The God I Know/Make

So I was just having a fruitful discussion with a few people on Facebook about the fact I sort of invent Jesus or God into my own image (in some ways)…and I think we all do.

I find it funny when a Christian tries to tell me how well they know God (or Jesus) and what was meant within the scriptures. I don’t have much of an issue with that – each to their own about how well they think they know a deity they cannot even prove, nor see, nor have met (including me). Nonetheless, the scriptures are used for justification about it and/or other church beliefs/practices.

My issue is simple: how can you be sure you are not inventing a version of Jesus (or God) based on what your church believes or your own preconceived notions shaped by the 20th and 21st century? How sure, on a scale of 1-100%, can you be about what you perceive Jesus to be?

Ok let’s get into some small things to consider on this topic.

(1) Jesus – followed Judaism or invented a new faith called Christianity?

(2) Jesus – believed himself to be God or believed himself to be messiah/christ? Can you see the difference?

(3) Mary – virgin or not? And if so, why is that necessary?

(4) God – a trinity or One? Can you actually see the qualitative difference between the numbers 1 and 3?

(5) God – does he/she/it have a name? If so, what is it?

(6) Faith – Do Gentiles follow the Jewish faith or not? If not, what are they asked to follow from the disciples? Why do we use the Tanakh (OT)?

(7) Faith – How come Christianity has sprung up so many various strands of denominations (and other faiths) if it is so easy to define? How can you be sure you’re faith is the correct one?

I find it rather funny that any Christian could say, with 100% certainty, they have there ‘beliefs’ correctly managed.

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31 thoughts on “The God I Know/Make

  1. So I am not out of the convo – here is what I believe (being transparent):

    (1) Jesus – followed Judaism/was clearly Jewish in his belief structure

    (2) Jesus – believed himself to be messiah (or was credited to him as a title). Was not God nor did he think that. Messiah and God-ship are not linked.

    (3) Mary – was not a virgin. Based on inaccurate translations of Isaiah 7:14.

    (4) God – is One. There is no such thing as a Trinity.

    (5) God – does not have a name and never did.

    (6) Faith – Gentiles are not mandated to follow the Jewish faith. We are mandated to follow the Noahide Laws (7 commandments for Gentiles) which are about being just and righteous. Beyond that, the scriptures are inspirational and there to help guide us, but not in any legal way.

    (7) Faith – there is no one right way of believing in God.

  2. Strange, isn’t it – the evidence is so clear, apparently, but Christians disagree over all sorts of things, from basic doctrine to practical applications. Some are just bizarre – the Catholic church teaches that Mary was a virgin even when she died (poor Joseph), despite mention of Jesus’ brothers in the Bible.

  3. 1. I believe that Jesus followed Judaism, but I don’t see him as a follower of the religion.

    2. I see Jesus as the messiah, but due to the nature in which the messiah was called he was also God.

    3. I think she is a virgin as no one born of man could have ever satisfied the Law and thus could not have been the messiah.

    4. Trinity

    5. God is “I am”, which demonstrates a relationship with mankind.

    6. Gentiles are not asked to follow the rituals of Judaism but then neither are the Jews. The Tanakh introduces mankind to God and reveals Him to us through His interaction with the Jewish people and humanity as a whole. As much as I love the bible, it does not contain God.

    7. Religion vs. relationship. Christianity is not alone in this as you see different sects and factions within Judaism. People get so distracted with trying to understand God in within the limits of their concepts that they will inadvertently limit God. If the person limits God yet pursues the relationship, God leads one into a different understanding.

    • Xander, I’m going to go through your responses and ask a few questions – hope that’s cool with you?

      1. “but I don’t see him as a follower of the religion” (Xander) – What did he follow then? Was he creating a whole new faith from an existing one?

      2. “due to the nature in which the messiah was called he was also God” (Xander) Hmmmm, you base this on NT interpretations alone or is there more evidence of this?

      3. “I think she is a virgin as no one born of man could have ever satisfied the Law and thus could not have been the messiah” (Xander) This leads me to a whole host of questions about your assumptions made – but I’ll start with this – why did the messiah need to ‘satisfy’ the law and what does that even mean?

  4. 6. “Gentiles are not asked to follow the rituals of Judaism but then neither are the Jews.” (Xander) Huh? How do you figure? Have you asked the adherents of Judaism? And what is this exactly based on?

    7. “If the person limits God yet pursues the relationship, God leads one into a different understanding” (Xander) So, there is no one right and accurate way to follow Jesus?

    • Not a problem. It is easier to keep the points separate

      1. did he follow then? Was he creating a whole new faith from an existing one? (Society) – I don’t see that he was starting a new religion as rather completing the original covenant and forming a new one with all mankind. Judaism is a religion that developed the mosaic covenant that God struck with the Jews on what they needed to do to be holy and obedient in the sight of God. Jesus followed what was laid out, but no where do we see him “worshipping” God.

      2. you base this on NT interpretations alone or is there more evidence of this? (Society) – I base it on both, but I do not discount the verses in the OT like Judaism does.

      3. This leads me to a whole host of questions about your assumptions made – but I’ll start with this – why did the messiah need to ‘satisfy’ the law and what does that even mean? (Society) – the goal of the messiah was to leads God’s people into a era and establish a new kingdom. The messiah was to bring about a new covenant established by God alone since man fails and is unable to uphold their end. In the new covenant, God will forgive by God and never recalled, thus it is different than the mosaic covenant. Since sin is not forgiven by God throughout the Bible without a blood covering, a new covering must be established. Man is flawed from birth so a normal offspring could never serve as a blood offering. Jesus was born human but I do not see him as the normal offspring of a fertilized egg. Mary was the host but I see her more as a surrogate mother.

      6. Huh? How do you figure? Have you asked the adherents of Judaism? And what is this exactly based on? (Society) – going back to the new covenant, it was not like the old covenant. If a Jew were to embrace Jesus as messiah and enter into the new covenant, there is no legal requirement to follow the old covenant. As is, Judaism tries as hard as it can to live according to the mosaic covenant, but with no temple and no sacrifice that cannot happen.

      7. “If the person limits God yet pursues the relationship, God leads one into a different understanding” (Xander) So, there is no one right and accurate way to follow Jesus? 9society) – there is a correct and accurate way to follow God, but we have to strip away old habits and though patterns to get there. That is why we have grace because we cannot do it on our own.

  5. “I don’t see that he was starting a new religion as rather completing the original covenant and forming a new one with all mankind.” (Xander)

    What’s to complete – that’s what I wonder? The inclusion of gentiles – correct? Can this not be an agenda of the early writers in the gospels and letters? The agenda also being written by Gentiles themselves? That’s what i always wonder since the gospels are ‘narratives’ (not history documents necessarily) and the letters (and Acts) seem to have the agenda of second generation Christians who did not follow Jesus directly.

    As for the original question, Judaism doesn’t believe in the New covenant nor have they seen need for it. So was Jesus following Judaism – which Christianity strongly diverted away from – or was he following Judaism?

    The question is poignant because Christianity, which is hypocritical on this stance, believe Jesus followed every word of God – yet diverged away from Judaism somehow.

    • It could be made out as an agenda of the early church, but what about Isaiah 56 speaks to gentiles who are willing to follow what God finds as right as being included. Hosea 2 says that God will call those people who are not his people (the Gentiles) his people. Gentile inclusion predates the New Testament writers, but then we would think that God would require God to follow the mosaic covenant, but God himself said that it would not last.

      Jeremiah 31 is where God states he will make a new covenant with the people unlike the covenant that was made when the people left Egypt because the people could not keep it (the mosaic covenant). I understand Judaism saying they do not need a new covenant, but God says he will form one as they were unable to keep what they had under Judaism.

      Verse 34 says he will forgive their sins and never recall them. For that to happen, the Law had to be satisfied, and only blood could atone for sin (Leviticus 17). So in order for all sins to be forgiven, a blood offering unlike any other would have to be made.

      It’s not about following Judaism as it is about following the covenants and doing what was right in the sight of God. Christianity does not make Christ a servant to the religion that worships him, but he did do what it commanded.

  6. “but I do not discount the verses in the OT like Judaism does.” (Xander)

    Ever read some of the prophecy passages used in the gospels as pertaining to the messiah? Uhm, some of them are basic patchwork of what they think may be a messianic verse – most of the messianic in it being ‘read into it’.

    The question is not about the messiah being in the Tanakh – but what the verses mean in their original context of the books they are contained in and how they can be seen as messianic. Then I think we have more a question about how stuff was interpreted from Tanakh to Gospel/letter and what this means.

    I think it’s all in the interpretation.

    • I agree, but you have Jews that embrace the message of Jesus as the messiah and those that do not based on what the Tanakh says. Clearily those that do are finding something there that they find to be true.

  7. “the goal of the messiah was to leads God’s people into a era and establish a new kingdom” (Xander)

    I agree, I like that.

    “The messiah was to bring about a new covenant established by God alone since man fails and is unable to uphold their end. In the new covenant, God will forgive by God and never recalled, thus it is different than the mosaic covenant” (Xander)

    2 issues here:

    (a) “man fails and is unable to uphold their end…” – what good is it for God to complete a covenant man cannot complete? Isn’t this the problem that has not been solved even with the advent of Christianity – man still fails under this ‘new covenant’?

    (b) “God will forgive by God and never recalled…” – uhm, 2 gods in that sentence bro. Maybe I am reading this wrong – but isn’t that implausible? God allows God (ie: Jesus) to die? How can God even die or be split into 2 personalities? I always find this strange. Also – Jesus is just a ‘scapegoat’ for humanity’s failings – doesn’t change humanity’s failings at all.

    • (a) “man fails and is unable to uphold their end…” – what good is it for God to complete a covenant man cannot complete? Isn’t this the problem that has not been solved even with the advent of Christianity – man still fails under this ‘new covenant’?

      Man will always fail though. The point is not about getting it perfect here and having a wonderful life. It is about being in a relationship with God and living life the way He instructs you to. Christianity fails like many other religions when we focus on ourselves instead of on God. We are at that transition of moving away from the Law that tells us that we will never be holy compared to God and into grace that tells us that we are made perfect and forgiven because of God and then we often stumble as we struggle to realize our place in relationship to the holiness of God.

      (b) “God will forgive by God and never recalled…” – uhm, 2 gods in that sentence bro. Maybe I am reading this wrong – but isn’t that implausible? God allows God (ie: Jesus) to die? How can God even die or be split into 2 personalities? I always find this strange. Also – Jesus is just a ‘scapegoat’ for humanity’s failings – doesn’t change humanity’s failings at all.

      I think I wrote that in a confusing manner. God forgives mankind based on the actions of God. I don’t get it completely, but maybe we don’t have to. I do know that no animal sacrifice was ever adequate to make eternal blood atonement. Jesus was human by flesh but God by spirit. The flesh died but the Spirit of God cannot. The resurrection that we take part of is a spiritual resurrection in Christ.

      I guess you can look at Jesus as a scapegoat, but I do not see humanity as the final stage of life. Perfection comes in the spirit and until we truly realize death in the flesh, I think we will always fail.

  8. “If a Jew were to embrace Jesus as messiah and enter into the new covenant, there is no legal requirement to follow the old covenant.” (Xander)

    Then why did they all continue to follow Judaism – including Paul? Why did not the early church just squash all of this in Acts 15 by proclaiming what you do about Jews and Gentiles?

    In fact, the Gentiles were never to follow the law (even Judaism believes this) – and Paul only preached that. As for Judaism, Paul makes no call on that pertaining to Jews and them having to quit their faith/beliefs/culture.

    • They live that way out of habit and tradition. If a messianic Jew were to eat pork, they would neither be more or less clean in the eyes of God, but it would separate them from the Jews around them who have not moved to that point of understanding. The church did proclaim that. They came to a common understanding between Jews and Gentiles so the two groups could co-mingle. Abstain from eating meat sacrificed to other gods if it will cause your brother to stumble. Abstain from sexual immorality. Most of what the gentiles were called to follow would be what are referred to as the Noahide laws.

      Paul lays out that following the law is no of benefit to Jew or Gentile alike. The law did not make one more or less righteous that someone who did not follow the law. Peter made the case that he was shown by God that what you make does not make one unclean. He shared this message with the Jewish followers to help show that the Gentiles could be embraced as equals. If eating something that the law said would make one unclean and but God did not consider them unclean for doing so, wouldn’t the Jew be able to reason out that it would not make them unclean either?

  9. “there is a correct and accurate way to follow God…” (Xander)

    Ok, what is it? I imagine you must have the version of what is the ‘correct and accurate’ way to follow Jesus.

  10. “Jeremiah 31 is where God states he will make a new covenant with the people unlike the covenant that was made…” (Xander)

    Verses 1-25 are explicitly about the gathering of Israel (and Judah) again (since they are currently scattered and under oppression from a foreign regime).

    Verses 27-38 are about Israel and Judah as well. A few tidbits from Jeremiah’s prophecies:

    “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…” (vs 31) (which is basically Israel as whole undivided community)

    ““I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”( vs 33-34)

    Now this is a promise to Israel, to Judaism, about renewing the covenant like how Moses was given the tablets and Law – Jeremiah’s seem to be ensuring the covenant/law will be so well known it won’t even need to be taught. People will have this on their hearts and minds (very well versed in it) and their sins will be forgiven (maybe based on the knowledge they have gained and treasured). Kind of like rabbinic Judaism (if you ask me).

    “I understand Judaism saying they do not need a new covenant, but God says he will form one as they were unable to keep what they had under Judaism.” (Xander)

    I think what is meant by ‘new covenant’ is a renewal of the old covenant so it is closer and more well known – by heart – and more meaningful and ingrained in Judaism. I don’t see the over-haul of the whole law written anywhere in Jeremiah’s words (read for yourself).

    • It is not about renewing the covenant but rather making a new covenant. There is a significant difference there.

      If the old mosaic covenant would work, why specifically say there would be a new covenant and it would be unlike the old covenant as the people were unable to keep it (verse 32). God is replacing the old covenant, which required man to attempt to be holy, with a new covenant where God completed everything Himself.

      For the Christian, the writing on the heart is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God within us.

      • “t is not about renewing the covenant but rather making a new covenant. There is a significant difference there.” (Xander)

        What is left out is that the promise is for Israel and Judah, not Gentile nations….unless you see that somewhere in this passage?

        Which begs a great question, why did God create a covenant (old one) that was basically untenable, undoable, and useless?

        “God is replacing the old covenant, which required man to attempt to be holy, with a new covenant where God completed everything Himself.” (Xander)

        No proof on the Jeremiah passage about any of the aforementioned stuff you claim is there: law being done away with, old covenant meaning the the law, etc. As far as we know, from basic interpretation, the new covenant is a renewing of the old covenant in a ‘new’ way.

        But here is what a scholar in Judaism says:

        “In many Sephardic congregations [those that follow the customs of Spanish and Mediterranean Jewry], prior to the Torah reading on the first day of Shavuot a ketubah le-Shavuot (marriage certificate for Shavuot) is read as a symbolic betrothal of God and His people Israel…premarital document specifying the conditions agreed upon between the two parties) or the ketubah (certificate the bridegroom presents to the bride at the wedding ceremony)…”I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31) (one of the passages for this ceremony).” (Phillip Goodman – The Shavuot Marriage Contract)

        Seems more like a marriage renewel or covenant renewal of older terms of something God loved and was loved back by.

  11. “Man will always fail though. The point is not about getting it perfect here and having a wonderful life. It is about being in a relationship with God and living life the way He instructs you to.” (Xander)

    (a) sounds like another version of the ‘law’ (instructs you to live like)
    (b) Why make a new covenant then if God knows humanity will just fail anyways? That’s what I don’t understand. You seem to think the law and grace are 2 different things and that Jewish law did not have grace/mercy. The grace Paul is talking about is two-fold: acceptance into that original covenant and forgiveness for making mistakes. I am not sure there is a need for a new covenant which wipes the old one away.

    “God forgives mankind based on the actions of God.” (Xander)

    This is strange reasoning when you dissect it a little.

    So God makes a covenant that no one can really live, thus animal sacrifice to atone for sins (or to make know people know the seriousness of their actions). Yet, God knew humanity could not do it – live perfectly – so he makes a system with atonement built into it. How can God now be asking humans to be perfect when He fully well knew they weren’t going to be?

    The NT’s covenant issue is not about atonement – but inclusion (of the Gentiles). How atonement became a big thing is beyond me since the system had our flaws built into it anyways.

    As for the actions of God, why didn’t He just make the system easier? Why does someone need to be sacrificed to satisfy the law? Why couldn’t God just decide that from now on we will forgive based on being asked and forgo the animal sacrifice? I think the NT is missing something based on Tanakh understanding of the animal sacrifice and it’s rules.

    That being said, Judaism does believe God did decree a system whereby animal sacrifices were no longer needed or were being replaced.

    “while it may still be disputed whether the great literary prophets completely opposed the ritual observances of the Temple‑-the sacrifices, the incense‑-there is no doubt that they gave it a secondary place in the order of man’s duties: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord … with burnt‑offerings?…It hath been told thee, 0 man, what is good … to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:6, 8). These words of Micah were typical of all the great literary prophets. Social ethics and monotheism were the cardinal virtues for the literary prophets” (Dr. Solomon Freehof – http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/Ezekiel.shtml)

    • The New Testament starts out with God going out to his people, the Jews, and saying that the new covenant has come. Jesus says turn back to God and leave the religion behind and focus on him instead. It only brings inclusion in after the Jews have been told and rejected that it then goes to the others. Gentiles have always been able to follow Judaism without making a full conversion and still find favor with God. Inclusion is nothing new.

      It makes sense that Judaism would have to adopt a system where sacrifices are no longer needed, as they have no way to offer them anymore. God says he does not desire sacrifices or burnt flesh as he wants people to follow him, but it does not say that they are no longer required. If that was the case, then why were sacrifices still made after this was spoken and why did this new process not apply until the second temple was destroyed?

      Why it is not easier is one of the best and easiest questions to answer. The point is that God wants us to be dependent upon Him. Satan rebelled and said he did not need God and tried to be an equal before he was cast out of heaven. Adam and Eve were totally dependent upon God but lost the relationship when they wanted to become equals via knowledge. God wants us to be 100% dependent upon him, but if there was a system in place where man through his actions alone could become holy and righteous then man would not need God. This is where mankind struggles as we naturally want our independence, but the way to salvation is to give that up. It is a tough process and living in the western world with our culture the way it is does not make that process any easier.

  12. “The law did not make one more or less righteous that someone who did not follow the law. Peter made the case that he was shown by God that what you make does not make one unclean” (Xander)

    Good points and I tend to agree (as one that eats pork) that what one eats won’t necessarily make one more righteous or what have you. I think it’s common understanding that no food can make one a better person – even Judaism believes this.

    However, what one does eat does make a difference (thus the kosher laws from Lev 11 and Deut 14) to ‘health’ potentially.

    We live in an era where meat is routinely killed and cleaned in a safe and reliable manner – making no health distinctions between pork, chicken, or beef. However, not having kosher ways of maintaining and butchering these animals is leading to various bacteria and unhealthy problems – like e-coli and listeria. There is some right-ness in having food prepared and butchered correctly.

    The food laws for pork are about a pig ‘chewing the cud’ (ie: grass or what not)…since this made the animal more clean (which I think is accurate to be honest as far as consumption of said animal). What is odd, if cud is hay – pigs do that now.

  13. “I am finding it out as I build my relationship with God. We know there is a perfect way to follow, but it is only possible through Jesus.” (Xander)

    Is this true or true to you only? I do not believe there is a perfect path – unless we use perfection in the sense to mean a ‘whole, balanced’ way – then yes – perfection via faith can be accessed.

    Otherwise we are fooling ourselves to thinking there is such a thing as perfect faith.

  14. I have to dissect this – since this is theological rhetoric and may not be based in fact (even in a comparison of just the gospels alone).

    “The New Testament starts out with God going out to his people, the Jews, and saying that the new covenant has come.” (Xander)

    I can see how this is somewhat true – the call back to the marriage contract between God and Israel (like in Jeremiah) – which rings true in Jesus’ parables about bride and groom.

    “Jesus says turn back to God and leave the religion behind and focus on him instead.” (Xander)

    Leave religion behind? Where is Jesus saying this quote exactly? If anything, he seems to be calling them back to their religion/faith in God. As for the focus on him, to a degree this is true (as a teacher – messiah figure). As for their focus, well even Jesus served God (ie: prayed to Him and even recited the ‘Shema’ from Deut 6:4 – reciting how God is God alone! – it’s in Mark).

    If anything it can be said Jesus called his people back to God – it’s really not until John’s gospel that we have any hint of Jesus being that ‘god’ (which is totally blasphemous in Judaism and Jews would have never followed it – since it breaks the greatest commandment – which Jesus also taught and believed).

    “It only brings inclusion in after the Jews have been told and rejected that it then goes to the others. Gentiles have always been able to follow Judaism without making a full conversion and still find favor with God. Inclusion is nothing new.” (Xander)

    Gentiles were always included, true, but were never really part of the inner circle of faith (even with conversion). The inclusion of Gentiles in a more meaningful and equal way was what the gospels and Paul push for (and I agree with it). However, what really happened was the Gentiles took this new faith (Christianity) and included much of their beliefs and tried to re-write Jewish narrative and usurp it – and this is what I can also see in the texts of the NT.

  15. “why were sacrifices still made after this was spoken and why did this new process not apply until the second temple was destroyed?” (Xander)

    I am not sure why they continued sacrifices, oddly enough, Jesus’ family offered them as well – and so did Jesus and his disciples. I guess as long as the Temple stood the sacrifices would continue – as per ritual and keeping tradition alive – and to honor the commandments.

    However, the temple fell, twice…and Judaism moved away from that version to a more rabbinic culture – twice. So if Christianity can make the claim to not need sacrifices so can Judaism (they have and still do not offer sacrifices).

    But as for why they never quit – I don’t know?

  16. “but if there was a system in place where man through his actions alone could become holy and righteous then man would not need God…” (Xander)

    Speaking of ‘systems in place for man’s actions’ – what are Judaism and Christianity’s roles then? They offer advice on how to live in a holy and ordained way so as to access and be closer to God – no? Are they not dependent on your actions – your closeness to God and the such?

    Also, Judaism, the fore-runner to Christianity, was designed by God for humans to follow to get closer to God (not by man per se – as is also the Christian claim about their scriptures). God designed it, not humans so your point about ‘man trying to do it on his own’ is faulty – because you pre-suppose man created the system (ie: religion) whereby he gets nearer to God – this is not the case in either Judaism or Christianity.

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