Why I Am a Person of Faith…

Because I can see it’s importance in human relations.

We have a bunch of teachings that at their core are about being a ‘good neighbor’ (onus is on ourselves – not on others). I have to live in the real world where there are a lot of people in a lot of scenario’s and the best thing I can do is at least take a personal look at my treatment of people around me (and myself).  I need to examine my role in my relationships. I find faith addresses these concerns quite well. This is why I value faith and love to discuss it.

What I dislike about faith – which is driving me more and more away from faith – is the divisiveness of it and the way scripture is used in manipulative and condemning ways. It also manages to allow ordinary people a way to gain a form of power that can be used of others in a manner that is controlling (sometimes abusive). I think people should be taught to think for themselves and only be directed on how to read and elaborate on the scriptures for their personal lives…and it seems to me people are being controlled (mentally) in many churches. I don’t like that and I never have. So I rail against the ideas that allow this to continue…challenging others to mentally ‘break free’. Most people don’t even know they under some conditional control of the church (or other institution) – I serve as a reminder.

But my likes outweigh my dislikes – hard to tell on this blog but it is true. I only do what I do to establish conversation on issues that people may have not considered before or to push their limits so they can grow (as many have done with me). I guess within my concerns is my distaste…they co-mingle and reveal the depth of the human spirit to multi-task. I juggle faith and atheism within my own reality – knowing I was built upon faith as part of my core development into adulthood – only to see that life is more complex than I first realized – when I knew it all…now my knowing it all is becoming painfully my biggest weakness. I either graduate to open-ness or choke in certainty…I wanted to live.

Faith is not about certainty – it’s about direction. Abraham went as God asked him – from place to place – event to event – and his life was that of movement. Faith that stagnates (figures it all out) cannot be said to be drinking from ‘wells of living water’ exactly. To seek the kingdom of God is exactly that – a journey…we seek to find something we knew less of before. I like this about faith – even in my despair about faith – faith is something I seek, find, and do some more of.

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The Divine Comedy (Conundrum)

Apparently I am being censored on another conservative site – freedom of speech in conservative circles – well not yet – apparently God isn’t into free thinkers that actually can use reason and logic…and here I thought we were supposed to use ‘all our mind’ to worship God – silly me. Oh well, I’ll have to move on to the next conservative circle and start again (14 condemnations and counting).

I have noticed when I blog with conservative Christians that when we approach the doctrine of the ‘trinity’ this is when my case (as well defended as it is) becomes a moot point…no amount of good evidence will ever change the church’s mind on that doctrine…and no amount of biblical evidence will be enough to avoid condemnation from these conservatives. 4 years and counting…the church won’t even accept people that do not accept this doctrine – it’s a matter of ‘you’re in’ and ‘you’re out’. Pretty cut-throat when you think about it.

But I have thought about it – for a long time now – and here is a piece of my case for consideration.

If God is the Trinity – a 3 in 1 spectacular – then I will admit that ‘I was wrong’ before God and every single person I made such a claim to concerning this issue. However, I can admit this is an honest mistake and a claim the evidence was ambigous about. I see the claim ‘God is One’ in the Tanakh and the NT – so for me to not understand the Trinity (since it is never mentioned in scripture) seems reasonable enough a mistake to make. So no real commandment is being broken – still believed in One God – just couldn’t grasp the Trinity because like I said ‘ambigous’.

If God is not a Trinity – but as He said along is ‘One’ – then a commandment is being broken (idolatry). God made it plainly clear to anyone with a basic reading level He is ‘One’…in Deut 6:4 (Jesus repeats this in Mark 12:29) and Exodus 20:3. This idea is a central theme through-out the whole of Torah and Propehts – it never changes. The only time this seemed to change was when Christianity reached into Gentile soil and the idea of co-divinity was based on the literalism of the ‘son of God’ idea. See below for more on the ‘son of God’ idea from the Hebrew scriptures.

Son of God (Wikipedia)

“In the Hebrew Bible, the phrase “son(s) of God” has various meanings: there are a number of later interpretations. Our translation most likely comes from the Septuagint, which uses the phrase “Uioi Tou Theou”, “Sons of God”, to translate it.

  • The Hebrew phrase Benei Elohim, often translated as “sons of God”, is seen by some to describe angels or immensely powerful human beings. The notion of the word as describing non-divine beings most likely comes from the Targumic Aramaic translation, which uses the phrases “sons of nobles”, “Bnei Ravrevaya” in its translation. See Genesis 6:2-4 and Book of Job 1:6.
  • It is used to denote a human judge or ruler (Psalm 82:6, “children of the Most High”; in many passages “gods” and “judges” can seem to be equivalent). In a more specialized sense, “son of God” is a title applied only to the real king over Israel (II Samuel 7:14, with reference to King David and those of his descendants who carried on his dynasty; comp. Psalm 89:27-28).
  • Israel as a people is called God’s “son”, using the singular form (comp. Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1).
  • Ephraim as a tribe (Jeremiah 31:8)

In Judaism the term “son of God” was used of the expected “Jewish mashiach” figure (Qumran community). Psalm 2 addresses someone as both God’s messiah (anointed king) and God’s son.

In the Jewish literature that was not finally accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible, but that many Christians do accept as Scripture (see Deuterocanonical books), there are passages in which the title “son of God” is given to the anointed person or Mashiach (see Enoch, 55:2; IV Esdras 7:28-29; 13:32, 37, 52; 14:9). The title belongs also to any one whose piety has placed him in a filial relation to God (see Wisdom 2:13, 16, 18; 5:5, where “the sons of God” are identical with “the saints”; comp. Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] iv. 10).

It has been speculated that it was because of the frequent use of these books by the Early Christians in polemics with Jews, that the Sanhedrin at Yavneh rejected them around 80 CE.

In the Jewish interpretation of the Gospels, the being of Jesus as “son of God” corresponds to the typical Hasid from Galilee, a “pious” holy man that by divine intervention performs miracles and exorcisms (Geza Vermes quote)”

I am simply going by evidence…and if that makes me insane…guilty as charged.

Answering 2 Isaiah Passages on ‘Messiah’

(1) Isaiah 9:5 – the names of the Messiah question

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called “wonderful counselor of the mighty God, of the everlasting Father, of the Prince of peace.”

I was asked whether this was the correct translation of this passage since most bibles do not translate this passage this way. Here it is in New American Standard language:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

There is a bias one will notice ASAP – his and His and all the other capitals. The first translation comes from Jeffrey Spitzer (a Jewish translation of the passage) and the second comes from Christian sources. I guess it depends on what one believes that passage says about the messiah.

However, that passage is most definitely about Hezekiah. Here is why.

Hezekiah (or Ezekias) means “YHWH Mighty God, or The Might of God“” (Wikipedia – Hezekiah)

Someone called me on this as to being a misrepresentation of his name…so I took Wikipedia’s advice and compared it with Ezekiel (almost the same name).

Ezekiel, “God will strengthen”, from חזק, hazak, [ħa’zaq], literally “to fasten upon”, figuratively “strong”, and אל, el, [ʔel], literally “strength, figuratively “Almighty“” (Wikipedia – Ezekiel)

The names are basically the same – might and strength are of the same definition. One can say ‘God will strengthen’ which is basically the same as ‘to fasten upon the might of God’.

But even if we used the messiah – which has been known to happen with this passage. Are we saying this child is a counselor, Mighty God, the Eternal Father, and the prince of peace? Or are we saying this person is a counselor ‘of’ the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. I lean towards the latter. Only because Hezekiah as a king/ruler (and even the messianic Davidic King would fall in this category) is someone that counsels and rules on counsel effecting the people.

(2) Isaiah 7:14 – virgin?

Therefore the L-rd Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Jewish translation)

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (NASB)

“Almah, despite a two-millennium misunderstanding of Isaiah 7:14, “Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son,” indicates nothing concerning the chastity of the woman in question. The only way that the term “virgin” can be unambiguously expressed is in the negative: thus, Sumerian and Akkadian, “undeflowered,” and Akkadian, “not experienced,” “unopened,” and “who has not known a male.” (Jewish Virtual Library – term ‘almah’)

“The Jewish response is based on the general understanding that the noun (almah) represents an age group and not a state of sexual purity.  As noted earlier, the term (almah) means a young woman of marriageable age, i.e. of child-bearing age [the male equivalent of which is (elem)], irrelevant of the status of her sexual experience, i.e., whether or not the young woman is a virgin is not at issue, as its usage in the Hebrew Bible suggests.  For example, when one would say in English, “A young woman went to the store.“, nothing in this sentence contains any information about her virginity – it is a non sequitur.  When the term (almah) is used in a sentence in spoken Hebrew, or in a verse in Biblical Hebrew, there is no implicit reference to the young woman’s virginity.  Those who are fluent in the Hebrew language know this.  Other more accurate vocabulary was available to Isaiah had he desired to specifically refer here to a virgin – the Hebrew term (betulah) means a virgin.” (http://www.messiahtruth.com/isa714b.html)

In essence, why the term virgin is even used is puzzling to say the least. What needs to be strongly noted is that any change to the meaning of ‘almah’ was made by non-Jewish sources who may not have fully understood or compared these terms in Hebrew properly.

The only argument that can be made for the ‘virgin’ aspect of that verse is the person is a ‘young woman’ – pretty likely she is a virgin – but that’s neither here nor there as important to that verse in any single way. Again this verse is about Hezekiah.

My Point: Not everything you read in Christian circles is neccesarily interpreted correctly.

Jesus in the Bible – Authority of Written Works

I am reading a book by Geza Vermes right now – the ‘Many Faces of Jesus’.  It has brought some more coordination to some of the things I have been reading about Jesus over the past 4 years…namely with what the bible says about him and where it says it about him.

In John’s gospel we find the divinity of Jesus (5 or 6 places in total) – and in very select pieces of Paul. John also slightly mentions some aspects of being the messiah and the ‘lamb of God’ idea.

In Paul’s letters we find the Jesus of mysticism – a Jesus Paul admits to never meeting ‘in the flesh’. Paul develops the ideas of atonement and many church doctrines we see today.

I notice it always these 2 people that are quoted when one wants to prove either theory – divinity or atonement ideas – and not much anywhere else. I wonder if someone did not have these works would they arrive at many of the orthodox conclusions they do.

Some notes on both writers:

(a) John never wrote his gospel (written between 100 and 125 AD at best). The church had a chance to develop within Gentile communities by this time (some 70 – 100 years after Jesus’ life). It is no wonder this gospel alone develops some bitterness towards the Jewish nation (uses Jew over 60 times in it’s gospel), has divinity attributed to Jesus, uses the lamb of God idea, and has Jesus in many speeches defending himself and his position as the messiah (or even God). No other gospel even so much as see’s the need to do this to Jesus – who does not make big speeches (as Geza would say – ‘like a Roman orator’).

(b) Paul, the first Christian writer with actual written works, is written solely to Gentile communities. Paul also is quite fierce with Jewish components of the ‘gospel’ and see’s a need to defend his apostleship from letter to letter. Probably a great reason for that – this man never knew Jesus nor could he be an apostle according to Acts 1:21-22. It also would seem Paul was arguing against the version of the gospel that grew from Jerusalem – from the people that followed Jesus first-hand – Peter, James, and John. Paul’s arguments against people that preached the gospel contrary to his version of the gospel were obviously from those schools of thought. Paul makes some room concerning the Gentiles and their inclusion, but to become the main teacher for the church without any real apostleship bestowed upon him – well leaves one to wonder why he is the person orthodoxy is built upon.

It is becoming more clear to me the development of the orthodox positions in early Christianity and whom they valued and whom they devalued to arrive at these conclusions. The orthodoxy is Gentile in nature – this is most assured…argue with someone orthodox – be prepared for a defence that knows nothing about the Judaic roots of this faith (extreme ignorance) and quotes from Paul and John alone as proof texts. It doesn’t take one much more thought to realize the orthodox position is defending from the last to print gospel (so many changes could be attributed to Jesus) and a missionary solely to Gentiles (who’s message was bent in their favor) – who’s own apostleship was in question – never meeting Jesus or knowing nothing about his ministry in Israel.

All things added up we have a gospel which may about 100 removed from Jesus’ real life and an apostle/missionary that spent his whole life amongst Gentiles and without any tutorship (unless you count 15 days) with the original group that knew Jesus.

Heretics – What Would You Say?

Comment aired on Discernit ‘Whoa! Are Joel Rosenberg and Lee Strobel going ‘Emergent”

“Societyvs Here is the mandate for dividing the church or seperating from heretics if you like.

Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Paul commands us to mark those who divide the church with a contrary doctrine than the one established by the Apostles. That means that those riding the unity band wagon who are deviating from the biblical teaching of the apostles are actually the ones dividing the church and Paul commands the body of Christ to mark them. That is to single them out and to avoid them, to not fellowship or associate yourself with them.

If you deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ then sadly you are not a Christian. That also sadly makes you a heretic and one who ought to be avoided and marked. The reason is simple and that is that the teaching you would espouse concerning the divinity of Christ will destroy the faith of some, therefore you are sadly an enemy of the gospel and unless granted the grace to repent under the condemnation from the Almighty.

Thankfully as long as men have access to the holy scriptures they can avoid men such as yourself and stay on the biblical straight and narrow.

For your own well being thankfully you can also read the scriptures and by God’s mercy see the error of your heresy and repent and find mercy and salvation thru the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is to be both loved and feared so ponder well the things that you communicate about Him lest he prove you wrong and bring you into judgement.

The trinity of God is so central to the faith of christianity that to deny it is to deny christianity.

Gen 1:26-27 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

1Jn 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Arians hated the above verse so much they removed it from every alexandrain text as did the Westcott and Hort texts but the Lord has preserved His word and thankfully we read it in the King James bible.” (Paul)

*Number 14 in the bank…how would you answer this critique?

The Intangible Reality

Tangibility (from Wikipedia)

In law, tangibility is the attribute of being detectable with the senses. In criminal law, one of the elements of an offense of larceny is that the stolen property must be tangible. In the context of intellectual property, expression in tangible form is one of the requirements for copyright protection

Spirituality is intangible. Religion tries to make it tangible – the expression of the intangible. They will use things like communion or baptism to make this point. Even attendance to a church and becoming a member is an expression of this intangible endeavor. Yet, one knows spirituality is intangible. Yet it still exists.

‘I have faith in you’

There’s a line I have used a lot. Yet even in the insubstance of what is being said – there is some sort of substance. The subject can be something as simple as passing a driving test or tough as interviewing for a job and I will say “I have faith in you’. Faith implies ones personal belief in that person – as unseen as this is. In this case it’s a type of support for the person…a belief in their abilties to get the job done. I can’t prove my support – it just is.  

Now one cannot truly prove ‘faith’ per se – yet it is somethings inspires people into action. Now I have tangible scriptures to read from mind you – but it’s just a book in all reality…unless put into action. The true depth of faith is how it can inspire a person to do something with their life…from reading words to proving themselves in action…and evaluating the outcomes of the ideas to become a better person (and in some cases, a worse person).

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1)

I think this is a fair critique of what faith ‘is’. I believe in people’s abilities, I also believe in a God I cannot see…both reveal an aspect of someone’s faith. Faith is type of trust – a type of support – for what is basically the unknown. Faith, in and of itself, is not problematic…in fact I think it is an essential to human living.

Don’t worry – if you don’t believe me – I will still support you.

400th Post – You Guessed It – Mark of The Beast! And Tattoo’s.

The mark in Leviticus correlates to the mark in Revelation. That is enough for me to make a discerning judgment” (Kim)

How exactly is the mark (for the dead) in Leviticus even remotely linked to the mark idea in Revelations? Even if this had some plausbility (which I would need explained as to connection) – tattoo’s don’t neccesarily fall under the idea of the ‘mark of the beast’ – of the which we cannot even be sure is an actual ‘mark’ (since Revelations uses metaphor and imagery quite a lot).

However, if there were a ‘mark of the beast’ it also would have made sense to the early believers that recieved that letter to know about it…and they mention nothing about it in ancient literature of the church (maybe 100 AD to 400 AD). To me, the mark might be directly connected to idolatry – which mainstream tattooing isn’t. So no worries there.

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Rev 14:11)

It seems to me this ‘mark’ is directly connected to idolatry – and the beasts’ ‘name’. So even if this is a ‘tattoo’ – it is pretty specific one with the name of the person and certain places that name will be written (hand and forehead)…if we are taking that passage literally. I have yet to see a tattoo like this – of some anti-christ’s name on someone’s hand or forehead.

However, this could all be metaphorical in nature also. Maybe there is no literal ‘mark’ but the adherence to an anti-christ figure and his mandates which would effect one’s actions (work of your hands) and mindset (what you think about the world). This could be a simple warning to John’s people about not following the Roman system with variety of gods and corrupt practices. Which may have effected the amount of work they could find in society or even corrupted their thoughts on ‘right and wrong’. It’s a possibility.

Which is a warning to us – even in this day – about joining systems that are ’anti-christ’ in nature. Nazism would have been a great example of this concept. However there are tonnes of other ideas that are quite anti-christ in nature – even certain business (greed) and environmental (destroying the earth and animals habitats) ethics can be seen this way. We just need to keep looking at what Jesus taught and if society is not lining up with those ideals – we need to follow Jesus over those ideals…even if it hurts the pocketbooks or respectability.

***Comment originally aired at Discern It’s ‘Should a Christian Get a Tattoo?

The Teachings of Life

I don’t think the early communities came to do away with rules (or even law for that matter) – we as humans need that type of direction (teaching).

I think faith is about developing a finer committment with those around you and I and with our faith in God (it becoming something meaningful). The teachings seem to safeguard against making mistakes that will only hurt you in the long-run – reaching out to our common sense – asking us to weigh in on our personal actions and responsibility in society.

One needs to remember this all started as a ‘law’ (Torah) for a nation of people – to set them apart from the surrounding ideas in societies. Now law functions to help people fit their behavior into what is acceptable for society. In one sense, one can see the law as helping people to become more humane. At least that’s how I think about it.

The gospel is just a furtherance of that idea for all people – about kingdom ethics. It’s basically the teachings redacted from Jesus own words or one of the disciples. They seem contrary to law but they aren’t…they still seek a personal accountability of the person to ethics – or the spirit of the law (which was good).

The way I see it all is the way some of the Psalms (or Deuteronomy) kind of look at it –

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.” (Deut 30:15-16)

Leviticus 18:5 “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD” (also in Nehemiah 9:29)

I see them as speaking about life and living that life to the fullest potential…people may want to focus on the bad aspects of that ‘law’ – but it is what it is – rules to help one focus their lives in a positive direction.

***Comment originally aired on Deacon Blue’s ‘Random Babble’

Christianity is…

making less and less sense these days (to me).

Had a chance to watch a program on tithing the other day and I was quite flabergasted at the conclusions being made – heck I even argued with the tv a few times (lol). They can put a spiritual ‘spin’ on anything can’t they?

What bothered me the most was the justification and reasoning for the ideas behind tithing. It was practically a litany of ‘no-no’s’ when it comes to interpreting scripture and pulling scripture from here to mesh with this one there (or the old copy and paste idea of interpretation). Top it off, the person speaking wrote a book on tithing – which pretty much floored me. Sometimes you just have to laugh I guess.

I am starting to realize why people would consider Christians ‘dumb’ though…that show revealed a lot to me. At one point a lady comes on the show and tells the people how she has followed the principle to ‘tithe’ and lots of bad things have been happening to her…not as promised by the scripture. The hosts basically ignore the problem and ask her to keep giving and God will be faithful…has the lady wondering ‘when’? But they didn’t hesitate – even when presented with proof against their theory – ‘just be more faithful’ was the answer…the mystery of God’s timing huh?

I guess that type of spirituality just irks me.

The Problem w/Blaming God…

Accountability.

How can we blame an entity for our actions? It’s puzzling to me – in all honesty. The biblical ethics are a code of accountability which were given for our responsibility for our actions…have we been forewarned about what our actions entail?

I thought about this for a bit…I don’t blame God for people’s actions (or my own actions). When we are young we are under the responsibility of our parents – at this point they are responsible for our care (they are accountable for our well being). As we grow up we become accountable for our actions and responses (how we percieve what happened to us as kids and how we’ll react). How is it God becomes a blaming factor anywhere in there?

Maybe it’s just me thinking this – but I see a lot of blame going God’s way for some things which I am not sure is completely justified.