Is Thinking Oneself To Be “Good” Equating Oneself With God?

QUESTION

Isn’t it true that the moment he says that he is ‘good’ he equates himself with God?  Isn’t it true that no mortal being can deem himself to be ‘good’ without PRIDE taking over?

ANSWER

Thanks for writing.  (My return email to you failed because your server rejected it.)  I have some thoughts that are going into a book I’m currently writing about common failures in our thinking.  I think this is very relevant to our discussion.

One of the most common thinking errors people make is what we call overgeneralization.  Think of statements like these:

  • “You’re ALWAYS late.”
  • “You NEVER get it right.”
  • “All politicians are crooks.”
  • “All whites are racists.”
  • “All blacks are thieves.”
  • “All cops are brutal.”
  • “All people killed by cops deserved to be killed.”

These kinds of statements come from taking thinking shortcuts.  In effect, what someone who thinks this way has done is to reason in this manner: “Well, I’ve seen enough crooked politicians to decide that they’re ALL crooked.”  So he’s taking a shortcut. And he’s cheating.  He doesn’t think he has time for highly-honest-and-rational-and-responsible thoughts like these:

  • “I have no way of knowing whether there are any honest politicians or not, but I sure do notice a lot of crooked ones, and it makes me wonder if they are ALL crooked.”
  • “As far as I know, there could be some non-crooked politicians that never get shown on the news, so I just don’t even know who they are.”

No, the “cognitive miser”—the guy who is stingy with expending time and energy necessary for excellent thinking—just doesn’t want to get into covering all the possibilities.  Instead, he just finds it much easier to say that “all” politicians are crooks, and to be done with the matter.

OK, so there’s the principle, but what does that have to do with Christianity and God and goodness?

The fact of the matter is that many (if not most) of us are suckers for overgeneralizing when it comes to talking about human character.  We want a simple chart with three columns.  The first column would have the names of the particular people in question.  (Say, “Hitler” or “Jesus” or “Jimmy Carter” or “Booker T. Washington”.)  The second column would be titled “Good”, and the third column “Bad”.  And we would want to see a check mark EITHER in the “good” or the “bad” column for each person listed in the first column.  That’s how we tend to think—unless we are well trained and highly disciplined.

Take Joseph Stalin, for example.  The first thing many people want to check when they see his name is “bad”—and truly, he did very many bad things.  But I also happen to know that his daughter, many years later, would go on and on about what wonderful times she had had sitting with her father and listening to performances of German art songs on their Victrola.  This surprises nearly everybody, because they have defaulted to thinking that there was NOTHING good about Stalin.  But this is simply not the case.  Even though he was extremely evil in many ways, there were some good things about his life and habits.

Similarly, some (not all) in Christianity have jumped on the bandwagon of folks like Martin Luther and John Calvin, who erroneously opined that nothing about a human is good.  This, too, is an overgeneralization, and it simply is not accurate.  Luther said in his hearing at Worms, “I, scum that I am, [am] capable of naught but error….”  Well, that may sound “humble” or “pious”, but it is a senseless and self-contradicting statement.  Indeed, if he really understood what he was saying, he’d have had no reason to say it at all, for it could not possibly be correct. And if he knew it to be true, then he would also have to expect that it, too, would be an error, since he’s saying he’s incapable of anything but error.  So it could not possibly be true.  But Luther wasn’t reasoning this out.  Rather, he was saying it for other reasons unknown to us—for motivations other than wanting to be honest/rational/responsible in his every thought and belief.  He may have thought, for instance—and I don’t know this, so I’m just speculating for the sake of discussion here—that he was saying this in the interests of being “humble”.  But if this were the case, he did not understand that authentic humility is also honest, rational, and responsible in all matters, in thought and word and belief and action.

So his idea, too, is an overgeneralization.  What Luther was thinking about deserved some more careful thought than he gave it—the sort of thinking that burns up more energy in the mind than many are accustomed to burning—things like these:

  • “Well, it’s true that I mess up quite often, but to be honest, I’m not wrong about EVERYTHING.”
  • “Before I buy into the idea that I am wholly incapable of getting anything right, I should test that idea.  Let’s see, my socks match today, so I got that right.  And when I came to work, I ended up at the proper address, so I got that right.  And when the clerk gave me too much change, I settled it honestly, so I got that right”, etc.

The fact of the matter is that it’s highly unlikely that any of us is totally wrong about everything—cognitively or morally.  Even axe murderers can hold doors open for old ladies, and they can correctly memorize which cable channel EPSN comes on.  So it’s not like their minds and morals are incapable of working.

Probably the better measure of a person, therefore, is to look at how many things he does right and how many he does wrong—-and then to look at what sorts of things he does right and wrong (namely, at the moral importance and weightiness of those things).  But the answer one gets from this sort of thorough analysis of a man’s life is much more complicated that simply  picking whether to put a checkmark by his name in either the “good” or the “bad” column.

With God and Jesus, it is by no means an overgeneralization to say that they are “good”, for they have zero compromises in their characters, in their behaviors, in their pasts, and so forth.  There is no exception.  But call any man “good” or “bad” and we can find lots of exceptions to such overgeneralization.

To your point about pride—–Pride, too, is an overgeneralization—an un-sober estimate of one’s own knowledge, skills, abilities, or status.  It often requires a deliberate negligence to whatever may be wrong with the man.  It is a way of thinking that God finds morally deficient and wrong.  It is dishonest, irrational, or irresponsible (and maybe all three) to think wrongly of oneself.

A similar thing happens with the two biases that cognitive scientists call “the devil effect”, by which a certain vilified person  is believed to be incapable of doing anything right, and “the halo effect”, by which a certain favored person is believed to be incapable of doing anything wrong.  The latter is what historians call “heroification”—where the faults of certain historical figures—say, George Washington, for example—are ignored in order to make a convenient hero of the figure. Indeed, this heroification even happens with historical narratives about nations (such as the United States), as well as with historic figures.

Well, all this is mental cheating.  It is shortcut thinking, irresponsible to the full set of facts.  And if this is the sort of thinking we tend to do about ourselves, it makes it very easy for an attitude of brazen pride to develop.

I do not believe it is proud, however, for a man (or woman) to think, “That was a very good thing I did.”  The only way this would be patently proud is if the thing having been done were not indeed good.  But if it’s true, it’s true.  Billy helps a fallen man get up again.  This is good and Billy knows it.  In fact, the very reason Billy did it in the first place was because he believed it to be the good and proper thing to do.

A humble Billy, therefore, will think things like this:  “I just did a good thing in helping that man up, and it makes me wonder just how often I go out of my way to be kind like that, for I am certainly aware of moments when I chose not to help those in need.”  He will not tell himself anything false about it, however.  He will avoid thoughts like, “Sure, I did a good thing, but I’m still an evil person.”  Or, “I may have done a good thing, but it was probably for some bad motive in my heart that I did it.”  Or, “Sure, I did a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything good in my heart.”  It would be dishonest of him to dismiss the good deed as anything but the good deed that it was.  He need not lie to himself in order to be righteous in his thinking about himself.  Indeed, isn’t the contradiction there obvious?  Even so, many have a way of thinking that is just that twisted.

So many are suckers for this all-or-nothing way of thinking about human morality.  It’s just such an easy way of thinking, it suits a great many people, even if it is not an accurate way of thinking.  And this really messes up Christians who are trying to understand the teachings of the Bible.  They opt for this system of “total depravity”, even though it simply doesn’t fit all the evidence.

I hope this helps you to see what my thoughts are on the subject.

 

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Translating Hebrews 11:1–Substance, Basis, Assurance, or Confidence?

QUESTION

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now, faith is the ________ of things hoped for….”  Which of the following words should best fill in the blank?:

  • Substance
  • Basis
  • Assurance
  • Confidence

ANSWER

Thanks for writing.  I do not remember having looked into this question before, so I just looked up the Greek as a first step, and I find that the word in question is ὑπόστασις (hupostasis).  In literal usage, it refers to the foundation upon which something is built—such as the foundation under a house.  Literally, hupo means “under” and stasis means “to stand”.  It was used, therefore, in the sense of that which stands under something else.

So I think the most responsible interpretation from your list below is probably “basis”.  Sadly, it seems that most translations do not like it rendered this way, and they prefer to use one of these other terms.  I believe, however, that this significantly changes the meaning of the sentence, and causes them to misunderstand Paul.

Here’s what I think he’s staying.  (This is my paraphrase as I understand it.)

“Now faith is the foundation under those things that we are expecting…”

When read this way, it implies that if that faith (foundation) is missing, the expectations will fail.  This idea is consistent with a few passages that come quickly to mind regarding the necessity of faith. Ask me if you’re interested and I’ll list them for you.

Anyway, we can test my interpretation by looking at the very context of the chapter from which we are reading:

11:2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. Note that this seems to suggest that those of old would not have received their commendation (that commendation for which they are expectantly waiting/hoping) unless they had this faith (this “foundation”) underlying that expectation.

 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 
The writer seems to suggest that had Abel’s faith not been in play, he would not have offered a better sacrifice, nor would he have been commended.

There are several other such arguments made in this chapter, all similar to this—that the good things expected came about as promised because of the faith held by those who believed, and that they would not have happened had those people not continued to rely on the promises.

But this interpretation is quite far from the “substance” notion carried by so many of the translations.  They suggest that faith itself is indeed the very “substance” of what is hoped for—as if the actual/literal promises having been made by God were not of primary importance, but that the fulfillment of the whole plan was simply that people should believe that they would receive them.  There are lots of problems with this, logically, linguistically, philosophically.  For starters, it sets aside the whole theme of the reliability of God’s promises, and rather, makes Christianity into some manner of “positive thinking” religion, rather than a reality-based expectation of the straight-forward fulfillment of what all was promised.

The text of Hebrews 11 seems rather clear to me when it says:

11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

It plainly states that these people did indeed have the faith when they died.  So if faith is itself the very substance of the expectation/hope, then they would
have to have received what God intended for them to have.  But we see that it was yet future as of the time of this writing, and had not yet been fulfilled.  Indeed, the writer does not say:

“These all died in have, having not received the things promised, but having received something better—the faith itself.”

No, that would be some sort of bait-and-switch religion.  So I don’t like the “substance” idea.

Nor do I like the “assurance” idea.  A common definition of assurance is as follows:

a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.

If one’s faith is indeed defined as this manner of positive declaration, it’s really more of a self-help type of thing—a focus of talking oneself into something, rather than of being convinced and motivated by the promise of God himself.  But faith is not mere mental assent.  No, the word in the Greek (pistis) signifies a deliberate reliance, and not the mere holding of this or that notion.  No, the faith written of in the Bible was not like some “have faith” today.  Rather, it was highly rational.  That is, “God promised X, so I’m going to rely on that to be true, and to act as if it is true.”

So with that in mind, I bolster my interpretation of vs. 1 thus:

“Now, relying on God is the foundation underneath receiving what we are expecting because of the promises he has made….”

Thus, if that reliance goes away, so should the expectation.  And does not James agree with this in the spirit of this statement?:

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Note that without the faith/reliance, the expectation has no appropriate basis in James’ mind.

Regarding the final choice you offered, “confidence”, I see no linguistic basis for that choice, either.  It’s somewhat synonymous with “assurance”, and has the same problems, as well.

I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know what you think.

Jack

 

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Can A Human Be “Good”? Understanding Jesus’ Words in Mark 10:18

Here’s the passage that so many take as a concrete rule that cannot be broken, from the words of Jesus himself:

Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (ESV)

Many will read this and take it as a clear statement of irrefutable doctrine—that humans simply cannot be good.  Now, the Greek word for “good” here is agathos (ἀγαθός).  You can read all about it here. But I’d like to start this article right away by giving you a reason to pause before continuing on in the traditional understanding of this saying of Jesus.  That is, I think some more thinking is in order to determine just what he meant to convey here.  And why is that?  It’s because agathos is used many times in the New Testament to speak of humans (other than Jesus)—so it appears that the authors of these passages did not seem to be working under the doctrine assumed by so many who read Jesus’ statement today.  Let’s take a look.

Matthew 5:45b  …For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good (agathos), and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
What sense would it make to speak of the evil and the good if there were no good humans?

Matthew 12:35 The good (agathos) person out of his good (agathos) treasure brings forth good (agathos), and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
Why say this at all if it were impossible that there could be a good human?

Matthew 22:9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good (agathos). So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Why include good people in the parable if Jesus knew that good people do not exist?

Matthew 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good (agathos) and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
The servant in this parable is both good and faithful.  Why would Jesus include such a character in a parable if such a character were impossible in the real world?

Luke 8:7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good (agathos) soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This is from the parable of the sower, and we know that the “soils” here represent humans.  Why would Jesus tell a parable about some bad and some good humans if he knew that no humans are good?

All these examples are from the mouth of none other than Jesus.  So if it is truly the case that it is impossible for a human to be good, then it would seem quite clumsy of Jesus to give the exact opposite impression on so many occasions!

But it doesn’t stop with Jesus.  It continued with his authorized apostles and prophets, who seem also to have believed that it is possible for a human to be good:

Luke 22:50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good (agathos)and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God.
Luke wrote this–the same Luke who recorded another report of the statement of Jesus that started this whole discussion.  (See Luke 18:19.)  Yet Luke comes right out here and calls Joseph of Arimathea a good man.  Are we to believe that Luke felt some cognitive dissonance as he wrote this, knowing full well that Jesus himself had declared it impossible that Joseph could have been good?  Or could it be that Luke did not take Jesus’ previous words as so many today take them?

Acts 11:22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good(agathos) man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
Again, this is Luke, and here he calls Barnabas “good”.

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good(agathos) person one would dare even to die—
Why would Paul write about someone daring to die for a good person if he believed that it were impossible that a good person could exist?

Titus 2:4 …admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good (agathos) , obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (NKJV)
Paul commands that the young women were to be taught to be good.  How cruel would it be to teach them this if it were impossible for them to accomplish?
(Interestingly, although agathos is used here quite typically as an adjective–and not in any unusual way–many translations refuse to render it as “good”, as they do in so many other instances of the word.  This is intriguing, and ought to be investigated.)

Again, if these passages are to be taken into account before we develop an opinion on the subject, it would seem that the New Testament writers not only believed that humans could be good, but called them to do exactly that!

Further, we can find many passages both calling them to and expecting them to do good (agathos) works.  Similarly, there are many passages that seem to speak plainly of how it was the normal business of Christians to have and to keep a good (agathos) conscience before God.  We could investigate all this, of course, looking to find some way in which it is all a misunderstanding, and in which it would turn out that the popular view of Jesus’ “God alone” passage is the right view, but the evidence is just too great that he did not mean by those words what so many think he meant.

Is this not clear at this point–with all these other passages to the contrary in view?  And if he did not mean what so many assume that he meant, then this raises yet another question:  What did he mean?  Why would he utter those words to that “rich young ruler”?  Well, if you want to be certain about that, you’re going to have ask Jesus, since we are nowhere told why he said it.

I will say this, though.  If we’re going to take him as giving some concrete doctrine that no one but God can be good, then his words immediately raise the problem of “But what about Jesus?”  Immediately, we have to understand him as having said these words in one of two ways:

  1. He was saying that he (Jesus) was not good.  Or,
  2. He was implying without coming right out and saying it, that he was himself God in the flesh, and that the man was right to call him good.

Some may favor the first explanation, but I find it highly objectionable, for it would have Jesus lying about his own nature.  This would be blasphemous for one who was the very embodiment of God himself.  And if I’m right about that—if this would have been an impossible thing for a righteous Jesus to intend to convey—then the right answer must be the second answer, or some third alternative that has not come to my mind yet.

This saying of Jesus, however, has that unfortunate-for-us feature by which it purports at first blush to be an ordinary statement of fact.  What shall we do when our wider study of Jesus’ teachings makes it plain that he himself did not believe that may seem to be a matter-of-fact statement that came from his own lips?

Well, that puts us in a quandary, doesn’t it?  Could it have been a manner of speaking that was common in their culture, yet foreign to ours?  Could it have been that Jesus was reciting a common-but-erroneous saying “No one is good except God alone”—a saying that this rich young ruler would have found quite familiar?  Indeed, he does ask the man “Why do you call me good?”  So he’s technically questioning the man’s choice of words, and not the fact of his own goodness.  Or could it be that something in Jesus’ vocal inflection when he said this would have given us further clues as to his meaning?

Who knows?  But all this goes to show something that I have said and written again and again:  The Bible is not a complete record of everything that was said, done, taught, and believed.  It does not contain all the information required to answer every question that naturally arises from the reading of what it does contain.  That is simply not the nature of this set of documents, and this passage is a prime example of that.

But it’s just such a convenient passage if you are of the sort who really likes the idea that it is impossible for humans to be good.  Indeed, that erroneous model of understanding is championed by many teachers and preachers in this last few centuries—and may well have been championed by some in Jesus’ day as well, as far as we know.  I find that idea, however, to be contrary to the body of language of Jesus and his apostles and prophets.

So what did he mean?  Well, I’m still working on that myself.  If he meant by it, however, to contradict the rest of his teachings on the subject, as well as the teachings of his apostles and prophets, then we have a really serious problem regarding his authenticity as the messianic authority.  Surely Jesus would know the truth as to whether humans can be good or not.  If he were confused on the question, therefore, the whole claim of divinity falls seriously into question.

I could go on and on about speculations as to his meaning, but perhaps its best to leave this topic for now with an “I don’t know for sure.”  That way, perhaps it can sink in a bit that just because a saying might seem to make perfect sense within our model of understanding, doesn’t mean that that’s what the author or speaker meant by it.

So for those who have grown up being taught that it is impossible for humans to be good, all these other passages seem to suggest that you need to rethink that position, as well as other related positions that may be dependent upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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List of Common Bible Student Biases

The following list is a work in progress, so please be patient as it takes form.

Common thinking errors are frequently the result of “cognitive biases”—tiny “programs” of thinking that kick in in certain circumstances, and that predictably lead to erroneous conclusions in certain circumstances.  Example:  Billy was once robbed by an Italian, so he has since trained himself that “all Italians are thieves”.  Every time he sees or hears about an Italian, this thought (“all Italians are thieves”) comes immediately to his mind.  Obviously, however, not all Italians are thieves, so Billy is going to be wrong fairly often when he draws his conclusions about specific Italians from this bias.

What follows is a list of similar micro-programs that I have have observed in the way some folks think about the Bible and its contents.  Eventually, I’ll include some comments for all of what follows, but early on in this project, it may simply be a list.

  1. If I were wrong about my interpretation of this passage, I would know it.
  2. If something in the Bible were really, really important, the Bible would say so.
  3. If a Bible prophecy were fulfilled already, the Bible would record the fulfillment of it.
  4. If I don’t understand a passage, it’s probably not all that important.
  5. If it’s not in the Bible, I don’t need to know it.
  6. Everything I need to know is in the Bible.
  7. If something really important had happened (in Bible times), it would be in the Bible.
  8. If an interpretation feels wrong, it must be wrong.
  9. If an interpretation feels right, it must be right.
  10. If I can imagine something that seems to fit the words of a passage, then whatever I imagine must be a proper understanding/application of the passage.
  11. Psalms are “just poetry”, and should not be taken too seriously as a source of useful information.
  12. All Hebrew writings in the Bible are examples of parallelism, and therefore, the second of each pair can be dismissed as not adding anything further to what the first added.
  13. The Bible is complete in the information it gives.
  14. Everything in the Bible was put there by God.
  15. No scripture that was ever written failed to make it into the Bible.
  16. No scripture exists except what is in the Bible.
  17. The Bible was written “to us”, and should be read as if we were the primary audience God had in mind.

 

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People Who Do Not Delight in God Do Not Study

I recently ran into Psalm 111:2.  It says this:

Psalm 111:2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

Could it be that simple?  Could it be that the reason so many Christians don’t really study the Bible is that they simply do not delight in God?

Well, I decided to start a list (here) of passages that seem to relate to the one above.  Check back from time to time to see what I may have added.

Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
    or see the work of his hands. 
13 Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;[f]
their honored men go hungry,[g]
and their multitude is parched with thirst.

Were these people drunkards because they lacked any regard for God’s works?  Is that what we’re going told here?  Was their “lack of knowledge” related to their lack of regard for God’s works?

Psalm 28:3 Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
    or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

In the next passage, we see the proactive philosophy of someone who delighted in God—someone who took the time to memorize the words of God:

Psalm 119:10  With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

David continues concerning his delight in God’s words, showing quite specifically that he also delighted in God’s works and spent time meditating on them:

Psalm 119:27  Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

Psalm 92:5 How great are your works, O Lord!
    Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
    but you, O Lord, are on high forever.

In the first of the two passages above, we see the godly man wishing to understand God’s precepts and meditating on the same.  In the second, we are instructed that “the stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this”.  I believe that “stupid” and “fool” are used of voluntary states—attitudes that one adopts voluntarily, and from which one could repent if he wanted.

Revelation 15:2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant[a]of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

Great and amazing are your deeds,
    O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations![b]
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Is it any coincidence that those who had conquered the beast are among those who find the works of God to be “great and amazing”?

Why don’t more people study about God’s works and his ways?  I think they have decided not to care.  They delight in other things, but not in God.  For example, they may well delight in the social aspects of “church”, but have no interest in God himself:

Isaiah 5:12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands.

 They don’t mind having gatherings in his name, but when they’re there, their concern is for something else entirely.

 

 

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Origin of the Spirit of Man

Rick , you asked about the idea that God supplies a spirit for each infant born.

The nature of the Bible is that it contains few expositions.  Much of what can be gleaned from it must be gathered from matter-of-fact comments interspersed within its pages.  This makes it difficult for us, because we never know whether this or that nugget hinges on a bad assumption of ours, or on a bad translation, or on a word that has since been co-opted into some new meaning.

Anyway, here are some nuggets that might support this idea.
====================

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

====================

Psalm 139
++++(Without delving into all of this, notice that some of this happens “in my mother’s womb” [13] and some of it “in the  lowest parts of the earth” [15].)++++

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[b]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

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Hebrews 12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

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Zechariah 12:1 The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

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Psalm 71:20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up ****again****.

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There may be more such hints in the Bible, but I have spent several hours mining these (over the last couple of years), and I suspect that if there are more, there are not many—and they don’t make use of the words spirit, depths, formed, etc.

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On the Perils of Ascertaining “Biblical Principle”

A great many things can be learned by reading the Bible.  A great many more can be learned by studying the Bible exhaustively and repeatedly.  And further still, such study leads us to come to grips with the incomplete nature of the scriptures in a way we could never realize as mere casual readers.  I must stress, however, that very, very few people ever study at this level.  Instead, most remain quite ignorant of the incomplete nature of the scriptures, even though we may witness that nature by observing the behaviors of those who are ignorant of it.  Let me explain. Continue reading

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“Thus Death Spread To All Men”

Romans 5:12  Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

This passage does not end with “because they were all born to sin-stained parents”.  Nor does it say, “because they could not help but to sin”, nor “because they had been cursed thousands of years before when Adam and Eve sinned”.    Rather, it says, simply, “because all sinned”. Continue reading

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Understanding “Rewards”

NOTE: You will find a list of over 50 Bible passage below, pertaining to how God rewards man.

One of the great difficulties one encounters when considering eschatology is all the misunderstanding that is promoted by popular doctrine.  While I neither belong to nor favor any religious camp, I do note that the “Original Sin” crowd seems to be the most frequent violator in this regard.  Among their many stubborn and errant notions is the idea that man cannot “earn” his “salvation”, and that it is repulsive and an affront to all decency to believe that he can. Never mind all the passages that suggest that he’ll be judged and rewarded according to his works! Continue reading

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Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit

Which of the following statements seems the most natural to your way of thinking about your life?:

  1. I have a body.
  2. I am a body.
  3. I have a mind.
  4. I am a mind.

Further, if you found “have” to be more natural than “am”, give this some thought:

Just who is the “I” that would “have” a body and/or a mind? Is that “I” separate from your mind and body?

Interesting puzzle, eh?  I’ve been working on the distinctions in the terms mentioned in the title of this article and I’m not done yet.  This includes the words body and soul, so let’s see which you prefer of these:

  1. I have a soul.
  2. I am a soul.
  3. I have a spirit.
  4. I am a spirit.

Does one of these strike you as a more natural way of thinking about your identity than do the previous four?

I am particularly interested in whether man’s awareness of himself includes some sense of such things.  I invite your comments below.

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