Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate

From: <>
Date: Wed Oct 31 2007 - 23:07:55 EDT

 Yahweh?? Man, Yahweh ain't the God I have in my heart or my mind. I'm faith-bound
to the belief that I do not worship a vengeful God.?

You know, the Bible is, to me (among a billion other things) a story of the evolution
of? our ability to understand God.? Not the evolution of God, mind you, but our ability
to comprehend God.

Is the God of the old Testament the God of the New Testament?? Of course.? Are
the humans of the old Testament the humans of the New Testament??? No way.?

And Hindus and Wiccans?? I don't think that we are allowed to pass judgment on
Hindus and Wiccans with respect to idolatry.? That'll be done outside our ministrations.?
We should stick far more closely to passing judgment upon ourselves with respect
to what is and is not idolatry, even one to the other among us, in here, sure.

-Mike (Friend of ASA)



-----Original Message-----
From: George Murphy <>
To: Jim Armstrong <>; ASA <>
Sent: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 6:28 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate

This is not the way scripture speaks.? The 1st
Commandment is not about some abstract "God" to whom people they can ascribe any
characteristics & actions they please but about YHWH, the God of
Israel.? This would be clearer if there were not the unfortunate practice
of quoting it apart from introduction to the decalogue. "I am YHWH your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you
shall have no other gods before me."? I.e., God is defined by what God
does.? & in the NT this God isfurther identified as the One revealed in
the cross & resurrection of Jesus.?


You seem to assume that "names" of God are more or
less arbitrary labels which people give to the concept of God.? Many are
but the Bible speaks of YHWH as God's own self-designation, as in Exodus
3:13-15.? &?Matthew 28:19 in the same way can be regarded
as?the self-designation as "Father, Son and Holy Spirit"?of the God
revealed in Christ.


With all that I am not saying -

??? (a) that we have to address God
always by?correct names, or

??? (b) that?knowledge of these
names distinguishes good people from bad.? The fundamental sin that we are
all guilty of to some extent is idolatry, violation of the 1st commandment - the
point again that Paul is making in Romans 1.? Christians can have
idolatrous Christian images?- e.g., the KKK's flaming cross.? But this
does not make Hindus, Wiccans &c any less idolators.? It seems to me
that OTOH you are?making the common mistake of using "idolatry" for only
the crassest forms of that sin & defining the more serious
away.??The serious ones are what God?spoke of to Ezekiel, "Son of
man, these people have taken their idols into their hearts," & what Calvin
meant when he said that the human imagination is a factory of




----- Original Message -----

From: "Jim Armstrong" <>

To: "ASA" <>

Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 2:15

Subject: Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens -
Surrending the debate

> epistemologically
> Sender:
Precedence: bulk
> Well, there's no question that we will differ
on this point. However, my
> sense is that the the reality of the divine
creator is neither defined
> by a name nor by the particular model one
might use for?
> conceptualization.
> With respect to
name, Creator God is who he is. "God" is just our
> particular name for a
supreme creative being who probably needs no name
> at all [the Bible
seeming to commend existence, "I am", rather than?
> title].
Nearly every human being recognizes the existence of such a supreme
being who is responsible for creation, and responsible for their
existence in specific. They have a variety of names for that being,
understandably embodied in their own language. We call Him (Her, It)
"God", but we use many other names as well (apparently numbering about
100 for the Abrahamic traditions, though mostly differing in language
specifics). Many of these we share with Judaism, and we are not troubled
by expressions like G-d or (the somewhat distorted) Jehovah, or probably
even "hashem" if its use is understood.? However, we would lose
> fellow travellers (though not all, particularly among
missionaries!), if
> we were to use a name from another Abrahamic
tradition like "Allah".
> And yet these are all conveniences of address
for the same Abrahamic
> God. Noteably, the choice among them does not
change the Creator in?
> any way.
> Though perhaps a
little harder to accept at the outset, by extension it
> would seem that
the name assigned to the divine one would have
> essentially nothing to do
with who God is in reality, or with the
> legitimacy of the quest of the
seeker who uses any particular
> (presumeably reverential) name. Our
Scripture puts it this way, "...for
> he that cometh to God must believe
that he is, and that he is a rewarder
> of them that diligently seek
him."? It does not say that we must come
> using the correct
> The model used for conceptualizing God is a somewhat
different matter.
> We all have a variety of understandings (even among
Christians who
> belong to one of some 30,000 identifiable denominations)
about the exact
> nature and character of the transcendant being that is
assigned our name
> "God". No two of these understandings are exactly
alike in detail,
> sometimes differing in very significant detail. But if
truth be told,
> even when we speak of "one God", we really don't know
with certainty
> whether it/he/she is just a single entity, or whether
this numbering
> thing even makes any sense with respect to the
transcendant nature of?
> God.
> In most of our
Christian traditions, we are taught to have a problem
> with people groups
making painted or wood or clay or stone images of
> what they think God
might look like. The images are idols and those who
> reverence them are
idolaters. We in our traditions prefer to stay with
> mental models, not
physical ones - but they are models nonetheless
> whether physical or
mental. If they are the "other guy's" models, we are
> inclined to call
them "idols". If they are ours, we call them "icons" or
> "art".

> But with perhaps rare exceptions, those objects of pigment or wood
> clay or stone are not the deities themselves, but representations.
> are our "icons" and "art".
> And that is true of our
mental models as well. They too - even the best
> or most acceptable-to-us
mental models - are essentially inferior
> representations, sharing
extreme shortfall with respect to the reality
> of transcendent God
(continuing to use our more familiar appellation).
> Most people
groups throughout the world have in common an understanding
> that they
specifically are a people that were created in special
> preferred
relationship and favor with that supreme being.
> At least some people
groups understand that that supreme being has also
> given them a special
task in the world (usually in the nature of
> conquerer or
> Most people groups have an understanding that they must do
> to stay in favor (avoid getting out of favor) with that
supreme being.
> But at the end of the day, none of the specifics
of these understandings
> have any effect whatsoever on who/what that
supreme being is in reality,
> the one whom they seek.
All of these people groups and individuals within them work the same
essential spiritual problem, namely how to conceptualize, relate to and
communicate with the transcendant being who is the Creator (to use
another name as an example).
> I think we can reasonably presume
that most are also sincere, whatever
> degree of devotion they might
manifest. But there is nothing in the
> preceeding distillation of
essentials that says they are seeking
> different supreme beings.

> What IS different (in some cases, clearly very different) is the
> side of the equation, the name(s), nature, story and
history,? holy
> writings, traditions, understanding of purpose, and
> Since every conceptualization of God varies down to
a specific
> individual, it is pretty clear that no human understanding of
> transcendant being and his/her/its nature and intent can be complete
> wholly accurate, even though those? purported 30,000
> Christian denominations (alone) are doing their best to do
so.? But in a
> broader view, so are the rest of the folks. It seems
to be our need for
> uniqueness (collective and individual ego, if you
will) that underlies
> the dismissive characterizing of other religions as
seeking (idolizing)
> something other than the true supreme being (God, in
our language). But
> each of those other people groups is equally quick to
affirm that their
> quest is for the "one true God", just as ours.

> A major difficulty in our time (and probably in all times) is - at
> core - how people act in the context of their version of the quest
> an all too common perversion of it).
> But that STILL has
nothing to do with the reality of the supreme being
> (God as we call
"him"), or his position as the "one true God".
> The crux of the
matter is that there is nothing that would? say that the
> prayers of
anyone intending to reach the "one true God" are somehow
> deflected by
what someone else might think or understand or say about
> them or their
prayers. We understand that to be a "direct line". Again,
> from Hebrews:
"...for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and
> that he is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek him."? The name "God"
> in the
passage is our name (and a translation at that), not in any
> measure the
full reality, but intended to point to that divine reality.
> In
this discussion, I had no intent at all to dismiss the specific
> tenets
of Christianity. What I speak of is the universal yearning for
understanding and relationship with the Creator. In that light, it seems
to me unnecessarily dismissive and alienating to categorize those who
seek the Creator with names and models different than ours as
"idolaters".? The apostle Paul evidently understood that. Such
dismissive characterization and labelling does nothing constructive to
"...draw all men unto ... [Him]"
> P.S. In the extreme case of
one who understands that the physical world
> is all there is, the label
is atheist, not idolater.
> Or so it seemeth to me

> Blessings - JimA
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Received on Wed Oct 31 23:09:13 2007

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