Dalmatian Theology

dalmatian-puppy.jpgThey don’t refer to it as such, but many Christians teach a message of Dalmatian theology, whereby the Bible is only inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots.   (Hat tip to the Baptist pastor who coined this phrase. )

Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong (and unfounded) claims. 

It implies that God couldn’t, or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings, flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s alleged errors?   

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” pick and choose what they want to believe in.  Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable. 

If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask a few questions:

  • How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Do they think their favorite verses are inspired?  If so,  how do they know?  How about John 3:16?  How about “love your neighbor?”  Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians insist that Jesus didn’t really say that.
  • If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?

Here’s one I made up: Advanced Dalmatian Theology.  It is just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives .   They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement).  They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible.  They may also say foolish things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.”  Indeed.

But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like.  Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.

1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce and adultery.  We need to teach all of scripture with balance.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.   

There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures.  We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. 

I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

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67 Responses

  1. […] Did you know Dalmatians had their part in the bible? Well, actually it’s a theory coined by a Baptist pastor. No, I don’t know who, but the definition and explanation are available on the Bible1 blog. […]

  2. From what I understand there are a few different perspectives regarding inspiration and the bible:

    1. The bible is the inspired word of god, therefore we should accept all of it, not just parts, as true and accurate.

    2. Parts of the bible are the inspired word of god, and other parts are not.

    3. Men wrote the bible according to their spiritual understanding and experience.

    Let’s say #1 above is correct and we actually do have THE word of god at our disposal. What do we do with the various interpretations of this truth? Which preacher(s) or denomination(s) have truly determined the correct meaning of all the verses? Given that the perfect word of god is at our disposal, are there imperfect humans who have interpreted the divine verses without error? And if so, how would we know that they did/do intepret without error? #1 above seems to take the humanity out of the equation. This is very interesting.

  3. Hi Omkar,

    Those are excellent questions. It is true that some passages are controversial. But there is an art and science to Biblical interpretation that really cuts out a lot of the grey areas. If you click here and page partway down you’ll see a section titled “Tips on How to Read the Bible.”

    I have found that using a basic technique like reading the passages surrounding the verse in question helps me understand what is being said. There are good books like How to Read the Bible for All its Worth as well.

    God does leave open the possibility that we can misinterpret the Bible, but I don’t think He had any mistakes in the original writings.

    Does anyone have other tips or ideas on this?

  4. Thanks Neil…great referrences.

    But I don’t see the question being answered here. Others may use this same approach to interpretation but come up with a different interpretation.

    Your comment regarding the original writings is interesting. Would you say that one of these positions below is accurate?

    1. The entire bible is the inspired word of god. Humans were involved with creating (i.e. putting it into written language) the various books of the bible, and they did this without any error. Humans also interpret the scripture without error; they interpret it just as god meant it to be interpreted.

    2. The entire bible is the inspired word of god. Humans are imperfect and may or may not interpret the bible accurately.

    3. Men wrote the bible according to their spiritual understanding and experience. The bible describes both eternal (unchanging)truths (e.g. god is spirit; eternal life is attainable) as well as relative (changing) truths (e.g. how slaves should be treated; womens’ roles in the church).

    This is an important and interesting topic, and gives us a different angle/perspective on dalmation theology.

    Looking forward to your response, or response from others!

  5. Hi Omkar,

    I’ll think about this some more, but at first glance I think your #2 comes closest to describing it accurately. I might add that if people are sincerely interested in the proper understanding that there are countless ways to get there. It does take work, though.

    What do you think?

  6. I would agree that it takes work.

    I would be interested in reading your thoughts and responses to my interpretations of some biblical verses at ‘Light on the Bible.’

  7. A man I admire very much wrote the following:
    God’s representative to the world, the Apostle Paul, writes, “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). In this verse the Greek word ‘theopnuestos’ is literally translated as “God-breathed.” Sometimes the word is translated ‘inpired’. Naturally speaking, inspiration is the “act of drawing air into the lungs; inhalation.” The Old Testament sometimes speaks of God breathing into an individual to empower the person to action (Genesis 2:7; Job 32:8; Ezek. 37:8; John 20:22; Acts 17:25). With regard to the Bible, inspiration is the influence of God the Holy Spirit upon specially chosen men to influence the document they would produce on His behalf.

    Jesus said that God’s Word is truth. (John 17:17). Whatever God utters through His human writers is inerrant, without error. God does not stutter. He cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:18).

    Inspiration and inerrancy apply directly only to the Biblical autographs, that is, the manuscripts directly written by the prophets and apostles. Inerrancy and inspiration do not automatically extend to every copy and translation in existence. Many manuscripts have “variants,” that is, transcriptional errors caused by some copyists faulty hearing or error of sight. Translations do not possess “original” inspiration; such inspiration belongs only to the autographs. Present translations have a derived inspiration insofar as they are faithful renderings of the autographs. Copies and translations are the Word of God to the degree that they preserve the original message.
    None of the autographs are in existence today since they were written on quite perishable materials (papyrus) and also were subject to wholesale destruction by pagan authorities of the Roman Empire. Why didn’t God see to it that the original manuscripts survived if He wished the Church to have confidence in the inerrancy of His Word in its possession? Harold Lindsell gives a possible reason: “No doubt, God did not intend for the autographs to be preserved. They would have been accorded a treatment similar to that given to the Granth, the sacred spriptures of the Sikhs [in India]. That writing is virtually worshipped and kept encased in such a way as to place the Emphasis on the book rather than on God who lies behind it. Idolatry is hardly new, and we may be sure that the possession of the original books of Scripture would have been an incipient temptation to idolatrous worship” (The Battle for the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 36.)

  8. Rebecca,

    Are you saying that what we’re left with is human interpretation, reasoning, speculation? I’m curious to know which approach you might take when interpreting the bible. It sounds like you’re saying that the original scriptures, inspired by God (the ‘autographs’) are no more, and thus we’re left with….approximations?

    Thanks for your thoughts…looking forward to your reply.

  9. Hi Omkar,

    I tried your link (http://lightonthebibleatblogger.com/) and it gave me an error message. Is that the right link, or is the server down?

  10. Omkar,

    I’m sorry if I gave the wrong impression on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Not only do I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, I also belive it is inerrant. I believe most translations are very accurate in regards to translating from the original languages. I do not speak or read Greek and Hebrew but I know men who do. I am fortunate to belong to a church body which requires it’s pastors to go through formal schooling, and understanding the original languages is key. (Knowing proper emphasis and syntax is important in understanding Scripture as it was written to be understood.) As a Christian, I feel it important to be in Bible Study, with someone leading who has been educated in such matters. If one is not present, as is the case when I am having my own devotional time, I also feel that Scripture interprets Scripture. If one part of Scripture is hard to understand, God provides another part to explain it in another manner. (That’s the beauty of having more than one author of the Bible.) As a Christian it is important to study and question what the Bible teaches in order to gain a better understanding. However, I do not want to take away the element of faith. Jesus said this was His Word. Who are we to question its validity?

    In closing, because it is late and I need my sleep, I believe that Christ is the Church’s sole authoritative Word (John 6:63; John 14:6). Scripture is the Church’s sole authoritative Word. (Luke 16:29; Ephesians 2:20; 2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, there is no rigid boundary between the mode of revelation that is Scripture and the mode of revelation that is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Lord of the Church and God’s fullest and final revelation of the way to salvation, is the same Christ prophesied and proclaimed in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The written word has as its center the Incarnate Word (Word made flesh, that is Jesus Christ (John 1:1)). Because Jesus validated the written Word, the Bible is the Christian community’s only norm and guide for faith and life.

  11. Neil,

    If you go to blogger.com, you can then search for ‘Light on the Bible.’ The name of the blog is Light on the Bible. And actually if you search for ‘Light on the Bible Omkar’ it may be a little easier.

    omkar

  12. Rebecca,

    Wow. Thanks for the thoughtful response! A couple of things…

    1. Regarding inspiration: How do we make sense of this? Okay, the bible is the inspired word of god. What does that mean? Does it mean that god himself somehow wrote the bible, without human intervention/involvement? Or does it mean that humans wrote the bible based on their understanding and/or experience of god?

    2. I’d like to invite you to review and comment on my own interpretations of some verses from the bible. You can find it at blogger.com. Search for ‘Light on the Bible Omkar.’

    Looking forward to your thoughts.
    omkar

  13. Omkar,
    One of the men who I know, who can understand the Biblical languages, and has been through one of my church bodies seminaries, wrote the following. He was one of my college instructors and I admire him very much for his work in explaining the Doctrines of our church to someone such as me. I think his words might give a clearer understanding of what I too believe through my own studies of the Bible.

    INSPIRED BY GOD – Inspiration of the written Biblical text was effected directly through the creative power of the Triune God. Hebrews 1:1 attributes the revelation to the Father, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spken to us by His Son.” John 1:18 speaks of the revelatory work of the Son, “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” 1 Peter 1:11 speaks of the revelatory work of the Spirit, “they [the prophets] inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory.” 2 Peter 1:21 also describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the revelation and inspiration of God’s Word: “because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Thus God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit concurred in the external action that led to the unique Product, the inspired Spriptures. While the Triune God concurred in the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Third Person of the Trinity (Holy Spirit) is especially “attributed” with the act of the Scriptures’ production.

    HUMAN AUTHORS – God could have written the Bible directly just as He did the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32-34) and the words on Belshazzar’s wall (Daniel 5:5, 22-23). Or God could have caused angels to write it as they were somehow involved in the giving of His law to Moses (Exodus 20:19, Psalms 68:17; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19). Since His Word was going to humankind, God decided to channel that word through human beings also. In His gracious and divine Wisdom, God chose to include the goal of this book in its production, to bring about fellowship of God with sinful human beings.

    There is, thereby, a two-fold character/factor or agency in the production of the inspired text; there is a divine side to Scripture and there is a human side. In Matthew 2:15, when the Old Testament is quoted, the phrase used is “What the Lord has spoken by the prophet.” The book of Hebrews, when it quotes the Old Testament, uses phrases such as God “saying THROUGH David” (4:17).

    All of Scripture is divine in the sense of being the product that fully expresses to the world what God wants to reveal to the world. Scripture is also a totally human book in that it employs not supernatural, spiritual language, but human language, words, grammar, and syntax. In motivating the prophets and apostles to write His message to the world, God did not obliterate their personalities. “They wrote with full intent and consciousness in the normal exercise of their own literary styles and vocabularies.” (Geisler, 13) The Holy Spirit did not turn the human writers into mere dictation machines or secretaries. They were truly authors, whose life experiences and training the Spirit employed.

    Luke tells us he had done careful research for the production of his story of Jesus (Luke 1:14). The authors of Kings and Chronicles repeatedly refer to their sources. The Biblical writers also give expression to their own experiences, as, for example, the Psalmists who describe their personal sin, of the dangers they faced and God’s rescue they experienced.

    I hope this answers your questions. Sorry for any typos. By this time of the day my mind and fingers don’t work at the same speed.

    God Bless,
    Rebecca

  14. Omkar,
    I might consider responding to some of your blog entries, but I myself do not want to become a “blogger” in the sense that I’d have to create my own. The way your blog is set up now, I’d have to do that.

    Sorry.

    Rebecca

  15. Rebecca,

    I read two different ideas from your response.

    1. Inspired scripture comes directly from God and is then somehow known to human beings.

    2. Human authors were involved in the creative process of the scriptures.

    Regarding #1 — I don’t have any idea, from what your references have said, as to how this could be. If god’s message is not channelled or filtered through human understanding or interpretation, then how does it get from god to human beings.

    Regarding #2 — Here we are recognizing that human understanding and interpretation were a part of the creative process of the bible.

    Maybe there could be further clarification for “inspired by God” and “human authors.”

    Regarding your reviewing my blog. I don’t know why you would have to set up a blog of your own. I was thinking you could just make comments and have conversation like your doing on this blog.

    omkar

  16. Omkar,

    Regarding #1 – God puts us in a place and time in history to hear His word and share it with others. I have no doubt that He placed the authors of the Bible in their place in history and used their experiences to glorify Him in their words.

    Never underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit in providing us with a way to understand Scripture and a faith to believe it. I don’t know any other way to explain it. Even though it is good to question and search the truth in the Bible, there comes a point where we, as sinful human beings, need to stop relying on our own intellects and believe the Scriptures as true and inerrant just because God said so. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways highter than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    I feel in the end we need to be like Abraham and have faith in God and the words and promises He declares to us. Neil has made some recent posts concerning Genesis and Abraham. Perhaps if you follow along with that Bible study, some of these things might become more clear to you. I don’t know how much more I can help.

    In response to your blog – when posting a comment it asks for your blog address in order to publish it. Maybe there is a way to change that in your settings. Nevertheless, I really do enjoy the bible study time through this blog, but am limited in the amount of time I can take on it.

    Rebecca

  17. Indeed, we are fortunate to understand the scripture and have faith in it. God has truly blessed us with these things. I believe, though, that it is only for those of us who are without sin and who live in His perfection who truly receive His word and share it with others. May we all awake to His unbounded love and acknowledge His presence in all things.

    omkar

  18. Oh, btw…

    You don’t have to have your own blog in order to post comments on mine. Just enter a name and password.

    omkar

  19. Rebecca,

    After further consideration of your last post….
    It seems you (and/or the folks you referenced) have come to the conclusion that the bible is the inspired, inerrant word of god, but are not clear as to how this could possibly be. It doesn’t make sense to say that the bible is the word of god BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO. That you accept the bible as the word of god is clear. Why you accept it as the word of god is not clear.
    I accept the bible as the word of god. But I also take the perspective that humans were involved, very involved, in the creative process of the bible. While I take verses like ‘God is Love’ and ‘God is Spirit’ as absolute truth, I don’t think that what the biblical authors say about slavery or womens’ roles in the church are necessarily absolute truth. For that matter, I don’t think that any of the laws or mores discussed in the bible are absolute (I believe Jesus made that point when he healed on a Sunday). I hope that you will embrace this discussion and continue with the dialogue. I believe there is a logical way to come to the conclusion that the bible is the word of god. And I think you stopped short of coming to that conclusion.

    p.s. We know longer have to rely on faith in order to hold that the bible is the inspired word of god when we can clearly and reasonably see that it is so.

  20. Omkar, I’m not sure I follow this statement: “I believe, though, that it is only for those of us who are without sin and who live in His perfection who truly receive His word and share it with others.”

    Romans 3:23 teaches that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. None of us are without sin. If we claim to be, we call God a liar.

    You are correct that we shouldn’t just trust the Bible because the Bible says it should be trusted (that is circular reasoning). But there are many reasons to believe that the Bible is reliable and accurate. I’ll be blogging on that shortly and will post it here.

    In the mean time, this site has lots of good information on the topic: http://www.carm.org/bible.htm

  21. Neil,

    Yes, there are verses that clearly state that we are all sinners. But there are also those that clearly state that we can be holy, perfect, and without sin. Lv. 19.2 tells us to be holy as God is holy; Mt. 5.48 tells us to be perfect like God; Acts 22.16 and Rev. 1.6 tell us that God will wash away our sins; Even Paul himself says that those who believe in Christ, or are alive in Christ, are freed from sin (Rm 6.7). He says this again in Rm. 6.18 and 6.22. And again in Rm. 8.2 Paul writes that the law of the spirit of life in Christ sets us free from the law of sin and death.
    How do you interpret these verses?

    Omkar

  22. Neil,

    CARM is a great resource. Thank you.

    Omkar

  23. Hi Omkar – Here’s how I view those verses. I think they show that we can be free from sin, but the reality is that we all sin to some degree. We should certainly be sinning much less over time, but even Paul noted that he still did things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do things he should do. The directives to be Holy as God is Holy are what we should aim at, but I don’t think we ever get there permanently in this life.

    I also find this to be true in my own life. When I seriously think about what it means to love God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength, I wonder if I have ever done that 10 min. straight without a selfish though.

    I think this is one of those cases where we have to read the verses in light of other verses to fully understand the whole situation.

    Glad you liked CARM. I have learned a lot from them.

    Peace, and have a great weekend!

  24. In the light of all of this CARM-praising, I feel I must add a disclaimer.

    While its descriptions and such of Mormonism (as personally verified to me by an amateur Mormon apologist) are at least reasonably accurate, it is not a reliable source for Catholic teaching. [Which is no big issue, as there are plenty of Catholic websites and an online encyclopedia and catechism where you can read up on them.] Just be warned that theologically adept Catholics and neutral theologians well-educated in Catholic doctrine will tear you apart if you rely on CARM’s information.

    Anyway, carry on!

  25. Thanks, Hidden One. Do you have a website you recommend that is a good assessment of Catholic doctrine? I try to keep this site non-denominational, so all are welcome here. But I think it is useful to post good sites if people want to study further.

  26. Neil,

    I think it’s a matter of perspective. Any and every action could be considered a sin from some relative perspective. The bible, I believe, is encouraging us to take a spiritual (absolute, non-relative) perspective. This is how we can ‘free’ ourselves from the world and the sinful nature, by taking a spiritual perspective. Then we can see creation with a clear mind and a pure heart, and realize that “for those who are pure, all things are pure,” (Tt. 1.15), every thought, every action, every thing…all things. This is God’s creation. Ultimately, there is only His will.

  27. Thanks for the warning H.O.

  28. Omkar,

    I think we agree on those points, with the exception that I don’t think there is a single human alive who never sins. Do you think you have achieved a permanently sin-free state?

  29. Neil: “Thanks, Hidden One. Do you have a website you recommend that is a good assessment of Catholic doctrine? I try to keep this site non-denominational, so all are welcome here. But I think it is useful to post good sites if people want to study further.”

    Well, as long as you are asking…

    There are some imprimatured [for those who don’t know, that means effectively ‘guaranteed to be doctrinally accurate] articles on Catholic Answers (http://www.catholic.com/) The Catholic encyclopedia I mentioned is at http://www.newadvent.org, and is also imprimatur-ed. The online edition is a touch dated, but oh well. Naturally, the Catechism fo the Catholic Church (available here – http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/index.htm – among other places)is a great source for Catholic doctrine. Finally, Catholic Apologetics.org is a good resource as well, if it covers the topic you are searching for. Basically, if its imprimatur-ed, it is an accurate representation of Catholic doctrine. Aside from that, discretion is required.

    If someone is searching for a particular topic, I’d be quite willing to hunt down doctrinally-accurate material. Now, if you’re looking for an outside perspective on Catholicism, that’s an awful lot harder to find – sadly, most Protestant sites I have encountered mix ignorance with ill will. And, of ocurse, msot non-Christian sites are also like that. Personally, I’d advise interested parties to take the time and study the stuff personally. Whether you agree with it or not, it is a very interesting, and unique, read. But I go further and further off-topic, as I am prone to.

    [For the record, I’m not sacramentally Catholic.]

    Omkar: “Any and every action could be considered a sin from some relative perspective.”

    The one way I could see this being accomplished is with scandal, or inaccurate consideration.

    Also, your following bit seems to (unintentionally) allude to the concept of Christians being allowed to do anything, which I suspect is unintentional, and which I disagree with completely.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One.

  30. Neil,

    So there is no “freedom from sin” like Paul describes? No ‘freedom from the bondage of sin’ like you describe in your comments on Galations? No ‘freedom from condemnation for those who are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit?’ (Rm 8.1). I feel like Paul makes it very clear when he says that ‘the law of the Spirit makes us free from the law of sin and death,’ (Rm 8.2).
    As I stated before, I believe that if we judge ourselves and others by relative standards (e.g. community, city, national, or any other man-made laws and rules and customs, etc.) then we can never be free of error/sin. Such is life in the relative field of life –One can always make judgements and distinctions like good, bad, and worse, like righteous and evil, like right and wrong. But again, this is the way of the world, the way of the flesh and the worldly mind. But if we take a spiritual perspective, an “all things are pure” (Tt 1.15) and an “all things are of Him, to Him, and through Him” perspective, then we only see the activity of God, the will of God, and the glory of God. There is no sin in that.

    Omkar

  31. H.O.,

    I’d like to respond to your comment re scandal and inaccurate consideration, but I don’t understand it. Care to clarify?

    Regarding freedom from sin and freedom to do anything we want:
    Very good point; this is often the response I hear. But let me make it crystal clear from the get go. That someone is free from sin does not mean he/she can do whatever he/she chooses without consequence.
    ‘Freedom from sin’ comes from a spiritual (absolute, non-relative) perspective. We can live in spirit and at the same time live in the relative world. In spirit we are absolutely free from sin and imperfections. In the relative world, this is not the case. Nothing is perfect in the relative; there’s always better or worse, right or wrong, good or bad. Morals, rules and laws develop when folks have similar values and desire to cultivate these in a community. Inevitably, consequences follow when folks don’t follow the established rules of the community. So then, we can be free from sin, it’s bondage and punishment, from a spiritual (or what I like to call holistic) perspective, but at the same time we can be punished for a sin (breaking an established rule or law) by our fellow humans).

    I believe the bible indicates that we can live in both the spiritual and relative realms simultaneously. I’ve never heard any apologist, educator, pastor or anybody else ever talk about freedom from sin. The common line is that we are all sinners, but we are forgiven. I appreciate that perspective; we all do fall short of perfection, FROM A RELATIVE PERSPECTIVE (…not to shout, just to emphasize). But the bible also talks about God and Christ and Spirit living within us, it talks about the kingdom of heaven being within us, it talks about walking in the Spirit, it talks about conquering the sinful nature, it talks about seeing all things as they are created — PURE. What I read in the bible is about a transformation of the mind, taking a higher perspective, a perspective beyond limitations and imperfections. I read about becoming one with Christ and with God, so that it is no longer me, but Christ living in me. Why would we focus on condemnation, sin, mistakes, suffering, etc. when it is much more uplifting and edifying to teach about freedom, unbounded love, spirit, and all the other wonderful qualities found in His Divine Being?

    In the Light,
    Omkar

  32. Omkar, I do appreciate the point you bring up about our freedom from sin. I think we are too quick to forget that teaching and the power we have been given over sin. It would be a good daily reminder that we have that power if we will only exercise it.

  33. “I’d like to respond to your comment re scandal and inaccurate consideration, but I don’t understand it. Care to clarify?”

    To try and clarify my earlier remark, I present an example deed.

    A child walks into a church with his parents, and sits with them.

    The only way I see that being considered a sin would be if it was inaccurately considered a sin [it not being a sin], or, if, for whatever reason, it caused scandal – that is, it was done with the knowledge that it would impair someone’s walk with God [never mind that I don’t see how].

  34. Neil,
    From your perspective, what would it mean to exercise that power over sin?

    Omkar

  35. H.O.,
    So are you saying that under some circumstance a child walking into a church with his parents and sitting with them could legitimately be sinful? It sounds like that’s what you’re saying. Here are some possibilities that might make us think it to be a sinful act: The father of the child is carrying a bomb and will sacrifice his child along with himself and the rest of the church members because, for some reason, he thinks that this is what God wants him to do. Or, the child has a phobia of churches b/c of a history of abuse in a church, and after attending a service the child vomits and shakes violently for hours, causing damage and further trauma. The parents know this but believe that not attending church is unacceptable.

    In the relative field of life there are no absolutes…everything is relative/conditional. There are no absolute rights or absolute wrongs, so far as I can see.

    Omkar

  36. Oh, another way to look at…

    If it’s a Christian church then probably those who worship differently, Jews or Muslims for example, would think it was a sin. Maybe even some fundamentalist Christians would think that parents who take their kids to a Catholic service are sinning.

    Omkar

  37. “From your perspective, what would it mean to exercise that power over sin?”

    Good question. I’m having a tough time putting that into words. I guess it is mainly the reminder from scripture that Christians have been given this power so we can override or flee from temptations.

    Other thoughts?

  38. Neil,
    I appreciate your perspective and your sincerity.
    I’d like to continue to focus on this idea of sin, if you don’t mind. I recently re-responded to your comment on “The Soul” in my blog “Light on the Bible,” where we address the same topic.

    From what I can see, there are a couple of perspectives we can take when discussing ‘sin’– the relative perspective and the holistic perspective. From a relative perspective anything could be considered bad or anything could be considered good, depending on the observer or situation or circumstances, etc. Take war for example — is it bad or good? Well, most of us would probably agree that if the war is a necessary effort to defend ourselves against evil, then it is good. But if the war is an effort to destroy all that is good, then we would think it is bad.

    From a relative perspective we cannot escape good and evil. There will always be good and evil in the relative realm. Would you agree?

  39. Hi Omkar,

    I am not sure I follow your distinction of “relative.” If you mean that different situations may require different courses of action to act morally, then I agree. There can be just and unjust wars, for example.

    But “relative” in the sense of something being moral for one person but not for another given the same circumstances is not a Christian belief at all. This is commonly referred to as moral relativism and people use phrases like “there is no such thing as truth” when defending it. I assume this is not what you mean when you say relative but I wanted to be sure.

  40. Hi Neil,

    I just mean that anything could be considered to be good or bad, depending on the perspective.

    Can you think of any thing or action that could be considered to be absolutely (all) good, or absolutely (all) bad?

    Omkar

  41. “Can you think of any thing or action that could be considered to be absolutely (all) good, or absolutely (all) bad?”

    Of course. Disobedience to God is always wrong. Obedience to God is always right.

    ‘Sides, we all [should] know that what seems right to person X and what seems right to person Y have absolutely no effect upon what actually is right.

  42. Hi H.O.

    Regarding your comment “Disobedience to God is always wrong.”
    If I and many others learn from my mistake (my mistake being an act of disobedience to God), would we then say that that act of disobedience was all bad, that nothing good can be said of it? Can’t we learn from our mistakes? And doesn’t the fact that we can learn from our mistakes give mistakes at least some positive value?

    Re “Obedience to God is always right.”
    1. Doesn’t it depend on which God you’re obedient to? Allah, Krishna, Christ, etc? And if it depends, then ‘obedience to God’ can be considered good or not good.
    2. Further, what if one particular act of obedience to god at a certain given moment would somehow result in suffering for others? Let’s say, for example, that a misguided person was going to kill thousands of innocent people (God forbid) if I chose to pray this Sunday. It seems that that act of prayer would not be all good, considering the consequences it would bring.

    Omkar

  43. Hi Omkar,

    Learning from mistakes doesn’t make it good that you made the mistake. It just helps preventing future mistakes. You would still have been better off just obeying or learning from someone else’s mistakes.

    I like H.O.’s “obedience to God” example. I’m pretty sure he meant the real God (of the Bible), so your item 1 wouldn’t apply. If you wanted to ask item 1 to clarify the statement that would be reasonable, of course, but it doesn’t turn H.O.’s statement into something that is relative to the individual.

    Re. item 2, again, the issue isn’t whether there are different situations in life requiring different actions. Hitting someone in the chest is generally bad, but not so if you are performing CPR. But that isn’t relative morality, that is a unique set of circumstances. I think your examples are just highlighting that there may be extreme situations where you don’t do what you normally would. But that doesn’t mean morals are relative.

  44. Re: Neil’s comments

    Exactly.

  45. Hi guys,

    1. “Learning from mistakes doesn’t make it good that you made the mistake. It just helps prevent future mistakes,” (Neil).

    Is it good that making the previous mistake helps you prevent future mistakes? It sounds like your saying that mistakes do have some positive value.

    2. Okay, let’s re-phrase what H.O. originally said and say “Obedience to the real god is always good,” (the ‘real god’ now refers to the god of the bible, [which historically and even these days, by the way, is no crystal clear and absolute concept either. There are many different concepts even in christianity alone of god, and christ, and the holy spirit, and the trinity, etc. but we’ll just set that aside for now and simply say ‘the real god.’]).
    So my question is this. Is obedience to the real god always good?
    And my follow up question is the same. What if an obedient act to the real god resulted in thousands of innocent people suffering? Would you at least agree that that act was both good and bad — Maybe good for the individual who performed the act, but bad for innocent folks who have to suffer?

    The challenge is for you guys to come up with at least one thing or action that can be said to be absolutely/only/always good.
    Consider the above examples seriously and carefully.

    Omkar

  46. BTW,

    Re #1 above, I even had a teacher say one time that’s it’s good to make mistakes b/c that’s one way to learn. I would bet that if people think seriously about this idea, they will agree that they feel the same way.

    Omkar

  47. Omkar, I’ve forgotten the point of all this, but I’ll bite. Here’s something that is always, always, always wrong, no matter who does it and no matter where they do it:

    Torturing babies for fun is always wrong. (Hat tip: Grek Koukl, http://www.str.org)

  48. “Is it good that making the previous mistake helps you prevent future mistakes? It sounds like your saying that mistakes do have some positive value.”

    Actually, if I understand Neil correctly, that what we [I] was asking if you were doing, and we [I] are [am] not.

    “2. Okay, let’s re-phrase what H.O. originally said and say “Obedience to the real god is always good,” (the ‘real god’ now refers to the god of the bible, [which historically and even these days, by the way, is no crystal clear and absolute concept either. There are many different concepts even in christianity alone of god, and christ, and the holy spirit, and the trinity, etc. but we’ll just set that aside for now and simply say ‘the real god.’]).”

    Its crystal clear to me. Once you accept that somebody’s wrong, and it might well be you, and somebody’s right, and it probably isn’t you, life gets a lot less complicated.

    “And my follow up question is the same. What if an obedient act to the real god resulted in thousands of innocent people suffering? Would you at least agree that that act was both good and bad — Maybe good for the individual who performed the act, but bad for innocent folks who have to suffer?”

    Aside from, that’s kidn of like saying, “What if God told you to kill Him.” It’s not going to happen. That’s why the people are ‘innocent.’ The OT quite explicitly tells of the evils of everyone who gets slaughtered at the Lord’s command; innocents are not killed by His command.

    “The challenge is for you guys to come up with at least one thing or action that can be said to be absolutely/only/always good.
    Consider the above examples seriously and carefully.”

    I’ll stick with my original answer. Obeying God, that is, mine – [the one who goes by all those names listed here: http://www.ldolphin.org/Names.html%5D – is ALWAYS right.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One

  49. Neil,

    Re torturing babies for the fun of it. So, in your opinion, this could never be good?
    Do you think that people could learn something from it? For example, what if by observing such an atrosity, or by studying the minds and motives of the perpetrators, we learn how to prevent further abuse and at the same time improve the mental and emotional health of the perpetrators? Could we then say that we could find at least some positive value of that otherwise atrocious act? I would agree that the ideal would have been for the event not to have occured at all.

    Omkar

  50. Omkar,

    I’ve said all I can on this topic. If you can’t definitively say that “torturing babies for fun is always morally wrong” then I don’t know what to say to you.

    Peace,
    Neil

  51. Omkar, let’s try another tact.

    If I [intentionally] tell you something that is 99% true and 1% false, am I telling the truth?

  52. H.O.

    Okay, let’s try it. If you tell me something that is 99% true and 1% false, then (not to be funny) I would say that you were telling me mostly what is true (at least 99% of it) and something that is not true.

    Omkar

  53. So if I tell my mother that I’ve cleaned my room and done my homework, and I have not, in fact, cleaned my room, have I told a lie?

  54. Okay, I’ll go with the most likely answer and say “yes.” You are, at least, (intentionally, I assume) making her believe you’ve cleaned your room when you haven’t.

  55. Ah, but I have also told her some of the truth. [I have done my homework.] But it is still a lie. It is not the truth. The evil contains ‘good’, but the deed is corrupted by the lie, and made bad. For is not telling the truth [in this case, don’t get picky] a good thing?

    Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.

  56. A few points.

    1. You never asked if I thought what you did (telling a lie/truth) was right or wrong.

    2. You said yourself, “the ‘evil’ contains good,” which is the whole point here. Again, the point being that we can’t find anything that is absolutely good or absolutely bad. Apparently it’s all relative. Something might be good from one perspective but bad from another. You still have not come up with a thing or action that we can conclude is absolutely good or absolutely bad.

    3. “Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.”
    That’s right, the glass is either half full or half empty. So which is it?

  57. “1. You never asked if I thought what you did (telling a lie/truth) was right or wrong.”

    Maybe I should have made clear that what you or I believe about reality has absolutely nothing to do with what reality actual is. In consequence, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ is reason enough to say that lying is a sin. [And therefore wrong/evil.]

    “2. You said yourself, “the ‘evil’ contains good,” which is the whole point here. Again, the point being that we can’t find anything that is absolutely good or absolutely bad. Apparently it’s all relative. Something might be good from one perspective but bad from another. You still have not come up with a thing or action that we can conclude is absolutely good or absolutely bad.”

    I also said it myself that the evil corrupts the good and makes it bad. [In the same way that salt, having lost its saltiness, is no longer of any use.] And, yes, I have. Serving God is always good, and disobeying Him is always bad.

    “3. “Something is right, or it is wrong. Period.”
    That’s right, the glass is either half full or half empty. So which is it?”

    Where do you get the ‘glass’ thing from? It seems an entirely inappropriate analogy to me… could you explain?

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One

  58. Re #1 and #2 above:
    So are you saying it’s never right or moral to bear false witness?

    Re #3:
    The point here is that you’re saying there are absolutes, where I’m saying we haven’t found any absolutes. Further, I’m saying that right and wrong is a matter of perspective, just like seeing a glass of water as half full, or half empty, is just a matter of perspective. The analogy might not regard ethics, but it does make the point re absolutes.

    I feel your passion about things being either right or wrong (period). But I just haven’t seen any situation where we can’t find some good or some bad.
    If salt goes bad, then maybe it’s no longer good as a spice, but couldn’t it serve another purpose?. Or, what if someone learned from the experience of the salt going bad, and now they won’t allow it to spoil anymore. The possibilities could be endless.

    “Serving god is always good.” Please give an example of service to god.

    “Disobeying god is always bad.” Please give an example of disobeying god.

    Tt 1.15 says, “to those who are pure all things are pure, but to those whose minds are corrupt, nothing is pure…” (I paraphrase).
    As I intepret this verse, we’ll never be able to realize this if we can’t see that good and bad are a matter of perspective.

    Omkar

  59. Omkar, you seem absolutely sure that there are no absolutes, so there is an absolute for you.

    Seriously, what is the end result of your concerns about absolutes versus grey areas? Is there a practical implication in your life, or is this just a theoretical thing you wonder about?

  60. Yes, good point Neil. But I’ve tried not to sound absolute about it (though I may have). But I tried to state my position in not so absolute terms. For example, I didn’t mean to say that there are no absolutes re right and wrong (maybe I did say that by mistake), but rather that I have not found any absolutes re right and wrong.

    The practical application for me is that this kind of intellectual exercise opens us to the possibility of seeing all things as ‘good,’ the way god created/creates them. It also allows us to see all things as pure (again, Tt. 1.15). It gives us the ability to remove negativity from our hearts and minds, to be less judgmental, and to be more accepting of others and others’ ideas. I believe it opens us more to the unlimited intelligence that is offered through god. It makes us more creative and flexible in our thinking, because we are able to see things not just as good, or bad, but as useful. If I were abused as a child and I only saw that as a bad thing, then I would be stuck with something bad. But if I can see it as something that I had to go through so that I could learn from it, become stronger and learn to rely more on god and his will, and maybe even help others who may suffer through their own challenges, then I am no longer with that burden, but more blessed. In short, it allows us to think more positively.

    I hope this offers some clarity.
    Omkar

  61. Thanks, Omkar. I am all for making good out of bad. That is one of the fabulous things God does in redeeming us. I just don’t see how the “there are no absolutes” thinking plays into it. It is absolutely true that God can and does make good come out of bad. It is absolutely true that we should not judge hypocritically, that we should be forgiving, etc.

  62. Omkar, I have very little time at the moment, but I would like to respond, so I’d like to pint out soemthign that’s been bugging me for awhile.

    When an act is listed as good or evil, in order to alter that, you add in details. Stuff that wasn’t there before. I’m sure that if you asked about whether such details were intended to exist in all of our examples, [at least mine], you would find that they did not.

    Go ahead – ask away. Given only the information I have supplied, you can add details such that my examples are not what they are intended to be. But they are my examples, so that’s my privilege. Feel free to ask if certain details of your own devising are or are not true in my examples. Then do what you will.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Hidden One

  63. Sounds like a plan, H.O.

    Are you going to provide an example of an act or thing that is absolutely good or absolutely bad? (I wasn’t clear on that part of your plan).

  64. Here’s my original example:

    “A child walks into a church with his parents, and sits with them.”

    I’ll pre-answer a couple questions: neither the child nor his parents are or ever were terrorists or criminals. The child is allowed to sit with his parents, and by doing this he does not deny anyone else a seat. He will go on and participate in the service as best he can, and will not be unruly or be a distraction. O, and just to make it clearer – his parents had told him to go to church with them and sit with them, and he immediately complied.

    For the record, this is a GOOD act.

  65. Okay.

    But honestly, it sounds like what your doing/saying is this:
    This is a good act. Why? Because I just labeled it as good.
    My question is this: Could this possibly be considered or perceived as a negative act? The details that you describe might be the details according to one person’s perspective, but not necessarily everyone’s perspective. This is typically the case…people see things differently. You can say that peoples’ perspectives don’t change what REALLY is or what REALLY happened, but tell me how we determine what really is or what really happened outside of people’s perspectives or analyses. And the thing is, if this action (just as you described it, without added details or any details taken away) can be considered negative from anyone else’s perspective, then it can be said not to be absolutely good. For example, many folks think that religion is responsible for alot of the problems we have faced historically and even these days. Certainly they would view that specific act you describe as ‘not good.’ Regardless of my opinion about the value of church, the act you described above could be (and most likely is) seen as both good and bad relative to one’s perspective and values.
    If you’re response might be “Things are good or bad regardless of perspectives or values or anything else” then please tell me how we determine their value as good or bad. If your response to this is “Things are either good or bad because god or the bible says they are,” then this sounds to me like your saying, again, “This is good because I say so.”

    Omkar

  66. “If you’re response might be “Things are good or bad regardless of perspectives or values or anything else” then please tell me how we determine their value as good or bad. If your response to this is “Things are either good or bad because god or the bible says they are,” then this sounds to me like your saying, again, “This is good because I say so.””

    Things are good or bad because the Church says they are bad becuase the Bible and Sacred Tradition both say they are bad.

    😀

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