The World of God is the Word of God

Is there a creed we all can read?  There is a creed that we all can read.  Its availability is universal.  Unlike the holy books of religions, there is a creed that does not depend on pen and paper.  No one has the power to suppress it.  It contains a universal language that is available and known by all.  How much you learn of it depends on you, not others.  The information in this creed is easily falsifiable; it cannot be forged.  The creed that we all can read is the Universe.  The World of God is the Word of God.  And we will never stop learning about God as we study the world He has made.

As I struggled with problems concerning the Bible, I wondered where I would go from Christianity.  I considered all the so-called “revealed religions,” and they were dubious, too.  But then I realized that I didn’t need to follow the written creed of some other man’s writings, a man I’d never met.  My life was not going to be based on an old book whose original I nor anyone else I know had ever seen.  As Michael Sanger wrote, “You can’t know God that way.  It must come from actual experience.” (The Untethered Soul, 177).  So I decided that I would just believe in God and use my knowledge of the world HE created to learn more about HIM. No man wrote the laws of the universe.  GOD clearly did.  This fact, unlike “revealed religions,” is indisputable.

In the past I’d heard and read and even made criticisms of “Deism”.  However, I’d never read any of their reasons for my self (something I noticed many preachers had failed to do).  After reading the works of Thomas Pain and several modern-day deists, I discovered that the Christian portrayal of deism is wrong.  The arguments against deism from Christian apologists were based on false assumptions and misrepresentations.  The arguments against deism were often dismissive by Christian apologists, but I found the arguments for deism to be very strong and the arguments against deism to be total failures.  I even noticed from my own personal studies inaccuracies about what deists believe (I had been guilty of this, too, at one time).  The more I read the writings of deists, the more I found people who were just like me: former Christians.  And the deists were reasoning, even though I’d never met them or been exposed to them, just like I was reasoning.  It was common sense, logic, the good honest searching that led us to very similar conclusions.

The supposed saving faith of the Christian religion is heavily dependent on man’s ability to read, write, copy, translate, and deliver “God’s word” to poor souls throughout the world who are going to hell.  There are just too many problems with this method for it to be reasonable.  There is, however, a Language that never changes and it never dies.  God’s Universal Laws of Nature are observed and experienced by everyone throughout the world.  His World does not depend on a translator.  Understanding His World, however, takes observation and study, trial and error, as you go through life and apply your mind to understanding it. Even though deists don’t have a book, the world is our book.  The world is obviously authored by God.  So we can study the world and come to know more about God.

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Biblical Salvation Depends on Correct Interpretations

Not only do we take it for granted that everyone had free access to a Bible and could read it, but that they could even understand it correctly once they read it.  Having studied the Bible my whole life in home, church, college, and work as a preacher, not only is it a difficult and boring book (especially the KJV which most English-speaking people used until the past few decades), it’s difficult to understand at times.  Regardless of which of the multiple English translations you use, the difficulty in understanding the Bible is seen and proven in the massive amount of disagreement over what it teaches.  We’ll get into this more in an article on the divisiveness of hearsay religions, but for now let’s just note the difficulty of understanding this 2000 year old book written in another language on the other side of the world.

How are people to interpret the Bible?  Does it always literally mean what is says?  Or does it speak to us in figurative ways?  Or both?  And if so, then how do we know?  Well, you could always hire an expert pastor, priest, or preacher to tell you what to believe about it, which is what most people do.  Or you could purchase the book of an “expert” who will also be glad to tell you how to interpret the Bible, which is what most pastors, priest, and preachers do.  The problem is that there are hundreds of “experts” who disagree on what the Good Book teaches and how to interpret it correctly.  One denomination interprets the Bible this way and another one that way.  Even within denominations a wide variety of opinions concerning Scripture can be found.  The reason for the division in Christianity is the difficulty of interpreting what the sixty-six books of the Bible teach on certain subjects.

Some of the Bible authors themselves even had trouble understanding one another.  Even the author of the book called Second Peter admits that the writings attributed to Paul were difficult to understand.  Yet we’re supposed to believe that Peter was inspired of God!   Peter allegedly writes of God’s will and Paul’s wisdom, “And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”  (2 Peter 3:15-16).  What?  The Apostle Peter says that the Apostle Paul is hard to understand?  No wonder most Christians don’t even read the Bible much outside of church services.  Peter certainly doesn’t write so that the average 16-year-old would want to even try to read this epistle so that he or she can be saved from eternal torment in hell and go to heaven to be with the God of love.

The Bible is too long, random, and inconsistent, for us to come to any unified interpretation of it.  Michael A. Singer notes, “If you try to read about God in a book, you’ll find five other books that say the opposite.  Better yet, you’ll find five interpretations of the same book.  Somebody writes something and somebody else gets a Ph.D. proving it wrong.”[1]  If God wanted people to be saved from eternal torment in hell, then surely He would have written a book that was easier to understand (and a less boring one, too).  And if you disagree that the Bible is boring, don’t you prove that it’s boring by the fact that there are at least a hundred things you’d rather do every day then read it?  Stephen King writes better books than the so-called apostles and he doesn’t have to claim to be writing God’s word in order for people to read his book!

 

[1] Singer, Michael A.:  The Untethered Soul, pg. 177

Biblical Salvation Depends on Translators

If God had a book, wouldn’t it be readily available to everyone, independent of people who tend to make mistakes?  Wouldn’t it also be logical to believe that this book would be written in a language that all people can understand?  There are currently over 7000 different languages in the world with different dialects and figures of speech used amongst the 228 nations in the world;[1] does it seem logical to believe that salvation from sin and hell was limited to a book that was written originally in the small and localized language of the Hebrews?  Even as popular as the Greek language had become due to the efforts of Alexander the Great in Hellenizing the relatively small chunk of the earth he conquered, most of the world still didn’t speak Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.  The Bible authors recognized this problem in their evangelistic zeal and claimed that they had the miraculous ability to speak in unknown tongues (languages),[2] but how are we to know this is true?  The supposed miraculous age ended with the apostles, which included the ability to speak in tongues.  So for the next 1900 years or so the world’s salvation depended on man-made translations of the “gospel”?  Good luck to the Asians, islanders, and Native American tribes on getting an accurate translation in the first few centuries of the Christian era!  Looks like its eternal torment in hell for you sorry sinners. (Rev. 14:10, 20:10).  Too bad they were born in the wrong place.

A translator has a difficult job.  Not only must he or she hear and understand correctly what is being said, which would also include facial expressions, tone of voice, and other body language, he or she then must be able to accurately translate the message to others.  Most men have a hard enough time communicating and understanding women, and vice versa, but throw in a language barrier and it becomes much more difficult.  But we are not just considering language barriers in regards to translations, but national barriers, cultural barriers, socio-economic barriers, educational barriers, religious and philosophical barriers, and in our day a barrier of almost 2000 years between the events described in the Bible and our own time.  To make matters even more difficult, the primary languages of the Bible are considered to be dead languages, which are languages that have evolved so much over time that they’re not even used by any living people today as a primary language.  Is salvation from eternal hell really dependant on translators telling us what dead men who spoke a dead language from 2000 years ago said and wrote?  If it sounds unreasonable, it’s because it is unreasonable.

Another problem with salvation in the translations of the Bible comes from the problem created when certain institutions and people who try to prevent the Bible from being translated into modern languages.  Several people have been excommunicated and even executed for translating the Bible into the English language.  John Wycliffe (1320 – 1384) was a theologian at the University of Oxford in England.  He was one of the precursors to the Reformation Movement that began after him.  Frustrated by the Church’s control of Scripture, in the year 1382 he began translating the Bible into English for the common person to be able to read.  Most Western Christians in the Middle Ages only had access to the Bible as it was read in homilies and oral versions in worship services.  It was Wycliffe’s goal to make the Bible available to the common person.  Today this translation is known as the Wycliffe Bible.[3]  The Church, however, was against Wycliffe’s effort to translate the Bible for all to read.  After attempting to ban Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible, on May 4, 1415 at the Council of Constance, John Wycliffe was declared a heretic by the church.  It was decreed that his books and translations be burned and his body exhumed.  In 1428, at the command of Pope Martin V, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up and burned, and his ashes were scattered into the River Swift.  What terrible sin did he commit?  Other than questioning papal authority, his chief crime was leading an effort to translate the Bible into the English language without license from the Catholic Church.  English speaking people throughout Europe did not have access to the Bible for centuries.  Most of them couldn’t read.  They didn’t have the money to buy a Bible.  And free access to a readable translation was denied to them.  Are we really to believe their salvation was bound in a book that they couldn’t even get a copy of in their own language?  Over a century after John Wycliffe, an attempt would be made to silence Martin Luther and his German translation of the Bible.  William Tyndale (1494-1536), who also translated the Bible into the common English, would be mocked by Church officials in a trial before being handed over to civil authorities to be strangled to death, and then burned at the stake.  Is it fair to believe that illiterate Christians in Europe, who didn’t even have a Bible they could read, were all judged according to the things written in the Bible?[4]

The problem of translations is not just limited to times and places where the Bible was strictly controlled by the Church.  It’s still a problem for us today.  The Bible was written long ago in a language that no one speaks today.  It was written in koine Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  All we have today is a translation of the Bible as it was written in those dead languages.  Something is always lost in translation.  In his book, Misquoting Jesus, Bart Erhman addresses the problem of translations and knowing God’s will.  “If the full meaning of the words of scripture can be grasped only by studying them in Greek (and Hebrew), doesn’t this mean that most Christians, who don’t read ancient languages, will never have complete access to what God wants them to know? And doesn’t this make the doctrine of inspiration a doctrine only for the scholarly elite, who have the intellectual skills and leisure to learn the languages and study the texts by reading them in the original.”[5]  I can understand much of the English translations, but I’ll always fall short of understanding compared to people who understood the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.  Wouldn’t God’s word be written in a language that would never die?  Wouldn’t God’s word be written in a language that all people could read?  I think so.  But even with an accurate translation, we still run into the problem of interpretation.

 

[1] http://www.ethnologue.com

[2] Acts 2:5-11 mentions the plethora of languages and dialects present in Jerusalem alone on the day of Pentecost.  Hence, language barriers were a problem within one large city, even more so in the world at large.

[3] Several of the books in the Wycliffe Bible are not accepted in the Protestant version of the N.T. today, which is more evidence of canonical and translation confusion.

[4] “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:12).  See also John 12:47-48.

[5] Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), p. 7.

 

Biblical Salvation Depends on Literacy

To further complicate the matter, even if all people could have a copy of the original manuscripts written by so-called “holy prophets” and “apostles,” could people in the first ten centuries after the N.T. was written actually read it so that they could know for sure what to do to be saved from eternal hell?  In the 21st century United States, the vast majority of people can read.  We’re blessed with enough leisure time that all children receive a free public education.  Not only is it free, it’s mandatory.  So in our time and culture it is considered odd to meet a person above the age of eight who doesn’t have some basic reading skills.  But has this always been the case in all places?  Not even close!

Many Bible believing Christians take it for granted that every one has not only had free access to the Bible, but that they could even read the Bible.  How could they read the Bible if they don’t know how to read?  According to the World Literacy Foundation, one in five adults cannot read and write.[1]  And this is in the 21st century!  How much poorer must the literacy rate have been in the first few centuries after the New Testament was written?  It’s been suggested that in the best of times in the first century maybe one in ten people could read, and in Roman Palestine it could have even been as low as 3 percent.[2]  Michael Shermer notes, “Consider the fact that in medieval times 80 to 90 percent of the people were illiterate. Most could not even read the Bible, particularly since it was written in Latin, guaranteeing that it would remain the exclusive intellectual property of an elite few.”[3] Are we to believe salvation from hell is based upon our being able to read and understand the writings of a group of men, when only 10% of the people could even read the writings?  Sounds real reasonable, doesn’t?  Not hardly.  Yet that is exactly what we’re being asked to believe when it comes to the Bible.  If you can’t read, then you’re at the mercy of the reader helping you to hear it and understand it correctly.  Is salvation from Hell really dependent on such a thing?  If it seems unreasonable to you, it’s because it is unreasonable.

[1] http://www.worldliteracyfoundation.org/at-a-glance.html

[2] Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 702-712).  Harper Collins, In.. Kindle Edition.

[3] Shermer, Michael.  How We Believe, The Search for God in an Age of Science, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York. 2000.  Pg. 43

Biblical Salvation Depends on Bible Availability

In the United States we’re blessed to have our rights to free speech protected.  Since this country has many Christians, the Bible has been widely distributed and is available in large quantities in almost every book store.  You might not be able to read the Bible or make sense of it all when you try to read this massive collection of sixty-six ancient books (78 if you’re Roman Catholic)[1], but it’s certainly available.  For people brought up in Christian homes in a nation predominantly filled with Christians it seems only natural and logical to believe that the Bible is the word of God.

In most countries, however, especially in times past, this alleged book of salvation from hell has not been readily available for people to read.  Take for example the first thousand and a half years of Christianity’s existence.  Before the invention of the printing press by Johanness Gutenberg in the 15th century (that’s 1,400 years after the events of the New Testament!), copies of manuscripts were made the long, slow, and difficult way; by hand.  If you wanted a copy of God’s alleged word, then you depended on someone to make a copy of it for you.  Typically, someone known as a scribe–who’d been fortunate enough to be educated in reading and writing–would perform the tedious task of copying one manuscript at a time.  How long would that take?  There are over 700,000 words in the English Bible so you’d better get in line early, and don’t hold your breath while waiting.  Most “Christians” don’t even have the time to read the Bible much less make a copy of it.

Of course, buying a copy would come at a high cost, too.  How many hours would a scribe have to spend copying over 700,000 words?  Writing carefully it takes about twenty seconds to copy a sentence with five words.  If you do the math at that rate, then it would take thirty-two days and sleepless nights of non stop writing to make one copy of the Bible!  And what would a scribe charge for his services?  He’d likely charge more than any ancient commoner would be able or willing to pay.  Yet, this was how the New Testament was reproduced for over the first fifteen hundred years of its existence!

The task of copying the Bible was painstakingly slow.  It was expensive to hire scribes to do the work.  So most people in the world never owned or read a complete Bible until the past few hundred years (my guess would still be that most people who own Bibles have never read the entire Bible even though they claim to believe it is the word of God).  The poor and uneducated people of the world depended on others to read it for them or simply to tell them what was written.  Individuals didn’t have their own copy of the Bible as we do today.  Rather congregations had a book here and there that the leaders would read to the church.  This is obvious in Colossians 4:16, which says, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.”  We don’t know what happened to the letter to the Laodiceans mentioned here, but apparently the two churches were supposed to exchange letters and have them read aloud to the mostly illiterate assembly.  This is further seen in the book called Revelation, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3).  Here again we see that there would be one reader of the writing, while others gathered around to hear.  It doesn’t even appear that anyone mentioned in the New Testament foresaw the making of a N.T. Bible at this time.

Church leaders apparently kept the sacred writings in their possession.  They would be responsible for reading what ever was written to the congregation.  This made the educated leaders in the church and pulpit very important and powerful.  We see this conflict in the New Testament with two church members named Gaius and Diotrophese.  Attributed to John, the epistle warns Gaius, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.” (3 John 9).[2]  So Diotrophes was controlling and hindering what people got to hear and read in the church he attended?  Too bad for those poor, unfortunate, souls who attended his congregation!  Through no fault of their own they were unable to hear the whole alleged word of the Bible-God.

How did the Church do at communicating God’s supposed will to the flock?  Just ask Protestants who finally rejected the authority and teachings of the Catholic Church claiming that they had hindered the translation of the Bible into the common language for centuries.  Not only did they hinder translations from the original languages, according to Protestants the Catholic Church also corrupted many of the teachings found in the New Testament.  Are we really to believe that God’s will and salvation from eternal hell was bound by the work of a bunch of scribes and power-hungry church leaders?  Wouldn’t God’s creed of salvation be freely available for all to read?

The problem of availability isn’t just limited by natural means (i.e. making copies of it), but also through evil men who want to suppress freedom of speech and thought and the free exchange of ideas (See Diotrophes in 3 John 9).  The Bible has frequently been suppressed in nations over the past two thousand years.  In an effort to stomp out the Christian religion, early writings considered sacred by Christians were confiscated and burned to prevent the spread of their teachings.

According to Lactantius (A.D. 260-330), an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered the confiscation and burning of Christian scriptures, “The books of the Holy Scriptures were found, and they were committed to the flames….”[3]  Eusebius Pamphilius, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and Roman/church historian of the third and fourth century also testifies to destruction of Christian literature in his Ecclesiastical History, “the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places…”[4]  Was salvation really dependent on something so vulnerable to attack as the written word which is so easily destroyed?  It seems to me like God would have chosen a better way to spread the teachings of what is necessary to be saved from eternal hell.

We know of more modern examples of nations whom suppressed the Bible.  Though Hitler claimed to be a Christian as it was expedient for him, the Reichkirche so twisted and corrupted biblical teachings and intimidated people who didn’t buy into the state church that it greatly hindered what people believed.  What were the poor Germans supposed to do during that time?  According to many fundamentalist Christians (e.g. Church of Christ), they were supposed to go to hell for believing the wrong things.  By fault of birth alone, people in the former communist Soviet Union and China and the Moslem countries in the Middle East have not had the access that Americans and Europeans have to the Bible.  It is unreasonable to think and teach that salvation from hell for people in parts of the world where free speech has been suppressed are held accountable for not believing and obeying the Bible.

 

[1] The Apocrypha is a collection of fifteen books dating between 200 B.C.E. and 100 C.E., which were accepted into the Greek translation of the O.T. (Septuagint) and the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, excluding 1 and 2 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh.  More Bible confusion!

[2] According to Eusebius, Third John was considered to antilegomena, i.e. one of the disputed books of the New Testament Canon.  In other words, it was a second class book of the N.T. along with James, Jude, Second Peter, and Second John, which were also antilegomena.  Most Bible believing Christians, however, do not know this.

[3] Lactantius (A.D. 260-330) in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, Addressed to Donatus, book 7, ch. 12, pg. 305.

[4] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.xiii.iii.html (Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine 8:2:1.

A Creed Everyone Can Read

If God wrote a book for His intelligent creation, then wouldn’t it be logical to believe that the divine book would be available to the whole world?  It would not just be available primarily in free countries where it was the most popular religion, but everywhere at all times so that we would all have an equal opportunity at salvation.  If a loving God wrote a book for His children, it wouldn’t matter if you lived in a free country, a third world country, or even an atheist country, His book would be available to all people, especially if eternal salvation and damnation were on the line.  If eternal residence in heaven or hell depended on us knowing a loving God’s will, then His will would be written across the sky above, in the fruitful ground beneath our feet, and within our hearts so that we wouldn’t miss it.  We could reasonably infer that our reasonable Creator would communicate in the most reasonable of ways.

So how reasonable is it to believe the way of salvation from hell is contained in ancient books written by men?  As we will see, it is not very reasonable.  Yet Christianity, one of the world’s largest religions, is a book-based religion upon which it is claimed that our salvation depends on our access and understanding of that book (the same can be said for other religions).  But what are the logical conclusions if salvation from hell is confined within an old book whose authors we do not even know?

There are just too many insurmountable problems to claiming that the Bible is the written word of God today.  Availability, literacy, translations, and interpretations, make the written word a most unlikely method of salvation.  It involves too many human elements.  Thomas Paine wrote, “The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of an universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are of themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God—The Word of God exists in something else.”[1] (The Age of Reason, pg. 24).  It is this “something else” that Thomas Paine mentioned long ago that I want to spend my life exploring.  And I want to share the beginning of my exploration with you, friend.

 

[1] Paine, Thomas: The Age of Reason, Ch. 7, pg. 24