So you believe … ? Monday 24th April: 7.30am


A personal essay on the dialogue of Erhman and Licona, and on conversations during and before.


Over the years that my faith has evolved, I have changed.   I happily admit that being of an indwelling “God Soft Hands Jesus” may label me as dangerous.  And I do live with what some label as “my imaginary best friend” – GSHJ.

Some see that as “good”, and others as “bad”.  The seeing is not based on evidence.  The seeing and judging is based in personal preference – on world view – in a personal belief structure that we all carry.

We each have our own zones of comfort AND zones of fear. They are personal.  They do overlap.  We prefer them to be universal because it proves us right.  None are universal.  None are static (unless we allow).  And I have found that if we allow them to become and remain static – we will change anyway – and our zones of comfort will decrease – and our zones of fear will grow.

Which is why we can each fight like a nursing mother to defend the encroachment of fear on our “children” of comfort.  Our being “normal”.

Except that “normal” changes.  Just as we all change. Just as what was normal in my youth is not normal now.

Falling over all the time to learn how to walk.  Thinking falling over all the time was normal.  Pooping in a nappy.  Peeing without control.  Playing football in the back lane.  Dropping tadpoles from a great height.  Walking along walls high above live train tracks.  Quaffing a few drops of “pure alcohol” made during a school chemistry lesson. Walking away from stuff I was brought up with. Chasing ladies. Walking away from someone because they wouldn’t say yes.  Walking away from someone because they wouldn’t say no.  Staying up till dawn and not needing sleep.  And now not having grandchildren that now gets us up before dawn.  Writing a blog on an almost daily basis.  Talking about stuff now I would never have talked about before.  Exploring my life.  Exploring just how unconditionally I can love.  Dropping comfort zones more than I ever have before. Having a real imaginary best friend at 60 years old.  And loving it all.

So if I admit to being indwelt by someone you cannot see and I cannot prove … How can I tell you that you are wrong … ?

But why does that mean others indwelt by imaginary friends of a different god must be wrong … ?  And why does that mean those who don’t believe in any imaginary friend are wrong either … ? And why does that make me wrong … ?

Because there are real consequences of living with an imaginary friend and real consequences of NOT living with an imaginary friend.

We all have our own zones we carry with us each day – of comfort and of fear.  And both have consequences that affect my choices of living … of how I influence others to choose … of how that will affect those around me …

Christians urge Christians to pray for those in power … atheists urge Christians to kill religion … poor people are always “so happy” for charity fundraising pictures … social housing attached to proper housing helps the needy … the poor will always be us … what’s in it for me … what about me …  it’s not fair …

But back to Erhman and Licona – back to the bible and historical reliability of the Gospels (which is an indicator for how reliable the bible is)   

Almost all countries have adopted the role of protector of a faith.  Of an “imaginary (but proven) friend” of a faith that is now that country.  It is a country-wide comfort zone.  And – to religion – is proof it is right.  But “political expediency” dictates religious freedom / protection.  And that means religion is tied to politics.  And politics is tied to power.  And that means religion is tied to power as well.

So the country we love – Turkey – is going through turmoil because “religion as taught” brings many votes to those who have power.  And those who have power have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of those who disagree / are thought to disagree with those who have power.  And if you are one of those tens of thousands, then “religion as taught” buys you no protection (and no freedom) at all.  Power will lock you up even though power and you are the same religion.

Obviously not my religion.  We are British and a Christian country. Which means we don’t do “religion” because we don’t need to – we have the true and proper God – and here’s the proof: 

O lord God arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall!
Confound their knavish tricks,
Confuse their politics,
On you our hopes we fix,
God save the Queen!
Verse 2: UK national anthem

Just like our “special relationship friends”:
“God bless America!”

And because we must (another “benefit” of the instant world-wide web) …
“Allahu akbar!”
(even if it is the wrong one it helps prove we have the right one)

Which makes killing each other a nice clean religious matter.  Keeps all the messy reasons off the front page.  All that “global control” … all that “world order” … all that “oil and power and resources” … all the “how dare they challenge our global superiority” … all the “we are a first world country!”  all the “how dare this fourth-world-bankrupt-collection-of-savages-who-still-worship-the-volcano threaten us!”  And off goes a warship, missile and sanction.  And back comes a bomb, bullet or knife.  This “proven” god industry makes life so much simpler.

And my (itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy) “God Soft Hands Jesus, GSHJ” who doesn’t threaten anyone … my “love is the answer, now what’s your question?” is the problem?  Really?

I think it’s about time that ALL mainstream faiths / religions looked long and hard at what they are about – who they are tied to – and why.

Because you speak to anyone of faith.  You ask them what gets them out of bed every day, you ask them what unites them.  And no matter their age, colour, sex, country, culture, religion, wealth or poverty … they will speak of love.  Listen to anyone who thinks they have no voice and they speak of love.

Always of love.

Of seeking love.  Of finding love.  Of giving love.  Of being bound together without differences.  And (if they believe in any god) it is always a god of love.   A god who has no problem with a different god of love.  I have found that ordinary people don’t think religion is “it”, I have found that ordinary people think love is.

So just what is gained by “religion” or power – or “power religion” – denying that commonality?

Because which unproven “god of love” encourages killing others?  Because which unproven “god of love” alienates those who love without needing any unproven “god” at all?  Other than a “god of religion” – a god of power – a god of expediency.  A god that we might create.

Because the one thing the dialogue of Erhman and Licona has proved to me is this: no sacred text (of god) can ever be proven as historically reliable (even with cherry picking).

“If it’s a historical view, why do historians who do not have a stake in the matter not share it?” Erhman

But more than that …

Just why is it so important that any sacred text must be proven to be historically accurate (other than for power)?

Is that not where “faith” is – in the “unprovenanced”?  Or has religion made faith “of this world” whilst insisting it is not?

Because the very fact that “Christianity” thinks it can – and has – prove(d) the bible as historically reliable (evidenced by the Erhman Licona dialogue)  suggests, to me, that religion I have experienced prefers a god of expediency – a god of culture – a small god of “God save our gracious Queen” … of “God bless America!” … of “Allahu akbar!”   A god of division … a “top down god” … a “do as we tell you” religion.  A cherry-picked god that is our god and no else’s.

And that is not my GSHJ.  Because that is religion.

But here’s “the kicker” for those who don’t like the unhistorical bible and god – and for those who do like the historical bible and god …

I learned all that in the bible (and what I hear of other sacred texts).  I heard all that from all these people who are never heard.  I found “love is the answer, now what’s the question” in the bible.  I found my relationship with my real and present GSHJ in and of this very world and the sacred texts within it.  And I cannot prove any of that to you.

Not even if you believe as I do.

Because if you believe as I do – then no proof is required.  And if you don’t believe as I do – then nothing I can offer is “proof” as you have a right to expect of proof.

So the bible has great value to me.  It always will.  Just not in the way I was taught.  Nor, seemingly, in the way I would like to teach.  Because the consequence of how I love and wish to live, how I choose to allow others, how I choose to live with my own GSHJ, is no different to how we each choose to live with our own zones of comfort and fear.

It is what I choose to do (or not do) that are the consequences.  And religion has to make the same choices.

Because you speak to anyone of faith.  You ask them what gets them out of bed every day, you ask them what unites them.  And then you really listen …  No matter their age, colour, sex, country, culture, religion, wealth or poverty … they will speak of love.  You listen to anyone who thinks they have no voice and they speak of love.

Always of love.

And my (itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy) “God Soft Hands Jesus, GSHJ” who doesn’t threaten anyone … my “love is the answer, now what’s your question?” is the problem?

Really?

I would like to teach that my god of love does not cherry pick.  That my god does not need to be your god.  That my god does not even need to be a god at all.  And my “god” is a divine something that I can never prove that to you.  An entity of connecting and universal and timeless unconditional love who does not need the definitions we seem to need.

And that, for me, is the difference.  It is why I am content to admit to being indwelt.  It removes fear and allows you in.

No matter who you are.

Thank you.

.

(I hope the conversation continues)

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40 thoughts on “So you believe … ? Monday 24th April: 7.30am

    • Ark, thank you for you comment.

      I know you think I write too many words. I know you prefer yes or no answers. I know you don’t care to read all the words I write. And because I love you despite all that – the answer is staring you in the face if you care to find it.

      But the tick boxes you and all others seek to impose – they are your agenda. And for those answers – with all my affection – you will have to find your own answers.

        • That means more than I can express in words. Thank you for letting me know.

          So let me answer your question with a “yes or no”. Yes, a narrative. Because in the absence of endorsing the whole, I cannot endorse “cherry picked” bits – and I have seen no evidence of that bit either.

          And it is only the “agendas” and what different agendas assume from a yes or no that prompts my “squirming”. The answers are simple, the agendas far less so.

      • Clicked send a little too early.Excuse me.
        May I ask what on earth was the point of these tomes?

        Do you post merely to be a sounding board for your own insecurity?
        To try and arive at a rational that will allow you to continue to recognize the bibilical character jesus of Nazareth irrespective that he was a work of fiction, very likely manufactured from whole cloth?
        Or, are you looking for genuine dialogue; real conversation that can explore all the misgivings you may have and approach Christianity with a single aim … to discover if the foundation it is built upon has any basis in veracity?

        One moment you seem to be chucking it all and the next we have the pithy Jesus soft hands drivel.

        You simply cannot divorce the bible from the character Jesus of Nazareth and anyone who tries to claim they are not religious but a Jesus follower is simply fooling themselves. As so many of these people still actively worship(sic) among like-minded communities even though they may be small gatherings, then they are guilty of the crassest hypocrisy, as this is exactly how all ”churches” began. Consider the Waldeneses who were almost exterminated?

        I have my own answers and am not looking to you to provide anything, other than a little honesty,rather than this continual beating around the burning bush.
        I am merely interested in what it is you are trying to convey.

        • And there goes the drawbridge and here is the salvo! 

          I write the journey. A diary of this journey perhaps. You said what could you change, all you had was a laptop. Well I can change me. We all change. Some deny it, some reject it, slow it down, and some embrace it. I embrace change. And write about it.

          If you want tag along for a while – welcome. If not I will still be here, chugging along, writing far too many words for your liking. 

          But am I a pseudo-smarmy-smug-squirming … something? If you stand apart and prod only with a scalpel – perhaps. But if you were able to live inside where the heart beats and the night sighs … ? Who knows.

          You never allow yourself that freedom. You always stand apart. Just like your lovely pics. Framed and lit and cropped. Except your emotive adjectives suggest there might be more.

          • Your flowery rhetoric has very little substance, I am afraid. Or maybe it is simply wasted on a Neanderthal such as me?
            From my perspective, it comes across as largely a meaningless diatribe, I am afraid.
            Like someone doing play-play philosophy.
            Perhaps a Kierkegaard in nappies?
            There was a hint that the bus you are on was going to stop at the ”Reality” depot, and I have no doubt you dangled this in the font water, but it drove right by continuing on it’s Magical Mystery Tour.

            Your posts are not unlike a crust of pastry that in reality covers a practically empty pot.
            When one sticks in one’s fork, it comes back almost empty, save for the odd lump of gristle but mostly just steam.

            You never allow yourself that freedom.

            You go from philosophy to psychoanalysis.
            I love it. Freud or Piaget, I wonder?
            One of the most fundamental aspects of freedom, is the freedom to take the consequences … something most people tend to forget or are simply unaware.

            And you have the freedom to write as you see fit. And I will comment according to my interpretation. Or until I prod a raw nerve with my scalpel.
            If you don’t like my interpretation then maybe you should consider straightforward over ambiguity?
            Just a thought.

  1. “Because if you believe as I do – then no proof is required.  And if you don’t believe as I do – then nothing I can offer is “proof” as you have a right to expect of proof.”

    This sentence says it all in debates like this, Paul! That’s why these kinds of debates will never win over a skeptic. The naked truth is that we will find what we’re looking for in history. One thing that we know after 200 years of historical criticism is that, as Walter Wink says, it’s bankrupt. We now know that no one looks at history as an uninterested party without bias. That is a delusion. Both the skeptics and the faithful will find what they’re looking for. And we will always choose to believe the historians that agree with us to prove we are right and the other side is wrong.

    And you also make the main point…love! That’s what it’s all about. Not historical accuracy (which will always be debatable). Jesus didn’t say we would be known for proving the historical accuracy of the Bible, or even proving our doctrines are the right ones. He said we would be known for our love for one another (John 13:35), and that the world would know that God loves them like He loves us when we find ourselves in Christ in God (John 17:23). In this way, we prove that God is love, and those who know Him loves others like He loves (1 John 4:7-8).

    • The naked truth is that we will find what we’re looking for in history.

      When applied to religious fundamentalists, most certainly.
      But genuine historians do not play by such rules, which is why they give no credence whatsoever to the character Jesus of Nazareth as anything other than a first century eschatological Rabbi.

      The genuine skeptic followers evidence.
      The believer – such as you – begins with a presuppositional belief – ”Jesus Christ is God” for example – and then tries to fit that belief into the framework of the evidence they uncover.
      And when you cannot, you simply accept it all on faith alone.

      Consider Egyptologist and Evangelical Christian, Kenneth Kitchen.
      Archaeologist, William Albright before him was eventually forced to acknowledge that there was no real possibility of a literal biblical Exodus as nothing he uncovered could match the biblical tale.

      Jesus didn’t say we would be known for proving the historical accuracy of the Bible,

      There was no bible for him to have even made such a suggestion. The character is portrayed a Jew and in the story he was there for Jews.

      • It includes all historians, not just the Fundamentalists. This is why the concept of a perfectly unbiased historian is naïve and a bankrupt premise.

        Unlike science, history is often not observable. therefore It’s nowhere near as exact or provable as science, so we cannot conclude anything using the same methodology. The stubborn fact is, we weren’t there. And not all historical events leave evidence, especially when we’re talking about ancient history. I can’t even prove everything I did yesterday, let alone get a complete picture of something that happened in a completely different culture in a very different time.

        Like interpreting ancient languages, the best we can do in some cases is interpolate, based on what we know, and get a reasonable reflection of what is being said. But it still doesn’t guarantee a 100% interpretation. Likewise, with historical evidence, we must make conclusions based on partial evidence and literature available to us (and that literature must include the Bible because the Bible is part of the evidence). But it still doesn’t mean we know everything that happened. And we certainly cannot disprove from an argument of silence. We can only disagree. And that’s where our bias wins out in the end. We will conclude what we want to conclude. This is why it cannot be a litmus test for issues of faith.

        • Wrong.
          No genuine historian panders to the supernatural.
          That is not bias, that is honesty, something that is in serious short supply with those with a religious agenda.

            • Whatever what Mel?
              If you cannot argue you case without whiny comments like this then why bother engage in the first place?
              YOu are a qualified minister of some sort, are you not?
              Therefore you should know this stuff inside out and backwards so why do you continually revert to apologetic style waffle?

            • Because torture is sometime more preferable to me than spending countless hours with endless back-and-forth arguing with people who just want to argue. Believe whatever you want, Ark. You can respond by saying how stupid and ignorant I am. So, whatever…
              Have a good life.

            • My life is good.Thanks.
              I want to know why you state that historians will only see what they want to see.
              Evidence will eventually out as it always does.
              However, there is no verifiable evidence for the position you take which is why non genuine historian will countenance any supernatural claims regarding Christianity or anything else for that matter.

  2. (Ark): “You simply cannot divorce the bible from the character Jesus of Nazareth and anyone who tries to claim they are not religious but a Jesus follower is simply fooling themselves.” Well, the truth finally comes out.
    My claim to follow Jesus is all about his call for love, for compassion, for inclusion. And Paul, thank you for the link to the article. THAT is following Jesus, whether those students claim any religion or not. And “religion” as I see it is the antithesis of love, compassion and inclusion.

    • Well, the truth finally comes out.

      I sincerely hope you are not suggesting I have in any way presented a false picture of my views concerning god-belief and religion,Susan?

      I stand firm by what I wrote above.
      There is no verifiable evidence whatsoever for this character, and as Paul has demonstrated in this series of posts, the bible is not to be trusted as historically reliable or accurate.

      THAT is following Jesus,

      Actually, Susan, only if you cherry-pick down to the bones of the gospels.
      The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth was a fundamentalist Jew who, by and large, stood by Mosaic Law.

      And as far as we know every character in that short video could well be die-hard atheist.

      Therefore, as it was the church that compiled the bible we have no evidence to tell us they did not ”make it up as they went along”. We know for a fact that a fair amount of what is claimed to have been spoken by Jesus was not and the bible is swimming in contradiction, errors, fraud, forgery, and lies, so in a sense, although you have stepped away from formal religion, you are still following the doctrine (bible) as laid out by the original Roman Catholic Church.

      And I will state for the record … once again … that you, as an adult, are entitled to believe whatsoever you wish, providing it does no harm and you do not indoctrinate others, and especially children, with this belief.

      • “The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth was a fundamentalist Jew who, by and large, stood by Mosaic Law.”
        No, just the opposite! Oh, my gosh. That is exactly what his entire preaching was about. He never wanted to start a new religion, but get rid of the fundamentalism that plagued Judaism. (sigh).
        And I am against indoctrination in any form. I also think one can read any book with an open mind and critical thinking and never have to believe all of it, but decide on one’s own what to believe and not.

        • Wrong, I’m afraid.And perhaps you need to revisit your bible?
          This is what the character Jesus of Nazareth was all about …

          Matthew 5:18 would be a good place to start.

          Then why not use those critical thinking skills and apply them to the task of understanding how and why the bible was put together?
          It will be an adventure and an eye opener, I can assure you.

          • Not going to argue with you. Try reading the entire Sermon on the Mount – Matthew Chapters 5, 6 and 7. I already know how the Bible was put together, Ark, and I don’t need your assurances. If only your mind would open just a tiny bit…

            • You do? Excellent! Then please tell me, or offer a link that you agree with, as my understanding may be somewhat different than yours.
              Will you do this for me please?

  3. @Paul

    That means more than I can express in words. Thank you for letting me know.

    So let me answer your question with a “yes or no”. Yes, a narrative. Because in the absence of endorsing the whole, I cannot endorse “cherry picked” bits – and I have seen no evidence of that bit either.

    Okay, this comment was posted in between two others and I missed it.

    I am still confused and although you have said ”Yes, a narrative.”. this is still only half an answer.

    Let me ask one last time and hopefully clear up any lingering misunderstanding.

    Do you think the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth is a narrative construct – in other words a work of fiction?

  4. Pingback: So (how can) you (still) believe … ? | Just me being curious

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