Tag Archives: bible

interview with author of “misquoting jesus”

Bart Ehrman is the US author of the bestselling book “Misquoting Jesus” (In the UK “Whose word is it?”).  He calls into question the authority of the New Testament as scribal changes over time have changed the documents. 

So can we trust the scripture? Bible scholar Peter Williams believes in the reliability of the New Testament and that Bart’s prognosis is far too pessimistic.

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plankeye, followup

there’s been some contention as to my post on “plankeye”

i will concede that we are indeed to “make judgement” — even about people and what they are up to.

but the context of the verse you pulled out shows the difference between what jesus was referring to in john 7 and what he is teaching about in the sermon on the mount:

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

both of these passages speak to not judging —- and both infer that in order to make wise decisions about how to treat people one needs to be in a place of humility before god, and seeking the true good of the other person.

the original thought behind the plankeye post was a friend pointing out how those who claim to follow christ’s teachings are often those who are most guilty of being judgmental — and unfairly judgmental at that, often with yucky results in the life of those being judged.

i was obviously, in my first post on this topic, not saying that one is never to decide whether something is right or wrong.

clearly to follow christ is to believe there IS a right.

but judging and condemning people is the wrong way to go about getting them to change their behavior, while encouraging and asking is the right way.

in fact, to do so is to make a right judgement: to “hold back” on force-feeding your “pearls” of “rightness” to those who are not able to digest them, and instead love and encourage and simply ask them to consider a better way.

so, i stand by my statement:

judging IS the plank in our eye.

and i’ll say it again using a different word, by way of expounding:

condemning IS the plank in our eye.

romans 14:13:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

condemnation and judging puts a HUGE stumbling block in the way of those who would otherwise be attracted to the kingdom.

we who claim to live in the kingdom behave in unattractive ways, in ways that make people feel rejected, not loved, and so they turn and attack us.

just like jesus says they will in the passage i quoted above.

but if we simply ask people, without condemnation, they are more apt to find our message acceptable.

test everything, hold fast to what is good

i have been asked to post on my practice of exposing this board to beliefs or lines of thinking that i myself do not hold to.

this thread is meant to be an answer to that request.

in the interest of keeping it clear for those who won’t read more than a few sentences, i’ll make my main point up top, and flesh it out below:

the verses i have in mind, mostly are:

“…test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 thes 5)

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. (1 peter 3)

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 cor 3)

my main point is this: all that is truth is god’s truth, and we are instructed in scripture to seek it out and claim it as our own.

all too often, christians take an anti-intellectual attitude. we tend to discourage critical , questioning, or creative thinking. we do this, i think, in a misguided attempt at “guarding the truth” — but the end result is that the truth is actually supressed, or more likely, never actually encountered.

many of us who grew up in christian homes, and almost all of us who grew up in western society, have heard some version of the gospel all our lives. it is impossible to get through life without encountering a version or other of it. the problem with this is that fimiliarity breeds contempt: as people have become accustomed to what they have heard is “the gospel”, and rejected or accepted that gospel, they then go through their lives thinking they have done just that: accepted or rejected the gospel.

in fact, i submit that they have done no such thing.

as paul makes clear, if it is not the actual gospel, it is really no gospel at all.

and the pop-culture version of the gospel is not the actual gospel that jesus preached.

i’ll make that point again, because i believe it is vitally important: the story that most people in western culture have accepted or rejected is not the gospel, but something else — something crippled and distorted.

i am not questioning the “salvation” of millions of people who hold some christian faith now or in times past (romans makes clear that god judges all people based on what they know and what they do with what they know — i believe we can trust the father in heaven to do the right thing with each and every human soul). rather, i am talking about something else: living life with jesus as mentor, for the good of those around us and to the glory of the father.

jesus asked no less than for people to abandon all they held dear, turn their lives in a new direction, and pursue love and justice.

thousands crowded around him because he taught with an authority they had never encountered on a subject they had heard all their lives: the message of god’s love.

the message he preached was that the kingdom of god was available in a way it never had been before, and that anyone and everyone would do so may enter into it.

some rejoiced at this, some balked.

a few turned very bitter, and eventually killed him for it — because his message was threatening the status quo, where they were comfortabely in power.

but he proved that he was who he claimed to be — the perfect revelation of the father — by not staying dead, and he turned the world on its ear by sending his students out to teach others what they had learned about how to live life: by loving people.

as a couple of generations passed, and it became clear that the story of this incredible news should be preserved in writing, some of these students set out to do just hat — and others set out to write to the groups of people who had started meeting together to encourage each other in this new faith.

a few of those letters of encouragement were saved, and eventually gathered together as part of the scripture.

the three verses i qutoed above are from some of those letters.

in it, we have clues from some of the earliest believes — some of jesus’ first stuents — about how to live this life he instructed us in living.

so little of jesus message had to do with holding to this or that theory about theology, or subscribing to any one system of belief.

rather, jesus message was about doing. about loving your neighbor, and about taking care of the poor, and about taking care of the single most important thing god ever created: the people around you.

and all of the letters to the early churches were geared towards encouraging people to that effort, and against allowing the ideas of the culture to invade and infect that pure message.

they were encouraged to try out the ideas that came along, and compare them to what they knew to be true, and to allow the spirit of the one true god to help them discern.

they were instructed to be thinkers: to be ready to give answers about this faith to questioners.

they were reminded that even when they think they know that they still don’t know what god knows.

in light of all of this, as society changes it is still our duty as people who are trying to be students of jesus the christ to test all things.

to truly think through issues and not simply cling to the thinking we have always held, but to constantly evaluate our heads and our hearts and the ideas we find around us so that we can grow in our faith.

i post ideas that some may dissagree with (and i may disagree with) to further this effort.

i believe that we as christians must think critically about the ideas that the world around us holds, so that we may meet those ideas head on: embracing what is true, rejecting what is false, and always doing so with the help of the spirit of god.

i believe that too few of us bother doing that, because we have grown up in a culture that discourages it, and that it is one of my duties to encourage right behaviour.

some of the ideas i present are not in line with scripture. some are.

we who are jesus’ disciples are under instruction to test them all, and to cling to those that are.

ignoring these ideas won’t make them go away, though. the world around us, the one we are called to be in, holds these ideas, and if we are to be the salt and light in this world, we are obligated to reach them in a gentle, understanding way.

i believe that by thinking through tough issues, and by evaluating more sides that we might be comfortable with, we can grow as a body of beleivers — we can gain a higher understanding of the truth.

i trust the holy spirit in the believer’s life to help them discern that which is false from that which is true.

it must be evident that “truth” is a funny sort of thing, since many of us here claim to have it, yet disagree on so very many things.

so let us approach ideas humbly, and with open minds, as we are instructed to. let us reason together. let us think critically and creatively about this faith.

“test everything; hold fast what is good.”

who is worthy of compassion?

christianitytoday.com wrote:
As Americans set new records for charitable giving in response to Hurricane Katrina, some fundraisers are seeing a principle confirmed: when the suffers are perceived as innocent victims, donors respond generously.

On the other hand, giving patterns suggest donors are losing patience with chronic problems such as poverty, in which suffering is arguably exacerbated by questionable choices. Private donations are shrinking for homeless shelters, AIDS-related services and programs for troubled youth, to cite just a few examples.

read the full article here

what do you think?

who is “innocent” ?

who deserves to receive the dollars we give in compassionate causes?

how do you go about deciding where to give money?

are you positive that race and/or class issues aren’t in the back of your head as you make such decisions?

who is it that jesus said we were to be compassionate to?

is that who you are compassionate to?

i have heard it myself, many times, from people talking about the welfare system we have here.

statements like, “well, i don’t mind helping people out, but if they’d just get a job…”

i am wondering how much of the “innocence” of a person plays into how generous we are…

of course no one is truly innocent, but do we feel more compassion towards a middle-class white family who loses everything in a fire set by an arsonist than we do for a lower-class black family who loses everything in a fire set by a crack pipe?

are we more willing to give generously to the first example?

the article is saying that, by and large, we (americans) are, and that supposed christians are no different.

it ought to make one pause and relfect on one’s own heart, not argue over who’s right or wrong.

romans 2 is interesting

i got the idea from another website, but decided to try the idea, and found the results startling.

i would love to hear some of the questions raised by the text below, but first an explanation of what i’ve done:

a) substituted “Christian” for “Jew”
b) substituted “Muslims or Buddhists” for “Gentiles”
c) substituted “Baptism” for “Circumcision”
d) substituted “law of grace” for “law”

i’ll point out that i’m not trying to re-write romans here, just bring up some questions about this life of “being christians”.

anyway, onto the text:

For it is not the hearers of the law of grace who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law of grace who will be justified. For when Muslims or Buddhists, who do not have the law of grace, by nature do what the law of grace requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law of grace. They show that the work of the law of grace is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

But if you call yourself a Christian and rely on the law of grace and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law of grace; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law of grace the embodiment of knowledge and truth– you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law of grace dishonor God by breaking the law of grace. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Muslims or Buddhists because of you.”

For baptism indeed is of value if you obey the law of grace, but if you break the law of grace, your baptism becomes non-baptism. So, if a man who is not baptized keeps the precepts of the law of grace, will not his non-baptism be regarded as baptism? Then he who is physically not baptized but keeps the law of grace will condemn you who have the written code and baptism but break the law of grace. For no one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is baptism outward and physical. But a Christian is one inwardly, and baptism is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

all truth is god’s truth

all truth is god’s truth.

i love this part of acts:

17:22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

here we have paul quoting pagan poets to make points about god.

what i like about it:

it shows that paul was familiar enough with their poets to quote them.

and he was astute enough to realize when they speak truth.

everything that is true is so because god said it ought be thus.

on hurting a burgler

assume you live alone, and are home alone, in your apartment, asleep in bed, when you realize that your apartment is being broken into, downstairs.

what is the proper course of action for a follower of christ?

don’t assume you have, or don’t have, a gun, a bat, a tazer, or any other weapon: all of those choices that are made ahead of time play into your answer.

so?

the protection of one’s “belongings” are never worth violence.

we are warned, by jesus, against anger — let alone acting in anger against one who seeks to impose their will upon us.

we are instructed to treasure heavenly things (people, god, love) and not earthly things (dvds, tvs).

further, we are instructed to give to anyone who asks of us.

we are instructed to greet evil with kindness.

we are instructed to consider others as more important than ourselves.

i see no room in the scripture for “exceptions” to these instructions.

trying to improve one’s life through the accumulation of (let alone the violent protection of) “stuff” is antithetical to the very existence of one who follows christ.

if we are truly treasuring heavenly things, we will care more for the burglar than we will for our “things”.

it seems responsible, at first blush, to look out for our own safety.

but what is “safe”, really?

who holds our safety?

i can’t imagine the christ cowering in his bedroom, praying to god to help him stay alive.

rather, i imagine he’d call out, in some way that makes known that no harm is intended:

“hello there?

i have no plans to call the police. is there something you need?

i usually offer my guests something. can i get you a drink of water?”

we are told never to fear.

surely this isn’t just “pretty worlds”?

could jesus really mean to never, under any circumstances, fear anything, other than god?

i believe that is exactly what he means.

i think that jesus means, quite literally, that we are to greet a burglar in our home with kindness, not vengeful anger, or even the hope of retribution.

that if i am truly following christ, my thoughts will be on loving this person into the kingdom, somehow.

we are told explicitly to turn the other cheek.

are we to act out in a first-strike manner when our cheek has not even been struck?

we are simply instructed to turn our cheeks. this, i beleive, means to remain vulnerable to any and all attacks, not just physical, to our person, be they attacks on our ego, or on our our pride, or on our sensitive feelings, or, yes, even on our cheeks.

i don’t see room for exception to this, and, if you study the sermon on the mount as a whole, and look at “turning the other cheek” in its proper context, you’ll see that it is a major component of living a life in the kingdom.

we who follow jesus are, simply, to make it a habit of not meeting spite with spite, or sarcasm with sarcasm, or hate with hate, or force with force, but instead we are to treat all comers with love.

it is up to you whether you own a weapon, and it is up to you whether you think it is best to use that weapon against a human being.

my take is that the situations calling for violence against another human being (weapons or no) must be exceedingly rare.

i would think, perhaps, there’s been 1, ever. (when jesus himself drove people from the temple area)

like i said, i trust him with such acts, but never myself.

i do not believe i could ever be trusted to do it lovingly. i’m sure there’d always be some amount of selfishness driving my behavior.

of course, the idea of complete safety is absurd — if you are only considering what we can see.

but if you are living in the kingdom of god that jesus preached, the one where the father who created the universe and knows how many hairs are on your head, and who gives good gifts, and takes perfectly good care of the birds…

well, if you truly trust and serve such a god, and live in such a kingdom, then you can always walk unafraid.

for you are serving and laying up treasures where moth and rust do NOT destroy, and where thieves do NOT break in an steal.

fear god only. serve god only.

lord knows i could do better at this.

plankeye

a friend of mine recently wrote:

This is the very reason I stopped attending my youth group. It was so unwelcoming.

And, there’s something else, too. It seems to me, that rejection from the church crowd holds a bigger emotional consequence than rejection from other crowds. These are, after all, the people with whom you are supposed to be sharing God, a very intimate experience. It’s like rejection from a lover, in a way. Not to mention the fact, that church crowds are so darn good at rejection, and doing it group-wide. I have found that many churches are like giant rumor mills. If you get rejected at all, you get rejected ALL THE WAY.

no disciple of jesus’ could agree that the above statement about “our people” is the way it should be.

rather, all would say it would be best not to be this way.

so, what is it that prevents us from being the grace-filled, friendly, welcoming crowd that jesus himself clearly was?

plankeye

Matthew 7:1:

Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

(most people stop quoting this little section there, but jesus didn’t stop there….)

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

i see a few things in there that, by and large, are missed, through lack of sheer studying, as far as i can tell.

first: judgment IS the plank in our own eye.

as soon as we stop trying to correct other people’s behavior, we are freed, by grace, to love them.

as soon as we stop trying to force them into doing what they can’t, they’ll stop feeling (and being!) judged.

as soon as we stop trying to “force feed” our “pearls of heavenly knowledge” to pigs…

you know that pigs can’t eat pearls, right?

…they’ll stop trying to bite us.

judgment is something that only ONLY only god can do.

but, we want people to change, right?

we want them to come to the place we are, where pearls are appreciated, and treasured, not rejected?

how do we do that, if not by judging?

Matthew 7:7:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

asking for things is the key to obtaining what you want, in the kingdom of god.

you ask the father for things, so ask his kids.

simply turning your attitude from “demanding/shoving” to “asking” will make all the difference.

of course, to get rid of this judging and contemptive attitude, really, you need to go back to the passages of the sermon on the mount that lead up to it — the things where jesus teaches us how to be of his mind:

in reverse order:

do not be anxious
lay up treasures in heaven
fasting
how to pray
giving to the needy
loving your enemies
retaliation
oaths
divorce
lust
anger

…in all these little passages are deep deep mysteries of kingdom life — and the one follows the other: he put them in order for a reason.

once you have “worked out your salvation” in this order, and have (all with christ’s help) managed to lose judging, you are then, spiritually able to move on to:

the golden rule

the golden rule simply can’t be “done” apart from living out the sermon on the mount’s teachings.

but, through the spirit, if you seek to obey christ’s teachings in the sermon on the mount, by the time you’re ready to give up judging, you’re nature has changed so much that you are more than ready and willing to start doing to people — really and truly — what you wish they would do to you.

i could talk for hours about this, but i must get going on my day’s work.

the foreskin to feet trick

does anyone have a theory about this strange passage:

any at all?

exodus 4

Moses Returns to Egypt

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

the law

when i was a baby, and brand new to the universe, i had specific things i could and couldn’t do.

i couldn’t walk, or run, or feed myself, or even not pee myself.

i didn’t need rules, i wasn’t aware enough to understand them.

this is sorta like adam and eve.

eventually, i grew up enough to need rules, but i needed VERY black and white ones: “do not play in the street”, “do NOT play with matches”, “never touch the stove”

these rules were for my own safety as i was not able to discern the difference between a “hot stove” and a “cool stove”, so the rule needed to be “NEVER”.

eventually, i grew up enough to understand the difference, and no rule was needed at all: i could tell for myself when to touch, and not touch, a stove, and it wasn’t because my parents say so, but because i understand enough about the universe and how it works to WANT to do the right thing.

this is roughly, i believe, similar to the OT and NT.

as we humans learned more and more about god, and eventually as jesus came and revealed god’s true ideas for our lives, we no longer needed “rules” as we now had enough knowledge about him to make informed decisions — ones that are good in their own right, and not just because “I SAID SO”.

at the time of early genesis, people were living almost 1,000 years — and a person who “got a taste for blood”, as it were, was able to do a LOT of “damage” — killing hundreds or multiple perhaps thousands of people.

people, before the flood, if you’ll recall, got to the point where their thoughts were “always on evil all the time” and, this was at a time when one of god’s main commands was to fill the earth.

recall, too, when able and cain had thier little altercation:

Genesis 4:8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

clearly, able was *so scared* of being killed, that god put some mark on him that told the other humans not to kill him.

it seems that murder was a HUGE problem, when people were supposed to be populating the planet.

so, god “started over” — and limited human’s lifespan to 120 years or so, and gave strict instructions about killing:

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

so — we have, now, a new instruction from god that each death now requires a reckoning, where it did not before.

let’s jump the 15,000 or so years between gen 9 and the time of jesus: who paid the price for all man’s sin.

because of that sacrifice, a man who murders is able to be accepted by god, because god himself gave his own life as the recckoning.

if i murder, and then come to christ, and enter the kingdom of heaven, the penalty i would pay for the blood i shed becomes paid by jesus, rather than me.

god knew full well i would shed that blood, and gave himself up as the reckoning anyway.

my life was bought for a price!

now: when it comes down to the death penalty, then, i believe that in light of all of this, it is better to give a man or woman their entire natural lifespan to come to the creator and ask forgiveness.

if we send them to an early grave, we are doing to them what god was unwilling to do to us.

now, let me sum up:

god has been bringing humans along on a journey towards him — teaching us slowly, ever since we were booted from the garden, how to live in harmony with him again.

it has been a SLOW journey, as we are a stiff-necked people.

as we have learned more and more than human life is precious, and as we have stopped having murder as our number one way to go, or put another way, as we have matured as a people, the rules concerning how to deal with murder has been able to “relaxed” in such a way that we can recognize the life even of a murderer is precious in god’s site.

(remember, earlier in our history it seems NO ONE’s life was sacred)

i think god sent jesus at just the right time — teaching us a new way, a better way, than we were ready for with the law, and i believe jesus’ own words make this plain.

noah’s flood

many of you have probably heard that there are other people groups, besides the ancient hebrews that have flood stories.

i went looking and found a web page that lists everyone the editor could find

some of them are amazing:

Inca:

Pictorial records of ancient Incan rulers show that a flood rose above the highest mountains. All created things perished, except for a man and woman who floated in a box. When the flood subsided, the floating box was driven by the wind to Tiahuanacu, about 200 miles from Cuzco, where the Creator told them to dwell. The Creator molded new people from clay at Tiahuanacu. On each figure, the Creator painted dress and hair style, and he gave each nation distinctive language, songs, and seeds to plant. When he had brought them to life, he ordered them into the earth to travel underground and emerge from caves, springs, tree trunks, etc. in their various homes. He then created the sun, moon, and stars.

Arawak (Guyana):

Since its creation, the world has been destroyed twice, once by fire and once by flood, by the great god Aiomun Kondi because of the wickedness of mankind. The pious and wise chief Marerewana was informed of the coming of the flood and saved himself and his family in a large canoe.

Transylvanian Gypsy wrote:

Men once lived forever and knew no troubles. The earth brought forth fine fruits, flesh grew on trees, and milk and wine flowed in many rivers. One day, and old man came to the country and asked for a night’s lodging, which a couple gave him in their cottage. When he departed the next day, he said he would return in nine days. He gave his host a small fish in a vessel and said he would reward the host if he did not eat the fish but returned it then. The wife thought the fish must be exceptionally good to eat, but the husband said he had promised the old man to keep it and made the woman swear not to eat it. After two days of thinking about it, though, the wife yielded to temptation and threw the fish on the hot coals. Immediately, she was struck dead by lightning, and it began to rain. The rivers started overflowing the country. On the ninth day, the old man returned and told his host that all living things would be drowned, but since he had kept his oath, he would be saved. The old man told the host to take a wife, gather his kinfolk, and build a boat on which to save them, animals, and seeds of trees and herbs. The man did all this. It rained a year, and the waters covered everything. After a year, the waters sank, and the people and animals disembarked. They now had to labor to gain a living, and sickness and death came also. They multiplied slowly so that many thousands of years passed before people were again as numerous as they were before the flood.

there are many more flood stories here

my question is: what does it mean to you?

also: i like this article on the subject:

http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/flood.shtml

“once saved, always saved” ?

let us supposed we have 2 people: billy and franklin

(i just pulled those names out of thin air )

i’ll give away the ending of this story first:

franklin goes to heaven, and billy goes to hell.

now, let us also suppose that billy and franklin are twin brothers: born within minutes of one another.

both are raised by the same christian parents, and go to the same bible-teaching congregation, where spiritual growth is encouraged, and the spirit’s work is evident by the fruit the congregation produces: caring for the poor in their neighborhood and other charitable acts.

both boys are looked up to all through high school and college, and marry christian women, who love them very much.

both young men turned out to church leaders — gifted by god in leading others to the lord, and in teaching them the deeper meanings of life in the kingdom.

when they are 43 years old, however, billy’s wife was raped, murdered, and left to die — by a supposed “preacher”, who was caught, arrested, and set to go to court.

well, billy did not take this well. (would you? would i?)

billy took it out on the preacher.

he was so angry that he murdered the man even before he’d had a chance to go to trial.

billy, still angry, but in shock at his own brutality, turned himself into the authorities, and went to prison for 30 years.

(the manner in which billy inflicted his revenge upon the man was based upon the man’s treatment of billy’s wife. the jury, though they understood where such anger came from, had no choice but to convict, and the minimum sentence was 30 years, no parole.)

while in prison, billy himself was mistreated — sometimes very badly, and he grew more and more angry at god for his lot in life until he lashed out at god, and disavowed his very existence.

he finished almost his entire sentence angry at god, and in trouble with the prison authorities, addicted to drugs and eventually murdering 3 of his cellmates over the years.

three years before he was to have originally gotten out of prison, billy was murdered in his cell while he slept, and went to hell.

his brother, franklin, died in a car accident that very minute — and went to heaven.

— the end —

looking back on their lives, we can see clearly that during their teens and twenties, both would have been sure they were going to heaven, and the way they conducted their lives seemed to point that way.

both claimed christ as lord, and had fruit, apparently.

some would say that if billy had died that night with his wife he would have gone to heaven.

but from the perspective of eternity, where hindsight truly is 20/20, we can see that it was never to be so:

who can deny that from the beginning of time, god knew the sad story of billy’s life?

who can deny that god knew he would end up angry, disavowing his existence, a murderer who died by the very violence he bred?

was god “fooled” by billy during his 20’s ?

when billy fell away, was god caught by surprise?

did god think, “oh, wow! billy don’t do it! ooooh, no! — now you’re not going to heaven after all! someone erase his name from the book of life!”

the idea is absurd.

no, it is clear: there was always a 100% chance, since god knew what would happen, that billy was going to hell.

so then: was he ever “saved” ?

was he ever a “christian” ?

so many times i’ve heard people talk about, “if you died right now, do you know where you’d go?”

well, in his 20s billy would have said “yes, i’d go to heaven”

would he be right?

would he be wrong?

can he not know?

if he could be wrong, can you?

i think the bible is vague on this for the same reason jesus didn’t give “rules for living”:

human beings have a way of taking rules and twisting them to their own sinful desires and weak psychological needs.

we always are looking for the easy “what can i get away with?”

when what god desires from us is, “what more can i give? how much more can i love?”

the verses josiah posted are a wonderful example: the bible seems to teach both, and yet not both — at the same time.

and still, somehow, millions of us find wisdom in christ’s words, and in the letters his followers wrote in the decades after his resurrection.

this is because they are deeper than “rules”.

how i left a young earth theory behind

position: the whole bible is the “why” and genesis is a very short answer to man’s age-old question of “where did all of this come from?”

when god revealed the HOW (as he probably did to the first people, who took the story and ran with it, until moses got the “written” version), he did it in a way that could be understood by 8,000 or more worth of human beings — even ones who had not yet figured out how to make fire, or use a wheel.

and, yet, the account fits perfectly with the science:

check out this graphic showing the timeline of the universe, as the science currently says it happend, when compared to what genesis says, from the point of view on the ground, at earth.

amazing similarity, no?

i started to doubt that the earth was 6,000 when i first read stephen hawking’s “a brief history of time”. for those that are unfamiliar with it, it is a “primer” of sorts on current cosmological theory, with things such as gravity, how light works, and more explained in (more or less) everyday terms.

the book made sense, but i was angered that it went against what the bible clearly said.

so i went looking (this was before the internet was in every home!), and was shocked to discover that the bible did not require the “24 hour day” meaning of the word YOHM, as i spoke to in my last post.

armed with this, i went looking even deeper, and discovered that there were, in fact, many christians, some of them quite prominent, who were at least open, if not outright supportive of an “old earth”.

i still questioned, and felt guilty about questioning my faith, but kept looking into the science and the hebrew.

eventually, after a few years of this, i simply faced the facts, as i udnerstood them: the universe was old, and the bible had no problem with it.

once i accepted this, i was free in a way i couldn’t have imagined before.

this was in 1992 – 1994 or so. (ironically, i was in no way living my life in a way that pleased christ at that time, but was living quite selfishly for me.)

in any case, just recently the science has gotten even better: in early summer last year, new views of the universe has proven, beyond any doubt, that the univesrse is roughyly 156 billion lightyears across — which translates, with the inflationary model of expansion — to 13.7 billion years old. more info here

einstein’s theory predicited that the big bang had to have happened, and the bulk of the scientific community balked, because of the theological implications, but the science has proven too good to ignore, and it has become the accepted theory of how the universe was kicked off.

(the big bang requires a “starter” for it, where the “steady state” theory that had been popular until then did not)

there are many other signs just in our planet that require an old earth, as well:

– there’s WAY too much fossil fuel: we know where it comes from, and at any given time, there’s not nearly enough plants and animals on the earth to have made it all (even in some planet-covering flood)

– plate tectonics: we know how slowly the continents drift, and we know how far apart they are now, so we can deduce how much time they have needed to get where they are. (again, the flood doesn’t account for this, either: such a huge shift in only a month or so (thousands of miles!) would litterally rip the earth apart, and the surface would be uninhabitable for hundreds or thousands of years. think of the devastation that 1 earthquake that’s “only” a 9 on the richter scale has caused in asia this past couple weeks. and that is NOTHING compared to how much the earth would have shaken to move the contients as far as they have moved. (not to mention that the ark wouldn’t have survived the quaking)

– light appears old: the light that reaches us appears aged, in that it is scattered, and red-shifted in a way that it would not be if it had only been traveling 6,000 – 12,000 years.

some thoughts that i have, too, regarding the nature of god:

everything we encounter in this life, whether WE do it, or we SEE it done, happens through process.

our spiritual growth is a process. the way we are born is a process. the way we learn, the way we create, be it art, music, or writing, or math.

and we are created in god’s image.

i see much evidence in this creation that its creator LOVES process.

i see no evidence that god lies — and much that we see in our universe would be a lie if it is not old: fossils of tiny and large animals, the distance starlight has traveled before we can see it without eyeballs, the wear and tear on rocks that comes from erosion.

these things, and many others, point to this planet, this universe having been here a long time.

why would god fake that stuff?

bottom line is: i have decided he would not fake it. it appears to be old because it is old.

what’s more is: none of this takes away from god’s power, or detracts from the miracle of it all: this universe is a singularly unique place, and it was made that way, prepared specially for mankind, over the course of 13.7 billion years.

there are thousands of things that must be just as they are for us to even be discussing this, from the average distances between galaxies (this is a HUGE deal) to the distance form the earth to the sun (no error for margin here), to the mixture of gasses in our atmosphere.

it’s all simply a miraculous thing, and i love him for it.

i hope this helps.

as i said before: we have no need to be afraid of asking questions. our god is a god of truth! let us always seek it.

on arguing with god

Genesis 18:20 – 19:38 (English Standard Version)

Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

This is one of the passages in the one year bible, for today (jan 8, 2004).

how amazing is it that abraham appears to have changed god’s mind?

how incredible that god seems to at least want, if not need, to go down there and see for himself how bad the city has gotten?

i love how abraham points out god’s goodness (“far be it from you…”) and all but forces god’s hand in this matter.

how much faith must it take to stand face to face with the creator, and say, “hey, wait!” !

how would you have handled it, if you were in abrahams birkenstocks?