Contend Earnestly: What Does the Cross Symbolize for You?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Does the Cross Symbolize for You?

I was sent an email from one of my past students asking if I would share in a couple of sentences the following: Can you write a few sentences on what the cross symbolizes/represents to you that i can use as a quote for my speech? She is doing a paper, in a public school mind you, on the cross. So, here is my response, what would yours be?

The cross represents both the most tragic and yet most triumphant event in the history of our sinned stained world. I say most tragic because the cross shows how great our sin was that our Creator had only one choice to reconcile us to His side: Sending us His Son, the most high God, to die in the most brutal way, on the cross. The cross shows the depth of our sin, like an earthly judicial punishment shows a glimpse of the depth of a crime committed. I also say the most triumphant because the cross also represents the very event that brought us back into fellowship with our Creator. Without it, we would still be lost, but living in it, we, as Christians, see a triumphal victory where the war has been won and the Commander and Victor calls out to all, “Come you who are weary and find rest for your soul”


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's amazing, both, the fact that a girl is allowed to do a paper on Jesus Christ in a public school, the Seattle area?; and your thoughts.

Lately I have been asking each, Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost to let me experience what each of Them experienced during the trial and execution of Christ. It has given me a deeper sense of the Love of God for me and you, Their great anquish and suffering, each one for Jesus Christ!

Jesus, the One Who knew no sin becoming sin for us all the while God the Father's anquish and the Holy Ghost's anquish to experience such a separation from Him while He became sin and suffered our justifiable chastisements!

I want intimacy with each of Them. It is not easy to draw near when once you realize what each of Them suffered so that we do not have to be destroyed too!

Anonymous said...

The cross symbolizes a form of social control... Christianity. Just like all religion, faith is required to believe in it.

What is faith? Acceptance of something without evidence. People use to have faith that earthquakes were the result of sin. Now, overwhelming evidence shows that earthquakes are a result of tectonic plates moving across each other. People use to have faith that slavery was ok. Now we have evolved socially to understand that all people should have the same rights.

Hopefully people will continue to evolve socially and throw off the various methods that are used to control them, like religion.

I encourage you to step outside the mindframe that was handed to you by your community while growing up and rationally explore the idea of whether there really is a god or not.

I was a Christian when I started exploring that question. I have yet to find an answer, but along the way I have realized religion for what it really is... fiction.

Seth McBee said...

And don't leave out the fact that sense you are not all knowing that you have to have faith in yourself that you are right in your understanding.

And if we are going to use examples of sinful people to make claims on whether something is correct shall we bring up examples of atheists and atheistic societies?

Anonymous said...

The only thing I have faith in is that there is more to learn. I don't believe I have the right understanding, just the best one I can come up with so far. I'm open to new evidence and theories. I will allow my future opinions to be shaped by new facts and evidence and guided by my best judgement, even though my best judgement may be flawed in itself.

But seriously, when you can remove the religion colored glasses that you've been seeing the world through, even if just for a second, things look much more clear.

Since you brought it up, I'm interested to hear what you have to say about atheists and atheistic societies.

Seth McBee said...

John (I won't mention your last name, I will let you reveal that if you want)

I know that we know each other a little, but we weren't that close in college. So, when you make an assessment that I am only looking through religious glasses and have never looked outside them, is a bit of a step outside of what you know of me.

As far as atheistic societies, there is no need to bring up those times because I don't think that it really solves the main issues of what Christ or atheistic believers would purport as true.

So, for me to bring them up wouldn't discard what you believe as an atheist.

The reason I brought it up was to just show that just because some idiots thought slavery was okay, doesn't mean that Christ or the Bible is wrong.

And, all of our best judgments are flawed in themselves because we are inherently sinners and God even tells us:

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool...
Proverbs 28:26

I am also not sure what you mean that things look "much more clear" without Christ.

I would also be interested in why you feel as though you have the "right understanding" now, rather than what you believed before.

Don't worry bro...these aren't loaded questions, I am just curious.

If you want, we could also move this over email.

Let me know.

Hope all is well. Been a while since we have seen each other.

Anonymous said...

Hey Seth,

It's Jon Ray, as you know. I'm curious how you figured that out... I thought I had clicked anonymous. Not that I was trying to hide, just habit I guess...

It's been awhile! I don't think we've talked since college. You were in Marston with Shad and Ian, right?

What you said is true... I did make a broad assumption that you have never looked outside of your religious worldview. You also made an incorrect assumption about me... I'm not atheist. While I believe that most atheists have more integrity in their inquiry about whether god exists than most christians, I don't share their opinions about a lack of god.

You bring up what Christ or atheistic believers would purport as true, and I believe that is the core difference between our two positions. One position is based on ancient writings, and the other is based on proven science.

The Bible has no scientific traction, and the ideas purported by science are backed up by mountains of evidence. On one hand, you have ideas that are rigorously tested, experimented on, and line up perfectly with other proven ideas. On the other hand, you have a book written by several authors over a long space of time and arbitrarily stapled together by a group of medieval scholars. The only evidence that the ideas in the Bible are true come from the Bible itself. Yes, there are some historical accuracies found in the Bible, as any reasonable person would expect, but there is no evidence supporting the ideas to be true.

For example, prayer has been studied and proven to have zero effect on the recovery of surgical patients. (in one study, the patients who were prayed for actually recovered worse than the others) Some might say "It was the Will of God they didn't recover" and that God works in mysterious ways. It's very convenient to preach about the power of prayer, and then use a statement like that when it doesn't work, but there's no integrity in that argument.

Another example would be the idea of creation. Again, zero evidence for creation, mountains and mountains of evidence against it.

So, what is the source that can cause these two vastly different worldviews? One is an ancient book written by sheep herders, farmers and people with a 1900 year old education (at best). The other is a collaboration of hundreds of thousands of the best and brightest minds with a modern education using amazing tools like the computer.

One might argue that the sheep herders were inspired by God, but where is the proof or evidence of that? In the bible. Can you use the bible to prove that the bible is true? No. That would be like using a text book to prove the text book is true. To prove the ideas in a text book are true, you have to perform experiments, reference it to other text books, and consult a wide variety of different sources of knowledge to prove a particular text book is true.

An argument some might make against all this is layed out in the verse you quoted, and which I'll quote again... Proverbs 28:26 "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool...". This would imply that all the scientific reason in the world does not stand up to the Bible. If we don't trust our scientific reason, what are we supposed to trust? The Bible? And why trust the Bible? Because the Bible says to? So we should not question the authenticity and integrity of the Bible, because the Bible says not to. Does that make sense? Does circular reasoning make sense?

I agree with you that all of our best judgements are flawed in themselves. Where I differ though, is that I believe our judgements are flawed because we don't know better yet. The sinner argument assumes that you believe the ideas in the Bible... which are exactly what I'm calling into question.

To clarify, I didn't claim things look more clear without Christ, I said things look more clear without a religious worldview. That covers all religions. Things also look more clear without an atheistic worldview. Any assumption that you make about the world we are in will taint the way you see it.

I've found great happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction in simply living in the question of what god is, rather than assuming that I know. Even though I am constantly viewing the world through whatever color of glasses I happen to have on at the moment, each time I learn a new proven fact I see the world more clearly. Each time I accept a mere idea as true, I see the world less clearly.

I don't believe I have the "right understanding" and am not trying to prove anything one way or another. I'm open to the possibility that you are absolutely right, I just don't think it is likely. I am, however, interested in testing and expanding my views and knowledge on the topic.

A lot of people get really nasty when their beliefs are challenged, so I appreciate your attitude.

I always thought you were a pretty cool guy in college. I'm glad we've reconnected.

Anonymous said...


One other topic I wanted to touch on is the conversion experience that many christians have.

People that I love and trust have told me that they had an amazing experience where God revealed Himself to them. They said it went beyond explanation and was an amazing feeling and sense of connectedness.

I've never had such an experience involving a god, and can't discount it as being untrue. What I do know, though, is that for many people that experience is short-lived and fleeting. Many people who claimed to have that experience and to be saved are no different after the feeling wears off.

For many people, though, that feeling lasts and deeply affects their life and who they are.

I've been to several motivational conferences and seminars where I've come out feeling like a brand-new person. After a couple days, that feeling usually subsides as day-to-day life kicks in. A few times, the information presented has resonated really well with me, and that feeling has had a lasting impact on my life and is still with me.

I can't say for sure since I've never had the god-feeling, but I imagine it's about the same.

Seth McBee said...

Jon. put "JR" and I saw that who ever put the comment was from San Diego and was a Facebook friend. Wasn't hard to figure out :)

The reason I thought you were an atheist is simply because you put in your first comment the following:

I encourage you to step outside the mindframe that was handed to you by your community while growing up and rationally explore the idea of whether there really is a god or not

My bad.

You ask a lot of good questions, which looks like you have been doing some studying and reading a lot since we last conversed.

To deduce that the Bible has no scientific evidence is quite an overstatement, but even with that, we don't regard something as true or not by trying to always test it by science. It isn't that simple.

For works of iniquity we test it's works like we would any other work. This usually happens to test what it does state about science and see if it is true or not. Not sure if you have done this, but I know of nothing in the Bible that would disregard science in general. You would point to miracles, but there are many things that happen today that science can't test and would come up with a total ignorant answer on. Such as why certain cancer patients just all the sudden are healed...doesn't make sense scientifically, but we can't just say it didn't happen.

I think the better test of the Bible particularly is to test it like any other work of iniquity, where it stands quite above the others with manuscript evidence and the time between the original writings and the manuscripts themselves. If you look at the evidence Homer and Caesar's Gaelic wars don't even come close to the evidence put forth by the biblical ones.

The other ways that we test biblical literature in general, because it was written by so many different authors is to see if there is a theme and contradictions, which we definitely find a theme (even though we have 40 authors over 1500 years) and the contradictions that are in the Bible are so miniscule that if they were put forth in any other work they would be looked over in a heart beat.

Most historical researchers do not doubt the historical evidence found for the years that the Bible was written and therefore to look at the prophecies of Christ is very important as most of them came some where between 500 and 1000 years before his birth. To try and come up with mathematical probabilities at this point for Christ's fulfillment is overwhelming and close to impossible.

If you are actually positing that science solves all issues and proves there is no God, that is quite ignorant of the facts. How has it? I know you have drawn conclusions, but to use the term "prove" is quite the overstatement.

The big bang is definitely a theory, but is not truly proven. If it ever was you still have the question of how the compounds, etc. came into being. There are still many questions left unanswered with this theory and others put forth by many evolutionary and atheistic scientists. Many of them that are honest actually admit to this.

I understand your frustration with many you have probably come across in the Christian community where they just tell you to "believe" and you will be okay. God has given us many proofs of his existence.

One of the ways that we know he is there is just by his creation. Just as we know there was an architech because of the building before us, we can see the Creator because of the creation. I know this is oversimplified, but to just direct your thoughts to science and say that it answers all the questions that Christians could not, is not the right conclusion as a whole.

I don't expect to answer all your questions in a comment thread. I am also not a great scientific mind that can answer all your questions about science. I can however answer questions based on the Bible and in the end, it isn't circular reasoning when you take a simple look at when the Bible was written, when Christ came and look to how he fulfilled the prophecies that were given for the coming Messiah.

It is truly overwhelming.

I hope you don't take this as some sort of rant or hatred directed at you...not what I mean at all. Just trying to answer some of the questions you put forth.

I also had a good time with you in college and found you were "pretty cool" also. :)

I hope life is treating you well and I am glad that you are asking all these questions, because anyone who doesn't is doing themself a great disservice.

I will answer what I can and direct you to other writers if you don't mind when my answers are lacking.

Have a great weekend.

Seth McBee said...

I have never had a "god feeling" either. I try and not base my decisions on emotion, but on facts.

So, we see eye to eye on this.

I would say that I believe that God has revealed himself clearly to me in the Bible. But to say that I saw a light and my face shone like the sun would be a bold face lie and you would then laugh at me and trip me next time you saw me. :)

Emotions can direct all kinds of things. People get caught up at a Bono concert, so what is the difference? None really.

So, again, we really see eye to eye on this.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you are rationally thinking through some of this stuff... it's too important to just let your emotions control the decisions your brain needs to make, so I'm glad we see eye-to-eye on that.

I haven't actually done any reading or research on the topic lately... I went through it all pretty intensely a couple years after college, and have since read an occasional book or article, but I have mostly just kept an open mind to new ideas and proven facts.

To clarify, it's the IDEAS in the Bible that have no scientific evidence. Prayer, creation, miracles, etc simply are on the wrong side of scientific reason. For example, (I may have already used this one...) earthquakes were attributed to sin not too long ago. Before that, illness was attributed to witches and evil demons. Before that, suggesting the world was round was considered blasphemy against God. In each case, the prevalent scientific dogma did not understand the mechanics of what was really happening. So what was misunderstood was attributed to the spiritual world or to a god. Modern day "miracles" simply are not understood yet. There are far more cases of people NOT recovering from illness even though they were prayed for, than there are of miraculous healings. Many recent medical miracles have in fact been studied and shown not to be a miracle, but to have a solid scientific reason for the unexpected healing. It just took a little investigation to figure it out. Many modern day miracles are simply beyond our current capacity to understand, just like a round world was a thousand years ago.

I would say that the contradictions in the Bible are significant, but explainable, and certainly not proof that the Bible is false. However, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism all have equally congruent themes, so it's inarguable that a running theme is nowhere near sufficient to prove that a story is true. Nostradamus, the Aztecs, and many other prophets have also had some uncannily correct predictions, but you can't point to prophetic writings as proof of the validity of the Bible.

You are absolutely correct that science does not solve all issues or prove there is no god. I'm not claiming that. I'm just claiming that so far there is no evidence OF god. The big bang theory leaves many questions... the biggest being what happened before the big bang? But there are mounds and mounds of physical evidence that the big bang probably happened somewhat like how we theorize. Gravity is just a theory too, but when you have an insurmountable amount of evidence that shows gravity is real, it doesn't make sense to jump off a tall building and have faith that you won't hit the ground.

However... the theory of gravity has been shown to break entirely apart when you deal with it on a quantum level. So even our most tested and trusted scientific theory is open to new knowledge and understanding, just like we should be. When the theory of evolution was introduced, there were so many holes in it that it almost took faith to believe it possible. Now, after years and years and hundreds of thousands of smart people devoting their life to researching it, most of those holes have disappeared. Yes, holes still remain, but yes, they are still being filled by new knowledge and fact.

Nature (what you call creation) is amazing. What's even more amazing is the math behind the universe. Don't quote me on the numbers here, cause I'm not good with specifics, but there are billions upon billions of galaxies in the universe. Inside of each galaxy are billions upon billions of stars, with even more planets circling them. The pure mathematical chance that there is another planet that could have formed life like ours is more than possible, it's staggeringly likely. One generally accepted estimate is that there are about 220,000 earth-like planets just in our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Plug in the theory of evolution and apply it to the billions upon billions of galaxies and voila, you have mathematical probability that we would evolve into us. I'm not saying that is all true, it's just theory. But it is theory with evidence behind it, as opposed to what you find in the Bible.

I'm not hoping that you will answer all my questions, and I'm not really trying to convince you that you need to change your beliefs. I'm just exploring the question in the hope that we all come to a better understanding.

And don't worry, I see openness in your replies, not hatred or a rant.

Seth McBee said...

thanks for the discussion.

I would say that the reason I brought up theme within the biblical context is because you had mentioned the authors being plentiful and over a period of years. The easy way to disprove the Bible at that point, meaning that it wasn't written by an outside force (God) would be to show that there was no central theme and that the books were incoherant when put together. Of course, we find just the opposite. That is a sort of validation of the point that there was, in fact, someone outside of these "plain folk" who wrote the books contained therein.

It wouldn't prove outright of course, but we do believe it helps the argument and does not hurt it.

When speaking of prophecy, there is a large difference between biblical prophecy and those found elsewhere, Nostradamus, Aztecs, et al.

The fact is that Nostradamus' prophecies have been found by most reliable historians as to be so vague that they could have been attributed to many things. He also made many false prophecies as well, but little is said about those.

The Bible on the other hand, is very specific on the coming Messiah. So much in fact that to put them together with the fulfillment of Christ becomes overwhelming to gauge how this could be apart from an outside force writing the Bible, which of course for me, was God.

The contradictions that are found in the Bible are small mistakes found in mere copy and not in content, so those would find there way to nothing significant in any book. If you have some that you feel are quite significant I would love to see them, because every one that I have ever been presented with fell short of significance or came with a pretty easy explanation.

As far as your hang up on previous generations of error on science and such, that is just humans being human. The interesting thing is that everything that science has proven the bible already contained herein. Whether it was that the world was round, that life was found in blood and not by bloodletting, the fact of the earth's isostacy, the study of evaporation, etc.

Again. You have to remember that we still don't have anything that would disprove the Bible or the fact that there is a God.

To say that there are studies in prayer to disprove this fact is pretty farfetching. Like you said, we'll just say that it wasn't in the will of God for that particular thing to take place. This isn't just what we "make up" but this is also what happens when we read the Bible. It isn't hidden that some prayers don't come out how we would like, but you have to remember that if we believe that there is a God that is all knowing and we as humans, like you have said, are not all knowing, then when we pray, we will inherantly pray very selfishly.

Let me give you an example.

If my wife is dying of cancer, how do you think I will pray? I will pray that she is cured. What happens if she isn't? Do I just say that God didn't answer my prayer and there is no God? But what if in my ignorance there were higher plans than a mere recovery? Remember that since I believe in eternal life in heaven with God, then my highest priority is not what happens here on earth, but what happens in eternity. So, what if through that pain of losing my beautiful wife, someone comes to Christ because of my witness of God? This exchange is worth it. The exchange of my wife on this earth, for the eternal life of a soul. This might sound stupid as the day is long, but this is my belief.

So, whether I believe a prayer got answered or not is not a big issue for me because I know they get answered but they are just answered in different ways than we would like. They are answered, yes, no or later...they aren't ignored.

We are even told in the Bible that we do not even know how to pray but the Spirit prays for us. Why would it say this? Because when we pray, we pray out of ignorance and finite wisdom. When the Spirit prays, he prays in truth and infinite wisdom. Big difference.

I am glad that you do not see hatred or rant developing in my comments. I would hate for you to think that.

Know this too, that just because you have never experienced, or had very little experience with thinking Christians, doesn't mean that there aren't any out there.

Take that logic and continue it.

Just because you have never experienced or know very little of God, doesn't mean He isn't out there either...


Also, please remember that the Bible is not...I repeat...not a scientific book. So, you can't get mad if it doesn't promulgate science in its pages. It would be like saying a history book is wrong because it never says anything about how to paint by numbers. You have to ask though, when the Bible does speak about science, is it correct?
I would argue that it never contradicts proven science that is taken as fact among society or scientists as a whole.

Hope this helps. If you get frustrated I will give you my address so you can knock on my door and punch me in the face :)

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Jon, you speak a lot about "evidence"; specifically that there is no evidence for God. What exactly do you mean by that word?


Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Jon, you speak a lot about "evidence"; specifically that there is no evidence for God. What exactly do you mean by that word?


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