Tuesday, August 17, 2010

346: Colossians

Colossians 1-4
"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints..." - Colossians 1:3-4

This one should be pretty short. Paul is again writing a letter to a group that already agrees with everything he's saying. Not only is this already boring, but it's completely devoid of new content.

In the first chapter, Paul again reiterates that - post-Jesus - God doesn't really care about your "bad behavior" because Jesus has forgiven us. While God may have moved a bit closer to all-loving, he's certainly drifted away from all-just.

At the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter 2, Paul reiterates how much he's suffered for the church.

Chapter 2 goes on to say that we should not rely on philosophies that depend on the "basic principles of this world". I guess what he could say here is "don't rely on philosophies that are based on evidence". Paul prefers the "Paul is right, everyone else is wrong" philosophy.

Paul again says that we can eat whatever we want and do whatever we want on the sabbath. This is again because we are not bound by Old Testament law. As Paul has done in his other letters, he immediately contradicts himself by telling us a bunch of Old Testament laws that we do need to follow. Namely, don't be sexually immoral, angry, slanderous, etc. Did Paul just make this stuff up? Why do we need to follow these laws but not the others. Especially since we have all already received salvation.

Chapter 3 ends with the same terrible rules for a "Christian household". Including keeping your wife, kids, and slaves in submission at all times.

Chapter 4 is the standard closing chapter for these letters. Paul tells the people to keep praying for him and to stay faithful, and sends his greetings to random people we've never heard of. He ends with "Remember my chains. Grace be with you." Unfortunately, in this letter, he forgot to actually talk about his chains. I guess they're supposed to remember something they've never heard about.

We haven't had a good (read: bad) Billy Graham letter in awhile. Let's see how he's shredding the bible today. As usual, his column starts with a question from a reader:
It seems like I’m always having financial problems, and they’d all be solved if I could just win the lottery. But I haven’t won hardly anything the last few years, although I’ve prayed for God to help me win. Why won’t God hear my prayers?
For a bible thumping Christian this is actually a completely legitimate question. As silly as the question may sound, Jesus unabashedly promises to give us anything we ask for:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:7-11
Maybe this was just an accidental slip of the tongue on the part of Jesus. Let's try again:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. - John 14:12-14
Jesus actually has two separate reasons for telling us that he will give us everything we ask for. One reason is God's goodness. If we, as evil humans, can give good gifts, why wouldn't God give us even greater gifts. Second is that if we randomly ask Jesus to do things, it will glorify God to actually have those things done (and this would be true if prayer ever worked).

This person is in financial trouble, and with full faith in Jesus he/she is asking for help. Jesus is simply breaking his promise. All that's asked for is not given; no amount of faith will make Jesus give you anything.

Let's see what Billy has to say:
Perhaps God isn’t answering your prayers because this isn’t the way he wants you to solve your financial problems. The Bible doesn’t encourage gambling, nor has God promised to bless us when we gamble.
Ok, so instead of gambling, this questioner needs to just ask for the money (in the same about as a lottery winning) to drop from the sky. God's plan for this person's financial security seems irrelevant based on the statements of Jesus.

As a thought experiment, let's imagine Jesus doesn't answer prayers for personal gain. [To clarify, the bible makes no mention of not answering these types of prayers.] What would happen if a bunch of Christians completely selflessly, and in full faith, prayed for cancer to be eradicated. Surely this type of prayer happens at least once a day (there are millions of Christians after all) yet cancer still exists. Why isn't Jesus keeping his promise?

In the end, prayer has been shown to have no measurable effects. The hypothesis that Jesus will help you win the lottery, or anything else for that matter: false.


  1. I'm back from vacation. Over the next few days I'll fill in my comments for Ephesians, the second half of Galatians, Philippians, and Colossians. I just want to point out that Colossians, like Ephesians, is generally regarded by NT scholars as a "Deutero Pauline" letter, i.e., a letter that was not written by Paul, but rather was written in his name by one of his successors. In other words, a forgery. This is not even a remotely controversial position - in fact, almost all of the remaining epistles in the Bible are widely believed to be forgeries.

  2. I thought I'd lost you, welcome back. :D

  3. Col 1:15-20. Very high Christology here: Christ is the firstborn of all creation, and the whole universe (including the powers in heaven) was created through, and is reconciled in, him. It's amazing that anyone would attach all these properties to a recently executed itinerant preacher, especially one whose life was apparently not even of enough interest to warrant any kind of mention.

    Col 1:22. The Greek says "body of flesh," not "physical body." This is the same word, "flesh," that Paul always uses when describing the state that Christ was in when he was crucified.

    Col 1:23. "I, Paul," again. The hallmark of pseudonymity



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