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Topic: I wonder how many people REALLY believe??

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Subject: I wonder how many people REALLY believe??
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 11:45 AM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
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My other thread (catalyst) got me thinking.....I wonder how many people who consider themselves Christians believe in God/Christ/Holy Spirit without a shadow of a doubt?

The recurring theme among non-believers seems to be "I told myself I believed, but deep down I really didn't."  So I wonder how many Believers hear a little voice deep inside them whisper "This really doesn't make sense; it doesn't feel real; " etc?   

When I was still very active in my church and choir, I know I heard that voice.  But when I talked to my pastor about it, he told me I just "didn't have enough faith."    Now as an adult, I know that there isn't enough "faith" in the world to make me believe something that my mind and heart tell me is not true.

Thoughts? Comments?  

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 12:05 PM ET
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I believe in God without the slightest shadow of a doubt.

About everything else: some doubt, varying degrees from a little doubt (virgin birth) to a whole lot of doubt (Noah and the arc) to outright rejection (hell full of fire and brimstone for non-Christians). If I hear that voice of doubt, I listen to it and see what it has to say for itself. So when I hear a "Christian" voice lifted in hatred and bigotry, or in exclusiveness, the voice inside me says "no" and I do not accept the thing my voice suggests I reject.

Les <-- breaking a promise to self to stay out of this forum.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 12:22 PM ET
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Thanks for your insight Les!   And personally, I think we NEED you in this forum.   We've been playing pretty nice in here, I think.   Heck....L.G. and I are even getting along!!!!   :P

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 1:26 PM ET
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Beth, thanks for starting this thread.  I found that I wanted to respond to your original 'catalyst' post, but since it wasn't asking for my opinion I decided to stay out of it. 

I read through the responses to your catalyst thread, and it amazes me to see all of the varying (and extreme) examples of religion/Christianity that people have been exposed to.  I must admit, had I experienced some of those situations myself, I can't say that I wouldn't have ended up any differently than the people who already posted.

In contrast, I have never been to a church that did faith healings.  I have never seen people speak in tongues (or even attempt to).  I have never seen people flopping about in the aisles, and while the 'Jesus Jig' sounds entertaining, I have not seen that either.  I have visited a few churches that did do altar calls at the ends of the service, but that's about it.

My experience in the church was very different.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not believe in God.  I grew up Methodist, and while it was a good denomination, I just didn't feel satisfied with it (no offense intended to any Methodists...)  So in college I started looking around.  I came across RUF (Reformed University Fellowship), the college ministry of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America).  Something about it rang very true to me. I had always believed in God, believed that Christ died for my sin, but until I really started to learn about it, to finally grasp those hard-to-explain Biblical concepts (such as predestination...) I didn't understand how it really worked, how it applied to me, how it was still a relevant and living thing in my life.

I found RUF and the PCA incredibly refreshing.  It was a far cry from "Don't question the pastor or the Bible!" to "Question everything!"  The PCA is a very...cerebral? denomination.  It's big on education and quality teaching.  You never get "Because the Bible said so, now stop asking questions!"  I also think it is a far cry from blind indoctrination.

How do I believe without a shadow of a doubt?  I consider that a gift from God.  In my predestination response I talked about how God gives us new hearts that are hardwired for Him.  With that comes the gift of the holy spirit, Christ's presence dwelling within us.  It sounds hokey to explain it this way, but there is an internal witness that confirms to me that all I believe is true.  It is human to stop every now and then and say, "Do I really believe this?" But always, and with little hesitation, the answer is always and unquestionably, "YES."



Last Edited on: 6/6/08 1:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 3:58 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
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LOL@  Beth!

That's sort of what I was getting at in one of my last posts...I'll bet there are a lot of people who are afraid to break from their culture.

Amy, our school meets at a PCA church.  The minister there used to be a UU minister!  When he told me that I was soert of blown away.   They are very liberal, though I don't think all PCA churces are.

 

 



Last Edited on: 6/6/08 4:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2007
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"I wonder how many people who consider themselves Christians believe in God/Christ/Holy Spirit without a shadow of a doubt?"

I believe 100% without a shadow of a doubt...my take is "God said it, I believe it"  this goes for Virgin Birth, Noah and the Ark, & hellfire for those that do not believe in God when Jesus comes to take His people home.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 4:58 PM ET
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I know there are people that believe without a doubt.  I can see it in the faithful way their live their lives in devotion to the church's teachings.  They also seem very content in their beliefs, and don't feel the need to shout it in your face.

I also wonder how many people don't believe and are just afraid to say so.  After all, it's not like there's a welcoming committee for non-believers, is there?  It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that there are way more agnostics/atheists out there than people think.  There's just no real incentive for people to say so.  Why turn yourself into public enemy #1?  You risk losing friends, being discriminated against at work, in society, etc.  It's easier for people just to go with the crowd.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 5:30 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
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L, that is interesting!  You are right though... the majority (if not all, or so I thought) of the PCA churches are very conservative.  The PCA formed in the 1970s when it broke away from the PC-USA because of disagreements regarding Biblical teaching and the USA's movement away from more conservative viewpoints. 

Each regional presbetery is responsible for ordaining ministers that will work in that region. If you live in a more liberal area, chances are the presbytery there is more liberal also, even if it is PCA.  That's my guess, at least.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 5:30 PM ET
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My MIL was raised staunch Mehtodist, married FIL and followed him to seminary, was a preacher's wife for 20 years... then last year revealed to DH (privately, of course) that she doesn't really believe in heaven.  Makes me wonder what else she doesn't "buy into", even though a majority of her adult life reviolved around the church and being a voice for whatever church her husband was serving....until DH told me about her revelation I was convinced she was a 100% believer, she fakes it really good :)  But Amanda's right, it isn't like doubters are welcomed into the fold.  I still haven't told MIL about my doubts, even though I now know she has some herself.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 7:53 PM ET
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Last Edited on: 3/25/11 8:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 9:49 PM ET
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I'm Roman Catholic and I believe without a shadow of a doubt in our wonderful God!!!  He has been all too present in my life for me to ever question His existance.  This faith I have is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  I've felt his love and physical protection.  I'm so blessed and so thankful for Him to have led me where I am today.  

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 11:00 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
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Amanda, I'll bet it would kinda be like coming out if you were gay, if your family was very religious.

Amy, I live in one of the most liberal cities in the US  (Portland, OR) so I suspect you are right.

Sam, you and MIL could probably do some bonding!



Last Edited on: 6/6/08 11:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/7/2008 1:51 AM ET
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I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that, while 99.5% (at least) of the time I believe without a shadow of a doubt, there are times when doubt creeps in.  That's human nature (and Satan working).  It doesn't make me less of a Christian to say there have been times in my life when I have doubted.   These times weren't really the "obvious" times - times of pain, of loss, that drive some people away from God.   Usually it's just an average day when I may start thinking too much.  At times I have doubted the very existence of God.  More often I have doubted that He is doing anything for me. 

But, the key for me is, these times never last very long (and usually they are VERY short - like minutes,  maybe hours).   And pretty soon, God will do something in my life - little or big - and I wonder why the heck I ever doubted.  But, because I'm human, I'm sure one of these days I'll have some moments of doubt again.  I think if you studied the Church fathers and leaders of both yesterday and today, you'd find that most of them have had their moments of doubt.  

You can't rationalize faith - that's what makes it faith!  Rationalization is one of my problems - since I am of a scientific mind (and yes, God and science can very easily go together), I try to figure stuff out.   That's when I get into trouble, because you - me - anyone - can't "figure out" God.  Our minds just can't wrap around Him.  There are a lot of unanswered questions, or half answered ones (like the discussion about the Trinity in the CMT thread).  In the words of my favorite songwriter, God is "just plain hard to get". 

 

 

Date Posted: 6/7/2008 2:31 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
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I grew up in the Mormon religion, and leaving that was very much what I expect it would be like for a believer telling their family they didn't believe anymore.  I was very afraid to tell my family, and while they haven't shunned me, things definitely aren't the same as they used to be.  So while I'm still very much a believer in God, I do understand how it can feel when you stop believing in something, and have to tell the people you love you don't believe anymore.

Back to the original topic, I don't really feel like I have any doubts in my faith.  Sure, I question things, but I think that's healthy and normal.   There was one very brief time, for a few days, when I was coming out of Mormonism, that I questioned the existence of God.  But other than that, I've always believed, without a shadow of a doubt that there is a God.  In my darkest times, I have definitely questioned whether God loves me, or even cares about me, but I tend to think that's pretty normal for believers as well.

Date Posted: 6/7/2008 10:19 PM ET
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I've been through patches of doubt in my life. I read a great apologetics book that really opened my eyes. I would say my doubt is non-existant now.

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 10:20 AM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
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I have to ask...and I am not being flip here...

Christy said    

God said it, I believe it

 

How do you know God said it? And how do you know those were the exact words? I don't believe the Bible to be a good source to base one's faith on for many reasons...that being said...How do you know God said any of the things that are written in the Bible?  Without bible quotes..because those quotes could have been made up by anyone over the years...

 

I really am curious to know how it is that people put such faith in a thing when they can't really know whose words are in the book, just because it says it is god's word doesn't mean that some human somewhere along the way didn't fudge it a bit or add their own view of things to it on life, the universe and everything.  And I can't help but wonder (like a lot of other people) why, if it was going to be the only book wriiten (or dictated) by god to all of humanity, is there nothing really profound or useful in it?  Math, science, farmers almanac stuff...The bible is considered by Christians to be god's message to the world...but it doesn't really SAY anything...

 

I really do want to understand how a person puts their faith in that.   I'm not trying to be offensive, although I am sure that someone is going to flame me, I have a headache and my words won't get organized...I really am curious to see the answers that get posted...minus bible quotes because to me that would be a circular argument..I am looking for more of an answer than a quote out of the bible...after all a bible quote will not help me see the thinking and I have 2 bibles here I can look at anytime...

 

 

 

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 11:02 AM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
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Candice, you ask some really good questions!  I don't have the references handy to answer this question as well as I would like, but I can try to throw something together for now.

First, in order to approach a discussion about the Bible, you have to understand a person's viewpoint.  As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallable word of God.  Yes, it was written by men/women, but they wrote under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Meaning that God was speaking through humans to get His message to the world.  Therefore the Bible is not the collected work of sinful men writing propoganda for their own personal gain and for the indoctrination of unwitting peoples, but sinful men redeemed by God's grace and inspired by God's Holy Spirit to spread the message of salvation to all peoples.

WIth that said, (this is where I need the reference), each book of the Bible that made it into the canon can be traced back and back and back to its original (or near original) scroll, and multiple copies exist.  That is why some books (like the gnostic texts) were not admitted as canon.  So while there have been episodes in church history where the Bible has been misinterpreted throguh malicious or misguided well-meaning, there is little evidence to support that the Bible has been mistranslated for those same reasons.

God's message in the Bible is not about telling us the theory or relativity or how to develop nuclear power.  The message of the Bible is creation, fall, redemption.  It tells God's story to His people: how He created us, how we fell into sin, and how He lovingly redeems us from that sin.  For those who see the Bible in that regard, it is incredibly relevant to our lives, even now.

I wish I had more time but I've got to get back to work.  Let me know if any of that didn't make sense or if you have any more questions.  As I said, they were good questions!  I want to do them justice with my answers.

 

 



Last Edited on: 6/9/08 1:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/9/2008 11:27 AM ET
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The bible is considered by Christians to be god's message to the world...but it doesn't really SAY anything...

To me, it says everything that needs to be said.  There's a scripture that says:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 1:18

To me, that kind of illustrates the Bible.  To those who don't believe in it, it's just a bunch of words with little meaning and no importance.  But for those who believe what the Bible says, it's huge, and it's powerful, and it's meaningful.  Perhaps one of the most well-known scriptures is John 3:16--"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  To a believer, that says EVERYTHING.  

I can understand why someone who thinks the Bible is just a book written by men would think it doesn't say anything important, though, so I see where you're coming from.   

ETA:  Please know I'm not trying to convert anyone, or even trying to make anyone believe in the Bible.  I'm just trying to illustrate the parts that are meaningful to me, and that say something to me.



Last Edited on: 6/9/08 12:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 6/9/2008 11:48 AM ET
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WIth that said, (this is where I need the reference), each book of the Bible that made it into the canon can be traced back and back and back to its original (or near original) scroll, and multiple copies exist.

According to Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible (and Why), most of the original texts have disappeared and the earliest texts that do exist disagree with each other. And sometimes changes were made to the texts intentionally to suit current political/theological thinking.

Ehrman's not some athiest hack with an ax to grind. He is the chair of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and attended the Moody Bible Institute and Princeton Theological Seminary.

His book is interesting, as is his more recent God's Problem - How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer.

 

ETA:  I'm copying these from Wikipedia's entry about Bart Ehrman

A second major theme that runs through his more recent works is the analysis of why such biblical variations are there. The vast majority of the literally hundreds of thousands of differences are due to the unintentional mistakes of scribes[8]. These variations have little to no effect on the meaning of the passages or core tenets of Christian dogma. Changes were made, however, that Ehrman believes with near certainty could not have been mistakes, but were in fact purposeful alterations by the early church fathers and theologians to mold the early Christian writings into what they felt they needed to support their agenda and/or interpretation of Christianity.

Two key examples will be given here to illustrate the critical nature of the variations. Two of the most striking additions that could not possibly be attributed to unintentional scribal error occur in the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark and in 1 John.

In the Gospel of Mark, Bart claims that the last 12 verses have been added on to the original text many years later.[8] Unlike some other scribal errors that had little bearing on the major tenets of Christian dogma, this addition to the text has had vast ramifications. In Mark, Jesus' reappearance to his disciples is mentioned only in the 12 verses that were added to the original. Ehrman indicates that when one considers that the Gospel of Mark is generally regarded to be the earliest of the three synoptic gospels, and most likely one of the primary sources for the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke, it becomes apparent that the addition of these 12 verses could have had a monumental effect.

In 1 John, where we find a well known Biblical reference to the doctrine of the Trinity, Bart Ehrman notes that this section appears in no Greek manuscript before the 9th century.



Last Edited on: 6/9/08 1:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/9/2008 11:49 AM ET
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The bible says much more than nothing. It is full of practical .... advice. Dont kill people. Dont steal stuff. Dont sleep around. Don't be greedy. Love thy neighbor. These are all good practical things that have nothing to do with running the world but everything to do with running your own life. I dont believe in the dogma but the advice is usually sound with some bitchin love poems thrown in too.

As for people who say they believe but probably dont Id say I know of at least one person who couldnt possibly have believed. If he did he wouldnt have been an alchoholic who beat his wife and drove all of his kids away the minute they could legally leave. He was an ordained minister but I just can't believe that he believed otherwise he wouldnt have done half of the nasty stuff he did to his family. His daughter was my best friend all through HS (we have lost touch since then) I sat with her many nights while she cried over the things he did and wondered how God could take such a monster as his servant.

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 1:48 PM ET
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Bob, I was aware that there were some unintentional errors attributed to the scribes having to copy large amounts of text by hand.  As the Wikipedia article suggested, these errors had no real impact on Christian belief as a whole.

It seems that I have read something regarding those 12 verses from Mark because the controversy surrounding them sounds vaguely familiar.  I can't remember the detials, however, and will have to wait until I get home so that I can look it up.  For the sake of comparing notes, I will post what I find (if I can find it) later on tonight.

I don't know much about the author you are referring to, and will have to do some more digging on my own for that as well.  Judging purely on first impression, I believe that I would tend to disagree with the conclusions of his second book. The title alone of God's Problem - How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer, strikes me as being incorrect.  While there is no specific "chapter and verse" answer of why we suffer, I feel that the answer to that question is addressed throughout the Bible.  This is a fallen world.  Suffering came with the fall.  Until all of creation is redeemed, suffering on this earth will continue.  I do not believe that God is indifferent to our suffering, and I don't think that He is completely removed from it or does nothing to alleviate it.  I just think that He handles things differently than we would like Him to.

Those are my first impressions, at least.  I'll take some time to read about the author a little bit more before coming to any formal conclusions.

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 1:58 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
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Amy,

When I was reading the Why does God allow suffering book, I started a conversation about it www.paperbackswap.com/forum/topic.php

Ehrman discusses what you've proposed in great detail, essentially that we suffer because we're inherently sinful since Eden, but he concludes that this is incompatible with the idea of God as a benevolent figure.

Date Posted: 6/9/2008 2:41 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2008
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Beth, I have to echo what Tracey said, "Do I believe? With all my heart. Do I question things? All the time!" (Thank you, Tracey, for putting it so well.) For most of my life I was an atheist or agnostic, but for the last 10 years I've been a Christian because of personal encounters with God. I sometimes say to myself that I've just imagined these encounters but I know in my heart they're real. I don't mean burning bushes that talk but a profound knowing of the presence of God. I recommend listening to your heart because that's where God/Goddess/Buddha/Higher Power/whatever is speaking to you. If the doctrine doesn't make sense to you, then forget it and find what seems right. And it's OK if you change your mind later. When I first joined the church, the virgin birth and Jesus' miracles seemed like a bunch of stupid myths to get people to believe. Now I still have my doubts but I fully believe that the supernatural (God) can break into this physical world and do anything. Ironically, it was a Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who led me to Christianity. His books allowed me to follow my heart and question what didn't make sense. Then the phrase "to go home" lept out at me and I realized that I had to go back to Christianity. That's what happened to me but I know that everyone has to follow his or her own path. It's much more important to be true to your heart than to follow any kind of religious "formula" that doesn't make sense to you.
Date Posted: 6/9/2008 10:57 PM ET
Member Since: 7/3/2007
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Bob, thanks for providing the link.  In order to prevent hijacking this thread, I have decided to post my response on your original thread instead.

Date Posted: 6/13/2008 9:42 AM ET
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Thanks for answering. 

I am still wondering though...

How can you be sure that these messengers did not mess up the message in some way?  How do know there was not a different message?

You're putting a lot of faith in the honesty of people who lived a couple thousand years ago.  Why is that?

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