Preacher with Bible

Questions from Steve on Deism

The purpose of this page is to contrast the beliefs of classical Deism with Reformed Christianity. Steve L. posed the following question on my guestbook:

Thanks for offering up this web sites and all the resources linked from it. I'm a Reformed Protestant, and my question to you is, why do you believe - that is if you do, that America's relatively short heritage (Constitution, Paine, Locke, deist underpinnings) is legitimate as universal arguments for deism?

My own argument against deism goes like this.

If there is a God and Creator then He is superior to man in ever aspect. If not, this whole point is moot. If our souls are immortal it would be by God's design, and it would indicate He is a loving and personal God. If not, this whole point is moot.

But under no circumstances would our actions have intrinsic value to God. He either doesn't care, or He doesn't need them because He's already omnipotent. Any value our works might have toward God would be like a forth grader coming home showing Daddy a good report card. Daddy would be proud, but not because Daddy couldn't have done the work better himself... Thoughts?

My Response

Thank you Steve, you have brought up some valid points. Our first problem is Deism is very poorly defined. Deism suffers from a number of problems and I will address them. I agree with Deism only on two points: That God is one or strict monotheism, and that the complexity and vastness of the natural world is proof of design, and thus a Creator. My belief in God is the same as a typical classical Deist, but I consider books such as the Bible as worth consideration if tempered by reason.

I believe revelation is possible (thus the Bible, etc.) because that is such a small feat compared to the creation of a single cell. Also my view of science tells me that for example evolution required an ongoing intervention by God to get to us. I see no conflict between science and God, but a literal Genesis I reject as in the King James Version.

Nature (thus just the mere observation of nature in Deism) gives us a type of "general revelation." To quote Romans 1:20 "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made." The Bible, etc. gives what could be called "special revelation," but the dispute is over interpretation and reliability. If there is a rational basis, I'll give it serious thought.

First, it seems any notion of God that denies the Christian Trinity since the Protestant reformation ends up being called Deism today. The definitions often heard are modern ones and those considered "deists" seems almost arbitrary. This is/was a similar problem with Gnosticism (a modern term) that was a theological dumping ground for a number of Christian heresies. Unless one wants to consider the Freemasons, Deism has never had any formal structure, and that's a profound weakness.

This allows anyone to define it as anything or insert what they want to believe. Today this has led to the wholesale substitution of Greek philosophy, pantheism, some aspects of New Age Religion (another dumping ground term), and Humanism. But in nearly every case it's a total denial of a transcendent Creator that cares for humanity. But what about, "God went away?" The American Founders such as Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, etc. believed no such thing.

Second is the misuse of Deism today as an attack on Christianity and Judaism when in the past it existed within the fringes of both faiths. That seems to be the only real thing many "modern Deists" seem to share. Part of that attack is to define Deism in the most anti-Christian form possible, in the most remote and uncaring terms possible, then claim America was founded on it. Thus Christianity becomes illegitimate. This is dishonest.

In addition many of those modern "Deists" claim are deists never called themselves any such thing. Jefferson called himself a Unitarian as was John Adams. Adams and Jefferson both attended church, as did Washington, etc. And to quote Franklin in a letter to Ezra Stiles in 1790, which is the definition of Deism I accept,

Here is my creed. I believe in One God, the Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render Him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion.

This is the very core of Christianity and Judaism, and is the true source of Deism as understood by some of the "Founders." This is far from the near atheism of French Deism, the one often preferred by "modern" Deists. That came much later. As Princeton defines Providence,

"the guardianship and control exercised by a deity; "divine providence"

So in no manner does this suggest God went away or doesn't care, far from it. Paine went the furthest in attacking formal Christianity and that cost him a lot of friends such as Adams and Washington. And while some, in particular Jefferson, were critical of clerical abuse in regards to individual liberty, they were not hostile to Christians as people.

So in other words, many of those today they claim were "Deists" (Jefferson, Franklin, etc.) in the real ethical and cultural sense were Protestants (Unitarians mostly) and would fall under heretics. There are issues that really separate Deists from Christians is a rejection of the Trinity, predestination, and Original Sin.

It seems to me they embraced free will and strict monotheism, the very things Judaism clashes with Christianity on. Deism is much closer to Judaism in that regard, while Christianity is much closer to Gnosticism. Both Christianity and Gnosticism require a divine mediator, while Judaism and Deism doesn't. (There is no requirement under Deism to follow Jewish ritual, etc.)

But let me be clear Deism (myself included) rejects what I call the Hebrew Tribal God of the Old Testament often depicted as a murdering tyrant.

Christianity stresses revelation and "spiritual "knowledge" (gnosis) and/or faith, while Deism stressed reason and works. Most Deists of that time believed revelation possible, but considered it unreliable. That's my historical opinion of the matter, now to Steve's comments.

Steve asked, "why do you believe - that is if you do, that America's relatively short heritage (Constitution, Paine, Locke, deist underpinnings) is legitimate as universal arguments for deism?" My answer is I don't believe it because most of these beliefs were also within the English/American Protestant culture of that time. Christianity is a complex and often divided belief system. After the Renaissance many new ideas flowed into the educated classes, which was mostly the clergy. Deism as such was never popular with the common man.

Steve wrote, "If there is a God and Creator then He is superior to man in ever aspect." I agree with Steve, but in my opinion we still try to put God in terms we understand. God not only transcends Creation, but our meager thoughts as well. If it's His will (and in my mind it is), then it's that understanding we should seek.

Steve wrote, "If our souls are immortal it would be by God's design, and it would indicate He is a loving and personal God. If not, this whole point is moot." I agree. It depends on what you mean by "personal God." Christian theologian Alister McGrath suggests that a "personal god" is "integral" as the core of Christianity (and I'd say Judaism) and an analogy: "to say that God is like a person is to affirm the divine ability and willingness to relate to others. This does not imply that God is human, or located at a specific point in the universe." 1

But if Steve means in the sense of an all-controlling "nanny" that has everything planned out, I'd reject this. How could we have free will if everything is controlled by God? That's a question even Christians debate. But just because God is not all controlling, doesn't mean God doesn't care.

God I believe is omnipresent and omnipotent, but transcends time and space so He has no relation to material reality we know it. God can also act in my view, but within the laws of nature He put in place. What about miracles? The whole universe is a miracle itself! What more do we need? As for Hollywood theatrics, I don't need such nonsense to believe in the obvious.

Steve wrote, "But under no circumstances would our actions have intrinsic value to God. He either doesn't care, or He doesn't need them because He's already omnipotent. Any value our works might have toward God would be like a forth grader coming home showing Daddy a good report card. Daddy would be proud, but not because Daddy couldn't have done the work better himself..."

Typical Calvinist' view derived most likely from St. Augustine. If as a Christian Steve is claiming works are worthless, thus Christ is the only answer, I'd come back with the Old Testament says no such thing and just because Paul claims it's null and void and we have a "new covenant," I'd say you believe in Paul, I don't. As a rationalist (understanding there are limitations to reason), I read a literal Old Testament and compare that to the New Testament. Paul railed against this and claimed we must have "faith" in his gospel.

To quote Romans 2:16, "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." Who appointed Paul? He claims directly from God. What proof does he have? His say-so. Let's face it without Paul there would be no Christian theology as we know it. That is the basis of Marcion, Augustine, Calvin, and Luther. Jesus means nothing other than a symbolic sacrifice on a cross. To Paul and his followers Jesus' words mean little and Paul never quoted Jesus anyway.

Let's look at a typical problem this creates. To quote Jeremiah 31:31-33,

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jump to Jeremiah 32:19, for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings...

That is called works. Where is the part about any divine mediator or faith in Jesus? But what does Paul (considered by some to have written Hebrews, others claim anonymous, in my view it was heavily influenced by Paul) have to say? To quote Hebrews 8:8,

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

Much the same, but with very important differences. God went from "their God" in Jeremiah to "a God" and from "my people" to "a people." The writer disconnected the Jews from their God. It sounds sort of the same until we get to Hebrews 12:24, "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that of Abel."

There was no "mediator" in Jeremiah and the term doesn't even exist in the Old Testament. Because they conflict as written, it's my view I can select either one or neither. In this case the Old Testament overrules the new Testament in my opinion. In fact the term "mediator" is used only by Paul and in Hebrews.

Nor am I calling Paul a liar nor do I consider Christians stupid. It was Christianity we owe for the development of modern science, regardless of the abuse of science by some atheists. Deism arose in many respects because of what seemed a conflict with science and Christianity. But today we have much more knowledge than in the 17th-18th Centuries.

1. McGrath, Alister (2006). Christian Theology: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 1405153601.

Regards, Lewis 1-4-2009


When I answer other people's questions I'll often use it on the site. Your questions were good I don't include your contact info, e-mail, or anything you want kept private. This also helps answer questions others may have. This was posted on my open guestbook. I'll post your questions and responses if you want to. Let me be clear I do not seek converts to my views, I consider most Christians and Jews as fellow believers.

So ask away and see what I can come up with. I attended a Presbyterian College and had Bible classes, but have no theology degree as such. The worst thing Christians want to do is take somebody that knows nothing about Christianity and have them read the Old Testament first. I'd also have some questions for you. If you are a Reformed Protestant, do I assume some branch of Calvinism?

Regards, Lewis 1-5-2009


Steve Responds

Hi Lewis.

No, I have no concerns about my privacy. You may post anything that I write. I just want to ensure that if you quote me its in as much of its entirety so as to not be misrepresented, and I trust that is the case here. I agree with you 100% in your first two paragraphs, and I thank you for clarifying the position and background of deism.

I agree that the OT is a much more difficult read, but a fundamental understanding of it is crucial to appreciating the first words in a call to faith in the NT, as affirmed by John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul. Here for example in Mark 1:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

The seminal question of "why" and "for what am I repenting of" are answered in the Old Testament, and that call is meaningless for those who don't understand it. In my summary (for lack of a better word) of the Bible below, I answer that question to the best of my understanding.

I am indeed Calvinist, or if you prefer, Augustinian - who articulated the doctrine of sovereignty well before Calvin and Luther did. If you deny it, you will have to find a way to reconcile Romans 9: Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Malichi 1:1-3)

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Exodus 33:18-20) It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory- even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"

Then, you would have to reconcile the word "elect" or "election", used not just by Paul, but by Matthew, John Mark, and Peter. By far, Paul does the most thorough job articulating specific Christian doctrine - he is most qualified to do so, having been training under the great Pharisee Gamaliel in Old Testament Scriptures and having divine inspiration from Jesus - and affirmed by Peter, Timothy, Silas, John Mark, and John, and James, among others.

Those who deny that Christ is God inevitably must deny the perfect God-breathed Bible as a whole, because the Bible states it clearly that Jesus is Lord. Denying Paul is a perfect way of loosening the bounds of doctrinal exhortation and limiting oneself to vague, universal truths of God.

My view of the Bible is this: The Old Testament is a testament to man's original sin, repeatedly being blessed by God, and then turning away from God, then being commanded to repent, falling deeper into idolatry, cursed by God, and then blessed again, only to have the pattern repeat itself as new generations learn their lessons the hard way.

The New Testament is God offering the perfect gift of grace to those who repent and accept Jesus as his Savior, knowing that there can be no salvation through a perfect adherence to the Law (that is impossible because of sin) and futility in achieving holiness through works. I'm sure you're familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9.

We can also look at John 14:6: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I'm sure you're quite familiar with this one too.

According to my understanding of God's Word, any doctrine that denies that Christ is Lord and Savior attacks Christianity, whether its deism or otherwise.

Judaism also requires a mediator, they just haven't found one yet. They expect him to be a king in flesh and blood, and a political leader, which says nothing about their belief in the afterlife. Gnosticism, which is refuted in its nascency by John's letters, denies a relationship between flesh and spirit, freeing the individual to sin as he pleases while maintaining his spiritual purity.

That last statement that I might not have been clear about before is my main point. Just as a child comes home with good grades and the father is pleased, if we try to please God, would God not, at best, be please in the same way? Could He not do any good work we do - better? If so, what need does he have for our works?

I'm not saying in the least that there is no place for works. I just don't believe based upon my logic above that works can place us any closer to heaven or God or immortality. I believe it is crucial however, as a response in humility and brokenness, to the gift of grace from God. Without fruit, faith is empty.

I must also comment on the word mediator. By its own limited definition, Jesus is NOT simply a mediator. He is God who came to earth as man to show us the truth. You can say that mediating is one function of His task. The others are a prophet, the high priest, friend, judge, and of course, proxy in punishment. These things are prophesized throughout the OT (Micah, Isaiah 53, etc) as you probably know, but the Jews interpreted it differently and are thus still waiting on their messiah. So, since mediator does not capture much of the meaning in of itself, it is no wonder its not used much.

Cheers, Steve 1-6-2009


My Response

Looking at your work, it's obvious will have the same argument I've had for years with Christians. Before we get into this I'll give you my view of reality.

I believe you are a honest, Christian, etc. You seem to have true faith and not just another phony Christian more interested in other agendas. As I warned before I don't seek converts, etc. and don't believe I have to worry about that with you. I don't operate a church nor do I encourage one. I do believe God works through people and could be working through either one of us. That is His will and I accept the outcome. I've said publicly and will say again I don't have all the answers and don't even pretend to.

Here is my theory on people. There are really two broad types; rationalists and gnostics. (I use that with a small g) In the most extreme cases there are those that are so "mystical" they are out of touch with everyday reality. Nothing is real to them. The other extreme is to be so rational they lose all links with humanity and can only see what is in front of them. Most fall in between.

This may not be a matter of choice, but how we are born. It's hard-wired into our minds just as hair color or the shape of eyes. This I believe determines our understanding of reality. To me God is purely One, to you God is a Trinity. The Trinity makes no more sense to me that does neo-Platonism it's related to. It's not a matter of I know more than you, it's we understand things in a differing manner. I have faith in God will do what is right. If not, there's nothing I can do about it.

Keep that in mind as I go through this.

Steve said,

If you deny it, you will have to find a way to reconcile Romans 9: Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory- even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"

End quote. I don't have to reconcile anything. No such statement exists in the Old Testament. If it's written you need to show where besides Paul. In nearly every case I've looked into Paul he has distorted the words of the Old Testament. If your faith is in Paul, fine with me. I went through the Old Testament without indoctrination with the New.

Then, you would have to reconcile the word "elect" or "election", used not just by Paul, but by Matthew, John Mark, and Peter.

The term "elect" is only Isaiah and in a different way than in the NT. If you want to claim the authority of the Jewish Scripture then you must justify them. Show me where it says this and not Paul and those connected to him. It better say just what you claim it does. Luke and Mark are Paul's followers. John is proto-Gnostic, Matthew I'll take their word on.

Let's quote Isaiah 42:1 because Christians use Isaiah to try to claim Jesus: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."

But the figure is not Jesus, but the one in Zechariah 9:9-13 who didn't die on any cross, far from it. Go read it yourself.

Steve said, "Those who deny that Christ is God inevitably must deny the perfect God-breathed Bible as a whole, because the Bible states it clearly that Jesus is Lord. Denying Paul is a perfect way of loosening the bounds of doctrinal exhortation and limiting oneself to vague, universal truths of God."

Doesn't work with me. Worshipping a man as God is idolatry. Christianity states Jesus is God and not even directly. That's why there was so much fighting in the early church. Jesus is not mentioned in the Old Testament nor is the Jewish Messiah supposed to have died on a cross.

Steve wrote, I agree that the OT is a much more difficult read...

No it isn't. It means just what it says as written. It wrongly depicts Gods as an often violent and irrational tyrant. In my view it's God in the image of the writer of the particular holy book.

Steve wrote, but a fundamental understanding of it is crucial to appreciating the first words in a call to faith in the NT, as affirmed by John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul.

What you are really saying is like all Gnostics one reads it in an allegorical fashion reading your beliefs into the words, not drawing any belief from them as written. This critical view separates Deism/Unitarianism and Judaism somewhat from Christianity and Gnosticism. It's not about any Word of God, but faith in the claims of those claiming to represent God. And that is in the Bible itself whether it's true or false, so we must examine it.

God did not write the Bible, men did. Even if inspired by God, when in some I cases can be true, there is still no real proof as such. It depends on the reader to use their judgment in these matters. I did not receive the revelation, so I'm not obligated to believe it.

Steve wrote, I an indeed Calvinist, or if you prefer, Augustinian...

I studied him in college and found his Confessions the most revolting work I've ever read. He was a self-loathing pathetic man who at least found some happiness in Christianity. He was also a Manicheaen Gnostic, a neo-Platonist mystic, and he could neither read Greek or Hebrew and knew nothing of them. He wrote only in Latin (he was a Roman after all) his views of sin were repudiated by the Greek Orthodox Churches.

That is why he was so attracted to Paul, a very similar man. Very simply if given a choice between Paul/Augustine and atheism, it would be atheism. That is the position many are pushed into. I took a third path. What does it matter what I believe or even do? If salvation is just the whim of God and predestined, who cares? And that is a serious question.

Steve wrote, by far, Paul does the most thorough job articulating specific Christian doctrine - he is most qualified to do so, having been training under the great Pharisee Gamaliel...

That was the claim of his follower Luke, who never even met Jesus. Gamaliel in no manner articulated what Paul claimed. Paul invented most of it. As for being a trained "Pharisee" that is according to again his follower Luke. He so many miss-quotes so much of Old Testament I don't believe it. This has nothing to do with Gamaliel, but his own claims of direct revelation (knowledge or gnosis) from whatever he was getting it from.

Steve wrote, According to my understanding of God's Word, any doctrine that denies that Christ is Lord and Savior attacks Christianity, whether its deism or otherwise.

You have to prove it is God's word. Who decides what that doctrine is? The people who make that claim? Now I understand. Get my point? Let's see what "God" has to say. Let's turn to John the only Gospel that does directly support Jesus' divinity.

John 1:18, No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Wrong. Moses did when God gave him the Law. Gnostics claim the Hebrew God was not God. The passage is false or Gnostic. Which is it? Here is the other part: Exodus 33:11, And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And Deuteronomy 34:10, And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

John 9:13, And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. Wrong. Elijah did and I also believe Enoch. Let me check. Genesis 5:24, And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. 2 Kings 2:1, And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind...

John 5:22, For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: (And John 5:27) OK, so Jesus will judge me. But in John 8:15, Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man and in John 12:47, And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. Seems God is a little confused here.

And this is what any rational person will read which is why the Church once outlawed even owning a Bible. It's easy to understand why. So if the Church is the only one qualified, why are you not a Catholic? Protestants claim the Bible alone. The Bible just contradicted itself on who will even judge us. Since this is another glaring contradiction, I have the right to reject either or both.

Regards, Lewis 1-8-2009


Steve Responds

Hey Lewis,

Thanks for getting back to me and I will address your words more carefully in the coming days if you enjoy this dialogue as I do. Very briefly, however, I want to point out a few things..

Paul soundly quotes the OT in my original quote.

No one doubts that Moses was in the presence of the glory of the Father up on the mountain but do we know for sure he *saw* God up there? I am fuzzy on this one. Two things I'm curious for you to address if you can:

1. How do you address the obvious fallacies with accepting only certain parts of Scripture that appeals to your reasoning or fancy? Does it not make the parts that you do accept - somewhat as illegitimate? How do you feel about the Jefferson Bible?

2. Can you address my question about your view on works and why God doesn't need them? (third from the end in my previous email)

3. Not sure, I guess its the postmodern thing to do to accept and not desire to "convert" one another, but if someone knew me, they would need to conclude that I don't care about a person if I was not interested in seeing them come to the faith. You should keep that in mind about me, but know that I would never come at you with anything other than what I consider sound reason.

Thanks! Steve 1-8-2009


My Response

Another contradiction. Steve wrote, No one doubts that Moses was in the presence of the glory of the Father up on the mountain but do we know for sure he *saw* God up there? I am fuzzy on this one.

Here is the problem I always run into: Exodus 33:20-23, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put theein a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Here is the other part: Exodus 33:11, And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. and Deuteronomy 34:10, And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

Steve wrote, Paul soundly quotes the OT in my original quote. I'll have to see the wording he uses and context. He keeps changing vital words to support his beliefs.

Regards, Lewis 1-8-2009


Steve writes:

Sorry Lewis, I'm itchin' to write one more before going to bed... bear with me..

Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given..." The Son is not born, a child, specifically, is not given, He is born into flesh.

I think you were referring to John 3:13: Here is "ascended" in the Greek reference with Strongs numbers: http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=305&version=nas Now. Which one of those definitions are in the passive sense and which ones are in the active sense? Did Elijah really "ascend" to God?

This is just my attempt to express my opinion that every word in Scripture is deliberate and has relevant meaning, and believers need to reconcile them and not just question their legitimacy. And uh.. silly me - I didn't read the second part of this quote I gave you, but I think this last part backs up John:

Exodus 33:18-20 (New International Version)

18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

So now we have a dilemma because Moses seems to have contradicted himself... I now need to find a way to reconcile your quote 7 verses earlier with this one... Will be back... Steve January 8, 2009.


My response:

Here we come back to the problem I believe I stated before in that one reads their beliefs into the translation. When I have to deal with multiple translations of the same book and they seem to conflict, I'm not going to simply accept anyone's word for it. Now I can go a non-believers website all day long and quote them and I'll bet like Christians their beliefs influence the translations as well. To quote Bishop Alexander (Mileant) on the Gospels:

All the Sacred books of the New Testament were written in the vernacular Greek, an Alexandrian dialect, called koine. This language was spoken, or at least understood, by all the educated inhabitants of the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire. It was the language of all the cultured people of that time. The Evangelists wrote in Greek rather than in Hebrew, in which the books of the Old Testament were written, in order to make the New Testament books accessible to a maximum number of people.

At that time only the capital letters of the Greek alphabet were used in writing, without diacritics, punctuation, or separation between words. Lower case letters appeared only in the ninth century, together with spacing between words. Punctuation marks were introduced only with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. The present separations of chapters was introduced by Cardinal Hugo in the 13th century, and the separation into verse was done by the Parisian typographer Robert Stephen in the 16th century....

There are more than a dozen English Bible translations available today, each with its merits and its weaknesses. Some of them are more literal and, consequently, more difficult to understand; while others are much more readable and understandable, but less accurate.

A serious Bible student might want to compare several of these translations in order to get a better understanding of the original text. The great variability among modern Bible versions testifies to the fact that translating is essentially interpreting. In other words, to do a good job, the translator must know both the original and the language being translated into quite well.

The translator must understand the subject, and, what is extremely important, grasp the idea the author intended to convey and the sense in which he intended it to be conveyed. And since the ultimate author of Sacred Scripture is the Holy Spirit, the translator needs His illumination and inspiration to correctly convey His message. St. Peter pointed to this requirement when he wrote: "No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20-21).

The last sentences from Father Alexander is critical to this discussion. Neither you nor I have any qualifications for reading any of these dead languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew, ancient Greek, or Latin. Hebrew of this time (1st Century) was the Temple language while Jesus and the people spoke Aramaic in everyday life. I do exactly as Father Alexander suggests and compare various versions.

It's obvious not all of them can be right, so we must use reason to sort the mess out. And to quote you, "Scripture is deliberate and has relevant meaning, and believers need to reconcile them and not just question their legitimacy." In other words, you say just believe it.

Father Alexander says the Holy Spirit is the ultimate writer of the Bible, which is unprovable and what is right or wrong is their (the Church leadership's) opinion. In a free society I'm not obligated to follow their opinion and have every right to question them as men. That is not questioning God, but those who claim with zero proof to represent God.

Now the next problem is there are no originals. The Catholic Church says they date to the 4th Century, 350 years later. That aside, let's look at the bickering Church Fathers, most of them converted pagan Greek philosophers, had t say. Let's start with Philo of Alexandria a Platonist' mystic that could have written the Gospel of John.

The New Testament for the most was not the work of a bunch of fishermen and a tax collector following a carpenter, but of sophisticated and educated Hellenists that in many ways resemble New Age religion today.

Their Syncretism of Greek philosophy and mysticism with Judaism is what produced Christianity. Even they noted that Plato provided support to Christian dogma. Also see Early Christian and Medieval Neoplatonism.

In particular for Steve as a follower of St Augustine, he wrote in his own biography Confessions he could read neither Greek nor Hebrew. So what qualifies this Platonist and Manichean mystic with Bible anything? In addition, the Eastern Churches, the ones that use Greek the New Testament was written in, rejected Augustine's idea of inherited sin, etc and cleared his nemesis Pelagius of heresy.

In other words, I'll side more with Eastern Christianity than I ever could with Protestantism and Augustine on some issues. In fact many of my arguments are similar to Pelagius.

Steve wrote, Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given..." The Son is not born, a child, specifically, is not given, He is born into flesh.

Isaiah 9:6-7 says nothing about flesh and doesn't refer to Jesus anyway. From the Jewish JPS 1917:

For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom; That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of HaShem of hosts doth perform this.

Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the L-rd Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

That figure was in Chapter 8:1, etc. :

And HaShem said unto me: 'Take thee a great tablet, and write upon it in common script: The spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth; and I will take unto Me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.' And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bore a son. Then said HaShem unto me: 'Call his name Maher-shalal-hashbaz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry: My father, and: My mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried away before the king of Assyria...'

Steve Responds

Hi Lewis.

I believe Arminianism is the theological counterpoint to Calvinism... Both affirm that Christ is the risen Savior and the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, unlike deism... In principle, we agree that we don't worship man - we just disagree on who Jesus is, and to me there will never be another issue that comes close to how fundamental this one is.

I agree with your point on reason. Paul is always stressing cognitive reasoning and sobriety also, incidentally. I just can't help wondering, if I pick up the Koran or the DaodeChing and find myself agreeing with the first few sentences I read, if that should mean I should elevate its truthfulness and relevance to what I would consider scripture.

Especially if other parts don't jive with me in the least. The resulting conglomeration, even if you filtered out what you think are all the falsehoods from it, what would you have? How could you ever trust a book in which you believe parts of it must be mandated by God to reveal the truth, and other parts are lies? How could anyone trust a book like that?

From my standpoint, arminianism, Catholicism and deism all affirm works as playing a role in salvation, though some might disagree. So, I'm still very curious to hear your comments on my very simple line of reasoning as to why God doesn't need our works.

Cheers! Steve 1-9-2009


My response:

You already presented the references for Romans 9. I use a King James with word/phrase search. If you use a different Bible (as in this case) I won't find the reference.

Steve wrote, I believe Arminianism is the theological counterpoint to Calvinism. Both affirm that Christ is the risen Savior and the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, unlike deism. In principle, we agree that we don't worship man - we just disagree on who Jesus is, and to me there will never be another issue that comes close to how fundamental this one is.

I agree. To me Jesus is a man chosen by God and the first three Gospels supports this. It's only in the proto-Gnostic John Jesus seems more of a spirit being than anything. Paul never met Jesus in the flesh, so all we have are his claims of revelations and visions. That can't be proven or disproved. But I'll quote Thomas Paine in that I didn't receive the revelation, so I'm not obligated to believe it.

Steve wrote, I agree with your point on reason. Paul is always stressing cognitive reasoning and sobriety also, incidentally. I just can't help wondering, if I pick up the Koran or the DaodeChing and find myself agreeing with the first few sentences I read, if that should mean I should elevate its truthfulness and relevance to what I would consider scripture.

But Paul also railed against it. In the end it was Paul is right and everyone else is wrong. Most Jews and those that knew the Torah rejected Paul. It was those of little knowledge of the Jewish faith he could appeal to. He used a mostly allegorical (as does Christianity in general) interpretation of the OT.

This is further compounded by the Church Fathers (such as Augustine) who were influenced by Greek and pagan philosophy. To them the "Faith" had to be in terms they could accept. To pretend Augustine's Manicheaenism, Neoplatonism, and his own life didn't color his views and interpretations is a real matter of faith.

Whether you elevate anything to the truthfulness of Scripture (that by faith alone you believe correct) is your opinion. What makes the revelations of Mohammed any less believable than Paul? Are you not going to look at the claims in the Koran and check them against the Bible? Yes you are. Just as I will do the same with the Bible, Koran, Torah, or Darwin. If I knew everything I would just say so and never check anything.

Steve wrote, The resulting conglomeration, even if you filtered out what you think are all the falsehoods from it, what would you have? How could you ever trust a book in which you believe parts of it must be mandated by God to reveal the truth, and other parts are lies? How could anyone trust a book like that?

I don't trust any books. They are material objects. They are printed by man. They are the ideas, interpretations etc. of other people claiming to speak for God. The Bible didn't come floating out of the sky from God and landed in my hands. They don't even know who wrote vast sections of the Bible. I would urge caution, not outright rejections as the vast majority of these radical Deists do.

Steve wrote, From my standpoint, Arminianism, Catholicism and deism all affirm works as playing a role in salvation, though some might disagree. So, I'm still very curious to hear your comments on my very simple line of reasoning as to why God doesn't need our works.

Yes they do as does Judaism and Eastern Christianity. Your entire argument on "works" supposes predestination, God knew everything in advance, etc. In other words we have no reason to exist, no reason Jesus died on a cross, nothing. God is an ass, a bully, tyrant, and a fool. He got out-smarted in Eden by the mythical serpent, he acts like a raving lunatic, murders the innocent on a whim (first born of Egypt, etc) orders the murder of people, etc. for no more purpose than to say "I can do it." In other words God has been made into the image of lunatics and madmen.

Why should anyone even believe in Christ? What is the use? Why not just atheism? These "Christian" views create atheism. Because I reject them and always have is the reason I'm not an atheist. That is something I do not accept. Jefferson himself considered Calvinism atheism. It so denied God and substituted worship of a man nobody ever obeyed?

It isn't evolution or Darwin that creates atheists, it's Christian and Muslim holy books, preachers, etc. Thus being free of much this nonsense gives God a true voice. We must learn to listen and think about all of these matters.

Regards, Lewis 1-15-2009

Steve Responds

I may want to clarify, in case you did not want to be presumptuous, that I do indeed consider the Bible to be inerrant and wholly God-breathed, at least the KJV and my favorite modern translation, the NASB. I am accountable to answer and reconcile anything you question in specific, in accordance with this faith... I reserve the right to say I don't know, but never that it is inconsequential. Thanks...

Hi Lewis.

Can you give me some evidence that Jesus doesn't believe he's God? That is, from the other three Gospels that you trust more than you trust John - which incidentally, all the Gospels chronicle His death and resurrection.

I think we are at an impasse, and I'm not sure if you can help me clarify this. You say you trust Jesus, but you don't trust His claim to be the Messiah. Or, you trust His words more than Paul's or John's but not totally because you believe He's still only man.

You don't trust much of the new testament - in particular Paul's doctrine but you do believe in some of it, otherwise you wouldn't say you trust Jesus or say that John is less reliable than the other gospels. You seem to trust the OT more, but cannot account for the hundreds of prophecies which can only be fulfilled by Jesus, except to say that it is still written by man and therefore your logic and reason will supersede it as the foundation for your faith.

So it seems to be that you are what I would call a moving target. This question is not meant to be an attack or rhetorical, but I fail to see why you would chose to believe in any of it at all, since what you question is so deep and fundamental to the faith that what you are left with, even if it has any real meaning remaining, and not just something to anchor claims of moral legitimacy or heritage, has to be, I mean it HAS to be... in your mind, on shaky ground. Like the Jefferson Bible, what makes the result, after you've cut out everything you disbelieve, legitimate in your sober eyes, and to what extent?

I would very much like to continue this discussion if you can clear this up for me, though there may not be enough common ground for us to. If so, I can still walk away from the table enriched by your perspective. Thanks!

Steve 1-18-2009


My final response:

Steve said, "Can you give me some evidence that Jesus doesn't believe he's God?"

My response: Jesus prayed to God, not himself. On the cross he spoke in despair that God let him die. I thought He was God and should have known this. But he really didn't die, because God doesn't die. If he was God as you say, and God doesn't die, then Jesus never died and never rose from the dead. The Bible always treats them (Jesus and God) as separate beings, so why would I think they are the same? So reason overrules dogma.

Steve wrote, "So it seems to be that you are what I would call a moving target. This question is not meant to be an attack or rhetorical, but I fail to see why you would chose to believe in any of it at all..."

The answer is simple: I have the right to choose what I want and reject what is nonsense. Because America was founded on freedom of conscience, which is antithetical to revealed religions such as Christianity and Islam, I can accept many traditional values I want without believing the world is flat or God came to earth as a man to commit suicide for my sins. And you are also free to believe as you want. So here again is the creed of a Deist from Ben Franklin:

Here is my creed. I believe in One God, the Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render Him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion.

The rest, including the Bible, is commentary.



The following are based on a classical deist viewpoint - we are here to learn not just mindless attacks.