Noah’s Ark Fail

God’s biggest fail in the Bible is Noah’s Ark and the Flood. 

And it caused me to lose my Christian faith.

A very kind, generous, and well-intended Christian friend gave my family some toys their child outgrew and it included a Noah’s Ark clock intended to be hung in a child’s bedroom (pictured above). In the center of the clock is a bald, 60-ish Noah with a long white beard holding a large green golf umbrella on the deck of the Ark. A male zebra stands to Noah’s right and a female zebra to his left. Behind the male zebra two giraffes twist their necks so we can see their confused faces and behind the female zebra one self-conscious elephant who doesn’t seem to know what to do with his trunk squeezes into the scene. There are three portholes in the ark. The first has a pair of snakes assessing two nervous blue birds. The second porthole features a baboon couple with school picture smiles. The third porthole has two human-sized, enigmatic bunnies staring creepily out the window (Donnie Darko allusion?).  The happy ship bobs in the water beneath a huge rainbow framing the scene.

The Precious Moments cuteness of the Noah’s Ark scene that decorates many Evangelical Christian baby bedrooms and church nurseries censors crucial details from the biblical account. Hysterical mothers holding up babies pleading with Noah to save their baby do not appear. Neither do the bloated bodies of children floating face down in the water. We don’t see men and women scrambling up trees and hills to prolong their lives by a few more moments, hours, or days. Also missing is the 600 pound pile of dung the elephants produced that day. And that is just the elephants. Evangelical Christians repress the biblical account of the twisted sadistic actions of their psychopath God into a saccharine sweet story for babies.

I believed in a Literal, Historical Noah’s Ark & Flood Until I was 50

Noah’s Ark and the flood increasingly conflicted with what I believed to be historically, scientifically, and ethically true. But I continued to believe in a Historical Noah until I was 50 years old. Sometimes I feel so stupid for having believed this for so long. But I’m not stupid. I have one undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees. I am very curious, read and learn constantly. As pretentious as it sounds, I think of myself as an intellectual. I summarized below the reasons I sustained a belief in a Historical Noah for the first 50 years of my life:

The Bible was the perfect, inspired Word of God without Error

I believed the Bible was the most compelling and influential book in human history. I believed there was extensive manuscript evidence that proved the Bible I studied essentially represented the writing of the original authors. I believed that God supernaturally superintended the writing and preservation of the biblical texts, protecting them from error.

The Prophets affirmed a Historical Noah & the Flood

The priest and prophet Ezekiel affirmed a historical Noah when he wrote 500-600 years before Jesus in Ezekiel 14:12-14:

“The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men – Noah, Daniel, and Job – were in it, they could only save themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

The 8th century B.C. prophet Isaiah affirmed a historical Noah when he wrote in Isaiah 54:6-9:

“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer. 

To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.”

Jesus affirmed a Historical Noah & the Flood

In Luke 4:35 Luke lists Noah as a member of Jesus’ genealogy.  “…the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech…”

Jesus himself affirms Noah, Noah’s Ark, and the Flood in Luke 17:26-27: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Similar passage in Matthew 24:37-39)

My Evangelical Logical Construct

My basic logical construct was:

The Bible is True + Jesus is God = If Jesus said Noah is true it must be true.

What about all of the logical problems with Noah, Noah’s Ark, and the Flood?

Universal Remedy: God can do anything. 

Then This Logic Stopped Working for Me

I became increasingly uncomfortable with the giant leaps of faith and the benefits of the doubt my Evangelical Christian faith required of me. And the idea that explanations would be provided in heaven no longer comforted me. As a general rule, if someone tells you it will all be explained to you after you die you should be very suspicious!

My new standard of belief became:

Each truth claim must stand on its own. 

With this new requirement I began facing my doubts about Noah’s Flood one by one.

First, I will deal with Noah’s Flood’s Rational Problems. Then I will deal with Noah’s Flood’s Moral Problems. And finally I examine the Theological Problems.

(Author’s note: Most of the stats and many ideas for this section of the blog post were sourced from the excellent but definitely crude Youtube video from Dark Matter 2525 Atheist Comedy – The Great Flood. If you have better statistics please refer me to your source.)

Rational Problem Number One: How did all the animals fit on the Ark?

What is the most famous ship in human history besides Noah’s Ark? That’s right. The  Titanic. Because the Titanic is such a familiar reference let’s compare the Titanic to Noah’s Ark.

Titanic                                                                              

Size: 175′ high x 882′ long x 92′ wide

Capacity: 3,597 people

Provisions: a few weeks

Noah’s Ark

Size: 45′ high x 450′ long x 75′ wide

Capacity: 17, 400 birds, 12,000 reptiles, 2,000,0000 insects, 8 humans (including one 600 year old man)

Provisions: for 370 days

Let’s use the largest zoo in the world for another familiar reference. The San Diego Zoo has 4,000 animals and the San Diego Zoo is on 400 acres of land.

Genesis Chapter 6 says the Ark has 3 decks. The picture is just thousands and thousands of animals milling about. There simply isn’t room. You would pretty much need to dedicate one deck to the really huge animals: elephants, gorillas, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, lions, bears, ostriches, wolves, crocodiles, kangaroos, moose, hogs, walruses, and camels. If you believe in a literal Noah then you would probably also need to include some dinosaurs in there. Then you have one deck left for every other living thing and one deck left to store millions of pounds of food without refrigeration. Even Marie Kondo could not tidy this place up and make it work!

Rational Problem Number Two: How did Noah take care of all of these animals?

Let’s ignore the impossibility of fitting 9,000 mammals on the Ark. How would you feed them? Two elephants eat 365,000 pounds of food per year. Two giraffes eat 54,750 pounds of food per year. Two hippos eat 65,700 pounds of food per year. Two lions eat 16,060 pounds of food per year. Where do you store all of this food for these and the other 9,990 mammals, 12,000 reptiles, 17,400 birds, 5,000 amphibians, 2,000,000 insects, and 8 humans.

And ignoring the impossibility of fitting the animals on the Ark and ignoring the impossibility of storing all of the food for the animals on the Ark, how do you go about actually feeding all of these animals? The San Diego Zoo has 1,785 employees. It would be impossible for 8 humans working 24 hours per day to feed all of the animals on the Ark. And what about the poop? The two elephants alone will produce 600 pounds of dung everyday. Even if the 8 humans shoveled poop 24 hours per day the poop would be piling up much faster than it could ever be shoveled out. Animals below deck would literally drown in their poop.

Rational Problem Number Three: There is not enough water in the world for a world wide flood.

There is simply not enough water in the world for a flood that covers the earth, much less a flood that would submerge Mt. Everest by 20 feet. And if there was a flood it would never subside because there would be nowhere for the water to go. Water doesn’t simply disappear, it has to run off somewhere. If the entire earth is submerged in water 30,000 feet deep that water is there permanently.

Rational Problem Number Four: The occupants would freeze to death or suffocate due to the elevation.

Genesis 7:17-21 “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished – birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had breath of life in its nostrils died.”

Let’s overlook the impossibility of flooding the entire earth. What if it actually happened? Mt. Everest towers above the rest of the earth at 29,029 feet tall. According to the book of Genesis the flood waters were 20 feet above that. The ‘Death Zone’ begins at 26,247 feet. At this altitude there is 33% less oxygen. Mountain climbers do not spend more than 16-20 hours in the death zone. Once you enter the Death Zone your body is beginning the process of dying. Well, Noah and his passengers spent months at that altitude. If they didn’t suffocate they would certainly have frozen to death in the sub zero temperatures.

Rational Problem Number Five: How would Noah and the animal life survive after getting off the Ark?

Let’s ignore:

  • the impossibility of getting the animals on the Ark.
  • the impossibility of caring for the animals.
  • the impossibility of flooding the entire earth
  • the impossibility of surviving the elevation.

Now let’s focus on the impossibility of life surviving on earth after the flood.

Even though he was lucky enough to have floated pretty much back to the exact place he started, when Noah opened the door of the Ark 370 days later he would not have recognized the landscape before his eyes. Virtually all plant life has been destroyed. Even most sea life would be dead due to mixing of salt water and fresh water and changing water pressure, sunlight, and filtration.

The now 601 year old Noah says to the 7 other humans, “Release the animals.” 9,000 mammals and 17,400 birds and 12,000 reptiles and 5,000 amphibians and 2,000,000 insects waddle and flap and leap and crawl and hop their way out of the Ark. Then the carnage begins. The lions eat the gazelles and the tigers consume the pigs. The owls snap up the mice and the hawks snatch the rabbits. The elephants and the giraffes are confused. The bees buzz around in vain. Species go extinct every few minutes. Herbivores are starving to death. The earth cannot sustain life and a male and a female from each species are not enough to preserve  the earth.

Rational Problem Number Six: Kangaroos and Koala Bears

And how did the kangaroos and koala bears get back to Australia? That is a long swim for a koala bear. Australia actually has 3,000 endemic vertebrate animals. The website ‘Answers in Genesis’ provides one possible explanation:

“There is little secret, therefore, how nonflying animals may have traveled to the outer parts of the world after the Flood. Many of them could have floated on vast floating logs, left-overs from the massive pre-Flood forests that were ripped up during the Flood and likely remained afloat for many decades on the world’s oceans, transported by world currents.”

Oh my goodness.

When you start with the conclusion you can back your way into all kinds of ridiculous explanations.

Now let’s get into the moral problem of Noah and the Flood…

Moral Problem: If God drowned all life on Earth God is a Sadistic, Incompetent, Psychopath

We know who did it. God proudly confesses to Mass Murder in Genesis.

In any murder, especially a mass murder, we want to understand the murderer’s motive. God reveals his motive in Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.”

Is killing everyone the best solution?

God created the Universe and everything in it and the best solution God can come up with is killing everyone? If everyone is evil this sounds more like a CREATION problem than a HUMAN problem. There is something wrong with the system that God created. And if God is going to kill everyone he at least will do it in a humane and painless way. Won’t he? They all die in their sleep. Perhaps a universal massive heart attack. Or maybe everyone just disappears? Surely God devised a method that reflects some empathy?

What does God’s method of murder tell us about God?

God drowns everyone. And all of the animals and birds and insects. God drowns the new born babies. God drowns the one year olds just learning to walk. Two year olds just starting to express themselves verbally. God drowns the mentally ill and those will special needs. God drowns everyone. Everyone is evil.

What do you call someone who seeks out inflicting pain on others? What do you call someone who wants to see women holding up their babies pleading with Noah to save them? What do call a God who wants people to struggle and scratch and claw to avoid their inevitable drowning? What do you call a God who wants to see the bodies floating in the water?

You call that God a sadistic psychopath.

Well that is disturbing, but….

….at least God killing everyone fixed the problem….right?

God selected Noah as the new hope for the human race. Surely God picked the right man for the job!

The world changing results of God killing everyone and everything clearly justified the carnage, right?

Incorrect.

God is not only a sadistic psychopath.

God is incompetent.

At the beginning of Genesis 9 God is pronouncing a blessing on Noah and giving him Adam’s mission to reproduce and take dominion over the earth. By the end of Chapter 9 Noah is drunk and his son Ham ‘saw his father’s nakedness’. We are not sure if that is a cultural offense or a euphemism for something else. Regardless, Noah pronounces a terrible curse upon his son Ham, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” I am not sure what all this means exactly but it isn’t good and the downward spiral has begun.

God killed everyone and everything on the planet in order to start over with Noah and these are the results we get! God as depicted in this text is an idiot!

Theological Problems: This Proves The Bible is Not the Word of God and Jesus is Wrong

The Bible refers to Noah as a historical person and the Flood as a historical event in Genesis, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Hebrews, and 1st & 2nd Peter. Luke lists Noah in Jesus’ genealogy. If Noah is not a historical person Noah could not be in Jesus’ genealogy. And Jesus compares his imminent return to judge the world to God’s judgement of the world through Noah’s flood judgement.

The problems with Noah takes down pillars of the Evangelical Christian faith:

  • The Bible refers to Noah as a historical person and the Flood as a historical event in Genesis, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Hebrews, and 1st & 2nd Peter.
  • This means Genesis is in error and cannot be without error.
  • This means the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel are in error.
  • If Luke lists Noah in Jesus’ genealogy Luke’s history is in error.
  • Jesus cannot be perfect or God if he believed Noah and the Flood were historical events.
  • Hebrews is in error if it teaches Noah and the Flood as historical events.
  • 1st & 2nd Peter are in error if they present Noah and the Flood as historical events .
  • The Bible cannot be the perfect Word of God without error if Genesis, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Hebrews, and 1st & 2nd Peter are in error.
  • Jesus cannot be God or Messiah because he is imperfect.

If you believe Noah, the Ark, and the Flood are historical something is wrong. Unless there was a miracle!

From Junior High on I lived in a suburb north of Dallas. I can remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Hembree, announcing on the first day of biology that he didn’t teach evolution because it was a bunch of….and then Mr. Hembree blew a raspberry. I am probably the last generation to grow up with this kind of ‘anti-science’ attitude. I am 54 and many Evangelical Christians my age still feel comfortable simply dismissing scientific claims. Blowing even settled science a raspberry. But this generation is fading and a new generation is emerging that places a high value on science, information, and data.

If you believe in a historical Noah you simply haven’t examined the information that is easily accessible. Twenty five years ago it would have been very time consuming and expensive to research this. I would have been spending time in the basement of college libraries reading microfiche. I would have been ordering obscure articles and books through the mail. But now all of this information is a google away. The facts are crystal clear. The story of Noah is absolutely impossible.

But what if there was a miracle? Well one miracle wouldn’t do it. It took one miracle to get the animals to the Ark and a second miracle to shut the door. A plethora of miracles applied liberally to the entire Noah narrative would enable Noah’s Ark to reach the plausibility of Santa Claus or the Chicago Bears finding a quarterback. A Costco-sized can of miracles is not a plausible explanation.

The story of Noah and the Flood as a pagan myth is a plausible explanation. There are several Ancient Near East Flood Myths. But here is what is unique about the Noah myth in Genesis 8:20-22. Ancient people were terrified of their God. Their mercurial God was always killing them and leaving them to guess why: flood, famine, drought, the neighboring tribe. And in order to calm down their hot-headed God sacrifice was required. But how much sacrifice was enough? A goat…a bull…ten bulls…100 cattle…a person…a son…a daughter? Watch what happens when Noah immediately offers God a sacrifice after getting off the Ark:

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

This is obviously still a primitive, pagan presentation of God. God is highly anthropomorphized in this text. God smells the smoke of the burnt offering and is pleased by it. God seems soothed by it. Then God promises He will never drown everybody again. And the sign of this promise is the rainbow God causes to appear after every rainstorm.

While still very pagan, we see a developing idea of a different way to relate to God. Maybe there can be stability in this relationship. Maybe there are some predictability…some guarantees…some promises…a relational commitment.

And just because Noah’s Ark and the flood are not historical events doesn’t mean there isn’t a God. And just because the Bible is a very human book doesn’t mean there is no value in it. And just because Jesus was very human doesn’t mean Jesus wasn’t one of the most influential people in human history. And just because your beliefs are wrong doesn’t mean that your experiences are not true.

For more on that idea see True Experiences, False Beliefs.

APPENDIX:  Brilliant Responses to Reader Questions & Counter Arguments 

I have been debating how much do I want to research and address the various defenses of a literal, historical belief in Noah’s Flood. The whole Young Earth Creationist thing is more than a belief system. It is a sub-culture similar to the recent emergence of Flat Earthers.  The speculations and theories are endless because all of them ultimately appeal to miracles and completely implausible and scientifically uncorroborated ‘natural’ explanations. Appealing to miracles is like writing a Superman movie. There is no situation you can create that Superman cannot Superman his way out of. Superman spun the world backwards to bring Lois Lane back to life in the 1978 movie. And it is the same with a miraculous God. God creates an morally abhorrent judgement plan but God is allowed to do it because God cannot be judged. Then God decides he must drown everyone, which is totally stupid, so it requires countless miracle upon miracle upon miracle for it to work.  But let me respond to a couple of the most common responses .

Common Response Number 1: It was a Regional Flood

I remember mentioning to a professor in seminary that I was beginning to think Noah’s world wide flood didn’t make sense. My professor said that some people were beginning to think it was a regional flood and that the word earth was referring to the known world in the region. I remember thinking that seemed like a reasonable possibility. A Regional Flood seemed to present more realistic scientific scenario while still managing to kill all of the people and animals in the World of Noah.  There was enough there at face value to enable me to repress my doubts for a few more years.

And that is what most Evangelicals who reference the Regional Flood Theory do. It has a surface logic to it and they don’t really think it through. But the Regional Flood has to meet some exacting requirements to work. The Flood has to be big enough to kill everyone in the Ancient Near East. That means you have to figure out a way that it would rain intensely enough for the waters to continue to rise to the height of 20 feet above the tallest mountain in the Ancient Near East while it was running off at the edges of the Region. Some estimates say it would need to be at a water pressure similar to a fire hose. And that creates many of its own problems.  And why would a Regional Flood require any Ark at all? Instead of having all the animals hike to the Ark why didn’t God could just have them hike out of the region. Same with Noah. Just point Noah and his seven family members in a direction and give them a few weeks head start. And why would there be birds on the Ark for a Regional Flood?  And then the whole mythic purpose of the Noah narrative seems to be that God would never drown the wold again. Well regional floods have happened frequently in history.  Is the promise of the rainbow that God will only do small to medium floods but not large regional floods? And when Jesus says his final judgement will be like the regional flood of Noah….what does that mean exactly?

Common Response Number 2: It was some combination of a stack of miracles not mentioned in the Bible and highly improbable natural explanations of which there is absolutely no evidence (this addresses pretty much everything from Ken Ham, The Ark Encounter, Answers in Genesis, and Kent Hovind)

Here is a sampler of these arguments:

  • How did all of the animal life fit on the Ark? God caused two sets of parents of every animal, reptile, etc…to walk to the ark and then have babies which then got onto the ark in pairs. Young Earther Creationists would, of course, include baby dinosaurs. That is how there was room for all of the animal life on the Ark.
  • How did all the animal life unique to Australia get to Australia after the flood? The kangaroos and koala bears floated on trees to Australia because there were a bunch of uprooted trees floating in the ocean for a long time after the flood.
  • What did the animals eat after they got of the ark? They ate the gelled remains of dead animals that had been buried during the flood. I guess the gelled remains tasted so good that the lions did not want to eat the gazelles.
  • Where did all of the extra water needed for the flood come from? According to Kent Hovind a giant 300 degrees below zero meteor fractured and large pieces hit the north and south poles and penetrated the crust of the earth releasing a torrent of water from deep within the planet. This meteor also caused a bunch of other things that I simply do not feel like typing out. If this makes sense to you and you want to learn more about Hovind’s ideas first make sure that you took your medicine and then Google Kent Hovind.
  • How was wild animal behavior managed? All of the animals hibernated for the entire trip.
  • Where did all of the water go after the flood? During the seven months the water’s receded Pangaea was broken up and the continents pushed into roughly their current locations, the continents rose and the ocean floors sunk.
  • How did Noah deal with the completely overwhelming structural, design, and process impossibilities? Noah constructed a mind bogglingly sophisticated Ark design that is better than anything Sir James Dyson could come up with, made completely of wood,  and that is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.

These arguments could only be considered plausible if you were already convinced that Noah’s Ark was literal history. You can only reverse engineer your way into beliefs. There is literally no support in the scientific community for any of these explanations. But what can you expect from a bunch of secular scientist clearly in the service of Satan?

God Did It!

God Did It!

After I published my blog post The Problem of Evil Resolved I had several people recommend that I check out Process Theology and the book God Can’t by Thomas Oord. After some initial explorations into Process Theology it seems clear that Process Theology seeks to resolve two Gigantic Theological Problems:

  1. The Problem of Evil – Process Theology asserts that God is not responsible for the evil in the Universe. According to Process Theology control/coercion is not possible for God due to God’s Moral Nature and/or God’s Non-Materiality. PT (abbreviating Process Theology from here on out) asserts that it is not God’s Moral Nature to coerce individuals even if that individual is a toddler running in front of an oncoming car. And/or God does not have the physical capability, i.e. God doesn’t have hands, feet, a body, or any material connection to the material world, that would enable God to save the toddler from the oncoming car. And apparently God’s ability to engage human consciousness is very limited and cannot be objectively detected. God cannot connect with the consciousness of the parents and communicate an urgent thought from God that their child is running into the street.
  2. The Un-Necessariness of God – We can trace the chain of cause and effect back to within a second or so of the Big Bang. Everything we analyze and examine has a place in this exploding web of cause and effect. There is simply no space for God in human history. PT remedies by saying that God is in everything and is able to call or lure all aspects of Universe. The higher the consciousness and intelligence of the various elements, organic systems, and life forms the higher the potential for collaborative work with the Divine.

The Problems with Process Theology:

  1. PT Wants to Process it’s Cake and Have It, Too

PT seeks to absolve God of the Problem of Evil by asserting God has no involvement in the evils of the day due to the limitations of a non-material and a non-coercive being. But if God is non-coercive how did everything get here in the first place? PT says that God and the Universe are Co-Eternal and inseparable. C. Robert Mesle says that, “It has taken God billions of years to draw the world through an evolutionary process capable of sustaining human beings.” Well this still makes God culpable as creator. Just because it takes a long time from a human perspective doesn’t make God less culpable. God is simply less efficient. Whether it is Ex Nihilo or Ex A Really Long Time, God is still culpable. God is the only variable outside of Natural Process exerting upon creation and life in a specific direction according to a concrete set of values. God is still the only Potter and the material world is the Clay.

2. If God and the Universe are Eternal all Processes completed an Eternity Ago

If God and the Universe are eternal all potential possibilities actualized an eternity ago  Possibilities apparently infinite from a human perspective are not actually infinite. If God and the Universe are Eternal all possibilities have been resolved. The future is not open because all possibilities have been eternally exhausted.

3. The PT God looks suspiciously like a Universe Without God

Everything in the world can be explained by natural processes. God lures quarks in a way that is statistically identical to a world where God is not luring quarks. PT attempts to make a space for God in the natural world by saying God is the natural world. Yet the world that God is and inhabits functions independently of God and has no space for God.

Conclusion: The Process Theology God has No Explanatory Power

Because the PT God has no space in the material and lures the material world and its sentient life below the level of consciousness with undetectable efficacious effect there is absolutely no evidence of this God. Process Theology merely enables one to maintain a ‘belief’ in God at a semantic level but practically speaking directs people to live Ethically Naturalistic lives.

(Author’s note: My ideas of Process Theology come from reading C. Robert Mesle’s book Process Theology, listening to Thomas Oord being interviewed on Peter Enn’s The Bible for Normal People podcast, and from random Google-ish and Youtube-ish sources I cannot recall.)

 

 

 

I Know More than Jesus

“Are you smarter than Jesus?”

Every month or so someone from my Evangelical Christian past finds out that I am no longer a Christian and ‘reaches out to me’. Actually, it happened today.

Usually it is an out of the blue Facebook message. Most follow this format:

  1. It starts with a compliment. Usually something like “You have such a beautiful family, Chris.” (That is a nice start.)
  2. A recollection of my past as a passionate, outspoken, Evangelical Christian. “Chris, you really made a difference…”
  3. An expression of sadness. “That is why I am so sad to learn that you have fallen away from your belief in Jesus….”
  4. A simplistic speculation of cause, “Was I hurt by a women? Was I hurt by the church? Do I want to indulge in some long suppressed sin…Are you gay? Did you leave Jesus for a young, beautiful wife?
  5. An exhortation to return to Jesus. They often seem to believe that a few sentences from them will cause the scales to fall from my eyes and I will dissolve into heaving sobs of repentance and renewed love for Jesus.

Today I responded to one such friend’s speculations with the words of the prophet Jimmy Buffet, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame…but I know….it’s my own damn fault.”

Then I tell them that I started researching my doubts and I left my Christian faith because of the historical problems, the textual problems, the ethical problems, and the pagan depictions of God I discovered. When they then assume I am an atheist I refer them to my blog post, True Experiences False Beliefs.

At this point my Evangelical friend’s head is about to explode with outrage.

“Is your conscience more tender than Jesus’?”

Or this is a common one:

“You obviously never knew the Jesus I know!”

Or a version of today’s response:

“Are you smarter than Jesus?”

Well, in many ways I am smarter than Jesus. Jesus didn’t know Algebra or photosynthesis. Jesus didn’t know the world was round or that Alaska existed. Jesus didn’t know the Law of Gravity or Germ Theory. If you dropped me into Galilee in Jesus’ day I would instantly be The World’s Most Interesting Man. First of all at 5′ 11″ I would be the Shaquille O’Neil of the Roman Empire. The average height of ancient Romans was ranged from 5 feet to 5′ 4″. So that would be awesome. And then people would travel from around the world to hear me teach. I need to refresh my memory on how to make penicillin just in case this actually happens.

I also have unprecedented access to information that Jesus couldn’t have imagined. I just googled great ancient thinkers and spent about 10 minutes familiarizing myself with Epicureanism. I always thought it was synonymous with Hedonism. Not really. Epicurus thought, according to Wikipedia, “…that people were best able to pursue philosophy by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.” And some other interesting stuff I will look into later.

My point is that as brilliant as Jesus was he was still a man of his times. His teaching is worthy of consideration, study, and discussion. But we have learned a lot of stuff in the intervening centuries and it is completely appropriate to challenge his insights just as we do with Plato and Epicurus. And remember Jesus died in his early 30’s. How would his thinking have evolved in his 40’s, 50’s, and beyond? In my view it is an expression of respect to challenge and test Jesus’ teaching. That means I have taken them seriously. And if something is true it withstands examination.

So how do these Facebook Messenger communications with Evangelical friends end?

Too often like this one.

Let’s see…I believe we are on point 6 of the formula:

6. Express concern and outrage that not only am I going to hell but that I am actively seeking to send other people to hell. (They always seem to forget that they initiated the discussion.)

7. After a final 3 or 4 paragraph sarcastic diatribe they block me on Facebook.

8. (I had to add this the day after I wrote Step 7) They unblock you the next day to send a hate-filled message that you are Judas, an apologist for the anti-Christ, and that you were blocked because they don’t like looking at ‘roadkill’. Not even sure what that means.

The fear, the isolation, and the irrationality of Evangelical Christianity leads to hate sprinkled with Splenda and served with Shit-Eating Grins.

The Plausibility of God

I am a member of several online atheists groups where atheists debate with people who have some level of belief in “God” (not necessarily the ‘Christian God’). The most frequent response to an argument for God is:

“PROVE IT!!!”

Or if the person is a little more thoughtful they might respond along the lines of:

“An argument that has no evidence is imagination and nothing more.”

Let me start by making a concession:

I cannot empirically prove God. 

I have never seen God.

I have never heard God.

I do not have a picture of God.

I cannot tell you where God is located.

I have not even experienced a miracle that could not be plausibly explained by coincidence. God has never made a pile of gold coins appear out of thin air. I have not seen God grow a new limb on an amputee and I have not seen any body of water parted.

OK.

But I do believe God is plausible.

“You are kidding, right? Can you argue a universe farting pixie into existence? Do try as an exercise.”

Relax!

Try to hear me out.

(That is an actual response to one of my posts.)

First, Don’t Over Estimate Your Scientific Knowledge

I appreciate the Scientific Method, the value of data, and all of the progress since The Renaissance. I do not want to return to the Dark Ages. I repudiate the Fundamentalist expression of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Fox News. And I also repudiate Materialistic Fundamentalism.

Science has tremendous value. But much of what is scientific certainty one decade is an cringe worthy a decade later. In the 1990’s I ate Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast with skim milk because it was fat-free and fortified with vitamins. Even Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are questioned. All I am saying is that scientific understanding is constantly building and evolving. Advancement in scientific understanding does not mean certain knowledge. There are simply too many variables.

So the demand to “PROVE IT!!!” is really an expression of binary reductionism. Simplistic black & white thinking. It would be nice if the world could be divided into what is proven and disproven, but human knowledge actually is a spectrum of plausibility and probability.

Second, “God” is a Plausible Cause for the Universe and Everything In It

It is reasonable to look at your children and nature and human consciousness and social dynamics and ask, “Where did this all come from? What caused all of this?”

It is then reasonable to speculate on a reasonable, sufficient, non-contingent cause of the Universe and everything in it.

It is then reasonable to speculate that the reasonable, sufficient, non-contingent cause must contain certain qualities to produce the Universe that is.

I must admit I am partial to Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz’s argument from contingency:

  1. Every contingent fact has an explanation.
  2. There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
  3. Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
  4. This explanation must involve a necessary being.
  5. This necessary being is God.

(The above formulation is from Baylor University Philosophy Professor Alexander Pruss.)

I like Dr. William Lane Craig’s list of attributes of such a being:

“The extremely powerful, uncaused, necessarily existing, non-contingent, immaterial, non-physical, eternal being, who created the entire universe, and everything in it.”

And I think it is a Universe Farting Pixie!!!!!

OK. Let me address what I will call the “Universe Farting Pixie Fallacy”.

Atheists often confuse possibility with plausibility. A certain type of atheist likes to say “Zeus helped me find a parking spot today.” Or “I will pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for you.” The implication is that because Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster are silly possibilities they are equally plausible to Lebniz’s Necessary Being.

This is obviously illogical.

Unless Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is your name for “The extremely powerful, uncaused, necessarily existing, non-contingent, immaterial, non-physical, eternal being, who created the entire universe, and everything in it.”

Third, “God” is Plausible because it is Ubiquitous Historically and Currently

After glancing at stats online it appears that approximately:

  • 3-6% of the world is atheist or agnostic.
  • 10-20% of the world are non-religious.
  • The rest are religious.

It is natural for humans to have a belief in ‘God’ and to formulate religious practices. For this phenomena to so naturally occur across time, race, culture, and politics provides plausible evidence of God. Experience is evidence.

I was a Fundamentalist Christian in my youth. Then I was an Evangelical Christian for decades. I even earned an MDiv and was a pastor for a few years. Then I was a Liberal Christian for about 6 months. Then I no longer believed Christianity was true.

But I still believe in God.

Why?

Fourth, God is Plausible Because of the Ubiquity of Powerful Spiritual Experiences

Now that I think about it….maybe I can prove God empirically. 

Empirically: by means of observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

What keeps me on this spiritual journey is the powerful and positive spiritual experiences I have had and still have. Experiences that make me a more peaceful, loving, self-controlled, and wise person.

And it isn’t just me. There is a massive amount of data on the spiritual experiences of humans. And it is repeatable. And there is remarkable consistency. As a matter of fact, one of the things that triggered my initial doubts about Christianity was meeting a bunch of people my faith considered ‘lost and going to hell’ who were having the same powerful spiritual experiences I was having.

I have known over a thousand people personally whose lives have been changed by God. Their God may be named Jesus. Or Muhammed. Or a God without a precise theological definition. Or simply a Higher Power. But I cannot deny what I have experienced and what I have seen others experience.

And I believe it is Plausible that there is a ‘God’ behind these experiences.

Could You Be Wrong, Christopher?

Yes.

Of course.

But so could you.

I have to choose beliefs to guide my life. And I believe one measure of the truth of beliefs is the quality of life those beliefs produce. Jesus said, “But Wisdom is proved right by all her children.” I believe a reasonable belief in God produces the best life. Certainly for me.

And beliefs should reflect reality. And the reality I experience and see all around me includes the spiritual. To not believe in God would be to deny the reality all around me.

Plausibility then Personal Experimentation

When I go to “The Lovely Thai” restaurant in Grayslake, IL the first thing I do when selecting an entree is establish plausibility. I read the description on the to go menu. I ask to see the menu with the pictures. I ask the owner to reference their personal experience regarding a specific dish (It’s great!). Once plausibility is established there is only one way to resolve the issue. Of course I could measure and weigh and touch the entree. But that really doesn’t resolve things for me. It is just more information. Knowledge is in direct experience with the dish.

I have to taste it.

I think the same is true for God. I am not interested in tasting “The Flying Spaghetti Monster”, “Zeus”, “The Universe Farting Pixie”, or “Eric the Necessary Being Eating Penguin”. I suppose these are possibilities but not plausible ones. But the Necessary Being (The extremely powerful, uncaused, necessarily existing, non-contingent, immaterial, non-physical, eternal being, who created the entire universe, and everything in it) is plausible.

Let’s dig in.

 

 

 

 

Problem of Evil Resolved

Last night my wife wanted to go to a Christmas party that would require me to make small talk with a bunch of people I didn’t know for several hours.

I decided to stay home alone and resolve the Problem of Evil.

And here is the Resolution:

God is Functionally Non-Omnipotent. 

Considering the experience of our daily lives and atrocities that occur on a daily basis it is obvious that a Good God is not in control of daily events. From car accidents to cancer, child abuse to cholera, tsunamis to schizophrenia,  and from terrorism to racism, sexism and corruption the world is full of pain and evil.

Yet there is love and beauty and kindness and generosity. There is moral progress gained by courage and sacrifice. There are cures and treatments and therapies and solutions and technological advancement. There are powerful personal transformations. There are epiphanies and life changing enlightenment. There is cooperation and community. There are signs of transcendence and a Higher Power everywhere.

There is a carefully landscaped Garden overgrown and full of weeds.

A Da Vinci’s Gran Cavallo. A masterpiece abandoned in the planning stages.

What I am actually solving for is not the answer to “The Problem of Evil”. I am solving for the answer to “The Problem of Simultaneous Good and Evil that cannot be explained solely by Darwinian Self-Interest”.

A compelling explanation is that God is Functionally Non-Omnipotent. It is impossible to know if God is actually limited or has chosen limits. If God has chosen these limits it is impossible to know why these particular limitations were chosen. We can speculate but those speculations are always ultimately unsatisfying to say the least.

God always works for good in any and all situations. The calling for humans is to cooperate with God in the progressive mitigation and elimination of pain and evil while promoting love, peace, health, and human flourishing.

God doesn’t dictate instructions and solutions. God only works at the level of spirit to inspire, transform, and guide. God is present and works in that space between stimulus and response called consciousness. But God cannot override natural law and cause and effect.

God is the Invisible Hand guiding us through awareness and expanded consciousness. God cannot ‘zap us’ into expanded consciousness. It only comes spiritually and organically.

In all of this a God Algorithm calculates God’s engagement vs. God’s limitations. God is always working for the most possible good within the parameters of the God Algorithm.

The only path to peace that I can see is to accept life on life’s terms and trust that there is an ultimately reasonable, loving and beautiful explanation. As we accept reality and surrender to Life we increasingly open ourselves to God to be guided and shaped into humans who are expanding Love and solving Pain and Evil.

I Miss Worship

I sleep in on Sunday’s now.

As I stumbled down the hallway towards the light coming from the kitchen this morning the melody of a popular Evangelical worship song slowly penetrated my “I am not a morning person” brain fog. My wife’s pitchy soprano kicked in on the chorus, “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to….”.

Simultaneous reactions:

  1. I have a PTSD reaction. I am feeling manipulated. All the repugnant ideas of a God requiring death and blood and violence to satisfy his wrath and ‘holiness’ and that the horrific act is somehow ‘proof’ of how much God ‘loves’ me. The idea of being ‘saved’. ‘Saved’ from the Eternal Conscious Torment created by a depraved, pagan God.
  2. I can tell my wife is enjoying singing the worship song. It is meaningful to her. Am I forcing my path on her? I spent 5 decades worshiping like this. Who am I to deny her this?
  3. I miss worship.  I can’t participate in Christian worship anymore. The message is too full of things I find morally repulsive and irrational. The “Good News” of Christianity sounds like “Toxic, Dysfuntional, Pagan News” to me. But I do miss the experiences of connection with God that I used to have in personal and church worship.

Unitarian Universalist Worship

I have tried worshiping at our local Unitarian Universalist church. And I will probably try again. But their strength is their weakness. I went to choir practice once. The lyrics of one song were redacted from “Spirit” to “Love”. The UU’s careful avoidance of dogma and belief in God results in lyrics of vague, inoffensive, life affirming sentimentalism. Songs without spiritual traction to connect with my spirit.

Kirtan Worship

I discovered the Kirtan music of Krishna Das. The songs are simply chants of the names of God in Hindi or Sanskrit. I traveled to Madison, WI to see Krishna Das perform live. Between 500 to 1,000 people were packed into a Lutheran church. I felt an immediate spirit of camaraderie with the people sitting around me. I was reminded of some of my more powerful Evangelical worship experiences. The simple singing of the names of God avoids the specific dogma that ejects me from the worship experience. It is simple communion with God through music and singing in community.

If you want to check out Krishna Das I would recommend this Youtube video of his live performance of Baba Hanuman:

 

Cloud Cult Worship

I have found several bands that supplement my need for spiritual music that used to be filled by Contemporary Christian Music. Music from John Lennon, George Harrison, and some Beatles’ music. “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls. A band that has been especially important to me is Minnesota band “Cloud Cult”. I traveled to Duluth, MN this summer with my family to see Cloud Cult live. Very earnest, intelligent, spiritual and musically interesting. I stood in the front of the stage with other hard-core fans with my hands raised and tears streaming down my face as they performed this song:

Group Meditation

Sometimes I go around the corner to “The Yoga Effect”. They have a free community meditation every Sunday morning. There is really nothing special about it. It is a simple guided meditation. But I always “feel it” when I meditate with other people. There is a different energy.

A La Carte Worship

Right now I am practicing “A La Carte” worship. There are many reasons for this. I am not settled enough in my beliefs or lack of beliefs to commit to an organization. And I am deeply suspicious of religious organizations. Religious organizations seem so hopelessly and inherently focused on sustaining their own existence. Keeping the machine running. Making payroll. Putting butts in seats. And like so many people, time is scarce as I am hustling multiple jobs to pay the bills.

But I do have a longing for a worship community. A worship community that does not have an organization behind it. A worship community that is not a weekly concert. Worship that is organic, heartfelt, earnest, and dogma-free.

Jesus’ Return ‘Left Behind’ the Environment

Conservative Christians’ treat the planet like a rental car with full insurance coverage because of their belief in the imminent “Rapture” of “Saved” Christians and the return of Jesus. Conservative Christian have “Left Behind” the Environment.

Do you see what I did there?

If you do not have an Evangelical Christian background you may not be familiar with the phenomenon that is the “Left Behind” book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

“Left Behind” is a book series built on conservative Christian ‘end times’ theology (eschatology) that all Christian will be ‘raptured’ and disappear from the earth, the Anti-Christ will rise up and rule the one world order (possibly Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama or both) and then Jesus will return and establish his Millennial Reign on earth. This series of books sold, I am not making this up, 80 MILLION COPIES!!!!

It also spawned 4 movies. Nicolas Cage, inexplicably, chose to star in the last Left Behind movie that earned a “1%” green splat on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.

download

The success of “Left Behind” reveals the passionate commitment to a belief system about planet earth that not only causes apathy, but crusades against urgent actions needed to preserve a livable planet for our children.

Conservative Christians believe that the Earth has been Cursed

Conservative Christians believe that the earth was cursed by Adam and Eve’s rebellion and as a result the earth no longer functions as it was originally created. Global warning is inevitable Natural Evil resulting from The Fall along with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Genesis 3:17-19:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat from it all the days of your life. 

 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

To Conservative Christians this curse from God can only be resolved by Jesus’ return and God’s creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

 

The Worse the Environment Gets the More Conservative Christians believe Jesus’ Return is Imminent

The Apostle Paul taught that both humans and the planet earth are subject to frustration and in bondage to decay and that both are waiting to be liberated by God. When Conservative Christians see news reports of environmental decay it just confirms for them what the Bible describes. The Bible says that the only hope for humans and the planet earth is liberation from God. The Apostle Paul says in Romans Chapter 8:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Christians believe the louder the ‘groaning’ of the “pains of childbirth”, the closer they are to the return of Jesus. Global warming and natural disasters are just the final painful contractions of the mother just before the baby emerges.

Conservative Christians believe they have Apocalyptic Insurance

The planet earth is a rental for Conservative Christians. And Jesus Christ has given them Apocalyptic Insurance so they don’t have to worry about what happens to the rental. Conservative Christians believe they have been promised Jesus Christ will return for them before the planet becomes uninhabitable.

Second Peter is a letter written to Christians who were doubting Jesus’ return over 2,000 years ago:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

The Bible doesn’t instruct Christians to change the world or solve large scale problems. The Bible teaches that the world is on a Highway to Destruction with no exits. Christians must “hang on” and live “holy and godly lives” until the inevitable destruction of the cursed earth and the New and Permanent Earth replaces it.

Conservative Christians believe the Earth was intended for Consumption

Conservative Christians believe God gave the earth to humans and that humans are commanded by God to multiply and take dominion over the earth. The earth was to be exploited and consumed for the expansion of the human race. Humans were to rule the earth. Genesis 1:

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

Conservative Christians continue to push for increased short term consumption at the cost of the needs of future generations. There is a Theology of Consumption and Exploitation but Theories of Preservation and Nurture are largely absent in Conservative Christianity.

Conservative Christian believe Environmental Concern is Worshiping the Environment

The Bible forbids worshiping idols and “created things”. In Romans Chapter 1 the Apostle Paul warns:

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

For Conservative Christians God is not in Nature. God is not in the created world. Nature is corrupted and separate from God. Concern for the earth looks like Pantheism to many Christians. “Tree hugging” looks like idol worship.

Instead of seeing God ‘in’ Nature.

Instead of seeing Oneness.

Christians see “Other”. “Separate”. “Temporary”.

I Have Children

I have Evangelical friends who argue there is no proof of Global Warning and/or the causes of Global Warning. Here is my bottom line. I will die before this all gets out of hand. But I have 3 beautiful kids. I don’t want them living in a Mad Max movie. We have to go with the best scientific understanding we have. There is a scientific consensus about the causes of global warning. We must move forward with them aggressively. I am sure we will discover many errors along the way but we have to more forward with what we know. There is no benefit to doing nothing and the risks of inaction are enormous.

Evangelical friends. I know you believe Jesus is coming to rescue you. But Christians have been saying that for over 2,000 years now. If Jesus comes back you can tell me “I told you so.” I am sure God will deliver a message to me in Hell. But on the possibility that God continues to delay his return, don’t you want your kids to have the best life possible?

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