Counting Beans, Homes, and Ways

Taken from Confessions of a Seminarian – Confessions of a Christian

“If I said 2 (beans)+2 (beans)=5 (beans), would you be “knocking” me by stating it is in fact, 4 (beans)?” (Brad)

I am guessing this in reference to these claims:

your knock on other religions is something Jesus would frown on” (Luke)

It would be truly unloving of me to deny my fellow sinners a knowledge of the one true God who desires to draw them to Himself” (Mike)

All this in reference to: “The exclusion of “Lord” not only denies the divinity of Jesus, but also denies the exclusivity of Christianity” (Mike)

I think the concept is a lot deeper than a question like ‘does 2+2=5 or 4?’. The question seems to want to deal with math – in which – we find one answer for the question asked. That’s not the same as dealing with teachings/writings – which can have more than 1 definition.

Granted, we are dealing with the salvation calculation (coined by me – lol)…but that’s like saying the way + the truth + the life = Jesus (who also = access to God). That’s a nice calculation per se – but we are dealing a teaching (requires interpretation) and not a math quiz.

The better example to teaching, from the mathematics background, is how math gets used. For example, in building a roof or even the edging of a home – do engineers only pick one single way of incorporating that simple math? Or do they find creative ways for the use of that simple math like rounded edges for the corners of homes or even a roof that is flat instead of cottage/bungalow?

In Engineering, we see that math gets used (which is all the same math principles) in a variety of creative ways to create ‘one home’ or ‘one roof’. Regardless of the differences in the way roofs and homes look – they are all still ‘a roof on a home’ or ‘a wall on a house’ – singular – in a very plural/creative world of houses.

That’s my breakdown of the complexity of exclusivity and using interpretation from a book (John) known for it’s many uses of symbology. ‘I am’ referring to the ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…’ passage from John 14:6 of course. There is not only ‘one way’ of looking at that passage.

There would be only ‘one way’ if Jesus actually said this ‘I am the one/only way, truth, and life…no man comes to God but (literally and not figuratively) through me’. Now how that would look depends on the viewer – I ain’t never walked ‘through’ someone before so I am not sure of how this would look.

Fact is, Jesus is referring to his teachings – which can be boiled down to Love God and Love your neighbor…and anyone can do that. If he is not referring to his teachings but to himself – then why the need for baptism?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19)

Isn’t that kind of strange when all is taken care of already? This is apparently said ‘after the ascension’. All is already finished – except for this baptism thing – and the teachings which are referred to in vs. 20 (and baptism being one of the teachings Jesus knew about and approved – via John’s minsitry). Or is it that we can disregard baptism as a Christian ritual – although Jesus teaches us not to? 

Also, the way ‘where’? To ‘heaven’. Or is there a deeper meaning there for the audience to peruse – like let’s suppose Gentiles are reading this…maybe they see ‘the way’ as the movement with it’s symbols and teachings (oddly enough – this term was also the name of the faith from Acts ‘the Way’).  

If Jesus is ‘the way’ then we must be referring to ‘his teachings’ and not just the ‘life’ of the person (which encompasses all 3 parts of the John 14:6 sentence). Life/living is 1/3, seeking (truth mining/study) is 1/3, and acknowledging the path to God is in the teachings (which are not from us) is 1/3.

That’s another way I am looking at that simple math equation which when digested – lets us know math is more fun than we want to admit. I just found like 3 ways of looking at that passage – in a matter of minutes – but that’s literature for you.

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37 thoughts on “Counting Beans, Homes, and Ways

  1. “Isn’t that kind of strange when all is taken care of already? ”

    That’s kinda both missing the point, and more “on point” than you realize.

    Romans 6 talks about baptism being the “inclusion” into the act that “took care of (it) already” (Jesus’ atonement… I know, another hot topic). That is why Jesus includes it in the Great Commission in Matthew: it is not JUST the teachings we are to spread, but the inclusion into the Covenant made by His atonement. The Baptism in John’s ministry was a foreshadowing into the baptism of Jesus’ ministry and the Pentecost. That the apostles baptized following the confession of belief (Acts), links the two (belief and baptism into the death of Christ).

    “Life/living is 1/3, seeking (truth mining/study) is 1/3, and acknowledging the path to God is in the teachings (which are not from us) is 1/3.”

    OK… I see the first 1/3 (The way = living), but not the other 2.

    1.) “seeking” truth is not a part of that passage. Jesus says He is THE truth (destination), not “seeking” truth (the journey).

    2) The path to God includes His teachings, but not JUST His teachings… where do you get the exclusivity of that from this passage?

  2. “it is not JUST the teachings we are to spread, but the inclusion into the Covenant made by His atonement” (Brad)

    But that is part of the symbolic idea of baptism – it’s great ability to teach us something about resurrection and identification. Jesus left us with a great teaching tool more or less (and for some – the symbolic ‘way’ into the faith for more irony). I see the importance of the message inherit in the ability of the rituals (one before Jesus dies and one after he resurrects) as teachings we participate in (so we actually get the point – hands on).

    Think about it, baptism is actually a teaching tool – at least how most churches use it now. So Jesus’ last words to us in Matthew concern us teaching others – wow!

    “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Matt 28:20). Part of Jesus’ last words – and I see the word ‘teaching’ quite clearly. I wonder if Jesus is that interested in his own message and is that truly the point? I tend to think so.

    ““seeking” truth is not a part of that passage. Jesus says He is THE truth (destination), not “seeking” truth (the journey).” (Brad)

    To me ‘truth’ is about what we find in the teachings and what we learn from them – those being Jesus’ teachings. But if truth is a destination – when you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour – how much of a ‘lock’ did you have on the truth of Jesus’ teachings? How much of a ‘lock’ do you have on it now?

    Fact is, truth reveals itself over time – it’s not something we arrive at and we own/finito – it’s never quite that static. Truth is something we learn as we interact with the teachings of Jesus – and this means both study and action/living them. Then we arrive closer to the truth of a teaching. Jesus is truth – what does that even mean if used literally – if not about what he taught?

    “The path to God includes His teachings, but not JUST His teachings… where do you get the exclusivity of that from this passage?” (Brad)

    Actually Jesus’ teachings are based in the Torah, Prophets, and Wisdom Lit – this much we can ascertain. I actually never said it was JUST Jesus’ teachings – Jesus is reflecting the teachings of God (embracing them and elaborating on them) – from the aforementioned places (which is in the Tanakh).

    From there, we go to the idea about the ‘teachings being/bringing/enhancing life’. That’s how I see ‘Jesus is the life’ in that passage.

    I think the terms ‘way, truth, and life’ are being used in a way to encapsulate the breadth of the teachings of God/their importance…and they are used allegorically/symbolically. I would think that much is obvious?

    Most Christians do not want to believe this – yet they do not live contrary to it either. They actually follow the teachings to a tee – as if the teachings were ‘a way to live in truth before God’. All churches are founded on the ‘teachings’ from the NT – this much is well known…so how important are the teachings? We value them almost equal with God in some ways!

    But Christianity wants Jesus to be the, as you would say, destination…if this is so…when do we get there? At acceptance? Confession? Baptism? Living the teachings? Death/Resurrection? Inquiring minds want to know how that actually works. Since when is a person a destination?

    The kingdom of God is the destination – which is seen as a place – but also accompanied by the teachings. Jesus never says ‘I am the kingdom of God’. But he points the ‘way’ there (and we can follow that if we want).

    There is a duality to the Jesus being the ‘way’ thing – he lived the way and taught the way – so in some weird sense – he is the ‘way’. But it is the way he lives and what he taught that are worth exemplifying – and this goes back to what I am saying all along – the teachings of God (the words of God in action).

    I know I brow-beat this point a lot – but it is worth the repeating in my opinion. Jesus taught us ‘the way and how to live it’…love God and love neighbor…everything in between is great additional commentary to those ideas (sorry Hillel for borrowing). Jesus calls those the ‘greatest commandments’…and do those – how can you really go wrong? Paul even sums it up simply as ‘love your neighbor’ and John as ‘God is love’. Anyone can do that – that’s the beauty.

    We can complicate the point of Jesus’ teachings to a systematic way of following God – but that was not Jesus’ intention (in my opinion). It simply was about living a life worthy of keeping – that life is found in the teachings given to us by God.

  3. How long does the “truth” remain a simplistic math equation, though? If we’re going with basic math, then yes, 2+2=4. But doesn’t it become complex as soon as we bring the Trinity into it, which says that 1+1+1=1?

    That latter aspect is something that under any other circumstances, we’d look at someone as though they needed to go back to school. But in Christianity, it’s referred to as a mystery, even though it violates basic math. If that concept which many claim to be pivotal to Christianity boils down to mysterious, then what other truth claims might be mysterious/contradictory to finite senses, and yet still true to God?

  4. Society,

    “Think about it, baptism is actually a teaching tool – at least how most churches use it now. So Jesus’ last words to us in Matthew concern us teaching others – wow!”

    But it is not MERELY a teaching tool. There is no doubt that Baptism teaches us something, as any experience does. But that some churches use it MERELY as a teaching tool today, neither lends credit to that interpretation of Matthew, nor does it fall in line with how the global church has viewed it over the last 2,000 years.

    “To me ‘truth’ is…”

    Be that as it may the question is, “what is truth to Jesus?” Not, “what is truth to me?”

    The point with the math question was not to imply that truth is simplistic, or easy, or much of anything else discussed here. Only that there IS a truth that exists outside of us, that we can mostly know what is (allowing for the mystery that OSS rightly pointed out), and that IT should inform US, not the other way around. While this may not make sense here, it is because it was taken somewhat out of context from the conversation on our blog.

    For more, go here (comment #11 specifically):
    http://seminarianblog.com/2008/05/confessions-of-a-christian/

  5. Hi Jason, you’re sounding like Woody Allen here. 😉 Jesus clearly stated He was the only way. Now, you can say what you want, but that is what Jesus said not only in John but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well. I like to explain it to non-believers that Jesus is the specific hand of salvation from God. Take it and be saved or rest on your own laurels as a good person, feeding the hungry and succoring the sick and homeless, and maybe you can be saved.

    There would be only ‘one way’ if Jesus actually said this ‘I am the one/only way, truth, and life…no man comes to God but (literally and not figuratively) through me’. Now how that would look depends on the viewer – I ain’t never walked ‘through’ someone before so I am not sure of how this would look.

    How that would look depends on Jesus. When we say “in Christ” or “Christ in you” we are saying something similar, that we have made a home for Him in our hearts. I think the old song “You’ve Got A Friend” put it best.

  6. Brad,

    **While this may not make sense here, it is because it was taken somewhat out of context from the conversation on our blog. **

    My understanding of the context is that Luke says that to say that one religion is the only truth is a knock against other religions with truth claims, and you countered that by the idea that we aren’t “knocking” someone by correcting the claim that 2+2=4, if they say it equals something other than 4 (with a post that started around the idea of Jesus as Lord, and what that means).

    Yes, there is one truth that exists outside of us. But given the magnitude of that truth, who is to say that it can’t be contradictory to our finite senses? Such as the Trinity? Even the concept of mostly knowing the truth … we can’t “know” how the Trinity operates the way we understand the idea behind 2+2=4. We can’t know how sin is eradicated while sitll leaving us with an identity. We can’t know how free will and soverignty co-operate, in terms of God. We can’t explain any of that. Most of it does seem mysterious, and yet exclusive truth claims are made based on that?

    The biggest problem with this is that most spiritual matters are not as simple as a math equation. When correcting someone’s spiritual truth, it can get tricky, because all religions can produce the same fruits as Christianity. Even an atheist can produce that sort of fruit.

    So if I have a Muslim who is just exuding that peace that passeth understanding, much better than I am, and they explain to me that they’ve encountered God through Islam, what basis do I have for correcting them? I know who they are by their fruits, I know they’ve encountered something bigger by their fruits, and they walk with that “bigger” thing.

    In that case, I don’t find it loving to correct them, I find it self-focused, almost. Because I’m placing my judgement, and my interpretation of God, above their own life experiences, which I don’t have. So that’s why the math equation doesn’t work for me, in terms of spiritual truths, because we’re in radically different ballparks, and using radically different criteria. Especially when a big portion of the criteria is found by all sorts of spiritual followers.

    That’s what I saw Luke reacting to, and in some ways, Society.

  7. “But it is not MERELY a teaching tool…nor does it fall in line with how the global church has viewed it over the last 2,000 years” (Brad)

    Pray tell, what does baptism mean then? Is there some spiritual significance to the event that I am missing? If so, how does this line up with the fact this teaching was given after Jesus had already accomplished his mission (ascending)? I would really like to hear what this significance could be.

    “Be that as it may the question is, “what is truth to Jesus?” Not, “what is truth to me?”” (Brad)

    That’s just semantics and not much more- it does nothing to answer the question. See, I am searching out the truth found in Jesus’ teachings (have been for many years) – and you ask me – what is truth (according) to Jesus? Jesus never wrote anything first off so this makes it a lot tougher…and secondly, we are subject to interpretation anyway. But if I want truth – should I ask Jesus? What if he tells me ‘study’?

    “Only that there IS a truth that exists outside of us, that we can mostly know what is (allowing for the mystery that OSS rightly pointed out), and that IT should inform US, not the other way around” (Brad)

    But that’s the rub here Brad – truth exists in the texts (which I point out – and we all base our interpretations on those texts) – and the texts have to be interpreted by US. The reason we even discuss this idea of ‘the way’ or ‘the truth’ is quite simply because it was ‘written down for us’ (and I would add ‘as a teaching’) – to interpret. We are not outside truth looking in – truth is in ‘our hands’ to behold (like a book).

    “Now, you can say what you want, but that is what Jesus said not only in John but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well” (Jim)

    Jesus never made claims of exclusion – and if he did – he sure lived them in a strange way. Helping Romans, Samaritans, and other Gentiles along the road as he went – and not once did he state ‘I am the way’ in a single of those incidents. Actually in some, and you can check this out, he tells the people to report to the priest to make the correct sacrifice. Jesus is actually seen as upholding other faiths (namely his own – Judaism). Nor does he correct the views of the Gentiles he meets. I am flabergasted at your statement – it appears nowhere except for in John (one time) and later in Acts as the name of this ‘movement’.

    But here are some excerpts of ‘the way’ from the gospels:

    “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any” (Matt 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21)

    “The officers answered, ” Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” (John 7:46)

    John 14:4-6 (excerpts) “And you know the way where I am going…Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?… Jesus said to him, “I am the way…”

    If you ask me, ‘the way’ is something Jesus is doing (likely living his teachings/sayings). Jesus tells them straight in John 14:4 – ‘you know the way where I am going’…this can be seen in a few ‘ways’ but to me it is plain he is referring to the life he leads (not to himself as the literal ‘way’ – but living his teachings)…but if this has to be literal to you – then so be it…I am merely stating the literalness of the 14:6 passage makes no sense. But since it makes sense to you (Brad and Jim) – explain the literalness?

    “I like to explain it to non-believers that Jesus is the specific hand of salvation from God. Take it and be saved or rest on your own laurels as a good person, feeding the hungry and succoring the sick and homeless, and maybe you can be saved.” (Jim)

    I actually don’t disagree with you here – maybe on meanings more or less – but how do we learn about Jesus then? Could it be…no way…the teachings we have been given? What a shocker.

    “When we say “in Christ” or “Christ in you” we are saying something similar, that we have made a home for Him in our hearts” (Jim)

    Literal ‘home’ or figurative ‘home’? I don’t think Jesus literally ‘lives in me’ – but the path I have chosen to follow (learned in the teachings) – puts me in line with the life of Jesus – so yes – in some way Jesus does live in me…just not in a literal sense. The spirit of God – now that’s a whole new corn field.

  8. Jason, I liked this illustration of Jesus’ divinity, which is exclusive, and His criteria for judging. I like how it shows that Jesus is both exclusive and inclusive.

    Matthew 25
    31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. [EXCLUSIVITY}
    34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ [BROTHERHOOD OF MAN]

    37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    We aren’t to judge, but those of us who believe in Christ are called to tell others about Him. John 14 explains the presence of the Holy Spirit is in us when we commit our lives to Jesus. If you read John 14 in its entirety this becomes clear and I have experienced what it is saying for myself. It is a literal home for the Holy Spirit that Jesus offers us.

  9. Also Jim, Matthew 25 parable (sheep and goats), says nothing about accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour (words must be missing or something). What it does say is “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”…and those brothers are the poor, sick, needy, strangers, and prisoners…not exactly a choir there he is speaking about.

    The point of this parable could simply be ‘those who follow the teachings of God, well, they acknowledge God via their actions’ – Jesus recognizes that. Nowhere does it say they accepted the Christ at all…but they damn sure did what Jesus lived and taught in the gospel of Matthew (with or without the knowledge they did).

    These people lived lives of sacrfice for others – they were loving and caring people – and that’s all we know about them. There is nothing exclusve about that – we can all share in that duty to our fellow neighbors. If Jesus is the ‘sole way’ in this passage – what does this passage say makes him ‘the sole way’? Simply put, the teachings of the kingdom of God.

  10. ** they were loving and caring people – and that’s all we know about them. There is nothing exclusve about that – we can all share in that duty to our fellow neighbors.**

    I think exclusive needs to be defined here. The sheep/goats has nothing to do with faith in God, confession of one’s sinful state, or a certain belief. It has everything to do with actions, and how we treat each other. And both the sheep and goats seemed surprised by what occured. Based on that parable, we could fully expected atheists to be welcomed by Jesus.

  11. Speaking of math….I was reminded of something I posted a few months back:

    I read a great remark about logic the other day written by Rabbi Elliot Dorff. There are always underlying assumptions to any logical argument. Even in mathematics, logic only has meaning when people are using the same number system.

    So, someone can come along and say 1+1=2 and most people would agree, until I come along and say 1+1=10. No way, I’m told and I’m presented with all the reasons why 1+1=2. Only it doesn’t equal 2, it equals 10! I understand the logic used to reach the other conclusion but to me life makes more sense when we use a base 2 number system rather than base 10. The fact that the majority of the people around me have built their whole lives around a base 10 system and have either never realized or else forgotten there can be any other system doesn’t change my view in the least. All the logical arguments offered are meaningless to me; we’re operating on different number systems. In my world 1+1=10.

    “Resting on my own laurels”? Not hardly. Torah calls for action, not resting and living life as part of a holy community rather than following my own way.

  12. OSS—The sheep/goats has nothing to do with faith in God, confession of one’s sinful state, or a certain belief. It has everything to do with actions, and how we treat each other.

    Exactly! That’s why I wrote I like how it shows that Jesus is both exclusive and inclusive. Inclusive to those who love others, but exclusive in that He is the judge.

  13. OSS,

    “Most of it does seem mysterious, and yet exclusive truth claims are made based on that?”

    ABSOLUTELY! To say that we can know exclusive truth does not mean that we have everything about that truth figured out.

    A car passes me on the road at a high rate of speed. I know that it was a red 4-door sedan, probably newer. But it went too fast for me to know for sure the make and model. I also don’t know for sure what size or type of engine it was, but judging from the roar as it passed, it was probably not a 4-cylinder. I can say for certain that it was not a semi (or any other type of truck), a motorcycle, or a skateboard. That I don’t know the engine size, make or model, or whatever else does not mean that I can’t know it was a car.

    We can many things about truth, and some (like you mention) may remain a mystery on this side of heaven. That’s not really a problem.

    “it can get tricky, because all religions can produce the same fruits as Christianity.”

    Yes it can, but the basis of Christianity is not it’s fruit. The fruit is a consequence and a result of belief. But it is the belief in truth that is the foundation of Christianity. In the OT, we see Pharaoh’s court magicians performing “miracles” similar to Moses. There are many places in scripture that have people performing counterfeit miracles by power not of God. Other faiths may produce fruit, but it is not fruit borne from the One True God.

  14. Society,

    “Pray tell, what does baptism mean then?”

    As Mike said in comment #11 on the discussion on our blog:
    “This is why Jesus places an emphasis on baptism, because it is entrance into the covenant with Jesus as representative before God by means of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18-20).”

    “That’s just semantics and not much more- it does nothing to answer the question.”

    It is absolutely not semantics. It is the difference between a reading with authorial intent and a reading that is totally subjective to how we read it.

    “Jesus never wrote anything first off so this makes it a lot tougher…and secondly, we are subject to interpretation anyway.”

    Understanding authorial intent helps with the second, and the first is not a problem at all. While He did not write anything, he taught His disciples for 3 years. They have written down His teachings as the New Testament.

    “But that’s the rub here Brad – truth exists in the texts (which I point out – and we all base our interpretations on those texts) – and the texts have to be interpreted by US.”

    Oh but it is the rub. So many modern readers take the texts as if we were the primary audience. we weren’t. Thus, we need to understand how the original audience understood it for us to understand it accurately. We can’t just read it from our particular worldview. There will be overlap, but much of it (such as universalism) will not overlap.

  15. “ABSOLUTELY! To say that we can know exclusive truth does not mean that we have everything about that truth figured out” (Brad)

    I agree, but that’s also ½ the point I make when referring to interpretation. We do a good job to study and analyze the teachings – now what we arrive at will be a few things – but it will draw us closer to the ‘truth’ of what was written. Good analogy with the car!

    “Yes it can, but the basis of Christianity is not its fruit. The fruit is a consequence and a result of belief. But it is the belief in truth that is the foundation of Christianity” (Brad)

    How do you figure Brad? I can point to many a parable where ‘fruit/deed/intent’ is the whole point of the parable (Matt 25 being premiere in this regards). I would assuredly tell any young Christian ‘you are what you do’…since what you ‘do’ is truly what you ‘believe’. But I have had this convo many a time within our faith circles about the term ‘belief’ and its usage in 1st AD (Judaism) – I can say – our century doesn’t quite get it.

    It seems you are getting at something more narrow than any of us are saying – like we need to ‘believe the right things about God’ for our faith to be even considered faith. Fruits are only consequences of ‘correct belief’ – I would contend this is not so at all. Fruit is the part of the tree that defines its type – not what the tree believes about itself.

    Belief in ‘truth’ is not the foundation of faith – God is. Now we can say God is ‘truth’ (ie: not literally – cause God is God – but that God contains the truth) – but that means we are seeking God for some of it.

    “This is why Jesus places an emphasis on baptism, because it is entrance into the covenant with Jesus as representative before God by means of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18-20).” (Mike)

    Again, is it symbolic or more to it than just that? What happens in baptism that changes a person? Covenent and promise – baptism is being used symbolically there – as a type of signature from us to say ‘we are in’.

    “It is absolutely not semantics. It is the difference between a reading with authorial intent and a reading that is totally subjective to how we read it.” (Brad)

    This is not semantics “Be that as it may the question is, “what is truth to Jesus?” Not, “what is truth to me?”” (Brad). That is not even possible my dear man to answer with 100% validity or assurance in any manner, shape, or form – unless Jesus himself reveals the exact meaning and authorial intent meant in the passages (again – which he did not write). Then, and still then, we are subjecting that spoken word from Jesus to our lenses of interpretation and experiences (and what he said means)…we cannot escape the fact we are in the ‘thick of things’ so to speak. So ‘what is truth to Jesus’ then? It’s irrelevent – because we still have to ‘decide’ upon the passage and meaning.

    “While He did not write anything, he taught His disciples for 3 years. They have written down His teachings as the New Testament” (Brad)

    I like this actually, Jesus wrote nothing down – one could say his importance was on ‘living the sayings’ and not on ‘recitation of them’. Maybe Jesus had all the ‘right beliefs’ about God the Father – maybe so – but it still doesn’t erase the idea he was teaching them (his disciples) all the time about what ‘to follow’. Not once does the salvation calculation slip out – it seems belief is heavily tied to one’s actions and this is the defineable characteristic between the ‘wicked’ and the ‘righteous’ (which is basically the unjust and the just).

    Throwing in ideas like ‘believe in Jesus and be saved’ says very little about what is being asked of the convert…but even a simpleton like myself can see the obvious here…Jesus taught/said things that he expected to be followed – and this is beliving in Jesus – doing the things he asked so as to show this or ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). I didn’t have to venture far into John 14 to even see the obvious point of Jesus’ rhetoric.

    “So many modern readers take the texts as if we were the primary audience. we weren’t” (Brad)

    True Brad, when concerning finding the interpretation (s) of said passages from a time in the 1st century. But in another reality, this current life we live, we are the audience and we need to be aware of that…and many people are saying many weird things in the name of ‘Jesus’ (which we do not write down because scripture is closed). But we are an audience of the ‘now’…books written centuries ago…still effects us today.

    “Thus, we need to understand how the original audience understood it for us to understand it accurately. We can’t just read it from our particular worldview.” (Brad)

    I agree – we need to find the historical context of those times and writings…so as to make the best assumption we can about the authorial intent. I think we are all trying to do that to be perfectly honest, even the universalists. Orthodoxy is not the only person steering the ship anymore – it needs to push over for views that also are brothers/sisters to it (I speak figuratively of course – no one confuse my metaphors for literlism).

  16. “But doesn’t it become complex as soon as we bring the Trinity into it, which says that 1+1+1=1? ” (one small step)
    brilliant!

    jesus invites us to live out our love… we are to tell others not just by words but also by our lives… if they don’t listen, we are to knock the dust from our sandles and keep on.

    Jesus gave no systematic theology, Jesus wrote nothing down and we have the Synoptic Problem also ramped up by John’s account, Jesus lived in a socio-historical context very different from our own. What then is the over arching idea here? Love. Are we to convert all “infidels” or are we to live our lives as lovingly and mindfully as we can?

  17. Society,

    “Good analogy with the car!”

    Thanks!

    “I can point to many a parable where ‘fruit/deed/intent’ is the whole point of the parable (Matt 25 being premiere in this regards).”

    Here, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, who are already believers and followers of YHWH. It also comes near the end of their time together, and Jesus is helping them understand HOW to live out their beliefs. This actually helps prove the point I was making.

    “I would assuredly tell any young Christian ‘you are what you do’…since what you ‘do’ is truly what you ‘believe’. ”

    AMEN! I agree! The course of action (assuming the young Christian is not acting Christian), is to help them understand who God is. Grace (forgiveness, mercy, love) is the indicative (truth) that drives and empowers the imperative (living it out). Many Christians who are legalistic and just… mean, understand God’s justice but do not understand His love. Liberal theology understands God’s love and grace very well, but not His just side. The truth is in scripture, which says that He is BOTH Just and Merciful. See!

    Ex. 34:6-7
    The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,* forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

    “That is not even possible my dear man to answer with 100% validity or assurance in any manner, shape, or form”

    I agree. The question then is, “can we be certain ENOUGH?” Again, I’ll point you to Jim’s post:
    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/08/bees-inerrancy/
    But also a great one by Josh, who wrote on the issue of certainty (it’s been a small crisis for him this past year):
    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/11/certainty-and-knowledge/

    “Throwing in ideas like ‘believe in Jesus and be saved’ says very little about what is being asked of the convert…but even a simpleton like myself can see the obvious here…Jesus taught/said things that he expected to be followed – and this is beliving in Jesus – doing the things he asked so as to show this or ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). I didn’t have to venture far into John 14 to even see the obvious point of Jesus’ rhetoric.”

    Oh man do I agree…. I may differ on the ultimate conclusions a bit, but “believe and be saved” is so small a part of what that means… I like it. John 14:15 is key, especially. “If you love me…” That’s the first part of the conditional statement (a “hina” clause in the Greek). Bam.

    “But in another reality, this current life we live, we are the audience and we need to be aware of that…and many people are saying many weird things in the name of ‘Jesus’ (which we do not write down because scripture is closed). But we are an audience of the ‘now’…books written centuries ago…still effects us today.”

    Oh absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree (a fun change of pace 😉 ). But the key to minimizing that problem is understanding the 1st AD worldview, understanding where we overlap, and EXPANDING our understanding into the areas we don’t overlap. That’s good hermeneutics.

    “I think we are all trying to do that to be perfectly honest, even the universalists.”

    I agree, yet we must be careful to note the difference between revelation (Bible) and speculation (all other ‘theology’). To say someone is “wrong” does not mean they didn’t have their heart in the right place, they weren’t trying, or they don’t care. It just means they’re lookin in the wrong place.

    “Orthodoxy is not the only person steering the ship anymore – it needs to push over for views that also are brothers/sisters to it.”

    Could you explain a little more? I’m not sure I catch your meaning….

  18. Brad,

    **ABSOLUTELY! To say that we can know exclusive truth does not mean that we have everything about that truth figured out.**

    But we’re again getting into the different concepts of “know.” There’s the superficial concept, and the deep knowledge concept. To use the math example again, a child knows that 2+2=4, not because s/he understands the concept, but because that’s the truth the child is told. In a lot of ways, if CHristianity is mostly mysterious (Trinity, elimination of sin while still maintaining identity, how Jesus can have a dual nature, how the atonement even works, free will/God’s soverignty), then we don’t have the deep knowledge concept. We don’t fully understand how that operates, the way we can fully understand how the concept of 2+2 works.

    So to say we can know the core truths while here on Earth … how much of it can we know on a deep knowledge, understanding the concepts? If it just comes down to faith in something, rather than knowledge, then how much of a relationship is that?

    ** There are many places in scripture that have people performing counterfeit miracles by power not of God. Other faiths may produce fruit, but it is not fruit borne from the One True God.**

    That doesn’t work, though. The fruit of the Spirit is specifically listed, and it is by those qualifications that we know the fruit is of the Spirit. The peace, joy, longsuffering, goodness and gentleness and so forth. Those are objective ideas within themselves. The definition of goodness or gentleness is not “true Christians.” The definition of goodness is someone who feeds the poor, or is someone who goes out of his/her way to help someone. Same with Matthew 25 — the people weren’t recognized based on their faith in something, or the right beliefs. They were recognized by actions alone. Or the Samaritain. He was a heretic, per Jewish belief. Yet he was the one praised. Or blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God. Or that a good tree can only produce good fruit, and a bad tree only produce bad fruit. If someone is “unsaved,” then by that logic, all fruit they produce must be bad. Yet good fruit is joy, goodness, gentleness.

    If good fruits are only defined based on the right belief, then the very definition of good has become relative. There’s no objective meaning to the word. Good essentially becomes “whatever a true Christian does.” That’s no way to evaluate what “good” is.

    Essentially this leaves me with an atheist and a Christian feeding the poor, both because they know it’s the right thing to do — the good thing to do. Only the Christian is the only one actually producing good fruit, and not because s/he’s feeding the poor. It’s because of the Christian’s faith.

    However, if we reversed this, and had both a Christian and an atheist killing innocent people, we would say that both are doing something evil. It’s not because of the faith/non-faith that either one has, it’s because the act of killing an innocent person is considered immoral. Why does murder get considered a bad fruit based on the merit of the action itself, and feeding the poor or being compassionate get considered a good fruit not based on merit, but based on the person’s belief system?

  19. “Why does murder get considered a bad fruit based on the merit of the action itself, and feeding the poor or being compassionate get considered a good fruit not based on merit, but based on the person’s belief system?”

    wow! excellent post, i agree 100%

  20. “Why does murder get considered a bad fruit based on the merit of the action itself, and feeding the poor or being compassionate get considered a good fruit not based on merit, but based on the person’s belief system?” (OSS)

    OSS, where do you come from – wow – that was something else! Kudo’s for thinking this through enough to write a ‘piece of truth’ like that – wow.

    I agree with OSS, on the ‘fruit’ problem. When the fruit is good from both a Christian and non-Christian – we can split heirs. But when the fruit is not good from both categories (Christian and non) – we have no room to split heirs (they are both to be outright denounced as ‘wrong’). It’s basically a flaw in the logic.

    OSS, this is why your voice has become invaluable to the convo!

  21. “Here, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, who are already believers and followers of YHWH” (Brad)

    True…but these are the same people that deny Jesus a few chapters later. Apparently, as per belief and surety, these 12 were not quite there (1 of them also betrayed him that heard this teaching – and was accused of pilfering the money). Another doubted up to the point of the very resurrection and nali holes incident. Another followed Jesus almost to the point of death – but then denied he even so much as knew him – 3 times! And they all ran when the time was there to ‘stand for him’. I am not sure the message isn’t just for believers – but for one’s potential – regardless of what category we call them (believer or unbeliever). .

    “Liberal theology understands God’s love and grace very well, but not His just side” (Brad)

    One must consider, mercy is an aspect of justice – something Jesus taught as a very high priority in the beatitudes. Liberals plce a focus there for good reason – Jesus also did.

    “The question then is, “can we be certain ENOUGH?”” (Brad)

    It’s rhetorical…how can I know this answer? I am certain enough.

    “Could you explain a little more? I’m not sure I catch your meaning” (Brad)

    Orthodox was the prevailing perspective in Christian works – and still is – but that is changing quite quickly. There are a variety of viewpoints speaking now about the character of God and they do a better job than orthodoxy in some areas of it. Universalism does help some Christian people grow and other views just as much also…I have seen it – it does help some. I like orthodoxy, don’t get me wrong, but I am not very orthodox per se in my perspective – because I feel this is needed of me.

  22. **“Here, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, who are already believers and followers of YHWH. It also comes near the end of their time together, and Jesus is helping them understand HOW to live out their beliefs. This actually helps prove the point I was making.**

    But Jesus is speaking in generalities, in that he’ll judge all men this way. He didn’t say that he’ll judge all followers of God this way. Shouldn’t some part of it include the idea that their actions will be a result/consequence of their belief, rather than the actions standing on their own? Shouldn’t part of that belief in truth, as a foundation, be in this parable?

    Society/Luke,

    I’m suddenly glad that pride isn’t listed as a fruit of the flesh. 😛 Maybe I can shove it in under meekness?

  23. Holy cow… there’s a lot of good stuff here, and much I’d love to respond to, but my brain is just fried from going back and forth (and finals). I’m going to have to stick to commenting on the thread on our blog. I just didn’t want to leave you guys hangin’! Thanks!

  24. Lol…………I attempted to read all of these responses, and then it dawned on me that the guy who invented LSD just died. And a thought crossed my mind. You guys must have known him 🙂

  25. Thanks John T, we banter about concerning things of the Christian faith (and faith in general) – and it gets a little ‘heady’ in my opinion. All I am trying to do is facilitate a convo more or less – we we deeply discuss an issue and don’t just decide ‘our interpretation is the correct one’…because it needs to be tested.

    As for the LSD comment – it’s funny – and it’s true – this all gets a little crazy and over the top – all the really matters is living the faith anyways 😉

  26. “Im curious which doctrine of the 33,000 Christian types do you follow? Faith that is.” (John T)

    I don’t actually ascribe to an actual Christian denominational stand (if this is what you mean by the question). I am not Catholic, Methodist, United, Pentecostal, Universalist, Baptist, Evangelical, Reform, etc…but I simply take the title ‘Christian’. I think the church is all one big community and as much as this is not current concensus – I adhere to the idea (ie: they are all part of the church).

    I also do not ascribe to a singular denominational stance on each and every issue – according to some statement of faith as set by a church…that’s just not my thing.

    However, I do find value in the teachings of God from the bible – and I believe this leads me into interaction with God and His creation – helping me decide my values/vices and guiding my interactions with ‘my neighbor’. For me, the teachings are the key points…and the guidance that can be recieved therein.

    That all being said, I don’t disagree with all aspects of Christian doctrine – I have my views – but they are by no means exclusive – but the views I have garnered from interaction with the teachings (and those teachings lived and tested).

    For me, faith comes down to ‘what is God’s primary concern?’. The Christian view is ‘salvation’ – but what are we being ‘saved from’? I would say ‘immorality’ (in the here and now) – and that’s really what is ‘key for me’ – dealing with the impulses of sin (ie: stealing from my neighbor or violence). My view is that we all can do this – and many do this by nature – but this is what I see as God’s concern (for humanity).

    I am really not all that different than anyone in this faith – I just don’t hold some belief that a statement of faith or religious system is going to make ‘me a more whole person’ – that just hasn’t worked for me. But the teachings have not failed as far as I have seen (as they are tested, tried, and elaborated upon).

  27. Interesting………….Do you hold to the Christian belief that it is the only way to experience so called salvation or at least connection to God? And if you dont mind my asking, how old are you?

    John

  28. “Do you hold to the Christian belief that it is the only way to experience so called salvation or at least connection to God? And if you dont mind my asking, how old are you?” (John)

    I am 33.

    I believe the teachings are the way to experience God’s grace and fullness. Namely the commandments – Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…and that’s as simple as it all really is.

    The ‘only way’ thing is something I see pushing us to follow the teachings about God (towards God). I am no exclusivist – I think there are many ways for those teachings to be enacted in our daily lives and in community. I don’t adhere to an ‘only way’ perspective where we must fit under the rule and systemic way of ‘following God’…I think Jesus gave us a ‘way’…that much was the prod we needed.

  29. Another question……………Why do you think we have a need to be saved? I mean why is it we think that we are inherently Bad? Dont you think if Christians actually saw themselves in a better light that the world would be a much nicer place?

  30. “Why do you think we have a need to be saved?” (John)

    Again, this depends on someone’s definition of ‘saved…from what’. I think we have instincts to do immoral things that we all need to deal with (on a personal level). I also think there are issues on a bigger level that need to be addressed (poverty or global warming). For me, salvation does come from God – but I see that as something we are actively involved in…the need is there and as humans we’d be wise to accept our responsibilities in the solution.

    “I mean why is it we think that we are inherently Bad?” (John)

    I actually don’t know. I don’t personally ascribe to original sin myself – but I see the story of Adam/Eve as the story of humanity (in a colorful way). We choose to do the things we know are not right sometimes – and we are responsible for our actions. Adam and Eve are punished in their story – well – so are we. The problem with sin – or our choices of doing wrong – is that we want to ignore the fact we did the wrong thing…we want to explain why we did what we did and justify it (like Adam). Maybe this is the human condition?

    “Dont you think if Christians actually saw themselves in a better light that the world would be a much nicer place?” (John)

    I agree 100%. The Christian faith focuses too much on the depravity of humanity and how ‘evil’ it is – how ‘degraded’ it is. That focus leads one down a path of de-valuing themselves and in the end ‘devaluing others’. There is a slippery slope there that a lot of Christians do not acknowledge when they hold to the idea of ‘how shitty humanity is’.

    I see the depravity of humanity and the greatness of humanity – it’s always existed this way for as far as I can tell. There does seem to be more evil than good on the whole scale of time – but humanity’s ego gets in the way and causes problem after problem. I think faith should be about dealing with that ego but also about getting involved in the problems around us to – to provide solutions and not just band-aids.

  31. By the way Im just curious who Im speaking with? And I would like to relay a funny quote from a mentor of mine.

    “The world is 50% Shit, 50% Sugar, you choose where you put your focus, but just remember if you stand in shit long enough it dries around you.”

    Unfortunately most Religious people are neck deep.

  32. “By the way Im just curious who Im speaking with?” (John T)

    Jason B.

    “The world is 50% Shit, 50% Sugar, you choose where you put your focus, but just remember if you stand in shit long enough it dries around you.”

    LOL. One could call that a ‘proverb’. I tend to agree – focus/perspective is 1/2 the battle for a meaningful faith.

    “Unfortunately most Religious people are neck deep.” (John)

    It’s a generalization – but I can roll with it…I would even say – including myself (lol).

  33. Hi Jason B

    Thanks for your take on things. You seem like a pretty interesting guy. Are you Canadian? Im from Ottawa.

    John

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