Matthew 19:3–12 records this conversation of Jesus, first with some Pharisees, then with his disciples:
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”
He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”
He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”
His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
Traditional Christians, especially Catholic clergy, commonly point to this passage as proof that it is better to be celibate than married.
But Jesus didn’t say that.
This common misinterpretation is built on a basic error in reading Jesus’ words. It also confuses celibacy with being a eunuch. The two are not the same.
We’ll save Jesus’ words about divorce for a future article. For now, let’s take a closer look at what Jesus did and didn’t say about marriage in Matthew 19:3–12.
Celibates are not eunuchs
First, let’s point out the obvious:
Celibates and eunuchs are not the same thing.
Celibacy (from Latin, cælibatus) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons. It is often in association with the role of a religious official or devotee. In its narrow sense, the term celibacy is applied only to those for whom the unmarried state is the result of a sacred vow, act of renunciation, or religious conviction. In a wider sense, it is commonly understood to only mean abstinence from sexual activity.
Yes, celibacy is sometimes used loosely to mean simply not having sex. But its primary meaning is a commitment, usually through a religious vow, not to get married or have sex. That is how it is used in religious circles in discussions of celibacy vs. marriage.
The term eunuch (/ˈjuːnək/; Greek: εὐνοῦχος) generally refers to a man who has been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. In Latin, the words eunuchus, spado (Greek: σπάδων spadon), and castratus were used to denote eunuchs.
To read the Greek word εὐνοῦχος (eunouchos) that Jesus used in Matthew 19:12 as referring to voluntary abstention from marriage, as some Bible interpreters do, is to ignore the basic meaning of the term, which is to be castrated. This term became associated with chamberlains and harem guards because in ancient times monarchs didn’t consider eunuchs a threat to their throne, nor could eunuchs impregnate the monarch’s wives.
It is true that in some religions men who take religious vows are castrated as part of their vows. But in ancient Jewish religion, castrated men were not even allowed to enter the Temple:
No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:1)
In ancient Hebrew society men did sometimes take vows that included temporarily abstaining from sex. But getting castrated and becoming a eunuch was contrary to Hebrew religion and culture. In fact, one of the disasters prophesied against the ancient Jewish king Hezekiah was that some of his sons would become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon (see 2 Kings 20:16–18; Isaiah 39:5–7).
Perhaps it is based on the commandment in Deuteronomy 23:1 that in traditional Christian practice, men who have taken vows of celibacy are not castrated as part of their vows. They simply abstain from sex and marriage (assuming they are faithful to their vows).
In short, eunuchs and celibates simply are not the same thing.
So right out of the gate, it’s a major stretch to think that when Jesus spoke of “eunuchs,” he was referring to celibacy as that is practiced in some Christian religious orders.
Becoming a eunuch was prohibited for religiously observant Jews. Any Jewish male who was castrated was not even allowed to enter the Temple—which was the focal point of Jewish religious life. So Jesus could only have been referring to eunuchs in the pagan world. And his disciples, who were Jews themselves, would have understood that this was a negative reference.
What “teaching” is Jesus referring to?
There is another basic error involved in reading Jesus’ words as saying that it is better to be celibate than married.
After Jesus tells the Pharisees that marriage was originally created by God, that humans should not separate what God has joined together, and that any man who divorces a wife who has been faithful to him and marries another woman is committing adultery, Jesus’ disciples say to him:
If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.
Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. . . . Let anyone accept this who can.
Since the disciples’ words come right before Jesus’ reply, it’s easy to get sloppy in our reading, and assume that when Jesus says not everyone can accept “this teaching” (Greek: λόγον logon: “word, discourse, teaching”) he is referring to what the disciples have just said: that it is better not to marry.
But what the disciples said is not a teaching. At least, it’s not anything that Jesus taught. Rather, it is the disciples’ opinion in response to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is referring to the teaching that he himself has just given about the divine origin and inviolability of marriage, not to the disciples’ anti-marriage opinion in response to it.
The bottom line is that Jesus simply didn’t say that it is better to be celibate than married.
Jesus never said anything at all about celibacy. Rather, in response to his disciples’ opinion that if a man can’t divorce his wife it is better not to marry at all, he gave examples of people who, unfortunately, cannot accept his teaching about marriage.
Would Jesus really recommend that people render themselves or others incapable of accepting and practicing his teaching? That would be contradictory and ridiculous.
What does Jesus mean about eunuchs?
Eunuchs cannot accept Jesus’ teaching about marriage because in general, castrated men have little or no interest in sex and marriage. That, together with their inability to impregnate a woman, was why they were commonly trusted servants in the royal courts of kings in the cultures that surrounded—and in the time of Jesus ruled—the Jewish people.
It helps to know that the Greek word χωρέω (chōreō), “to accept, receive,” that Jesus uses in Matthew 19:11 has the sense of “having space for.” Jesus was not talking about people who can’t intellectually accept what he has just taught about marriage. He was talking about people who have no space in their character for marriage.
Quite simply, then, Jesus was giving examples of people who could not put his teaching about marriage into practice. Eunuchs were seen as being incapable of marriage.
The common, mistaken idea among some traditional Christians that Jesus was talking about celibacy comes especially from his final example: “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” This makes it sound as if Jesus is recommending celibacy over marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
But once again, Jesus simply doesn’t say that. These people who “have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” are still among the people who can’t accept (put into practice) Jesus’ teaching about the divine origin and permanence of marriage.
Eunuchs did not have a positive connotation in the ears of Jesus’ Jewish listeners. In Jewish culture, there was no practice of making oneself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God, nor was it considered positive to be born sterile, or to be made into a eunuch by someone else. Even in the surrounding cultures, men were most commonly made into eunuchs (castrated) against their will. It greatly reduced their social standing, and of course, prevented them from fathering children and heirs.
In some non-Jewish cultures, however, a man might voluntarily undergo castration as part of a religious rite of dedicating his life exclusively to God. Jesus didn’t endorse this practice. He simply used it as an example of people who can’t accept (“have no space for”) his teaching about marriage.
In short, Jesus was not advocating that men be castrated for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He was rebuking his disciples for their knee-jerk rejection of his teaching about marriage, using the negative example of eunuchs who, even if they may have the best of intentions, render themselves incapable of living by that teaching.
The irony is that Christian priests, monks, and nuns who erroneously think that Jesus is recommending celibacy in Matthew 19:3–12 are associating themselves with a group of people who, according to Jesus Christ himself, are incapable of accepting his teaching about marriage.
Jesus was not celibate
Christians who believe that celibacy is superior to marriage commonly say, “Jesus was celibate!”
But Jesus was not celibate. Jesus was unmarried. There’s a difference.
Celibacy in the proper sense, especially in religious usage, means making a commitment and vow to remain unmarried and abstain from sex. This is usually based on a belief that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage. But there is no record anywhere in the Gospels of Jesus making such a vow, and nowhere does he say that celibacy is superior to marriage. The Gospels simply present him as being single.
There are many people who have never married or even had sex who would much prefer to be married. These people are not celibate. They have made no personal or religious commitment to abstain from sex and marriage. They are simply single, often for reasons beyond their control.
In the same way, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was celibate. The most we can say, based on the Gospel accounts, is that he remained single all his life.
Meanwhile, his teachings show that he placed a very high value on marriage, considering it a sacred and inviolable relationship that was created and commanded by God right from the beginning. Yes, it was unusual for a Jewish man in those times to remain single right into his thirties as Jesus did. But Jesus’ teachings about marriage fully support what is presented in the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians know as the Old Testament: that based on God’s law and intention for humanity, marriage is the preferred and ideal state for priests and laypeople alike.
What Jesus said
Here is a brief recap of what Jesus actually did say about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:3–12:
- God created man and woman from the beginning so that the two could join together as one.
- If God has joined a man and woman in marriage, humans should not break it up.
- The law of Moses allowing a man to divorce his wife for any cause was merely an accommodation to the people’s hard-heartedness; a man was not to divorce his wife unless she committed adultery.
- Not everyone can accept this teaching about marriage; eunuchs of various types are examples of people who can’t put it into practice.
In no way, shape, or form did Jesus say that celibacy is better than marriage. Quite the contrary. He said that right from the beginning, man and woman were created by God to be united in marriage.
If, as Jesus taught, marriage was God’s original intention for us, then marriage, not celibacy, is the highest and most spiritual state and relationship that we humans can aspire to.
For further reading:
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
- Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
- Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning
- What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?
- Man, Woman, and the Two Creation Stories of Genesis
- Can you Fall in Love in Heaven if you Haven’t Found Someone on Earth?
Thank you Lee for this post. For Christians and non-Christians trying to understand Christianity, this is very helpful.
That said, I would like to ask: Since those individuals who were true eunuchs were only a small fraction of the population of surrounding peoples, why did Jesus use the term to begin with? Obviously, there would be more single (as in unmarried) persons in the population than true eunuchs. I wonder if the term eunuch was introduced to the passages (verses of the Gospels) by later translators. It appears that the use of the term eunuch(s) causes much confusion.
As a consequence of the revolt of the Maccabees, rabbis had to be married. The homosexuality of the Greeks was rejected by the Maccabees. So, even true celibacy was not esteemed by the Jews of Jesus’ time.
One item you did not mention in your post above – as it was not germane to Jesus’ words – is that the sexual pessimism and hatred of pleasure that leads to the promotion of celibacy did not enter the Church until later. It was in the time of (and through the efforts of) Augustine, Jerome and Pope Siricius in the late 4th century that the Church adopted its attitude that celibacy is to be preferred for the religious. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that this sexual pessimism has its roots in ancient pagan schools of thought (Stoics, Gnostics and Manicheanism), and is thus not authentically Christian.
It is sad that the effect of this is, that in Catholicism, the measure of holiness seems to be whether one lives a celibate life in a religious order or not. The married laity are second class citizens within the Catholic Church, sorry to say. (The Catholic Church anathematized any who dare to assert that the married state is of equal value to the celibate state in God’s eyes at the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563).)
Thanks for your thoughts and questions. Glad you enjoyed the article!
I don’t think it’s necessary to invoke later corruption of the text and translations to explain Jesus’ use of the term “eunuch” in Matthew 19:12. Eunuchs were well-known to the ancient Jews as a feature of many of the cultures around them. In addition to mentions here and there in the historical and prophetic sections of the Hebrew scriptures, they figure heavily in the book of Esther. They also appear in several places in the book of Acts in the New Testament. In many cases they are treated sympathetically, even if being a eunuch was not a scripturally sanctioned part of Jewish culture and religion.
The confusion, I think, comes from the later switch in Christianity away from considering sexuality and marriage to be the preferred state of human beings in the eyes of God. Remove that rejection of sexuality and marriage as the most desirable and spiritual state, and the passage makes perfect sense—as I outline in the article above. For Jesus’ Jewish listeners, there was no stigma or second-class status attached to marriage. It was seen as good and as ordained and commanded by God. That’s why there was no practice of celibacy in Judaism. Even priests were expected to be married. There are laws in the Hebrew Bible about whom a priest may and may not marry. But he was expected to be married. So it should go without saying that being a eunuch was considered an undesirable thing. If we read Jesus’ words with that religious and cultural context in mind, there is no confusion about his meaning.
The disciples’ response to Jesus’ teaching about marriage in that passage does show the low state of marriage at that time, however. People who have a real, spiritual marriage that is a union of hearts and minds have no desire whatsoever to divorce their wives or husbands. For them, a God-given permanence of marriage is a blessing, not a curse. So the “hard-heartedness” that Jesus spoke of as the reason for Moses giving a commandment allowing men to divorce their wives was a hard-heartedness of having no real, spiritual marriage at all, but only a social and physical-minded view of marriage in which its main purposes were to cement political and inter-clan relationships and produce sons and heirs for the husband. See my article:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
Though I said in the above article that Jesus’ disciples had an anti-marriage response, it would be a little more accurate to say that they had no understanding or appreciation of real, God-given spiritual marriage, which is why they so quickly rejected Jesus’ teaching about the God-given origin and inviolability of marriage.
About your other point, as originally written, the above article was twice as long as the published version, and it did go heavily into the later Catholic rejection of sex and marriage as a spiritual state of being in favor of celibacy. The original version even quoted the passage from the Council of Trent you refer to. However Annette pointed out that the article was too long, argumentative, and tedious, and would inevitably lose many readers along the way. So I cut all of that material out, heavily rewrote what was left, and focused the article more tightly on its main point: that Jesus simply did not say that celibacy was preferable to marriage. I’m much happier with the resulting article, even if it does leave out a lot of material that I had originally included. (Annette saves me from a lot of bad writing!)
But yes, the Catholic pall on sex and marriage developed several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. And I believe that this negative attitude toward marriage also reflects a lack of awareness, understanding, and appreciation within Catholicism of true, spiritual marriage as God originally intended it.
It is interesting that it was at the Council of Trent, which was convened to oppose the theologians and teachings of the Protestant reformation, that the Catholic Church starkly anathematized any belief that marriage is superior to celibacy—presumably in response to Protestantism’s general embrace of a married clergy. However, practically speaking, the stance articulated in the Council of Trent had been the reigning view in Catholicism for many centuries before that time, and the basis of its priestly and monastic practice of celibacy.
Catholicism long ago adopted a largely physical-minded view of sex and marriage. That is seen, for example, in its teaching that any sex that couldn’t potentially result in pregnancy is bad and impermissible sex. And yet, as important as creating new human beings is, sex as an expression of the oneness of two people in marriage goes far beyond physical procreation. As Swedenborg says, even without physical pregnancy and reproduction, in people who are truly married to one another in spirit sexual intercourse produces “spiritual offspring” of new love, understanding, compassion, and joy in life. See the section on “Spiritual children” in the article, “Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning,” and also the last section the article, “Is There Sex in Heaven?”
Thanks again for your thoughts! For one thing, it gave me an excuse to sneak back in some of the material I had to cut out to make this into a more readable and more focused article! 😀
Thanks Lee for your response. Not to be too long winded myself, I purposely left out many facts of the history of Catholic thinking on marriage and sex. It was in 1141, at the Second Lateran Council, that priests were forbidden to marry. It was not until Trent, 4 centuries later, that married men were forbidden from becoming priests. Some men were marrying in secret and then becoming priests prior to Trent. But, more to my point above, the sexual pessimism came in from ancient pagan schools of thought, and it is thus not authentically Christian. (At Trent, it was decided that a person could not even be allowed to assert that marriage was equal to celibacy. If one could not assert that the married state was equal in worth or value in God’s eyes to celibacy, then clearly a person could not dare assert that marriage was superior to the celibate state.)
Your point about the value of married sexual love even without procreation is sound. The “unitive” effects and benefits of sexual love between husband and wife are present even in naturally infertile marriages. As well, since about 1827, we have known how human reproduction actually works. Thus, the Aristotlean understanding of human reproduction can be let go of. It is clear that with a non-seasonal sexual capacity and drive in humans, sexual intercourse is for more than just conceiving and bearing children. I am not anti-child, but we need to recognize and value all the goods of married sexual love.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that the discussion of your post above has been rather hijacked by another commenter. Her comments would be more appropriate for (and relevant to) one of your other posts.
You’ve clearly studied Catholic history a lot more than I have. It has only gradually come to my attention how relatively recent it was that Catholicism began to enforce a strictly celibate clergy. So this isn’t even in line with its own history. And biblically, there’s really no sound basis for it. How the primary religion of God on earth came to reject and deny its own scriptural and doctrinal history and become something that none of the figures in the Bible would recognize as anything they taught is, to me, an amazing wonder. There really isn’t much of anything “Christian” left in Christianity today.
On the sexual and marriage front, in particular, it is amazing to me that God’s church transformed from one in which marriage was at the center of human relationships as originally created and commanded by God to one in which marriage is seen as a purely material-world relationship whose only valid purpose is procreation. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.
Even biologically sex as being purely for procreation among humans has very little ground to stand on. We’ve known for decades that among humans, especially, with our very long period of maturation to adulthood, creating strong pair-bonds provided an evolutionary advantage. So even secular scientists commonly believe that lasting monogamous relationships are about more than just pregnancy and procreation. In particular, the pleasures and sense of human connection provided by sexual intercourse binds couples closely to one another so that the man won’t just wander off after babies are born, leaving them unprotected and less likely to reach adulthood.
Even that, however, is still just a biological view of sex and marriage. And it’s still generally focused on reproduction. When the spiritual aspect is added in, whole new realms of meaning and purpose are added to marriage and sexual intimacy that go beyond anything that exists in the rest of the animal realm. And though traditional Christianity pays some lip service to that spiritual aspect of marriage, in almost every case its hand is shown in claims that there is no marriage in heaven. Very few “Christian” churches really believe that marriage in a spiritual relationship. If they did, they would see it as eternal, not as temporary and limited to this earth.
On that, see the series of articles starting with:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
(And yes, the comments got hijacked here. But you have to talk to people where they are, not where you wish they were.)
Edit: I have now added a link just before the “hijacking” so that people who wish can skip the long digression, and continue reading the on-topic comments.
The catholic church teaches that the church—-is the whole people of GOD,its not just the pope or hierarchy.Secondly history is littered with teachings popes or councils taught but the people rejected.This is called the doctrine of reception or the sense of the faithful.What Trent taught about celibacy is largely rejected today.Thats why the Second Vatican council didnt reaffirm this teaching. Pope Pius IX condemned democracy and hailed slavery as moral,the people rejected that.Council of Vienne hailed usury as a heresy and lthe council of Lyon refused christian burial for those who practised it,but as economics changed,millions of catholics practised a bit of usury,the vatican bank today charges usury.tHE teaching became dead letter.The hierarchy today condemns contraception but most catholics see no problem in family planning with contraception,married priests,women priests etc. One pope, Gregory 16 hailed the creation of the railroad as the work of the devil.CAtholics dont believe everything that comes down the Vatican pike—-eventually the teaching becomes dead letter,it loses its force.No catholic today goes seeking indulgences,it too has become dead letter
I think the problem here isn’t the idea that Catholics are bad. It’s the structer of the hierarchy and the rules they enforce aren’t based in scripture or the climate of the world at that time. There was a pope who threw sex parties, another who was into cannibalism. But, back in the day, you used to be able to buy the papal seat. Also, you could purchase indulgences that basically allowed your sin to be cleared. The point is that the Catholic Church isn’t the Church is could be or should be and that’s a sad thing.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I must say, you certainly do make it sound like the Catholic Church is—or at least has been—very bad! However, perhaps what you mean is that ordinary Catholics aren’t bad. If so, on that I agree with you. In any church that has been corrupted, the leadership of the church are commonly the corrupt ones, though some are good, whereas the laypeople are usually decent people for the most part, though there are some bad ones.
Note to my readers:
What follows next is a very long digression about atheism and Christianity that is off-topic for this article, but that I allowed to go forward anyway.
If you wish to skip that long digression, and continue reading the comments about marriage vs. celibacy, please click this link.
Its better to be atheist than in the faith trap
I think it’s better to have faith than to be in the atheist trap. 😛
It’s better to have blind faith than not to? I don’t see how
“Blind faith” is a contradiction in terms. If a person’s faith is blind, it’s not faith. Faith is seeing things as they really are from a spiritual perspective.
Why would we need faith in things that we’re sure are facts ? Isn’t that called knowing, not believing?
Real faith is knowing. But it’s knowing spiritual things that we can see with our mind rather than physical things that we can see with our eyes. The “believing” part is not about accepting things we don’t understand, but about being willing to follow the truth wherever it leads rather than rejecting the truth if it doesn’t serve our present self-interest. For more on this, see my article:
Faith Alone Is Not Faith
I realize that a lot of religious people have funny (and wrong) ideas about “faith.” But in reality, faith has nothing to do with believing ridiculous and tenuous things. In fact, that is the opposite of faith.
So if I call it faith then it’s valid? Or what constitutes something as faith and also valid?
No, if it’s valid and you believe it because it’s valid, then it’s faith. Faith is believing the truth because it’s true.
So what makes your faith of choice valid? Because members of every single religion say the exact same things about their own religions
In fact, many religions say you have to believe things because they don’t make rational sense or because the priest says you have to believe them or other things like that. So no, it’s not exactly the same as what every other religion says.
The doctrine of Christianity is exactly like the doctrines of all other major religions in all the ways that matter and is certainly no less toxic to society
Most of the present-day “doctrine of Christianity” has nothing to do with what Jesus Christ taught in the Bible. Which means it is Christian in name only, and not in reality.
But what Jesus Christ taught (as well as Muhammad and all the other “prophets”) is irrelevant.
Religions are what we had before we had science to explain things, and religions are quickly becoming obsolete as awareness and atheism are growing, rapidly.
That’s your opinion. I don’t agree with it.
And that’s the faith trap.
But I do think atheism is a tool in God’s hand to destroy a whole lot of false religion.
But doesn’t that sound a bit delusional to you?
And all religions would say the exact same thing, your religon isn’t special.
So you’re an expert on my religion? Do you even know what my religion teaches? And can you provide a point-by-point comparison of it with the teachings of every other religion?
You’re Christian right? Yeah I’d say I’m more than familiar enough with all the Abrahamic religions to compare them; It doesn’t take a life long religious scholar to comprehend doctrines written as recently as thousands of years ago.
I would suggest learning what I believe before presuming to make grand pronouncements about it. I reject most of the key doctrines that now pass as “Christian.”
There is only one Christian doctrine if we’re talking about the religion itself, not how people choose to practice it.
If your problem is that Christian doctrine is “toxic to society,” then what Jesus taught is absolutely relevant, seeing as his teaching is at the core of true Christianity.
It’s relevant to the conversation; but that’s not what I meant. I meant it’s irrelevant to humanity currently and moving forward (obsolete)
How so? The moral lessons in the Bible are still useful in everyday life. Their purpose is not, as you suggest, “to explain things,” but rather to help us live as better people.
I disagree that the Christian or any religious bible contains moral lessons that are relevant or helpful to society.
Nothing we need must be gotten from religions.
You don’t think its messages about topics such as loving and serving others, being honest and forgiving transgressions are relevant to society?
No because we don’t need religions to know how to love and serve or to be honest and forgiving.
Those are basic, kindergarten things you shouldn’t need a religion for.
If you live in that way, I believe you will go to heaven after you die even if you don’t believe in God.
But what makes you believe that there are souls and consciousness/life after death to begin with ?
What if we don’t want to go to heaven, even if it does exist – Do we get a choice ?
Those are good questions. But I’ll have to answer after I get home. I’m not a speed smartphone typist. 🙂
I’m home, but it’s getting late. So on your first question, I’ll just refer you to this article, which lays it all out:
Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?
I’d be happy to continue this discussion in the comment section there.
On your second question, yes, people get to choose where they want to live in the spiritual world. However, the choice is really made by what sort of person we have decided to be, within the limits of what’s possible for us. In the spiritual world, the life we live is an expression of the person we are. Some people manage to achieve that here on earth, but many do not, so they get another chance in the afterlife.
Heaven is not a place where angels sit on clouds playing harps. It’s a lot like life here on earth, only without most of the stuff that really sucks. See:
Who Are the Angels and How Do They Live?
But what makes you believe all of that, aside from the bible of your religion of choice ?
Why not just admit that we can’t possibly know if there’s a creator or not and go about our lives putting faith in only what we know for sure?
Even if the god of Christianity does exist and no other god of any other religion exists – somehow – still HOW is that an incentive for people to respect or worship the creator? The god of Christianity is a sick, jealous, egotistical, narcissistic maniac, and nothing about that entity is worthy of respect.
Did you read the linked article I linked for you: “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?” That answers your first and second questions. And I don’t want to re-type it all here, especially since we’re off-topic here on this post.
About your third question and statement, you really should learn what I believe before lumping me in with all of that “Christian” religion that you hate.
I actually agree with you that the “god of Christianity” as presented by traditional Christianity is “a sick, jealous, egotistical, narcissistic maniac, and nothing about that entity is worthy of respect.” In fact, I get very angry that such a horrible picture of God is being painted by churches that are supposed to be Christian. Those churches are a travesty. They can’t disappear from the face of the earth fast enough for me.
For my part, I don’t believe for one second that the insane god they describe is the actual God of Christianity, nor do I believe that is the God that actually exists at the center of all religions. As I said previously, I reject nearly all of the key doctrines of what now passes as “Christianity,” including those that say God needed blood, blood, blood—of his own son no less—in order to forgive humanity and not send us to eternal torture in hell. Those are sick, twisted doctrines. And they’re not what the Bible teaches, nor are they what I believe.
There are many, many articles here in which I say why those doctrines are so wrong, and what the actual Christian and biblical truth about God is. I would link them for you, but as far as I know you haven’t yet read the articles I’ve already linked for you. So I’ll just link one more for now, which happens to be the most popular post of all time on this blog:
If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
There are good answers to your questions. But I can’t give them to you in Twitter-sized soundbites. If you actually want answers, you’re going to have to do some reading.
I did read it, my questions are in response; sorry I couldn’t figure out how to comment there since it redirects from wordpress
You might have to go to the post itself and comment there first. Then the replies will show up in your reader.
And if you consider yourself Christian, then you believe the bible is fair, accurate, just, and true in it’s claims, correct?
I’ve done more reading (including the bible cover to cover many times) than most Christians and religious folks I’ve met;
Reading religious themed literature doesn’t inform one on what the bible itself says and stands for.
Most of what passes for “biblical Christianity” today has little or nothing to do with what the Bible actually teaches. It’s based on doctrines invented by various human beings through the centuries, which were then substituted for what the Bible teaches.
And yet, the people who believe in those doctrines think it’s in the Bible. They’ll even quote passages from the Bible to support their doctrines. And yet, none of those passages actually say what these “Christians” think or claim they say. I’ve had this conversation with so many Protestants that it gets tedious:
There are so many articles here about what the Bible actually does and doesn’t say that I can’t possibly link them all for you. But here’s a good place to start:
“Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
I know what the bible says, because I’ve read it many times in many different forms; It’s a disgrace and and absolute toxin to society.
The Bible is a complex book, written in cultures that existed a long time ago. To read it properly, it’s necessary to sort out the cultural from the universal.
Also, given what you’ve heard about what “Christianity” teaches, I suspect that you’re misunderstanding many of the things that are said in the Bible. The Bible has been twisted in all different directions to say all sorts of things it doesn’t actually say. Understanding it within its own cultural and historical context does away with a lot of those faulty ideas of “what the Bible says.”
There certainly is a lot of objectionable material in the Bible. Then again, there are a lot of objectionable things in our society and attitudes today that people a few thousand years from now will look back on and be amazed at how insane and brutish we were in those dark times. That’s why, as I said, in reading the Bible you have to sort out the cultural from the universal.
For one angle on this, see my article:
How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads
I haven’t heard what Christianity teaches; I’ve read and firsthand experienced it.
There is no justification whatsoever for promoting Christianity, the Christian bible, any religion, or any religion’s doctrine.
For this conversation to go much farther, you’ll need to tell me some of the things that “Christianity” and the Bible teach, from your perspective. I suspect that most of them simply aren’t in the Bible, and that your understanding of the Bible has been vitiated by what you’ve been told it says by “Christianity.”
So what are some of the things you think the Bible and Christianity teach, that you find so objectionable?
It’s not my perspective; The fundamental pillars and message of the religion as well as alleged miracles and prophecies are in the book – You have read the book, haven’t you?
Yes, of course I’ve read the Bible. Many times.
As far as the miracles, whether they literally, historically happened as described is not all that important. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I wasn’t there, so I can’t really say for sure. There are many things described in the Bible that I don’t think actually happened as described. For example, I don’t think a guy named Jonah was ever swallowed by a big fish and lived in the fish’s belly for three days. That story, from my perspective, was obviously what we today would call “fiction,” written to convey a particular message.
For the most part, whether the things in the Bible actually happened historically literally as described is not the point. Those stories carry deeper meanings about the human condition and our relationship with God. The original writers were, for the most part, not interested in history and science. They were interested in conveying moral and spiritual truth to a recalcitrant bunch of human beings.
Beyond that, once again, you’ll have to give me some specifics. What specific things do you think the Bible teaches that you find so objectionable?
The basic, fundamental, core values, rules, and lessons that have nothing to do with personal interpretation; ALL of it I find unethical, irrelevant, silly, and obsolete.
Well what specifically makes you believe? I’ve asked for specifics and you just redirect to another page
Those specifics are on the pages I send you to. There are over 300 articles on this blog. I’ve already written answers to most of your big questions. And I don’t like typing things twice, especially when you ask a good question and it requires a substantial answer. Here’s one more about why I am specifically a Christian:
The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
What, specifically makes you not believe? What are the specific teachings of Christianity or the Bible that you have rejected? Just a few key points would suffice.
I suppose I can redirect you to my own blog then if you want to find out why I reject religions and religious dogmas
Sure. I’ve converted it to a link. But please direct me to a few specific posts on the subjects we’ve been discussing here so that I don’t have to wade through the whole blog to find the relevant articles. Thanks.
No, she won’t go to heaven unless she is born again. You don’t get to heaven by being good. You get to heaven by believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rising from the dead; then you must repent of your sins, be baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. THAT is how you get to heaven.
That’s how Christians get to heaven.
The Bible also tells how non-Christians get to heaven.
Jesus himself tells us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46 how the people of all the nations (not just Christians) get to heaven.
And Paul tells us in Romans 2:1–16 how Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) and Gentiles, all of whom are non-Christians, get to heaven. He then goes on starting in Romans 3 to tell us how Christians get to heaven.
And it’s just plain unbiblical and false that “You don’t get to heaven by being good.” See:
Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does
Not interested in going to “heaven” or anywhere near the hypothetical creator, thanks.
If heaven and God were anything like what traditional Christianity teaches about them, I wouldn’t want to go near them either.
Thankfully, traditional Christianity is completely wrong about God and heaven. So you have nothing to worry about.
And what evidence makes you believe that?
First of all, most of what “Christianity” teaches about God simply isn’t said anywhere in the Bible. And since the Bible is supposed to be where Christianity gets its beliefs, that’s a problem.
Just a few examples:
Further, much of the Bible is written in figurative language. It says so itself, especially about Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament: “Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing” (Matthew 13:34). But even much of the Old Testament is presented as being in the form of a parable. For example, Psalm 78 starts out:
The rest of the Psalm goes on to give a poetic version of the history of Israel from the time of Jacob through the time of the twelve tribes. And all of this is called “a parable.”
Biblical literalists of every stripe are simply wrong about the Bible, according to the Bible’s own words. Much, if not most, of the Bible was never meant to be taken literally. Yes, the basic commandments of not doing evil and doing good instead are meant to be taken literally for the most part. But as for the rest, it is one massive metaphor for the human spiritual journey. See:
Can We Really Believe the Bible?
Moving to sources outside the Bible, there is a massive amount of human literature describing people’s encounters with God and the spiritual realms, and the vast bulk of it does not support traditional Christian teachings on those subjects. I believe that the most comprehensive and reliable source is the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Much of what I know about the afterlife comes from his writings, especially his book Heaven and Hell, which provides a clear and systematic guided tour of the afterlife. My general view of Swedenborg’s writings and why I think they are valid is in this article:
Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
I just realized this comment was in response to Nina. If it didn’t come up in your reader, you might also want to see my response to her here.
You understand the Christian religion? Like, in its ancient historical context? So, ughh … can you explain the concept of 1st century Jewish apocalypticism, one of the most pervasive ideas of the New Testament?
I’d also like you to define what a ‘faith trap’ is, since this is a rather vague accusation, wouldn’t ya say?
I’d rather not go into depth on any of the many silly biblical concepts and ideologies at this time;
The faith trap is the indoctrination process that sucks people into religions.
Atheism also involves an indoctrination process that especially inculcates the idea that only things we can perceive with our physical senses are trustworthy and believable. There is no good or rational basis for this belief. It is simply a “faith trap,” as you would say, that entangles atheists in its clutches and causes them to reject and explain away a major area of human experience that doesn’t fit into this atheist article of faith.
So you think religions and atheism are the only options ?
Because rejecting religions does not mean accepting atheism.
No, of course there are many people who believe in God but don’t belong to any religion. But are you not an atheist?
Having said that, it is better to be an atheist than to believe some of the terribly false, irrational, and immoral things that are being taught in the name of religion in traditional Christianity. As I said to you in an earlier comment, I believe atheism is a tool in the hands of God to destroy false religion. That applies not only to old, corrupt and false religious institutions, but to false religion that has been indoctrinated into individual people from birth onward.
It is necessary to reject what is false before we can accept what is true. Atheism involves rejecting false religion and false beliefs about God. One day, having cleared your mind of that false religion and those false beliefs about God, you may be able to see the truth about God and spirit.
Immoral ? What immoral and false and irrational things come along with rejecting creationism ?
That literally has not a thing to do with morality.
Please re-read my comment that you are responding to. I was referring to false, irrational, and immoral things taught in traditional Christianity.
Creationism is one of the false and irrational (though not particularly immoral) things taught in a significant segment of traditional Christianity.
The idea that God required the death of his Son in order to forgive humans for their sins is one of the false, irrational, and immoral things taught in a large segment of traditional Christianity. It is also not taught anywhere in the Bible.
LOL. Wasn’t very difficult for me to prove you don’t understand the Christian religion now, was it? Let me know if you ever want to learn what apocalypticism is.
Ugghh, you do know most people who are irreligious are that way because they were raised that way as well, right? Poor guys who got caught up in the irreligious trap… Anyways, I use to be agnostic. Now, after some reasoning, I’m a Christian. So where’s the trap? Ooops.
I’m not sure this is accurate, but I think you’re an ideologue. “Irreligious people include me, and then there are religious people and they are part of a trap.” Basic tribal “us and them” mindset. You should consider abandoning this mindset, we need more people who actually engage in conversation and assume that the person they’re talking to knows something they don’t, rather than this stuff that genuinely keeps us back.
Don’t understand how?
What reasoning could possibly lead to any religion ?
There is no way anyone can know whether there is a creator or not, and even if there is, religions are all still created by people.
All religions are “us and them”, they all literally claim to be the truth and that all the rest are wrong.
I reject Christianity JUST LIKE you reject Islam – There is no difference.
“Don’t understand how?”
How? Because you claimed to understand Christianity, and yet can’t articulate the ancient concept of apocalypticism, one of the primary concepts in the New Testament. Want to know other New Testament concepts you can’t articulate?
There are quite a few forms of reasoning that could lead to Christianity. For one, the contributions Christianity has made to the good of global humanity is close to immeasurable — the modern university, the hospital, all products of Christianity. That seems to me to be the kind of thing that would characterize the correct religion. Not to mention, the historical reasoning behind the Resurrection accounts.
Saying “X religion is right” is not a form of tribalism, just as much as “X scientific theory is right and all others are wrong” is not a tribal form. You’re mis-characterizing what I said. It’s tribal because you outline anyone who doesn’t fit within the section of what you deem correct thought as part of a “trap”. That’s tribal. And for what it’s worth, there’s a significant difference between why you reject Christianity and why I reject Islam. I assume you just as much don’t understand the historical context of Islam as Christianity.
What I said was that I don’t WANT to discuss such concepts, because it is irrelevant and a waste, such content does not deserve attention;
I don’t need to prove anything to you or anyone.
If you really cant see why people find your religion of choice as well as all the others to be ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous, then you are the one who needs to prove their comprehension skills.
There is absolutely no difference between rejecting one silly religion and the next.
Of course, it’s your choice whether to discuss these things. But if you’re unwilling to back up your statements with any reasoning, they remain mere assertions, and there is no particular reason for anyone to accept or agree with them.
What specific statement of mine do you think I should I back up?
So far you haven’t provided much in the way of specifics, despite my asking you for them. Mostly, you’ve just made general claims of religion and theism being silly, idiotic, based on ignorance, and so on. Without anything to back up those claims, it’s just a bunch of name-calling.
If you want to have an actual discussion of some specifics regarding your beliefs and claims about God and religion, I would be happy to engage in that discussion with you. But if all you want to do is come here and shout, “You people are stupid for believing in God!” then that is indeed a waste of your time, my time, and my readers’ time.
You have said that you reject certain beliefs about God and religion—most recently, Creationism—and I’ve generally agreed with you in rejecting the beliefs that you mention. So aside from a general antipathy toward God and religion, I’m not sure what beef you have with my beliefs in particular.
The very core fundamental idea of all religions – That people know without doubt that there is a creator and regard it as a fact – Is what I disagree with.
So let’s start there shall we?
Sure. But “without a doubt” is a standard that even secular science doesn’t hold itself to, so it would not be fair to hold religion to that standard. Absolutism is not particularly helpful in thinking about either science or spirit.
But to take up your issue:
Science bases its ideas and theories on sensory experience. That’s what scientific experiments are all about.
Religion (in a broad sense, not specific institutions) also bases its ideas and theories on experience, though mostly not on physical sensory experience. Rather, it bases its ideas and theories—beliefs, if you will—on many people’s experiences of God and the spiritual realm that come by an internal, mental path rather than by an external path from the physical senses.
Atheists generally reject any source of knowledge aside from the physical senses. People who believe in God and spirit do not limit their sources of knowledge to physical, sensory experience.
So really, the question isn’t whether people who believe in God and spirit have sufficient evidence for their beliefs. In fact, there is a vast amount of literature detailing people’s first-hand experiences of God and spirit, just as there is a vast amount of (scientific) literature detailing people’s first-hand experiences of material phenomena.
The real question is: What type of evidence you are willing to accept? If you are willing to accept only physical, sensory evidence, then it is most likely you will become an atheist, because God and spirit are not perceivable with the physical senses. But if you are willing to accept non-physical sources of information, there is plenty of material on which to base a belief in God and spirit.
Further, for those who have experienced God and spirit directly, such as millions of people who have had near-death experiences, there really isn’t any doubt about the existence of God and spirit. They’ve seen the spiritual realms with their own eyes—albeit with their spiritual eyes rather than with their physical eyes.
Once again, all of this is covered in more detail in my article:
Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?
“Without a doubt” does not need a scientific textbook definition; it’s self explanatory.
Even with alleged evidence, if the theory isn’t a proven fact then you have no justification for claiming it is.
Contrary to popular opinion, science deals in theories, not in facts. Yes, there are facts of how experiments turned out. But those either support or don’t support theories, or hypotheses, that seek to explain the facts. The longer a scientific hypothesis is not overturned by the results of experiments, but correctly predicts the outcome of experiments, the more confident scientists become that it is a sound theory. But there is never 100% certainty. One replicated experiment may require a complete re-thinking of a scientific theory—even a long-standing one.
This has happened very often in the history of science. For example, Newton’s theory of gravity, while it still works on most scales that ordinary people deal with in their everyday lives, completely fails when we need to calculate the correct power and trajectory to get astronauts to the moon, or a probe to Jupiter or Saturn. If we used Newton’s theory of gravity, all of our spaceships would miss their targets. To get spacecraft to the moon or one of the other planets, we have to use Einstein’s theory of gravity, which has superseded Newton’s theory of gravity. And yet, for a couple hundred years Newton was widely believed to have achieved a full explanation of gravity.
And today, we have two major theories of reality: relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum mechanics. Each works beautifully on its own scale: relativity on the macro scale, and quantum mechanics on the micro scale. But they contradict each other in fundamental ways, and so far no one has been able to reconcile them to each other. So even two of the central theories in physics today that are used every day in science and technology fail to give us a full, coherent explanation of the nature of physical reality.
In short, in science there is so such thing as a “proven fact.” There are only theories that we are more and more confident of, but that we still have to allow room for the possibility that they fail to fully and accurately describe the nature of physical reality.
So once again, it’s not fair or rational to hold religion to a standard that even secular science does not attempt to meet.
Yes, there are people who have no doubt of God’s existence because they have encountered God. You can write it off as hallucination all you want. They will simply say, “I was there. You weren’t.”
For the rest of us, we have to weigh the available evidence of thousands of years of human experience of God and spirit, and decide for ourselves whether they amount to sufficient support for the existence of God and spirit. And then we try it out in reality, and see if it works in guiding our lives to a better state. Plus there are more subtle indications along the way in personal experience that indeed, the people who have directly experienced God and spirit did experience something real, and it wasn’t just a hallucination.
Atheists who are not philosophically sophisticated (which, unfortunately, seems to be most of them) commonly think that science deals in facts whereas religion deals in mere theories. That is simply not the case. Science deals in theories, and so does theology. Both are based on the direct experience of millions of people—in one case experiences in the physical world, and in the other case experiences in the spiritual world.
There are most definitely proven facts as opposed to (probable and improbable) theories;
It is a proven scientific fact that without water consumption humans quickly die.
It is not a proven fact that there is a creator, since it is currently impossible to prove one way or the other.
And yet, some humans manage to survive without water for much longer than they’re supposed to be able to. Beyond that, such “facts” are relatively trivial. They don’t tell us anything about why the human body needs water, and how water functions in the human body. For that, we need theories, and we need to test our theories through various experiments.
It is also a fact that billions of people believe in God. In a way, that’s a rather trivial fact. It’s simply a reality. The more interesting question is why billions of people believe in God. One theory is that God actually exists, and that’s why people believe in God. Another theory is that people invented the idea of God in order to explain natural phenomena that they couldn’t understand.
Both of these are theories. And they are at the heart of the difference between your theory of reality and mine.
And once again, theories are not proven. They can be disproven by a replicated experiment whose results the theory fails to predict correctly. But if a theory does correctly predict the results of an experiment, all we can say is that the theory is still holding, and has not been disproven, giving us more confidence that it is an accurate theory.
Humans die without water, from water depravation, period; Everyone is an individual and would live longer or shorter than the next person without water, but everyone would ultimately die just the same.
People believe in a creator because without the greater purpose of theism (being serving the creator like robots and being rewarded with “heaven”) depression is extremely common, and without the incentive of souls/afterlives people would be forced to accept permanent death of the consciousness, something most people are far far too weak to do.
The fact that people die without water is not a scientific theory. It is a physical fact that forms the basis of various scientific theories. It’s simply something we observe with our senses. By itself it tells us nothing about the nature of reality.
It is quite possible that neither people nor water exist in the form we think they do. It is quite possible that they are simply projections of our consciousness, and that nothing physical exists at all. This is something science can neither prove nor disprove. It is a theory of reality known as “Idealism” in philosophical terminology. There are many highly intelligent philosophers who have believed this and continue to believe it. And science simply can’t prove it wrong. Science can only assume that physical matter exists as physical matter, and proceed from there.
Your theory about why people believe in God is, similarly, only a theory. You can assert it, but you can’t prove it. And I find your theory woefully lacking in its ability to explain all of the known spiritual phenomena that people have experienced and described ever since the beginning of oral and written history.
None of that makes any sense; it is certainly a fact, of science (meaning testable and observable and provable), that people need water to live.
Now you’re just grabbing onto any silly philosophy to attempt to back up the fact that your religion of choice makes bold claims without justification for them.
“Well maybe nothing exists as we think it does” is not a reason to regard the possible existence of a creator as a fact.
“Spiritual phenomena” means nothing, it is fluffy babbling filler for when theists have no other argument out of the corner;
You have no justifiable reason to accept that spirits or spirituality without a doubt exist, period.
I would suggest that you spend some time studying both the philosophy of science and the philosophy of knowledge, which is known as epistemology. Your arguments show no evidence of even the most basic understanding of the history of human philosophy and knowledge. Your continual flat assertions with no rational substance or argument behind them whatsoever, plus your continual use of charged and insulting language, suggest that you really don’t have very good intellectual reasons for your beliefs about the nature of reality (i.e., there is no God and no spiritual realm).
The fact is that you have no justifiable reason to accept that physical objects and events without a doubt exist, period. That is an unprovable assumption. And yet, you seem to think it is an established fact simply because you believe that you have physical senses that provide stimuli from an external, physical world. The simple fact of the matter is that you cannot prove “without a doubt” that anything exists outside of your own mind, or consciousness. You can’t even prove that you have a brain that thinks. That, too, could simply be a projection of your consciousness.
The simple fact of the matter is that the only thing we know for sure, without a doubt, period is that our own conscious awareness exists. That is the only thing we directly experience. Everything else is indirect, and thus less certain—including the entirety of what we experience as physical reality.
So you agree that we can’t know whether a creator exists or not?
Since you just said that there is no reason to accept that anything exists.
No, that’s not what I said.
I said that the only thing we know exists for sure, without a doubt, period is our own conscious awareness. Everything else, including both the existence of God and the existence of physical reality, we have various theories about that we can be more or less sure of.
You keep asking for proof that God exists without a doubt. There is no such proof, just as there is no such proof that material reality exists without a doubt.
That doesn’t mean we can’t know anything. It doesn’t mean we can’t know God exists. It also doesn’t mean we can’t know that material reality exists. It’s just that our knowledge of anything other than the existence of our own conscious awareness is not an absolute, or something that can be proven. Rather, it is something that we have more or less confidence in based on the sum total of our experience and of our thinking and feeling based on our experience.
I don’t claim to be able to prove to you without a doubt that God exists. By the same token, you cannot prove to me without a doubt that material reality exists.
What I do have is a great deal of confidence, based on decades of experience, thought, and feeling, that God and spirit are real. I also have a great deal of confidence that material reality is real, though I think of it as being less real than (a more secondary or derived reality than) spiritual reality and divine reality (God).
Ironically, I believe that material reality is real because I believe in a Creator. If it weren’t for that, I’d likely be a philosophical idealist myself (see the Wikipedia article on Idealism that I linked in a previous comment), because really, it’s the only fully supportable position on the nature of reality from a purely rational perspective.
“you have no justifiable reason to believe that physical objects without a doubt exist, period.”
If this is true then how do you have justifiable reason to not only believe, but to claim that others should believe, not only that a creator exists, but exists in the ways your religion of choice claims it does?
Both of these claims are contradictory of your direct quote above.
I’ve never asked for proof of a creator of any of the religion’s depictions or of a creator at all, because there is none; What I have asked, is why you guys believe it as fact and not theory like everything else you like to label as theory.
It is a basic error of thought to think that unless we know something absolutely, we cannot know anything at all.
You seem to want to deal in absolutes. But there really aren’t many knowable absolutes in life. Everything we know has been built up over many thousands of years of human experience, and over the decades of our own individual experience. We become more and more sure of it as experience supports our beliefs, or theories, about the nature of reality.
And sometimes reality blasts our beliefs, or theories, to pieces and we have to start all over.
I have never said that the existence of a Creator is a fact and not a theory like everything else. I have said that I believe there is a Creator based on a great deal of experience, thought, and yes, feeling—which is also an integral and essential part of human reality, just as thinking is.
You are attributing absolutes to me that I have not myself said or claimed.
Yes, I think it’s generally a good idea for people to believe in God and spirit as well as matter. That’s because I think that the existence of all three explains the sum total of human experience far better than the existence of only physical matter does.
I also think it’s a good idea to reject most of what traditional Christianity teaches. And because that’s what most philosophical (rather than cultural) atheists are rejecting, I have a lot of sympathy for philosophical atheists. I reject the same God and religion that they reject. It’s just that I have a different understanding of God and spirit that doesn’t include the objectionable, immoral, and often downright horrific ideas that are rampant in traditional Christianity, and in different forms in other religions as well—especially in their respective fundamentalist wings.
But I never said we can’t know anything at all, what I’m saying is that we can’t currently know for sure whether there is a creator or not.
That is not an absolute, it is honest acknowledgement of reality.
It would also be an honest acknowledgement of reality to admit that we can’t currently know for sure whether physical reality exists.
It’s the “for sure” part that seems to be causing all the problems. That “for sure” is requiring an absolute that we simply cannot have about anything other than our own conscious awareness. If you reject everything that you can’t know for sure, then the honest thing to do is not to accept the existence of anything other than the fact that your own mind (whatever that is) exists.
The absolute is on your end, YOU are claiming that a creator absolutely exists (unless you aren’t claiming that?).
I’m simply rejecting your religious absolutism.
I already said that I am not claiming that a Creator absolutely exists. I said that I believe that a Creator exists based on a great deal of experience, thought, and feeling.
So you don’t think (believe) a creator absolutely exists ?
As I keep saying, there are very few absolutes in life.
Why do you keep returning to absolutism? That is the downfall of any belief or theory of existence. Fundamentalism of every stripe (including atheistic fundamentalism) is based on an absolutism that has no basis in reality.
Can you answer a bit more directly, perhaps with a yes or no?
Do you or do you not think with certainty a creator undoubtedly exists?
And if not, how then do you honestly consider yourself a practitioner of a religion that claims a creator undoubtedly (absolutely) exists?
You simply aren’t paying attention.
You keep asking me to affirm something that I’ve already said I don’t affirm: that a Creator with certainty, undoubtedly exists. We humans simply can’t have that sort of absolute knowledge.
How can you, a blogger on health, beauty, and so on, consider yourself an honest blogger if you can’t even affirm with absolute, undoubtable certainty that any of the things you talk about actually exist in reality? What if it’s all just a figment of your imagination? What if your own body doesn’t even exist, let alone the bodies of all those other people that you give advice to about diet and health?
Since you can’t even know for sure, with absolute certainty, that any of these things actually exist, how can you keep blogging about it?
Blogger on beauty ? Excuse you – Why do you enjoy labeling me personally in your attempt to make an argument against my position? It’s cheap and dishonest.
Why do you believe there is a creator, rather than believing there is POSSIBLY a creator (as I happen to believe) ?
It’s a very simple question that you should be able to give a straightforward answer to, without smoke and mirrors.
Sorry about the “beauty” part. I remembered wrongly from what I had previously read on your blog. Here is what your “About” page actually says:
How can you honestly blog about any of these things when you have no absolute, undeniable proof that the physical body exists? Or that the material world exists? Or that human society exists?
Because we operate under the assumption that existence is tangible and how it’s been for as long as we have lived; There is no reason to entertain such philosophy as what you’re bringing up;
Choosing to practice a religion is taking it one step further by putting on the thickest blindfold you can and then trying to filter reality through it.
Why do you refuse to answer my question about why you believe there is a creator rather than possibly a creator ?
Aside from some personal experience that is irrelevant to you because it’s not your experience, I believe in a Creator because the sum total of human experience strongly suggests that there is a Creator.
I see no good reason why human beings would have made up a non-existent entity to explain things they don’t understand. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. Usually I just shrug it off with a, “Huh?” Why would stone-age primitives come up with something for which they have no sensory experience whatsoever? That makes no sense to me at all. If they could not see God anywhere, why would that idea even enter their heads?
It makes much more sense that they, just like millions of people in modern times, had actual experiences of God and of spiritual reality, through their spiritual senses, as I believe.
I’ve read a number of atheist “debunkings” of near-death experiences and religious experiences in general. To me, they all look like they’re grasping at straws in an attempt to deny something that millions, if not billions, of people throughout history have experienced over and over again. To me, there is an absolutism in that denial that is both unscientific and irrational.
I understand that many people have a bad taste in their mouth about organized religion. I find much of traditional Christianity to be execrable in its beliefs and practices (though I do also acknowledge that it has done much good as well). So I understand if people exposed to that who are thinking, feeling, compassionate people throw out the baby with the bathwater and reject God and spirit altogether. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I would be very happy to see traditional Christianity cease to exist. It gives a bad name to God, the Bible, religion, and spirit, directly causing much of the atheism in the world today.
But that horrible God and religion have nothing to do with what I believe. I believe in a God of pure, universal love, wisdom, and power, who desires eternal life for all people, offers it to all people, and accepts into heaven anyone at all, from any religion or no religion at all, who is willing to go there based on being a decent, thoughtful person rather than being a complete asshole (if you’ll excuse my French).
I have spent much of my life studying especially the Bible and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and to a lesser extent the beliefs of other Christians and non-Christians, as well as near-death experiences, dreams, visions, and so on. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on much of anything, that lifelong study, plus my own experience, has given me great assurance that God and spirit actually do exist, even if they’re nothing like what traditional Christianity says they are.
What makes your personal conclusion from your experiences and studies more valid or accurate than mine ?
How do you expect people to respect an idea you hold based on that reasoning ?
I hope people will look honestly into it for themselves, and not accept something just because I say so. If it makes sense and rings true to people, then I hope they will accept it. I believe that the truth speaks for itself for people who are truly seeking it.
Whether or not there is a creator is not a subjective matter;
Just like the fact that humans need water is an absolute fact, whether or not there is a creator is an absolute fact either way, and we just happen not to know that fact right now.
It’s not an absolute fact that humans need water. Once again, you can’t even prove for sure that water, or the human body, exist in reality and not just in our imagination.
In our experience humans need water to survive. But we could be completely misinterpreting what we’re experiencing. It could be that we’ve constructed a whole reality in our heads that doesn’t in fact exist. We could all be living in a Matrix of unreality, blissfully unaware of the real world out there because we’re so absorbed in our own virtual reality.
But I reject such science fiction nonsense, it doesn’t add to the conversation, it’s completely irrelevant, and it’s insulting that you think I’d take that seriously. It has nothing to do with why you believe there is a creator.
You’re asking for absolutes that you yourself cannot provide for your own beliefs.
You can call these things all the names you want. But the simple fact of the matter is that you have no absolute, undeniable, undoubtable, surefire proof that anything you believe in is actually true.
You’re insisting that I meet an unrealistic standard that you yourself cannot meet for your own beliefs.
I have not asked for one absolute.
I have asked why you believe there is a creator, which is an absolute claim in itself.
You set the standard by saying you think (believe) there is a creator, and I’m quite simply asking why, in the simplest version you have to offer, you believe that ?
See my answer here, which was posted after this comment of yours even though it appears above it in the comments section.
And believing in a Creator is not an “absolute claim in itself.” It is a belief.
The absolute claims are in the bible; So you don’t agree with everything the bible claims then ?
The Bible is not about “claims.” It is not a textbook of science or history, nor is it a treatise on theology or logic. It is a complex, multifaceted book, but its main purpose is moral suasion: to induce and guide people to leave behind wrong and destructive ways of living, and live in good and constructive ways instead.
In order to do this, it must address people at the cultural, intellectual, moral, and spiritual level where they are—which is generally quite low. For that purpose it often speaks in uncompromising terms, because people at a low moral and spiritual ebb don’t understand or respond to anything else. Giving a bank robber or serial rapist a finely reasoned treatise on why their behavior is morally wrong and damaging to the fabric of society will have little effect. It is necessary to be quite “absolute” with them in order to get them to stop their bad behavior.
The Bible must also speak to people according to their own cultural attitudes and beliefs, bending people toward better ways of thinking and living rather than replacing their existing beliefs and attitudes wholesale—which people will strenuously resist and reject. So yes, the Bible often deals in rather low-level behavioral absolutes directed at cultures that we consider quite backwards today. And yes, the Bible says many things that we now know to be historically or scientifically incorrect. But that’s not the point. The point is to induce people, whatever errors of thinking or objectionable cultural practices they may be entangled in, to live a better life—meaning a life of love and service to God and their fellow human beings rather than a life of self-centeredness and greed.
In short, in the Bible God deals with us where we are, not with some idealized version of humanity. And yet, for those who are at a higher intellectual, moral, and spiritual level, there are deeper messages embedded within the literal story that can guide us to whatever moral and spiritual heights we are willing and able to go.
This is a huge topic, and not one I can do justice to in a comment. However, I have written many articles here on what the Bible is and isn’t all about. Here are two that I invite you to read for a fuller answer to your question:
So you disagree that the bible claims that a creator exists?
Please answer yes or no, as nothing more is necessary.
Once again, you’re missing the point. The Bible is not about “claims.” The Bible simply assumes that a Creator exists, and proceeds from there.
And you agree with that assumption? Again, please try for yes or no
Yes. That’s pretty obvious. I believe in God.
And about “trying for yes or no,” some questions aren’t well-phrased, and have wrong assumptions embedded in them. Such questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. The wrong assumptions must first be pointed out and refuted before any answer can be given.
So you agree with the assumption that a creator exists, that’s a start.
Do you mind explaining the difference between assumptions and claims that justifies taking one on faith and not the other ?
That is all irrelevant, because your assumptions are in the same boat as my assumptions. You may “assume” no god exists. I may “assume” God does exist. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a “claim” or an “assumption,” or any of that logical reductionism. I’m not interested in playing word games. I’m interested in the truth, which we can always seek out, but never have any absolute knowledge of, scientific or theological, regardless of any “claims” or “assumptions” or logical hair-splitting.
As I’ve already said, based on many years of experience and study, I think that the existence of God, spirit, and matter explains all of the phenomena of human experience far better than the existence of matter only. I think that rejecting God and spirit is more an article of faith than anything that can be demonstrated. I think that aside from the bad name organized religion gives to God and spirit, which I’ve mentioned previously in this conversation a a major source of atheism, the main reason atheists are atheists is because they assume and believe that only evidence derived from the physical senses is valid. I think that’s a wrong assumption and belief. I think the entire edifice of materialism and atheist thinking and belief is based on a wrong assumption that involves rejecting an extensive and important part of human experience: the experience of the human mind as compared to experience derived from the physical body and senses.
If you want to talk about these things, I’m happy to do so. But I’m not going to be drawn off into fruitless wrangling about terminology.
My assumptions are not faith based the same way yours are, because I regard assumptions with different levels of validity based on their plausibility.
Do you mind answering the simple question?
Your assumptions about my assumptions are incorrect, and thus your question is not a “simple” one. I also regard assumptions with different levels of validity based on their plausibility. And I find materialism and atheism to be very implausible assumptions.
What incorrect assumption did I make with that question that makes it impossible for you to directly answer?
You’re assuming that my beliefs are based on mere assumptions and claims. They’re not. They’re based on extensive experience and evidence indicating which assumptions, or claims, or whatever you want to call them, are most plausible, to use your terms.
You’re also assuming a definition of “faith” that I have already rejected. Did you read the article about the biblical meaning of “faith” that I pointed you to earlier? Here it is again:
Faith Alone Is Not Faith
I can’t answer your “simple questions” when they continually include wrong assumptions about my beliefs and how I arrived at them—even after I’ve explained how and why these assumptions of yours are incorrect—not to mention wrong assumptions about epistemology, i.e., how we know what we know.
The belief that a creator exists is not based on assumptions and claims ??
No. The belief in a Creator is based on experience. If it is based only on assumptions and claims, then it is a very weak belief.
Would you respect me if I said I believe in fairies and witches based on experience?
I’d want to hear what the experience was that brought you to this belief.
Personally, I tend to think that fairies and witches are more a spiritual than a physical phenomena.
Then again, there do seem to be some people who are able to use forces that aren’t well understood to accomplish things that shouldn’t really be possible according to our current understanding of physical science. And there certainly are people who are able to hold others in mental thrall and bend them to their own will—which could be considered a form of witchcraft. I’ve recently been reading about Rajneesh and his ability to hold people in a hypnotic spell that over time broke down their own identity and caused them to think of him as a godlike figure (his self-applied title of “Bhagwan” means “Lord” or “God”), and to be willing to do anything he asked of them, up to and including murder, with no moral compunctions about it whatsoever. To me, Rajneesh was a figure of pure evil. It would not be inappropriate to call him a “witch” in a negative sense, according to some traditional understandings of witchcraft.
In a positive sense, some people believe in a nature-based religion in which a “witch” is a person who uses the spiritual forces of nature to do good. That’s not necessarily a wrong idea, even if I’m skeptical of spell-casting and that sort of thing.
So you think there are personal experiences that validate the belief in fairies and witches? Or at least you would entertain such experiences?
I don’t ignore or deny people’s experiences, assuming there’s no reason to believe they’re being insincere. However, I won’t necessarily interpret those experiences the same way as the people who had them.
For example, I believe that a number of people who believe in reincarnation have had “past life” experiences. However, I don’t believe that those experiences are actually experiences of that individual having a past life.
Why don’t you believe those experiences are what those individuals believe they are? After all, doesn’t that cheapen the validity for your own experience based belief?
People believe what they do for a reason. If someone needs to believe in reincarnation for their own spiritual path and wellbeing, I won’t argue with them about it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to agree with them and their interpretation of their experiences.
Even though I don’t think we humans can have absolute truth, I do think there is truth and falsity, and that we can be either closer to or farther away from the truth, as well as being caught up in things that are just plain false. Still, even false beliefs can serve as “truth” for people who hold to them sincerely, and are inspired by them to live a better (more loving, thoughtful, and caring) life. Though I don’t believe in reincarnation, many people do, and they see it as being more just than the one-life view common in Western religion.
So no, it doesn’t cheapen the validity of my own experiences in my mind. But it does suggest that I should maintain a certain level of humility, and going along with what I said in a previous comment, be open to the possibility that I may be mistaken about the meaning even of my own experiences. Over the years, as my life has unfolded, I’ve changed my views on some of my own past experiences and what they mean. That’s just part of the process of growing in emotional and spiritual maturity.
What about Christian beliefs specifically aligns with your experiences, that differs from all other religions?
That’s a big question.
Theologically, genuine Christianity differs from all other religions in believing that Jesus Christ is the unique human presence of God. (I reject the traditional Christian Trinity of Persons as unbiblical and polytheistic.) Most religions do not believe God became human, but believe that God is a purely transcendent being above and beyond human life or apprehension. In Islam, for example, the idea that God could be or become a human being is considered sacrilegious. Hinduism does believe in human avatars of God, but believes there have been and will continue to be many of these avatars throughout human history. Genuine Christianity teaches that God is both transcendent (above us) and uniquely immanent (with us) as Jesus Christ.
In my own spiritual life, that is the most precious belief and gift of Christianity: that God is not just some unknowable being or force far beyond us, but is also present with us as an intensely human being with whom we can have a direct and personal relationship that doesn’t require any other human being, such as a priest or minister, as an intermediary standing between us and God.
There are many other beliefs I could mention, but this, for me, is the central and most important one.
I think the issue for me with the religions is that they all assume the creator exists rather than just accepting that we don’t know either way;
And to expand further, if there is a creator, all religions assume it is a moral and ethical and just and fair and loving and whatever else creator, which I again would not take on faith, but rather accept that it could be either way and we just don’t know.
In other words, at this point you’re an agnostic rather than an atheist?
I mean personally I’m on the atheist end of agnosticism, yes, but the point I was trying to make is that the very fundamental core assumption of religions (that a creator exists) is a dishonest belief to promote and spread and instill in children.
Only if you reject the testimony of human experience in realms other than the physical realm. There is no particularly good or rational reason to accept only evidence that comes from the physical senses, and not evidence that comes from the human mind. This, in itself, is based on an already existing assumption that only the physical is real, and only the experience of the physical senses is worthy of credence.
Evidence that comes from the human mind? The human mind generates all kind of twisted bizarre far out things and there is nothing to stop sick crazy people from starting religions based off their sick minds. They’re quite good at it actually.
So you think what the mind creates is trustworthy but what the senses experience isn’t ?
The senses also tell us many things that aren’t the reality. For example, the senses tell us that objects are solid, when in fact they consist mostly of empty space, and the solidity is based on force fields repelling one another rather than actual solidity. And yet, billions of people walk around assuming that the desk, chair, or wall they bump into is a solid mass.
In the same way, people who have spiritual experiences commonly misinterpret their meaning. The experience was genuine, but the conclusions drawn from it are not. That’s why it’s necessary in theology just as in science to have theories and hypotheses, and test them against the evidence of accumulated human experience of God and spirit. Just as with the evidence of the physical senses, it’s not a good procedure to simply uncritically accept ideas based on people’s spiritual experiences.
So yes, there are many false ideas about God and spirit floating around, just as there are many false ideas about the physical world floating around. The fact that many people are deceived, either unwittingly or willfully, doesn’t negate the actual existence of God and spirit, any more than the fact that a whole group of people think the earth is flat negates the existence of the earth.
What I’m saying is there is no justification for teaching people from childhood that we know there is a creator for a fact (and then calling it a “belief” or “assumption” when we get called out for indoctrination).
There is also no justification for teaching people from childhood that we know for a fact that matter and the physical world exist. The reality is that we can’t be sure of that, because we have only second-hand information about it. From a purely reductionist standpoint, it would be most honest only to teach children that their mind exists and is a reality, and that everything else is subject to doubt.
Once again, if absolutism is our standard, we really can’t teach children much of anything, because both in science and in religion, there is some element of doubt about everything we know.
If you require absolute certainty before you do, say, or teach anything, you will just be stuck there in one place, living within the confines of your own mind, because that is the only thing whose existence you can be absolutely sure of.
So you think it’s ok to teach people a belief that claims a creator exists absolutely however it’s not ok to teach people they they will die without water and that laws of nature and physical objects exist ?
What school did you attend? So I know where not to send my future children
I attended public schools in various states in the U.S. Then I went on to attend a couple different colleges, and finally my denomination’s seminary—which I doubt your children will have any interest in attending. So your (future) kids are safe! 😛
Meanwhile, I continue to wonder why you slip “absolutely” into all of your objections.
You seemed to like it when I explained to you that I do not claim absolute knowledge, nor do I think absolute knowledge is possible for us human beings on any subject, scientific or theological, with the possible exception of the existence of our own mind (some people deny even that).
Why, then, have you now reverted back to absolutes in critiquing what I do here? I don’t teach God and spirit as absolutes. I teach God as a being and spirit as a reality that I have very strong reasons for believing in, just as I have very strong reasons for believing that the physical world exists.
Sorry to be an armchair psychologist for a moment, but it seems as though you must still be dealing with absolutes crammed down your throat as a child growing up in the Catholic Church. Perhaps if you could free, not your mind, but your heart and your gut from the effects of that absolutism, you would be able to approach God and spirit from a less fraught and more objective perspective.
Oh, and of course it’s okay to teach people that they’ll die without water and teach them the laws of nature. I never said otherwise.
And yes, there are many false religions out there generated from the human mind rather than from any divine source. Back in the 1980s when Rajneesh’s cult was taking over the local town and attempting to take over the local county in Oregon, I was living just one state away in Washington State. Fortunately, it ended without the mass death that some other cults have perpetrated. But along the way Rajneesh’s cult terrorized the locals and did attempt to kill many people. So yes, religion, when twisted into false and evil forms, can do great damage.
That is an example of what an old friend of mine used to call “the flipside principle”: The best things, when corrupted, become the worst things. For example, sexuality and marriage encompasses some of the closest, deepest, and most beautiful relationships between human beings. But when corrupted by evil minds and desires, it turns into some of the most horrific and destructive abuse on the face of the earth: rape, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse in general, and so on.
We don’t reject sex and marriage because some people twist and abuse it into horrific forms. Rather, we recognize that what some people have done with it is a horrible corruption and destruction of what sexuality and marriage are meant to be.
In the same way, it makes no sense to reject religion, God, and spirit as a whole just because some segments of religion (major segments of religion, I think) have become corrupt and are doing more harm than good. Rather, what’s necessary is to identify and deal with the corruption so that good and true religion can do its work free from that destructive corruption.
Let me ask this, do you think it’s of more sound reasoning to believe that the existence of a creator is MOST LIKELY THE CASE or is POSSIBLY THE CASE ?
(Capitalized for emphasis, not yelling at you)
Yes, please don’t use all caps. You can use basic HTML code in Wordrpess comments to add italics or bold. Here is a basic guide:
I prefer to use “b” instead of “strong” and “i” instead of “em” because they’re easier to type.
In answer to your question, if I had to choose between those two, it would be “most likely the case.” But the reality is that I have very little doubt about the existence of God and spirit. It’s possible that I could be wrong about their existence. The human mind is a cantankerous thing. But at this point in my life I’m quite sure that I’m not wrong. If I thought there were a significant likelihood that I’m wrong, I would not devote my life to teaching these things.
But you would say that you do have some doubt of the existence of a creator if you’re completely honest, correct?
(I doubted my family’s Catholicism from the age of fifteen on, and it’s a very common occurrence)
I hope you don’t think I’m trying to trip you up into saying something I can argue because I’m genuinely asking these questions, not just to make a point, but to create the common ground where we can understand where the other is coming from.
Any honest and sincere seeker of truth in any area of human knowledge should always consider the possibility that he or she might be wrong. Science, as I said earlier, is not based on absolute proof, but on theories that working scientists become more and more confident in as experiments support rather than disprove the theory. But an honest scientist who sincerely wants to understand the nature of physical reality should always admit the possibility that the theory might be wrong. That’s how we humans remain open to new understanding and new insight about the nature of the world we live in.
Similarly, anyone in theological circles who is absolutely certain of having the truth is cutting him- or herself off from gaining greater understanding and enlightenment about the nature of God, spirit, and reality. Many times during the course of my life (I’m in my late 50s) I’ve realized that some of the things I used to think were wrong, and have replaced them with other things that I believe are closer to the truth. Even my understanding of the basics of God, the spiritual world, and human moral and spiritual life have evolved over the years into something less rigid, and more broad and encompassing.
So yes, I have to admit that I could very well be wrong about the existence of God and spirit. Like every human being, I do not have absolute knowledge. Even people who have had direct experience of God could be fooling themselves, and even they commonly go through periods of doubt in which they wonder whether their experience was genuine.
That’s why faith is not a static thing, but something that continually ebbs and flows, and also grows over the years as doubts are replaced with new understanding and insight, and new doubts are once again worked out in the crucible of experience, giving way to greater faith.
Speaking for myself, I have gone through this cycle sufficient times that I have as stable a belief in God and spirit as I do that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. When you experience something often enough and repeatedly enough, it ceases to be a shaky and doubtful thing, and becomes a matter of conviction.
Now, it’s possible that the sun won’t rise tomorrow. Maybe the sun will suddenly, inexplicably go nova and the entire earth will be blasted to a cinder, and all of us humans along with it. But all of our experience indicates that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow. And all of my experience indicates that there is indeed a loving Creator and a spiritual world that we will go to and live in after our life on this earth is over.
Well goddamn, I can’t argue with that now can I? See all you have to do is be honest and the playing field is leveled; It almost seems like now the real conversation can begin
Okay then. Let’s talk! 🙂
Well are you interested on collaborating on something? I’ll answer questions or write up something for your blog & you do the same for mine ?
Thanks for the suggestion. I’d have to think about that. Off the cuff, I’m not much interested in turning the posts on this blog into a forum for guest posts presenting different viewpoints. That’s not the purpose or culture of this blog, as much as I do welcome conversation from different perspectives in the comments on this blog.
Meanwhile, if our conversation here sparks something that you would like to write up and post on your blog, I’d certainly read it, and would be willing to continue the conversation either in your comments section or via a link and response in a post on this blog—which is something I’ve done in a few recent posts.
No, I highly doubt that you’re one of the few people that really do understand the ancient 1st century Jewish context of the New Testament, rather than simply being unwilling to spend a minute writing it out.
“If you really cant see why people find your religion of choice as well as all the others to be ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous, then you are the one who needs to prove their comprehension skills.”
I’m more than fully aware of the incoherent reasoning that leads to tribal claims like “you’re ideology is dangerous and idiotic.” In fact, I probably understand the explanation behind this claim better than you do. Anyways, perhaps you need to tone down your intolerance towards Christianity and tone up your acknowledgement of some of the many great things it’s given to this world. Hospitals? Modern universities? Ending gladiator battles in the ancient Roman Empire? And it also looks like you nicely stepped around the reasoning I gave behind Christianity in my previous comment. Why are you acting like such an ideologue?
So what makes you think that you know for a fact that, not only is there a creator, but that it’s the one your religion of choice claims it is?
I understand considering the theory, but saying it’s a fact is as unjustifiable as it gets.
“So what makes you think that you know for a fact that, not only is there a creator, but that it’s the one your religion of choice claims it is?”
Actually, I don’t know “for a fact” that there is a God and mines is the one true God (which is partly why your skepticism is justified). I just have a set of reasons in front of me, indicators perhaps, that I’m drawing my conclusion from. And I’m looking at them, and in fact, I use to call myself agnostic once. Though now, with more information, and with more certainty in my methodology, I think that it’s more probable than not that I’m correct. I’m not operating on certainty, but probability. Any form of certainty when it comes to religion or the lack thereof, unless you seriously have access to some information the vast majority of people don’t, is actually a detriment to your reasoning abilities.
My reasoning is not fundamentalist in the least. When I left any form of agnosticism, I did lapse back into a ‘form’ of fundamentalism let’s say — for example, not accepting evolution and the inerrancy of the Bible. But with more information, I’ve realized some of my past conclusions were wrong and so I’ve revised my beliefs. I understand evolution is as well established as tectonic plate theory, that there are peripheral errors and contradictions in the biblical text (though they appear to be more or less irrelevant to the larger historical framework and especially the moral message), and I even believe that life developed as a product of physics, not being planted by God. So perhaps those are some of the agreements that you and I would share. And so I don’t think it would be at all fair to label my views as having any form of certainty in their conclusions, as my past indicates, I’m perfectly willing to revise my conclusions as I go as my information increases.
So, I do think Christianity is true. The resurrection narratives seem to have a solid historical bedrock, and Christianity is the historical progenitor of enormous scales of good in the world unlike any other religion or mythology. Assuming you also live in a Western society, you probably also know that our culture is a big reflector of that. So I consider things like these to be consistent with what I’d expect of the ‘one true religion’. So I’m a Christian.
What on earth about the stories of the resurrection could you possibly think adds up ?
The gospels themselves don’t even agree on what happened and EVEN if they did, there is no reason to believe any of it. It’s stone age psycho babble
Amanda, if anything, your skills at totally sidestepping practically everything I write is notable (and certainly has been noted).
The Gospels do, more or less entirely (putting aside the possibility of one or, two at most, peripheral contradictions that can’t be solved) add up and are consistent, and when it comes to the major points of the story and not minor details, there’s no doubt about the total consistency.
As for believing in it, perhaps it has escaped you that I’ve already linked to an actual mnonograph by an academic publisher that lays out a historical analyses of the texts, whereby one concludes that it actually happened.
The reviews by academics in the field of this book are quite pleasant.
“stone age psycho babble”
The ideology speaks once again?
So if someone in history said that something happened, then it’s probably true ?
How did “because someone who has a degree said that someone else said it’s true” even filter from your brain to the comment box without you realizing how stupid it is before hitting reply?
“And yes, I stand by the ideology that theistic claims are stone age psycho babble, what is off about that ?”
Well, for one, theism predates the stone age, amanders.
“So if someone in history said that something happened, then it’s probably true ?”
Ugghh. I actually know the kind of evidence the book mentions. Nice try, make an absurd assumption without considering asking me (i.e. that I just looked at the title and accepted whatever was between the two covers) and you came to a startling error. No, it’s not true because “someone in history” said it’s true, it’s probably true because “someone in history” gave a ton of evidence that it’s true. Try writing a comment without misrepresenting what I write next time, eh?
Yes or no question time:
Do you honestly think that at some point in time a virgin literally got pregnant and that her son is literally the spiritual savior of the human species who need to be saved from eternal punishment in a literal hell ?
I know this was addressed to Scientific Christian, not to me, but for my own answer to this question, please see:
The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
Do I think Mary was miraculously made pregnant by God, by which the Son of God was born? Ugghh .. Yeah. But the entire question is phrased in a dishonest way (which is why I had to rephrase it). Behold;
“Do you honestly think that at some point in time a virgin literally got pregnant and that her son is literally the spiritual savior of the human species who need to be saved from eternal punishment in a literal hell ?”
The entire question is phrased as to make the other side look like bonkers. Since we’re playing yes or no question time (since you can’t admit you’re wrong in every topic we’ve had so far), I’ll pose one to you to;
Do you honestly think that everything literally poofed into existence at some time in the past and that there magically were perfect constants for the laws of physics so that life could literally develop out of a pool of chemicals and it happened to have rearranged itself into us?
So you refuse to answer?
“So you refuse to answer?”
WHAT? LOL. Did you read my last comment?
And besides that I answered your question, why didn’t you answer mine?
“Religious doctrine and ideology”
Wait, so your definition of ‘psycho babble’ is just religion? Color me surprised. Ready for a real discussion yet?
I asked a yes or no question
Once again, read my second last comment for the answer. Are you done trying to run around, like, everything I’ve said.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to add: What exactly do you define as ‘psycho babble’, dear amanders?
Hi Scientific Christian,
Please be respectful here, even if others aren’t always. Thanks.
Religious doctrine and ideology
And yes, I stand by the ideology that theistic claims are stone age psycho babble, what is off about that ?
What’s off is that without any sound reasoning to back it up, it’s just charged language and name-calling, producing a lot of heat but no light.
it is funny, I have experienced the same thing over at my blog when I have posted essays critical of atheists and atheism. It does not matter how many objections you address, there will always be one more to come from an atheist. (Christians can always pray for those who cling to their atheism.) If a person does not want to believe, the most you can do is point the way and wish them well on their life’s journey.
Yes, people who want to be atheists will be atheists no matter what you say. And if they come to a belief in God, it will usually be due to some life-changing event rather than due to debates with theists. Still, if people want to ask me questions, I’ll answer them. Then they can do with it what they want. People have all different reasons for being atheists. Some might like to believe in God but can’t because of what they’ve been taught about God. I think of it as planting seeds.
This is great and very insightful
Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
Godspeed on your spiritual journey!
A really great cogitation and analysis.
of this subject. However I have a really big doubt: Jesus told a man can divorce his wife in case of “fornication”, but what considered Jesus “fornication”?
Hi Ana Maria,
Thanks for your kind words, and for your question.
The Greek word πορνεία (porneia) that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:32 and similar passages is a general term for illicit sexual intercourse. In connection with marriage, it covers any form of sexual unfaithfulness and immorality. In these passages Jesus is saying that a man may divorce his wife if she is unfaithful to him.
Thank you so much for writing and sharing your knowledge and experience. Recently, I had been trying to answer long-held questions about theology and came about one of your articles on marriage… then another… and another. I have been binge reading your writings everyday since then and shared your writings with my family members. I have read more Scripture in the past few days than in the past few years. You address topics and put into words things that I’ve felt, but struggle to articulate, while also shedding light on teachings which I have not understood in the purview of Christianity. Thank you for sharing in your own way the goodness of life.
1) On this topic, I am a bit confused on your writings about the eunuchs. Under your heading, “What does Jesus mean about eunuchs?”, you wrote that eunuchs could not accept Jesus’ teaching about marriage because they have little or no interest in sex and marriage.
After reading your blog posts about marriage, I am confused as to why this is the case and what this may entail in modern times for those who are celibate. Though castrated and thus unable to participate in sex, ‘Why would eunuchs “have no space in their character for marriage?”’ In contemporary society, wouldn’t a person have the capacity to be sexually abstinent, yet still be married and aspire to the spiritual (and love oriented) components reflected in Genesis?
Why are eunuchs incapable of living by Jesus teaching? Is this related to the different cultural perception of marriage mentioned in some of your other writings?
2) Later in the blog post you wrote that marriage was considered a “sacred and inviolable relationship that was created and commanded by God right from the beginning” and that “man and woman were created by God to be united in marriage”.
Does this mean that everyone is suppose to get married in this life (or the next)? That, if presented with the opportunity, it is Gods’ will that everyone gets married so that no one is single?
Perhaps the reason I am confused is that this writing seems to hit closer to home. Since I was young, I have felt the intuition that I was meant to be celibate, though not for religious reasons. I have felt that I am meant to remain single because that is who I am by nature, just as others feel that they were meant to work in healthcare or feel that they were born heterosexual.
In your writings on marriage, I believe that you wrote that we as people are on a trajectory with respect to our spiritual and moral character and values such that by the time we die we are spiritually married to our ‘counterpart’ in heaven. However, does this mean that people like me would hypothetically be forced into a spiritual union with someone? Would, “Thank you God, but no thank you” be an option?
I understand that intuitions can be wrong, however it is because of this intuition that the notion of ‘marriage as the ideal state’ seems antithetical to who I am as a person. I can’t understand what component of spiritual marriage would make me more ideal in the eyes of Christ.
I’m looking forward to picking up some of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings. Per chance, does he write on what happens to people who are not married or who are single in heaven?
Thanks again for the topic. I believe that another false perception I had of Jesus has been cleared.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions. I’m glad you’ve found answers and inspiration here, and that it has caused you to search the scriptures with new eyes. Thanks also for your kind words, which I do appreciate.
In answer to your questions:
1) As I say in the article, eunuchs and celibates are not the same thing. Eunuchs are men who have been castrated. Celibates are men or women who have voluntarily chosen not to engage in sex or marriage.
Castrated people ordinarily have little or no interest in sex, and therefore usually have little or no interest in marriage. That is what I meant by saying that they have no space in their character for marriage, and therefore can’t accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage, in the practical sense that for the most part they simply have no interest in marriage.
Celibates, on the other hand, may be celibate because they have taken a vow of celibacy for religious reasons, or because they have chosen to be celibate for other, non-religious reasons. Celibates normally do still have sexual drives and desires, which they deal with in various ways. These people could be married, but have chosen not to be.
2) In the spiritual world, no one who doesn’t want to be married is forced to get married. Swedenborg did teach that marriage is the preferred state over celibacy (see Marriage Love #156). However, when speaking of what happens with various types of married and unmarried people after death, he also said:
In the same section he goes on to say that people who had taken religious vows of celibacy are released from those vows in the afterlife. They are then free to marry if they wish. If they wish to remain celibate, assuming they are good people, they remain celibate, but live on the edges of heaven because their atmosphere of celibacy clashes with the atmosphere of marriage that exists in the main body of heaven.
So no, if you have no desire to be married, you will not be forced to get married in the afterlife. You can continue to live as a single person. This may mean, however, that it would be difficult for you to live in regular, married angelic society, but would instead live in a community of single people who have a mindset and pattern of life similar to yours. However, even this is not something that’s enforced so much as something that people will likely choose of their own accord for their own happiness and wellbeing.
In any case, the most important thing is to live a spiritually oriented life, which is one of loving and serving our fellow human beings. Other issues, such as whether we are married or single, are secondary to living by the two Great Commandments of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
I hope these answers are helpful to you. Feel free to continue the conversation if you still have questions, or other issues you want to discuss.
Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!
Out of curiosity, why aren’t women allowed to be priests? That seems really unfair to me..
Hi NylaTheWolf AJ,
I’d say it’s mostly tradition from when men were considered superior to women. The church I belong to ordains women, as do many other churches today. Eventually I hope that the rest of the churches will come out of the dark ages and start ordaining women as well.
The idea of the article is correct, but I have some suggestions. Can we discuss it via email? (Will need to attach files)
You’re welcome to make some initial comments here. Then we’ll see where it goes.
According to Heinrich Lewy (“Semitic Loanwords in the German Language” Berlin, 1985), Peter Jensen, Louis Herbert Gray (“Encyclopaedia Of Religion And Ethics (Vol 5”, art. “Eunuch”), the etymology of the Greek word “eunuch” has nothing to do with “eune-bed echei-keep”, but is a Hellenized Hebrew word “hanook” (Enoch, Jared’s son, who was known by his faithfulness to God), which means “faithful, dedicated, trustworthy”. Also, according to the Aramaic Bible (aka Peshitta), Jesus used the word “mhaimna” in Mt 19:12, which means “faithful”. Therefore, the correct reading of the passage is like that: But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching [that divorce without adultery is equal to adultery – act of unfaithfulness], but only those to whom it is given. For there are married men who do not divorce who have been so from birth [not inclined to divorce by their nature – normies:)], and there are married men who do not divorce due to pressure of various circumstances [Pagan Roman Law’s ban of divorce, for example, or just pressure of relatives etc], and there are married men who do not divorce by their free will for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” Thus, “eunuch” here, according to the context in which Jesus called the divorce without adultery adultery, is a married man who doesn’t divorce, because not divorcing you stay faithful – you do not commit adultery. Thus, Jesus never uttered a word in favor of what later bacame known as celibacy, especially “celibacy supremacism”. He just enumerated three cases of staying married forever withot divorce: by nature, by pressure and by free will. By the way, should he not mention the first and the second cases he would enter the history as the biggest formalist because sometimes people stay married by wordly reasons. But he mentions them to show that constant marriages are no wonder, adding that constant marriage by free will is that what matters. Free Will. For the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. (However, Christians are free to live single life as a personal free choice, not by the “Jesus’s commandment of celibacy” which doesn’t exist in Mt 19:3-12, and married Christians are free to divorce in case their marriage really failed). – Lee, what do you think about such an interpretation?
Thanks for taking the time to type this out.
As for the general conclusion that Jesus never endorsed or recommended celibacy, but rather endorsed and supported faithful marriage, of course I agree, as covered in the above article.
However, I find Lewy’s reinterpretation of eunouchos in Matthew 19:12 as meaning “faithful married men” to be unconvincing, if interesting.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the various languages involved (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac). However, I did spend some time consulting various reference books in print and online. So far I don’t see a strong case for Lewy’s view.
First, the Greek word for Enoch is not much like the Greek word for eunuch. They are spelled quite differently. It seems to me to be a real stretch to connect the two.
Second, although the Syriac word mhymn used in Matthew 19:12 in the Peshitta does have the primary meaning of “faithful,” it was also used to refer to eunuchs, either literal or figurative, as being “faithful” chamberlains, keepers of harems, and so on.
Meanwhile, the Greek word eunouchos used in Matthew 19:12 of the Greek New Testament primarily means “a eunuch,” and from there may gain other meanings, such as chamberlains, government officials, etc.
Therefore, it seems more likely that the Peshitta was using mhymn in the sense of “a eunuch,” since the Peshitta seems to be an early Syriac translation of the Greek New Testament.
Further, as covered in the above article, as long as it is read carefully Jesus’ commentary in Matthew 19:1–12 makes sense without needing to reinterpret eunouchos.
Plus, there is the principle in textual criticism of lectio difficilior potior (Latin for “the more difficult reading is the stronger”), which suggests that even if the Peshitta were attempting to make the passage simpler and easier to understand by using a word meaning “faithful” for “eunuch,” the more challenging version of the Greek New Testament is likely the original one, and the Peshitta a simplification. But I think the Peshitta was likely just using an ordinary word that, among other things, means “eunuch” to translate the Greek word eunouchos.
For all of these reasons, I don’t find Lewy’s argument convincing, though as I said, I do find it interesting, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Hi again. Was contemplating about your answer. Actually, Lewy and Jensen just suggested that etymology, but the interpretation (three cases of marriage
without divorce) is mine . Doesn’t matter. As for Eunuch and Enoch one should understand that translation and loanword are not the same. The latter normally undergoes changes. Thus, I do not see any problem with the idea that the word eunuch comes from the Hebrew word hanuk. It could happen 1000 years before the Septuagint appeared. Moreover,in all Slavic languages the word grandson is vnuk (Rus), onuk (Ukr), wnek (Pol), unuk (Slov) etc. The word is of unclear etymology (i checked) and therefore I suggest that it also derived from Enoch at some historical period. Remember, we have to Enochs: son of Jared and son of Cain who was the first grandson in the world. Thus, his proper name became common name for grandson in some languages of the area situated not so far from Israel. Moreover, I argue that the concept of marriage state is unseparable from the concept of faithfulness. Therefore, some languages have really curious euphemisms for marriage. For example in Romanian (Latin root language) married is “insurat” (insured). Check the etymology of the Latin word “sure” and you will see that it is connected with the faithfulness. Also,comparing different words in other languages like Arabic and Latin, I found that Arabic has one curious euphemism for married: mahsan – from hasan – fortress in Arabic, literally: “fortressed”. The Arabs explain it that marriage is like entering safe, secured place. Now look at the words castratus and castra (fortress in Latin). Looks like castratus could mean married in Proto-Latin , then aquired the meaning “deprived of genitalia”. And there is no wonder in it, for two reasons: ancient pagan priests used to cut off their genitalia as a literalistic sign of being faithful in their spiritual marriage to their deity. Thus a cut-off-genitalia person could be named “castratus” – “married”. Now we use this word for cut-off-genitalia only. Or the word could turn into cut-off-genitalia just because a married person and a cutoffgenitalia have one thing in common – the married symbolically dies for the rest of the women like the cutoffgenitalia literally dies for the rest of the women (in terms of marriage). Well, let’s go back to the word eunuch. Starting from the point that it means faithful there is no wonder that in all instances in the Old Testament it is used for a servant, official, because a servant is supposed to be faithful. In linguistics it is called substantivation: turning an adjective into a noun. Thus Potiphar from Genesis was called eunuch and had a wife. He was just a Pharaoh’s servant. His genitalia was safe and intsct. Also he is called spadon, but it’s a koine word for a head, official too, having nothing with cuttingoffgenitalia in itself (about spadon I also have my own comparative theory). Thus, eunuch as cutoffgen is nothing but a special case of eunuch as a faithful servant, a faithy, so to say. The reason why it became applied also to a cutofgenitalia is that a man totally deprived of testosteron becomes pariah deprived of will – ideal servant. Hence we have eunuch (faithy)for cutofgenitalia person. These two concepts exited parallelly, like the Assyrian saris (he who heads, official, faithful servant of high trust) also became applied to a cutoffgenitalia person due to faithfulness of such a person. By the way, the members of the notorious sect “Skoptsy” who cut of their genitalia were ideal workers-slaves on the factories in Sybiria belonged to their religious leaders who.. skipped self-castration (I read it somewhere). As for the word skopets, it derived from the Greek “skopus” (seer, like in episkopus – overseer), it came from Byzanthium. Skopus also means official, minister. Compare it with the Turkish word bakan – minister (bak – see, an – er,ing). Wherever we go we encounter only euphemisms for cutoffgens, meaning officials whose position implies faithfulness and dedication: saris, eunuch, skopets the minister etc. Well, one can agree with my interpretation of Mt 19:3-12 or disagree, but no one can deny the fact that the word eunuch is problematic (but not for me) and therefore all Bibles must be provided at least with footnotes pointing that the eunuches in Mt 19:12 can mean “he who doesn’t divorce” or their translations should be revised totally. … To be continued
Thanks for continuing the conversation.
I continue to think that the Greek word eunouchos in Matthew 19:12 is, in that context, meant to refer to eunuchs in the usual sense: castrated men. However, I do understand that the Hebrew word sometimes translated “eunuch” doesn’t necessarily mean a castrated man, but may just mean a faithful official. And it’s possible that the Greek word may be used that way in some contexts as well. Words do commonly have multiple related meanings based on their roots and their varying and branching usages.
In other words, in its plain meaning, the word “eunuchs” can have a positive or a negative meaning.
When it comes to the spiritual interpretation of Matthew 19:12 and other passages that refer to “eunuchs,” there is a similar principle in operation: it can have a positive or a negative meaning.
The negative meaning is connected to castrated eunuchs’ lack of any interest in marriage. Though he is not explaining the spiritual meaning of eunuchs, Swedenborg does refer to this sense of “eunuchs” in Marriage Love #151, which you can read by clicking the link.
As Swedenborg states a few sections later in Marriage Love #156, the married state is preferable to the celibate state, and if that is denied, and Matthew 19:12 is read as advocating celibacy as a superior spiritual path, it leads to all sorts of fallacies and falsities. In this passage he also opens up the subject of “spiritual eunuchs,” which, he says, is the meaning of “eunuchs” in Matthew 19:12. However, doesn’t elaborate on it there. (Because of a numbering error in the original Latin, the link contains a whole section of duplicate numbers that aren’t relevant to the meaning of “eunuchs.”)
However, in two other passages Swedenborg does elaborate on the positive spiritual meaning of eunuchs. The first is Secrets of Heaven (Arcana Coelestia) #394. The relevant part reads:
This sounds very much like your interpretation of “eunuchs” in the Bible. (Note that in the early parts of Secrets of Heaven Swedenborg uses the term “angelic spirits” to refer to the angels of the lower “natural” levels of heaven.)
However, Swedenborg arrives at this interpretation through a different route than you do, as he explains in his fullest treatment of “eunuchs,” which occurs in his unpublished (by him) work Apocalypse Explained #710. It’s too long to quote here. If you click on the link to read it (which I recommend), first scroll way down to subsection , where he quotes Matthew 19:3–12, and then scroll down a little farther and read subsections  – , where his commentary on “eunuchs” occurs.
What he says here is that because marriage among the Jews of that time period was entirely physical-minded, lascivious, polygamous, adulterous, and divorce-prone (probably an overly harsh assessment in at least some cases, such as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, not to mention Mary and Joseph), being a “eunuch” in that context means rejecting polygamous, lascivious, and adulterous “marriage,” and desiring “chaste” or pure monogamous marriage. So although “eunuchs” in the plain literal meaning does indeed mean people who reject marriage because they are physically castrated, since marriage was generally unspiritual and adulterous in that culture, rejecting such “marriage” actually carries a spiritual meaning of valuing pure, spiritual, monogamous marriage.
In other words, Swedenborg’s route to arriving at the same spiritual interpretation of “eunuch” as you have outlined in your comments is not based reinterpreting the word “eunuch” from its usually accepted meaning of a castrated man. Rather, it is based on the contrariety of a castrated man being uninterested in the so-called “marriage” of the day, which was actually promiscuity and adultery. Therefore even though “eunuch” most likely does mean a castrated man in the literal sense of the Greek word as used here, in the spiritual meaning it does indeed refer to men and women who value loving, faithful, monogamous marriage.
For some related material based on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 and Luke 20:35 that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” please see these two articles:
I am totally aware, that my point of view looks weak without finding an ancient manuscript in Greek in which the word “eunuch” is used in the sense of being married. Mgm… But wait! Such a manuscript exists! It’s Bible! Let’s go to Isaiah 56:3-7: Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
As you know, according to traditional interpretation of the passage, God here promises acceptance of the castrated persons who, according to Deuterenomy, cannot enter the Assembly the Lord.
But it’s obvious that here the foreigners and the eunuchs are one and the same group: Proselytes to Judaism. Why should a Proselyte whine that the Lord has separated him from his people? (from his people, his people, his people, not from God). Because Proselytes were not allowed to enter the Temple, they were separated from Yahwe’s people, and had to stay in the Court of Gentiles. Of course, the phrase “dry tree” triggers certain associations, but in fact it is the symbol of a useless thing. Thus, the Proselyte (eunuch) feels that his spiritual marriage to Yahwe is fruitless. And God says unto the Proselytes: those of you who keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters (sons and daughters of God’s people, the Jews). Why should a castrated person keep sabbaths and take hold of the Covenant… which orders to exclude him? And look at the promise: I will give them in my house! Because they are not allowed in the House – the Temple. They are Proselytes, not castrated ones. God calls one and the same group by two names: foreigners (raciallywise) and eunuchs (religioslywise). Thus, the eunuchs here are spiritually married to Yahwe. And not just married, the Jews are also married to Yahwe, but they were born in that religion, it’s a different story, but eunuch is the one who joined the Covenant of Yahwe. Joined. Joined. Eunuch is always “a party which joined the union”. You join king’s service. Not born at it. You join some religion. You join your wife through marriage. In fact we deal with an ancient untranslatable term. It cannot be translated by one word because we have no one-word equivalent for it that would make sense. Eunuch is a party of contract, who joined it and stays in it. Joining Religion, Service and Marriage – are always free. It’s not slavery. That’s why the servicemen are called eunuchs in the Old Testament. That’s why the Proselytes are called eunuchs in Isaiah. And the Ethiopian from the Acts was the Proselyte from Isaiah – Foreigner and Volunteer of Faith in Yahwe (never been castrated). That confirms my interpretation of Mt 19:12 : those who married and do not divorce because they were born so… and so on.
As for Swedenborg’s views, I recommend this:
Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church, by Uta Ranke-Heinemann
from Chapter 3
P.S. I understand that it’s a big temptation to see in Mt 19 something special (except condemning divorce without a cause and enumerating some cases of non-divorce), but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Thanks for your further thoughts.
However, I see no basis for thinking that the “foreigner” and the “eunuch” in Isaiah 56:3–8 are the same people. They are treated as distinct groups. Verses 4–5 give a promise to religiously faithful eunuchs, and verses 6–7 give a promise to religiously faithful foreigners. There is no indication that they are one and the same. The promises are both good, but they are distinctly different from one another, appropriate to the group they are addressed to.
Are the six paragraphs after your mention of the book by Uta Ranke-Heinemann a quotation from that book? If so, I’ll format them as such to avoid confusion.
She makes some good points. However, saying that women were “property” is overstating the case. Slaves were property. Women were considered attached to and under the authority of their husbands, but they were not property, like slaves, any more than children were property. They had their own voice and their own level of social respect even if it was lower than that of their husbands. And women often had a decisive impact on the Bible narrative. See:
Is the Bible a Book about Men? What about Women?
As for the rest, I agree with much of what she says, but I’d have to read it again, more closely, to fully get the drift of her argument.
I would like to add, that “eunuchos” is really untranslatable without philological analyse of the word. Yes, eunuch is always party of the contract, and this contract is power of attorney where the parties are trustor and trustee. Eunuch (hanuk – trustful) is trustee. Thr relations between Deity and Adept, King (any Boss) and Servant, Spouse and Spouse – they all are special cases of one big common case: Contract of Trust. That’s the difference between a slave and a trustee: you can send your trustee even overseas on a mission, you trust him, while a slave is normally monitored each moment: he is not trusted, he will flee. A servant hired to wipe the floor is not equal to the servant to look after the treasury and other important things. The latter is always of high trust. The ancient discerned the status levels of servants, that’s why we see in the Bible different words for servants: “David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials (eunukhos in Greek, saris – in Hebrew), the warriors and all the brave fighting men.” (1 Ch 28:1). You see, common name of the position depends not only on the functions performed but on the level of trust. Compare Plato’s Protagoras: “…Now, we wanted to first come to a conclusion and then go in, and not leave it unﬁnished. We stood talking on the porch until we reached agreement. I think the doorman, a eunuch, must have heard us – he was probably annoyed about visitors coming when the house was already full of sophists…” http://openprotagoras.wikidot.com/page:314. Why should Plato mention the “eunuchism” of the doorman in such a banal situation if it were not just a synonyme of a servant of trust who is not slave? He just meant: “the doorman, one of the servants” (not castrated, of course). I think Plato would be shocked if he knew that the word became such a problem later.
As I’ve said before, words can have different meanings in different contexts. In some contexts, the Hebrew saris and the Greek eunouchos are referring to palace officials, trusted servants, etc., who may or may not be castrated. In other contexts these words are clearly referring to castrated men. In Isaiah 56:1–8 and Matthew 19:1–12, the context lends itself to the “castrated men” interpretation. In other contexts, it is more likely referring to palace officials, regardless of the state of their genitals.
Yes, the six paragraphs after my mention of the book by Uta Ranke-Heinemann are from her book.
Okay, thanks. I’ve set them off as a block quote.
As for the “foreigners” and “eunuchs” in 56:3-7, you can read this article. No matter of other religious view of its author, he got really closer to the problem, however didn’t arrive on the idea that the foreigners and the eunuchs are one and the same group. http://timeofreckoning.org/category/eunuchs-isaiah-56
Looks like I forgot to stress on one important thing about Mt 19:3-12. When disciples said “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry”, Jesus doesn’t switch over their remark, he just continues his thought about divorce-as-adultery-if-without-cause. That’s why when he says “not everyone can accept this word…” he means HIS (on divorce) word, not DISCIPLES`s word (better not to marry). What Uta-Ranke means (and I agree with her) is that the whole passage can be read even without disciples’s reaction. Their reaction, in fact, is what brought in all these confusion, not only the problem with the word “eunuchos”. Thus, Jeses introduces the concept of “gift of getting along with the wife and abstaining from divorce”. Disciples`s word “…better not to marry” is what made all unobservant readers think that Jesus really endorses that “better not to marry” enumerating 3 cases of non-marrying (also thanks to the wrong translation of the word “eunuch”). If you read the whole passage like that, “omiting” disciples’s putting in their two cents, and using my interpretation of “eunuches”, you will see how the passage shines, how thw whole New Testament shines, because that “better-not-to-marry endorsment heresy” is what always served as that one bad apple that spoils the whole barrel.
As covered in the above article, it is not necessary to ignore the disciples’ “better not to marry” response in order to understand that Jesus is endorsing his own prior teaching about faithful marriage, not endorsing the disciples’ fleshly-minded response that it is then better not to marry.
The simple fact is that the disciples did say what they did, and Jesus did respond to it. He didn’t just ignore them. Even translating eunouchos in the most likely way, as “eunuchs,” the meaning is still the same: Jesus endorses faithful marriage, not the denial of marriage.
Why would Jesus endorse the disciples’ response to his teaching in preference to his own teaching? That makes no sense whatsoever.
“Why would Jesus endorse the disciples’ response to his teaching in preference to his own teaching?” – Don’t you know the traditional interpretation of it? – Jesus condemns Moses’s Divorce and introduces the gift of abstination from marriage. Two new things in Jesus’s message. Two. That is the traditional interpretation which exists not only in traditional churches but also in protestantic ones. But it was not like that always… Let’s open Clement’s Stromata, Book III, CHAPTER VI: “49. There are some who say outright that marriage is fornication and teach that it was introduced by the devil. They proudly say that they are imitating the Lord who neither married nor had any possession in this world, boasting that. they understand the gospel better than anyone else”. You see, Clement mentioned some heretical group in the II century AD which said they “imitated Jesus and understood the gospel better than anyone else”. You see? They were not some philosophers, and, probably, spent years in the first Christian communities. Their being aquainted with the Gospel in details is beyond question. Then Clement says: “50. Concerning the words, “Not all can receive this saying. There are some eunuchs who were born so, and some who were made eunuchs by men, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven; let him receive it who can receive it,” they do not realize the context. After his word about divorce some asked him whether, if that is the position in relation to woman, it is better not to marry; and it was then that the Lord said: “Not all can receive this saying, but those to whom it is granted.” What the questioners wanted to know was whether, when a man’s wife has been condemned for fornication, it is allowable for him to marry another”. When Clement says “Concerning the words, “Not all can receive this saying…” he obviously is quotating the verses from Matthew on which the views of that heretical group were based. You see? Those heretics in fact understood the passage in question in the traditional way, but Clement criticizes them. And what he says? Hey, you, how can you prove that you received the gift of celibacy? No. He says: “they do not realize the context”, pointing that the disciples asked their question only “after his word about divorce”. In short, Clement means that Jesus endosed the idea “it is better no to RE-marry, after divorce of the adulteruos wife”. Better not to “Re-Marry”!. Pretty twisted way of thinking, and obviously farfetched, but thus Clement tries to debunk those heretics who believed that Jesus endorsed “better not to marry”. And it seems to me that the interpretation of those heretics became widespread, though modified, without “marriage was introduced by devil” etc, and that’s what we know now as “traditional interpretation of Mt 19:3-12”. Thus, no matter who Clement was, gnostic or not gnostic, this place in his book registers the birth of “celibacy superiority herecy” back in the II century AD.
Yes, I’m aware of the traditional “Christian” interpretation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:12. And I’m saying that that interpretation makes no sense whatsoever. That’s what the above article is all about.
It is true that Jesus never married. But he also never endorsed celibacy, declared himself celibate, or anything of the sort. All of his teachings about marriage are in support of faithful, monogamous, God-given marriage. In addition to the above article, I cover this further in these two articles, which I believe I have referred you to previously:
Most of what traditional “Christianity” teaches is false and contrary to what the Bible teaches. See:
“Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach
Because it has long since replaced the Bible’s teaching with human-invented teachings, what has passed for “Christianity” for so many centuries is not even Christian. See:
Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!
Look at what I have found: Sean D. Burke. “Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch”.
I do not agree with the author about “queering”, but the very fact of appearing such books proves that more and more people are unsatisfied (justifiably) with the traditional view on the “eunuches” in the Bible, and feel there is really something wrong with it. As for the author’s ideas – that’s what happens if my theory is neglected. There you can download Introduction to the book and Chapter 1 for free, and that’s enough.
Hi, Lee. I understand that you might be tired of the theme, but I have to add something.
“For the Greeks, lettuce was an anti-aphrodisiac, bringing drowsiness, loss of potency and a need to urinate… To make matters worse, the best variety of lettuce for eating is, allegedly, the worst for side-effects. Lykos the Pythagorean reports that it’s known as εὐνουχος – ‘the eunuch’, and that women call it ἀστυτις – ‘the impotent’, a fact repeated by Pliny (NH 19.38)….. ِAlso: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactuca_serriola …The Ancient Greeks also believed its pungent juice to be a remedy against eye ulcers and Pythagoreans called the lettuce eunuch because it caused urination and relaxed sexual desire….”
You see? That’s how names appear: some Greek genius noticed similarities between the effect of the plant and a castrated man and calls it “eunukhos”. In the same way, there existed a moment in the history when some genius called a castrated man “eunukhos” thus starting the greatest confusion in the history. I am ready to give up the “testosterone theory”, and, as I pointed out before, “eunukhos” (Hellenized “hanuk”) means “trusty” (trusted-bacause-faithful), and was applied to the party of Contract, Testament, Covenant, including marriage contract. Thus, the similarity between a castrated man and a trusty-bound-by-the-marriage-contract is that the latter cannot have sex too, including spiritual sex (in isolation from his sex life within his marriage). By the way, while the plant is now called by Latin name, it is STILL called “saris” in the Middle East.
Language is a complex thing. The words we use every day have a long and storied history, including various streams and interminglings of meaning that even skilled linguists often can sort out only with great difficulty, if at all.
Still, the speakers of any language use particular words with particular meanings, often regardless of their original complex derivation and meaning. Usually that meaning is clear enough from the context. Though studying word derivations is often enlightening and helpful as to the nuances and connotations of a word or phrase, it rarely makes a significant change in how words were used in a particular culture and time. But it may help our understanding of how and why they used the words in the way they did.
As an example of a word that made it into common vocabulary and then created confusion in our reading of the Bible, see section titled, “About ‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomites’ in the Bible” in my article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.” The word “sodomy” and its variant “sodomite” didn’t come into use as a word for homosexual sex until the 6th century AD. But since it became a part of the regular vocabulary used with that meaning, it came to be used to translate various words in the Hebrew Bible that refer to male homosexual sex or to male temple prostitutes. As a result, people often think that the Bible uses the word “sodomy” to refer to male homosexual sex, when that is simply not the case. The Bible never even mentions homosexual sex in relation to Sodom, but gives other reasons why God destroyed Sodom. See:
What is the Sin of Sodom?
So yes, studying words and their origins can give some light on the meaning of the Bible story.
However, when it comes to the Hebrew word saris and the Greek word eunouchos, I don’t think you and I are going to come to an agreement. You’ve stated your case quite clearly, and I’ve stated mine, and neither one of us is convincing the other of our position. At that point, further debate simply uses up valuable time that could be spent doing something more fruitful.
Besides, on the more important issue, you and I agree: That according to the Bible, faithful monogamous marriage is superior to celibacy. We could argue about how we got there, but since we agree on the result anyway, where’s the benefit to that debate? It’s just wrangling over words when we agree upon the substance.
Ok, Lee. You are right that we have to stop the futher debate. I am grateful to you for youк patience and understanding. At least, you understand my point of view without thinking that it’s just another “christo-old-testamentic idea aimed to marry everyone even without their consent”.
Hi, Lee! Remember me? I haven’t forgot our conversation. Just found the article which almost coincides with my point of view. Read it if you like
Good to hear from you again, and thanks for the link. As covered in our conversation above, though I don’t agree with all of the pathways toward the final conclusion represented in the linked article, I do wholeheartedly agree with its main premise: that a married state is more biblical, spiritual, and in harmony with God’s will than a celibate state.
Yea, I don’t see how you can say “…then marriage…is the highest and most spiritual state and relationship that we humans can aspire to.” when Jesus was clearly unmarried and attained the highest most spiritual state a human can aspire to.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. That statement refers specifically to human beings who are not God. Jesus is God. And as the Bible says many times, God is (spiritually) married to the people of God as a community.
I don’t think it was mentioned, but St. Paul spoke on the issues of celibacy and marriage in 1 Corinthians 7-16 and again in 1 Corinthians 25-40.
In 1 Corinthians 8-9 he says “Here is my advice for people who have never been married and for widows. You should stay single, just as I am. But if you don’t have enough self-control, then go ahead and get married. After all, it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”
An in 1 Corinthians 25-28 he says “I don’t know anything that the Lord said about widows or people who have never been married. But I will tell what I think. And you can trust me, because the Lord has treated me with kindness. We are now going through hard times, and I think it best to stay where you are. If you are married, stay married. If you are not married, don’t try to get married. it isn’t wrong to marry, even if you have never been married before. But those who marry will have lots of trouble, and I want to protect you have that.”
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
The above article is specifically about what Jesus said. I believe that what the Lord teaches us is the central teaching of the Bible. Many churches and preachers seem to think that what Paul teaches comes first, and what Jesus Christ teaches is secondary. As for me, I read Paul in light of Jesus, not Jesus in light of Paul. See:
Jesus Changed Paul’s World
And in 1 Corinthians 7 especially, Paul is very careful to label much of what he says as his own opinion, and not something that he has received from the Lord. Take that as you will, but it is quite striking that in the one chapter in which Paul speaks specifically about marrying vs. remaining single, he carefully states that he is giving his own opinion, however trustworthy that opinion may be as one preaching in the Lord’s name. Nowhere else in his letters does he give this disclaimer.
It is important to pay attention to Paul when he does this, and not just brush it aside as if his words don’t matter.
Paul doesn’t leave us in much doubt as to why he qualifies his statements on these subjects in this way. First, he tells us that he has no commandment or teaching from the Lord on these things. Then he adds that he advises people, if they can, to stay in their current condition—married or unmarried—”in view of the impending [or current] crisis” (verse 26), adding that “the appointed time has grown short” (verse 29).
“The appointed time” is a reference to Jesus’ expected return. Based on this and other passages in his letters, Paul clearly believed that Jesus would return very soon, likely within his own lifetime. He therefore advised people not to change their current status, just as one would not, for example, begin a major renovation to one’s house if one’s country were about to enter into a state of war. It would be foolish to start any new enterprise when conditions are that foreboding and unstable.
Paul expected there to be great tribulation during the impending return of Christ. He believed this would be more difficult to endure for married people than for single people. Married people would have to watch their beloved go through great trials and tribulations. Better not to put oneself through that terrible anguish of heart.
All of this was very sound advice for one who believed that the entire world was about to be upended in a great cataclysm leading up to the imminent return of Christ.
Paul correctly sensed that “the world was coming to an end.” But the world that came to an end, shortly after his death, was the world of ancient Judaism, not the Christian world.
In 70 AD, just a few years after Paul’s death, Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple, smashing Judaism as it had existed for many centuries—a religion of sacrificial worship centered on the priesthood and the Temple in Jerusalem—and forcing Jews to completely rethink and redesign their religion into the Rabbinic Judaism that still exists to this day. That was the “impending crisis” sensed by the early Christians, who were still closely tied to Jewish religion out of which they had come.
So yes, it is well worth reading Paul’s views on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7. But we must pay attention to what he himself says about the views he expresses there and the reasons he gives for expressing them. He said these things, not as universal teachings for all time, but “in view of the impending crisis.” That crisis has long since passed.
Unless you are among those who still think that Jesus is just about to come (something large numbers of Christians have believed in every century since Christ himself walked this earth), then it would make sense to consider Paul’s words to be specific advice for a specific set of circumstances, rather than universal commandments for all time. This is how he himself delivers the message. It is not “Christian” or “faithful” to ignore Paul’s own provisos about his teachings in 1 Corinthians 7.
“In some non-Jewish cultures, however, a man might voluntarily undergo castration as part of a religious rite of dedicating his life exclusively to God. Jesus didn’t endorse this practice. He simply used it as an example of people who can’t accept (“have no space for”) his teaching about marriage.”
Do you have examples/references of this? I can understand worshippers of pagan cults making themselves eunuchs. But I’m having trouble finding historical cases of people willingly castrating themselves for God
I don’t have any specifics either. But as you can see on Wikipedia->Castration->History, castration was a fairly common practice in the ancient world, including “in a number of religious castration cults.” This is also reflected in the specific rules against castrated males in the Jewish scriptures. Cultures and nations make laws against things that people do, not against things that nobody does.
Ok, I see. What about “In ancient Hebrew society men did sometimes take vows that included temporarily abstaining from sex”. Are you referring to 1 Corinthians 7:5 here? Or is this another general statement about temporarily abstaining from sex for whatever reason?
There is no general commandment in the Bible about abstaining from sex, other than the Old Testament commandment in Leviticus 18:19 not to have sex with a woman during her menstrual period. In Exodus 19:15 there was a specific instruction to the Israelites to abstain from sex in preparation for God speaking the Ten Commandments to the people from Mt. Sinai. But that is a rare instance. In general, marriage, and sexual intercourse within marriage, was considered good, and commanded by God. This goes all the way back to the commandment to be fruitful and increase in number in Genesis 1:28.
However, 1 Corinthians 7:5 reflects the reality that some Jews (as well as Gentiles) did take vows that involved temporarily abstaining from sex. Historically, there have been a few ascetic Jewish individuals and sects that regarded temporary or permanent abstention from sex as holy. Even today, observant Jews are supposed abstain from sex on Yom Kippur.
I should also mention the common practice of abstaining from sex while going to war, as reflected in the story in 2 Samuel 11:6–13 of Uriah the Hittite avoiding sleeping with his wife while his fellow soldiers were at war.
In short, though temporary abstinence from sex for religious purposes is not commanded in the Bible, it was a fairly common practice even among the ancient Jews.
You say marriage is the highest form of spirituality for us, higher than celibacy. But Christ says that in heaven, people are neither married nor given in marriage, but are like the angels. It would seem we are not married in heaven, even if we were on earth. Now, could it be the married state is higher than the celibate state in this life, but not in the next? If Jesus is really married to the Church, then shouldn’t we be married to the Church in this life like He was during His earthly ministry (and still is)? Are we saying Paul was wrong to say that celibacy is superior to marriage? Did Jesus ever say marriage is superior to celibacy? If Jesus called us to follow Him, wouldn’t that entail living a life like His insofar as it is possible for us? Didn’t the rich young ruler walk away sad because he had many possessions and Jesus had asked him to sell all he had and follow Him? And why did Jesus, referring to becoming eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom say, let him who can receive this (i.e., become a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom) receive it, if that would mean instructing people to accept a spiritually inferior state?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.
However, right off the bat, you have misquoted Jesus. He does not say that in heaven people are neither married nor given in marriage. This is a common error among traditional Christians. In the original Greek, both words are verbs, not nouns or adjectives. They are both about the act of getting married, not about the state of being married. The KJV provides a proper translation:
The first word, translated “marry,” is a verb that most often refers to a man (actively) taking a wife. The second word, translated “given in marriage,” is also a verb, one that most often refers to a woman (passively) being given to a man in marriage, according to the marriage customs of the day.
The error you have made in reading Jesus’ words is a common one among traditional Christians. For a more detailed treatment of it, please see this article:
Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Tom Wenig
Short version: Jesus never says that people are not married in the resurrection. He says people don’t get married in the resurrection. There’s a big difference!
Even if we read his words in a strictly literal fashion (which is not a good idea, given that Jesus commonly spoke in parables and metaphors), this would simply mean that if you don’t get married here on earth, you won’t get married in the afterlife either. There is no warrant in Jesus’ words to believe that if you’re married here on earth, you will get divorced from your spouse in the afterlife. Jesus never says that. In fact, he says, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6)—which is precisely what so-called “Christian” preachers do when they claim that every marriage God has joined together on this earth will be put asunder in heaven.
However, I’ve already covered this all in great detail in a whole series of articles, which I invite you to read, starting with this one:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus never said that there is no marriage in heaven.
You completely ignore the implications of Christ’s response to the Saducees in Mark 12 when they present the hypothetical that seven men marry the same woman and all die. When one man died, it wasn’t adultery for the next to marry the woman *because previous marriage had ended with the previous man’s death.* If marriage is terminated by death, and if you neither marry nor are given in marriage in heaven (which you enter only after you die, unless you’re still alive when Christ comes again, possibly), then everyone in heaven is unmarried and don’t marry further.
I would suggest reading the articles I linked for you. Earthly marriage does not determine spiritual marriage.
Read them, and disappointed that you misrepresent “traditional” Christian teaching and bait and switch people on the subject of “marriage” in Heaven. Yes, there is “marriage” in Heaven in the sense that all who are there are wholly united to Christ as His Body (the Church). Ask any “traditional” Christian and they should give you that answer. If you want to call it “marriage” in an equivocal way that needlessly complicates a passage from Scripture, dale. Those in Heaven are one in mind, heart, and will with Christ (the angels, too). That’s what Christianity is all about. That’s why celibacy on earth is a foreshadowing of that spiritual marriage (I’ll use your term) in Heaven—because celibates are already striving to live that spiritual marriage wirh Christ while on earth. Smh, you really try to sound like you’ve come up with something novel that “traditional” Christians don’t accept, when it’s really just playing with words and preferring complicated explanations to simple ones.
My previous response was a quick one from my phone. I had already turned off the computer for the day. Here is the specific link I should have provided, in answer to your statements about people not being married in heaven because the woman’s marriages to the seven brothers had all ended by the time she died:
Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Randy Alcorn and John Piper
See the first part of the article, “Randy Alcorn: Does earthly marriage determine spiritual marriage?”
Thinking that our earthly legal marriages here on earth would determine our spiritual marriages in heaven was precisely the error that the Sadducees made—beyond their primary error of disbelieving the afterlife altogether. Today’s Christians make precisely the same error. This is the very same error you are making when you say that because the woman was not married to any of the seven brothers when she died, that means she would remain unmarried in heaven.
I refer to today’s Christianity as “traditional Christianity” because it is a Christianity that follows human traditions rather than the Word of God.
A more technical term is “Nicene Christians,” which refers to the vast bulk of institutional Christianity that accepts the Nicene Creed and its formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing as distinct beings from eternity, later codified in the Athanasian Creed, which defines Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three distinct “Persons.”
None of this is biblical. It is all based on human councils, creeds, and traditions. Therefore “traditional Christianity” is a more common-English way of describing these so-called Christians, who are Christian in name only as far as their key doctrines are concerned.
About the false and unbiblical nature of the Trinity of Persons, please see:
Heck, ALL members of the Body of Christ (the Church), whether celibate, single, in earthly marriages, or what have you, are in some sense spiritually married to Christ (God) even while on earth—some just live that out more fully than others. There’s not a hard dichotomy about this in “traditional” Christian teaching. It seems the perspective is one you can’t seem to accept, though it appears to be more similar to your view than you would openly admit.
Now to respond to the key points in your last two comments, about celibacy vs. marriage.
Honestly, I don’t know where you get the idea that it is somehow more godly to be celibate. Nowhere in the Bible is it ever commanded that people should be celibate in order to be closer to God. See my response to a comment and question from a reader named Jason here. It is just the reverse. Everywhere the Bible gives us any commandment about being married vs. being single, it tells us that from the beginning God intended us to be married.
Neither Paul nor Jesus ever uses the word “celibate” or “celibacy.” And yet, the so-called Christian Church, especially in its Catholic wing, has built a major doctrine about celibacy. How can something that the Bible never commands, and neither Jesus nor Paul nor any of the other Apostles ever says a word about, be considered “Christian” faith and practice?
Your arguments refute themselves. You say that everyone in the body of Christ is married to Christ. And you admit that many of the people in the body of Christ are married. How, then, are people who are celibate more “married to Christ” than people who are married? It makes no sense at all.
Further, where in the Bible does it ever say that individuals are married to Christ? Please provide me with the passages, chapter and verse. What is the biblical basis for the idea that individual people should be celibate in order to “strive to live that spiritual marriage with Christ on earth,” to use your words? Where does the Bible ever say this? Every time the Bible talks about humans being married to God or being the Bride of Christ, it is always about the general body of believers, not about individual human beings.
In short, Catholic Christianity and other ascetic Christian groups have built a major doctrine and practice of celibacy that has no biblical basis at all.
Nowhere does the Bible command us to be celibate in order to be closer to God. Everywhere the Bible tells us to leave our father and mother and be united to our wife, and that this was how God planned it from the beginning. In the Old Testament, the priests were required to marry a virgin (Leviticus 21:10–15). In the New Testament, bishops and deacons are also required to be married once, or married to one woman, depending on how you read the original Greek in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12. Nowhere does the Bible say that men of God should be single, or celibate. It says just the reverse.
In the Bible, clergy are always presented as married men. The Catholic Church and other ascetic sects are ignoring the Bible’s teaching and example in requiring their priests and their holy men and women to be celibate.
Being a eunuch is not the same as being celibate. Being a eunuch means having one’s testicles removed so that one is incapable of the full expression of love in marriage. It is specifically about men, and does not apply to women. Celibates are not eunuchs. They are not men who have had their testicles removed. They are people who have taken a vow of celibacy. The two are simply not the same.
Even if we do misread Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:11–12 as supporting his disciples’ statement that it is better not to marry (Matthew 19:10) rather than his own statement that anyone who divorces his wife except for adultery commits adultery (Matthew 19:9), his response would indicate that if we want to be truly spiritual and “married to God,” then truly godly men should cut off their testicles and become eunuchs.
Is that what you believe? Because that is what a strict, exact reading of Jesus’ words would teach us if we believed that he was supporting his disciples words rather than his own words.
The whole idea is preposterous. But that is the result when so-called “Christians” substitute human traditions and dogmas for the Word of God, reading into the Bible whatever they happen to believe based on centuries of human councils and the teachings of centuries of human theologians.
Don’t give me that, “Everywhere in the Bible, it tells you to be married rather than single/celibate,” Lee. People can quote the letters of Paul and his arguments in favor of being celibate/single (since you’re hung up on that word) to you all day, and all you’re going to do is rationalize those passages away by saying, “Well, Paul thought the end times were coming sooner than he actually thought.” NOBODY knows the day or the hour the Son of Man will return. You would THINK the other still living Apostles who learned directly from Christ during his earthly ministry would have corrected Paul for telling people to remain single rather than marry, but nothing in the Bible tells us, “Yeah, don’t listen to that Paul guy when it comes to this stuff. Most of what he has to say is pretty good, but he had his wires crossed when it came to the whole single vs. married debate.” The ironic thing is you think you understand Christ’s teachings based on your 20th-21st century historical textual linguistic analysis better than Paul, who had the benefit of knowing the Apostles and having Christ appear to him after His Resurrection.
You ask where in the Bible it says individuals are married to God. Did I say that? Thank you for letting me know you’ve been reading into my words as well. I refer to everyone in the Body of Christ being married to Christ, which (guess what?) means *individuals* are married to God *as members of the One Body of Christ.*
Meanwhile, you could tell me where it says Christ was married to God. Pretty sure Christ tells everybody God is His Father, and while elsewhere in this thread you accuse me of calling God a bisexual (lol) by my saying God would be “the ultimate polygamist” to marry so many celibate people, even though we are talking about spiritual marriage, which doesn’t involve sexual intercourse. (I would quote you Paul to say that there is neither male nor female, but all are one in the Body of Christ, but you would probably rationalize that away as well.)
Before I can “rationalize away” what Paul says, you need to point me to the passages where Paul says that it is better to be celibate than married. So far, I haven’t been able to find any such passages.
You’re also still confusing being celibate with being single. The two are not the same. Being celibate, in a religious context, means taking a “vow of chastity,” which means committing oneself to abstain from both sex and marriage. I am not aware of any place where Paul says he took such a vow, nor am I aware of any place where Jesus said he took such a vow.
Paul was not celibate. He was single. Jesus was not celibate. He was single.
Jesus was single in ordinary human terms. because he was, as the Son of God, married to the Church. In other words, Jesus was legally and socially single, but he was spiritually married.
We do not know why Paul was single. He never tells us. And in the context of instructions relating to “the impending crisis,” he says that he wishes all were [single] as he is, but then goes on to say that in his opinion, those who are single should remain single, whereas those who are married should remain married. It makes no more sense to interpret this as Paul saying that being single is better than being married than it does to interpret it as Paul saying that being married is better than being single. What he actually says is that in his opinion, at this time, people who are single should remain single, whereas people who are married should remain married. How is that saying that celibacy is better than marriage?
So where are the passages where Paul says that it is better to be celibate than married? How can I “rationalize them away” when they don’t exist in the first place? If I’m missing some passage, please give me the book, chapter, and verse.
Meanwhile, the Bible continually gives instructions about man and woman being made for one another by God, starting in Genesis 1:26–28, and again in the very next chapter in Genesis 2:18–24, then through all the stories and commandments of the Old Testament about priests and laypeople alike marrying and the commandments against adultery, including various Proverbs that speak of a good wife as a gift of God, and so on (such as Proverbs 5:18-19, 12:4, 18:22, 19:14, 31:10), to Jesus himself saying that from the beginning God made man and woman to become one flesh (Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9), to Paul saying the same thing in passages I’ve already quoted for you, and to clergy in both the Old and New Testaments commanded to marry a wife, which I have also referenced for you. And there are many more that could be pointed to all through the Bible.
So yes, “Everywhere in the Bible, it tells you to be married rather than single/celibate.” There are dozens, if not hundreds, of passages that say that God made man and woman to be married to one another.
Where are the passages in the Bible that say that God created man and woman to be single or celibate? Where are those passages? Please quote them to me. Then maybe we will have something to talk about.
Until then, you are just reading into the Bible what you want to read into it, even though it never says any such thing, but in fact says the opposite.
And I am reading the plain words of the Bible. The Bible in dozens, if not hundreds, of passages commands a man to marry his wife, be faithful to her, and not divorce her unless she is unfaithful to him.
In this comment you say:
And in this comment you say:
What do these statements mean if they don’t mean that celibates, and members of the Body of Christ in general, are all individually married to God? What else can it possibly mean if you say that “celibates are already striving to live that spiritual marriage wirh Christ while on earth”? If celibates are not marrying a woman (or man), but consider themselves to be married with Christ instead, how is that not being married individually to Christ, since it is substituting for being married to another individual human being?
If the Church as a whole is married to Christ, that doesn’t make every individual in it, married or not, married to Christ individually. It only makes the church as a whole married to Christ.
You are saying that individuals should give up being married to other individuals in order to be married to Christ. But since even individual married Christians are part of the marriage to Christ by virtue of being part of the Church, the only difference in being celibate is that such a person considers him- or herself to be individually married to Christ instead of being married to a man or a woman.
What other conclusion can I draw from these statements of yours than that you believe Christians should be individually celibate so that they can be individually married to Christ? Especially when Christ himself said that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife?
Huh? Where did that come from? That wasn’t even part of our conversation. This is yet more confusion and error piled upon more confusion and error.
So is God spiritually polygamous, then? That sounds even worse than being physically polygamous.
And once again, the Bible never says anything about God being married to individual Christians, with or without sexual intercourse. The Bible says that God, and God in Christ, is married to the Church. One Bride, not many brides and grooms.
The Church includes both married and single people. All of them collectively are married to Christ by virtue of being part of the Church. Celibates are no more married to Christ than married people are married to Christ.
As an analogy, I as a whole am married to my wife. Each part, organ, and cell in my body is not married to my wife. No. All of my parts, organs, and cells together, constituting me, are collectively married to my wife.
Would anyone ever say that my liver or my kidney or my hand or my foot is married to my wife? The whole idea is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as saying that this or that celibate priest, monk, nun, or celibate layperson is married to Christ. They are members of the Church. Members of the Church are not married to Christ. The Church is married to Christ.
It is all error and confusion. It has nothing to do with the teachings of the Bible.
And last, you say:
Here is what Paul said:
So . . . when he said this, did every slave among the Christians become no longer a slave, and every free person become no longer a free person? (Hint: Paul said that slaves should obey their masters.) Were there suddenly no more males and females in the Christian Church when he said this? (Hint: Paul still gave instructions about marriage to men and women in the Church.) Did Jewish and “Greeks” (pagans) who had converted to Christianity suddenly become indistinguishable from one another? (Hint: Paul labored heavily to overcome the differences between the original Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians who were joining the nascent Christian Church in great numbers.)
Did Paul really mean that suddenly everyone became one indistinguishable mass of people, so that all the usual cultural, gender, religious, and socioeconomic distinctions among people suddenly didn’t exist anymore?
The whole idea is ridiculous. And using this passage to argue that male and female cease to exist in heaven is even more ridiculous.
Whatever Paul meant by this, he obviously did not mean that in heaven, male and female no longer exist. Nor did he ever say any such thing.
Honestly, the ideas so-called “Christians” get from so-called “reading” the Bible are ridiculous in the extreme.
You rationalize away 1 Corinthians 6:12 through 7:9 by claiming Paul is only advocating celibacy because he believed the Second Coming was imminent. Paul isn’t commanding people marry. He’s advising it as a concession because he considers being as he is (not married) to be better. There’s no logical reason he would want others to remain unmarried. By your logic, if marriage is so obviously a more perfect state, if Paul believed the Second Coming was imminent, he should have been urging everyone to marry as soon as possible. Funny that.
1 Corinthians 6:12–20, centers on an injunction not to “unite with a prostitute” because, once again, “the two shall be one flesh” (verse 16). There is no injunction to be celibate here. Only an injunction to avoid prostitutes, and to honor one’s body.
In 1 Corinthians 7:1–9, Paul responds, apparently to something the church in Corinth had written to him, namely, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (This quote is not Paul himself speaking.) He responds that “because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of marriage, for sure. Nothing like Jesus’ strong statement that marriage was God’s intention for man and woman from the beginning.
But even then, Paul does not say that celibacy is superior to marriage. He says:
Not “It is better to remain as I am.” Not “I command you to be as I myself am.” And certainly not “The Lord commands you to remain unmarried as I am.”
It is clear enough that Paul himself considered being single (not being “celibate”) better than being married. If that is so, then why didn’t he come right out and say it? Why did he make such mild, elliptical statements about it, which he attributed to himself, and not to the Lord?
If we keep reading, it’s quite clear that this is because the Holy Spirit was not allowing him to say such a thing, and was giving him no such message. Uniquely in all of Paul’s letters, on this particular subject he distinguishes between what the Lord is commanding and what he himself is saying:
And then, when he picks up the same thread later in the chapter:
Here he is discussing the same issues he discussed in the first nine verses of the chapter, but is going into more detail, and also making it clear that some of it is his own opinion, and not something that he has received any commandment about from the Lord.
He had already said in verse 8, “I say that it is good for them to remain unmarried as I am.” Then in verse 10 he says more emphatically, “I say—I and not the Lord.” And in verse 26, when again expressing his view that it is better for the unmarried (“virgins”) to remain as they are (unmarried), he is even more emphatic that this is not from any commandment of the Lord, but is his own opinion “as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.”
Paul gives us the message loud and clear: he has no commandment from the Lord that the single should remain single.
That’s because there is no commandment from the Lord that the single should remain single. Not anywhere in the Scriptures that he knew—what we call the Old Testament. And not anywhere in the Gospels, where the Lord himself gave us the Christian commandments that we are to live by, from His own mouth.
Are we being faithful to Scripture if we reject Paul’s very carefully constructed wording in this chapter, and claim that everything he said in it was not his opinion? That it is a commandment from the Lord, despite Paul’s crystal clear denials of this?
The simple fact of the matter is that nowhere does the Lord command us to be celibate rather than married. And the simple fact of the matter is that Paul never claims that there is any commandment from the Lord that we should be celibate rather than married.
Paul says he wishes people would remain unmarried as he was. He says that it is good for the unmarried and widows to remain unmarried as he was. He says he has no commandment from the Lord about it, but it is his opinion that it is good for people to remain as they are—whether unmarried or married.
He cannot say any more than that precisely because he has no commandment from the Lord about it.
If he did have such a commandment, he would have stated all of this in definite terms, as a commandment. But he never does. He only makes statements of what he wishes, thinks is good, and expresses as his opinion.
Paul never says that celibacy is superior to marriage. He never says that being unmarried is superior to being married.
Even though this was most likely his personal opinion, he was constrained from doing so by the entire weight of Scripture, all of which teaches by commandment, injunction, and example that it is God’s will that a man should leave his father and mother and become one flesh with his wife; and also by the lack of any commandment to him from the Lord concerning remaining unmarried or becoming celibate. (And once again, celibacy and remaining unmarried are not the same.)
If you want to consider all of this “rationalizing away” what Paul says in these chapters, you are welcome to do so.
But you still cannot quote me a single passage in which Paul—or anyone else in the Bible—says that it is better to be unmarried, or to be celibate, than it is to be married. I once again challenge you to quote me such a passage from the Bible. I know you cannot, because there is no such statement anywhere in the Bible.
There is no commandment from the Lord concerning virgins remaining unmarried, as Paul himself tells us. That is why even Paul—whose own opinion was clearly that they should remain single—never gives us such a commandment. As much as he seems to have wanted to, he could not do so and still remain faithful to Christ his Lord.
You, too, should exercise the same restraint as the Apostle Paul did. Whatever your personal opinions may be about celibacy vs. marriage, you should not make claims and state doctrines for which there is no commandment from the Lord.
You seem hung up on two things: first, the word celibacy. It’s synonymous with unmarried. The Greek word αγαμία, the equivalent of the Latin cælebs, just means unmarried. Single, unmarried, celibate, take your pick, but don’t go and hung up on semantics because your argument relies so heavily on it.
Second, go ahead and look for anywhere I’ve said Christ or Paul commanded celibacy. You won’t find it because that’s not what Christianity teaches. Paul clearly thinks it’s better because, as he says, “the body is for the Lord.” No Christian is talking about “commandments” to give away all your possessions and take on poverty either. They’re counsels Christ gave to serve God better. You say Paul never came out and said being unmarried was better??
“32I want you to be free from concern. The unmarried man is concerned about the work of the Lord, how he can please the Lord. 33But the married man is concerned about the affairs of this world, how he can please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. The unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the work of the Lord, how she can be holy in both body and spirit. But the married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world, how she can please her husband.” 1 Cor. 7:32-34. Not exactly hiding his opinion, is he? And he’s clear it’s his own advice for being holier, which, as you’ve noted, the Holy Spirit didn’t prevent him from recommending to people so unabashedly. He’s not making a reference to some impending tribulation either. Paul isn’t calling into question the fact that God instituted marriage from the beginning and that it has always been a good. Paul’s just pointing out that, if you want to do the work of the Lord, you can focus on it more if you’re unmarried, single, celibate, whatever you want to call it. But I suppose that’s just Paul’s incorrect opinion in a letter that otherwise is 100% the inspired Word of God. Interesting.
You can’t just mash everything together into a common moosh. Celibacy and being unmarried are simply not the same, nor is either of these the same as being a eunuch.
It is true that today the word “celibate” has come to be used loosely as a general term for being single or unmarried. But that is not its meaning in a religious context—including in the context of Catholic clerical celibacy rules that were imposed only gradually on its clergy, and didn’t come into full force until the 12th century, over a thousand years after the founding of Christianity. Catholic clergy who have taken vows of celibacy are celibate. A Catholic layperson who happens to be unmarried is not “celibate,” but single.
Taking vows of religious celibacy as practiced in the Catholic Church and other religious bodies that have ascetic clergy or ascetic orders was not a practice among the Jews of Bible times—and for the most part, still is not a practice among them to this day. The closest analog was the vow of the Nazirite, but this did not involve abstinence from sex. Therefore when Jesus referred to “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), he could only be referring to non-Jewish pagans, known in the New Testament as “Greeks.”
Though we don’t know exactly what group or groups Jesus was referring to, apparently it referred to religious ascetics of some sort who had themselves castrated for religious reasons. As covered in the above article, both the strictures against castrated males in the Law of Moses and the flow and context of Jesus’ response to his disciples’ objection to his statements about the indissolubility of marriage show that Jesus was using eunuchs of three different types as examples of people who could not accept that teaching—or to be more accurate to the original Greek, people who had “no room” for Jesus’ teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. In short, it was a negative reference to eunuchs.
Though being a eunuch is not the same as being a celibate, Jesus’ mention of “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” is the closest the Scriptures come to saying anything about vows of religious celibacy.
Meanwhile, Paul never even uses the word “eunuch.” He simply uses the word “unmarried.” And he never connects this to any religious vow of celibacy of the type that Jesus was (sort of) referring to in his final class of eunuchs. Paul simply speaks of being unmarried. To say that this is the same as vows of religious celibacy as practiced in the Catholic Church is to confuse and conflate two very different things.
It is important to read the Bible carefully, in its own exact words, and not to impose later, anachronistic meanings on its words and statements in support of particular religious dogmas and practices that this or that church has adopted based on the writings and opinions of its theologians over the centuries. But that is exactly what the Catholic Church has done both in its interpretation of “eunuchs” as Jesus uses the word and in his interpretation of “unmarried” as Paul uses the word. Neither one refers to celibates in the historical and present-day religious sense of the word: people who have taken a religious vow of celibacy.
Your persistent efforts to erase all these distinctions and mash all these things together guarantees that you will not be able to read the Scriptures accurately. The Bible does not use words loosely or sloppily. If it uses a particular word in a particular context, there is always a good reason that it used that word and not some other word. We’re not talking about mere human literary productions, but about the Word of God.
Now on to the substance of your comment. You say:
If that’s the case, than Catholicism is apparently not Christian, because it does command celibacy for its priesthood and its religious orders, even if it doesn’t impose celibacy on its laypeople. The Catholic Church has therefore gone beyond what even you say is Christian teaching.
However, I am glad you at least recognize that there is no commandment or injunction to be celibate in the Christian Scriptures. This is important to understand.
There is also no statement that being celibate is better than being married. The closest Paul comes is saying that those who refrain from marriage “will do better” (1 Corinthians 7:28), which is not the same as saying that being celibate is better than being married. Once again, it is important to read the Bible’s words very carefully, and not make it say something it does not say.
What there is, is Paul’s opinion, explicitly labeled as such, that he thinks “virgins,” i.e., unmarried people, should remain as they are, i.e., unmarried. He continues his reasoning on this in the further verses you mention:
First, notice that in the final sentence he makes it clear that this is not intended to put any restraint upon his listeners. In other words, it is a suggestion, not a commandment. The Catholic Church has violated this by requiring its clergy and members of its religious orders to be celibate.
Second, notice once again that he explicitly labels this as something he, Paul, is saying. “I want you . . . .” “I say this . . . .” This is in the context of the rest of the chapter, in which he has explicitly stated that his statements about single people remaining single are his opinion, and not from the Lord. These verses offer more of his, Paul’s, reasoning for this.
He says that the unmarried are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, whereas the married are anxious about the affairs of the world, and of their spouse. This is a common belief among religious ascetics, of which Paul seems to have been one. But it is an isolated, unusual belief in the Bible.
Except in this chapter, the Bible universally not only recommends but even commands marriage as being in accord with God’s original purposes for man and woman. Wouldn’t it be very strange if God commanded something from the beginning that pulled people away from a focus on God?
We therefore have to look at Paul’s statement here more closely, since it is at variance with everything else that the Bible, and the Lord himself in the Gospels, teaches.
You conclude your comment by tossing off this line:
No one is saying that Paul is “incorrect.” Only that his views and recommendations about remaining single are limited in their scope and application. We’ll get to that soon.
Meanwhile, Paul himself explicitly labels his views on unmarried people remaining unmarried as his opinion. If that is incompatible with your conception of the inspired Word of God, then the problem is not with the Word of God, but with your understanding of the Word of God.
This is not the place to go into a full-blown explanation of the true nature of the Word of God. If you’re interested, here just a few of many articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life that take up that subject:
The key question for our current purposes is whether everything Paul said is meant to be taken as a universal teaching of God for all time, as is commonly believed among today’s Christians. Or to expand upon this question, is everything in the Bible meant to be taken as a universal teaching of God for all time?
The answer to the second question is obviously “No” from any Christian perspective. No Christian practices animal sacrifices, even though there is an entire book of the Bible, Leviticus, devoted largely to God’s commandments for animal sacrifices and the other rituals of the Jewish Temple.
Does this mean that the book of Leviticus is not part of the Word of God?
Of course not!
It means that God gave commandments that were meant to be literally obeyed by the ancient Jews, but that, for Christians, are no longer to be literally obeyed. Instead they are to be followed in spirit. The letter to the Hebrews, especially, tells us that the Temple and its sacrifices were all “shadows,” or in modern language metaphors, referring to Jesus Christ and his spiritual work.
Further, Jesus himself told us that at least one of the laws of Moses, about divorce, was given not because it was that way “from the beginning” (i.e., according to God’s will), but “because of the hardness of your hearts.” Here it is, from the Gospel of Matthew:
And from the Gospel of Mark:
Jesus is telling us here that at least one commandment in the Old Testament was written, not as an expression of God’s original will, but as a concession to hard-hearted people. And Christians know that many commandments in the Old Testament were given precisely because the ancient Jews were not spiritual people, nor were they even particularly obedient people, but were, to use the common OT term, “a stiff-necked people.”
Though this is not the place to go into it, the entire array of Mosaic ritual laws, including the laws of sacrifice, ritual purification, diet, and so on, were among the commandments God gave to the Jews because they were a physical-minded, stubborn people. Having a strict code of behavioral laws was the only way to keep them on the strait and narrow path to salvation.
This is precisely the code of strict behavioral and ritual laws that Paul argued strenuously were no longer in effect for Christians, because, he said, faithfulness (not “faith” in the current religious sense) to Christ carries us beyond the need for a strict code of behavioral laws. Christians follow the law of love, and on that basis do not kill, commit adultery, steal, and so on. But that is a vast topic that we can’t do justice to here.
Christians will easily concede that not all of the OT laws remain in effect for Christians today. But the same Christians will strenuously resist applying the same principle to the New Testament, especially to Paul’s letters. “Aha!” they’ll say, “But if Paul said it, then it is a binding divine law for all time!”
Not so fast!
Consider these statements of Paul:
Do all of these statements of Paul still apply today? Is it still shameful for a woman to speak in church? Are women still required to wear veils during their religious practices? Is it shameful for a man to wear something on his head while praying or prophesying? (If so, the Catholic clergy is in trouble!) Are slaves still required to obey their earthly masters?
All of these things made perfect sense within the time and culture of Paul’s day. Women were socially required to be veiled. They still are today in many Middle Eastern nations, but not in the rest of the world.
Women were also required by the gender roles of that society to subordinate themselves to men. This is no longer the case in much of the world today.
Most obviously, slavery was a common, accepted practice for thousands of years, and was not abolished anywhere in the world until the 19th century. Today, slavery is outlawed by every decent nation on earth. Even if you still have very traditional views of women and gender roles, you cannot possibly believe that Paul’s commandment that slaves should obey their masters is still in force today!
In short, not only the Old Testament, but also the New Testament contains rules, laws, and commandments that were specific to the culture of the day, and that no longer apply in today’s very different culture.
Sorting out which is which is a complicated process, about which there is much debate. But what can no longer be seriously held by present-day Christians is that every statement of Paul is a universal law for all time. Some of what he said was clearly based on the culture and practices of his day, and is not today binding upon Christians who live in cultures very different from the one in which Paul made those statements and gave those rules.
This brings us back to Paul’s statements about remaining unmarried vs. getting married. Are these universal principles for all time, or are they aimed at a specific culture and time?
You and I clearly disagree on this. And of course, you are free to believe and practice as you wish. That’s between you and God.
However, there are strong indications in 1 Corinthians 7 that these statements of Paul are not universals. I have covered these throughout our conversation, but to pull them together briefly, some of the key ones are:
All of this makes a very strong case for Paul’s views on the virtues of singleness being, certainly not a commandment of God, and not even a universal principle, but particular teachings suited to particular times and situations, including the time and situation in which he saw himself and his listeners as living in.
The Bible many times says that God’s intention from the beginning was for man and woman to live in an indissoluble bond of matrimony. If Paul says something that seems to contradict this, we must ask why he did so.
Did God change his mind, and decide that it is better for people to be single after all, even though that was “not so from the beginning”? If so, then God is fickle and changeable, not eternal in his laws and his truth; and the Scripture saying that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) is sadly mistaken.
All of this points clearly to the understanding that Paul expressed his opinions about remaining single, including for religious purposes, not as universal principles for all time, but as suggestions for people in particular times and circumstances.
Going into all those times and circumstances would stretch this already very long comment into an entire book. For now, I will limit myself to just one reason I believe Paul said what he did in 1 Corinthians 7 when he recommended that people remain single rather than get married.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the people of Paul’s day—not to mention for thousands of years prior, and even much of the population of the world today—had a very fleshly and physical-minded view of marriage. They viewed marriage as something not very far above animals mating for the purpose of reproduction and continuing their lineage.
For people who have such a physical-minded, materialistic view of sex and marriage, it is very likely, as Paul says, to pull them away from a focus on God, toward a more worldly and materialistic focus. Therefore, for such people, remaining single may indeed be better than getting married.
This is the general view of marriage in all ascetic orders today, including in the Catholic Church and its clergy and religious orders. Marriage is seen as a thing for this world only, as largely a physical relationship, and as existing primarily for the purposes of biological reproduction.
People and churches that have such a low, fleshly view of marriage are bound to drag God’s institution of marriage through the mud, and to dishonor its original high and spiritual purposes as being a human reflection of Christ’s marriage to the Church.
This, I believe, is why Paul recommended that people remain single. He himself clearly had a rather physical-minded view of marriage. This is likely why the Lord could not give him the commandments he clearly wished for on the subject of singleness and marriage. And Paul was also speaking to many people who had a very physical-minded view of marriage.
Under these circumstances, Paul’s opinions are not incorrect, but correct. For highly religious people who have a physical-minded view of marriage, it probably is better to remain single rather than getting married. That way their fleshly attitudes about sex and marriage will not distract them from their spiritual pursuits.
In short, Paul was not incorrect, but his opinions and instructions on remaining single rather than getting married apply only in particular times and circumstances. They apply to very religious people who have a physical-minded view of marriage—of which Paul himself was clearly one.
But from the beginning it was not so. From the beginning, God made us male and female, and said for a man to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.
And just as Jesus’ “flesh” that we partake of at the table of eucharist is not his literal, physical flesh, but the spiritual flesh of divine love and truth (See “Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood”), so when a man and a woman become “one flesh” in spiritual marriage, the love they share with one another is, in the words of Emanuel Swedenborg, “heavenly, spiritual, holy, pure, and clean beyond every other love that angels of heaven or people on earth have from the Lord” (Marriage Love #64).
This is the love that God created man and woman to share with one another from the beginning, in the first two chapters of Genesis. This is the love that reflects and honors the divine and spiritual marriage between Christ and the Church. As Jesus said:
I guess you need to do some more reading about the universal Catholic Church. The Latin Catholic Church usually requires celibacy of its priests, though it makes exceptions on occasion. The Eastern Catholic Churches, on the other hand, make no such requirement for its priests. Both are part of the universal Catholic Church, both practices equally regarded as legitimate. Sorry, but your strawmanning isn’t going to work in this case.
Tell me where the Bible *commands* marriage. You can see the Bible says to *be fruitful and multiply*, but does it say, “I *command* you: be fruitful and multiply.” As you love to say, God never said that. But I’m interested to hear what passages you’ll distort or take out of context to obtain some positive injunction that requires people to get married.
I was referring to the Roman Catholic Church, as people usually are when they speak of “Catholicism” and “the Catholic Church.”
I suppose you could argue that when God said, “Be fruitful and multiply,” it wasn’t a command. And I suppose you could argue that God’s idea was for Adam and Eve to conceive children out of wedlock. But I, for one, wouldn’t want to be assigned to defend that position on a debate team. Especially if it were a Christian debate team.
Lee, Paul straightforwardly refers to his being unmarried as a GIFT from GOD. He unequivocally views it as a good thing and as preferable to the married state. (“I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Cor 7:7.) If being unmarried were undesirable or lesser than being married, Paul sure had a funny way of explaining it.
I get it, to you, Paul is just voicing “his opinion.” To me, if God could allow Paul to completely mischaracterize something as a gift from God when, according to you, such a thing (being not married) is actually not, then I would find it hard to accept 1 Corinthians as inspired. I’m surprised you do, given how much it cuts away at your views. It would be easier for you to deny its inspired nature than to strain its text to fit your beliefs.
If 1 Corinthians 7 were all we had, and the rest of the Bible didn’t exist, you would have an excellent point. It would be very hard, if not impossible, to avoid the conclusion that being unmarried is superior to being married, especially for people who wish to devote their lives to God.
Now let me ask you a question:
What if Psalm 137 were all we had, and the rest of the Bible didn’t exist? How would we read the final lines of that Psalm?
If this Psalm were all we had of the Bible, it would be very hard, if not impossible, to avoid the conclusion that God approves of, and even desires, that we take revenge on our enemies by murdering their babies in the most brutal and bloody way possible.
But Psalm 137 is not all we have of the Bible. The Bible also contains these lines:
“But,” someone might argue, “That only applies to our children! It doesn’t apply to our enemies’ children!”
If all we had were the Old Testament, even this argument might hold water. But as Christians, we also have the New Testament. In particular, we have these teachings from the mouth of the Lord himself:
Here the Lord himself tells us plainly that we are not to take revenge on our enemies, but are to love them instead. Here the Lord himself tells us plainly that it is not the will of our Father in heaven that even one of the little ones should be lost.
Because we as Christians have these teachings from the Lord’s own mouth, we cannot read Psalm 137:8–9 to mean that God condones and even recommends that we take revenge on our enemies by murdering their children.
Do we then say that Psalm 137 is probably not inspired, but is only the opinion of a bitter human psalmist lamenting his people’s brutal captivity in Babylon and desiring revenge upon his captors? Do we remove Psalm 137 from the Bible?
Not at all. What we do, instead, is recognize that as Christians, we cannot take Psalm 137 literally, but must read it metaphorically—or in biblical terms, read it as a parable from God.
If we read it in this way, what could Psalm 137 possibly mean that is of benefit to Christians in our spiritual life, and in leading us toward the kingdom of God?
Consider that throughout the Bible, Babel and Babylon are presented as examples of overweening human pride and arrogance that desires to raise itself above all other people and rule over them, and even over God. And consider that when we read the Bible, God is speaking directly to us personally through its pages, and instructing us about our own spiritual life.
Now consider that the metaphorical “little ones” of this metaphorical “Babylon” are the first baby inclinations within us toward pride and ego. As a new Christian, we start thinking, “I really am a pretty good person. Aren’t I better than all those unconverted, sinful people?” If we nurture such thoughts and feelings in our own mind and heart, and allow them to grow to maturity, pretty soon we will be praying the prayer of the Pharisee—and as the Lord says, the tax collector will go home justified before we do.
Metaphorically, dashing the little ones of Babylon against a stone is “resisting beginnings,” to use a common Christian phrase. It is avoiding even starting on the path toward pride, arrogance, and an ultimate desire to rule over everyone else—which is represented by a full-grown Babylon.
In this way, Christians can still see Psalm 137 as part of the inspired Word of God, even though we cannot as Christians take its words literally, and literally put them into practice.
However, if we had only Psalm 137 and not the rest of the Bible, and especially not the Gospels, it is very unlikely that we would ever read Psalm 137 in any way other than literally. It would be nearly impossible not to draw the conclusion that God wants us to murder our enemies’ babies in revenge for what they have done to us.
The same principle applies to 1 Corinthians 7. If it were all we had, and the rest of the Bible did not exist, it would be nearly impossible to avoid the conclusion that God considers the unmarried state to be better than the married state, and that people who are especially holy and devoted to God should therefore remain unmarried.
But we do have the rest of the Bible. And it does not allow us to draw such a conclusion.
We know that God’s original intention is for man and woman to be “one flesh,” which in today’s language we call “married,” because both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 make it abundantly clear that from the very beginning God created man and woman to become one with one another, including the oneness of sexual intercourse. And if we are tempted to say that the words in Genesis 2 are only Adam’s idea, and not God’s, as Christians we cannot do so, because in the Gospels the Lord himself attributes those words to God, and not merely to Adam.
If we are tempted to think based on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 that marriage is good for laypeople but not for men of God, because we have the rest of the Bible we cannot draw that conclusion. In the Old Testament, the High Priest himself is instructed to marry a virgin. In the New Testament, both deacons and bishops are instructed to be married to one wife. In both the Old Testament and the New, men of God are expected, and even required, to be married.
Due to these and many other passages from the Bible that I have quoted for you in previous replies, and many more that I could quote, we simply cannot draw the conclusion that Paul’s opinion—explicitly labeled as such by Paul himself—in 1 Corinthians 7 that unmarried people should remain unmarried, is “the Bible’s teaching” about being married vs. remaining single. Nor can we read Paul’s views expanding on that opinion as meaning that this is especially true for people who devote their lives to God.
And we certainly can’t support any church law that requires men and women of God to be celibate. Even the Roman Catholic Church took over a millennium to impose this upon its clerical and religious orders.
Does this mean we should just chuck 1 Corinthians 7 out of the Bible?
Not any more than we should chuck Psalm 137 out of the Bible.
What it means is that we must read 1 Corinthians 7 in the context of the rest of the Bible, and not read it as if it were the only chapter in the Bible, and the only statement of the entire Bible about being single vs. being married.
However, unlike Psalm 137, reading Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 metaphorically, or as a parable, doesn’t really work. Unlike much of the rest of the Bible, most of the writing in the Epistles is plain, direct teaching, clearly not meant to be taken metaphorically.
So once again, does this mean we should chuck 1 Corinthians 7 out of the Bible because this one chapter of the Bible in isolation disagrees with and negates everything else the Bible says about God’s intention from the very beginning that men and women, including men and women of God, should be in faithful, monogamous marriage?
No. It still doesn’t mean this.
Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians all accept the Epistles as part of the Word of God. It is therefore necessary to look more closely at Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7. It is necessary to consider exactly what they might mean for Christians, given that the conclusion that they mean that God prefers men and women, and especially men and women of God, to be single rather than married flies in the face of everything else the Bible says, including the Lord’s own words in the Gospels.
This is what I have attempted to do especially in my previous reply to you, and also in my earlier replies. I won’t repeat it all here.
God did speak through Paul, just as God spoke through the other Apostles. But whenever God speaks through a human priest, prophet, or apostle, God must speak through the mind and culture of that particular human being, and speak in terms that his (or her) listeners can understand based on their mind and culture. Once again, please see: “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads.”
The same principle applies to Paul. Paul was a converted Jew. And contrary to the almost universal practice of the Jews from ancient times right up to today, Paul remained single rather than getting married, and clearly believed that it was better for people who devote their lives to God to be single rather than married. This, as I’ve already covered heavily, flies in the face of everything the rest of the Bible says about marriage.
But God, for God’s own reasons, chose Paul as a vessel to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles (see Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:7). And though Paul became converted to Christianity, this did not instantly change Paul’s entire personality and character. He remained a former Pharisee, still rather proud of his own position as God’s special chosen teacher, and still unmarried, contrary to the vast weight of scriptural instruction and Jewish practice.
But God worked with Paul as he was. God does not require his followers to be perfect. None of the kings, priests, prophets, and apostles that God sent to carry God’s word to the people was a perfect vessel. We all are broken vessels. But God uses us anyway. Paul was no exception.
God did allow Paul to express his opinions in 1 Corinthians 7 about singleness and marriage even though those opinions are contrary to everything else God teaches us in the Word of God. Yet God did not give Paul carte blanche. Uniquely in all of his letters, the Lord required Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 to say that this was his own opinion, and that he had no commandment about it from the Lord. The Lord restrained Paul from speaking in strong and absolute terms, and from making his views on remaining single as preferable to getting married into any kind of commandment or requirement.
The whole chapter is very strange compared to any other chapter in the Bible. Where else, anywhere in the Bible, does the Bible writer say, “This is my opinion. The Lord has not given me any instructions about this”?
We ignore this unique character of 1 Corinthians 7 at our peril.
Why did God cause this chapter, and this chapter only in the entire Bible, to be written in such a way?
You have failed to give any answer at all to this question.
You just keep avoiding the issue, and asserting that 1 Corinthians 7 is the Word of God, and that, by implication, we must take everything in it as God’s own will and instructions, even though Paul explicitly and even emphatically states in the chapter itself that this is not so.
How can we have a reasonable conversation about this when you are ignoring and denying something that Paul himself explicitly says? How can we have a biblical conversation about this when you are ignoring and denying everything else the Bible says about marriage in favor of this one chapter in Paul’s letters, which you refuse to read in its own words, and refuse to take those words seriously?
Now to take up the rest of your questions in this comment.
First, as covered in the series of articles I linked for you in my previous reply, a married state is higher than a celibate state both in this world and in the next. Please read those articles for much more on this.
Second, though we loosely speak of our being married to Christ, and it’s not necessarily wrong to do so, it’s important to recognize and understand that the Bible never talks about individuals being married to God or being married to Christ. It is always the body of the faithful collectively that is spoken of as being married to God (in the Old Testament) and married to Christ (in the New Testament).
God is not the ultimate polygamist. God has one bride, and that bride is not any individual Christian, but the Church as a body—meaning the whole body of believers, worldwide, who follow God, and who follow Christ. Strictly and biblically speaking, we as individuals are not married to Christ.
Consider that the Church is called the bride of the Lamb. And yet, within the church, most people are married. Does this mean that all married Christians are committing adultery against Christ? Obviously not. In the very same way, heaven collectively, as the spiritual branch of the Church, is married to Christ, while individual angels in heaven are married to one another. It works exactly the same in heaven as it does on earth.
The idea that individual Christians are married to Christ has led to all sorts of wrong thinking and wrong practice, including the Catholic practice of celibacy. Nuns are commonly spoken of as married to Christ. Sometimes there are even rituals in which they are given wedding rings. What about monks? What about priests? Why aren’t they given wedding rings? The answer is obvious. If God were married to all individual believers, then in addition to being the greatest polygamist ever, God would also be bisexual. And that doesn’t sit right with traditional Christians. That’s why they never give wedding rings to male celibates.
I would suggest that you be very careful what beliefs you adopt. They can lead to some very problematic conclusions.
But as covered in the above article, the idea that celibacy is superior to marriage is based on a misreading and misunderstanding of various passages in the Bible.
Third, Paul did not say that celibacy is superior to marriage. Paul never even uses the word “celibacy,” and he certainly doesn’t say that it’s superior to marriage.
What Paul did say is, “I wish that all were as I myself am” (1 Corinthians 7:7, NRSV). However, in the very same verse he immediately goes on to say, “But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.” In other words, whether a person is married or unmarried, it is a gift from God. He is not at all saying that celibacy is superior to marriage. In fact, the entire chapter is all about how to honorably engage in marriage.
Further, when he begins to speak about remaining unmarried, he explicitly labels his views as his own opinion, not based on any commandment from God. And even then, he doesn’t say that it would be better for everyone to be celibate:
Not, “It would be better for you not to be married,” but “it is good for you to remain as you are.”
And he said this “in view of the impending crisis.” In other words, under the current circumstances it is better not to change your marital status. He was not giving a commandment for all time, nor was he giving a commandment from God, but was giving his own opinion based on the current situation.
Most likely, he said this because he believed that the tribulation before the Second Coming of Christ was about to happen, and this was not a time to be getting married or divorced, but a time to stay the course until the crisis was over, and people could get on with their lives.
However, Christians have been waiting for the Second Coming to (literally) happen for nearly two thousand years now, and that hasn’t happened yet. Does this mean none of us should get married or divorced century after century while we wait for the end times? I don’t think so!
Paul gave his opinion, and his instruction based on his opinion, during particular times and circumstances. Making his words into a universal commandment of the Lord is not only wrong, but it is ignoring Paul’s own words about the nature of those opinions and instructions. We can’t claim to follow the Bible when we ignore what the Bible itself says.
Fourth, Jesus never said anything at all about celibacy, as the above article points out. He spoke about “eunuchs,” but eunuchs are not the same as celibates, as the article explains. It is a complete misreading of the basic words of the text to read it as if Jesus was talking about celibacy. And once we begin misreading the Bible, and basing teachings on those misreadings, error piles up on top of error, until the entire doctrine of the so-called “Christian” Church has nothing to do with anything the Bible says.
Jesus did, however, say that the union of man and woman was intended by God from the beginning:
He did not say, “A man shall leave his father and mother, and become a celibate.” He said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,” and “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” I don’t know how much clearer he could have been that from the beginning, God intended man and woman to be married, and that these marriages are not to be separated.
Does God’s original will and intention last only on this earth, where we live only for a few short decades? Does God’s original will and intention for man and woman become null and void when we enter our eternal homes, which have been prepared for us from the beginning of the world? Is God’s will and intention for us temporary, or is it eternal? The Bible itself gives us the answer:
To say that marriage is not eternal is to say that marriage is not from God. But Jesus says that from the beginning, man and woman were meant by God to be one flesh. We call that oneness “marriage.”
Fifth, as covered in the above article, Jesus was not celibate. Therefore if we want to follow Jesus’ example, we, also, should not be celibate.
I said in the above article that Jesus was unmarried. But that is true only in a material-world sense. In fact, Jesus Christ was and is married to the Church. Jesus is not some mere created human being like the rest of us. Jesus is “God with us.” And the Bible presents God, and Christ, as being married. Not married to an individual human being, but married to the entire body of the faithful, known as the Church.
In short, if we want to follow Jesus’ example, we should get married. Christ is married to the Church, because Jesus Christ is God. We are not God. We therefore follow the example of Jesus Christ by being married to one another, as God intended from the very beginning, according to Christ’s own words. In marrying one another, we are following the example of Christ marrying the Church.
Sixth, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had because he saw that that young man had his heart bound up in his wealth, and would be led away by it if he didn’t divest himself of it—as in fact he was when he did not follow Jesus, but went away very sad because he had great wealth.
Jesus did not tell all of his rich followers to sell everything they had and follow him. When Zacchaeus, whose heart clearly was not so bound up in his wealth, offered quadruple restitution, and to give half, not all, of his wealth to the poor, Jesus accepted Zacchaeus as saved. Jesus did not say, “Sorry, but you’ll have to give all of your wealth to the poor.” See:
You Cannot Serve both God and Money
Seventh, as covered in the above article, Jesus was not referring to his disciples’ “teaching” (really, their opinion) about it being better not to marry, but to his own teaching about not getting divorced once married. Once again, the traditional “Christian” view is a basic misreading of the text, which has led many so-called “Christian” teachers astray.
Why would Jesus tell people to accept his disciples’ skeptical response to his teaching about marriage, rather than to accept his own teaching about marriage? The whole idea makes no sense at all.
Jesus was instructing people to accept a spiritually superior state if they are able to do so. That superior state is indissoluble marriage. His words about eunuchs were a commentary on his apostles’ opinion that if what he is saying is true, then it is better not to marry.
But for those who are able to marry, and to stay married, that is the superior state because it is the state that God designed man and woman for from the beginning, as Jesus himself teaches us.
While I’m at it, I might as well point out how in Point Four, you read into what Jesus says about “in the beginning.” Jesus said was referring specifically to God’s plan for marriage between man and woman as a lifelong bond, not one that admitted divorce. (“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”) You make a big deal out of Christ apparently not telling people to be celibate, but focusing on what Christ didn’t say sure isn’t helpful. Christ never said he was celibate. He also never said he was married. He also never said there was marriage in heaven, which is why you never quote him saying that—because it isn’t in the Bible. He also never condemned celibacy or said that marriage was superior to celibacy, though you claim he implied both. He also never said angels were married to each other, though you seem pretty confident about that, even though nothing is ever said about male and female angels—maleness and femaleness being what makes possible the earthly marriage that you correctly note God intended “in the beginning.”
It is you, my friend, who are reading things into the Bible.
Jesus did not speak of “God’s plan for marriage between man and woman as a lifelong bond, not one that admitted divorce.” Yes, he said that it did not admit divorce except for adultery. But he never referred to marriage as a “lifelong bond,” as if it ends at death. He said that from the beginning God made man and woman to be one flesh, and that what God has joined together, man must not put asunder. He never said that God will put man and woman asunder at death. The reasonable conclusion is that he taught that when God has put a man and a woman together, that marriage will never end. What God does endures forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
Paul’s words in Romans 7:1–3 about a woman being bound to her husband as long as he lives, but being discharged from that law when he dies, has been badly misunderstood in traditional Christianity. Paul is there referring to the common principle in the laws of nearly every nation on earth throughout all history that legal marriage ends when one of the spouses dies. It is specifically an analogy about earthly, legal marriage, which he used to illustrate his principle that those who accept Christ are free from the Mosaic Law, and are no longer required to be observant Jews.
To read Paul’s words as meaning that marriage ends at death, and people are not married in heaven, is to completely miss the point he is making. Once again, earthly, legal marriage does not determine eternal, spiritual marriage. For a fuller explanation of this, see the section “Does Paul say that marriage is only for this life?” in the article “Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Tom Wenig,” which I also linked for you earlier.
Jesus never said whether there is marriage in heaven. That is true. But he compares heaven itself, or the Kingdom of God, to a wedding and a marriage in various parables. This is part of the common theme of the Church and the Kingdom of God itself, including heaven, being God’s bride and wife.
It is also true that the Bible never mentions “male and female” angels. That’s because the Bible always presents angels as male, and doesn’t mention any female angels.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, angels are commonly referred to as “men,” using the specific Hebrew and Greek words for “a male, a man” rather than the generic Hebrew and Greek words for “a human being.” For a detailed listing of passages, see the section “Are angels genderless?” in the article “Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Jack Wellman.”
In short, angels in the Bible are presented as men, not as genderless beings.
The Bible is also not silent on whether angels (as usually conceived by traditional Christians) are fully functional sexually:
Here the “sons of God,” who are traditionally believed to be fallen angels, take wives of the “daughters of humans,” who bore children to them. In short, according to the Bible, angelic beings are fully functional sexually, and able to father children.
From a spiritual perspective, it is clear that this passage was never meant to be taken literally. But traditional Christians do take it literally. So even from a traditional Christian perspective, the Bible states quite clearly that angels are not genderless, asexual beings. From that perspective the Bible is very clear that male angels are fully male, complete with male genitals, and are able to have sex and father children.
There are no stories about “the daughters of God,” nor did God ever send female angels to people on earth in the biblical story, so we can only infer that if there are male angels, there are also female angels.
Regardless of that, in the one place in which the Bible addresses the issue of the sexuality of angelic beings, it unequivocally portrays them as gendered beings who can and do engage in sexual intercourse.
Where are the passages in the Bible that say anything else? Where does the Bible say that angels have no gender? Were does it say than angels are neither male nor female? Where does it say that angels do not have sexual intercourse? Please give me the chapters and verses. I know you cannot, because the Bible says no such thing.
My friend, your beliefs about celibacy and lack of sex in heaven are taught nowhere in the Bible. The Bible says that angels have gender, are capable of sexual intercourse, and have engaged in sexual intercourse at a particular time and place in human history. The only way to avoid this is to interpret Genesis 6 metaphorically instead of literally—which traditional Christianity in general is very loath to do. And even then, there is still no countervailing story or teaching in the Bible saying that angels are not men (or women), and do not have sex.
To sum up, angels are regularly presented in the Bible as “men,” meaning male human beings, and in the one passage in the Bible in which their sexuality is touched upon they are presented as engaging in sexual intercourse with women that results in the bearing of children.
It is you, my friend, who are avoiding the plain teachings and stories of the Bible, and making things much more complicated than they need to be.
Most of your objections are already dealt with in the articles I have linked for you. To gather the main ones together in one place, here are the ones I most recommend that you read before making yet more unbiblical objections to the plain words of the Bible:
There are a few more articles on the subject here, including two sequels to the first article. But these four are the ones that deal most specifically with the various Bible passages and the various objections to eternal marriage made by traditional Christians. Most of your objections to this are covered in these articles.
I should point out that though no female angels are mentioned in the Bible, one of my readers (in this comment) did point out a passage in which winged female figures appear in a vision:
I will leave it to you to decide whether the two women with wings were angels. It is a vision, and clearly intended metaphorically. And yet, it does portray winged women, and since angels are commonly conceived of by traditional Christians as having wings, the most reasonable reading from that perspective would be that the Bible does indeed provide a picture of female angels.
Ah, I see, you just pick and choose which “traditional” beliefs fit in with your preconceived ideas and then dismiss the rest that don’t. And then you equivocate with the word marriage, using it sometimes to refer to spiritual, sometimes to earthly.
It literally says nowhere that the “sons of God” are angels, but you’re perfectly happy to throw that word in there to support your interpretation that angels can have sex, rather than accepting a less complicated explanation where the “sons of God” refer to the male descendants of Seth and “daughters of man” to the female descendants of Cain. (And even though neither of us (probably) hold this view, the even simpler (mis)interpretation would be that there were children begotten by God.)
You’re hypocritically engaging in much of the eisigesis you accuse Christians of engaging in (and I say Christians unqualifiedly because you can go to well before the Council of Nicæa to find writers talking about what they talk about there).
If you’re really interested in listening to Christ’s word, you should remember Christ said He would build His Church on Peter, against which Church Hades would not prevail. Rather than following people who nearly seventeen centuries later decided they understood the Bible better than the early Christians, you might listen to the Church like Christ told you to.
Speaking of rationalizing away the Bible . . . .
Where does the Bible ever say that the “sons of God” are male descendants of Seth? And where does it say that the “daughters of men” are the female descendants of Cain? This is pure speculation, aimed at avoiding the obvious meaning of the story.
If it were mere human children of two human parents, why would they be presented as “Nephilim” (giants), and “heroes that were of old, warriors of renown”? The text of the Bible itself makes it clear that these offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were superhuman in their stature and abilities.
Trying to avoid this through unbiblical speculations about the human ancestry of these two groups is just . . . trying to wriggle out of what the Bible is clearly saying.
My own church doesn’t take any of these stories in the early chapters of Genesis literally, so it’s not a problem for us. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t believe that the things narrated in the Bible all happened historically just as they are described, and then try to get out of the obvious literal meaning of those stories by claiming some extrabiblical explanation.
As for their being children begotten by God, what would that even mean? By whom did God beget these children? Did God have sex with various female angels to have these “Sons of god”? Or did God himself have sex with human females to have “sons of God”?
No, my friend. Unless you are prepared to accept that these stories are all metaphorical and mythical, and never happened literally, you can’t wriggle out of their implications so easily.
About writers before the Council of Nicaea having the same ideas earlier, all my queries and researches on this subject have pointed to Tertullian (c. 155 AD – c. 220 AD) as the first Christian whose writings are extant to propose the idea of a tripersonal God. If you are aware of any earlier writers who said that God is three Persons, I would be most interested to hear about it!
As far as I am able to determine (and I don’t claim to be a church historian), the idea of God as three Persons stretches back only about a century before the Council of Nicaea, and it was not accepted as Christian doctrine until after Nicaea. (Tertullian’s particular doctrine of tripersonalism was ultimately rejected.) Even after Nicaea, tripersonalism was heavily debated, and wasn’t fully settled as Church dogma until another century or two had passed.
There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the Apostles or early Church Fathers believed that God is three Persons. This idea appears not to have entered Christian thought until the lifetime of Tertullian, in the late second or early third century.
And oh! the Catholic misunderstanding of Jesus’ words about founding his church “on Peter”! So literalistic and obtuse! Here is the story in the New International Version (because it does the work of separating out the dialog):
Really? Christ means that he was going to found his church on Peter??? When only three verses later we read:
Did Jesus really found his church on a human being whom he called “Satan”? And whom he said did not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns?
And is this really what Jesus meant when historically there is no evidence whatsoever that Peter was any more prominent in the founding and leadership of the early Christian Church than any of the other Apostles? If anything, James was the clear leader of the early Christians, as seen especially in Acts 15. And Paul had far more to do with the great growth of Christianity among the Gentiles than Peter did. Certainly Peter was a leading Apostle. But the idea that Christ founded his church on Peter specifically has no support whatsoever either in Scripture or in Christian history.
This is a pure Catholic fabrication in an effort to establish the power and authority of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy.
Apart from that, it is an obtuse and knuckleheaded reading of Jesus’ words.
It is obvious from both the history and the context that Jesus was saying that he would found his church, not on Peter, but on Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah [or Christ], the Son of the living God.”
This, in reality, is what Jesus did found his church on. The essential thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other churches and religions is precisely that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. No other church believes or teaches this. Without this belief, the entire Christian Church falls to the ground as a falsity and an illusion.
Meanwhile, without Peter the Christian Church would be without one of Christ’s inner circle of disciples and Apostles, but would continue on just as strongly regardless. Some other person would have been in Peter’s place. Christ would have founded his Church on the very same belief that he, Jesus, is the Christ, the son of the living God.
Further, if we read the words exactly, Jesus simply didn’t say that he would found his church on Peter. Here are his words again, this time in the KJV:
Jesus did not say, “upon Peter I will build my church.” He said “upon this rock I will build my church.”
To any objective, non-dogmatic, non-tradition-bound person, it is plain as day that he was using Peter’s name, which means “a rock” as a pun to refer to the “rock” on which he would indeed found his church—which, once again, was Peter’s declaration that “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 18:16, KJV).
As a number of passages in the Gospels and the Epistles make clear, it is not Peter, but Christ himself who is the rock on which his Church is built. For example:
Paul, though he knew Peter very well, and though he must have heard about Jesus’ conversation with his disciples in Matthew 16:13–20, did not think of Peter as having any special status among the Apostles. Paul says here that the household of God is built, not upon the foundation of Peter specifically, but “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
Clearly the Apostles themselves did not hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:17 as conferring any special status on Peter as the “founder of the Church” or “the rock upon which he built his church.” If they did, Paul could not have written what he did in Ephesians 2:20. Paul would not have contradicted Jesus’ own words on this point.
In short, there is no biblical or historical support whatsoever for Catholic dogma on this subject.
Apostolic Succession is also a Catholic myth. Even if the Catholic Church weren’t so obviously wrong about Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 16:17, we simply don’t have that kind of solid, continuous lineage from Peter to the present-day Pope that the Catholic Church claims.
In your very first comment here, you say:
The Church is Christ’s bride, not ours. Are you saying that the holiest of people on this earth should commit adultery against Christ by marrying his bride?
Or are you saying that polygamy is allowable for Christians, so that many men and women can all be married to Christ’s Bride, the Church? Is Christianity a vast polygamous institution? And is the Christian Church bisexual, so that both men and women are married to it? Is God the greatest polygamist ever, inviting billions of people, both male and female, to marry his Bride along with him?
The whole idea is preposterous and blasphemous.
Nowhere does the Bible say that human beings should marry the Church. To do so is either to commit adultery against God or to blaspheme God as the ultimate polygamist.
Human beings who believe in God and follow God’s commandments are not married to the Church. They are the Church. And as a body, they are Christ’s Bride.
The very idea of humans being married to the Church is error piled upon error, and confusion piled upon confusion.
Yet this is the very error and confusion that the Catholic Church, like other ascetic “Christian” groups, has fallen into because it has nullified the Word of God through the traditions that it has handed on (see Mark 7:13).
The Bible itself tells us that just as Christ loves the Church, so men should love their wives:
Just as Christ is married to the Church, so a man is married to his wife. This is the true teaching of the Bible.
This passage from Ephesians quotes the same words of Scripture that the Lord himself quotes to show that from the beginning God intended men and women to be married to one another. And it shows us that this is the true parallel to Christ being married to the Church.
Just as Christ is married to the Church, so a man is to be married to his wife, and the two are to become one flesh. This is how we humans honor the marriage of Christ and the Church—as Jesus, Paul, and the entire Bible along with them teach us.
You are greatly in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. I urge you to abandon all the human traditions you are holding to, and follow the teachings of the Lord and his Apostles.
And I guess when Christ says later in the same chapter, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life,” Christ isn’t saying it’s better to foresake all earthly things (including marriage) to follow Him.
Some people do have to leave family and possessions to follow Christ. And if they do so, then they will indeed receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
For example, if a young man comes from an ungodly family, and then accepts Christ, he may have to leave behind his family, because his family will attack his new faith, and attempt to take it away from him and destroy it. This can also happen within marriage, which is why Paul allows for separation in the case of unbelieving spouses:
Though his wording is somewhat delicate, in saying that “the brother or sister is not bound,” he is saying that the believing Christian is no longer bound in marriage to an unbelieving spouse who leaves because of the believer’s faith. In other words, Paul allowed for divorce in the case of a believer being married to an unbeliever for whom the believer’s faith is a stumbling block.
What Jesus didn’t say was that all believers must leave behind their family and possessions. His own brother James, and his mother Mary, became believers, and were part of the early Christian community. Mary did not have to leave her son James behind, nor did she have to leave Jesus behind, in order to become a Christian.
In short, if we read all of what Jesus says, and the Bible teaches, on this subject, we can understand that we must leave behind anything or anyone that becomes a stumbling block to our faith. We do not have to leave behind family, friends, and possessions that are not a stumbling block to our faith.
About leaving behind our possessions for Christ, once again, please see this article:
You Cannot Serve both God and Money
Your intepretation leads to an absurdity: that Christ, when He said, “Not all can accept this statement, but only those to whom it is given,” and, “Let he who can accept this teaching accept it,” was referring to His teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Your interpretation gives carte blanche for people to say, “Well, you can’t blame him for divorcing his wife; after all, not everyone can accept the teaching that marriage is dissoluble.” We know adultery violates the Ten Commandments, and Christ said any man who divorces, except for unchastity, and remarries commits adultery. How would it make sense for Christ to say, “I’m only *inviting* you to treat marriage as God intended from the beginning (to be indissoluble), but if you’re not the kind of person who that jives with, then don’t worry, it was just an invitation to follow God’s plan for marriage.” The text simply does not make sense under the interpretation you have given it.
You’re reading an awful lot into what Jesus said. He didn’t say that it’s just fine for people not to accept his teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. He said that those who can accept it should accept it.
There is no absurdity in accepting the reality that many people cannot accept it.
Jesus understood the human heart. He knew very well that many people could not accept his teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. He knew that many people would indeed get married and divorced. He also knew that many people would choose to remain unmarried instead of accepting God’s great gift of marriage. His knowing these things about human behavior in no way means that he condoned that behavior. Only that he was realistic that “all we like sheep have gone astray.” He was calling us back to the ways of God—including to faithful monogamy as God intended from the beginning—while recognizing that many people would not listen to his call, and would not follow his teaching on marriage.
But for those who can accept Jesus’ teaching about indissoluble marriage, it is one of God’s greatest gifts to men and women. That is why God gave us that gift from the beginning, in the very first chapters of the Bible.
The debate between Lee and James has been quite interesting. I enjoyed reading it and the many points brought up by Lee, which I agree for the most part, have been helpful. James Maroun, I have 3 clarifying questions I want to ask in order to understand your way of thinking better:
1. You said “Now, could it be the married state is higher than the celibate state in this life, but not in the next?” (https://leewoof.org/2018/06/25/didnt-jesus-say-its-better-to-be-celibate-than-married/#comment-164853) However, the implications of this logic (and the impression your subsequent comments give) is that celibacy is a higher state in the next life AND this life. It means we ultimately must reject sexuality to attain perfection and the world is ultimately better off without marriage. Since heaven is the goal we strive for, the ultimate hope and reward we prepare for, then celibacy is indeed better than marriage. Human marriage is nothing more than a temporary stop gap and/or a stepping stone to get to the greater state of eternal celibacy. Can you clarify whether or not you believe celibacy is better than marriage in this life?
2. Related to the first point, let’s say you were a youth pastor. Or a college ministry leader. Would you actively encourage young people to pursue marriage and kids as a life goal and help them prepare for it? Or would you actively encourage them to pursue celibacy and singleness instead?
3. You said “Paul’s just pointing out that, if you want to do the work of the Lord, you can focus on it more if you’re unmarried, single, celibate, whatever you want to call it.” (https://leewoof.org/2018/06/25/didnt-jesus-say-its-better-to-be-celibate-than-married/#comment-165021) The second greatest commandment (on which hangs all the other commandments Matthew 22:36-40) is loving others and a wife/kids are one of the best ways we can show this. Is not raising the next generation of believers and maintaining/caring for a godly household also a work of the Lord? Clearly not all ways of serving God can be done better unmarried. What sort of works are you referring to here?
After reading the article and most part of this comment section, again I came in conclusion that reading Swedenborg’s spiritual revelations (and your articles) about the Bible is a much easier and better way to me to learn and understand it’s deeper meaning than reading the Bible itself, because there are so many versions and translations and of course, ways of reading, it’s really confusing! 😵
Maybe a silly question, but is there any problem in not reading the Bible and still being called Christian?
For many centuries, most ordinary Christians were illiterate, and were therefore not able to read the Bible. What makes a person a Christian is living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the chief of which are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. It is perfectly possible to be a Christian through hearing about those teachings from others who have read the Bible. Still, in this day and age, when most people can read, it is good to read the Bible for yourself from time to time.
The different versions and translations of the Bible do bend it in one way or another. In some translations, some passages are simply translated wrong because the translators have false doctrines in their head, and therefore bend the translation toward that false doctrine when that is not what’s said in the original Hebrew or Greek. This is why, despite its archaic language, the King James Version is still better than many modern translations if faithfulness to the original is what’s desired. It’s not perfect, but it is quite good. I do not know what the situation is in Portuguese.
The primary antidote to this problem is precisely to read Swedenborg and Swedenborgian literature, especially material that discusses and explains the meaning of the Bible. Swedenborg himself was a stickler for literal, accurate translations of the Bible text. Careful Swedenborgian scholars tend to be the same way. This will dispel a lot of false readings of the Bible so that when you do read it directly, you’ll be standing on more solid ground.