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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Debunking Ignorance Concerning Babies and Isaac

The author of the article Debunking Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions does not identify himself/herself. The author is associated or associates himself/herself with SCEPCOP and Darryl Sloan who touts himself/herself or is touted as a great thinker and champion debunker of Christians. This is my response to his/her mistaken, ignorant notions; a challenge to Christians as he/she calls it, concerning two scripture passages involving killing babies and the sacrifice of Isaac I will refer to the author as either SCEPCOP or Darryl.


a word about tactics


First, a few points to note before getting to his/her principal charge against Christians of dashing babies. I am not surprised by what SCEPCOP has put forward and recommends to his/her readers as an unbeatable challenge to Christians. I am not surprised, but I do marvel as I have often noted the similar mentality between SCEPCOP/Darryl and the same fundamentalists whom he/she purports to trounce and ridicule. SCEPCOP/Darryl and some fundamentalists each presume to have made and delivered a convincing, irrefutable argument through their own, respective tactics such as demanding an AGREE/DISAGREE, (as is the platform of SCEPCOP/Darryl’s particular article) YES/NO answer to their questions. Any answer which does not reflect or involve any of those four options is touted as a victory and a defeat of their opponent. Quite often, the speech of one is peppered with wording about logic, reason and as a last resort, there is always the venerable STRAWMAN argument. The other peppers their speech with wording about faith as their first and last word and thereby they absolve themselves of any extended engagement in the whole matter under discussion. So as not to extend a meaningless apology to SCEPCOP/Darryl this is why he/she will not be receiving a boxed YES/NO reply from me.


dashing little ones and the sacrifice of Isaac


Second, SCEPCOP/Darryl cites the specific Old Testament text of Psalm 137:


How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock.


Any argument about the context of that verse with SCEPCOP/Darryl would be pointless. SCEPCOP/Darryl presumes to understand the passage which, according to SCEPCOP/Darryl, it is the commandment of God for Israel to dash and slaughter babies. I understand. This is the relish of unbelievers and it plays well with their readers. The thrust of the charge is that, clearly, SCEPCOP is so much more moral than a God who would command such a thing.


Additionally, SCEPCOP cites what he/she calls the ultimate challenge for Christians. It is Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac as Abraham was instructed by God.  Darryl presses for nothing less than a YES or NO answer.


why bother


Third, is my response to SCEPCOP/Darryl and his/her’s serious misunderstanding. I anticipate the mockery. I know it plays well, too. My reason for bothering with this response is not so much for his/her benefit but for the understanding, enlightenment and encourage of those saints who mistakenly think SCEPCOP/Darryl really has something substantive here..


The Psalms 137 passage cited by Darryl alludes to the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 13:16)


Their little ones also will be dashed to pieces Before their eyes; Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished.


specifics in the prophecy of Isaiah


It was no more the commandment of God to Israel than it was the commandment of God to
Babylon to dash babies. Rather, it was a prophecy concerning Babylon under whom Israel would be held captive some years later. The words of the psalmist, written during Israel's captivity in Babylon, played on the known natural, barbaric characteristic of the Babylonians; dashing little ones against rocks was just one such atrocity.


The prophet not only names Babylon as the instrument of God in the punishment of Israel specifically, but he also names the enemy whom God would raise up to carry out the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah against Babylon as being the Medes.


Furthermore, when one re-reads Psalm 137 and ponders its content one see it was an imprecation, a longing, a cry for God's vengeance on Babylon under whom Israel was presently captive. The psalmist blesses, or considers as blessed, the enemy who would eventually arise to defeat, destroy and raze Babylon and dash their little ones.


human sacrifice


Finally, there is the commandment of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac a matter of some blissful glee for Darryl.


Although it is not something I would expect SCEPCOP/Darryl to understand the test of Abraham did not involve the literal, actual sacrifice of Isaac. This is a matter which proved to generate much theological and philosophical discussion among Israel’s scholars and religious leaders for centuries. Just as that debate continued during their enslavement in Egypt God did something for which God was neither apologetic or ashamed.


I do not expect SCEPCOP/Darryl to be honest, to believe or even to accept any of this for his own enlightenment. I do expect him/her to exercise what is his/her pride, namely, his/her intelligence and read, not merely copy/paste a passage from some other source on dashing babies in order that he/she might KNOW what is in discussion in those passages.


Dispense with the shallow, pointless challenges for boxed replies in a discussion.


death of the firstborn


One of the trite assessments which Israel had made concerning the sacrifice of Isaac was that it was a lesson from God to Israel that God was not like the pagan gods which the Canaanites worshiped. The lesson Israel took from that sacrifice was that God does not accept or practice human sacrifice. I expect SCEPCOP/Darryl’s cringe about human sacrifice is no less than it was and continues to be for Israel. Both, he/she and Israel dismiss as a mistaken, ignorant notion about human sacrifice.


Yet, this, human sacrifice, was precisely what God demonstrated in a very loud and graphic manner not to be ever forgotten by Israel, or Egypt. It was not a mindless slaughter which Egypt suffered and which resulted in Egypt letting Israel go finally. Furthermore, it was not a surprise. The death of Egypt’s firstborn included men, women, children and livestock. Righteousness or wickedness of those firstborn had nothing to do with their death.


Unlike the secret intentions to kill Israel’s male infants at birth which Pharoah had ordered the midwives to carry out, the pronouncement by Moses to Pharoah concerning the death of Egypt’s firstborn was clear and in the open presence of his court. Furthermore, this was to be the tenth and final plague on Egypt. They had already heard Moses pronounce nine successive plagues before each one struck Egypt. They had seen those plagues come to fruition. It was so evident that the Egyptians had began to wonder and murmur their dissent of Pharoah’s stubbornness towards letting Israel go. They were seeing the land and the people being slowly destroyed more and more with each plague.


Pharoah and all of Egypt had no reason to doubt that the death of the firstborn would not occur as Moses informed them of the imminent tenth plague. Pharoah chose not to listen and his stubbornness brought on the death of the firstborn throughout all Egypt.


Whatever lessons Israel thought they had learned from the sacrifice of Isaac were lost and forgotten as they rejoiced in their freedom. Those same lessons were as missing as they were forgotten when many centuries later God took on the form of a human being to willingly lay down his life in order to demonstrate, once again, his power over death. This was the dashing of the Son of God, the firstborn, not on a rock, but on a cross; yet another lesson lost in the choking unbelief of mockery. The death and purpose of the death of Jesus was not a surprise. Jesus clearly and openly declared those things in the presence of foes and friends, believer and nonbeliever alike.


Conclusion


I am aware that mockery and what is purportedly a work of some serious thought or research such as SCEPCOP/Darryl is often mostly a sport. Mockery or walking away from a discussion from a philosophical, scientific or religious, as each may prefer to call it, is not proof that a point has been established and made clear. Human psychology being what it is does not mean nor is it a guarantee that after all the work has been done in accordance with a mutually acceptable standard that the mockery will dissipate or that knowledge has been affirmed. I have responded to SCEPCOP/Darryl’s mockery of scripture passages which he/she does not accept or believe, but most importantly and within his/her domain, he/she does not KNOW what those passages state or mean. It is my hope that the saints in Christ might understand, be enlightened and encouraged.

God never commanded Israel or anyone in the past or today to kill their own babies or anyone else’s babies. The sacrifice of Isaac was first and foremost a test of Abraham. It was not an actual human sacrifice. The death of Egypt’s firstborn including men, women, children and  livestock was not a mindless slaughter. It was declared by God through Moses to the Egyptians well before it occurred with time and opportunity for Pharoah to avert imminent catastrophe for Egypt. Pharoah refused to allow Israel to leave Egypt. The catastrophe hit Egypt. This human sacrifice was deliberate and precise, commanded by God and carried out without the aid of human hands. Today, the lesson which Israel failed to learn from that sacrifice remains just as lost to Israel as to SCEPCOP/Darryl concerning the sacrifice of Jesus, the firstborn, the Son of God who was raised from the dead by the giver and sustainer of life who is able just as well to restore life to the dead.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Same-sex, Tradition, and Marriage

More than my opening statement, the content of this article will make it resounding evident that I am not a lawyer nor am I knowledgeable in law. This is not an attempt at some legal argument. This is not a reason for myself or and anyone to keep silent if for no other possibility than that those who do make and enforce our laws in America will hear what is of the people, by the people and for the people. My thoughts in this article are on the ongoing discussion of what is called same-sex marriage with reference to just two words that are part of that discussion; tradition and law with emphasis on the former and reference to the latter.


the outcry


Of course, the outcry from lesbians and homosexuals is a demand to have marriage redefined. The desired objective would be that those same-sex couples be recognized as a couple married legally under the law. This, in turn, would mean they could obtain the same health benefits, tax breaks and more which married men and women have received for many years.


What does this mean for myself as a disciple of Jesus? Nothing. If homosexuals and lesbians as citizens of the United States can drive for legislation to obtain these health benefits this is not a problem for me. What does redefining marriage mean for myself as a disciple of Jesus? Nothing. More specifically, it means nothing to me in terms of having to compromise or otherwise alter the tenets of my faith.


tradition as weak, anemic and disposable


Although this is a matter about which some saints in Christ demand to be heard on the basis of a biblical standing it is a mistaken notion. Certainly, they can and may exercise their rights and themselves as American citizens in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. Yes, there is a biblical standing concerning homosexuality as well as numerous other sins. However, what is often overlooked and which often results in an overreach by the saints is their attempts to impose judgment on the nonbeliever. This is nothing more than a mixed concoction of scripture, culture and law.


United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg Bader expressed her own contributions to the discussion with her peers on the bench on the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. A small sampling of her arguments in this article now are quite popular and familiar in the arena of public discussion, but something occurred to me as I read her words to what she referred to as the tradition of marriage. Specifically, her reference to that tradition was of marriage between a man and a woman. It occurred to me that the use of that term in the justices’ discussion is no small matter. The use of the term in this context by the court has the effect of creating and conveying the idea of tradition as being something anemic and useless. Tradition is viewed as nothing more than a whim of Americans, in this domestic, national debate, having no substantive or retentive value and as such, it is viewed as being disposable.


the value of tradition


What Justice Bader and her fellow companions who champion same-sex marriage are oblivious to is that the reality of marriage, whether by that designation or by some other term it may have been known in times past, as being between a man and woman is more than a mere tradition or whim. Yes, there are traditions of different importance in society which were established and are sustained on a whim.


For example, a wedding cake is part of the wedding tradition. The size or type of cake and whether or not the bride and groom plant a handful of cake on each other’s face with cake is not essential to the tradition. The tradition is simply to have a cake. Should the betrothed opt to not have a wedding cake it would hardly constitute a breach in tradition, and certainly, not something which would incur a social stigma.


The fact is, and I am aware that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are as oblivious to this just as some who have mistakenly cast marriage as a mere tradition, that whether or not a man and woman cared for or had the financial means or desire to declare their allegiance to one another as husband and wife through an elaborate celebration in the presence of friends and family, or even a church or government official is not a requirement for marriage according to the scriptures. In fact, the irony is that such a notion in modern times for the formalization of marriage has been taken up by government making it more a requirement of civil law than the biblical authority of scripture.


The value of tradition is that it teaches, by way of remembrance, what and why we observe and do things such as a Fourth of July celebration parade or a turkey feast in November. Clearly, when the observance and adherence to a tradition is blind and without any understanding it is pretty much worthless except as a festive occasion. Yes, I am aware there is an increasingly louder cry against these and other traditions with a corresponding quickness to dismiss those traditions with little awareness as to the value of those traditions. Even worse than those cries is the eagerness with which some people are quick to go along. This quickness often reveals their woeful ignorance of what and why they had previously observed and celebrated as a tradition in their lives. Their quick eagerness to abandon one tradition in place of something else is not necessarily an embrace of love and understanding, but one of acquiescence or capitulation in the name of unity.


Here is an interesting point about the much touted and celebrated call for unity and the embrace of diversity among same-sex advocates. It is an excerpt from my blog article, This Mystery is Great: Unity and Marriage:


All for one


Since Paul speaks of and frames this great mystery in the context of human relationship, specifically; man and woman in marriage, it is imperative that other human relationships be made subject to discussion. All, atheists, agnostics and theists alike, know and experience the human interaction of relationship in which every man and woman participates. This same human interaction is no less present in the homosexual relationship. Whether or not the homosexual regards or acknowledges God’s purpose as declared in the garden or merely professes a superficial acknowledgment of that beginning, the homosexual relationship he is not exempt from the discussion. It is, in fact, especially subject to the discussion because the mystery of unity of oneness which characterizes God is undeniably to be desired and a delight in all human relationships holy or profane.


Unity through diversity, -- not


Yet, the homosexual/lesbian relationship graphically epitomizes, both in the carnal mind and the flesh of the body, the very thing which God did not like after he created man – that man was alone.


The response to Adam’s need by God was not to create another human male like Adam, but a human female like Eve. The homosexual/lesbian life is characterized, not by loneliness as some may distort the use of the word here, but by aloneness. It is the human (homosexual and lesbian) affront, not only to God, but even to the very same culture so much touted in the world of the homosexual and lesbian. You may wonder how. It is that the hearty slogan of “unity through diversity” extolled in the workplace, the athletic field as well as in the gathering of the faithful is nothing more than a dull, hollow thud. The mere fleshy union of two same-sex individuals does not and cannot equate to diversity or unity and is, in fact, contrary to the unity-through-diversity culture banner slogan. As much as God acknowledged He was not enough for the human Adam if Adam were ever to experience the joy of human fulfillment it was essential that Adam have a human female companion who was different than the male Adam.


The point in the excerpt above is that despite the emblem slogan of “unity through diversity” it is not about diversity. It is about sameness, as in, same-sex.

the voice of scripture


None of the peripherals including cake and wedding dresses or even the term marriage constitute a marriage anymore than changing that definition to include same-sex couples constitutes a marriage. Yes, marriage is alluded to, but it is also specifically valued highly in the writings of the apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians. It is the relationship of commitment between a man and a woman which, Jesus stated, is the way it was in the beginning.


And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,  (Matthew 19)


So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.
31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME  ONE FLESH.
32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME  ONE FLESH '?
6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Ephesians 5)


nothing new


Homosexuality and lesbianism are not a new social phenomenon.


I get it that they want the health benefits which are available to married couples.


What I also think I get is the acceptance or recognition that homosexuals and lesbians want and that is the approval of society.


I begrudge them those health benefits neither on biblical standing nor any constitutional standing. I can also accept the reality of their sexual union, but it would be a mistake to equate that acceptance as approval of their sexual union. Yes. I am aware. I can hear it. Who gives a !&?/?!)&!#@**!! what I think.


the redefinition of marriage


Quite true. Now I come back to the point by advocates who champion for same-sex marriage  about marriage between a man and woman being nothing more than a tradition. There are efforts to assuage opponents to same-sex marriage. One such effort is to reassure them that the redefinition of marriage to allow same-sex marriages (the mere association and reference to that as marriage in this article is neither my approval nor recognition of it as a marriage) is that heterosexual (or traditional) marriages would lose nothing and can remain unaffected and changed by a redefinition of marriage. Again, quite true.


This same voice of reason also echoes back to same-sex marriage advocates. It says those same-sex marriages can remain just as unaffected and unchanged by the moral standard which defines the sexual union involving other than a man and a woman as immoral. It is that moral standard, the scriptures, to be specific, why the unaffected heterosexual couples can not approve of the homosexual and lesbian sexual union.

sin and righteousness


This same voice defines as being just as immoral the adulterous whim of a man or a woman in violation of their marriage covenant with their respective spouses. The significance, value and judgments of these tenets do not speak to homosexuals or other nonbelievers. They speak to nonbelievers who, having become keenly of their lives without faith, have reached the crossroads of their lives. It is they, and no one else, who have determined to submit themselves wilfully and with the understanding of, both, what the scriptures have declared for them as sin as well as the righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus.


conclusion


The discussion among United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg Bader and her peers on the bench on marriage as a tradition is mistaken. It is a reference to marriage as a tradition which has become common among, both, disciples of the faith that is in Jesus and same-sex marriage advocates also.


This view of marriage between a man and woman as a mere tradition may produce the desired effect by which it is easier to dismiss it. However, marriage predates traditions, such as wedding cakes and ceremonies, the presence or absence of which no more constitute a marriage than they nullify it. Yes, a redefinition of marriage by the courts to extend it to same-sex couples does not and will not change the marriage between a man and a woman. It is similarly true that the moral standard by which men and women in marriage can not and will not accept a same-sex marriage will not change those same-sex marriages newly sanctioned by the court. One is not compelled to rail or assail those who live in a same-sex union anymore than the sin of greed and thievery. No one comes to the understanding and knowledge of sin and grace without finding themselves to make their own decision as to whether or not they love Jesus more than their life to commit their lives to him and follow him. Otherwise, Jesus said, you can not be my disciple.

Peace to all in Jesus, the Son of God.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist

Dr. Richard Carrier’s video message, “Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist” is a clear, clean academic exercise. This is not to say there is any completion to his arguments or that he even provides examples in those instances when he makes one of his abundant assertions. It is to say that his message is so abundant in assertions, short on substance that it seems a masterpiece of editing. All his points are the usual and familiar array to dismiss Jesus as nothing more than just a guy, or the idea/myth created in the minds of some people, about a guy who made some off the wall and historically familiar claims about his deity. It is not surprising that the same short list of ancient deities which he enumerates is the same as heard from Christians, whom, upon first learning about those deities often dismiss and abandon their faith in Jesus. Carrier, despite his high academic credentials, his much learning and much touted expertise has absolutely nothing more to say than those Christians with far less knowledge, education or touting.


There are a multitude of claims, according to Carrier, which reveal the development of the myth about Jesus, an ordinary guy who never existed. Carrier peppers his message with assertions without offering any substantiation. Instead, he repeatedly informs his listeners that there are many or the majority of scholars and mainstream scholars who agree with him in his dismissal of scripture passages as well as entire books of the New Testament. He would have the faithful believe him that those scholars who deviate from the faith and agree with him are otherwise strong, faithful adherents of the scriptures and the faith. However, if Bart Ehrman is any indication of those scholars who agree with him; Ehrman is quite outspoken in his unbelief and dismissal of the scriptures as being corrupted or fabricated. Even when something such as the resurrection of Jesus is referred to by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15 as being, according to the scriptures Carrier dismisses it. It’s the proverbial predicament of being damned if you do, damned if you don’t; a catch-22. In other words, it is evident there is no answer which would satisfy Carrier, but . . . there is an answer. There are greater, weightier matters ahead for Carrier to consider and which he has, not surprisingly, avoided.


So, I will not dispute with Carrier about matters which may or may not have been written about long ago.


something in common


Instead, I prefer to address just one point, two actually, which Jesus stated and which is as readily dismissed by Dr. Carrier. There is no need to verify the authenticity of this one main point. It does not require sifting through ancient documents. It is something which Carrier has in common with every Christian, Muslim, animal and plant, atheist, and _ Jesus. All are born. All will die. What Carrier has in common with all these is birth, and specifically, death which obscures his academic, feeble efforts to dismiss the existence of Jesus.


Carrier can forget and dismiss the claims of the the virgin birth of Jesus. I can level the playing field for him because in the same manner as Carrier dismisses the extraordinary claims surrounding the virgin birth of Jesus the same dismissal can be applied to the birth of Carrier or any human birth. The truth is no one knows where they were born, when they were born or who are their parents. The fact that one does not know these things first hand or even if no one could attest to their birth does not invalidate or nullify the reality of their life. They may be despised and their humble origins questioned but they are no less a life regardless whether or not they leave a lasting impression or message. Humans can only acquire and accept the information about he place, time and parents and the beginning of their life from others as they grow older. Although we can only verify and authenticate our own birth through the testimony of others if we belittle, deny or dismiss someone else’s birth we have been most disingenuous. The same holds true of dismissing the birth of Jesus, but, frankly whether it is our birth or the birth of Jesus; it is a moot point really. Again, Carrier has some weightier matters than birth and the existence to which birth initiates into this world.


it’s alive; it speaks


Death, unlike any number of points concerning Jesus which Carrier can scrutinize and dismiss can not be dismissed. Death was the same reality which existed for all human beings two thousand years ago just as it exists for human beings in the twenty first century. No measure of  academic exercise or the collaborative work or say-so of numerous scholars can change that reality. None are necessary. Whether or not a real or created, mythic Jesus made those claims about his resurrection from the dead does not require an academic exercise to verify or invalidate those claims.


Fortunately, death is alive with us today. It stands ready to speak to us in the twenty first century. We can examine it ourselves as scholars, mainstream scholars or individuals, but even without the need for scholars or mainstream scholars. All that is required are those lives have been touched by the reality of death.


Carrier parrots the standard, familiar inclusion of the gods Horus, Mithra along with Jesus and states:


All these gods DO have in common: They all obtain victory over death which they share with their followers.


He is correct about their death.


death of a myth


Once again, lets leave aside the breakaway distinction of those claims associated with those gods and the same claims of Jesus concerning his own resurrection to friends and foes alike. Lets put aside also the fact that the narrative of Horus and Mithras died at birth. Why? Their narrative died simply because the undeniable reality became irrepressibly apparent to even their staunchest believers that they were not willing and able to sustain a myth which did nothing to affect a change, much less a transformation, of their lives.


Despite the connections which Carrier blithely, but rightly, makes between Judaism and Christianity (I will suffer this use of the latter term for which I have no use, but it’s Carrier’s use and it is in the vernacular here.) he is oblivious to a vital point and one which in no small part attests to the reason why the so-called myth of Jesus has survived. The message of the faith that is in Christ Jesus began well enough with the Jews, but it very quickly became apparent in the first century that this faith was not hemmed in, limited or characterized by Jewish culture, customs or language. Even Greek, which is the primary language of the scriptures was indicative of something bigger than any single ethnic group. The Greek people themselves never claimed nor has the claim ever been asserted by others that this message of faith was of Greek origin or that it was of the Greek people.


The fact that Jesus’ claims were not new and were centuries old has made them a favorite touchstone for sword sharpening and dashing for Carrier and his fellow scholars. However, by this same tactic the claims of Jesus’ would be just as readily be targeted for dismissal for no other reason than that those claims were new and never heard or attested to in ancient literature. Again, like a Catch-22; you can’t win for losing.


The Roswell Analogy


Carrier concludes his video message with the Roswell Analogy as his way of overlaying his mistaken notions concerning the mythic Jesus over the mythic gods of Mithra and Horus. Simply stated, just as the Roswell incident involving flying saucers and aliens never happened so too neither did Mithra, Horus and Jesus.


This is Carrier’s breakdown of the 1947 incident at Roswell, New Mexico.


What really happened: A guy found some sticks and tinfoil in the desert.
What was said to have happened: It was debris from an alien spacecraft.
What was said to have happened within just thirty years: An entire flying saucer was recovered, complete with alien bodies that were autopsied by the government.


Then, he overlay his Roswell analogy template over the Mithra and Horus gods with this explanation:


The “tinfoil in the desert” would be analogous to “the revelations of the archangel named Jesus”
and
“the flying saucer and alien bodies” would be analogous to the “historical Jesus of Galilee.”


Carrier is true to form,. Granted that to provide corroboration for his rejection of the entire Roswell incident would be tedious and outside the scope of his message. Nonetheless, this is the track record Carrier has established for himself, but if the corroboration of the incident is outside the scope of his message; why use it? Furthermore, the fact that Carrier should resort to something out of this world, literally, such as flying saucers and aliens is most tellingly disingenuous of him.

a trend


Carrier rejects the standard rebuttal by Christians who insist that Jesus was different from those gods, and thereby, he casts his own ensnares himself unwittingly. He states, “The differences are not the issue. Their similarities are what identify them as a trend.”


A trend towards what, Dr. Carrier? A trend, as your choice of words suggests, is a breakaway move from what has been seen and established as the track record. Yes, the resurrection, as one example, is one element held in common between all those different god myths. However, the claims concerning the resurrection of Jesus were made by Jesus himself in the presence and for the knowledge of his disciples as well as his adversaries. It was not a private secret. When his resurrection became a reality it was not denied by his adversaries. They elected to suppress it, but not to deny it.

death speaks


I expect Dr. Carrier remains unconvinced. Well enough. What remains is for Carrier to examine today what he has observed or what he might experience if a close, lovely family member or friend die. Never mind that the friend never said or made any claims that he/she would rise up from the dead.


It is safe to say Carrier would likely react with some modicum of astonishment were he to see his deceased family member rise up from the dead.


If his family member or friend had indeed stated he/she would rise up from the dead it is safe to say Carrier would likely react to those words with unbelief.


If his family member or friend indeed told Carrier he/she would rise up from the dead and then actually did it it is safe to say that despite the awesomeness and overwhelming joy of seeing his family member or friend back from the dead Carrier might still rightfully react with unbelief. His mind would likely be flooded with doubts and possible messages he missed concerning the loved one risen from the dead who is standing before.


None of these responses by Carrier would represent or constitute an outrageous or incredible response. They all represent a very human behavior response to an extraordinary phenomenon. It does not require the write testimony of ancient or contemporary scholars or mainstream scholars to validate or authenticate these responses.


This is no less what the disciples of Jesus experience. They had heard Jesus tell them he would rise up from the dead. They saw him after he was risen from the dead. They could not believe it even as he stood in their midst.

Now, what remained for them as well as Carrier is to consider what might be the implications and significance of one who said these things about himself and fulfilled them in the presence of his followers and adversaries alike. Suddenly, what someone wrote or did not write and whether or not it were corrupted or whether there were any witnesses all pale because death, Carrier’s own, stands before him and it speaks to him. It awaits your answer, Richard.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Between Epiphany & Emmanuel sermon: A response to invitation to LGBT

The recent announcement by the GracePointe Church in Franklin Tennessee to extend an invitation and to embrace LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender) represents a need to proclaim 1) what is sin, and 2) how those who renounce their life of sin will inherit the kingdom of heaven. This need to proclaim is true as concerns the enlightenment and edification of those saints who are bound to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is just as true, though they are certainly not bound by it, of the nonbeliever whom if he/she loves his/her life cannot be a disciple of Jesus nor inherit the kingdom of heaven deserve to hear the proclamation of the gospel. (Luke  14:26; I Corinthians 6:9, 10) I believe there is sincerity behind and in the aftermath of a great struggle and wrestling before pastor Stan Mitchell came to a place, to understate it, of great discomfort for himself and as concerns his love towards the saints, their love towards him, the love of the saints at GracePointe towards Jesus as Lord and Savior and his and the saints love for the LBGT to whom GracePointe has extended the invitation. Decisions which affect the congregation of the saints in Christ are sometimes reached on the basis of what is popular or difficult. Yet, I believe those decision makers know these are not the proof as to whether those decisions are right or wrong. Decisions in the past in different fellowships ranged from the petty inside bickering of the saints over whether to have a kitchen in the building to speaking in tongues. Mostly, these were limited to those fellowships respectively. Today, the decisions concerning LGBT, equality involving same-sex marriage (with more to come likely) or other decisions such as sisters in Christ preaching and teaching, (The YouTube video introducing Lauren King at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ has been removed.) reveal that these are not limited to a particular fellowship of the saints. They cut across from one gathering of the saints to another without respect to doctrine or creed.


So, this is a blast of neither the GracePointe Church, her leaders or those who gather there to seek and to know the will of Father through Jesus, his Son and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is an admonition. It is a word of encouragement that through understanding the saints who gather there as well as those elsewhere may be edified in their faith. I strongly encourage readers of this article to take the time to watch the video in its entirety. Listen to Stan Mitchell in his own words which include some profound insights on Living Between Epiphany and Emmanuel. As true and powerful as are Mitchell’s praiseworthy insights the application of those insights or the justification for the decision of the church leadership seems obscured at best and at worse misplaced. Watch and listen to the video as it is the only way some of the content of this article will can make sense because I have not necessarily expanded in great detail on the entire content of the video.


a list of sins


The apostle Paul stated (I Corinthians 5) that some of those believers in Corinth who were now in Christ were at one time were numbered among those people who lived in sin and without God. His admonition to them was for them to not associate with such people. The admonition was not about those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior. Rather, it was as concerned a “so-called brother,” as Paul refers to him in the same chapter to the believer in their midst. His immorality had been embraced by the Corinthian saints as a demonstration of their love. It was their mistaken notion and it was why Paul admonished and instructed them as to what they were to do about the matter. Paul, although absent from Corinth not only judged the individual, but he urged the saints at Corinth to do likewise. Despite the aversion and mistaken notion about judging which some saints clutch with much fear it is more the influence of the world on their thinking than their understanding of Jesus and Paul. Their judgments, like the judgments of the saints, were not unto the condemnation of the individual, but unto the salvation of the immoral brother. The saints in Corinth did just as Paul instructed them and they put out of the assembly, or broke fellowship with him. The individual did repent and was restored subsequently. (see II Corinthians 2)


The apostle Paul later reiterates a list of sins, by no means exhaustive, in I Corinthians 6 with some additional sins:


Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters,nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.


peace outside kingdom


I thought this statement by Mitchell to be peculiar and as telling as it is to ponder:


"I want all of you today who are experiencing the peace of safety to celebrate that. I want those of you who do not have the peace of safety to hear me; you're safe and if can't believe that for yourself let some of us believe that for you and then you can do that for us when we go through our time . . . hmmm” (time: 12:30)


It is not easy for the saints in Christ whether at GracePointe or anywhere to view with acceptance or much less accept the practice of something which the scriptures state is sin, against the will of God and the kingdom of heaven. It may seem and sound as praiseworthy, but exactly what or how does a disciple believe peace towards another person so as to impart peace on that person? Even more, what is this notion of Mitchell to ask of those who do have peace to, do that for us when we go through our time? Assuredly, Mitchell understands how the believer goes from being a child under the wrath of God to one who is at peace with God through the peace of Jesus. It is not a stretch to expect that he knows there is no way for a nonbeliever to be led to believe he/she is at peace with God if they are outside of the kingdom of heaven, _ especially by the saints in Christ believing the nonbeliever is at peace? This is precisely where they remain, outside of the kingdom, without their own renunciation of a life of sin and without Jesus as Lord.


Still, if there anything praiseworthy about the decision of GracePointe Church it is that she is to be commended for her welcome of the LGBT; a welcome which ought to be, and presumably is, extended as well to thieves and others.


leadership, membership and other false branches


Yes, the carnal mindset of some saints who shun sinners and shut the doors of the assembly to them is as much their own sin against the kingdom of heaven. However, extending “full leadership” roles and “ full membership” are no less the same concessionary olive branch of “partial leadership” and “partial membership” which GracePointe extended to them by the church leadership initially. These meager offerings to sinners as decided by the GracePointe Church leadership represent nothing less than (however unwittingly) a deceptive or misleading offering because full leadership and full membership offerings are no more present and taught in the scriptures than are partial leadership and partial membership.


Furthermore, and this is the fallacy of these olive branches as Mitchell calls them, the giving of those olive branches may create the impression of love in the Lord, but it is a notion of love as mistaken as that of our Corinthian brethren. Why? Because receiving and participating in “full leadership” and “full membership” do not equate with and are not a substitute for the knowledge, humility and obedience of the believer to the message of the gospel by which he/she is translated from darkness into the kingdom of heaven. (Colossians 1:13)


being full of the Holy Spirit


It is quite true that those who lead are to do so by serving. Certainly, this is what was modeled for the saints in Acts 6. What escapes the GracePointe leadership is not unique to them. It is widespread. It is the quickness with which some are tasked with the responsibility of teaching (as is the intention of GracePointe towards the newly welcomed ones) in the body of Christ rarely without any discernment or testimony as to whether these, like the seven in Acts 6, are “full of the Holy Spirit.” If this can not be or is not discerned and affirm about the individual by the congregation the needless qualifier of “full” to their responsibility as leaders rings hollow.


Paul declared this truth about being in the Spirit and belonging to Christ succinctly and clearly and are pondered with questions and thoughts:


9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8)


24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5)


First, do those whom are entrusted with “full leadership” including to teach, able to understand and able to teach how and when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them? If the Holy Spirit is not in one who professes to believe or who speaks of love it no more makes him/her a leader or a teacher than one who belongs to Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit. The promise that the believer who receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit.


Secondly, the body of Christ is made up of a number of different members. There is no mystery as to how these believers came to be added into the body of Christ nor is their any question about them being members such that they have need to qualify that they are “full” members of the body of Christ. I encourage you to review the response of believers to the preaching of the gospel in Acts as well as the conversion account of the apostle Paul.


I anticipate the response concerning Peter’s qualifier that the seven be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” I understand this example of the work of the Holy Spirit in the saints was to teach the body of believers how to address and solve problems in their midst. It was to provoke and stir the saints to think and examine just who and how those seven selected individuals were full of the Holy Spirit. It is noteworthy that the task at hand as described by Peter was to serve tables. How much more so of those who go before the congregation of the saints to teach the scriptures! Today, this is not the intended use of those qualifiers. They are as pins or labels adhered to an individual on the basis of their professional stature, business success, because they want to teach, or, because the leadership has no response to a charge of being politically incorrect, phobic or anti towards a particular individual or group. They are like that peace of the nonbeliever in Mitchell’s statement, which is given by one believer believing for another person that they have peace. So too, being a leader or teacher is not much more than a hashtag; full of the Holy Spirit. It is to be dispensed like a commodity.


I also anticipate the rants and shouts about this being a hate, hateful or hatred-filled message. This is a common response and typically with nothing more substantive than . . . a rant and shout. Let the reader judge for themselves. Hate and love are two words with which Jesus was quite comfortable towards himself, but he also used these same familiar words to impress without any tricks, schemes or slight of hand on anyone who would contemplate following him.


conclusion


Whatever your way of living might be I have no more need or desire than did Jesus to condemn you, fear, hate, dislike or shun you from the assembly of the saints anytime you might be moved to gather among the saints who are of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. The cost of following Jesus is for every individual to count and determine and decide for themselves whether they will follow Jesus. Whether you live a life which you hate but the you live without Jesus is more to be desired than what you hate about taking up their cross and following Jesus, _ then, Jesus said, you cannot be my disciple. If you love the life you live more than the love which you see and understand in Jesus, _ then, Jesus said, you cannot be my disciple.


Yes, there are plenty of semblances to being a follower of Jesus, but here is a at-home test for you. If those semblances of following after Jesus are easy, fun or popular think about the horror and spectacle of Jesus being crucified and decide for yourself as the apostle Paul said about himself,
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)


Nobody likes crucifixion or being crucified. If, on the other hand, after looking past the horror and spectacle of death by crucifixion you determine you hate your life more than you hate being crucified to self, or, that you love the call of following Jesus more than your own life; then take up your cross and follow. It is your obedience to or rejection of the gospel, not what I as individual, a political agenda or association, a gathering of the saints, participating in that gathering of the saints or what the leadership might have to say about your condemnation or salvation. It is your obedience to the gospel which determines your own condemnation or salvation. (II Thessalonians 1:5-12)
Grace and peace be to all who call upon the name of the Lord.