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Seeking Things Above


If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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2008-07-17

Red Letter Theology

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righ teousness,
I was reading some blog comments the other day about Christianity and homosexuality. One of the comments in support of accepting the homosexual lifestyle as an acceptable Christian lifestyle was that Jesus never condemned homosexual behavior in the Gospels. The point being made was that since Jesus was silent on the issue, this overrides whatever may have been stated in the Old Testament or in Paul's Epistles.

I've seen this logic used more than once and it's been gnawing at me for the last couple of weeks. I think what bothers me so much about this errant view of the Bible is that I've used this logic myself in the past to justify my own sins. It's a favorite practice of Christians to lean on the parts of the Bible that agree with our views on life but not on the parts of the Bible that disagree with our own bias.

My point here is not to argue the homosexual issue (I've raised that issue in a couple of other posts and comments if your interested - God Loves Gays, Seinfeld, Comment). I'm not saying that there cannot be strong arguments on both sides of a particular interpretation of scripture. My point here, is that you should not use Jesus' silence on an issue in the Gospels to override other biblical principles and truths.

There are probably many positions on the scope of the authority of scripture. For my case against what I am calling "red letter theology" I'll just assume a couple of broad views. One view is that all scripture is the infallible, inerrant word of God. An opposing view would be that the Bible was written by men, highly spiritual men, but men that had a personal and cultural bias included in what they wrote. Therefore, the Bible is not without its faults and is not infallible and inerrant.

If you hold to the first view, then you cannot put more weight on the Gospels and less on the rest of the Bible. It is all God inspired and it is all God's words, whether written in red or black ink. There is a NewTestament  covenant that has replaced the Mosaic law. However, we know this because the Bible declares this. Not because there are issues in the Old Testament not addressed in the New Testament.

If Moses said it, God said it. If Paul said it, God said it. If you don't believe this then you have to admit that you do not hold to the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible.

The other broad view is that Bible is holy but not infallible and inerrant. However, even with this view, putting more weight on the Gospels than on other parts of the Bible is not logically sound. The Gospels were not written by Jesus. They were written by men that could have just as much personal and cultural bias in their accounts of what Jesus said as Paul has in his letters.

If you disagree with how a principle discussed in the Bible should be applied in our culture today, then do your homework and pray. God did not intend for His truth to be hidden from those that seek it. However, don't take the lazy way out by declaring everything is good that wasn't explicitly called out as evil by Jesus in the Gospels.

Let's not forget, Jesus made a point about speaking against man-made pharisaic interpretations of the Old Testament. If silence is to be given more weight to a particular view, then the case should be made that silence means agreement, not opposition.

21 comments:

Brad said...

Amen Tony! Great post. I have noticed many lately focusing intently on Jesus' words, which is great. I myself have found this helpful in my recent studies. I think it is helpful because it helps to take your focus off the church, us, and religion and put it on Jesus. But I fear some have been putting blinders on and ignoring what the rest of scripture says. Perhaps some have found it easier to accept following Christ if they ignore Paul, but as you point out ignoring Paul is ignoring the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Ignoring Paul is actually ignoring Christ Jesus.

I actually find it more challenging accepting Jesus' own words, like in the Sermon on the Mt. A high standard is set. Really too high. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." I need Paul to help me put this into perspective.

peace in Christ,
brad

Tony Cathey said...

"If Moses said it, God said it. If Paul said it, God said it. If you don't believe this then you have to admit that you do not hold to the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible."

This is where a lot of Christians have a problem. They like to believe in the bible, but they don't believe that the Bible is inerrant and totally Inspired by the Holy Spirit. The books in the bible are not just literary masterpieces written by these guys random men (although they are masterpieces) But God individually chose these guys and "whispered" the words that they should pen.
Great Post!

Jena Isle said...

Hi Tony, how are you? This is a beautifully written article. I don't claim to be an expert in theology or the Bible, but I remember a line from the bible which says that man is made for woman and vice versa, wouldn't that be enough to know what God or Jesus would have wanted us to follow?

I am not judgmental,as Jesus emphasized love for EVERYONE and He, Himself demonstrate this, but isn't it clear what His stand would be in this issue?

I want to hear you more talk about this.
Thanks.

Jena

Tony said...

Jena - Good to hear from you, it has been a while.

You may be thinking of Genesis 2 where God talks about creating woman for man and how a man leaves his family to be joined with his wife.

Judging sin while loving people would be a good topic for a blog discussion. There is a balance that is needed. We need to go out and love people like Jesus did. On the other hand, we can't ignore sin in the world. In many cases, after Jesus healed someone, he would command them to sin no more. So sin needs to be addressed.

I've written a couple of posts mentioned above on homosexual behavior and the biblical view that the behavior is sinful but that the person is still loved by God and we should love them as well. However, this is such a charged topic today, I don't know if a blog post is the right forum to discuss and debate the topic. Written words are so often taken in the wrong manner that it is hard to make sure the love behind the words is being conveyed.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Hi Tony,
I totally disagree with that point of view. Just because Jesus was silent on an issue does not mean that He approves the issue. Genesis said that God created man and woman (and never mentioned any other gender). The Bible also said that men have so corrupted themselves that they lust for their own kind. If you were born a homosexual or lesbian, that is never sinful. What becomes sin is when you engage in sex with the same gender. The Bible was so explicit in this. No amount of justification can overcome that. Either you live in this world (and become worldly) or live a holy and separate life walking in the ways of the Lord. There is no middle ground. Thanks for the enlightening post my brother. God bless you always.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Without commenting on the whole homosexuality issue, there's a good rule of thumb to use when dealing with a lot of these arguments -- people will try to "box" Christ for their own purposes.

You will, for example, here the left declare that Jesus was a liberal, thus completely ignoring his affirmation of "conservative" aspects of the laws found within the Old Testament. Fundamentalists, meanwhile, completely discount the "water into wine" episode and other bits of Christ's teachings that make them feel uncomfortable (don't even get me started on tithing and such).

The point is this -- people want to box Christ, but He evades such crude classification. I do believe every one of us would have a heck of a lot to change if we truly do want to follow Christ as He is...

Tony said...

I tend to agree - too far left or too far right and either way you fall off the cliff.

STEVEN said...

Good discussion.

For more lively bible AND sabbath discussion ,join me at

http://www.adventistonline.com

or

http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/endtimeissues/et_186.htm

See you there..God be with you…

Kelly W. said...

Come on, Jesus was as flippant and non-committal, and anxious to include just about anyone and anything into his dim-witted ranks as some modern politicians. That might not matter anymore - the idea that his logic overrides Old Testament has been also rendered groundless, since he never came back, his prophecies are bankrupt, his Church has shed millions tons of blood, and the Jews survived without him, and lived to found a state of their own again, with no help of his or his corrupt worshipers.

Only Spanish inquisitors would get excited and kill the artist who dunked the crucifix into a jar of urine. Nowadays X-ians have realized that Jesus loves anything - even things that are anti-Jesus and repulsive. Anything is beautiful, because morality is relative.

The man cursed a poor barren tree - how selfish could you get? This has been reinterpreted to whitewash the event- but why should this interpretation be believed, when the selfish man and his Church have invalidated the interpretative worth of Pharisees, where the selfish man could not get a passing grade. Just as the equally self-centered tantrum at the inn on the way to Egypt, the man's performance should finally illuminate the fan club and they should go the way of the Children of Noah.

Tony said...

Kelly - Thanks for sharing. The good news is, that despite your perceptions and yours and my own selfishness, this "selfish" Jesus died for you and me.

Peace friend.

Kelly W. said...

Talking about selfishness - the bottom line, the gist of his death is in his words borroed from Psalms - "Lord, why have you forsaken me?"
King David might have said that when feeling not in control of his situation, but alive. The crazy selfish Jew was about to die on the cross and was looking at th real death in its face. He was under the self-induced impression that he was the Son of God (but he forgot, or really felt that he self-righteously cancelled Mosaic Law and Bilam's observation-Num. 23'19 - God is not a man, he has no son, etc
This impression, however, shattered, when God, really never using anyone to die for the rest of humanity, saw a vagabond lunatic get executed. Nobody really knows God's personnel records he keeps on each of his creations.

Just another day, regardless of his devotional ecstasy, a respectable older gentleman got crushed to death by a church steeple. It is all puzzling, and impossible to explain. Nobody really knows our personnel records in Heaven.

You might feel comfortable with your peaceful tolerance of my message, but, in perspective, you are a great exponent of something else - American tolerance for religion that is the centerpiece of this country's social-political fiber.
Go mix with X-ians in other countries - in Spain I have seen Catholics ganging up Inquisition-style on a flagrantly demonstrating communists. In Oberammergau the Passion of the Dead Jew is reenacted and the 100% Aryan German who plays Caiaphas or some such is known to be hated and despised throughout the rest of the year.
In Moscow I have seen Russian clergy throw kitchen refuse at a group they obviously despised.
In Jerusalem, at the site of the vagabond's supposed sepulchral edifice, I have seen Armenian and other, hard to identify X-ian denomination's clergy go fisticuffs at each other, also using palm fronds.
He dies having made no difference, or worse, sowing bloodshed, hate, and evil.
As another disillusioned Catholic priest told me: Bible in the hands of Christians is like a hi-tech binoculars in the hand of a monkey. He laughed when I picked up the idea - the monkey has no clue how to use it, but manages to crack nuts, or heads.
zzooutpg

Tony said...

Jesus quotes the Psalm as God turns His back on Him because He is bearing the sins of all of us. However, once He dies, it is over. He then proves He is the Son of God with the resurrection where sin and death are defeated.

He also asks God to forgive those that have just nailed Him to the cross and mocked him.

I am sorry that you have seen a lot of evil done in the name of Jesus. I assure you that these men were not acting on behalf of Jesus.

If you think I am tolerant in that you can believe what you want and in the end God will judge us all on our merit rather than whether or not we accepted His free gift of grace you are misinterpreting my attitude.

I am tolerant in that you have obviously seen some bad things and read the Bible from that perspective. I haven't seen what you have seen so I can't speak to that.

I know Jesus and His love personally. It's why I comment back with love and I am tolerant of your views. I'm sure that position sounds like I too am a lunatic.

When I read the Bible, I challenge myself to put aside my "church" background so I don't read with bias. I understand I can't do that 100% but I at least try.

I challenge you to do the same. Try reading the Bible setting aside your bias against Jesus going in.

Peace. Tony

Kelly W. said...

Here are some rhetorical questions:
-why would God turn away from anyone bearing sins of all of us? Does not make any "Bible" sense. Also zero sense in the concept of bearing sin - it is not to be found anywhere in the Prophetic-Mosaic writings. Anything after them, using faith or not, is a stretch of agreeing with a strong-sounding statement.
-you are not a lunatic for sure - you are exercising what has been written for humanity during Noah's times. It is obvious, without the need for anyone else, to understand that we need to give each other benefit of doubt, to walk in God's ways.
-I have been reading Bible for many many years, from many aspects, and greatful for God being patient with me when the screaming falsities I read in the X-ian New Addendum did not turn me away from the real Bible and ultimately, God.
Among many annoyances that I discussed with Catholic priests, Methodist, Presbyterian and Protestant fathers, preachers, and teachers - there is no Judeo-Christian way, really, to die for others without making a difference, since the act implies an obvious improvement, if not saving, or a longer-term salvation.
In our times, dying like this for others means staying behind on a sinking ship and locking a hatch so the others could make it out alive. It also means falling on a hand grenade so that others would not get killed. It may mean dying as a hostage as a condition of saving others.

Back then in the Roman Palestine, which is the Holy Land, there was no opportunity, certainly in that case of Jeshu, to die for the ragged masses, or for the extended people of Israel suffering under Romans, or for the sake of humanity, which could care less, and in the concept of worshiping the True God, was billion years behind the raggedy Jews - the Good Samaritan included (the demonstrative act for purposes similar to the Samaritans lobbying Cyrus to stop the Temple construction), even their corrupt circles, which affected each other, and never did any harm to the Humanity around them. Again, it is obvious, bias or not, that Jeshu had no more divinity than a simple Israelite that could enable him in a novel way to die for others, to bear sins, or to improve anything. Using this event as a marker, it is easy to see that Jeshu made it worse for everyone there, even for Pontius Pilate, he inspired more bloodshed, he deluded the masses, and inspired a group of followers to make false promises that never came to fruition, caused death of some of them, and, more tragic of all, served as an excellent tool for the evil of the arising Church to start shedding blood, and doing everything that the real God hates.

There was a time when I felt sorrow for Jeshu's suffering, until I visited Jerusalem. I recommend anyone to do the same - go to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, visit any of the cafes there and hang around long enough and you will meet 2-3 Jesuses. Hand around a week, and you will learn that they have at least what's called the Jerusalem syndrome - Jews, Americans, French, Russians, Latinos - they all speak, look, and teach in an breath-taking manner, and each one in their own unique way. They all have their own large or small following. They all know
Bible, speak major languages, plus, pointedly, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
They are nothing new. Jesus has been invented already, by Paul and Peter. Who, as some people have even alluded, direct humanity onto the way of Noah (their writings do have a lot in common with Noah's laws). But if any of these Jesuses were to die over 2000 years ago, we would have faced 2000 years of Church forcing down our throat the religion of Randy from Manchester, for example.

Just remember what our folk wisdom taught us - the proof is in the puddin'

chadholtz said...

Kelly-

Hello. It sounds like you have seen and done much with your life. You raise some good questions. I'd be happy to chat with you about some of the questions you raise but may I first ask one of my own?

Of the many "messiah" figures that have come and gone for centuries around Palestine (you mention that this "Jesus thing" is nothing new), what happens to their band of followers after that figure is either killed or just dies off?
What happens to the teachings of that particular "Jesus" whom some if not many had put their faith in?

Grace and peace,
Chad
(a lowly Methodist pastor/student)

Tony said...

Kelly -

Thanks. I have one quick question about how you went from sorrow for Jesus' suffering to thinking he is extremely selfish. Is it just because other people also claim to be the messiah. Maybe that can be addressed when you answer Chad's question.

I appreciate the dialog.

Peace,

Tony

Kelly W. said...

My job takes me places, making it convenient for pursuing such extracurricular activities such as hanging out with Jesuses :-)

I have felt genuine sorrow for the man and discusses his teachings with Catholics from a monastery Alabama to Poland, with open-minded Presbyterians from the Midwest to their missions in the middle of nowhere in Asia.

I could feel sorry for the man as a persecuted and misunderstood character (without having to resort to the Written-In Testament's character description) with unique prophetic visions. However, my analytical perceptions coincided with other Christians that I have mentioned above, and, being free, unlike them, to free myself from Jesus dogmas, I have understood, unopposed by the above activists, that his acts written in the Testament actually portray the man as a selfish, naive, shallow personage. The best ccount to support it - and I have heard many counterarguments heavily rationalized in his defense- is the cursing of the fig tree, and we don't need any other deed to drive the point any further. According to the principles of measure for measure, which actually have never been canceled in the O. Testament -i. e., the Only Testament -the man who poses as the Man of Compassion should have reined in his anger and ego, and blessed the tree instead. For this, he got his due - the death on a tree. We see God playing staright with people million tiems greater than Jeshu - Moses himslef - for displaying anger, which is not what God wants us to use.

In other words, if a man calls himself a messiah of God, then he should pass the anger test easily - not get mad at a fellow, a neighbor, a barking dog, or even a lowly barren fig tree. The all-loving God wants us to love all. That could have never been canceled.
This is enough to lose faith in him.
The numbers that followed him surely indicate of his greatness, if that answers the questions above. The numbers never died off - as I have said, the Jesus faith is a convenient tool for leading the uncouth masses, greedy kings, and lust-filled clergy. The masses sure prospered, and used Bible as the proverbial monkey uses binoculars - to crack heads.

As the wisdom that Jesus plagiarized often - lust, greed and pride drive a man from this world. They drove him, for sure.

chadholtz said...

Kelly,

I have to admit that you are the first I have ever spoken with who looks at the whole corpus of the NT through the lens of the fig tree. You place a great amount of weight on that one prophetic utterance and I am still not sure why.

You no doubt have heard the explanations for this before yet you do not allude to them. I wonder why? Surely you have heard that this type of fig tree was generally without leaves at the time of Passover. Yet Jesus finds this one with leaves. It should have fruit, yet has none. Similar to Isaiah 5, this is a fitting emblem of the pretentious yet barren Israel. They revel in their appearance (their leaves) and yet lack the fruit. As such, Jesus' clearing of the temple and cursing of the fig tree are two symbolic and prophetic acts with one meaning - he was predicting the downfall of an unfruitful Israel. Not to say he was through with the Jews, but that in its place an international and everlasting kingdom would be established, a nation bringing forth not just leaves but fruits, and gathered from both Jews and Gentiles.

I wonder if you can answer my earlier question? What happens to the followers of those so-called Jesuses after their "messiah" dies or is killed off?

grace and peace,
Chad

Anonymous said...

I thought your previous question was different, but the answer would be the same - the same thing that happened to Jesus's followers. The early ones are killed off, and the later ones are the killers themselves (a la the Romans and the church)

The fig trees, as I have personally checked out also there, in Holy Land, start bearing fruit right before the Tabernacles holiday, which is way after August. In August they are still green and bitter.
The fig tree incident draws many explanations, yours the most typical of them, but it is rationalized. God tells JEws the same thing in Deuteronomy, and earlier on, in commanding the Jews to celebrate the holiday of the Tabernacles, when Gentiles are supposed to go to Jerusalem and ask the Jews to bring sacrifices together.

Predictions of downfall, the emptiness of the corrupt kingdom, but not of the Judaic people, is most obvious in the Prophets' and the Writings. You don't need to the Church or Jesus' prophecy recycling programs.

But to rationalize a typical interpretation of the fig tree, such a central exponent of Jesus's behavior, is to rely on that Pharisaic characteristic that Jesus himself deemed annoying (throughout the NT, childishly)strove to negate (that causing him to actually became a de facto Sadducee)the supposedly prophetic, or holy spirit-inspired explanation of every single verse in Moses' Book, and every single act of the Jewish forefathers. I have no choice but recognize and remain unimpressed by these unoriginal ideas recycled from Jesus' and Church so superficially hated Pharisees.

Again, the fig tree curse is diametrically opposite from Godlike behavior. Besides its worn out cliche rationalizations, holy, kind people do not curse, even while trying to make a point. That's the message God teaches us throughout the Only Testament - be nice when you're sated, and be nice when you're hungry.

Kelly W

chadholtz said...

Kelly-
I wrote a rather lengthy reply yesterday and when I tried to post it I lost it all. In my frustration I did not go back and re-write. Let me take a moment to just say briefly a few things and if you would like to discuss any of them further I would be happy to. If Tony would rather we continue this conversation elsewhere you can reach me on my blog.

1- The fig tree passage is at the time of Passover, not Tabernacles. At Passover it was far less likely to see this type of tree with fruit. Jesus, however, saw it full of foliage, a sign that it should have fruit. His prophetic utterance is not out of anger because he is hungry (do you really believe that it was?) but right in line with the clearing of the temple - it teaches in Rabbinic fashion how Israel is full of pomp and circumstance and no fruit. That is why Jesus is angry - not because he is hungry and the tree is bear.

2- Regarding the false Messiahs - the followers had two choices when their Rabbi was killed or died naturally - find a new "Jesus" or give up their dream of Messiahship and the future Kingdom. You are right to point out that there were many "Jesuses." However, we know little or nothing about them or their "religion" because they are dead. Not so with Jesus - something about him has made his life known by more people than any other life and has lasted 2000 years.

3- I am not sure why you call the interpretation of the fig tree a "rationalization" when you are offering your own by claiming that it was Jesus pouting because he was hungry. That is YOUR rationalization,and one that is only held by severe skeptics - not trained exegetes of Scripture and the historical context of Jesus' day.

4 - This is a curious statement: "Besides its worn out cliche rationalizations, holy, kind people do not curse, even while trying to make a point."

If God does not "curse" than what do you do with nearly half of the OT? Start with Gen. 3. I think you are confusing the God of Scripture with the God of humanism. Because God is God He can "have mercy on whom He will have mercy" and likewise curse whom God will curse.

The message taught through the OT has nothing to do with "be nice when your sated, and nice when your hungry."

Are you a Jew? What is your background?

grace and peace,
Chad

Tony said...

I'm enjoying the dialog. You can continue here or take it to your place. If you guys move over to Blooming in Bullock just let me know so I can check it out.

Tony

Kelly W. said...

of course I am Jewish, and thankful for the open mind and the continuous thirst for conquering life's puzzles, which is the gist of Pharisaic and Rabbinic masterpieces.

We can belabor point 1 of your reply til we are blue in the face, but I have heard so much faux-Pharisaic about Jeshu's deeds that maybe it's worthless now to explain the modern-day "exegetic", X-ian Pharisaic impostor-ish rendition of ancient realities. This is the stuff of the Only Testament that the Church has convinced everyone that has been canceled.

2. Because Jesus died, and, unlike other messiahs, his followers are around - this is nothing to impress discriminating minds, but crass, unwashed medieval masses. Sure X-ianity is around, in the resplendence of its multitudinous branches. Meanwhile, the Jew is dead, he has never come back, no prophet has arisen with updates on impending arrival, nothing.

3. The fig tree incident can also be belabored till we are blue in our screens, but I have discussed this deed with X-ians worldwide, as mentioned in my comments, and also with several notable ex-X-ians, one of whom is an ex-priest who has been preaching since 13 y.o.age, and attained the nationwide fame on CBN, till he could not stand the falsity of the institution, philosophy and the creeds. He understood that the only true faith for a Gentile is the Seven Commandments of Noah. The second clsoe friend is also an-ex priest, who foudn out he was a child of Jewish parents who escaped Holocaust by growing up in a Convent. Despite the status he enjoyed of rubbing elbows with Vatican's top brass and teh pope himself, he was relieved beyond tears that his Jewishness absolved him from having no choice but to belief in the Evil Fantasy.

Of course, blogs and chats never have all the space to discuss all the ruminations and mind-opening truths that I have learned from these utterly interesting people.

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