Sunday, November 8, 2009
I can learn the tranquility of the Buddhist, to let go of issues that cause stress, as there is a time and place for passivity.
I can value, revere, and worship the divine directly through Nature, paralleling paganism.
I am free to hold Christian and monotheistic metaphoric truths to further understand the incomprehensible and hope to love others better, without the trappings of literalism, tribalism and legalism.
I can appreciate and accept Catholicism’s veneration of the Virgin Mary as a manifestation of the much needed yet unaddressed divine-feminine.
I can see the symbolic power and beauty of Orthodox icons and not suffer from idolatry.
Because of the Gnostics, I hope to be free of the addictive nature of historicity and religiosity.
I need not abandon the open-eyed skepticism of the Humanist, Atheist, or Agnostic on watchful guard for liars, “words of knowledge”, cheats, spiritual frauds, “prophetic gifts”, and charlatans.
I am Woven; a living tapestry of identities, languages, cultures, and faiths.
A piece of burlap; Strong and tightly bound, yet unbound in my liberty.
I am not a subject of the lowest common denominator. I am a gestalt. The unweaving of one part is the undoing of the whole.
What the Religionist must call purification – the purging of alien practices and ways – is to become unwoven. A single thread is easier to capture than a richly woven tapestry.
The lost, the forgotten, the abused, the broken, the abandoned, the common, and the mundane; we are woven.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
”…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
I cannot say I know for certain what this actually means. Fear as in, being frightened? Are we talking about a servile fear of a slave or a “fear” as a son?…And trembling?! What, seriously? Shivering with fear? Frightened to the point of convulsing?
I understand this better in terms of what it doesn’t mean. It means we are not to explore or search out our “salvation” with pride and arrogance. Ignorance and arrogance go hand-in-hand so I think there should be a degree of awe and wonder – like a child’s – as well as humility and open-mindedness. The only way around ignorance is education – not indoctrination – and the only way to become successfully educated is at the abandonment of arrogance.
Although many Christians have honed their Humility down to an art form, when it comes to issues of Belief that humility and open-mindedness are replaced with a knowledge-filled arrogance. These rigidly-denominational Christians are the modern day Gnostics. Those that unswervingly and unquestionably follow their denomination’s teaching and swear that it is the truth and the right way.
And although I’ve just labeled it ”rigidly-denominational Christians” it manifests itself in other ways also. My favourite are the self-titled ”Bible Christians” who don’t follow denominations or traditions but only the bible… please! They are not different; just a little bit more creative and a little bit more dishonest.
At the end of the day the one thing nearly all Christians have in common is that they believe in the bible. Where they all differ is what it says and means. With so many interpretations and numerous “proper” hermeneutics, and various doctrines and heretical views accepted and denied, it should become obvious that the “answer”, the truth, isn’t so obvious.
In time it become a private issue of being right over pursuing the (T)truth. Then we enter the realm of ulterior agendas and the Evaginatical Christian emerges. (And no, I didn't mistype Evangelical but specifically meant to type Evaginatical from the word "evaginate").
Something else is being sold, either instead of, or alongside of, or on condition of the truth. They have done worse than turn it inside-out. They have evaginated it; they have turned it outside-in. There are those on the outside and there are those clearly on the inside.
A real church should be composed of the dregs and miscreants of society; the true sinners. It should include non-believers and those that question and struggle and fight and doubt.
You know what? Maybe the church of “True Believers” sitting in their pews, singing their hymns, safely tucked between their church’s walls, bound by their unspoken rules and regulations of what you should and shouldn’t do and can and cannot be, is a great idea!
Maybe they should be quarantined off. I can’t think of a better way of stopping the spread of this evagination; of this marketed corporate mentality.
I don’t mean to advocate being an Agnostic Christian (in the sense that ”we can never attain the truth so let’s just give up” - to be perpetually ignorant) but that we should strive to be a Disciple, and by that I mean a perpetual student. Always learning, our focus on continual growth, not continual stagnation.
The real questions we much each individually and before God ask ourselves are, Am I only following what I’ve been taught but never questioned it? Am I following my priest, or minister, or pastor? Have I looked outside of my quarantined world? Am I following my belief-mechanism or God?
Am I spiritually in motion in my faith, or am I static in my belief?
Am I a member of The Quarantined Church?
If not, then what are you? Are you a fringe-dweller, existing on the outer frayed edge? Are you a mouse living between the walls of the rooms we call Denominations within God’s house? Or are you living in a spiritual wilderness?
Are you a Wanderer, and if so, are you lost or on a quest?
…or are you an Evaginatical Christian?
Are you turning Christianity inside-out?
If anything, this would be a false gospel.
”…work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Monday, November 19, 2007
I feel that I am going to fail to properly articulate my point. The truth of it is so simple, yet so profound. I feel like a great weight has been lifted, but I can't say why. This is an issue I'd like to further "unpackage" and explore. It is not an issue I wish to debate and argue over. I need to explore this issue, not hear why it’s wrong.
I've always entertained the idea that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity could, potentially, all be wrong. Well, "wrong" isn't the word: incomplete. But let's not be pretentious. Let me be brutally honest:
I've never believed Islam or Judaism were complete.
I've always believed Islam and Judaism were incomplete.
I've only ever entertained the idea that Christianity might be incomplete.
On Monday, November 20th, 2006, at 6:16am I crossed a threshold. I stopped entertaining that idea.
Christianity is incomplete. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Christianity is wrong. Well, at least its methodology is wrong.
The Religion of Christianity teaches that we begin, or start out, fallen. Our human condition's default is Sin. We need to have or accept the "bad news" before we can accept the "good news". Our goal becomes salvation through Grace and therefore Grace is the prize; it is the goal that must be attained! The division of denominations come about with the questions of "How do we attain grace?" or "How do we exit this state of sin?"
One side of Christianity acknowledges Original Sin as tainting and condemning all of humanity! Thus is introduced Infant Baptism. But this fails to address the conscious choice of the believer. It allows exceptions or conditions for a lack of understanding between Sin & Grace.
The other side of Christianity acknowledges the conscious choice of the believer, and introduces Believer's Baptism, but makes exceptions or conditions to rectify infant death with a non-scriptural formula of "Age of Accountability".
Both sides struggle and make exceptions to "biblical rules" and insert non-biblical conditions because of the assumption that we always have Sin, but we don't always have Grace.
What happens to a newborn that dies shortly after birth? What happens to an aboriginal heathen who has never seen a white man, let alone hears the gospel or of Christ, dies? Are they condemned to hell? Christian theology must compromise itself with “footnotes” and “exceptions to the rules” to explain these things. I’ve always been skeptical of rules or theories that contain “yeah, but…” statements.
God hates Sin, but loves Sinners. That was the reason why He died on the cross: because He hates Sin, but loves Sinners. If this weren't true then His death was - for - absolutely - no - reason. Let me repeat myself: God hates Sin, but loves Sinners. It makes no sense the other way around: Jesus died on the cross because He loves sinners, not because He hates sinners.
I dearly love my children. I wish I could say that about their behaviour at times too. There are times I could honestly say that I hate their behavior. But I never hate them. Would I lay my life down and die for my children? Definitely, and that’s because I love them. But would l lay my life down and die for someone I hated? Absolutely not!
The Flood was an example of the opposite of the Crucifixion. God hated the sinners and killed them all off, yet Sin survived, thrived, and continued! No Grace was given in this equation, and the outcome failed to destroy Sin (which is not to say God failed because we don’t know if that was His goal).
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is yet another example of the attempted cleansing of Sin without Grace. No Grace was given to the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah. They themselves (not Sin) were outright destroyed. Even Abraham missed this point! Abraham attempts to barter or negotiate with God. Abraham seems to think God's Grace can be earned or bought! What if there are 50 righteous people? What about 45? 40? 30? Do I hear 20? What about 10? Even if it is only one, Grace cannot be bought! Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Mat. 20:1-16) is a clear lesson that Grace doesn’t work on any sort of economic system. It isn’t mathematical.
God condemns a complete generation of Israelites during their 40-year exodus through the wilderness, promising only their children - their next generation - will see the Promised Land. Again we see an attempt to cleanse Sin without Grace, and again we see Sin's eradication incomplete.
The most difficult issue we struggle with in the book of Job is that Job is upright and blameless! (Even God admits it!) Job doesn't deserve what he's inflicted with. But isn't that the whole point? Isn't that what Job misses? Isn't that the lesson we miss? It's about Grace. It isn't that Job deserves what he's inflicted with, but that he doesn't not deserve it! That's Job's flaw. It's not that he's committed some sin and is being punished for it. It's that he believes that he somehow earned the Grace he is enjoying – that the Grace was his. He was coveting his exclusivity to Grace, where Grace isn't exclusive. Even at the end when Job "confronts" God in the storm, he pleads his case and maintains his innocence, God does not accuse nor reveals Job's sin - for Job is still blameless. It is only after Job acknowledges God absolute sovereignty and unquestionability does Job again enjoys God's Grace.
I walked through Zellers on the weekend and someone working there offered me a nice expensive pen for free! Well, that caught my attention! I'm then told that, if I apply for a Zeller's Credit Card, the pen's mine for free! Well...it's not free. Granted, it's a very good deal, but it isn't free. Not only is this paradigm wrong and doesn't work, it's an outright lie: We begin (default) in Sin and can attain salvation and grace by simply saying the "Sinner's Prayer" (for example). Hey! Wait a second! That is a great deal, but IT ISN'T FREE!
If this is Christianity, then I'm out. I'll hand in my W.W.J.D. bracelet, my "Admit One, Eschatological Pass/Soteriological Coupon", and my Club J.C. Card.
Jesus died on the cross for ALL PEOPLE. This is Grace incarnate. We don't start in a state of Sin and climb into a state of Grace. We begin in a state of Grace. Grace is not a transaction or an exchange. Grace must by definition be free and must be for everyone - and when I say everyone, I don't mean every Christian. No sir! I mean everyone: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, you name it! Grace for ALL. Grace can't be earned and can't be attained by our own methods. GRACE IS A FREE GIFT !!
A newborn isn't a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Hindu, or an Agnostic, or a Buddhist, or an Atheist! But a newborn already has God's Grace. We begin our journey with it.
And the Religion of Christianity voices in with, "But this is Universalism! The bible doesn't teach that 'all will be saved'!" No, this is not Universalism. And no, there is no longer Original Sin. And there is an Age of Accountability, but it is to opt out of Grace, not into it. No, this isn't Universalism because people can and do opt out of grace. It is a free ride for all, but not all accept it.
One denomination, in an official publication concerning its belief, makes the following statement:Dr. Loyal Hurley, The Outcome of Infinite Grace“Some people inconsiderately accuse us of rejecting the atonement of Christ entirely because we dissent from the view that the atonement was made upon the cross as is generally held. But we do nothing of the kind. We object to the view that the atonement was made upon the cross, because it inevitably leads to one of two great errors, thus, Christ on the cross bore the sins of all the world. John said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away (margin, ‘beareth’) the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Peter tells us how Christ thus bore the sins of the world. ‘Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24). Paul says that ‘He died for all’ (2 Cor. 5:14,15). That which Christ did on the cross, therefore, was done indiscriminately and unconditionally for all the world, and if this was the atonement, then all the sins of the world have been atoned for and all will be saved – but all men will not be saved; hence the sins of all were not atoned for upon the cross.”
Little comment needs to be made about this quotation except to point out that the writer sees clearly that, if the usual understanding of the cross of Christ is accepted, all men will be saved. Hence, in order to maintain that not all will be saved, as he thinks, he claims that the atonement was not made upon the cross. ..
Through the centuries the Christian understanding has been that when Jesus hung on the cross and cried, “It is finished”, the problem of atonement was settled for all time. We do not have, therefore, a gospel of chance, either first chance or many chances. We have a gospel of grace.
"Grace tells us... we are already in unless we want to be out." (Spencer Burk, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, pg. 61)
These two paradigms are in conflict and is an extremely dangerous path to follow. If we can understand that Grace by definition is a free gift paid for and given by Jesus on the cross, then we must also admit we all begin with it. So now we have an apparent contradiction of facts: We always have Sin and we always have Grace. They must both be defaults to the human condition. If Adam and Eve brought Sin into the world - caused the problem - “broke it”, as the case may be – and Christ resolved the problem - cleansed it - “fix it”, then the problem must actually be fixed. If we are still born into Sin, then the problem isn’t fixed. We are, and the world is, still “broken”. Christ has failed. Paul argues this very point in Romans 5:18,
“…just as the result of one trespass[Adam] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [Jesus] was justification that brings life for all men.”
We know that Grace can trump Sin. But the Religion of Christianity teaches Sin first and then Grace (maybe). In this scenario Sin can trump Grace because we’ve been kept in the dark about the Grace we already have. It comes down to a question of which default/fact do we choose to embrace, Sin or Grace? If we are to believe the lie Religion teaches, that we have Sin but need to attain the gift of Grace, we're in a lot of trouble!
The Religion of Christianity teaches that Damnation is the rule and Salvation is the exception. Christ's Crucifixion allows that Salvation is the rule and Damnation is the exception.
We all have Free Will. But the question is, what is the choice? Christ's death and Crucifixion on the cross is God's Grace. I think "Christ" and "God's Grace" are synonymous. I think Religion even asks the wrong question: "Do we accept Christ, or deny Him?" Whereas the real question should be, "Do we accept the Grace we've already have been given?” or "Do we hope to attain a Grace we don't have?" Grace is not something we can attain. It is only something we can lose.
Marcus J. Borg articulates this exact point very accurately when he states
“Of course, the earlier paradigm [a more Traditional Christianity] uses the language of God’s grace and compassion and love, but its own internal logic turns being Christian into a life of requirement and rewards, thereby compromising the notice of grace. Indeed, it nullifies grace, for grace that has conditions attached is no longer grace.”Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity, pg. 11
No other perspective works.
The Born Again Problem
It is at this point when some people – most especially the Evangelical or Born Again Christians – will state that this idea doesn't biblically align itself with being “Born Again”.
“Born Again” = Adult Baptism = “Saved” = Salvation is an erroneous assumption.
Jesus didn't tell Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to get to heaven. What He did say was that everyone – Nicodemus included – needs to be born again - born from above - in order to enter into the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
Adult baptism is often assumed to be synonymous with being “born again”. Another, seemingly unrelated topic, is the assumption that the Heaven of the Afterlife is synonymous with the Kingdom of God.
However, Luke 17:20-21 describes the advent of the Kingdom of God in some particular details: Our Lord says it comes not with observation; that is hasn't a geographical locale (“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo, there!”); and that “...behold the kingdom of God is within you”. It may not be abundantly clear what the Kingdom of God is, but it is clear that it is not the Heaven of the afterlife, and therefore cannot be referring to salvation.
So, if Nicodemus must be “born again” to enter the Kingdom of God, then Jesus is not referring to adult baptism, being “born again” (as it is commonly understood today), or being saved. To be born again, according to Jesus, is to dedicate oneself to the Kingdom of God and it's purposes. It is to begin a journey with God in order to make the world a place of grace.
The pharisee Nicodemus' perception of an exclusive religious community or institution which dispenses salvation was in fact not only ignorant of the truth of the matter, but in conflict with God's plan and his Kingdom. This flies in the face of Pre-Vatican II Catholicism's salvation only through the Church as well as certain “Born Again” Christians' beliefs/theology (Adult Baptism only, to be saved.)
The Spirit is like the wind, Jesus tells Nicodemus “The wind bloweth where it listeth”. We can hear the wind and see it's effects, but we have no idea where it comes from or where's it going.
“...and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh , and whither it goeth.” (John 3:8)
God's Spirit – like the wind – is not something we're meant to control. The Spirit as a wind starts us on a journey. The Spirit now resides within us and inundates us. We now learn to live, breathe, and walk in the way – in the way of the Spirit and in the method of the wind.
We become a new creature.
We are renewed.
We are reborn.
Grace and Mercy
Grace: Getting something you have not earned or deserved (in a positive manner, i.e. a gift).
Mercy: Not getting what you do deserve (in a negative manner, i.e. a punishment).
When either Grace or Mercy are present without the other they can successfully be identified.
When both Grace and Mercy are present they can still be successfully identified.
For example: I steal $100 from you. You catch me and I stand before a judge in a court of law. Before the judge passes sentence you say that you wish to drop the charges against me. That is an act of Mercy. I was guilty and deserved punishment, but you showed mercy. Mercy is present but Grace is not.
Now after withdrawing the charges of theft against me you add that since I obviously need that $100 more than you do that I may keep the money as well. That is Grace. I didn’t earn the money, and I don’t deserve it either.
However, when both Grace and Mercy are absent they become blurred and indistinguishable.
For example: When I say the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah shows no Grace, some might say that I am confusing Grace with Mercy. Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty and had that punishment owed to them. Judgment was passed and justice was served. God simply didn’t show Mercy. But He also didn’t show Grace because He didn’t give them what they didn’t deserve; namely forgiveness and exemption.
Is the absence of Grace or Mercy the same as their opposites?
What are Grace and Mercy’s opposites?
The opposite of Grace must be not getting something you haven’t earned or deserve, which would be fair and just.
The opposite of Mercy must be getting what you deserve, which would be harvesting what you sow, which would also be fair and just.
So we can say that both Grace and Mercy’s opposites are the same thing: Justice through Righteous Judgment.
Therefore if one can opt out of Grace (and Mercy) you are faced with Justice through Righteous Judgment. So, if God chooses to pass judgment and justice, He also chooses not to show Grace or Mercy. Thus the example of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of showing no Grace.
What is the absence of Grace and Mercy? I don’t think their absence is the same as their opposite. Grace is active, while Mercy is passive. Grace is an action while Mercy is inaction. Their opposites – Justice through Righteous Judgment – are also active. Their absence must not be active but passive.
If Grace and Mercy’s opposites are Justice through Righteous Judgment (active), their absence must be the lack of justice (injustice).
Grace in the Evangelical
Evangelical Christians say we are called to evangelize. That statement is a little too simple I think.
What does ‘evangelize’ mean, and why are we called to do it? What are the reasoning and the drives behind it?
There are only 3 reasons why Evangelical Christians believe they should evangelize.
A) Because we are told to
B) Because we are commissioned by the Lord to make converts
C) Because so many people will be damned to hell without evangelizing.
Realistically, most Evangelical Christians are a combination of these 3 points, but we’ll address them one point at a time.
1) “Because we are told to.”
The problem with this reasoning is that we don’t know what we’re doing. We can’t answer the question ‘why evangelize’? If we cannot answer why then we also cannot answer how? If we aren’t sure why then we aren’t sure how. If we’re not sure how to evangelize then the margin for error becomes enormous because we’re not sure what the goal is.
2) “Because we were commissioned by the Lord to make converts.”
I don’t believe we were commissioned to make converts. We were told to make disciples, which are pupils or students. This is another topic worth discussing, as to what exactly making disciples, or students, or pupils, means, but suffice it to say that for our intent and purpose now it does not mean to make converts.
3) “Because so many people will be damned to hell without evangelizing.”
This point may manifest itself in different expressions: The positive being, “Who goes to heaven?” and the negative being, “Who gets condemned to hell?”
This is the most complicated answer of the three. What does the Evangelical Christian say happens to a newborn baby who dies directly after birth? Do they go to heaven or hell? We know what scripture says the “criteria” of receiving salvation is, and a newborn clearly doesn’t meet these “requirements”. But the thought of an innocent newborn infant suffering eternal conscious torture at the hands, or will of God seems inconceivable! Most will answer and say that this innocent will go to heaven because God’s Grace is large enough (which I personally agree with). They will generally answer that it has to do with the formula of “Age of Accountability”, which isn’t scriptural, but is an attempt to better understand and systemize salvation (which I also agree with). I don’t have a problem with this belief, but with this methodology.
Grace vs. Accountability
The Age of Accountability says that under a certain age (and I’m not interested in debating what that age is) the child lacks the proper facilities or tools to make a proper choice or decision. Therefore they cannot be responsible for that choice and they cannot be accountable. Responsibility and accountability have everything to do with harvesting what one sows.
Accountability means we can be judged on it. Either we are accountable or we are not. Either we are guilty or we are innocent. Accountability belongs in the realm of judgment and justice. Grace is an all together different creature! There is no guilty or innocent in Grace. The question of guilt isn’t even asked.
For someone under the ‘Age of Accountability’ God really cannot show Grace but can only show Mercy. The infant is tainted and guilty of Original Sin. Being guilty of sin is punishable by death (‘the wages of sin are death’). If the newborn lives, it is a sign of God’s Mercy (not getting what it deserves because it deserved death). If the infant dies, which is the ‘wages of sin’, it is God’s Righteous Judgment and Justice (which is the opposite of Grace and Mercy, which means no Grace and no Mercy). So, when the Evangelical Christian evokes the ‘Age of Accountability’ and God’s Grace in the same breath, I’m forced to ask, “Well? Which one is it? Grace or Accountability?” I can’t see where or how – in this context – Grace could be applied. But I do believe God’s Grace can be and is applied!
Regardless of whether the newborn infant lives (Mercy) or dies (Judgment) Grace has already been gifted freely! Grace cannot have anything to do with guilt or innocence. It cannot have anything to do with what you’ve earned or deserve. It cannot exist in the realm of analysis or judgment. It is free. Grace is boundless. The only limiting or controlling feature on Grace is God’s will. It is His to give freely and I believe He did so on the cross.
They are willing to allow the Grace of God to be large enough to make exceptions, but I can’t help but think this is not an actual belief, but rather an intellectual exercise. Because once it is applied to others (Jews, Muslims, non-believers, agnostics, homosexuals, etc.) suddenly God’s Grace dries up! Where God’s Grace was once large and overflowing suddenly has become finite and very limited.
Now, I realize I am making generalizations of all Evangelical Christians. Before you accuse me of creating straw men to knock down allow me to continue; There is another type of Evangelical Christian who does honestly allow for God’s big Grace and acknowledges and accepts that we don’t know who “makes it” into heaven. They do allow and entertain the concept of others receiving salvation. This theology or belief puts salvation and damnation into God’s hands exclusively (where I believe it belongs). And when who is and who isn’t saved ceases to be an issue, then the focus must also shift away from the Afterlife.
But it is here that this option becomes plagued with a problem. If the question is “Why do we evangelize?” and the answer is, “Because so many people will be condemned to hell without evangelization” they cannot shift that focus away from the Afterlife, while not defuncting their very own definition. It creates a conundrum. It removes their reason, motivations, and impetus to evangelize. Ultimately we are led back to attempting to answer the question, “What does ‘evangelism’ mean?” This option has begun with spreading the “bad news” (you are a sinner) followed by spreading the “good news” (there is hope in Christ). If the “bad news” is removed from the equation and if we are left with only the “good news”, what does that look like? And, more importantly, are we ready to accept it?
“In a very real way, they don’t even hope for universal salvation. After all, without the fear of their unsaved loved ones’ eternal damnation, how would they motivate one another for outreach and missionary service?”Bart Campolo, The Limits of God’s Grace
“…many [Christians]…evangelical in attitude…insist that they want to see the wicked saved, nevertheless tend to anger if they are told that God is going to do just that for all the wicked. They are not willing for God to save the lost ultimately, unless He does it according to their theological scheme. They are like Jonah, who was angry because God spared the wicked city of Nineveh.”Dr. Loyal Hurley, The Outcome of Infinite Grace
If we are only focusing on accepting God’s Grace that has already been gifted to us, ‘evangelizing’ becomes an open invitation to a celebration and a joyous exploration. The paradigm shifts. There ceases to be a “them” and “us”, the focus leaves the Afterlife and centers on the Now. The kingdom of God begins to grow and nurture here and now! Orthodoxy bows to Orthopraxy. Proper Doctrine takes a back seat to proper practice. Doctrine and Orthodoxy define the distinctions of denominations. Denominational lines blur…unity begins…we enter a post-denominational age. No longer are we focused on gaining converts to our religion. No longer must things be only our way: Fundamentalism dies. No longer must we amass our numbers. Our control stops mattering: nobody can claim exclusivity. There is no fear in our “sales tactics”: we don’t need to “sell” our faith with “hell and damnation”. No longer can we condemn the non-believers: the words infidel and heathen are removed from our vocabulary. There stops being a “them” and “us”. The only reason we have left to knock on someone’s door is to say hello! We can all hold hands with a bottle of Coka-Cola and sing “I’d like to teach the world to Sing”. Well… that might be taking it a little too far, but you get the idea. We can stop focusing on the hereafter and begin focusing on the Now!
I believe the Kingdom of God can be here now. That it is in us (Luke 17:20-21). It is attainable! So why are we so obsessed with making it heaven?
The Gnostic Escape
In “The Purpose Driven Life”, Rick Warren says, “This life is a preparation for the next” (pg. 36), and “…earth is only a temporary residence” (pg. 47). The whole of chapter 4 has this theme. “Earth is a staging area”. To me, this is really saying we were not made for this world, but for another. If we weren’t made for this world, then what are we doing here? Are we just passing through? I’m sure many Christians believe and teach this. I also believe it is wrong. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Be passersby” (Thomas 42)
This world = bad.
Next world = good.
This reality (physical) = bad.
Next reality (spiritual) = good.
Our focus is to either ignore or gloss over this world and its problems (because this world doesn’t really count, does it? Its just a practice run!), or to focus on the next world and the escape from this one! Salvation, being “born again”, and being “saved” have the risk of, not being about making it into heaven, but about getting the ticket out of this world and it’s problems! This is Gnosticism.
I think Qui-Gon Jinn gave excellent advice to a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “But I thought Master Yoda said to be mindful of the future?”
Qui-Gon Jinn: “Yes, but not at the expense of the moment: You must be mindful of the Living Force.”
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I’ve heard comes from the Rabbi Israel Salanter.
“Normally, we worry about our own material well-being and our neighbours’ souls; let us rather worry about our neighbours’ material well-being and our own souls.”
Words for a Christian to live by. Interesting that they would come from a Jew. I think the Evangelical perspective sees things backwards. Last year I took a course at a Baptist Church and had a man named “Jack” introduce himself. “Hi! My name is ‘Jack’.” He said while extending his hand, “I’ve been saved since March [3 months ago]. How long have you’ve been saved?”
I shook his hand in stunned silence. I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or cry. He then proceeded to discuss his and his fiancé’s concern about proper methods of prayer.
“Jack” was speaking English. I speak English too and I’d like to think I have the same size vocabulary as most people. I understood every word he spoke and used. But he wasn’t speaking English. I had to think fast! I had to switch my internal-language-button over to the “Christianese” setting.
Not only was “Jack” speaking a language the vast majority of people don’t understand, he was asking all the wrong questions, and making all the wrong statements. The paradigm’s all wrong. And this was a product of Evangelical Christianity! What? Is he supposed to go out into the world and evangelize and ‘witness’ to people? Yikes! What is he really saying? And more importantly, What are people really hearing? “I’ve got my one-way ticket out of this ‘dump’ and the Good News is you can buy a ticket out of here too!” That’s the message I got loud and clear.
“Well, I’m not quite ready to leave this ’dump’ because this ‘dump’ is my home and I belong here. And as far as buying one of your tickets out of here…well, I’m not sure I like the brand name you’re selling. No thanks, I think I’ll pass.”
What would the Evangelical Christian thoughts or response be to that be? Some would think that I’m lost. The bolder ones would say I’ve rejected Christ at the risk of eternal damnation. Some might “shake the dust off their feet.”
I’ve always had a difficult time identifying the moment you are ‘saved’. I’m entertaining the idea more and more that we’re born ‘saved’. As I’ve said before, Grace tells us we are already in unless we want out. From this perspective the question is never “How long have you been saved?” The only applicable question is – and it’s a dark path to travel – “At what point did you opt out?”
Once we realize and accept that we have always had the gift of God’s Grace – that we’ve never had to attain it – how do we live this life of Grace? This question takes on a very different dimension once we realize that it applies to the believer, the non-believer, and people of other belief systems as well. We’ve transcended the bounds of Religion and entered into the realm of the Spiritual.
What would a person’s actions/thoughts look like to reject the grace of God that was already given? How exactly would one do that? Is there any biblical indication to support this? To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.
“…but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” Mark 3:29, ASV
If we forfeit Grace - if we opt out of God’s Grace - we are choosing Righteous Judgment and Justice in its stead. Luke 18:17 says, “I tell the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (NIV).
This is an interesting verse. It seems to confirm that the kingdom of God already is a child’s. It also puts things in the context of “who will not receive” rather than “who will accept”, again reinforcing that it is a denial of something already in existence rather than the acceptance of something new.
But what does this rejection look like? Traditionally the Religion of Christianity would say that it is specifically rejecting Christ, and then would go on to apply this to Jews and Muslims, and nearly every other faith. Again, attempting to reinforce their exclusivity. I believe Christ is God’s Grace incarnate. I think it isn’t so much rejecting Christ as it is rejecting God’s Grace.
I recently got into a conversation with a Christian Fundamentalist friend of mine about whether or not a homosexual could really be a Christian. I had never really even considered this an issue before. “Of course!” was my train of thought. But apparently not. I was told in clear and concise terms that homosexuality was abhorred and loathsome to God. It said so in the bible – most especially in the Old Testament. He then proceeded to quote the actual verses to me. I won’t bother you with these references.
“Well, I’m damned to hell too,” I said, “because I have tattoos. Leviticus 19:28 clearly forbids it.”
As he began to explain why this didn’t apply to me I continued, “And so are you because you’re clean shaven! Leviticus 19:27 forbids it!”
He continued by explaining that we are freed from the Law by faith in Christ. We are ‘covered’ by God’s Grace...we are seeing the impossible concept of a conditional grace rising it's ugly head again.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)
I think this is clear. If you are to judge and condemn a homosexual according to the Law, then you too will be judged and condemned according to the law. You can choose Grace, or you can opt out and choose justice through Righteous Judgment. To me, judging others is one possible method of rejecting God’s Grace, or at least showing contempt towards it. In romans 2:1-4 Paul is clearly making the distinction between God's Righteous Judgment (Justice) and man's judgment (Injustice).
I’m not sure what rejecting Grace looks like. I suppose becoming an actual Atheist would do it. But how can we truly tell the difference between an Atheist and an Agnostic? I am very hesitant at systemizing this. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. I really don’t think this is the point. In fact, if we begin to obsess about how do we reject Grace, or how do we opt out of it, we are returning to that old paradigm. It isn’t our place to judge. This is something between God and the individual. We have no business there. After all, we were called to make students. A student’s job is to learn. We learn by asking questions. Our job at evangelizing is an open invitation to celebration and exploration. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re interested, then you are engaged. In you are engaged you have begun that journey. If you have begun that journey, you are a student. I think it’s as simple as that.
In the movie Mission: Impossible 2, Tom Cruise answers Anthony Hopkin’s character, “This is going to be difficult.” Without missing a beat Anthony Hopkin answers, “Well this isn’t ‘Mission: Difficult’, this is ‘Mission: Impossible’; ‘Difficult’ should be a walk in the park for you Mr. Hunt.”
I love that line. And we as the movie viewer fully believe Ethan Hunt can pull it off! We have enormous faith in Tom cruise… so why don’t we have that kind of hope and faith in God?
“[God] …our Saviour… who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)
If this is what God wants and hopes for, could we not say this is also the will of God? I have been told that I have misinterpreted 1 Timothy 2:4; that it means that God hopes, desires, and wishes for all to come to Him and be saved, but that in actual fact, not all will. Why not? Is this “Mission: Difficult” or “Mission: Impossible”?
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2 (NIV)
Job clearly states that God’s will and plans cannot be altered. Whose will is greater, man’s or God’s?
“This interpretation makes the will of man more mighty than the will of God. God wills (or wishes) all men to be saved, but His is not able to get His will (or wish) fulfilled. Man wills not to be saved, and he is perfectly able to have his will fulfilled! That deifies man, and dethrones God. Man is able to get his will done, but God is not.” Dr. Loyal Hurley, The Outcome of Infinite Grace
Pope John Paul II focused on this very verse when addressing this same issue and problem,
"In Christ, God revealed to the world that He desires “everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). This phrase from the First Letter to Timothy is of fundamental importance for understanding and preaching the Last Things. If God desires this – if, for this reason, God has given His Son, who in turn is at work in the Church through the Holy Spirit – can man be damned, can he be rejected by God? … But the problem remains. Can God, who has loved man so much, permit the man who rejects Him to be condemned to eternal torment? … The Holy Scriptures include the concept of the purifying fire. The Eastern Church adopted it because it was biblical, while not receiving the Catholic doctrine on purgatory…. The “living flame of love”, of which Saint John [of the Cross] speaks, is above all a purifying fire". Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pg. 185-186
A Living Flame of Love
Most Protestants readily agree that, even though saved, they are still in sin. The fact of the matter is even more obvious: we still commit sin. We may be more aware of it, and we may put significantly more effort into trying to avoid sin, but we are still sinners. Catholics share this same belief. If they didn’t there would not exist the Sacrament of Confession.
Most Christians also believe that this process of becoming Christ-like is never accomplished – at least in this lifetime. We strive and hope to become more and more holy and pure. I would be very suspicious of anyone living who claimed to be sinless, Holy, pure, and perfectly Christ-like. It simply isn’t going to be accomplished in this world!
Most Christians also believe that God is absolutely Pure, absolutely Holy, and absolutely Perfect – so much so in fact that His very nature cannot abide the presence of Sin – or maybe, inversely, Sin cannot survive the presence of His Perfection.
But these beliefs create a problem. Somehow from the moment we are “saved” (whenever and however that works) to the moment we stand in God’s presence (whenever and however that happens) we absolutely must go through some sort of transformation or purification. And since we’ll readily agree that this transformation or purification “process” may only begin in this life – in this world – but is never completed here, then it must be completed after death. There is no way around this issue. If not, then Sin will be allowed to enter Heaven: We will carry all of our sin and problems with us.
Catholicism has the Doctrine of Purgatory, which is a bone of contention to most Protestants. Yes, in the past the Church used the Doctrine of Purgatory to make the abuses of Indulgences, and possibly still does today, but I’m not interested in the history of Purgatory or the abuses of Indulgences.
What I am talking about here really isn't Catholicism's Purgatory, but may be better referred to s the small “p” purgatory. The fact of the matter is, somewhere, somehow, after death this purification process must be made complete. For the moment I’m not interested in whether the process lasts for decades (like Catholicism’s Purgatory might suggest) or if it’s a near-instantaneous process of being ‘cleansed’ by fire, but only that this purification, or purgation, has to exist. In Mark 9:49, Jesus says “Everyone will be salted with fire” gives us some sort of suggestion of this.
Catholics cite 1 Peter 3:19-20 and 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 as scriptural “evidence” of Purgatory. Protestantism has done away with the books of the Apocrypha and so have written off the authenticity of the 2 Maccabees reference. The Apocrypha are completely another topic that I don’t wish to explore at this time, so we’ll look at 1 Peter 3:19-20.
“By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” 1 Peter 3:19-20, (KJV)
Most Protestants do not interpret these verses as evidence of purgatory but meaning only that it was the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Jesus, who completed and motivated Noah to preach to the pre-flood people (Antediluvians). The reference to “those in prison” is meant to mean those that are now in prison (awaiting judgment). That is definitely one interpretation. I cannot really argue with that. But it is 1 Corinthians 15:29 that really catches my attention.
“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” 1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV)
Taken as a historic fact, being baptized for the dead was indeed practiced in New Testament times, and apparently supported by the Apostles also. This cannot be ignored. If no postmortem state of purgation existed, then the dead are either saved and in heaven, or already condemned and in Hell and beyond hope.
What I’m going to propose is this: That there exists no Hell in the traditional sense of the Doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment. That Hell is simply a state of non-existence (utter separation from God), or annihilation. For those who are not saved and ‘condemned’ to hell, there is no suffering but they are simply extinguished.
But to those who are not condemned to hell we are still faced with this problem of being impure before God. What I am proposing and exploring is that all (Believers and Non-believers alike) will be subjected to this Fire. This Living Flame of Love is not hell (although this process could potentially be hellish ). This Fire would best be compared to that of the Blacksmith’s – it is for the purpose of refinement and purification.
“Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith” Proverbs 25:4 (NIV)
I think this is a very good analogy. This Fire burns off the dross and leaves only the pure and refined silver. I believe this is part of the process I am speaking of.
"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth". Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)
This theme, however, seems to follow the idea of Universal Reconciliation, in that everybody would seem to be saved. However, verses like Ezekiel 22:18-22, Jeremiah 6: 29-30, Proverbs 27:21 and Zech. 13:9 (to name only a few) seem to very strongly suggest that not all will survive this process; not all will be saved – or that some are nothing more than only dross, and after the dross is ‘burnt’ away, there is nothing left. Again, we are revisiting the idea that “hell” (or a permanent separation from God) does not involve Eternal Conscious Torment, but annihilation. But this concept of hell makes it not so much of a place but more of a state of being (or in this case, non-being).
"…[Pope John Paul II] explained, heaven and hell and purgatory are not abstractions or physical places, at least in our experience of place. They are relationships, or lack of relationships, with the Holy Trinity". John J. Dietzen, Catholic Q & A, pg. 469
Pope John Paul II makes good sense when he relates these “states” in terms of one’s relationship to God. They are states of being rather than actual physical places or locals. For if heaven or hell (or even purgatory for that matter) were actual physical places then we would be subscribing to a pantheistic belief system, which I firmly do not belief Christianity or the bible supports.
God is described numerous times in the bible as being “up”, or “in heaven”, or “above”, or various terms suggesting anywhere but here. God is described as being, not natural (pantheistic), but Supernatural. But He is also described as being here amongst us. Paul describes Him as the medium in which we exist (Acts 17:28). What we have here is not a naturalistic or materialistic God (pantheistic), but a panentheistic God. He is both supernatural and pantheistic. All of the universe, all of reality, all of Creation and existence resides within Him, but yet God is still “more” and beyond.
But it is here that we run into a problem with the Traditionalist’s Hell and the Doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment.
Christianity is definitely a panentheistic belief-system. As such, we can readily accept heaven as a “place” or state of being “within” God. But hell becomes much more difficult to accept. Either hell - within a panentheistic belief - is a permanent separation from God in a state of non-existence (annihilation) - since all that exists must exist “within” God. Or hell must be deliberately designed, ruled, and maintained by God for the explicit purpose of torture for no other reason than to inflict pain and punishment, but teach nothing. This hell truly has no hope.
There can be no argument that this possibility is within God’s power, right, and authority. However, is it within God’s nature? 1 John 4:16 says that “God is love”. It does not say that God is loving. It says that God is love itself, and love and hope are intricacy connected. 1 John 4:18, reads:
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
And again, Psalm 103:13:
"The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him."
Please don't miss my point here. Some Christians see "fearing God" as a judge or master and tremble in fear of punishment. However with the verses I've quoted this doesn't fit at all, especially 1 John 4:18.
There are two types of fear, servile fear and filial fear. I believe the only justified fear (for a Christian) is filial fear. Servile fear is the fear of a slave and has NOTHING to do with the type of fear that is the origin of wisdom. Filial fear (of the father-son kind) "drives out all fear" (1 John 4:18), it drives out servile fear - it drives out the fear of a slave - the fear of punishment, the fear of "holy terror".
I would say that filial fear really isn't fear at all. It is interesting because if these types of Christians are scared to death of what God thinks of you or what he may do to you to punish, then, as 1 John 4:18 says, "...because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
It kinda makes me wonder about these people. Sounds to me like they're more slaves than children. In short, the Traditionalist’s Hell and the Doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment fall clearly within the realms of a servile fear of God and what He, as a Slave Master, can or will do to you.
But for the Christian’s panentheistic belief-system, if we can understand and allow heaven and hell to be “states” of being rather than actual places, then we need to take a hard look at the concept of purgatory... or maybe the state of purgation.
… [Pope John Paul II] challenges us to take a fresh and thoughtful look at what we say we believe. When we hear key words of our faith, we often pay more attention to familiar and popular images than to the doctrines themselves. “Heaven”, “purgatory”, and “hell” are all strongly evocative words for Christians. A little reflection should warn us to be cautious, however, about the pictures and ideas these words inspire.
What Pope John Paul II has done is make explicit what has been implicit all the time. Does anyone really believe, for example, that heaven and hell are places in our ordinary sense of that term? Are they somewhere out in material creation on an unknown planet? In a galaxy on the other side of a distant black hole?
The same must be said of purgatory. It is not a “place”, he explained, but a “condition” of purification for the saved whereby Christ “frees them from their imperfections”. As the catechism says, purgatory is a process of purgation, of cleansing.
… we need to walk carefully here. When it says heaven is a “place”, it puts the word in quotation marks, indicating that, in this context, it does not have its usual meaning. Similarly, in the words of the catechism, the condition of self-exclusion from communion with God is what be call “hell”.
As for the graphic biblical descriptions of heaven and hell, John Paul II repeats the best long-standing Scripture scholarship when he says the symbolic and metaphorical language we find in the New Testament attempts to put into human words the reality of eternal “joyful communion with God”, or “the complete frustration and emptiness of a life without God”.
Far from downplaying the terrors of damnation, he contends that “the situation in which one finds himself after freely and definitively withdrawing from God, the source of life and joy”, can only be approached figuratively with images like “inextinguishable fire” and “the burning oven”. John J. Dietzen, Catholic Q & A, pg. 488-489
1 A parallel to this saying appears in an inscription from a mosque at Fatehpur Sikri, India: “Jesus said, ‘This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but do not build your dwelling there.’”
In a war torn land a generous landowner built an orphanage; a house for the children he would adopt. But like the spoiled children of luxury they were, they all wanted their own rooms, so they got lumber and drywall and built walls, partitions, divisions, and rooms.
Now, many of these adopted children believed that since the landowner built this house, then he was also all right with their internal renovations. But they were mistaken.
A mouse lives in the orphanage too and runs from room to room, scampers down the hallways and lives between the walls. Most of the orphans are aware of the mouse and they complain about how the mouse would eat their food. They complained about the tiny mouse droppings they would find.
Some of the orphans believe the mouse is harmless and of little consequence and tolerate its existence and allow it to live its life.
Other orphans believe it is an infestation and must be either exterminated or purged from the house.
And still others aren’t even aware of its existence at all.
None of the orphans are correct. There is not a mouse in the orphanage. There are mice! And these mice are also the landowner’s adopted children.
It is not until the orphans realize this that the true purpose of the orphanage can become apparent.
I must regretfully admit that I am not the first to use the house analogy for Christendom. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity had also used the house analogy, but to a slight different tangent:
It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. for that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’
When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are you enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
It is quite interesting. He is using the angle that once an individual becomes a Christian, they enter into the house but stand in the entrance foyer, where all other doors open from; or possibly float down several hallways visiting a few different rooms. It is an extremely good analogy, but I am not talking about new Christians, and he is making the assumption that the rooms in this house are rightfully there, or accepting the simple fact of the matter - right or wrong - they are there.
It is critically important to note that these various rooms within this house are there. Denominations exist. Whether we agree with it or not, whether they should or shouldn’t be, these divisions exist. I believe that C.S. Lewis’ angle in this quote is simply facing this “inevitable” fact and attempting to deal with it. However, the “A Mouse in God’s House” theory (can I really call it that?) is not accepting this fact as inevitable. Accepting this fact is practical but also following the path of least resistance. It would be the same as having a 13, 14, or 15-year old daughter, at an age when sex is becoming an issue. And deciding that a new house rule will be allow them to engage in sexual activity, but only within your house with you in the house (but in the privacy of their own room of course) and with proper protection (which you will provide, because you are a good and responsible parent). Your logic is that they are going to have sex one way or another, so you’ll give up on and accept (as “inevitable”) the lesser or two evils. I’m sorry to say this, but this is a cop out. You are not doing your job as even a mediocre parent, let alone a good and responsible one. In this difficult and awkward example there is no easy solution. The path(s) of least resistance are far too easy. Your job is not to be the friendly, buddy-buddy of you child. Your role is to be the authority figure and “lay down the law”, so to speak. However, this approach will more than likely drive your daughter out of the house and accomplish exactly what you wanted to avoid. It isn’t simple.
There are individual members of congregations (and I suppose an entire congregation is also an extreme possibility) which will go out of their way to “purge” or “exterminate” these mice. They will generally be conservative and justify their acts (of exclusion – or inclusion only through assimilation) as “keeping the faith” or maintaining the status quo. “If its not broken down fix it” is their motto.
It is a difficult situation because in moderation, they are completely correct. If we can jump analogies from the house to the human body (the Body of Christ) for a moment - in the human body there are white blood cells. They are, basically, our immune system. If a foreign particle, virus, or object enters our body (a particle they recognize as foreign) the white blood cell will arbitrarily and indifferently attack and destroy the foreign invader. It is what they do and rightfully so. They protect the body’s health, they maintain the “status quo”. Without white blood cells – or with “friendly” or very “inclusive” white blood cells – the body would become extremely sick and die.
I believe these self-appointed conservative “guardians of the faith” absolutely must be present. Without them, the Body of Christ would become extremely sick and die from external influences. However, in some disorders and diseases the human body produces too many white blood cells or white blood cells incapable of identifying foreign invaders. They eventually begin attacking the body. These disorders and diseases most often terminate in death. So, if these self-appointed “guardians of the faith” run amok they will overrun and kill the Body of Christ. If they are done away with altogether, then all sorts of foreign influences and invaders will inundate Christendom and kill it. So what is the answer? I’m not claiming to have a cut and dry answer to this problem. I don’t. It is my hope to identify this problem. I am not a pretentious man and I know all too well there are many people much better skilled and equipped to deal with finding this solution.
I believe the answer is tied in with the Mouse in God’s House. Now, bare in mind, I am not speaking necessarily of New Christians or Non-practicing Christians, or your typical Church-going Christians. I am speaking of another kind: the Rogue Christian - the mouse in God’s house.
We must understand that all analogies break down. The analogy of the white blood cell breaks down at the level of the human body is a near perfectly designed mechanism – or at least we, as Christians believe that. Although Christ may have initiated the “church”, the current state of it is by our own design
The Borg from Star Trek makes a fantastic analogy of what Christianity should not be. However, I believe for the most part Christianity has actually become very much like The Borg. You are completely welcome and invited to “Come to Jesus”, to be “born again”, and to “find God”, but it must be in the church’s way, in their tradition, by their standards. The expression “come as your are or don’t come at all” most definitely does not apply. You are welcome to “come as you are” but you must also be prepared to change, and I do not mean by the Holy Spirit. This is not acceptance, tolerance, and love. This is assimilation! Star Trek’s, The Borg have their “welcome” speech that leaves little to be guessed at. “You will be assimilated. Your uniqueness will be added to our Collective. You will service The Borg. Resistance is futile”. You will have to learn to speak “Christianese”. If you don’t care for “church-songs” or traditional hymns, then you will learn to like them – or if we’re very tolerant we might let you get away with only liking Christian music. If you don’t speak like we speak, we’ll teach you. If you don’t pray like we pray, or worship like we worship, we’ll show the right way. God has granted us all unique gifts and we will find and identify your gift to use to serve the church. You will service the church… Resistance is futile…
I think Catholicism best describes these people as anonymous Christians. An anonymous Christian being a person who lacks knowledge of Christ and his teachings and doesn’t consciously, deliberately, and willingly reject Christ, so they’re not responsible for knowing the whole truth. It also includes non-Christians who live good, moral lives as if already Christians and through no fault of their own don’t know about Jesus Christ or they’ve never been shown by word or good example1. These kinds of people are considered to possess an implicit desire to be “in Christ”.
But the vicarious atonement extending back through time assumes that the event of the Transfiguration actually occurred in Jesus’ time frame. Another very real possibility is that Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 24:15-18 and Elijah’s encounter with God in 1 Kings 19:8 were one and the same incident as Jesus’ Transfiguration. These three events could have occurred “outside” of time and simultaneously.
If we look at the woman from Rev. 12:1 who is clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars upon her head, I have to admit this whole image is extremely symbolic and cannot be taken literally. However, if the moon beneath her feet is representative of Jewish tradition and the Mosaic system of rites and ceremonies, then this woman supercedes them. Although the crown of 12 stars could represent the 12 apostles (and thus the Church of Christ) it could also represent the original 12 tribes of Judaism. Could this woman be the personification of the entire Jewish or Israelite people and nation who gives birth to the Messiah? Is this is all true then what does that mean for Jews today?
If we view the whole of Israel as a corporate entity then we have a very different perspective. I believe chapter 16 of the book of Ezekiel uses this exact personification. To paraphrase this chapter, the story goes like this:
God is walking and discovers a newborn baby girl, abandoned by her parents to die, struggling and kicking in her own blood of her afterbirth (Ezekiel 16:3-6). God picks up the baby girl, cleans her, wraps her in warm clothes and takes her as His daughter. He raises her, nurtures her, and adorns her with fine clothes, gifts, and jewels.
When the girl becomes a woman, God takes her as His wife (Ezekiel 16:8). It is at this point when the problems begin. The wife becomes unfaithful to God and whores herself out to others. God feels betrayed and abandoned by her prostitution (Ezekiel 16: 15, 20, 25-26, 28-29, 31-32). He then ends this personification with a promise to keep His covenant with her (Ezekiel 16:60-61) and, most interestingly and importantly, promises, “Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done.” (Ezekiel 16:63). Note, God doesn’t say, When you make atonement for all you have done. He says, when I make atonement for all you have done. This is a prelude to Ephesians 5:25-36. (“…and gave himself [Jesus] up for her [the church] to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the word.”).
Thus ends Ezekiel’s personification, or corporate entity of Mother Israel. But this analogy may still continue.
Israel’s culture climaxes at Solomon’s construction of the Temple, which may be viewed as yet again their corporate entity of Mother Israel. In both the Tabernacle and the Temple it is said that God Himself “lived” or dwelled within. They were literally the house of God. Both structures had the Holy of Holies, which were reserved of the elite priesthood. It was within the Holy of Holies in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and it was the Ark of the Covenant that was where God was to actually dwell.
If the Temple has become the personification of Mother Israel and the Holy of Holies is her womb – in which God dwelt. This corporate entity, this Mother Israel, will give birth to God – to the Messiah, and like birth, the placenta and afterbirth becomes of no use and is discarded – the Temple and the old covenant.
This puts God in the position of Father to an adopted daughter (personified Israel), Husband to Israel, Son (Messiah) to Mother Israel, and He Himself, child of Mother Israel.
With Ephesians 5:23 & 25-30 we have the Son of God (Jesus) being the husband to the church, yet another female personification. The Child has become the husband yet again.
The concept of the “Body of Christ” is not an original idea of Jesus (or Paul). In fact it is borrowed from Ezekiel and at least 600 years older.
This makes for a very good analogy as to what exactly God is to us, humanity. He plays the rolls of adopted father, teacher, betrayed husband, child, son, and again, husband.
1 This is an important note because it puts the emphasis on Christians to show non-Christians the truth and good examples of it. It is not enough to simple “tell people the gospel”. You must show it.
“First, you must learn that the entire law contained in the Pentateuch of Moses was not ordained by one legislator, I mean, not by god alone; some commandments are Moses’, and some were given by men. The words of the savior teach us this triple division. The first part must be attributed to god himself and his legislating, the second to Moses – not in the sense that god legislates through him, but in the sense that Moses gave some legislation under the influence of his own ideas – and the third to the elders of the people, who seem to have ordained some commandments of their own at the beginning. You will now learn how the truth of this theory is proved by the words of the savior.
“In some discussion with those who disputed with the savior about divorce, which was permitted in the law, he said, “Because of your hardheartedness Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife; from the beginning it was not so; for god made this marriage, and what the lord joined together man must not separate.” [Matthew 19:8, 6] In this way he shows that there is a law of god which prohibits the divorce of a wife from her husband, and another law, that of Moses, which permits the breaking of this yoke because of hardheartedness. In fact, Moses lays down legislation contrary to that of god…therefore it is indisputable that here the law of Moses is different from the law of god, even if we have demonstrated the fact from only one example.
“The savior also makes plain the fact that some traditions of the elders are interwoven with the law. “For god said”, he states, ‘“Honor you father and you mother, that it may be well with you.’ But you have declared,” he says, addressing the elders, “that what help you might have received from me is a gift to god; and you have nullified the law of god through the tradition of your elders.” “[Matthew 15:4-9]
The Gnostic Bible, Letter to Flora, pg. 302-303. This except is from Ptolemy, a disciple Valentinos, who apparently succeeded him after 160 AD. This letter was written sometime during the 3rd century.
This letter clearly states (as does Jesus Himself in Matthew 19:8) that Moses’ law (Mosaic Law), at least to some degree, was corrupted and contrary to God’s will. Could it actually be possible, as discussed in the previous chapter, that Moses was truly a nationalist? If he was willing to contradict God’s will and law (because of man’s hardheartedness) what is to say he didn’t go further? Is there any evidence of this? Could Moses (like so many rogue nations and terrorists today) have used God as his excuse and reason for invasion and genocide? (See throughout the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.)
This does not necessarily make Moses guilty, but it does however throw a shadow of doubt upon him. Couple this with Moses’ condemnation of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1) and then his commissioning of the Bronze Snake (Numbers 21:8-9) makes him out to seem like a hypocrite. Does or does not the 2nd Commandment say, “Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish” (Exodus 20:4). It is the bronze snake idol, Nehushta, [The Bronze Snake, Nehushtan, remained an idol to the Israelites up until King Hezekiah of Judah had it destroyed along with other religions’ altars and idols, nearly 800 years later. (See 2 Kings 18:4)], that is the damning evidence against Moses. If Moses had commissioned it then we could say that he was human, that he made a mistake. After all, isn’t that why we were given the Ten Commandments? Because we are prone to make mistakes? But Moses says that it was God who told him to do it. And what about his brother Aaron? What about the very origin of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood?
The verses from Isaiah 1:11-17 are an incredibly harsh statements which seem to completely undermine Moses’ teachings. It is important to note that this vision of the prophet Isaiah occurred during the reign of - amongst others – King Hezekiah, who broke Moses’ bronze snake Nehushtan.
“He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
2 Kings 18:4b (NIV)
This clearly states that the Israelites burnt incense to it (in worship) and that wasn’t its purpose or intent. It also states this was always done. This very strongly suggests that this was not a tradition that became corrupt, but was corrupt from its inception. However, even if we entertain the idea that Moses originally make the bronze snake for some other legitimate purpose and it became corrupt in time, we need to look at the second commandment:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
Exodus 20:4 (NIV)
The question hangs on the definition of “idol”. This verse does not mean that we cannot even make a statue of an animal or other creature. It states that we cannot make an idol of an animal or creature. I believe Moses’ bronze snake, Nehushtan was indeed an idol. The fact that he put it on a pole is disturbingly suggestive of the Asherah poles which were repeatedly torn down and destroyed in the Old Testament.
If we jump ahead of Moses’ time to that of Jesus Christ’s we know that worship and the Temple and the Pharisees was corrupt. But what was Jesus’ view on this?
”According to John Jesus went to Jerusalem five times and did so on feasts that attracted pilgrim: three Passovers (John 2:13, 23; 6:4, 11:25, 12:1), once for the feast of Tabernacles (7:2), and once for an un-named feast (5:1). This would seem to show great zeal for the Temple, but in reality it does not represent even a minimum. Every man – and to this day that means every male Jew from the completion of this thirteenth year – was bound to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem three time a year: at Passover, at the feast of Weeks, and at the feast of Tabernacles (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Deut. 16:16; “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God…They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed”) Jesus does not seem to have kept to this commandments: at all events his doing so is not mentioned in the Gospels…It is nowhere said that Jesus took part in these rites, and never that he took part in a Temple service of worship …Nor do we know what his attitude to the Passover was. Biblical experts argue over whether his last supper was a Passover meal or a simple farewell meal. The latter would seem to be probable.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 50-51.
It seems highly questionable whether Jesus actually practiced Jewish law and Jewish worship. Although most people will freely tell you that, yes, Jesus was Jewish, I’m not too sure that is as correct as it could be. It would most definitely be wrong to say that Jesus was not Jewish, but I think it would be much more accurate to say that Jesus was a Jewish heretic.
”Jesus’ threats of the imminent destruction of the Temple…When Jesus announces that he will rebuild the Temple in three days, this can only mean the absolute end of the Jerusalem Temple and of any earthly temple at all, and indeed not just of the Temple as a building but of it as it functioned in the way Jesus had experienced it … “not made with hands” (Mark 14:58): it was of another order of being.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 52.
This clearly shows that Jesus was against the Temple as a physical location and place of worship. God is to no longer “live on a building” but within the hearts of man.
”…driving the traders out of the Temple…the expulsion of those selling animals and the action against the money-changers. That can only have been directed against the Temple practice of sacrifice …If Jesus drives out those buying and selling animals and overturns the tables of the money-changers – all of which was necessary for the conduct of sacrifices – then he makes the whole traditional ritual of sacrifice impossible, he proclaims it to be over and done with …One should indeed bear in mind “that the Temple ritual was genuinely for Israel a heavenly gift through which God wished to save his people from the consequences of their sins and trespasses …When Jesus started driving the traders and buyers out of the Temple and when he overturned the tables of the money-changers and of the pigeon-sellers, than he was offending against the only thing that could secure the continued existence of the people of God.”
Herbert Haag, Upstairs Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, pg. 52.
This summons up Jesus’ views on animal sacrifice. He was against it. Old Testament scripture backs up this view as well:
"The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
So what part of Jewish law did He follow? These two facts seem to suggest that the whole idea of animal or blood sacrifices were wrong. God never wanted animal sacrifices. Isaiah’s message (prophesy) was to the Israelites who were not following God’s way. Yet previous Mosaic Law demands animal sacrifices. Once again we find these two seemingly different Gods: that of the Old Testament and that of the New. Was the concept of animal sacrifice a product of a old and corrupt (Mosaic) system?
There is evidence that the first Temple of Jerusalem was pagan and very likely polytheistic!
”When King Solomon built a Temple for Yahweh in Jerusalem, the city that his father, David, had captured from the Jebusites, it was similar to the temples of the Canaanite gods… Inside the Temple was a huge bronze basin, representing Yam, the primeval sea of Canaaite myth, and two forty-foot freestanding pillars, indicating the fertility cult of Asherah… The Temple soon became special, however, even though…there were some remarkably unorthodox activities there too. The Israelites began to see the Temple as a replica of Yahweh’s heavenly court. They had their own New Year Festival in the autumn, beginning with the scapegoat ceremony on the Day of Atonement, followed five days later by the harvest festival of the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the beginning of the agricultural year. It has been suggested that some of the psalms celebrated the enthronement of Yahweh in his Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles, which, like the enthronement of Marduk, re-enacted his primal subjugation of chaos.”
Karen Armstrong, A History of God, pg. 25
Add to this the facts that Solomon’s many wives were themselves active pagans and that Solomon was tolerant and friendly with pagans and their worship, would seem to very strongly suggest Temple worship (and other activities such as animal sacrifices) had veered off on a tangent.
It is obvious that Jesus did not agree with their practices, be they worship, the Temple, sacrifice, or definitely the priesthood (most especially the Pharisees). It needed to be corrected; it needed to be changed! And this point is clearly stated in Mark 2:22,
”And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins".
Is Jesus telling us that the time of God (the old wine) “living in the Temple” (the old wineskins) is over and now a “new” God (Himself) will live in the hearts of men (the new wineskin)? Or is He meaning something else? He is clearly saying that the old way (of the Temple, the priesthood, worship, and sacrifice) cannot continue.
When we collect these points I believe we can safely state that something was most definitely wrong with worship, the priesthood, and man’s (Israel’s) relationship with God. The question is, how far back does it go? When did this corruption begin? Judaism in Jesus’ time had strayed off course. Jewish worship, its priesthood, the idea and apparent need for sacrifice, and the central and predominant place of the Temple had become corrupt. All these rituals, laws, and traditions originate with Moses and the establishment of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood.
Did the origin of the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood and Moses begin correctly and “on track” and according to God’s will and plan, and at some later point become “de-railed” and corrupt? Or was it wrong and mistaken from it’s conception? This is the pivotal point! When we look back at Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora and Jesus’ discussion about divorce in Matthew 19:8, it becomes likely that this error and corruption was present from it’s conception.
The Order of Melchizedek
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
John 8: 39-41 (NIV)
Jesus says that if they were Abraham’s children, then they would do the things Abraham did. What did Abraham do? He did a lot of things. What is Jesus talking about?! Jesus then says, As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. If we answer the question, What did Abraham do, by reversing the second statement (making the negative into a positive) we find that what Abraham did was “Not be determined to kill me (Jesus?)”, or possibly “Show me (Jesus?) respect”, and “Listen to the truth he heard from God”. So from the Book of Genesis, when did Abraham meet and pay respect to Jesus and when did Abraham listen to the truth from God? Although Abraham never did meet or pay respect to Jesus he did meet and pay respect to the King of Jerusalem.
“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem [Jerusalem] brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator (or Possessor) of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”
Genesis 14:17-19 (NIV)
So what Abraham did, to answer the question, was to pay honor and respect to Melchizedek. I believe this is what Jesus was talking about in John 8:39-41, especially when he says ‘”I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”’ (John 8:58). But why was that so important and can this reasonably be transferred to Jesus? I also believe it most definitely can be because of the following verses:
”You [Jesus Christ] are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 110: 4b (NIV)
”This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace”. Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
Hebrews 7:1-3 (NIV)
Melchizedek is an extremely interesting biblical figure. He is probably the most enigmatic character in the Bible! Who was he? Who was he priest of?
The most interesting point I find with Melchizedek is that he significantly predates the Leviticus and Aaronic priesthood. Melchizedek was king (of Salem) and High Priest of the “God Most High”, but what did that mean? Moses, Aaron, the Aaronic priesthood, the Levi’s, Israel, none of them would exist for nearly another three and a half centuries! What was he High Priest of? What did it mean to be a priest? Who did he lead in worship? What did it mean to worship without any known Laws? From what little we know, (between the brief encounter and worship between Abraham and Melchizedek) there was no sacrifice performed or needed. Jesus Christ is “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”, yet Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi (and therefore could not be a Jewish priest). Combined with the apparent corruption of Moses and the origins of the Aaronic priesthood and Jesus’ disapproval of the Temple, worship, the priesthood, and sacrifice, His “office”, or ordination as “a priest forever” seems to have superseded the existing priesthood. So if the Aaronic priesthood had it wrong and was corrupted – or was at least incomplete - then the “order of Melchizedek” must have had it right, correct, and fulfilled.
There is, again, a similarity between Melchizedek and Jesus. Melchizedek makes the first reference to God as “God Most High”, rather than the standard “God Almighty”, “Lord Almighty”, or the “Lord God”. Jesus also repeats this habit. God is called or referred to as King or Lord throughout the Old Testament but Jesus repeatedly calls God the Father, or His Father. Here we have Melchizedek and Jesus both calling God a title not commonly used.
”The concept of God as father is central to the life and teaching of Jesus as presented in the gospels … However, “father” is much less common in the Hebrew Bible than other descriptions and title of God, whereas Jesus employs “Father” almost without exception….Conversely, although “king” is a frequent title for God in the Judaism of the time – and despite the fact that the kingdom of God is another constant theme of Jesus’ teaching – only once does Jesus refer to God as king (Matt. 5:35), and even this instance is questionable. There can be little doubt, then, that the notion of God as father is an authentic element of Jesus’ thought.”
J. R. Porter, The New Illustrated Companion to the Bible, 2003, pg. 276
Another odd fact with Melchizedek is that he gave Abraham bread and wine (thus, according to some Christian scholars, prefiguring the Eucharist) and in return received a tithe of Abraham’s booty (which he was not obligated to give). This in itself isn’t so peculiar, but it’s only in conjunction with Leviticus 10:8-9 that it truly takes on its odd nature. Leviticus 10:8-9 says that you must never drink wine (or alcohol) before going into the Tabernacle. If you do you will die. Now Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek was before God’s covenant with Moses (and even predates Mosaic Law). So why would this “law” be given in the book of Leviticus? It could be taken to appear that Moses’ “God” did not want people to drink or partake of the wine. This is consistent with Genesis 3:22
”And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
The Lord God did not want man (Adam) to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. If the fruit of the Tree of Life is Jesus Christ, and if the sharing of the bread and wine between Melchizedek and Abraham was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist and if the Lord God gave Moses the law not to drink wine before the Tabernacle…what does this all mean?
Could Melchizedek, High Priest of the “God Most High”, and also Jesus, “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”, be not only of another order, but also of another god? The true god? The True Father? What significance does this title “God Most High” hold?
“Abram gave a tenth to this priest-king [Melchizedek], not the other way around… This was Abram’s response to Melchizedek’s offer of bread and wine and the blessing which Melchizedek had offered – a blessing which normally comes from the greater person to the lesser. Strangely enough, as the author of Hebrews points out (Hebrews 7:10), in this sense Levi paid tithes and recognized a priesthood which would supersede his own line even before he was born, because “Levi was still in the body of his ancestor” when Abram offered the tithes to Melchizedek.”
from Hard Sayings of the Bible, © 1996, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarcity Press.
“Melchizedek was priest of the Most High God; and consequently not of one people or nation, but of the universe. Aaron was priest of one people…Jesus is priest of all mankind.”
“Christ, being the priest of the Most High God, must also be the priest for and over all whom this most high God made and governs… the whole human race.”
from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Biblesoft
Could Jesus be stating that the world couldn’t see or recognize the Father? This would suggest that the Father, or Jesus’ Father, is a previously unknown or incorrectly understood God.
”If you really know me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:7 (NIV)
”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
John 14: 9-10 (NIV)
”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
John 14: 16-17 (NIV)
If Melchizedek and Jesus are priests of the Most High God and the Most High God is god of all people, and if Aaron (and the Levitical priesthood) are priests of only one people (the Israelites), then God was “working” outside the Israelites as well – outside of, or beside, the Old Testament. Melchizedek was a Canaaite and Gentile, and most definitely not an Israelite.
“…out of the grossly pagan world of the Canaaites emerges not only one who shares beliefs and worship in the same God as the Semitic Abram but one who pronounces the blessings on the patriarch who God had already blessed… This situation is very similar to that of Jethro in Exodus 18. He too was a priest who worshipped the same God Moses did, yet he too was a Gentile Medianite (Exodus 2:16, 3:1 and 18:12). Evidently God was also calling out a people for his own name from among the Gentiles even though the text rarely pauses in its pursuit of the promise-plan of God through the Hebrew people to reflect on this phenomenon.”
from Hard Sayings of the Bible, © 1996, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarcity Press.
The Jew’s God, Yahweh, is most definitely a part of Judaism, as shown in the first umbrella. Yahweh is under the influence or “authority” of Judaism. However, Judaism must be a part of the “Most High God”, since the “Most High God” is the God of all people. It is Melchizedek and Jesus which are priests not of the Jewish Yahweh, but of the “Most High God”. If the “Most High God” is the God of all people, then by definition, all of Christianity, Judaism, the Gentiles, and all people are His people. The question must be asked, what is His Way and how far off are we?
They wrote and spoke of the truth, they attempted to portray the truth (through their own biases), but the only absolute truth lies in the mysterious Order of Melchizedek (which we know so little) and in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ (not necessarily in their interpretations!) He is an absolute reflection of the Father.
What we find is an evolutionary family tree of Christianity
What is this next stage?
How do we find out what this is?
This is what I want to be a part of; a truly catholic Christianity,
a truly universal Christianity.