When the Bible becomes a weapon….

Although I don’t focus very much on the Old Testament I have always been troubled about how it seems to condone slavery. There is an interesting article in USA Today about  this topic.  See it at  In Civil War, the Bible became a weapon – USATODAY.com.  Here is a little bit of it.

God said so

In the 1860s, Southern preachers defending slavery also took the Bible literally. They asked who could question the Word of God when it said, “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9). Christians who wanted to preserve slavery had the words of the Bible to back them up.

The preachers of the North had to be more creative, but they, too, argued God was on their side. Some emphasized that the Union had to be preserved so that the advance of liberty around the world would not be slowed or even stopped. One Boston preacher, Gilbert Haven, sermonized, ” If America is lost, the world is lost.”

Historian James Howell Moorhead of Princeton Theological Seminary points out that other ministers drew on the Book of Revelation and suggested that a Northern victory might prepare the way for the Kingdom of God on earth. Still others preached that God would not allow the North to win until it ended slavery. The Battle Hymn of the Republic poetically summed up such Union beliefs:

When we take the Bible literally and for all time the above type mentality often prevails.  St. Paul told slaves to obey their masters so God must condone slavery.  This type of logic did not go away after the Civil War. It is still very prevalent today amongst those who take the Bible literally.  Sad as it is I imagine that there are still many around that believe that slavery was instituted by God. When you take the Bible literally you are stuck with all the verses being literal.  That is a very hard thing to cope with.

Of course many Christians know that much of the Bible was written around the  circumstances of the time and not meant for eternity. If St. Paul had said that slavery was an abomination before God he would have been run out of town on the preverbal “rail”. We must understand that some of the Bible simply reflected the times; some of it was allegory; some of it was just giving historical evidence.

Ending this post on the Civil War topic I very much admire these words of Lincoln:

“My concern is not whether God is on our side,” he said. “My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

Many throughout the ages claim God is on their side. Hitler used that logic and so did the KKK amongst many others. But we should all ask the question “are we on God’s side?”

The Father, The Son, and the Holy Bible

The concept of the Trinity was something that was invented many years after Christ’s ascension. It did not originate from Jesus but was invented more than one hundred years after is resurrection. It has, however, become a bedrock item in  much of the Christian church. But it seems many church denominations have now replaced the Holy Spirit with the Bible. From my studies on this substitution seems to have significantly grown about 100 years ago but its actual inception was probably during the Protestant Reformation.

During some recent discussion with a Christian clergy I was told that I should not put too much credence in any messages I thought were coming from the Holy Spirit as they could just as easily be coming from Satan.  Jesus clearly told us that he would be sending the Holy Spirit to guide us in areas  that we were not yet able to understand.  For anyone to discount personal revelations is going against those words.  To say that we can’t tell if the message is Satan or God is almost saying that  God is NOT capable of getting his messages through to us!  I personally give God more power than that. If he wants me to know something  he can deliver it to me and I will know it is from him.  I personally have had a few of those revelations in my life.

Many who discount the power of the Holy Spirit then go on to say that everything God wants us to know is in the Bible and therefore any additional revelations from the Holy Spirit are totally unnecessary. This brings about the title of this post. In many ways the Bible has replaced the Holy Spirit to them! Yes, I do believe that the Bible contains words from God but it is not the total and final word of God.  The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is active even today in teaching us, among many other things,  how to live as followers of Jesus Christ.  I welcome those revelations whenever they come.

Waiting to Die….

It seems that some Christians think that this world is simply a waiting area for the next one in heaven.  They take on the mantel of we are all just poor miserable sinners who are capable of nothing good. So the only thing to do is to wait passively to get into heaven which is their “true” home. This philosophy is primarily accounted for by the epistles of Paul.  Since Protestants latch onto Paul much more than Catholics this world view is associated primarily with them. Many hunker down in their churches each Sunday singing praises to God and waiting for the second coming.  Since they think so little of themselves and their God given abilities they think little or nothing is required of them.  What a sad way to live in this world!

I wonder just how surprised they will be when they find out that God actually intended them to do something while they were here.  I don’t know what the consequences of their inactivity will be? I will leave that up to God.  But, I think Jesus clearly pointed out a different tract for us to take. He meant for us to actively praise God through our actions and to love our fellow man.  To give our neighbors the shirt off our back if he needs it.  Yes, to even being a bleeding heart! Just casually looking at the red letters makes this very obvious to me.

God created the universe which is a vast and wonderful place. He set the earth in motion and then populated it with everything we need to make a fulfilling life here.  Some might say to even make his kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven. To waste all that by being passive is an affront to God in my opinion.

Intrepreting the Bible….

As I have mentioned in the recent past I have disassociated myself with the Christian church that I was part of for over nine years. I have always tried to not mention what my religious affiliations were on this blog but now that they are severed I will say it was with a LCMS Lutheran church.  The pastor of the church was a regular viewer of this blog and gave several often opposing comments which I welcomed. I thought we had agreed to disagree on some of the secondary issues surrounding our individual faiths. That was fine with me. But then I was given notice that since I had among other things so publicly stated that I believe in the “day age” version of Genesis instead of the seven-day 24 hour version he would be taking my case to the elders to get my communion privileges revoked and therefore effectively removing me from membership! If I had not short circuited the process by voluntarily leaving it this would have resulted in a formal inquisition where I would be asked to disavow these false beliefs.

During our discussions on this topic the statement was made that we cannot each decide what to believe about the church or the Bible. Instead we must all believe what the church leadership tells us is the truth. To do otherwise, I was told, would result in mass confusions. In afterthought it seems very ironic to me that I was chastised for trying to understand the Bible on my own terms, especially by a Lutheran church.  After all isn’t that what the founder of the Lutheran church actual did! He dared to go against current church beliefs and especially their practices.

But I have to admit that this type of thing probably goes on in almost all Christian denominations today.  If you don’t tow the line and believe what you are told to believe then you are chastised in one form or another.  In my studies of different Christian organizations about the only one I have found that does not do this are the Quakers. They basically allow any of their members to believe just about anything they want.  I think they go too far in the other direction. There has to be some very basic core beliefs in order to call yourself a Christian. But most denominations today go way beyond that set of core beliefs and instead base their membership qualification more on church tradition and practices than anything else.

So here I am  trying to understand the Bible on my own and not rely on someone else to tell me what each verse means. Maybe I should post my 95 theses on my old church’s doors. Who knows what might happen. (ha)  I will continue to be a very fervent follower of Jesus Christ but not a member of any particular current day denomination. At least for now.

A Follower of Jesus Christ….

I have often said that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. He is indeed my Lord and Savior. But, is there a difference between being a follower of Christ and being a Christian?  Up until recently I had not tried to discern any difference in those two state. But now I am coming to understand that they can be two  quite different things.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that I study his words as found in the Gospel text and take them to heart. Those words are what drives me throughout my life. Jesus gave us many insights in what it means to be one of his followers.  The primary message I get is that we are to be our brother’s keeper. We are to love God above everything else and to love our fellow-man as ourselves. Jesus said these two things take in the totality of the Jewish law that came via the old covenent before him.

Being a Christian, at least to me, means being associated with some organization that is trying to tune itself around Christ.  I think there has come to be quite a difference between Christian establishments and the invisible Body of Christ. As I have mentioned often on this blog, there are currently over 39,000 versions of Christian establishments around today.  That number is constantly increasing as more and more are separating themselves over doctrinal and belief issues.   This never-ending division started early in our history.  Many believe that St. Paul in his many letters to different congregations about many different issues put in place a myriad of rules that are at the core of these separations. These divisions also seemed to start growing exponentially about the time that some started taking all the words of the Bible as being literal and absolutely true.  With that stand it is very hard to reconcile so many of the different issues addressed in the Bible so many people latch on to a handful of verses and just mostly ignore the others.

So, here I am a follower of Jesus Christ and not currently associated with any religious establishments of the day. In some ways  this is a liberating state as I can now concentrate on Jesus’ words alone and don’t have to worry about aligning them with any current church practices or doctrine.

Waiting For God…

(Here is a post from the past and on another of my blogs. Find the original here http://waiting4god.net/2010/10/04/10410/ )

I heard an interesting sermon this Sunday. It was about waiting for God. As you know this is a topic dear to my heart. Some examples given in the sermon were all the prayers to stop the BP oil leak and the many amber alerts that take place in the U.S. nowadays. The sermon thread seemed to be that we are always disappointed in the silence of God when it comes to our prayers. Why didn’t God stop the leak earlier? How can he allow children to be molested and murdered when there are so many prayers coming to him for a better outcome. Why doesn’t God answer our prayers?

The seeming answer to this dilemma at least as this sermon went was that Jesus’ resurrection was the answer to all our prayers. It should give us hope that all our pain and suffering will go away once we are called to heaven. So, we are to endure all our present suffering because of the future glory Jesus’ resurrection promises. Unfortunately, or maybe sadly, this type of conclusion is all too familiar in many of today’s churches. “Just hold on until the next life and everything will be wonderful”.

To me this is not what Jesus taught. He taught us that we as faithful Christians are God’s representatives here on earth and we are to take action in his name. When a child goes missing we are to do everything in our power to help assure a good outcome. We are also to support those who are activated by these alerts with both our time and our tax dollars. We should not be stingy with our tax dollars when it comes to our neighbor’s health or well being; especially the least fortunate among us. If a good result doesn’t come in these situations then it is our duty to console those who grieve. In other words we are to be our brother’s keeper. Christ did not intend us to passively wait until our death so we can see God’s glory. He meant for us to show His glory through our every day actions.

I do believe that God does from time to time give us miracles but those times are rightly very rare indeed. If he was constantly fixing our society’s and our personal screw-ups would we indeed have free will that he promises us? Instead of bailing us out every time adversity strikes us he intends for us to rally around our neighbors to assure good results or to at least ameliorate their pain and suffering. That is how people know we are Christians and that is how we show God’s true love in this world. We should be doing the work that God gave us to do and not be fixated on sitting around and waiting for the next life because it will be better than this one. Christianity is not a sit back and wait religion; it is a call to action. At least in my mind.

Is the Church Christian?

Here is an excerpt from a book entitled “If the Church were2-13-2011 10-08-10 AM Christian” by Philip Gulley.

Several years ago I visited a museum and saw the skeleton of a dinosaur. As I read the plaque, I learned only a handful of the bones were original, that the remainder had been fabricated based on a paleontologist’s extrapolation from the authentic bones. In many ways, this is similar to what the church has done. There are only two passages in one gospel (Matthew 16:18 and 18:17) where Jesus mentions the church, and even those references are dubious. Many scholars suspect the Matthean verses were not original to Jesus but were written back into the text by persons hoping to bolster their theological and ecclesial positions by placing them in the mouth of Jesus. From those two verses, we have built a vast institution based on these “hints” Jesus gave us. But we should never delude ourselves into thinking that today’s church sprang directly from the mind and witness of Jesus. All we have is extrapolation, a few bones upon which have been erected a larger organism. If Jesus intended to create the church, he did a questionable job. He left no clear directions about its structure or purpose.

Mr. Gulley seems to come down in the camp that today’s Christian church was fabricated by Jesus’ followers (ie. Paul and a few others) and not Jesus himself. By his actions and not his words, Jesus set in place the cornerstone and left it up to us to build the structure.  I’m not sure I really buy into this entirely but it is interesting speculation.

Jesus and Paul Comparisons – Harder than it looks..

I am having trouble with my project of comparing what Jesus said to what Paul said.  There are several reasons for this difficulty.

  • They, for the most part, didn’t appear to address very many of the same issues.
  • There is so much baggage associated with this topic it is hard to not be prejudged by it all
  • It seems I must extrapolate the two men’s actions as well as words to make any comparison.

This leaves me with some basic questions.

  • Did Jesus leave it up to Paul to fill in his blanks?
  • Did Paul take it upon himself to create a religion around the person of Jesus?
  • Just how much did Paul really know about Jesus’ life and teachings?

In scanning the current theological thoughts about this topic there seems to be two completely opposite camps. I am trying to come to my own conclusions about this matter but it is hard to not get dragged into one of them. I’m not sure I am really ready to objectively even do this. It seems hard to compare Jesus’ “oranges” to Paul’s “apples”.  It seems to me that Paul has latched on to some of the parts of Jesus’ message and totally ignored others.  It find it strange that Jesus mentioned “the kingdom of heaven” hundreds of times in the Gospel accounts but that thought never occured once in Paul’s many letters?

Paul seems to be more locked onto the “poor miserable sinner” side of Christ than his side of love for even our enemies.  But maybe I am missing some of that? It seems where Paul is a rule maker where Jesus is about love. I can certainly understand Thomas Jefferson’s belief that Paul took Jesus’ simple message and complicated it.

Is the Christian church as it developed with Paul as a primary source really about Jesus Christ? What would Jesus say if he came back today and saw it’s current state? Would he recognize it as following his words or has it become fixated on man’s rules and traditions? I just don’t know.

Jesus Christ – Lord and Savior

To me the title of this post is the perfect blend of words.  We must acknowledge that Jesus is our Lord and we must also acknowledge that he is our Savior. Those two conditions are very different so lets study them some here.

  • Jesus Christ is my Savior — Jesus was very clear that one of the reasons he came was to die for our sins. That is something that I have trouble really understanding but I take him at his words. Accepting Jesus as our savior is a leap of faith that requires not much else. It is big admission but after that it is more or less a passive thing.
  • Jesus Christ is my Lord — This is something entirely different. Jesus is my ultimate mentor. He is my master; I will obey him and seek to emulate him. I seek to learn as much from him as I can.  This is anything but a passive event. It requires a life long commitment to carry out.

Many today seem to latch onto the Savior side of Jesus but then totally fail to understand his lordship. To me these two sides to Jesus are intrinsically linked. It is impossible to separate them. Let’s everyday show the Lord’s love in our lives. We are his ambassadors while we are on earth. What we do, or maybe even more importantly don’t do, reflect on him.