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Written by: C. W. Booth

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stop Witnessing Now!

A post from another blog service explained how the doctrine of universalism is not merely Christian, but is nearly mainstream orthodoxy. Universalism, in any of its varied forms, is the belief that ultimately God will not permit anyone to remain in Hell for eternity, if there even is such a thing as Hell.

Our logical response to this belief system of Universalism, if we buy into it, ought to be:

  • Stop witnessing, stop spreading the gospel, now! Why? Because everyone goes to Heaven eventually anyway, so why make their lives unnecessarily frustrating by having them convert to Christ’s holiness in this world when conversion and holiness have nothing to do with attaining Heaven? What are we bullies?
  • Stop praying. Why? Every prayer for the salvation of others has already been answered in the affirmative. Why pray for what you already have?
  • Stop depriving yourself of sinful pleasures. Since regeneration, at least in this earthly life, is irrelevant with regard to eternal salvation, then don’t convert to Christ, yet. There are far too many sinful pleasures into which to indulge yourself, a lifetime’s worth at the least. No matter how wicked you are now, God will eventually scoop you up into Heaven, and, until then, you will not have missed out on any of the sensual thrills of living.
  • Stop reading the Bible. All those insipid Bible passages about “going to Hell” and “fire and brimstone” were just cruel scare tactics for the superstitious pagans of that day. Not for us postmodern folks who know better.

May God open our eyes to the heresy that is Universalism. There is a life to live after which comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Some will rise up to eternity with God, others to eternal condemnation (John 5:29). God will in no way pardon the unrepentant sinner from his guilt (2 Peter 2:4-10). Call upon Jesus for salvation, repent, and have your sins blotted out forever (Acts 3:19).

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Note: This essay was originally posted as a blog and was open to receiving the posting of public comments. This essay received about 50 comments, many taking issue with the content. Given the large number of comments only a few of the more salient ones, and responses by the author, will be reprinted below.

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Commenter A Wrote:

If you do what you believe is the right thing because you think you will be punished if you do not, you're going about it the wrong way.

Yes, as children we do chores and behave and eat our vegetables because we don't want to get in trouble, but at some point we grow up and do these things not out of fear of punishment or hope of a pat on the head - we do these things for the reasons our parents told us to in the first place.

Even if there is a god, rape isn't wrong because he decided it is, any more than eating ice cream all day is wrong because your parents decreed it so. It's wrong because of what it actually is, and what the consequences are. Punishments and rewards are there only to make up for the times when people fail to do what they should do anyway. And before law and order and prison and forensics and fingerprints and security cameras and all the ways we detect and punish the wicked in this life, people tried desperately to get people who wouldn't otherwise be good to do the right thing by promising a reward or punishment in another life.

But I've found the best christians are not the ones that are bucking for a heavenly promotion, but the ones that would do the right thing even if they thought they might go to hell for it. I mean jesus did what was, according to your religion, the right things to do knowing the punishment would be a gruesome execution. Morality isn't looking for the angle or following an incentive or shrinking from a punishment. It's about doing the right thing no matter what will happen to you, because someone or something outside of yourself matters a little bit more to you than your own skin. This is why we honor brave soldiers, not because they were following orders or forced into complying with their government, we honor those that go above and beyond the call of duty, who do more than what is by force required of them.

So do the right thing and literally damn the consequences. Because I'd rather go to some god's hell for doing what I think is right than live in paradise for "just following orders".

That, to me, is morality.

Booth Responded to Commenter A

Thank you for your comment. It is well thought out. However, I cannot subscribe to many of the ideas in it.

Fundamental to your thesis is that people should “do the right thing and literally damn the consequences.” That would be acceptable IF “the right thing” were universally understood by all people to be that which is declared to be right in the “law of Christ” (the New Testament--1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2). But as any atheist or humanist will affirm, “the right thing” is personal and individual. To atheists values are only invented and definable by the individual and never by outside influences or by supernatural deities.

Since atheists agree with the Bible on this point (that people left to themselves will do whatever they see as being right in their own eyes), God imposed on us His own definitions of right and wrong. His definitions are generally quite different from that of atheists, humanists, pagans, and those unfamiliar with the Bible.

Moreover, God imposed a most severe penalty should anyone not repent of violating His definitions of right. The penalty is Hell.

Christians know they are utterly free of the threat and fear of Hell, so why do they serve God? Because the motives of their heart, their thinking, their minds have been regenerated and they WANT to serve Him. They also love Him and seek to please the one they love, so they serve willingly and live holy lives willingly, albeit imperfectly.

Why should anyone repent and become a Christian? First, because the threat and fear of Hell compels them. Second, because they are genuinely remorseful for having offended a holy God. Third, they see the flaws in living for one’s own pleasure day in and day out (I.e. emptiness, love grows cold, hopelessness and meaningless of the future), and they want a more full life. All these are valid and biblical motivators employed by Jesus to turn a sinner from his errors and toward repentance.

If there is no lasting penalty for sin, for not being regenerated, and for not following Christ, then why bother with Christianity? Atheists would have no better eternal outlook than Christians, would they? Both can do whatever they deem is “right.” Of course, over time the moralist’s definition of “right” will deteriorate and eventually become generally indistinguishable from the atheist’s definition of “right,” since both will have abandoned God, His morality, and any notion of eternity; all that would matter is what happens here and now.

If I could, I would change your thesis statement as follows: “Do that which the law of Christ says is right and damn the consequences because to ignore the law of Christ has consequences of damnation.”

Booth Added the Following Response to Other Comments from the Public

Oddly enough, I received feedback from several other people (not all of which have left comments on this blog) poking fun at Christians for serving God out of a "fear of Hell." This is a mistaken notion of reformed Christianity.

Christians are already regenerated (born again). As persons sealed by the Holy Spirit as a promise of redemption and resurrection, Christians have no fear of going to Hell themselves. We serve God out of love, respect, and gratitude for what God has already done for us, and will do for us in the future, all without a fear of going to Hell.

Christians may also evangelize among unbelievers because they fear that the unbeliever will go to Hell, for eternity. That is a potent concern for Christian parents. But the fear of Hell is not for themselves, but for their children who have not yet come to a faith in Jesus, the Christ.

It does elude me as to why an unbeliever would bother to live according to a Judeo-Christian moral ethic (do not lie, do not steal, do good to those that hate you, ...) if they had no fear of a future eternal punishment and no expectation of living past the age of about 100. What does that accomplish for them, to deny themselves sex, drinking on Spring Break, lying to the IRS, or taking an extra day off by telling the boss they are ill? In fact, the majority of the unsaved population does not deny itself these thing because most of those things they do, they just do not call those things "sins." Because they do not call them sins, they are doing what is "right" in their own eyes. No fear of future punishment, no need to worry about God's definition of right and wrong. Whatever is right for you, is right.

Fear of Hell may not motivate a Christian to serve God (for a Christian has no fear of going to Hell), but it should, and often does, motivate the unbeliever to assess his spiritual condition. In that sense, a fear of Hell is quite healthy.

Below Commenter A Posted Again and Inserted Quoted Snippets in Italics from Booth's First Response

"Thank you for your comment. It is well thought out. However, I cannot subscribe to many of the ideas in it."

Your response doesn't touch on the spirit of anything I say, it seems to just echo fears you have of not being christian.

"Fundamental to your thesis is that people should “do the right thing and literally damn the consequences. That would be acceptable IF “the right thing” were universally understood by all people to be that which is declared to be right in the “law of Christ” (the New Testament--1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2)."

Even within christiandom there isn't and never has been universal agreement about what is "right" and the bible contains many different and conflicting moral prescriptions, being not one text but dozens of texts by different authors from different eras. This is therefore a meaningless statement on several levels. If nothing is right or wrong unless we all agree then nothing is right or wrong. I cannot believe that you really think this way.

"But as any atheist or humanist will affirm, “the right thing” is personal and individual."

Yes and no. Some things are a matter of individuality, some things are not. If I decide to wear pink and purple striped socks it's nobody's business but my own. If I decide to kill my neighbor, on the other hand, it kind of becomes his business, and all of the people that that homicide would effect. And society makes it their business whether people are bumping one another off because we collectively want to live in a safe society. This, not supernatural dictate, is the real origin of these ethics.

I doubt there is any moral precept in the bible that was not stated before any biblical text. Socrates, buddha, confucius, lao tsu and many others stated the golden rule centuries before jesus, and the oldest instance of it is from the code of hammurabi, which pre-dates the old testament. Morality handed down by god? It was handed down by man first. And man's morality always improves upon god's morality, if you read all of the bible - not just the bits they tell you about.

"To atheists values are only invented and definable by the individual and never by outside influences or by supernatural deities."

Not invented, determined. Figured out. Right and wrong is a complicated concept, but it's fundamental root is human nature. I will demonstrate this with a thought experiment.

Is it immoral to give a child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch? Think and answer before continuing. Now, if you know that that a child is deathly allergic to peanuts is it wrong to give them the sandwich to eat? I am guessing like any sane person you said no to the first and yes to the second. I ask you, which changed between the first and second examples - the child's physical nature (how it would affect her), or god's will? Did you need to consult the scriptures at any time to work out the answer to any of these questions? Are you lost and unable to answer them due to the scriptures' silence on the subjects of both peanut butter and allergies? Sympathy and empathy are far better guides to morality than authority. Especially since you don't actually follow the bible's authority anyway, though you may not know of the various scriptures you do not follow. Most christians are shielded from them.

"Since atheists agree with the Bible on this point (that people left to themselves will do whatever they see as being right in their own eyes),"

What people, free of religious or other dogmas, see as right is generally pretty good. Kindness, charity, forgiveness, defending the weak, helping the poor etc are all humanistic values. And being religious is no guarantee that someone will behave well. And anyone who followed the whole of the bible would be a felon.

"God imposed on us His own definitions of right and wrong."

God did not write the bible.

"His definitions are generally quite different from that of atheists, humanists, pagans, and those unfamiliar with the Bible."

Yes, his definitions of what is "right" include slavery, genocide of non-believers, near total extermination of the human race, the execution of children and babies, human sacrifice, the execution of gays and "witches" which don't even exist, etc. And his definitions of what is wrong include refraining from genital mutilation, being gay, women speaking in churches and many other things. I'm glad that people differ with these definitions of right and wrong and wish more people would.

"Moreover, God imposed a most severe penalty should anyone not repent of violating His definitions of right. The penalty is Hell."

Actually the wages of sin are death, hell was a later invention of the christian churches. And eternal torment is by definition infinitely cruel, evil and un-merciful.

"Christians know they are utterly free of the threat and fear of Hell, so why do they serve God? Because the motives of their heart, their thinking, their minds have been regenerated and they WANT to serve Him. They also love Him and seek to please the one they love, so they serve willingly and live holy lives willingly, albeit imperfectly."

I don't think you can generalize, there are many kinds of christians who serve god many different ways, for many different reasons. Christians used to serve god by killing muslims or torturing sinful christians, or defending slavery or promoting antisemitism. For centuries christians did these things. All christians are not carbon copies of yourself or your culture.

"Why should anyone repent and become a Christian?"

I don't think people should. Though repentance is a good thing of course.

"First, because the threat and fear of Hell compels them."

No one has ever demonstrated that this is a real threat. Many religions have a heaven and a hell. Nobody's ever established that one religion's afterlife is real and the rest are not. And if you're playing the odds on everlasting reward, you're far more likely to be pissing off the "real" god by worshipping a false religion, whatever religion you belong to. That is of course assuming that there is a god and an afterlife. There could be no god, or a god that creates the universe and isn't watching over every living thing on all the innumerable worlds.

"Second, because they are genuinely remorseful for having offended a holy God."

This god's existence has also never been established. People generally worship a god because they were indoctrinated into believing that these things are true, and thus accepted them without critical thought. When actually there's no reason to suppose any of it is true, and those not indoctrinated into them cannot convert unless perhaps under some kind of emotional duress or trauma.

"Third, they see the flaws in living for one’s own pleasure day in and day out (I.e. emptiness, love grows cold, hopelessness and meaningless of the future), and they want a more full life. All these are valid and biblical motivators employed by Jesus to turn a sinner from his errors and toward repentance."

There are many ways to get a more full life. And if you're wanting more out of life, isn't that selfish? There's nothing wrong with being selfish now and then. It's only when you do it to the exclusion of everyone else's needs or you begin to harm others that it becomes a bad thing. But to suppose that all non-christians are just selfish jerks is just not fair, and not the case. Most western buddhists are atheists for instance, and buddhism stresses true selflessness and egolessness. Taoism and many other largely secular philosophies are all about humility, wanting less, selflessness etc. I mean read my comment above - does it sound like I'm just interested in looking out for number one? I'm an atheist and I spent several paragraphs praising the reverse.

"If there is no lasting penalty for sin, for not being regenerated, and for not following Christ, then why bother with Christianity?"

You seem to be saying "if there is no hell, some of my views and those of my culture lose their foundation, therefore there is a hell". You deliberately exclude the possibility that you could just be wrong about a lot of things. What if you shouldn't bother with christianity? If you're worried you will become a bad person then you probably won't, because caring about right and wrong is the most vital part of morality.

Atheists would have no better eternal outlook than Christians, would they? Both can do whatever they deem is “right.” I can help an old lady across the street and then break her neck if I want to. I can, but I never ever would, for many reasons. Both atheists and christians can do whatever they want. Morality is wanting to do the right thing (which includes being willing to ask if your moral philosophy is right), as opposed to being indifferent or on the far end of the scale, sadistic.

"Of course, over time the moralist’s definition of “right” will deteriorate and eventually become generally indistinguishable from the atheist’s definition of “right,”

Nice. Thanks for insinuating that atheists are not moralists (do not believe in morality) and that their values are "degraded" from those who do. Screw you too.

"since both will have abandoned God, His morality, and any notion of eternity; all that would matter is what happens here and now."

Both you and me have abandoned much of god's morality, and that is a good thing.

"If I could, I would change your thesis statement as follows: “Do that which the law of Christ says is right and damn the consequences because to ignore the law of Christ has consequences of damnation.”

I don't even know if you bothered to read my above comment. I know you didn't try very hard to understand it.

"Oddly enough, I received feedback from several other people (not all of which have left comments on this blog) poking fun at Christians for serving God out of a "fear of Hell...This is a mistaken notion of reformed Christianity. Christians are already regenerated (born again). As persons sealed by the Holy Spirit as a promise of redemption and resurrection, Christians have no fear of going to Hell themselves."

Actually only christians fear going to hell (and many do). I don't fear hell any more than I fear not going to valhalla. You have to believe it exists to get worked up about it.

"We serve God out of love, respect, and gratitude for what God has already done for us, and will do for us in the future, all without a fear of going to Hell."

And we serve humanity for the sake of our neighbor's wellbeing, without fear of going to hell or a promise of heaven.

"Christians may also evangelize among unbelievers because they fear that the unbeliever will go to Hell, for eternity. That is a potent concern for Christian parents. But the fear of Hell is not for themselves, but for their children who have not yet come to a faith in Jesus, the Christ."

I've met only a handful of christians who seemed genuinely concerned that I would go to hell. I think most christians believe in hell sort of "on paper", but don't see it as a real threat.

"It does elude me as to why an unbeliever would bother to live according to a Judeo-Christian moral ethic (do not lie, do not steal, do good to those that hate you, ...)"

An ethic existing in judeo-christian doctrine does not mean it originated there. As I said in my previous responses, your religion and it's predecessor did not invent these ethics, and they have been espoused by countless philosophers never exposed to your faith, even before the old testament was written.

"if they had no fear of a future eternal punishment and no expectation of living past the age of about 100."

You've never heard of doing good for goodness' sake? Your religion is supposed to be about emulating jesus, do you think he sacrificed himself because the holy spirit made him a sweet deal? Do you think there was some kind of reward waiting when he got to heaven? You do the right thing because it's the right thing, not because there's a gun to your head.

"What does that accomplish for them, to deny themselves sex, drinking on Spring Break, lying to the IRS, or taking an extra day off by telling the boss they are ill?"

I've turned down sex from a friend of mine I was very attracted to (she was 18 and I was 20). I did not do it for my benefit. I am 25 and have never drank alcohol or done drugs, though I have been offered both many times. I've never lied on my taxes and fear of fines and jail time is more than sufficient motivation even if I wanted to. And lying to your boss about being sick comes back to bite you when you're sick and have no sick days left, and have to go into work ill. I think it's a stupid thing to do, but isn't exactly "evil", unless you have a job with few employees where the boss really relies on you.

"In fact, the majority of the unsaved population does not deny itself these thing because most of those things they do, they just do not call those things "sins."

You apparently live in a fantasy world where only non-christians ever bend the rules or do anything wrong. I've got news for you, atheists are virtually non-existent in US prisons. And the most secular countries tend to be among those with the lowest crime rates in the world. Atheism is correlated strongly with advanced education, personal success and intelligence, not crime and deviancy.

"Because they do not call them sins, they are doing what is "right" in their own eyes. No fear of future punishment, no need to worry about God's definition of right and wrong. Whatever is right for you, is right."

No, whatever is right to you, to the best of your ability to work out right and wrong. Not right for you. Being an atheist does not make one a selfish bastard only interested in how things affect them. Did you even read my original comment? Or did you just find the concept of self-sacrifice incomprehensible?

"Fear of Hell may not motivate a Christian to serve God (for a Christian has no fear of going to Hell), but it should, and often does, motivate the unbeliever to assess his spiritual condition. In that sense, a fear of Hell is quite healthy."

Not really. If your worldview is based on fear it will be closed off, and as one commenter on my blog said, legalistic.

Below Booth Responded to the Atheist's Above Comments

Thank you for the detailed discussions you have posted above. In them you have advanced a tremendous number of challenges, questions, and observations (and I will not bother to include the personal insults or errors made regarding the content of the Bible). It is clear that there is much on your mind and in your heart. Literally there is too much to respond to at one time in blog comments.

If you have a single concept or a single question you would like to pursue further, I would be happy to do so. Just write back and let me know.

Until then, I hope you will keep in mind that life is not about laws, rules, hedonism, or ethical codes. Rather, life is about the gift Christ has offered to all of us. He died to pardon our sins and bring us into a reconciled relationship with God. Yes, ethics flow from that, but life itself is about our freedom in Christ and our future redemption in eternity.

The Atheist Commenter (Commenter A) Responded

I can't say I'm surprised. Thanks for the condescending brushoff, I've come to expect it from christians. And thanks for the bigotry towards atheists.

Booth Found that Commenter A Wrote a Blog Complaining about Booth; Booth Responded as Follows

If you would allow me to offer a corrective to the complaint you left about me on your blog: Your comments on my blog are not too long, nor did I say they were. Folks can post as much as they want on my little blog, so long as the comments are clean, civil, and coherent.

What I attempted to communicate is that your comments had a wide ranging and voluminous set of challenges, objections, opinions, and observations. Then you took offense that I did not address each and every individual point. It is simply not possible for me to take the time to respond back to each and every sentence.

I am always available to hold a discussion on almost any topic, but each online conversation really needs to be focused on one or two major issues or it becomes chaotic and unmanageable, and therefore entirely unproductive. Consider the last posts between myself and "Mr.C." on your blog. The comments were focused on only two specific questions.

The challenge: pick one or two of your highest priority questions (or objections), put those in a comment, and we can progress from there.

Thanks.

The Atheist Commenter (Commenter A) Responded

How about you just respond to anything I said. And remember half of my response was just quoting you, my responses were roughly the length of what I was replying to.

Your second response for instance, is 350 words according to an online word-counting tool, and my response is 474 words, or a little longer than what you wrote.

Booth Responded to Commenter A

I admire your passion for blogging.

Yes, I find it easy to write 350 words on a single topic or single line of reasoning. That is why I find it hard to address 10 divergent topics, as that would require me to write 3000 words, which I do not have time for at this moment.

Blessings.

At a Later Date Booth Added the Following Post

Commenter A, you wrote, " the bible contains many different and conflicting moral prescriptions, being not one text but dozens of texts by different authors from different eras."

Perhaps that would be a good initial subject to discuss?

In one manner of speaking you are right, the Bible can appear to have multiple moral prescriptions, particularly so if one is unfamiliar with the differences between the old covenant (the Old Testament - OT) and the new covenant (the New Testament - NT).

However, when one realizes that the OT was a contract (covenant) between God and man to establish a literal nation, a theocracy, on earth for the benefit of the Jews, it can be less confusing. Seeing the OT as the governing contract and blueprint for a theocracy can make it easier to discern that the civil laws and religious rituals were designed specifically to create a unique nation.

Of course, when the Jewish people rejected the contract by rejecting the worship of God (the most important human deliverable in the contract), God sent Jesus to establish a new contract of spirituality that has nothing to do with nationalities, land, and civil government. Jesus fulfilled every one of God's terms and deliverables as well as every one of humanities' obligations of the old covenant. This made the old contract obsolete because it had been completed. However, for those who believe in God, that makes the new contract binding on them.

What is the new contract? That we humans believe in Jesus (who sacrificed His perfect life to pay for our sins) and that He is the risen Christ and that we repent of our sins and allow the Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts and minds (we call this "being saved"). Then we live according to the law of Christ. What does God do in the contract? He is the one who forgives, He regenerates us, He fills us with the Holy Spirit as a promise of eternal redemption, and He fellowships with us. This is all defined in the NT.

All that is to say that right and wrong *morally* are the same in the OT and NT (e.g. do not lie, do not murder, do not steal...) while civil laws, criminal laws, and religious laws are radically different between the OT and the NT. If one can discern the difference in the purposes of the two contracts one can see that God's moral expectations (ethics) are consistent from the OT to the NT. He has always wanted humans to live morally: lovingly, faithfully, kindly, spiritually, peaceably, generously, and mercifully. The ethics did not change but the form of government, religious rituals, and legal prescriptions have.

Commenter A Responded

So if I want a response to anything, I have to say very few things with as little words as possible? I'm sorry, but that's a cop-out.

I wasn't talking about the difference between the old and new testaments, and even if I was I know enough about the bible to know that jesus dying on the cross did not do away with the old testament, it only altered the sacrificial laws. If the old testament was null and void that would include the golden rule and the ten commandments, among other things.

No, I was saying that the bible contradicts itself, the old testament contradicts the old testament, the new testament contradicts the new testament and they contradict each other, being, as I said, many different texts with many different authors. My point, which you did not even acknowledge, let alone respond to, was that your assertion that without universal agreement nothing is right or wrong is ridiculous, since christians don't even agree among themselves, nor their scriptures agree with each other, about what is right or wrong.

Booth Left This Response to Commenter A

It seems this is a good starting point.

You wrote, “I know enough about the bible to know that jesus dying on the cross did not do away with the old testament, it only altered the sacrificial laws. If the old testament was null and void that would include the golden rule and the ten commandments.”

As you are likely aware, as one who knows the Bible well enough, that Paul wrote to the Galatians informing them that the Law, the very content of the old covenant, had been abolished in Christ and that they now lived gloriously free of the Law. That is, everyone except a few malcontents who wanted to go back and re-enter the old covenant and take back upon themselves all its rules and obligations.

In Acts 15 the church argued that the old covenant (the Law) no longer applied at all to those in Christ. They ultimately sent a letter to all the Gentile churches informing them that the Gentiles should ignore anyone who told them to obey any part of the old Jewish Law.

This is consistent with Jesus’ own words, “And in the same way He [Jesus] took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’ “(Luke 22:20)

The New Testament book of Hebrews states, “But now He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah‘…When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. “ (Hebrews 8:6-8-13)

The biblical evidence is quite strong that Christ’s sacrifice made the old covenant (the Old Testament) “obsolete,” having inaugurated a new and “better” covenant. Moreover Paul warns that obeying the old covenant never saved anyone, but the new covenant does (Romans 3:20, 8:3).

In Colossians 2 Paul states that all the dietary laws and all the Sabbath laws were made obsolete. Paul even goes so far as to say that the 10 commandments, the law literally written on tables of stone, had been replaced by the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6-7).

As I mentioned to Mr.C. in another post, nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Covenant (New Testament) as ethical rules for Christians, but the law of the Sabbath was not repeated in the New Covenant.

To sum up, the old covenant (a set of promises and Laws that established and governed the theocratic nation of Israel) was entirely replaced by the New Covenant of Jesus. Not just the sacrifices of the old covenant were replaced, but the entire covenant.

Though the old covenant is obsolete, it does not make it useless. It still contains explanations of the character of God, of history, and of ethics and morality that we find helpful as references today. For example, Jesus said to the disciples to start carrying swords, but only in the old covenant do we find definitions of the difference between self-defense and murder. Similarly we find in the New Covenant a prohibition on illicit sex, but only in the old covenant do we find that bestiality is also defined as illicit sex.

So, while we are no longer under the old covenant or any of its laws, we are under the New Covenant. The New Covenant echoes the moral and ethical obligations of the old covenant, but does not repeat any of its civil, institutional, legal, criminal, sacrificial, or ritual obligations.

What contradictions were you alluding to between the ethics of the old covenant and the new (“contradictions” that do not invoke the obsolete civil, institutional, legal, criminal, sacrificial, and religious ritual laws)?

Commenter A Wrote This Response which Contains Snippets of Quotations from Booth's Comments

it seems this is a good starting point."

In other words "now that I've brought up something irrelevant to everything you said about my blog and you responded and I feel I can mount an argument, I'll spend tons of time replying."

"As you are likely aware, as one who knows the Bible well enough, that Paul wrote to the Galatians informing them that the Law, the very content of the old covenant, had been abolished in Christ and that they now lived gloriously free of the Law. That is, everyone except a few malcontents who wanted to go back and re-enter the old covenant and take back upon themselves all its rules and obligations. In Acts 15 the church argued that the old covenant (the Law) no longer applied at all to those in Christ. They ultimately sent a letter to all the Gentile churches informing them that the Gentiles should ignore anyone who told them to obey any part of the old Jewish Law. This is consistent with Jesus’ own words, “ And in the same way He [Jesus] took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’ “(Luke 22:20) The New Testament book of Hebrews states, “But now He [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah‘…When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. “ (Hebrews 8:6-8-13) The biblical evidence is quite strong that Christ’s sacrifice made the old covenant (the Old Testament) “obsolete,” having inaugurated a new and “better” covenant. Moreover Paul warns that obeying the old covenant never saved anyone, but the new covenant does (Romans 3:20, 8:3). In Colossians 2 Paul states that all the dietary laws and all the Sabbath laws were made obsolete. Paul even goes so far as to say that the 10 commandments, the law literally written on tables of stone, had been replaced by the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6-7)."

It's interesting that of all the passages you cite the only one not by paul (who never even met christ) doesn't say anything about the old covenant being obsolete, it just uses the word "covenant" in an unrelated context. Yes, paul suggested many times that the non-believers he was trying to convert did not have to follow the old testament laws. And if you followed the religion of paulianity I'm sure that would be important. However if you're a christian then he's outright contradicting god (jesus) who said explicitly in matt 5:17-19 that not one letter of the law would change until heaven and earth end (has that happened yet?) and that those that set aside even the least of the commandments will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven.

"As I mentioned to Mr.C. in another post, nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Covenant (New Testament) as ethical rules for Christians, but the law of the Sabbath was not repeated in the New Covenant."

So I can make my slaves work 7 days a week, yay. I assume by "new covenant" you mean every book of the new testament? A compilation which rejected far more texts than it accepted and was formed by men, not god? That sounds more like man making a covenant with himself to me.

"To sum up, the old covenant (a set of promises and Laws that established and governed the theocratic nation of Israel) was entirely replaced by the New Covenant of Jesus. Not just the sacrifices of the old covenant were replaced, but the entire covenant."

Show me jesus saying this please.

"Though the old covenant is obsolete, it does not make it useless. It still contains explanations of the character of God, of history, and of ethics and morality that we find helpful as references today. For example, Jesus said to the disciples to start carrying swords, but only in the old covenant do we find definitions of the difference between self-defense and murder. Similarly we find in the New Covenant a prohibition on illicit sex, but only in the old covenant do we find that bestiality is also defined as illicit sex."

So not raping animals is "good", but it's not required of us? And the lines between self defense and murder are "good" but we are no longer bound to distinguish between the two? You are wanting to have your cake and eat it too. What you are trying to say without saying it is that we should follow the bits of the old testament that you agree with, and not follow the ones you don't agree with. And that's actually fine, I agree that we should only follow the ones that make sense. But then it's not dictated by authority, and we would be following the same edicts whomever stated them. And I'm sure that does not appeal to you.

"So, while we are no longer under the old covenant or any of its laws, we are under the New Covenant. The New Covenant echoes the moral and ethical obligations of the old covenant, but does not repeat any of its civil, institutional, legal, criminal, sacrificial, or ritual obligations."

Many or most of which were the same thing.

"What contradictions were you alluding to between the ethics of the old covenant and the new (“contradictions” that do not invoke the obsolete civil, institutional, legal, criminal, sacrificial, and religious ritual laws)?"

I gave a link to a video with many contradictions to another commenter before this post. And for the record I'm still waiting for a quote from jesus saying "The civil, institutional, legal, criminal, sacrificial, and religious ritual laws of every bit of scripture written to date are obsolete". I don't think he ever said anything like that. And I know he said the opposite.

Booth Offered This Response to Commenter A

You wrote, "Show me jesus saying this: 'To sum up, the old covenant (a set of promises and Laws that established and governed the theocratic nation of Israel) was entirely replaced by the New Covenant of Jesus. Not just the sacrifices of the old covenant were replaced, but the entire covenant.'"

Jesus began this replacement of the covenants with His words, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)

1) He came to fulfill the Law, the first covenant. What does fulfill mean except to complete it? Jesus did not set it aside, or declare it null and void without good cause, but He fulfilled all its terms and requirements. Why would any contract be kept in force after it has been so thoroughly completed? In business we close out fulfilled order, leases, and contracts, but we do not simply anull them or abolish them.

2) Jesus said that the Law would stay in force and cannot be prematurely annulled by teachers. In context of His intent to fulfill the whole Law He obviously meant the Law cannot be annulled prematurely by teachers such as the Pharisees. This does not preclude Him fulfilling the terms of the contract and bringing it to a close.

3) Having the contract of the Law fulfilled and closed does not mean that the Law has been demoted and made into garbage (another means of being anullled and abolished). It is still Scripture, and always will be. The contract is completed, but the words, history, explanations, ethics, and morals willl continue forever. And they will continue on even AFTER the world is destroyed.

Finally, Jesus stated in the Passover dinner during His last week of life that He had begun a "new covenant" with His own blood. There is no need for both the old covenant and for the new covenant after the old one has already been fulfilled, is there?

Commenter A Posted This Rebuttal

You've utterly failed my challenge. All you did was repeat your own assertions that I just debunked, and quote the scripture I referred you to back at you and read the opposite of what he was explicitly saying into it.

Learn to admit you at least might be wrong sometime. Especially when you have no argument to speak of. Just because the christian world prefers the post-jesus teachings of paul to those of jesus does not make them the teachings of jesus. You are reading things paul said into things jesus said, heavily modifying his words.

Booth Responded

I am disappointed you did not attempt to address the substance of my response or to respond to the question I asked you, "Finally, Jesus stated in the Passover dinner during His last week of life that He had begun a 'new covenant' with His own blood. There is no need for both the old covenant and for the new covenant after the old one has already been fulfilled, is there?"

Really, it would be interesting to understand why you think Jesus would have wanted two simultaneous active covenants in force (old and new) and what purpose that would have served Him?

Commenter A Replied

In context he is referring to the promise by the apostles to eat in remembrance of him and foreshadowing the death of judas. Nowhere does he say the old testament is out the window, nor does he say what is in this "new covenant" that is supposed to be replacing it. You read volumes and volumes (literally) into two stray words. Show JESUS saying what YOU are telling me is the case please. The challenge has not been met.

Booth Posted Another Response to Commenter A's Last Post

You wrote, “In context he [Jesus] is referring to the promise by the apostles to eat in remembrance of him and foreshadowing the death of judas.”

It is likely that you mistyped, since Jesus was issuing to the apostles a command (not a “promise”) to continue to remember Him, not Judas. More importantly He issued them a command to always and continually remember that His blood was going to be spilled as a sacrifice for their sins. That is why Jesus’ death is remembered as often today as the ceremonial meal is eaten.

You also wrote, “Nowhere does he say the old testament is out the window, nor does he say what is in this ‘new covenant’ that is supposed to be replacing it. You read volumes and volumes (literally) into two stray words. Show JESUS saying what YOU are telling me is the case please. The challenge has not been met.”

My wife and I often have discussions because she is a 21st Century literalist in her speech and thought. She cannot think like a 1st Century biographer. When she reads that Jesus went off into the garden to pray, and the prayer in the Bible can be read aloud in 30 seconds flat, she is confused how the apostles fell asleep in only 30 seconds. She reads the text literalistically instead of recognizing that the writer has intentionally omitted a half hour of agonizing prayer time, before mentioning that Jesus returned to the slumbering apostles. The Bible is literal (it means what it says, its idioms have real meaning, and its poetic symbolic imagery stands for something real and literal), but the language must not be stretched to be more literalistic than natural language allows.

In other words, all of Jesus’ three year ministry and training of the Twelve came to this nexus, the crossing point of theoretical theological training and His ultimate sacrifice which would leave them in charge of building the new church. To think we have anything close to the amount of teaching Jesus did that night recorded for us in the gospel is naïve (my wife will forgive me for saying that).

So how did the author of the gospel expect us to understand Jesus’ statement, “this is the new covenant”? Jesus was an orthodox Jew. The Twelve were all Jews. They were all expected to read, memorize, and know much of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus picked a phrase that would have hit them all over the proverbial head like a two-by-four board, “new covenant.” This is the new covenant. Where was the new covenant defined, apart from the teachings of Jesus?

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

This is what every Jew at the time understood the new covenant to be: still in the future, unlike the old covenant, and with a new law that is written in the heart.

If the new covenant was unlike the old covenant, with a new law, it becomes abundantly clear why all the NT writers, pastors, and elders regarded the old covenant as obsolete. It was the old law, and they now had a new law.

Yes, this requires one to understand that Jesus was invoking the OT passage to explain His NT words. Yet, that is exactly what He did throughout His ministry and during His unlawful trial and execution. Jesus frequently used OT references to explain his NT concepts.

On the cross Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22. Why? To claim this Psalm was a foretelling of His dying. In fact, the Psalm explains that His death would forever draw people from all the nations back to God. His death has done just that for 2000 years.

The OT is often used to explain NT words, concepts, and events.

The question remains, why would Jesus institute Jeremiah’s “new covenant” with a new law if He still expected them to remain under the old covenant and old law? What purpose would that have served to the cause of Jesus to have two active laws and two obligatory covenants?

Commenter A Retorted

In other words "No, I can't show you any place where jesus says any of those things, but I'm still too much of a coward to admit it to myself or anyone else".

Thanks for playing.

Booth Again Wrote

You have invented a quotation that does not exist and then demanded me to show you where that phrase is in the Bible. Since you invented the quotation, that seems a silly thing to do, does it not?

On the other hand, I have shown you an abundance of Scripture in which a New Covenant and a New Law are predicted, announced by Jesus as being here just before He dies, and of which the New Testament authors provide ample explanations that this New Covenant and New Law have replaced the old. Accept it or don't, but in either case it is disingenuous to say that Jesus did not inaugurate a New Covenant.

Why would Jesus want both a New Covenant and New Law to begin while also keeping the Old Covenant and Old Law in full effect? To what purpose would He do that?

Commenter A Offered This Taunt

You have failed to support your position and refuse to abandon it. There is nothing I can say that I haven't already said, and little that I have said that you have acknowledged or dealt with. This conversation is over. Enjoy a long life of closed-mindedness.

A Final Comment Was Made by Someone from the Public

looks like the talk is done. when [commenter A] said that the old covenant never ended and because of that its laws and ethics contradicted the new, i thought he was gonna back that up somehow. that woulda been real interesting. course maybe thats the point, maybe hes got nothing to show to back him up.






Friday, March 11, 2011

Ten Alleged Contradictions in the Bible

Introduction

A fellow blogger, Kristenmomof3, has posted to one of my recent blogs two lists that she states are “contradictions” she has found in the content of the original manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. I am uncertain what additional sources she may have used to glean these allegations. Presumably these allegations were presented as open challenges to the readers of His Master‘s Voice. The challenge was essentially to disprove these “contradictions” or acknowledge that the Bible “contradicts” itself. I have transferred her allegations just as she posted them on my blog comments page and combined the two lists into one below.

Though I lack the time needed to offer up a lengthy rebuttal against each alleged contradiction, I can offer the following short refutations. Of course other Christian Bible study websites can provide more detailed explanations that adequately demonstrate that these allegations are not genuine contradictions at all. If you need more information, please search out and reference those online resources.

Allegations of Contradictions and Answers to Those Allegations

Allegation 1

John's first encounter with Jesus was while both of them were still in their mothers' wombs, at which time John, apparently recognizing his Saviour, leaped for joy (Luke 1:44). Much later, while John is baptizing, he refers to Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world", and "the Son of God" (John 1:29,36). Later still, John is thrown in prison from which he does not return alive. John's definite knowledge of Jesus as the son of God and saviour of the world is explicitly contradicted by Luke 7:18-23 in which the imprisoned John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is coming, or do we look for someone else?"

Answer 1: John the Baptist

I gave more complete details in the comments section of my previous blog. John, having experienced a momentary episode of doubt while in prison, does not disqualify him as a prophet, and certainly does not indicate that the Bible has contradictions in it. It does indicate that John was human with the common concerns and issues that plague every believer; John was not a cardboard superhero.

Allegation 2

According to Matthew 26:15, the chief priests "weighed out thirty pieces of silver" to give to Judas. There are two things wrong with this: a. There were no "pieces of silver" used as currency in Jesus' time - they had gone out of circulation about 300 years before. b. In Jesus' time, minted coins were used - currency was not "weighed out." By using phrases that made sense in Zechariah's time but not in Jesus' time

Answer 2: Silver Coins During the 1st Century

Silver coins had actually been minted by Rome for two centuries before Christ lived and used them for three centuries after. Due to forgery and tampering, coins could still be weighed to validate their authenticity, even in the 1st Century, so the idiomatic expression, “weigh out the silver“ also meant “count out the silver coins” at that time (even today we use hold-over phrases in our language in a similar way; no one has dial telephones anymore, but we often still say “dial that number“ when we mean “punch in that number“). Again, the allegation itself was a misstatement of real history, for silver coins were very much in common use in Palestine in the 1st Century.

Allegation 3

How did Judas die?

a. In Matthew 27:5 Judas hangs himself.

b. In Acts 1:18 he bursts open and his insides spill out.

c. According to the apostle Paul, neither of the above is true. Paul says Jesus appeared to "the twelve" after his resurrection. Mark 14:20 makes it clear that Judas was one of the twelve.

In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, including Judas, that when Jesus rules from his throne, they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Answer 3: Judas Died by Hanging and by Bursting

The answer can actually be discerned in the allegation. Something caused Judas to fall and subsequently resulted in him bursting open. This was likely not a controlled fall, such as in a professional gallows hanging, where the drop would only be one to six feet straight down. As happens even today, a crude amateur hanging-suicide in which a person violently jumps from a tree branch, can result in broken necks, broken ropes, broken branches, and a broken and torn body which releases its internal organs. Something did cause Judas to fall, and that was his violent suicide-by-hanging.

Note: an additional objection was raised about the twelve thrones for the twelve apostles. “Twelve” had become a group title for the apostles, not merely a repetitious or redundant group count. Acts 1 describes how Judas was eventually replaced by Matthias to place twelve members in the group called “Twelve.” Paul also later became an apostle, but was never one of the “Twelve.”

Allegation 4

How did the Field of Blood get its name?

a. Matthew says because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:6-8).

b. Acts says because of the bloody mess caused by Judas' bursting open (Acts 1:18-19).

Answer 4: Matthew and Acts Disagree on The Field of Blood

This objection is based on a careless reading of Acts 1:18-19. Acts 1 does not say the field was called bloody because Judas died there, but it was called bloody because “the field was acquired by the price [blood money] of his wickedness [the betrayal of innocent blood].” In fact, Acts 1 does not say where Judas died, and to this day we do not know.

Allegation 5

Where was Jesus taken immediately after his arrest?

a. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that Jesus was taken directly to the high priest (Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54).

b. John says that Jesus was taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest (John 18:13) who, after an indeterminate period of time, sent Jesus to the high priest (John 18:24).

Answer 5: Matthew, Mark, and Luke Disagree With John After His Arrest

This allegation is created by surreptitiously insinuating a word into all three gospel accounts that is not actually there, “directly.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke simply state that Jesus was taken to Caiaphas after His arrest, not “directly“ after His arrest. Whether any other stops were made or not was not important for them to write about. John, on the other hand, contains 95% new material not found in the other gospels. He liked to include details the others did not think worth mentioning, so he mentioned that they went to Annas’ house first. Why? To set the scene where Peter began his denial of Jesus in the courtyard of Annas’ house. Peter concluded his three-times denial after they all went to Caiaphas’ courtyard. John saw this as an important element of the story while the other three simply saw fit to note the short version: that Peter ultimately did deny Jesus.

Allegation 6

There are several passages in the gospels where Jesus says he will return in the disciples' lifetime (Mark 13:30, Matthew 10:23, 16:28, 24:34, Luke 21:32, etc.).

Answer 6: Jesus Lied by Saying He Would Return in One Generation

This is a matter of uninformed reading and poor interpretation of Scripture. Mark 13:30 and Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32: the “generation” that sees Jesus return in the clouds with power will be the generation that also lives to see “the gathering of the elect” (v. 27), “the powers of the heavens shaken,” or, as other Christians think, “the end of heaven and earth” (v. 31). I favor the understanding that the generation which sees Jesus return is the one that also lives to see “the gathering of the elect.” Matthew 10:23: Jesus tells his disciples that they will never stop being persecuted and being driven out of every city (in Israel and in all the earth) until He returns. Matthew 16:28: this is a partially fulfilled prophecy; some standing there did see Jesus come in glory in the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-13) making the prophecy true, but it is not yet complete as Jesus will also come again to judge His enemies (incomplete prophecies are not “contradictions”).

Jesus also told many parables about being patient and waiting a long time while the master of the house, Himself, is away. Moreover, Jesus instructed His disciples to go throughout the earth with the message, to persevere until the end, and that no one, not even He, knows when that end will occur. Is it really unusual that humans think God ought to work more quickly and that God ought not be so patient?

Allegation 7

Jesus' last words MAT 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost." LUK 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." JOH 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."

Answer 7: Different Gospels Record Partial Segments of Jesus’ Last Words

His death likely took many agonizing hours. That each gospel records only tiny fragments of the many things Jesus must have said during that lengthy time is not even close to a meaningful definition of “contradiction.“ It might be called “editing,” or “redacting,” or “abridging” the dialogue of that day, but in no sense is it evidence of contradiction.

Allegation 8

God CAN be seen: "And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts." (EXO 33:23) "And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend." (EXO 33:11) "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (GEN 32:30)

God CANNOT be seen: "No man hath seen God at any time." (JOH 1:18) "And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." (EXO 33:20) "Whom no man hath seen nor can see." (1TIM 6:16)

Answer 8: Idioms and Euphemisms for “Seeing” God

Yes, God talked with Moses like one would talk with a human friend with whom he is with face-to-face; and yes, God passed by Moses but prevented Moses from actually seeing His glory. The lengthy accounts of these experiences in the Bible go out of their way to demonstrate that Moses never saw “the face of God,“ that is, God in His full glory, which would have been fatal. Talking with God conversationally is not the same as standing in His literal visible presence in Heaven itself. Moses never went to Heaven and God never left Heaven, Jesus did. If we are to assume every helpful euphemism or idiom is a contradiction then there is no point in speaking in the English language, for it too is filled with euphemisms and idioms.

Allegation 9

"And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2KI 2:11) "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, ... the Son of Man." (JOH 3:13)

Answer 9: Elijah Went Into Heaven, But Jesus Said No One Ever Did

This is an example of sloppy modernistic artificially “rigid” and out-of-context reading of the text. Jesus obviously was addressing those standing around Him when He said, “I am the only living human standing here who both ascended into and descended out of heaven, so why don’t you listen Me and believe what I am saying?” (loose paraphrase of John 3:13 is mine). Jesus actually acknowledged that many individuals were alive in Heaven with God, but only He comes and goes by His own will. More than that, Jesus was claiming to be the very “son” literally mentioned in Proverbs 30:4, “Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:4)

Allegation 10

How old was Ahaziah when he began to reign? 2KI 8:26 22 2CH 22:2 42

Answer 10: How Old Was Ahaziah When He Ruled?

Yes!!!! An actual “contradiction” has been found! Sort of.

Some Hebrew manuscripts do have age 42 listed instead of age 22 in 2 Chronicles 22:2, though an age of 42 would have been a physical impossibility. His father died at the age of 40. A son cannot be 2 years older than his father. So how did modern copies of the text end up saying Ahaziah was 42 when the originals had to have said 22? The most likely explanation is that a modern scribe miscopied that number from a more correct but nearly exhausted original. Why say “modern scribe”? Because copies of the Septuagint (crafted from the 2nd Century BCE through 3rd Century AD) do not have the age 42 error, indicating the copyist error was introduced much later in history, long after the Septuagint was translated into Greek from the Hebrew. Christians are not so naïve as to think transcription or copy errors were not introduced into some copies of biblical texts. The key is to find them by comparing them to better copies and note them as copy errors which are called “variants.”

Conclusion

As I have said elsewhere in previous such discussions, these kinds of lists that allege that there are contradictions in the original manuscripts of the Bible are as old as is atheism itself. Most of these allegations arise from misunderstandings, such as not being able to interpret the archaic English of the KJV--solution, use a trusted modern English version such as the NIV or the NASB (not to be confused with the spurious NAB). Or reading into passages words or concepts that are not actually there--solution, read the text in context and as it was actually written. Or imposing absurdly rigid readings on dialogues that were meant to be taken as natural speech--solution, read figures of speech in the same normal way we employ them today.

Essentially, most of these lists treat the translated Bibles in tortured ways no one would ever treat other historical texts or narratives. When a modern history book states that the Nazis rounded up all the Jews from a given town we do not irrationally assume that because the word “all” was used that not even one soul successfully hid or escaped. In fact, we assume that the word “all” in natural English usage generally means “almost all” or “the greatest reasonable number” or “a very great amount.” The Bible was written in natural languages and needs to be read in that same light.

When it is read and understood as ordinary language that uses euphemisms and idioms, or poetry and narrative, the Bible does in fact have immense consistency. The alleged contradictions of skeptics and atheists are rarely indicative of any kind of genuine problem in the original manuscripts. Such accusations more usually originate from ignorance of the historical-contextual-literary hermeneutic interpretive process and from extreme biases than from faithful study of the texts themselves.

God’s Word simply will not pass away and will outlive the planet earth. It is the very Word of Christ.

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[This article was originally posted as a blog. As a blog it was subject to comments from the public and to public discussions. Some of those comments and discussions which advance the topic are included below.]

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Public Commenter A Wrote

The coin thing had already been pointed out, and his answers to 3 and 4 are just lying about scripture. The passage he claims doesn't say where jesus died is: "With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood." This directly contradicts the other accounts, which are riddled with contradictions. In one version he throws away the pieces of silver, runs off and hangs himself, then after his death the priests feel guilty about taking blood money into their coffers, so they use it to buy a potter's field (graveyard for the poor or unknown), and because it was bought with the "price of blood" it is called "field of blood". In the second version judas goes to the temple, has words with the priests, leaves with the money, and uses it to buy a potter's field, then falls and his bowels gush out, and that land is therefore known as field of blood. These are wildly different versions of the story, both of which seem to be deliberate attempts to fit the story of jesus' blood money around prophecy (that it would be used to buy a potter's field). He doesn't deal with this, he just pretends there is no contradiction and hopes you won't actually look it up. Please look this stuff up.

Number six is about scripture that lists a bunch of apocolyptic things that never happened and caps it off with "Verily I say unto you not one generation shall pass before all these things be revealed". Many passages in scripture make clear that the end of the world would happen very soon and that the apostles were living in the "last days". Again you just twist these passages. You will never accept that they mean anything other than what you'd like them to mean. If there are two ways to interpret a passage and one is a problem for your faith, you automatically reject it in favor of the other one, even if the other interpretation is a ridiculous stretch.

Booth Responded to Commenter A

Dear Friend,

I see you are concerned about accuracy regarding the English translation of Acts 1:18. Yet, oddly, you seem to have quoted the NIV which does not mirror the Greek original in this passage quite as consistently as do many other English translations. The NIV (and some inaccurate paraphrase renderings) add the idea that Judas died “there,” in the field.

I have looked up the original Greek text, and this idea of where Judas died is utterly absent in the original language. The fact that the NIV adds in concepts not present in the original Greek is why it is sometimes not permitted to be used in Christian seminary hermeneutics courses.

Those English translations that are considered more faithful to the Greek read as follows:

KJV “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts 1:18)

NASB “(Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.” (Acts 1:18)

ASV “(Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts 1:18)

ESV “(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” (Acts 1:18)

Note: for those Christians who are NIV fans, in general I feel it is a fine and useful translation to read from, but for serious study I would recommend the NASB and, when convenient, also learning Koine Greek.

It is curious that you state that there are multiple “other accounts” about Judas returning the silver coins, beside Matthew 27:1-9, which are “riddled with contradictions.” Any Bible student will inform you that you are incorrect; there is only one account of Judas taking back the money to the sanctuary or his money buying a field (i.e. Matthew 27:1-9). As we already discussed Acts 1:18 is another reference to that event, but it does not recount the events of that night.

Rather Acts 1:18 uses similes, ironies, and euphemisms to describe Judas’ “wickedness” as the price paid (instead of silver) for “his” field which he never actually owned. It is reminiscent of saying, “Lincoln built his monument in D.C. out of the price of his own worth and integrity.” Lincoln never actually bought or owned the monument, but it was dedicated to him because of what he had done. It would be absurd to imply that the epitaph was intended to tell the literal story of how the monument was financially funded. It was just an epitaph, a poem honoring the man. In like manner, Acts 1:18 is Judas’ sad epitaph, though in this case it is a poem dishonoring the man.

Blessings to you through Christ,

C. W. Booth

Booth Below Later Responded to an Email Sent From Commenter A

Commenter A, you wrote this to me, “Again you just twist these passages. You will never accept that they mean anything other than what you'd like them to mean. If there are two ways to interpret a passage and one is a problem for your faith, you automatically reject it in favor of the other one.”

Yet, I cannot help but chuckle since this describes you so perfectly. Perhaps it is you who are twisting the passages? Will you ever accept that they mean anything other than what you would like them to mean? If there are two ways to interpret a passage and one demonstrates that there is no contradiction in the Scriptures, why do you automatically reject it in favor of the other?

Of course accepting or rejecting an interpretation should depend on far more than one’s personal preference or debating stance. Good hermeneutics practices have led me to accept many concepts from the Bible that I would have gladly rejected out of hand as they challenged and changed some of my dearly held beliefs. Yet, that is the purpose of the Scriptures, to challenge and change individuals for the sake of God’s glory.

Blessings to you through Christ,

C. W. Booth

After Further Exchanges Booth Posted the Following Comment to Another Commenter

Commenter C, you wrote, “In a nutshell, any apparent contradiction in revealed scripture stems from either the verse being figurative, rather than literal, in meaning, or from the reader's interpretation diverging from the Messenger's intent.”

Assuming this is not sarcasm but a valid attempt to understand the natural use of human language in the Bible, I would love to address your statement. Your explanation is actually very close to one I would agree with, with a few clarifications.

A reason that so often you hear a Christian refer to a hard to understand statement in the Bible as an idiomatic expression is because idiomatic phrases most often give rise to the greatest number of questions.

In other words, if someone were to observe, “Why do IRS tax forms generate more questions of confusion in my office than does the latest episode of CSI?” the answer would be, “Because the tax laws are intrinsically more difficult to understand than is a television show.” Idioms, euphemisms, and the imagery of poetry will always be among the hardest language to understand and will always raise more questions of interpretation than do other phrases.

There is nothing wrong with asking why something is so oddly worded, especially if it is an idiom. What would a 1st Century Jew think you meant when you said that “The IRS drives me up the wall”? That particular phrase would naturally raise more questions than the statement, “The tax code is difficult to understand.”

It is faulty methodology to automatically assume the toughest language to understand in the Bible is always the spawn of an error or a contradiction. That kind of improper reasoning is why so many of these frivolous challenges make it onto alleged “lists of biblical contradictions.” It is also why so many of the answers are, “It is an idiom,” because they are so often just that.

Rarely do we think to read the biblical languages from the eyes of a 1st Century Jew. In our rich and opulent Western society we see the expression, “In my Father’s house are many dwellings” and assume there are many royal palaces in the Father’s house. A 1st Century Jew in Palestine would immediately and properly assume it meant there were many single-room apartments in the Father’s house.

We read that the 1st Century church had weekly love feasts during the Eucharist. In our contemporary mind’s eye we see this long table spread lavishly with food. We fail to realize that every person brought their own carry-in dinner to this “feast“; the rich brought much, but the poor often brought nothing and went hungry. The poor were often slaves, had no kitchen in their one-room efficiency apartments, and could neither prepare their own food nor could afford to purchase “fast food” on the way to the “feast.” They literally depended on the rich to share with them. When the rich quickly ate everything they brought themselves, the poor would show up and go hungry all night. We must really learn to read the Bible through 1st Century understandings.

We wrongly expect the four gospels to be written like and read like 21st Century news magazine articles, where every detail, no matter how arcane, is chronicled. But the gospels were written the way 1st Century writers crafted the Greek biographies of the day. Only important details were included. The biography was written not to tell all that a person had done, but to explain why the person was important enough to write about at all. Much of everything else was considered as too superfluous to include.

When something “does not make sense” in the New Testament, we should not immediately think, “Here is a contradiction,” but rather, “What do I not understand about 1st Century Greek that would make this read so oddly to me today?”

Blessings in Christ,

C. W. Booth

At a Later Time Commenter A Added This Comment

You accuse me of automatically accepting apparent contradictions if they pose a problem for scripture when I researched and contradicted one of the ones you wrote this blog about in the original blog. I'm sorry, but "I know you are but what am I" is not a valid response here. And your worldview may have some wiggle room, but you are certainly not willing to question the entire framework. Which is the actual reason you blew off my responses in the other blog. You had no answer to them that wouldn't pose a problem for your beliefs.

And when something does make sense but contradicts something else the same rule applies. Put it on yourself and pretend you're just too much of an idiot to understand the "real" meaning.

Booth Responded to Commenter A

Commenter A, you wrote, “So he [Judas] purchased a bit of land with his infamy before he died? No, the text says that it was his wickedness that purchased both the land and his fate for him. I'm sorry, but that is a huge stretch. You are just refusing to acknowledge even the possibility that the sensible interpretation is true.”

Commenter A, it is at this point I think you may be a tad insincere in your protestations. You said you knew the Bible well enough, so you know that 40% of it is pure poetry (chock full of similes, symbolic language, euphemisms, metaphors). Hebrew writers were more linguistically rich than are modern English authors. Why do you insist that Acts 1:18a has to be literal narrative instead of an epitaph? What linguistic markers are there in Acts 1:18a that leads you to think it is more intended as literal narrative than a poetic epitaph against the man?

Commenter A, you also wrote, “I don't even think you looked at the contradictions I posted in the other blog.”

I have read everything you posted. If there is yet something specific you want me to address, just tell me.

Blessings through Christ,

C. W. Booth

Commenter A Replied

"No, the text says that it was his wickedness that purchased both the land and his fate for him." No, you lunatic. YOU said that. The text doesn't say that unless you move several words around and add a few new ones.

"Commenter A, it is at this point I think you may be a tad insincere in your protestations. You said you knew the Bible well enough, so you know that 40% of it is pure poetry (chock full of similes, symbolic language, euphemisms, metaphors). Hebrew writers were more linguistically rich than are modern English authors. Why do you insist that Acts 1:18a has to be literal narrative instead of an epitaph? What linguistic markers are there in Acts 1:18a that leads you to think it is more intended as literal narrative than a poetic epitaph against the man?" Yes, the bible contains poetry and symbolism. But the point here is that you are hiding behind the concept of the metaphor to avoid ever accepting that anything in the bible contradicts anything else. You decide what is a metaphor and what isn't not based on literary qualities, but based on the desired end conclusion. Or would you ever interpret a metaphor as meaning something that contradicts something else? The passage explicitly says that he purchased the land, and with what money. I am perfectly willing to accept that a passage does not contradict another passage (as I have demonstrated), and you will never accept that one does, no matter how obviously it does.

"I have read everything you posted. If there is yet something specific you want me to address, just tell me." Oh that's hilarious. Two of my responses in the old blog which you ignored are still waiting for acknowledgment.

You don't appear to have even read anything I said. Thanks for another in a long line of experiences beating my head against a wall talking to a religious person who isn't interested in listening, only in talking.

Booth Again Responded to Commenter A

Dear Commenter A, it is true, I do embrace the poetry, symbolism, and metaphors that comprise so much of Scripture. To reject such language, interpreting every word in its "literal" meaning, is to miss what the original author was attempting to communicate.

Regarding Acts 1:18, there are numerous ways to read it and several linguistic issues to overcome if you want to demand it is a contradictory history narrative of Judas’ death (and field purchase) that competes with and denies Matthew 27:7.

“Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.” (Acts 1:18-19)

Issues to Consider

1) If Acts 1:18a is literal and not metaphorical, where is the reference to silver coins? I am unaware of a Roman currency called “wickedness” which was used to pay for Judas’ field. Is part of 1:18a metaphorical? Which parts? How do you know?

2) If two friends go out for pizza, and one says, “Here is the money for the pizza, you order it while I go to the restroom,” then later as they finish the pizza the friend who was given the money says, “Here, you deserve the last piece because you bought the pizza,” is he being inaccurate? Whose pizza was it really, the one who provided the money or the one who did the physical act of purchasing? Is it wrong to say Judas bought the field because he provided the money even though it was the temple officials that made the transaction?

3) What made Judas fall? Why does not the account in Luke, if it intends to dispute the previously published account in Matthew, say why Judas fell? Note: In the Greek language an alternative translation of that phrase can read: “and swollen up he having become, he burst apart in his middle, and were poured out all the bowels of him” instead of saying he “fell and burst open.” Does that challenge the “contradiction” theory and bolster it as a complementary account?

4) Is the reference to a field in verse 19 a reference to: a) the field purchased with Judas’ money, or, b) the field in which he died, or, c) to both, or, d) the fields are the same field? How do you actually know? Does the text literally say?

5) Why would Luke, the author of Acts, glibly contradict Matthew 27 when he had that text in front of him already (Acts being a book written later than Matthew)? Was Luke stupid and did not know he was contradicting Matthew and destroying the Christian faith and the Christian gospel? Was Luke of such higher integrity than Matthew that he HAD to write the truth? And if Luke only wrote the truth because of his higher integrity, then why do you not believe everything else he writes about Jesus as also being true history?

6) Is there no possibility that Matthew 27 and Acts 1 are entirely complementary, and were designed to be complementary by Luke? If it is possible to read Matthew 27 and Acts 1 as complementary and not contradictory, then which reading is likely more in line with what Luke had intended to communicate all along?

In Christ,

C. W. Booth






Monday, March 14, 2011

Should We Be Scared Yet?--Earthquake in Japan

Having traveled to Japan on multiple business trips, the country has a special place of affection in my heart. I love the people, the place, and its ambience.

Japan’s recent catastrophic events left me horrified and sorrowed. Ten thousand lives lost already, and the tragedy is likely far from over. Such grief and hardship. It is heartbreaking.

Neither my wife nor I are alarmists or fear mongers. However, when we heard of the magnitude of the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis both of us had the same fleeting thought, “Is this the beginning of the end times?” Of course we are both aware that it is a fool’s errand to attempt to identify dates for any end time events, and the thought passed. It is enough to know that the Lord could always have, and will some day in the future, return to resurrect the church at an entirely unexpected time.

What eventually dawned on me was that we in the USA had become too blasé and perhaps too expectant of the biblical apocalypse. We have lost the recognition that the prophetic signs of the beginning of the end time are inexplicably accurate. Everyone, unbelievers included, simply anticipate that all the signs will happen as a matter of course. We have forgotten there is not valid reason to have expected such things to inevitably have come about naturally.

Virtually all the following signs have always been present in the world (Matthew 24:4-13, Mark 13:5-12). What marks them as end time “signs” is that they will slowly and progressively get bigger, more widespread, more intense, more common, and more globally devastating.

  • False saviors will preach false “gospels” and will advocate false gods
  • Wars between nations
  • Rumor of ever more wars
  • Famines
  • Earthquakes
  • Legally sanctioned murder of Christians
  • Prosecution of Christians in court just for their religion, removal of their rights
  • Family dissolutions
  • Internal national chaos and civil revolutions
  • The Gospel will saturate the globe

So the end may not be today, nor even tomorrow, nor for another five hundred years; we do not know. But every time a bigger or more severe earthquake hits we must realize we are ever close to that end date. When the world sees wholesale state-approved slaughter of Christians in a majority of countries it should be evident the end is ever sooner.

Compare the above predictions with those of the humanists below. What we take for granted as a picture of our near and distant future (the worsening signs of the end times), the humanist has long prognosticated the exact opposite.

For centuries sociologists have predicted that earth’s people will evolve and learn to become peaceful, tolerating fewer and fewer wars (I.e. remember the War to End All Wars or the advent of the United Nations?). Biologists predicted that global food supplies would deliver more and more abundance as farming technology matured, eventually edging out world hunger. Geologists have told us for a century that earthquakes are cyclically consistent, coming and going in fairly much the same rates and magnitudes as they have been doing for millennia, even as engineers will find ways to virtually eliminate their destructive effects on civilization’s infrastructures. Atheists have assured us that religions will slowly fade out in the light of the obviousness that there is no observable God.

More recently environmental scientists have warned of a global warming crisis where coastal communities will have to adapt to a three foot deeper ocean. Though the true impacts of a slightly warmer global environment remain to be observed, this represents the only dark cloud of pessimism in an otherwise sunny and optimistic view of what man can and will do to create paradise on earth. Ironically, global warming may actually become a catalyst in bringing about some of the biblical devastations that serve as signs of the end times.

Yes, the Bible stands alone in predicting that man will become increasingly violent, increasingly selfish, and increasingly unlawful even as the earth’s crust becomes ever more unstable and volatile. That is why they are signs of an apocalyptic end time and not signs of an evolving utopia.

Should we be scared of the end times given the recent “signs”? No, because there is a salvation for those who have prepared themselves and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ saves individuals from their sins and from the wrath of God. Ultimately Christ will return to collect His followers who have repented of their sins, bring this cursed existence to an end, and establish a literal paradise. Whether one must endure the end time calamities yet to come or not, every person has the option, need, and eternal benefit of salvation in Christ if they but believe in Him and turn from their sins.

Your Personal Salvation: http://thefaithfulword.org/salvation.html






Monday, March 21, 2011

No, There Is No Proof That The Bible Is True, But There is Lots of Evidence

My most loved atheist family member posed this brain teaser, “Can you show me any proof that detailed and specific Bible prophecies really came true?” He then quickly added that even if I could, it would make no difference to him since he had already decided to reject such proof.

Well, no, there is no proof. There are many compelling evidences that indicate that the Bible and its prophecies are valid, true, and authentic. Though my atheist family member opted not to read it, I wrote for him an article: http://thefaithfulword.org/convincingprophecies.html which is called, Evidences of the Supernatural Origin of Scripture: Prophecies That Still Convince Me. These prophecies are so detailed and specific that they can still generate goose-bumps and spine-tingles.

If you read the article, let me know what you also found compelling, or even utterly unconvincing, and why.






Monday, March 28, 2011

The Forgotten Men Who Saw It All

This past week I have found myself being forced to research the earliest extra-scriptural writings of the historical eyewitnesses who saw and wrote about the events of the 1st and 2nd Century religious movements. Often these 1st and 2nd Century scholars are now called “the early church fathers” or the “ante-Nicene fathers.”

In one instance I was reviewing how the earliest local churches handled the subject of divorce and remarriage. In anther case I wanted to understand whether they noticed any new apostles being commissioned after the set died that Jesus had appointed during His three year ministry. Last month I turned to these same early theology authors to gain their historical viewpoint on the Mithra cults.

What struck me most poignantly during my last research project was not the early church fathers’ combined comments on whether new apostles had arisen, but on their off-the-cuff comments regarding their association with the people who knew Peter, who were trained by James, and who had heard Paul preach. One writer even offered an aside comment that he envied the theologian Polycarp because Polycarp had the opportunity to fellowship with those persons who had known Jesus in their lifetime.

Yes, I know, that all seems the mundane stuff of ordinary people reminiscing about their own lives. But I found it utterly faith-building to realize that these theologians were eyeball witnesses to the people who knew Jesus and who knew the apostles. No, Polycarp is not so well known as is Peter or Paul, yet this relatively unknown man passed along a wealth of information gleaned from those who actually listened to the parables of Jesus. And men like Clements and Irenaeus wrote about knowing those who knew the men spoken of in the Gospels and in Acts.

We do not have just the New Testament as literary testimony to the historical Jesus and the Twelve men whom He trained. We also have the massive books of theology written by the people whom the apostles later trained, and the students whom they in turn also trained.

Those books of theology, and accumulated personal letters, never were Scripture and were never intended to be Scripture; they were just the ordinary writings of men who were commenting on their own lives, their own friendships, and on their own religious studies. As such they give an eloquent historically valid testimony as to the reality of the man named Jesus, the Twelve men He trained, and dozens of the men they personally instructed as their own students.

What is preserved are accounts from eyewitnesses that confirm the physical certainty of those who were themselves eyewitnesses of Jesus. If one wants to say that Jesus and the Twelve were a myth made up by a talented writer of religious fiction then such an allegation must also account for the volumes of letters, testimonies, and theological commentaries written by undisputedly real men who claimed to also have known some of the Twelve and the actual students of the Twelve.

Such men are the forgotten eyewitnesses to the eyewitnesses. It is hard, if not entirely unreasoned, to cast Jesus and the Twelve as mere fictional characters when undisputed flesh and blood men from authentic human history have written extensively about having known them and their students in the course of their own lives. Such writers are the credible eyewitnesses to the eyewitnesses.






Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baring All Your Teeth -- Judging the Joy of Other Christians

We had a golden retriever mix some years ago. She got quite old (for a dog) and lost control of her body functions, so we were forced to move her into the back yard where she stayed 24 x 7. We had to go on a family trip and asked a neighbor to look in on her once a day to ensure she had food and water.

We called the neighbor to make sure all was well. She said, almost in tears, "Your dog hates me." Big friendly fluffy old Regan dog? That did not seem possible. "What did she do to you; she did not bite you did she?" "No, but every time I come into the back yard she bares all her teeth at me...boo hooo....and she won't wag her tail for me."

We had Regan for 15 years before she finally died, which occurred the same summer as this incident with the neighbor. There was a time when our family was more happily effusive, and that dog was part of our happy family, having joined us from the rescue shelter when she was only 9 weeks old. She learned a large vocabulary from us: walk, ball, no, sit, speak, protect (growl), attack (lick stranger on face), kill (lick stranger on face), find, drop it, get back, go out, roll over, lay down, etc. She even learned our daily habits and hours.

And she learned to imitate our facial expressions. You see, every time we saw her we would smile in her face and say, "Hello Regan," while giving her a hug. Over time, she learned to smile every time she saw us. A dog, when it smiles, pulls back its lips and show all its teeth. To the uninitiated the dog looks all the world like she is baring her teeth aggressively.

When we explained this to our neighbor, she said, "Well, if she likes me and is smiling at me, then why won't she wag her tail? She scares me."

A fews years earlier, as the old dog was aging, her internal organs began failing and she began gaining serious weight in spite of always having been on a very strict low calorie diet. She also began losing her balance. On several occasions she sat down on her own tail, and broke it; this happened repeatedly. Over the years the tail simply stopped working, hanging straight down, regardless of how happy or excited she might be.

When our neighbor came to check on the dog, she saw this large yellow animal, teeth bared, tail hanging down unmoving and menacing. Yet, all the while, the dog was thrilled to see her and welcomed her with all the enthusiasm that could be mustered.

That dog continues to be a great object lesson to me that we can never judge the internal joy, happiness, motives, or spirituality of anyone else merely by examining their outward appearance. Who knows?, that sullen angry dog may actually be a happy being with an awkward smile and a broken tail.

---

The above essay was originally posted as a blog, and as such, was subject to comments and questions from the reading public. Below are some of those comments that advance the topic.

---

Question Asked by a Commenter from the Public

Hi Craig--Great story, thanks for posting. I have a question.

Last Sunday a visiting preacher taught that Christ died two deaths--physical and spiritual. That He had to be "born again" so that we could be. He talked about all the sins of man being poured out on Christ and never mentioned God's wrath.

This is a new "gospel" to me. I don't think we can understand the mystery of the atonement of our Lord. I find no scriptural basis for teaching this. I can see where it could be assumed, but the whole thing demeaned the fact that "the life is in the blood" and that He is the son of God. Seemed so focused on what he did as a man.

Anyway, what is up with this "Christ died spiritually" thinking? Help.

Booth Responded to the Public Comment

As Easter comes closer this topic seems to come up more often. Jesus, having been perfect and thus never having had His spirit die, had no reason to be "born again." Becoming born again is the spiritual process of having one's sin-dead spirit rejuvenated because we are convicted of our guilt by the Holy Spirit, then through faith we repent of our sins, and by this process we become reconciled to God. This process of being saved (i.e. born again) through faith is only possible because, being the sinless God, Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice and resurrected to become ruler of all.

It is in fact blasphemy to state that Jesus became "born again" for this implies He had sins of His own which needed to be forgiven. To claim Jesus needed to be born again is, as you stated, a new gospel. Also, keep in mind that Jesus went into the grave--hades (for 3 days)--and not into the bottomless pit of burning Hell. Jesus was never damned to Hell, nor did He utter "the cry of the damned," and He never needed to be ransomed from sin or eternal death, as He is the one who did the ransoming.

Below is pasted a segment of a recent email conversation I had with a friend on a relevant topic: In what sense was Jesus foresaken by the Father while on the cross?

----

In What Sense Was Jesus Foresaken by the Father While on the Cross?

For all my Christian life I had been taught that Jesus was forsaken by the Father while on the cross, because Jesus asked that question. But as my theology "matured" (many would question whether that is indeed the case) I recognized that God cannot forsake God.

Then I came to recognize that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, meaning He intended that we understand that He was applying Psalm 22 to His present situation. Then, in Psalm 22 it says that the Father never forsakes or hides His face from the righteous afflicted.

Finally, I realized that Jesus did not literally become sin for us. Which sin would that have been exactly? His molecules did not change into sin. When the Word says "He became sin" it is a metaphor for "He became the propitiatory sacrifice that is required to pay the penalty that we would have earned with our sin."

It is identical to the "This is My body" phrasing; the bread does not literally change into human flesh, rather, it is a metaphor which means exactly the same thing as "He became sin" on our behalf.

So in what sense was Jesus "forsaken"? His human body was indeed forsaken to the torture of execution. God did not intervene to stop it. Jesus was crucified to death. This is EXACTLY the sense that the Psalmist applied to the phrase as well.

The Psalmist in Psalm 22 goes out of his way to explain that even though God has forsaken his body to undergo harsh trials, his spirit/soul were never hidden or forsaken from God. If one were to think this is too mundane a meaning for "forsaken" to have, one should keep in mind that the flesh we are talking about is that of the Creator of the world; His flesh was infinitely precious.

Jesus should have been worshipped, not executed. That such a precious person should be given over to human torture is unthinkable and is anything but mundane.


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