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Anyone else struggling with Bible stories?? (CC)


creekmom
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I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember (so has my husband).  Recently, my dh has told me he doesn't believe anymore.  He thinks the Bible is full of fairy tales/legends, etc. and that the only reason we believe it is because of our culture/parents etc.  He believes that if we had been raised in Iraq, we'd be Muslim; if we had lived thousands of years ago, we would believe in the Greek gods, etc.

I do think he thinks there is a God, but he's not what we've been led to believe he is through various religions.  Jesus was a great teacher, but not God, etc.  

 

As you can imagine, this has had a big effect on me.  He's always challenging my beliefs now, and it is really confusing.  The other day, he brought up the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

 "How can you believe this story?  So, God wanted the Pharaoh to do something and he wouldn't.  Instead of changing his mind, he hardened his heart so he couldn't do it even if he wanted to.  Then, he kills all those innocent children to teach this evil man a lesson.  Then, he makes it a holiday!!  Let's celebrate the day I saved some innocent children but killed countless other innocent children because Pharaoh wouldn't do what I wanted him to (which of course I was responsible for bc I hardened his heart.)"  
 

When I put this story in a more modern setting, I realize that any government leader who asked an official to do something that he personally made physically impossible for that person to do, then punished him for not doing it by killing the innocent children of that country, and then made it a national holiday, - I would think that leader was the most evil person imaginable.  How can we see God as love if this story is true??

 

Just a few minutes ago, my 8yo dd was asking me about the flood.  "So, what happened to all the people not on the boat?"  "They died."  "What about the children?"  "They died too."  ARGHHHHH!!!!  These stories I learned as a child in Sunday school are really upsetting me now.  I'm having a difficult time teaching them to my children.  Anyone else struggle with this???

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Are you seeking to reinforce your faith? Or are you looking for others who have struggled with this and either left religion or found a way to reconcile the stories with the God they know?
It might help others in this discussion to know what you're looking for.
Some people think the OT stories are just stories, examples if you will. Others take them literally.

For me personally, stories like these, like your husband, are one of the main reasons I'm an anti-theist.

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Are you seeking to reinforce your faith? Or are you looking for others who have struggled with this and either left religion or found a way to reconcile the stories with the God they know?

It might help others in this discussion to know what you're looking for.

Some people think the OT stories are just stories, examples if you will. Others take them literally.

For me personally, stories like these, like your husband, are one of the main reasons I'm an anti-theist.

 

I'm looking for the truth.

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I take the OT stories as stories with maybe some basis in historical fact but not totally accurate.

I follow and believe the teachings of Jesus.

 

And I don't really teach my children the OT stories. I don't think most of them were meant for or are fit for children.

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You labeled your post CC. Do you want answers from a Christian perspective or do you want people who have left the faith to answer you from their perspective or both?  It's probably a good idea to specify what you want.

 

You can also go to the various social groups, many of which are organized around religion and ask questions without starting debates.

 

I'll identify where I am coming from because I think that kind of disclosure helps you sort out answers. I once had very similar questions. I identify as an evangelical with an ecumenical perspective within the historic orthodox Christian faith. I came from a home in which we were taken to church for cultural reasons--mostly just the kids dropped off. My father came from a line of proud atheists (My great-great grandfather's gravestone in a historic cemetary speaks of his disbelief) and my mother was into New Age and occult stuff. I remember very distinctly as a child praying and asking God whether he was a God I should be scared of or one who loved me. As a young teen, I was drawn to the Christian faith, but struggled as a young adult, leaving for a while. What brought me back was attempting to sort things out logically. Unlike some people, I had no warm fuzzy religious background I didn't want to let go of. I was having a good old time as a hedonist and I had been exposed to many variations of belief through my mother's pursuits. But I decided to give Christianity one last look before I permanently ditched it. Years later, I began to have experiences that matched what I had cognitively decided as a young adult, but it took a while. Now there is so much additional evidence from my own life and that of others I know personally.

 

Speaking to you from within the faith, my suggestion is to start at what the Bible says is the crux of the matter: the death and resurrection of Christ. 1And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. I Cor: 15

 

For me, reading Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" was very key in making my decision about the faith.

 

Then work outward from there. If you need to, stick with the New Testament for a while when instructing your children for a while.

 

Do you have a priest or pastor you can talk to in real life?

 

One of your underlying questions I think is the nature of Scripture. You will find that not all Christian faith traditions read each part of the Bible literally, and that started way back in the early church fathers' writing. Some believe the OT stories are literal, some that they are figurative; some that they are both literal and figurative. This is a background question to the main one. There are people who write about the nature of Scripture from outside the Christian faith, such as Bart Ehrman, people who write within the traditional view of Scripture, such as Ben Witherington, and people who stay within the framework of faith, but view Scripture a little differently, such as Peter Enns.

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Questioning the Bible, the Old Testament in particular was my husband's and my first step out of modern American evangelical Christianity. The wisdom about how to read and understand the Bible wasn't being taught and our questions had no answers until we found the Orthodox Church, or rather it found us. If we hadn't found the OC, I don't know what our Christianity would look like right now.

 

Anyway, we look at the Old Testament differently now. Here are a few articles scratching the surface of how we look at the OT now. These were recently shared in our social group, Exploring Orthodox Christianity which you are welcome to join and question / explore away!

 

http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/old_new_testament_e.htm

 

http://www.piousfabrications.com/2011/09/on-old-testament-violence-and-orthodox.html?m=1

 

http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2013/06/stump-priest-what-about-violence-in-old.html?m=1

 

Our social group - all are welcome to explore ancient Christianity and ask away!

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/forum/140-exploring-orthodox-christianity/

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I have been reading my guts out. I have decided that its time for me to determine what my faith is, rather than everyone else. Since it is MY faith. A while back, one or more atheists posted in a religious thread here that Christians didn't know much about their faith, and I took it to heart. Needless to say, I have a mess on my hands..... I choose to always believe, but the specifics are all over the map. Maybe that is what the Bible means by "working out your own salvation." I have determined that there are things we just can't know for sure. Here are some examples:

 

Rachelheldevans.com : Rachel just did an "ask the..." series on hell. Three scholars responded to questions. All had very good arguments and all three of them can't be right. My conclusion: we just don't know, its not like we can phone hell and ask... Make life NOW count. And that is Biblical.

 

Early Bible stories: One day when the kids were little, I was retelling the creation story, talking snake and all. You should have seen their faces...... As an adult, I wondered why I had never questioned it. Reading Borg's Reading the Bible Again... book, he states and believes they are myths. Before some get mad, it isn't myth in the "not true" sense, it is how Hebrew authors wrote about spiritual truths, myths being the vessel to show the truth. I am contemplating this, and the longer I do, it seems that the stories have MORE meaning this way. Showing great truths vs. a cute story (if you think Noah's ark is cute with all but those on the ark dying... never thought of that either...). A good read is on AISH.com : under Bible, a great long series about the serpent, I think its called Serpent of Desire or something like that. Very enlightening.

 

Rachel also has many great articles on her blog and I think you would enjoy them. Her first book is on my "to read" list, called "Evolving in Monkey Town." It is about all of the questions she had being raised as an evangelical and her conclusions.

 

Peter Enns also has a blog at patheos.com .   Very good reading. I also enjoyed the parent book "Telling God's Story."

 

Two very good books (also recommended here) are by Marcus Borg. I'm not sure I can quite (yet?) buy into all that he says, but when reading his books, I get the feeling I don't have to. They tell how Borg answered these questions for himself and he graciously lets you read about his process. Read first: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, then Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. Both are very good and quite eye opening. Made me wonder why, as a lifelong Christian, I haven't heard any of this before!

 

I have my Facebook loaded with "likes" for Rachel Held Evans, Donald Miller, Karen Spears Zacharias, Peter Enns and Marcus Borg. When they all post in the same day, I am loaded down with reading! I also like soulseeds a lot too.

 

Best wishes on your journey!

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I see the stories as cultural and symbolic rather than strictly factual--all great literature has deeper meaning. So the God of the Old Testament is depicted in ways that made sense to the people writing the stories down--rather barbaric from a 21st-century point of view, but so were their lives.

 

That makes it hard for me to find biblical role models, and in fact I make little use of the Bible other than Jesus' teachings. I think being culturally literate requires knowing the main storylines by adulthood, but I am not trying to do that with my DS yet. We will probably tell stories from all kinds of ancient cultures in first grade.

 

But I'm Unitarian Universalist, and many people would not consider us in the Christian mainstream because we do not have a required creed. You can be atheist and UU, agnostic and UU, Christian and UU (like Ralph Waldo Emerson), etc.

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What you are talking about is one of the many things that lead me away from the Christian faith. I went through a time when I considered the stories spiritually significant and containing spiritual truth. In fact, I spent years there.

Today, I see them like other myths and stories and legends and fables of ancient cultures - …Patrirchical stories to explain things from a unscientific and developmentally lower level standpoint.

I don't want a God who would do that. But I wouldn't want a Muslim god, or a Buddha who left his wife and kids, either.....

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Just a few minutes ago, my 8yo dd was asking me about the flood.  "So, what happened to all the people not on the boat?"  "They died."  "What about the children?"  "They died too."  ARGHHHHH!!!!  These stories I learned as a child in Sunday school are really upsetting me now.  I'm having a difficult time teaching them to my children.  Anyone else struggle with this???

 

Yes. It's the reason I have gone pretty much the same way as your dh. At one point, I tried to teach my kids some of these things and I could not. I find many Bible stories repulsive and absurd. 

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I agree with so much I have read here. I don't speak of it often because I'm not atheist, but I don't believe literally much of the Bible and find it incredibly biased by culture.

 

I don't discuss it much with my husband because he gets angry about some of my thoughts. Much he agrees with, but even if I tell him I find something hard to believe even though I do, he doesn't understand. He likes to laugh at how people can believe the world came from nothing. I tell him it's no harder to believe than believing that God has always been -- just there. He gets upset and cannot see how I can understand people wrestling with this. For something to just always exist is hard for me to comprehend, and getting mad at me doesn't help. I cannot help that I wonder about things like this.

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no.  I wasn't raised Christian. sure we celebrated Christmas (with presents and stocking and santa claus) - but so do many atheists.   My mother was agnostic.  she couldn't decide if she was an atheist or not.  before he died, my father started taking us to a LIBERAL UU church. they made the other UU churches we visited seem downright conservative in comparison.  (liberal for UU - which should tell you something. the only religious message I remember getting from this place - once - was that 'we don't believe God exists.  we question." it was a social setting for discussing very liberal ideas and not much else.)

 

God doesn't take a short term view - we do.   he sees the whole cloth.  we might see a few threads.  the mortal plane upon which we now dwell is only a micron of OUR existence.  Just because someone died, doesn't mean they no longer exist - they are somewhere else where self-centered mortals can no longer cause them grief and pain.  I've had enough experiences that for me, that isn't mere "belief" (and I remember when for me it was nothing but "hope").  It is *knowledge*.  death is nothing but going through a door to another plane of existence. from my own personal experiences (not study), I have a sure belief/knowledge that those who have died are more alive than we are.  

 

eta: I know many will write off my claims of knowledge that life continues as nothing more than biblical teachings - my only suggestion is get into doing genealogy (it is one of the biggest hobbies out there). " dead" people will start talking to you.  and I'm not getting into any more detail than that.

 

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I'm looking for the truth.

So nothing big, eh? :-)

 

Look, I think the story of the Pharaoh`s heart being hardened IS relating truth. Facts? No. A nice version that we can reconcile with our modern sensibilities? No. But a truth in how the Ancient Hebrews viewed God and themselves? Yes.

 

The God of the OT demanded obedience above all. He protected his chosen people, not every human. His covenant was with the Jews, not the Egyptians. The Christian idea of God was someone in the far off future when these stories were being told so, to me, to try and reconcile these stories with not simply a Christian view but a very modern one is a little crazy. Yeah, the Good off the OT doesn't seem very nice but if you're a Christian then you have the NT which describes a change in relationship.

 

But on to truth. Do you mean factual? Personally, I don't think the Exodus and many, if not most, of the stories (books) are factual. I tend to think some are more historical then others (Kings for example). I think Exodus is probably legend that`s taken on the importance of myth in terms of communicating deeper truths about ourselves. I say legend because there are some interesting hints that there's some real basis. Moses, for instance, is an Egyptian name originally, not Hebrew.

 

If I were you I'd start looking into textual criticism. Check out the four source theory on the OT, read some Bart Ehrman. It may or may not help your faith but you'll be getting a real education on biblical scholarship and won't fall into the written-by-bronze-age-goat-herders trap that your husband seems to be headed for. :)

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I remember teaching my kids those stories. Their response? "Wow, God sure was mean!" The flood story moved them both to tears, even though I wasn't teaching it as literally happening.

 

One of my favorite stories about my daughter-She was about six and we were doing SOTW. She was very proud of her timeline and loved to show it to my Dad when he would come over. She'd tell him all about the people etc. After we did the Exodus story though, she was appalled and didn't want to put any of it in her book. She then said, "I don't think I'll tell Grandpa that story. It will only make him sad." Protecting him from being as horrified as she was.

 

I realized that teaching your children even rudimentary ethics and then teaching them the Bible stories can get you into a pickle pretty quickly. I was always taught they were literally true, but I was taught to focus on how God protected Noah and how we can trust God too. Never mind all those babies and animals drowning outside the ark, just don't think about that. And if you did, the answer tended towards either how God works in mysterious ways, or they were so wicked (even babies and animals apparently) that genocide was appropriate.

 

I think that really bothered me the most about how I had been taught to reconcile those stories with a loving God. The justifications offered for behavior that, if done by any other deity, would be evidence for it's wickedness. One is encouraged to either not really think about the ramifications, or to split the story into the good people whom God blessed and the bad people who had it coming. I had already taught my children about human rights and none of that was going to fly, even at age six!

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Thank you for all the replies.  I wanted to add something that my dh wanted me to read today called The Backfire Effect.   The experiment showed that when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs actually get stronger!  Here is the post if you're interested in reading it:  http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/.

 

I have been clinging desperately to everything I've believed for the past 40 years.  It takes a lot of courage to challenge it.

 

This quote is from that post as well:

 

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

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Yes. It's the reason I have gone pretty much the same way as your dh. At one point, I tried to teach my kids some of these things and I could not. I find many Bible stories repulsive and absurd.

 

That kills me.

 

I think they're repulsive and absurd because so many people have been taught to look at them as stories of A) a loving (in a very modern sense) God, B) literally true and C)without any context of the time periods or people that told and wrote them.

 

The God of the OT is not nice. He's not loving in the modern sense of it. The patriarchal metaphors are understood with our modern sense of what a good parent is and so are found wanting. And since they're found wanting, they're dismissed.

 

Literally true, well, that leads to lack of context. All I need is the Bible sort of thinking, uninformed by anything but the Bible.

 

And even for those that are willing to look at the stories as metaphor, legend, myth, etc. are often still viewing them through modern frames and with little investigation into centuries upon centuries of extra-Biblical writing and thought. disturbing stuff either shakes them or gets left behind as they cherry pick for the good stuff. 

 

Abraham and Isaac for instance. Brutal story of how God asked Abraham to kill his son. Or a story about testing a man's obedience when obedience was a virtue beyond others in a tribal society. Also possibly a story about a time rife with child sacrifice when this God makes it clear he will not make his followers do that. Also a story that makes it quite clear that though it was told hundreds of centuries ago, even then, the worst thing the tellers could imagine was a parent, not simply losing a child, but doing the deed himself and thereby giving us a thread that connects our humanity to theirs. Also a story, seen through Kierkegaard's eyes about hope and despair.

 

So you read the story and decide it's gruesome and toss it aside. Or you read the story, read about the context of it, search out some references to and work about it in our tradition and what seems like an irrelevant story by bronze age goat herders gives us an insight into their values and the humanity we share with them and the people who read that story through the ages. And also, on a personal 

 

None of this is an argument for belief. But even in the goriest bits, because life is and has always had horribly gory bits, there is important stuff about us and those who came before us. It's why we still read Gilgamesh and Homer and Ovid. Why those are to be tackled while the Bible is dismissed is beyond me. I've often thought it would be fun to have a secular Bible study where we could explore it free of belief and faith.

 

And I may have gone waaaay beyond what you meant. :D

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Just wanted to let you know I'm praying for you.  It IS hard sometimes to maintain faith when reason tries to rally the forces and take over (there's a place for reason, I'm not say there isn't, but faith -- if one wants to maintain a Christian worldview -- is the foundation, not reason).  I don't have the answers for all the "But what abouts?"  I can't make the Christian faith a completely reasonable one.  I did just tell my husband yesterday that I'd recently read about the story of Abraham and Isaac that while it seems abhorrent if read by itself, if read within the culture it took place, it is much more merciful and loving (child sacrifice was practiced in other religions of the time; God -- in sparing Isaac -- was showing mercy and love).  Things like that help, but I'm not trying to figure all that out before I live a life of Christian faith. 

 

Why do I press on, why do I choose to continue being a Christian?  Seeing God being real in every day life.  Seeing absolutely amazing "coincidences" occur as he reaches out in love to people.  Participating in church services that have not changed in practice or meaning for more than 1500 years; being part of a faith that hasn't changed in theology at all. Receiving the life giving sacraments and seeing them make a difference.   So I'm holding on. 

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God doesn't take a short term view - we do.   he sees the whole cloth.  we might see a few threads.  the mortal plane upon which we now dwell is only a micron of OUR existence.  Just because someone died, doesn't mean they no longer exist - they are somewhere else where self-centered mortals can no longer cause them grief and pain.  I've had enough experiences that for me, that isn't mere "belief" (and I remember when for me it was nothing but "hope").  It is *knowledge*.  death is nothing but going through a door to another plane of existence. from my own personal experiences (not study), I have a sure belief/knowledge that those who have died are more alive than we are.  

 

I think the problem many non-Christians have with the Old Testament isn't just that horrible things happen in it (after all, horrible things happen every day, in every culture) but that these are stories supposedly chosen by God to reveal his nature to mankind.  Combine that with the extreme disparity between the OT and the NT God, and it's a recipe for people to walk away from Christianity.

 

Honestly, if Christianity as a whole was more willing to accept that the stories aren't all literal and hand-selected by God to be passed down through the ages, I'd wager that a lot less people would leave the church.

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I think the truth is going to be a tall order, Mary.

 

We can find a version of truth, maybe. We can follow our beliefs, what we *believe* happened. But, truth?

Truth to me means irrefutable proof. While I do know there are Biblical archeologists who have been somewhat successful in proving certain aspects of some stories, I don't think Truth, with a big T, is possible. We didn't see these happenings with our own eyes; we didn't know anyone involved that could relate their version of the truth. We have stories past down for generations, changed, translated from languages that had their own idioms into other languages with no comparable phrases.  

 

My boys collect flood stories. We've already collected seven. We haven't even hit Native North and South American cultures. They are all equally cruel in their eyes and mine. I felt it was important to teach all the OT stories because they are referenced so often in literature and culture. Otherwise, I would have skipped them.

I think you can try to find some peace with your version of the truth though. I wish you a good journey as you find what that means for you.

 

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Just wanted to add that my minister says, "All stories are true." That is, we tell them because they have some significance, aside from whether they are factual. For example, the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is completely made up, but it is true in that it illustrates GW's character.

 

That said, I don't think all stories are likeable or good, just as individual characters may not be. I do not like the God characterized by the stories mentioned above. And not all stories are relevant to the questions or values that are essential to any given person.

 

Maybe you could find truth by asking yourself, What matters most to me? What are my principles? And then you will know which stories resonate with you.

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I have found the stories a connection to the past. People always tell things from their own perspective and they've lied, cheated, stole, disobeyed and made bad choices.  Pretty much like people today.  The stories were told from a certain cultural viewpoint as all are.  I try to find the "truth" the authors were attempting to relay and not get bogged down with reality.  Truth isn't always reality.

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I recently read a book by Peter Kreeft called "You Can Understand the Bible."  It was pretty good--he would take each book separately and try to explain, fairly simply, what kind of a thing it is, what the cultural context and meaning might be, etc.  I got some good stuff out of it.

 

I also really like C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which just talks about the basics of Christian faith and what it's about.

 

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I think the problem many non-Christians have with the Old Testament isn't just that horrible things happen in it (after all, horrible things happen every day, in every culture) but that these are stories supposedly chosen by God to reveal his nature to mankind. Combine that with the extreme disparity between the OT and the NT God, and it's a recipe for people to walk away from Christianity.

 

Honestly, if Christianity as a whole was more willing to accept that the stories aren't all literal and hand-selected by God to be passed down through the ages, I'd wager that a lot less people would leave the church.

Yes, that was the problem for me. Christianity makes claims about the Bible. God is a deity who loves humans and who wants to be loved in return. The Bible is supposed to be revelatory towards a real, involved, intervening deity.

 

I can easily appreciate the stories as giving insight into how early cultures viewed their deity. They are every bit as interesting as Greek mythology. But Christians claim there is a real God who was involved in the writing of the Bible. This same God wants us to understand him at least enough to love him, and he was able to influence the writers of the Bible. This God is supposed to care deeply about how we treat each other, so why shrug when people were saying God thinks slavery is no biggie, taking other people's land and killing them when they resist can be a good thing, and gay people deserve the death penalty. People followed that advice for a long time. Real people were hurt and continue to be hurt because people consider the Bible to communicate true things about how God wants us to treat each other.

 

I totally get that the writers of the Bible didn't have a 21st century code of ethics. But I find the reality that it reads just like a series of stories written by any other group of humans about their deity/deities and not like one influenced by an actual, loving deity to be evidence against the Christian claims.

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That kills me.

 

I think they're repulsive and absurd because so many people have been taught to look at them as stories of A) a loving (in a very modern sense) God, B) literally true and C)without any context of the time periods or people that told and wrote them.

 

The God of the OT is not nice. He's not loving in the modern sense of it. The patriarchal metaphors are understood with our modern sense of what a good parent is and so are found wanting. And since they're found wanting, they're dismissed.

 

Literally true, well, that leads to lack of context. All I need is the Bible sort of thinking, uninformed by anything but the Bible.

 

And even for those that are willing to look at the stories as metaphor, legend, myth, etc. are often still viewing them through modern frames and with little investigation into centuries upon centuries of extra-Biblical writing and thought. disturbing stuff either shakes them or gets left behind as they cherry pick for the good stuff. 

 

Abraham and Isaac for instance. Brutal story of how God asked Abraham to kill his son. Or a story about testing a man's obedience when obedience was a virtue beyond others in a tribal society. Also possibly a story about a time rife with child sacrifice when this God makes it clear he will not make his followers do that. Also a story that makes it quite clear that though it was told hundreds of centuries ago, even then, the worst thing the tellers could imagine was a parent, not simply losing a child, but doing the deed himself and thereby giving us a thread that connects our humanity to theirs. Also a story, seen through Kierkegaard's eyes about hope and despair.

 

So you read the story and decide it's gruesome and toss it aside. Or you read the story, read about the context of it, search out some references to and work about it in our tradition and what seems like an irrelevant story by bronze age goat herders gives us an insight into their values and the humanity we share with them and the people who read that story through the ages. And also, on a personal 

 

None of this is an argument for belief. But even in the goriest bits, because life is and has always had horribly gory bits, there is important stuff about us and those who came before us. It's why we still read Gilgamesh and Homer and Ovid. Why those are to be tackled while the Bible is dismissed is beyond me. I've often thought it would be fun to have a secular Bible study where we could explore it free of belief and faith.

 

And I may have gone waaaay beyond what you meant. :D

 

I do think the Bible has merit as fascinating literature...for kids, say, 14 and up. And you can't do much better than to listen to the instructions of Jesus when he was telling us how to get along in the world. Many of the Proverbs are interesting insights into how people behave. There are even a few stories that I end up liking in spite of myself, like Joseph (coat-of-many-colors guy)...I no longer believe the mechanism stated at the end (how God intended it for good, though the brothers intended it for ill), but I want to believe it. I like to think that it all comes right in the end - isn't that what makes a good story, after all? 

 

But, as other posters have stated already, the overarching tenant of the Christian faith is that the Bible is TRUE, literally true.  The story of Abraham and Isaac, I've heard it explained, is prophetic, pointing to God sacrificing His only son. I think in either case it's repugnant. 

 

I realize that there are plenty of Christians who don't put a ton of stock in the Bible, particularly the OT, but that strikes me as disingenuous. It's cherry-picking the parts you like. If you do that, how can any part be true? 

 

Reading Gilgamesh has its merits, of course, but nobody has formed a religion based off Gilgamesh as far as I know. Nobody thinks their salvation hinges on what they believe about that story.  It was thoroughly ingrained in me, from birth, that believing the inerrancy of the Bible was absolutely essential. I think it would be freeing to be a Christian who was unconcerned about stories in the OT, whether or not they make any sense and whether or not they point to the God we're supposed to worship, but I wasn't raised that way and think I probably can't. 

 

And no, you didn't go beyond what I meant.  You didn't scratch the surface. ;) 

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"Then, he kills all those innocent children to teach this evil man a lesson."

 

I'm not going to read all the responses because one, I don't have time and two, I'm really struggling as it is with this topic. However, the above quote from OP is what has brought my on-going faith for almost 35 years to a screeching halt. Babies and innocent children died horrible deaths at the will and direction of God: Egypt, Herod seeking to kill Jesus, Job...I cannot love or worship a God who uses the innocents to fulfill his "loving" purposes. Just can't do it. God needs suffering, heartache and pain in order to bring us closer to him, to love him and trust him, and he uses children to attain that goal?? No freaking way that flies with me anymore. And don't even get me started on the whole opening/closing the womb drivel. What a sick, sick, sick thing to do - play around with human hearts, especially women/mothers.

 

I didn't include Bible in our schedule for this year. If the dc want to read it on their own then fine. If they ask me questions I'll answer them bluntly and honestly. But I won't purposefully expose them to the Bible or teach them that it is the book they must read/believe in.

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I realize that there are plenty of Christians who don't put a ton of stock in the Bible, particularly the OT, but that strikes me as disingenuous. It's cherry-picking the parts you like. If you do that, how can any part be true?

 

This is why I've never understood how some Christian churches preach a literal Bible. There are so very many contradictions that one would have to cherry-pick.

 

Not that I'm condemning those that believe this way. I'm just stating that I don't understand the thought process.

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Anyway, we look at the Old Testament differently now. Here are a few articles scratching the surface of how we look at the OT now. These were recently shared in our social group, Exploring Orthodox Christianity which you are welcome to join and question / explore away!

 

http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/old_new_testament_e.htm

 

http://www.piousfabrications.com/2011/09/on-old-testament-violence-and-orthodox.html?m=1

 

http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2013/06/stump-priest-what-about-violence-in-old.html?m=1

 

Our social group - all are welcome to explore ancient Christianity and ask away!

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/forum/140-exploring-orthodox-christianity/

 

Do you mean that you, personally, look at the OT differently now, or do you mean the Orthodox Church's teaching has changed?  Is this what it has always taught about the OT?  Just curious!  I watched the video at the 2nd link and it was very interesting, thanks.  :)

 

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But, as other posters have stated already, the overarching tenant of the Christian faith is that the Bible is TRUE, literally true.

No,that's simply false. The Orthodox churches, Roman Catholic church, Church of England, and Evangelical Lutherans to name just a few (and those are big players in the Christian world) do not have, as an overarching tenet, the idea that the Bible is literally true. Literalism of the type you're refering to is a fairly modern reaction to textual criticism that is rooted mostly in American Protestantism.

 

 

The story of Abraham and Isaac, I've heard it explained, is prophetic, pointing to God sacrificing His only son. I think in either case it's repugnant.

I've never heard that view and I'm not a fan of claiming Jewish prophecy for the purposes of saying it foretold Christian events.

 

 

I realize that there are plenty of Christians who don't put a ton of stock in the Bible, particularly the OT, but that strikes me as disingenuous. It's cherry-picking the parts you like. If you do that, how can any part be true?

I'm not living in the framework that demands the Bible be literally true or that truth is literally. I'm not saying you cherry pick the parts you like, I explicitly said that should not be done. I'm not sure how to answer that question. It seems suited to a kind of Christian that I most definitely am not.

 

 

Reading Gilgamesh has its merits, of course, but nobody has formed a religion based off Gilgamesh as far as I know. Nobody thinks their salvation hinges on what they believe about that story.  It was thoroughly ingrained in me, from birth, that believing the inerrancy of the Bible was absolutely essential. I think it would be freeing to be a Christian who was unconcerned about stories in the OT, whether or not they make any sense and whether or not they point to the God we're supposed to worship, but I wasn't raised that way and think I probably can't.

I think you probably can. It was also thoroughly ingrained in you to believe in God, no? Why are you capable of a heroic shift in perspective there but not when it comes to a book you're now free to approach as you choose?

 

 

But, again, I didn't say a Christian should be unconcerned with the OT. I think I outlined how concerned I was with one particular "bad" bit. There are Christians who like to go around pretending their favourite psalm doesn't involve smashing the heads of babies onto rocks but it's not me. I tend to think those parts are of particular importance because they point to what we're capable of and what we have to guard against. Others, like the Abraham story, have more to say then we tend to assume.

 

Just a note, as Jimmy Carter so wonderfully explained in an interview I'll have to hunt down, inerrancy and literalism are not interchangeable. Not even close. Innerrancy simply means error free. Literalism sprang out of the reaction to textual criticism in the late 19th century that challenged inerrancy but it's not the same thing and many believe in the inerrancy of scripture (not me) without coming anywhere close to being literalists. Now my inner bible nerd is emerging...

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I didn't include Bible in our schedule for this year. If the dc want to read it on their own then fine. If they ask me questions I'll answer them bluntly and honestly. But I won't purposefully expose them to the Bible or teach them that it is the book they must read/believe in.

I think that's a shame. Not the believe in bit of course but cultural and historical literacy in the western world depends in large part on a familiarity and informed understanding of the Bible. Too many people, Christians included (even those who can quote scripture like I can scarf down chocolates) don't have that.

 

 

ETA: I was thinking about this more and I don't think it's such a shame. Some churches use the Bible like a club. Some people are going to be hurt by that and want nothing to do with it after. That's absolutely fair.

 

If you and Quill ever want to explore it in a totally secular way with a passionate bible geek, let me know. If not, no problem. :-)

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Questioning the Bible, the Old Testament in particular was my husband's and my first step out of modern American evangelical Christianity. The wisdom about how to read and understand the Bible wasn't being taught and our questions had no answers until we found the Orthodox Church, or rather it found us. If we hadn't found the OC, I don't know what our Christianity would look like right now.

 

Anyway, we look at the Old Testament differently now. Here are a few articles scratching the surface of how we look at the OT now. These were recently shared in our social group, Exploring Orthodox Christianity which you are welcome to join and question / explore away!

 

http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/old_new_testament_e.htm

 

http://www.piousfabrications.com/2011/09/on-old-testament-violence-and-orthodox.html?m=1

 

http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2013/06/stump-priest-what-about-violence-in-old.html?m=1

 

Our social group - all are welcome to explore ancient Christianity and ask away!

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/forum/140-exploring-orthodox-christianity/

I was looking at something that explained a different view of literalism as well. It wasn't related to the modern Protestant take. Might be more what was meant before them? Literalism not as in factual but as opposed to allegory...I didn't quite get the distinction - I have to go read more.

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This is why I've never understood how some Christian churches preach a literal Bible. There are so very many contradictions that one would have to cherry-pick.

 

Not that I'm condemning those that believe this way. I'm just stating that I don't understand the thought process.

 

 

I think in part, it's traditional. That which has been changed may be associated with negative societal changes that are understood to be positively correlated due to timing. The days when Americans went to church on Sunday and had prayer in school were the days before kids brought multiple semi-automatic weapons to school. Ergo, traditional beliefs = traditional ethics, which translates to "safety."

 

There are theological reasons, too. For example, if you deny a literal interpretation of creation, you reject the traditional idea of sin. If you reject the traditional idea of sin, you have no need for the traditional concept of redemption. If you have no need for redemption, salvation is irrelevant. Faith in Jesus is unnecessary. For a person who is concerned that Hell is a very real place, believing the wrong thing, even if it's well intended, is an unacceptable gamble. 

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I think in part, it's traditional. That which has been changed may be associated with negative societal changes that are understood to be positively correlated due to timing. The days when Americans went to church on Sunday and had prayer in school were the days before kids brought multiple semi-automatic weapons to school. Ergo, traditional beliefs = traditional ethics, which translates to "safety."

 

There are theological reasons, too. For example, if you deny a literal interpretation of creation, you reject the traditional idea of sin. If you reject the traditional idea of sin, you have no need for the traditional concept of redemption. If you have no need for redemption, salvation is irrelevant. Faith in Jesus is unnecessary. For a person who is concerned that Hell is a very real place, believing the wrong thing, even if it's well intended, is an unacceptable gamble.

You've simplified too much. From what I'm beginning to understand the Eastern Orthodox church does not have a literal view, in the modern protestant sense, of the bible. They also don't seem to have the same view of sin (EOs, I'm in over my head) and yet they've puttered along quite nicely for many centuries. The RC do have a what I think you mean my traditional idea off sin (you need to clarify that) and yet don't demand literalism.

 

(I never got back to you in the other thread. Blame Baruch Spinoza, the cad. He's doing funny things to my view of God.)

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Do you mean that you, personally, look at the OT differently now, or do you mean the Orthodox Church's teaching has changed? Is this what it has always taught about the OT? Just curious! I watched the video at the 2nd link and it was very interesting, thanks. :)

 

When I said "we" look at the OT differently now, I meant my husband and I, not the Orthodox Church.

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simplified

Yep.

 

From what I'm beginning to understand the Eastern Orthodox church does not have a literal view, in the modern protestant sense, of the bible. They also don't seem to have the same view of sin (EOs, I'm in over my head) and yet they've puttered along quite nicely for many centuries. The RC do have a what I think you mean my traditional idea off sin (you need to clarify that) and yet don't demand literalism.

Right, which is why that wouldn't apply to the query as to why some Christian churches preach a literal Bible.

 

(I never got back to you in the other thread. Blame Baruch Spinoza, the cad. He's doing funny things to my view of God.)

No worries. Share when, and if you want.

 

:)

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I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember (so has my husband). Recently, my dh has told me he doesn't believe anymore. He thinks the Bible is full of fairy tales/legends, etc. and that the only reason we believe it is because of our culture/parents etc. He believes that if we had been raised in Iraq, we'd be Muslim; if we had lived thousands of years ago, we would believe in the Greek gods, etc.

I do think he thinks there is a God, but he's not what we've been led to believe he is through various religions. Jesus was a great teacher, but not God, etc.

 

As you can imagine, this has had a big effect on me. He's always challenging my beliefs now, and it is really confusing. The other day, he brought up the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

"How can you believe this story? So, God wanted the Pharaoh to do something and he wouldn't. Instead of changing his mind, he hardened his heart so he couldn't do it even if he wanted to. Then, he kills all those innocent children to teach this evil man a lesson. Then, he makes it a holiday!! Let's celebrate the day I saved some innocent children but killed countless other innocent children because Pharaoh wouldn't do what I wanted him to (which of course I was responsible for bc I hardened his heart.)"

 

When I put this story in a more modern setting, I realize that any government leader who asked an official to do something that he personally made physically impossible for that person to do, then punished him for not doing it by killing the innocent children of that country, and then made it a national holiday, - I would think that leader was the most evil person imaginable. How can we see God as love if this story is true??

 

I have said the very thing your dh has said many, many times. I do believe for the most part that you tend to grow up believing whatever it is you are told. There are exceptions of course, but generally I believe this to be true. My very quick background is that I was very loosely raised catholic. As a very young adult, my dh and I went to a non-denomitional Christian church. I spent all of my 20s and half of my 30s not ever reading or seeking out religion or the bible. I moved to SC and here everyone asks you where you go to church. I had visited Calvary Chapel and really liked it. BUT, they teach verse by verse through the bible and take it as literal. I have been attending for nearly 6 years now. And most would probably come away from that believing they heard each week. It did the opposite for me. My Pastor is a great teacher. He breaks down the bible into plain language and then gives a language, vocabulary, geography and bible lesson all in one. I enjoy his teaching tremendously. Having said that, I have come to believe the bible is not literal in these 6 years of actually getting to know what is in there. I have friends ask why I still go to a literal bible believing church I go because the truth is I will never sit down and read to understand the bible, but I will listen to him teach it. Some of it I take as truth simply because I believe in the words of Jesus and love of humanity. I have decided a while back that I probably should not be referred to as a Christian, but more a child of God and follower of Jesus. Oh and I don't force my kids to go to this church. I tell them all the time about my faith in God and my belief in Jesus. The I tell the that I truly believe religion is just another way man seeks to control one another. Faith I have, no doubt. The rest I can do without.

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There are theological reasons, too. For example, if you deny a literal interpretation of creation, you reject the traditional idea of sin. If you reject the traditional idea of sin, you have no need for the traditional concept of redemption. If you have no need for redemption, salvation is irrelevant. Faith in Jesus is unnecessary. For a person who is concerned that Hell is a very real place, believing the wrong thing, even if it's well intended, is an unacceptable gamble. 

 

Yes, this is a big issue for me. Exactly. Even the idea of Atonement as necessary; that a blood sacrifice is necessary to "pay for" sin makes NO SENSE to me. Even when I was a devout Evangelical, it didn't make sense to me and I thought old hymns like "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" were creepy and bizarre. I ignored that in an intentional way.  I didn't want to examine it's nonsensicalness, because it's clear to me that there is no purpose for the Cross if I don't believe in original sin and the Fall. 

 

Dawn, I understand that many Catholics and EO do view the Bible differently from the tradition from which I came. My parents don't even consider Catholics to be "real Christians." What I don't understand is how a RC can believe the Gospel accounts as true, as showing the divinity of Christ, of illustrating that He is the Messiah, and so on, but not view the Bible as inerrant. If one part is a cultural myth that demonstrates a purpose, why isn't Jesus a myth also? 

 

For my part, I don't care if a literal snake actually talked to a naked lady in an actual Paradise called Eden and she literally ate a piece of fruit that was hanging on a literal, actual tree OR if that is allegory for humans were intended to live paradisiacal lives, but they rejected God in pride, so they need to be reconciled to Him. The outcome is the same in either instance, just as Albeto said. Did our ancestors mess up, passing messed-up-edness on to all humanity ever after? Does God, who made us with the potential to choose good or evil, then have no way besides shed blood to excuse our evil choices? This is one of the many absurdities of the faith, IMO. (Sorry if that is offensive to some believers.) 

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I'm drawing a complete blank on what the show was called on History channel a few years ago (not the Bible, that's newer) and I'm too lazy to go hunting. 

But it presented the plagues of Egypt and how there were perfectly natural explanations for them.  An algae that causes the water to become blood-red.  Swamp gas that rises and therefore suffocates those sleeping higher (Egyptians) vs. those that sleep on the floor (Jews).   A low-tide in the Reed Sea...

The Great Flood is found in most middle eastern mythology leading many to think that while it wasn't global, there was indeed a massive, regional flood.

 

Non-believers can chalk it all up to coincidence.  

For me, it made it more real.  Ie, miracles happen all around us if we just recognize them for what they are.

 

 

To the question of the death of children, this is an interesting read:

http://christianthinktank.com/killheir.html

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It seems many of us are struggling with this as of late. :grouphug:

 

I was raised in a literal Bible believing church. Even years ago, I remember looking at some of the Old Testament stories with skepticism, but I pretty much ignored it and thought that I just needed more faith. I tend to over think nearly everything, so I chalked it up to that. But recently my wheels have started spinning on it again, on the stories and the things that all you have mentioned. And it's unsettling.

 

Quill, I think you mentioned in another thread of this subject that you might identify more as a Deist. I've wondered the same about myself. I do believe there's a higher power, and we identify that as God. I also think there's a good chance Jesus walked the earth and lived as the Bible portrays. Where I falter is seeing the Bible as a play by play record of human history, and that all these men who lived in a rather narrow period of time have the exclusive lock on all truth.

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I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember (so has my husband).  Recently, my dh has told me he doesn't believe anymore.  He thinks the Bible is full of fairy tales/legends, etc. and that the only reason we believe it is because of our culture/parents etc.  He believes that if we had been raised in Iraq, we'd be Muslim; if we had lived thousands of years ago, we would believe in the Greek gods, etc.

I do think he thinks there is a God, but he's not what we've been led to believe he is through various religions.  Jesus was a great teacher, but not God, etc.  

 

As you can imagine, this has had a big effect on me.  He's always challenging my beliefs now, and it is really confusing.  The other day, he brought up the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

 "How can you believe this story?  So, God wanted the Pharaoh to do something and he wouldn't.  Instead of changing his mind, he hardened his heart so he couldn't do it even if he wanted to.  Then, he kills all those innocent children to teach this evil man a lesson.  Then, he makes it a holiday!!  Let's celebrate the day I saved some innocent children but killed countless other innocent children because Pharaoh wouldn't do what I wanted him to (which of course I was responsible for bc I hardened his heart.)"  

 

When I put this story in a more modern setting, I realize that any government leader who asked an official to do something that he personally made physically impossible for that person to do, then punished him for not doing it by killing the innocent children of that country, and then made it a national holiday, - I would think that leader was the most evil person imaginable.  How can we see God as love if this story is true??

 

Just a few minutes ago, my 8yo dd was asking me about the flood.  "So, what happened to all the people not on the boat?"  "They died."  "What about the children?"  "They died too."  ARGHHHHH!!!!  These stories I learned as a child in Sunday school are really upsetting me now.  I'm having a difficult time teaching them to my children.  Anyone else struggle with this???

 

I am not sure if I should be answering since I am an atheist, and your post was labeled "cc," so feel free to ignore my personal experience. 

 

As a 3rd grader my publicly funded school (I'm old) was selling bibles as a fundraiser.  I had always been a very analytical rational person who conducted experiments to test superstitions, prayer and any number of notions.  Thus, I was what one would term a "natural atheist," someone who born unable to give themselves over to magical thinking.  Santa Claus, Easter bunny, virgin births, werewolves, ascension to heavens on a flying horse and resurrection from death fell under category of magical thinking.

 

However, I wanted to familiarize myself with what I was selling.  Not surprisingly, I started at the beginning.  The story of the father's willingness to sacrifice his own son for his deity truly terrorized me.  To this day, I can still picutre the vivid full page colored illustration. The flood story, as you have stated, displayed pointless cruelty far beyond any punishment meted out in name of justice.  If there was mercy and love in those pages, the heart of a child did not find it.  The god of those pages was an egomaniacal vengeful murderous one.  I honestly do not know how you would explain those stories to children who are shocked by them.  If you are following a path as biblical literalist, I could understand why you would be hesitant to introduce the idea that the stories are symbolic.  Then you have the added confusion of which stories should be accepted literally and which are symbolic.

 

Years later as teenagers, a cleric told us students that they were stories in both old and new testaments of Christian Bible were written for simple illiterate people in simple times with the objective of scaring them into proper behavior.  I read the Bible in its entirety along with various apologetics books written by adherents of various Christian denominations and Jewish ones.  Personally even as an adult  I was not satisfied with explanations that the stories were symbolic. As a young adult, I also read about creation myths from around the world.  Like your husband, I noted that there are common themes running throughout the various myths.  No one myth to me sounded any more valid than any other one.   Thus, I can empathize with your husband as well as your children.

 

I hope your husband does not make you feel pressured by challenging your beliefs.  There is a fine line to walk in between rational intellectual discussion and haranguing.  Feel free to tell him to knock it off if that is case.  Right now, the two of you need to focus on how to prevent his non-belief from being a stressor to your family life and decide together how you will present Christianity to your children.  He does not get to decide what you will believe, and neither of you get to decide what the children will ultimately believe even though you can attempt to influence them as children.

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Be glad it was just "The Flood", CreekMom.

 

My 7-year-old daughter brought her Bible to me one day and asked, "Mama, what does this mean?" she read me this verse.

 

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives†(Deuteronomy 22:28–29). 

 

We had bought her a children's Bible the previous Easter and had encouraged her in reading it, and she had read the Gospel  of John with us, but she wanted to read it from the beginning. I didn't think she'd follow through, but she had apparently stumbled through most of the Pentatuch before arriving here. (I know, it sounds crazy, but this is all the honest truth.) I assume she just skimmed most of it--but why she fixated on this passage--I don't know.

 

Now, she understood the concept of "rape" is a very childlike way, but she understood it, and wanted to know what this passage could possibly mean.

 

I sat there in the dining room--former missionary, wife of missionary--with all of my ready-answers to this passage (you can Google plenty of nice Christian explanations of this passage), but  let me tell you, when you find yourself trying to excuse rape to a 7-year-old, it makes you reconsider a lot.

 

I couldn't bring myself to do it, and I basically paraphrased what the passage said.

 

"That's horrible!" she exclaimed.

 

"Yes, it is."

 

This was the event that freed me from having to believe anymore. 

 

Within a year, my husband and I had left the faith (honestly, we had been feeling eachother out on faith issues for about a year, even while watching nursery in church, and when my husband was asked to be a deacon in our church--a request he politely declined.) But, it wasn't until my _daughter_ asked me this to my face that I realized I really didn't believe any more.

 

Makes the flood seem tame :)  But, I do understand the strain of it!

 

 

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My dh and I study the bible and the Christian faith a  LOT- our study has not taken us away from the Christian faith but has caused us to delve more deeply in to it, appreciate it, want ot embrace it even more. 

I would suggest some of these resources: Biblical Archeology Review, Our Father Abraham, Reasons to BelieveThe Key's to David's City, etc. Studying ancient cultures/ beliefs, archeological finds, science, substantiates the O.T. Understanding the "why's" takes far more time. We have to make a paradigm shift in order to understand and interpret the O.T. because it was an ancient culture, far removed from where we sit now -Interpreting an ancient culture  from a modern or post-modern stance isn't fair to the text or the reader.

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Well, here it was the story of Lot. Yeah, what can be said about that whole thing? The church we attend gave out folders at the beginning of the year with a read through the bible plan and discussions etc. The intent was to encourage bible reading asnd study as a family. Of course we began in Genesis. We got through the flood story with no problems but the story of Lot-blech.

 

Dd was disgusted and so was I. Honestly I have read the bible many times but for some reason the awfulness of that just dawned on me. I think it was because dd saw the horror and I could not deny it.

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There are flood stories in Australian Aboriginal stories too.

People tend to settle, permanently or seasonally, in or near river basins. Rivers sometimes flood, occasionally catastrophically.

 

It's not surprising that we have stories of the sun, moon, stars, wind, storms, fire, water, death, etc. passed down in most cultures' mythologies. These elements were (and still mostly are) beyond our control, so our only apparent recourse was to seek the intervention of some supernatural power. I'll wager even most atheists occasionally mutter "Please, please, please, please, please," under their breath over a dice roll or similar situation. I know I do, and like annandatji I lack the "belief" gene... if it's even that simple. :)

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