The Texas Bohemian

Word artist. Jack of all Trades.

“Jesus Saves” or Jesus Slaves?

Catchy, huh?  I was dragging the net and had this inspirational bit pop into my head.  I may have seen it somewhere, I don’t know.  Like my daughter says, I have “short memory loss.”

But what does it mean?

I’ve been walking around thinking to myself.  Nothing unusual.  But the question I’ve had to ask is, am I “anti-Christian?”  The answer is, yeah, probably so.

Anti-Christian and “antiChrist” are two very different things.  The “AntiChrist” is supposedly a guy who will take over the Christian church (except for a few who are not so stupid as to think he is Jesus) and the world.  It’s all part of absurd end-times mythology, another blog subject.  Anti-Christian means being opposed to Christians or Christianity or Christian doctrine.  I’m not particularly opposed to “Christians,” unless they try to get in my face or judge me, but I am quite opposed to the religion called Christianity and entirely opposed to Christian doctrine.

So what does the title mean, “‘Jesus Saves’ or Jesus Slaves?”  Just this.  Are Christians just “sinners saved by grace” or are they slaves to a belief system that has them locked into a world view that holds them in a vice and won’t let them out?  I suggest the latter is true.

The problem with Christianity isn’t the Christ.  The problem is the system.  The problem is the source.  The problem is the indoctrination –make that brainwashing– Christians participate in.  Christianity is not satisfied with the real world.  The real world won’t work.  The only world that will serve its true purpose is one it controls.  Thus Christianity creates its own world.  Christians are locked into that “other” world, a nether-world of half-fact but mostly fiction, and rarely have the courage or strength to get out of it. They are slaves to it.

con⋅tra⋅dic⋅tion (dictionary.com)
/ˌkɒntrəˈdɪkʃən/
–noun
1.     the act of contradicting; gainsaying or opposition.
2.     assertion of the contrary or opposite; denial.
3.     a statement or proposition that contradicts or denies another or itself and is logically incongruous.
4.     direct opposition between things compared; inconsistency.
5.     a contradictory act, fact, etc.

Want a shorter definition?

contradiction: Christianity

Christianity refutes itself.  It is “logically incongruous.”  It is inconsistent.  Anybody with half a brain can see it.  No Christian will ever admit it.  Well, this isn’t true.  MANY Christians will admit it in a sideways kind of way.  They’ll say, “maybe it doesn’t make sense to us” then cap their ignorance with, “but God’s ways are not our ways.”  Immediately I ask, “if God’s ways are not  your ways, how in the hell do you tell what is the right ways?”

Their answer, “The WORD!”  Ahh, the Bible.  “But don’t you know how contradictory THAT book is?”

The greatest contradiction in Christianity is the phrase “ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.”  These words, spoken by Jesus himself, indicates it was not his wish that those who follow him be slaves.  How, then, did Christians become slaves?

In the world of Christianity the words of Christ never, ever had any meaning.  Everything he taught was thrown out.  I find it amazing that the Gospels even exist.  I think they’re there merely as bait to catch the unwitting traveler with sweet phrases and succulent ideas.  Once lured inside the prison of Christianity Jesus’ words are brushed aside and replaced with a whole library of rules and law.

I’m sure the Gospels are highly edited.  I mean come on, Jesus ministered for three years and there’s only a few dozen pages of what he said?  I don’t buy it.  The words of such a person would have been recorded, repeated, written and memorized in detail.  They are nowhere to be found.  Why?  Because those who preserved them the first couple hundred years were destroyed, killed off by self-serving “Christian” leaders who invented their own religion and labeled the true teachings of Jesus heretical.

In the third century, while “heretics” were being hunted down, the thing Christians call a Bible was meticulously crafted from a large collection of texts and carefully edited to say what it does.  It’s no accident that Paul’s words fill so much and Jesus’ words fill so little of the book. It’s also no accident that Christianity wed itself to Judaism, either.  Jesus wandered around the countryside near Jerusalem blasted the Jews, Judaism, legalism, and religion.  He spoke of freedom and choice.  Scant historical accounts confirm what the Gospels tell.  How then did Jewish law creep back into Christianity?

Jewish law and Paul’s rule-filled epistles (if, indeed, Paul wrote them all or any of them) are part of the construct called Christianity.  The construct worked better, most likely, than those who crafted it ever dreamed it would.  Of course having the force of Roman Law to promote it helped quite a bit.

Using the Bible as a base, Christian leaders built doctrines, one upon the other, like blocks in a fortress, enclosing the Christian, separating the world of Christianity from everything else.  Inside those walls believers have been lied to and manipulated, forced to participate in mental gymnastics until nothing makes any sense at all without the defining purpose of a “holy spirit.”  Finally, Christianity insisted the wall was the dividing point between truth and lies.  Venturing outside isn’t just a bad idea, it is a sin and a death sentence.

Thus Christians are Jesus Slaves.  Even Paul says so.  In fact, he was pretty clear in stating the “true” Christian never stopped being a slave.  A Christian merely switches allegiance from “sin” to God.  In Christianity, as in Nazi Germany, slavery really is freedom.  Hitler wasn’t too popular for his declaration but Paul is lauded.  Go figure.

On “Jesus Saves,” I just don’t know.  It’s a nice idea.  I can appreciate w hat the guy taught and I appreciate his death if it was for me.  When it comes to being a Jesus Slave, all I can say is no thank you.  Doesn’t work for me.

March 24, 2009 - Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , ,

39 Comments »

  1. “I think they’re there merely as bait to catch the unwitting traveler with sweet phrases and succulent ideas.”

    You say that the gospels catch people with ‘sweet phrases and succulent ideas.’ Actually, I think that one reason that we know that the Bible is the word of God is because it is full of things that men hate to hear. Nobody likes being told that they are a sinner, that God’s wrath is on them, or that they will go to hell if they don’t repent. That is why Christians have been persecuted for centuries. Christians believe that the Bible is God’s word. Few men would want to write such an unpopular message. Only God could keep such an unpopular book around for so long.

    I would urge you to look again at this subject. Through the Bible God has given us his warning. If we do not turn, we will be punished. Yet if we come to him in humility, he will forgive!

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 24, 2009

  2. Turn or burn, huh? Heard that one before.

    Christians have done as much persecuting themselves as they have been persecuted. It’s the way of religious fanaticism. But that’s another post.

    The Gospels are probably the only thing in that book of myths that even closely resemble truth. Keep in mind, brother, one has to believe the book before one believes anything anyone says about it. I don’t. You can believe it if you wish. Don’t expect me to.

    The point of my blog is that Christians are slaves to their beliefs which inhabit and control their entire lives. They’re slaves to doctrines. They have few original thoughts. That your response is so predictable proves my point.

    Hell? Heaven? The Bible “God’s word? Prove it.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 24, 2009

  3. I want to clear up an error that is so common everywhere. You said, “Christians have done as much persecuting themselves as they have been persecuted.” Jesus taught his disciples that one of their main characteristics should be love (John 13:34, 13:35, 15:12, 15:17). He also taught that only those who obey his commandments are his true followers (John 14:15, 14:21, 14:23, 15:10). This means that if you see someone who does not live a life of love towards others, they are not a true Christian. One reason that you probably don’t like Christianity is because you see what professing ‘christians’ do. Jesus said that there are few who shall inherit eternal life. Most people are not Christians. Christianity is a religion of love.

    You said to prove that the Bible is God’s word. I cannot do so. You cannot prove that it is not. As a matter of fact, science itself cannot prove anything. I do not believe that there is any profit arguing over this. However, I did give you in my last comment a good reason that strongly suggests that the Bible is God’s word.

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 24, 2009

  4. Re: “Jesus Slaves” … I think Buttefly McQueen said it best years ago in an interview: “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.”[6]

    My own opinion is that “God’s Will” = god swill.

    Comment by exhoisk8er | March 24, 2009

  5. Hi again.

    I agree with you, that the main characteristic of a Christian should be love. The history of Christianity, however, is not loving. Another point I made, that Christianity is contradictory. I’ve known probably thousands of Christians personally, worked by their side in the workplace and in church, and I was one, and love was never a driving force, even in my life. This in spite of the fact they sang beautiful songs like “They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Love.” Christianity is a religion of love? Not in my experience, not in popular culture and not in history.

    I would question how “loving” a god would be who would choose to roast the vast majority of humanity because of an accident of birth. By accident of birth I mean that they were born in a place or time where they had no chance of being “saved.” And does being “saved” mean “professing Christ” (Evangelicals), being baptized in water (Southern Churches of Christ) praying in tongues (United Pentecostal) or maybe I have to stand on one foot with a hoola-hoop? Sorry, the last part was facetious. This is a valid question.

    Next question: Why does the loving God and the Prince of Peace give the Truth to a small group or denomination and let the rest wallow in “falsehoods” or false doctrine or whatever? And WHICH denomination has the truth? I have had been Baptist, Methodist and Assembly of God. I’ve had friends or relatives who were Church of Christ, Nazarene, and United Pentecostal. All of them where convinced THEY were right.

    Again, like I said, contradictory.

    You’re right, too, you can’t prove the Bible is God’s word. I cannot prove it is not but the case that it is not is pretty good. I can send the documentation I’ve researched if you like. I researched it for my book. Maybe I’ll post the chapter on the Bible here?

    It’s not that I “don’t like” Christians. I don’t like “Christianity.” There’s a big difference. I sure wish Christians were loving and did observe the teaching of Jesus. They’re not because their religion keeps them from it. They’re Jesus Slaves rather than free to live in love and peace.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 24, 2009

  6. Indeed.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 24, 2009

  7. Hi,

    Again, Christ taught that his followers should be known by love. You said, “I’ve known probably thousands of Christians personally, worked by their side in the workplace and in church, and I was one, and love was never a driving force, even in my life.” That is because those people were Christians. I’m not trying to make blanket statements, I’m just saying what Jesus said. The term ‘Christian’ means someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. One of his main teachings was love. Therefore, people who are not loving others are not really Christians. Jesus himself said “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).” There are many people who claim to be Christians but don’t love others. That is proof that the ‘narrow way’ is indeed narrow.

    You ask how could God punish people for something that they are not responsible for. I could asnwer this question in full, but I will keep this simple and simply say that (1) though God is a God of love, he certainly does not love everyone (Psalm 7:11, John 3:36, many others). (2) His hatred (against the wicked) is a righteous hatred and is totally pure, because sin is so terribly evil.

    How is someone saved? Again, I’ll keep it simple – repent and believe the gospel. This message is found throughout scripture, for example, in Mark 1:15.

    True followers of Christ are not limited to one denomination. Even true Christians will disagree with each other, but all true Christians, whatever their denomination, will agree with what I have been saying (about salvation, love, etc.).

    Concerning whether the Bible is God’s word, I really don’t think that it is profitable to debate that. There are arguments pro and con. Many other people have researched it too and come to other conclusions, so, if we may, let’s not argue over this.

    Sincerely,
    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 25, 2009

  8. Hi, Daniel, thanks for stopping back by.

    I would disagree that the authorship of the Bible is not a profitable debate. Everything in Christianity is based upon that book and various interpretations of it. If the book itself is invalid in whole or part, or if it is less than it is claimed to be (a record written by men rather than “inspired by God”), then the doctrine founded upon it is also flawed. Assuming that God is the author of the Bible is, like everything else you speak of, based upon faith and a particular interpretation and thus cannot be rationally debated. Rather than get into any lengthy discussion on the book itself I have decided to dig out the chapter in my book relating to it and post it as an excerpt. Might take a while, I’m in the middle of a re-write.

    Your doctrinal position is based upon that book. I say it often, one must accept the validity of the book to accept the validity of your or any Christian’s argument. Quoting verses works within the Christian community but quoting the Bible to those who do not accept its validity is a waste of time. I can see that you’re well versed and no doubt convinced of your positions. I would suggest, however, that you seek sources other than the Bible to validate your point of view or state the obvious, that “this is what I believe,” rather than speaking authoritatively using a book the listener does not accept as authoritative. Does this make sense?

    Keep in mind, though, that while I reject the notion that “God” authored the Bible I do recognize the book as a valid text containing history, prose, poetry, etc., on the level with other ancient texts. There are some good things within it. It does reveal, in the person of Jesus, what I believe to be the most acceptable way to live. I found the exact same teaching in other religions and philosophies, the teaching of love and selflessness. The gospels prove the universality of morality, selflessness and compassion as the ultimate human lifestyle. No text anywhere describes love in its purest state like 1. Corinthians 13. This is the ideal. Few people aspire to it.

    There’s one thing I’ve learned in my fifty-plus years: no one can be forced to love. Even though love is a choice more so than an emotion, no individual can be forced to love or to choose to exhibit love. Thus if “true” Christianity is limited to the exceptional few who do exhibit love you’re quite right, they will fit through a tiny gate. I aspire towards the ideal but I am not sure I will arrive. There are still a few people on this earth I would like to see get hit by a bus. Are you able to live the ideal? Where is the line that determines the apropriate level of love? And if you are there and if you sing that old song “I’m saved and I know it,” does that not make you conceited? Is not conceit selfish and counter to love in its purest form? If you consider on the right side of the “saved” line are you not completely distraught over the idea that almost every human you know will “burn in hell” while you enjoy the wonders of heaven? Would not love demand you petition God to take them and not you? In all honesty I HAVE done exactly that in the past. I have approached God insisting he leave me behind and take others instead, including some of those I want to see hit by a bus. Before I left Christianity I had already become a universalist. No one, no deity, could love all people and then torture so many with the worst possible torture.

    You have contradicted yourself in the definition of salvation. Either Christians (saved people) are those “true” individuals who live a life of love or Christians (saved people) are merely those who repent and believe. Repenting and believing is far easier than loving. Most people “get saved” out of fear for their own lives. Some are drawn by love, maybe. I believe it is a very few. Some might be moved by the story of Jesus dying. Whatever their reason, they come to BE loved, not to GIVE love. The giving should be the result of them “being saved.” In reality it almost never is. Thus the millions who “repent and believe” with absolute sincerity are not, by your strict definition, saved or Christians.

    The point I made on salvation is that your methods to obtain salvation differ from many other truly dedicated Christians of other denominational views. I see that you’re basically a fundamentalist believer. You sound like my brother! You did not explain how millions of other dedicated Christians, as devout as yourself, can thrive on extremely different beliefs based upon the exact same book you use. Just declaring that there are “good people in all churches” does not quite fill the bill. How can even the most loving and devout worshiper of Jesus be a “Good Christian” if he also commits what you would consider horrible sin? There are those across the aisle who are pro-choice, there are those who drink, there are those who follow weird doctrines, but still their love for Jesus and their love for others is entirely sincere. Are THEY good Christians too? What if they believe a doctrine other than “repent and believe?” Does their love make them Christians or are the bound for hell even though in their heart they are completely loving, devoted, selfless? In other words, is Mother Theresa, being a Catholic, in hell?

    My question about how a person “really” gets saved was mostly rhetorical. Nobody agrees. Like everything else in Christendom it is purely a matter of opinion. No denomination can prove their belief is valid. They all use the SAME source and quote the SAME verses. They just interpret them differently. This begs the question, of course, why would the God who authored the book (as you say) make the book so confusing? If the book’s object is to bring the clear message of an omnipotent God to humanity why is it that nobody can ever agree on what the thing actually says?

    Is God love or is God a “God of love?” There is a huge difference. Even the worst tyrant can be defined as a man “of” love. Much is made of the fact that many SS officers oversaw the murdering of the Jews but were at the same time kind and loving family men. “Having” or being “of” love is not the same thing as being the definition of love itself. I have not ever heard anyone re-define God as you have. Frankly, the God you describe is, to me, a tyrant and despot and I would not worship him even if he chose to send me to hell.

    If God the Father is so tyrannical how could he ever produce a son like Jesus? Jesus never rejected anyone because they were “sinners.” On the contrary, he was most critical and some would say hateful towards the religious, not the irreligious. If the Gospels make anything at all clear it is that Jesus hung out with and enjoyed the company of the worst of the lot. Crooks, liars, foul mouthed men with no manners, prostitutes, these are the kinds of people he showed the most love towards. He also made it clear he was no respecter of persons. He was not prejudiced against non-Jews. His teaching and his attitude went a long way towards getting him killed–if one accepts the story of his crucifixion. Do you believe that the Jesus of the Gospels, being “God” himself (I presume you are a Trinitarian?), has a hand in destroying almost the entire human race and that he hates them all even though he stated clearly he died for them all?

    The subject of my original blog was that Christians are “Jesus Slaves.” By that I meant Christians do not live in freedom but under the thumb of religious leaders and bound up in doctrine that forces them into a world of rules, laws, and fear. The “average” person, the one who does not show up on blogs debating religion, usually finds a niche and survives within it. That person picks a religion that suits him or her or simply sticks with what he or she learned as a kid. It is that person for whom I have compassion. The person who drops into a Christian church or is raised in one and gets all bound up by rules and regulations, doctrines and beliefs gets stuck in them. They keep him off balance instead of giving him true peace. Built into Christianity is a bias against anything “non-Christian” and a severe warning that one risks loosing his soul if one ventures outside “the fold.” It occurs to very few that if what they have been taught is wrong and what others “outside the fold” believe is right the part about loosing their soul is absurd.

    I understand that you are convinced, Daniel. But what if you are wrong? What if the Church of Christ are right, or the Pentecostals, or the Mormons? Does that question ever keep you awake at night? It did me.

    Life itself is a struggle. I cannot see how a God of love would deliberately cause the struggle to be more difficult by confounding followers with confusing religious views. I doubt if you can see it but you’ve made several confusing statements in the short paragraphs above. This is my point. You’re a “slave” to the belief system you’ve adopted and cannot see the forest for the trees.

    What sources do you rely upon for teaching, other than the Bible itself? What ministers or ministries do you accept? What biblical translation do you use and what is your opinion of other translations? Other than your trusted sources, what is your opinion of other “Christian” teachers, books, denominations? Have you studied them? Do you reject them? If you read their literature do you do so in order to look for their errors or are you seeking to expand your understanding of Truth? When you hear a preacher on TV or where ever you completely disagree with what is your reaction? Do you love the minister or loathe him or her? Do you judge?

    How do you view Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism? Do you know anything at all about the way they believe, why, how their faith works, or what they view their leaders/teachers/founders as? Have you ever tried to understand why they would reject Jesus who is love? Are you aware that many Buddhists use quotes from the Gospels in their meditation? Did you know Jesus is a prophet in Islam?

    Your world view is defined by your beliefs. It colors everything. It not only affects your ability to love “infidels” and sinners but it also affects your ability to see the world beyond your beliefs. Like a horse with blinders you clop along your course, unable to see or understand anything but the narrow spot in front of your feet and the goal ahead. Your beliefs tell you that if you venture off the track, if you take the blinders off, if you read, listen or watch teaching from off track you might loose your soul.

    I make sweeping generalizations. This may not be descriptive of you, personally, Daniel. I cannot judge you by the few words you’ve spoken even though I clearly recognize fundamentalism in your statements. This is descriptive of the many fundamentalists I’ve known. Narrow not only defines the “gate,” it defines the state of mind. My brother was once as narrow as one can be. I served with him and under him long ago when he pastored a little Baptist church. Back then he was a fundamental extremist. His world defined how he and his wife should dress, wear their hair, and pretty much everything else. I loved him as my brother and worked with him but he and I often debated his narrow point of view. Thankfully he’s become much less of a fundamentalist though he remains a staunch evangelical conservative. Even as a disabled cripple his love for others and dedication to giving himself is extremely admirable. He is the lone example of what a Christian should be, in my book.

    I’ve rambled on too long. I wish I could get you to see beyond the walls you’ve built but at the same time I recognize you’d have to step so far out from your beliefs to see the world from over here it might cause irreparable damage to your faith. Loosing one’s faith is not fun. Been there, done that. I do not wish for Christians to stop being Christians. Some, like my brother, are admirable. It saddens me to see people struggle with their religion. It’s that, and the part of Christian beliefs that push them to judge others based on arbitrary doctrine, look down upon “sinners,” and in many cases go to incredible, invasive and insulting lengths to convince non-Christians how horrible, wrong, and bound for hell they are.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 25, 2009

  9. the thing Christians call a Bible was meticulously crafted from a large collection of texts and carefully edited to say what it does.

    This isn’t exactly true. The only debate about the New Testament canon was regarding a handful of books. The church [universal] generally accepted something like 22 of the NT books. The debate was over 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation–whether or not they were God’s word. The consistancy of the NT manuscripts is incredible as well. There’s over a million fragments and complete manuscripts still existing, which is amazing for an ancient text.

    The only edit that may have taken place was Matthew’s Gospel being translated into Greek from Hebrew. There is some evidence that Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel may actually be the fabled “Q”.

    AS for salvation, it’s simple. Acceping Christ’s substitutionary atonement for you. That’s it. That is what gets someone saved. Nothing else. Denominations don’t matter either. A denomination doesn’t get you saved. Nor do any certain leaders. We see from James’ letter too that believers will be evidenced by their fruit. One of these fruits is love. I like C.S. Lewis’ definition of Love. It’s more or less like, “wishing the good for someone, no matter what.” One will truly know that he’s saved based on the fruit that he’s producing. If you have no fruit–you better check yourself!

    It’s that, and the part of Christian beliefs that push them to judge others based on arbitrary doctribne, look down upon “sinners,” and in many cases go to incredible, invasive and insulting lengths to convince non-Christians how horrible, wrong, and bound for thell they are.

    If you examine the Scriptures, judging people is not a part of Christian belief. “Judge not unless you be judged”, comes to mind. We’re all sinners. I don’t look down on anyone for that fact. I often think that I’m a worse sinner than someone whom I may be sharing my faith with. I’ll admit, some doctrine is arbitrary–Rapture, mode of baptism, and others–but the one thing that unites the church is soteriology. Salvation is not an arbitrary doctrine. It’s that doctrine that opens that gates of heaven for people. As for these incredible lengths that us Christians go to spread the Gospel, you have to think of how we view it, which I’m sure that you know somewhat well. We view the whole world as walking off a cliff and we have to let them know that they’re doing that so that they can do an about face and not fall off to their doom.

    Comment by Tom | March 26, 2009

  10. When you hear a preacher on TV or where ever you completely disagree with what is your reaction?

    I personally say, “that’s not quite right, but I’m glad that he’s spreading Jesus’ Gospel.” That is, of course, if he’s not spreading heresy or going against what the Bible teaches. There are false prophets out there.

    Comment by Tom | March 26, 2009

  11. When I speak about how the Bible’s origins I am referring to how the original Western canon was formed. There’s plenty of documentation if one looks for it. There were many different “canons” in the first few centuries, too. The Western canon changed no more than a few hundred years ago. If you’re going to research the origins of the Bible you have to look beyond church-approved sources. But I suppose those are considered “inaccurate” and thus not worth reviewing?

    Your definition of salvation is obviously mainstream evangelical. I rather doubt, though, those denominations you so quickly dismiss would agree to your assumption that they do not matter. They have just as much claim to truth as evangelicals do. It’s all a matter of opinion.

    No, judging people is not part of Christian belief. It is, however, a favorite past time. You say you do not “look down” on anyone but aren’t you doing exactly that by the statement “denominations don’t matter?” You are dismissing an entire group of Christians as wrong and irrelevant. Isn’t that judging?

    Like Daniel, you validate my point that Christians are sold to their belief system. Nothing you said is original or outside the Christian point of view. Can you even consider universalism, that Jesus died for everyone, no matter what, and everyone is saved, no matter what? if not then answer the question I asked Daniel, how can a loving God and his loving Son be so unloving as to condemn the majority of humanity because of an accident of birth–they were born into a situation where they could never accept the gospel?

    The “just God” theory doesn’t wash either because in Christian belief all persons are sinners and condemned until they “make the decision.” Thus the “saved” are equally as unworthy and we come back to the accident of birth, that they just lucked out. Or is Calvin right, are only a few chosen and the rest destined to be toast?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    I know exactly how you view it. I WAS a very devout Christian for forty years, give or take. I WAS an evangelical. I also know that there’s nothing Christians will ever do to ever reach more than a fraction of the world with the gospel and there are far fewer who will ever accept it as truth.

    I never understood how offensive evangelism was to non-Christians until I became one. Now I see. I also see how self-righteous and pompous Christians sound when they go around demanding they know everything and everybody else in the world knows nothing. It amazes me that Christian right dismisses all the complaints and invective thrown at them as “persecution.” They seem unable to recognize how snobbish, rude, and condescending they are.

    I ramble. The point is, billions of humans “fall off that cliff” every day and nothing any Christian can ever do will stop it. A God who would depend upon such inadequate means to rescue his children and would let them roast is not a God I could ever serve.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 26, 2009

  12. Sorry for not getting back with you sooner. I’ve been pretty busy.

    The reason why I don’t think we need to debate about the Bible is because I know how most debates go – nobody changes position. However, I would say that the claim of the Bible to be inspired by God is certainly important. As you say, if it is not what it claims to be, then it is invalid and I shouldn’t follow it.

    You’ve asked me lots of questions. Most of them were probably rhetorical, so I won’t answer most of them, but I will make a few points.

    First, I list Bible references simply to show you where I get these doctrines, so that you won’t disagree on whether the Bible teaches it.

    You said, “You have contradicted yourself in the definition of salvation. Either Christians (saved people) are those “true” individuals who live a life of love or Christians (saved people) are merely those who repent and believe. Repenting and believing is far easier than loving.” Let me explain a little more. People who have TRULY repented and believed always do love. To repent means to turn from. They turn from their sin. Hatred is sin. That means that they turn from their hatred and begin loving others. Also, I’m not saying that the only mark of Christians is that they love. They also obey Jesus’ other commands. That is why loving others is not enough.

    Jesus certainly spent time with the despised. Many of the religious leaders of that day were very hypocritical. Jesus did not spend time with open sinners because he approved of what they did. He spent time with them because they were the outcasts. He brought them hope. In the same way, I think Christians should spend more time today with the ‘outcasts’ of society.

    You try to make the point that Christians are ‘Jesus slaves,’ but I really don’t think that is fair. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, even Atheists all make certain points and never leave those points. For example, an evolutionist will never leave the principle that over time, anything could happen. Creationists will never leave the principle that God created the earth. Whichever side you take, you are bound to certain beliefs that you cannot forsake.

    You ask me if I have ever really considered these other beliefs. Yes, I have. I have seriously considered the question, “How do I know that I am right? How do I know that these other religions are wrong?” Interestingly, thinking about this actually solidified my beliefs. I have firsthand evidence. In earlier years, I was proud, disobedient, rebellious, etc. No matter how much I tried to free myself from these traits, I could not do it. The Bible said that Jesus came to save men from their sins, and it was only when I turned to him that I was able to be freed from these things.

    I want to touch on another point. It is a strong evidence for Christianity. Christianity is the only religion that has a valid way to answer the question “How could a holy, just God let a sinnner come to heaven?” Christianity says that God is so holy that he must punish all sin – which means all men must be punished. However, he gave his Son Jesus to die and take on the punishment of those who believe in him. Jesus was the only person who could do this, because he was the only person who did not sin. He did not die for his own sins, and thus he could die for the sins of others. Additionally, as God, he was able to fully pay the price. No other religion has answered the ‘just God’ question so logically. That is also why morality is not enough. Even if you live a mostly good life, you are still guilty of sins. That makes you guilty of death, unless you turn to Christ.

    Finally, you said that Christians go to incredible lengths to convince non-Christians that they are going to hell. Let me ask you – suppose that you had a cure for a deadly disease that all, or at least most, of your family and friends were suffering from. What would you do? Go about your own business, not bringing up the subject, of try to get them to take the medicine? So it is with Christians. We feel that if these truths are indeed true, we are not loving others to sit around. We must tell them of this cure!

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 26, 2009

  13. No, judging people is not part of Christian belief. It is, however, a favorite past time. You say you do not “look down” on anyone but aren’t you doing exactly that by the statement “denominations don’t matter?” You are dismissing an entire group of Christians as wrong and irrelevant. Isn’t that judging?

    No. It’s not judging because I didn’t say that the people in the denominations were irrelevant. Simply, in God’s eyes, whether your a Baptist or a Methodist doesn’t matter. There will be plenty of people from every Christian denomination in heaven. The only requirement is to accept Christ in faith. I view it the same way. If a Lutheran were to come up to me [more or less independent] and asked me to go and share the Gospel with him, I’m going to do it. Simply because he differs in some theological view points isn’t going to make me say no. And I’m not doing to think that I’m better than him because I belong to a “superior” church or any other reason like that. The church is supposed to be one united body. I try, as often as I get the opportunity, to rejoice and praise the Lord with my Christian kin regardless of eccleisiology.

    When I speak about how the Bible’s origins I am referring to how the original Western canon was formed. There’s plenty of documentation if one looks for it. There were many different “canons” in the first few centuries, too.

    This is true. But it’s not that the churches believed different things. First, it must be recognized that the differences come outside of the Septuagint. The early church used the Greek translation of the OT as their Bible, so to speak. Beyond that, the differences arise because the letters that make up the New Testament were traveling letters. So, not every area had them at once. Eventually, every branch of Christianity–from the West to the Syrian churches–recognized all 27 letters that the Western churches have. Other churches have other texts in their Bibles, but they’re not considered on the same level as Scripture. They are helpful but not authoritative. [Before the Church Age, the Jews had this view of 1 and 2 Maccabees.]

    Can you even consider universalism, that Jesus died for everyone, no matter what, and everyone is saved, no matter what

    It’s obvious that Jesus died for everyone. “It’s not God’s will that anyone perish…”. But, Jesus’s sacrifice was a gift. People must accept it. Just as I can’t have the $20 someone offers me unless I take it from their hand, so no one can go to heaven unless they accept Christ’s sacrifice. Universalim is not compatable with Christ’s message.

    how can a loving God and his loving Son be so unloving as to condemn the majority of humanity because of an accident of birth–they were born into a situation where they could never accept the gospel

    It’s the Christians responsibility to find that person and tell them about the gospel. Or, that person needs to get into a situation where he can hear it. No one is “stuck” in one place.

    I also know that there’s nothing Christians will ever do to ever reach more than a fraction of the world with the gospel and there are far fewer who will ever accept it as truth.

    Reaching the world with the Gospel is more than people getting saved. Due to technology, pretty much the whole world has been reached with the Gospel. Everyone, with few exceptions, has heard of the name of Jesus and what he’s done for them. God, and we, know that not everyone will accept. But, there is a day coming when everyone will confess Christ as Lord. My prayer is that people would willingly choose him now.

    They seem unable to recognize how snobbish, rude, and condescending they are.

    Perhaps, you see a little bit how we feel when the world tells us that we don’t know anything and are foolish and that they have all the answers.

    Comment by Tom | March 27, 2009

  14. I also see how self-righteous and pompous Christians sound when they go around demanding they know everything and everybody else in the world knows nothing.

    The Gospel is going to be a stumbling block to the unbeliever. It’s offensive to them. Jesus has said that it would be. So, it’s no surpise to me that you would think that we sound “pompous” and “self-righteous”. We don’t say that the world doesn’t know anything either. That’s a stretch and is simply untrue. You should know that.

    It is my prayer that Christ will touch your life again. I will be praying for you.

    Comment by Tom | March 27, 2009

  15. Hi again. Thanks for commenting. I’ll respond to a few things you said.

    First, I understand you list Bible verses to validate what you say. Among Christians this is a somewhat acceptable action since Christians accept the validity of the Bible. The same verse or chapter, however, is interpreted differently by different groups so you could get an argument from Christians in other denominations over some quotes you make. Using Bible quotes to back up your words when you speak to non-Christians, however, does nothing to improve your position. Most of the time when Christians approach non-Christians and start quoting Bible verses they do so believing the verses are authentic and authoritative and are often frustrated that the non-Christian is not convinced. After all, it’s IN THE BIBLE! Validate your words by your lifestyle, not a book.

    On “true” salvation and repentance, you’re going in circles. Where is the line? At what point does someone become repentant enough? I’ve seen so many Christians struggle year after year after year to be repentant enough, to be something they will never be, because they hear such points of view. They doubt themselves and fear hell because they feel so inadequate. It’s like the kid whose parent is a perfectionist. He can’t ever be good enough. And being “truly” repentant IS a form of being good enough. This point of view does not take into account human nature. Either there’s some kind of spiritual event at the point a person makes the “decision for Christ” or there is not. If a person must exhibit certain traits to get “saved” then it’s not a decision at all because traits do not come from a single decision. Nobody changes their life immediately. Even if they have an iron will they will still have internal conflicts for some time.

    The evidence you claim as proof Christianity is your own life. It is, of course, only evidence you can accept yourself. You sense a difference in your life and attribute it to your decision to follow Jesus. I do not know you and thus cannot comment on how you have changed through the years. I would say, however, that the changes in your life came as you followed the teachings of Jesus not because “Jesus” did or said anything in particular but because the principals Jesus taught are universal and built into humanity. Buddha taught exactly the same thing. The fact is that if you remove the religious rhetoric from the mouths of Buddhists and Christians who live the teachings you could not in the least tell them apart. There is a right way to live. It is love and selflessness. As someone begins living that right way by choice every day gets better. You say you have proven Christianity by the effect it has had on your life. I can say the exact same thing about Buddhism because it has changed my life. I’d be willing to bet you could find Muslims who would say the same about their faith. Thus you may have convinced yourself but not others.

    I am not being unfair in saying Christians are “Jesus Slaves.” I mention Christians because I have been writing about Christianity. You’re right, anybody who is dogmatic is a slave to his or her beliefs. Zealots from the “Big Three,” Judaism, Islam and Christianity, are all slaves to their beliefs. They all reference the same supreme God and they all follow texts and teachings that give them their world view. Hindus are pantheistic and not many, I do not think, are zealous or dogmatic. Atheists, those who make the news and are so vocal, seem to me to be angry people who wanted God to fit in their box and he didn’t. Evolutionists / Darwinists are people who believe in a scientific theory. They can often be just as dogmatic and a slave to Darwin.

    Buddhism is very different. There are no “gods” in Buddhism, only Budddha’s. Siddhartha Gautama, from whence Buddhism comes, was never dogmatic. Buddhists are not slaves to the teachings of Buddha but are drawn to them and follow them by choice. There is one huge difference–well there are a few but this one is the biggest in my opinion–between Buddhism and the other major world religions. The origin of the world and the end of it does not matter. There is no “Genesis” or “Revelation” beliefs. One can find speculations within some Buddhist teachings but Buddha taught the beginnings and endings are not important, only now is important. Some Buddhists believe in a Creator, some believe in evolution, some have no opinion. I believe in a First Cause and a Second Cause but have no clue as to what they were. I ramble again. The point is that I am not singling Christianity out unfairly. Anyone who is dogmatic is a slave to their beliefs, no matter what those beliefs are.

    Your “Strong evidence for Christianity” is, to me, the very reason Christianity cannot be true. How could a holy, just God let a sinner go to heaven? That’s quite simple and easy to answer, by exemplifying his greater nature, love, and forgiving. Without forgiveness there is no love. Love demands forgiveness. Love never punishes, and certainly not because of someone’s nature. Read 1st Corinthians 13 again. Do those verses demand justice?

    I might use punishment to correct a specific act of disobedience in my children but I would never punish them because of their nature. My son, age 9, is precious and talkative. I might punish him for stepping over the line, breaking a rule, but the punishment is quick, sure, limited and he knows exactly why he is being punished. If God popped us in the ass with a lightening bolt when we did something specific it might make a kind of sense but for God to condemn millions of people who have no clue about what they’ve done merely because they are genetically flawed is beyond unfair. My son can drive me nuts with his talking sometimes but I love him with an eternal love. I would never punish him for his nature. I certainly would not kill him because of it. I love all my children. Nothing they could ever do or be would stop my loving them. I would forgive them, too.

    Are you a parent? I was not a parent until we took in foster children when I was in my mid-forties. Now I understand parental love and forgiveness more than ever. There’s simply no way I could ever believe a “God of love” who considers all humans his children could ever be so cruel. I see no logic whatsoever in your explanation. If God is love logic tells me love over-rides judgment and justice because love is supposed to be stronger than anything else. Logic also tells me that it is absurd for God to send his very own son to die only for a few humans and not all of them. That is not love, that is favoritism.

    Did Jesus die only for those who “believed in him” or did he take on the sins of the world? Again, it seems you’re redefining Christian theology in a way I’ve not heard before to make your point. I’m curious about what church doctrine or denomination you follow. You sure sound very fundamentalist. You’re even farther right than my brother when he was being the most dogmatic.

    Do I have a deadly disease? Am I, like another fellow said, about to go over a cliff? I think not. But if I did and was not aware of my precarious position there’s only so much you could do that would change the course of my life. If I refuse to believe you there is a point where your warning ceases to be effective and becomes badgering and invasion of personal space.

    The huge difference between having a deadly disease or approaching a cliff and “headed towards hell” is that the disease and the precipice are real, obvious, and provable. The belief in hell is none of those. Hell is an element of your beliefs, nothing more. You can no more prove there is a hell than I can prove the tooth fairy is real. Thus while your beliefs insist you “tell,” your love for others should keep you from being obnoxious.

    Let me ask you this: Do people make the decision to get saved on their own or do they have to be “drawn” by the Spirit? If it is the former then your message should be presented in such a way that the individual finds it appealing and is not offended. Otherwise the person will turn away and it’ll be your fault they go to hell. If the “spirit” must draw them your only obligation is to give the person the gospel message. The spirit will do the “work” from there. Neither approach calls for shouting, emotional manipulation (altar calls), fear-mongering (threats of hell) or Bible quoting. In the end it is not YOU who saves, is it? Then no matter how frantic you feel the saving is up to God.

    …now here is where it gets sticky….

    If it is “God’s will” for a person to hear, they will hear. Otherwise their ears will be “stopped up.” Right? Isn’t everything “God’s will?” Then a person accepting the Gospel message must be “God’s will” too. So whether you use a soft voice, a megaphone, a little tract or a stack of Bible verses, whether you give someone a tap on the shoulder or slap them sideways, it will not matter at all because it is the “spirit” that does the work based upon “God’s will.” SO, all those people who do not listen were not supposed to listen? Or they were just to stubborn. How can a human be so stubborn as to contradict the “will of God?” This is not logic, it is anti-logic.

    Unfair or not, you are locked into your doctrine, my friend. You are a slave to your beliefs. There is no freedom in there. Neither is there any clarity. Fancy words and warnings of hell might work on ignorant peasants but in this world of educated people it is not going to fly.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  16. You know it’s uncanny how similar what you write is to what I believed twenty years ago. Well, not uncanny, just indicative of my point. I’m possibly wasting our time with this discussion, I don’t know, it is cathartic for me. If any of you who write in defense of Christianity ever actually understand my points I fear it would do you harm. Am I being selfish? Hm…. subject for another blog

    Anyway, let me respond to you. I will say that you, personally, sound like a person I could be friends with if you live your life the way you write here. I speak of generalities and perceptions more than of individuals sometimes. Having said that, your words still prove you are fixed in your doctrines. Everything you say I have said. Everything you say I have read from a hundred sources. It all fits in the box.

    The very fact that denominations exist prove that Christians, as a rule, judge each other. This town is notorious for having store-front churches founded by someone who judged a pastor or a group incorrect in their doctrine. I remember saying “God is no respecter of persons or denominations.” He might not be but humans certainly are. Of course judgmentalism isn’t exclusive to Christians, it’s human nature. It’s built into many cultures like the caste system in India and the aristocracy in England. But in Christendom it is specifically forbidden. That makes it more obvious and more damaging to those being judged.

    I remember quoting Mike Warnke, do you know who he is/was? He used to say, “of course I’m narrow minded. I can afford to be. I am right.” I would say that with absolute confidence. What a cocky idiot I was! I judged the whole world and decided I was right and they were wrong. Whether the judgment is so obvious or it’s merely a heart-felt belief that your faith is the right one as long as you make that assumption you have no choice but to judge based upon your belief. Judgment exists as long as someone is convinced they are right and cannot be wrong. It’s one of the conundrums of Christianity.

    I should have made myself more clear in reference to the Bible. I was speaking of the New Testament. I hope to get something up today on the subject of its creation. I really cannot understand why the Old Testament is even mentioned in Christendom. Every bizarre and convoluted doctrine of Christianity, everything that makes it something I will not ever any longer accept, has its roots in the Jewish text. Jesus clearly reject Jewish law and Jewish religious practice. He said the law is “fulfilled” and he said the law is now replaced by grace and the law of love. Even Paul said Christians are not bound by the law. Why, then, does the law find its way into Christianity? And how can Christianity defend following only part of it and not all of it? An honest study of Hebrew history casts grave doubts upon the validity of their religious practices and much of their law. Some practices can be traced directly to paganism. A whole lot of stuff in the OT is confusing and makes no sense. The picture of God in its pages is so far removed from the loving “Father” Jesus spoke about how can you say they’re the same? (This question is rhetorical, no need for theological statements here.)

    My theory? My theory is that first/second century Christians never referenced the OT. I’m quite sure of it. Why would gentiles do that? They relied upon the letters circulating at the time for guidance. Many were led down rabbit trails, of course, but they also relied upon logic and an understanding of the basic teaching of Jesus, that of love and selflessness. Those teachings, applied deliberately to one’s life, suffice entirely. I also believe that countless texts, their authors and those who believed in them were ruthlessly and deliberately destroyed. There was a horrible bloodbath in the third century, perpetrated by the founders of “The Church,” which is modern day Roman Catholicism. They rampaged across the middle east killing “heretics.” I speak of documented historical facts, not supposition. I believe, though, that the “heresy” they sought out was anyone who taught or believed anything that did not fit their little world. The Gnostic texts discovered in Egypt and other discoveries prove this point. I have done a bit of research on this matter. I never accept anything at face value or because someone tells me it is so.

    I would disagree about Universalism. I believe Universalism IS the true message of Jesus. Many, many years I struggled with the “gift” concept as you described it until one day I just concluded that I could no longer accept it. No matter how you paint the picture I still see it as an ugly portrait of a cruel religion.

    I would suggest that a gift is a gift is a gift. A gift is given and it becomes a gift when it is GIVEN, not when it is received. Are the shirts and toys in the boxes under the Christmas tree the property of the giver or the receiver? By your definition they remain the property of the giver. You might think that way but in my mind the gift belongs to the person I am giving it to from the moment I wrap it. Should a horrible event occur and the recipient die the gift still belongs to them.

    It is obvious to anyone looking into your Christian Box that universalism is a deadly concept because it eliminates ninety percent of Christian beliefs and practice. Christianity must insist upon the absurd idea that a person must “receive” the gift for it to be valid. This is the single card upon which the house rests. Without this prop everything else crumbles.

    The modern assumption that most of the world has been reached with the gospel through the media or in person is a myth. Much of the world might have been reached with “a” gospel (Sometimes evangelical, sometimes, Catholic, sometimes Mormon, sometimes Jehovah’s Witness, etc.) but there remains millions who have not received sufficient understanding of “salvation” to make a decision. But this isn’t the only hurdle. People in Muslim countries, especially, are virtually unreachable. Their religion overrides anything any Christian might speak to them in any way. Millions upon millions do not understand either the message of the need for the message. Some of those might have heard the name of Jesus. Of course they have. Jesus is a prophet in the Koran. It’s still not enough.

    Christians rationalize as you have to overcome their guilt for being chosen while so many others will, according to their beliefs, be fried. My guilt eventually ripped me apart. I decided that God can save everyone or he can save everyone else and leave me. I do not want to be floating on a cloud while all friends and acquaintances and people I respect and even people I do not know are “burning he hell.” I truly do care for all people. I always have. I cannot live with being “chosen” while they are left behind. How can you live with that thought? How can you sleep at night believing so many of your friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow citizens, people you meet every day, will “burn in hell” and you won’t simply because you had the wherewithal to “make a decision for Christ?” And if, as Christianity teaches, nobody comes unless they are “called of the spirit,” why do you not spend your days begging the spirit to call them?

    There are, of course, many people of other religions, beliefs (or non-beliefs) who are just as obnoxious as Christians can be. I’m not one of them. I don’t have any answers. Contrary to your statement, though, “the world” is not out to get Christianity. That is another one of those ideas pounded from pulpits to keep Christians separated. Some people ARE hateful towards Christianity but they are in the minority (except in Muslim countries, of course). I would advise keeping a distance from anybody who claims to have all the answers, no matter who they are. I wish I could go back in time and kick my own rear for being so pompous. Shame on me.

    I do find in-your-face evangelism offensive. For example, those “Hell Houses” some youth groups create around Halloween really make me nuts. I can tolerate a street preacher now and again if he don’t point fingers. (I have done that myself!) I don’t mind someone with sincere concern approaching me with a tract and a “Jesus Saves.” I try not to be offensive to him in my rejection of his effort. The thing that bothers me (and many non-Christians of all stripes) most is not the evangelism but the assumptions Christians make about so many things and how those assumptions seep into entire communities because the community is majority (or overwhelmingly) Christian. This I am sensitive to because that is my situation. You also have to understand I live in a southern, red-neck, right-wing town. The isolation I feel is very real and very immediate.

    Now I’ll move up to your next reply.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  17. My brother would tell you, “good, I need the prayer and you need the practice.” Ha. I hope this does not sound rude, it’s not meant to be, but you’d be better off praying for someone else. I will not return to where I once was. I know too much, have seen to much, and would never accept what I once believed.

    What you say though makes no sense. It really sounds stupid that the Gospel would be a “stumbling block” to the very people it is suppose to reach. I mean, really, how is it suppose to work if people find the message offensive? That is just screwy. Is that loving? Is that giving?

    Maybe you do not say that the world knows nothing but lots of folks do. When someone makes the assumption that they are right, absolutely and exclusively, they are at that moment declaring anyone, anywhere who does not believe the same way wrong. Thus, the whole world outside that person’s “truth” really knows nothing and believes lies. Do you believe what you believe absolutely without doubt? If so by default everyone else, everyone who does not accept your views, is wrong. It’s the old philosophical argument of relativism vs. absolutism. I had a professor in college who would drive his Christian students nuts with that one. Is there One Truth? If there is, and it is that which Christians believe, why did God hide it? What purpose would hiding it serve?

    Thanks for your thoughtful words. I do appreciate them.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  18. Again, I won’t touch on everything, just a few points. You said, “validate your words by your lifestyle, not a book.” That is what I seek to do, day by day. Of course, as I have never met you, I can’t do that. You also say, “Nobody changes their life immediately.” That is my argument, my evidence! No one can change their life immediately without something supernatural occurring. However, I did change my life immediately (or rather, God changed it). You also say that my change occurred because I followed the teachings of Jesus. That is not true because I had been trying to follow the teachings of Jesus for years before then. I tried but I always failed. It was not before I begged God to have mercy on me (think ‘repent and believe’) that I changed.

    God is love. But he does not love everyone! (I could give you references of this, but I won’t). That is why a loving God can send men to hell. Sin isn’t a genetic problem. It is a spiritual problem. God has graciously set up ‘barriers’ that keep sin from passing certain limits (examples include laws, society, family, friends, etc.) However, when those barriers are removed, we can catch a glimpse of what every person would be like without the mercy of God. Men such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein – this is what sin is like. If God had not set up these barriers and saved some men, we would all be like this.

    Think of a bunch of paper airplanes. If I made them all, I can do what I want with them. If I want to throw them in the trash, fly them, give them as a gift, etc., I can do it. Why? Because I made them. Whether you believe the Bible or not, surely you see the logic that Paul used when he said, “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Rhetorical question).

    People are saved when they are drawn by the Spirit. God’s Spirit saves, but it uses human means – by that I mean that God does the saving, but he uses our words and actions to do that. If people were saved by making a decision, then certainly I should spread the gospel with as much eloquence and charm I can muster. But that isn’t how it works. You are correct – my only obligation is to give the person the gospel message.

    Yes, if it is God’s will for someone to hear, they will hear. Theoretically, whether we use a stack of Bible verses or a slap, God’s Spirit is what changes men and saves them. Of course, as a Christian I need to follow God’s directions for telling the gospel to others – which is not a slap, but rather speaking the truth in love.

    I may take some flack for this (from other Christians), but I would agree that what you describe is anti-logic. God is the one who saves, and if we do not obey him, it is because he has not chosen us. He hardens hearts! He hardened Pharoah’s heart (please take no offense that I am referring to the Bible). So he can do the same today.

    I am sure that you will think that my message is very hard. It is. That is why Christians have been persecuted for centuries (I’m not talking about verbal persecution. I’m talking about execution, imprisonment, torture). That is why Paul was once stoned, why he was beaten, whipped, etc. Nobody likes this message.

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  19. PS. – Walking down an isle or repeating the words of a prayer does NOT equal repenting and believing. Jesus never taught that. Repenting and believing means crying out to the Lord in humility, trusting that his word is true, and turning from sin – things that we cannot do unless he is merciful

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  20. PPS. – As I have tried to explain, I attempt to be open to all of God’s true children, whatever denomination they may be in. However, since you ask me, I happen to be in a baptist church, but still, please don’t lump me in with all other baptists. I disagree with many of them.

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  21. Ahh, I can understand you better now. Thank you. All my family is Baptist. Most are Southern. My brother, as I’ve said, is independent fundamentalist. I was raised a Southern Baptist and was a member of Baptist churches a few times as an adult, mostly to be with my family.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  22. I believe there’s no place in the Gospels where Jesus said to believe on him to be saved, not in those words. Jesus gave sermons on repentance as did John the Baptist. The Gospel of John says those words but they are not quotes from Jesus. “Repentance” is a fancy word for saying one is sorry he or she screwed up. That the apology is accepted is not a given when it comes to anyone other than “God in Christ.” But if Jesus was “slain before the foundation of the world,” something like that, was not forgiveness already made before it was necessary? Thus repentance becomes an act of contrition for personal failures while recognizing what has already been done, not a means to obtain forgiveness.

    You are right, you are not a typical Baptist. If walking the aisle and praying the “sinner’s prayer” is not equal to repenting and believing why give altar calls at all? Billy Graham might be disappointed in your words. Ya think?

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  23. Hi again. The most interesting element of your posts is that you have made them at all. I do appreciate it.

    You and my brother would have been soul mates at one time. He has mellowed somewhat but he still remains fairly close to what you say. I believe he would disagree with you about God does not loving everybody. Other than that you have not said anything he did not preach. He is an ordained minister, btw, unable to do much because of severe disabilities.

    I would have disagreed with you even when I was at my evangelical best. You are right, your words do seem harsh. I would say I feel sorry that you are so “bound” but that sounds condescending, doesn’t it? You probably catch a lot of flack from fellow Baptists.

    We could go back and forth on the intricacies of what constitutes salvation, the “drawing” of the spirit, etc., for some time but it would serve no purpose. Going back to my point in my original post, you prove my point.

    Of course it is part of the Christian lexicon that Christians are “slaves to Christ.” I was suggesting the servitude was to doctrine rather than the person. I do understand every point you make, all of them I’ve heard and a few I’ve even agreed with. You have not indicated that any important point of your belief could be wrong. Thus you are sold out to, a “slave,” to the beliefs you have.

    If you are comfortable with it, if it works for you, fine. Also, if you follow the teachings of Jesus, if you are loving and selfless, that is good. If your burden is that people are saved and you have concern for my soul then such concern is appreciated. I read an amusing story about how a revered Buddhist leader in Thailand, the head monk, went to Australia for heart surgery. He did not wear his robe in the hospital, of course, so one day a Nun came in and prayed for him. Afterwards she learned who he was and apologized for her actions. The monk said there was no need to apologize, that her concern and prayers were appreciated. As a Theravada Buddhist he did not pray but he respected the sincerity of those who do.

    My quarrel with Christianity is not any of these things. It is that there are those who are not comfortable with what you teach, who cannot accept the harshness of your doctrine, who beat themselves, talk down to themselves, constantly fear hell because they doubt, they struggle, they cannot live up to what they believe they should live up to. Those people wind up living in fear and dying a sad life. Some become addicts or alcoholics and some turn bitter against God and all religion. I do not believe such should be the case for people who worship a “loving” God and a “loving” Jesus. There should be no fear or self-loathing.

    In my case much of my early Christian experience I felt inadequate. More than once I concluded that God loved everybody but me. I decided I was different, somehow. I could never live up to the ideal. I had doubt and fear. Then after a very bad night and overdose of prescription meds I eventually became a pentecostal. I remained that for a long time, until even that and my beliefs as a pentecostal seemed inadequate. I crashed and burned a few times. The last time, when all my absolutes came crashing down around my ears, I finally started the path I am now on. My brother often quotes the verse “there is now no condemnation to those in Christ….” but there always is. There always is that guilt, that feeling of inadequacy, that doubt. A song I used to sing, “Inside my room….” said a lot. It said I know who I am and I don’t like myself because I can’t live up to what God wants me to be. Whether the standard is as harsh as the one you set or one more lax, there is still that feeling in so many. Christian doctrine does nothing to give them peace but continually makes them feel useless and causes them to fear hell. I cannot and will not accept a religion as valid when it claims to live on love and leaves so many broken people in its wake and excludes so many from its ranks.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  24. Who said that I believe in alter calls?

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  25. Hi,

    You said, “I cannot and will not accept a religion as valid when it claims to live on love and leaves so many broken people in its wake and excludes so many from its ranks.” I see your point, but I need to disagree. True Christianity is not like that! We have already discussed that Jesus spent much of his time with the afflicted in society. He did that to bring hope to them. Those who lived in the early church would willingly go through the most horrendous, unspeakable tortures (Emperor Nero used Christians for a time as street lights to illuminate the streets of Rome). I don’t think that they would have done so if Christianity left behind it broken men and women. Paul the apostle was thrown into a Roman prison after receiving a heavy beating from the authorities, but he could still sing praises to God. And true Christians throughout the ages have always given the same testimony – that Christ alone satisfies. I believe that (true) Christianity (not necessarily what is commonly called Christianity) really does bring hope, peace, joy, love. How else could those people I just mentioned have done what they did when, by saying a few simple sentences, they could recant and get off the hook? They had found true and lasting peace and contentment that was worth more than their own lives.

    Do you have this sort of peace and joy?

    Sincerely,

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  26. My bad. It’s usually a Baptist thing. I can see you don’t quite fit the Baptist mold, huh?

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  27. I think the way Christians of the first few centuries are so different than Christians these days is an indication Christianity has lost something. Could it be truth?

    For the few who find peace, joy and love in the faith it’s great. The others, though, they do suffer.

    You may or may not believe it but I absolutely do have more peace, joy and contentment as a Buddhist than I ever did as a Christian. The teaching of Buddha when it comes to life style is identical to what Jesus taught. There’s no baggage or worries like I had as a Christian. And I do not feel guilty for not going out to save the world. I am able to love better and with more sincerity.

    Hang around me long enough and you’ll hear me talk about what my favorite professor, Dr. Kim (Korean parents) used to say. He would say his father was the best Christian he ever knew…. he’d pause, then conclude, “and he was a Buddhist.” Ah how Dr. Kim sent the Christians in the room into orbit. He was mischievous that way. I point back to my friendship with Dr. Kim way back in the early eighties as the point when I started changing and becoming who I am today.

    I don’t know for sure if Jesus died for everyone. I hope so. I believe if he did it was, indeed, for everyone.

    Thanks for writing back!

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 27, 2009

  28. Ah, you are right. The Christianity of today has lost something. But this is where I think you are missing my point – the Christianity of today that has lost something is not true Christianity! The true, Biblical, first-century Christianity is still around today, but it is the minority. First-century Christianity still exists!

    I will not aruge that you have more peace now as a Buddhist than as a Christian (would you perhaps agree that your Christianity was not true Christianity, but the modern adaption of it?). But do you have such peace and joy that you would die for it? Perhaps so. Do you not perhaps feel that your life is maybe being wasted? As though, when all is said and done, you will see that it produced nothing, there was no ultimate goal. What is the goal of life? So many people have no goal. If they were not so busy with worldly things, they might stop and consider that their life has no purpose. Do you perhaps sense that?

    Thank you, by the way, for how you have continued this conversation.

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 27, 2009

  29. Hi.

    I realize it must be difficult for you to understand, even impossible, that I was as “true” to Christianity as one can be. I had no doubt. Except for a couple points you make that lean towards fundamentalism I sounded a lot like you. I was always frustrated at the lack of faith my Christian friends had. I fretted over not being able to do enough. I gave everything I had. At one time my wife and I filled most of the leadership positions in our church when the rest abandoned it because of the pastor–who turned out to be not only a louse but an adulterer. I’ve walked the streets in the worst parts of Dallas witnessing, preached on the street in Corpus…. I was active, to say the least. The road from there to here is a long story, much too long to write here. It was a very hard road, too. But no, I would not agree that my faith was superficial or the “modern adaptation” of it.

    I don’t expect you to understand or maybe even believe me. Nobody can know another person’s heart. All I can say is that honesty is the absolute in my book. I believe in absolute honesty to others and to ourselves. If you want to know how strongly I believe that ask my kids.

    I do not believe my life has been wasted. I have, after all, made a few contributions here and there. Most notably I’ve been a foster parent and have rescued three from a horrid life for good. If I have any regrets I regret that I did not turn to Buddhism a lot earlier. Not what you want to hear, huh? My family cringes when I mention the “b” word.

    The ultimate goal in Buddhism is to reach enlightenment. Traditional Buddhism believes in reincarnation, of course. I simply do not know what happens after death. I do not believe in heaven or hell and I rather hope we’re not recycled. ha. I seek to learn more, be better, love more, be more selfless and maybe be enlightened, if I make it long enough.

    My personal goal for the moment is to survive. I have an ailment that has been dragging me down for two years, It’s painful, and I can’t afford medical care other than the VA which is less than useless. I have three kids to take care of. I’m the home daddy. And one of these days I’ll get back to writing and maybe even make a few bucks at it again.

    I’m not so sure there is a purpose. If there is I believe it is merely to live a loving and selfless life.

    You’re welcome. Honestly, I live in a world full of Christians (primarily the superficial kind) who run and hid when I mention the “B” word. It’s nice to have a Christian who will actually talk.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  30. Hi,

    I see your point about it not being the false kind. I also appreciate that you seem fairly honest about it. However, chew on these words that were spoken by a preacher long ago: “We believe in the ‘Perseverance of the saints,’ but not all are ‘saints,’ and so not all persevere.”

    You say “I’m not so sure there is a purpose [to life]. If there is I believe in it merely to live a loving and selfless life. Thata is easy to say now, but it is a somewhat negative way to view life. It is easy for Americans to say that know; it would be much, much harder for someone in a Nazi death camp to say. In the end, why should I live a loving and selfless life? What does that accomplish? I will die, my loving life will end, and those that I have loved and known will die. All that I do will eventually perish. (Those are, of course, rhetorical questions and I’m not personally saying that). Also, even if that is the goal of life, says who? Why should I believe you, or even the Bhudda? I prefer to believe what Christ said. Thousands bore witness of his miracles. Many of his prophecies have already come true.

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 28, 2009

  31. I believe there’s no place in the Gospels where Jesus said to believe on him to be saved, not in those words.

    He did in several places. Though you’re right, it’s not in his words because a lot of what Christians say are “isms” that have developed over time:

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [John 3.16 ESV]

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [John 14.6 ESV]

    In Jesus’ parables, it’s often alluded to as well that people should accept his invitation to get to heaven. The parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14.15-24 is a good example. [It even shows that the Jews would accept his message and but the Gentiles [who were untouchable] would accept it.]

    Comment by Tom | March 28, 2009

  32. Hi again.

    You might find the teachings of Buddha quite interesting. One things Christians rarely understand, especially evangelical and fundamentalist protestants in America, is that Buddhism has no gods. Thus the entire religion, all sects, do not quite look at life the way religions with deities do. There are Christian Buddhists, people who respect and follow the philosophical teachings of Buddha. There’s more to it than I can write here. I am not a Christian for several reasons but none of them having to do with my Buddhism. I could be a Buddhist, a person who followed his philosophy, and remain entirely faithful to Christ. Buddha himself came out of the Hindu tradition and the only “gods” he knew were Hindu and he saw clearly that such a religion as Hinduism and its god realms was a waste of effort. Many have speculated about how he might have reacted to Jesus. Buddha never, ever expected worship or adoration and never claimed to be anything but a man who was enlightened, which means one who had discovered truth. That’s a simplification, of course.

    I wrote all that to explain that Buddha’s teaching is more strict and more demanding that that of Jesus. He taught the Four Noble Truths, that life is suffering, suffering is caused by attachment (greed and envy), suffering can be eliminated and one does that by the Eight Fold Path. The Eight Fold Path is basically a moral and ethical code more demanding than expected of Christians. The Path is a means to develop love and compassion towards others. When I was a Christian I believed as I do now, salvation may be a gift but a “holy” life (as Christians would say) or a Right life (as Buddha would say) is lived by choice. Our purpose, then, is to live a selfless, loving life with compassion towards all living things, by choice, no matter what.

    You are right, it’s easier to be loving and compassionate in places where such is not challenged. But that does not excuse us from choosing to be selfless, no matter the cost. Though I am not a Christian in that I do not accept the authority of the Bible or the doctrines of the church I see no reason to deny the historical Jesus nor even the circumstances of his death. His death was, as I’m sure you will agree, a great example of selflessness and love. Many Christians suffered such fates. Many Buddhists have too, giving themselves in love for others. I teach my children the most important elements of life is honesty and selflessness.

    I sometimes feel overwhelmed by a sense of futility. Everything dies. This is, however, a major teaching of Buddha, that life is impermanent. That is why he taught how important it is that we care for others because we, and they, are impermanent. Our duty as humans is to relieve their suffering while we can. The end of suffering and the attainment of enlightenment is the goal with the reward being eternal bliss. That part gets complicated and I’m not yet able to explain it all that well.

    If you were to ask the Buddha why you should believe him he would, I am very sure, respond by saying you shouldn’t. If you then said you prefer to believe what Christ said he would, again, say that is good. Any devout Buddhist would say the same things. Christianity quite often lumps Buddhism into pagan religions or false religions or whatever and shoves it away but Buddhism does not treat Christianity or any other religion where truth and right living is promoted the same way. To condemn your beliefs is to cause you suffering and that is wrong. My blogs are not written from a Buddhist point of view, they’re written as an ex-Christian who worries over those like myself who have lost their faith or who struggle with confusion.

    What do I believe about God or eternal purpose? I have a lot of problems with the concept of God as an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent deity. Maybe there is but I really doubt it. I am agnostic. I have speculated on the spirituality of Jesus and etc., and I just don’t know the answers. I do know there are such things as spirits and believe in the possibility of other realms and consider that there might be a God there. I suppose I am moving closer to what Buddha taught but I’m not in any hurry. Honestly, I don’t know. I get up every day because I have responsibilities. Tomorrow, next week, next life? Beats me.

    The reason I follow Buddha’s teaching and study Buddhism is not because I’m seeking a new “religion” but because my goal is as it always has been, to be the best I can for others. I have no doubt that humans are not “educated monkeys.” Something or someone changed us. Was it God? You believe so, of course. I don’t know. We are different, however, we are sentient and we are able to recognize right and wrong, good and bad. The two greatest teachers, Buddha and Jesus, separated by five centuries, thousands of miles and from two extremely different cultures, taught the same things about morality, selflessness and love. Buddha, coming 500 years before Christ, discovered the truth by looking very deeply inside himself. I believe he managed to see that which is written on every human heart but few humans ever see or acknowledge. Then Jesus, the son of God (according to Christian belief), presented the same teaching from his Father’s point of view.

    If you look all around the world you find similar or identical moral codes observed by civilizations and cultures of every kind, even very primitive tribes cut off from the world. Such things as it being wrong to kill and steal and harm others, even things like adultery, though sometimes filtered through primitive and/or pagan practices, the moral standards are still there. Thus our purpose as humans, the call (for want of a better word) to be moral, selfless and loving, goes far deeper and wider than any mere religion. Christianity, of course, has everything explained as sin/grace/God/love/Jesus, etc. Buddhism has other explanations. Islam and other religions have other explanations. At the core, however, there is that drive deep within us to overcome our biology (you would consider the sin nature) and be better, live right, love and be selfless. Wasn’t the sermons of Jesus all about repentance and living holy? Is not repentance “changing direction and going the other way?” That’s how I always taught it. Living holy is choosing to live honest, moral, and selfless.

    OK, so I get long winded. This is, though, what I believe our purpose is. I do not believe this purpose has ever changed.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  33. Hey, Tom. Happy Saturday.

    I see those quotes you gave as inclusive rather than exclusive. In other words, Jesus said he’s the conduit go God, people approach God through him. In that passage he does not qualify how they do it, just that he is the conduit. Every good Baptist has John 3:16 welded to his brain. I was raised Baptist. It does say “those who do not believe in me will perish.” This is an assumption. One does not necessarily follow the other. Green is a part of brown but brown is not a part of green. I suggest that Jesus was entirely inclusive but those who built the Christian church in later centuries made the Church out to be the only conduit in order to keep people in it. After all, if universalism is true (which I would have to believe if I believe in Christ at all) the entire reason for churches to exist changes. All doctrine crumbles. What a mess that would make, if people all recognized universalism as true.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  34. Happy Saturday to you too sir. I hope that your day has been well.

    Something I noticed is that you said that Buddhism doesn’t believe in Gods. This is true for the more conservative branch of Buddhism [which is practiced in southeast Asia mostly]. But, the Buddhism practiced in Japan and elsewhere elevated Buddha to the level of diety. Each of the two branches has a name as well, I just can’t remember it at the moment. All I know is that they’re really weird to us English speakers!

    You’re right that it’s an assumption from John 3.16 that people don’t accept Jesus will perish, but, it’s the logical conclusion. If someone accepts Jesus they’re saved from perishing. Therefore, we can conclude that one perishes by not claiming the name of Christ. Peter says this in Acts 2.21, “no one can be saved by any other name.” If Universalism is valid, Jesus could’ve simply said, “because I’m going to die, everyone will get to heaven.” That’s not what he said though. He emphasized that one needs to follow him.

    Comment by Tom | March 28, 2009

  35. Oh, and if Universalism is valid, why would Christ haven given the Great Comission–to spread the Gospel–before he ascends? There would be no reason to go and spread to faith because “all roads lead to the top of the hill” so to speak.

    Comment by Tom | March 28, 2009

  36. You speak of Pure Land, or Amida Buddhism, I think. Pure Land and Zen are the major Buddhist sects in Japan. Theravada Buddhists, those who predominate in SE Asia and SriLanca, are the “fundamentalists” of Buddhism. They follow only Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism, from which Zen (Chan in China) and Pure Land comes, has a much larger cannon of scriptures (though keep in mind they’re not viewed the same as Christians view the Bible) from which they get different ideas and a little different interpretations on some of Buddha’s (Gautama) teaching. Tibetan Buddhism is really weird.

    Tibetan and Mahayana believe there are many more “buddhas” than Gautama. Some Buddhas are “celestial,” in that they have lived in the other worlds and not as a human. If you dig deep into their beliefs things get “differn’t.” Pure Land is an interesting sect. Many Christians have been drawn to it because it has many similarities with Christian beliefs. Pure Land teaches there is a celestial Buddha named Amida who lived in paradise but left that paradise to become a Buddha for a time many eons ago because of his compassion for suffering humans. He went back to the “Pure Land” and welcomes followers who will call upon him to the Pure Land.

    Many Buddhists speak of Buddha like Christians speak of Jesus, some even say “Lord Buddha.” Some do worship Buddha and some even pray to Buddha. These practices, though, are spontaneous from the follower and not part of the teaching. There is the difference. It’s like how, for Example, Christians sometimes almost deify some evangelists, Jimmy Swaggart comes to mind, when the evangelist would vehemently deny being worthy. So “officially” or “doctrinally” neither Gautama nor any other Buddha is a deity. A buddha is an enlightened being and according to the belief anyone can be a Buddha. Boddhisattva’s are Buddhas who have returned or come from paradise. In Buddhist belief Jesus would be a Boddhisattva. You might be surprised at how many Buddhists believe he is.

    On the exclusion/inclusion idea, I do not agree that it’s a logical conclusion that those who don’t accept Jesus perish. It is the conclusion of the church, of course, but the church has over time made many wrong assumptions.

    On going to heaven, was Jesus speaking to the whole world when he said he was going to “prepare a place” or was he speaking to his disciples? I think one assumption Christians make is that every statement in the Bible is a blanket one, that if Jesus was talking he was talking to the world and if Paul was writing he was writing to everyone. I do not think this is true. He was speaking to all when he gave sermons and taught parables, sure, but when he was just going around with his disciples was everything he said meant for the whole world? I doubt it.

    Peter was making the point in Acts, was he not, that there was only one “Savior?” It’s a warning against “false Gods.” In other words, there are plenty of slick talkers. There were those who could do some weird stuff. If one can believe demons had the power described in the NT then it’s easy to assume a demon could fake miracles. So a “false Jesus” might lead others astray.

    Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus died so the whole world could be saved? I’ll finish this as a response to your nest post! 🙂

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  37. You ask an extremely good question! I have an answer, too. Amazing how that works, huh? ha.

    If you do as I did, print the Gospels out and examine closely what Jesus said and did you will discover as I did that the “Gospel” Jesus taught is not the “Gospel of Christ” as Christianity teaches today. The Gospel Jesus preached in the Gospels is not “salvation” but “holiness.” Look at what he preached. Everything focused on right living. “Repent,” he said, “for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Right? At no point did he start saying, “repent and believe on me!” Nope, he said repent and live a moral life.

    Jesus and John the Baptist both preached the same gospel. He was preparing people to live a moral life. He was preaching against selfishness and greed (sin!) and insisting people get their act together. THIS is the gospel I believe he meant for the disciples to go preach. The message has gotten mixed up.

    I would suggest Jesus told them to go out and tell people to start living right. After he was gone he expected the disciples to go out and say, “Jesus gave his life, the Kingdom is here now, it’s time you lived right.”

    It’s really kind of strange how I have changed my point of view. I once believed salvation was what you believe it to be. “You can’t work your way to heaven,” I always said. I now see things from an opposite perspective. Buddha said everyone has to “save themselves.” He meant it was up to each person to end suffering in their own life and others by doing Right, which he exemplified in the Eight-Fold Path and his teachings on selflessness and compassion. Jesus taught exactly the same thing! I find that amazing.

    It’s not the end result of our individual lives we should be concerned about, it’s the lives of others and the condition of the human race. We as individuals do not matter. We as a collective race does matter. We only reach ultimate goal when we as a whole “repent” and live right, which is living a moral life that protects and respects others and living a loving, selfless life, which places the needs of others above self.

    In my book I’m pretty “far out” in my speculation about the purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice and what “salvation” means. Though I no longer have faith as I did then and I’m agnostic at best I still think humankind has little understanding of what really was going on if the story of Jesus is real–and I see no reason to doubt it. Christians assume salvation is personal. They assume it’s their rear that is on the line if they don’t do the right things, make the right “decision,” etc. I think, however, it’s the human race itself that matters. Why else was the emphasis always on others and not self? Why did Buddha and Jesus teach the same message?

    Hmm…. I’ll have to think more on these things. Discussions like we’ve had are useful in helping us get our head straight. As I have been typing some new and interesting ideas have come to mind. I will have to ponder them.

    Anyway, to answer your question, like I said, the commission was not, I think, to “save the lost” but to preach repentance and holiness. The importance and value of right living has been entirely lost on modern Christianity. I see modern megachurches and their watered down social gospel and I am glad I am a Buddhist. Things were bad enough when I was in church but at least there were standards. I would be thrown out on my ear these days and called a “fundamentalist” for sure! How weird is that?

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  38. Hi,

    I do have some understanding of the beliefs of Buddhists. I would counter that Jesus taught a far stricter moral code than Buddha did (I am not saying that the moral code saves, of course). For example, he told his disciples that ‘except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In case you’re not aware, someo of the scribes and Pharisees would spend their entire lives studying and trying to obey the commands found in the law of Moses.

    A ‘holy’ life cannot be ‘chosen!’ We are slaves to sin and it is our master, unless we have turned to Christ. That is why even though we may live a ‘moral life,’ there is still sin somewhere in our lives.

    I think that we each see the same thing and interpret it differently. I see that all people everywhere have a basic sense of right and wrong. They still do wrong, but since they have that conscience, no one can deny that they are guilty before God, who has given them warning not to do certain things.

    If I can make some comments about your discussion with Tom, you said that John 3:16 doesn’t teach that those who don’t believe on Christ will be punished. No, John 3:16 doesn’t say that, but a little later in the chapter, in verse 36, it says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Also, verse 18 says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    As these verses show, Jesus DID actually teach that man must believe on Jesus to be saved. I could give you more verses that show this – ask me if you want me to list them. Of course, Jesus’ message also contained much discussion on holiness because without holiness no man shall see the Lord (from Hebrews). Please try to understand the way these two things work together: we are saved by believing on Jesus, not by any work that we do. If we tried to work our way to heaven, we would miserably fail. However, if we do sincerely believe on Christ, it will produce works. Without the works, we cannot say that we have believed. Without the faith, our works will get us nowhere in God’s eyes.

    Daniel

    Comment by Daniel | March 29, 2009

  39. Hey. Hope your Sunday is going well.

    You pegged when you said “we see the same thing and interpret it differently.” This is an understatement. It also means that unless one of us changes our point of view we could talk until we are purple and we would never agree. This is the problem, of course, with all of Christendom because within its ranks there is such a diversity of belief and “interpretation” that the real truth within Christianity, whatever it might be and if there is truth, is obliterated by the massive number of dissenting voices. Notice I did not say “opinion.” Opinions vary within denominations, as in what constitutes “proper” baptism. A difference in belief and interpretation effectively changes the whole religion. I’ve read that some scholars view Christianity as a collection of religions whose central character is Christ rather than as branches of the same religion. I think they have a point.

    As someone who is not a Christian at all my point of view is from the outside. As I move away, though, I continue to loose touch with the feelings and attitudes I once held. They seem so foreign now. The point is that most of what I write regarding Christianity is from the outside looking in rather than as dissenting voice of a different Christian persuasion. My goal is not to correct what I see as an incorrect point of view but to show Christians who tend to be judgmental and who tend to be entirely one-sided that their beliefs hold up absolutely only insofar as their faith functions as a foundation. Faith cannot be judged right or wrong because it exists without supporting evidence. Since it does exist without evidence Christians should be more tolerant, if not more accepting and understanding, of non-Christians.

    You and I have engaged in a civil discussion even though we both understand our points of view are daylight and dark. Such is the way discussions should be. A faith that cannot be a foundation is hardly faith at all. I believe what I was trying to get at in my original post way up there is that since Christians are “Jesus Slaves” they function within their point of view entirely and cannot ever understand the non-Christian point of view. I’ve seen that it’s so even for people who become Christians late in life. It is entirely true for those who were born in a Christian family and who have never had the chance to be anything else.

    Where am I going with this. Hmm….. Maybe nowhere. I was just struck by your comment. Maybe I’m trying to say to Christians, “don’t be so defensive and don’t be so offended or disappointed when we on the outside adamantly reject what you believe to be the only answer to life itself.” Ya think?

    When I spoke of moral code I was referring to codes of conduct or how a person should live. The Eight Fold Path is very strict. Regarding sexuality, for example, the EFP says to avoid all sexual misconduct. This goes beyond adultery or fornication. The use of alcohol and drugs is forbidden. “Right Livelihood,” number 5, tells a follower not to take or work at any job that would ever cause harm in any way. A good Buddhist, for example, would not work for a company involved in anything that causes harm to people or the planet. We have a plant here that builds circuits for cruise missiles. Christians think nothing of working there. In fact, I’m sure the workforce is predominantly Christian (as is the whole part of Texas) but I would not work there. My wife works for an employment agency that secures the people who work there. I have chided her for being part of the process. Honestly I would have a difficult time working even for her agency since they hire the people who make the circuits that go into weapons that kill thousands of people indiscriminately. “Right livelihood” reaches pretty wide. So the moral standards are higher than anything Jesus spoke directly. Paul was more specific but not as specific as the Eight Fold Path.

    There is a key that unlocks the Eight Fold Path. It’s not something spiritual but the nut-shell version of Buddhist morality: do no harm. This is a literal statement that holds great importance. Some Buddhists carry it farther than others but all understand its meaning. The purpose of Buddhist living is to end suffering. Suffering is broadly defined. I view the charge of “do no harm” to mean I should not do or say anything that even might cause harm. Thus sexual misconduct can become abusing a spouse or obsessing over sex at the exclusion of other things. Intoxicants could in some circumstances could even be caffeine if it causes a harmful effect. I am not so strict but I am far more strict than many Americans and most Christians I know. This view of causing no harm correlates with the Christian view that if a person knows something is sin or might cause others to sin he should avoid it. In lots of ways the practical difference is in semantics. What you might call a sin I would just say is a stupid and selfish act that causes suffering.

    I can say without doubt that a choice to practice the highest standards does in itself makes people better. As a Christian who clung to the idea that I needed the spirit to help me I failed often. I dismissed my weaknesses as “the flesh.” I never understood that moral living is a choice we make, that we make that choice because it is best for others and not ourselves, and that if I wait for a spirit to move me I would never do anything. When I became a Buddhist and understood it was up to me I had to make the choice. Everything changed. I realized how wrong I had been as a Christian. Holy living or Right living, whichever way it is put, has nothing to do with ourselves. Right Living is, in fact, an act of selflessness. We do not “change our ways” to make our own self more pleasing to God or whatever but to make the lives of others better. Christianity easily gets bogged down in self, as in “get saved” and rescue yourself from hell, etc. But the purpose of Jesus was not for us to save ourselves but to free us from our burdens so we could work for others. Unless and until we as humans recognize we must place ourselves last in priority we will never fulfill our purpose whether we are Christians or not.

    In the past three years, since I put this idea into practice (and before I walked entirely away from Christianity) I have progressed steadily. the book I wrote back then was all about the principal of selflessness as a way of life. Once I finished the book I knew I had to live it. Ask my family how different I am now. I have had struggles but I’ve made progress. I dealt with the crisis of my mom’s last days illness and death in a way they would not have believed possible. I don’t mean to brag, only to say that in knowing it is up to me I do not wait around for the spirit to “move me.” Instead, I look for the path that is best for others no matter how it affects myself and I take it. The story of my mother’s death and my role in caring for her is in my archives of last fall, if you are interested.

    As far as what Jesus said about the “Scribes and Pharisees” he was talking about motivation, not actions. I’m sure you will agree with that. People do lots of “good” things for bad reasons. In Judaism proper actions and obedience to the law is required for their “salvation” according to their faith. In Christianity, because it is wed to Judaism, there is the perception if not the reality that a Christian “must” live a certain way. Many Christians “do good” and “live right” out of fear that they will not be saved rather than out of love for Christ and others. There are also Christians who, like the “Scribes and Pharisees,” do all kinds of good and even sacrificial stuff for the praise of others. Their motivation is vanity, not love. For Jesus humility was far more important than honor, glory, or self-respect. Am I not right? This is what Jesus was talking about, wasn’t it? What they were doing, then, had nothing to do with love at all.

    I’m sure Tom appreciates your words. Of course you quote verses about Jesus rather than spoken by him. Even so, it’s not the people who reject the gospel message but those who have not heard it I used to loose sleep over. One cannot believe something they have never heard. How can they? The vast majority of humanity never has the option to accept or reject. Just painting “Jesus Saves” on the side of a building does not explain the Roman Road or whatever. Even if Bibles were dropped out of he sky it’s highly unlikely all people in the group would recognize the doctrine of salvation in the way you believe it. For people born in anti-Christian cultures children from their birth are told the Christian religion is evil. Can you fault a teenage Muslim for rejecting Jesus then? How unjust would that be? Everything in the young person’s heart and mind would reject the idea. Say it takes the spirit all you want but you and I both know if you were dropped down into the middle of Iran or maybe even Saudi Arabia or Syria and you went about trying to get people saved the people there would probably kill you in an unkind way. Would they be to blame? How could they be blamed? They would be following the religion that dwells in their heart, pounded into them from birth.

    From my point of view, since I do not believe in the “God breathed” doctrine, I would question whether or not the author of John did not make an assumption, the same assumption I said Christians make. I refer to the assumption that belief in Jesus is exclusive, that not to believe means a person will not be saved. Have you ever gone back and studied where Jesus said someone would be the “least in the Kingdom?” It’s really intriguing study. I would say being the least is getting in, wouldn’t you?

    There are questions about the sources of all the Gospels but the Gospel of John, especially, is questioned by many scholars. You will find that scholars take sides on the issue of who wrote the gospel based upon their bias. Scholars from both sides make clear assumptions about a text that comes from antiquity. These days it’s easy enough to discover scholarly thought. It’s easy enough, too, for personal bias to color how every scholarly work is read and accepted. I believe one of two things, either that the gospels (especially John) and most if not all the texts were written by persons in the second or third century whose views were already becoming that of modern Christendom or they were deliberately changed by church scholars after or because of Constantine’s conversion. All of the gospels were written well after Jesus had come and gone and written from memory, from resource texts or from oral tradition. Look up the “Q” gospel sometime. Interesting reading.

    So DID Jesus teach what John said or did people put words in his mouth? I believe the latter.

    Your last paragraph about how holiness and belief “work together” is one of those confounding ideas that I have seen many Christians beat their head against the wall over. I think I might have done that literally once or twice. Maybe that’s why I’m Kookoo? ha. Your statement, something I’ve heard many, many times, creates the “yeah, but” syndrome.

    “I thought we were saved by grace, that salvation is a gift we receive, that salvation is given when we believe and accept Jesus.”

    “Yep.”

    “So I can go to heaven and not worry about sex with my neighbor. I am forgiven. My sins are washed away.”

    “NO. You have to LIVE a LIFE holy and acceptable!”

    “I AM doing that. I love all people, I do good, I live righteously. I love my neighbor too, that’s why we…..”

    “NO, adultery is a mortal sin.”

    “Yeah, but you said my sins are forgiven.”

    “They are, but you are still….”

    enigma!

    What you describe, by the way, is Calvinism, pure and simple. It may be packaged in a different colored box but down inside it’s pretty much the same thing. Calvin believed only certain people were “chosen.” You say the “spirit” has to call a person to salvation, thus only those the spirit chooses are worthy–i.e., chosen. Calvin said salvation is by grace but the evidence of salvation is the way someone lives. You say “true” Christians will “act like Christians.” Not your words but about the same thing. Your words were “produce works.” I may be off a little, my memory is a little vague on specifics, but I’m close.

    You admonished me to try and understand how the two work together. Believe me, for forty years I tried to do just that. Then one day I concluded they just didn’t. They are exclusive ideas, incompatible, in a logical world they do not work together. If you have figured out how they work together that’s fine but I operate on logic as my brain demands and I cannot see that they work together at all.

    The challenge devout Christians have with me is to decide whether I am friend or foe. We are not on the same “side,” religiously. Unless you abandon your beliefs and come in my direction we never will. I will not go back. From my point of view I appreciate much about the teaching of Jesus. I do not care to be judged or condemned or be hounded about how I’m “going to hell” but I have no problem in discussing points of view as you and I have. I welcome it. I view Christians as I do all others, people who, like me, experience suffering. If I can help with your suffering I certainly will try. Whether it’s helping someone understand life of jumping off a car that won’t crank, just ask and I’m there. No person is my personal enemy. But how do Christians view me? That depends.

    Religious beliefs and attitudes show up in our local paper all the time. I’ve been a regular contributor. Both sides on the Christian/nonChristian debate can get nasty. I’ve tried to speak directly and frankly but with kindness. But the local Christians do not appreciate direct and frank. I have been personally attacked by letter writers and called many names. Many Christians are hostile to people like me who are willing to speak against Christian beliefs. They see me as an enemy. I am not their enemy but they consider me one. Just today a letter was written blasting the religious pages of the paper where a couple of articles were published supporting a liberal Christian point of view.

    The letter today says, “I want all true Christians to get ready and remember we are going to be criticized on every hand….” Any word anybody speaks that does not support the conservative Christian viewpoint is considered criticism or attack. My contention that Christians are “Jesus Slaves” is clearly evident in this person’s letter. (You can find it by visiting http://www.lufkindailynews.com and clicking the opinion tab at the top.) The woman who wrote this letter says people being vocal against Christianity OR just religious articles about some guy she considers Godless, someone I’ll have to look up, is proof the end times are here. How silly. End-times theology. Arg.

    I thank you, Daniel, for your kind and respectful posts. I know that in the eyes of your faith I am an infidel, a lost soul, etc. In the way you believe it to mean I am one of those “condemned already.” If Calvin was right I have always been screwed but what can I say? I do not believe he was, of course. Neither do I accept the faith you follow. I will say that you exemplify in your speech what I believe Christians should be. I live in a world where a non-Christian is an enemy. Thank you for not treating me as one.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 29, 2009


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