02 June 2009

WHERE I STAND [1]: Following (Soley or Mainly) Because of Claimed Divinity

50 comments
 
Last night during a free roaming discussion in our home, ranging from the fall of Lucifer and the origin of evil to comparative religious studies and truth, the group of thirteen decided to carry part of our talk through to next week with the question:

Why you do follow/believe/claim Jesus and/or Christianity?

Each of us will summarize our own answers to this question next week and I'm betting the answers will be very diverse. This is a question that I have reassessed and answered for myself many times with many different versions having not thought about it for more than half of my life. I want summarize it here but I would like to talk about a former belief rational that I held: believing and following (?) based soley or mainly on claimed divinity.

It is like this. Being (person or otherwise) tells person(s) that Being is divine and so the person(s)
should believe in Being. Being may add that if person(s) do not believe in Being person(s) may not receive the benefits of the Being's blessing and may incur Being's wrath. Notice that there is no demonstration that Being actually is divine nor that if they are that the Being's intentions are good.

This in some ways reminds me of the elementary school bully. Of course the bully most often isn't claiming to be immortal but similarly the most powerful and therefor the most worthy of devotion. What kind of belief does this bring? "Being (or bully) is awesomely powerful and so out of the idea that I may otherwise be pummeled in one way or another I proclaim my belief in Being (or bully) so that all might be saved [Uh-oh!] from Being's wrath."

Generally, this was the belief of the ancients: unity through a religion of fear. I know, not all of them, but at least the one's the most informing our present idea of civilization. I won't detail them here but certainly Greek, Roman, and, even, Jewish mythology (fact or fiction) has elements of this. Yeah, it is true, the Israelites had some pretty interesting views about the character of God (Yahweh, YHWH). And honestly, many of these ideas don't work well with Jesus' view of God, His Kingdom, and the point of following said God.

Richard Dawkins, world famous ethologist, evolutionary biologist, atheist, and author, had this to say in, his book, THE GOD DELUSION: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Pretty strong language there wouldn't you say? Sure, Dawkins is trying to prove that not only is this God unlikely to be real but that even if He was you wouldn't want to serve Him. On the second count, I agree. Even though sometimes we read that the God of the Old Testament is loving and forgiving, it is true, but almost always only to His believers/chosen people.

So, am I convinced to believe in THIS God? No. Even at the threat of this God's wrath, I refuse. It is not that I deny the existence of God, quite the contrary. I believe in the God that Jesus preached. The God that saw that His creation didn't understand what He really wanted and so after sending countless prophets who tried their best in their flawed human way to point to God's message, God sent Jesus. Is it any wonder that a people, all people then and now to some degree, who didn't really get God's message, didn't record an accurate view of God? No. I don't blame them any more than us.

In short, I follow Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God because, frankly, it works. The means and the end are the same in the way of Jesus: selfless love. Is it supernatural? At times yes, as it defies what is reasonable in our responses and yet it makes perfect sense. Is this all I believe? No. But this is a good start.

50 comments:

Skip Spangler said...

Hi Chris!

As usual, your thoughts evoke more from all of us, and for what they're worth, here are mine...

I'm with you. I believe in the God Jesus preached, because it's the God in whose image I've been made, the God who is the most complete being I have ever known.

I'm not sure I believe in an angry God, or that I believe to appease God's anger, but I know I believe in a God who gets angry, because anger is a sign that someone I care about is going wrong.

I'm not sure I believe in a private God, or that I believe in hopes of figuring out how to angle my way in good with God, but I know I believe in a God who keeps himself more than I can think or ever hope to understand, because life has a way of always leaving me one answer short.

I'm also not sure that I believe in a God of country, or that my belief will persuade God to bless America, I only know I believe in a God who has come in Jesus to fix what human beings break and spoil by inviting us to live in his kingdom come and coming.

Keep on, my friend. God is doing a great work in you and through you!

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Thank you Skip for your kinds words and deep, eloquent, and complete thoughts. I could learn a bit from their completeness.... while still being one answer short of course! I do know that one. Peace.

Ray said...

So I suppose the question this presents is so: Do you discount the whole Old Testament because it contains a fire and brimstone God, or do you pick and choose what's God's word inside of it based on what you feel is best?

Now, I do apolgize, as I am not aware of what ties the Old Testament to the new, but I assume that at some point, as the New is based around Jesus, that he had to declare that his teachings were an expansion of the Jewish religion as opposed to their own entity. If you throw away the Old Testament (or chunks of it) does that mean you believe that Jesus lied, or bent the truth to make his religion work.

It is very much my belief that until Jesus came to us, God was very much fire and brimstone, intending to punish us into doing Good, as he, not being us, did not truly understand what he had created. It is only when he saw our lives and our plight through the eyes of His Son that He changed and became a loving and forgiving God. It's the only way that I can see to explain the 180 that God does between the Old Testamend and the New. Of course, that might make Him seem imperfect, but who are we to question the ways and means of God.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Ray, I really appreciate the thought and honesty put into your post. Honestly the narrative you paint of Jesus and God makes fine sense just as many other do; hopefully mine included.

Now to your questions: Do you discount the whole Old Testament because it contains a fire and brimstone God...

No I certainly do not. I think that the Old Testaments, just as the New Testaments and even other texts, are wonderfully helpful examples of peoples (Jews and gentiles) succeeding and failing to find, follow, and even reject God. My point was that they often don't get got right if we use Jesus' proclaimed and exemplified view of God as the template. [This idea wouldn't quite work in your current framework but I think it makes sense in mine.] Yes, I do not believe the Bible, let alone the Old Testament, is inerrant but I do believe that much of it is inspired by the pursuit of Jesus' God and some of it by that God.

... or do you pick and choose what's God's word inside of it based on what you feel is best?

I do pick and choose based, just like EVERY ONE else does, but my filter is Jesus most of the time. Though I do admit, my own western / reason-based filter also does play a role. Just as you have constructed a narrative that rejects the idea that God is unchanging which can be found here in 1 Samuel 15:28: Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." You get the idea I'm sure.

Last one: ..that he [Jesus] had to declare that his teachings were an expansion of the Jewish religion as opposed to their own entity. If you throw away the Old Testament (or chunks of it) does that mean you believe that Jesus lied, or bent the truth to make his religion work.

Just to reiterate, I don't throw away the Old Testament, I just read it, GENERALLY, as an example of a people's journey instead of an authoritative view of God or reality as a whole. Also, since I view Jesus' role as often corrective to the Israelites view of God, that doesn't discount that they were trying to view and follow God correctly before. Instead it acknowledges that (1) we all get our own agendas -- nationalism, greed, sexism... -- mixed up into God's and, most importantly, (2) like the great prophets of the OT that because of this they had missed the point of constructing and following "God's law" which is a lifestyle and new plane of thinking/being called The Kingdom of God. Or what I like to call "Jesus' Kingdom of God" so it isn't confused with others whether OT or other religions.

So here is my question for you Ray: If God wants us to be (act) like Him, as we often say, isn't that drastically different post Jesus than before if we go with your narrative/framework?

Thanks again for your great thoughts and for forcing me to clarify.

Justin Carroll said...

Chris, it's been awhile since you posted this and I was wondering if you still believe it. And if anything, what has changed?

I'm confused when you say you only believe in the God that Jesus preached. Do you think the God of the old covenant is a different God from the new covenant? In other words, do you believe there are somehow two different Gods of the Bible?

If I understood correctly, you say that countless prophets failing to illustrate God's message is the reason for Christ (or one of them). Where are you getting this from? It was God who used the prophets, like Isaiah, to foretell of Jesus and the new covenant. And we see that their prophecies were indeed fulfilled in the New Testament.

If you separate Jesus from the God of the Bible, how does this not taint your view of the Trinity and Jesus specifically? I'm having trouble understanding why you think God or Jesus are necessary at all.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Justin -- Thank you for your great questions. I will try to summarize more than go into great detail but you can always ask for more. :) Up front I should say that interpretation is going to be at play constantly in this exchange, so just keep that in mind.

Two Gods? I guess that depends on whether we are talking about in the text (The Bible = a collection of texts) or in reality, or at least mine. Let's try starting there. I think that the image of God portrayed and preached by Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, is often very different from the one found in the Old Testament. Would you not agree?

Simply, as a follower of Jesus, when the two come into conflict I had to make a decision which way to go. As I alluded to in my post, I think that Jesus' view of God, as God, is one that I think is worth following where as the other OT conglomerate of views, as collected accurately and harshly by Mr Dawkins, leaves me wanting no part in worshiping, serving, or, certainly not, imaging that God. Appropriately, I think, I have chosen Jesus' view but that calls into question the validity of the Old Testament record and leads to your question of two Gods.

I don't believe that there are actually two competing Gods in the Bible instead there are many competing, and sometimes complimentary, perceptions of God in the two testaments. The Bible was written as many many separate texts, sometimes in pieces by different authors, by well-meaning people recording their best reflections on and messages from God as accurately as they could as humans. Those texts were passed on through various avenues, collected, edited (at least to some degree), and compiled into what we have now.

Is it any wonder that there are various viewpoints on God in there? When people today write of what God is or not doing in the world to judge or bless we are aware that at least some of that persons bias is at play whether or not they are correct. Just the same, a people who believed themselves to be God's ONLY chosen ones, the Israelites, my interpret their brutal victory over an enemy to be God ordained, or even ordered in historical retrospect, because obviously God wanted to protect them, and said as much. I believe that specific, and VERY SIMPLIFIED, example is hugely at play in the recording of the OT.

OT views of God and His kingdom, which they thought was Israel, even greatly inform what they thought the Messiah would be like. This even made it all the way to Jesus own apostles who were waiting for Him to raise up an army and restore Israel to a place of domination. Even apart from the idea that Israel's captivity was part of their judgment and refining, Israel dominating was not Jesus' Kingdom of God. We can agree there, right?

Because of examples like that I honestly do find Old Testament accounts more difficult to match up with Jesus' Kingdom of God, yet I can still see Jesus' God working in the text: pushing and prodding those people towards that same message.

Before we get to the prophets let's stop there and see if we have anything to elaborate on and/or clarify.

Justin Carroll said...

Yes, I'm forced to disagree from a historical perspective alone (although I do agree personally) with the notion that the God Jesus preached was different from the God of the Old Testament. Jesus read and preached from the Septuagint and the "most unpleasant character in all fiction" was just as unpleasant in it as he is in the Old Testament we read today. With this point in mind I'm unsure how you justify saying that you accept only the teachings of Jesus when that God is in fact, historically, part of his teachings.

Isn't it incredibly convenient to negate the wrath of God when it challenges us? When something is read in Scripture that we don't agree with we could simply blame it on the author's cultural influence instead of allowing what's really being said to challenge us. Haven't you ever wondered why Jesus didn't do this though?

If your assessment of God is correct then why is it that not once does Jesus question the God of the Old Testament openly as you have? In fact, Jesus does the opposite - he aligns himself with that God (saying that he came to fulfill the Law) and certifies it by the very Scripture he quotes from. The only thing that would make your view reasonable would be if Jesus had refused the God of the Septuagint (as you do) and instead pushed him away. Surely a God in such opposition to everything Jesus preached would get at least a small rebuke, but there's nothing in the New Testament of the sort.

Is it not so hard to believe, if God made himself man in Jesus, died for our sins and put his Spirit in a spoiled mankind, that the Bible could actually be God's living Word - not merely inspired by God, but authored by the Spirit himself as Scripture says it is? Man is obviously reflected in Scripture from a cultural perspective (after all God did use man to write it); however, I find no reason why this should ever cancel out the validity of Scripture.

You'll have to understand there is 2000 years of Church history that opposes your view of God as well. What you believe has never been universally accepted by the Church. I'm not sure I'd be so quick to believe I've figured out more than them.

I have to be honest, I really don't know anyone that's managed to do what you have in separating Jesus from the Father. And I'm sure you're well aware that what you're suggesting is at it's core heretical and blasphemous. That's why it's so interesting to me exactly how it is that you arrived where you have. I don't think it's hard to see I disagree with you. But please understand I'm not challenging your view of God in an unfriendly way. I'm genuinely curious.

The God of the Bible is the same God from Genesis to Revelation. Once that is challenged Jesus is corrupt. God's wrath is justified in our total depravity. Jesus is the ultimate display of the Father's grace and God's plan from the beginning. In fact, so ultimate that none can come to the Father but by him. When you accept Christ you accept the Father. Choosing to only accept the teachings of Jesus (and thus reject the God of the Bible) is to pursue a selfless love that's inherently empty and void of any love at all.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

What do you mean in this case that you disagree from a historical perspective but agree personally?

Justin Carroll said...

I apologize, that's misleading. I meant disagree. I'm forced to disagree from a historical perspective alone (although I do disagree personally) with the notion that the God Jesus preached was different from the God of the Old Testament.

In other words I believe that the God in the Septuagint was the same God Jesus preached. There's nothing in Scripture to suggest otherwise.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

I'll start by addressing at once a few paragraphs of what you said as directly as I can. If I missed any directions questions, let me know.

When I say that Jesus preached a different interpretation of God I am not referring to his reading of the Septuagint, obviously he did that and often. I am talking about how he described God's Kingdom and how we should follow Jesus and God in the way of that Kingdom. The problem is that very often the God of the Old Testament conflicts with the way of that very Kingdom that Jesus preached. There we have a conflict. So, I guess there are three options 1) my interpretation of Jesus' Kingdom of God is wrong, 2) the record of Jesus' view is more wrong, or 3) the record of God in the Old Testament is more wrong.

One of the reasons I find Jesus' message so compelling, is that despite how much I laud and try to embody reason as a person, Jesus' way of living (in that Kingdom) goes beyond what is reasonable, or human nature, in every way that is selfless and good. So when I reflect on how much my own ideas of how Jesus should be actually shape my view of Jesus -- craft him in my own image -- I am reminded that my favorite version of Jesus would be much more about reasonable justice, not endless forgiving, self-defense when necessary and perhaps even first-strike options, and a little bit of luxury but not too much. But is that a God worth worshiping and being challenged by? Not to me. You?

Do you think that Israel had God figured out? I think they had confused themselves a bit with plenty of extra rules and still didn't know how to follow Him. The texts even say as much. Jesus said as much. So if they didn't really know the right way to live doesn't that mean that someone got some of the information wrong when they wrote some of the texts? To be fair, it is true that one could give another all the exact correct information about something but that other could still miss what was at the heart of it -- its point. Israel at time certainly was confused about the point. Or were they? Was God's plan for Israel to be a people set apart from others even at the expense of anyone else's life whether women, children, elderly, men, or even the unborn? If we take every account in the Old Testament literally, then we have a God who definitely agrees with and uses abortion (Numbers 5:12-28, Hosea 13:16, Numbers 31) even to enact vengeance. Or maybe the writers missed a part of the text download? We honestly don't know. So that requires us to each do some hard work. Do you deny that we have to do this sort of work?

Jesus does directly challenge the notions of what God wants from His people and even who is to be of that people whether it was with the religious elite or the apostles. He does this over and over again. He does this in a way that gets at the heart of what God is about without getting himself immediately killed. Though, it does come to that eventually.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

You said:
"Is it not so hard to believe, if God made himself man in Jesus, died for our sins and put his Spirit in a spoiled mankind, that the Bible could actually be God's living Word - not merely inspired by God, but authored by the Spirit himself as Scripture says it is? Man is obviously reflected in Scripture from a cultural perspective (after all God did use man to write it); however, I find no reason why this should ever cancel out the validity of Scripture."

Certainly this is conceivable. I'd like to believe that as it would make things much easier for all of us but the evidence suggests otherwise. Have you really not found any of the vast number of inconsistencies or old-world science examples in either of the Testaments? Saying God's LIVING Word seems to imply that we must interact with it as well which I agree with. Lastly, on this, I don't "cancel out the validity of Scripture", I read it differently just like every supposed literalist does from every other supposed literalist, none of which actually take ALL of it literally.

To be frank, over 2000 years of Christianity has missed the heart of Jesus more often than not, at least in the big world changing ways. I don't need to list them here I hope. They/we have missed it by becoming our own little sets of religious gatekeepers just like those of Jesus' time whom he renounced, challenged, and befriended. I don't claim to have it all figured out, but this is where I stand now as a 28 year-old who is serious about evaluating what he believes and being sure that it makes enough sense with the help of the Holy Spirit, working in a mind being transformed by Jesus Christ's... hopefully at least. I hope you don't claim to have it all figured out either and suggesting that anyone else did seems equally as odd.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

I actually haven't separated Jesus from the Father. I've suggested that Jesus' representation of the Father as spoken by his own mouth and then written down is truer and fuller than that of those hearing the voice of God in their heads and copying it down. Jumping to heretical and blasphemous may be a little bit early in our dialog but that's your call. I appreciate your curiosity Justin, as you can see I have plenty of my own!

You asked how I arrived at these ideas. I did so out of necessity when confronted with (in part) in the conflicts outlined above and prior in posts and comments. I wasn't looking for troubles to pick at but I did have the sense that the Christianity I grew up with, one related to your view of scripture at least in part but perhaps lacking much of your good substance, was lacking and seemingly pointless in a practical way.

You continued:
"The God of the Bible is the same God from Genesis to Revelation. Once that is challenged Jesus is corrupt. God's wrath is justified in our total depravity. Jesus is the ultimate display of the Father's grace and God's plan from the beginning. In fact, so ultimate that none can come to the Father but by him. When you accept Christ you accept the Father. Choosing to only accept the teachings of Jesus (and thus reject the God of the Bible) is to pursue a selfless love that's inherently empty and void of any love at all."

Again, I agree that God is the same through time, His copyists and mouth pieces were just different. Why does this make Jesus "corrupt"? What do mean by "God's wrath is justified in our total depravity"? Do mean that God is right to pick any people group He'd like to partner with and help them obliterate others who haven't even heard His message of "love"?

I do hope you take the time to answer my questions directly as I am trying to also figure out how we can not see some of the same things at least. Oh, and I do apologize if I missed some capitalization of God when referred to in the masculine pronoun "He". It wasn't intentional. It is just late.

Lastly, I made no claims to being orthodox in my faith and even if I did I wouldn't claim that challenging any doctrine therein would be wrong or totally unwarranted.

Justin Carroll said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond to all this. I understand these replies can be time-consuming.

I'll do the same and try to answer questions in order. My first big reply was a sort of brain-dump - everything I was thinking coming out. I can't do that too much or the discussion becomes hard to follow and unfocused.

I understand your position better now through your reply; although, I'm sure there's more to uncover (it's a big subject).

"The problem is that very often the God of the Old Testament conflicts with the way of that very Kingdom that Jesus preached."

I see nothing in Scripture to suggest this is true. The NT is a bit less hardcore than the OT (because of God's objectives with both); however, both the NT and OT have a ton of Scripture supporting both God's love and wrath. There are many times throughout the gospels where Jesus declares the anger and wrath of God, often times encouraging those around him to fear God.

Remember, the OT was all about God using Israel to bring wrath to a people who had broken the covenant. And the NT is all about Jesus taking on God's wrath in death so that we can come to faith. It's mysterious as to why God has chosen to do things in this way, but if God is who he says he is (and I do believe he is) who are we to question these things?

"Do you think that Israel had God figured out?"

God was very specific in Scripture as to how he was to be worshiped by Israel. I don't think all the rules were an accident, no. Israel, for the most part, proved themselves an unruly people and broke God's covenant. This incurred the wrath of God and rightly so.

I'd challenge you not to think of God from a human paradigm. To us we see wrath and it's horrifying and unjust I agree (e.g. Hosea 13:16). But to God it is just. The same wrath that brought on Scripture like that is the same wrath that Jesus preaches in the NT on multiple occasions.

Jesus showed that you and I are no different from Israel - we are totally depraved, imputed with sin from the fall in Genesis 3. In other words, Jesus showed that you and I deserve death.

That leads to me to the total depravity question. I'm trying to go in order but it fits here. What do I mean by God's wrath is justified in our total depravity? I mean that we deserve death just as Israel deserved death in the OT. By God's grace he sent his Son to die on our behalf baring the weight of man's sinful nature in his death. It's by Jesus alone that we are sanctified before the Father.

I don't think the evidence suggests otherwise when it comes to biblical inerrancy. Like I said, God has allowed some mark of the author in Scripture (e.g. old-world science); however, I find no reason this should make any Scripture invalid and I see no inconsistencies because of it.

Justin Carroll said...

"To be frank, over 2000 years of Christianity has missed the heart of Jesus more often than not, at least in the big world changing ways."

Wow, and I do mean wow in every sense of the word. Chris, don't you think this is the least bit arrogant? What of Augustine of Hippo, Justin Martyr, Martin Luther and not to mention countless puritans? Really, you think they missed the heart of Jesus in the big world changing ways? Obviously I think you couldn't be further from the truth with this one.

I do want to comment on the "religious gatekeepers" phrase - I hope it meant something like the Roman Catholic church promoting indulgences and withholding Scripture from believers that was overthrown with the reformation and not different sects of Christianity like Lutherans, Methodists or Baptists.

You're right, anyone claiming to have it all figured out is odd; however, our teachers are biblically charged with teaching sound doctrine (implying sound doctrine can be drawn from Scripture), all Christians are charged with being able to give an biblical account for what they believe (implying a biblical account can be given from Scripture) and Scripture suggests there is only one Truth. And even though no one will ever be able to say they have it all figured out I think God giving us 1.) his Word in the progressive revelation we call Scripture and 2.) 2000 years of Church fathers and elders to learn from is a pretty good head-start. I don't think anyone trying to understand Christianity is at a loss for resources or general understanding on the subject. And I definitely don't think 2000 years of Church history and heritage is something to scoff at.

"I've suggested that Jesus' representation of the Father as spoken by his own mouth and then written down is truer and fuller than that of those hearing the voice of God in their heads and copying it down."

Why is it that Jesus' representation of the Father echoes the people (word for word) who claim to have heard the voice of God in their heads and copied it down? You're talking of the Septuagint when you mention the Prophets. Why do you seem to have a low view of the Prophets yet Jesus can be found quoting them over and over again? He apparently thought they were right on.

I don't see how jumping to heretical and blasphemous is early at all. Compared with an orthodox view of Christianity what you're suggest is still heretical and blasphemous. I don't mean it in a "screw you" sort of way, I mean it as a historical fact - it's unorthodox and you've publicly stated that you refuse to believe in the God of the OT (or the image of, but I would argue is the same thing).

"Again, I agree that God is the same through time, His copyists and mouth pieces were just different."

Ok, so this is where I understand a little better now. Yes, his mouth pieces were different, but don't forget that it is God who speaks through them. Whatever cultural imprint they left it was only because God had allowed them to leave it. There's nothing in Scripture to suggest this small aspect of humanity causes any contradiction or errancy concerning Truth. I'm not talking about an angry God, I'm talking about the old-world sciences. The angry God is just as real as the loving God.

Justin Carroll said...

"Why does this make Jesus corrupt?"

What corrupts Jesus, from a biblical standpoint, is when you refuse to believe in the wrathful God of the OT and only choose to believe in the loving teachings of Jesus in the NT. By the way, there are many many passages about the love of God in the OT, just saying. We can't simply chop the OT and NT up saying that one is violent and one is loving. The Bible reads nothing like that. Back on point … the entire reason for Jesus is to fulfill the Law. If mankind were not totally depraved there would be no need for atonement. If God was not a vengeful God (because of our depravity) there would be no need for atonement. Thats why you cannot have Jesus and his loving teachings without a wrathful God. Why God has chosen this path of progressive revelation is a mystery. But if God is who he says he is and Jesus died for my sins then that is evidence that I deserve death but am saved by grace!

Shawn said...

Hi, Chris and Justin! Question: Is this conversation open to the community? If so, I'd love to add a few things to it.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

I'm ok with it, but I won't make any comments tonight.

Justin, what do you think? I have the power of moderator.

Justin Carroll said...

Chris, thanks for asking. Shawn should be just as welcome to post as I have been.

Shawn said...

Thanks, Chris and Justin. I look forward o hearing more from both of you. I will begin by saying, as I always have said about Justin, that I personally think your passion on these issues is awesome. Clearly, you have passion, Justin. That's a good thing. I would also be remiss to not say that passion without understanding can be a dangerous thing. Specifically, I would say that referring to someone as a "heretic" or a "blasphemer" is dangerous, if not presumptuous (you are presuming to know enough to say that another is wrong to the point of being out of relationship with God). I can't find one scripture in our Bible that gives precedence to such behavior. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the only one in scripture to behave in such fashion was Jesus himself, and ironically, he aimed his judgement toward those who thought that they could make such judgements. So, I'll participate in this conversation but only if it remains in bounds of scripture.

That said, I would challenge your idea of history, knowledge, and bible, Justin. I appreciate your positions, and even respect them, but that doesn't mean that you are 100% correct and that Chris is entirely wrong. First of all, I think the gymnastics that you have to do to arrive at your hermeneutic is a bit much and does a disservice to common sense. I appreciate your citation of the human/divine influence upon scripture, as can be seen in that you wrote, "Man is obviously reflected in Scripture from a cultural perspective," but I honestly do not believe that you have investigated this influence seriously enough. Humanity's influence upon scripture includes culture and then some. There is also the anthropomorphic, language, and interpretive influences upon scripture. I'm sure we will get into these a bit later, but you should be aware that there are cultural, linguistic, and interpretive influences at play. You yourself run the gamut of these things as you read/interpret scripture and "do" your own version of historical criticism.

Shawn said...

In fact, I have a question for you, Justin. You wrote the following in response to Chris: 'Yes, I'm forced to disagree from a historical perspective alone (although I do agree personally) with the notion that the God Jesus preached was different from the God of the Old Testament."

What is your "historical perspective," Justin? If it's firm enough of a foundation for you to not only disagree with Chris, but also brand him as heretical and blasphemous, then surely you can tell me what this historical perspective is. Right? What is your historical perspective, Justin? Historical perspective that divides and categorizes like your does surely must consist of more that empty phraseology, right? In other words, your historical perspective must be more than the phrase "historical perspective," right? If so, what is it? I'll help you define your own historical perspective a bit by asking you one question (the rest you'll have to work out on your own!): Does this "historical perspective" of your include a working knowledge of primary sources, or is it totally built upon secondary and third and fourth sources?

Also, and keeping with the "historical perspective" theme, you do realize that we do not have one historical account of the life of Jesus, right? And before you wrap your bun too tight, hear me out! I'm not suggesting that we don't have reliable sources re: Jesus; I'm simply asking if you realize that they are not "historical" in nature. What we have are four (canonically) communal expressions of Jesus that are shaped by the expressing communities. Again, these are very informative for spiritual life and practice, but their very existence within scripture throws a great big wrench in your own ideas concerning history and hermeneutics.

I'm sure you probably have a very elementary understanding of most of what I just said and I wouldn't expect otherwise. A lack of understanding and/or knowledge is not a bad thing. What is bad is when one believes that his or her lack of knowledge is enough to brand others as heretics or even worse blasphemous.

Be careful, brother. God might take issue with such behavior.

Shawn said...

Finally, I'll say this as a closing for my introductory comment: Chris and I believe wholeheartedly in God, Bible, and Jesus. Our framework is 100% Kingdom of God. I need not defend any of these dedications against you or anyone else. God knows and that's all that matters. You, Justin, are our brother in Christ. We may disagree completely, but we are still brothers in Christ. All I am asking for is a bit of humility from you towards us and our expression. We deserve as much. After all, how many people have you lead to Christ and Kingdom this year? Sounds silly asking such a petty question, right? We'll it isn't. Scripture says that "a house divided against itself can't stand." I led a 30 year old man to the Lord last week. Does that sound like actions that heretics and blasphemers would participate in? And more importantly, who are you introducing to the Lord these days? I ask that question not to boast or be petty, but to emphasize an important point for this conversation. What's the point? It's this: We emphasize practice; you emphasize doctrine. In my experience, practice leads to compassion. The Kingdom is nothing without compassion.

We are just getting started, but I have no doubt this will be a very, very deep conversation. :)

I'll be waiting for your explanation of your "historical perspective," Justin.

Peace.

Justin Carroll said...

The views Chris expressed in the post, refusing to believe in an angry God and only interested in the teachings of Jesus, are unorthodox in nature and would be considered slanderous against the person and work of Jesus by the Church. I don't mean it in a "screw you" sort of way. It's factual; the definition of heresy and blasphemy.

"What is your "historical perspective," Justin?"

The question at hand was if the God that Jesus preached (or image of) was the same God as the OT. The Bible was the historical perspective I was speaking of. I was making an effort to show Chris how the Bible suggests that Jesus never disagreed with the image of God that he refuses to believe in, but rather aligned himself with it. Jesus did say he was that God incarnate.

"Does this "historical perspective" of your include a working knowledge of primary sources, or is it totally built upon secondary and third and fourth sources?"

I understand primary and secondary sources. I understand how history tells us the Bible came to be, the biblical canons; however, I believe it is the Spirit of God that has orchestrated this. I don't believe Scripture was shaped by man or culture. I believe Scripture is the Word of God. As I've already explained while it seems that God has allowed some mark of the author it does not suggest errancy or fallibility. The OT is closed canon authoritative and certified by Jesus, the apostles and the NT authors. The NT is closed canon authoritative and certified by the Church.

"I led a 30 year old man to the Lord last week. … And more importantly, who are you introducing to the Lord these days? … We emphasize practice; you emphasize doctrine."

Your point here is only valid if your judgment of me is accurate, that I do in fact emphasize doctrine over practice. But since there's no factual way to measure your prejudice (and I won't be manipulated into discussing it) let's leave it at that.

Chris, I'm looking forward to your thoughts on my previous 3-part comment.

Shawn said...

I know the definition of heresy and blasphemy and need no definition(s), Justin, but thank you anyway.

The bible is chock full of historical perspectives, Justin. YOU stated that you have a historical perspective of your own and that it (your historical perspective) was all you needed to not only disagree with Chris, but also reduce him to a heretic and blasphemer. That's huge! It's so huge, in fact, that readers deserve to hear a clear articulation of this "historical perspective" of yours.

Re: primary and secondary sources ... I don't think you understand this issue at all. I say that not in a "screw you" sort of way, but rather in a way which points towards your personal lack of understanding regarding basic interpretive issues and the haphazard way that you brand others as "so wrong that they are out of relationship with God" while you, at the same time, have little understanding of why you are so right.

LOL ... I am also not at all trying to "manipulate" you, Justin. Please. I'm simply asking basic questions re: interpretive issues ... and you did not answer any of them clearly. I hope you do give it a shot and lose the charges of manipulation. This is an excellent conversation and I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on things. So, relax ... and let's dig in. I'd seriously love to hear your point of view(s).

Justin Carroll said...

There's actually some discussion going on right now over at The New Puritans concerning interpretation specifically.

Just thought I'd throw that out there if anyone's interested.

Justin Carroll said...

Sorry about that, here's the actual link ... What does your doctrine say?

Shawn said...

LOL! Thanks, but I'll pass. Are you not going to finish up here, Justin? That's unfortunate if so. I was very much looking forward to engaging you and your point of view. Too, there is so much still left for you to clarify. After all, one should know why another is a heretic and a blasphemer, especially if he/she brands one as such.

Plus, I think Chris had a few question for you that needed further clarification.

Again, in the spirit of brotherhood, I think we should finish what was started here. Don't you agree?

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Actually Shawn, I believe that Justin is waiting for me to respond to his three responses and questions for me as he expressed to me via the internet. So fear not I anticipate our discussion continuing!

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Ok. I suppose we'll agree to disagree for now on OT vs NT disagreement in regards to YHWH and Jesus' Kingdom of God.

"Remember, the OT was all about God using Israel to bring wrath to a people who had broken the covenant."

Hmmmm, even with my different appreciation of scripture I don't see the Old Testament as about that. Of note is the fact that, according to those scriptures, God was bringing said wrath not only to His beloved covenant breakers but also to people who we must assumed didn't have a covenant with God (YHWH) at least if the Israelites were His ONLY chosen people. So that is curious and at least a little unsettling wouldn't you say?

"And the NT is all about Jesus taking on God's wrath in death so that we can come to faith.It's mysterious as to why God has chosen to do things in this way, but if God is who he says he is (and I do believe he is) who are we to question these things?"

I wouldn't go with that one either. I read it more as God finnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnaaaalllllllly sending Jesus to give the ultimate example of what God's point has been all along: His Kingdom and in Jesus we see how to live in that Kingdom. I suppose I could get why Israel in theory would need redemption to avoid wrath because they actually broke a covenant but what about everyone else? Apparently God wasn't all that interested in having covenant or relationship with others so why would they follow. These aren't things I'd necessarily get into but your summaries led me this way a bit. Sorry :(

The next question that you responded to "Do you think that Israel had God figured out?" I didn't really see your answer. You indicated that God intended for them to have the rules that we find in scripture but are you saying that the rules were the point? Jesus was clear that the rules were indeed not the point while Israel in its religious expression seemed to say and act otherwise. And if all of the rules are from God than why aren't we following them today? This gets into what is most likely the largest wall we have between us which is infallibility/cultural influence/authorship. How do you justify the picking and choosing especially in Levitical law based on your claim of totally divine authorship and infallibility (I hope I characterized that correctly)?

"...however, I find no reason this should make any Scripture invalid and I see no inconsistencies because of it."

I can see the claim you are making but I ask: "really?" I have a hard time believing that someone of your age and apparent intelligence hasn't stumbled across any of them or had them brought to your attention. I just did a quick search online to illustrate how easy they would be to find. Here are a few:

"... with God all things are possible." - Matthew 19:26
vs.
"...The LORD was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." - Judges 1:19

or

"The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father..." - Ezekiel 18:20
vs.
"I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." - Exodus 20:5

And one both contrasting OT vs NT view of morality/God's lifestyle and showing inconsistency (and I know the interpretation of eye for an eye as a limit, don't worry):

"...thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. " - Exodus 21:23-25

"...ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." - Matthew 5:39

These are only but a few that require us to do some wrestling. If we can't agree that there is some wrestling to do I'm not sure we can go much further, but I'll try in the interest of clarification and good naturedness.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

When I spoke of 2,000 years of Christianity I was speaking of the institutions and, yes, I would put many of the worst things during the Roman Catholic monopoly but I think the "gatekeeper" can and has applied to all the sects at times and even now. Did I mean everyone at all times? No, of course not. Sorry for any conclusion. My point was that, as far as following Jesus' example we have done a pretty poor job by comparison to our knack for setting up structures and systems.

And I agree we all have much to learn about what to do and what not to do from those who have come before us.

You responded "Why is it that Jesus' representation of the Father echoes the people (word for word) who claim to have heard the voice of God in their heads and copied it down? You're talking of the Septuagint when you mention the Prophets. Why do you seem to have a low view of the Prophets yet Jesus can be found quoting them over and over again? He apparently thought they were right on."

I didn't mean to reference the Prophets at all. When did I do that? Ohhhhh, are you talking about Jesus reading from scripture? I think if you look at the bulk of what Jesus says about God (or the Father) that as little as he does say directly not much of it comes from those readings. Regardless Jesus quotes from Septuagint to create context for who he is mainly wouldn't you say? Anyway, I guess I'm not following your point. I can be slow sometimes.

"... There's nothing in Scripture to suggest this small aspect of humanity causes any contradiction or errancy concerning Truth. I'm not talking about an angry God, I'm talking about the old-world sciences."

Again, realllly?! I am no scholar but there definitely are problems that make it very confusing what kind of God is represented AND on plenty of other truths.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

You responded: "What corrupts Jesus, from a biblical standpoint, is when you refuse to believe in the wrathful God of the OT and only choose to believe in the loving teachings of Jesus in the NT. By the way, there are many many passages about the love of God in the OT, just saying. We can't simply chop the OT and NT up saying that one is violent and one is loving. The Bible reads nothing like that. Back on point … the entire reason for Jesus is to fulfill the Law. If mankind were not totally depraved there would be no need for atonement."

I agree there is plenty about a loving God in the OT: selectively loving not the all loving Father that is touted in modern Christianity nor a slightly different one found in the NT via Jesus and Paul etc. I don't accept the premise that I only believe in the loving teachings of Jesus in the NT because I think there is plenty of revelation to be found all throughout the Bible right along side cultural bias and outright errors either intentional or copy errors and we are charged with the work of sorting through it the best we can with humility. But, again, since you don't accept that premise, why are you only choosing to follow only some of God's many Levitical and Deuteronical laws?

You think the ENTIRE reason for Jesus is so that he could fulfill the Law? Why do we even have a record of what Jesus said and did than aside from having a fancy birth story, epic death, and glorious resurrection? Why would it matter? This was the original point of my post actually. Who then cares if his name was Jesus or Suzy? I content that Jesus not only did those three important things to you but, I believe, came to clarify the point and its practice concerning what God wanted and wants for the world which is the Kingdom because, obviously, the people of Israel DID NOT GET IT. I cannot fathom why the person of Jesus would matter based on what you said.

"If God was not a vengeful God (because of our depravity) there would be no need for atonement. Thats why you cannot have Jesus and his loving teachings without a wrathful God. Why God has chosen this path of progressive revelation is a mystery. But if God is who he says he is and Jesus died for my sins then that is evidence that I deserve death but am saved by grace! "

I think here perhaps you make this image of God out to be worse than I do. Not that I fault you. Why can't we have someone teaching wonderful things without a dragon waiting to breath fire right around the corner on the wrong path? I don't follow.

Justin Carroll said...

God does deal wrath to all mankind in the OT because of their sin (e.g. the flood). In the fall we see mankind imputed with sin and deserving of death. I agree, it's both curious and unsettling, but to God we read that it is just. One thing is for sure, God never punishes the righteous (e.g. Noah).

When I said "the NT is all about …" I meant the context of the new covenant was the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17-18) - that God would come as man, atone for mankind's total depravity (imputed sin), saving them by grace and justify them before God.

Before Jesus came, following the Law was mankind's justification. But now that we have faith in Jesus, a new covenant, spiritually speaking we are all one in him, Jew and Gentile alike (Galatians 3:23-29). The practice is now different. Now that we have faith in Christ, we have been charged with living a godly life and we've been given the ultimate example in a sinless Jesus.

I'm aware of Scripture that would on the surface (taken literally) appear to contradict other Scripture; however, I believe that when Scripture is interpreted within the context of the book/covenant in which it was written and/or with other Scripture that we see errancy or fallibility isn't the case.

There is wrestling to do with Scripture (e.g. even Peter admits Paul is a hard read), but I am a firm believer in teachers faithfully teaching and preaching the Word of God as to pursue sound doctrine. I'm also a firm believer in spiritual discernment; not just anyone can crack a Bible and receive spiritual knowledge reserved for a spiritual people (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). I believe that teaching the Word of God is a gift of the Spirit. This is why I value 2000 years of Church history, fathers and elders. There's nothing in Scripture to suggest God is still unveiling progressive revelation in addition to the Bible (the biblical canons are closed) - God has nothing new to say that he has withheld from the history of the Church until today.

I understand how you feel about institutions and I do agree that some of them have done a horrendous job within the Church. But it was Jesus who chose 12 very unlikely men (and their disciples) to start the Church. An omnipresent God knew what he was doing and how it would be treated. I don't believe God allows his holy Word to be shaped by men or culture through time without using the Church he built as a filter to catch all the shit that comes barreling down the pipe. Again, Church history is to be valued.

When I said "word for word" I meant sometimes. Jesus aligns himself with the (loving and hating) Father. He sometimes quotes from the Septuagint that illustrates an angry God. He says that God is wrathful even to the point of preaching fear and and rightly so - mankind deserves death. If there is no angry God, this makes Jesus a liar. My point was this should be sufficient evidence for a belief in an angry God, not as a sole focus, but as a facet of the many attributes of God. I stretched the point further to show that only choosing to believe in a loving God makes Jesus' fulfillment of the Law null and void. It also makes the selfless love of Jesus void of any love at all.

Justin Carroll said...

All the authors of the Bible and Jesus himself illustrate that the most devastating of wrath can be attributed to God. Consider that there is no way to escape this except by saying that the Bible is wrong through some type of cultural bias or outright error. If we do that then we're forced to question the accuracy of the entire Bible including the gospel authors concerning the account of Jesus, making Truth subjective. And there would be no way to escape that except by saying that the Word of God is untainted by cultural bias or outright error and God is who he says he is.

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Jesus in Matthew 10:28)"

There is no doubt that Jesus shows we serve both a loving and wrathful God in Scripture. If one suggests that there is no need for an angry God the Law becomes pointless, making Jesus pointless, making the NT pointless, the Bible falls apart in their hands and is reduced to another series of mere historical documents that may or may not inspire modern culture. Whatever it becomes it's certainly not the Word of God.

Shawn said...

I'm going to sit back and let you and Chris chat for a bit, Justin. I did, however, just want to say that the following statement of yours is terribly misguided in it's either/or dichotomy and it actually tells me that you yourself (and your hermeneutic) are shaped by your own culture and it's western scientific method then you even realize (another contradictory wrench in your hermeneutic):

"... Consider that there is no way to escape this except by saying that the Bible is wrong through some type of cultural bias or outright error. If we do that then we're forced to question the accuracy of the entire Bible including the gospel authors concerning the account of Jesus, making Truth subjective. And there would be no way to escape that except by saying that the Word of God is untainted by cultural bias or outright error and God is who he says he is."

Carry on ... but please do keep in mind that after your exchange with Chris, I'd still very much like to hear a clarification of your personal "historical perspective," since it was the foundation for your charge of blasphemy and heresy. Too, it would be helpful for me if you could cite scriptural precedence for actually slinging the charge of blasphemy and heresy at other believers.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

"...but to God we read that it is just. One thing is for sure, God never punishes the righteous (e.g. Noah)."

Based on what seems to be your acceptance of what Israel does, as reportedly ordered by God, being God's work, God has indeed punished the righteous or, even, the innocent. Two examples of this contain a form of abortion including the death of the mother (Numbers 31, Numbers 5:12-28) and in addition we could add anytime Israel was ordered to kill children and perhaps God's allowing of Job's situation. Though really we shouldn't stop there if we are being honest. If God really is as all powerful and all aware as stated, we have a God who both back then and now often ignores the pleas for lifesaving from His followers and detractors alike. You can dismiss that last one if you like if you don't consider negligence culpability but you can't ignore the rest.

You talked about Jesus being the fulfillment of the law, not the abolishing of it. And then, "...The practice is now different. Now that we have faith in Christ, we have been charged with living a godly life and we've been given the ultimate example in a sinless Jesus."

I assume when you say "godly" you mean a life modeled after God's. If so, again, we have a problem if we go with the Old Testament record of said God versus the corrective and normative, as I see it, record that we have in Jesus. I can hear you maybe starting to ask what about Leviticus 19:18 - "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." and of course Paul reaffirms this in Romans. Ok, so then we should be like God except in this. Unless of course one thinks that one has heard God tell one to be the conduit of said vengeance. Hmmmmm. That could be pretty dangerous IF that ever happened. Ahem.

I find it interesting that you highlight Jesus as our ultimate example of Godly (you did mean capital G, right?) living using the defining characteristic of Him being "sinless". Based on God's purported law, Jesus did break the laws of His time concerning the sabbath. Now it has been said that He only broke with Pharisaic oral law which interpreted the law, but why would God allow such an interpretation to be communicated, followed, and blessed by His chosen as God's way if it was not? Remember at this point in history the canon of Old Testament scripture that we have today does not exist in the same form and oral tradition/law in the given culture has plenty of sway and weight. Why would God do this? It's a good thing no one having these sorts of law interpretations every wrote any of there thoughts on God or the law down. I guess God would've had to burn them up or they may have ended up IN our canon!

Secondly, being "sinless" as you put it seems to highlight not the way of Jesus' Kingdom of God that would actually get to the heart of the law and instead brings to the forefront His lack of doing things wrong.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

"I'm aware of Scripture that would on the surface (taken literally) appear to contradict other Scripture; however, I believe that when Scripture is interpreted within the context of the book/covenant in which it was written and/or with other Scripture that we see errancy or fallibility isn't the case."

Genuinely, I am confused. I had inferred that you take all scripture literally. Is this not the case? Also, do you see different books, in the Old Testament at least, as different covenants? Regardless I don't see how one could accept God's inability to defeat an army because "they had chariots of iron" as I listed before. The scripture doesn't say "they" were not able to defeat.... Oh wait, actually depending on which translation you read it might vary. It seems about half say "they" and half say "he". Obviously this is only one example but we only need one to make the case to the rest into question as you might put it.

"...There's nothing in Scripture to suggest God is still unveiling progressive revelation in addition to the Bible (the biblical canons are closed) - God has nothing new to say that he has withheld from the history of the Church until today."

To say that God is not "unveiling progressive revelation in addition to the Bible" implies that we might not learn new things from scripture because of how our culture is more different or more similar to the time of its writing. I understand that you probably don't mean to say this but I wanted to be sure. It is worth saying that there is also nothing in scripture to say what should be IN or OUT of the biblical canon since it did not exist at the time of any of scriptures authoring.

"I don't believe God allows his holy Word to be shaped by men or culture through time without using the Church he built as a filter to catch all the shit that comes barreling down the pipe."

While I also value the institutions who have attempted and, at times, succeeded in carrying on Jesus' name and way, you do realize that the church also was the proveyer of much "shit". Have you heard of the witch trials, the inquisition, or the crusades? As far as shaping "his holy Word", don't you think, if we assume that the record of scripture is exactly correct as you think, that God spoke to His, and all, people in way appropriate the culture so that they could understand it? Even if you didn't accept that, God would have spoken in a real language they could understand and language is part of culture bringing with it certain quirks, gains, and loses based on history, time, and place. So regardless scripture IS shaped by culture even if you don't accept my view of that shaping.

I didn't mean to ever deny God being angry. I believe that Jesus was at times angry as well. Angry can be different than murderous and genocidal.

"All the authors of the Bible and Jesus himself illustrate that the most devastating of wrath can be attributed to God."

I am particularly curious what passages you references hear in regards to Jesus. I'd love to discuss them, but don't want to assume which ones.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

"Consider that there is no way to escape this except by saying that the Bible is wrong through some type of cultural bias or outright error. If we do that then we're forced to question the accuracy of the entire Bible including the gospel authors concerning the account of Jesus, making Truth subjective. And there would be no way to escape that except by saying that the Word of God is untainted by cultural bias or outright error and God is who he says he is."

To you this is the case. I once was in your place and wrestled with this idea that if one part of the canonical Bible was errant -- which it is by any measure of self-agreement analysis let alone in regards to modern sciences accepted by the most fundamentalist Christian -- I might have to throw the whole thing out. You may come to that and you may throw it all out. But do you throw out a relationship because you disagree with a person on a few things? No. Now that person is, likely, not God and they ARE telling you these things directly but even so, would we disavow a friend because we read a diverse collection of essays, poems, and letters written alternately about and by him/her and other friends that don't always agree on the character traits of said friend let alone the recounting of particular situations that other friends were intimately involved in? Not only do I not reject all of the record of said friend but I use discernment to cobble together what truth I can find based on the best version of said friend at my disposal which may be first hand or otherwise. The Bible IS that sort of collection.

See, you and I are both making choices about the Bible. You choose to ignore the errors therein whether great or small and accept the whole thing is God's word while of course not following it all, or even pro-porting that one should. I, on the other hand, acknowledge the agreement issues, outdated science, cultural biases, likely scribal tampering (intended or otherwise), and literary genres therein while maintaining that Jesus' way represents the heart of God's plan all along and am interested in following that. The errors make sense in light of all of our faith walks and in particular in a culture without the revelation of Jesus.

If you are unable to acknowledge the lack of self-agreement, outdated science, and other errors in the text I don't know how much further this part of the conversation can go. Note: I don't think these errors are necessarily a HUGE problem unless I adopt your view of the Bible.

We both are making choices. An important question would be how that choice informs and changes our practice.

Justin Carroll said...

The punishment of God is just, no matter if it happens to those we would perceive (in our paradigm) as innocent (e.g. children). The truth is no one is innocent - we all deserve death. Total depravity is not culturally popular; however, there are many verses in the Bible to support it's Truth. I wouldn't say that God ignores the pleas of Christians, but rather that God hears them and knows what's best for us even when it seems he is not doing something that we think (in our paradigm) he ought (e.g. Habakkuk).

Jesus, as the fulfillment of the Law (justification), does change the practice. Before, the practice of the Mosaic Law brought one's justification before God. Now, the practice has changed (as in we no longer practice Mosaic Law); we repent, put our faith in Christ and practice a life of righteousness by modeling our lives after a sinless Jesus. A sinless life is unattainable, but we do this as a sign that we are marked for God and for the hope we have in him.

Since we now have a new covenant, anyone allegedly hearing God telling them to kill someone is in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus and would be considered a false prophet. There's nothing in Scripture to suggest God is telling anyone anything apart from Scripture.

"… why would God allow such an interpretation to be communicated, followed, and blessed by His chosen as God's way if it was not?"

That's a good question. Jesus is God incarnate. Therefore, who better than the author of the Law to challenge man's interpretation of the Law? It's like asking why God allowed believers to enforce indulgences. In asking this you're forgetting that God's people have been corrupted by sin. Jesus challenged the way the Pharisees interpreted (and governed by) the Law on multiple occasions - not just this one.

I'm not sure I understand your last statement; are you suggesting that Jesus was sinful?

No, I don't always take Scripture at face-value or literally. Interpretation is very complex. I do hold to what is called a Covenant theology, meaning that God's covenants with his people are used as an organizing principle for interpreting Scripture.

Concerning iron chariots, God is the creator of the universe. The sheer amount of Scripture to support the truth of his power in contrast to one verse about iron doesn't make sense. If you look further I think you'll find that the "he" in that verse is Judah, not the Lord.

I believe that Scripture is relevant to our culture in the same way it will be to our great grandchildren's culture and so on. The Word of God is never outdated; it's Truths are timeless. When I say there is no new revelation I don't mean that we aren't still learning from Scripture, but I do mean that God is done speaking new revelation to be recorded by man as the Word of God.

Saying that there's nothing in Scripture to say what should be in or out of the biblical canons since they did not exist at the time of any Scriptural authoring is highly debatable and a big discussion. I would say there are many instances in Scripture (and from Jesus) that lead us to believe that 1.) the OT is canon and 2.) that the NT is made canon by the Church.

Justin Carroll said...

Sure, the Church has definitely been the purveyor of much false doctrine; everything from the oral Pharisaic Law to the Roman Catholic indulgences to the Word Faith movement, absolutely. But there is a Church universal, the true holy catholic church and I believe 2000 years of Church history scholars interpreting Scripture has proven reliable in helping us to determine what is to be ultimately accepted and rejected. The disagreements between Arius and Athanasius or Pelagius and Augustine are classic examples of this. To quote R.C. Sproul, "Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. If, upon reading a particular passage, you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two thousand years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation."

"I am particularly curious what passages you references hear in regards to Jesus. I'd love to discuss them, but don't want to assume which ones."

Start with Matthew 10:28 where Jesus warns people to fear God above murderers.

While I understand what you mean to illustrate in a fallible Bible through the metaphor of friendship, I find it breaks on the doctrine of God. If you spit on me we can make amends, but if God is not who he says he is Jesus cannot be who he says he is and the person and work of Jesus cannot be what the apostles said it is. The absolute Truth of the Bible is linked together in a way that friendships are not. In other words, people are variable, God is constant.

Also, discernment in choosing friends is simply what culture would consider good conscious. The spiritual gift of discernment has nothing to do with conscious, but rather a spiritual people being able to comprehend spiritual things through studying the Word of God.

You're earlier inference of literalism and latter assumption of me being some type of fundamentalist is wrong. I do acknowledge that God has allowed the mark of man in Scripture - I believe the Bible is the Word of God despite those marks. I believe God spoke revelation past mankind's cultural influence. The opposition you're painting to what you believe seems to be that of someone that would consider OT Law to be practiced (e.g. no tattoos) - that's not me.

My original comment sought how you came to believe what you said you did in the post. After writing back and forth I gather you're unwilling to believe the Bible is the actual Word of God because the mark of man in it (among some other debatable beliefs) fragments that truth. If that's true, then God really seems a bit dumb, don't you think? If he can't effectively communicate with those he created to write down what he wanted, or put together a Church universal that protects his Truths how could he possibly be the creator of such a vast and complex universe? It doesn't make sense.

But maybe I'm wrong, I may have misunderstood you still. If so, I still wonder how you came to believe what you do. The way I read your original post is that you refuse to believe in a vengeful God even at the threat of his wrath, but then go on to say you believe in the loving God that Jesus preached (although Matthew 10:28 alone supports a vengeful God). To me, that seems to cherry-pick the perfect image of God that makes the most sense only to you personally. What about everyone else?

Absolute truth is inescapable. Either the God of the Bible exists as you have cherry-picked or he exists as his Word says he exists. There is no in-between. And while there may be arguments over interpretation in the Church universal your doctrine of God is not one of them.

Shawn said...

So, Justin, my brother. When you and Chris are complete with this part of the conversation, are you actually going to engage my questions to you? I hope so. I am very much looking forward to it.

Justin Carroll said...

Shawn, I'm not sure why you're asking me anything to be honest. Awhile back you asked me to leave you alone. I haven't said anything to you between then and now. What's changed?

For your questions, could you be more clear? You believe my hermeneutic is shaped by my culture, by it's western scientific method and then state it as a contradiction. Could you explain that? And then also explain how this contrasts a hermeneutic that you would agree with?

As far as the "historical perspective" statement, I'm pretty sure I didn't write that how you took it. If you could please explain that too it would help.

Let it rip. Thanks.

Shawn said...

I asked you to cease with all the suggestions, critiques, or what-ever-you-call-whatever-it-is-you-do-as-far-as-expressing-your thoughts concerning community or our community's theology. I neither need, nor do I want to receive random messages from you that include suggestions on how to "fix" our community, or a list of reasons as to why we should "fix" our community. What has changed about that? Not a single thing, I still do not want or need your thoughts on our community, but this looks like a theology chat, and I will gladly hear you out/engage you on theology, especially when you, Justin, feel like expressing it on one of our community member's blog, for whatever reasons.

My questions are clear and to the point. I think we need not muddy the waters by "explaining" them. In fact, your above summary of my questions is spot on. Just go from there ...

Shawn said...

First, however, what is this "historical perspective" of yours. I mean, it has to be substantial, since it was foundational to your charge of heresy and blasphemy (that's exactly how you wrote it). I think readers deserve an explanation of this "historical perspective" of yours. What is your historical perspective, Justin? In your explanation of your historical perspective, could you also please say more than "Chris and his method of interpretation is wrong, heretical, blasphemous" by actually explaining "why/how you and your method is right, orthodox, righteous?" It really irks me when someone - anyone - comes along and blasts someone and something as wrong but has little or no idea why he/she is right. Usually, when this sort of thing happens, that person knows very little about the subject and has merely read a book or wikipedia or is parroting John MacArthur or Piper. You may be doing that, I don't know ... are you? You would add a lot to this conversation by explaining why/how you are so right, Justin (right enough to brand others as heretical and blasphemous). I am asking you to do so in context of your explanation of your "historical perspective."

So, to repeat, explain this "historical perspective" of yours, and while you do, please offer a few reasons/clarifications as to why you are so correct and another could so wrong.

Justin Carroll said...

Shawn, I'm not responding to your questions like I have in the past. It was close, but you come off so arrogant.

I feel that Chris and I have had a good exchange of what we believe going on, and that we're challenging each other. And I really don't feel that our exchanges challenge each other in a friendly way at all.

I look forward to continuing the discussion with Chris.

Shawn said...

Justin - Very well. I have to wonder, however, if the arrogance you charge me with is equal to the arrogance required to brand another as a heretic and blasphemer? Is the arrogance you charge me with as severe as the the arrogance required to brand everyone who disagree with your expression as totally wrong?

You don't have to answer, I surely won't force you, and I will not loose sleep, but I would venture to say that my arrogance has nothing to do with it. I would say that you don't answer because you can't and you know it.

I would be totally friendly to you; I will not be friendly at all to your positions because they (your positions) are held up as totally and exhaustively right at the expense of all others.

Think about that for a bit. And know this too: If you pop around our community's member's blogs flinging the words heretic and blasphemer around, I'll show up again with the same questions. Of course, you can ignore them in the name of my arrogance then too, if you wish. :)

Peace to You.

Justin Carroll said...

Chris, I've been thinking about our exchanges on here lately. We've been comparing a lot of doctrinal beliefs but I feel there's an overlying issue at hand. I think you may hold to a more postmodern view of Christianity; something that would deny absolute truths and put you more on a journey of truth with no real ending (unless you believe in some form of theosis). Let me know what you think about that.

I do believe in absolute truths (the law of non-contradiction, the "either or" logic, whichever). I think you may believe in the dialectical system ("and both" logic). I could be wrong; it seems like it though.

We can talk about our differences in doctrine all day and it's helpful to a degree, but if our overlying views are in contrast I think it helps us understand a lot more about our respective views. And it gives us something else to debate! :) Just thought I'd throw this out there and see what you thought.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Justin,

You made the comment about God never punishing the righteous which if you insist on calling everyone not-innocent enough to be classified as righteous you really have no statement at all there. Which is fine of course as long as we don't continue to use that as a characteristic of God. To be clear, you are saying that whatever the Bible says that God did is necessarily just since the record is completely correct and anyone, anywhere, for any or no reason is subject to God's wrath in any form or amount because all are fallen. Right?

That said, I read with curiosity what you say about "modeling our lives after a sinless Jesus". Based on your reading of the narrative, God is always the same so why are we following Jesus example now instead of Father God's? Perhaps this is a non-point but it is odd to me and this isn't the first time I've encountered it.

"There's nothing in Scripture to suggest God is telling anyone anything apart from Scripture."

IF the Bible had written with the intention of its physical (earthly) authors/copyists to have it collected into one large volume -- and knowing the other works that were to be included etc -- I think one reasonably MIGHT be able to make that assumption. You and I both agree that wasn't the case. In addition to these people not knowing the orthodox Christian narrative, that we know now, they didn't even have an idea what information would be included in most of the other books unless they came before AND they happened to have access to them. And, again, they didn't all have the idea that the works would be collected. To look at The Bible and suggest that what it has become to and for us is the same as how it started and was before doesn't make any sense.

Also, do you think that everything that God has ever and will ever communicate to man is in Scripture? I guess people should stop listening for God to answer them in prayer.

I said: "… why would God allow such an interpretation to be communicated, followed, and blessed by His chosen as God's way if it was not?"

You said: "That's a good question. Jesus is God incarnate. Therefore, who better than the author of the Law to challenge man's interpretation of the Law? It's like asking why God allowed believers to enforce indulgences. In asking this you're forgetting that God's people have been corrupted by sin. Jesus challenged the way the Pharisees interpreted (and governed by) the Law on multiple occasions - not just this one."

My point here was to challenge a little your strong faith in the historical church's tradition and safeguarding of the truth. Just as you suggest that often their work stands up there were times, like indulgences, that it took a long time for people to speak up and then for them to be heard. Don't forget we are not outside of history. All times are like those times in different areas and on different scales. The church needs to be humble enough to know that if they are to hear God. Wouldn't you agree?

Another example of the church being wrong is that according to their doctrines and laws Jesus WAS sinful. If you need examples we can do that too. Do I think He was sinful? No.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

I will concede the specific instance about Judah, the Lord, and iron chariots as it seems there is much disagreement about that based on translation. That doesn't make the larger point any less valid.

"Saying that there's nothing in Scripture to say what should be in or out of the biblical canons since they did not exist at the time of any Scriptural authoring is highly debatable and a big discussion. I would say there are many instances in Scripture (and from Jesus) that lead us to believe that 1.) the OT is canon and 2.) that the NT is made canon by the Church. "

I don't know how that is debatable. Apart from scripture referencing other scripture that ended up Bible (it also refrences things that didn't make it), there isn't any information that lists what books are in and which are out. Again, we are back to a present orthodox view of the Bible being imposed back.

"Start with Matthew 10:28 where Jesus warns people to fear God above murderers."

The section you cited is a collection of sayings with no or little context. I agree that God has said power, if indeed He is God, but there is nothing there about the WHY. Also, just because one has a power doesn't mean one will use it. I have found in most of Jesus' words about punishment that the natural law of "you do THIS and therefor THAT naturally follows" is the case. Not always, but mostly. So I'm not sure if this is the text you mean to use.

"...if God is not who he says he is Jesus cannot be who he says he is and the person and work of Jesus cannot be what the apostles said it is. The absolute Truth of the Bible is linked together in a way that friendships are not. In other words, people are variable, God is constant."

I, in theory, agree with this as a stand alone statement but you are, again, basing this on your view of the Bible imposed back. You suggest that 100% of what is said about and by God in the Bible is 100% correct. Now I don't believe that is true in reality and, in fact, the Bible shows that even in the smaller, less consequential ways this is not true. So where does that leave us?

chrisflinchbaugh said...

Justin, I apologize if I painted you to be something you are not. My goal was not to accuse you or be dishonest. So, it seems, that indeed we both pick and choose at least on OT law. Based on what is more clear now as your view, how do you rationalize this? I think it is clear how I can.

To answer your "Word of God" question I will need you to define what you mean by that term. I honestly heard it used in so many different ways that I want to be sure before I engage it here. I already overwrite!

Does my view make God dumb? No, but based on God today choosing fallible beings to communicate (works, words, life) His message he would just as well be dumb according to your premise. No?

The point of my original post was to say that Yahweh's claims weren't enough for me, as a non-Jew, to believe in or follow Him WITHOUT the revelation of Jesus. It is worth noting that those who DID believe and attempt to follow Him pre-Jesus did a pretty poor job and therefor God sent Jesus for a number of purposes, but that was at least one.

As far as how I came to believe or not believe what I do now, everything I've written to you is at play in that. Perhaps more importantly, as I asked before, what does this all mean for our practice? Do you think my practice is necessarily different than yours because of these issues? How so? I think in some cases, yes and in others, no.

"To me, that seems to cherry-pick the perfect image of God that makes the most sense only to you personally. What about everyone else?
Absolute truth is inescapable. Either the God of the Bible exists as you have cherry-picked or he exists as his Word says he exists. There is no in-between. And while there may be arguments over interpretation in the Church universal your doctrine of God is not one of them. "

Actually, Justin there is plenty of room for in-between. Certainly I am not the first person you've encountered who claims to follow Jesus with a different view of God from your own or from min even. See, I don't claim to actually know how God exists - what all His characteristics are. The Bible also does not make such a claim. I am perfectly comfortable with some of that mystery.

Just to get it all out there, I would be open to you providing for me a list of things that I would need to believe to be considered an orthodox Christian, according to you and whatever authority you want to use, and I can respond to those things point by point here or in a blog.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

At the end of my first of three recent posts I made a reference to "the church" calling Jesus sinful. I meant the church of the time which was the establishment of the Jewish religion which was the equivalent of today's God-chosen and ordained purveyors and safe guarders of divine truth.

Also sorry for missing words in sentences, I was overseeing plumbers while I wrote all of it.

Justin Carroll said...

You're right, I've been given enough thought for why you believe what you do. And I thank you for sharing as long as you have. You've been very patient with my questions.

There's a great chasm separating our theology which is the Bible or rather the interpretation of it. I'm Sola Scriptura, absolute truths and Western logic, whereas you seem to be inspired (but fallible) text, postmodern and Eastern logic. We disagree and the contrast is stark.

At the end of the day I believe in these Truths and that's a leap of faith that I cannot empirically prove to you. There's all sorts of historical evidences I could use to support my beliefs. And even though I would point to the Bible as the best evidence, at their core my beliefs can only be accepted in faith.

I'll try and answer a couple questions I haven't answered before.

"… he would just as well be dumb according to your premise. No?"

I understand the questioning, but no, because my premise is based on Scripture as God's holy Word and as an authority to which all other authorities are subordinate. I believe God is God (in all of its biblical meaning), therefore dumb can't fairly be applied. I'm suggesting that any view of God other than that lends itself to all sorts of discrepancy.

"Do you think my practice is necessarily different than yours because of these issues?"

Yes and no. No, because I don't think a belief in God is necessary to practice the teachings of Jesus or do good things. Yes, because I think sound doctrine is good practice, and I disagree with your doctrine (or lack thereof).

Orthodoxy is what has been accepted by the majority of the Church universal from the beginning. The doctrines in the Nicene Creed or the Apostle's Creed are good texts. Lines like "… he shall come to judge the quick and the dead" show the wrath of God reflected upon in early Church history.

Thanks again for our exchanges on here. By the way, the episode called Noel in season 2 of the West Wing where Josh was in one-day therapy was absolutely amazing - best episode so far.

 
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