Condemnation by Virtue of Belief(s)

“”I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy; and because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God.”” (John 10:30-33)

Most people use this passage to debate the divinity of Jesus – not today my good theological compadres – not today; we have more pressing issues to discuss. 

Something kind of strange happens in this conversation – let’s see if I can detail it clearly: 

Jesus proclaims ‘he is one with the Father’ to the chagrin of the people in the crowd. Mind you, there is a good reason for the chagrin – the crowd thinks he is proclaiming himself to be God. Jesus states something kind of interesting ‘which of these good works are you stoning me for?’ Good works is what Jesus is worried about…actions…deeds…not his wording. 

Isn’t this a problem for every era? We have Christians in this day in age proclaiming other Christians are not ‘saved’ because of what they proclaim (speak) and not what actions they commit themselves to (deeds). Jesus’ refutation of such an idea seems to be – debate the actions of a person concerning their faith – not their wording. 

This is such a common problem in Christian denoms because of the statements of faith and their theological importance in the ‘conversion’ of the believer. You have a list of things to believe and if you do not ‘add up’ – then you have serious problems according to that denom. It is important to note that most (if not all) denoms in the Christian faith have statements of faith that have nothing to do with your actual deeds. 

Of prime importance to Jesus in this story – and to myself also – is the fact you are defined by your actions – not your beliefs. In job interviews – they don’t care if you believe in the trinity. Trying to get across the border – better make sure you know the bible is inerrant first. Need a loan from the bank – well we need to see hear your beliefs on God first. Life doesn’t work that way – in fact nothing in life works that way except clubs. You are defined by your actions in this life from getting a job, to crossing the border, and to even getting a loan. What you do is more definable about you than what you claim are your beliefs. 

Now if you want to be part of a club type faith – go ahead – they appreciate numbers in those places anyways. True faith in God is all about the way you live and conduct yourselves in your every social situation – defining who you are to others and is a constant introspection of what it is you can change. 

Churches of this time and space – they are the ones picking up stones now. For good cause also, we are saying things that do not resonate with their club/crowd. But I ask, as Jesus did in this story, for what ‘deed’ is it you are condemning me? 

***Sorry Yael about the passage using wording like ‘Jews’ to set up a big antithesis for the story – you know John’s gospel – he was writing to a gentile crowd that was being kicked out of synagogues and had to draw a sharp comparison…I just like the point of the story.

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69 thoughts on “Condemnation by Virtue of Belief(s)

  1. When they asked Jesus “what is it to do the will of the Father?” (in the gospel of John)
    He replied, “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”

    To me that says that what is important is not what you do, but rather what you believe. It is not deeds (the law) that God is after, but rather, He is after faith, or trust, in the person of Christ…the One sent by the Father.

    In my small Christian congreagtion, I would dare to say that if you followed everyone around for a few days, there might be a lot of evidence to say, “well, you really aren’t a Christain, are you?” And every single Christian (that I know) dfalls into that category. We all fall short. We all are more concerned about our own day to day life and what we’ve got going, rather than going out and living for the neighbor and sacrificing our own well being.

    It is faith and our confession of faith that is most important. And by the way, I judge no one’s salvation…no ones. Christ said that He will take care of that and that is not my job.

  2. Of course I disagree with you, Jason, on the deity of Christ, but I do agree that deeds is underemphasized in Christian circles.

    I also agree with Steve M – what we believe is profoundly important. 1 John makes that clear! I share your chagrin, though, that belief and practive have this chasm between them.

    Here’s my theory: Many Evangelicals (that is primarily who we’re talking about, right?) have these great Doctrinal Statements, but don’t actually believe them – as evidenced by what they do.

    I’m not talking about falling short, because nobody ever lives up completely to what they aspire to, I’m talking about living in near opposition to the set of beliefs one professes. I feel that this is an enormous problem among professing Christians.

    I mean, if I say I beleive that I will be accountable to God face to face someday, yet I’m cheating on my wife and hiding it for years, I DO NOT REALLY BELIEVE I WILL FACE GOD. Period.

    Is that the problem you’re articulating? If so, I agree – no matter how far off I see your Christology to be :0)

  3. “When they asked Jesus “what is it to do the will of the Father?” (in the gospel of John)
    He replied, “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”” (Steve M)

    Key word in that sentence, as I correctly point out all the time, is ‘believe’. What does it ‘look like’ to ‘believe in the one whom He has sent’? What does this believing mean?

    I have asserted, plainly from the gospels themselves, that belief is always connected to one’s actions. I can take you to a place where this is shown to be true – and is the pattern of the gospels more or less:

    Psalm 14:1(a) “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God “

    What makes this person a ‘fool’? His statement ‘there is no God’? Or is there something else involved? Of course there is more.

    Psalm 14:1(b) “They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.

    He is foolish because he ‘lives’ like there is ‘no God’ – or that life as this person knows it is not connected to care for the rest of society/humanity/community. They do things that are ‘corrupt’ and ‘abominable’ – they do not do ‘good’. This can be comparable to someone who lives their life at the expense of others – whether through robbery, trickery, adultery, or even murder. This person is not associated with being foolish because of some random statement about God – no – there actions have made this writer proclaim such.

    Psalm 14:4 “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call upon the Lord?”

    David makes this comparison again (as the first verse). These people do not ‘call upon the Lord’ – in the sense – they do not heed what was given them from God (the teachings) – they turned aside – committed wicked deeds – and have forsaken the kindness to their neighbor. The ‘not calling part’ is emphasis for their actions – belief in God and non-belief in God are tied to one’s actions in this Psalm. This is a biblical view of ‘belief’ in God – its found all over the bible. Namely in Matthew.

    “It is not deeds (the law) that God is after, but rather, He is after faith, or trust, in the person of Christ…the One sent by the Father.” (Steve M)

    If God is not interested in your deeds or actions – I give you the right to pursue adultery, fornication, illegal selling of narcotics, join a gang or facist movement, spousal abuse, child neglect, violence in any situation, to rob your neighbor, to treat your parents with disdain, to not work a day’s wage, etc. You actions are not that important – are they?

    To trust and have faith in someone – what is it that you do? If you say you ‘believe’ what I am writing – do you not change to accept the precepts and adopt them into your personal living? I see belief/faith/trust in Jesus in this exact same light. If I read Jesus is for something – if I am listener to this man – then I will adopt a strategy to enact that idea in my life (as someone that ‘trusts’ what he just said). James sums it up ‘faith without works is dead’. You want faith – then your beliefs are important – in as much as they reveal the content of the person you ‘follow’.

    This is clearly summed in the mentorship role – or discipleship. If your mentor is a facist – then you will also follow those same precepts. If your mentor is a racist – you too will become that racist. If your mentor is an arsonist – you will take a liking to fire. If your mentor teaches you to live with compassion – you will also be compassionate. You prove your allegiance to your mentor – or your trust/faith – with your actions (not with some words).

    “We all fall short. We all are more concerned about our own day to day life and what we’ve got going, rather than going out and living for the neighbor and sacrificing our own well being.” (Steve M)

    Is faith all about sacrifcing your ‘own well being’? Of course we all ‘fall short’ of the standard for living from time to time – that’s why repentance is part of this faith (so we can atone for our actions on some small level). Falling short is no excuse for not ‘making things right’.

    What is it these people, if we followed them around, are falling short on exactly? Someone having an affair? Someone bullying the kids at the local school? Someone selling drugs to their neighbors? If you knew these things were happening – would you (a) look the other way – just par for the human condition or (b) attempt to intervene in the situation to seek a resolution? I’d even dare ask a question I never resort to ‘WWJD”?

    “It is faith and our confession of faith that is most important” (Steve M)

    If this is so – I do not believe Jesus is God – and since this is of dire importance to your faith system (and God apparently) – what is the consequence of such an action?

    Compared to…

    Someone tells me they hate their neighbor and plan to rob them at knife-point – and if someone has to die that is part of the job – and yes – they believe in Jesus also. What is the consequence of this action?

    Who is committing a crime, worthy of a consequence, in those 2 examples? Name one court of law that punishes for someone’s beliefs and not their actions? If humans function this way and call it ‘justice’ – are we acting more justly than God? That’s the conundrum.

  4. “what we believe is profoundly important” (RITS)

    Then I say, if this is what you believe, lets prove that and see what road we end up on. When you say what you believe – what is it you mean by ‘belief’?

    “I mean, if I say I beleive that I will be accountable to God face to face someday, yet I’m cheating on my wife and hiding it for years, I DO NOT REALLY BELIEVE I WILL FACE GOD. Period.” (RITS)

    BINGO! In this sense – you do not believe what it is you ‘say’ you believe – your ‘actions’ reveal the truth of what you honestly believe.

    So this is where I raise the questions about statements of faith and what they call beliefs about God – which are more suppositions about God than actual beliefs (since these so called ‘beliefs’ require no action – just thought). I am quick to point to a follower of Jesus – what is it you follow about him? Follow, in and of itself, is an action – and Jesus’ teachings (as a messiah) require adherence from his mentees (disciples).

    I find it strange we have 12 point doctrinal statements, which pastors must ‘swear’ by, that are more theolophiziing than actual meaningful teachings. God is 3 in 1 – so? Even if I knew that to the fullest degree of information – how does that actually help me? Yet this is what a pastor or new Christian has to swear to? How’s about – you promise to love your neighbor for all your days on this earth? Now that’s a confession I want to hear…that means something to me and to everyone that knows that person.

    To me, this is all a matter of focus. We talk about God in such a strange way – like we figured him out – if this is so – great – but we have not figured out the problems and ills of our current communities (nor humanity). WE are the problem – how come this is not quite understood – not God not some focus on God – our problems need to be dealt with or humanity suffers (not God’s kingdom).

    Christians are quick to point out ‘no, not one of us does good’ – yet they stop short of realizing this is what God cares about – our porous behaviors. God does not want us to remain in a state of ‘not doing good’ – maybe that should be numero uno on the new statement of faith list – because Christainity – for all its great teachings – overlooks this like the plague. Leave something out of the statement of faith – then it is lesser valued than what is in that statement.

    I have found, from my personal journey of faith, what matters is how you treat people – not what you think about God. If Jesus died for all – that is finished. If God is really a 3 in 1 being – that is just a fact then. If Jesus was born of a virgin – cool – thats a piece of history. If the bible is without a single error – alright then we have a flawless agenda. But who cares – those things mean nothing in light of heaven. If God is dealing with you – why are we so worried about pieces of history?

  5. Overall, Jason, I like where you’re going.

    Rick Warren (not necessarily one of my heroes) said this: “You only really believe the part of the Bible that you do.”

    Amen.

    James said it too: “I’ll show you my faith by what I do”. (James 2:18)

    I think it’s important not to dichotomize here. What one believes and what one does are inextricably connected. In fact, I would assert that one’s actions, or deeds, are the indicator and the evidence of what one actually believes. Action is driven by faith/belief.

    I can say whatever I like about what I believe, but my actions will demonstrate what I really believe.

    Jesus said that whoever heard His words and did not put them into practive is like a man building his house on the sand. Why? Because he did not believe what Jesus said. Not really.

    So if I profess to believe in Jesus but I plot to kill my neighbor, I think it’s a pretty good bet I don’t really believe, no matter what I say.

    If I profess to believe in Jesus and seek after Him but fall short, that is another story. The seeking is evidence that I really do believe.

    Faith and action are two sides to the same coin.

  6. **Of prime importance to Jesus in this story – and to myself also – is the fact you are defined by your actions – not your beliefs.**

    I think the last two comments are already touching on this, but I do think we’re defined by our belief. However, the definition is directly tied to how well we live out our beliefs. As one of the comments said, if I believe I’ll be accountable for my actions in an afterlife, and yet consistently cheat on a spouse, then I don’t really believe in that accountability, do I?

    What you do is important — it gives validity to what you believe. This would be especially important in any sort of evangalizing method. If one is proclaiming that God can make one’s life for the better, make one more loving, more compassionate, more peaceful, and yet that very person also behaves no differently than someone else, what good do the beliefs do? How do the beliefs have any merit for outsiders, when they see no difference?

    It would almost be watering down the beliefs.

  7. The empahasis on deeds in many churches creates either Pharisees, Phonies, or Failures.

    Whe you don’t preach the law as a mirror, designed to expose your sin, condemn and then kill, but rather as a means to make you better…Pharisee, Phoney, or Failure will result.

    I like the Lutheran understanding of the law/gospel paradigm.

    The law exposes and kills, the gospel forgives and renews. Out of thankfulness and inspiration of the Holy Spirit…good works will come.

    There is no goading for better performance because it ain’t gonna happen that way. That way only produces self-righteous little Pharisees running around judging other people and thinking, “Ain’t I great”.

    No way. Not for me. I am surrounded by “holiness churches’. Christians that actuall believe they are better than the rest of us.

    No thank you.

  8. **Whe you don’t preach the law as a mirror, designed to expose your sin, condemn and then kill, but rather as a means to make you better…Pharisee, Phoney, or Failure will result.**

    Isn’t this essentially saying that every single devout Jew is either a Pharisee, Phoney, or Failure, since they don’t teach the law as a mirror? As well as the person who wrote many of the Psalms, such as Psalms 119?

    Plus, it’s not that black or white. Believing that a law is meant to help you become better does not automatically translate into self-righteousness. Part of that “better” should include a sense of humility.

  9. Better for society’s sake, for personal sake, or for righteouesness sake?

    The Christian(orthodox view) take on it is that the law cannot make you better for righteousness sake. Indeed, St. Paul said that when the law came in, people sinned more!

    With a the understanding that God’s law is to be kept perfectly for righteousness sake, the only logical outcomes are the three that I’ve mentioned.

    The trouble with law preaching (for betterment) is that it is usually watered down in such a way as to be managable. Then you end up with people that actually think they are doing a pretty good job of it, and naturally they will look over at poor ol’ Fred who just can’t cut it and they feel just a little bit better about their performance. That’s when the self-righteousness can enter in.

    It is a different take on it than most theologies, I grant you, but I believe it to be correct. Not only from a biblical reading of it, but also from human observation (including myself).

    Thanks!

  10. Steve,

    You didn’t answer my first question, though. Based on your assessment, doesn’t that mean calling every single devout Jew is either a Pharisee (as defined by orthodox Christians), a Phoney, or a Failure? Same with the person who wrote Psalms 119 or other Psalms?

    Better in the sense of going from a prior state less than good to a state of more good. It can help someone become kinder, more loving, perhaps gain a better sense of justice. But in gaining all of those, if someone also gains a sense of pride, then it casts a shadow over the whole aspect of better. So then those who start doing a good job should still have the sense of humility.

  11. The danger of becoming a Pharisee is real, but that should not stop us from pursuing a life of holiness and good deeds. The caveat is that the holiness and good deeds MUST be the fruit of the Spirit and come from a growing, ongoing surrender to the Holy Spirit.

    When they are self-generated, they result in pride.

    Timothy is told in 2 Tim. 2:22 to “pursue righteousness.” This comes from Paul, so clearly he is not talking about self-righteousness. Clearly Paul knew that our righteousness (right-standing with God) is imputed through faith in Christ. Paul is talking about practicing righteousness. He is talking about our role in sanctification. If we have been sanctified, we are in a position to pursue a life of increasingly sanctified living. We become sanctified by believing, which is the first link in the faith-works chain. As we continue to believe Jesus and His word – REALLY believe it – it renews our mind and impacts our behavior.

    This is for real. Christians can, in the power of the Spirit, live in reasonably consistent holiness, set a good example, and practice good deeds that were prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10) WITHOUT becoming pharisaic. That’s because the power to be transformed comes from God and is not merely external conformity or compliance, and is not self-generated. We cooperate with the Spirit of God, who is very dedicated to finishing what He started in us (Php. 1:6).

    I agree that the Law reveals our inability to really conform to it and thus our need for divine intervention (the Cross), but the Law also reveals both God’s character and His standard. That actually has a similar effect, but it also helps us know who our Creator is. And once we are indwelled by the Spirit of God, we have something we can actually strive towards – Christlikeness.

  12. Steve,

    “…And once we are indwelled by the Spirit of God, we have something we can actually strive towards – Christlikeness.”

    How are you doing Steve?

    OneSmallStep,

    I don’t see why a Jew who thinks that they are keepiong God’s law would be any different than anybody else. Either you can do a pretty good job of it or not,

    The Pharisee (the devout Jew) in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican illustrates this pretty well. Christ tells us that He is not after the good law keeper but rather the one who knows that he cannot do it…the one who knows his need of a Savior.

  13. I don’t normally comment without having read all the previous comments, so I apologize if this has already been mentioned.

    As I see it, Jesus was very concerned with actions. But then again, the law still applied, and he was upholding the law…and he serves as an example of what we SHOULD be doing.

    God, on the other hand, wants us to have faith in Jesus. I realize, SocietyVs, that you have some issues with the atoning death thing (unless I’m confusing you with someone else…I’m a bit tired at the moment), but that’s the way I read things.

    Also, it was James, I believe, who wrote that “Faith without works is dead, being alone.” So I do agree that our actions count and that we need to do things ourselves and not always look for spiritual handouts.

    But I don’t think that what Jesus said in your example should be overplayed by anyone as saying it’s all the actions that count (rather than faith), any more than I think that Christians on the faith track should underplay the power, importance and impact of good acts.

  14. Two points:
    1) The letter of the law is the world’s interpretation. The spirit of the law is God’s, and should be OUR interpretation.
    2) Our flaw is that we aren’t what we do. We combine intellectual assent and rebellion as if they were brothers. Jesus could not do that, and that’s why He is “one with the Father”. Like the Father, there was no conflict in Him.

  15. **The Pharisee (the devout Jew) in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican illustrates this pretty well.**

    But herein lies the problem — by linking the Pharisees as seen in the New Testament with a devout Jew in general, it’s like saying that every single devout Jew is just like a New Testament Pharisee, and all the behavior involved in that. There’s another comment about how “the danger of becoming a Pharisee …”

    So isn’t that calling every single devout Jew today self-righteous?

    It’s also calling the author of something like Psalms 119 self-righteous. He delighted in the law, was incredibly grateful for it, it made his heart glad, and so forth. Nowhere does he see it as nothing more than something that condemned him. He even says that he has kept God’s law and blessings have fallen upon him, he keeps God’s precepts with his whole heart — does that make the author self-righteous?

    Not only that, but it again comes down to a perception of the law. Paula Fredriksen has said that the reason why one followed the Torah is out of gratitude to be given the Torah, which was a symbol of being God’s elect.

    Based on Paula’s description of how the Torah was perceived, that’s my biggest problem with saying a devout Jew is just like a New Testament Pharisee. Simply because a devout Jew honors the law and tries to follow it does not automatically translate into self-righteousness, especially if it’s tied to the idea of following the Torah out of gratitude.

  16. OneSmallStep,

    I certainly see where you are coming from.

    But when anyone uses the law as a means to their justification before God and does not rely on the means that God has put into place to fulfill that law Himself…that someone is then relying on his own performance(Jew or Christian or anyone)

    I do think we have a different understanding of God’s Law.

    St. Paul would not allow differing views (than his), in the church, with respect to keeping the law for righteousness sake…and rightly so, I believe. Folks that believe that it is a little bit of me (keeping some laws) and a little bit of Jesus (His forgiveness) are dead wrong. The whole book of Galatians speaks to the matter, and it is all Paul can do to contain his righteous anger over the issue. Paul is saying, in no uncertain terms, that it is Jesus ONLY.

    I know there that there are plenty of Christians that do not agree. That is there perogative. I am just stating what I believe to be true.

    I believe that it is not to be mitigated. And that it must be kept perfectly for righteousness sake (as Jesus tells us in His sermon on the mount)

    I believe it was exactly for the reason of trying to kill us off to ourselves, that Jesus re-presented the Law on that mount in a much harder manner than did Moses. Jesus left us no wiggle room with respect to our performance and to what the Law demands from us. Going through the motions just won’t cut it. “If your righteousness does not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees…” No one could do that!

    Therefore, the law is not our friend towards righteousness, but our enemy. It will kill us (in the end).

    It is important to keep straight, the uses of the law (civil righteousness, and righteouness before God). I’ll not argue that keeping the Law for civil righteousness is not necessary.. it certainly is.

  17. “The empahasis on deeds in many churches creates either Pharisees, Phonies, or Failures.” -Steve Martin

    “Our flaw is that we aren’t what we do. We combine intellectual assent and rebellion as if they were brothers. Jesus could not do that, ” Jim J.

    as one who has recently been condemned for believing something, i see the Christian faith as a balance between faith and doing. Jesus says it’s not enough just to believe something, you actually have to live it! “look at the pharisees, do as they say, not as they do” plus Jesus was rebellious as well, going against all the core tenants of “The Law” (as described in the NT anyway) in Matt. 5:21-48.

    you shall judge the tree by it’s fruits. there is a balance of belief and action. Jesus called the pharisees hypocrits because they said one thing and do another. the church does the same in many an area… love your neighbor as yourself (save for the homosexuals, weirdos, and the “others”) treat others as you’d like to be treated (save the poor, those working in sweatshops, and other marginalized peoples cause we get plastic crap cheap!). i think deeds are under-emphasized because people say “it’s faith in Christ is the only thing that matters.”

    well, shouldn’t that faith in Christ compel you do ACT like Christ? if you ‘put on the mind of Christ’, wouldn’t that change your life? ALL of your life, including your actions? plus that’s ignoring the translation issue… is it the faith IN Christ of faith OF Christ by which we are saved? big difference between the two.

  18. well, shouldn’t that faith in Christ compel you do ACT like Christ?(luke)

    I think when we as people realize were all in this together and that what we do to each other will not only affect our neighbours world but our own as well. Then and only then will we act accordingly. Christ or not. The more I read of peoples so called “faith” the more I see it as a dividing force. The only title that will unify us seems to be fellow human the rest unfortunately emphasizes the divide.

  19. Luke,

    I think we are actually saved by the ‘faith of Christ’.

    He gives us a oiece of His faith, that we might believe.

    Sure works are important (for the neighbor) but not for admission into Heaven. It all depends on faith.

    If I were to judge someone’s Christianity on the basis of their works…no one would qulaify. We are all sinful and derelict in our duties. Enter the Savior. The believer has the Holy Spirit and will be inspired to good works.

    St. Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, not of good works lest anyone should boast. Good works (in a sinful creature) are not self-less. Ther is always a self-consciousness (because of sin). Good works totally devoid of any thought or pre-meditation, are totally for the neighbor without an ulterior motive (I’m going to please God by doing this).

    The empahsis on good works rather than faith brings about a level of performance based thought and action…this breeds self-righteousness and the other things I spoke of earlier.

    Faith alone, will be enough. The believer will act, but from a goading of the law, but out of love for the neighbor.

  20. oldadam,

    i see what you mean. that makes it much clearer and more logical. But even in faith we see this happening… a belief system being completely “right” over another system. so actually, neither works because Ego always enters in.

    looks like we’re just as lost as we were before Jesus came. unless there’s that balance… umm.. complicated. as T4T stated “The more I read of peoples so called “faith” the more I see it as a dividing force. The only title that will unify us seems to be fellow human the rest unfortunately emphasizes the divide.” i think that hits the nail on the head.

  21. Luke,

    You are absolutely right. There really doesn’t seem to be much hope of a unifier.

    The only hope we have is in Christ Jesus.

    We will always have self-righteous people, judgemental people, mean, uncaring people of all waklks of life and many of them in the church (the wheat and tares grow together).

    But “in this world we will have trouble.” Jesus told us that Himself. But then he said, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

    We’ll have to waith until we die, or the end of the world, to finally realize that hope.

    But it is there for us.

  22. “But when anyone uses the law as a means to their justification before God and does not rely on the means that God has put into place to fulfill that law Himself…that someone is then relying on his own performance(Jew or Christian or anyone)”. (OldAdam)

    Amen and Amen. I could not agree more! Galatians is such a key, pivotal book in Christian theology. We are not justified by our works. If anything is clear from the New Testament, and particularly Paul, this is it.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but that certainly was not what I was trying to communicate. I was trying to communicate that good works are a result of regeneration and justification (Ephesians 2:1-10), not the cause. The Spirit of God indwells the believer. Do you not agree that has some effect? Do Lutherans not agree? Acts 1:8 indicates that the Spirit of God empowers us. The Word of God sanctifies the believer (John 17:17). Does that not have an effect on our behavior? I’m here to testify that it does.

    OldAdam, you also said:

    “How are you doing Steve?” (I’m assuming in reference to growing in sanctification/Christlikeness).

    My answer: Better than this time a year ago, which was better than a year before that. I have come a long way! I’m not a Wesleyan who believes in sinless perfection or ‘complete sanctification’, but I do believe we grow, produce fruit (John 15 and Galatians 5) and do good deeds. Our good deeds DO NOT JUSTIFY US.

    Heck, I’m already justified!

    “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (St. Paul in Galatians 5:16)

    “There’s another comment about how ‘the danger of becoming a Pharisee …’ So isn’t that calling every single devout Jew today self-righteous?” (OneSmallStep quoting yours truly)

    That’s not my meaning.

    “Pharisee”, in Christian circles, has become a euphemism for anyone who seeks to be justified by self-generated works, who is only outwardly religious, who condemns others while being guilty of the same thing, or is self-righteous or hypocritical. In this usage, it is not to be automatically equated with a member of the party of the Pharisees.

    Perhaps this is better: pharisee (as opposed to Pharisee). Paul and Nicodemus were not Pharisees, and we’re cool with them :0)

    Jason’s point, if I understand it, is very similar to conversations going on in Emergent circles regarding orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy. A lot of those guys seem to be making a false dichotomy between the two. I think this is unnecessary.

  23. Theoldadam,

    **But when anyone uses the law as a means to their justification before God and does not rely on the means that God has put into place to fulfill that law Himself…that someone is then relying on his own performance**
    We would definietly have a different view of the law. 🙂 But it sounds like you see it’s only purpose as a vehicle of condenmation, and only meant to point to a Savior. Yet that completely doesn’t mesh in many of the books I read in the Tanakh, let only the Jewish religion itself. If we can go back to Psalms 119, there is so much joy in even having the Law and that God provided it in the first place. Yet that joy is so often absent in Christian circles. They’re just grateful that they’re essentially “saved” from the Law. So I’m not sure how you mesh your viewpoint with the Tanakh itself. Not the New Testament. Just the Tanakh.

    **I believe that it is not to be mitigated. And that it must be kept perfectly for righteousness sake (as Jesus tells us in His sermon on the mount)**
    If you’re referring to “Be ye therefore perfect …” the language used in that time, Aramaic, didn’t have a concept of perfect. It wouldn’t have been understood in the same way that you’re using perfection here.

    **Jesus left us no wiggle room with respect to our performance and to what the Law demands from us. Going through the motions just won’t cut it. “If your righteousness does not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees…” No one could do that!**
    Well, technically, I don’t think that Law does apply to us, nor demand anything from us. We’re Gentiles. The Law is specifically tied to Judaism. Which can make my earlier comment about dread vs. joy in terms of the Law moot, yet Christians would seem to say that the Law would apply to them, if it demands things from them.

    **Therefore, the law is not our friend towards righteousness, but our enemy. It will kill us (in the end).**
    So … would you say the writer of Psalms 119 misunderstood the law? Or didn’t have the full view of the law?

    Steve L,

    **“Pharisee”, in Christian circles, has become a euphemism for anyone who seeks to be justified by self-generated works, who is only outwardly religious, who condemns others while being guilty of the same thing, or is self-righteous or hypocritical. In this usage, it is not to be automatically equated with a member of the party of the Pharisees.**

    Nicodemus and Paul may be seen as Pharisees in Christian circles, but I usually get the impression that they are seen as an exception to what a Pharisee is. That, or I usually get the impression that many Christians feel they perfectly understand the Jewish religion simply from reading the New Testament. The law is only meant to condemn, rather than being seen as a gift. The law is a burden, meant to show one’s need for a Savior, which contradicts quite a few things I see in the Tanakh (such as Psalms 119, which I keep referencing). That, and that Judaism is a dead, legalistic religion only. Or even at looking through Christian history — for a very long time, the Jews were seen in a horrible light. Look at some of Martin Luther’s writings for an example. They didn’t divorce Pharisee and Judaism the way it is in the paragraph about being a euphamism.

  24. “Sorry… Paul and Nicodemus *WERE* Pharisees, and we’re cool with them :0)” -Steve L

    and so was Jesus. Jesus being a Jew that believed in the resurrection, that would make him a Pharisee and not a Sadducee, as the S didn’t believe in resurrection.

    “The only hope we have is in Christ Jesus.”

    yup! my hope though is the faith OF Christ. As there are people who are living out Christ’s message without calling themselves “Christian”. People like Yael and my good buddies who are Wiccan, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and many other faiths. does one need to believe in Jesus to act lke him? If we share the same hope that one day the world will be set right (a thus we must prepare for that through social justice and the like), aren’t we in the same boat?

  25. “Our good deeds DO NOT JUSTIFY US.” (Steve – RITS)

    Now Paul and I are going to have a long talk that side of heaven (of the kingdom) – but I have to raise certain questions about this statement.

    If faith alone justifies you – what do you mean by faith? Some confession of faith? The belief in Jesus – is who he says he is and did some atoning work? Someone please tell me what ‘faith’ is defined as.

    My definition of faith – as I have laid out time and time again – is not just some confession or belief Jesus did all what the disciples wrote. That is not ‘faith’ – faith is alive, walking, talking, striving, compassionate, etc…but it’s alive not some ‘thought’s about God. Faith is works and works is faith – they are inextricably tied to one another – separating them is like separating physical from spiritual – it cannot be done.

    But if we are saying ‘faith justifies’ the believer – it only justifies the fact they made the commitment to God and nothing more (in my personal opinion)…that’s if faith is defined as something like ‘a simple belief in God’. But if faith is following a more biblical explanation – faith is (known by) one’s actions – and faith as Paul uses it includes this idea (which makes sense since he is a proponent of people following certain ideals and forgoing other less moral ideals) – then we can get into the importance of you behaviour.

    I am here to say – deeds do justify you or condemn you – and to ignore that claim is to ignore some basic reality you live in.

    What makes you say ‘that person is a good person’ about someone else? Do you go and ask them what they believe or are their actions solid enough to make that assumption? The courts of law deal in issues of justifiable behaviour – and if someone does not commit the crime – they go free…regardless if they believe in Hitler or some other racist ideology (courts judge by actions). You keep or lose your current job by your actions – not what you believe in your head. You may have a tougher time crossing the border if some of your actions you committed are criminal – not so much your belief set (Phelps can get across the Canadian border – freedom of speech).

    Your deeds are the basis I have to confirm or not confirm many things about you. Do I want to be your friend based on the way you treat other people – or me? Do I think you are a follower of Jesus – when I see you hiding a cheating relationship from your wife? Do I have to think you are if I am privy to this info? How can I determine hypocrisy if not for actions? And so on.

    People have used Paul for years to proclaim ‘faith is justification enough’ – and make some simple proclamation afterwards that ‘actions’ are not as important as what you ‘say/believe’. I say 100%, uncategorically, with no regrets, and no reason to have a regret, that is a lie and plays down 1st century (and prior) biblical mindsets/teachings.

    You will be judged by your deeds – even Paul says this straight out – Romans 2:6, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:14, and Titus 1:16. How can Paul be saying faith alone justifies when he knows straight out this is not the case? Is Paul double minded? Hypocritical? Confused? Or is ‘us’ that have Paul all messed up – according to our interpretations on a single term ‘faith/belief in God’? I think the latter myself.

  26. The Greek word is pistis, which is more like trust.

    James makes it clear that action is inseparable from true faith, but it is not the same thing as faith. In other words, true faith always results in action.

    It might be helpful to distinguish ‘saving faith’ from the ongoing life of faith.

    A supernatural event happens when a sinner puts his or her trust in the savior of sinners. Part of this event is that the person is justified – that is, declared righteous in God’s sight based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Another part is that the person is regenerated and indwelled by the Holy Spirit and given a new nature. This fundamentally changes a person. Millions of Christians who have been transformed by grace can testify to this.

    If there is no transformation – some kind of real transformation even if small, there was no supernatural event, and no real faith was placed in Jesus.

    The old preachers used to say, “If you is what you was then you ain’t”. In other words, if there is no eventual and positive change in the life of a professed believer, no regeneration/conversion/justification has occured. They are not really a believer.

    Am I making any sense?

    Man, you get a lot of comments…

  27. “Yes – because your deeds indicate what you believe, and whether you have believed Jesus.”

    but if your beliefs indicate in everyway that belief, but your mouth doesn’t, what then?

  28. Trust in someone doesn’t have anything to do with what ‘you do’(Stevo)

    Of course it does, Trust is an action, which means I need to “do” something. Every act that you do requires a physiological response, so in fact its all “work”

  29. it has to deal with #27 and what i was reading into your comment in “Good works alone, without faith in Jesus, are filthy rags to God, as nice as they might be to our fellow people.” just wanted to seek clarification, where do people who ACT like Jesus but don’t “SAY” they believe in Jesus go?

  30. I am reminded, SocieytVs, of the famous proclamation by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice that went something like “I don’t know how to define pornography, but I know it when I see it.”

    I can only speak to my personal experience.

    I think that my actions will count for something. But I don’t believe that’s what gets me through the doors of Heaven.

    I still sin, but there is a different quality in my life and my action and, more importantly, my perception of my actions, since being born again.

    I recognize now that many things I do are not right by God…things I might have brushed off before. I find myself trying to do things that I wouldn’t have bothered to before (positive things, that is). I find myself with feelings of remorse and I speak to God about my failings and my desire to be a better child to Him.

    There is a greater level of internal sincerity and humility since being born again than I had before, and this is linked to accepting Jesus as my savior and acknowledging his sacrifice and atoning death. This doesn’t make me perfect. It doesn’t make me even close to sinless. I probably sin less than I did before, but not so much so that I can claim to be holier-than-thou (or holier than anyone).

    It’s hard to explain. But I feel it. And that is a function, I believe, of the Holy Spirit being inside of me, which wasn’t the case before I TRULY accepted and acknowledged Jesus.

  31. All I am pointing is the division within the faith of ‘faith’ from ‘works’ and how this can confuse many a good soul who wants to follow our religion/relationship with God. Playing down works can have a disastorous effect – of this I am very clear – and I have seen it happen in ‘faith only’ ministries.

    One kid I knew is serving time for murder – not sure how that happened – but you can bet works was not in the theological equation of his teachings as a teen in the faith. Another girl I know is very confused about her faith – because all she needs is faith – this fallacy has led her into behaviors I cannot mention here.

    As much as some of us want to believe ‘works’ is not important – it is very important in the life of the believer – in the shaping of their lives. Tell someone all they need is ‘faith’ – that makes many think they only need faith – and works is something they can just ask forgiveness about or what have you. My faith says this ‘you are responsible for every single action you committ – not even Jesus gives you that kind of freedom’.

  32. Comment #2: “Here’s my theory: Many Evangelicals (that is primarily who we’re talking about, right?) have these great Doctrinal Statements, but don’t actually believe them – as evidenced by what they do.” (RIS)

    Comment #5: “I can say whatever I like about what I believe, but my actions will demonstrate what I really believe.” (RIS)

    Comment #34: “Yes – because your deeds indicate what you believe, and whether you have believed Jesus.” (RIS)

    I have read the post in detail and most of the comments. I do believe that faith in the incarnation and work of Christ is important as it is the mechanism by which God is redeeming all of creation to himself, bringing his kingdom to earth. My action is not enough to bring that about. It took God’s action. That being said, because of this belief and faith, it is my job to be about joining God in his work. My faith leads to action.

    But I have issue with the statements by RIS listed above. I don’t think it can on the flipside be said that my actions completely indicate what I believe. This is a nice ideology, but it falls far short of playing out in real life. People do not act on faith nearly so much as they act on what works for them. People do what works. Plain and simple. We are all tainted by trauma from the past, reward from the past, thoughts of the future. We all act selfishly at times. We all act benevolently at times. We all have motives behind what we do whether we think we do or not. None of us are pure in what we say and do. Even our search for Christ is selfish. I think at best, our actions can point to a faith or belief, but they do not fully define it. To judge otherwise is, to me, missing what and who people really are.

  33. Even our search for Christ is selfish(Freestyle)

    The idea for Christ is completely selfish and self directed. It is first and foremost about saving your soul and then changing yourself. Eventually that might work out to benefit other people in your life, but its basis is totally born of Self.

  34. Freestyle,

    “I don’t think it can on the flipside be said that my actions completely indicate what I believe”

    I actually agree with you to a large extent.

    Perhaps I gave the impression that what we believe will play out perfectly or nearly perfectly or “completely” in our actions. That is not the case. We fall short of what we aspire to on our best day. What we do does in fact give clues to what we believe, however. And our actions are a result, even in not perfectly, of what we actually believe.

    Nobody lives up anywhere near perfectly to what they sincerely believe, and this is where I agree with you. But what we sincerely believe DOES drive our actions and impacts our behavior.

    DeaconBlue, I’m right with you! Regeneration is radical.

    Luke, you said this: “Where do people who ACT like Jesus but don’t “SAY” they believe in Jesus go?”

    This is the million dollar question! Jesus said “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40) and “No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:6). First of all, I would say that no one really acts like Jesus completely. Even people who are truly regenerated and follow Him for years still have a ways to go!

    But the real issue is whether we are saved by our actions. The answer is no.

    What if a person acts a lot like Jesus but doesn’t say so? Well, we’re not saved by what we say, either.

    I would ask if that person acts the way they do because they have put their faith in Jesus and as a result have been born again and transformed. If that is the case, then no matter what they say or don’t say, they are reconciled to God and are going to heaven.

    I think what you’re getting at, perhaps, is what about people who do really good things but do not profess Christ. Am I right? I believe they are still lost, because the issue of sin has not been dealt with. Jesus paid for our sin (here we are back to Atonement) thus removing its penalty from the believer, and without that no one can be right with God.

    But back to Jason’s central thesis, if the penalty of sin has really been removed by faith in Christ, then regeneration/new birth has happened as well, and said person’s actions, thoughts, behavior and deeds will bear evidence of that new life, however imperfectly.

    I love it when there are so many comments that we have to identify them by number :0)

  35. I think what you’re getting at, perhaps, is what about people who do really good things but do not profess Christ. Am I right? I believe they are still lost, because the issue of sin has not been dealt with. Jesus paid for our sin (here we are back to Atonement) thus removing its penalty from the believer, and without that no one can be right with God.” (RITS)

    Then Jesus’ atonement is limited – correct? Only ‘believers’ have the penalty removed and thus be right with God – correct? Jesus’ atonement is limited in your view. Also this atonement is based on your addition to the equation (as I have called the salvation calculation):

    Jesus’ atonement + your confession to receive it = saved/born again/believer

    Jesus atonement – your confession to receive it = damned/dead in your sins/unbeliever

    Your faith hinges on your ‘actions’ – so yes – you must be saved by your actions also. Any base formula I can derive from faith in Jesus goes down to your ‘actions’ in that process.

    I do not believe that formula so here is how I do the math:

    Jesus’ atonement + God’s choice to accept it = everyone is included (atonement is finished thusly no one is exempt – action done – nothing on your part required there)

    However, since I have taken some theological calculus, there is more to that equation:

    Jesus’ atonement + God’s acceptance of sacrifice + our commitment to God = belief in God realized

    However, many people do not accept God – so what about them? More math is what.

    Jesus’ atonement + God’s acceptance + our commitment to the teachings of Jesus = faithful to God.

    Some people may follow the teachings of Jesus – that morality within the teachings – and live good lives by all measures – should God turn away from them for their lack of a confession? In this last equation – I see room for many people of many views of life able to reach God.

    But to be honest – there is not theological framework for ‘who is saved and who is not’ – my math is for more fun than anything. We can say ‘one must believe in Jesus’ – and yet without a good definition of that statement as to what the means we either exclude or include people into God’s kingdom. Question is – is God more accepting than rejecting?

    I serve a God that sent a messiah that ‘died for everyone’ – to me that is very inclusive on all fronts. However, I come from a church that widdles that ‘died for everyone’ part to ‘only those who accept that death get atoned’. God is not the one making the restrictions – church doctrine is.

    This is how open this faith really is – Peter allowed Pharisees in – making no qualms about them remaining as such (Acts 15). Paul was willing to allow all Gentiles into the kingdom of God regardless of their being ‘gentiles’ (which was quite the issue in his day). Jesus accepted all forms of faith – from those of Roman centurions, Samaritans, prositutes and drunks, tax collectors, zealots, to John’s followers. This faith is born from diversity – not uniformity. Orthodoxy is born from a quest for uniformity – Christianity shows its divergence all the time in the scriptures.

    Who gets into heaven? Who wants in is the real question? My opinion is whoever can live by the teachings of God (even the spirit of those teachings) – that same person must be welcome. I don’t care of its an atheist that loves their neighbor to a Sikh that can love their neighbor – if they want to live lives worthy of admiration – I am more than happy to have them on my ‘block’.

  36. Very difficult to find that in the NT, though.

    The apostles preached Jesus for a reason… if His death simply accomplished atonement for the whole world without any condition that one places faith in Jesus the Savior, then why not just take a vacation and avoid the persecution of preaching the cross? Everyone, or nearly everyone, is going to wind up reconciled to God and in heaven anyway, right? Why bother preaching Jesus?

    Obviously I disagree, Jason. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. (John 3:18 ESV)

    I must appropriate the Atonement Jesus accomplished by placing my faith in Jesus (call that an action if you will), and the resulting transformation enables me to live out that faith in increasing holiness and conformity to Christ and good works.

  37. “if His death simply accomplished atonement for the whole world without any condition that one places faith in Jesus the Savior, then why not just take a vacation and avoid the persecution of preaching the cross?” (RITS)

    Good point. I must counter – to keep this alive and going.

    I have no problems with people professing faith in Jesus – and being disliked for that – happens from time to time. But to think the whole world is going to ‘hell’ because many do not profess this faith in Jesus is to live in a ‘shell’ of sorts.

    There are 6.4 billion or more people on this planet (likely getting closer to 7 billion). How many of those are professed Christians – like you and i? Some 2.1 billion or so. That about 33% of the world – while 67% do not profess. This means by your calculation 2/3rd’s of the world will be in ‘hell’ while 1/3 is saved – and this is likely the historical trend for many 100’s of years. Hell must be packed jammed – and it also does not seem like God’s plan to save humanity through Jesus really worked (more or dying than living).

    The fact of the matter is we know about the whole world now and the statistics involved – and Christianity, which has been quite close minded for years, needs to re-think it’s global message (its really not that good of news in at least one sense).

    How can one figure the rejection of this faith is all that matters in going to meet God? No confession – no admission – that’s almost looney tunes like. It also is not based in reality in some ways…namely the intricacies of real human life.

    The only thing that has ever taken into consideration humanity is the idea ‘we are judged according to our deeds’ – that makes sense (it happens in real life). To me, if someone lives the teachings of Jesus (with or without knowing it) – I figure God has to include them – because if He does not – I don;t quite understand this God. He is willing to reject moral people for lack of a confession – when I am more than willing to accept that same person as my neighbor on earth – don’t make me more ‘just’ than God – I beg of you.

    John 3:18 and all those other passages do not move me one iota – because for as literal as you read em’ – they need to be interpreted still. One also has to consider John was written much different then the 1st 3 synoptics – and addresses a huge problem in the early church – the rejection of the Christians at the hands of the Jewish faithful…in a sort of mini battle for the soul of Judaism (we lost). Yet we remain – and John comes from that battle.

    But we still have to lock down what ‘belief’ means in its totality – and I see a form of living your beliefs defining you – not just the confession (which is actually weaker an admission in court than your actions). I have to lean to belief being the way one acts – and if they follow the teachings of Jesus (love your neighbor as yourself) then I think they believe that teaching (which is core to our faith). What keeps them out – and us in – a confession?

    When that is of real importance (like we are being persecuted and the people who claim to live good lives do not aide in helping us out) – then I will admit you have a point concerning the confession. It’s just not true in America at this time and rather a moot point. I am not against the confession – if the confession means something of importance. Like when Jews were being killed and tortured by Nazi’s – proclaiming to be a Jew meant a heavy tag to it – but shame on those good people that watched and did nothing for all those years as this was building in the Nazi regime.

    “Everyone, or nearly everyone, is going to wind up reconciled to God and in heaven anyway, right? Why bother preaching Jesus?” (RITS)

    No, but everyone has an equal chance. I think it comes down to one’s actions personally – atonement is finished (cannot be added to) – so what’s left…your reaction to humanity and your treatment of your neighbor. Now if someone becomes a serial killer or a child molestor – we might be able to count them ‘out’ of the kingdom by their own selfish admissions.

    As for the preaching part – it will always be needed – the ethics are always needed no matter the country you are in. Plus the message all gentiles have equal access to God (via Jesus) is important – do people fully realize this? Christianity is road of ethics – to follow God and love your neighbor – and although we share this message with others – what is key how people use it to ‘better humanity’.

    I am not a big evangelizer – as you can probably tell – but I am not against it either. The message – when it is given as ‘good news’ can be the most redeeming thing a person can hear (which includes me). But what really spoke to me was the teachings of Jesus – the morals involved – the challenge to my personal living. Those teachings helped me tremendously – and I thank God for that direction. I think the Christian offer of direction is not a bad thing for this planet – again – when used right.

    I am not excluding the atonement – I think it exists to provide equal access to God for all people on this planet – it was at that moment that God proclaimed ‘it is finished – all come to this table as equals’. That’s a message of real hope and meaning to those really stuck in life – to know – God cares about them knowing Him. I guess my version does not sound orthodox – true – but I ain’t aiming to line up with orthodoxy – but with what I see in some versions of the gospels (namely Matthew – which I love).

  38. Tit for Tat said:
    “The idea for Christ is completely selfish and self directed. It is first and foremost about saving your soul and then changing yourself. Eventually that might work out to benefit other people in your life, but its basis is totally born of Self.”
    ———————————————-

    This may be a common occurence, but I beg to differ with the broad brush you use here.

    In my own decision to accept Jesus, I wasn’t motivated primiarily by fear of Hell. The overriding emotion at that time was remorse for not having been the child of God I should have been and a very strong feeling of peace that accepting Jesus was simply the right thing to do.

    I couldn’t honestly say that self interest didn’t exist in my mental and spiritual equations somewhere, but it definitely wasn’t an overriding nor even particulary significant thing.

    I doubt I’m alone in that.

  39. “The idea for Christ is completely selfish and self directed.” -T4T

    agreed! I think it was Thomas Merton who laid out the stages of love and faith. There were four:

    1. Love of Self for self’s sake
    2. love of creator for self’s sake
    3. love of self for creator’s sake
    4. love of creator for creator’s sake

    i think we usually get bogged down on #2 and then develop doctrines like Limited Atonement and the like. i’m struggling to get to 3 and 4 and on my best days, i’m not quite there… maybe it’s the aspiration that counts as we all have fallen short of the glory of God (whether you believe in Christ or not).

  40. “Wide is the road to destruction” – Jesus

    The fact that more are lost than saved is a hard teaching, for sure, but that does not make it untrue.

    I still think we are seeing ‘faith’ differently, too.

    This is a critical discussion and I think it’s profitable that you brought it up. We’ll have to agree to disagree for now…

    Peace

  41. maybe it’s the aspiration that counts as we all have fallen short of the glory of God (whether you believe in Christ or not).(Luke)

    Hey bud, you know I L… like you, dont know you well enough to Love you yet lol. Maybe its not so much the belief in Christ that gets me, maybe for that matter its not even the belief in God that gets me. What really gets me is the fact that Christians, both Fundy and Liberal believe that we have “fallen short of the Glory of God”.
    Really, which should I believe, made in Gods image or fallen?

  42. The overriding emotion at that time was remorse for not having been the child of God I should have been and a very strong feeling of peace that accepting Jesus was simply the right thing to do.(Deacon)

    Ok Deac. whats the motivation for Jesus being the “right” thing to do.

  43. ““Wide is the road to destruction” – Jesus; The fact that more are lost than saved is a hard teaching, for sure, but that does not make it untrue” (Steve L)

    That teaching says nothing about the amount of people that will be ‘lost’ forever – just that there are many ways to destroy one’s life (they are plentiful) – but to make one’s life more ‘whole’ – there is only a few (it’s a lot more narrow in scope).

    The fact the scripture you used does not address the issue at hand does not make it a fact either (more people going to hell than heaven). It’s still a very un-caring God in a way – allowing 2/3rd’s of the planet to die so 1/3rd can make it to heaven – God couldn’t even make that an equal number (50 – 50). That statistic, if true, is a little scary of a thought concerning a God I think is Love.

    “I still think we are seeing ‘faith’ differently, too” (Steve L)

    No doubt – but no doubt we are both seeing ‘faith’ – which is still worth the talk. I love God and I love Jesus – I just am not orthodox.

    “This is a critical discussion and I think it’s profitable that you brought it up. We’ll have to agree to disagree for now…” (Steve L)

    Agreed – I see nothing inherently wrong with disagreeing on issues within our faith.

    peace out!

  44. “Really, which should I believe, made in Gods image or fallen?” (John)

    Oh come one Johnny, the fallen idea is really about a broken relationships – in my opinion. Our ability to choose is the belssing and the curse – the creation and fallen – the good and the evil (and in my case – the ugly) – the ying and the yang – the karmic wheel – etc. Now some Christians are tied to ‘fallen and sinful humanity’ – they aren’t wrong – we all committ actions in definite question (sinful more or less). I think the concern is good for humanity.

    Now whether you want to believe you were created ‘in sin’ is something I also raise serious question to also – I am not Pauline in theology (not sure why I need to agree with him 100% on an issue like this either). But I can admit I am flawed and limited as a human being – that when I eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – instead of making the best judgments in life – I come from a limited worldview (skewing my well rounded judgment – self is the actual problem – the limited self).

    I will committ actions of ‘good’ – but also of ‘evil’ – and there is a need for guidance and direction – there is for every single person on this planet. This is where religion and faith in God can play a pivotal role – and has for millions. The point about being ‘fallen’ is we can ‘rise’. I am not sure why that is so offensive to you?

  45. Tit for Tat…what is the motivation for me to love my parent and do what they want me to?

    Punishment may be one thing, but it doesn’t have to be the only thing.

    God sent Jesus to pay our sin debt and to show us a better way to interact with God.

    That is something to be grateful for.

    And my disobedience to a God who really does love me is something NOT to be proud of.

    I didn’t come to Jesus out of a purely selfish motivation but to create that family link to God. That isn’t purely selfish, though there may be selfish aspects. That’s wanting to be part of something bigger and more worthwhile and positive than what I had been part of.

    This is hard to put into words that are going to be “felt” by anyone who hasn’t gone through the same thing or something similar as what I did…but am I making more sense now?

  46. “Really, which should I believe, made in Gods image or fallen?” -T4T

    yes! we’re made in God’s image. we can do things like run into burning buildings to save strangers, jump in front of bullets, and pull people out of the way of speeding cars. we also can’t or won’t do all of these things.

    my stance on “Fallen” is different from the conservatives where they see us as inherently sinful… i see us as inherently limited. we think we’re doing good, but there might be some consquences to our good that are unintentionally bad. like building a dam for hydro-electrical power (good) but blocking salmon migration routes (bad). like helping to build hospitals in Africa (good) seeming to look like you’re telling them what to do and ‘westernizing’ them (bad).

    for a contextual example, it’s like sending a christmas card to an elderly member of your church who is lonely (good) and then she gives her kids a guilt trip over it (bad). i thought i was doing good, but i didn’t completely. this isn’t sin, but it isn’t good! if i were God and therefore unlimited, i would have know to approach the situation differently.

  47. Jason – what do you think of Brian McLaren? You seem to resonate with him in a lot of your thinking…

    When I have time, I have this little illustration I developed to try to paint a picture of saving faith (vs. intellectual assent, which many often mistake for faith).

    How much longer will comments be valid on this post?

  48. “what do you think of Brian McLaren?” (RITS)

    I have read one of his books (own 2 of them) – to be honest – I can resonate with his sensitivities to unite the church. As for deep convo’s – his books are not really that.

    “How much longer will comments be valid on this post?” (RITS)

    Proverbially, until hell freezes over – I leave comments open forever.

  49. Sorry to have been gone for a bit. I really like a lot of what Jason is saying here. I have come from a staunchly Nazarene fundy upbringing and partly as a result of reading Brian McLaren and NT Wright and Rob Bell and CB Kruger much more in line with what Jason and Luke are saying here. I especially agree with “the fall” being more about a broken relationship than it being about making me a wormy wretch and much more about the atonement being God’s restoration of that relationship than about paying a debt or penalty. Thanks for the post, the comments, and the good read.

  50. “That teaching says nothing about the amount of people that will be ‘lost’ forever – just that there are many ways to destroy one’s life (they are plentiful) – but to make one’s life more ‘whole’ – there is only a few (it’s a lot more narrow in scope).”

    Steve didn’t give the entire quote, but I think he assumed you wouldn’t forget the rest of it which refutes your refutation.

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

    Certainly, the relationship aspect of both the Fall and the Atonement, and the resulting works are important to theology. Any theology which lacks them is necessarily deficient, and any Christian who doesn’t live accordingly needs to be discipled.

    However, the justification aspect is also important, and it is often considered more important. Which is more important is a question of perception, because the first is accurately perceived (insofar as we comprehend eternity) while the perception of importance for the second increases with maturity. If I were to fully know God (a staggering thought in itself), which would I consider more important? Since no one but Jesus has ever reached such a height, we can never know for sure. But we can guess at Jesus’ priorities by reading His teachings. How often does He mention knowing versus obeying God? I’ve never performed such a Bible study, but even it would be limited in certainty by John 21:25.

    On the other hand, some have proposed that they are actually the same thing – that is, that someone who doesn’t know God would necessarily be tormented in an eternity where He turns out, with all His holiness, to be real. C. S. Lewis, for example, offered such an explanation (or two, if you count the agony of being a ghost in the presence of light) in The Great Divorce. Wikipedia offers a good summary of it but omits any description of said agony.

  51. “Steve didn’t give the entire quote, but I think he assumed you wouldn’t forget the rest of it which refutes your refutation.

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14” (Jesidisciple)

    And how does that refure the statement I made:

    “That teaching says nothing about the amount of people that will be ‘lost’ forever – just that there are many ways to destroy one’s life (they are plentiful) – but to make one’s life more ‘whole’ – there is only a few (it’s a lot more narrow in scope).”

    The whole passage is about ‘life’ as I have contended in my rebuttal. I rather think I am ‘spot on’.

    “Certainly, the relationship aspect of both the Fall and the Atonement, and the resulting works are important to theology. Any theology which lacks them is necessarily deficient, and any Christian who doesn’t live accordingly needs to be discipled” (Jesidisciple)

    I will debate the fall likely all my life – its not an accepted apologetic in Jewish theology (from which this story finds its place – Genesis). Its an accepted aspect of Christian theology – but is one with many views to it. This is all not that ‘cut n dry’.
    As for the atonement – I include that in my theology.

    “But we can guess at Jesus’ priorities by reading His teachings. How often does He mention knowing versus obeying God?” (Jesidisciple)

    It depends on how one looks at that – the knowing is in the doing in my opinion. They are so synonamous to one another to break them apart is to practically committ a form of theological betrayal. If they were twins – they’d be identical (maybe better yet – siamese).

  52. “That teaching says nothing about the amount of people that will be ‘lost’ forever.”

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for … there are many who go in by [the narrow gate that leads to destruction]. Because … there are few who find [the wide gate which leads to life].”

  53. I’m going to add emphasis just to make sure; delete my previous comment if you wish:

    “That teaching says nothing about the amount of people that will be ‘lost’ forever.”

    “Enter by the narrow gate; for … there are *many* who go in by [the narrow gate that leads to destruction]. Because … there are *few* who find [the wide gate which leads to life].”

    I see a pretty clear contrast…

  54. It still doesn’t say anything about ‘eternal life’ in that quote. It is about finding the best in life for a person – but the 2 gates are more about getting the best out of life.

    Narrow gate – finding wholeness is not easy – doing the right thing is quite narrow. Example – committing to one’s wife and not committing adultery can only be done one way…not cheating on one’s wife.

    Wide gate – Trying not to find wholeness is easy – doing anything one wants is basically filled with a variety of options. Example – cheating on one’s wife can take a variety of forms and ways.

    The teaching Jesus is giving is about morality and following the path of faith – which will place some restrictions on the person’s search for wholeness – but those restrictions are worth it to the one who see’s it that way (for life’s happiness and fulfillment).

  55. “The teaching Jesus is giving is about morality and following the path of faith…”

    Of course it is; we’re on the same page there. So few people accept faith in Christ (= repent of disobeying the Law of Christ) and many do not. The lawless far outnumber the lawful. In the same chapter, those who say “Lord, Lord” are banished for that reason; how much more those who don’t even consider Christ as Lord?

    Also in the same chapter (verse 11), Jesus calls His audience evil. The audience is non-specific, set in 5:1. Does “evil” mean a natural tendency toward lawlessness?

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