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December 18, 2007

Comments

Dallas Tim

Where's the holy hand-grenade?

"One... Two... FIVE..."

"THREE, sir..."

"THREE!"

cheek

It seems to me that the only worthwhile part of religion is the stories. This is a good one, Greg. Thanks for the bread and wine.

Adam Smithee

Greg, that's a very sad but very true story.

Zossima

Greg, did you write that? Are you writing more of it? And do you think that part of the reason you are now going to hell is because you use scripture-eze to poke fun at the people Jesus wants to have communion with--you know, the chosen?

greg

Z,

Yeah. This morning after reading Tom and Larry's comments.

Larry

I noticed an errant apostrophe in "Joseph's Smith." I therfore ascribe a textual error and thus declare the entire text as inauthentic... probably not even written by Greg.

greg

Same as your Bible, Larry. Glad you've joine us non-inerrantists.

greg

Larry,

Look! It's been fixed. Now it's been redacted--just like your Bible.

Larry

And... the change didn't affect the original meaning in the slightest... just like the Bible!

ACIM_reader

Good one.
Yep, its not *really* love unless it applies to everybody. It can be hard not to cling to "specialness"

I'm guessing the gay, white liberal was a UU (unitarian-unilateralist--the two churches merged in 1961) Maybe burn a question-mark on his lawn :)

greg

Larry,

Right! YHWH is still capricious, petty, jealous, hateful, and murderous, whereas Jesus is slightly better.

Jeff

Greg,
I think you were highly unfair to the gay person by not being as descriptive with them as everyone else. You should have said, "the white, middle class, gay, with poop on his nuts (no goatee), liberal republican." Then he would not have felt descriptively discriminated against. Maybe you just missed that in translation though.

Leighton

ACIM,

I think you meant "Unitarian Universalist," but may I steal "Unitarian Unilateralist"? I have visions of an old cranky guy at the mall waving his cane and threatening damnation to people who don't agree that everyone is saved.

Zach

Holy crap, I can't believe I'm just finding this blog. Serving a full-time interim and starting a church is cutting into my aimless blog wandering reading.

Great "targum" Greg. And the comment banter is just as rewarding. Consider me subscribed.

greg

Zach,

Welcome. Feel free to add your own banter, and be sure to be mean to the trolls.

Larry the troll

Greg,

You mean the Yahweh mentioned by Jesus when He referenced the OT on numerous occasions? I guess Jesus is actually worse because He certainly should have made sure we rejected that notion of God. Instead He kept echoing passage after passage about fulfilling those words and His crazy followers (like Peter, who He kinda' put in charge of building the Church) continued to proclaim that Jesus was the embodiment and fulfillment of that same OT.

That same Jesus told the devil that Man lives "... by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Now, which God was He referring to there? As far as the Jews were concerned, it was the God of the OT.

If someone like Jesus made it so clear that the God of the OT was indeed God, then any superlatives thrown at Jesus become rather pointless because He certainly did nothing to correct the misconception that Yahweh was who God really was. Of course since that God scares us a bit and because it doesn't make sense to you and since it relieves us of having to worry about what that same God might do to those who reject him, then it's so much easier just write him off or ignore him. You have to admit that either admit the whole Bible stands or falls by Jesus' words because you can't take one without the other and I guess that's why you don't call yourself a Christian.

gruntled one

Greg, I reposted this in its entirety over at Young Anabaptist Radicals. If you prefer, I'll just link it, but most definitely a parable worth sharing.

greg

gruntled,

however you prefer to do it, and thanks for sharing it.

bobstevens

Reminds me a bit of the Danish film Ordet, based on a play by Kaz Monk. You all should see it if you haven't.

It really got me thinking... what if someone talked and acted like Christ in the modern world? If that person claimed to be Christ, everyone heavily involved in religion would reject them outright, whereas the people who would be reached would be those for whom religion has no room.

It'd be like history repeating itself, because that's almost exactly what happened when Christ was on earth. Surely the truth is knowable, but does being convinced that one knows it automatically make one an enemy of the truth?

greg

Larry,

Jesus did make sure we rejected that notion of God, or didn't you actually read the Gospels? We move from "smite the Amalekites" to "love your enemy." We move from blessing and cursing to "God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust." We move from putting away displeasing wives to "what God has put together..." You really should try actually reading the Bible.

Larry

Yeah that's why there's so much "As it was written" or why Jesus said not even the slightest punctuation of the Word of God (OT to them) was to be changed by Him. His comments about "You've heard it said... but I say unto you..." merely echo passages like the one in Jeremiah where God predicted a time where His law would be written on the hearts of His children and that they would follow out of love not fear.

Not to mention that fact that all of the early disciples who went on to write NT books made numerous references to the OT as authoritative, true and inspired.

Read Psalm 103 - You'll see where David clearly sees God's nature and describes it in detail. Then read Revelation and see where John paints a picture of Jesus returning in judgement much like the OT. By the way that was the same John who wrote the Gospel, you know the one who Jesus loved. If that wasn't correct, then Jesus must not have been able to even get through to His own disciples, let alone us. Maybe we should just not call ourselves Christians.

greg

Larry,

Nice job of avoiding the fact that Jesus does paint a different picture of God. I love that literalists consistently pick Scriptures that establish their points while ignoring the others, such as the ones I pointed out.

Leighton
Surely the truth is knowable, but does being convinced that one knows it automatically make one an enemy of the truth?

Well, it depends on the situation. Definitely not in mathematics, for instance. But if in this context you see "truth" as purely something you affirm, rather than something you put into practice and something your continuing experience informs, that can sometimes be a problem if you behave abusively toward people who don't express their opinions in the same language you do--whether they're sharing something they've considered, or are just thinking aloud.

But I don't think "truth" is really the lens to view this through.

Parts of the American church have adopted the dubious communication style that involves nearly all disagreement taking the form of mocking, ridicule and derision. This is kind of like what you see in academia, except that in research journals, you have a longer turnaround time for people to express some useful ideas as well as venting their spleen. Further, there's a sense in the literature that anything you publish is something you've thought enough about to be willing to submit it to withering scrutiny; every paper has as its backdrop a constant background hum of off-the-record conversations. Churches where every last remark is subject to the wrath of peer review produce practitioners who have trouble building meaningful relationships, since throwing out ideas for constructive feedback is a key part of healthy socializing.

Many of these groups also suffer from a widespread blindness to social context. If I gave extra office hours to help a student see why Bayes' Theorem follows from the usual axioms of probability according to the rules of inference accepted by the consensus of working mathematicians, that's a kindness; if I give exactly the same talk to an unconsenting stranger on the bus, it makes me a colossal, pretentious, histrionic asshole, and it would be better for both of us (and for the reputation of mathematics in general) if I would shut up. In both cases, I'm correct in what I affirm, which leads me to think confidence and certainty aren't really the issues at play in this specific context.

I suspect this is true of a minority of churches (though I have little doubt just about any reader here will have experienced at least one such group), and probably not a large minority. But I think something that informs Christianity's 16% approval rating among young outsiders is that most of the conversation about this phenomenon among non-pathological churches centers around how to best communicate and connect with these wayward brethren, rather than connecting with ex-churched people who these groups have damaged and helping them to heal. I don't think they're obliged to do this--their time is theirs to spend as they see fit. It just contributes to the perception of Christianity as an insular social club, rather than a group looking out for the welfare of all humanity.

Larry

Greg,

Jesus does no such thing.

When kids are little, we say "don't go into the street." We don't explain why to a 2 year old because they don't understand and just need to know to stay out of the road. Period. When they get older we tell them why and let them carefully look both ways before running to get their stray soccer ball.

Jesus did the same thing. He never changed any principles, He merely imparted the "why" and the "heart" of what was in the OT. If you're saying that He "corrected" who God was, then I say HE very clearly affirmed (in many other places) that the God of the OT was truly God. If you and I are both right, then Jesus was confused at best and you are correct not wanting to follow such a person.

Dallas Tim

Larry,

Not sure if Greg will get into it much more than the brief statements he's made thus far.

Biblical authority is a topic we've gone round and round about at length in the past. To be honest, it seems as though you and I agree, at least if I read you correctly, here. I'm not willing to say much more than that since you've been a little more pointed than I've tried to be. It's not that I haven't been willing to defend my position (and Greg his) but you can only say the same thing over and over so many times before you realize that you're not really accomplishing anything.

For the record, I do see the Bible as inspired and, as you pointed out, see Jesus holding the OT up as the truth of God. Paul uses your child analogy in Galatians to show that God's people were under a "tutor" (the law) until we became full heirs (in Christ) and were then capable of doing things for reasons other than "Just because I (God) said so." Peter didn't want to kill and eat, but he was told not to call "unclean" what God was now calling "clean" and this was the same Peter who refered to the OT as authoritative countless times in his letters after the clean/unclean dream episode.

Anyway, it seems as if you're not as hostile lately, but if you stick around, just try to be nice.

dr dobson

DT/Larry

I see the "clean/unclean" issue as one of behavior related to the "otherness" of Christ-like relationship and not one concerned with rule-keeping. Clean/unclean has nothing to do with being on the inside or the outside; it has everything to do with our reaction and relationship with those on the inside/outside. You are both wrapped up in the text and your intention to decipher it literally--there's no hidden meaning in there. It is a simple, contextual example of how Christ removed the law from one's place in that culture and how the kingdom of God (as shown by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) and it's economy now supplants the one of the OT. This is Greg's point.

Dallas Tim

Dr. Dobson,

You can't pretend to know what Jesus really meant when He stated very clearly that His purpose where the OT law was concerned, was to "fulfill", not to "remove" (as you stated). His fufillment, obviously means that we don't have to follow the letter since in Him, we already have. Instead we are to act in a way that says "Thank you."

You also can't ignore Peter's numerous references to the validity of the OT and it's value in our seeing who we are without Jesus as he wrote his NT letters.

greg

Dobson,

Unless you're feeling masochistic, you should stay away from where this conversation is headed. For the literalists, fulfill always means the OT is without error, somehow, and validity is always predicated on epistemological certainty, not mythic meaning or anthropological investigation.

Zossima

Jeebus, this whole authority debate is tired. Let the fundies have their Let the fundies completely ignore epistemology and the numerous historical and logical inconsistencies of a so-called "literal" (the Bible literally doesn't say half what you people think it does) hermenuetic. Let them think that the rest of us are sinking into some abyss of relativism. Just ignore them.

Larry

Dallas Tim,

I see what you mean. I wish I had been bold enough to have taken the words of my parents and the police and the I.R.S with such ambiguity. Surely they didn't really mean what they said. Unfortunately, we have the ability to ignore the obvious, at least until the Jesus of the Gospels and Revelation decides to do what he said He's do (or did he?)

Greg/Zossima,

Is there any history where someone said something and actually meant what they said? You claim to be so sure about some things Jesus said, but then tell me I can't be sure about others.

greg

larry,

no one believes everything the bible says. let me go out on a limb here and assume you support american military actions at different times. you probably support self-defense in the face of a break in. All this despite Jesus' very clear words to love your enemy. So, since you believe everything Jesus said, tell me how you simultaneously love and kill. I'd be curious to know what else you can do in the name of love if the definition is so malleable.

Zossima

Greg, isn't it funny that the most plainly obvious of Jesus statements are the ones that the so-called literalists wave away with the most ease? In this case, the assumption that the biblical canon represents absolute truth forces fundamentalists to impose a whole lot of nuance on what are just about the plainest words attributed to Jesus. The two explanations (both of which Jesus literally did not say) I've heard are (1) Jesus meant that for the future kingdom, after he returns and (2) Jesus meant that for our individual relationships, not our national relationships.

Despite such contrivances, amazingly, fundies will continue to maintain that they aren't interpreting. It's just silly.

Zossima

Larry, you want to pretend that what the Bible says is plain as day, so plain that you in fact are not interpreting it. (Greg, I don't even think epistemology is part of the fundamentalist method.) Yet among fundamentalist "literalists" such as yourself, there are very profound debates on matters of supposedly "eternal" consequence--the whole lordship salvation debate, for one. How Jesus will return, the tribulation, etc., for another.

Now, you've been conditioned to respond to a reasoned questioning of these obvious multiple interpretive possibilities by entrenching yourself in a concept of Absolute Truth that presumes that you have it (at least on all the major stuff) and that others don't. And for those who don't believe in Absolute Truth at all, you've been further conditioned to conclude that the only other choice is some type of "anything goes" relativism.

Again, you get there by ignoring epistemology. For the sake of argument, let's assume that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ dictated the Bible to the prophets and apostles, that the Bible in its current form and all its translations is literally what God said across all those times, that there are no contradictions, etc.

Even with all that, I and WE have to encounter the Bible. And I or we cannot encounter it without a combination of individual and cultural predispositions, baggage, lenses, etc.

But far from leaving us in the lurch of "anything goes", that is precisely why the Church historically (sometimes with terrible consequence) has left it to groups of people to prayerfully understand the Bible and to determine how to apply it to the social context in which the Church has found itself.

In the realm of communication, there is nothing literal. There is only interpretation. And the only way to "get it right" is to do it together. That is what the scientific community at its best is about. That is what the Church at its best does with scripture. That is what the American body politic at its best (oh, when will we see that again?) is about. We live our lives as part of multiple, serial, overlapping (and even contradictory) linguistic communities.

Far from leaving us in a lurch of relativism, it provides us the opportunity to come together. For Christians, that should be an opportunity, not a threat.

Larry

Greg,

Is it possible that Jesus was speaking on a personal level? In America we are not allowed to take the law into our own hands, yet the police can apprehend and arrest criminals. So on the one hand, no individual can do something on their own, yet collectively we give that very power to governing bodies for the purpose of keeping the peace and protecting others. Jesus never said, "If someone is about to kill your child/wife/mother, just let them know how much you love them and tell them you wish that they wouldn't do it, but don't get physically involved. That's absurd. Jesus wasn't forbidding governments to take military action or disallowing someone from physically protecting their family. Jesus was clearly laying down a mandate that individuals not harbor resentment and/or hatred towards those who may hold those same feeling towards them.

Think about real war. Do you think solider sit there and think about how much they hate the guys they are shooting at. I'm not saying some don't, but I doubt it's much more than just self-preservation and duty that motivates the common soldier to go forward. I'll bet most people hated Hitler, but the guys who stormed Omaha beach probably didn't loath the Germans in the pill boxes who were raining down hell as they tried to take their position. Even the pilots of the Enola Gay doubtfully resented the people they were about to impact, but they knew that this "statement" would save an even larger amount of American lives. That may sound hardly "loving" to you, but considering what Japan started at Pearl Harbor, how loving would it have been for us to place Japanese lives above our own servicemen (and women) by allowing them to die while trying to end the war.

The bottom line is that Jesus wasn't saying "No more punishment, no more jail time, no more fines, no more grounding, no more legal intervention... we're just going to love everyone." Yeah, imagine our society now. Imagine complete anarchy, unabated rape, murder, violence, etc... that's all very loving."

No, Jesus wasn't saying that. He was doing what God predicted in Jeremiah. He was alerting us to the reality of a changed heart towards others on an individual level. And ultimately, that's what leads to the need for less jails and atomic bombs anyway.

Lovingly,
Larry

greg

larry,

i'm asking if Jesus' words precludes you from killing, even in self-defense or in war?

Zossima

Larry, Jesus literally did not say a damned thing you just wrote in explaining (away) his command to love our enemies. Your little tome is so full of cultural context that you are using to interpret (away) Jesus' (about as literal as you could ever hope to find) statement that you need to drop all pretext of being a literalist or inerrantist. What you are is an American christian, a product of a nominally christian culture that values war and imposes nationalism (disguised as patriotism) on the pretended authority of scripture.

Greg is trying to make it simple: Either Jesus meant it or he didn't. If he did, then Hitler and anarchy shouldn't matter: you're just supposed to obey, right?

Adam Smithee

I think discussing nationalism christianity is a big pain in the ass. It is something that even the disciples struggled with and you can read throughout Jesus struggled with his disciples to get them to see the bigger picture.

We want to take pride in our nation and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. However when national pride begins to blend with Christianity then it certainly delves into a larger problem.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is in no way a saint, dealt with the same issue in nazi germany and was the biggest reason why he was forced out of the Lutheran church.

Now bringing that into our times we have a group called"The Christian Coalition" and they are a special interest group and in all honesty are in bed with both the democrats and republicans.

We have churches across denominational lines who have political speakers speaking from their pulpits on a weekly basis. Why? Because it's God and Country baby.

It is important to be involved in politics, but just because you're a Christian doesnt mean you line yourself with the republicans or the democrats. Please refrain from using the idea that republicans have morals and therefore their morals line with the bible. That simply is not true.

I am not saying that America is the next nazi germany, but I am concerned about the nationalistic christianity that is being preached and bred in the churches today. That does not line up with scripture in any capacity.

Jesus was very clear on this issue that our loyalty was to him and only him.

Larry

Greg,

No, they do not.

Zossima

And with one sentence, Larry becomes the exact sort of biblical revisionist that he himself loathes. Way to go, Larry.

Clearly, Jesus, speaking to a (generally) poor and militarily occupied and politically and economically (and according to Jesus, also spiritually) oppressed people, should have known that he needed to footnote his command by noting "this only applies to relatives who have inconvenienced you in a minor way and who aren't asking for money"). Sweet, silly Jesus.

But thankfully, Larry, you "literally" cleared it all up for us.

Larry

Zossima,

False dichotomies are, apparently, your specialty.

Jesus didn't say lots of things literally. Many things are understood by considering the entire scope of his words and the OT. His teaching on our attitudes towards our enemies, though, fits perfectly with the OT transitional passages that are scattered throughout the NT and are hinted at in the OT.

The OT forbids lying. What about Rahab lying as to the whereabouts of the spies? Was that ok? You seem to want to make it so simple that common sense goes out the window. Can I work on the Sabbath? When is the Sabbath? How come the drinking age in some countries is lower than in the U.S.? Is one country wrong?

Jesus also said to give "Caesar what's his and God what's his." I guess since, technically, it's ALL God's then I can tell the I.R.S. to jump off a cliff can't I? I mean, literally, isn't everything God's? Is that what Jesus was saying?

You liberals keep trying to prove the unworthiness of the Bible by forcing these silly either/or's and it's just ridiculous.

Larry

Zossima,

Are you actually saying that Jesus would be opposed to someone using physical force to protect his family?

Zossima

Larry, so now you're using an account (a story, a recounting) of Rahab's lying to provide a subtext in which lying is okay? The Bible doesn't say it was okay. It just provides the story. And yet you call me a liberal? Who is playing loose with Scripture?

I'd say that somebody who spends 5 paragraphs explaining away Jesus' 3 simple words ("love your enemies") is being quite liberal with scripture. You clearly don't know what the word "liberal" means. (And apparently, you have also been conditioned by Bill O'Reilly to think that it will melt me.)

Larry, my "either/or" regarding the meaning of Jesus command was not an attempt to prove the unworthiness of scripture. It was a success at proving the unworthiness of your supposed adherence to scripture. The fact is, at the end of the day, Greg and I are the ones arguing for a more literal and more conservative reading of the gospels.

I think the Bible is a wonderfully worthy book except in the hands of fundamentalists who make christianity itself entirely unworthy.

Zossima

Larry, why does it matter what I think? What did Jesus say? You're the one who has aligned himself to a literal hermeneutic. He said, "Love your enemies". I'm pretty sure that if you believe that, you can't kill them, maim them, take their property, call them etc. I'm pretty sure, too, that the gyrations you've gone to in order to explain it away mean that you really aren't a "literalist" but are actually quite liberal with the Bible. I'm equally sure that using your hermeneutic (grab some scripture here, grab some there, generally making sure to grab the ones I want and/or which support my cultural/personal biases), I could prove whatever the hell I want to from the Bible.

greg

larry,

serious question: how does one love and kill an enemy at the same time?

Adam Smithee

This thought came to my mind as I was eating an unhealthy meal a cheeseburger and french fries.

Correct me if I'm wrong. But I believe it was last year or back in 2005 that a crazed gunman went into an Amish school in Pennsylvania, blocked the doors and killed everyone inside, including himself.

When the media asked the Amish if they had a chance to retaliate would they. The Amish said they would not. I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but their response was along the lines of, "That's not what Jesus would have done OR that isn't what a Christian would do"

Keep in mind there was a teacher inside the classroom. The Amish don't carry guns for protection, if they do then it is for hunting only. The teacher probably kept to the Amish tradition of non-aggression and pacifism.

So I will ask you Larry, if someone came into your home and was hurting your wife and kids would you protect them? I know that you would. In all honestly I would want to the do the same thing.

But this is my question to you Larry. Who is right? The Amish or You?

Larry

Zossima,

Just answer the question. Do you Jesus would allow the use of physical force in order to protect one's family?

Greg,

Easy. I love my family more than the guy who's trying to kill them. If you don't understand that then I feel sorry for your family.

Adam,

Ok so they forgave him. That's Christianity. If, on the other hand, an Amish hunter had been in the classroom and had refused to use his gun to prevent the deaths that resulted, then he would have been rightly called "un-loving" and a coward. That's not the Christianity Jesus was portraying.

For those of you who haven't read Revelation, check out that Jesus and what he does to his enemies. Of course you'll find a way to redact that as well so as not to dent your idealistic and rather generic view of Jesus.

Again I ask, what in the NT can we really believe Jesus said (and meant) and why?

Larry

That's

"Do you (believe) Jesus would allow the use... "

Zossima

Larry, obviously you can't see the intellectual cul-de-sac you're in. What I would do (I'm not even close to being a pacifist) has nothing to do with what a person who claims to be a literal adherent to scripture should do. You cannot wave away Jesus clear command to people who were politically oppressed unless you're willing to drop your entire self-deception of being a biblical literalist.

And you didn't answer Greg's question. I get why you would defend your family, but clearly that's not loving your enemy. The fact is, you cannot do both. And it'd be nice if a few so-called "christians" would struggle with that. Might give you some credibility in the world.

greg

larry,

You're avoiding the question. I did not ask you whom you loved more. I asked you how you can love and kill someone at the same time. Please answer the question.

greg

larry,

In point of fact, Jesus says you get no reward for loving those who love you (family). The reward is for those who love those who don't love them (the person who is harming the family).

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