Note: The following is the first part of my response to Robert Shearer's refutation of my earlier paper, both of which can be found below.
Preface: I think that it is important that before I begin my refutation of your refutation I write down clearly and concisely what my personal philosophy is. This is so you won't stick me in your Swaggart & Falwell file. You will have to build a whole new filing cabinet for me. Note that these ideas are my own and not simply regurgitated material from Kung or Lewis.
My philosophy centers around the major themes of God's love for us, our free will and our individuality. Now before I begin I want to point out the difference between believing something and knowing something. When I say that I believe something it is like my hypothesis or my best guess and when I say I know something it is unshakeable truth. Under this definition it would be wrong for me to say that I believe in God. I know God. I also know that Jesus is the messiah referred to in the old testament. It is beyond the scope of this paper for me to separate and list all of the things I believe or know, so with this point established I will continue.
I believe that God made man because he wanted something to love and something to love him back. It was not enough to simply create something that would love him because that is what it was created for. In other words, if we had no choice but to love God, it wouldn't mean very much. This is why God gave us free will, so that we would not be forced to love him but could do so on our own.
God really did have to love us a lot to give us free will because free will allows for disobedience, sin and evil. You see, God did not make evil, he gave us free will and we make the evil through the choices that we make. Saint Augustine separated evil into moral and physical. I don't accept the idea of physical evil (hurricanes, floods, drought, earthquakes, plague, etc.) Real evil requires free will.
I do not believe in predestination. To say that God knows everything we will do before we do it would be to deny that we have true free will. God knows everything that there is to know, but is also open to learning new things. He knows everything you do and think. He can help you, guide you and tell you what to do, but he won't make your decisions for you. An idea I got from Joe is that God has changed his method of dealing with us as you can tell when contrasting the old and new testaments. I think that when God first put us down here he wasn't sure what to do with us. He gave us strict laws to follow and when we disobeyed he punished us with plagues and floods (a really big flood) but as he became more experienced with us he adopted different methods like we see in the new testament.
I know that Jesus is the divine son of God. Through Christ God has sent his grace that encompasses all of mankind. I feel that Christ's divinity is important, but I think that many religions today are so intent on stressing it that they are not paying enough attention to his teachings. The result is so called Christians who kill hundreds of people with car bombs and other such violence in Ireland and the Middle East. And Christians in the southern U.S. who for over a hundred years saw nothing wrong with slavery. This list goes on today. I think that by loving your neighbor (neighbor = everybody in the world) you are showing your love for or indirectly loving God. Jesus speaks often of when you do something for someone you are also doing it for him.
I think that we are all individuals with our own ideas and perspectives of the world. God realizes this because he made us this way. We are all going to have our own perspectives of God and our own ideas of how to worship him. God knows this and expects it. This is why no one religion is going to have the one and only right answer. Most religions contain different perspectives and ideas of the same truth. We can all worship God in our own way. It is not necessary to go to church to worship God, but I personally like to go to learn more about God, listen to other people's thoughts, and to enjoy the social contact.
I think that the Bible should be the guideline that we use to live our lives. I don't believe that any one person can interpret the Bible for the rest of the world. Since we are all individuals, we should read the Bible and adapt it to our own lives as we see best. For those people who are too lazy to do this they can always let the preacher interpret it for them. I believe that most preachers have good intentions and won't steer them wrong, but some might. This is the chance that these people will have to take if they don't read the Bible for themselves. I think that the most important themes in the Bible are clear enough for everyone to understand. We should not fight amongst ourselves over the interpretation of the rest of it. (I do not consider arguing and debating to be fighting.)