Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity: A Summary

My article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity” provides an extensive analysis of the key biblical, religious, and social issues relating to homosexuality. That article challenges and refutes the common traditional and conservative Christian view that homosexuality is inherently evil and sinful.

However, it is a long article (over 13,000 words). For a summary of the points in that article, I had previously directed readers to my answer to a question about homosexuality on Christianity StackExchange. I am now re-editing and republishing that answer here to make a shorter version more easily available to my readers. The nine points in this summary cover in much briefer form the major points made in the main article. I recommend that you read that article to get the full picture.

1. Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible

Homosexuality is rarely mentioned in the Bible. There are only five or six clear references to it in the Old and New Testaments combined. In comparison, the sins forbidden in the Ten Commandments receive major coverage throughout the Bible. The heavy focus on homosexuality among traditional and conservative Christians despite this scant Biblical mention of it suggests that their strong opposition to it comes from a cultural opposition to homosexuality rather than from Biblical sources.

For more homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Bible Re-Viewed

God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

Isaac Newton (1642-1726)

Isaac Newton

Back when Isaac Newton reigned supreme in the world of physics, it was popular among scientists and philosophers to think of the universe as a vast machine grinding along on an inevitable path that could be fully predicted into the distant future if its present state and motion could be fully described.

Then came the 20th century, and people like Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger said, “Not so fast! There’s randomness and uncertainty built right into the structure of the universe!” Albert Einstein, who himself had a major part in unseating Newton as the final arbiter of the nature of physical reality, didn’t much like quantum theory precisely because of that element of random chance, prompting him to say famously that God “is not playing at dice.”

What do these new developments in physics say about God? If the universe is not machine-like and deterministic, but has uncertainty built right into it, doesn’t that mean God isn’t in control?

Some scientists and secular philosophers say that our recent discoveries about the nature of the universe show that there cannot be a God because the random, non-deterministic nature of quantum physics is incompatible with an omniscient and omnipotent Creator God.

But as a long-time fan of science, astronomy, and cosmology, my growing conviction is that God purposely designed the physical universe with a certain amount of randomness and freedom. In fact, I now think that a fully deterministic universe, with God as its puppetmaster, would be unable to achieve the goals for which God created it.

God is not a puppetmaster and dictator, controlling every move of every atom in the universe. Rather, God is an architect, manager, and friend to the universe and everything in it.

For more on God, determinism, and free will, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Science Philosophy and History

How Many Hells did Swedenborg Say there Are?

G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

Question:

In his essay “The Red Angel,” the British writer and literary critic G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936) wrote:

If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves. One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg.

What is Chesterton talking about? How many hells did Swedenborg say there are?

Answer:

G.K. Chesterton is here referring to Swedenborg’s common (for him) and somewhat unusual (in general religious writing) expression “the hells.”

In his voluminous theological writings, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) spoke both of “hell” in the singular and of “the hells” in the plural, depending on the context and the point he was making. In fact, based on context and subject matter, there are three general answers to the question of how many hells Swedenborg said there were:

  1. One hell
  2. Three hells
  3. Too many hells to count

This arrangement draws on the philosophical and esoteric concept of “macrocosm and microcosm,” which is a fairly common theme in Swedenborg’s theological writings.

For more Swedenborg’s hells, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife

What is the Biblical Basis for a Heavenly Mother?

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you. (Isaiah 66:13)

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you. (Isaiah 66:13)

In the Bible there are various mentions of goddesses and female idols worshipped by the pagan nations surrounding the Israelites—which, of course, are rejected as false gods.

By contrast, references to the God of the Israelites (which Christians generally see as the true God) are overwhelmingly male.

Still, there are a few passages scattered throughout the Bible that suggest or attribute to God female characteristics, including some that present God as a mother.

For more on God as Mother, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Are Deaths from Natural Disasters an Unavoidable Side-Effect of God’s Creation?

Aftermath of an earthquake

Aftermath of an earthquake

As amazing and beautiful as this physical universe is, it is also filled with almost unimaginable cataclysmic violence—which commonly brings suffering, pain, and death to the living residents of our earth—plant, animal, and human.

Why did God create the universe that way? Couldn’t God have designed things to be a little more peaceful? Or is all that pain, suffering, and death just an unavoidable side-effect of God’s greater goals in creating the universe?

These are some of the tough questions that a regular reader named Rami recently asked as part of an ongoing discussion following up on the article, “How can we have Faith when So Many Bad Things happen to So Many Good People? Part 2.” That installment of a four-part article dealt especially with the pervasive violence, pain, and suffering in the material universe in which we live, and how they can be reconciled with a loving God who wants us to be eternally happy.

You can read Rami’s comments here and here, and also just below in this article. My response contained in this article is a revised and greatly expanded version of my reply to Rami, originally posted as a comment here.

This article does not attempt to answer all of Rami’s questions. You might want to read the above-linked article to get the most out of this one. But I do want to say more about two of the issues Rami raised:

  1. Unavoidable side-effects, and
  2. Deaths due to natural disasters

If these issues trouble you as well, this article may give you some food for thought.

For more on death and side-effects, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Pain and Suffering, Science Philosophy and History

“Get Out of My Country”? Whose Country Is It, Anyway?

Srinivas Kuchibhotla (1984-2017) and his wife (now widow) Sunayana Dumala

Srinivas Kuchibhotla (1984-2017) and his wife (now widow) Sunayana Dumala

“Get out of my country!”

That’s what a distraught and rather drunk man shouted just before he shot three people in a bar in Olathe, Kansas on February 22, 2017. Two of the men he shot were skilled engineers from India who worked for technology giant Garmin at its Olathe headquarters. The third was an American man, a regular at the bar, who tried to intervene. One of the Indian men was killed in the attack.

You can read the whole story in this news article that ran two days after the shooting: “‘Get out of my country,’ Kansan reportedly yelled before shooting 2 men from India, killing one.” For more background and details, see “2017 Olathe, Kansas shooting” on Wikipedia.

Of course, this was a terrible crime, and the perpetrator will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. But the wrongfulness of the crime has already been heavily covered in the regular news media.

Beyond that, what really struck me was the words that the perpetrator yelled.

“Get out of my country”?

Whose country is it, anyway?

Psalm 24:1 says:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.

And last I checked, the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag still ended:

One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Where does this guy get off thinking it’s his country? I thought it was supposed to be God’s country!

For more on whose country it is, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

Facing our Demons of Darkness, Depression, and Mental Illness – Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at the issue of mental illness through the lens of the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1–20. One of the points made in that article was that mental illness is not some separate category of human experience. Rather it is part of a continuum of inner struggles that all of us face against the darker and more difficult parts of our character and circumstances here on earth, whether or not a psychiatrist has diagnosed us as mentally ill.

The Bible, understood on a deeper level, tells the story of the spiritual life of each one of us (see “Can We Really Believe the Bible?”). The story of Jesus’ healing of that demon-possessed man applies spiritually to every one of us. We each face our own inner demons, and we each need God’s help in casting those demons out. At the end of Part 1, I left you with the thought that in the same way the demon-possessed man had to approach and kneel down in front of Jesus in order to be restored to health and sanity, our mental, emotional, and spiritual healing begins when we approach God and place our life in God’s care and keeping.

Shortly after the events of the Gospel story covered in Part 1, Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth. There, unlike in the foreign territory across the Jordan River where he healed the demon-possessed man, the people did not accept him. In fact, they took offense at this local boy presuming to teach them in their synagogue. Because of their lack of faith, the Bible narrative tells us, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” (Mark 6:5).

Jesus then sent his twelve disciples out two-by-two. And:

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:12–13)

You can read the whole story in Mark 6:1–13.

Who are the people of Jesus’ home town today? They are the people who call themselves Christians.

For more on facing our inner demons, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Pain and Suffering, Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Facing our Demons of Darkness, Depression, and Mental Illness – Part 1

These days we don’t talk much about demon possession.

The Exorcist movie poster

The Exorcist movie poster

Yes, popular horror films such as The Exorcist, with their graphic portrayals of demonic possession, do make the rounds in our culture. But most respected health professionals think that a belief in possession by demons is an irrational throwback to earlier, more superstitious times. Today we have a much more scientific view of life than they did in Biblical times. What they called demon possession, we call mental illness.

This is based on a secular worldview that does not accept the reality of the spiritual world—or at least holds that if there is a spiritual realm, it has no noticeable effect on the material world in which we live. Today, the educated leaders of Western society think more in terms of science than in terms of spirit. Even most Christians in the West consider an insane person to be “mentally ill” rather than “demon-possessed.”

And that’s not all bad. There certainly is less social stigma attached to being mentally ill than to being demon-possessed.

But it is also a symptom of the reluctance of educated people today to accept the idea that there are spiritual forces—let alone spiritual personalities—influencing us all the time. Science aims to explain everything through purely physical and biological processes, without resorting to unseen entities from another realm. And just as most people today no longer believe that evil spirits cause physical illness, we are also trained to think of mental illness as the result of malfunctions of the brain rather than of evil influences from spiritual realms.

This certainly does take away much of the fear and social stigma associated with the idea of demon possession. But from a spiritual perspective, it also takes away some of the most powerful ways to approach what we now call mental illness.

Yes, the medical and psychiatric world has some impressive tools at its command for controlling mental illness. But their methods commonly come at the expense of not dealing with the deeper causes. They tend to control, but not cure, the mental and emotional instability that plagues those who struggle and suffer with conditions that could aptly be called a personal hell.

A Beautiful Mind movie poster

A Beautiful Mind movie poster

And the drugs prescribed by psychiatrists commonly have their own side-effects, which can include a numbing of the thoughts and emotions of the people who use them. That’s one of the reasons mathematician John Nash (1928–2015) ultimately chose not to take the psychiatric drugs prescribed by his doctors, as dramatized in the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind.

What can we say about mental illness from a spiritual perspective?

For more on facing our inner demons, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Pain and Suffering, Spiritual Growth, The Bible Re-Viewed

Is There a Common Theme in All Religions?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Mike:

Religions of the World

Religions of the World

I believe in God. But I don’t really know why. How can this be reconciled? I was saved as a Christian but I feel a connection for other faiths even Hinduism and Buddhism. I see truth in many areas of religion and spirituality. What is the most important message that God has for us according to each of the major (and minor) religions of the world? Is there a common theme?

Great question, Mike!

Of course, it would be impossible to say what’s the most important message according to each and every major and minor religion of the world. There are thousands, if not millions of ’em! However, there are some common themes that run through most of the religions of the world:

  1. Believe in, love, and honor God.
  2. Don’t do evil, selfish, and destructive things.
  3. Do good, loving, kind, and useful things for your neighbor instead.

Jesus summed it all up in the two Great Commandments:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

(See Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–37.)

What? The two lists aren’t the same? Yes they are! Let’s take a closer look.

For more on the common themes of religion, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, Spiritual Growth

Will Sick or Disabled People Return to Good Health in the Spiritual World?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named A. Watson:

My father suffered a stroke before he died and was left unable to speak and paralysed. I would like to know if he, and others, are healed in the spiritual world and return to good health. I have been waiting for a sign from him since he passed and have been worried that he is stuck in the same state and unable to contact me. This is contrary to what I have always believed and I know he would be unhappy in that state which bothers me as I hope he is at peace.

Thanks for the good question, A. Watson. I’m sorry to hear about the stroke your father suffered before his death. I hope I will be able to put your mind at ease.

Here is the short answer:

A stroke victim

A stroke victim

When we die and move on to the spiritual world, we leave our physical body behind, and live in our spiritual body instead. We therefore also leave behind any handicaps or sicknesses that have purely physical causes. In other words, since your father has now left his physical body behind, the stroke that affected his physical body is no longer a factor in the spiritual world where he now lives.

Ordinarily, when we leave our physical body behind, we also leave behind all of its handicaps and illnesses.

However, for people who strongly identify with their handicap or sickness, there may be some time period in the spiritual world when it still persists. That’s because our spiritual body responds directly and immediately to our thoughts and feelings. So if being sick or handicapped is a strong part of our identity as a person, our spiritual body may reflect that for a shorter or longer time.

Some people who have been sick or handicapped for a long time may also need some time to adjust to having a healthy, fully functional body. So there may be a transition period for them as well when they enter the spiritual world.

But for people who hate their physical sicknesses and handicaps, long for full health and fitness, and are fit and healthy in their minds, their physical limitations and maladies will be immediately removed upon death, and they will enjoy full physical and mental health right away.

I see no reason why this wouldn’t be the case for your father.

Let’s take a closer look.

(Image credit: WalesOnline)

For more on sickness and health in the spiritual world, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Pain and Suffering, The Afterlife
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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