In response to question on the bible and its reliability
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  1. #1
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    In response to question on the bible and its reliability

    Following article written by Rabbi Glenn Harrisa from SE Michigan who is a follower of Jesus...it's an easy to read "30,000-foot" summary of the bible's origins and its reliability. Forgive the formatting ... the cut and paste didn't carry the indents for the outline.

    Preface
    Most people approach history textbooks somewhat uncritically, accepting what they read as accurate and authoritative; And why not? - since history books place no moral demands on us (not even to learn from history). However, when a book, such as the Bible, purports to teach absolute moral and theological truth, people become uncomfortable. Rightly perceiving that an ethical commitment is being called for (and being, by nature, resistant to the idea of rules and authority), some people will feign intellectual objections, claiming alleged contradictions, and generally questioning the reliability of the book. Whether conscious or otherwise, the reasoning goes: if the Bible can be discredited, or else relegated to "myth", its requirements will be trivialized. Thus we have the modern battle over the reliability of the Bible. This paper is intended to inform and encourage the reader as to the integrity and reliability of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
    A word of warning to those who may not be intellectually honest, in the form of a question: If sufficient evidence, internally and externally, bibliographically and archaeologically exists to authenticate the Bible as a reliable document, will you then be willing to deal with its moral and spiritual imperatives? If not, then read no further; for yours is not an intellectual, but a volitional problem. If, however, you are interested in facts and in truth, by all mean, read on.

    I. The Bible is a Unique Book
    A. The Bible is unique in its continuity
    Imagine questioning forty different people on their religious views: people from every socio-economic background ..(ranging from extreme poverty to immense wealth)
    in nearly every walk of life ...(kings and paupers, statesmen and fishermen, poets and physicians)on three separate continents ...(Asia, Africa, and Europe) in three different languages ...(Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) taking several forms ...
    (poetry, history, civil and criminal law, ethics, didactic, parable, biography, prophecy, personal correspondence ...) And spanning a period of over a thousand years!
    And if you asked them to put their observations, thoughts and feelings about God and about ultimate reality into writing what kind of book do you suppose you'd end up with? Would they all agree? Hardly. You'd probably wind up with a real mishmash. Well, the Biblical writers represent exactly this variety, and yet there is thematic harmony, commonality and consistency of data throughout the book! At the very least, it may be said that the Bible is a unique book.

    B. The Bible is unique in its survival
    The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any 10 pieces of classical literature combined ...With regard to the New Testament books, John Warwick Montgomery stated: "... to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament." 1

    Bernard Ramm speaks of the accuracy and number of Biblical manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures: "Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. With their massora they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity ... who ever counted the letters, syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?" 2

    II. We Have an Authentic, Reliable Biblical Text
    A. By means of bibliographical and internal criteria
    The historical reliability of the Bible should be tested by the same criteria that all historical documents are tested. It breaks down to these three factors:
    The number of existing manuscripts
    The dating of the manuscripts
    The proportion of variant readings
    1. The number of existing manuscripts
    There are more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, over 10,000 in Latin and over 9,300 other early versions totaling 24,000+ manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today, ranking it first in manuscript evidence.
    The Iliad, by Homer, is second ... with 643 surviving manuscripts.

    2. The dating of the manuscripts

    The New Testament autographs date to between 40 100 A.D. Until 1995, the earliest extant manuscripts dated to the fourth century (a 250 300 year difference). Norman Geisler states that the average gap between an original composition and the earliest available copy is over 1,000 years for other works of antiquity. (handout reprints -- Dr. Carsten Thiede/1st century papyrus fragments of Matthew)
    The late Sir Frederick Kenyon, orientalist, director and principal librarian of the British Museum wrote: "This may sound a considerable interval, but it is nothing to that which parts most of the great classical authors from their earliest manuscripts. We believe that we have in all essentials an accurate text of the seven extant plays of Sophocles; yet the earliest substantial manuscript upon which it is based was written more than 1,400 years after the poet's death." 3

    Kenyon, in The Bible and Archaeology continues: "The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established." 4

    Among ancient Greek/Latin literature, the Iliad ranks next to the New Testament in possessing the greatest amount of manuscript testimony.
    So let's compare them:

    Homer (Iliad)
    Written 900 B.C. Earliest manuscript 400 B.C. Time between: 500 years Number of copies: 643
    New Testament:
    Written: 40-100 A.D. Earliest manuscript: 125 A.D.* Time between: 25 years Number of copies: 24,000+

    3. Variant readings
    Through the proper application of textual criticism, comparing all the available manuscripts with one another, we are able to confidently reconstruct the original reading. Let's briefly compare numbers on variant readings. The New Testament contains approximately 20,000 lines, of which 40 lines are in question. This equals .5% (one half of one percent).
    The Iliad contains approximately 15,600 lines, of which 764 lines are in question. This equals five percent. That's ten times more variants than the New Testament in a document which is only three-quarters its length. The sheer number of extant NT manuscripts we possess narrows tremendously the margin of doubt on the correct reading of the original documents (known as autographs).

    Of the 0.5% of the New Testament variant readings, only one eighth of those amount to anything more than a stylistic difference or misspelling.
    An example of a fairly typical variant reading:

    MSS. 1 Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.
    MSS. 2 Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.
    MSS. 3 Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whold world.
    MSS. 4 Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world.
    MSS. 5 Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.

    Many of these variants involve nothing more than a missing letter in a word, a misspelling, or a reversal of the order of two words (as seen above in #2). Some may involve the absence of a word; but of all the variants in the NT, it should be noted that only about 50 have any real significance, and that not one essential point of Christian doctrine rests upon a disputed reading. For more than 99% of them, we have been able to reconstruct the biblical text with tremendous certainty.

    B. The archaeological/external evidence
    1. Evidence from archaeology
    The Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered in 1947, included an ancient copy of the scroll of Isaiah. This scroll, dating to approximately 100 B.C. was found to be identical to the Modern Hebrew Bible in over ninety five percent of the text. The remaining five percent consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen or variations in spelling. Prior to that discovery, the earliest manuscript of Isaiah was the Masoretic Text, dating to 900 A.D. Realize, then, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls moved the dating back more than a thousand years! And that without any appreciable change in the text.
    Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote: "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference." 5
    William F. Albright, one of the world's most renowned archaeologists, stated:
    "There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition." 6
    And again ...
    "The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phrases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history." 7
    The late Millar Burrows, renowned Professor of Archaeology at Yale University, exposed the cause of persistent unbelief:
    "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural." 8

    2. Evidence from early Christian writers
    J. Harold Greenlee, Professor of New Testament Greek at Oral Roberts University, wrote that the quotations of the Scripture in the works of the early Christian writers,
    "... are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts." 9
    This was later confirmed by Sir David Dalyrimple. All but eleven verses of the New Testament are found in the works of second and third century writers. In addition to the many thousands of NT manuscripts, there are over 86,000 quotations of the NT in the early church fathers, and quotations in thousands of early lectionaries (worship books).

    3. Evidence from extra-Biblical authors
    a. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, III. 39) referring to Mark
    b. Papias (c. 130 AD) refers to Matthew's gospel
    c. Irenaeus (c. 180 AD) refers to the four gospels and Matthew
    d. Josephus


    III. We Have an Authentic, Reliable Biblical Text

    Let us state again that, in spite of having come under attack a century and a half ago as an unreliable historical record, over the past fifty to seventy five years, the biblical narrative has been consistently corroborated by archaeological discoveries (remember, too, that a century and a half ago the field of archaeology had scarcely emerged).
    Archaeologist Joseph Free has said, "Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which had been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contrary to known facts." 10
    One hundred fifty years to two hundred years ago it became academically fashionable to say that Moses could not have authored the five books of the Torah, as claimed, because it was thought that legal codes of that order simply didn't exist. These arguments persisted by some even into the mid-20th century. On that logic they posited that several different individuals, living many centuries later, wrote the Torah and ascribed it to Moses. Archaeology proved this "Documentary Hypothesis" wrong through the more recent discoveries of numerous legal codes in some cases predating even the Patriarchal period, such as the Hammurabi Code (c. 1700 BC), the Lipit-Ishtar Code (c. 1860 BC) and the Laws of Eshunna (c. 1950 BC). Prior to 1906 critics of biblical historicity argued that the Bible's descriptions of the Hittite Empire were later insertions, since they were certain the Hittite Empire didn't exist, owing to lack of physical evidence for it. But in 1906 archaeologists unearthed the Hittite capital and in the years following excavated what is now known to have been a massive and very prominent Hittite civilization.
    More recently, liberal scholars, intent on maintaining their criticism of the Bible, argued that the Gospel of John could not have been written by John, but must have come much later, owing to factors such as:
    1. The use of imagery they presupposed to be of later Gnostic influence (i.e., terms such as "sons of light" and "sons of darkness").
    2. Allegedly inaccurate historical details (such as a 5th portico at the pool of Bethesda [cf. John 5:2] whereas every Judean pool excavated had just four porticoes).
    Discoveries, however, of texts paralleling and even pre-dating the NT manuscripts (chiefly at Qumran) evidenced the very same apocalyptic terminology in contemporary Jewish writings. And approximately eight years ago archaeologists discovered underneath what they had previously thought was the earliest level at the site of Bethesda an older mikveh (pool) which had a fifth portico transecting it! One would hope that at some point the critics would concede the historical reliability of the biblical narrative.

    Conclusion
    This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of sources. In fact, it's just "the tip of the iceberg". But as you can see, there really is a remarkable body of evidence supporting the reliability of the Bible as we have it in English today. I hope this will give the reader a sense of confidence that the Bible, as it has come down to us, is an altogether historically reliable record. This is critical, because if it were unreliable in that matter, we certainly could take the next step and consider its theological reliability. However, as we warned at the outset, the Bible does contains moral imperatives. Thus it seems the real question now is not whether the Bible is trustworthy, but whether you are willing to read it, consider its contents and claims, and wrestle with its moral implications. You could choose to look the other way and hope later to plead ignorance. Instead, I recommend you take the courageous approach of reading the Scriptures in the pursuit of truth.

    I am indebted to Josh McDowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict and to www.gospeloutreach.net and Rolaant McKenzie for much of the material in this study.
    Quotations Taken From:
    Evidence that Demands a Verdict: historical evidences for the Christian faith
    Compiled by Josh McDowell, 1972, 1979 Here's Life Publishers, Inc.
    P.O. Box 1576, San Bernadino, CA 92402, fifteenth printing
    Why the Bible is the Word of God: historical evidence for the Bible
    By Matt Perman (www.gospeloutreach.net/bible3.html)
    End Notes
    1. Montgomery, John W. History and Christianity.
    Intervarsity Press Downers Grove, IL, 1971, p. 29.
    2. Ramm, Bernard. Can I Trust My Old Testament?
    The Kings Business, Feb., 1949 pp. 230, 231.
    3. Kenyon, Frederick G. Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament.
    MacMillan and Co., London, ,1901, p. 4.
    4. Kenyon, Frederick G. The Bible and Archaeology.
    Harper & Row, New York, ,1940, p. 288.
    5. Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev.
    Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1969, p. 176.
    6. Albright, William Foxwell. Archaeology and the Religions of Israel.
    Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1956, p. 176.
    7. Albright, William Foxwell. The Archaeology of Palestine.
    Pelican Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1960, p. 127, 128.
    8. Burrows, Millar. What Mean These Stones?
    Meridian Books, New York, NY, ,1956, p. 176.
    9. Greenlee, J. Harold. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1964, p. 54.
    10. Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History.
    Scripture Press, Wheaton, IL, 1969, pg. 1

  2. #2
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    Facts are facts, faith is something else.

    Nice article but it never gets to the core question, was Jesus the son of God? Sure the various references to places and puriphery events in the new testiment are probably true. Yes, the area was governed by Rome, yes the names of the cities are correct. But it is a pretty far leap to go from backround material to the acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. It's the same as saying that if a book of fiction mentions certain persons or locations, that in fact exist, that all others matters that are set forth in the book are also fact. Ever heard of embellishment?

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    The point of the article is not to look at the specific claims of Christ, rather, it's to establish the authenticity of the source material. As for embelishment, if the book is reliable in terms of archeology, or prophesy, or other claims it makes, than that lends credibility to its claims of faith. The bible has stood the test of time and scrutinty and the evidence of Jesus' life, claims and message are clearly presented within the bible. I post this to simply show that, contrary to what is routinely stated on this forum, the bible is more than a work of fiction that is without support. In this case, the "facts" **can** lead to a reaonsable basis of faith, based on the reliability of the text. Obviously, faith is just that, faith. But as has been discussed in other threads, people use faith everyday of their lives to shape decisions.

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    Talking There was one mistake.....

    A young friar entered the Bible Copying Room at his abby for his first assingment. (This was before the printing press was invented).

    The friar in charge told the young friar, "Please sit in the back of the room and just observe how we reproduce the Bible. You may ask any questions you have before you start copying on your own."

    The young friar did as he was told and sat at the back of the room. Minutes later the young friar approached the friar in charge.

    "Sir, I don't mean to start any trouble, but I noticed that everyone here is making copies of copies."

    "What's your point young man? We have been making copies of copies for hundreds of years. It is a great system!"

    "Well ... that means if someone makes a mistake, then it will be copied over and over again. Isn't that right?"

    "Listen my son, to take away your fears, I will take a new copy here on my desk and compare it to the original Bible that we have in the basement. I will prove to you that what we are doing is safe and correct."

    The friar in charge leaves and goes into the basement. After hours and hours of waiting, the young friar gets worried and goes into the basement to check on the friar in charge.
    When entering the basement he finds the friar in charge banging his head against the wall.

    "Father, what is troubling you? Is there a problem?"

    The anguished friar in charge cried, "The word is celebrate!"

  5. #5
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    Turtle, there are a lot of books out there on the historicity of the Bible if you ever care to read them, many of which have a section explaining different perspectives on how to view the Bible (most of which come away saying it's a fairly unique literary work). Naturally being written by historical people (rarely though the ones the various books of the Bible are attributed to) it contains history and in some instances the history the writers include is demonstrably wrong and/or inconsistent with other history as presented in the Bible. And I agree with your sentiment that just because the Bible contains accurate history, doesn't mean everything in the Bible is historically accurate. And ultimately, there is no test for Godness so accepting Jesus as the Savior becomes purely a matter of faith even if the Bible provides fairly good evidence he was a historical figure.

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    I love that joke...

    Quote Originally Posted by kilofox
    The anguished friar in charge cried, "The word is celebrate!"
    Funniest thing is, the bible doesn't prescribe celibacy for [insert holy name]. Celibacy is a construct of various empirical religions.

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    Why can't anyone admit then,

    That the Bible is accurate as a historical document.

    If so, then you'd have to admit that the events that take place are true.

    Then you'd have to admit that the resurrection is true.

    If that were true, then Jesus has a pretty good data point that He is, who He said He was.

    That's logical. Doesn't take faith to see that, it's in the text and the man's article documents the reasons why the Bible is accurate.

  8. #8
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    Reliable text or facts do not mean reasonable faith.

    I know that Marshall Applewhite existed, that he owned a large house in California, that he had many followers who firmly believed he spoke the truth. But that does not mean I can reasonably have faith that he and his followers are now winging their way to a new world on an alien space craft flying in the tail of a comet. If you want ancient historical text there was a lot written about the Greeks and Romans and many of their records survive today, but I am still not erecting a shrine to Zeus or Apollo. I actually find the historical basis of Jesus and Christianity fascinating but just don't buy into the entire story.

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    Jesus did exist, I can accept that. But, through 300 years of ramblings and underground passing-along-of-messages, the story becomes what we know of it today.

    Just like any legend approaching fantasy.

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    That the Bible is accurate as a historical document.

    --It isn't...you might have faith that is it true, but that doesn't make it true in an objective sense

    If so, then you'd have to admit that the events that take place are true.

    --Not really...what's "true" to someone else might not be truth to me.

    Then you'd have to admit that the resurrection is true.

    --Then I might have to admit that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real too since someone wrote about them as well and said they were real.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Is the Koran then, a historical document ?
    Weren't thousands present at the miracles of christ. Where can we read their accounts of these strange occurrences ??? Out of the thousands present, there must have been hundreds of literate witnesses.
    With the thousands of witnesses, why did the early Christian movement only have a few followers in the original area that christ lived in ? You would think that all those present, would become followers.
    Please explain.................................
    If your opinion differs from mine, ..........Too bad.
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    No real good answer because

    The Israelites saw God's miracles in Egypt and in the desert and He was a guiding pillar from them by day and night.

    From that example, it just goes to show you that even with a miracle (that many say they'd believe if they saw one), that even that is not enough.

    Bocephus Jones is a good example. Even if he saw one, the exact one he was asking for, he'd call it circumstance or something else.

    Many say, God if you do this for me, then I'll believe you.

    When He does, they call it accident or luck and go back on their promise.

    Again it goes back to the unforgiveable sin. They see proof in their lives, for each just the way they say they'd need it. But when it happens they write it off to their death.

    There is a resultant consequence, but they believe that it couldn't be true. When they find out that it is, it will be sad.

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    The Koran cannot stand up to the same test...that doesn't mean that people won't follow the Koran. The question is how can one apply reasonable scholarly approach to understand..to make an informed decision..on who Jesus was. I would agree 1000 percent that no one should just blindly believe. The rise of Christianity through the Roman and Greek worlds is obvious in that you have Christians all over the planet. The early church grew exponentially for some time...this despite huge efforts to wipe it out. The Acts of the Apostles chronicles the early church and its rapid spread throughout the region. The writings of Tacitus covered this from a Roman historic perspective.

    You would think that people would believe on site...but many didn't. Why? I don't know? Why is it that I believe and you and others here don't? Again, I wish I knew...this is where the logical/objective part of it kind of goes off course. I was a skeptic, I didn't become a believer until the age of 25 -- but its something that so profoundly changed me and my world that I'm at a loss for explaining it.

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    Well, you could walk on water today and I still wouldn't automatically become a Christian. Miracles don't prove anything, except that the miracle worker has some power that others don't. The reason is that my current personal beliefs serve me just fine. If it ain't broke. . . Assuming that any of the miracles in the Bible actually occured as represented by the Bible, perhaps the non-believers had the same attitude.

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    We're operating at a level of "proof" that

    "proves" floating forests, remember?
    In case you're wondering, my avatar is a photo of a worker in chains, rising up to cast them off. An old piece of IWW (Wobbly) art.

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    You and I are apparently rare birds

    I became a Christian at 32 and graduated from UCLA with a Biology degree.

    Certainly we made lots of errors in life because we didn't really know, BUT it's amazing how those things are worked into assets in our lives and allows us to witness to a world that is different from the Christian since childhood.

    Life did get a billion percent better and more wonderful. Hard to explain as some would say it's coincidence or whatever, but I know it was a fundamental heart and wisdom change.

    Love unconditionally from God plus wisdom that goes to the root of situations exqual strength, joy, love and peace in life. It's crazy.

    Thanks for your time in being a good witness. Plant, water and God creates the increase (some Christianese for you.). Later.

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    Amazing

    I'm still waiting for your operating example of a successful country (by common standards) that's socialist, communist, not capitalist.

    Why do you keep ducking the question. It's simple and you must have a data point to be so pro-rebellion.

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    Share your thoughts on Dominionism, and

    I will speak, over your head of course, to your question.
    In case you're wondering, my avatar is a photo of a worker in chains, rising up to cast them off. An old piece of IWW (Wobbly) art.

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    You crack me up

    Name one and then you can talk all over me.

    Until then, I'll just laugh because you can't answer a simple question.

    It's clear your method is divert and then confuse, which isn't very honest.

    So again, name one successful socialist or communist country by common standards. It should be easy for someone as smart as you.

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    Yiou're the one with the hidden, repellent agenda

    that you won't come clean about. I've asked you repeatedly to reveal yourself as the Christian Dominionist you plainly are, and you have repeatedly refused to asnwer or even acknowledge the question. I'll wait you out,
    In case you're wondering, my avatar is a photo of a worker in chains, rising up to cast them off. An old piece of IWW (Wobbly) art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flip Flash
    It's clear your method is divert and then confuse, which isn't very honest.
    You changed the subject. You. Nobody else. Is this what your beliefs have taught you about personal responsibilty? You call someone else dishonest for your own behavior? Judge not. Glass houses. Yadda yadda.

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    You are sooo funny.

    Call you out and your cry like a little baby.

    I guess it's true what they say about bullies. Just face up to them and they melt.

    I think most will remember that I asked my question well belfore I even heard of your question, therefore again you are being intellectually dishonest.

    If you side step again, I will merely KNOW as will everyone else, that you have no answer and your whole RED MENANCE tag is a crock of ....

    I laugh in the face of the Pink Buttercup.

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    That was a "call out?"

    I didn't even notice it. Pretty weak call out, for someone who's proposing to "regain" political dominion over the world.
    Last edited by RedMenace; 03-22-2004 at 01:28 PM.
    In case you're wondering, my avatar is a photo of a worker in chains, rising up to cast them off. An old piece of IWW (Wobbly) art.

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    Because I see you are hurt

    I'll answer your question, which will sadly leave you even more exposed.

    I don't care about Christian government or rules or laws. I just wish people would make individual decisions that are Christian.

    For example. I don't care if abortion is legal, I just wish young women were told that life is important especially innocent life. You do realize that approximately 92% of abortions are for convenience. We're talking of the 40-50 plus million abortions since Roe v. Wade.

    I think you get the jist of what I'm saying. Our country is in decline certainly morally and probably in line with your own desires politically also.

    I'm not a political activist or even care much for it. Some Christians feel it is their calling, but it ain't mine. I just wish people were stronger, faced up to the consequences of their choices and actions, etc. If that were true, I believe abortions would go down, single parent nubmers would go down, crime would go down, we would actually have to spend less on the DEA, welfare, etc. and help those really in need, etc.

    Now you can answer you part.

    Again, I know you won't because you don't have a good example. But at least you know where I stand. I'm sure you'll bend it with your high intellect into some gross mischaracterization, but at least I answered the question.

    Not for you, but for others who might actually understand it.

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    For example. I don't care if abortion is legal, I just wish young women were told that life is important especially innocent life. You do realize that approximately 92% of abortions are for convenience. We're talking of the 40-50 plus million abortions since Roe v. Wade.

    --Where'd you get that statistic? Do they do an exit poll or something?
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

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