Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Monkeying Around with the Bible

"If man came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?"

Anyone care to answer that? That was the last line of a letter critical of our Evolution Sunday celebration. This letter to the editor in today's Elizabethton Star was in response to Saturday's article in the Star.

I am glad letters like this are written in the newspaper. I think we should talk about these things publicly. The monkey question is a legitimate question. My response is that I don't think science says we actually evolved from monkeys. We 'cousins' do have common ancestors. But the question leads to: "Why is there a diversity of species?" That is a good basic question.

One place to go for basic answers is ETSU's Gray Fossil Site. On their website is a nice introduction to Evolution. This museum is so important for our community.

I view the Bible differently from my colleague in some respects. I don't see the Bible as "the inerrant, unchangeable and infallible word of God." When we analyze how the Bible came to be, we know that it changed a great deal. That is why my congregation is reading the Bible cover to cover. [Advertisement: Excellent resources are found on Bible and Jive.]

But I do agree with him that the Bible "is meant to be used for personal growth in our relationship and service to God." That is why we both study it.

Anyway, thanks for the letter Pastor Largent. God Bless.

Here is his letter:

Editor:
I would like to respond to the article from the Friday, February 8 paper about the celebration of evolution. I was greatly troubled to hear that this topic is being supported from the pulpit of a church. If we as pastors are supporting and allowing this to be spoken of as being held with the same reverence as the Bible, from behind the sacred desk of God, then we are in complete and total error.

To say that evolution is God’s way of making the world as it is today is completely obtuse and asinine. As quoted in the paper — “While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook.” I believe that the Bible is the true word of God. It should be read as the only authority in our lives. It isn’t to be read like a textbook. The problem in the world today is that we separate our lives from the word of God. I think that if you are just using the Bible as a matter of faith and practice then you are not using it as God intended. It is meant to be used for personal growth in our relationship and service to God.

The article stated, “We the undersigned Christian clergy form many traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.” I think that the word of God clearly covers this coexistence, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:14-15 KJV. I believe that science proves what the Bible has already stated. God is an awesome God and creator of all things. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.” Colossians 1:16 KJV.

To place God’s wonderful design as being an evolutionary effect is to say that 20 different colors just came together all by themselves and made a beautiful work of art. Who are these different traditions anyway and how many are they? Traditions are just that, tradition. (Traditions are long-established customs that has the effect of unwritten law. Webster’s Dictionary). The Bible is not a tradition. It is the inerrant, unchangeable and infallible word of God. It is his written laws for our purpose and his guidance for our lives. It states that the truth and the truth shall stand. If you do not stand for something then you will fall for anything.

The pastor further stated that, “To resist this truth or to treat it as one theory among others is to embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such intolerance to our children.” I would rather be scientific ignorant and have my children as such than to be a conformer to the worldly view of evolution. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. But, I guess that I am too hubris (excessive pride or arrogance) to see it any other way. If man came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

Sincerely,
Greg Largent; Pastor

27 comments:

  1. In the 38th Chapter of Job, God shows how Job and friends made fools of themselves, "darkening His counsel with words without knowledge". He specifically excoriates Job, asking him, "where were you when I laid the foundations?" and so forth. Indeed, we once said zero carb sweeteners help you to lose weight. A new study shows that they may make you fat. Pluto was a planet, then it wasn't. Caffeine is good for you one year, bad the next.

    Evolution has some good points and some insurmountable problems. DNA was a death blow to the idea that information could be added little by little so small simple cells could evolve larger. We now know that that information was "front-loaded", changes in species come from dormant DNA that activates as needed. These needs are triggered by climate and atmospheric changes, but, unlike evolution theory which states Natural Selection as the cause, the cause is clearly the DNA that already contained the adaptative gene. No adaptative gene equals extinction.

    When asked if he could cite one example for a genetic mutation that increased the information in a genome evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was stumped.

    The debate is as wide open as ever. Instead of being an "in-your-face" Fred Flintstone creationist or a corresponding "in-your-face" Dawkins Darwinist, the logical alternative is to be humble and open-minded about such things.

    In future times, people will laugh at both the Fred Flintstone creationists AND the Evolution Sunday goof-offs of the Christian faith circa 2007 AD.

    But I do agree with him that the Bible "is meant to be used for personal growth in our relationship and service to God." That is why we both study it.

    At least we all agree this is true.

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  2. sigh*

    I'm torn. I love to respond to John's topics, but I hate the Creation/Evolution argument. Few ever explore the depths anyway (because there's never enough time in a day to discuss it), though John touched on it in the narrative.

    My views are these, in brief, because I can't stay up for three days talking about it without chemical assistance.

    1) I find the notion that we evolved from monkeys absurd. There is no solid evidence to that effect.
    I trust everyone is familiar with THIS theory in image?

    "Lucy" we know. "Modern Man" we know. For some reason, none of those other cats in between seem to be hanging around. Find the "Cats In Between" and I'll accept the Evolved from Monkeys theory. Simple as that. (Though I thought I saw Nebraska Man coming out of a Denney's at 3am in LA once.)
    Monkeys don't jump into phone booths and emerge as Donald Trump. There would have to be a long, drawn out process of generational evolution. I don't see that, and neither does anyone else.

    2) The fact that each individual species on the planet "evolves" in many ways to adapt to their surroundings is exactly that, a fact. Adapt, migrate, or perish.
    Who said that? ;)

    We evolve intellectually (well, liberals do anyway). If a dog owner moves from Florida to Minnesota, the dogs will be growing thicker coats in a year or two. Their puppies would most likely be born with thicker coats.
    "Evolution" goes on all around us every day...

    But it has nothing to do with faith.

    3) The reason I avoid the argument is simply because it's spiritually redundant. Even if we're an accident, some mind boggling after effect of an exploding star...
    Where'd the star come from? And from whence came the universe that contains it? Arguing in circles is not my idea of fun. :D

    If we descended from Cheetah (yes, Tarzan's Cheetah), does that make Jesus and the Power he proclaimed any less significant in our lives?
    Would His word of life be diminished just because our ancestors threw poop at each other for kicks and slept in trees?

    Though I fully respect the interest that many people have in this topic, and it is as John said "good to talk about it" in the interests of trying to be less polarized by it, I see the debate as one that accomplishes little more than awkward division and creating more questions than answers. No one has any physical proof that God created the universe, nor does anyone have any such proof that He didn't.

    The argument always leads nowhere when one side uses it to try and disprove the other.

    The Monkey Theory does not minimize my faith, nor does my faith minimize science's eternal search for answers one can touch. Therefore, we watch science and see where it leads us. All the while keeping the faith based on what we feel deep down inside.

    After all, if we really knew where the universe and all it contains came from, what difference would it really make?

    Here's something I found interesting on the subject.
    Science Daily

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  3. "Monkeys don't jump into phone booths and emerge as Donald Trump."

    True that. They are smart enough to know that would be going the wrong way!

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  4. Friends,

    That folks in the church disagree concerning this ID vs. macro-evolution issue should be about the least of our concerns together, IMO.

    (I honestly can't understand why folks get their "knickers in a twist" one way or the other.)

    We're having trouble agreeing concerning the content of the gospel, and the reality of the incarnation. Surely, these matters should be of greater concern to the church.

    Along with how we can walk out our faith in loving our neighbors as ourselves...

    Lord have mercy!

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  5. But, to come back, and jump into the evolution discussion. It's true that evolutionary theory doesn't teach that we came from monkeys, but that we both evolved from a common ancestor.

    But, I think a legitimate question to ask is why we don't see alot more evidence of transitional forms, even in the fossil record??

    And, btw, did anyone see Mad priest's discussion of this whole topic. It was as usual, for MP, humorous. But, what did you all think??

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  6. "Scientists decided that they were wrong when they assigned a rock in space a certain man-made category, therefore all scientists are always wrong."

    "I don't understand nucleic acids and how they work, therefore my lack of understanding means that no one understands them."

    "The adaptive gene"

    "I (not a biologist) think that evolution means that more information has to be added to chromosomes, therefore all evolutionary biologists think the same as I do."

    "Anyone who does not agree with me automatically agrees with everything ever said by Richard Dawkins."

    Yikes.

    Yes, the biggest problem is that most people don't know what they're talking about when it comes to this subject. When folks try to educate them, fingers get inserted in ears.

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  7. What I think is interesting about this letter to the editor is its proud proclamation of the author's ignorance. "I would rather be scientific (sic) ignorant". This is a bald admission of the author's own ignorance, and he seems to think that this is a good thing.

    And, contrary to Grace's position that it doesn't matter what position one takes on the subject, in fact it matters a big deal. For one thing, ignorance is not a good thing, contrary to what the good pastor asserts about how wonderful his own ignorance is. But the real problem here is not just that creationists are ignorant, but that they are anything but privately ignorant. They don't just sit back silently in their own ignorance; instead, they involve themselves in a concerted effort at spreading this ignorance throughout society. They are effectively trying to dumb down science education in our schools. They are turning the US into a nation of morons.

    But it is even worse than that; creationists are damaging the very reputation of religion, and they can and do turn people away from God. As a child, I was brainwashed into thinking that evolution was incompatible with the Bible and with a faith in God. Because I was interested in science I reached a crisis point in my teen years--I could either continue to embrace the religion of my upbringing and reject science, or I could take science seriously and reject my religion. I chose the latter. But what I didn't understand at the time was that this was a false dichotomy.

    God knows how many intelligent, thoughtful people, young or not so young, are driven away from religious faith because they associate religion with ignorance. And as long as certain Christians continue to assert that their faith is a house of cards that will collapse if evolution is true; and as long as certain Christians continue to say that they are proud of their ignorance, as the pastor who wrote this letter to the editor did--then there were be people who incorrectly assume this false dichotomy between faith and science.

    That is the real problem here. And that is why it really, deeply matters, that religion embrace evolution and science rather than actively oppose it, as so many religious conservatives do.

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  8. Another problem with discussing evolution is the assumption, as the letter writer in John's paper made, that evolution is a strict progression to a certain point, and all predecessors are obliged to die off instantly.

    Well, that's not the case. To use a really bad analogy, this assumes that evolution is like the Presidency: one is elected, serves a certain period of time, then leaves and is replaced by another. The idea is actually more like Congress: the makeup changes at every election as some people are reelected, some are voted out, some resign, etc. There are some who have been there forever and some who won't even make it one term. It's why we've only had 43 Presidents but 110 Congresses.

    So yes, some monkeys survive alongside humans. For reasons that aren't entirely clear (no one was taking notes at the time), our common ancestor does not. The misconception of "survival of the fittest", which was not Darwin's idea in the first place, has a lot to do with it. The fittest often don't survive. However, those better suited to their environment have a better probability of passing on their genes than those ill-suited to it. If you take a goldfish and put it in a tree, it will not survive. If you take same goldfish and put it in a freshwater pond, there's a greatly better chance of it surviving, but it could also be eaten by a raccoon. It doesn't mean that the fish isn't "fit" to live in a pond.

    And transitional forms abound. A bear looks nothing like a whale, but if you look from a bear to a sea lion to a seal to a manatee to a dolphin to a sperm whale to a humpback, and you can sort of get an idea of how it went. Cetaceans (dolphins & whales), sirenians (manatees) and pinnipeds (seals) each come from a different family (whales are related to pigs and hippos, manatees are related to elephants, seals are related to bears), but the paths of adaptation from land mammal to sea mammal had to be similar. Yes, whales have finger bones.

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  9. Thanks all. One of the reasons we need to discuss evolution in church is because evolution and science in general does create philosophical and theological challenges.

    It is important for the church to put the best of its collective mind to these challenges.

    The question for me is:

    Given evolution. Given science. How do we understand God? Until I get that order correct, I will either regard theology as an enemy of science or regard science as irrelevant and exist in my own theological bubble.

    Neither option is good. At least for me. Apparently, at least for many others.

    If folks don't like the conversation, then don't join it. It will continue regardless of whether people like it or not.

    If I have anything to say about it, it will happen IN church.

    What are some of the theological/philosophical problems that evolutionary science raises for theology and philosophy?

    1) How does God, if God does, intervene?
    2) What does it mean to be in the image of God?
    3) How can, if we can, speak of a purpose?
    4) How do we understand Divine goodness and Divine power?

    Pick a favorite or add your own! These questions will be with us for some time!

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  10. Interesting analogy, Flycandler, with Presidents versus Congress. I would only add a further refinement to it. In some cases, it would be as if part of Congress left and formed a new Congress in another capital--sort of like what happened in the case of the Confederacy. Then the compositions of the two legislatures would diverge over time because they were no longer in contact with one another. This is an analogy with the ways that some local populations would become isolated from others. Eldridge and Gould used to argue that speciation took place quite rapidly when local populations get isolated from the parent population. In any case, the result is that the original source legislature (Washington) continues to exist while the new one from which it sprang (in Richmond) would evolve in its own way.

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  11. Oh, I don't know guys. I definitely can't go along with any "young earth" theories. But, I"m not completely sold on macro-evolution, either. I'm just not certain one way or the other. Wishy washy, that's me. About this subject, anyway. (LOL) (I have no difficulty with natural variation among species(micro-evolution.)

    See this intelligent comment by Jim Jordon, here. Of course, I"m not a scientist, so I"m not about to debate this with anyone who is.

    But, Mystical, I've never met a person in my life who refused, in the long run, to become a follower of Jesus Christ because some Christians happen to believe in ID.

    I think everyone knows there is a diversity of opinion out there even among the most orthodox thinkers in the church.

    And, anyone who feels that unless special creation is true, the gospel is false, doesn't really understand the Christian faith. (I just think the whole thing is like a "red herring."

    I personally can see no trouble at all with presenting all the evidence and opinions out there to our young people, and just open the discussion. What could be wrong with that?

    The truth will eventually become self-evident, and win out.

    My opinion, anyway..

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  12. John, I absolutely agree. The fact of evolution does have theological implications. It tells us something about God's activity, God's modus operandi, God's methods, how God relates to the world.

    The solution to the problem is not to run away from these questions with our hands covering our eyes and ears, as the creationist Christians do. The solution is to face these questions head on. Religious faith per se is not threatened by the fact of evolution, but neither can faith ignore the realities of the world either.

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  13. But, Mystical, I've never met a person in my life who refused, in the long run, to become a follower of Jesus Christ because some Christians happen to believe in ID.

    You need to get around more, Grace.

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  14. Good questions, and probably a better debate.
    1) How does God, if God does, intervene?
    He obviously does and doesn't. It depends but He is not limited. In Scripture we see Him use earthquakes, floods, babies, angels and miracles.
    2) What does it mean to be in the image of God?
    The spiritual image - conscience, free will, reason, etc. There are obvious concerns in taking the Genesis accounts of man's origins literally. If that garden was on this planet, I think the flaming sword would have shown up on Google Earth by now. Maybe its hidden with the WMDs..same country. (That's a joke, Flycandler)
    3) How can, if we can, speak of a purpose?
    DNA shows someone had a purpose. Imagine a software program that adjusts itself as needed. We are not even close to that yet. I doubt we'll ever see Steve Jobs unveil something like that.
    4) How do we understand Divine goodness and Divine power?
    James 1:27 Dg and good luck on Dp.

    I think we need to remember that we do not have all the answers. When we try to convince ourselves that we do have all the answers, we send Christians out into the world who soon realize the emperor has no clothes.

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  15. Grace, understand that Jim Jordan is not a scientist and has no formal training in biology.
    ---
    Jim, I've said it to you before and I'll say it again: just because you don't understand how something works doesn't mean that God sat down with pencil and paper and worked it out down to the molecular level. DNA transcription is really not that complicated if you've studied biology at all.

    I understand why you're confusing the issue: the holy grail for evolution deniers is to find an "irreducible complexity", since Darwin sort of acknowledged in a backhanded way that it might be the only way to disprove his theory. In The Origin of Species, he wrote "if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not have possibly been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case."

    Creationists have used this "loophole" to try to manufacture such a complexity and thus blow up the entire theory. Well, science doesn't work that way. Even the evolution of DNA can be understood by looking at less complex systems (like RNA) and at the amino acids that both molecules code.

    The fascinating thing is how creationists cling to this sentence of Darwin as if it were Scripture.

    ---

    John, you're absolutely right. The church has GOT to get in on this conservation rather than pretending it doesn't exist.

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  16. **I would rather be scientific ignorant and have my children as such than to be a conformer to the worldly view of evolution.**

    I would be concerned about the broader implications of this statement. What does this say about his views in terms of genetics? Or medicine? Or astrophysics? Or anything that possibly contradicts his understanding of the Bible? If this is a dominanet view in the US, how long before we're making no advances whatsoever in any scientific field?

    The way I read this statement is that the man discourages his children from critical thinking, or letting the evidence decide the outcome. Instead, they must already have the outcome in mind. We're in Iraq right now because of that mindset.

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  17. John, you're absolutely right. The church has GOT to get in on this conservation (sic - conversation) rather than pretending it doesn't exist.

    This is very true. The church should want to avoid the type of bunker mentality we see in many churches and parachurch groups.

    Fly, you do believe in creationism insofar as God created, no? Or do you believe God created the universe and life happened by chance?

    There should also be some common ground among Christians even if it's really basic.

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  19. My personal opinion is that evolution answers the question of "how" but not necessarily "why". I don't discount the possibility that an omniscient God would know precisely the end result of billions of years of evolution. I believe in a God that knows what God is doing (even if we don't).

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  21. In the 38th Chapter of Job, God shows how Job and friends made fools of themselves.

    A close reading of Job also teaches us that early Jewish beliefs held that disease was a curse from God (a familiar claim made by some fundamentalist Christians about AIDS today) and that wealth was an indicator of righteousness and poverty unrighteousness. Yet, Job proclaimed his innocence in the face of such ignorance anyway. More like Job made fools of his friends and their foolish beliefs about God ;-)

    DNA was a death blow to the idea that information could be added little by little so small simple cells could evolve larger.

    Jim Jordon is simply parroting creationists propaganda here. Genetic variation occurs in a variety of forms, ranging from single point mutations, to exon shuffling, gene duplication, whole genome duplication, polyploidy, etc.

    We now know that that information was "front-loaded", changes in species come from dormant DNA that activates as needed.

    Here he is parroting Behe ;-) It is not as simple as creationists wished it was. The problem is that creationist propaganda clouds real issues under discussion and debate, and thereby loses sight of the real issues in theoretical biology that are attempting to understand the "how" question.

    When asked if he could cite one example for a genetic mutation that increased the information in a genome evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was stumped.

    I am no fan of Dawkins, but the link above is a perfect example of how low and unethical creationists will stoop in their propaganda crusade to discredit the idea of evolution. And it is hardly intelligent to spread misleading and dishonest propaganda in the name of intelligent discussion, such as Jim Jordon's link to Dawkins does above. Such disingenuous misrepresentation of facts and truth is a typical ploy used by creationists, and only other creationists are fooled.

    Dawkins Hoax Revealed!

    There are plenty of examples of genetic mutations increasing "information" in the genome, from gene duplication to whole genome duplication, all of which are documented in comparative genomics.

    The debate is as wide open as ever.

    Such misleading and unethical ploys as creationists use are hardly intelligent debate, let alone intelligently designed ;-) The real intelligent debate is going on within theoretical evolutionary biology, among practicing scientists.

    In future times, people will laugh at both the Fred Flintstone creationists.

    They are laughing now ;-)

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  22. So what is the point about creation, Rob? There is no Creator? Forget my so-called "creationist propaganda", do you believe in a Creator?

    The closing point of my last two comments is the same: There should also be some common ground among Christians even if it's really basic.

    Thanks for clarifying that, Fly.

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  23. I"m not completely sold on macro-evolution, ... I have no difficulty with natural variation among species (micro-evolution.)

    Of course, by "macro-evolution" creationists mean the transformation from one form to another by means of strictly natural and wholly biological genetic variation; i.e., common descent with modification. This amounts to denying organic evolution took place, which in turn amounts to denying the factual reality that it did take place. Only those who are uninformed (by choice or otherwise) of the evidence and/or don't understand it fail to realize that there is a difference between the fact organic evolution occurred and the theoretical (i.e., theory part) mechanism(s) which are the underlying biological causes of evolutionary change. There is a lively, and very interesting debate going on within the scientific field regarding the causal mechanism(s), but there is absolutely no doubt in the minds of those who are informed and understand the evidence of the fact that organic evolution occurred.

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  24. So what is the point about creation, Rob? There is no Creator? Forget my so-called "creationist propaganda", do you believe in a Creator?

    Why forget the creationist propaganda you posted about Dawkins, for after all, you posted it? It is a distortion of truth; a misrepresentation of fact. The real question Jim is this: If God is Spirit and God is Truth, how do creationists honor the God of Truth by dishonoring truth itself with such distortions of truth?

    Jesus said God is Spirit and God is Truth. It seems to honor this God of Truth we should seek to fairly represent the truth and refrain from disingenuous misrepresentations of the facts and truth or the views of others, even one's so-called opponents. Sadly, creationists regularly resort to such mischaracterizations of facts and distortions of truth in their effort to refute the fact of organic evolution.

    Evolution and science in general does create philosophical and theological challenges.

    John is right, and in my view the truth can never be found unless one is willing to honestly and frankly face those philosophical and theological challenges by facing facts honestly.

    Jesus' teachings and living spiritual faith lead me to the insight spoken long ago by prophets of old, when they said "God created the heavens and formed the earth; he established the universe and created this world not in vain; he formed it to be inhabited."

    I trust that through living faith and the love of truth, we will not only find the living God by faith, but through science increasingly discover "how" this wonderful God of love and wisdom actually created on the biological level (i.e., those natural biological mechanisms) evolutionary animals capable of evolving into the realizing of both the fact of evolution and the truth of faith sonship/daughtership with God. What a great adventure to not fear the truth, but to embrace it with joy, and pursue it with all ones heart.

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  25. That's more like it Rob. I think it's a good idea to start discussions with that premise; "this is what I believe about God, now let's talk about the details".

    That could nip many a church fight in the bud.
    :-)

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  26. Until someone says that you're just "making an oath" and don't really mean it when you say "I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord".

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