Marriage – What Do You See?

“Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”” (Matthew 19:3-10)

When you read that – what is being said about:

(a) Marriage?

(b) Divorce?

I am asking because I want to know how people interpret stuff like this. I am very interested in what interpretive form they are using to make sense of such a scenario. In fact, Jesus is interpreting the Torah here (all caps) and possible arguements of the day. Well, we are in our day and need to determine how this gets used…what do you see?

The Old Fruit Tree Parable Trick…

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23)

What does ‘fruit’, as a metaphor, mean in all of these passages?

I was looking at a tree today – the leaves had all fallen off it and it looked…well…dead. For some reason the parable Jesus spoke about a tree and it’s fruits came to my mind and reminded me of a few things about ‘trees’. Trees continually produce fruit – over and over and over again – they produce the same fruit – year in and year out. Trees do not produce a different kind of fruit – it’s usually one kind each season. The tree lives to produce that fruit – it’s it sole action in life.

Well, in the parable a good person (or tree) is determined by their actions (or fruit) – vice versa for a bad person. This analogy is then used by Paul and James concerning the actions of Christians and what those outcomes should be (ie: peace). How is it a Christian can claim they have no responsibility for their own commitment to God (what they want to call salvation) when it seems abundantly clear within these passages on the metaphor of trees and fruit – that a tree is defined by the fruit it brings forward (according to the direct wording of that parable from Matthew). Prior I used James’ letter to prove this point – but Matthew makes this exact same point with his metaphor of tree’s and fruit.

This is not some ‘far-out’ idea that Christians are responsible for their behavior and that their salvation is as guaranteed as a tree producing the same ‘good’ fruit year in and year out. It seems to me in this parable (and the resultant scriptures afterwards) that without the produce the tree is useless. James said faith without works is dead. I saw a tree today that was dead…it produced no fruit.

Elaboration of Texts…like Interpretation (but better)

You just interpret the bible to fit into your own thinking. You’re not allowing the bible to change your thinking.” (Temaskian)

I agree – I am not orthodox – but my faith and that bible do not ask me to be. Nowhere am I ever asked to adhere to the thought of a trinity and various atonement theories. Anyone that says anything like that has not read all 27 books and letters in the NT and cross-compared the vaiety of messages being offered from the synoptics, to Paul, to James, to John. These things need to be weighed out a lot better IMO.

As for interpretation, I would call what I do elaboration – in line with the rabbinic literature should be approached. These are not just words on a page – they need to be examined and re-examined and then re-examined somemore for the reality we have to face…what I call experiential theology…living the ideals.

If the teachings are just literal – then literal needs to be defined better and linguistics also needs to be looked at with regards to what is written (and context). I would say ‘yes’ they are ‘literally words on a page’…but they are meaningless without some substance…and now for 2 examples.

(a) The words become flesh – literal or metaphorical? For example, I am talking about an experiential theology – living what it is you are reading…in a sense I am saying…you are the words become flesh (a spiritual paradigm). This point is being made about Jesus in John’s intro – a book I find filled with symbolism and not literalism.

(b) You mentioned the beatitudes – namely the persecution aspect of those beatitudes. You only want to see a literalism to that verse – and not what it is pointing the person towards. Agreed, people will suffer for their faith – for holding to teachings that run contrary to some aspects of society…ever try be loving person in a gang? You don’t only lose respect I can tellz ya that.

But that teaching is about holding firm to your beliefs – having integrity even when it might hurt. Its confirming your faith is not just some magical feeling but experiential in nature and real…tried, tested, and true. It is also pointing the person towards change. If you don’t like the fact the Romans have orgies to their gods – then stop paying tribute to that god or attending those bathhouses. It’s about standing firm for change – and either the situation changes or you will suffer – but either way knowing your going to suffer you make a concrete stand in the face of opposition (ie: like civil rights activists in its hay-day).

I would say that teaching in the beatitudes is the reasoning for keeping one’s core beliefs. Yes there is an aspect of ‘other-worldly’ but your not persecuted for your stand in heaven – but on earth…that teaching is addressing the scenarios people will face ‘here and now’ and asking them to stand firm.

***Comment originally aired at Temaskian’s blog ‘another reason why it’s depressing to be a theist’

Testify…or Lie

You might find, if you ever become an atheist, that you can handle problems just as well without God, and perhaps even better. Let’s face it, God is just an emotional pillow for us to cry on” (Temaskian)

Truth be told Temaskian – you’re right. I would live pretty much the same life I do now if I decided to declare myself an ‘atheist’…not much would change for me. However, I am not poor anymore either and facing some of life’s hardest struggles…but one time that was me.

So, for me, it’s a matter of a reality check. What do you think got me to this point Temaskian? There is something about having nothing that requires one to have faith – that life can be better than what it is – that pushes one to higher hopes in spite of conditions that range from dire to dangerous. Faith in God provides that – and I admit 100% it ’saved’ me…in the sense I was ’saved’ from the conditions I grew up in and was allowed to be exposed to.

Now faith is all about the things ‘hoped for’…and I reached every single goal I set for myself from when I was 17 and just escaping the hood mentality. I’m 34 now – I am a grown up and life worked out pretty damn good…I got educated, married, own a home, nice vehicles, have a great job, etc. So yes, I could pack it all in and declare – I am now going to be an athiest…truth is I see less need for a God when you live comfortably. I live pretty damn comfortably.

But I always ask myself this (reality check time) ‘would I be where I am today if I did not develop my faith in God?’. Would I treat people the way I do? Would I care as much as I do? Would I have the 1/2 the insight I have developed over time? Would I have even gotten educated? I tend to think none of this would of happened had I not some 17 years ago (as a teen) decided to give faith a chance…this Christian thing.

From all projections I can logically make, from judging all of the other people who I grew up with (some are dead now)…I would have had less education (to none), have a few children (maybe be married – likely not), not actually own much of anything, have a prison record, wouldn’t have developed many of the skills I take for granted now (ie: my personal discipline and writing), may or may not have developed a serious drug problem or another addiction, work trade labor or not have a job, possibly be dead from a variety of violent scenarios, likely be unhealthy, etc.

For me, it makes no logical sense to claim atheism as something to classify myself as. Faith, as much as I am comfortable now, actually helped push me in directions that saved my life – and if I have kids – set their future on a much better path than I knew. I respect people that make the claim to be ‘atheist’ – I cannot make such a claim because for me it would be ‘lying’ about what ‘made me’.

***Originally aired under ‘Finding God’

I have to ask…do many de-converts ignore their past and what part that played in the people they are now? I am proposing the idea the more comfortable one is – the less the need for a God is.

Finding God?

‘when the human spirit is most broken – this is where you will find God’

I don’t think we know much about God anymore…we are a very convenient culture. We have semi-rich preachers telling us about what to believe about God. Churches are really just middle class culture clubs complete with who’s on what board and when is the next picnic? The culture around us is very convenient in general…pre-packaged foods, fast food joints, huge clothing chains, coffee places…is it just me or does anything and everything come pre-packaged and advertised? It leaves very little room in a search for God – the need just isn’t there.

Now that may not be the worst thing – after all we are building off of the backs of the hard work of many good people before for us for centuries now…maybe those people recognized a need that we built upon and now benefit from. In their search for God they sought to make it easier on future generations…and did.

Maybe there is less need for God when things are going ‘so good’? At least, that’s my reasoning. I don’t think that is bad – human self sufficency – it just shows we have grown with what we have been given…and how can God be mad at that?

However, pain and struggle occur on a daily basis in this world – not everyone lives in convenience. I find in these places of pain and struggle the brokeness of humanity…and with it the need for God. I have been there a lot of times in my live coming from poverty and just recently to having to re-examine my marriage. I find the neccesary strength when I turn in frustration to God – or just in dire need. I see it in videos on the civil rights movement, in Gandhi’s struggle with being oppressed, and even in the gay rights movement and the hurt there.

That’s why I said it…it’s like when the human spirit just cannot handle anymore there will be relief.

Faith in Jesus – 2 Faiths

That’s why St. Paul explains in Galatians 3:23-26 that the law is (was) our custodian (tutor) until Christ came.” (Steve)

I am going to make this point once and if anyone cares to check into it’s validity – feel free.

James and Paul disagree on this exact passage concerning Abraham. This means we have 2 differing opinion from scholars on the movement – one actually was Jesus’ brother and the other never met Jesus nor heard him speak the 3 years he was in Israel.

Paul’s version
Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:6-7)

James version
and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:23-24)

Paul see’s the justification coming by faith alone. James see’s the justification coming via faith proven by one’s actions. They are actually different in what they are asking of the believer.

It is also well known these 2 did not always agree – in fact Acts 15 records an incident they did not – so does Galatians 2.

Paul’s stand both times is adopted by the known church – from it’s origins until this day. Paul was right to call Peter and James on some of the hypocrisy – the inequality the Gentiles were being shown in Antioch. However, Paul bases his faith on what exactly? This seems to be what Peter, James, and John seem to be trying to convince him of.

Paul says justification comes through faith – ok – but what is faith based on? The Spirit of God! Great. But what is the Spirit of God all about (rather vague and unknown entity with little in scripture to help us determine this) – what moral basis is God using? This seems to be the angle where James’ letter comes from.

James in his letter pretty much mimics Matthew’s gospels and upbraids it as known teachings of Jesus. From inequalities, faith and works, and religion about giving to the poor. Actually many of the stuff James writes seems to come straight from Matthew. If I have to prove this I will – anyone with a short read of either will see the direct correlation.

James seems to be saying ‘I write about what I know Jesus said’. Paul – quotes which gospel exactly? The only thing that appears in a single gospel he quoted is communion – word for word that appears in Luke’s gospel…by all accounts Paul’s travelling companion and neither met Jesus.

In the end, who would you choose as giving you the best infromation about the subject of faith in Jesus?

***Comment lifted from the blog just below this – ‘The Law is The Problem?’

The Law Is The Problem?

The point is that the law (that is what it is) is to be used to convict us, to kill us off to the self-justification project which we all want to engage in, and then to lead us to repentance” (Steve)

Either Paul is misrepresenting God or Steve is – you be the judge.

Steve says the law is meant to ‘kill us off’ since we ’self justify by it’. Basically, we can become prideful because we think we can follow the law to some great standard – correct Steve?

Thing is, has anyone read in the Torah where God hand-writes these commandments on stones and gives them to Moses? Hand-writes them – wow. This is the same law Steve is saying that was meant to ‘kill us off’ and ‘our self justifying ways’. How can one be self-justified by a law that came directly from the hands of the Almighty Living God?

Like I said, either Steve or Paul is wrong on this – God gave us the law – well to Israel to be exact. This is God’s law and His teachings on righteousnes – this isn’t some mans idea of what makes a human being wholesome. This came straight from the Almighty Living God and was so damn important He carved the words into stone Himself!

No one who follows the law is prideful or self-righteous – but is trying to follow God as God wrote. I think this same way when I look at Jesus’ teachings on Torah/Prophets…we follow not to be prideful (not even an option) or self-righteous – but to follow God. Can religious people become self-righteous – damn straight. But it’s not the teachings fault – but their own personal ego and love of attention getting in the way.

The law is not a bad thing – not sure why this is the case. God wrote it – when we say that law is something ‘bad’ we are basically calling God’s words the problem.

***Comment originally aired on Naked Pastors ‘Cartoon: Germs’

Have Faith? What About a Baptism?

What is your faith made of? Ever wonder this? A person can claim a lot about what they believe but until they are put in the spot to test their values – they really have no clue what their faith is made of.

I am going to clue you into what you faith should of started as – a committment. The second you got baptized was the second you made a serious committment to God. Let me guess, no one told you…no one told me either actually.

Baptism is a symbol of your personal committment to God – embracing the idea of repentance and the hope of the resurrection. One can leave this committment at any given time – don’t need to renounce nothing – just stop living by the teachings of God and your good to go. Baptism is only a beginning of a journey (which started at having faith) – but it’s not the end of it.

Your faith is a journey that will be tested along lifes roads and alleyways – do you truly believe what it is you say you do? How do you know unless you try it out?

Faith is not about having some hollow confession that ‘sounds good’. Faith is about living behind the thngs you garner from the teachings of God and becoming the substance of the living words (the words come in to real live action). John’s gospel introduces us to this paradigm – the living word. Now if Jesus was all talk then he’s just the ‘talking’ word – but he lived something he expected to see in his disciples (students).

 Faith is a lifestyle that will face points of extremes that will make many want to quit…for a variety of reasons. But at baptism you signed a committment to God that you swore to keep with your life. Good committments don’t have quitters…see any worthwhile marriage.

By Grace You Have Been Saved…

I hear that claim a lot on Christian blogs – we are saved by the grace of God. I am here today to give some ‘meat and bones’ to that expression and how I see scripture backing this claim up.

(a) Grace of God – what is this Grace? To me, the grace of God is His voluntary movement towards humanity – usually out of love for us.

(b) Grace has existed for eons. God has had grace since creation, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Judges, Kings, Prophets, and Jesus. God is gracious towards humanity.

(c) Grace does not let you ‘off the hook’. God has always been gracious – but that says nothing about you (just about God). You are still required to have a committment to God and the moral values taught within the scriptures. Your committment, in light of the grace of God, is to committ to make the world a better place by enacting the ideas of the kingdom of God (in your personal everyday life).

I honestly believe this is what the disciples of Jesus taught – and then Paul afterwards to the Gentiles. God is gracious – the good news is God’s movement towards humanity. God’s grace is meaningless without action from our ends. We need to committ to the kingdom of God and that’s our ‘faithfulness’. Yes you are saved by faith in God – faith needs to be understood as faithfulness. You are faithful to God’s kingdom (faith in God has a meaningful place to build a foundation upon).

So we can be thankful that God ‘moved’ and was gracious to us. But in order to be truly thankful – then live out the teachings of the kingdom of God and make the world around you a wonderful place to be.

God is Dead?

If Christians make the assertion that their faith is longer about morality – does this mean they think God is dead?

The death of God is a way of saying that humans are no longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they themselves no longer recognize it. The death of God will lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief of cosmic or physical order but also to a rejection of absolute values themselves — to the rejection of belief in an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals” (God is Dead – Wikipedia)

I have been thinking about this for some time since I have heard some Christians murmur in this regards…that faith is not about morality (or Christians may not be morally better than surrounding conditions)…and according to their statements of faith I don’t blame them.

Statements of faith for most denominations do not address moral concerns so much as they address ‘belongong to this faith’ concerns. The statements are usually a what’s what of beliefs one must hold about God or other things in order to claim the faith…almost a type of confession. But with regards to morality – it may not neccessarily be addressed.

Think about it, within many Christian streams ‘faith’ is all that matters. Jesus fulfilled all that matters and even his teachings were to prove to us how impossible being ‘good/perfect’ is. Services are built around the showing of this ‘faith’ – via prayer, worship, preaching, communion, or even alter calls. All this elaborate ‘show’ to ‘show’ you have faith – which is why church is essential in many a Christian’s mind to prove you are a Christian. None of that is neccesarily about morality (maybe giving) but about showing your depth of spirituality.

Nihilism is what Nietzsche believed would occur with this generation due to a lack of moral grounding…and religion is helping this along. What say you faith – what of works? Many believe you don’t need works to be a Christian – but faith alone. Faith, in and of itself, without an anchor to ground to is a cover for nihilism.

Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. He hints that nihilism can become a false belief, when it leads individuals to discard any hope of meaning in the world and thus to invent some compensatory alternate measure of significance” (Nihilism – Wikipedia)