Believe (in) – Depth of a Term

 “Belief A: 1.You still do the action of believing” (Starfox)Let me clarify this so no one confuses what I mean by the term ‘believe’ as an action and what you seem to be saying in this sentence.

I am not sure believing something is an action as you explain in this sentence. EX: Jesus dies for your sins – that’s an ‘action’; Us believing Jesus died for our sins – is not an ‘action’. But if you think it is an action then you can explain it  – what is it that you do when you ‘believe’ (verb) Jesus died for your sins?

However, I state the very definition of the word ‘believe in’ means both accepting the precept and then following via some ‘action’. EX: Jesus died for my sins – action on Jesus’ part – nothing I can do to add or take away from that – not even ‘confessing’ it does anything more.  I ‘believe in’ Jesus as a follower – the term ‘believe in’ is used as the ‘verb’ (action word) – but belief (mentally) alone is not an action – belief via enacting the teachings (living them) is.

I state uncategorically – mental assertion of a belief alone is not what the biblical view of belief means. I will use John 3 to explain this more and sentence structure.

“Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject” From this site. See example below now.

“For God (subject) so loved (verb) the world (predicate), that He (subject) gave (verb) His only begotten Son (predicate), that whoever (subject) believes in (verb) Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (predicate)” (John 3:16 – additions mine)

3 verbs in there – all of them are actions (since that is what a verb is): ‘Loved’, ‘Gave’, and ‘Believes (in)’. Is ‘love’ pointing to an action of some sort from the gospel narrative? Is ‘gave’ pointing to some action from the gospel narrative? What makes me think that ‘believes (in)’ will not be pointing to an ‘action’?

“But he (subject) who practices (verb) the truth comes to the Light (predicate), so that his deeds (subject) may be manifested (verb) as having been wrought in God (predicate).” (John 3:21)

Verse 21 sums up my position very well about our responsibility with ‘believe (in)’. The first sentence says ‘practices (the truth)’…that’s the verb and it is a word we have no confusion about. Practice is a very action orientated word – like practicing basketball or skating to get better at it. In this case it is the ‘truth’ we are practicing – which one could easily see is the sayings – or we practice the teachings to ‘come to the light’.

Second part of the verse backs this first point up. Subject is ‘(your/his) deeds’ – which is basically the same word as…works. The verb is ‘manifested’ and the predicate is ‘as having been wrought (worked) in God’. The point of that last sentence is the things you do find their basis in what was taught about God. This is what it both means to ‘believe in’ God and acknowledge our actions emanating from God.

Is it just me or does this make sense?

Symbolic Language & Literalism

Recently we have been going into some depth about the use of literary ideas in the scriptures – namely how much symbolism is used. I am going to try something here – pick a few random chapters in scripture – and see if I can find symbolism being used.

Luke 12

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (vs.1)

“And He told them a parable” (vs.16)

“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit” (vs. 35)

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!” (vs. 49)

Ephesians 6

“Put on the full armor of God” (vs. 11)

“Stand firm therefore, hag girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 14)

“shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (vs. 15)

“shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (vs. 16)

“take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit” (vs. 17)

1 Peter 2

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word” (vs. 2)

“living stone…you also, as living stones” (vs. 4 + 5)

“a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’ (vs. eight)

“out of darkness into His marvelous light” (vs. 9)

“fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (vs. 11)

“die to sin and live to righteousness” (vs. 24)

“continually straying like sheep” (vs. 25)

To be perfectly honest – namely in Peter – there was so much examples of this metaphorical idea it was hard to know where exactly to draw a line. However, I think I did a fair job – and Luke 12 contained like 3 parables in the whole chapter – I mentioned it once.

What is worth noting is that symbolism bolsters the idea being mentioned – via comparison to some other idea or actual symbol. However, it also leaves us quite open to varying interpretations and what some of that stuff means. This is where we kind of have to be more studious in looking at those passages and seeing what is being said.

Examples:

(a) I have come to cast a fire upon earth – Now we know Jesus wasn’t an arsonist – so what is he saying there?

(b) Shield of faith – we know Christians were not dressed as Roman soldiers – so what does that image say?

(c) Die to sin and live to righteousness – literal? Are you dead yet? I am not sure of the exact type of phrase this is – but I think it’s symbolic. Still – what does it mean to ‘die’ to ‘sin’?

This is the point of the use of symbolic language and metaphors – to say something – and sometimes it requires some real work to dig out all that is being said and how this relates to our faith. I could of went to the Tanakh for more instances – but I checked one single Psalm and I didn’t want to mess that up at all (but there was a lot of symbolism being used also).

Point being – something doesn’t have be literal to have a deep meaning – or even to contain some truth.  

The Temple of God & Us

I Cor 6:19

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 

I Cor 3:16 

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 

2 Cor 6:16 

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? 

What is the temple? 

In Judaism, the ancient Hebrew texts refer not to temples, the word having not existed yet, but to a “sanctuary”, “palace” or “hall”. (The Jerusalem temples were called Beit Hamikdash, the Holy House or more commonly, Beth El (the House of God) or Beth YHWH (the House of YHWH)). (Wikipedia) 

The 3 quotes all come from Pauline works and, oddly enough, are all framed as questions. The idea seems to be quite simple – the Spirit of God dwells in the temple – and in each case the temple is our human bodies. Paul seems to make this case for one simple reason – infidelity or immorality of those temples – and your body should be used to glorify God – not shame Him. 

(a) 1 Cor 3 is a whole chapter on the confusion of the Corinthian people (and ensuing problems) with belonging to “Paul, Cephas, or Apollo’ and which school of thought was most respected.  

(b) By 1 Cor 6 we see a whole new set of problems being addressed but it basically has to do with making a fool of God via immorality. People are taking one another to court, there seems to be a problem with adultery, and other varying ‘sins’ – which seem to be rampant enough for Paul to write a letter about.  

(c) In 2 Cor 6 we see Paul talking about idols and the temple – basically people in Corinth being involved in acts with people not of the faith – basically allowing the culture of the time to dictate their moves and not their teachings. 

If we are the temple of God (metaphor) – I think Paul is simply addressing the idea of acting immorally as a representative of God (your faith). The temple idea, for me, seems like a partnership of sorts – between you and God. You help adorn the temple or help to destroy it – only via immoral actions against other people – which disgraces you to others and the very name of your God. Paul also makes it personal – you are the temple – by which he signifies a responsible morality with others is ‘up to you’ as the sole residing priest (meeting with God).  

But we hear this passage used for a lot of other ideas – like smoking and using the body for tattoos. Recently, I have heard it used for being anti-abortion. Maybe your personal temple does signify these things – I don’t know – but the passage does not inherently say that – what it says is ‘you decide your morality in communion with God’ (sharing that temple you know?).

The Road Got Narrow Somewhere…

***Also borrowed from Shane Vanderhart’s ‘Christ Alone’ blog 

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:12-14)

Prior to Matthew 7:13-15 we have 2 chapters of teachings and one verse prior (vs. 12) we see this “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets’ (summing up Jesus’ whole view of his faith – which was Jewish and based on the Law and Prophets).

Oddly enough, Jesus narrows down a whole 39 books to one sentence – wow! So what does narrow mean in that exact passage? Could it be something very foundational to his idea of faith – something he teaches against quite regularily in the gospels – maybe faith needs to be made simpler so everyone can be involved? It would seem the current view of faith was well known but also quite complex – and it this was common knowledge. Maybe there is few there be that find out religion is not something that needs to be supremely complex and filled with 100’s of rules.

The false prophets things brings us into a point I am trying to make all along – Jesus wants us to ‘follow him’ (theme of Matthew) and this means his teachings.

By verse 23 we see Jesus casting out people who thought they knew him – quite intricately knew him it seems – but they did not know him…their lone problem – ‘lawlessness/unrighteousness’ – the same point of the fruits of parable (vs. 16-20). Then we move into the foundations (vs. 24-29) and we see something odd – what makes the foundation (or one could say a righteousness)? – listening to and following/doing Jesus’ teachings. It seems quite plain to me – Jesus is clearly asking us to acquainte ourselves with his sayings (to do them) and thus build our faith in way that is ‘wise’. Some did not – in this parable, nor in the fruit parable, or even those that claimed to know him – all coming back to one simple idea – to follow Jesus (ie: be Christian) is to incorporate his teachings ‘proving’ to Jesus you do ‘know him’.

There is no simple salvation idea in chapter 7 – Jesus seems to be asking his followers to be a certain ‘way’.

The Salvation Calculation

***Comments borrowed from Shane Vanderhart’s blog ‘Christ Alone’.  

sounds like my faith is different from yours” (Starfox)

So if we both claim to follow Christ one of us might not be? Is this country club faith or real faith we are talking about here? I may not fit into your neat little Christian mold – that doesn’t quite make my belief in Christ less than or greater than yours.

Exclusivity – if it is part of the body of the Christ – will also help to define it on some level (this attitude is the key to why there is over 100 denominations and a very divided body of Christ). I have to think Christ wasn’t as exclusive as we want to think – cause he would not teach us this ideal to his body’s very dismay?

Also if Jesus is exlcusive then it stands to reason he is also selective…is Jesus selective regarding who can and can’t be saved?

because “Jesus professing” doesn’t always mean “Jesus following.”” (Starfox)

I have looked into this idea with a microscope on the term ‘believe’ and I agree with this premise.

that is through trusting faith in Jesus (the Way) alone to save and keep you saved and repentance of sins while asking forgivness from God the Father.” (Starfox)

(a) Jesus in 14:1 says something kind of strange – ‘believe in God and/(kai) believe also in me’. The word ‘kai’ actually seperates the sentence into believing in 2 identities. Now Jesus clears this up later in the chapter mind you – saying the ideas line up between God and himself – but that first line funny enough shows the term ‘belief’ used not solely of one person.

(b) Jesus is the ‘way’ – I agree – but the strength of your belief is that if I simply believe in Jesus and accept his salvation – then I am saved (or maybe not – since you don’t think this is assured?). To me that kind of shallows out what it truly means to ‘believe’ in someone.

Jesus mentions aspects of belief in John 14 and what this ‘way’ is all about – following his teachings (vs. 15, 21, 23, 24, 26). I think to truly believe (or even love) Jesus is to follow his teachings and that alone is quite enough. Acceptance of his sacrifice is about as important as acceptance of yourself being a sacrifice – since Jesus followed a path and asked us to trod behind him (pick up the cross and follow me idea). I think the teachings of God are the path as taught by Jesus.

(c) You seem to think salvation is not secured – why? Someone can lose their salvation – which you freely admit we have no control over making happen (not via works) – yet we have control over losing it (via works)? This is quite the hopeless jargon to be honest – can’t be quite sure I am going to heaven as much as I am not sure I am going to hell. I am not sure this idea concerning salvation is logical.

Just because someone claims Jesus is their savior doesn’t mean they are trusting in Him” (Starfox)

True – but how can you be so sure your denomination is not one of the one’s with the fallacy of the 100’s? You say salvation is not by works – just so we don’t boast about it right – yet in your calculation of accepting Jesus’ sacrifice we see works in action. You have to say the prayer and accept or the sacrifice is no good – counts for nothing – no matter how much Jesus loved someone.

Yet now we see you saying you cannot lose your salvation (He paid the FULL price for all sins past, present, and future) – since this is consistent with a more faith based idea. Problem there simply is it chalks faith up to a one time event – we accept – and then nothing else matters afterwards (can’t be lost). So basically we have to be involved in the salvation event irregardless – and for you – that is via accepting the sacrifice (something we do to earn it).

Hell.” (Starfox)

Since you seem to have a good judicial hold of this whole scenario of salvation – how many do you predict of the 6 billion on the planet are going to hell in each generation?

He was the sacrifce for our sins and therefore made Himself the Way to God.” (Starfox)

So if I simply follow the formula to salvation I am saved: I just say the prayer – accept the sacrifice of the Christ – and then I recieve the just reward of heaven? Since it all resides in one person’s actions and requires nothing of me – neat…and since there is nothing keeping me bound to the faith – cannot lose something I did not work to attain – read the next paragraph.

Thankfully I have done this back in 1993 (so either way I am covered) and I am not so doctrinally boxed in to believe this is even remotely accurate and nor do I have to. The logic is full of holes and requires nothing of us in regards to following Jesus’ teachings – which mind you – in John are proof we actually love God. So by the salvation calculation one could be on his way to heaven and not even love God…now that is too priceless.

To me, the idea of following Christ is a lot more deeper than some salvation calculation which lets one pretend they follow Jesus via association. What really needs to be associated with the Christ is ‘the way’ we live our daily lives.

The Issue of Idolatry

I have recently heard an old arguement in Christian circles about this idea of what the definition of idolatry means. So let’s break this down and get to the root of this.

The Arguement

Idolatry is being loosely defined by certain Christian groups as something a person is spending an inappropriate amount of time on that isn’t God (ex: too much tv or video games). The idea is the person ‘worships’ the thing over and above God whether person,  thing, or even an action.  

Wikipedia (etymology)

The word idolatry comes from the Greek word eidololatria, a compound of eidolon, “image” or “figure”, and latreia, “worship”. Although the Greek appears to be a loan translation of the Hebrew phrase avodat elilim, which is attested in rabbinic literature (e.g., bChul., 13b, Bar.)…the Greek word is found only in the letters of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation, where it has a derogatory meaning. Hebrew terms for idolatory include avodah zarah (foreign worship) and avodat kochavim umazalot (worship of planets and constellations).

In today’s context, idolatry is not limited to concept of religion however more of a social phenomena where the society creating false-image perceptions of its people and worshipping these images.

Problem

In the actual definitions of idolatry from both Greek and Hebrew the idea seems to be worshipping things that are supposed to represent a god (via image or figure). Never is idolatry used as the worship of something someone does too much – we can call that addiction but I am not sure that is idolatry.

My Conclusion  

However, this is what I heard in some Christian circles as what idolatry also is – spending too much time on something made it an ‘idol’ or an image representing a ‘god’. I went through some passages of the word ‘idol’ in both the Tanakh and NT and I have a hard time finding their loose definition of idol as remotely accurate.

If someone likes listening to music or playing video games a lot – that doesn’t automatically make what they like an ‘idol’. They are not sacrificing things to that idol, they are not setting up monuments, and nor are they actually singing praises to it. They seem to be enjoying the fun these simple things can offer via an Ipod or game system and not much more.

Even by the present context definition the above situation is not idolatry – since the act is not addressed to a ‘person’ and ‘that image’. And even then, when considering music, when do we draw the line of idolatry? That definition presented in Christian circles would almost make idolatry of a person before it ever happens – blurring the lines of what idolatry means in history (including biblically).

Just because you like something does not make it an idol that competes with God. I love music (namely classic rock) but that does not mean the music I like has to compete with God. I don’t devote my time to making images of bands I like, sending them some sacrificial offering, praying to them, or building an altar to Jimmy Page. I simply listen to their music and interact with it (sometimes singing it or even playing it) and it’s fun. For me, they are saying something worth listening to.

Is it just me or is this Christian definition of idolatry lacking?

Selective & Reflective Listening

“Hear then the parable of the sower.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

 The parable of the sower and the various grounds – which does not address the idea of ‘accepting Jesus as your personal saviour’ but accepting the words of the kingdom. What is given is 4 examples of what selective listening is all about.

(1) Character: This person hears the words of the kingdom but not being able to truly find meaning in them – they did not ‘seek’ for understanding – it was basically just more ‘talk’ to them. Selectively they ignore it all and reflectively they do nothing…also Jesus mentions the ‘evil one’ – this person is likely bogged down in some level of law-breaking and see’s no need to hear something calling them out of that.

(2)  Contentent: The second person is very selective of the words of kingdom – wanting only to hear the ‘good things’ of the faith and those are what they will reflect on. It reminds me of someone that is always has to portray themselves as joyful – even to the point of faking it – or even those that will not look at the tough questions in the faith. This faith is all about joy and happiness and that’s it. These people reject the words of the kingdom when it comes to ideas of learning via suffering/mistakes, people dislike you, or standing up for justice in the face of hatred. It’s also one of the passages that addresses the idea of ‘peer pressure’.

(3) Kingdoms: The third person, for all intensive purposes of the 21st Century, is someone who has a love for money and things – ties the kingdoms together? The words of the kingdom are presented to them but they selectively want to filter that through their ‘greed’ and reflect upon how this can make them get ‘more’ of both kingdoms. The term used is ‘choked’ – they believe the idea of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of our world systems can be lined up – so this one takes a while to let go off. In the end, greed/selfishness win out and make the person ‘unfruitful’ – even if they are the best business person of all time. So what is the fruit?

(4) The Way: The last person listens to words and seeks to understand the depth they contain – so much so – they even find uses for them (action). They are not selective about the ideas presented but reflective about the ideas presented – knowing that to find out what they can mean – also means to study (understand them). These people produce fruit in various levels but nonetheless they are active in that process of producing. Again what is the fruit?

This parable is not about trying to determine who is part of this faith but who is adhering to words of God and what that means to them. A few questions though: (a) what is the ‘fruit’ in relation to hearing the word? Why in the 3 problems do we see issues of character, contentment, and money? Is the true lesson of this story about the selectivity of people of the faith to hear what we want? Is there words of God that you reflected on that have made your life more meaningful?