Does God Have a Physical Body?

Comments from Shane Vander Hart’s site – concerning God and how he looks:

“God is also not bound to a particular space.  He is omnipresent.  If God were in a limited physical body like what is suggested by the LDS church then he could not be omnipresent” (Shane)

“My point is simply that neither “God is the spirit” nor “God is spirit” is representative of the original Greek. Both are equally inaccurate. Although handy, you simply cannot make the leap you have done.” (YHC)

“God has a spirit, yes, just like all the rest of us. But that does not preclude Him from having a physical body.” (Bryce)

“I cannot believe that God is anything but a physical, exalted and perfected person, for to do otherwise would create a God who is impersonal, unknowable, invisible, and intangible, and therefore incompatible with all of revealed holy writ, and one that cannot exist in the physical universe as we know it.” (Bryce)

“The Jews believed God was a man…The LDS, along with the ancient Jews and Hebrews, choose to interpret them literally as descriptions of the literal nature of God.” (Bryce)

“but if I do say this then I have to admit God is limited – that is the obvious part of the debate. God would no longer be omni-present for one thing – so He is not everywhere at the least” (SVS)

“Clearly Christ, with a physical body, has characteristics of omniscience and omnipresence that we do not fully understand with our finite minds” (Bryce)

“Logic will not serve us in defining God. I prefer to let Him remain a mystery.” (YHC)

“True – but then doesn’t giving God a body make Him definable to us on some level? We can brush logic aside if we want (I choose not to) – but if someone tells me that God has a body – well I can relate on some level (so do I). So we enter a dialogue in which mystery is not so mysterious anymore” (SVS)

“The bigger question would be – are we creating God in our image and not the other way around? If you ask me – humans have been doing this since the earliest writings on religion – making God look like us somehow. It’s odd but the very 1st commandment to Moses is ‘have no graven image’ – which raises a question – does God even have an image we can look at?” (SVS)

“But if God appears as all He truly is – I think no human would both know and recognize God – nor would they know how to relate to God (since God is not a human being – I think we are all clear on that idea)…and was Moses and the writers only writing the best way they can to explain this image and idea of God? I mean – they were human themself and needed to write to make sure the people who read might ‘get it’.” (SVS)

What do you think – does God have a physical body?

Literal and Meaning

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.” (Matt 23:5)

Wikipedia: Tefillin, (Hebrew: תפילין), also called phylacteries, are two black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with biblical verses. The arm-tefillin, or shel yad, is worn on the upper arm, while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. They serve as a “sign” and “remembrance” that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. According to Jewish Law, they should be worn during weekday morning prayer services.

The sources provided for tefillin in the Torah are from vague verses. The following verse from the shema states:

“And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes” (Deut 6:8)

Here is an example of an idea that we can discuss that is taken to some literal form – yet I think contains ‘deeper meaning’ also – the phylacteries concept.

Nowhere in scripture is the idea of phylacteries seen as a bad thing – it is a ‘just is’ thing. For me, the idea seems simple – they are to be in 2 places – your hands and on your head. If I stick to the literal – I am doing an act of rememberance – which is in and of it self a nice thing. If I think upon it deeper, could it be the idea is pointing to remembering the teachings of God in our minds (to memorize) and in our hands (to do them)?

After hearing about how literal the bible is – I am not sure just sticking to the literal will provide all the meaning we need for some action. I am thinking even the literal action of wearing the phylacteries is a sign of something more deep than just some outward symbol. Maybe in that action we pay homage to Torah – the teachings – to both be studious and to ‘live by them’.

Just doing the action can become a routine – and eventually mean nothing without more to it than just a ‘literal meaning’. This is the school of thought I am coming from on ideas we bounce around the net about teachings in the gospels (and this one is from the Tanakh) – even literal has to have more to it than ‘just do and prove your trust in God’.

Paul relates something (and I am paraphrasing here) that makes sense concerning growth in faith – ‘when I was a child I ate as a child, but now that I am an adult I eat like an adult’. Literal ideas might be the start of one’s faith journey – but to not flesh those out in the long haul will leave an adult eating/thinking like a child. That’s all I am saying.

Pardes’n Me…

Thanks to Yael for showing me this aspect of Rabbinical Judaism and a methodology of looking at passages of scripture – Pardes.

The Pardes typology describes 4 different approaches to Biblical exegesis in rabbinic Judaism. The name, sometimes also spelled PaRDeS is an acronym for the 4 approaches:

  • Pshat (פְּשָׁט) — the “simple meaning” of a verse or passage
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) — “hints” of a deeper meaning beyond just the literal words
  • Drash (דְּרַשׁ) — “interpretation”; unraveling midrashic meaning by comparing words and forms in the passage to similar occurrences elsewhere
  • Sod (סוֹד) — the “secret” or mystical meaning of a passage, as given through inspiration or revelation

I have noticed that this method allows for various meanings from one single passage and allows for each person to sit at the table to discuss that passage (as equals). Some might find just a literal meaning, some might find a mystic meaning, while others search for a ‘deeper meaning’ within the passage. All in all – it allows for passages to speak on many levels other than just a single idea.

Demonstration #1 (ask and you shall recieve – prayer idea)

– Literally, simply ask (pray/action) and you will recieve (outcome) from God

– Interpretation, can also mean ask (pray/action) involves us and what we believe (action on our part) – so as to see the recieve (outcome) from God – prayer can mean in between asking and recieving there is involvement of us.

– Mystically it can mean that the action (praying) draws us closer to God (the giver) via the spiritual connection developed in the action itself.

Demonstration #2 (The Word becomes Flesh)

– Literally, simply can mean Jesus (word of God becomes a human person)

– Interpretation, can also mean it is applicable to all of us. John could be using this as an outline for his writings as a way to reflect the gospel breaking into human reality. The word (biblical teachings) becomes flesh (through us living those ideas out).

– Mystically, it can mean this idea goes way back to the God-head – the words of God which existed from the beginning – were spoken – and found their way from this essence – which later becomes Jesus. Somehow in this contact with the teachings we are interacting with God.

Now I find the methodology very useful because it gives us more than just a literal sense to a passage (and I never even got into the wordplay aspect of this – which I think Yael is almost an expert at) and allows us to see more than just ‘one thing’. I think within faith systems this is very important because I have seen literalness become a very rigid system to which all must obey – yet it is in the literal component I see the least coming forth from the teachings – more needs to be fleshed out. Now mine were simple examples, and I am sure there are lots of others way of looking at those passages, but that’s where I see the glory of this method – you’re more than welcome to speak also.

Not saying we will find concensus on what the passage is saying but we will find that the teachings we bring forth are what is important. I have merely taken sentences and shown they can be extrapolated from for ‘more to a meaning’ from a passage. I think this is good – and this is what I shoot for in my studies – both in studying a passage and in blogging on ideas.

Christian View on Re-Marriage?

I am borrowing this from Steve Scott’s blog on Fundamentalism in 5 various churches (A-AB-B-C-D):

“I was married and divorced before my conversion.

(1) Church “A” held that the bible taught in no uncertain terms that divorce was forbidden for any reason (even the biblical ones!), and once divorced, there was to be no remarriage as long as the spouse was alive. Those who remarried were guilty of adultery, and no adulterer shall inherit eternal life. God didn’t even recognize divorce, so I was actually still married to my ex-wife. 

(2) When I arrived at church “C”, I told them of my situation, never suspecting their answer. They held that because my ex divorced me, and that it occurred before my conversion that I was free to remarry, but only to a Christian woman. Now I was confused. They also mixed this with the verse in Genesis where God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” and almost held that it was my duty to get married again, telling me to start looking. They also condemned “A” for their beliefs.

(3) As if this weren’t confusing enough, friends within “AB” held (along with “A”) that God didn’t recognize divorce, and also believed that I was still married to her, and that my duty was still to my wife and that I was obligated to reconcile with her, even though an unbeliever. They condemned “C”.

(4) Distraught, I talked to a pastor within the “B” circle, and he told me I was free to remarry. He condemned both “A” and “C” for their beliefs.

(5) Once at church “D”, I asked them, and they said also that I was free to remarry. I became interested in a woman. But this particular woman posed a problem for both “AB” and “B”. She was a nurse who wanted to become a missionary. But for “B”, their fundamentalism included semantic garbage about a missionary only being a man (according to the bible of course)…Then, her parents, who held to the same as “A” while attending a church that believed like “D”, found out about my previous marriage. They used the scarlet “a” word and banned me from their house. Later on, they did some study and changed their position. I never married her, which I now know was the best thing, because I’m now married to Mrs. Scott.”

But I have to ask plainly – what is the Christian stance on divorce and re-marriage? Here are the passages (Mark 10:2-12 is so similar to Matthew I excluded it):

Matt 5:31-32 “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery”

Matt 19:7-9: “They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Luke 16:18: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”

I Corinthians 7:10-11: “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife”

Believe in ‘Smoke and Mirrors’

I think the church is confused with what ‘belief’ actually means. The church uses the definition of belief as ‘what you think on something’ – I think this is in fact mis-guided and misses the way it is used in the gospel.

I think the gospel writers used belief as something ‘you do because you value it’. It’s not that works defines faith, but works are part of your belief set. To me, a belief without an action to it – is not a real belief – it’s like smoke and mirrors – magic – because you think with that belief you did something when in fact you did not (ex: Trinity is real).

Our faith has become severely mis-guided and wants to point fingers at people that don’t ‘think’ like them – dividing people up. Problem is, this is exactly the opposite effect Jesus actual teachings actually have – so I am not sure most people in churches aren’t turning schizo on some level. We see a Jesus talking about people being defined as ‘what you do’ and then we have a faith that says ‘believe what he did’ (which is actually doing nothing and saying you did something).

I have stated it is more important what you do with what you think is truth than what you actually think is truth – and I think this is gospelic viewpoint. Jesus talks about ‘building’ a foundation from his teachings or the idea of the tree’s ‘bearing’ fruit – it’s all about producing. If the centre of your faith is about belief – believing what exactly?

I recently had a talk with another person (Gene) about the 6 ministers being financially looked at by a person from the US Senate (our new tax collecter/Samaritan in this scenario). Here is how it summed up for me: “On the other hand, it’s still the Rod of God. God using pagans to keep his people in line.” (Gene)…”Think of this Gene – if he’s using pagans to help Christians ‘see the light’ on this issue – then aren’t the pagans more enlightened – since they knew what was right and did it? What does that say about the comparison of pagan and Christian? Interesting.” (SVS)

That example in and of itself shows what I am talking about here…that gospelic viewpoint on belief. I think the other ‘thoughts’ about God are fun but they produce nothing in the end…and to think they do is wishful…so maybe we need to call them ‘thoughts about who God is’ and not beliefs. I rest my foot on the idea that this simple premise would permeate Christian faith again and endue it with a real living perspective.

Free Speech – The Line Dance

I just finished commenting on a religious show (insight) about the idea of when ‘free speech becomes a hate crime’. The show was concerned with the right of a political party to speak their mind and propose their plan of action concerning homosexuality in Canada. For me, I have no problem with the actual conversation with the whole premise (ie: free speech in discussion) but I have to draw a line in the sand – when does your speech actually cross that line?

Firstly, the question needed to be clarified to ‘when does free speech become hate speech’ (not crime)…that’s comparing the same thing. For me ‘hate speech’ is when someone espouses ‘discriminatory dislike or threats’ about a certain group. If someone can logically state why they do not like a certain group then are free to discuss that – I am not sure that is hateful. It is when that logic does not line up or someone demeans a group for no good reason we start to see some semblance of hate speech.

The people on the program were from a political party and based their agenda on statistics and medical journals for their platform on the gay lifestyle. As far as that discussion goes – I am not sure it is hate speech. For me, since they never said what the actual line was in hate speech, the problem comes when you start calling the gay lifestyle an addiction and base part of your political platform on ‘dealing with that addiction’. To be fair, they never stated to treat gay people badly or anything – but their platform does draw a divisive line in which one has to figure out what they mean by their platform.

Hate speech becomes a true problem when it starts to become an action plan – and action based on limited knowledge of the problem or biased opinions creates blurred vision. The plan may be quite simple – to ban gay marriage via law (then I am not sure that’s hate). But since addictions are defined as ‘not normal’ then what is next in the path to ‘dealing with that addiction’? Are we talking jails here? What level of tolerance towards gay people becomes acceptable after something like this is passed? This is where I see real ethical problems with the whole stance.

The platform, being not really clear, makes people decide what is meant to be done with this ‘addiction’. The party compared it to alcoholism – and the way that addiction is dealt with. Alcohol is a legal substance in Canada – but it is a substance (not a person). They are trying to make the point being gay is not internal but external to the person (and even if it is internal – these are defects that cause problems). What is the cure then? Are they gonna subject gay people to medical testing? The true issue is this is gay is defined as being a problem – not normal – and needs to be ‘dealt with’…that my friends is called discrimination.

So the question is – when does free speech cross a line into hate speech – and when does hate speech become a problem in society?

It’s Just Words…

New update on the Colorado shooting – Here are some of the things that stand out:

“is believed to have posted the message on a Web site for people who have left evangelical religious groups…”You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray wrote, according to the station, which did not identify the site. “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”

“The language in the post is almost identical to the text of a manifesto written by Eric Harris, one of the teens who carried out the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School”

“”It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God,” she said, her hands trembling as she recounted the shooting during a news conference”

“attended a home-based computer school and worked at his computer for three to five hours a day for the past two years…A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as “very, very religious.”

What is worth considering is that this disgruntled youth spent time on-line for the last 2 years and was being involved in conversations with people who left Evangelicalism – likely were atheists or simply de-converts. He also was raised in a Fundamentalist home which helped to develop the polarization of his beliefs – so when he left the faith – he likely swung far to the other side of the debate.

I am not sure what he was hearing/discussing in those rooms he attended but it led him down a path of more hatred – and not reason or balance. Oddly enough, they compare him with one of the kids from Columbine in regard to his views (which to me are only clearly explained in one curent debate I see on-line).

For me this serves as a polemic against both sides in that debate and an ‘achtung’ sign to warn us about our language we use. I have castigated both sides in the debate at various times for their language being used – one side fuelling the hatred from within and the other fueling it from without – which leaves some people truly torn and unsure of what is meant to happen next…since all the messaging seems so volatile – the next step could very well be violence.

This incident should have Christians discussing their faith and what seems to happen when someone leaves (or is booted) and how that person is treated (is it with acceptance or criticism?). I think for the atheist side of this convo what needs to be considered is the rhetoric being used against people of the faith and ideas used (ex: faith is a disease).

I feel deeply saddened by the whole thing because I have been on-line 2 years also – and have debated with a lot of people from all aspects of faith and non-faith – and I don’t really need to imagine what that kid was hearing – and that’s the part I hate about this – somehow we were flaming a fire this kid could not control. Let’s start to put this kind of stuff out.

PS: On a side note I was also discussing gun control/war and this faith for the last few months