth. (And I am using "you" ion the universal sense here...not you personally!)

God - the Divine - is far beyond our ken. God does not exist inside a book. The Bible may have been inspired by God and contain many truths...but it was written by men and men get things wrong....or change things for their own ends (even with good intentions.) When a new religion is forming, it's important to get as many followers as possible and threatening them with fiery damnation if they don't believe correctly is one way to do it, especially with a superstitious culture.

ETA: as far as the Book of Revelation, many Biblical scholars believe that this was written as a political allegory and has little to do with the literal "end of the world."

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:20 pm 
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Sunny, I always understood that (from the Jewish perspective) the First Commandment was specific to the Jews. Talmud teaches that the Gentiles need only to comply with the Seven Noahite Commandments to be considered righteous while the Jews must obey as many of the 613 commandments found in the Torah as apply to them.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:24 pm 
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Re: the divinity of Jesus. There are numerous scriptures that support this. Here are a few of the more important ones. These are all from John, but there are many others scattered throughout both the Old and New Testaments:

John 6:51:"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;"

John 8:23: And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I AM from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."


The "I AM" uses the same words as in the Old Testament, when God told Moses "I am who I am". The words chosen have the meaning that Jesus (and God) has been present since the beginning of time, and always will be present.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:27 pm 
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JS wrote:
God - the Divine - is far beyond our ken. God does not exist inside a book. The Bible may have been inspired by God and contain many truths...but it was written by men and men get things wrong....or change things for their own ends (even with good intentions.) When a new religion is forming, it's important to get as many followers as possible and threatening them with fiery damnation if they don't believe correctly is one way to do it, especially with a superstitious culture.


*like!*
Also, it's really hard to explain non-physical things to people who aren't good at abstract thinking, and a metaphor that seems good to a prophet at the time can be taken completely wrong later on once the prophet isn't there to explain any more.

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If you love your neighbor as yourself, would you commit adultery with his wife?
Well, if you loved him enough "as yourself" that you thought you *were* him.... ;)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:35 pm 
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PearlyDi wrote:
I can understand people having issues with certain other things in the Pentateuch (as a Christian I struggle with them myself), but the Ten? No adultery? No murder? No covetousness? No false witness in court cases? Honouring God and caring for other people? God is a bad guy for wanting people to live like this?


Um. OK. So, this God that's "wanting people to live like this" is the same God that created the people - as they are - and moreover this God knows, always did know and always will know, that they are or are not going to live like that, and then, this God either rewards them or punishes them for doing what he made them to do and knew they were going to do . . . right?

Much of the time the God of the OT is - in my eyes - like some ancient despotic king who toys with his subjects merely because he can. The story of Abraham and Isaac is such a horrible story! It is one of the most horrible stories in the whole world. That God is the sort of God that people in those days would have. He changed as the people changed and according to WampusCat, he still is changing - the idea of God and his requirements is being adjusted to suit the world as it is.

In other words, it is my long-held and sincere conviction that people made God, not the other way around. People have the kinds of Gods that suit their circumstances. When circumstances change, then the God is changed. Eventually. Revelations happen. Scripture is re-interpreted or seen to be mostly parables, not meant to be taken literally.

When you look about you and see and hear the things done in the name of Jesus, when you see and hear the contradictory notions of Jesus and what Jesus said and/or did - how do you land on the ones you accept and the ones you don't accept? I think because you choose the ones you know you can live with. Or - and this is the core of it - you choose the one you aren't going to be able to live with and go about all your life failing and feeling guilty.

A God was once necessary. There had to be an explanation or reason for everything that existed and what was more obvious than a God that made it all? A being so powerful would require a great deal from his creations.

People want to be good and happy - that's another of my convictions. (Not all people and not any people all the time.) People have to live together. We have to be good to each other or we cannot live at all.

These 2 strands of life are very naturally braided together - why would they not be? It is simpler and easier to have a system - one that everyone in the group accepts.

Then of course, there are those who don't accept it or those who rebel or those who come up with a new system or an adjusted old system and the plain old ten commandments get overhauled or replaced and away we go.

This is mostly true of other religions, too. Constant adaptation. Evolution! ( :D )


I do know perfectly well that it is entirely likely that my opinions are going to offend someone and I'm wearing my flak suit.

I have tried to keep my opinions soft and cute. They aren't, really.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:35 pm 
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Frelga wrote:
Sunny, I always understood that (from the Jewish perspective) the First Commandment was specific to the Jews. Talmud teaches that the Gentiles need only to comply with the Seven Noahite Commandments to be considered righteous while the Jews must obey as many of the 613 commandments found in the Torah as apply to them.


Frelga, most Christian churches include the Ten Commandments as part of their beliefs. As a matter of fact, they are included in the liturgy of the Anglican church, the church in which I was baptised and raised. On important days in the liturgical calendar, all ten of them are recited by the congregation. On other days, a summary of the law is given, as stated by Jesus: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When I was confirmed in the Anglican church, I was required to memorize three things: The Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. So, the Commandments are a pretty important part of the Christian faith. It's the other parts of the Jewish law we don't follow.

ETA: this thread is moving far too fast for me to keep up with it. It's now 10:30 in the morning, and I've gotten absolutely nothing done...well, almost nothing...I did have to check 3 dogs in for grooming, as well as looking after my own pooches. But I do have to tend to business (have not even fed my dogs yet!) More later, if time allows! Great discussion...and here I thought this thread was totally dead in the water! :shock:

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:45 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
axordil wrote:
And what I'm saying is that intent is rarely so clear and unalloyed as to be judgable at all.


I'd say I like kicking cats (or I don't want my parakeet to die) are usually gonna be pretty easy, clear-cut motives.


Assuming one is a trustworthy narrator of one's own motives.

I think that's a huge assumption.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:53 pm 
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I often figure out why I did something after I do it, which is why I'm inclined to give less weight to intentions than the actual deed and it's results. Quite often my intentions are not plain at all, and the action taken is only sensible in hindsight.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:04 pm 
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For the record ... I don’t believe God chucks ‘good’ people into hell.

JewelSong wrote:
ETA: as far as the Book of Revelation, many Biblical scholars believe that this was written as a political allegory and has little to do with the literal "end of the world."


Hey, I interpret it literally. :blackeye: Sort of. ;)

Frelga wrote:
Sunny, I always understood that (from the Jewish perspective) the First Commandment was specific to the Jews. Talmud teaches that the Gentiles need only to comply with the Seven Noahite Commandments to be considered righteous while the Jews must obey as many of the 613 commandments found in the Torah as apply to them.


That’s a little rough on you guys. :shock: We Gentiles get to comply with just seven but the Jews have to observe the whole shebang of 613? :blackeye: I am being facetious, by the way. :) I understand what you mean. :hug:

vison wrote:
Um. OK. So, this God that's "wanting people to live like this" is the same God that created the people - as they are - and moreover this God knows, always did know and always will know, that they are or are not going to live like that, and then, this God either rewards them or punishes them for doing what he made them to do and knew they were going to do . . . right?


Well ... no, not quite. ;) According to the Bible, the human race is the party that moved the goalposts ... not God. According to the Bible, God's creation was perfect, including human beings. We are the ones who chose to sin, and God wants us to come back to him.

Quote:
When you look about you and see and hear the things done in the name of Jesus, when you see and hear the contradictory notions of Jesus and what Jesus said and/or did - how do you land on the ones you accept and the ones you don't accept? I think because you choose the ones you know you can live with. Or - and this is the core of it - you choose the one you aren't going to be able to live with and go about all your life failing and feeling guilty.


To me, there is no contradiction in Jesus. Jesus is not the problem. The multiple stupid things people have claimed to do in his name most certainly are.

One of my favourite quotes on the human condition is by Rebecca West (1892-1983), a feminist author and journalist. She was in no way a conventional Christian but I've always found this quote of hers remarkable:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

This quote actually explains very well why I am a Christian and not a humanist.

Other folk may interpret it differently. ;)

(West also said: "I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." :D )

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:05 pm 
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Yov:

The verse for me hangs on the word "lustfully." Through acclimatization the word has lost much of its punch of late... these days lust between lovers (and my understanding is married folk were intended to also be lovers) is seen as a good thing, likened to intense desire. I believe that God intended couples to be intimate and desirous of each other.

However, in its original sense, lust was understood as something beyond healthy desire/attraction. It spoke to obsession, destructive desire, and self gratification.

We can see the same thing at work the way gamer kids use the word "rape" to mean "beat handily" in a contest of some sort. When the word started gaining traction in online gaming (at least 5 years ago) it made my ears bleed, often pushing me to issue a lecture of how heinous was its use in any context outside of describing actual rape. Of course I was often told off in return. As far as I know (not gaming like I used to) the use of the word rape in this sense has fallen out of fashion. But for many, its meaning has been changed (expanded?) to also refer to something that is not as disgusting as what we understand actual rape to be. (ps not saying this is a good thing.)

Noticing someone is attractive is far removed from raping or lusting after them in your mind. Desiring your partner sexually is not the same as lusting after them. Finally, lust and love, in a Biblical sense, are not the same thing. If you lust after someone, you are breaking the command to love one another since lust is a destructive self centred form of desire (at least in the original sense of the word).

Having said all that, especially as it echoes Pearly Di's excellent explanation, is there a different reason you find the verse problematic?


Sunsilver wrote:
J.S., that scripture does stick in my craw, I must confess, and is a problem for many, many people. It's hard to reconcile a loving God with that scripture. Yet the O.T. also says (and this is the very first commandment, so it must be pretty important!) "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." The second one continues to say: "Thou shalt not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."

It's pretty harsh, I know. Some people like to think that those from other religions who live a truly good life will somehow also be accepted into heaven, but I don't recall seeing this assurance anywhere in scripture.

This is my understanding as well. It kind of makes sense though: why would anyone want to live in heaven with God if on Earth they chose to follow some other path? The idea that people on a different path will suffer for eternity, well, I can't even get my head around that most days.

ETA xposted with everyone since Silver's reply to Jewel!!!

EETA Vison, everything you said makes sense from a certain perspective. As far as I can tell, it was said without malice or meaning to cause offence.


Last edited by SirDennis on Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:29 pm 
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SirDennis wrote:
However, in its original sense, lust was understood as something beyond healthy desire/attraction. It spoke to obsession, destructive desire, and self gratification.


This is a common problem with discussing/debating bible stuff - there's always the "it doesn't quite say what it looks like it says". Di gave me a similar kind of response. To put it politely - those kinds of arguments don't make the book look particularly useful.



ax - since morality's purpose is mainly as guidelines on what we should or shouldn't do, what else would you suggest as a moral guidepost besides one's attempts to follow those guidelines.

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