April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

I've held off on this topic just because I was enjoying watching the religious Left squirm a bit. It's nice to see them having to deal with their own Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell figure, though I've been a bit disappointed that Wright's "America deserved 9/11" remarks seem to have engendered less outrage than either Robertson's or Falwell's. Guess there's still a double standard concerning outrage on the left.

I actually tend to agree with Mike Huckabee on the whole Wright controversy; any preacher can sound stupid/intolerant/whatever if you grab sound bites out of a 30+ minute sermon. On April 20, you could have gotten quite a sound bite from my own Sunday morning sermon -- "Those people are going to hell. They're getting what they deserve. Who cares?" THAT would have gotten me some press. Of course, the rest of the sermon was all about who cares, and as it turns out there are a lot of people who care, but the sound bite makes me sound like a Westboro Baptist member. So I think it's wrong (at best) to try to determine someone's theology based on snippets of sermon, and I think that's why Huckabee didn't release transcripts of his own sermons to the press.

That said, there was one remark that Wright made this morning that concerned me. He used John 10:16 to respond to John 14:6.
The question raised was, considering Jesus' statement that He is "the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," whether Islam was a path to heaven. Tough question, considering the fact that many African-Americans are Muslim, and that many of them support both Wright and Obama (neither of whom are Muslim -- wanted to make that clear right off).

The question touches at the heart of the Gospel - is Jesus really it? Is Christ really the only way? And if so, what does that mean to all the otherwise good people who don't believe in Him?

Wright had what I call an Osteen moment. He had the chance to share the Gospel in front of millions. Not only that, but he had the chance to calm the fears of evangelical Christians that his church was somehow not really a Christian church. He could have done so much, but he decided not to.

He quoted another saying of Christ. "And I have other sheep that are not of this fold." And that would have been great, if he'd just used the whole quotation. Jeremiah Wright did to Jesus exactly what the news medai have been doing to him -- taken a part of a sermon, quoted it out of context, and made it sound like something that wasn't intended.

John 10:7-11 reads

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus isn't talking about people who don't believe in Him, who haven't trusted Him to save them. He's talking about people who are His own, who He knows as His own, who know Him, but were not at that time part of His flock. They are sheep that He is going to bring to Himself, so that there will be one flock, and one Shepherd. Jesus is not teaching that all religions will get you to Heaven, as Wright seems to imply. Jesus is saying that there are a lot of sheep out there that are His, who are not part of this Jewish flock that He's talking to. He died for them, too, and He will draw them in. They will hear His voice, and listen to Him. They will know Him as their Shepherd.

The Gospel is exclusive. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and you know I hate it when people call me intolerant, but the facts are the facts. Christianity is an exclusive faith, and anyone who says differently is misinformed at best. Joel Osteen choked on the exclusivity of Christ, and now so has Jeremiah Wright. It's a struggling point and a stumbling block for many on the left side of religion, but it's still there, and Christians everywhere stake their lives on it.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 10:37 AM | Comments (199) | Add Comment
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1 Amen Warren! Great insights, and I'm so glad you're on Twitter

Posted by: Stacy Harp at April 28, 2008 01:16 PM (t56kk)

2 Warren ~ I did not infer from Rev. Wright's reference to John 10:16, as you have, that he meant that Jesus is teaching that all religions will get you to heaven. (Incidently, my reading of the Bible does not inform me that forming a new religion was on Jesus' agenda.) Instead, I considered Rev. Wright's response as a reverent, humble deference to God on the matter of who among us will ultimately be judged as having carried out the will of our Father in heaven (Matt. 7:21). I took his abbreviated reference to the scripture, (intelligently including, as you have, the contextual scripture preceding and following it), and gathered that God is not through with us, (His creation). In God's good time, other sheep, who Jesus must lead too, will recognize His voice. And there will be one flock and one shepherd. Regards ~ Doc-Doc

Posted by: Doc-Doc at April 28, 2008 03:56 PM (0uiW+)

3 I guess I could have misunderstood Wright, but it seemed like the question was asking whether Islam was a path to Heaven, and that Wright felt that it could be. Islam doesn't point to Christ, so I see a problem there. It felt to me that Wright was hedging his bets because of his association with Farakhan and the Nation of Islam.

Posted by: Warren at April 28, 2008 05:34 PM (Y0tXa)

4 There are two specific verses/passage which come to mind for me when thinking about this sort of issue. One is 1 John 4:2 "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God," So even though Muslims wouldn't necessarily affirm the whole Nicene and Apostle's Creeds etc. the Quran actually does affirm that Jesus is the Christ. The second passage is more general Matthew 25 [31] "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. [32] Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, [33] and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. [34] Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; [35] for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' [37] Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? [38] And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? [39] And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' [40] And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' [41] Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; [42] for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, [43] I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' [44] Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' [45] Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' [46] And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Sorry for the longish excerpt but I think it is a pretty persuasive argument in favor of the importance of the social gospel. Note that the criteria for who is on the right and who is on the left is not defined by theological correctness but by what you do "to the least of these". And I would argue that this condition could be meant by people of faith and goodwill whether they are Christian or not.

Posted by: abdul-halim at April 28, 2008 06:46 PM (Ev9kD)

5 Comment deleted by site owner. I don't allow comments from folks who can't be bothered to leave their correct email address. I was going to leave this one up, even though it only had a link and no real interaction with the post. But after having an email to the commenter bounced because the email box doesn't exist, I had to delete it.

Posted by: Petrus at April 29, 2008 01:30 AM (lxkus)

6 I tend to agree that the social component to the gospel is important, and often overlooked. But we also have to remember that the purpose of the Gospel, however we preach it, is to point all men to Christ, the Messiah. The Quran teaches that Jesus was a prophet, and a good one, but that Mohammad was greater. The Christ is the one who comes to save us from our sins. The Christ is God incarnate (the Christ is David's Lord in the Psalms, after all). Islam denies the central fact of the deity of Christ, and so any Messiah it may point to is a false one.

Posted by: Warren at April 29, 2008 10:20 AM (Y0tXa)

7 Well, deity certainly isn't implied by the original Jewish concept of the Messuah. And even for Christians, yes the idea that Jesus is God is an important one for mainstream Christianity. But Jesus is given many different titles throughout the Bible (Rose of Sharon, Son of the Morning, Prince of Peace, Christ, Son of Man, etc.) and they don't all mean the same thing. In particular, even if you think Jesus was God, that doesn't mean that the Messiah/Christ concept implies divinity. So again, Islam teaches that Jesus is the Christ and that those sinners who repented and believed in his preaching will be forgiven by God. Technicaly, in orthodox, traditional Islam one can even ask God for intercession for Jesus sake in some sense. Muslims certainly accept more of the apostles' creed than Jews do. but still I would prefer to focus on the social gospel aspect. Perhaps you might say I'm reading too much (or not enough) into the above quoted passage but the sheep on the right didn't even seem to know that what they were doing for the "least of these" had anything to do with Jesus. To me it suggests that being a confessional Christian can't be all that important, at least according to what Jesus is saying in that passage.

Posted by: abdul-halim at April 29, 2008 05:34 PM (Ev9kD)

8 abdul, the problem is that you're focusing one one passage to the neglect of the rest of the New Testament. As James says, faith without works is dead, but as Paul also says, we are justified by our faith, and not by our works. The social gospel is a result of our saving faith. That faith allows us to do good works with no ulterior motive at all. Otherwise, the Great Commission would be a call to just go and do good works, rather than to go and preach the Gospel, make disciples, and baptize.

Posted by: Warren at April 29, 2008 09:25 PM (Y0tXa)

9 Incidentally, the exclusive claims of Chrisitanity is a topic that was discussed in the early years of this blog (the first month, actually). The comments are gone (since I moved it from the Blogspot site to this one), but the post is still there -> http://pewview.mu.nu/archives/088162.html

Posted by: Warren at April 29, 2008 09:33 PM (Y0tXa)

10 Well, I'm limited to mentioning a few verses because of the nature of a blog comment section. I think there are many other passages in the "red letters" which seem more consistent with an emphasis on wroks and the social gospel rather than Pauline notions of faith alone. Another example would be Matthew 7 [21] "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who **does the will** of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' [so they presumably would have had genuine faith, no?] [23] And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you **evildoers**.' I would also look at James, chapter 2 but I think it is a bit stronger than you seem to. [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? Personally, I think that Paul and James just contradict one another and can't be reconciled (which is probably why Luther wanted to exclude the book of James from the canon) Given how today some people try to use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to make arguments about homosexuality and US law, another interesting passage when it comes to the social gosepl is Ezekiel 16 49] Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. [50] They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it. well its getting late... peace

Posted by: abdul-halim at April 29, 2008 11:18 PM (Ev9kD)

11 Warren, great insights on Wright and his understanding (or lack) of the Gospel. I have been thinking all day about posting on my blog about Wright and his liberation theology or his de-emphasis on the Gospel, but I am not sure I could have put it any better than that. So, I think I will just send my readers to your site. Thanks for pointing us to his comments on these passages.

Posted by: D.R. Randle at April 29, 2008 11:25 PM (DCjOt)

12 One thought about Rev.(?) Wright's comment, if Jesus meant that Muslims, Buddhists, etc., were His "other sheep not of this fold," why would He command His own to go into all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, THE SON, and the Holy Spirit? If there were other ways to the Father and Heaven, it just wouldn't be necessary, there would be no missionaries who lay their lives on the line every day for Him, and this would be an empty commandment.

Posted by: Norm at April 30, 2008 07:44 AM (2Hj3i)

13 Well, abdul, I certainly disagree with you about James and Paul. James emphasizes our works showing that we're justified (since we're given the ability to do truely good works through the power of God), while Paul emphasises the faith that gets us there to begin with. And the writer of Hebrews disagrees with you concerning Abraham. Abraham's faith is what justified him (Hebrews 11:8 and following). Jesus' own statements show the importance h=of having faith and allowing that faith to guide what you do. The people who say Lord Lord are people who claim faith but have none, and it's shown by their lack of works. I notice that you conveniently leave out the part where Jesus says he "never knew" many who DID GOOD WORKS in His name. They had no faith in Him.

Posted by: Warren at April 30, 2008 08:42 AM (RR3oH)

14 In terms of the Great Comission I think there are afew possible nuances or considerations I would want to add into the discussion.. 1) Even though some Christians might be tempted to read everything in the Bible in an absolute, categorical sense, it might be wiser to read some passages in a more moderate, time-space bound way. The world Jesus preached in didn't have Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. The main options were Judaism (where the people's understanding was possibly corrupted or flawed) and Roman paganism. So from that perspective, for the people under the sound of his voice, even I could say that Jesus was the only way. Just as for the people of Nineveh under the sound of Jonah's voice, Jonah was the only way. And for the people under the sound of Noah's voice, Noah was the only way, etc. 2) Consider Matt 10 [5] These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, [6] but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. or Matt 15 where Jesus says: [24] "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." So one possible way to read the Great Comission would be as a command to go after all of those lost sheep (of Israel). The Ethiopian Jews, the Indian Jews, South African Jews like the Lemba, and if you believe Joseph Smith the Native American Jews. 2.5) Something to think about is that if the Great Comission can be accepted as a clear historical commandment which was given by Jesus, and it means what you think it means, then all of those conflicts between Judaizers and Gentile believers described in Acts and Galatians should have next arisen 3( In terms of the value of missionaries and martyrs I think you are mistaken. If we deemphasize TC (theological "correctness" or the *name* of Jesus) and emphasize the social gospel you still can find Christian martyrs, for example Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop Oscar Romero, 4) Another way to get at the social gospel is to consider all the verses in the NT which argue for the primacy of love (even over faith). Jesus certainly argues for the value of love of ones brother over accepting a particular theology. And even I would say that a message of love ought to be spread to the whole world. Wouldn't you?

Posted by: adbul-halim at April 30, 2008 09:05 AM (Ev9kD)

15 ooops .. for 2.5 i meant to say "should not have arisen" at the end.

Posted by: abdul-halim at April 30, 2008 09:20 AM (Ev9kD)

16 the author of Hebrews may disagree with me, but more importantly he disagrees with James who says fairly plainly that the Abraham was justified by works. I don't think you can take James and Paul with total seriousness and reconcile them. I think everyone manifests some sort of selectiveness when it comes to the Bible. The Protestant approach typically is to emphasize Pauline statements about faith and interpret everything else in terms of those. I'd openly say that I'd prefer to start with the "red letters" and Christ's emphasis on loving your neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, the ethics of the sermon on the mount and interpret everything else in terms of those. In terms of the Lord, Lord discussion we may just have to disagree. For me, these are still people who people who call Jesus Lord *and* are prophesying in his name *and* seemed to have an honest expectation of reward so it makes sense for me to think of them as having some kind of faith. (as James says, Even the demons believe). But I would suggest that they are evildoers for neglecting the social gospel, for how they treated their fellow man. Or alternatively, just as 1 Corinthians says: ... and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And I would suggest that a) love includes love of God and love of your fellow man which then implies the social gospel and b) love is something very independent from theological "correctness" (TC). (i.e. even non-Christians can love God and love their fellow man/woman)

Posted by: abdul-halim at April 30, 2008 02:13 PM (zQ0OQ)

17 There is no social gospel; that's not biblical. We are supposed to separate ourselves from 'the world'. "'Come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17); "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … " (Rom. 12:2). God warns us that "the whole world is under the sway of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) One of his most effective schemes is to redefine God's Word and divert Christians from His unchanging Truth to man's shifting ideals. Capitalism is Godly, Socialism is of the world. The church should not be advocating bigger government, if it is adhering to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The churches, in essence, have removed Christ as our savior, and have replaced government as our savior, which is why Michelle Obama said Barack will 'heal our souls', and save our nation, which she believes 'is broken'. Social engineering is not a job the church should be performing; the church's job is to adhere to and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ-not invent a socialist doctrine out of thin air like Liberation Theology....or Black Liberation theology. "If God is not for us and against white people," writes Cone, "then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill gods who do not belong to the black community." If all men are created equal as the Bible says, and we are all descended from Adam, then there is no such thing as "race". We all have melatonin in our skin, some just have more than others. This is like different color tulips - they are all tulips. So are we all a part of the human race; and should park our prejudices at the door. Redefining the Bible, as Liberation Theology does - and other socially responsible doctrine - gets rid of the key message from the Bible, which is God's love for us, and why Jesus was sent to earth - to save us from our sin. Today they don't even mention sin, if at all. We are not often reminded of why we need Christ's salvation. The Bible is a great rulebook, showing us how to behave - with restraint and love; which makes our communities safe, and insures that criminals are in prison or dead, rather than running free. It's also interesting that socialist churches are against the death penalty, when the Bible supports it. That's why they're moving to remove the Bible from jury rooms. See Why Socialists don't understand Capitalism

Posted by: Cao at May 01, 2008 05:05 AM (rnI6I)

18 Cao, I think we are just talking past one another. Above I have already cited numerous Bible passages which imply a "social gospel" the idea that the followers of Jesus are commanded to love their neighbor, love the stranger in your midst, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the widows and orphans. And this message is so important in God's eyes that in the past Sodom was destroyed for neglecting it. And all this is definitely Biblical. I would generally want to avoid labels like "capitalism" "socialism" "communism" but I am honestly baffled by your claim that "capitalism is godly". I'm wondering what Biblical verses or principles you would appeal to in order to support that claim? At least currently, it makes more sense to identify capitalism as "the pattern of this world" and as you say the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. On the other hand, the NT Christians organized things in an alternative way: Acts 2 [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. In fact, one of the few (maybe even the only) pre-Apocalypse example in the NT of God doing an old-fashioned OT-style smiting was Ananias and Sapphira who held back some wealth from the common pot. In terms of *Black* liberation theology, I know you think it is racist but if you read Cone more carefully you might see that you are misunderstanding him. (btw "all men are created equal" is from the Declaration of Independence not the Bible). But Cone agrees with your larger point that we are all equal and that racism is wrong. In fact, we shouldn't just park our prejudices at the door (do we get back into them later?) we need to thoroughly get rid of them. Racism and oppression are serious sins which God really hates. And in the time and place Cone was writing (the US during legal segregation) that sin was primarily taking the form of white on black, supported by the US government, and often enforced violently by whites. So in that particular context God will take the side of the black victims of racism over the white racist. But it isn't about race or melanin (not melatonin, which is among other things, a sleeping aid) it is about justice. So for example, if you look ta Trinity United in Chicago, they aren't anti-white. Their congregation is multiracial and has had white people preaching and in other leadership positions (after all it is a mostly white denomination nationally).

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 01, 2008 12:59 PM (Ev9kD)

19 Cao, I think we are just talking past one another. Above I have already cited numerous Bible passages which imply a "social gospel" the idea that the followers of Jesus are commanded to love their neighbor, love the stranger in your midst, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the widows and orphans. And this message is so important in God's eyes that in the past Sodom was destroyed for neglecting it. And all this is definitely Biblical. I would generally want to avoid labels like "capitalism" "socialism" "communism" but I am honestly baffled by your claim that "capitalism is godly". I'm wondering what Biblical verses or principles you would appeal to in order to support that claim? At least currently, it makes more sense to identify capitalism as "the pattern of this world" and as you say the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. On the other hand, the NT Christians organized things in an alternative way: Acts 2 [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. In fact, one of the few (maybe even the only) pre-Apocalypse example in the NT of God doing an old-fashioned OT-style smiting was Ananias and Sapphira who held back some wealth from the common pot. In terms of *Black* liberation theology, I know you think it is racist but if you read Cone more caredully you might see that you are misunderstanding him. (btw "all men are created equal" is from the Declaration of Independence not the Bible). But Cone agrees with your larger point that we are all equal and that racism is wrong. In fact, we shouldn't just park our prejudices at the door (do we get back into them later?) we need to thoroughly get rid of them. Racism and oppression are serious sins which God really hates. And in the time and place Cone was writing (the US during legal segregation) that sin was primarily taking the form of white on black, supported by the US government, and often enforced violently by whites. So in that particular context God will take the side of the black victims of racism over the white racist. But it isn't about race or melanin (not melatonin, which is among other things, a sleeping aid) it is about justice. So for example, if you look ta Trinity United in Chicago, they aren't anti-white. Their congregation is multiracial and has had white people preaching and in in other leadership positions (after all it is a mostly white denomination nationally).

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 01, 2008 12:59 PM (Ev9kD)

20 abdul -- then deal honestly with those red letters. Deal honestly with the exclusive statement that Christ made == "no man comes unto the Father but by Me." Deal honestly with his statement (right after the verse that YOU selectively quoted) that says there were people who did good works in His name who were not His -- "I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of iniquity." Deal honestly with what Christ said. I am Protestant, and I have preached through the book of James, so I think you over generalize when you say Protestants emphasize Paul over James. Protestants and Catholics both try to harmonize the two, to varying degrees of success. James wrote while Paul was traveling -- any disagreement would have been made clear in his epistle. James approaches works as they are shown, because he is dealing with how faith is lived out. Faith lived out results in good works -- that is what both James and Paul teach. James is trying to tell people not to fake it - if they're going to follow Christ, then do it. Show your faith in your works. Paul's emphasis is on the primacy of faith. They were writing to two different groups of people. The Jews that James wrote to were people who relied on their ancestry and never had to actually live their faith - following Christ introduced a whole new paradigm. The Gentiles that Paul wrote to were people who were used to having to do things to please their gods, so Paul wrote to them concerning the need for true faith. If you actually study Paul and James, there is no reason to assume any tension between the two. If you deal with the Bible honestly, it's easy to see how both their messsages complement each other, and add nothing to Christ's gospel of repentance, faith, and service. And re: Abraham in James -- you again skip over an important verse. You read 2:21 and totally miss verses 22 and 23: "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" -- and he was called a friend of God" See? The faith came first, and was completed by his works. Abraham's belief is what was counted to him as righteousness, not his works. Re: the communal lifestyle evidenced by the early church in Jerusalem -- nowhere is it commanded for us to live likewise. Nothing in Acts indicates that this is a normative practice -- in fact, the church in Jerusalem was a pretty special case at the time, because of some unique social situations that ultimately kept Christians from being able to hold property and trade. Their poverty is noted elsewhere in Acts; in fact, the other churches in the area are encouraged to provide financial support for those in Jerusalem. A little more study of the sitz en liben would be helpful there. Oh -- and Annaias and Sapphira? They were smitten because they lied to the Holy Spirit, not because of withholding money. Read the passage again.

Posted by: Warren at May 01, 2008 07:29 PM (Y0tXa)

21 I realize we disagree but it isn't necessary to question my integrity. I addressed "no man comes unto the Father" by saying that it was actually true for the people under the sound of his voice. In terms of the passage in Matthew 7 Matthew 7 [21] "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who **does the will** of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' [so they presumably would have had genuine faith, no?] [23] And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you **evildoers**.' Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the difference between us is that in verse 22 you seem to be taking the bad guys at face value. They said "Did we not... do many mighty works" and so you are assuming they had works, and so even though the text doesn't say so, you are assuming they had some defect in their faith. I'm not making the same assumptions. I wouldn't take the evildoers words at face value. I would say that they are calling Jesus Lord, and they claimed to prophecy and do miracles (a particular kind of external religious act) so it is clear that they had faith. But they are still called evildoers. Which suggests to me that perhaps their problem was neglecting the social gospel. In terms of Protestants and James vs. Paul, I'm not saying all Protestants totally ignore or reject James (although Martin Luther, the original Protestant did call James an "epistle of straw" and wanted it removed from the canon) but in general I would say that there is a difference in emphasis and a difference in which texts are taken more absolutely and unconditionally. So for example Sola Fide is one of the major Protestant slogans and some Protestant Churches would go to the extreme of saying that if you have faith, then there is nothing you can subsequently do to lose your salvation. But the Catholic position isn't so absolute and extreme. So Catholics have the concept of "mortal sin" (which is actually Biblical... see 1 John 5)

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 01, 2008 11:51 PM (Ev9kD)

22 In terms of Paul vs. James, I'm not trying to overlook anything but again this is a blog comments section. So let me show you a bigger passage: James 2 [14] What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? [So above we have a bit of the social gospel] [17] So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. [18] But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. [19] You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder. [So demons have faith] [20] Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? [So this contradicts what Paul says about Abraham] [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, [So even if you want to say James is talking about faith and works "working" together in the process of salvation, Paul definitely says (Galatians 2:16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ)] [23] and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. [24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [which agains starkly contradicts Paul] [25] And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? [26] For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 02, 2008 12:35 AM (Ev9kD)

23 In terms of the economic stuff, I wouldn't insist that the communal lifestyle was obligatory. (Although even in Luke 3, Jesus says to the multitudes "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.") The main thing I would want to get across is that since the early Christian community practiced Communism among themselves, it is more than a bit odd to insist glibly and without support that capitalism is godly and socialism is of the world. I also think you are not just reading "what's there" (nor am i) but you are making a specific hermeneutic choice. You take "I am the way, the truth and the life" as absolute and categorical and valid for all times. But you find ways to make the economic commandments limited to a certain time and place. (I don't mean this as a criticism, I'm a practical communist either. But it should at least be considered a Christia ideal, no?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 02, 2008 01:00 AM (Ev9kD)

24 ooops, I meant "I'm NOT a practical communist". But I would still be interested in your response to Jesus' commandment to share.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 02, 2008 08:38 AM (Ev9kD)

25 So "No Man" actually doesn't mean "no man," just "none of you all here today." That makes absolutely no sense at all, especially in context. Your explanation of those who claimed good works makes no sense in context either. These are people who are saying "Hey, what about us? Didn't you see what we did?! We did all this stuff!" Jesus never disputes the fact that they did good works -- He disputes the assertion that He knew them, or that they did them for Him. "I never knew you," not "You never did anything." There's a difference. "[18] But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. [19] You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder. [So demons have faith]" Um, no. Demons have intellectual assent. They know God is there, and they know about Him. No faith involved there. Again, you confuse faith with mere assent or belief. There's a difference between believing in Jesus and having faith in Him. What James is trying to show is that merely claiming to believe in Christ isn't enough -- you have to have the kind of faith that changes your life, that motivates you to care about people. And I don't disparage the social aspects of the gospel. Every church I've been part of, including the one I pastored, has had an outreach to those in need. We've fed the hungry, we've clothed the naked, we've ministered to the outcast, all in Christ's name. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest body in the United States concerned with ministering to the needy -- when there's a natural disaster, the Salvation Army calls on us first to help out. So Christians, at least those who are serious about the Gospel, are socially conscious. I have no problem with that at all. What I have a problem with is the assertion that that is all the Gospel is -- which contradicts the entire New Testament teaching on the subject, including what Christ taught about good works. You cannot say that the Gospel is social work without ignoring Paul, and James, and Jesus. You can't do it without ignoring what the early Church did. The church in Jerusalem did no social outreach -- they couldn't. They pooled their money and lived communally; they had no funds for a soup kitchen. They weren't abolitionists. They weren't liberationists. They were evangelists. And it looks like you still ignore the difference between the audiences that Paul and James wrote to, and why they each focus on the idea of works differently. Please refer to my previous comment on that -- Paul and James do not contradict each other, as I've mentioned and discussed before. I agree with you about having to do the will of the Father. Read John 6 to see what that will is: 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” HMMMMM. So to do the work of God is to what? Have faith in Him. And those are in the red letters

Posted by: Warren at May 02, 2008 02:47 PM (Y0tXa)

26 I think the discussion is getting spread out and things are geting dropped so I'll just focus on one of the gospel passages for now: you write: Your explanation of those who claimed good works makes no sense in context either. These are people who are saying "Hey, what about us? Didn't you see what we did?! We did all this stuff!" Jesus never disputes the fact that they did good works -- He disputes the assertion that He knew them, or that they did them for Him. "I never knew you," not "You never did anything." There's a difference. 1) one factor in this is that Jesus generally gives a "bit" more emphasis on how you treat your fellow human being and less emphasis on external religious activities. (e.g. Jesus' comment on those who tithed mint and cummin while neglecting mercy and justice) So when I look the people who say "Lord, Lord" it is relevant that they say "did we not prophesy in your name" but they don't say "did we not feed the poor" for instance. Secondly, in terms of how you are interpreting this.. you are *choosing* to take their claim to do works at face value, but that can certainly be questioned. Thirdly, in terms of their actions, Jesus calls them *evildoers* not unbelievers. Fouthly, another way to think about this: You are putting alot of emphasis on the statement "I never knew you". We could say, based on the sheep and the goats passage we've already discussed suggests that those who feed and clothe the least of these (and therefore Jesus) should qualify.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 02, 2008 10:07 PM (Ev9kD)

27 I put a lot of emphasis on Jesus' words that He never knew them because they're important. These are people who claim good works, and Jesus never says they didn't do them. He says He never knew them. That's important to note. You and I agree that service is important for followers of Christ. We disagree that it's the only thing that qualifies us as followers of Christ. It comes down to how Jesus responded to the men who asked Him how they could do the work of God. John 6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Belief is the most important. And it's not a superficial belief that is mere intellectual assent (as the demons have -- they believe God exists, and know more about Him than we do). Our belief in Christ fuels our obedience to Him, and causes us to do good works for Him, in His name.

Posted by: Warren at May 03, 2008 04:43 PM (Y0tXa)

28 I wouldn't necessarily insist that good works are the *only* thing that makes one a follower of Christ but thinking along the lines I'm suggesting does allow one to have a more inclusive notion of who is acceptable to God. To be honest, for me that is the underlying motivation. The common Christian idea that non-Christians are all damned just strikes me as incompatible with the mercy and justice of God. Another point to think about, take the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans weren't just another ethnic/racial group but they followed a religion which (like Islam in some sense) was both similar to and different from Judaism. They taught that the Jewish version of the Torah was corrupted while they claimed to follow the actual religion of Moses.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 03, 2008 09:55 PM (Ev9kD)

29 Another verse which suggests the centrality of the social gospel, from James of course... James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 05, 2008 07:38 AM (Ev9kD)

30 I guess the two questions remains, then -- FIRST, if that really was the central point of the Gospel, then why did Jesus say that to do the work of God was to believe in Him who God sent? And SECOND, of course, if the Gospel was all about taking care of orphans, then why did the apostles appoint other men to do that so that they could take care of the work of the Gospel? Acts chapter 6: 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. The social aspects were there, BUT the care of orphans and widows were confined to those who were in the Church already. This wasn't something that the early Church was doing for society in general. See what happens when you read the Bible as a whole? If James was teaching that the real test of being a Christian was how you treat others, and doing things for them, then the church he led in Jerusalem did a lousy job of it. By those standards, none of the early Christian churches (led, incidentally, bu men who knew Jesus personally) were actually Christian churches.

Posted by: Warren at May 05, 2008 01:26 PM (Y0tXa)

31 In terms of the first question, I'm not sure I can present an argument powerful enough to persuade someone who doesn't want to be convinced. Like I've said earlier, the Bible says a lot of different things and I really do think that we have to take responsibility for which statements we take seriously and absolutely and which we take less seriously and choose to relativize. Again, Jesus' criteria for which folks are sheep and which are goats is how they treated the least of these. Jesus sums up the whole law and the prophets as love of God and love of neighbor. And now we have James suming up religion in terms taking care of the widows and orphans. If you take these passages, and all the "social gospel" passages I've mentioned, and all the ones I haven't (I could keep going : ) )I think there is enough Biblical support for someone to put the social gospel at the center. So just as you are Choosing to put faith at the center while saying that the social gospel is important (but not central) I think one could easily reverse that. In terms of your second question, another factor which makes things more complicated is the Jewish/Gentile split. But I'm not sure what you think you've proven. I would point out that taking care of the widows and orphans was still an important ministry for the church, and in spite of the logistic difficulties they thought it was important enough to make sure that the task got done. And on top of that they were still taking care of the other communal economic aspects and preaching the kingdom of god. Or let me turn the question back on you... if taking care of widows and orphans were not really important, why would James (who didn't just know Jesus personally, but was his actual brother) sum up the religion that way?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 05, 2008 08:03 PM (Ev9kD)

32 My point was that preaching and teaching, converting people to Christianity, took precedence in the apostles' minds over social works. And the fact still remains that the widows and orphans who were cared for were those within the church. There are no churches today that don't have a ministry exactly like that. That ministry is, however, not more important than the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. And you are again missing the point of Jesus' statement. The people who were asking him wanted to find out what kind of works they needed to do. They were looking for a list of good works. Jesus didn't give them one; discerning the condition of their hearts, He saw what they really needed, and told them that before they could do anything else, they had to believe on Him. That's faith, prior to good works. Again, as it says in Hebrews, without faith it is impossible to please God. Good works without faith are meaningless, just as faith without good works is fruitless. James and Paul agree. And I will answer your questions in the other post; they deserve a more detailed answer than I can give this evening, though, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow evening.

Posted by: Warren at May 05, 2008 09:13 PM (Y0tXa)

33 I don't think that the grumblings of the disciples about how their time was being spent is the same as an explicit statement that preaching a confessional faith in Jesus takes precedence over taking care of widows and orphans. (Especially given James' statement about widows and orphans) Firstly, they weren't necessarily speaking from the noblest place. secondly, their comments can also be understood as a reflection that different people have different talents.Thirdly, I would still argue that even if their preaching, that would still include a form of the social gospel. At least, I think it is wrong to assume that their preaching somehow excluded the social altogether. Moreover, if you really want to discusses examples where different elements of the gospel message are pitted against one another, what would you do with the famous "love chapter" which says that out of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. Isn't that relevant in this discussion?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 05, 2008 09:56 PM (Ev9kD)

34 The greatest of these is love. Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. In fact, I preached an entire series on that one verse. Faith is what gives us our hope. Hope sees us through even when things seem the worst. Both are important. But love is our faith in action. Love is what happens when our faith motivates us. That's what James and Paul are both talking about. Without faith we cannot please God. But with faith we are able to serve God more fully, more purely. Even Paul writes that we are saved unto good works -- our salvation, our faith isn't meant simply to be fire insurance. Our faith motivates us to service. And that is where the social aspects of the Gospel come into play. But without that faith, nothing that we do - no matter how good or noble, no matter how charitable - nothing we do pleases God. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags before Him.

Posted by: Warren at May 06, 2008 02:29 PM (Y0tXa)

35 Based on what you wrote, I don't see you taking seriously the idea that love is greater than faith. You said you could agree more, but everything you say afterwards seems to argue that (contrary to what the Bible is saying) faith is fundamental. Matt 22 [36] "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" [37] And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment. [39] And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." Romans 13 [8] Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. [9] The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 06, 2008 06:17 PM (Ev9kD)

36 Faith is fundamental to our relationship with God. Love is fundamental to our relationship with man. It's like asking someone which they'd rather have, their right lung or their left -- both are essential. Likewise, love and faith are both essential. Love is our faith in action -- without that love, we may as well not have any faith at all. It doesn't impact our lives, so it's useless. That's what James says, anyway. You cannot have one without the other. That's what I've been saying the whole time. But I still insist (along with the author of Hebrews) that without faith it's impossible to please God.

Posted by: Warren at May 06, 2008 06:41 PM (Y0tXa)

37 I'm not sure if we'll make much progress on this. (And you also seem busy). I think that your last entry is pretty much what you have to say in order to reconcile James and Paul. But I don't think it is consistent with reading the various passages on their own terms. And also given statements like "the greatest of these is love" and "love is the fulfilling of the law" and others I would suggest that some of the Biblical authors are able to pick a lung.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 08, 2008 08:36 AM (Ev9kD)

38 Clearly, then, we're at an impasse. I'm defending 2,000 years of Biblical interpretation, and am not ignoring what was written by those who were there. The witness of the early Christians, the witness of the church fathers, all point to the unity of the message of the Bible -- regardless of what Luther happened to think of James. You still miss my point. I will not argue that love is not important. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was addressing people who had already shown their faith, but had a serious problem with showing that faith through loving their fellow man. When James wrote, he was speaking to people in much the same position. Context is important; the setting of the book is important. The intended audience is important. Otherwise, you can pull statements out of context and make them say whatever you want it to -- witness the slaveholders in the late 1800s. You've decided out of hand that there is an inherent conflict between Paul and James -- a conflict that is not evident from Scripture or history. You ignore what Paul writes (the bulk of the New Testament) in favor of James. You pick and choose which quotations of Jesus you accept as authoritative, and accuse me of doing the same. As a Christian, I take the entire Bible seriously. I consider it all authoritative, and profitable for instruction, edification, rebuke, etc. I cannot pick and choose what to agree with. I interpret Scripture with Scripture, and treat it as a unified whole. When I study it in depth, I see no reason to treat it any other way, logically or philosophically.

Posted by: Warren at May 08, 2008 03:55 PM (Y0tXa)

39 well, I think you are exagerating a little bit the extent of the unity. Remember Jesus predates the Church. And many of the various early Christian groups, both heretical and orthodox or proto-orthodox, predate the Bible. For example, before the NT canon was established Marcion (who saw himself as a follower of Paul) came up with his own canon (his was actually the first Christian canon) which excluded the OT because he didn't think it could be reconciled with Christ's message. Conversely several of the early Jewish Christian groups opposed Paul. In terms of love, I'm not saying that you are saying love is not important. When you said folks could emphasize the social gospel more I believed you. (btw where do you get information about what the audiences of James and Corinthians are?)

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 09, 2008 08:57 PM (Ev9kD)

40 And in terms of James vs. Paul, I think there are some Biblical/historical indications of conflict. (I included a link but your blog wouldn't let me post it) I'm not starting off with the assumtion that Paul and James conflict. That just comes from a plan reading of the Bible. James plainly says Abraham was justified by works. Paul plainly says Paul was justified by faith. If you want to reconcile them you have to do some kind of gymnastics. In terms of this pick-and-choose issue, I don't feel like I've been saying anything that you should find objectionable. For example, do you REALLY consider the ENTIRE Bible as authoritative? Do eat pork? shellfish? Do you wear clothing of mixed fibers? Or even if you want to look at the NT passages we have been discussing, do you think of Jesus' command to "Go nowhere among the Gentiles" on the same level as the Great Commission?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 10, 2008 10:45 AM (Ev9kD)

41 (sigh)I was wondering when we'd get to this. Yes, the entire Bible is authoritative. It is the final authority for faith and practice. Of course, you have to understand it contextually to use it, which nobody seems to want to do. At least, from these objections I keep hearing over and over. There's a purpose for the OT law. Of course, Paul is the one who said it, and you don't like Paul, so that's probably meaningless to you. All of the objections to the unity of Paul and James that I've seen have relied on misunderstanding the text and point of each, as you have. I've covered this ground before -- James (writing in the late 50s AD) was writing to a Jewish church, made up of people who were used to relying on their ancestry to justify them both before men and before God. James is reminding them that Christ commands His people to exercise their faith; that once we are His, we should do what He wants us to do, because of our love for Him and His creation. Paul wrote to Gentiles -- pagans. The Greek and Roman gods demanded to be served, and the only thing that followers could count on was their own efforts to please their gods. Paul is reminding them that the heart of the Gospel is the completed work of Christ -- He's done it all for us, there's nothing more for us to do because there's nothing more we can do. The only conflict between those two messages is in the minds of people who don't want to accept one or the other of them. There are plenty of people who don't like Paul's message, so they ignore it in favor of James. There are plenty of people who don't like James' message, so they ignore it. I can do neither -- I have to pay attention to both. You like to quote James 2:20, but you leave off the rest of the thought in verse 21 and 22 -- "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" -- and he was called a friend of God." Abraham's faith is counted as righteousness, as it was shown in his works. Even James says that Abraham's belief is what counted. So his faith justified him before God, and his works justified him before man. Unless James was schizophrenic or something, or unless you believe he contradicts himself in the very next sentence, you cannot believe that it was only Abraham's works that justified him. You cannot be honest with the passage and say that -- and yes, I know that there are plenty of people who do the (as you say) gymnastics to allow themselves to believe it. But it's pretty clear to me -- James says it. Abraham's belief was counted to him as righteousness. As John Gill said, way back in the 1700s, " Was not Abraham our father justified by works,.... Not as the causes of his justification, that is denied, Rom_4:2 but as effects of it, showing the truth of his faith, and the reality of his justification: he had both faith and works, and the former were known by the latter; and even the faith which he had expressed years ago was manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed to be true and genuine, by the instance of his obedience to God, here produced; by which it appeared he was a true believer, a justified person, approved of God, and loved by him. Now if this was the case of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, yea, the father of the faithful, of all that believe, he is, and must be a vain man, that talks of faith without works; and his faith must be a dead one, and he be very unlike the father of them that believe: the good work instanced in is the offering up of Isaac." I need to find a copy of the ACCS commentary on James to be sure, but I think Gill is fairly representative of Christian views on Paul and James. I know that Gill forgot more than many modern scholars have bothered to learn about the Bible.

Posted by: Warren at May 10, 2008 09:27 PM (Y0tXa)

42 1. in terms of the entire bible being authoritative, you didn't actually answer my questions. For most Christians, the OT can't really be considered authoritative. In any case, I'm not saying anything which should be objectionable. The real point I'm trying to get across is more a matter of nuance and emphasis and absoluteness vs. relativeness. And it shouldn't be any matter of great controversy that even among the NT some texts are emphasized more than others. Or that given two texts, sometimes people take the "plain meaning" of text A and use that to interpret text B. And other times, the opposite is true. 2. In terms of James and Paul, I think modern scholars have found extra-Biblical indications of disagreement and conflict between the followers of Paul and James. But even in the Bible itself, the "Judaizers" are descriebd as "men from James"

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 12, 2008 10:41 AM (Ev9kD)

43 In terms of the authority of the Bible, I don't know how much clearer I can make it. "Yes, the entire Bible is authoritative. It is the final authority for faith and practice." Unfortunately, many people enjoy pulling passages out of context and twisting them to mean things that they were never intended to mean. In terms of Paul and James (and Peter for that matter), modern scholarship is far from in agreement on any alleged conflict. We can trade scholars all day long -- for every one that sees a conflict, I can find you one that doesn't. The "men from James" issue was dealt with in Acts 13 at the Jerusalem Council -- and James agreed with Paul there. Paul continued to encounter some resistance afterwards, but it's pretty clear historically and Biblically that it wasn't sent from James; in fact, there are some who believe that the Judaizers Paul meets later on are people who left the Jerusalem church because of James' endorsement of the Jerusalem Council's decision.

Posted by: Warren at May 12, 2008 08:37 PM (Y0tXa)

44 I agree there is not much use in trading scholars. So you may have a Biblical argument (when we assume the Bible is consistent) but the historical side is less clear. In terms of the authority of the Bible you still didn't provide an answer to the specific questions. Aren't there verses of the Bible with some pretty straightforward commandments which for some reason or another Christians don't consider binding?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 15, 2008 01:07 AM (Ev9kD)

45 Straightforward commandments to a specific group of people for a specific time. What's necessary (as I mentioned before) is to understand what is being said in it's context, rather than grabbing passages out of Jewish civil law (the 'selling your daughter into slavery' passages in Exodus, for example, that people love to quote and snicker about) and trying to apply them to modern society. There's a Biblical principal that people tend to ignore. It's the idea of actually thinking about the setting of a passage and trying to determine what was being said to them at that time, and then trying to apply that to today. Simply pulling proof texts out of context and trying to justify whatever you want to do is poor hermeneutics and is unfaithful to the Bible. So yes, the Bible is authoritative. And yes, most Christians take it seriously, and know that we can learn from God's Word to the Israelites without believing that we're allowed to sell family members into slavery to pay off debts, or adhere to Mosaic dietary laws (see Peter in Acts for Scripture on that one) which were intended to keep people healthy in an age before refrigeration and proper food storage techniques.

Posted by: Warren at May 15, 2008 07:24 AM (Y0tXa)

46 Ok, then we are using words differently. I would say that since most Christians don't follow the Mosaic dietary code, then those Biblical passages which detail those rules are not considered "authoritative". And "authoritative" is different from informative. Also, the Bible doesn't say anything about the dietary code being about health and refrigeration.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 15, 2008 09:35 AM (Ev9kD)

47 No, the Bible doesn't talk about refrigeration, since it hadn't been invented yet. Doesn't cover a lot of things, but we can apply it to modern circumstances quite easily, if we look beyond literal application to find out what the point was, what God was trying to teach people, and use that. Modern scholarship, which is rarely unified on anything, is almost unanimous in the treatment of the dietary laws especially as relating to health concerns. Even the Law is authoritative. It's authority comes from showing us God's standards, and how far short we fall. It shows us why we need grace; it convicts us of our sins. If the Law is considered iron-clad, why did Jesus break it? He ate and worked on the Sabbath, after all, and the Pharisees were right -- in a strict interpretation of the Law. Jesus' point was that the Law is not what we think it is; it's not simply a set of rules. It's an illustration of how high God's standards are, and how impossible it is for us to meet those standards without His help.

Posted by: Warren at May 15, 2008 04:51 PM (Y0tXa)

48 This is is starting to digress from our original subject but I think that even though both Islam and Judaism are law-based and have a rich set of commandments, they don't have to be legalistic. So in terms of Jesus' own observance, what you write above seems to be a bit bizzare. You seem to be arguing that the law is not iron-clad and that Jesus actually broke the law. (But if he did, doesn't that mean he sinned? And then he couldn't be the pure unblemished lamb?) Personally, I would try to appreciation for Torah obsevance. I think Christians don't give Jews (or the Torah) enough credit. Matthew 5 [17] "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. (Also, eating isn't prohibited on the Sabbath) but even in those situations where he allegedly breaks the Sabbath rule, Jesus doesn't say "Yeah, I brok the rule. What! What!" Instead he explains and justifies his behavior in terms of Jewish law. Matt.12 [1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. [2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath." [3] He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: [4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [5] Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? As I said, Islam and Judaism are actually law-based but more flexible than you probably appreciate. Most rules are going to have exceptions and special cases *within* the law. Jesus doesn't teach that the law is impossible to fulfill and is meant to fill us with hopelessness before God. That's something that comes from Paul, not Christ. ACtually, if you read Psalm 119 that would be an even clearer example of how Paul breaks away from what came before. In Paul's eyes, the law is a curse while the Psalmist describes the law as joy, delight and life.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 15, 2008 09:24 PM (Ev9kD)

49 Jesus taught that even attitudes and thoughts break the law. If you've ever lusted, you've committed adultery, for example. By those standards, it is impossible to keep the law perfectly. (Incidentally, I appreciate the Jewish law and traditions a lot more than you give me credit for. Just because I disagree with them doesn't mean that I can't appreciate them. One of my pet peeves is the lack of attention that many Christians pay to the Old Testament.) I don't think the law is meant to fill us with hopelessness. I think it's meant to fill us with a sense of where we are in relation to God, and to drive us toward saving faith. I agree with David; I rejoice in knowing that God is holy, and has standards, and has made a way for us to meet those standards.

Posted by: Warren at May 15, 2008 09:41 PM (Y0tXa)

50 But the thing that many Christians don't get is that the old law already has allowances for people's shortcomings. The could already repent, turn to God and find forgiveness. That's what practicing Jews do when they sin.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 16, 2008 06:05 AM (Ev9kD)

51 Sin requires a payment -- that's the point of the OT sacrificial system. Simply saying "OOPS -- sorry" doesn't cut it. The thing with that system is that it was like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound -- it didn't solve the problem. The bleeding may stop, but the bullet is still there. Forgiveness was given when the sacrifices were made. And the same sacrifices were made repeatedly, because the same sins were made repeatedly, and nothing changed. Christ offers us freedom from that vicious circle. Only He has the power to change our nature. Do Christians still sin? Sure. But the penalty for all that sin was paid, and we've been given the grace we need to live according to God's standards. We don't have to do the same things over and over again -- we're set free from the bondage of sin. We've traveled a long way from the social gospel, though, haven't we?

Posted by: Warren at May 16, 2008 02:50 PM (Y0tXa)

52 Did Jesus have to be an "unblemished" sacrifice in order for the payment to be valid and how does that fit in with your claim that he disobeyed the sabbath commandments?

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 20, 2008 01:30 AM (Ev9kD)

53 Yes, He did, and He was. He disobeyed what people thought the Sabbath commandments said, but not what they did say -- I wasn't really clear on what I was trying to say, I guess. He broke the letter of the Pharisee's interpretation of the law, but not the Law as God gave it. He was the "fulfillment" of the Law. "By "the law" is meant the moral law, as appears from the whole discourse following: this he came not to "destroy", or loose men's obligations to, as a rule of walk and conversation, but "to fulfill" it; which he did doctrinally, by setting it forth fully, and giving the true sense and meaning of it; and practically, by yielding perfect obedience to all its commands, whereby he became "the end", the fulfilling end of it" Even under the sacrificial system, the sacrifice had to be without blemish -- the best there was. Christ was provided to be the best there could be -- the perfect sacrifice for an infinite amount of sin.

Posted by: Warren at May 20, 2008 04:28 PM (Y0tXa)

54 Left something out -- I quoted Gill in my previous comment, but Albert Barnes probably has a better idea of what "fulfillment" was: "To complete the design; to fill up what was predicted; to accomplish what was intended in them. The word “fulfill” also means sometimes “to teach” or “to inculcate,” Col_1:25. The law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. See the notes at Heb. 9. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God, “A sacrifice of nobler name. And richer blood than they.” The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his life and his sufferings."

Posted by: Warren at May 20, 2008 04:30 PM (Y0tXa)

55 Then I would "agree" with you that Jesus came to exemplify how to follow the law, the Torah. But instead of the Pauline notion where the Law is impossible to keep, I think he taught that the law is flexible enough to be kept. And if you slip and fall from time to time, you can repent and come back.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 20, 2008 07:55 PM (Ev9kD)

56 But Jesus also shows us that the Law is about our attitudes -- keeping even our intentions pure. Something that man (whose heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" as the prophet Jeremiah says) cannot do. Jesus did it because of His deity. Jesus doesn't show how to follow the law, He completes the purpose of the law, and calls men to faith in Him. He is THE Way, THE Truth.

Posted by: Warren at May 20, 2008 09:46 PM (Y0tXa)

57 I think you are right that Jesus talked about people's intentions. I also think that you can also find practicing Jews who are are also not cartoonishly legalistic and will also look at intentions. I think that even in the Old Testament the prophets didn't just look at the external aspects of the law but matters of the heart: Psalm 51 [16] For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. [17] The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. or Micah 6: 6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before theexalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a yearold? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to lovemercy and to walk humbly with your God." or Hosea 6:6 For I delight in mercy rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings I would actually suggest that the above provide an interesting and valuable way to look at the crucifixion and its role. God doesn't want sacrifices. It's not about blood. It's about our hearts. (Jesus even quotes this last passage in the gospels).

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 21, 2008 12:04 AM (Ev9kD)

58 Each of those passages points out the importance of obedience from the heart rather than obedience because of ritual. God is rejecting the sacrifices because they aren't sincerely given, not because it's not about blood. Obedience is a matter of faith, not simply doing something good to get you favor. The problem is, as Jeremiah mentions, we are deceitful above all things. Our intentions aren't pure. Our motivations aren't pure. What is needed is a total change of nature. That's what Christ provides. We aren't able to do justly OR to love mercy OR to walk humbly with our God in our present condition. There has to be change. Interesting that now it's about our hearts -- earlier it was about our works. Have you changed your mind about the social gospel?

Posted by: Warren at May 21, 2008 08:11 PM (Y0tXa)

59 In terms of these discussions, the main position I've been trying to defend is the idea that God's mercy and approval isn't limited to confessional Christianity. So to be honest, THAT's my main criticism of Sola Fide. I don't have any problem with the idea that God looks at the heart and that repentant sinners without "works" can be saved. But the problem is the ease with which some Christians could say that all non-Christians are going to hell. But going back to the above, those Old Testament still seem pretty clear to me. "I desire mercy, NOT sacrifice". It seems weird that you would look at that and then say "actually God really does want blood"

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 21, 2008 10:58 PM (Ev9kD)

60 Then why did God institute the sacrificial system to begin with? A payment for sin is required. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of that requirement. So faith is important, it just doesn't matter what that faith is in? That makes no sense either. If sincerity is all that counts, then everybody gets in. This is the one problem I have with Lewis' Narnia series. In The Last Battle, Aslan lets a "sincere" Telmarine in, counting his devotion to the Telmarines' god as devotion to himself. Sincerity doesn't count for much if you're sincerely wrong.

Posted by: Warren at May 26, 2008 06:35 PM (Y0tXa)

61 I'm also a bit curious -- you state several times that Muslims believe that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus claims to be the Son of God repeatedly, yet one of thing I keep hearing from Muslims is that "there is no God but Allah, and He had no children." If Jesus isn't the Son of God, he was a liar, or a nutjob.

Posted by: Warren at May 26, 2008 06:38 PM (Y0tXa)

62 Why the sacrifices? I'm not sure what's the best way to explain it to you. In Islam there are animal sacrifices (for example, one of the major feast days commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of his own son) but then a major component is that the mean is also donated as a form of charity. The Quran talks about sacrifices this way: [22.37] There does not reach Allah their flesh nor their blood, but to Him is acceptable the guarding (against evil) on your part which is reminiscent of "I require mercy not sacrifice" ..... In terms of your second point, I'm not necessarily saying it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. (Although it might be interesting to note that at least one of the early Christian Fathers, Origen, actually was a Universalist). .... In terms of your question about Jesus, I ultimately wouldn't insist on the accuracy of the Biblical gospels. The Biblical gospels occasionally contain contradictions and there are other ancient gospels which give a more complext picture of what Jesus' positions were.

Posted by: abdul-halim at May 27, 2008 12:10 AM (Ev9kD)

63 Origin was wrong, though I know a few "Christian Universalists/Restorationists" myself. And I was wondering when you'd get around to the "other ancient Gospels" thing. I've always thought it interesting that so many people are fascinated by texts that Christians abandoned centuries ago. Of course, it's nothing new -- the whole thing was debated to death about a hundred years ago, even before the DSS became known. I've seen no real historical evidence that any of the "lost Gospels" are any older or any more accurate than the canonical Gospels -- just a lot of wishful thinking on the part of a lot of people, including some scholars who should know better. So ultimately we agree that it is important what you believe. Our real disagreement is over what you should believe, which isn't really surprising between a Christian and a Muslim.

Posted by: Warren at May 27, 2008 07:35 AM (Y0tXa)

64 Here's some of what I would suggest in terms of the Islamic idea about salvation: http://planetgrenada.blogspot.com/2005/08/no-god-but-god.html http://planetgrenada.blogspot.com/2006/09/moore-organized-religion.html Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 0039: It is narrated on the authority of 'Uthman that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said. He who died knowing (fully well) that there is no god but Allah entered Paradise And I would suggest that knowing "fully well" is a state which would definitely be reflected in ones conduct but it doesn't depend on knowing the outwards names of "Muhammad" or "Jesus" (or "Gautama" or Lao Tzu or Confucius etc. who in the Islamic perspective might also be prophets) In terms of the other Gospels question, I would just turn it around. I would say that the gospels contain a few errors and contradictions so it would be wrong to exagerate their accuracy and treat them as transcripts of reality. Why should the canonical gospels be seen as so special by non-Christians?

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