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Religion & Culture / Christian Fools
|Subject: Christian Fools FAQ||Date: 4/9/2002 11:43 AM|
|Author: Bonhoeffer||Number: 78422 of 198178|
Christian Fools FAQ
I. Primary Question______________________________________________________
Lately I've been feeling like "something's missing" from my life. Can God help?
Absolutely. There's no better way to understand how that's possible than to hear (or read) the testimonies of those who've experienced God's love in their own lives in a profound way. Please read these two threads:
II. General Questions
A. Why does this board exist?
This board serves many functions for many different people. Here:
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=10883177 we see that the "founder" requested the board as a meeting place for Christian investors, that those who "profess a belief in Christ as Savior will gather here to discuss the creation and use of wealth according to the Bible." Well, things change.
The board has evolved and now investing is only rarely brought up. Christian Fools (CF) has taken a similar course to many other non-stock boards on TMF. It has become a place for people with common interests to come together and discuss anything they find interesting. Because most of the posters here are Christians, we usually discuss issues relevant to Christians in the modern world. What is Right and what is Wrong, should we be political activists, how should we deal with specific conflicts, and what is the true nature of God are some examples of the kinds of discussions that take place here. Prayer requests are also very welcome, as are posters who not Christian at all but who wish to better understand what we believe.
See the following post for some insight on how members of CF view the board:
B. What does the term "Christian" really mean?
If we're going to call the board "Christian Fools," we better have a clear understanding of what is meant by the term, right? See the following post for clarification of the word "Christian" :
C. Why do you believe in God?
An excellent, valid question. Various surveys indicate that a majority of Americans believe in God, but do any of them have a good reason? Don't people just believe in God because their parents taught them to, or because they don't have a better explanation for how and why we are all here? Well, the following thread contains many excellent points of view from Christians who have placed their faith in God's existence and providence.
1. Do you guys really believe Jesus is the only way to know God? Aren't all religions equally valid?
The short answers are yes, and no. Without question, all but a tiny handful of Christians believe the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel according to John are true and that the meaning is clear:
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (14:5-7 NIV)
Christianity differs fundamentally from most other religions because of the concept of Grace. Christians believe that no human is worthy of being in God's presence, but because God still loves us so much, He sent Jesus to earth to become an "atoning sacrifice." Thus anyone who accepts that gift is made perfect in God's eyes, worthy of entering God's presence. All other major religions involve some kind of action or work on the part of the person who wishes to reach God or "attain enlightenment." Christians believe there is nothing we can do by our own power to ever reach God. Consequently, we believe all other religions fall short.
For a slightly different take on this subject, read the following thread, beginning with this post:
The views expressed are not consistent with mainstream Christianity, but all perspectives are worth reading and pondering, whether you eventually decide to agree or disagree with the person holding them.
2. Why does God allow evil to exist, such as the 9/11 terrorist attack? If God was truly all-powerful and all-good, then wouldn't He prevent suffering on earth?
A brief passage from Phillip Yancey's Reaching Out To the Invisible God
Comments from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, California
Two threads on the Will of God:
D. Do Christians really believe the Bible is the "inerrant, infallible, 'Word of God'?"
That is a complex, difficult question to answer. The quick answer is that a significant majority of Christians would likely be comfortable using the word "inerrant" to describe the Bible. But they may all have a slightly different concept of what the word "inerrant" means when applied to the Bible.
The following poll provides a useful description of four different evangelical views on the inerrancy of the Bible, and the breakdown of how CFers stood on the issue as of late August 2001:
Most Christians realize there are apparent contradictions in the Bible, but many feel that those perceived contradictions aren't contradictions at all, and that the error is in our limited knowledge and understanding, not in the sacred writings inspired by God. Still a few others see what appear to be errors in the Bible and believe they are just that, errors, but they believe the most important truths God wished to communicate to mankind shine through in spite of those errors. For more detailed explanations of these two points of view, please read the following:
In defense of inerrancy:
And for further comments by CFers, see the following thread:
1. How did the Bible make it into its modern form? Wasn't it written by many different people over thousands of years?
The following links are tentatively presented, as they provide some potentially useful information, albeit biased, and not entirely correct. Keep in mind that none of the information presented in these links has been scrutinized for official publication, it is merely what a few people have decided to put together for their web pages. After taking a look at these links, please read the following critique of the links, courtesy of CF member rev2217.
1. [The] first link contains the following statement.
Since the books of The Torah, The Prophets and The Writings were canonized Jewish Scripture during the time of Jesus, these are the texts that have been used in the Christian Bible and make up the Old Testament.
The historical record shows that this statement quite simply is not true. Rather, a Jewish rabbinical council assembled in Jamnia (pronounced "Yam-nee-ah") in 90 AD to search for ways to restore Jewish life and preserve Jewish traditions. Several changes had occurred within Judaism at the time. First, followers of the so-called "New Way" (that is, Christians) had appeared in the synagogues (and even in the porticos of the temple, according to Acts) preaching that Jesus was the Messiah in the years after his death and resurrection and winning many converts to their beliefs and their practices. Second, the destruction of the temple in 70 AD (20 years earlier) had shifted the focus of Jewish life from the temple (place of sacrifice) and the leadership of the Saducees to the synagogues (places of instruction and study) and the leadership of the pharisees (rabbis or teachers).
As part of its effort to reassert Jewish tradition, the rabbis who assembled in Jamnia sought to shift focus away from certain writings that the Christians frequently quoted and that seemed to be especially powerful in winning converts. For the first time in the history of Judaism, they assembled a "canon" -- that is, a list of books that they accepted as scripture. The rabbis did not reject the other writings that were in widespread use in the synagogues -- all of which were less than three hundred years old at the time -- outright, but rather said that they could not be sure of the scriptural stature of these most recent writings because the newer writings had not withstood the test of time. The result, though, was that the newer writings fell into disuse in the synagogues and had disappeared from Jewish life by the early fourth century when Jerome collected the manuscripts for translation into Latin.
Note that the rabbinical council of Jamnia occurred about 57 years after the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the representation that Judaism had adopted its canon at the time of Christ is absurd.
2. The organization of the books of the old testament in the first link is somewhat unusual. In most organizations, for example, the books of the prophets are limited to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets from the Protestant canon and Baruch from the Apocrypha. The other books listed as prophetic in this article are instead classed as historical books since they tell the history of the Jewish people and only incidentally mention the earlier prophets.
3. The first sentence of the second link says, In the Bible there are sixty-six books. This is in fact true only of the Protestant Bible. All other branches of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Old Catholic, etc.) include the apocrypha in the old testament, producing a total of seventy-three books. The third link starts by implying a similar quarter-true and equally misleading assertion in the form of a question ("What are the sixty-six books of the bible?").
4. The third link also contains the following paragraph.
As for the Christian Old Testament, the Church has traditionally used the Alexandrian list of books, which include the 18 books of the Apocrypha. At the time of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, reformers looked to the traditional (and shorter, as it does not include the Apocrypha) Jewish list as authoritative.
The substance of this paragraph is true, but the reference to "18 books of the Apocrypha" is misleading since several elements of the apocrypha actually are additional segments of other books of the old testament. By way of example, the "Song of the Three Young Men," the story of Bel and the Dragon, and the story of Suzanna often appear as separate "books" in translations of the Apocrypha but in fact are part of the Book of Daniel.
5. The fourth link…seems to be the most accurate from a historical perspective, though it is not complete. I'm disappointed that it does not go beyond the Catholic and Protestant traditions, and it also does not mention the role of the Septuagint (literally, "Work of the Seventy") translation of the Jewish scriptures into Greek by a team of seventy Jewish scholars at Alexandria, Egypt, circa 100 BC. Since most of the early Christians spoke Greek, the early Church accepted this version as authoritative -- and it did include the Apocrypha, thus providing the Greek texts for Jerome's translation of those writings.
6. The fourth link…also asserted that "Biblical canonization is not over." I have difficulty with this statement, and I suspect that most other Christians also would have difficulty with it.
These comments originally appeared in this post:
For further discussion, please see:
2. Which English translation is best?
Poll on translations from 2/4/01
Discussion of translations:
E. How did Christianity become the most pervasive religion in the world? What is its history?
More info on CF:
F. Are religion and science mutually exclusive?
No. A common phrase among people of faith is that "Religion attempts to answer 'why' but Science attempts to answer 'how.'" Many of us believe they are two separate spheres, and there are certainly many devout scientists in the world. Of course, people who do not believe in God or anything supernatural believe that religion is mythology, and that the "why" questions we encounter in life must be answered by each man for himself, while Christians who adhere to a strict, literal, inerrant view of the Bible believe that science is wrong on many of the "how" questions. But most of us are content to let the two fields coexist in peace whenever possible.
III. Specific Questions
A. Is it ok to interpret the Bible, or should I just take everything at face value, and read it as if it was written directly to me?
Well, to put it simply, it is impossible to read the entire Bible literally from cover to cover and come away with any meaningful understanding. Not a Christian on earth reads every verse 100% literally. For instance, Jesus often spoke in parables. In Matthew 25:33, in reference to the Judgement of mankind, Jesus says "He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." Well, no one really believes that heaven will be full of fluffy white sheep and hell will be full of grazing goats. So clearly the question is not whether it is ok to interpret the Bible at all, but rather to what degree, which verses, and how?
Fortunately, in the previous example the surrounding verses provide an appropriate interpretation for what the sheep and goats symbolize. And while many people believe that is true for the entire Bible (that the Bible interprets itself), many others believe we must use every resource available to develop an understanding of the Bible that "makes sense." Many people who study the Bible use tools such as Bible dictionaries, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, commentaries, and even history books to learn as much about a given passage as possible.
Many Christians believe the Bible cannot be accurately understood and interpreted without a full appreciation of the context of each book. In reference to the Bible, context is often understood to include
-Who was the author?
-What circumstances prompted him to write the book (or letter)?
-Who was his intended audience?
-What was his society like?
-What is the style of writing (apocalyptic, epistle, prophecy, historical, etc.)
-When was the book written?
-How does the verse you are reading fit into the overall themes of the book it is found in and the Bible as a whole?
A verse may appear to mean one thing when taken at face value, but a different, more reasonable understanding may come into focus when all of these factors are taken into consideration. There are no prohibitions in the Bible against reading its passages in context.
For further discussion, see:
B. If God is perfect and Christianity is the one true religion, why are there so many denominations, and what are the differences between them?
Well, Christians do believe God is perfect, but we don't believe that any of us are perfect. The simplest explanation for the existence of many different branches in Christianity is that we live in a "fallen" world, where even those of us who have been redeemed by God's grace are subject to disagreement. Sometimes, we believe that disagreement is significant enough that we can't remain united in one congregation. Most of the major denominations in Christianity differ primarily on "surface" issues. Some baptize through immersion, some through sprinkling, some not at all. Some have a single, central authority over many churches, some consist of autonomous churches that are only loosely grouped under an umbrella of similar doctrine. Some have very traditional, liturgical services while others have energetic pentecostal services. Yet all of these denominations are united in Christ under the belief that Jesus is Lord of all, the redeemer of mankind and sole path to God. For further reading on this topic, see the following thread:
It eventually wanders very, very far away from its original topic (as this board has been known to do from time to time), but there are some applicable posts early on.
Also, for an introduction to various denominations, check out their websites. Here is a brief list of some Christian denominations. It is by no means comprehensive.
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Church of God
United Church of Christ
Assemblies of God
Presbyterian Church in America
C. So did God predestine everyone who would be saved, or do we have a choice in the matter?
A very divisive topic. Christians who believe we can choose to accept or reject God's gift of reconciliation in Christ are typically associated with Jacob Arminius (though few actually believe everything Arminius believed) and thus often called "Arminians," and Christians who believe God chooses who He will save and damn completely independent of any choice we as humans make are typically associated with John Calvin and thus often called Calvinists (though not every Christian who believes in predestination considers himself a Calvinist). Most Christians undoubtedly fall somewhere between the most radical extremes of Arminianism and Calvinism. Some believe the fundamental assertions of both positions, while ostensibly mutually exclusive, are actually both true simultaneously. It is a debate that has raged for many years, and not one that will be settled on the field of the CF board at TMF. Most of us here have reached a point where we no longer wish to debate it, for it has caused far too much dissension here already.
See these threads for discussion:
Though it has lain dormant for a couple of months now, the Reformed Theology board here at TMF contains a great deal of information on the Calvinist point of view:
For further reading on the semi-Arminian point of view, you might check out this thread:
D. Why do Christians pray when so often they never receive the things they pray for? If God was truly all-knowing and all-powerful, wouldn't He answer more prayers?
Best answered by the various musings of Christians themselves:
E. So why do Christians claim to be "monotheists" when your God has "three persons?"
Christians believe in one God who has revealed Himself to mankind in three different forms. These forms are not distinct, separate entities, but one entity being experienced by humans in different ways. The Bible presents three forms in which God has revealed Himself, thus the doctrine that was developed from the study of Scripture is known as the doctrine of the Trinity.
The following thread has more information:
More Trinity links:
F. I'm struggling financially; do I still have to tithe 10% of my income?
Tithing is part of Old Testament Jewish Law. It first appears in the Bible in Leviticus 27:30, quoted below:
"`A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (NIV)
To get a better feel for the degree to which this command applies to Christians today, we should consider the context of the preceding verses. Take a look at verses 22-29 in chapter 27:
"`If a man dedicates to the LORD a field he has bought, which is not part of his family land, the priest will determine its value up to the Year of Jubilee, and the man must pay its value on that day as something holy to the LORD. In the Year of Jubilee the field will revert to the person from whom he bought it, the one whose land it was. Every value is to be set according to the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel. "`No one, however, may dedicate the firstborn of an animal, since the firstborn already belongs to the LORD; whether an ox or a sheep, it is the LORD's. If it is one of the unclean animals, he may buy it back at its set value, adding a fifth of the value to it. If he does not redeem it, it is to be sold at its set value. "`But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the LORD--whether man or animal or family land--may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD. "`No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; he must be put to death. (NIV)
If as a Christian you do not consider yourself bound by the commandments regarding the Year of Jubilee, nor do you bother with considerations about "clean" and "unclean" animals, you might want to give the command regarding tithing a second thought.
The most oft-quoted verse on tithing is undoubtedly Malachi 3:10:
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD Almighty, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!. (NLT)
While certainly a potent verse, as always, it serves us well to consider the context. Malachi was a Jewish prophet speaking to Jewish people bound by the Old Covenant. The only provision made for their righteousness was through obedience to the law. Freedom and grace in Christ did not yet exist on earth when Malachi spoke those words from God.
Of course, after quoting Malachi, many Christians then proceed to quote the Gospel according to Matthew:
"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things. (23:23 NLT)
Here, certainly, Jesus himself confirms the importance of tithing. Or so many Christians believe. Ultimately we must all decide for ourselves, through prayer and careful consideration what God's will is for any of us on this matter. But do keep in mind that in the verse above, once again the audience consists of Jews striving after righteousness through obedience to the law. Not just any group of Jews, but the most legalistic of all Jews, the Pharisees. It makes sense that Jesus would exhort them to obey laws that were fundamental to their beliefs. But that was hardly the point of his comments. He was criticizing their hypocrisy, which He did throughout chapter 23 of Matthew. In the middle of a long "lecture" on the many things they were doing wrong, he pointed out that the act of tithing on their part was well and good, but they were missing the mark by a long shot. Tithing certainly was not and is not inherently bad. But it's not enough, and if a focus on the importance of tithing distracts anyone from the priorities of justice, mercy, and faith, then it is doing more harm than good.
All that is not to say don't give money to your church. No, the Bible makes it very clear from beginning to end that God wants us to give of our material possessions as much as we are able, because it ultimately all belongs to him any way. But what is at issue is whether or not 10% is some kind of magic number. The fact is that many people simply can't afford to give 10% of their income. It's not possible if they still want to pay rent and put food on the table. But for other people, 10% may be far too little. Even 20% or 30% may be an offense to God for some people who are wealthy. Christians who obsess over giving exactly 10% may need to question whether they are abiding by a legalistic duty or whether they are joyfully giving as much as they can back to God.
See the following threads for further thoughts on the matter:
G. Are angels real? Is Satan real? What about demons? Does "Spiritual Warfare" really take place?
H. Is there really a Heaven and Hell? If so, what will they be like?
The concept of heaven and hell is certainly fundamental to most modern Christian denominations. There are some sects which deny the existence of one or both, but no major denomination would recognize those beliefs as "Christian."
Beyond the mere fact that they exist, the only definition that all Christians would likely agree to is that heaven is a spiritual realm, constantly in the presence of God, while hell is a spiritual realm entirely separated from God. Aside from that, you will eventually find disagreement among Christians regarding the Biblical passages which mention both—whether to read them figuratively or literally—and who gets there and how. For further reading on this topic, see the following thread:
I. Didn't Jesus die on a cross? If so, why do Christians sometimes wear crosses on their necks, or hang them up on walls? Isn't that kind of morbid?
Yes, Jesus did die on a cross. But Christians believe He rose from the dead and remains alive today. Instead of being a moment of defeat, Jesus' time on the cross was merely a prelude to a great victory. Thus we can celebrate the symbolism of the cross because it was there that the price was paid for our sins which separate us from God.
J. How do I go about finding a good church?
Some excellent advice can be found in these threads:
IV. Controversial Topics
A. So what do Christians actually believe about homosexuality, abortion, and capital punishment?
Different things. Anyone who's been alive and conscious in the U.S. for the last 10 – 20 years knows that the majority of Christians think homosexuality and abortion are sins, and while the death penalty margin may not be as pronounced, it seems most Christians in this country are in favor of it. Of course there are times when the majority is wrong, other times when it is right. Currently, the debate still rages on all these issues. Here is some of what CFers have to say about it:
Threads on homosexuality:
Threads on abortion:
Threads on the death penalty:
B. We don't need a god to explain life! The theory of evolution explains how we got here. –OR– The Darwinists are perverting the minds of our children! The earth is 6000 years old and God created it all in six days!
First off, anyone who really wants to discuss this topic will be welcomed with open arms over at the Creation vs. Evolution board, found here:
That said, the great minds of CF have tossed this debate around a couple of times. Check out some of what has been said:
Also, see the "Creationist Challenge 1"
C. Is it acceptable for Christians to debate like this?
We think so. A very useful purpose is served by this debate, primarily that of equipping us as Christians to explain to others why we believe what we believe. The Bible does not encourage blind faith, on the contrary, in the New Testament we find this passage:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV)
Some Christians criticize the sort of debate that goes on here, sometimes citing this passage:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. (1 Timothy 6: 3-5 NIV)
They like to point out the part about an "unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words" leading to envy, strife, malicious talk, etc. However the passage is clearly referring to those who teach "false doctrines," and who "do not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ." Much of the debate here centers around determining what is and is not a false doctrine. That is a useful endeavor. Plus, in Acts, Luke seems to praise the ability of a knowledgeable Christian to debate on behalf of the Gospel of Christ:
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (18:27-28 NIV)
You might find some interesting perspectives on debate in this thread:
D. So are we really living in the "End times" like that guy on TV said?
We disagree. Some think we are. Some think we aren't. Some think we cannot know. Some think it doesn't matter one way or another. One thing you must know, however, is that the Left Behind series of books is not representative of all Christians' views on eschatology (study of the end times). They have been massive bestsellers because even Christians who don't agree with the authors' interpretation of scripture on this topic still find the books entertaining.
Here are some relevant links:
Jeffreyw's beliefs on the imminence of Christ's return:
Part 1: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155454&sort=threaded
Part 2: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155463&sort=threaded
Part 3: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155475&sort=threaded
Part 4: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155528&sort=threaded
Part 5: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155547&sort=threaded
Part 6: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155559&sort=threaded
Part 7: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155567&sort=threaded
Part 8: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155575&sort=threaded
Part 9: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155583&sort=threaded
Part 10: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14155596&sort=threaded
Because the author of the two above links writes from a dispensational eschatological position, the following link is presented for balance.
E. So are Mormons Christians, or are they not?
You're going to have to decide for yourself. But please, if it all possible, don't bring it up yet again here at CF. This topic has been run into the ground even more than homosexuality. Why not read these threads, and if you still have a question that remains unanswered, then you are free to post it : )
F. Which is more consistent with true Christian principles, "Conservatism" or "Liberalism?"
Yet another debate that will not be settled here on CF. In essence, whether or not the answer truly matters depends on the importance you place on political activism. In other words, are we here to change the world through voting, lobbying, and running for public office, or is our time better spent away from the political arena altogether, perhaps working in homeless shelters and churches, trying to actively love the unlovable? Or both? For an excellent debate on this topic, see the following thread:
G. Is mankind basically good, or basically evil?
It depends on your perspective. See the debates for yourself.
Some discussion in secondary thread-
H. Should Christians support and involve themselves in military action carried out by the government of the countries in which they live, or do Christ's teachings call us to be pacifists?
Discussion on CF:
In favor of pacifism:
A "Just War":
I. So what about that controversy surrounding Catholic priests and sexual abuse?