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Question: How would you describe your beliefs regarding God's creation?
Creationism (literal 6 days) - 6 (16.7%)
Theistic Evolution (evolution is God's tool) - 17 (47.2%)
Apathetic (don't care) - 6 (16.7%)
Atheistic Evolution - 1 (2.8%)
Other - 6 (16.7%)
Total Voters: 36

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Author Topic: Interpretation of Genesis, literal or spiritual?  (Read 4144 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 01, 2012, 12:52:27 AM »

How do you view Genesis, is it to be interpreted absolutely literally, and against science? Is it a holy, God-inspired work about our salvation which is not to be taken as a scientific document?

I also included a few other options for convenience as well, that way you are not compelled to take a side.

Also for discussion, should we interpret it absolutely literally, or should we interpret Genesis in a manner similar to other mystical and symbolical books of the Bible (allegorically, historically, typologically etc...)?

Is evolution simply the work of Satan used to deceive us? Or is it the likely reality of where we come from and simply the result of science discovering God's work?
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 01:06:42 AM »

What is science?
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 06:42:51 AM »

How do you view Genesis, is it to be interpreted absolutely literally, and against science?

The problem with this statement is science doesn't say one way or the other.  It's people who project their opinions into the mixing bowl.  So, to believe the first is not against science, rather people and their take on the matter.  In other words, science has not and will not ever prove Creation didn't happen in a literal six days, and there is a long list of reasons why.
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 08:12:34 AM »

Below, there is an interesting site on the subject. In these subjects, I think it's good we go back to the sources and Jewish studies about Jewish texts are the obvious sources. As a Christian, the only "catch" we must have when reading this is that the Messiah has come and He is God Himself.

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951136.html

Quote
How long ago did the "beginning" occur? Was it, as the Bible might imply, 5700-plus years, or was it the 15 billions of years that's accepted by the scientific community?

The first thing we have to understand is the origin of the Biblical calendar. The Jewish year is figured by adding up the generations since Adam. Additionally, there are six days leading up to the creation to Adam. These six days are significant as well.

We have a clock that begins with Adam, and the six days are separate from this clock. The Bible has two clocks.

That might seem like a modern rationalization, if it were not for the fact that Talmudic commentaries 1500 years ago, brings this information. In the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1), an expansion of the Talmud, all the Sages agree that Rosh Hashana commemorates the soul of Adam, and that the Six Days of Genesis are separate.

So when the Sages excluded these six days from the calendar, and said that the entire text is parable, it wasn't because they were trying to apologize away what they'd seen in the local museum. There was no local museum. The fact is that a close reading of the text makes it clear that there's information hidden and folded into layers below the surface.









How do you view Genesis, is it to be interpreted absolutely literally, and against science?

The problem with this statement is science doesn't say one way or the other.  It's people who project their opinions into the mixing bowl.  So, to believe the first is not against science, rather people and their take on the matter.  In other words, science has not and will not ever prove Creation didn't happen in a literal six days, and there is a long list of reasons why.
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 01:02:25 PM »

How about: "I don't know (for sure)?"
« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 01:04:41 PM by Severian » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2012, 01:04:41 PM »

He is not asking what happened, he is asking our opinion about the issue. Wink

How about "I don't know?"
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2012, 01:14:52 PM »

Below, there is an interesting site on the subject. In these subjects, I think it's good we go back to the sources and Jewish studies about Jewish texts are the obvious sources. As a Christian, the only "catch" we must have when reading this is that the Messiah has come and He is God Himself.

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951136.html

Quote
How long ago did the "beginning" occur? Was it, as the Bible might imply, 5700-plus years, or was it the 15 billions of years that's accepted by the scientific community?

The first thing we have to understand is the origin of the Biblical calendar. The Jewish year is figured by adding up the generations since Adam. Additionally, there are six days leading up to the creation to Adam. These six days are significant as well.

We have a clock that begins with Adam, and the six days are separate from this clock. The Bible has two clocks.

That might seem like a modern rationalization, if it were not for the fact that Talmudic commentaries 1500 years ago, brings this information. In the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1), an expansion of the Talmud, all the Sages agree that Rosh Hashana commemorates the soul of Adam, and that the Six Days of Genesis are separate.

So when the Sages excluded these six days from the calendar, and said that the entire text is parable, it wasn't because they were trying to apologize away what they'd seen in the local museum. There was no local museum. The fact is that a close reading of the text makes it clear that there's information hidden and folded into layers below the surface.









How do you view Genesis, is it to be interpreted absolutely literally, and against science?

The problem with this statement is science doesn't say one way or the other.  It's people who project their opinions into the mixing bowl.  So, to believe the first is not against science, rather people and their take on the matter.  In other words, science has not and will not ever prove Creation didn't happen in a literal six days, and there is a long list of reasons why.

Actually Fabio, we aren't supposed to interpret the scriptures like Jews anymore. Jews did read it very literally, but now we see beyond that and cannot stay on that level. If something like Genesis' creation accounts (there are two, not one) aren't literally, scientifically true, that doesn't matter and doesn't reflect badly on the rest of the scriptures.

We aren't Protestants and we certainly aren't Muslims. We have no concept of the infallibility or inerrancy of scripture. The scriptures are completely true and "perfect", but they aren't necessarily without any "error".

Genesis is a collection of stories which were passed down orally for many generations, it is also a collection of several different writers (like most of the Old Testament, see the Documentary Hypothesis) which were all compiled by a group of redactors. None of them were literally written by Moses, but were probably oral traditions which were passed down from him, and written in the spirit of Moses (he can't write about is own death is one example).

The writers of the books were prone to human mistakes while writing, spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, minor factual errors (such as slight errors in numbers, dates or places) and other minor variations. This doesn't mean the Bible should be viewed as any less holy. It wasn't a document that was dictated by God and wasn't handed down intact & without error by God. It is a spirit-inspired work that was written by human beings, and has been recognized as especially holy by the Church. The reason the books of the New Testament are canon is not because they were handed down "especially inerrant" but because the Church has recognized them as being especially holy works.

As for Genesis, the two creation accounts should be read in a manner similar to reading Revelation, symbolically, allegorically and historically. Looking at them not as a scientific document as to what "literally" happened, but that they are illustrating a bigger point, which culminates in the creation of man, and then the fall.

I don't think there is a problem for people believing that the earth is young and the story in Genesis may record what happened. But what there is a problem with, are people who believe scripture is infallible and everything must be looked at and taken absolutely literally, otherwise the scripture isn't holy.
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2012, 01:40:04 PM »

The "Two Creation Accounts" theory is very weak. *Very*. One wonders why it is even taken seriously. Even if Genesis was just a literary fictional piece the literary device of starting telling a story from a certain perspective, to then tell it again from another perspective is well known. Do we have a collection of disconnected stories in Dracula just because the narrator changes from chapter to chapter? According to the criteria used for biblical criticism that should be final proof that Bram Stoker never existed and that several different authors, building on the collective legend of the vampire, used the name of an equally legendary Irish novelist as a pen name. Bram Stoker was not the first nor the last author to use the shift in style and perspective to create his work. Biblical authors were not less apt. In fact, the sheer impact of the biblical books -analysing them as "just" literature - proves that the authors were far more accomplished artists then anyone who came later.

Most modern biblical criticism is based on this kind of puerile approach, and that is why after many years dealing with it in my personal studies I have put it completely aside as useless.

What Genesis does is to give a cosmic overview of Creation, like a panoramic of the whole, and then it zooms in into the history of Men, giving more details. Critics would have it that a historic romance that starts painting the scenario of the specific age in history to introduce the main characters just in the second or third chapter are two different books by different authors put together. Far too silly.

Concerning the Jews, our interpretations just diverge from theirs in the fact that the Messiah came, Who He was and What He was and the impact of that. One of these impacts is the new layer of understanding on the spiritual metaphors that are made possible. Those do *not* contradict other kinds of interpretation, specially the cosmological ones. Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law, not to revoke it. This is true to secondary layers of reading such as the cosmological ones. The fulfllment includes the new spiritual meanings without repealling the traditional ones.

Below, there is an interesting site on the subject. In these subjects, I think it's good we go back to the sources and Jewish studies about Jewish texts are the obvious sources. As a Christian, the only "catch" we must have when reading this is that the Messiah has come and He is God Himself.

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951136.html

Quote
How long ago did the "beginning" occur? Was it, as the Bible might imply, 5700-plus years, or was it the 15 billions of years that's accepted by the scientific community?

The first thing we have to understand is the origin of the Biblical calendar. The Jewish year is figured by adding up the generations since Adam. Additionally, there are six days leading up to the creation to Adam. These six days are significant as well.

We have a clock that begins with Adam, and the six days are separate from this clock. The Bible has two clocks.

That might seem like a modern rationalization, if it were not for the fact that Talmudic commentaries 1500 years ago, brings this information. In the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:1), an expansion of the Talmud, all the Sages agree that Rosh Hashana commemorates the soul of Adam, and that the Six Days of Genesis are separate.

So when the Sages excluded these six days from the calendar, and said that the entire text is parable, it wasn't because they were trying to apologize away what they'd seen in the local museum. There was no local museum. The fact is that a close reading of the text makes it clear that there's information hidden and folded into layers below the surface.









How do you view Genesis, is it to be interpreted absolutely literally, and against science?

The problem with this statement is science doesn't say one way or the other.  It's people who project their opinions into the mixing bowl.  So, to believe the first is not against science, rather people and their take on the matter.  In other words, science has not and will not ever prove Creation didn't happen in a literal six days, and there is a long list of reasons why.

Actually Fabio, we aren't supposed to interpret the scriptures like Jews anymore. Jews did read it very literally, but now we see beyond that and cannot stay on that level. If something like Genesis' creation accounts (there are two, not one) aren't literally, scientifically true, that doesn't matter and doesn't reflect badly on the rest of the scriptures.

We aren't Protestants and we certainly aren't Muslims. We have no concept of the infallibility or inerrancy of scripture. The scriptures are completely true and "perfect", but they aren't necessarily without any "error".

Genesis is a collection of stories which were passed down orally for many generations, it is also a collection of several different writers (like most of the Old Testament, see the Documentary Hypothesis) which were all compiled by a group of redactors. None of them were literally written by Moses, but were probably oral traditions which were passed down from him, and written in the spirit of Moses (he can't write about is own death is one example).

The writers of the books were prone to human mistakes while writing, spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, minor factual errors (such as slight errors in numbers, dates or places) and other minor variations. This doesn't mean the Bible should be viewed as any less holy. It wasn't a document that was dictated by God and wasn't handed down intact & without error by God. It is a spirit-inspired work that was written by human beings, and has been recognized as especially holy by the Church. The reason the books of the New Testament are canon is not because they were handed down "especially inerrant" but because the Church has recognized them as being especially holy works.

As for Genesis, the two creation accounts should be read in a manner similar to reading Revelation, symbolically, allegorically and historically. Looking at them not as a scientific document as to what "literally" happened, but that they are illustrating a bigger point, which culminates in the creation of man, and then the fall.

I don't think there is a problem for people believing that the earth is young and the story in Genesis may record what happened. But what there is a problem with, are people who believe scripture is infallible and everything must be looked at and taken absolutely literally, otherwise the scripture isn't holy.
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2012, 01:46:46 PM »

How about: "I don't know (for sure)?"

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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2012, 03:04:14 PM »

Neither literal nor spiritual in their commonly understood senses, but rather "poetic".
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2012, 03:12:08 PM »

I'd rather say it's mostly myth. And don't mistake me for saying it's not true either.
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2012, 03:28:17 PM »

I'd rather say it's mostly myth. And don't mistake me for saying it's not true either.
That is what I'm trying to say but there are far too many people who assume the Bible has to be "all or nothing" and either it is all completely true in every single aspect and every site word, or absolutely none of it is true.

The world isn't black or white and the Bible certainly isn't black of white.

No wonder so many Protestants who insist on the strict literal interpretation of Genesis are also the same crowd who interpret Revelation and parts of Daniel & Isaiah as being strictly literal and this construct entire ideas about a literal, physical heaven and hell, and angels literally having wings, the end being literally as in Revelation with a literal beast and a literal mark of the beast in the literal form if 666. It's absolute insanity and its poor biblical exegesis.
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2012, 03:35:04 PM »

I think we need to view it of course in the lens of Christ's Crucifiction and Resurrection. I liked St. Augustine's commentary that Noah's Ark moved in 4 directions like the Cross. And that the Ark represents the Church being the ark of salvation. The white dove Noah sends out should be seen as the Holy Spirit. Etc.

I think it's interesting how Genesis explains certain things, like nakedness and rainbows, but as you say these are traditions that have been handed down and in fact many other cultures had their own type of flood narrative, but the difference in Genesis has a different perspective of the events, such as God is saving his people.

Alot of it seems symbolic to me, and in some sense we can view Adam as being symolic which I think is much more real than it being seen literally. That's not to say Adam didn't exist, but for us Christians, Adam takes on something much more.
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« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2012, 03:47:31 PM »

You're right Achronos. I would take it further though and say that Adam may not have been a literal, single human being at a literal time and place in history. Rather the story reflects our fallen nature as Homo Sapiens.

Once you move beyond the literal sense and don't focus on it as being an absolutely critical and essential part of the faith, Genesis starts to make much more sense.

I'd like to know how people who interpret it literally would react to us finding life beyond our planet (not just intelligent but any kind). What if we find intelligent life, or they find us?

I would say that wouldn't affect our faith one bit and if they are intelligent, Gods salvation extends also to them.
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2012, 04:22:39 PM »

I think we need to view it of course in the lens of Christ's Crucifiction and Resurrection. I liked St. Augustine's commentary that Noah's Ark moved in 4 directions like the Cross. And that the Ark represents the Church being the ark of salvation. The white dove Noah sends out should be seen as the Holy Spirit. Etc.

I think it's interesting how Genesis explains certain things, like nakedness and rainbows, but as you say these are traditions that have been handed down and in fact many other cultures had their own type of flood narrative, but the difference in Genesis has a different perspective of the events, such as God is saving his people.

Alot of it seems symbolic to me, and in some sense we can view Adam as being symolic which I think is much more real than it being seen literally. That's not to say Adam didn't exist, but for us Christians, Adam takes on something much more.

Can you develop the last part, please ?  Tongue
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2012, 04:27:13 PM »

Well what do you think Adam represents?
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2012, 04:28:47 PM »

Man.
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2012, 04:33:46 PM »

Adam made me do it!!!!!!!
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2012, 04:36:45 PM »

Ah, the literal or symbolic divide. How cute. Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2012, 09:21:15 PM »

I'd rather say it's mostly myth. And don't mistake me for saying it's not true either.
I don't get it.  Please clarify.
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« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2012, 07:35:17 AM »

I'd rather say it's mostly myth. And don't mistake me for saying it's not true either.
I don't get it.  Please clarify.
Myth is indeed the right word. I used "poetry" earlier with much the same point.

Here's the Wikipedia definition of myth:
Quote
In folkloristics, a myth is a sacred narrative usually explaining how the world or humankind came to be in its present form, although, in a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story. Bruce Lincoln defines myth as "ideology in narrative form". Myths typically involve supernatural characters and are endorsed by rulers or priests. They may arise as overelaborated accounts of historical events, as allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of ritual. They are transmitted to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach.

Myths are intended to teach the "why" rather than the "what" or "how", which is what science tries to do.
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« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2012, 11:59:00 AM »

How do orthodox interpret when Adam hid from the Lord cause they had eaten the forbidden fruit and they heard God walking in the garden so they hid themselves from him, do we interpret it literally that God has feet and legs ?. Was he literally walking ?
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« Reply #22 on: November 02, 2012, 12:33:18 PM »

How do orthodox interpret when Adam hid from the Lord cause they had eaten the forbidden fruit and they heard God walking in the garden so they hid themselves from him, do we interpret it literally that God has feet and legs ?. Was he literally walking ?

No, most if not all anthropomorphisms in the Bible are figurative and allegory, not literal. God has no physical body, only God the Son has a physical body and the Word didn't have a physical body before his incarnation.
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« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2012, 02:17:48 PM »

we should read it as the Fathers do. they didnt feel the need to pit one level of interpretation against another, and in fact they strongly warn us against doing such a thing.
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« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2012, 02:41:22 PM »

we should read it as the Fathers do. they didnt feel the need to pit one level of interpretation against another, and in fact they strongly warn us against doing such a thing.

Not every part of the Bible should read literally, just like not every part should be read allegorically.

Take Revelation for instance. It is not to be taken absolutely literally. We are not to believe that the servants of antichrist will literally have a mark of the beast or 666 branded on them as some sort of a tattoo, mark or computer chip. Instead we understand the mark of the beast to be a separation and opposition to God and the mark that causes that person to receive God's grace as a burning, torturous flame. This passage should also be understood in its historical (different from literal) context, as beig a reference to the Emperor Nero.

Or like the passages in Isaiah (and others) about his vision of heaven. Do Seraphim have six wings? No, they are "bodiless hosts", therefore we cannot read it literally.
It says God sits on a throne, but God has no body and cannot sit.

Looking at the ascension of Christ, we cannot and should not read it literally and believe that Jesus literally levitated from the ground up into the clouds. In fact, this is one of the many reasons he is placed in a mandorla in our iconography (which is symbolic, not literal).

There are many different ways of interpreting scripture, but we cannot and should not use all ways of interpretation in every instance. This is simply poor biblical exegesis.

When one gets caught up in the idea that Genesis has to be literal, or gets caught up in the idea that heaven must be a real place with real physical angels and a real physician throne; then they are missing the entire point of the passages and in fact, are thinking way too much like Westerners and too much like the Jews or Muslims.

I don't have a problem with people who believe Genesis depicts how things were created. But I think there is certainly a problem if those people try to apply that literal philosophy to all Biblical interpretation and when they automatically assume that anything not from the church and not from the bible must be wrong.
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« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2012, 03:04:56 PM »

yes, not everything is literal. the Orthodox method of interpretation is not a rule of literalness, or a rule of allegory, etc -- the rule is stick with the Fathers. this is precisely how Fr. Seraphim critiques Protestant Fundamentalists -- they have only their own understanding to follow which will cause them to miss deeper meanings, but we have the God-bearing Fathers who open up to us all layers of meaning. and if the Fundamentalists happen to get some of it right, while missing the deeper meanings, thank God at least that they have some of it. Orthodoxy doesn't define itself by trying desperately to NOT sound like some other group. We follow the Fathers and if some other group happens to pick up on a piece of that wisdom, then thank God.
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« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2012, 03:09:51 PM »

we should read it as the Fathers do. they didnt feel the need to pit one level of interpretation against another, and in fact they strongly warn us against doing such a thing.

I don't have a problem with people who believe Genesis depicts how things were created. But I think there is certainly a problem if those people try to apply that literal philosophy to all Biblical interpretation and when they automatically assume that anything not from the church and not from the bible must be wrong.

yes, that would be folly. thankfully, ive never encountered anyone w/ such an attitude. but when it comes to matters of Scriptures we look to the Church - St. Basil explicitly says that he is interpreting the Scripture via the Church and not from any wisdom found outside the Church. That doesnt mean he thinks everything outside the Church is wrong, but that it is not within its realm to try to interpret Scripture.

St Gregory Palamas tells us clearly that we must also be cautious in looking to secular wisdom to tell us anything about the Scriptures:

St. Gregory Palamas, In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.11, p. 34:
If one of the Fathers says the same thing as do those from without, the concordance is only verbal, the thought being quite different. The former, in fact, have, according to Paul, “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), while the latter expresses at best a human reasoning. “As the heaven is distant from the earth, so is My thought distant from your thought” (Is. 55:9), saith the Lord. Besides, even if the thinking of these men were at times the same as that of Moses, Solomon, or their imitators, what would it benefit them? What man of sound spirit and belonging to the Church could from this draw the conclusion that their teaching comes from God?

In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.12, p. 36:
From secular knowledge, St. Gregory writes: “we absolutely forbid to expect any precision whatever in the knowledge of Divine things; for it is not possible to draw from it any certain teaching on the subject of God. For “God hath made it foolish” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20).
 
In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.15, p. 44:
The power of this reason which has been made foolish and nonexistent enters into battle against those who accept the traditions in simplicity of heart; it despises the writings of the Spirit, after the example of men who have treated them carelessly and have set up the creation against the Creator.
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« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2012, 05:27:44 PM »

Thank you jckstraw72 for bringing up my next point. Anybody who reads the Scriptures has to realize that it is a spiritual document and one must be in prayer when reading it. What's that Church Father quote by St Gregory of Nyssa that our theology without prayer is demonic. I cringe everytime someone wants to prove science or history in the Bible, because neither is the correct methodology.

It is probably the greatest relief that Orthodox dont spend time trying to figure out where Dinosaurs are in the Bible livig amongst humans or whatever fundy "scientific" beliefs are.

I hope you are doing well jckstraw72, even if I disagree with some of your views I respect what you have to say.
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« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2012, 05:51:18 PM »

Thank you jckstraw72 for bringing up my next point. Anybody who reads the Scriptures has to realize that it is a spiritual document and one must be in prayer when reading it. What's that Church Father quote by St Gregory of Nyssa that our theology without prayer is demonic. I cringe everytime someone wants to prove science or history in the Bible, because neither is the correct methodology.

It is probably the greatest relief that Orthodox dont spend time trying to figure out where Dinosaurs are in the Bible livig amongst humans or whatever fundy "scientific" beliefs are.

I hope you are doing well jckstraw72, even if I disagree with some of your views I respect what you have to say.

hey thanks Achronos -- its always nice to talk to someone who is able to be respectable to those he disagrees with. This is one of the things I admire about Fr. Seraphim Rose -- although he disagreed strongly with Dr. Alexander Kalomiros on evolution, he had no problem quoting him approvingly on those subjects they agreed upon. He had no need to dismiss anyone, or to tell anyone they were not Orthodox for their stance on Genesis. he was actually prompted to delve into Genesis when a faction within ROCOR began lambasting his spiritual son, Alexey Young, for his stance, and began forming almost political parties within the Church based on this and other issues. Fr. Seraphim trod the royal path of fidelity to the Fathers without judging others.

You're right about not trying to match up with fundy scientific beliefs -- its really not important. this is something Fr. Seraphim specifically says -- that our interpretation of Genesis should not be bound up with ANY scientific theory - if it is, we will almost necessarily distort the text.  he, and people like myself who believe he was right, our often falsely painted as Fundamentalist YEC types, but in his commentary on Genesis Fr. Seraphim never once quotes anyone who isn't Orthodox, and never anyone who isn't a Saint of the highest stature. he quite painstakingly establishes his position, to the point where even George and Elizabeth Theokritoff, who are evolutionists, in a review of his book plainly state that Fr. Seraphim is quite correct in his reading of the Fathers. the question then becomes -- do we care about what the Fathers say in regards to Genesis? this is where the Theokritoffs depart from Fr. Seraphim. but Fr. Seraphim learned from St. John to accept wholly that which was handed down to him, and so he handed it on as he had received it. and he is not alone - many other modern Saints and elders have come out against evolution -- many of them speaking much more sternly on the matter than Fr. Seraphim ever did.
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« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2012, 06:02:16 PM »

we should read it as the Fathers do. they didnt feel the need to pit one level of interpretation against another, and in fact they strongly warn us against doing such a thing.

I don't have a problem with people who believe Genesis depicts how things were created. But I think there is certainly a problem if those people try to apply that literal philosophy to all Biblical interpretation and when they automatically assume that anything not from the church and not from the bible must be wrong.

yes, that would be folly. thankfully, ive never encountered anyone w/ such an attitude. but when it comes to matters of Scriptures we look to the Church - St. Basil explicitly says that he is interpreting the Scripture via the Church and not from any wisdom found outside the Church. That doesnt mean he thinks everything outside the Church is wrong, but that it is not within its realm to try to interpret Scripture.

St Gregory Palamas tells us clearly that we must also be cautious in looking to secular wisdom to tell us anything about the Scriptures:

St. Gregory Palamas, In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.11, p. 34:
If one of the Fathers says the same thing as do those from without, the concordance is only verbal, the thought being quite different. The former, in fact, have, according to Paul, “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), while the latter expresses at best a human reasoning. “As the heaven is distant from the earth, so is My thought distant from your thought” (Is. 55:9), saith the Lord. Besides, even if the thinking of these men were at times the same as that of Moses, Solomon, or their imitators, what would it benefit them? What man of sound spirit and belonging to the Church could from this draw the conclusion that their teaching comes from God?

In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.12, p. 36:
From secular knowledge, St. Gregory writes: “we absolutely forbid to expect any precision whatever in the knowledge of Divine things; for it is not possible to draw from it any certain teaching on the subject of God. For “God hath made it foolish” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20).
 
In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (the Triads) 1.1.15, p. 44:
The power of this reason which has been made foolish and nonexistent enters into battle against those who accept the traditions in simplicity of heart; it despises the writings of the Spirit, after the example of men who have treated them carelessly and have set up the creation against the Creator.


I don't necessarily disagree with you entirely on this issue.

What we have to understand, is that we cannot project our modern society back onto the fathers. The scientists of today, and science of today is nothing like what "science" was back 1500 years ago. As I've pointed out before, many of the "scientists" of that day were also astrologers and dabbled into the occult or pagan practices. For them, their science was integrated with their religious identity.
Now, one could argue the same about today, but today, many scientists, while they may be atheists, are called, by common scientific practice, to put aside belief in or rejection of God and look at science more objectively since the realm of religion should not be integrated into science.

Darwin himself made this mistake, and bought into a lot of the philosophy of his day. While he isn't an authority, i'll paraphrase another Orthodox layperson about Darwin. That although I believe in evolution (to an extent), the fact that Darwin's ideas suddenly were discovered during a time where philosophers were searching for an excuse to exclude God from creation is just too convenient.
For all of Darwin's faults though, and for whatever errors he may have made, he did discover something quite profound about God's creation.

The Fathers hardly are at a consensus on the issue. We can say that they all were "creationists", but that is to greatly misunderstand their time and the knowledge they had available to them. It is kind of like looking back at the Fathers and asking why were they anti-semites? It's a fundamental misunderstanding of them and their time. They weren't creationists in the modern sense, because creationists have a unique, relatively "new" way of viewing the scriptures. They have brought scripture into direct conflict with science, or at least their view of scripture. Creationists, in the modern context, take scripture and desire to prove that it is a legitimate way to judge science or judge historical research and archeology. This is not a good way to approach the issue, and certainly isn't the way the Fathers looked at the problem. For them, there wasn't a problem, because they didn't feel the need to reconcile the two. This is the same today, religion and science do not and cannot contradict one another. Science doesn't try to pry into the matters of religion and spirituality, and science cannot judge whether or not God exists. At the same time, religion is not about trying to prove science right or wrong.

If science says the earth is older than 6,000 years, we have to understand that they doesn't have to, and does not necessarily contradict the scriptures. It is our interpretation of the scripture, which can sometimes be faulty, that leads us to believe science contradicts the Bible.

There is a whole world out there that science has discovered, and in my view, it has just blown my mind and caused me to marvel at God's creation even more. The fact that we aren't just big bodies of material, but we are all made up of little tiny atomic particles and there is an entire molecular and atomic world that we are a part of, but that we aren't aware of, even while it is essential to our very being. Or the theories that now suggest that not only is our universe very vast, continually expanding and composed of innumerable bodies, but that we are probably not the only universe, and that there might possibly be a multiverse.

Such ideas don't contradict scripture, and we don't have to assume that they inevitably have to. Science deals with creation, but Orthodoxy deals with God, who is uncreated and ever-existing, the creator of all creation. It is about our salvation and how we, God's creation become like God himself.

Whether Adam was a literal human being, or Eve was a literal human being, or that the Garden was a literal physical garden is nearly irrelevant because the point is not to show that it was this "literal" historical act that occurred that caused our fall, but the point is that we are human beings, created by God, after his image and likeness, and we fell and Christ became a human being and saved us from eternal death, separation from God.

The conclusion that some, like Bart Ehrman made, was that because their fundamentalist ideas were wrong, that the Bible and its figures are lying. They jumped from one extreme to the other, rather than considering the middle. Rather than asking themselves that maybe their view of scripture was a bit flawed, their "all or nothing" attitude led to them completely abandoning the very faith and scriptures they had once held as infallible.

Maybe I can draw another analogy. Science, psychology and research has shown that some people are born homosexual. I know some Christians who will fight tooth and nail against this, supposing that to be born that way means God must approve of it. Yet there is another position, which I take, that says that it doesn't matter how we are born, because we are all born into the fallen state of mankind, and we are all born with imperfections and inclinations to sin. Being born a certain way, with certain predispositions doesn't give that person an excuse or "pardon" to entertain those predispositions. Rather, it is more of a reason to sympathize with man's fallen nature and have mercy on these people, and recognize that while we may not be able to change their psychology or predispositions, we can help them grow and be able to fight against temptation and against sin to the best of their abilities.

I've found that Orthodoxy most often pulls toward the middle position rather than one extreme or the other. We also tend not to define things that we don't know about. There isn't a consensus on how to interpret Genesis and all we are called to believe is that God created all things. As I said earlier, my problem with creationism simply lays in the reasoning behind their position. If their position is set upon a theological opinion based on a reading of the fathers and scripture, it's permissible. However, if their position is like the fundamentalists, and based upon the idea that science is opposed to Christianity and also in their notion that the Bible (how they interpret it) "can't be wrong", then that position is flawed and shouldn't be considered an "orthodox" view.
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« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2012, 08:32:28 PM »

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« Reply #31 on: November 02, 2012, 09:05:58 PM »

Darwin himself made this mistake, and bought into a lot of the philosophy of his day. While he isn't an authority, i'll paraphrase another Orthodox layperson about Darwin. That although I believe in evolution (to an extent), the fact that Darwin's ideas suddenly were discovered during a time where philosophers were searching for an excuse to exclude God from creation is just too convenient.
Haven't philosophers always searched for a reason to exclude the supernatural?
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« Reply #32 on: November 02, 2012, 09:22:40 PM »

Partially off-topic, but I know that Protestants are very big on the literalistic approach to everything with Scripture. So my question to you is this, how do you interpret stories of genocide in the Old Testament and things that are scientifically impossible? Like Noah surviving inside of a fish or the 'sun stopping' for Joshua when in reality if something like that happened with the sun, the entire world as we know it would be changed. Isn't the main purpose about how we can take these stories--whether they literally happened in a particular way or not--and see how we can foresee Christ within it and learn a spiritual lesson from them?
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« Reply #33 on: November 02, 2012, 09:50:44 PM »

Partially off-topic, but I know that Protestants are very big on the literalistic approach to everything with Scripture. So my question to you is this, how do you interpret stories of genocide in the Old Testament and things that are scientifically impossible? Like Noah surviving inside of a fish or the 'sun stopping' for Joshua when in reality if something like that happened with the sun, the entire world as we know it would be changed. Isn't the main purpose about how we can take these stories--whether they literally happened in a particular way or not--and see how we can foresee Christ within it and learn a spiritual lesson from them?
It was Jonah, not Noah.
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« Reply #34 on: November 02, 2012, 10:00:26 PM »

Darwin himself made this mistake, and bought into a lot of the philosophy of his day. While he isn't an authority, i'll paraphrase another Orthodox layperson about Darwin. That although I believe in evolution (to an extent), the fact that Darwin's ideas suddenly were discovered during a time where philosophers were searching for an excuse to exclude God from creation is just too convenient.
Haven't philosophers always searched for a reason to exclude the supernatural?

Scientists are not philosophers, and I would argue that there are some Orthodox Christians and Fathers who were "philosophers". But yes, you are essentially right, modern philosophers are pretty hung up with explaining away the supernatural.
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« Reply #35 on: November 03, 2012, 10:56:13 AM »

Partially off-topic, but I know that Protestants are very big on the literalistic approach to everything with Scripture. So my question to you is this, how do you interpret stories of genocide in the Old Testament and things that are scientifically impossible? Like Noah surviving inside of a fish or the 'sun stopping' for Joshua when in reality if something like that happened with the sun, the entire world as we know it would be changed. Isn't the main purpose about how we can take these stories--whether they literally happened in a particular way or not--and see how we can foresee Christ within it and learn a spiritual lesson from them?

Is it really impossible for God to "stop the sun" or stop the earth or stop a galaxy and at the same time prevent any impact on anything else? I'm come on really, it's seems that something of that sort would be a trivial matter for Him.
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« Reply #36 on: November 03, 2012, 11:01:40 AM »

Partially off-topic, but I know that Protestants are very big on the literalistic approach to everything with Scripture. So my question to you is this, how do you interpret stories of genocide in the Old Testament and things that are scientifically impossible? Like Noah surviving inside of a fish or the 'sun stopping' for Joshua when in reality if something like that happened with the sun, the entire world as we know it would be changed. Isn't the main purpose about how we can take these stories--whether they literally happened in a particular way or not--and see how we can foresee Christ within it and learn a spiritual lesson from them?

Is it really impossible for God to "stop the sun" or stop the earth or stop a galaxy and at the same time prevent any impact on anything else? I'm come on really, it's seems that something of that sort would be a trivial matter for Him.

This. For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37)

Darwin himself made this mistake, and bought into a lot of the philosophy of his day. While he isn't an authority, i'll paraphrase another Orthodox layperson about Darwin. That although I believe in evolution (to an extent), the fact that Darwin's ideas suddenly were discovered during a time where philosophers were searching for an excuse to exclude God from creation is just too convenient.
Haven't philosophers always searched for a reason to exclude the supernatural?

No.
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« Reply #37 on: November 03, 2012, 11:32:25 AM »

Just because God can do something doesn't mean that he has or will do so.

The question is being dodged if you ask "did this really happen?" And the answer given is "Don't you believe God can do it?"
The question is not can God do it, but did he?

If you get caught up on the idea that the sun absolutely must have stopped, without question, your not thinking like the Fathers and that line of thinking is much more similar to Western Christianity, not Eastern.

Could God have created the earth in six literal days? Yes. But did God create the earth in six literal days a few thousand years ago? All evidence points to no, he didn't.

The literal interpretation of the Genesis account, from my view, actually is less of a display of God's power than modern ideas of evolution, geology and astronomy. Science is showing the universe to be extremely old, and extremely complex at every level, and yet it's all pretty much ordered. I find the evolutionary explanation to be far more of an illustration that God exists and created all things than a literalistic interpretation of Genesis would give.

If you look at the odds we have overcome according to science and math just to be here and be as we are, it's incredible. God didn't just leave everything alone at creation, and I think evolution and modern science is showing his involvement throughout creation. He is not a "God of the gaps" and we can't plug him into anything we don't know in science, but I think we can and must believe that his hand has been active this whole time, while also respecting his creation and letting it run its course.
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« Reply #38 on: November 03, 2012, 11:37:33 AM »

That something can be interpreted metaphorically (such as Jonah and the whale - see Matthew 12:39-40) doesn't mean it didn't happen literally as well.
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« Reply #39 on: November 03, 2012, 11:49:42 AM »

That something can be interpreted metaphorically (such as Jonah and the whale - see Matthew 12:39-40) doesn't mean it didn't happen literally as well.

Just because something is in the Bible doesn't mean it should be interpreted literally either.

We don't practice blind faith and blind adherence.

God interacts with his creation, but I think it has been shown that he doesn't completely go against it. If one focuses on how the story of Jonah and the whale must be literal, they aren't looking at it the right way and are missing the real point of the story.

It's almost legalistic. Like people who suggest that the epiclesis must be said for the gifts to become the body and blood of Christ, as if it were some hocus pocus formula that must always be said. This is where they fail to realize that the epiclesis didn't always exist and is unique to the Christian East.
Or like those who suggest we should respect and listen to Priests or Bishops because they have received the laying on of hands. They fail to realize that there isn't a formula that judges authority and orthodoxy, but rather adherence to the faith once for all delivered to us.

If Jonah wasn't literally in a whale for three days and three nights, what do we lose? Nothing.
If Adam wasn't a literal human being who you could travel back and touch and see, what do we lose? Nothing.

If we don't lose anything important by moving beyond the literal (or even disregarding it) then it isn't essential.

An example of a story that must be literal is the resurrection. If Christ didn't literally rise from the dead, what do we lose? Well, we lose everything, we are still in our sin and subject to death (eternal death).
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« Reply #40 on: November 03, 2012, 11:55:12 AM »

That something can be interpreted metaphorically (such as Jonah and the whale - see Matthew 12:39-40) doesn't mean it didn't happen literally as well.
God interacts with his creation, but I think it has been shown that he doesn't completely go against it. If one focuses on how the story of Jonah and the whale must be literal, they aren't looking at it the right way and are missing the real point of the story.

I never said anything about focusing on the literal aspect. I just said that a literal and spiritual interpretation isn't always mutually exclusive.

That something can be interpreted metaphorically (such as Jonah and the whale - see Matthew 12:39-40) doesn't mean it didn't happen literally as well.

An example of a story that must be literal is the resurrection. If Christ didn't literally rise from the dead, what do we lose? Well, we lose everything, we are still in our sin and subject to death (eternal death).

So we're looking for the bare minimum now?
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« Reply #41 on: November 03, 2012, 12:37:15 PM »

Just because God can do something doesn't mean that he has or will do so.

The question is being dodged if you ask "did this really happen?" And the answer given is "Don't you believe God can do it?"
The question is not can God do it, but did he?

If you get caught up on the idea that the sun absolutely must have stopped, without question, your not thinking like the Fathers and that line of thinking is much more similar to Western Christianity, not Eastern.

Could God have created the earth in six literal days? Yes. But did God create the earth in six literal days a few thousand years ago? All evidence points to no, he didn't.

The literal interpretation of the Genesis account, from my view, actually is less of a display of God's power than modern ideas of evolution, geology and astronomy. Science is showing the universe to be extremely old, and extremely complex at every level, and yet it's all pretty much ordered. I find the evolutionary explanation to be far more of an illustration that God exists and created all things than a literalistic interpretation of Genesis would give.

If you look at the odds we have overcome according to science and math just to be here and be as we are, it's incredible. God didn't just leave everything alone at creation, and I think evolution and modern science is showing his involvement throughout creation. He is not a "God of the gaps" and we can't plug him into anything we don't know in science, but I think we can and must believe that his hand has been active this whole time, while also respecting his creation and letting it run its course.


I can not disagree with anything you have said, I just don't know any of the evidence that says "it appears to be not literal"
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« Reply #42 on: November 03, 2012, 07:40:53 PM »

Interpretation of the Resurrection, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of Exodus, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of The Ten Commandments, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the The Prophet Daniel in the den of lions, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the entire Bible, literal or spiritual?

Get the picture here?  See the dangers?  See the problems?

(I wouldn't use Wikipedia for much of anything outside a starting point.)
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« Reply #43 on: November 03, 2012, 09:23:18 PM »

Interpretation of the Resurrection, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of Exodus, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of The Ten Commandments, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the The Prophet Daniel in the den of lions, literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego literal or spiritual?

Interpretation of the entire Bible, literal or spiritual?

Get the picture here?  See the dangers?  See the problems?

(I wouldn't use Wikipedia for much of anything outside a starting point.)

Actually no, I don't see the problem as an Orthodox Christian. You lump them all together as though there were uniform.

The Bible is a collection of a bunch of different writings by different people, at different points in time. On top of that, they were almost all edited after their original composition. None of them were written by God himself, and none of them were dictated by God himself. They form a cohesive unit only because we have put them as such, and because the Church has regarded them as holy writings.

Some things within Exodus and other books of the Bible are to be taken literally, and some spiritually/allegorically. Some are actually to be taken both ways. But they are not all to be interpreted every single way. They aren't a cohesive unit and aren't the exact same as one another.

Like I pointed out before, take a look at Isaiah's vision of heaven and the Book of Revelation. There may be a few things within those writings that can be taken literally, but a huge part of those writings are to be understood as allegorical and typological. In fact, Revelation almost didn't make it into the canon because people were taking it literally. Remember, it is the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) which declares what is canon, it isn't anything else. The scriptures aren't our source of authority, they are a part of the Church's "Holy Tradition" and don't stand above the Church, just as none of the Fathers or Saints stand above the Church.

What does the Nicene Creed say about this issue? All it says, is that "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible." In Greek: "Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων."

ποιέω, is the word that is translated "creator" or "maker" in English. The base word can mean make, do, cause, effect, bring about, accomplish, perform, provide, create, produce, yield, bear, put forth, give, prepare, keep, celebrate etc...

In effect, the Nicene Creed does not tell us how God created, but we are to believe that he did create all things. We aren't told that we must believe Genesis is literal or that we must believe evolution is true. We are given the ability to choose and form our theolegoumena, our theology opinion on the issue. Essentially, it doesn't matter how God created, but that he did.

That is what I'm trying to say here. There isn't a problem with people believing Genesis 1 & 2 describe how it was created. The problem is with people who believe that, and who believe that we absolutely must interpret Genesis in that way.

The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy and doesn't hold up in an argument. To say that if you don't literally interpret one thing, then that inevitably leads to a rejection of the literal interpretation of other things is the slippery slope fallacy. Look to the Nicene Creed, and you will see what is essential, and what isn't.

I don't care if people believe Genesis is literal, just as long as they don't insist that it must be that way and that it must be interpreted literally. Protestants are able to make this argument amongst themselves because their authority is the Bible and is shown by "Sola Scriptura" and the belief in the infallibility of all scripture. However, amongst Orthodox Christians, we don't hold such ideas, and our authority is Christ, who has granted the Church authority.
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« Reply #44 on: November 03, 2012, 09:52:42 PM »

At some point, it all becomes subjective to one’s own personal views (desires) as to what they want it to be.  Everything is open to interpretation and alteration, making it meaningless and thus nothing more than a philosophy for one to use as a guideline to lead a "nice" life.

In other words, it leads to the very thing you seem to despise about Protestantism.

None of them were written by God himself, and none of them were dictated by God himself.

Does anything we have fall into this category?  You seem to miss the point of inspired writing at the hand of God.

The scriptures aren't our source of authority, they are a part of the Church's "Holy Tradition" and don't stand above the Church,

They have the same authority as Tradition, or did you forget the two pillars on which the Church stands?  If what you say is true, why even keep them around due to their lack of importance?  According to what you say, they hold the same value as a moral teaching in Hindu.

Slippery slope is not a logical fallacy and we have thousands of denominations and false religions in the world to prove it.  Departing from historical Christian beliefs to fit into modern “enlightenment” leads to a dead faith.

I don't care if people believe Genesis is literal, just as long as they don't insist that it must be that way and that it must be interpreted literally.

What is funny about this statement is the truth is evidently opposite of the words as you are the only one fighting to be accepted as the one who holds the truth of the matter.  You are the one making this a debate.  All we are saying is, “You may not be right.”

The question I put forth is, "Who gets to say what is true, what is myth, and what is outright wrong?"  Anyone dumb enough to think they can speak individually as an authority figure on the mind of God and how He did things none of us were around to witness has some serious problems to work through.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 09:55:36 PM by Kerdy » Logged
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