Monthly Archives: December 2016

Oh, Paul …

​Funny, but Paul created believers back in the day by telling them that Jesus was coming again, imminently, and the only way to escape God’s wrath was to trust in Jesus to save you from it.

Now for all of you “atonement is clearly spelled out in scripture” types, you may want to read 1 Thessalonians because Paul apparently forgot to tell these new Gentile converts that, “Oh, by the way, don’t mourn your dead; there’s also the eternal life rider thing in play. It’s all good!” The point of that letter was to inform them of that very new idea no one had ever let them in on.

Want to take a guess why the rider is what many Christians think Christianity is all about, some 2,000 years after Jesus’ death? Unless you have a very patient sense of what “imminent” means — completely unlike what Paul and those of the church at Thessaloniki had — then you too don’t put much stock in that motivation. 

Funnier still is the fact that the idea of eternal life and damnation has passed its zenith too, and Jesus of Nazareth is going to have to repackage itself once more, or fade away as irrelevant. My thought about Paul and this sort of coercive ploy is that the whole schema is antichrist. That may be why fear is the only selling point of that theology. None of it is good news, certainly. The good news bit is what’s relevant! Paul got the wrong memo.

Thank God God is far bigger than Christianity, and so is Jesus the Nazarene!

“Howbeit, Paul succeeded in stealing the image of Christ crucified for the figurehead of his Salvationist vessel, with its Adam posing as the natural man, its doctrine of original sin, and its damnation avoidable only by faith in the sacrifice of the cross. In fact, no sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus.

He is no more a Christian than Jesus was a Baptist; he is a disciple of Jesus only as Jesus was a disciple of John. He does nothing that Jesus would have done, and says nothing that Jesus would have said, though much, like the famous ode to charity, that he would have admired. He is more Jewish than the Jews, more Roman than the Romans, proud both ways, full of startling confessions and self-revelations that would not surprise us if they were slipped into the pages of Nietzsche, tormented by an intellectual conscience that demanded an argued case even at the cost of sophistry, with all sorts of fine qualities and occasional illuminations, but always hopelessly in the toils of Sin, Death, and Logic, which had no power over Jesus. As we have seen, it was by introducing this bondage and terror of his into the Christian doctrine that he adapted it to the Church and State systems which Jesus transcended, and made it practicable by destroying the specifically Jesuist side of it. He would have been quite in his place in any modern Protestant State; and he, not Jesus, is the true head and founder of our Reformed Church, as Peter is of the Roman Church. The followers of Paul and Peter made Christendom, whilst the Nazarenes were wiped out.”

George Bernard Shaw, Preface; Androcles And The Lion, 1912

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Of Violence And Love …

​Read the Bible chronologically.

What you’ll find is a God who is obsessed with violence initially and who changes over time with respect to violence until finally, God is killed by violence.

If you cannot at that point see that God never changed at all and that Jesus is the proof of it, then you will likely never see God except for our own changing conceptions that were only meant to get you to change your mind about God so that you could actually encounter Him in the first place.

Just a thought.

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And The Bible Dwelt Among Us?

Paul has issues with Peter and James on Torah and Christianity. Paul’s triumph is in demanding that it isn’t in abiding by the Law that brought the spirit of Christ within them (particularly in Galatians) but by faithfulness to Christ and the belief that God is just like Jesus. This is what Paul means by “works of the Law” and “faith”.

By extension of scriptures Paul uses to make his points, he calls Peter and James “oppressors” on the level of antichrist. He relies on the notion that scripture is NOT the word of God; because the Torah IS scripture and NOT efficacious for salvation. What IS sufficient is “faith alone”, which has NO resemblance to Protestant interpretation which has run brazenly across the marble floors of Christian Theology roughshod since Martin Luther.

“Faith Alone”, to Paul, is being justified because of the faithfulness of Christ (“Pistis Christou”), understood best by the Christian because of the Christian’s understanding of Christ at work in himself.

Given over to the very agreeable idea of the flexibility in understanding the Torah and a Jew’s obligations under various interpretations (ie. Rabbi Meir, Torah is interpretation) — for instance, constant redaction and updating for relevance, Midrash for likewise interpreting for relevance, and so on — Paul concludes the Torah is not only irrelevant to anything Christ was concerned about, but that the Logos of God is found entirely outside of any book.

All of my life I had heard about a dichotomy of faith and works. It is a false dichotomy and those preaching it are actually in the prototype of those who cannot recognize what Logos is and then turn “words” into an idol; be that the Bible or the Law. I’m glad my natural objections, deep seated moral ones, lead me and continues to lead me to study. There isn’t one interpretation of anything under the sun and to idolize the Bible or the Torah is to demand that there is; and of course the “correct” interpretation will be the one of the idolater, without fail.

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Change Your Mind

​If you truly want to attempt understanding atonement, it cannot be done through understanding sin. Sin will be understood in the course of, but not through anything else but by the understanding of humanity and its draw to the good and the numinous. Sin merely becomes anything which separates us from that state of being in the world, from those experiences, and explains Paul’s suggestion that all things are permissable. This all ensures that there’s nothing inherently sinful in any act a person could perform, but that sin lay in the desires of man and how he’ll seek to achieve them and why. 

By implication then, and because scripture itself reassures us, God has never changed his mind about humanity, and that God is not reconciled to man but rather man is reconciled to God. If that’s the case, the death of Christ can only be a phenomenon where man’s mind is changed about God (Duns Scotus) and that God’s being “satisfied” (propitiation) is merely that this means of changing minds is the only way, or the best way at least, to accomplish it.

One must question the entire substitutionary formula in total, while noting how discontinuous it is with all other theories we have.

Just a thought.

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Lawd Have Mercy!

​”Divine providence delivered Israel from its former abuse through the blood of those godly people. Their deaths were a sacrifice that finds mercy [propitiation] from God.”

4 Maccabees 17:22

Considering the use of “ha-kappōret” and “hilasterion” in Paul’s writings and in Hebrews coupled with the Jewish ideas these must necessarily be extending, we see a symbolic language rather than a formula for “getting saved”. We are told by Paul and John that we’ve all sinned. We are never told why Jesus’ sacrifice was (or even that it was) necessary. We are never told in what way his death relates to our pronouncement of being justified.

In 4 Maccabees 17, we find a description of these sorts of questions along with answers, both being thematic in the narrative; interesting too that here, the tyrant Antiochus doesn’t represent God but rather that even an asshole is moved by commitment and sacrifice, and so much more must God be.

Just a thought.

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To Believe Or Not To Believe; That Is Not The Question

​Once you study Psychology and Philosophy and come to realize the impossibility of choosing what to believe, you immediately have to rethink all the terms of at least American Evangelicalism.

That’s because God is an idea that either dawns on you as being the case, or not. There is no choosing. We cannot believe something is false while thinking it true, or vice versa. Something must seem to genuinely be the case before we will believe that it is.

So, Paul and John cannot mean that our epistemic beliefs about religious propositions are what matter to God or salvation. The Calvinist may be able to assert that, yes, we have nothing to do with anything; it is all God. But then that destroys the call to evangelize, castrates the claim that you must choose to believe (or even that it matters whether or not what is believed is “correct”), or die in Hell, but at least he’d be consistent.

In any case, if salvation doesn’t hang at all on epistemic belief, then the question is there, begging to be answered by study.

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On Paul …

​In many ways, Paul is more important than Jesus. Folks follow what Paul said over Jesus, over Peter, over James. No Christian today aside from perhaps Messianic Jews, follow Jewish rules of conduct. The Christian will fire back that Jesus did away with the law … and make my point! They articulate Paul (even though Paul himself is being greatly misconstrued)! Jesus, on the other hand, doubled down on his Jewishness in saying that not only will all the laws be kept, down to the last jot, even thinking about lust is adulterous, or getting angry is equal to murder, that divorce is forbidden, that faith is doing, not believing, and so on.

So for many Christians this year, the Savior was born around 5 BCE into a well-to-do family of tent makers in Turkey, a citizen of Rome and a zealot no matter on which side of Christianity he stood.

That is to say that the only Christ we know is from the books of the New Testament, written by completely unknown authors except in seven instances where we’re pretty sure of what Paul wrote … And that the Savior Paul creates is not at all the Christ of any Gospel.

So in celebrating the birth of the Savior, we can only rightly admit we’re celebrating conceptions of what that means. The Savior is then indistinguishable from its author, and Paul is easily more responsible for the existence of Christianity than Jesus himself or his disciples.

Just a thought.

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Cover Girl

​”For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Hosea 6:6

By the time we get to Hosea, we have the prototypical Christ and humanity; Hosea and Gomer. If we view the whole of scripture as a Historian would view music or art, we should expect a seed of an idea, not well defined, grow to have elements which typify the idea, and then we should see that idea have those noting elements brought into high relief. This is generally prototypical, typical, and exaggeration. In Hosea, we find an unfailing love just as in the parable of the Prodigal. Carried into an ethic, since God so loves us, we should too; as a famous Rabbi once summed up as the whole Torah while on one leg.

In fact, we see this exactly, from Mark through the other three Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. In Christianity as well, from a hoard of diverse ideas about Jesus until its typical nature begins to solidify as Irenaeus writes “Against Heresies” and his canonical work begins in response to those like Marcion.

To skip ahead nearly 2,000 years, Christianity is at the end of its exaggerated period. For all but a few oddly situated souls, as interpreted popularly, Christianity is irrelevant to more and more people today. Worse, the popular variety which is the exact thing meant in using the word “exaggerated​” is seen as abhorrent morally, intellectually, and culturally.

What has begun in prototypical fashion in theologies such as Open Theism, Emergent and Progressive theologies is revisiting the origins and meanings of that first spark of an idea, taking us from Job, Micha, Isaiah, and Hosea and re-asking the question again: Who is Jesus, to me, to us, just as Jesus asked his disciples long ago, each having their own answers from their own expectations, their own particular troubles.

It seems that the pad answers to tough questions, often amounting to nothing but empty “deepities”, are taken as being dishonest, as they should, and the dominant, rampant theologies repulsively illogical and clearly immoral to any objective, disinterested interlocutor.

What is emerging is a Jesus of social justice and praxis rather than the figurehead of lofty ideas which purport to change lives, but often deliver the truth of it in scathing peoples out to commit everyone to Hell for their own slice of Heaven; neighbors be damned.

I say fair well, let the dust of time cover your blemishes.

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A Reiteration

​In plain English, Mary worked with God, allowing Him to work through her, and Jesus was born.

In the original Jewish symbolism, Sophia is participation with the good, which is God, and Logos is the result; the truth of our humanity and God’s will toward us.

Except that a person not follow his conscience, there is no unforgivable sin; and no person who ever lived has chosen what to believe, for no one can believe something they don’t think is the case, and the reasons for determining what is true are not up to the individual; unless one merely finds truth individually relative.

Some Historians doubt Jesus ever existed. Most Theologians and New Testament scholars doubt Jesus was born in a manger or in Bethlehem, for that matter. But, do we really need to concern ourselves with any of that? For sure, if we open ourselves to the goodness in the world and participate in it, Christ is both born and risen in you!

That goodness in the world is the active presence of God; grace. That draw to it is faith (pursuation toward). Because we are icons of God, it is “grace” through “faith” that is salvation. Atonement is the experience of participation in the good. The transformation from those experiences is “sacramental theosis”; becoming more like God by being living sacraments; visible signs of God in the world.

This language and these descriptions are how a Christian might describe things but there’s no need to think of any of this as a necessary way to think or talk about humanity or the divine.

In your life, if you are committed to the very Humanistic theology of the meaning of the Christmas birth narrative, “belief” as such is meaningless. However you’d like to see yourself, you would also be Christian in the only sense that could matter.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Micha 6:8
1 John 4
Luke 9:50

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A Word To The Wise

​Proverbs 8, as well as the numerous other places in scripture that refer to Sophia (Wisdom), clearly illustrates three things. First is that Sophia is feminine. The second is that Sophia is more often than not, interchangeable with Memra/Logos. Third is that Memra/Logos is masculine. Verses 22-30 are for example, plainly claiming the role of Sophia in creation instead of Logos, or, that Logos and Sophia are essentially twins, or that Sophia is Logos.

What’s not so clear is whether we should take both as Midrash (Jewish storytelling method) and be unconcerned, or expect a second Christ, sister to Jesus, or figuratively think that Christ was hermaphroditic, as it were.

Actually, I find it clearly Midrash and the idea that Christ is Logos just as narratively obvious as literary personification hits any literate reader when she reads Psalms 8:1-21.

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