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Is Genisis/The Bible literal? (continuation from "Purpose?")

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This was mainly between me and Wesker, but anyone can feel free to reply. :woot:

I am not sure what you mean by "literal".

Whatever you mean by literal. :P

Whether or not Jesus was in fact the incarnation of the Logos (and it is my faith that He was), Jesus was a historical figure. Yet, I would not describe the idea of the Last Adam in anything other than the symbolic. There are many other Adams that have been born after Christ. Jesus is the Last Adam because His is the image of perfect. His is the endpoint of human being, upon which we are made One with God. "For He was made man that we might be made God..," said St. Athanasius. Since I follow the recapitulation theory of atonement with St. Athanasius, Jesus becomes man to perfect and counteract the failings of the First Adam, metaphorically all the sin of humankind. In such a sense, Jesus is the end of man, the Last Adam.

The bible is the holy, infallible, inherent, authoritive Word Of God. I do not see any events in the bible(unless it was a parable. If it was such It didn't use names, like with the "story" of Adam and Eve.) that are meant to not be taken literal. Maybe some things are metaphors and such, but I'm talking about the events that happened. If the bible says the Reed Sea was parted and they walked across dry land that is what happened. Do you believe the whole bible to not be literal? If not do you just pick and choose what is and isn't literal?

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The bible is the holy, infallible, inherent, authoritive Word Of God. I do not see any events in the bible(unless it was a parable. If it was such It didn't use names, like with the "story" of Adam and Eve.) that are meant to not be taken literal. Maybe some things are metaphors and such, but I'm talking about the events that happened. If the bible says the red sea was parted and they walked across dry land that is what happened. Do you believe the whole bible to not be literal? If not do you just pick and choose what is and isn't literal?

Are you aware that in Gensis 2&3, the same word in hebrew is used for Man as is used for Adam?

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Are you aware that in Gensis 2&3, the same word in hebrew is used for Man as is used for Adam?

Names have meanings. Mine does, yours does everyones does. My dads name is Winston, which means stone. If I wrote a book about him and someone looked up the meaning of his name, by this logic, it would be correct to assume he doesn't have a name, rather he is just a stone and none of what the book said happened. It's just hard for me to see how an alternate meaning to a word would make the entire book of Gen. not literal.

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Whatever you mean by literal. :P
Well, I am just at a loss at how a label such as a "Last Adam" could ever be other than symbolic? Mind you, I do not equate symbolism as untrue as many do in our science obsessed culture. Some of the most real things in the world are symbolic. So for example, neuroscience often discards any mental state it cannot find a biological basis for, chalking it up to folk psychology. I am a phenomenologist in that I take the human subjective experience to be the foundation, not science. Spirit/Mind precedes Matter/World. Therefore, that which has a primary impact on the phenomenological experience such as art and literature could be said to be more real than anything else. I reject scientism most vehemently.
The bible is the holy, infallible, inherent, authoritive Word Of God. I do not see any events in the bible(unless it was a parable. If it was such It didn't use names, like with the "story" of Adam and Eve.) that are meant to not be taken literal. Maybe some things are metaphors and such, but I'm talking about the events that happened. If the bible says the Reed Sea was parted and they walked across dry land that is what happened. Do you believe the whole bible to not be literal? If not do you just pick and choose what is and isn't literal?
And yet, those Protestants who insist on the literalness of the biblical literature adamantly refuse to believe Jesus in John 6 when He delivers His Eucharistic discourse. It is the one story in the biblical literature Protestants cannot accept as literal for some reason I will never understand. I am going to quote from the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church which was an invaluable book published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Keep in mind that Roman Catholicism has an approach to the biblical literature that is utterly alien to evangelical Protestantism:

"Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details. But by "literal interpretation" it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development. It is opposed, therefore, to the use of the historical-critical method, as indeed to the use of any other scientific method for the interpretation of Scripture....

The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods. It pays no attention to the literary forms and to the human ways of thinking to be found in the biblical texts, many of which are the result of a process extending over long periods of time and bearing the mark of very diverse historical situations.

Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning....

In what concerns the Gospels, fundamentalism does not take into account the development of the Gospel tradition, but naively confuses the final stage of this tradition (what the evangelists have written) with the initial (the words and deeds of the historical Jesus). At the same time fundamentalism neglects an important fact: The way in which the first Christian communities themselves understood the impact produced by Jesus of Nazareth and his message. But it is precisely there that we find a witness to the apostolic origin of the Christian faith and its direct expression. Fundamentalism thus misrepresents the call voiced by the Gospel itself.

Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices—racism, for example—quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.

Finally, in its attachment to the principle "Scripture alone," fundamentalism separates the interpretation of the Bible from the tradition, which, guided by the Spirit, has authentically developed in union with Scripture in the heart of the community of faith. It fails to realize that the New Testament took form within the Christian church and that it is the Holy Scripture of this church, the existence of which preceded the composition of the texts. Because of this, fundamentalism is often anti-church, it considers of little importance the creeds, the doctrines and liturgical practices which have become part of church tradition, as well as the teaching function of the church itself. It presents itself as a form of private interpretation which does not acknowledge that the church is founded on the Bible and draws its life and inspiration from Scripture.

The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations" (Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, I. Methods and Approaches for Interpretation).

I want you to have a firm grasp on the Roman Catholic approach to scripture, before we continue with our discussion. If the Evangelical/Catholic hermeneutical divide is not acknowledge we are going to keep talking past each other and stifle fruitful discussion. Once the basics are establish I will tell you why I do not believe Genesis to be literal history or scientific truth.

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If the Old Testament were literal account of characters in historic events, then we should be able to derive a consistent theology from its portrayal of God. But we cannot derive such a consistent theology: the God of the Old Testament is a temperamental flickering of human imagination, a God who changes His mind and battles with His emotions and feels regret--a God neither omniscient nor omnipresent nor omnipotent. This God in one breath declares providential justice against the wicked and inevitable reward for the righteous, and then strikes down Job with the next because there should be no justice. There is an afterlife; there is no afterlife. Israel is guilty; Israel is innocent.

In other words, the God of the Old Testament is but a shadow of the God-man found in Christ, so the God of the OT should not be treated as a literal characterization of the divine person, and if God's characterization is imaginative, then there's little left to care about from a literalist's perspective.

[/blasphemy]

Roman Catholic approach to scripture

We have that? Granted, RCers tend not to be literalists because they're accustomed to interpreting Scripture in light of tradition, but beyond that, it seems like we're as divided by critical methods as any other group.

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If the Old Testament were literal history, then we should be able to derive a consistent theology from its portrayal of God. But we cannot derive such a consistent theology: the God of the Old Testament is a temperamental flickering of human imagination, a God who changes His mind and battles with His emotions and feels regret--a God neither omniscient nor omnipresent nor omnipotent. This God in one breath declares providential justice against the wicked and inevitable reward for the righteous, and then strikes down Job with the next because there should be no justice. There is an afterlife; there is no afterlife. Israel is guilty, Israel is innocent.

In other words, the God of the Old Testament is but a shadow of the God-man found in Christ, so the God of the OT should not be treated as a literal characterization of the divine person, and if God's characterization is imaginative, then there's little left to care about from a literalist's perspective.

[/blasphemy]

This position was held by St. Irenaeus if I am not mistaken.
We have that? Granted, RCers tend not to be literalists because they're accustomed to interpreting Scripture in light of tradition, but beyond that, it seems like we're as divided by critical methods as any other group.[/color]
While there is difference, I tend to understand a general pattern whereby Roman Catholic hermeneutics is historical-contextual and Protestant Evangelical is analytic-scientific.

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What did I get myself into? :shock:

This is a lot to reply to from a phone. I will do my best to reply to all of y'alls (very well put) points.

Yves, The God of the OT is the same as the NT. His attitude changed twords humans after his Son died on the cross and gave Him a reason to change his attitude towards us. If I am understanding you correctly.

Wesker, I am not saying *every* detail is literal. When God says the Earth is his foot stool I do not expect to be walking and trip over God's pinky toe. :P

However, the events. The recordings of what happened at that time did happen. Why would we say the events (creation, the fall etc.) in Genesis are not literal, but say the events in other OT books are? Why does it seem it is Genesis people assume is not literal, but will say other OT books are. How do you tell?

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Yves, The God of the OT is the same as the NT.

My claim is not OT God =/= NT God (although I do in fact believe this). My claim is that the God of Job =/= the God of Deuteronomy. God in the Old Testament is not given a consistent characterization because the OT lacks theological unity.

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My claim is not OT God =/= NT God (although I do in fact believe this). My claim is that the God of Job =/= the God of Deuteronomy. God in the Old Testament is not given a consistent characterization because the OT lacks theological unity.

Maybe that is because the bible is an account that many different people kept track of. So their view of God was different. Take Job for exapmle, he saw God as faithful to bring him through what he was going through. His wife however saw him as the complete opposite. This is seen today. Some see God as evil. Some as good. So those who tell a story about their experience with Him can't help but to let their view of God come through as they explain how he interacted with them.

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Maybe that is because the bible is an account that many different people kept track of. So their view of God was different. Take Job for exapmle, he saw God as faithful to bring him through what he was going through. His wife however saw him as the complete opposite. This is seen today. Some see God as evil. Some as good. So those who tell a story about their experience with Him can't help but to let their view of God come through as they explain how he interacted with them.

Indeed. Such a view is not consonant with the thesis that the Bible is both (1) absolutely authoritative and (2) literally true in the common sense of that term. If (1) and (2) were correct, then it should follow that divine inspiration would supersede the limitations of the authors in portraying God, so that an authoritative characterization of Him would emerge from his literally understood behavior and composition.

Consequently, the character "God" in Job should not be understood as a literal being in a whirlwind. And if we don't understand that element as literal, there's no reason to suppose that the Job narrative is a rigorously factual historic narrative.

Similar arguments hold true of most OT narratives, imo, including Genesis.

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Indeed. Such a view is not consonant with the thesis that the Bible is both (1) absolutely authoritative and (2) literally true in the common sense of that term. If (1) and (2) were correct, then it should follow that divine inspiration would supersede the limitations of the authors in portraying God, so that an authoritative characterization of Him would emerge from his literally understood behavior and composition.

Consequently, the character "God" in Job should not be understood as a literal being in a whirlwind. And if we don't understand that element as literal, there's no reason to suppose that the Job narrative is a rigorously factual historic narrative.

Similar arguments hold true of most OT narratives, imo, including Genesis.

I don't see how other peoples view of God makes Genesis, or any other OT book not literal.

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I don't see how other peoples view of God makes Genesis, or any other OT book not literal.

If x account is literal, and y account is literal, and x is contradictory with y, then x and y cannot both be true.

x and y are contradictory.

But, if x is authoritative, and y is authoritative, then x and y must both be true in their authoritating sense.

x and y are authoritative.

Therefore, x and y cannot both be literal in the sense in which they are authoritative.

x = Job's account of God

y = Genesis' account of God

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If x account is literal, and y account is literal, and x is contradictory with y, then x and y cannot both be true.

x and y are contradictory.

But, if x is authoritative, and y is authoritative, then x and y must both be true in their authoritating sense.

x and y are authoritative.

Therefore, x and y cannot both be literal in the sense in which they are authoritative.

x = Job's account of God

y = Genesis' account of God

But how a man (Job/those who kept account of what happened) and how Genesis see's God doesn't change if Adam and Eve were real or merely figurative. If the flood really happened. etc.

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But how a man (Job/those who kept account of what happened) and how Genesis see's God doesn't change if Adam and Eve were real or merely figurative. If the flood really happened. etc.

Why should we suppose that Job is a real dude if the God to whom Job spoke is a fiction from a literalist point of view?

More to the point, if the God who "walked in the garden of Eden" is a literary device, why would we say that Eden was a real garden? And if Eden is a literary device, how much would a real Adam really have in common with the literary Adam?

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Why should we suppose that Job is a real dude if the God to whom Job spoke is a fiction from a literalist point of view?

More to the point, if the God who "walked in the garden of Eden" is a literary device, why would we say that Eden was a real garden? And if Eden is a literary device, how much would a real Adam really have in common with the literary Adam?

I am going to be blunt. I don't understand what you are saying. Who said God was fiction?

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If the Old Testament were literal account of characters in historic events, then we should be able to derive a consistent theology from its portrayal of God. But we cannot derive such a consistent theology: the God of the Old Testament is a temperamental flickering of human imagination, a God who changes His mind and battles with His emotions and feels regret--a God neither omniscient nor omnipresent nor omnipotent. This God in one breath declares providential justice against the wicked and inevitable reward for the righteous, and then strikes down Job with the next because there should be no justice. There is an afterlife; there is no afterlife. Israel is guilty; Israel is innocent.

In other words, the God of the Old Testament is but a shadow of the God-man found in Christ, so the God of the OT should not be treated as a literal characterization of the divine person, and if God's characterization is imaginative, then there's little left to care about from a literalist's perspective.

[/blasphemy]

I'm not sure I buy this. For one, it sounds eerily similar to Marcion. Unless there are some major parts of the Old Testament I am missing, it does not seem impossibly difficult to me to harmonize the OT portrayal of God with itself and the New Testament.

---------- Post added at 06:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:40 PM ----------

I am going to be blunt. I don't understand what you are saying. Who said God was fiction?
He means the appearance of God in a literal whirlwind, not God Himself.

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I'm not sure I buy this. For one, it sounds eerily similar to Marcion. Unless there are some major parts of the Old Testament I am missing, it does not seem impossibly difficult to me to harmonize the OT portrayal of God with itself and the New Testament.

---------- Post added at 06:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:40 PM ----------

He means the appearance of God in a literal whirlwind, not God Himself.

I can't keep up with those guys. I am going to bow out. I apologize cause I did start this. They just have a way of putting things that I am not used to and can not understand. :P

I enjoyed the discussion Wesker and Yves. :)

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I'm not sure I buy this. For one, it sounds eerily similar to Marcion. Unless there are some major parts of the Old Testament I am missing, it does not seem impossibly difficult to me to harmonize the OT portrayal of God with itself and the New Testament.
I am in agreement with Chris/Yves on this issue, as it is not hard to guess. YHVH ≠ God the Father. It is easy for Calvinists to reconcile the two, I think, because the penal substitution theory of atonement is kind of like a cheat. God really is a blood-thirsty demon that is sometimes portrayed in the Tanach, it is merely that God finds a way to game the system in the New Testament. He turns His thirst for blood inward, instead of outwards. It is impossible for Roman Catholicism to accept such a principle, because we believe that God = Love. God the Father which Jesus reveals is something totally Other to the concept of Lex Talionis which the Old Testament (or certain books of it) and Calvinism both purport and believe to be the root of justice.
I can't keep up with those guys. I am going to bow out. I apologize cause I did start this. They just have a way of putting things that I am not used to and can not understand. :P

I enjoyed the discussion Wesker and Yves. :)

And I did not even get to debate the issue. :unsure:

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Guest TheNewBreed

I believe it is literal and not.

To elaborate I do believe most of what was said is literal, Jesus dying on the cross, the burning bush, etc.

Yet many great Theologians believe that much of the Bible was written in a way so that mankind at the time could understand the references. Examples are: The "days" in the beginning of Genesis were actually much longer than our concept of days, verses in revelation are symbolic of future technology, etc.

So I guess you could say I do not believe the Bible in it's entirety is literal, though also I do not believe any of it is fictious

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I am in agreement with Chris/Yves on this issue, as it is not hard to guess. YHVH ≠ God the Father...God the Father which Jesus reveals is something totally Other to the concept of Lex Talionis which the Old Testament (or certain books of it) and Calvinism both purport and believe to be the root of justice.
Disregarding the twisted portrayal of Calvinism's view of God, this understanding seems to me deeply disturbing and worryingly heterodox. And I'm not rhetorically exaggerating, either. I would more easily deny that God is love than I would deny continuity between God in the Old and New Testaments (and nothing could ever convince me to deny that God is love). If I were ever convinced of what you say it would probably demolish my entire faith.

Significantly to this issue, I find no Scriptural support for this position. Nothing I see in the New Testament even begins to indicate as I can tell that the Old Testament was off in any way. Certainly if so bold a claim as "YHWH != God the Father" were true then one of the Biblical writers would have made it clear. Yet they did not, nor has any council or creed decided in favor of this view. So I feel no reason to even suspect it could be true.

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God said let there be light on day 1, separated darkness from light and had "evening and morning, day 1" without a sun, moon, stars, rotation of the earth and nothing to judge evening and morning by, and then created the sun on day four?

Also, apparently on day three God created vegetation and seed bearing plants and whatnot, went on to create mankind and said to be fruitful and multiply on day six but then apparently made Adam before any plant had yet sprung up? (Genesis 2:5)

Either these are extremely strong contradictions within two chapters or they're not meant to be taken literally.

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I am in agreement with Chris/Yves on this issue, as it is not hard to guess. YHVH ≠ God the Father. It is easy for Calvinists to reconcile the two, I think, because the penal substitution theory of atonement is kind of like a cheat. God really is a blood-thirsty demon that is sometimes portrayed in the Tanach, it is merely that God finds a way to game the system in the New Testament. He turns His thirst for blood inward, instead of outwards. It is impossible for Roman Catholicism to accept such a principle, because we believe that God = Love. God the Father which Jesus reveals is something totally Other to the concept of Lex Talionis which the Old Testament (or certain books of it) and Calvinism both purport and believe to be the root of justice.

This is true to some extent. I wouldn't say that God =/= Yahweh as a hard logical fact, though. In a strict sense, the God of Abraham is the changeless God of the New Testament, and Abraham is rightfully the father of our faith.

My argument would be more that the Old Testament isn't a manual of systematic theology and that the character of God should not be interpreted as a basis for characterizing the specific qualities of the God of Abraham. Any time Genesis imputes something like surprise, or when God is shown to change his mind, for instance, we're clearly not dealing with an accurate picture of God as God, but merely with a character meant to represent some divine characteristic or problem.

So, the God of the OT = the God of the NT; it's just that the theology of the OT =/= the theology of the new.

I can't keep up with those guys. I am going to bow out. I apologize cause I did start this. They just have a way of putting things that I am not used to and can not understand.

Sorry |D I'm being a bit more... pontifical than I usually would :P My disillusionment with the Old Testament is a fairly recent thing for me. I feel a bit bitter about it, in the way one feels bitter about old beliefs that turn on you :\

I'm not sure I buy this. For one, it sounds eerily similar to Marcion.

There's continuity between the God of Abraham and Christ. I'm just not convinced that Old Testament literalism is compatible with a robust Christian theology of that God.

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Disregarding the twisted portrayal of Calvinism's view of God, this understanding seems to me deeply disturbing and worryingly heterodox. And I'm not rhetorically exaggerating, either. I would more easily deny that God is love than I would deny continuity between God in the Old and New Testaments (and nothing could ever convince me to deny that God is love). If I were ever convinced of what you say it would probably demolish my entire faith.
But the Calvinist God is not Love. You cannot square Calvinism with Love in any way, shape or form. God is a glory monster in Calvinism. He places glory above love. Ugh, forget it! Calvinism frustrates me too much, because as I have always maintained, it is just a doctrine of blatantly contradictory assertions. :unsure:
Significantly to this issue, I find no Scriptural support for this position. Nothing I see in the New Testament even begins to indicate as I can tell that the Old Testament was off in any way. Certainly if so bold a claim as "YHWH != God the Father" were true then one of the Biblical writers would have made it clear. Yet they did not, nor has any council or creed decided in favor of this view. So I feel no reason to even suspect it could be true.
I want to clear up any confusion. I am not saying that the Old Testament writers did not communion with the same Spirit as the New Testament writers. When I say "YHVH" I am not referring to the Absolute behind the human writings. I am referring specifically to the Tanach writers interpretation of the Sacred.

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This is true to some extent. I wouldn't say that God =/= Yahweh as a hard logical fact, though. In a strict sense, the God of Abraham is the changeless God of the New Testament, and Abraham is rightfully the father of our faith.

My argument would be more that the Old Testament isn't a manual of systematic theology and that the character of God should not be interpreted as a basis for characterizing the specific qualities of the God of Abraham. Any time Genesis imputes something like surprise, or when God is shown to change his mind, for instance, we're clearly not dealing with an accurate picture of God as God, but merely with a character meant to represent some divine characteristic or problem.

So, the God of the OT = the God of the NT; it's just that the theology of the OT =/= the theology of the new.

There's continuity between the God of Abraham and Christ. I'm just not convinced that Old Testament literalism is compatible with a robust Christian theology of that God.

This makes more sense to me. I'm still not convinced though. I'm willing to make allowance for a very broad, liberal use of anthropmorphism, even in places where it is less than obvious.
But the Calvinist God is not Love. You cannot square Calvinism with Love in any way, shape or form. God is a glory monster in Calvinism. He places glory above love. Ugh, forget it! Calvinism frustrates me too much, because as I have always maintained, it is just a doctrine of blatantly contradictory assertions. :unsure:
You do realize this particular debate has nothing to do with my Calvinism, you know? Imagine for a little bit that I'm a Molinist or something.
I want to clear up any confusion. I am not saying that the Old Testament writers did not communion with the same Spirit as the New Testament writers. When I say "YHVH" I am not referring to the Absolute behind the human writings. I am referring specifically to the Tanach writers interpretation of the Sacred.
It makes more sense than it sounded before, but I'm still unconvinced. Even while I could possibly survive without Biblical inerrancy, dropping infallibility would be far beyond anything I could deal with. And any version of infallibility or inerrancy that makes the OT practically worthless for theology seems more like a sham to me.

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"The bible is the holy, infallible, inherent, authoritive Word Of God. I do not see any events in the bible(unless it was a parable. If it was such It didn't use names, like with the "story" of Adam and Eve.) that are meant to not be taken literal. Maybe some things are metaphors and such, but I'm talking about the events that happened. If the bible says the Reed Sea was parted and they walked across dry land that is what happened. Do you believe the whole bible to not be literal? If not do you just pick and choose what is and isn't literal?"

No. The Bible has been translated from so many different languages that it is hard to tell what is mistranslated and what actually came from the original Bible. This is a problem because people come to believe that everything in the Bible of their language is true. If you use the King James version of the Bible you are reading a Bible that was developed to suit the needs of a King who was trying to make his country suit his own needs. It was a way of control. Now, if you want to talk about some of the stories from the Bible there has actually been scientific causes for some of the miracles, you also have to take into consideration the pass along game. When one person tells another person something it changes a little when it is told to yet another person and so on. I wouldn't take anything the Bible says 100%, it is best to follow your gut. If something seems right to you then follow it, but don't do it just because someone tells you you should.

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