Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From the comments -- two new themes rising up

Thanks again for the continued discussions in the comments section. It looks to my untrained eye as if two particular topics keep popping up:

1) Old Testament vs. New Testament, Judaism vs. Christianity -- are they truly divergent? Are they the same? Is the old obsolete, or must we still follow the follow the law... etc...

2) Jesus' death -- was it required to make it possible for us to be saved, or was it a powerful example of the love and forgiveness that already existed between God and man?

Leave it to you guys to take on the simple stuff, huh? :)

Let's explore it together. Here are some more crazy Michael thoughts thrown out there to cause trouble:

#1 -- Old vs. New, Jew vs. Christian... who's got it right?

This one is obviously unsolvable, as most issues are in this blog, but I personally learn a lot from the process of studying these debates. If you'll allow me, I'll vastly oversimplify the issue just to give us something concrete to talk about:

Perhaps at its core, this debate is about who Jesus was. Non-messianic Jews mostly think he was a good teacher but that's all, and Christians mostly think he is the Messiah, and the one who changed everything and created a whole new path to relationsihp with God.

So let's look to the words of Jesus for guidance on the issue of Judaism vs. Christianity, and if the old law still prevails. I'd guess that there are three possible ways he could have resolved this:

1) By saying the old law is fullfilled and its time is past, or implying such by breaking it
2) By saying the old law should still be continued just as it was
3) By saying the old law still stands, but it needs to be taken even further in strictness

Would you believe he did all three simultaneously? He did:

1) In John 5:1-17, Jesus heals a paralyzed man and instructs him to take up his mat and walk. On the Sabbath. The healing and the mat-carrying were seen as "working", which would break the Mosaic law of Sabbath. Jesus didn't argue and said, "My father is at work to this very day and I, too, am working." So here Jesus admittedly breaks Old Testament law.

2) From Jesus' sermon on the mount: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 5:17-19. So here Jesus says the old law still stands.

3) From the sermon of the mount again, immediately following the quote above: "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."..."You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."..."It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." ...and Jesus continues for a while with the "You have heard it was said" teachings, and each time he takes the OT law even farther. So here Jesus says the OT law was not strict/righteous enough!

He doesn't make it easy, does he? I don't believe he meant to. Every time I think I have him figured out... well, I haven't thought that for a while now. What do you think?

#2 -- Jesus' death. Required sacrifice or powerful illustration?

Alas, I have already written quite a bit so won't spend long on this one. I'll just ask a question in a way I've had agnostics phrase it to me in the past:

Which is more noble:

-- A God who has to kill himself so that his own perfect bloodshed will purify the sinful state of the free-will creatures he himself created, or...

-- A God who became like his creation of his own free will. Not out of obligation or to satisfy justice, but to show in the flesh how much he's loved us all along.

I know, this may not be exactly "fair", pinning human concepts of nobility on God. But in my experience, today's atheists, agnostics, seekers and general non-church-goers aren't interested in concepts that don't at least make some sense to their logical minds.

Would it be so bad to say that it's possible, just possible, that Jesus came and died voluntarily? And to admit that we can't really prove whether or not he was trying to uphold Judaism, tighten it or kill it?

I've read the words of Jesus hundreds of times. And what keeps driving through my brain is this:

Treat each other well. Live according to your highest principles. Trust each other and trust God. Listen to your heart.

I can get that, even when the theological debates excite and confuse me.

18 comments:

MamaRose said...

I LOVE THIS POST, AGAIN--you're GREAT, Bud--I LOVE HOW YOU THINK!!
And, you're SO VERY GOOD at setting up differing points & also even giving 'reasonS' for each--ha!

I totally agree with ALL your first points & would ONLY add that God/Jesus says himself WHAT is THE MOST IMPORTANT 'Commandment' in the NT/in our LIVES TODAY--"# 1--To LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL & MIND & STRENGTH & # 2--TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF"--And, GUESS WHAT?????!!!!!!!!!.....

Jesus was QUOTING in Mark 12:30 OUT OF/FROM the OT--in Deut. 6:4-5!

I LOVE IT--OUR MOST IMPORTANT COMMAND--SAYS JESUS--is quoted in BOTH the OT & NT & it's THE SAME!!!
Now, if we could ALL LEARN to BEGIN to KNOW HOW to do BOTH of them--AH! That's where the 'rub' comes in, huh??!!!!!!!! Not as 'easy' as it might sound!!!!!!!!

Jesus/God is/was always SIMPLE, YET DEEP--as DEEP as we want/can go, I believe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OH, WHAT A SAVIOR--THANK GOD!!!!!
LOVE YOU BUNCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom

Don said...

Well, why didn't you just step off into DEEEEP water! lol! You know, as I thought about what you have written here in relation to what Jesus is purported to have said, that pretty well sums it up. It all boils down to WHAT JESUS SAID. We have to have common ground about whether or not Jesus said what the NT says he said. Without that the arguments, on both sides of the issue, simply don't exist. Does that make sense. Our arguments as to whether Jesus came to complete, add to, replace, or continue the law is based on the NT's version of what Jesus was purported to have said. The same is true of your second question,ie; the purpose or point of Jesus' death. The thing that has always bothered me about speaking with someone who doesn't hold the Bible as literally God's words is that there is no ground on which to stand to discuss issues with them. Now if you're discussing these two questions with someone who values the Bible, even calls it sacred, but doesn't take its words absolutely literally, you have a basis for discussion, right? You know pretty much that I stand with S.Jones on many parts of these questions, but I have even diverged from Jones on some or parts. All that having been said, I am with you on what's important:
Treat each other well. Live according to your highest principles. Trust each other and trust God. Listen to your heart.

Namaste.....

70x7project said...

Oi Boy:

I've really been struggling with the OT this week (just finished reading Deuteronomy). The laws that God gave through Moses left me feeling totally dejected (BTW the word Mitzvah means commandment/rule - that's one thing I learned this week). I finished Deuteronomy 28 Wednesday night and ended up feeling like I was never going to be good enough to make it to Heaven. It felt like everything I've learned in the last few years was contradicted in the OT and I ended up pretty angry. Let's just say my prayer journal from the other night was not a lot of prayer, but a lot of questioning about the state of the world today, the state of my life, and how I was ever going to be good enough. NOT what I expected.

Redlefty said...

Mom,

I love what you said -- the greatest commands can truly be guides that never fail in any circumstance.

Don,

In many discussions with atheists and agnostics over the past several years, I have actually found some consistent ground on which to discuss issues with them. I ask what's important to them, how they want to live, what they want to leave behind... it gets at their values, which wouldn't make much sense in a godless universe, but everybody has them.

Paula,

I don't want this to come across the wrong way, and I fear it might. But I think your reaction to the OT is magnificent. You're already driven straight to the heart of what I feel God intended all along for the law. Would you mind if I wrote more about that?

MamaRose said...

THANK YOU--guess we have a 'MUTUAL LOVE SOCIETY' going on between us, huh???!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE YA, Mom

Bob said...

There is indeed mystery there, but you summed it up so well at the end. For me, as I am following a plan that includes an OT and NT reading each day, I am finding myself more and more comfortable with the fulfillment line of thinking.

Great work here. Thanks.

Don said...

70X7-
For 59 years I felt like you:
you said,"I finished Deuteronomy 28 Wednesday night and ended up feeling like I was never going to be good enough to make it to Heaven."
We will never be "good enough". Thank you God we don't have to be.

Debby said...

I've been doing a lot of thinking this Lent. Your postings are very timely. Redlefty, I think that the old testament sort of displays the ways that man just got it all muddied up and wrong. Jesus tried to teach us, even as, again, man just got it all muddied up and wrong. We keep complicating things, even today. I think that you are right. We need to quit muddying it up. We need to quit arguing about what God thinks, what God meant, and how God is going to judge us. If we began to love God, if we began to love our neighbor as ourselves, if we focused on those truths, I'm sure the big stuff would come a little more clear. If we mastered the first two rules, that increasing wisdom would not be so apt to be used as a 'weapon' against others who may see things differently.

70x7project said...

Michael:

Magnificent huh??? It didn't feel magnificent at the time. But that type of reaction is why I decided that I had to get a bigger picture than the NT stuff that I have been fed. If you focus on the NT, you get a much more touchy-feely God (the self-help God that pops up in today's evangelism that I mentioned over on the 70x7 Project)

Of course I don't mind if you write more about whatever you see in my reaction to the OT. I am curious to see how what you have to say relates to what I am experiencing.

Tit for Tat said...

Ok, as an unbeliever(at least in the Christian sense) I am going to comment.

A God who has to kill himself so that his own perfect bloodshed will purify the sinful state of the free-will creatures he himself created, or...

-- A God who became like his creation of his own free will. Not out of obligation or to satisfy justice, but to show in the flesh how much he's loved us all along.

Honestly, who out here actually thinks this makes any kind of logical sense? I mean, a God of omnipotent power can die? Like, is that even possible in a completely logical sense? I think a good question would be, Why do we believe that we are inherently bad enough to actually need a saviour? Can anyone actually answer that question?

Steve H. said...

Tit for Tat:

Have to comment. On the bell curve of humanity I'm a "good" guy. I could list many faithful things I have done that people would attest, "Yep, Steve is a good guy". Yet, in my heart I know in comparison to true, Holy, Goodness, I'm an arrogant, narcisistic, self centered creep. Even some of my acts of goodness, if I'm honest, can be done out of a motivation to bring the spotlight to myself. Perhaps others can live with that. Me? I need a Savior.

Great post Michael. Keep em coming!

Debby said...

Tit for Tat:

-- A God who became like his creation of his own free will. Not out of obligation or to satisfy justice, but to show in the flesh how much he's loved us all along.

Honestly, who out here actually thinks this makes any kind of logical sense?

I thought that it was evident. There's Redlefty. Mama Rose. Don. 70 X 7 Project, Bob, me, Logan's commented before...

Coexist, my friend. You live in a world populated by many different mindsets. We are all free to write about what we believe. The fact that you keep returning interests me, as does the tone of your responses. I was an atheist for the first 29 years of my life. Although believers did not offend me, as they seem to offend you, I did feel that they were deluded and foolish. I believe that you're returning here for a reason.

*sits back patiently to see what happens next*

James W said...

way to stir the pot! This is a really great post. I do not think God changed in the old to the new but more that we did. God has always and will be the one in control, he is just trying to find new ways to help us understand.

Tit for Tat said...

Although believers did not offend me, as they seem to offend you(Debby)

Actually Im not offended at all.Im Very curious how you make it work though. I tried the church thing and when I got to the questioning part, no one could seem to answer it and avoided the questions for the most part. On line its much easier to pose questions boldly without having to worry about the face to face. I like the way Michael seems to apply his idea of faith. Thanks for your reply though, you too Steve.


Coexist, my friend. You live in a world populated by many different mindsets.(Debby)

You may want to see whats happening in regards to religion and Coexisting at the United Nations recently. You may not believe the same thing in regards to Islam.

Debby said...

Actually, you assume, T for T. My take on Islam may indeed surprise you, as it has surprised Christians I know. I am not offended at all by believers, unless they are angry and judgemental believers. I take the 'coexist' business very seriously.

Tit for Tat said...

Debby

Actually I didnt assume, if you read my words("You may not"). Now at the core of any religion does "Coexisting" even exist? It seems to me they all seem to point to a dividing of the believers and Non believers. Does your faith in Jesus say something different? And if so, could you please explain how?

Logan said...

Great post Michael! Keep it up! :-)

Shannon Christman said...

For #2 above, I'm not sure it's entirely an either-or. I always saw it as a both-and. No, God did not really HAVE to come to earth --He could choose to die for us or He could just let us rot (or maybe He could violate His own holy & just nature; I'm not sure about that one). However, because of His great love for us, He chose not to let us rot and (while demonstrating said love) fulfillied His own demands for justice.