Sitting Under a Tree on a Summer Day

“I wonder if what I am doing with my life is what God wants for me.  I hope my moral conduct meets His approval.”

Let’s assume a person of faith said that to an atheist as they sat under a tree, pondering their place in the world.  Would a literal understanding of the Bible help them?

A religious site had an essay by John Bakman.  He thinks the Bible offers the same help whether it is literally true, or, metaphor.   He gave examples.

The quotes in the Bible attributed to Jesus may not be his words, he said.  Backman finds the words attributed to Jesus helpful, but they do not have any effect on the thoughts under the tree about being a moral person.

The same is true about the concept  that Jesus died for our sins.  Whether it is true or not does not effect the moral behavior of any Christian.  If it is important for someone to believe God loves us, the Jesus-died-for-your-sins is an example of love.  If it were metaphor it would make the same point.

The crushing commentary of “the last judgement” can also be helpful. But, no one need take it too seriously, Bakman writes.  It’s just there to guide one toward moral living.

Most nonbelievers do not share the view the Bible is a source of wisdom about morality. Their sources are the observations and history of humans.  

Ironically, an atheist and a believer sitting under the same tree probably will reach the same conclusions about moral living without bringing up the Bible at all.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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17 Responses to Sitting Under a Tree on a Summer Day

  1. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon; I would hardly consider this John Bakman a reliable or credable spokesman for historic/orthodox Christianity. I can see why you may like his approach. I could say much more, but it just isn’t worth the effort.

  2. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon; Where did you find this John Bakman? I can’t find him anywhere, or his writing.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 2:00 I wrote and stored a draft of this blog a couple of weeks ago–now I can’t find the source either!! I always try to store the reference for a few days but must have lost it. I’m wondering if I misspelled his name when I wrote the draft, thinking I would proof it shortly, then didn’t. Sorry.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Would your understanding be that he would be from the current time, or from a different century?

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 2:45 It was a current article on some site, I remember that well. It seems like something from HuffingtonPost but I can’t find it there. Things like that are on a CNN religious site, not there either. Frustrating. Often people pop up again somewhere so we can both look for him.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Thanks Jon. Not all that important, but sometimes a blip by an unknown source can easily be misleading, and decontextualized. There is a veritable cafeteria of heterodox opinions out there that can cause more confusion than clarity. certainly much of it can be only one persons personal opinion, and not represent even his own associations. Usually seekers of the sensational.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 3:15 I recall not being too interested in who he was because what he wrote was, what I would call, mainstream. It was mainstream in the tradition of writers John Shelby Spong and Brian D. McLaren (A New Kind of Christianty) I know you do not like these ideas, but I think they are the future of faith, and, the people identifying with that stream seems to be growing. I would summarize, and perhaps over generalize their thinking like this: The original Jesus character in the Bible was a grouchy, bad a– sort of guy, until later in the New Testiment. If you project this understanding forward to today, you find a kind and accepting persona. Thus, they conclude, Jesus loves and accepts you and is not that concerned with your particular “sins”.

            Then, further generalizing their thinking, if you accept the logical thought that what is written originally was done with a local political agenda, and was later edited for later political agendas, you are left some generalized version of human wisdom. Some of these writters still believe in the existence of a devine being, others say it doesn’t matter if it exists, the package teaches us many wise things and they continue to read and discuss the Bible. To me, these ways of thinking are so in tune to today’s society, they will prove too powerful to turn back.

            There is a group that will not buy into them, nonbelievers. To them, it makes more sense to just skip the Bible and look to human experience directly.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; I can see why you are an Atheist if you consider Spong and McLaren to be “mainstream”, primarily due to your misunderstanding of Jesus, and his message.
            If you use flawed information, your conclusion will also be flawed, based on your “local political agenda”and is…”edited for later political adendas.” Garbage in-garbage out. And yes there are those who agree with you. They come and go. They always have. Sometimes more, sometimes less. There are those who believe in UFO/alien involvement too. Time will tell.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 4:09 “There are those who believe in UFO/alien involvement too.” Yes, there are. For people like me it is just are hard to believe in invisable ghosts and supernatural beings as it is UFO/aliens. They seem so alike they are indistingushable. But, you have no trouble distingushing between them at all. You have an imagination I do not possess.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; Since “UFOs and Aliens are suposedly a kind of “boots on the ground ” entities, I would have thought you would have accepted them faster than the spiritual. They should fit nicely into an atheist’s world/cosmilogical view.Even with macro evolution.
            Imagination pretty much works from the internal. The more reliable sources of information are external. Your externals are of a different type than mine. Something I don’t think we, (you and me) will ever resolve.

  3. If a Christian and an Athiest were sitting under an apple tree and a big apple fell off and hit the Athiest on the head, what would that signify?
    That Isaac Newton’s law of gravity was meant to hurt Athiests?
    Newton was probably a right wing conservative FUNDAMENTALIST Christian.
    Just wondering.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      BuffaloGal 3:45 “…a big apple fell off and hit the Atheist in the head..” You’re decribing the story of my life. Things are always falling on my head, or, I’m hurting myself in my shop. I attribute those painful experiences to people like yourself, conservatives. Now, sometimes I do get a break. Like the other day I got a free ride on the B-17 WWII bomber from Fargo to Minneapolis. I even got to fly it for a few minutes. I attibuted that good fortune to atheists and liberals. :)

      • Henry says:

        “Like the other day I got a free ride on the B-17 WWII bomber from Fargo to Minneapolis. I even got to fly it for a few minutes. I attibuted that good fortune to atheists and liberals.”
        You could attribute your good fortune to B-17 designer Edward Curtis Wells, a Catholic. But, rather some faceless atheist gets the credit.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Henry 6:02 Yes, Wells the Catholic should get more credit. I heard many B-17 stories while hanging around the airport. There was one about a gunner. He was taking a leak from his high perch in a gun mount before take off when the Head Pilot, Jimmy Stewart, walked into “it”.

          • Henry says:

            Please, let me help you out. The moral of the story as applied by a “freethinker”: piss on the conservative Christian.

  4. Bob says:

    They’d only give rides like that for popular (former mayer and econ professor) guys, white men, Jon.
    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Bob 5:42 “They’d only give rides like that for popular (former Mayor & econ professor) guys, white men, Jon. Correct me if I’m wrong.” Well, six of us were white men, pilots, and had volunteerd at various jobs while the plane was in Fargo. There was a 14 year old boy who hangs around airports and wiped oil off the B-17 after each flight–he got to go. I can’t really say I deserved to get that treat–but, I didn’t turn it down.

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