Question on the Purpose of Scripture

Recently, over at HeisSailing’s blog Jennypo, Heather, and I got into some deep discussion about the purpose of the scriptures, even the Christ. Here is a blog worthy of some deep discussion.

“I think Christ came that we might have a better understanding of what it really means ‘to love our neighbor’ – and this entails a lot of things – none of the least about ‘loving ourselves’ (or how can one ‘love their neighbor’ if they never know ‘love’ themselves? Also the whole law and prophets hinge on something similar ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – which requires some serious self-introspection). ” (SocietyVs)

“The Bible’s thesis on Jesus’ purpose in coming into the world is clear: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10); “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:47); “…he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16); “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)”. He didn’t come to teach us, or to show us. He came to be one of us, so that he could take our death, the death sentence that passed to us when Adam and Eve chose sin instead of God. (Jennypo)

“Many of his disciples called him Rabbi, and he used parables to get his message across, which is a teaching tool. Because you can save a person from sin by teaching them, or showing them the way. Yes, the crucifixion was necessary, because no one really ‘got it’ until they saw Jesus resurrected. But if it only took the crucifixion, then I don’t think Jesus would’ve spent three years teaching. ” (Heather)

“Or that we might ‘have life, and at that abundately’. But life involves everyone around us also (the whole ‘no person is an island’ idea) and for life to be something on par with what God see’s us as – well this takes a lot of sacrifice on our parts – and turning from an ‘old idea’ to a ‘new idea’ – renewal of the mind – and seeing that we effect every single person around us (either for the betterment or worseness of the single event) – so we have some honest and sincere living to do (in love of our lives and in the love of others). ” (Societyvs)

So what do you think – what is the purpose of the scriptures and the Christ? I mean we do have quite a bit of information on Jesus’ teachings (from disciples) and if the cross is the only meaning – are we missing more of the story? You tell me, what purpose do you see in those scriptures?

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Me and Myself – Honesty & Brutality & Changes

I live quite the mixed up life (or so it would seem) and let me do some literal garbage dumping of character. This is a good personal exercise and I do it for the reader’s benefit – ‘I just wanna know if I am pulling people closer’ (Steve Taylor) – so one, two, three, get ready to ‘stone’ me…this is really who I am.

Why write any of this? Well, I want to be honest I have very little to hide. I actually prefer hanging out with ‘the world’ and having some drinks in their presence – and possibly be an encouraging word to a dis-couraging world (for some). I do not liberally break all the rules that I believe because I go out and meet with people who ‘do not have faith’ – actually had a great convo with an atheist last night, a chief’s son, and discussed my grandfather (with my cousin).

I am friends with known drug fiends and ‘gang-bangers’, I am a family member to known criminals and drug addicts, I am a friend to people who mock my faith in God (yet I still care about them), I am a friend to people of the gay persuasion (even been to the gay bar handfuls of times), and I genuinely care about the plight of each person (rich, poor, race, sexual preference, ethics, etc – these things are just the ‘way it is’).

I do not check my ethics at the door either – if I drink I drink to my own damnation – so be assured of that. I don’t get into physical altercations (but have broken up many), I have never cheated on my wife (yet opportunity isn’t that hard to find), I do not back illogical ethics and support causes that are outright damnable by law (ex: drug selling or prostitution), I stick up for my friends and encourage them when they are down (some even to the point of depression), I reserve judgment and respect people for their stories and lives, I do not participate in gossip (yet I do hear a lot of it), I don’t push any belief I have on anyone but I share when asked.

Sad fact, every murder in this city this year I either knew the murdered, knew one of the murderers, or had a family member involved in some way (ex: kid just murdered and my brother did the wake). I am not going into the most safe of situations (namely where gangs and drug dealers are). I don’t care though – who else is going there and being any kind of encouragement whatsoever to those people? Maybe I am stupid (of this there is no doubt) but I care about ‘my people and their plight’. Is there a better way to do this – probably – but these same people in fearful scenarios just might need someone to speak with or get things off their chest – and I hear some doozies (still never dis-respect confidentialites). And you know what – I feel good doing it – I feel good with our mutual respect one for another – I feel good about them and I let them know they are ‘worth something’ at least in my eyes – and I feel good for the honesty that a drunk can share (or spill from their inner core).

I’d rather be judged by you – than have lost their respect. I am a hypocrite to our most common beliefs – I am not saying I am generally a ‘good person’ – I am actually not all the good of person in a lot of more righteous people’s eyes – and they just may be right (I don’t doubt that). I swear, I joke very excessively about dirty issues, I have driven drunk before, I smoke, I drink (and don’t mind being drunk)…you be the judge. Actually, if truth be told, I can be your neighbor or your cell-mate depending on how one wants to view me (I have a lot in common with the lowest common denominators in society – moreso than with the highest common held values in society -ex: I understand why kids join gangs or why someone might be violent – I don’t quite understand the perspective of rich people and well to do families).

In case you don’t know me that well – I also was a thief as a kid and in trouble with the law and came from a tough community and abusive life – none of which I think God forgets or forgot. I probably self-identify more with the song below than any Christian number I can name – But hey, ‘thats just the way it is’.

“I got love for my brother but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other, We gotta start makin’ changes learn to see me as a brother instead of 2 distant strangers, and that’s how it’s supposed to be how can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me? I’d love to go back to when we played as kids but things changed, and that’s the way it is”

“Take the evil out the people they’ll be acting right’ cause both black and white is smokin’ crack tonight and only time we chill is when we kill each other it takes skill to be real, time to heal each other”

“But some things will never change try to show another way but you stayin’ in the dope game, Now tell me what’s a mother to do bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you, You gotta operate the easy way”I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way, sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,”Well hey, well that’s the way it is”

“And still I see no changes can’t a brother get a little peace, It’s war on the streets & the war in the Middle East. Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me. And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do…But tell the cops they can’t touch this, I don’t trust this when they try to rush I bust this. That’s the sound of my tool you say it ain’t cool but my mama didn’t raise no fool”

(Excerpts from Changes by 2Pac – I song I admire to the Nth degree)

Oh man, I said too much – or have I said enough?

Me & My Mormons – honesty and brutality

I just had the Mormons (4 of them) over for a 3rd visit and man did I lay siege at some of the foundational strongholds – in the way of kind and polite questioning and discussion. I obliged and watched their ‘faith in Christ’ video which only contained biblical ideals and no ‘book of Mormon ideals’ (I was like any church could of made that video).

Then we started discussing issues. I started in with the 13 articles of faith and how they barely believe differently than any normal church-goer (oh they didn’t like that idea). We then got into praying about the faith as the basis for having faith – which makes no sense whatsoever (call it ‘blind faith’). I said if I pray and get ‘no answer’ then what – or worse yet ‘no’? They said some crap to the point of the satan fooling me and I should be more ‘sincere’ (I was like okay this is going nowhere). We then got into my 20 questions about the Mormon faith and they were toughies.

Some examples are:

(a) Is the Mormon church in danger of ‘apostasy’ (which they claim happened to the original church)? Well I pointed out 3 splinter groups within Utah alone. They agreed it can happen but isn’t currently happening – still it did happen.

(b) Semantics: I touched base on this but if you ever read the book of Mormon you will see a strange thing for people that believe the KJV as the only version they’ll read. Some passages contain what it seems are ‘errors’ – ‘ye’ and ‘you’ in the same passage (or old english and modern english in the same sentence).

(c) Atonement: If Christ died ‘once for all’ then is salvation a ‘free gift’ or not? They admitted straight to my face ‘it is not a free gift’. Okay – so we can earn a place on one of their 3 heavens – cool.

(d) Kingdoms of Glory: Apparently they use 1 Cor 15:41 as a basis for the Celestial, Terrestial, and Telestial kingdoms (from the KJv of course) but in context that makes no sense in the least. Also it is mentioned one time in scriptures then – how is that even reliable? Oh I just had to say something when a verse is betrayed and context isn’t considered. But good news for all of us, we will make into one the heavens kingdoms – which raised an even worse question. How can heaven stand if it is divided within itself? Apparently there is no division – just 3 kingdoms in one (lol).

(e) Trinity: They actually taught me God is 3 seperate people and God has skin and bones (just like us). I guess they all rule a seperate kingdom (lol).

(f) Ethics: If God commanded you to do something unethical – would you obey? Apparently Nephi (see example 3) is told to kill a drunk person (Laban) and chop off his head – and he does. Is this something God might ask of any Mormon? Oh they wanted to chop my head off for that question.

(g) Doctrines and Covenants 132: I questioned if everything in D&C 132 is true – they said yes. Well two things in there are: men becoming gods (v.15-20) and polygamy (v.58-66). I said is polygamy still okay then? They said ‘no’. Then it led to this next point in (h).

(h) Prophets: Can a prophet change the words of the last prophet? They said ‘yes’. Well then god is just double-minded ain’t he? It’s a total logical trap for them – either they say ‘no’ and they agree with polygamy then – or they say ‘yes’ and Smith was lied to by God (I guess) – or maybe a 3rd alternative – the prophets are humans that make mistakes (also against the articles of faith).

(i) Joseph Smith: How many wives did he have? I had 4 Mormons here that could not agree as to the exact number – one said 1, another said 2, and the eldest said he had 1 wife but many other women (on the side I guess)….he was in quite the bind as his wife sat beside him as he asnwered (lol).

(j) Question I will ask next time: If the KJV is the only version to use – why then was it created by an apparent apostate church in the 17th century? Wouldn’t that be corrupt also?

I give it up to http://www.lds4u.com/ for all of the info I have recieved. This dude is getting an e-mail of congrats from me for the great questions (an ex-Mormon and missionary). Maybe I’ll even start a dialogue with him.

As for me, yes they are coming back on Monday for another round – even when I told them the questions only get harder (lol). I’ll attend their services and what not (when I get a chance) – since irregardless of these weird beliefs – I still respect their ethics and lives.

Passover – should we celebrate this yearly?

Passover – should we re-instate this Jewish ceremony from the Exodus as a ceremony of Christianity? Timothy over at Gracehead thinks so – me I am not so sure – but I do believe I will throw this idea to the congregation. Here is some scriptural excerpts about the idea.

“The Bible specifies the yearly observance of the Passover, and history records its annual celebration as the practice of the early Church. Passover, as a memorial of Jesus’ death, is to be observed annually…just as all of the other annual festivals are to be kept once a year. Neither Jesus Christ nor the apostles indicated that we should change…any of God’s festivals. Following their example, we should observe the Passover at the beginning of the evening of the 14th day of the first month (Abib or Nisan) of the Hebrew calendar.” (Timothy)

“During His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus explained that this celebration has significant implications for the future as well. In Matthew 26:29” (Timothy)

“Bible writers later explained that the annual Passover observance symbolized Christ. Paul referred to Christ as “our Passover” (1 Cor 5:7), and John recorded that John the Baptist recognized Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17)! Only the laws found in ordinances were nailed to the cross of Christ (Eph. 2:15).” (Timothy)

“Paul told the Gentiles to keep Passover and how to keep it in 1 Cor. chapter 11, due to their lack of comprehension. The first-century congregation of Corinth did not understand the significance of the Passover. They observed it “in an unworthy manner,” not “discerning the Lord’s body” (verses 27 and 29); they did not comprehend its real meaning…Paul warned the Corinthians they could be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” and if they failed to properly judge themselves they would be “eat[ing] and drink[ing] judgment” to themselves (verses 27, 29). Paul took the Passover ceremony seriously. His warning makes it clear that Christians should not only observe what Christ commanded, but should understand the meaning of eating the bread and drinking the wine at the Passover service.” (Timothy)

“It is vital that we understand the intent behind Jesus Christ’s commands concerning the Passover. Christ said that unless we (symbolically) eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us (John 6:53). It is that important. Once each year, on the anniversary of the night on which one of Jesus’ own disciples betrayed Him, Christians should recall and contemplate the meaning of Christ’s death through the observance of the Passover service (1 Cor 11:26). Paul told the Corinthian members that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). The Passover service commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. By participating in the service, we personally proclaim the death of our Savior (1 Cor 11:26). We acknowledge that His dying paid the death penalty for us (Eph 5:2).” (Timothy)

My response: No debate…just obey and do? Whoa horsey…even the council of the early church discussed this idea in detail (Acts 15)…concerning the Law of Moses and Gentile faith.

What happened to be the problem in Acts 15? (1) circumcision and faith (v.1) (2) Observe the law of Moses (v.5) – which I have to believe the 7 celebrations come from.

Answer? (acts 15: 28-29) (1) “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: (1) that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and (2) from blood and (3) from things strangled and (4) from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

And these are all Peter, James, and John laid on Paul, Barnabas, and Silas to teach the Gentiles about the ‘law of Moses’. Top that off, Paul questions the first mandate in his letters on the basis of the freedom of the believer.

So what do you think…re-instate the Passover? Or is this again some choppy biblical exegesis?

Define the ‘Christian’ movement?

Just what is the defining values of the ‘Christian’ faith? Ever ask yourself a question like that? If you had to get to the heart of your faith – what would be the paradigm or the outline? How would you relate this to others?

I think the Christian faith hinges on a phrase something like this ‘the word become flesh’. It has many aspects to consider but one aspect for me stands out – the words of God manifesting themselves (or itself) in human form. I like the idea that John is telling us something about the gospel here that is very relevant to us.

I would say what good is ‘faith without works’ (from James 2:14) – or that belief is simply defined as ‘believing something so as to the act upon it’. That definition has no holes in it. If you truly believe something you will also live by it. James’ argument here is accurate – faith with no works/action = you do not believe it; also ‘faith with works/action’ = you believe it. Jesus lays down examples of this all the time in the 4 gospels and almost every parable hinges on this idea – most poignantly the one about the fruit of the trees. What seems to be coming across in the gospels in a multitude of ways is ‘you need to become the word in the flesh also’.

Now what we have in front of us a bible, with a lot of words in it – but simply put they are just words and nothing more (framed in verses, chapters, books, and letters). Those words are lifeless things, writing on a page in verbs, nouns, adjectives, and sentences – but in and of themselves they do not contain ‘life’. What needs to happen with this literature we have in front of us – we need to read them (hear them) and make them ‘flesh, alive, real, or living’. So just how do words move from a page into our perspectives?

This is where the essence of belief comes into the frame. We choose to believe or not – and that choice is deeply embedded as a central framing for our lives – decision is something that helps to define our logic and outlook on life. Once you make a decision on the words you read you have either chosen to ‘reject’ or ‘select’ what you just read into your world-view. It is right there where the ‘seed’ is planted and the words of God may become flesh (or part of the human mind, heart, soul, and strength). Once you accept it – you began to practice it – then the idea becomes a solidified belief or value (by becoming part of the human experience). What started as a parable or a commandment – now is alive and living again.

This is my definition of the Christian faith, ‘the word becomes flesh’. So when I read ‘do unto others as I would want done unto me’ – then I have a choice to make. Same thing goes for the idea of a ‘good samaritan’, ‘mercy over judgment’, or ‘loving my neighbor’. I can let those words find a footing the human heart and mind or just forget them and keep my old values I had in their place. It is also in this essence we are ‘being born again’ – the loss of one value for another. Also we are ‘following Christ’ and ‘doing these teachings’ by placing it in a real world environment – namely the fabric of our ‘being’. The ‘word become flesh’ is speaking of Christ in John but I also see it as a good framing for our ‘good news’ – who also asks us to ‘be like Christ’.

"Now I Even Forget to Forget" (SNFU)

I was thinking about a convo between HeisSailing and the Moral Science Club about doubt and faith and I said to myself – ‘now that makes a great blog topic’. Top that off, Timothy from Gracehead and I also had a similar one about doubting faith in God.

We have been raised in these Christian enclaves to never doubt God – to ‘keep the faith man’ – even under the most perilous of situations (ie: a good old fashioned stoning). But what if doubt is being taught in the bible also – right beside our utter devotion to God – wouldn’t that be quite the thing huh? Well it is and we need to use it more than ever these days.

Sometimes doubt can be a good thing. For example, in the case of ‘testing the spirits’ and finding out if someone is from God…which seems to be a biblical ethic (usually in the case of prophethood). There is also the ‘wolves amongst sheeps’ idea also to contend with. What it does mean is ‘asking questions and even doubting’ if something does not add up. Case in point is the guy in Texas claiming to be the 2nd coming of Jesus – does that ‘add up’? So we can see a good reason for questioning and for doubt in certain cases. Some would even go so far to say in the process of ‘seeking’ some of these ‘questions of doubt’ can also occur (me being one of them).

I mean let’s be honest we have been told handfuls of things that just don’t add up on the surface: tongues is the seal of the spirit, there is only one true church (and likely your in it), don’t eat with people of the ‘world’, the end can be predicted, etc, etc, etc. Now if those things created doubt about what we were being taught by church authorities, then we have only scratched the surface. Those things lead us to think ‘maybe my pastor or teacher is hiding something or not coming clean on something’…chances are many of us have been here and then began the questions about more core doctrine held by the ‘higher-ups’.

Then we get into the toughies: is the bible without a single error? Is ‘thinking something bad a sin’? How judgmental is God? Does God only love those that love Him (or the elect)? Is revelations a book about prophecies of the ‘end of days’? The list can go on and on. I find nothing wrong with asking these questions and wanting answers that actually ‘make sense’. I have heard many answers to those questions that take every wild turn imaginable. Top that off, you have the questions about more modern ideals which get us asking ‘does the bible even address this’? So you can see the process of asking question and having doubts can result in some people developing a greater love for this faith – or just plain leaving altogether (if the answers are just ‘unsatisfactory’).

I personally don’t ‘tow any denominational line’ nor do I think one brand of faith has the ideals all wrapped up perfectly. Nor do I believe many of the church fathers from many an era have this thing solved – although when we read back they raise some excellent points yet at the same time committ some atrocious activities (ex: Calvin watched some heretics ‘burn at the stake’). So I think we need to each take the time to read these scriptures without the lenses of another – and read scripture in context – and with the idea of what it means to us this day. Now some old countrymen backed slavery (this is a known fact) – but some didn’t (who were they? – likely the ones asking the question ‘where is slavery ever supported by the texts?’). So questions and doubts need to exist – when they don’t – run for the hills.

I think questions and doubts within our faith are a sign of health – they are a sign we are asking questions and may not agree with the current ‘mainstream’ ideals – we want change! How do you think we got a reformation? Some people, namely Luther, decided ‘enough is enough’ – give me the paper and a pen and I’ll nail something to their door they’ll never forget. But now ‘we even forget to forget’. You are only in the Christian denomination you are in because someone changed the norm of what ‘church’ really is.

So when I see someone asking questions I am glad – because we as Christians need to not stop challenging ourselves to bigger and better ideas. What worked for the ‘Jesus Movement’ or ‘Azusa Street’ may not be what God is doing now…just maybe things are a changing again (ex: emergent movement). I would say ‘why not’? I look at a lot of things within current church context that I find just atrocious and not ‘in line’ with what I read in the gospels. I admire the questions and doubts we believers have – they only exist for our benefits. Can you name a time when you were challenged by a new ‘idea’ about theology that basically changed the idea taught within your church? Read Jesus again in Matthew 5-7 – there’s a person that saw a change needed to be made to a system of ‘law’ (without grace). The questions and doubts exist for a reason – but can you figure it out?

Wake Up Call

I am currently reading a book by a Muslim lady called ‘the trouble with Islam’ and I have read 2 chapters thus far and I am loving it. What’s extremely refreshing about the book is the honesty.

I find a lot of her critiques ‘spot on’ and a result of some great ‘question asking’ as a result of being a ‘religious person’ (in this case a Muslim). She raises two questions for herself to ‘come to terms with and find an answer’. And these were some tough critiques she raised about her own faith – I couldn’t help but feel a certain admiration for her stand.

She was not afraid to ask questions concerning the Muslim holy book and certain ‘contradictions’ within the faith – which I find inspiring. She also raised questions about the current state of ‘fatwa’s’ and the way her faith has become ‘unintellectual’. I have only read 2 chapters so far but I really like this woman’s honesty.

It got me thinking – asking questions about the results of what we believe isn’t neccesarily a ‘bad thing’…actually it seems to be quite the opposite. Take any belief – like the idea of salvation. Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves every possible question about what we believe and why? Just what is the extent of this salvation – and is it a here and now idea? I don’t think this will destroy our faith but only make it better – and I am very glad that we can discuss this stuff about our faith quite freely…some don’t seem to be so lucky. I think if we follow rabbinical thought – then we just might be discussing issues of belief from a variety of levels and the depths of what we believe – which makes for a well-rounded belief.

I guess I find less and less a reason for things that don’t impact the ‘here and now present world’. For example, Christ died for our sins (past event), prophetic revelations from John (future or past), and we look towards heaven (future event) – ideas which strongly shape our theology (and they should) – but ever ask ‘how does this relate to my world now – and what is my role in this?’

So faith is always evolving – changing – shifting focus and view – and I think this has always happened and has to happen for our faith to stay relevant. I am not saying ‘take Christ out of the equation or anything radical like that’ but I think we need to re-evaluate some of the things we inherited from Calvin, Luther, Simpson, and Knox (although they were great for their day – maybe they missed the theological mark at times). I read the bible un-aided by their theological motifs and I see things in a very different light – maybe the churches founded on their dogma (from many moons ago) need their faith to be criticized – for growth reasons. Not saying all beliefs need to be challenged – but we need to ask our questions to those beliefs – if not for our own personal well-being – then for responsiblity purpose. What beliefs from the past have you asking the big questions you don’t dare ask other Christians?