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Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’

by Mike Edwards

I used the word “more” in the title of this blog because it seems obvious that we can’t totally understand an invisible or inaudible Being. It does seem intuitive that a God who creates freedom does so to have authentic relationships. Relationships dominated by mystery are difficult to have. Christians claim God communicates via the Holy Spirit. Would such a Spirit speak in a foreign or understandable language?

How would a Creator communicate?

Universal moral outrage and agreement on the golden rule hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Criminals don’t defend but deny their actions. The Bible challenges: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Perfect human love and God’s love are the same. We don’t always know what perfect love entails, but we know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly as our Creator loves us.

Does the Old Testament really declare God a mystery? 

The notion of a relational seeking God being mysterious, and not revealing, may only come from a Book. We aren’t as knowledgeable as God who is in all places at all times, but that doesn’t make God unknowable. Isaiah 55:8-9 is the most common passage to claim that God sometimes is a mystery: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” This passage isn’t suggesting we can’t understand God. The context suggests God exhorts us to forsake wicked ways (v.7) and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways (vs. 8-9). I know how to go low or high!

Does the New Testament really declare God a mystery?

Jesus didn’t speak in parables to purposely hide His message. Nathan had more success confronting David indirectly with a parable (2 Sam 12). God’s truth is perplexing often to one’s heart not the mind. The “mystery of Christ” mentioned in the NT only reveals that God’s plan to bless all through Israel by way of Christ wasn’t fully revealed until after OT times. Paul says: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2: 3-4). 

Assuming God is mysterious may only come from one’s understanding of a Book about God.

Biblical interpreters play the mystery card when their understanding suggests God’s morals are not the same as human morals. Isn’t this because we all have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? Language breaks down if we say God’s evil sometimes is mysteriously good. If God is evil sometimes humanly speaking, are we supposed to hate God? If God isn’t understandable, why does the Bible ask us to imitate God (Eph. 5:1)?   

Why your view of God matters!

Our understanding of God can determine the depth of our relationship with God and how we might treat others. If God really created Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. If we believe God is really warlike, we may justify our actions in war when we shouldn’t. If God condemns gays, we will condemn gays out of devotion to God. If we believe God thinks men have authority over women in some positions, that will filter down to your wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts. Imagine what you believe a perfect God is like in your life and the lives of others you interact with. You may be right!

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

 

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by Mike Edwards

I am not suggesting to read the Bible as a question-and-answer book. We can’t know if the biblical writers always understood God perfectly, unless God somehow magically controlled the writers’ thoughts and words recorded. The writer’s advice may not always be God’s advice. The Bible records experiences of beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings wouldn’t be questioned but to contemplate what a loving God may be really like. 

The Bible must not be used to further the abuse of women at the hands of men. All relationship circumstances aren’t the same. Use common, moral loving sense. Women, if in danger by all means run! Take care of yourself. Even if you believe God inspired every word written down, you still must interpret the writer’s meaning. Opposite interpretations exist on many major issues such as women roles, hell, gays, etc. Our interpretations are certainly not inspired, but I doubt Paul was a misogynist even according to the Bible.

I Corinthians 14:34 says: “women should remain silent in church. ….be in submission.” 

Paul’s advice must surely be due to the circumstances at hand – the gospel was liberating women but Paul wanted: “everything to be done in a fitting and orderly way (14:40).” That seems the best way to make sense that Paul practically in the same breath didn’t condemn women praying and prophesying (I Cor. 11:4-5). Pretty hard to prophesize silently! Paul mentions also that roles are according to one’s gifts and doesn’t mention gender (I Cor. 12:4-11). Romans 16 is only one of many chapters in the Bible that speaks of women in leadership roles (i.e. Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). Women or men shouldn’t teach if leads to disruption not peace.   

I Tim 2:11-12 says: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Paul surely had in mind not spreading false teachings. Paul in verse 14 used Adam and Eve to illustrate what to avoid – Eve prevailing upon Adam to go against God’s ways. Keep in mind Paul says elsewhere Adam was responsible for what happened in the Garden. (Rom 5:12). Those who suggest this passage teaches women can’t teach men ever often allow women to teach women and children as if they are less important than men! Paul advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but churches don’t make the same prohibitions as women teaching. 

Eph 5:22 says: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do the Lord.” 

Paul also says in verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Maybe husbands should hold off telling their wives to submit to their authority until he has successfully and perfectly loved her as Christ loves her. God doesn’t even demand we submit to God by creating freedom. One may say eventually we must submit to God as a reckoning after death. Men, then wait until you are dead to tell your wives to submit!

Submission is often interpreted in marriage to imply when there is an impasse, someone must make the final decision. Jesus said the first shall be last, but most men don’t interpret this to mean their wife is the final decision-maker. I have never had a marriage issue in 38 years that can’t be solved creatively together. Men in authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Give me an inch and I am tempted to take a mile! Women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

How do we decide how God really feels about women and men relationships?

It is plausible a universal instinct to treat others like we want to be treated is a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions. I am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same roles as men unless believing a Book about God teaches otherwise. Most agree not allowing equal roles because of skin color is immoral. Choosing who should lead the company based on gender is obviously bigotry. The most qualified or gifted should surely lead the company. Why not in church? It seems Galatians 3:28 may be God’s ideal if the truth can be handled: “There is neither Jew or Gentile, neither slave or free, neither male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).”

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Jim Gordon

In the bible we read that God is love. That sounds so nice, especially when the meaning according to the dictionary is strong affection for another; affection and tenderness; affection based on admiration; profoundly tender.

Yet we read in the old testament about a God that sounds so different from this description. We read of a God of destruction, vengeance, punishment and hatred. One that kills people whether it be men, women or children. A God that kills animals and destroys property. What kind of love is that?

The new testament tells us more about a God of love. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God may really be like.  The examples Jesus showed were love, forgiveness, acceptance, affection, tenderness and compassion.

My personal opinion is that God is like the God Jesus portrayed. I think the old testament was more about the views of human beings, what they thought, how they perceived God and how they used God to promote their desires and hatred of their enemies. Again, this is just my view but it makes more sense to me knowing that the bible states that God is love.

People will argue that God’s ways are higher than ours and we cannot always know and understand what the purpose of God is in different situations. They will also argue that the bible is perfect and inerrant and we cannot question what is written therein. Yet I do not believe the perfect godly trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. I believe the bible was inspired yet written by men. Men also translated and interpreted it. I feel that over the years of man having a hand in doing these things that many things got changed, misinterpreted and mistranslated. I think God got a bad rap due to the involvement of man in the process.

Even the bible itself does not say it is inerrant. The bible makes clear who the perfect, living Word of God actually is, and it is not a book. We read in John 1:1, John 1:14 and John 5:39 that the Word of God is Jesus.

I say all this not to try and disprove the bible. I say this to show that God is love. God is not out to punish and destroy his creation just because of things they do. He sometimes will correct us, just as a parent does their children. This is also done in a loving manner. As a loving parent, we want the best for our kids and sometimes it involves a disciplinary action for their own good. But disciplining in love is completely different from beating, injuring, being hateful and killing to make a point.

It frustrates me when I read articles about various christian leaders making comments about how God is punishing someone or some area with earthquakes, fires, sickness and death because of something they consider to be sinful. To me, that is the god of the old testament. One that men use to validate their own thoughts and desires.

The best way to find out what God is like is to read the gospels written about the life of Jesus. He represented what God is really like. He loved people. He did not force his views on others. He accepted people, healed people, fed people and offered them a better way of living. A way of love. It did not depend on who the person was, what they looked like, what their color or nationality was, who they loved or what political party they followed. Jesus loved them all and treated them with respect and kindness. How much better our world would be if we, who claim to be children of God (1), treated all people with the same love, kindness and respect. Rather than demanding judgment, exclusion and killing; or demanding our views and opinions be forced on others or our political views be enforced on all. I say look out for the best interests of others, and do so in a loving and kind way. Live your life as you feel the Spirit is leading you, but do not force others to see things the same way. Remember Jesus told us to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There should be no mistake here, God is love and we are to show that love to everyone.

(1) Link to article by Damon Brewster

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by Jim Gordon

Galatians 3:10-13: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse for it is written, cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident for, the righteous man shall live by faith. However, the Law is not of faith, on the contrary, he who practices them shall live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law having become a curse for us, for it is written cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.

One of the major issues we Christians have is living in two worlds. Not only the spiritual world and the earthly world, but the Old Covenant and New Covenant world. Michael Kapler points out this difference clearly in his book ‘Clash of the Covenants“. The problem with the Old Covenant is that if we do not live by and obey all things written in the Law we are living under a curse.ClashoftheCovenants

The Law was given as a tutor and guide to show us that we were unable to restore our fellowship with the Father. We cannot live a life acceptable to God by doing good works or putting forth effort on our part. Righteousness does not come through the Law, and if it did then Christ died needlessly. Jesus came into this world born under the Law. He lived and taught it for the first 33 years of His life. When He died Jesus  fulfilled the Old Covenant the Old Covenant came to an end. When He rose from the grave the New Covenant began.

By accepting the grace He provided we can live in fellowship with God. Christ lives in us and we are holy and righteous in His sight. The Law is no longer needed for those saved by grace. We are free, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. We now live under the New Covenant which is a free gift provided to us by Christ.

We are now living in the Kingdom of God. We now live loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and loving others as ourselves. No more work or effort on our part, no obligation to do certain things. We are free from the Law and restored to fellowship with God.

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by Jim Gordon

Did Jesus teach from the Old Covenant? Was not the birth of Christ the beginning of the New Covenant? When does the Old Covenant end and the New Covenant begin? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

Even though Jesus came to fulfill the old agreement through grace, the first thirty-three years that Jesus walked the earth He lived under the Old Covenant. He was required to follow all its rules and regulations. He even taught from those rules, yet those rules are no longer intended for us. ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’. Galatians 4:4,5

OldandNewCovenant

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’ He was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon His resurrection the New Covenant began and we are no longer required to try and live under the Law and the way of the Old Covenant. It is finished!

The old agreement was basically a tutor. A way God used to show humans that we were unable to live a perfect life on our own. It was a way to show us that we needed someone to redeem us and restore our fellowship with the Father. Jesus came and fulfilled the old agreement and upon his resurrection made a new agreement of grace. ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’. Matthew 5:17

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. So often we seem to forget that because of grace we now live by faith in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just a poor sinner saved by grace although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves but He calls us Sons. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ. This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong. We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from.

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love. Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law. We love God and we love others, we have been made righteous through Christ and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who guides us, teaches us and gives us strength. We do not love or please God out of obligation. We do not love him because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not live up to anyway. We do what is pleasing to God because we choose to do so because of our love for Him.

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Most of us who are Christians want to be known as followers of Christ. We want to be known as good Christian people, yet many of us seem to go about this in the wrong ways.

Many feel that if they can be a pastor, evangelist or missionary and tell others about the gospel message they will be known as good Christian people.

Others feel if they can give regularly to their church or to programs to help the poor and do good in society they will be known as good Christians.

Many will base their identity in Christ on their works and all the good things they can do to show that they are good Christians.

Others think they can show how good of a Christian they are by condemning those who are not Christians, by pointing out the mistakes of others or by standing their ground with those of different beliefs.

A-LoveOneAnother

The thing to remember is that we are saved by grace. It is a gift from God and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

The only way that Jesus says we are to be known as His disciples is by the love we have for God and for others. Jesus tells us to ‘believe on the one who God sent’ and ‘love others as you love yourself’ (1 John 3:23).

When we try mixing New Testament grace with Old Covenant law we get away from the true gospel of grace. We get caught up on works, doctrine and law rather than resting in the grace of Christ and loving others with the love of God.

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Many times when I mention that my wife and I have left the organized church, people assume something happened to hurt us or make us mad.

Just to be clear on this subject, neither one of us have ever been abused or hurt by the church. Neither one of us are mad about some event or some person at church.

After nearly sixty years in the organization, and after the last ten of those years feeling that something is not right with the system, we made the decision to leave and follow Christ outside the walls of religion. To be clear, that is our decision and we certainly do not expect everyone to agree and do the same thing. Many people are part of the organized religious system we know as church who truly love God and want to serve Him.

We believe the Church is a community of people and not a building nor a service held one day each week with paid professionals leading the service. We believe the Church is each of us who follow Christ and see him as the head. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and each of us are equally functioning members making up his body.

We believe forsaking not the assembling of yourselves means we need one another. We live each day having fellowship with those God brings us together with, no matter where it happens. We never truly found real fellowship when we sat in an organized service for an hour looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We believe true fellowship is not just sitting together with other people in a room, but it is daily loving, encouraging and praying for one another and meeting the needs of those we are able to help.

Church

The temple in the Old Testament was only a shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. God now lives in us as his temple, and he is our leader rather than another human being we call pastor. There is no hierarchy in the Church today. Each of us are equally important parts of the body and able to teach, encourage, build up and pray for one another. It is truly a priesthood of all believers, not a one man show. Those with specific gifts for helping the Church are not better or more spiritual than the rest. They are brothers and sisters who walk along beside those who need encouragement. They are those who have learned a spiritual lesson and are there to help those who are still learning. They are servants more than they are anything else.

So when I say that we have left the church, it is only the building and organization I am talking about. We left, not because we were mad or hurt but because we believe the religious system most people call church is far from what God is building. He is building a group of people who will daily follow Him outside the walls of religion and organizations of men, loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind, loving their neighbor and accepting all they meet along the way.

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Simply Jesus

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

Used by Permission from Beyond Evangelical The Blog of Frank Viola

Today, I’m featuring N.T. Wright on the blog. This interview fits in nicely with our series on Beyond Evangelical. But first, a little context.

My favorite New Testament scholar of the 20th century was the British scholar F.F. Bruce. Bruce was a “bright and shining light” in 20th century evangelicalism. He was prolific, churning out high quality work year after year. He had the rare ability to write academic books as well as popular (accessible) books. Bruce’s specialty was Jesus and Paul.

F.F. Bruce also understood the importance of chronology in New Testament studies. Consequently, he published a translation of the New Testament that put all of Paul’s letters in chronological order. (Yes – cough — F.F. Bruce was a major inspiration for me. Hence, I credit him in my Untold Story of the New Testament Church.)

In addition, Bruce was a powerful apologist, substantiating the historicity of the Gospels in the face of 20th century liberalism. To top it off, F.F. Bruce was a capable theologian as well as a New Testament exegete (a rare combination).

Enter N.T. Wright. Another British evangelical scholar.

Click this link to read the unedited interview:
http://frankviola.org/2012/01/23/ntwright

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