Archives For January 2011

I have spent some time with my comparisons between Jesus’ words and Paul’s. I will be posting my first comparisons in the next week or so. But I wanted to talk a little about what I have found so far.  As Sam, who commented on the last post, indicated I have found that a big part of the differences between Jesus and Paul lay around the way we look at Paul’s words.  Do we take each and every word to be for all circumstances and for all eternity or was he  just addressing a particular situation in one of the congregations that Paul had previously started?

If we follow the dominant Evangelical line we take every word to be for every instance. In other words, all of Paul’s words are doctrine for the church in general.  This is where I believe the problems most frequently occur. When we do this we are indeed pitting Jesus words, which most believe are all pretty much doctrinal in nature, against sometimes very different words from Paul found in the correspondence he wrote to those churches. I am a person who puts Jesus Christ front and center in my faith and life so I tend to make Paul’s words secondary at best.

I have also been casually looking at some of the theologian’s words about this topic. They are all over the map when it comes to Paul. There are some theologian’s who believe that the true foundations of Christianity are Pauline and that Jesus’ words have little to do with today’s church. Then there are those who take the complete opposite stand.  Thomas Jefferson, who I have read quite extensively was one who believed that Paul took the otherwise very simple message of Jesus and made it very complicated by all his rules and edicts. In fact Jefferson went to far as to put together his own version of the Bible. Of course none of the Pauline letters were included.

As usual there is generally not much agreement about Paul’s place in the church. But what else can we expect given all the divisions that have taken place in the church? I tend to keep in simple in this regard and say that anyone who takes Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a member of the one true church.  All this other stuff, Paul included, is just small stuff.

Next time I will be bring some direct comparisons to Jesus’ words with Paul’s.

Jesus and Paul…

January 25, 2011 — 5 Comments

I am going to start yet a new category on this blog called “Jesus and Paul”. I will try to pull out words from Jesus and then corresponding words from Paul to see how the words and their corresponding meanings might differ. From my initial look at this topic I was somewhat surprised to find what I have. This will be an interesting place to go in my study of the Bible.

Many Christians today, especially those who call themselves Evangelicals and Lutherans in particular, like to say that “all the words in the Bible are the words of Jesus”. Anyone who has read much from this blog know that I just don’t see it that way. In my mind Jesus’ words must take front and center in my Christian life. He was God incarnate; all the other writers were simply human beings whose words were  inspired by God. All the words in the Bible must be filtered through the red letters. Where there appears to be a conflict Jesus’ words will reign supreme, at least to me.

I want to say in advance that when there is an apparent conflict between the words of Jesus and Paul I am not trying to insinuate that Paul was lying or trying to lead us astray. I know there are many around who love it but I am just not a conspiracy type guy. Instead I tend to believe that some of the words of Paul were just Paul giving his human and personal opinion about something. There are a few places in his many letters where he openly states that fact. I wish he had done that more often so as not to confuse some of us now twenty centuries later.

In studying Paul I have come to the conclusion that he, among other things, was just a ornery old bachelor and that human condition bled through to some of his words in his many letters. Of course the same is true for all of us. Our experiences determine how we view life.  That is what makes us human. How could it have been otherwise for even the Apostles. I am just not one to believe  that when Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus he quit being the person he was and was totally taken over by Jesus in all his thoughts and words. He did not give up his personality or human thoughts in the process. Neither did any of the other epistle writers. The human aspect of the Epistles is what gives them value. I believe their humanity shows through in many of their words. In my mind that is one thing that continues to make the Bible interesting. We can view being disciples of Jesus Christ through many different human foibles. This will be an interesting study indeed.

Doing Good Deeds

January 23, 2011 — 1 Comment

I am going to keep this post simple and just put out some verses about doing good deeds. This time I am going to also pull up some words from Peter and Paul.

Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. NIV

1 Peter 2:11-12

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  NIV

1 Tim 6:17-19

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  NIV

Gal 6:7-11

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!  NIV

There are scores of places in the gospels where Jesus and his disciples gave us this same message so it is very hard for me to understand why some Christian denominations seem to ignore his message and concentrate almost entirely on the forgiveness of sins. Yes Jesus did forgive us our sins but as part of the process he expects us to act like we appreciate it. From the above verses there appears to be consequences for doing otherwise. All of us 24/7 should let the light in our lives reflect Jesus’ teachings so that others can see the Lord through us.

That is a question that has been on my mind the last few days.  I have lived for more than six decades on this earth so I have been exposed to probably millions of different situations but what is the saddest? The list initially was quite large but the more I have thought about it the more it shrinks. I think I am finally down the one thing and that is lazy minds. I know, on first thought, that seems a strange answer.  After all there are things like world hunger, hatred, prejudice, homelessness, constant wars, and many other things that seem more serious.  But the more I have thought about it the more I am convinced that all of the above mentioned things are a result of lazy minds.

Our ability to think is perhaps the most significant thing that God gave us to separate us from everything else in this world. Being able to analyze our circumstance and then make knowledgeable decisions and then changes is something only man can do. God gave us our intellect so we could develop it and use it to further his kingdom on earth.  When we lay back and refuse to use our God given intellect I believe we are sinning against God at a most basic level. Lazy minds are not limited to any particular ethnic group, economic scale, or spiritual sphere. It is endemic across the entire spectrum of human condition.

Lazy minds allow us to just sit back and take on our parent’s prejudges as our own.  If our parents didn’t like Jews or Blacks or Hispanic or whatever then it is likely we don’t like them either. If only we exercised our minds and found that all these prejudges are without any merit  or reasoning whatsoever we could more easily purge them from reality.

Lazy minds allow others around us to control how we perceive almost everything in this world. It is just easier to have someone to show us one way of thinking and not even consider that there are other possibilities. It allows politician to tell us what to believe, marketers to tell us what to buy. It allows others to tell us what to believe about almost all aspects of life including our spiritual one.

Lazy minds prevent us from solving many of the otherwise solvable problems in the world.  We have the technical ability to eradicate most of today’s problems if only we got off our butts and did something about it. World hunger is definitely something that is fixable. The main thing that prevents us from doing that is we have not figured out how to interact with each other or how to choose leaders who could do that as our representatives. We allow our leaders to tell us what to think, who are enemies and friends are and almost everything else about our living in this world. We let them separate us into clans that they say must battle each other.

Lazy minds prevent us from knowing who God really is and what he expects of us.  We allow others to tell us  “their” truth about God instead of us discovering who He really is. We allow others to selectively point us to the particular words in the Bible that “they” deem the most important instead of studying all the words ourselves. We allow others to tell us who to hate instead of following God’s command to love one another, even our enemies.

We allow one generation after another to take the easy way through this world.  All of us in one degree or another refuse to exercise our minds to even a small percentage of their capacity. It is just too easy to let others think for us.  That is the saddest thing in the world to me.

As some of you may know I recently was more or less forced to leave my church home of eight years because I publicly via this blog said I believe that the earth is more than 6,000 years old. The leadership of the denomination insists that this idea is heresy.  In that light it was interesting to note the article today about the Catholic church very publicly professed that they are no longer teaching creationism.  Here is an excerpt from that article and the URL to the source.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110106/lf_nm_life/us_pope_bigbang;_ylt=Atn4zJuRv18tpYCeKNJVh7is0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpdHBkcHJoBHBvcwMzNQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDZ29kd2FzYmVoaW5k

Benedict and his predecessor John Paul have been trying to shed the Church’s image of being anti-science, a label that stuck when it condemned Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun, challenging the words of the Bible.

Galileo was rehabilitated and the Church now also accepts evolution as a scientific theory and sees no reason why God could not have used a natural evolutionary process in the forming of the human species.

The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism — the belief that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible — and says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory for the way Godcreated the world.

The Galileo thing has been a constant millstone around the church’s neck in regard to science. It is nice to see that the biggest Christian denomination in the world has finally embraced God given scientific revelation. It is too bad that my previous church still stubbornly clings to the seven twenty four hour day theory.  Of course the Bible story is an allegory for what actually happened just as many of the other stories in the Bible are allegories. The people at the time these stories were written were just not ready for the full truth. With the stories being allegorical take nothing away from the message presented. To take a literal view of these stories  is myopic and hurting God’s kingdom on earth.

Why, God??

January 5, 2011 — 3 Comments

Recently I seem to be asking questions that I was previously very reluctant to consider. I know I am not supposed to test God but I just can’t understand why he has not shown himself more directly in more than 2,000 years? Even according to biblical standards this is probably the longest period of time without a direct and powerful intervention from God.

  • Why are you keeping yourself hidden?
  • Why haven’t you shown yourself in more than 30 generations?
  • What are you waiting for?
  • Why must I rely on ancient accounts of you that have such scant documentation? None of the originals of even that documentation exist today!
  • Why am I forced to try and understand today’s world through a two thousand year old filter?

I know from my abundant studies in this area that these are questions often asked by people who have not yet come to know Christ. They make comments like “I know he was hung on a cross to die about 2,000 years ago and then came back to life, but what has he done lately?”. Many evangelicals say “he told us everything we need to know in the Bible.”

  • But aren’t our varied interpretations of just what the bible says the cause of us splitting into more than 35,000 versions of Christians?
  • When is enough enough for even God?
  • Why can’t he provide us with clearer answers to today’s problems?
  • Why can’t he give us clearer directions on what it really means to be his disciples?

Why, why, why…

With this post I am starting a new category.  It is called the Best of the Past. I will be pulling up some of the previous two years posts to look at them again. This one is from October 1, 2009

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Is it possible to know too much about Christian theology. I didn’t used to think so but I am tending to come to that conclusion recently. It seems that the more I study Christian theology/doctrine/dogma the more I see the disharmony in Christ’s church. Because of that I am beginning to wonder if anyone really has it right! To me the most important verses in the Bible are:

Matt 22:36-40 NIV

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

But, when I study church history and different Christian sects these words seem to get drowned out by things like:

  • full vs. partial immersion baptism
  • whether faith alone is enough or whether works is also required
  • whether God gives us free will or He has already decided whether we get heaven or hell
  • whether we should be snake handlers as proof that we are Christians
  • Whether the bible is all we need or whether church tradition is also needed
  • Whether the words of Matthew 16 made Peter the Pope

This list could almost go on almost endlessly. We seem to be arguing over everything and mostly ignoring the “important” stuff! Jesus time and again told us we must be like little children if we want to truly follow him. Let’s look at some of the passages where he talks of this:

Matt 18:3-4 NIV

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:14-16 NIV

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 10:21 NIV

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Of course little children wouldn’t know much theology but they get the simple message that God is Love. They don’t lose sight of this the most important thing. I have always thought that knowing church history and its dogma was important to really knowing God but maybe all that stuff is just “stuff” that can drown out the simple truth of God. Maybe the old saying Ignorance is Bliss is really true when it comes to following Jesus on this side of heaven. More on that idea in my next post.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

EpiLog:

Here we are 15 months later and I feel more strongly about this now than I did even then.   We Christians have made such a mess of God’s church with all our legalisms, traditions, institutional purity, and such. And the rest of the world has noticed. That is one of the primary reasons for seemingly constant shrinking church attendance.  It is time to get back to the main and really only message and that is to just follow Jesus. All this other stuff is just noise getting in the way!!

Why Did You Tell Us?…

January 1, 2011 — 3 Comments

Happy New Year’s everyone! God has given us another year to show the Lord’s love in our lives. Let’s not waste it!

This will just be a short post from something I have been reading this afternoon. It is an article in the January 2011 issue of Friends Journal – Quaker Thoughts and Life Today. The article is entitled The Meaning of Universalism by Phil H. Gulley. I will be discussing some of the issues he brings up about Universalism in future posts but I just wanted to give you one of the short stories in that article now. I found it comical and ironic at the same time:

It was about a church that decided someone needed to go preach to the Eskimos to go save them because they were lost. So they sent a missionary to the Eskimos, and he preached. When the missionary was done preaching, an Eskimo elder said to him, “Before you leave, let me ask you something. If we had never heard of Jesus and sin, would we have gone to hell when we died?” The missionary replied. “Well, no, of course not if you hadn’t heard.” And the Eskimo said, “Then why did you tell us?”

Are we condemning people who otherwise would not have gone to hell by our brief encounters with other cultures? That is something to think about. 🙂