Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » May 08, 2014 8:51 pm

Rose, yes, I'll try and find the article for you.
The difference between Revelation and Genesis is that the former is written in the genre of apocalyptic literature. So yes, of course it's highly symbolic but truthful. God gave John the vision, he wrote it down. Genesis on the other hand, up until the last 150 or so years, was recognised to be a book of Law and History. Now Christians are falling over themselves trying to interpret God's Word via the fossil record. It's pathetic.

Reepicheep. Tolkien, said that Christianity is the one truth myth. There's a difference.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » May 08, 2014 10:22 pm

Warrior 4 Jesus wrote:Rose, yes, I'll try and find the article for you.


Thank you! :)

Warrior 4 Jesus wrote:The difference between Revelation and Genesis is that the former is written in the genre of apocalyptic literature. So yes, of course it's highly symbolic but truthful. God gave John the vision, he wrote it down. Genesis on the other hand, up until the last 150 or so years, was recognised to be a book of Law and History. Now Christians are falling over themselves trying to interpret God's Word via the fossil record. It's pathetic.


Well, in some ways that's understandable, since we didn't have as much evidence to debate about before significant archaeological discoveries were made.

Deviating from a literal view of Genesis doesn't seem to be completely new thing, though. For instance, it looks like both Origen of Alexandria and St. Augustine of Hippo questioned the literal interpretation of Creation. Since St. Augustine was one of the most influential Church fathers, it's interesting to see that his unique viewpoints on aspects of Genesis weren't a deal breaker with the Church.

It would be extremely interesting to hear what the early Church fathers would say if they had access to the information we do today. :-?
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » May 08, 2014 11:55 pm

Origen questioned a lot of things, so I wouldn't use him as a measure of worthwhile Church fathers.

I found two helpful articles but they're not the original ones I read. They'll do for now.

A fairly basic article:
http://christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c024.html

Something more detailed:
http://creation.com/hebrew-scholar-affi ... -ting-wang

Much more detailed article:
http://www.apologeticspress.org/apconte ... rticle=451
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Phosphorus » May 09, 2014 8:37 am

There have been some good responses to IloveFauns, but I here’s my take on the question, which has merged into a discussion of Genesis.

What you saw could have been a reference to the ancient Gnostics, who were not orthodox Christians in any sense. The Gnostics were mostly intellectuals who mashed together Jewish, Christian, and pagan beliefs; they interpreted much of the Bible through subtle metaphors and number theories to find the “hidden meaning” of Scripture. Christians do not believe the Bible is metaphorical in that sense.

However, it is equally clear that the Bible does use metaphors to convey truth. A metaphor is a kind of figure of speech designed to make a point. Jesus’s parables, which are not true stories in the literal-historical sense, are analogies similar in kind. Likewise, for instance, all anthropomorphic language about God in the Bible (i.e., that which would seem to refer to his having a body or human emotions), is analogical; it is not literally true in a sense that we can understand, but it condescends to our level of understanding.

What I imagine you mean by metaphor, however, is that the Bible is not literally-historically true, but intended to convey larger, spiritual truths. One thing you need to be aware of is that the Bible is a lot of different books with a lot of different genres and purposes. Thus, you have in various places poetry and law and history and instruction. And you also have books like Job whose classification as history is debatable, but in some sense irrelevant, because the intent of the book is to teach about God. Protestants tend to emphasize genre in determining whether a text is “literal” or not.

A Patristic (early Church) and Medieval approach would posit both a literal sense and a spiritual sense to Scripture. The literal sense is bounded by genre and the author’s intention; the spiritual sense is dictated by the deep spiritual truths contained in Scripture and revealed in Christ. Some of the Fathers would not have regarded, for instance, the Old Testament “histories” as being valuable for any literal-historical truth they might carry, but only as pointing to Christ. That said, they did not dismiss the literal sense in any way, but believed it was an indispensible guide to any higher truths they might derive. Modern Dispensationalists are in the historical minority as far as interpreting everything as literally as possible; but Liberals are also off the mark if they are willing to cut or “metaphorize” anything that disagrees with their opinions.

Now, “myth” can mean several completely different things. In popular usage, it has taken the connotation of “falsehood.” However, the term refers to a grand sacred narrative; C. S. Lewis believed “myths” were expressions of human yearning for the Divine, i.e., creation’s “groans.” Christianity is, in some sense, a myth, but it is the true myth, the “myth that happened” in a cosmic and historical sense; an intersection between myth and history, the need of man for a savior and the saving work of God. It is myth, but more than a myth. As Tolkien says, the Gospels are a fairy-story, but the greatest and highest fairy-story, and one true on what he calls the “Primary Plane.” However, that should not make us ignore the poetic beauty of the story.

When it comes to Genesis, I pretty thoroughly detailed my take in a blog post (to which I can link if anyone is interested). Tolkien, in his letters, remarks that the “Eden myth” is not of the same sort of “historicity” as the Gospels, though it is certainly true in the sense that we have lost Paradise, and thus we should not be embarrassed about the story; Lewis regarded the creation account as poetic rather than historical, though he favored a literal Adam. Moreover, The Rose-Tree Dryad is correct that theologians of the early Church—notably Clement, Origen, and Augustine, but others as well—did not necessarily interpret creation as being a literal six days. Basil the Great’s Hexameron took Genesis literally on this point, but his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa’s Hexameron interpreted Genesis allegorically (not necessarily to the exclusion of the literal).

Honestly, I think the primary damage theistic evolution does to the faith is confuse certain questionable expectations about Scripture that originate principally in post-Enlightenment Christianity, where we have to be as “scientific” in our interpretation as possible. As the New Testament notes, the Bible is most fundamentally about Christ, who did, as is made very clear repeatedly, literally-historically live and die and resurrect. But is it so important that almost everything else be literal-historical or else a blemish on the Spirit’s integrity? The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were full of theologians, starry-eyed about rational methods for discerning truth in both natural science and the Bible and constantly attempting to make them line up. The advances of science in the late nineteenth century (evolution most notably) drove a wedge in Protestantism, as fundamentalists sided with “the Bible” against any contradicting “science,” and liberals hoisted the opposite banner, dispensing one way or another with anything that disagreed with the latest trends. The damage done by that war to American Christianity was tremendous.

My take? The assumptions were faulty in the first place. The Bible was not intended to be read in this way. The fundamentalists did wrongly in insisting on their particular interpretation against mounting extrabiblical evidence; the liberals did wrongly in picking the Bible apart and treating it as “true” or “untrue” according to the latest critical methods. As long as we are clear, as G. K. Chesterton points out, that there is a positive thing called a human made uniquely in the image of God, in terms of the faith it does not particularly matter where (biologically) our species came from.

I happen to agree with Warrior 4 Jesus that certain contortions to make Genesis line up point-by-point with modern science are misguided and a little pathetic; however, this is because I think it a totally unnecessary exercise. As far as the Hebrew understanding of the text, I would point you to this (equally partisan, but quite thorough) article: https://www.scienceandchristianbelief.o ... arston.pdf
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Reepicheep775 » May 09, 2014 10:03 am

Wonderful post, Phosphorus. :ymapplause:

@Warrior: My disclaimer is that I know significantly less about Tolkien than I do about Lewis, though like Phosphorus mentioned Tolkien did use the term "myth" in reference to the Eden story. I know that Tolkien's views of myth and truth greatly influenced Lewis's philosophy and when Lewis talks about Christianity being the "true myth" i.e. the myth becoming fact, he was referring specifically to Christ. Christ is the point at which history and myth are fused. Christ is the fulfillment not only of the Old Testament (which Lewis and I believe contained myth), but also of pagan mythology. Again, I'm not as familiar with Tolkien, but if Lewis's usage of the idea of myth becoming fact is any indication, I think you're using it out of context.

For the record, I do believe in the Fall of Man as - probably - an event, and quite possibly a literal Adam. But... I also think that evolution is the best explanation for the fossil record and the diversity of life on earth. My current theory is that the thing that separates Man from the animals (quite possibly the Theory of Mind that Rose mentioned) occurred during one generation, descending on our ancestor(s) as the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles during Pentecost, giving them a new kind of life. I don't think anything I will say will convince anyone who firmly believes that evolution is a diabolical lie though, so I'll just leave it at that.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Aslanisthebest » May 09, 2014 2:06 pm

Not going to comment on a whole lot, but just wanted to thank Phosphorus for this:

Phosphorus wrote:My take? The assumptions were faulty in the first place. The Bible was not intended to be read in this way. The fundamentalists did wrongly in insisting on their particular interpretation against mounting extrabiblical evidence; the liberals did wrongly in picking the Bible apart and treating it as “true” or “untrue” according to the latest critical methods. As long as we are clear, as G. K. Chesterton points out, that there is a positive thing called a human made uniquely in the image of God, in terms of the faith it does not particularly matter where (biologically) our species came from.

I agree 100%, especially with the statement that the Bible was not supposed to be read that way. I appreciate how you have the background of exactly how the general culture in Christianity has come to see these things as they are--a lot of the philosophy is very different in earlier, respectable Christians.
The whole issue with evolution is difficult for me, primarily for this reason. I do not want to pick a side here, because I think that both are not really approaching the Bible as it should be read. While I do have respect for some who support the integrity of the Bible, and while I do believe that the Bible is scientifically accurate, I do not appreciate the trend against treating any kind of adaptation wrong. The word "evolve" has become so connoted with denying God that it's hard to have a meaningful conversation about this. This is particularly personal for me, because I am probably going to be working closely with the life sciences in very likely "secular" schools (not a huge fan of the discrimination per se, but more because I argue between the separation of "sacred" and "secular" and what it means to live in the world and not of the world.), and I want to have an intellectually satisfying conclusion.
I don't know a whole lot about Answers in Genesis and the like; I'm not saying that they are wrong in everything. I just think that they have some limited perspective, and they are only looking at these problems in the context of the past several decades. However, I do not necessarily agree with their categorization of evolution and the processes (and of evolutionists). Likewise, I don't agree with the other extreme's side--most importantly, many on that side do not begin with the same premise as I do and so I can't find many answers in that direction. I also don't appreciate the extreme view that believing there is a God casts one's scientific credibility into doubt. At any rate, I believe that God created the world. Based on "scientific" criteria, it doesn't qualify as scientific, as no one can prove that God does exist. Then again, no one can prove that he does not exist. Faith can't be put through the scientific process.
I would need to learn what evolution says in order to draw the line. I do believe in six days, but I do fail to see how other interpretations can be really that controversial, unless of course one is extending that treatment to be a liberal interpretation of everything in Scripture. I don't believe, for instance, that man evolved into Homo sapiens. I do believe H. sapiens was created, but I do believe that a process of adaptation took place. Survival of the fittest is essentially the result of the Fall of Man; it happens, but it is not a principle to live by. That's where I am regarding it. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I appreciate the idea that there were many Christians who had other perspectives on these issues, in a world where they did not face the same rather partisan-environment concerning these topics.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby IloveFauns » May 10, 2014 5:49 am

Thanks P-15 for you reply. It seems(as I had always suspected) that this is an area of disagreement amongst Christians. I guess that is what makes us individuals. Atheists do have these disagreement to. Some of us are rather militant and I don't agree with some of the stuff they do but it isn't up to me what they think and believe.

Another topic:
I do believe that religion should take little or no part in the rulings of states and countries but that is unlikely to happen. I mean Australia is a very multi-cultural country. There are people of all different religions or non-religions. Of course world leaders that are of some religion will be influenced by that religion.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Phosphorus » May 11, 2014 11:39 am

IloveFauns wrote:Another topic:
I do believe that religion should take little or no part in the rulings of states and countries but that is unlikely to happen. I mean Australia is a very multi-cultural country. There are people of all different religions or non-religions. Of course world leaders that are of some religion will be influenced by that religion.


That question, also, requires some careful distinctions.

In one sense, it is true that religion fused with politics is a disastrous combination. Why? Sometimes it is because the Church gets ambitious about righting all social wrongs through force of law, resulting in misguided zeal and use of coercion. More often, however, it is because the Church, insofar as it commits to politics, ends up a tool of the state. That is what happened during the so-called "Wars of Religion"--institutional Christianity was weak, and ended up a weapon of secular rulers in nation-building.

Yet consider the scenario of the Catholic Church in Rome in the 1920s. The Vatican considers itself "in captivity" to the Kingdom of Italy, even though most Italians are also Catholics (but maybe nationalism comes first). Then the Fascists come to power. Mussolini is worried about the Pope using his influence against him, so he cuts a deal which more or less amounts to this: the Fascists will not bother the Church if the Church will not bother the Fascists. The Vatican has to stay out of politics, in other words, if they expect to be given independence. The Pope agreed. Likewise, the Pope later signed an agreement with Nazi Germany, under which Catholics in Germany would be protected (they weren't) if they agreed to be peaceably subject to the regime. Devout Fascism and devout Christianity are incompatible, but these measures were reluctantly taken to preserve the Catholics from persecution.

When World War II hit, the Pope stayed true to his predecessor's agreement. He kept a policy of neutrality, and religion and politics were kept apart as much as possible. Was this the right decision? Looking back, many have criticized Catholics in Europe for not taking a strong enough political stance against Fascism. Of course it's easy to judge in retrospect, but it's less clear what the consequences of our actions today will be.

Life is life, and both politics and religion are part of that same life. It is neither possible nor desirable to circumscribe religion strictly to the private sphere. Christianity is called to have a voice in social life, and that inevitably extends at times to politics. In fact, Christianity can have a positive influence on the state, especially in clear moral issues where the state has (or may have) blood on its hands, not through physical force, but through calls to repentance and defense of the wronged.

That is not the same thing as confusion of church and state, or theocracy. The Church is emphatically not to rule by the sword--but it is to urge rulers in the way of righteousness and justice toward the ruled insofar as it is able.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » May 11, 2014 4:54 pm

I see we're all going to have to agree to disagree on the topic of creation/evolution. But before we finish, one last question.

How do Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International not present evolution as it's really taught, and what scientists really say about evolution and evidence for it? Far as I know, they sometimes make mistakes, but they always endeavour to be truthful. They have copious references at the end of their articles, so you can check out their claims and when they quote from evolutionists, they don't doctor the quote. So I'm curious. Thanks. (Admittedly I know far more about CMI than AiG. AiG could be less scholarly in their approach).
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Aslanisthebest » May 11, 2014 7:36 pm

Warrior, like I said, I don't know a whole lot of Answers in Genesis, but I have read material by some closely associated with the organization. The name that comes to mind is, oh... two of the books are The Fossils Still Say No and The Case for Creation. The names are pretty well-associated with AiG/CMI. Don't get me wrong--the books prepared me for the next step in that I was prepared for certain terms (such as the technical terms of chick embryos evolving, etc) and that I could understand. The only problem I had, I guess, was that the books seemed to be mainly reactive rather than proactive, and so a format of "Well evolution says, but we say..." instead of "what do we believe, what is science as we see it, and here's where we disagree with the system of belief called evolution." The main issue I had, I suppose, was a bit of a less open dialogue. There is a time for dogma and argument, and perhaps that was the aim of those books. But I wish they were supplemented with understanding what the other opinion is in the other side's words. I have more answers than questions at this point, as I said. I do recall the books being good reads, and they contained meaningful arguments, as well as admitting there is adaptation within species rather than between.
Granted, these organizations have made it clear that a certain viewpoint is their mission. Politics is another sphere, but it's one I will not discuss on here. I can read their material with that in mind, but it would be nice to have a discussion with people who have the same premise regarding acknowledging God's sovereignty and authority yet are open to discussion. It's something that might not endow me with answers to arguments, but I certainly think it would give me some closure, personally.

I don't doubt that evolution is widely accepted as also a social practice in order to eliminate God from any kind of explanation; I do think there is more to the argument than that, though, and I certainly do not believe that that is the stance of everyone who does not agree with AiG/CMI.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Ithilwen » May 11, 2014 8:48 pm

The biggest problem I have with most Young Earth Creationists is their inability to have a conversation or answer simple questions. I don't really disbelieve in YEC, and I don't at ALL doubt the validity of the Bible. But I do have many questions, and I do often doubt our ability to correctly interpret the Bible, since we are flawed, fallen human beings, and many passages in Genesis are vague to begin with. I can't say, though, that any conversation I've had with a YEC-er ever did me any good. Instead of actually listening, understanding, or trying to answer my questions, the conversations always just lead to them twisting my arguments, accusing me of doubting scripture or "following scientific and cultural trends", and giving me lectures on how dangerous it is to ever ever ever question YEC beliefs because that will inevitably lead to the endangerment of my faith, and then the whole Bible will fall apart, etc. I've never had a single question answered by them, and who knows if I ever will.

I don't know about anyone else, but saying, "I believe in Young Earth Creationism because, if I don't, I'm afraid my entire religion will fall apart and all of the Bible might turn into lies" just doesn't seem like a good reason to go with a certain origins theory. If we believe something, we should believe it because it is true. And if something is true, we shouldn't be afraid to ask or answer questions about it, to poke at it, to see why exactly we believe it. But apparently YEC-ers don't want that sort of thing going on. And if I'm not allowed answers to my questions, how can I ever know if the YEC-ers are right? If they're so afraid it's going to fall apart if we question it in the least little bit, why should I believe it's a theory that's strong enough to deserve people putting any faith into it in the first place?


~Riella =:)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby IloveFauns » May 11, 2014 9:05 pm

@ Ithilwen I think no one should believe due to fear. I mean if you are forcing yourself to believe do you truly believe?. I guess not. I have also observed that many young earth creationists do not understand the concept of evolution fully or they choose not to read i/understand it.

Also one should take into account the scientific definition of a theory. Many seem to loosely define it.

Fear has influenced my choices but never my beliefs. I may have lied due to fear or to avoid awkward situations(my main reason for lying).
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » May 12, 2014 6:24 am

Riella, funny you should say that because I could say the same thing about theistic evolutionists or day-agers or gap theorists or Framework Hypothesis believers. I'm surprised you haven't met a YEC that hasn't answered a single question of yours. I believe YEC is true because the evidence I've seen and a plain reading of God's Word points to it being true. I don't believe it for those other reasons, although I certainly believe it helps in those areas. Outlandish theory upon outlandish theory has to be created for theistic evolution to even look half reasonable. Also, scientific journals etc. don't allow any other side to have a voice. What happened to pursuing the truth? What happened to intense, scientific back-and-forth discussion? All mainstream science is, in regard to origins science, is a bunch of Yes Men and Women. That's how it strikes me. If you're a YEC, you're seen as an idiot. If you're a theistic evolutionist, you're recognised as half an idiot. I just don't understand why so many believers hold Science above Scripture.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby King_Erlian » May 12, 2014 7:11 am

One of the most oft-quoted (and I believe, misapplied) passages in the New Testament when it comes to evangelism is John 3 verse 16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son..." Those using the quote often somewhat blithely say that "the world" means "everyone". But does it? We may say, "The whole world watched the 2012 Olympics on TV," but that doesn't mean that every man, woman and child on the planet watched.

Does God really love everybody? What about verses like Malachi 1 verses 2-3, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"?

Here's a link to a sermon by Spurgeon on the subject:
http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0239.htm
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Arwenel » May 12, 2014 8:10 am

King_Erlian -

I've seen the whole "loved/hated" thing (also in reference to Rachel and Leah, Jacob's wives) explained as a Hebrew expression that merely emphasizes a preference for the one, not necessarily hatred for the other.

I believe God does love everyone, because
a. God created everything
b. Everything God creates is good
c. God is all-powerful, evil is not
d. Evil cannot eradicate all goodness
e. Even evil people still bear the image of God, which is good
f. God loves all that is good
g. Therefore, God loves everyone

I'm curious, though. It seems you're suggesting God doesn't love those who are predestined to Hell, or at least those who are unsaved. If that's the case, am i sinning when i love someone whom God hates?
I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind
Some come from above, some come from behind
But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » May 12, 2014 1:23 pm

Thanks very much for sharing those articles, Warrior 4 Jesus and Phosphorus. They're helping me a lot as I study this topic. :)

Phosphorus wrote:When it comes to Genesis, I pretty thoroughly detailed my take in a blog post (to which I can link if anyone is interested).


*raises hand*

IloveFauns wrote:I do believe that religion should take little or no part in the rulings of states and countries but that is unlikely to happen. I mean Australia is a very multi-cultural country. There are people of all different religions or non-religions. Of course world leaders that are of some religion will be influenced by that religion.


I think you're probably right. It's not that all people are intentionally biased, though. Even if someone is very committed to being impartial, one's convictions, viewpoints and backgrounds (religious, non-religious or areligious) still have a profound affect on how a person views the world and its many questions—and therefore their interpretation and application of law.

A law doesn't interpret or enforce itself—humans do that, and individuals reading a set of laws can often draw vastly different conclusions from one another about how a law can or can't be applied. A pretty good example of this phenomenon is looking at different Christian denominations interpreting the Bible. You can take various groups from within Christianity, show them a contentious verse, and they can all disagree on what it means.

(Mods, hope I'm not breaking the "no politics" rule with these comments, but I figured that since this is a discussion of abstract concepts, it's more along the lines of philosophy of law than it is politics. If I need to delete anything, though, just give me a head's up and I'll gladly comply!)

King_Erlian wrote:One of the most oft-quoted (and I believe, misapplied) passages in the New Testament when it comes to evangelism is John 3 verse 16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son..." Those using the quote often somewhat blithely say that "the world" means "everyone". But does it? We may say, "The whole world watched the 2012 Olympics on TV," but that doesn't mean that every man, woman and child on the planet watched.

Does God really love everybody?


You are going to find a lot of positive and negative arguments on the internet regarding that. It's a very hot debate within Christianity.

My personal belief is that yes, God does love everyone. He's sometimes angry with us, but that's because He loves us and wants the best for us and from us.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

That is Matthew 5:43-48, and it seems to me that Jesus is encouraging us to love our enemies because that is what the Father does.

There is also 1 John 2:2, which states that Jesus was sent to be the propitiation for the sins of the entire world. For God to send Jesus Christ to us with such a mission to carry out, I think He must have loved the entire world, and wanted to save everyone, too. There's 1 John 1:29 to consider as well.

There's 2 Peter 3:9, too, but I'm in the process of trying to discern the correct context of the verse.

Verses in the Pauline epistles also seem to indicate the scope of Christ's saving mission, such as 1 Corinthians 15:22.

However, as I said earlier in this post, whether or not God loves everyone is a question that is highly debated among Christians. The best advice I can give is to study the Scriptures, read as many different viewpoints and commentaries as you can, and then decide for yourself. :)

King_Erlian wrote:What about verses like Malachi 1 verses 2-3, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"?


Ditto to Arwenel on this. This is an article that offers a solid explanation on the love/hate phrases that appear in the Old Testament.
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