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For every Action…

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I read through the sermon on the mount recently, and I love it. But, I also hate it a little bit too. Let me explain. Jesus’ words are very sharp. He clearly defines right and wrong, and brings expectations to a whole new level. I’m reminded of my days working an after school program for kids. Whenever we gave instructions to the kids there was list of things we had to cover, one of them was expectations. They had to know what we wanted from them, seems kind of obvious when you give instructions. Jesus set really high expectations for his followers. But that’s not all he did, he clearly explained consequences, both good and bad. Within his great sermon he specifically mentions eternal consequences 22 times. He mentions worldly rewards almost just as many times. This is where the love hate relationship comes into play. I like the Jesus who preaches only specific passages from Paul’s letters about grace and forgiveness and the impossibility of fulfilling the law, and the grace that makes it all okay. I like that Jesus. Sadly he doesn’t exist. Jesus laid out expectations, and they naturally (in his mind it was natural) were related to eternal consequence.

Now, let’s look at what this means to us in terms of apologetics.
Christianity, in my opinion, has been abused. Men have manipulated it for their ends, like all other religion-ish ideas. This is done because religion seems to have a window into eternity, and thus has the authority to judge actions based on their worthiness to receive good rewards. This is easily manipulated. For example, the Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition. The Salem Witch Trials. Not acceptable.
Now my question: What part of Jesus’ core teachings (the sermon on the mount) endorsed any of these afore mentioned atrocities? Perhaps it was his “hate your enemy” and “an eye for an eye” teachings. Maybe it was the “look but don’t touch” rule regarding women. Or perhaps even glorious teaching “judge others who are wrong”. Do you see where I’m going with this? If anyone ever does anything determinably evil, or less than desirable, they are not dong it of Christ. It is from something else.

Religion is poisonous. Jesus is prosperous. Humanity is cancerous. Jesus is a cure. Manipulation is toxic. Jesus is a vaccine.

Argument v. Truth

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

So I mentioned that in our present day we are confusing argument with truth. Debates are perfect examples of this. In school debate is taught as a process of providing evidence, and cited examples, then deriving conclusions that support the given side of the issue. The better debater wins. This is all fine, until you learn that going into a debate the debaters don’t choose which side to support. They are given a topic, and then a viewpoint to support. And it does not matter how true their arguments are as long as they are better than the opponents arguments, they win, and have the final word on the matter- within their debate. THIS CANNOT BE CONFUSED WITH TRUTH. Winning an argument and being right are very different things.

If I were to say murder is just and then prove that over an incompetent fellow who is too dumb to prove that murder by definition is not just it would not make murder just! It’s still wrong people! This is important to know on many accounts. Many times people use the bible, or smart people’s quotes, or whatever they want to make a point, and within their shell of information they sound very right and are convincing. But, if you remove the appeal to the man and authority and the well constructed sentences and look merely at the ideas opposed to other ideas the truth is easier to see.

I once had a friend explain to me how spiritual gifts like the laying on of hands, prophesy and speaking in tongues was all over now because of the completion of the bible. When all you hear is just those words, it’s clearly not acceptable as truth. But, when 5 or 6 scriptures are thrown in there, and the dots are connected just right, and other people who have held similar viewpoints are quoted, it seems like a pretty solid idea. There is a well crafted argument to back that claim. Let me inform you, incase you have held this belief, that argument does not mean absolute truth. There is a possibility that this is not so. I even have a more convincing argument that says otherwise if you want to hear pieces of it, I’d be glad to share. I’ll simply put it that God can do what he wants when He wants with or without a canonical bible. That’s convincing enough if you ask me. Assuming Christianity which seems more true? God can do what He wants (assuming his wants lie within his strict moral code), or the bible means the end of spiritual gifts? By the way, love is included in that list of spiritual gifts. In fact, the scripture in 1 Corinthians 2 where the core of this argument lies is followed by 1 Corinthians 13. Love wins.

Let truth be truth, let argument be argument. Let us not confuse the two and bring some salt to the discussion.

Guess Hitchen’s was wrong- God Is Great!

August 22, 2011 8 comments

Great question from the list of biblical contradictions: Who is greater, Jesus the son, or God the father. While the source is kind of silly about it, it is a good question to ask. Source says:

Is Jesus equal to or lesser than?

JOH 10:30 I and my Father are one.

JOH 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

First off, Meritt, the writer makes an assumption that being echad, one in spirit/focus/goal means to be equal in greatness. The relationship between Jesus and his Daddy is described like a wife to a husband. In this way the man is the head of the house- authority is his. According to the bible, a biblical husband grants a wife authority, and submits his needs to her wants and in turn a wife submits her wants to the husband’s need. It’s a mutual serving and loving. Also, when the “two become one” in marriage, it is the same as, “Hear O, Israel, the Lord your God is One.” or “I and the Father are One.”  I must preface my next statement by saying I am a feminist. That being said, God the Father is greater than Jesus, the son, in the same way a husband is greater than his wife.
The question becomes does having a oneness of spirit make you as great or not as great? And What does great mean? Are there different types of greatness, and can you attach qualities that would make someone more or less great? There has to be some framework to work from or the whole statement is meaningless- it very well could be meaningless from our perspectives if we don’t understand. Sounds like some questions that can hopefully be answered from personal bible study and a longing for relationship with God. It must be genuine and honestly trying to make sense out of things instead of having a negative bias and looking for ways to prove your position right. Even satan used scripture to tell lies; just because one can use the bible to make one’s point does not mean the point is valid. This is not because of biblical contradiction, but because of manipulation and abuse. I’ll post soon in a blog about truth and argument and how in this century- and before it- we have come to confuse the two.

shalom my friends.

The Empty Tomb Conundrum… C’mon!

August 16, 2011 6 comments

The source I’ve derived my list of biblical contradictions is from the Secular Web. This is a community that is aggressively atheistic. Most of the readers are already de-converted and not looking for compelling evidence to change their minds, but rather a pat on the back for non-belief. I say this only because it allows really awful “intellectualism”. The last post Jesus’ Ancestry is a good example of bad scholarship. This post, about the empty tomb is just as awful, and a clear neglect for common sense. Source says this:

Who was at the Empty Tomb? Is it:

MAT 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day
of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

MAR 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
JOH 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

I wonder why he didn’t throw in Luke’s version that merely says “the women”. It’s just as uncompelling. Clearly the gospels don’t say exactly the same thing on this issue, but they don’t contradict each other either. There is no reason,from reading John’s gospel, that anyone would believe that Mary the mother of James, and Salome were not at the tomb. Let me make this clear with an example. If I said the Bronco II featured below is blue, I am correct. If I said the Bronco II featured below is white I am also correct. If I were feeling crazy and said the Bronco II featured below is Blue and White, then I am still correct! So what then is the empty tomb conundrum?

Jesus’ Ancestry

August 15, 2011 1 comment

Next on the list of biblical contradictions is who is Joseph’s daddy? That is, Joseph the wife of Mary and the acting earthly father of Jesus. The source says this:

Who is the father of Joseph?

MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

I think this supposed contradiction is hilarious,  because it’s not a contradiction, at all, in any way. There is, however, a problem with the genealogies. It becomes obvious here that Jim Meritt who wrote the list of biblical contradictions didn’t study very hard, or he wouldn’t have made this silly mistake.

Matthew
The book of Matthew lists 14 ancestors from Abraham to David, and then fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and then 14 after the exile to Jesus. He mentions only very prominent figures in Israel’s history for a very pointed purpose, and skips many generations. This is not a flaw. The intended audience of the book of Matthew would have known this as they heard it, so he was not attempting to fool anyone. This is why Joseph is the son of Joseph and not Heli.

Luke
Luke’s book is different. Luke mentions every generation from Adam to Jesus, skipping very few if any. This is because Luke was a historian, in practice if not in profession. The book of Luke is extremely accurate historically in all verifiable accounts. His genealogy is written with the same historical accuracy.

The Actually Problem
The actual problem is found after David. Luke traces the ancestry from David’s son Nathan, while Matthew traces the ancestry from Solomon. From this point the genealogical lines differ. There are possible explanations for this inconstancy, but I don’t claim to know exactly why there is a difference.

Possible Solutions
Scholars believe that Luke had access to Matthew’s gospel when he wrote his, and therefore, his genealogy. This must be noted to know that Luke’s genealogy is intentionally different. Matthew wrote to Jews who were well acquainted with Israel’s history. Perhaps Matthew knowingly wrote an incorrect genealogy to give Jesus a more significant ancestry. Luke would then have written a more accurate version as to keep the integrity of the story, and he also wrote to a different audience that wasn’t so fluent in Jewish history, and therefore would be no advantage to changing the genealogy.
Perhaps a more likely reason is that Matthew was wrong. It’s very possible that Matthew just didn’t know, or didn’t have a good source for the genealogy. Luke did do extensive research, which is apparent when considering his accuracy, and most likely had a good source for the genealogy, possibly even one of Jesus’ brothers and Joseph’s child.
Perhaps there is yet another explanation- one that I favor- maybe they’re both right. It is possible that Luke in his exhaustive work wrote the genealogy of Mary, Jesus’ mother. He says “He [Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph”. Of course to me that is not enough to communicate that he was writing the genealogy from the mother, but it does cast doubt on Joseph’s fatherhood, and might to his intended audience, Theophilus, communicate just that. It is a thought worth thinking.

Anyway you look at it, there is a flaw in the genealogies of Jesus. I brought that up, not Jim Meritt. Meritt needs to study and bring real substance to the table. These flaws will not go without response. In my opinion, since Luke intentionally wrote a genealogy that did not agree with Luke’s there was a reason for it, and it was to be as accurate as possible. What exactly was wrong with Matthew’s is not known to me. At the most it casts doubt on Matthew’s accuracy, but only shines a light of integrity on the gospel of Luke.

Is God Good?

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a site on the Secular Web that has a list of biblical contradictions. I’m going to read through them and talk about them a little bit, and see what we come up with. One of the first raises the question of ‘is God good?’

PSA 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

At first glance, it does seem quite obvious that this is a horrible contradiction. God is obviously not good if he wants to dash them and destroy them. However, we need to read these verses in context to get a better understanding of what they are actually saying. Psalm 145 is a praise of David, and is poetic. Obviously a praise song is not looking for exhaustive theological viewpoints of the axiological nature of God. That’s a big worded sentence to say David isn’t critically exploring God’s morality. He is, however, praising God.

Jeremiah is a book that needs to be taken into context as a whole. The Psalms stand alone and we can examine them individually for the most part. But Jeremiah is a deeply interwoven work that has 56 cohesive chapters. Jeremiah is known informally as ‘the weeping prophet’ because of the woeful judgement he brings to Judah and Israel. Specifically to Judah and Jerusalem in chapter 13. Jeremiah brings warnings so that the God’s chosen people will repent.

Then I said to the people of Judah,
“Listen and pay attention! Do not be arrogant!
For the Lord has spoken.
Show the Lord your God the respect that is due him.
Do it before he brings the darkness of disaster.
Do it before you stumble into distress
like a traveler on the mountains at twilight.
Do it before he turns the light of deliverance you hope for
into the darkness and gloom of exile.
But if you will not pay attention to this warning,
I will weep alone because of your arrogant pride.
I will weep bitterly and my eyes will overflow with tears
because you, the Lord’s flock, will be carried  into exile.”

-Jeremiah 13:15-17

Let me be clear we are like children. I mean this in the way that we do not know what’s best for ourselves. We see a plug and a screwdriver and we get a devious grin and make plans to get ourselves killed. A hot stove looks like a play ground. Cigarets entice us and premarital sex becomes the number one goal in life. Thankfully, for those of us who believe, God does not allow us to go down these roads of self destruction. He actually promises to discipline us in order to teach us to be faithful and live a life of prosperity rather than to go on in our destruction. In this way, God uses ‘darkness of disaster’ and ‘darkness and gloom of exile’ as disciplinary tools.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hat me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

-Exodus 20:4-6

God reveals his plan to punish sin, so that it does not go on for generations. He promises to cut it short. He is making good on his promise through the words of Jeremiah. This is not only biblical consistency within itself here, but it is also being consistent with Psalm 145. People have the choice to make decisions, right or wrong, good or bad, sinful or holy (which ever pair works for you). We have choices that often lead to destruction (The way of a man seems right to him, but in the end it leads to destruction). God lets us make that choice, but he also disciplines us to make better choices. There are consequences. Because of this I find that God is good to all, especially when speaking of tender mercy. I mean, if God lets us make choices, and has the ability to show us the error of our way through discipline of consequences, and he didn’t do so, then he would not be a good God. If he let us lead ourselves down a path of destruction with no warnings or signs to try and deter us, he would be an evil God. Instead he warns of us of the coming ‘darkness of the gloom of exile’ to try and get his people to repent, and when they don’t, he allows the ‘darkness of the gloom of exile’ to do it’s work so that the people will see their depravation and repent to live a life of love and prosperity.

So why is this so easily perceived as contradiction? Well, we are depraved, in my opinion. We see discipline not for what it produces (a harvest of peace and righteousness) but for what we feel at the time (pain). And so we forget that the painful discipline is from a loving father who wants us to be free from evil and evil desires that lead to destruction. In short we associate discomfort and pain with evil and comfort and ease with good. In the long term that is accurate, but in the midst of a difficult situation, there is a struggle and fight for the good, and it is not always comfortable and painless. 1 Timothy 1:7 says “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, of love, and self discipline.” We need to have discipline and do the hard things, not the easy ones, for that is true, power and love, and goodness.

Biblical Inconsistencies & Inaccuracies

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a conversation that needs to be had. Thanks to my chatting buddy, and intellectual, Tildeb, I have a sources that has a list of biblical contradictions, but more importantly, i have the bible. So there’s a lot of material to go through. However, before the nitty gritty comes out in this conversation a general understanding of how the bible is read and interpreted needs to be established. This understanding can be disagreed upon, however, it is foundational to the conversation, and must be laid down as a solid piece to build on. If disagreement occurs, which it will, then difference must be set aside.

First, what is the “Holy Bible” in the most simple and material terms?
It is a collection of ancient writings from various authors in various situations, with varying ideas and history to record.

What does that imply?
Different authors have different voices, styles, and genres. Varying situations will determine which genre is appropriate and what details and specifics will be emphasized within the texts as well as which details and specifics will be neglected. Varying ideas and history to record means different purposes for different sections of the bible.

How is this approached?
Well, you can’t assume any two sections of the bible to be read as interchangeable with the other. Not all genres are literal, just as not all are non-literal. Not all purposes of writings require scientific accuracy, and scientific understanding is not emphasized within those sections for that purpose. We then must approach the varying biblical texts within their genre, giving credit to each particular sections individual authorship, and with at least some small understanding of the purpose for the text.

What does this mean for the divine origins of the bible?
Whether you believe the bible is written by God, inspired by God, a collection of meaningless writings, or a conspiracy, it is your own decision. However, acknowledging the differences between different sections of the bible is not grounds for dismissing them as inspired by God. This alone does not prove either than the scriptures are from or not from God, it is merely laying a foundation for how we read the biblical text under a critical light. This foundation is necessary. Otherwise, the scriptures could be applied to genres they are not associated with, and to ideas they are not concerned with, as well as situations they are not applicable to. This leads to abuse within denominational teaching, discipleship, and the work of ‘scholars’ both for and against theism.

Stick around. Pretty soon I’ll be examining specific scriptures that have apparent or very real contradictions, and working through them. This should be a good conversation, if you want to get in on it.