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Authentic religion encourages questions and reflection at all levels.
When Religion Becomes Evil, Los
Angeles, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 2002
Basic Questions for Theology
How do we avoid BUFFALO CHIPS?
(Breaking Under Final Frustration
About Losing Our Carelessly Hatched
Institutional Philosophical Systems)?
What is the Deal for us?
1. What is the deal that Jesus is offering to
us? Is it really good for us, or does it just seem good to us? Is it even supposed to seem
good to us? And is it really believable, or is it too good to be true?
2. Is it meaningfully good, that is, does it offer what we really want and need? Do we really
know what we want and need? If the deal is different than what we really want, CAN
we CHANGE what we want? SHOULD we change what we
really want? If so, HOW do we change what we really want? What if we
don't want to change what we want? Did we have anything to DO with
what we naturally want and need?
3. Is the deal even palatable to anyone? A few? Quite a few? Most?
Everyone? If not, WHY not?
4. If God doesn't impose it on us, what does it cost us or how do we
earn it? If so, is the price reasonable? Is it free, reasonable, or does it
cost us everything?
5. Is it easy to qualify, is it difficult to qualify, is it
excruciating, or is it just simple?
6. Why would God offer to us any less than what we were made to need and want?
1. What are we authorized by Jesus to pray or ask for?
2. Are there any conditions? If so, do the conditions apply equally
to each thing authorized? Is there a sequence so that the granting
of one thing leads to greater authorizations?
3. Are the promises made to individuals or to a plural you? Are
some made to individuals and some to a corporate body? If so, what
are the conditions that apply? Are they different for individuals
and groups? If some are made to a corporate body, how many
individuals are necessary to qualify? Is the number different for
1. Was there a point in time recorded or implied
in the Gospels when the disciples were in unity, or a time when they believed everything
that Jesus said and acted accordingly? Or understood everything he said,
or followed the advice of Jesus?
2. Did all of the disciples understand the full truth that Jesus
presented? Did any? If some, who did and who didn't? Is there any
evidence or basis for discriminating between believing and non-believing disciples?
3. The disciples ultimately didn't stay together. Was this because
they were "called" to go in different directions and countries? Or was
it because ultimately there was nothing much going on and holding them
together, or was it that they ultimately couldn't get along comfortably?
4. What is the essence of the difference between Christianity and
Gnosticism? Which is more true or spiritual or reasonable? Which is more
fallacious or dangerous? And why?
5. Which of the disciples became the foundation for Christendom?
Which of the disciples became the foundation for Gnosticism, the other
great movement spawned by the Jesus incident?
6. If Christianity and Gnosticism didn't go off the track with the
disciples, exactly when and where did they go off the track?
1. Did Jesus authorize the writing of the New
Testament? If so, where and when in what HE said did HE authorize it? If not, why has so
much attention been paid to it? Has God put his stamp of approval on the New Testament?
If so, what is that stamp of approval? What or where is the foundation
for thinking that God authorized any of the early church apostles to
speak for him rather than to elucidate the message of Jesus' germane information?
2. Has the New Testament stood the test of time? If so, by what criteria? If so,
what is the evidence or argument for this? Has anyone seriously tried to live in accordance with the
New Testament instructions? If so, were they successful? Is it possible?
3. Has anyone come up with
the final, correct, true interpretation of the book Revelation? If not,
would you like to try?
1. Did Jesus authorize the writing of the Gospels?
If so, where and when did he do it? Has God put his stamp of approval on
them? If so, what is that stamp of approval?
2 Why are the Gospels riddled with discrepancies? Have the Gospels stood the test of time? If so, what is the evidence?
Has anyone seriously tried to live according the Gospels? If so, were
they successful? Is it possible?
3. Is there any other material or Gospel writing outside of the New Testament that
is of value? If so, How can it be identified and validated?
4. Are the Gospels all of equal validity or reliability? From what
standpoint? Technical or spiritual? If not, which one(s) take
precedence? If not, how can we decide?
5. Does the Gospel of John being an eyewitness while the others are
compilations of second or third hand accounts have any significance? If
not, why not?
6. Why can't the Gospel of Thomas, an eyewitness account, be considered
just as, or more authoritative, than the other non-eyewitness Gospels?
Issues of Consistency
1. Can we legitimately treat the bible as an organic whole,
that is, does it have total internal consistency? If so, what does this
consistency look like? Isn't this idea an unwise fabrication?
2. If we do not have total internal Biblical consistency, does the New
Testament have total internal consistency? If so, what does this consistency look like?
3. If we do not have total internal New Testament consistency, do the Gospels have total
internal consistency? If so, what does this consistency look like? If
not, where do we look for consistency?
4. If the Gospels do not have total internal consistency, does the book of
John have total internal consistency? If so, what does this consistency look like?
Issues of Accuracy
1. Are there any parables, stories, ideas, issues,
advice, instructions, or facts within the four Gospels that are in serious
or significant conflict? We actually know there are significant conflicts.
2. How do we deal with these inconsistencies, controversies, and conflicts?
Can we dismiss them as insignificant? If we deal with them, how do we resolve these inconsistencies and conflicts?
1. Are revelation and inspiration equivalent? If
so, what do they mean?
2. If they are not equivalent, what is revelation? What is inspiration?
What is the difference? Is either one reliable in and of itself? If not,
are they reliable only when taken together?
Intellectual versus Spiritual
1. Given that the meanings of these are different from intelligent, do the words intellectual and spiritual mean
the same thing? If not, do they mean largely the same thing? If not, are
they related to any significant degree? Is one a subset of or dependent
on the other?
2. What does spiritual mean? What does intellectual mean? What is the
3. What about intellectual responsibility? Is it minor factor?
A major factor? Or is it foundational? Is there just a limited place or role for it?
Or is it the way?
Categories of Communication
1. Do the words or messages of Jesus fall into
different categories? If so, does Jesus speak to issues of paradigm?
Does he speak about truths that apply to the paradigm? Does he speak
truths that can only be understood rightly in the proper paradigm?
2. Does Jesus ever just offer good advice for the time or
temporary context? If so, is all the advice
recorded in the Gospels applicable to our time? IS some? Is any? Is it always
applicable to our situation?
3. Are there levels of importance about various things Jesus said? Did
he say anything that is trivial, incidental or not important? Was some of Jesus'
advice applicable only to the disciples? Was some of Jesus advice
applicable only to the people of that time? How do we sort this all out?
1. Since Jesus thanked the father for hiding
truths from certain men, why did God hide these truths? And from whom? Why did Jesus
say that he spoke in parables so that the masses would hear and NOT
understand? Why speak to them at all if he knew they wouldn't
understand? Was he building a case against them, or surreptitiously plowing their
2. Was there a spiritual elite? If so, were the disciples the
spiritual elite of the time? If
so, was there a spiritual elite within the disciples? If so, who were
these disciples? How can we tell who they were? Should there be a
spiritual elite? If so, is there a purpose to a spiritual elite? Did ANYBODY
understand all of what Jesus said and did during his sojourn on earth? Or did some later?
1. Does righteousness mean right behavior? If it
does, right by what standard? If it doesn't mean this, does it have any
real or significant versus imaginary meaning at all?
2. Does righteousness mean reasonable behavior? If not, what is the
difference between right behavior and reasonable behavior?
3. If any, what is the salient difference between reasonable
1. Is behavior any concern at all to the follower
of Jesus? If so, what does proper behavior for a follower look like?
2. Can we get specific about right behavior or can we only generalize?
If specific, is there any specific behavior that is totally proscribed
by Jesus? Is all or any of our behavior demanded? Commanded? Who does
our behavior affect? Us? Others? God? All of the above?
Agenda of Creator
1. Does the creator have a sacred agenda to impose on us?
2. If so, is this agenda chronological? If so, are we locked into it
timewise regardless of what we do or not do? If not, what can we do about it, or how
can we affect it?
3. If the agenda is not one of time, is it one of phenomena? If so, are
we locked into it, that is, is there anything we can do to affect it? If
so, what can we do about it?
Behavior of Christendom
1. Why is there so much dissension, isunity, hypocrisy and evil
in Christian religions when Jesus said the devil was defeated?
2. Why did Christianity stamp out so-called Gnostic sects with the sword when the
virtue, piety and behavior of some of these generally exceeded that of
Words of Jesus
1. Did Jesus ever give good advice that applied
specifically to that time? Did Jesus ever give good advice that applied
specifically to that culture? Did Jesus ever give good advice that
applied specifically to explicit situations? Did he say some things to
the disciples that do not apply to us? Did he say some things to some of
the disciples that did not apply to the other disciples? Do some things
he said apply to different believers depending on their level of belief?
2. Did Jesus emphasize certain things that he said? If so, how has that
come down to us?
3. Did Jesus change his advice because his objective was not
realized in his followers? What about his later advice to carry a weapon?
Wasn't this an admission of failure?
1. Does the salvation offered by Jesus only just mean being
saved from ultimately being lost or punished or destroyed?
2. Does the salvation offered by Jesus mean being saved from being
temporarily lost or punished or destroyed? Does it mean being
healed and restored spiritually versus tangibly and physically? Does it
mean both? If so, which comes first? Do they happen simultaneously?
3. Is the salvation offered by Jesus complete and actually IMMINENT?
1. What does it mean to come into unity? How do we
become unified? Are there specific steps? Are they unpleasant or
burdensome? Are they difficult? If difficult, what is the key to making
them easy? If easy, why don't we do it? If we understood the essence,
scope, imminence and immanence of the payoff, would that make it easy?
Would being truly "rooted in self" help make it easy?
2. Is anyone out there in perfect unity? Does
anyone truly want to come into unity? Does anyone truly not want to come
into unity? Does anyone believe it is possible to come into perfect unity?
3. Is coming into unity important? Or is it crucial or
Free Moral Agency
1. Did God create man to be a free moral agent? If
not, are we any more than sophisticated, programmable robots? If so, does this mean
that man is free to exercise his own judgment and do what he thinks is
good without fear of consequences? If it doesn't mean this, what does it mean?
2. Do we create, enlarge or foster free moral agency for our
family and friends? Are they actually at liberty to exercise their own
judgment and do what they think is good without risking the loss of the relationship?
Testing of Believers
1. Having made Man, of course, without Man's choice or permission, why would God
subject Man to arbitrary prohibitions which, if ignored, would cost Man
his life at the hand of God? Why would God need to test Man in any way whatsoever?
2. Do we subject members of our family and friends to testing? Is
this a loving or moral thing to do? Do we feel loved if members of our
family or friends subject us to testing? Why should
we test them, and if they fail, lose our love, support, and association?
3. How can a God gracious enough to give His own son to mankind have
ever been so ungracious as to forbid Man the fruit from a mere tree? Has
God become more "Christlike" down through the ages?
Why should life EVER have been anything but a PURE and unalloyed gift of grace?
1. Why should God need to be obeyed? Why should
the one who has the power to create the heavens need anyone to do
anything for him? Does God need to rule or govern through law backed up
by punishment and ultimately death?
2. Does Man need fiat law above and beyond natural law? Does Man need to obey
fiat Law? Did fiat law really come from God or just come from Moses or myth
fabrication? Why should an intelligent creature made
in the likeness of God need to obey anything other than his own native
feelings? Why should he be asked to despise, ignore or violate his
authentic desires in order to comply with rules or requirements he had
no part in forming?
1. Why does Christianity teach that God demands to be "numero uno"
in our lives? Isn't this the sign and essence of being insecure and self-centered?
And if so, how does this equate or square with "By this shall all men know that
you are my followers, that you love one another as I have loved you?"
2. Why would God ever DEMAND our worship and love? Demanding these of other
humans, is the one most certain thing to kill them in others. Cannot a
relationship thrive through inspiration and love? Cannot a healed society in
a perfect environment function through inspiration and good will versus law?
20 Questions that need the right answers!
is soteria (swthria), usually
- Having your name written in the book of life with the assurance that you
will "go to heaven" at death or the end of the world?
- Actually being safe from harm and danger because of the protection of God?
- Being physically and psychologically healthy, so as to enjoy the time,
family and friends one has in life and so to not alienate people or harm them?
- Actually being physically and psychologically safe because of being
immortal and empowered along with other members of the human race?
2. The word "sin" as a verb is an ancient
Mars rooted term meaning to miss the mark (Mars was the "eye of the bull" or bulls eye)
when you are shooting an arrow or throwing a spear, etc., as a
noun referring to the distance of the hit from the bulls eye or center. Sin is also used to
refer to some underlying condition which causes a person to miss the
mark when he is sincerely trying to hit it. When Jesus used this term
did he mean missing the mark primarily in terms of?:
- Obeying God's law
- Behaving perfectly
- Our personal relationship to God
- Our concepts and understanding of God and ourselves
does logos (logos),
traditionally translated "Word" mean?
- The Word of God, the message of the Bible
- The New Testament
- The red letter words, the words of Jesus
- A rational truth which can be considered, questioned, discussed and
understood; in contrast to mythos, which can only be accepted or rejected
because it is beyond our understanding
is the Ecclesia (ekklhsia),
traditionally translated "church", to which Jesus referred?
- A special building dedicated to God
- An organization dedicated to furthering the work of God
- A group of people committed to loving and supporting one another in the name of God.
- A group of people in an unacceptable and urgent state of affairs, who
come together to discuss important issues and make the right choices for
belief and decisions for action
- Partaking in a ceremony that is focused on God
- Coming to "church" once a week
- Singing, praying and talking about God
- Giving credit for the origin, and more especially for the sustenance and
enhancement of one's own life, and appreciating the incredible loving and
sharing character of the creator
is the Holy Pneuma, traditionally translated Holy Spirit? Is it a
person? A member of the Godhead?
- An incorporeal entity, like a ghost, the third person of the godhead
- The mystical, omnipresence of God
- The inanimate attitude and mentality of the members of the godhead
- The attitude of loving the truth and believing that the truth is
paramount, the indomitable attitude of refusing to believe anything but the
best about God and refusing defeat
- The "I am a God" attitude
is the role of the Holy Pneuma
- To indwell and thereby control the True Believers
- To act as the conscience of the True Believer
- To influence us to think and behave righteously and morally
- To provide us with mystical experiences such as feeling the presence of
God, and to convey messages through visions, voices and dreams
- To teach us all pertinent things, lead us into all the truth and a
complete understanding of God, his purpose, values and plan
Usually translated, "soul" in the New Testament, but sometimes "life",
what does the word psyche (yuch)
mean, and where does it come from?
- The true inner self that comes from God, and departs the body when a person dies
- The immortal "God within" that is all wise, all good and remains
untarnished despite even the most sordid of lives
- The personality—foibles, warts and all—that is the product of genetics and environment
- The entire psychology of a person, including the persona and the
conscious mind, and the individual's underlying metaphysics or paradigm. It
manifests itself in the personality, attitude, feelings and character of the
individual; it is molded, and nurtured or abused by other people, one's own
mental activity and one's own experiences
- The pattern and content of experience in a person's life
9. What does the word
- A belief system that has enough adherents to be taken seriously
- A belief system that has God as it's focus
- A belief system that deals with spiritual matters versus secular matters
- A philosophy binding people together again through logic and
10. What is the Devil
meaning "slanderer" or "divider"?
- A Supreme being of evil, possibly immortal
- An angel of the highest rank who has fallen and become hardened in his
opposition to God
- The separated and fallen collective consciousness—comparable to the
godhead—to which we belong
- The original lie spawning the prevalent mentality that God is superior
and beyond human, and less magnanimous than he really is
11. What is the Bible?
- The infallible Word of God
- A newspaper account of history and the plan of salvation, whereby the
good news must be sorted out from the bad
- A collection of human writings that have been influenced by God just
enough to give us a chance to know the truth
- The Old Testament is a combination of the "constructed" history and
mythology of the Hebrew people, and the New Testament is, with the exception of
the valid information about Jesus, the history and mythology of
12. What is being righteous?
- Being in conformity to the "law of God"
- Being untainted by the ways of the world
- Being warm and loving toward other people
- Understanding the purpose of life and being reasonable in the context of
the sustenance and enhancement of life
13. What is
the structural nature of God?
- God is one person,
but who can simultaneously perform three different roles
- God is one person, but who can put on different faces or persona
- God is a corporate being that is composed of three distinct persons in
trinity of unity
- Who can know?
- God is a corporate being or agency composed of an unknown number of distinct
unfallen humans that are in
complete and totally effective unity
14. What is legalism?
- Believing that obeying God's law is the way to righteousness
- Believing that it is important to obey the "law of God" as best we can,
with the difference made up for us
- An emphasis upon conformity to the "law of God"
- Any system of thinking where God is conceived to be a moral fiat law
giver, and any or all of its attendant aspects of our having to have a focus
on this law
15. What is the Parousia, usually referred to as the
- A future event at the end of the world as we know it, where Jesus will
come in the clouds with legions of angels and take the righteous to reign
- A personal event, where the individual is "raptured" as soon as
they are "ready"
- An internal event, which takes place when the individual becomes
enlightened enough to achieve "Christ Consciousness"
- A past event, where Jesus came into public prominence through the his
message, life behavior, demonstration on the cross and the resurrection, all
of which served to reveal the character of God
- The word literally means the display of presence
16. What is the nature of "Truth"?
- Truth is relative – you have yours and I have mine
- The Truth can never be fully known, but we will spend eternity learning
- Truth is self-created, it is manifested from one's beliefs
- Truth is the adequately complete, big-picture understanding of
ourselves, God, and reality
17. What is hell?
- A place, realm or situation of eternal fiery torture for the wicked
- The temporary "Lake of Fire" that consumes the wicked at the end of this
- The state of being lost and dead forever
- The vicissitudes of life in this world
- There is no such place or realm; the words "hades" refers to
the unseen realm, and "gehenna"
refers to the canyon outside of Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom. These
are "places" other than the Christian version of "Hell"
18. What is believing?
- Hanging onto what you've been taught as hard as you can, for as long as
you can, despite the winds of change and challenging evidence to the
- Holding to a given set of concepts composed of knowledge and opinions,
though not necessarily one's own
- Having faith that Jesus "did it all"
- Taking responsibility for actively choosing what you hold to be true to
the point of understanding, and ultimately putting the focus of your life on
the line for it
In John 17, Jesus called for unity of the believers in the most
emphatic and eloquent way. What is the unity that he calls for?
- Belonging to a congregation where everyone holds the same doctrines
- Belonging to a PLU (People Like Us) congregation and getting along reasonably well
- Belonging to a congregation of People Not Like Us and getting along reasonably well
- Unity of purpose, values, concepts and understanding of God and ourselves
20. Jesus is often quoted as saying "if two or three of you agree on anything,
ask whatever you will and it will be given you". If Jesus was for
real, why does this seldom if ever happen?
- Jesus spoke in parables and symbolic terms; we can't take sayings like this literally
- This promise is only in effect when other stringent qualifications are
met, such as believing intensely enough or having enough faith
- It only happens when we correctly ascertain and "pray the will of God"
- The text, more accurately translated, says
"when two or three of you agree on everything that matters…"; it
will only happen after two or three, (or more) have come into real unity of
purpose, values, and concepts
Four additional important Questions for Christians
We live in a messed up madhouse world where we are fragmented into a
hundred thousand religions which are primarily based on fear and are
mutually exclusive as to truth. Not one religion, ideology,
denomination, sect, organization, dogma, doctrine or individual is in a
majority. All of these religions, etc., cannot be right, but they
CAN all be wrong.
Seven billion homo sapiens live in a physically hostile environment
where we are subject to danger, damage, disease and dying, where we at
best live a short life subject to many so-called vicissitudes and where we
inexorably age and die. As Thomas Hobbs put it, “The life of
man....solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".
How did we get into this physically and spiritually messed up situation?
Commentary: About 400,000 homo sapiens are born every day, and about
350,000 die every day. Of the latter, probably around 7 or 8 from
lightning strikes, hundreds burn to death or drown, thousands die of
starvation, thousands are killed in accidents, hundreds killed by
poisonous creature bites or stings, hundreds tortured and killed in
warfare, thousands by suicide, tens of thousands by wasting away from
debilitating disease, etc. Get the picture? There seems to be
no pattern of evidence that God is currently involved in our world in any significant
One thing should be clear: When it all started to go
bad, you and I were not even born yet and I/we had nothing to do with it.
Question 2. If there is a God, why is God not involved, or
at least involved in a more
visible, tangible and therefore more meaningful way?
Commentary: For any of this to make sense to a reasonable man, there
should be a VERY powerful reason for the minimal involvement. It should also be clear
that God is waiting for US to do something, that we should not be waiting for God.
Question 3. What can we do to change or get out of this situation?
Commentary: Do we just have to wait, OR, has the great teacher given us instructions that have NEVER been
understood or followed?
Question 4. Are millions of
Christians making a huge mistake in praying to God, begging God, trying to influence or
manipulate God into answering their petty, mundane, self-centered
petitions, instead of endeavoring to answer God's prayer
concerning unity in John 17?
Commentary: The "Lord's Prayer" is
the example of what our prayers should look like, and it has NONE of the
above list of unbidden requests. When the disciples lost their empowerment
because of a failure to understand resulting in divisive competition and bickering, why is it so hard for Christians to see that the
backing of God and success are tied to our understanding of the truth
and unity in that truth?