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Author Topic:   Continuing the Endless Discussion between GDR and traditional Protestantism
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 5 of 103 (874542)
04-05-2020 3:34 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by Faith
04-05-2020 2:51 AM


Re: Your God is Too Simple and A Wimp Besides
I would have preferred this in “Faith and Belief” or “Bible Study” as I think that would narrow the whole thing down. Maybe you could move it there Phat.

Faith writes:

Your God is Too Simple and a Wimp Besides

Interesting. I suppose Jesus was a wimp when He went to the cross. I suppose He was a wimp when He stood up against every power group in His culture with His message of love, forgiveness and peace.

I suggest that a deity that would sacrifice his follower in order to get revenge on those that don't follow him, while he remains safe and sound, would be a wimp.

There are IMHO several problems with your scriptural understandings. You seem to draw a line between what is done by individuals and what is done by nations. I would simply point out that the nations are made up of individuals. When it was commanded supposedly by Yahweh that all men, women, children and all living things be killed it would be done by individuals.

The Bible is a narrative of individual stories strung together as the Israelites worked out God’s nature, what He was doing and how this was to impact their lives. The whole narrative is a progressive understanding of God in the people of Israel that comes to climax or a fulfillment in the Jesus of the Gospels.

The Israel story grew out of a world that was very war like, xenophobic and did not hold the value in human life in very high regard. The Israelis represented a smaller tribe that was continually battling for survival, and their whole idea of god was that their god would be stronger than the gods of their neighbours and that this god would lead them in battle in defeating their enemies. Gradually they became monotheistic but were still looking for a god that would give them victory. We can even see in the NT that this is what the disciples essentially expected Jesus to do.

However we can see through the entire sweep of Jesus’ life and teaching that He was making it clear that He was editing and revising the OT Scriptures in a way that gave a different way of thinking about God. I would add though, that in doing that He did comb through the Hebrew texts to draw out the loving merciful God that He embodied.

There aren’t only discrepancies between the OT and the NT. Let’s look at the OT. This quote is from 2 Kings 9:

quote:
5 When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. “I have a message for you, commander,” he said. “For which of us?” asked Jehu. “For you, commander,” he replied. 6 Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’s people Israel. 7 You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD’s servants shed by Jezebel. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’ ” Then he opened the door and ran.

OK, so here we see Jehu being commanded by Yahweh to destroy the house of Ahab in Jezreel.
Later in chapter 10 we are told that Jehu faithfully carried out what he was told that Yahweh had commanded.
quote:
11 So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor.

So Jehu has followed God’s command and slaughtered everyone in the house of Ahab so God is pleased with him, and Jehu is made king. But wait. When we go to the book of Hosea chap 4.
quote:
4 Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”

So which is it? The OT claims that Jehu was told by God to slaughter all of the house of Ahab but then later by a different prophet we are told by God that Jehu will be punished for doing what he was supposedly told to do.
Let’s look at another example, starting in 2 Samuel 24.
quote:
1 Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” 2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”

Interestingly enough, later in the same chapter after obeying the word of the Lord, David is having trouble with his conscience.
quote:
9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand. 10 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

It then gets even more complicated when we see later, still in 2 Samuel 24 that David repents from what the Lord told him to do and then the whole thing becomes totally inexplicable. God supposedly gives David 3 choices including 2 which would punish the people of Israel and 1 that would punish David. David chooses not to accept the punishment himself but agrees that God take it out on the people of Israel.
quote:
11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’ ” 13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” 14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 15 So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

We the can now go back to what I said earlier that this was a progressive understanding of the nature and intent of Yahweh. The Hebrews were becoming more aware of this dark side of their understanding of Yahweh. They then came with a different take on things and started to transfer the blame away from Yahweh, and on to satan. They had begun to understand that Yahweh was not this angry, vindictive and war like deity that they had perceived Him to be.
This is from 1 Chronicles 21.
quote:
1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”

What was in 2 Samuel an order from God is now in 1 Chronicles attributed to Satan. Their understanding of God was evolving and will continue to evolve through the Scriptures, as in the suffering servant in Isaiah, and through the latter prophets. As I said earlier, we can then see the fulfillment of all of that in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is all in the Bible.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 2:51 AM Faith has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 7 of 103 (874547)
04-05-2020 5:27 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Faith
04-05-2020 4:33 PM


Re: Just the same old Do-Si-Do between God's Love and human "love."
Faith writes:

You are just going to go on in this same vein, judging God by your little human feelings and thinking those superior to Him. But I guess I'll come back later and go through the futile theological dance yet another time.

I'm not though Faith. My whole post was that I am judging the belief in an inerrant Bible by the words of the Bible. I am not judging God at all.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 4:33 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 5:37 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 9 of 103 (874551)
04-05-2020 6:08 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Faith
04-05-2020 5:37 PM


Re: Just the same old Do-Si-Do between God's Love and human "love."
If it so clear then you have yet to tell me how you rationalize any of the clearly contradicting parts between the NT and the OT as well as within the OT itself.

I'd suggest that in understanding Scripture the way you do you are clearly judging Jesus and have found Him wanting.

Edited by GDR, : typo


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 5:37 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 6:50 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 11 of 103 (874553)
04-05-2020 8:37 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Faith
04-05-2020 6:50 PM


Re: Just the same old Do-Si-Do between God's Love and human "love."
I wasn't asking you to prove it. I'm just asking how you personally are able to rationalize the contradictions in the different Biblical accounts.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 6:50 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 8:47 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 13 of 103 (874556)
04-06-2020 1:41 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by Faith
04-05-2020 8:47 PM


Re: Just the same old Do-Si-Do between God's Love and human "love."
Faith writes:

There aren't any contradictions, GDR, a point I made already in the previous posts not to mention hundreds of others elsewhere..

..and that is what you have always done. When shown obvious contradictions you simply say that they aren't without explaining how they aren't.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Faith, posted 04-05-2020 8:47 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by PaulK, posted 04-06-2020 1:56 AM GDR has not yet responded
 Message 15 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 9:29 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 16 of 103 (874577)
04-06-2020 11:22 AM
Reply to: Message 15 by Faith
04-06-2020 9:29 AM


Biblical Contradictions
Faith writes:

The God of both Old and New Testaments is the same God with different emphases and missions for the context.

I agree with that. It is simply that there is a gradual but progressive understanding of the nature of that one God within the OT up to the time of Jesus. I was pointing out contradictions within the OT itself as well.

Faith writes:

He is the same God, not the one you have invented.

It isn't a case of inventing God, it is a case of our understanding God. We worship the same God but don't agree completely about His nature. I read some of your discussions about Donald Trump. You think that he is a wonderful president and others think his is metaphorically the devil incarnate. However, you all agree that he is president.

Faith writes:

We've been here before and I'm sorry I'm so impatient but after years of arguing this I'm tired. If I get a second wind I'll come back to it and that sometimes happens. For now I'm sorry. I'm a believer in Biblical inerrancy and it serves me very very well.

I have to say this Faith. I realize that you have to simply deny the inconsistencies and in a lot of ways I'm ok with that. I have been in numerous churches, (I've moved around a fair bit), where most of the congregation would believe somewhat along the same lines that you do. Most of them just accept it and don't think much about. In your case you have spent time thinking about it which is a good thing.
Also, the vast majority of the people in those more fundamentalist communities are really good people, getting by day to day and loving their neighbours. The message in the Bible is about having hearts that love sacrificially and the theology of it all is definitely secondary. (I just happen to find it interesting.)

I'm sure that Biblical inerrancy is working well for you and that is a good thing. I would just add a note though that do remember it is Christianity and and not Bibleinanity. We worship a deity whose nature we can see embodied in the man Jesus not embodied in a book.

Faith writes:

The God whose judgments you despise and therefore whose mercy of the Cross you also must despise though you fail to see this point. Again, I'm sorry.

I despise what mankind has often done and one of those things is what mankind did to Jesus. I love what God did in resurrecting Him. Happy Easter.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 9:29 AM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 11:42 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


(1)
Message 19 of 103 (874587)
04-06-2020 1:09 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Faith
04-06-2020 11:42 AM


Re: Biblical Contradictions
Faith writes:

No you don't. You can only agree with it now by leaving out the whole discussion about how the God who decreed horrific slaughters as punishment of wicked tribes in the OT is not God.

No I'm saying that the writers of those books attributed to God what came out of their own evil intentions and justified it by saying that God told them to do it.

There is only one God. You contend that He is capable of committing and ordering genocide and public stoning and I disagree., or are you saying that there is more than one god and that we worship opposing gods.

Faith writes:

Again you are using a term in a different sense than traditional theology uses it. Yes there is a progressive revelation of the nature of God throughout the Bible, but what you actually mean by that is not a mere accumulation of depth to the portrait of God but a kind of "progression" that actually overturns earlier revelation, and that is not the same progressive revelation the traditional Church has in mind.

I fail to see how the idea of god ordering genocide is a revelation.

One of the problems is that you treat the Bible as one book. It is a collection of 66 books and even then sometimes one book such as Isaiah has more than one author. One problem in doing that is that when someone finds something in the Bible that contradicts something else they they just might reject the whole thing. Just because someone attributed genocide to God when it really came from very human evil does not have any connection with the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus for example.

Faith writes:

I still intended to answer the rest of your original post. TGhere are no contradictions in the OT except those you imagine either because you impute different meanings to the words or simply reject parts of the Bible.

Standing by.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 11:42 AM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 20 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 1:24 PM GDR has not yet responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 29 of 103 (874611)
04-06-2020 8:31 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Faith
04-06-2020 7:30 PM


Re: Why Picking Up Sticks on the Sabbath is Such a Terrible Sin Redux
Let's for the sake of argument assume that you are right and that picking up firewood on the Sabbath is punishable by death. The Bible says that God not only commanded death but death by stoning.

Why stoning? Why not at least order death by something that wasn't slow and tortuous on many levels? They no doubt had ways of killing people quickly if not instantly. Why would God choose that he be executed in a slow, painful and humiliating way.

Also why involve the whole community in the execution.? It would certainly harden their hearts if that is the goal.

This is very similar in the thinking the Romans used when it came to execution by crucifixion. Make it tortuous, public and humiliating.

Understanding the Scriptures the way you do puts God on the same level as the Romans. Frankly that sounds a whole lot more blasphemous than picking up firewood on the sabbath.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 27 by Faith, posted 04-06-2020 7:30 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 1:09 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 31 of 103 (874620)
04-07-2020 1:59 AM
Reply to: Message 30 by Faith
04-07-2020 1:09 AM


Re: Why Stoning, why the Horror of the Cross?
Faith writes:

Instead of hardening their hearts it should have put the fear of God into them, that was its point.

By this can I infer that you are a Christian because you're afraid of what God will do to you otherwise.

Faith writes:

God's reason was to punish Jesus for OUR sins, remember, since He had no sin of His own, and our sins deserve such a death.

That is a terrible perversion of Christianity. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us the son. Your version would be that God so hated the world that He killed the Son.

People killed Jesus. God resurrected Him.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 1:09 AM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 2:32 AM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 36 of 103 (874645)
04-07-2020 10:52 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by Faith
04-07-2020 2:32 AM


Re: Why Stoning, why the Horror of the Cross?
Faith writes:

My view is the traditional Christian view,

Actually Faith yours isn't the traditional view. Your view is a view that primarily grew out of the reformation and has been largely centred in the US.

Faith writes:

Shall we leave it there? Please?


OK. I will just add that Jesus' call is a call on our lives. It is a call to a vocation of spreading God's love into the world, regardless of our theology. It is important that we don't let our theology interfere with our carrying out that vocation.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 2:32 AM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 37 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 5:19 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 38 of 103 (874661)
04-07-2020 5:48 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by Faith
04-07-2020 5:19 PM


Re: Why Stoning, why the Horror of the Cross?
Read Augustine and Origen and others. You have a revisionist view of history.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 5:19 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 39 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 5:53 PM GDR has not yet responded
 Message 40 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 7:31 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 41 of 103 (874668)
04-07-2020 7:56 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by Faith
04-07-2020 7:31 PM


Re: Why Stoning, why the Horror of the Cross?
I though that we had ended this at your request.

Faith writes:

Let's be clear, GDR, all the Reformation rpinciples are in the Bible, spelled out in particular by Paul but also in the book of Hebrews. Your weird theology is the deviation, the perversion, not mine.

Certainly the reformation ended many of the excesses of the church and primarily indulgences. However the reformers did emphasize the importance the Scriptures, as a gift from God, but they did not endorse inerrancy.

Reformation and Inerrancy

Also I noticed that you screened out the Gospels. That is what you do when it is the Bible being worshipped instead of Jesus.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 7:31 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 42 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 8:09 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 43 of 103 (874705)
04-08-2020 11:58 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by Faith
04-07-2020 8:09 PM


Faith writes:

Three of the gospels state that He came to serve not to be served

Jesus is saying that He came to serve the one He called Father. That is what we are called to do. How did Jesus do that. By loving and serving others. That is what we are called to do.
Faith writes:

ohn 3:16 is a way of saying that whoever believes on Jesus will be saved, period, no other condition implied.

The trouble is that you misconstrue what it means to believe. You have been in a number of discussions about Donald Trump. You believe in him. When you say that you are saying that you believe in him and what he is doing.. You support him and might even campaign to get him re-elected. Others don't believe in him or in what he is doing. However, nobody is disputing the fact that he is president. You believe or don't believe in what he stands for.

Jesus also said to follow Him. If we are to follow Him, it again isn't about believing that He has good ideas, but it means actively living out our lives in the way of service, love, peace and forgiveness that He calls us to. We aren't called to that so that we simply get rewarded in the next life. We are called to that as God does love and care for us and all of His creation, and He wants us to actively care for it as service to Him.

All humanity is called to "believe" in what Jesus stands for which is simply spelled out in my signature, or as Jesus says in Matthew 7:12 "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."

Faith writes:

The very word "gospel" means "good news" and your idea of the gospel is far from good news, but the principle that Jesus came to save us and that nothing in our salvation is up to us, fallible wretches that we are, THAT is good news.

It is very good news. God through the man Jesus established a "Kingdom" with Jesus as King, made up of people to serve that King by serving His creation in preparation for the time when He renews this world and His heavenly dimension and our earthly dimension becomes one.

I don't pretend to know how that all plays out, what it will look like or how my life plays into it. No doubt all that represents some ultimate purpose in the heart and mind of God expressed in ways that we can vaguely comprehend. It is all about the faith that we are created beings and that we are here for a purpose and in the life, message, death and resurrection of Jesus we have been given a glimpse into that purpose.

So by faith we are called to serve that purpose and we are to have faith that ultimately God will look after all mankind with perfect love and perfect justice. I'm not about to tell him or you what that looks like. I simply trust Him


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 42 by Faith, posted 04-07-2020 8:09 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 44 by Faith, posted 04-08-2020 2:43 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 46 of 103 (874738)
04-08-2020 4:53 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Faith
04-08-2020 2:43 PM


Light and Darkness
Hi Faith
Just a comment about John 3:16. Read a little further so that we are taking it in context. Here is John 3 19-21
quote:
19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear * that his deeds will be exposed. 21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

So we can see that believing is about believing in, and living out, lives as Jesus showed us. It isn’t about having the right doctrine. It is about living out Jesus’ call on our lives without reference to doctrine or theology. It is a call to vocation to serve a God, who showed us on the cross and with the resurrection, that the ultimate evil, namely death, does not have the last word.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Faith, posted 04-08-2020 2:43 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 47 by Faith, posted 04-08-2020 7:52 PM GDR has responded

  
GDR
Member (Idle past 249 days)
Posts: 5409
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005


Message 48 of 103 (874746)
04-08-2020 8:19 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Faith
04-08-2020 7:52 PM


Let's put the rapture to bed
Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later.

The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre[1]. Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal “rapture” in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been “left behind.” This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.

This dramatic end-time scenario is based (wrongly, as we shall see) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first; then we, who are left alive, will be snatched up with them on clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

What on earth (or in heaven) did Paul mean?

It is Paul who should be credited with creating this scenario. Jesus himself, as I have argued in various books, never predicted such an event[2]. The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth. The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth. This, Jesus seemed to believe, was an event within space-time history, not one that would end it forever.

The Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming are nevertheless vital Christian doctrines[3], and I don’t deny that I believe some future event will result in the personal presence of Jesus within God’s new creation. This is taught throughout the New Testament outside the Gospels. But this event won’t in any way resemble the Left Behind account. Understanding what will happen requires a far more sophisticated cosmology than the one in which “heaven” is somewhere up there in our universe, rather than in a different dimension, a different space-time, altogether.

The New Testament, building on ancient biblical prophecy, envisages that the creator God will remake heaven and earth entirely, affirming the goodness of the old Creation but overcoming its mortality and corruptibility (e.g., Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). When that happens, Jesus will appear within the resulting new world (e.g., Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2).

Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless. This is all that Paul intends to say in Thessalonians, but here he borrows imagery—from biblical and political sources—to enhance his message. Little did he know how his rich metaphors would be misunderstood two millennia later.

First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah. The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence.

Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory. This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution.

Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province. The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city. Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.

Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.

Paul’s misunderstood metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort it? And how can we do so, as he did, in such a way as to subvert the political imagery of the dominant and dehumanizing empires of our world? We might begin by asking, What view of the world is sustained, even legitimized, by the Left Behind ideology? How might it be confronted and subverted by genuinely biblical thinking? For a start, is not the Left Behind mentality in thrall to a dualistic view of reality that allows people to pollute God’s world on the grounds that it’s all going to be destroyed soon? Wouldn’t this be overturned if we recaptured Paul’s wholistic vision of God’s whole creation?

NT Wright


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Faith, posted 04-08-2020 7:52 PM Faith has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 49 by Faith, posted 04-08-2020 10:39 PM GDR has not yet responded
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 Message 51 by Faith, posted 04-09-2020 12:46 AM GDR has responded

  
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