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Jesus Wants You to Read This!

August 3, 2007

Lately Christianity has been taking a pretty good beating. I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton, “It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with.” People such as Richard Dawkins and Cristopher Hitchens are getting a lot of mic time to espouse their negative views of Christianity and religion. Regular readers of this blog know that I have spent my own fair share of time taking certain individuals or groups that identify themselves as “Christian” to task. However, I hope that I have not left anyone with the impression that I am one step away from being like many religious bashers, and have thrown the baby (Jesus) out with the bathwater.

It seems to me that often some of these detractors use arguments that would not be accepted or sustainable in many other cases. Let me use an example to illustrate: let’s say hypothetically that our present law enforcement system was totally corrupt; that 999 out of every 1000 cops was taking bribes, using their authority to abuse people instead of protecting them, officers were using the law as a means to create power structures that dehumanized the people they were sworn to serve. I wonder how many people would suggest that we should just get rid of laws because the ideal of justice was obviously flawed. I don’t know about you, but I’m the sort of person that would look at that one cop and I would say, “No, the abuse of the law and of justice does not mean that we should get rid of them. That is what a real cop looks like. This is what justice looks like. This is how all cops should behave.”

I feel similarly about Christianity. The difficult thing about someone like Hitchens is that some of his observations about religion are true, but like the above example I refuse to let the abuses of an ideal by evil people negate the ideal itself. Undoubtedly there have been, are, and will be many people that use religion as a means to manipulate people, dominate people, rob people, and to create power structures that dehumanize them. This does not negate the Christian person that works within much of the same religious system and uses the same text, but like the one officer leaves the world a better place. No matter how many people abused religion for horrible reasons, at the end of the conversation I would still say, “Look at this person. This is what real faith looks like. This is what we need to point others to. This is what Christianity is, and how Christians should conduct themselves.” Recognizing the difference is a discussion for another day.

This post started out as an introduction for a video. I wonder if I have now set an internet record for longest video intro? Anyways this is a promo for a movie coming out Summer 2008: Jesus Makes Me Laugh.

I think this should be a very interesting movie. Though I’m sure that even the people obviously satirized in the movie will assume he is talking about someone else. I mean there are many people that can read the Gospels and come across something like this: He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition. This is the sort of thing that should give one pause when reading the Bible. But just like the Judean religious authorities could not recognize God in front of them, I think the modern day Saducees will also be blinded by their religion to God in front of them.

I first saw this video on Codex. Tyler asks the question “Does Jesus Make you Laugh?” Actually, some of the things Jesus said scare the heck out of me. It’s the mess we have made of so much of Christianity that makes me laugh. It’s the sad man behind a pulpit with his co-dependent congregation whom he psychologically assaults with his proof-texting abuse of the Bible that makes me laugh (and cry). It’s the argument between self-righteous people about which man made form of tradition is better that really makes me laugh. Jesus? Gotta be honest, he unnerves me a little bit. C.S. Lewis once wrote about his children’s Christ figure, “He is not a tame lion.”

It’s the people with their tame Jesus that make me laugh the most. He was not a tame lion (of the tribe of Judah) ;) .

{Disclaimer: I don’t know if Jesus really wants you to read this post, but I grew up in the church and I know the lingo to make you take a peak at least! If I have offended anyone (especially Jesus!) please forgvie me. Please?}

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2007 1:39 am

    Scott,

    This fillm sounds quite interesting. I cannot stand what TBN and the majority of its personnel represents. I actually began my sermon with a clip from Gloria Copeland last Sunday and preceded to argue against the Word of Faith Movement. Do these peopel make me laugh? In a way, but as you noted, they also break my heart and make me want to cry. And I just can’t get some of the people in my congregation to quit watching them; that’s sad. Especially the 80 year old woman whose husband has alzheimers and Gloria Copeland tells her its because he is out of God’s will of increase and in satan’s grip. What interests her about this stuff? Craziness. Speaking of proof-texting, I just went to a revival the other not and that’s all I heard; a psychological sermon with no context. I was saddened yet again. Will we ever get it right?

  2. August 4, 2007 4:17 am

    Will we ever get it right?

    I don’t think on this side of life we will get it 100% right… for now I see through a veil dimly. I like to operate under the assumption that God, and theology, and life are all to big and complicated for me to be infallible on. It keeps me humble and studying

    If anything when I see theology and church done badly it usually proceeds from the assumption that they have everything “right”. Theology is simple, no need to recognize your own world-view, your own societal influences, the world-view of the OT and NT peoples, and their societal influences. That Scripture is a straight forward list of stuff, and that you and God think pretty much the exact same thing.

    But if being right was the center of a circle then some people are a LOT closer than others.

    As to the first two thirds of your comment, I think I might have to write a post as you have started me thinking on a few things. Thanks!

  3. August 4, 2007 7:46 am

    agathos, you quoted: “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

    and then said: This is the sort of thing that should give one pause when reading the Bible. But just like the Judean religious authorities could not recognize God in front of them…

    I think we must pause also about the “Incarnation”. It is based purely upon tradition and its development can be attributed to the post-apostolic Graeco-Roman fathers’ ignorance of Hebrew modes of thinking and expression.

    When the scriptures fell into Greek, and subsequently Latin, hands, the New Testament teachings underwent a change in accordance with the predilections of those particular nationalities. Because their minds were set in the key of a different structure, they projected into the scriptures their own prevailing national religions.

    Doctrines were crystallised by the disputes among early Gentile church fathers who looked into the Pool of Narcissus (the scriptures), saw themselves imaged there, and then projected this, their own image, upon the world through the medium of ecclesiastical councils called by Roman Emperors from 325AD onwards.

    Christianity today bears the image, not of the mind of Jesus and the character of the Supreme Being, but of early Gentile theology.

    Sincerely,

  4. August 4, 2007 3:04 pm

    Vynette,

    Must we be bound to Pool of Narcissus interpretation by that of the early church fathers or tradition?

    Is it impossible to go back to earlier Hebrew thought and come to some of the same conclusions?

    Certainly the thought modes of Paul, Peter, and John were not Graeco-Roman and at least a little bit Hebrew (or were they?).

    Do all Christians understand scripture and Christianity through the decrees of the ecumenical councils?

    No scholarship or academia can be entered? Like robots we all follow the early church fathers and the ecumenical councils? Really?

  5. August 4, 2007 7:42 pm

    agathos,

    You asked: “Is it impossible to go back to earlier Hebrew thought and come to some of the same conclusions?”

    I suggest that the Hebrew God of both the Old and New Testaments is fundamentally and permanently irreconcilable with the Triune God of Christianity. Despite the best efforts of apologists to wrest the words of scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be found therein. Neither can the ‘Miraculous Incarnation’ or the various ‘divinity’ teachings. These post-apostolic innovations were not taught by Peter, Paul, John, or any of the apostles or authors of the New Testament.

    You also asked: “Do all Christians understand scripture and Christianity through the decrees of the ecumenical councils?”

    Most Christian confessions of faith are based on the Nicene Creed are they not? Compare and contrast this creedal image of Jesus with what the New Testament actually states about the same person:

    * he was God’s ‘anointed’ who would one day sit on the throne of David and rule over the Kingdom of God on earth;

    * he was ‘born of the seed of David according to the flesh’ and therefore entitled to rule;

    * he was ‘anointed’ with full power and authority and delegated to speak and act in the name of YHVH;

    * he was a ‘god’ in the Hebrew sense that all who received the ‘word’ were themselves ‘gods’ or ‘exalted ones.’

    The New Testament writers also recorded that Jesus was born out of wedlock; they did not try to hide the facts about his ‘humble’ birth; they were committed to ‘truth.’

    Matthew provides a genealogy to demonstrate that Jesus was not the son of Joseph (for a very compelling reason that has absolutely nothing to do with virgin-birth) while Luke’s genealogy provides the name of Jesus’ biological father to prove his descent from King David and his right to the title “messiah.”

    After Ignatius introduced the idea of a virgin birth circa 115 AD, Hebrew Christianity was abandoned in favour of teachings more compatible with the religions of the pagan citizens of the Roman Empire. Thus ‘divinity’…thus the ‘trinity’ etc.

  6. August 4, 2007 9:55 pm

    OK so what do you do with:

    PAUL:

    Colossians 3:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”?

    Hebrews 1:3 “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being…”?

    Philippians 2 (which incidentally is considered by some scholars to be possibly the oldest tradition in the NT) “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”

    JOHN:

    John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being

    Of course the word “trinity” never appears in the NT scriptures, it was however given as a doctrine not to project ones own image onto the scriptures, but to make sense of scriptures such as these among others. If Paul and John did not think Jesus was God then from these verses who did they think he was.

    Of all the critiques I dislike the most it is the one that is negative of everyone and everything. All of the early interpreters were just trying to project their own image onto the text? Really? None of them were good men or thinkers? Really? Now we have some post-modern cynicism about everything 2000 years removed, and they understand the ancient languages and word metaphors better than the original listeners? Really? You are overgeneralizing.

    Next time you meet a Christian ask them to recite a creed and explain the seven ecumenical councils to you. I’m guessing you will have a hard time finding one that can do that for you.

  7. August 5, 2007 4:38 am

    agathos,

    My comments are not made in a spirit of negativity or post-modern cynicism. Quite the opposite in fact. They are rather made in the spirit of “prove all things – hold fast to what is good.”

    I am not saying that “None of them were good men or thinkers…” Subconscious image-projection of embedded religious parameters onto texts emanating from a totally foreign perspective is not a reflection of a person’s moral or intellectual qualities. However, the same cannot be said for conscious attempts to bring the foreign concepts expressed in those texts into line with one’s own personal worldview and set of values.

    Paul’s arguments in Colossians 1 are set within the framework of the New Creation brought into being by the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus is the firstborn of the New Creation – the Kingdom of God. He is the firstborn from the dead, the first of many brethren to follow.

    All humanity is described as being made in the “image of God”. Paul presents Jesus as the culmination of this creation, the perfect man, the perfected “image of God.” A similar argument is presented in Hebrews.

    Certain arguments that Paul addressed to the Phillippians in the second letter were a warning to them to guard against self-righteousness and works glorifying themselves. In these arguments ‘proof’ is found for Jesus’ pre-existence and ‘divinity’. Shorn of Paul’s qualifying statements, verses 5-8 appear to support the accepted teaching. Paul leaves no doubt, however, as to when Jesus existed in the ‘form of God’ for he continues in verse 9:

    “Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name…”

    It was after Jesus became “obedient unto death, yes, the death of the cross”. Jesus existed in the ‘form of God’ after the crucifixion. It was as a man that Jesus emptied himself and took on the form of a servant.

    In Romans 1:3-4, Paul clearly states the sequence of events: “concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead…” (See also John 5:27, Ps.71:16)

    It is a pity that the point of Paul’s utterance – the warning against self-righteousness – has become the servant of an ecclesiastical doctrine.

    It would be a lengthy exercise to address John’s prologue adequately…probably too lengthy for this comments section. However, I am more than willing to oblige if you are interested.

  8. August 5, 2007 11:41 am

    Not really… too much other things to really work on this one (as you rightly point out much of the discussion would be too extensive) and the deconstruction of some points in a statement can get to be a little to much while others are ignored. Questions I have asked have gone unanswered, and nothing I write in the comments of a blog will change your mind, and nothing you have written has changed mine. Thanks for dropping by.

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