Percy is, in my estimation, a genius; holding at least one software patent. Our discussion threads have been about politics, religion, the origin of life, intelligent life, evolution, global warming, creation, and a host of other subjects with which normally identify folks as liberals or conservatives. I really hate labels and stereotypes, preferring to simply think for myself. The two of us could easily be labeled any number of ways. But that is not what Jesus would do; therefore, I am not going to either. What I do know about my friend is this: He is a thoughtful and open-minded person. That's a good sign in my book.
All that said, I am going to take him up on his request to discuss the "Case Against Fundamentalism." His quote to me is as follows: "The Case Against Fundamentalism. Which I call, "YHWH is bigger than you think." The brief summary is that the Creator of everything is much larger than can be understood in detail by humans. Even though created in YHWH’s image, even with some aspects of divinity, the Bible is pretty clear that people don't measure up to even angels. So, how can we insist that we have absolute knowledge of YHWH through a set of edited third-generation writings set down by a nomadic people?"
(YHWH, of course, is the Hebrew word for Lord--sometimes translated Yahweh, as vowels were later added.)
I am going to try to take each point my friend has made, and explain it in terms of what we now call Biblical Christianity. I believe his point is that God is God is God, and man cannot experience Him in such detail that one could claim Him as their own and know Him personally, and that man has gotten in the way of the process through translation and the recording of events.
I think I've got that right, but I am sure that my friend will correct me if I don't. I have taken care to use Old Testament verses because our common ground for debate is YHWH.
YHWH is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All three Biblical characters were part of the progressive blessing and revelation known as salvation, which was to come through Israel for all mankind. I don't see any reason to explain the history of Israel, because the use of the term YHWH is an admission that the rabbinical traditions and the Torah are acceptable proof of the Lord’s (Creator’s) existence, and has been for nearly 6,000 years.
Why did God choose Israel? I don't know exactly, He is sovereign, and He knows why He does what He does. I do know, that as a people, they are on average, the most intelligent, the richest--making more money then the average "anyone else"--race on earth. According to the Torah, Israel was blessed to be a blessing. Don't you find it the least bit amazing how many countries have tried to wipe them out--from Babylonia to Nazi Germany, and from Egypt to Hezbollah--and yet a remnant still remains? Don't you find it interesting that, as prophesied in the Old Testament, they regained their homeland after nearly 2,000 years of exile? Don't you also find it interesting that a country so small in land mass and population hangs on in the worst of political conditions?
I am not going to take time to do a study on comparative religion, as this just muddies the water and aspires to intellectual assent without tangible evidence. I will say that there are some stories from other religious writings that are similar to the flood of Noah's time and other Biblical accounts in the Old Testament. But this, in itself, is not proof that mankind is looking for gods to explain natural but mysterious happenings. All religions have a philosophy, a way of "doing business." What makes Christianity different is the resurrected Jesus. Without that, the whole religion is little more than a good idea and a well-meaning man.
First, I would like to describe fundamentalism in a Biblical sense. It is the notion that the Bible is the only authoritative text referring to God the Creator, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It comes from John 14:6 in the New Testament: Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, the Light, no one comes to the Father (YHWH), but by me." Let's not forget, the Old Testament, and the scholarship surrounding it, are not in question. It represents more than two-thirds of the "Christian" Bible. But it is this particular New Testament verse that makes Jesus out to be either an arrogant, on-an-ego-trip yet talented and peace-loving man gone crazy--or God.
Unless Jesus is, in fact, God, there is no other sane reason for Him to say such a thing.
Even the Old Testament (Daniel 9:25) says the Jews were expecting a messiah to bring permanent salvation (Exodus 15:2) to them and the world. Jesus said that He was it, but not everyone believed Him. Why? Because they were looking for someone or something different, or they simply couldn't accept that He was God. Which was most likely the fault of an empty religious upbringing.
There are many religious philosophies, and for many, Christianity is just another one. For the more serious seeker, however, the Bible can explain many differences between cultures, and serve as a treatise on proving God's existence. I am going to take a few paragraphs to connect YHWH of the Old Testament to Jesus in the New Testament.
The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish populations are significant because they are the players, according to the Bible, at the close of the age. Abraham had two sons--Ishmael by Hagar, the concubine (his wife Sarah's servant); and Isaac, the son of Sarah. Ishmael is the father of the Muslim lineage, and Isaac is the offspring that became the Israelites. One look at the Middle East of the past 50 years, and we can easily see the tension between the two. To date, the Old Testament books are considered more historically accurate than the Qu'ran, or other ancient writings.
Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised to Israel in the Old Testament, and the historical Jesus was the fulfillment of those prophecies. There are many references; here is a pretty good LINK.
To more closely examine how we might understand an infinite God with a finite mind is a little tougher. These are question that have been pondered for centuries by the greatest theological minds. But I am going to take a stab at it.
In order to understand God, we have to know Him relationally. Many of us know about the President, but we don't know him. The same is true of God. The Christian “philosophy” relies completely on the belief that God is: A) alive; B) can speak to us; and C) can save us from our sin. Any other belief is not truly Christian, but a philosophy based on some portion of Christian writings.
The following is a very brief list of the Old Testament statements made by the Lord God, and restated in the first person by Jesus. This is important because Jesus claims to be God (YHWH) Who had come in the flesh (John 1:1 and 1:13).
- The Lord God declared: "Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure." (Isaiah 46:10)
- Jesus, said" "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)
- "And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14)
- Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.. (John 8:58)
- The Lord (YWHW) said, 'For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.' (Ezekiel 34:11)
- Jesus stated the following in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
My friend apparently has a problem with what are assumed to be to be 3rd Century manuscripts, written hundreds of years after Christ. But the truth is that some were written only about 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and they still match the manuscripts that were first used to translate the Bible.
There are tens of thousands of manuscripts from the New Testament, in part or in whole, dating from the 2nd Century A.D. to the late 15th Century, when the printing press was invented. These manuscripts have been found in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, making collusion unlikely. The oldest (John Rylands manuscript) has been dated to 125 A.D. and was found in Egypt, some distance from where the New Testament was originally composed in Asia Minor. Many early Christian papyri, discovered in 1935, have been dated to 150 A.D., and include the four gospels. For the complete details, and other important issues associated with biblical manuscript discoveries, click HERE. Taken from GodAndScience.org
And finally regarding angels: They are part of the total creation and they exist in the spiritual realm, or plane. The Bible clearly talks of an earthly realm (the world, the earth) and a spirit realm (Heaven and Hell, as well as a dimension seen from earth (Matthew 3:16). Here, angels, and fallen angels (demons) interact with creation in the same way God interacts with us. The spiritual realm cannot be easily seen without faith. In the same way that Elisha saw the chariots in the spiritual realm, and Paul was taken to the third heaven, man can see in this realm.
Man is positioned in creation by God to be as "a little lower than the angels," (Psalm 8) and yet, God has chosen one man, to have all under his feet. This is Jesus.
At this point, we can be very intellectual about our faith; knowing about God, but that is not knowing God. The God of the Bible, the Creator, YHWH is also known by many names--all of which are in the Bible. HERE is a list. When you read the list, you will see that God is many things--I found more than 600 names (that have meaning) and attributes.
Even if we were to memorize everything that is written about God in the Bible, we will only know about Him, not know Him relationally. God is not known in the mind or even in the emotion and yet by His spirit, both areas are impacted. He is the one whose Spirit commingles with ours. He is the author of relationship and, in fact, He is love. Agape love, sacrificial love, Kingdom love, power love... not some sappy Hollywood, emotional love.
Since the day Adam was created, this relationship with a supernatural God has never really been expressable in human terms. One will never comprehend it with only the human mind or emotion; it is only our spirit that is able to capture the essence of what it is to know God. It is with this abandonment to Him, in which God Himself, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is allowed to dwell in our hearts (The heart being the most human understanding of the location of the spirit in our body). It is only by His Holy Spirit; the spiritually manifest Jesus on earth, that we will ever begin to understand the vastness of the Creator, YHWH--what “groaning without words" (Psalm 42:7) and “deep calling unto deep” (Psalm 42:7) even come close to meaning.
In the final analysis, we can debate the existence of God, but only those who have become abandoned to the thought of a supernatural Creator by faith--One who communes in relationship with His creation--will ever have the opportunity to know Him.
Even though the Bible makes claims about itself, which are true, that in itself is not a convincing argument. I believe the following passage is the greatest Biblical truth that I know. Why? Because it squarely puts the responsibility of knowing God on the one reading the verses within it. One cannot blame the church, organized religion, intellectuals, or create hypothetical cases for which God does not have the responsibility to respond to a humble, treasure-seeking individual.
1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
Many thanks to Steve Smith, author of the blog, Out On Limb, for his expertise in editing (unhacking English) and proof reading.