Saturday, August 14, 2010

343: Another Letter

Ephesians 1-3
"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly." - Ephesians 3:2-3

As the title alludes, this is yet another letter by Paul. You'd think they would have just stopped including these letters. It doesn't seem like Paul has anything new to add.

It seems that, for once, the people Paul is writing a letter to are actually obeying his commands. Paul uses this as a opportunity to go on and on about how God loves them and gives them wisdom. He's obviously never heard of "preaching to the choir".

The only thing of real interest in here is Paul saying that the Ephesians were all predestined to find Jesus. This, along with the teaching that some are blinded from the truth of Jesus, seems to completely undermine any modern definition of "free will". Of course, modern Christianity's definition of free will is probably a product of the bible being contradictory, the bible does say that we should "choose" to follow God, thus implying that we have the free will to choose. But how can people choose the right thing when people are "blinded" from the gospels, or just flat out prevented from doing the right thing (in the case of Pharaoh)?

Chapter 2 starts with Paul again reiterating Jesus's sacrifice. He ends this by saying, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith ... not by works, so that no one can boast". Not by works? I hear this passage in response to the reasonable assumption (in my opinion) that an all loving God would favor people who have done good works over murderers. Even if the person who did good works didn't follow Jesus, and the murderer did.

This "not by works" concept may seem unreasonable to me, but what does Jesus have to say?:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
...
You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." [emphasis mine] - Mark 10:17-31
For not being saved by works, Jesus sure has a lot of earthly things you need to do before you can get into heaven. This "just follow Jesus and you'll be saved" concept seems completely made up by Paul. It certainly wasn't Jesus's idea.

Chapter 2 ends with Paul again saying that all the believers in Jesus are a part of the "body of Christ".

In chapter 3, Paul just reiterates that he's been sent by God to preach to the gentiles. He tells the Ephesians not to be discouraged by his "sufferings". The chapter ends with Paul praying for God to give the Ephesians the knowledge of how much Jesus loves them.

*News*
Fort Wayne, an Indiana city, has actually taken a stand on removing a Christian education program from their public schools. Well, sort of:
As a matter of constitutional law, there's no reason for Fort Wayne Community Schools to end its long religious-education partnership with the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, so long as the classes are privately funded and conducted off school property, students are not coerced and parents give their informed consent.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story. The Associated Churches of Fort Wayne bought trailers, and put the trailers on public high school campuses. This was somehow, legally speaking, "not on school property". Even though the trailers were sitting atop school property. And the lawsuit was actually about a student who was forced to go to these Christian bible classes against her and her parents' will.

A few days ago, the Fort Wayne school board voted unanimously to end these programs. Unfortunately, the bible classes were replaced with "character building" classes. And they're still sponsored by the exact same organization (the Associated Churches of Fort Wayne). You can't tell me that they're not just going to crack open their bibles to figure out what "good character" is.

Friday, August 13, 2010

342: To be a Slave, or Not to be a Slave & Galatians: In Review

Galatians 4-6
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." - Romans 6:17-18

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." - Galatians 5:1

I had a hard time picking a quote today. This entire section is a gold mine of stupid.

Chapter 4 starts with talk of Jesus setting us free from slavery. This, of course, contradicts Paul's own teaching about being slaves to righteousness, instead of sin. Are we slaves to righteousness, or are we set free from slavery by Jesus.

The chapter continues with Paul (again) complaining that the Galatians are becoming slaves to worldly things. Therefore they're not following Jesus. Paul says that he's going to be in the "pains of childbirth" until the Galatians turn to Jesus. I'm sure the pain in Paul's vagina (metaphorically speaking) will get the Galatians on the Jesus bandwagon.

Paul then tries to draw some strange analogy between the followers of Jesus, and the descendants of Abraham. Abraham had sons from a slave woman, and from a free woman (the sons were Ishmael and Isaac, respectively). Paul uses this as confirmation that the Galatians should not be slaves, because the bible says they should cast out the Ishmael and his mother.

Chapter 5 starts with Paul again talking about slavery. He says that we should not burden ourselves with the yoke of slavery. And again he is contradicting his demand in Romans that we all be slaves to righteousness.

Seemingly still on the subject of slavery, Paul says, "I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law." As usual, Paul fails to add any qualifiers to this statement, thus making it sound like a universal rule.

What does Paul mean by "lets himself be circumcised"? I'll go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of circumcisions happen to babies. Did they let themselves be circumcised? It must be pretty hard to be a bible literalist and also be circumcised, considering that you have to follow all the Old Testament laws and Christ is meaningless.

This time, Paul can't even wait more than a sentence before contradicting himself. He says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value". Make up your mind, does circumcision bind you to Old Testament law, or is it completely meaningless?

Fast forward another couple of sentences, and Paul again seems to contradict himself. He says, "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?". Did he not just say several times that he wasn't preaching circumcision? Directly before this, Paul says, "The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be." The only one throwing me into confusion is Paul.

Paul has even more harsh words for these people that are confusing the Galatians. He says, "I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Today I learned a new comeback from the bible, "I wish you would just go chop your balls off!" I'll have to use that next time I get into a dispute with one of my Christian friends. For someone that's supposed to be channeling God, Paul sure seems petty and immature.

The next section is about living your life by the Spirit. Paul says that if you live by the Spirit, you will not "gratify the desires of the sinful nature". He also says that if you live your life by the Spirit you are no longer bound by the law. What, then, are you bound by? Your own interpretation of what you think God is telling you to do through the Holy Spirit? But if we hypothesize for the moment that God doesn't exist, then that just turns into "do what you think is right". Isn't this the very reason some Christians claim that atheists have no basis for morality?

Paul goes on to define some sinful things that are "obvious", including "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery [whatever that is]; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy... [etc.]". Most of these terms leave interpretation completely up to the individual. For example, what is "sexual immorality"? I guess we have to let our own personal "Spirit" tell us. Paul says that if we do any of these poorly defined things, we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I guess we are bound to Paul's made up law now?

Chapter 6 is mostly about sharing each other's burdens. But near the middle of the chapter Paul says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows". In an attempt to find out what Christians think this means (I've witnessed and participated in my fair share of God mockery, it's obviously possible) I ran across this ridiculous website. It cites random cases of someone mocking God, and God "getting even". This one's my favorite:
After the construction of the Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the
ship would be. With an ironic tone he said: "Not even God can sink it." The
result? I think you know what happened to the Titanic.
First of all this is barely mockery, it's almost a figure of speech. Second, does this article mean to say that, had the maker of the titanic not made this offhand remark, the titanic wouldn't have sunk? What kind of superficial God to Christians worship?

Paul ends his letter with a strange comment. He says, "Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus". This has led to frenzied speculation that Paul had the stigmata (incidentally, the term "stigmata" originated with this very passage). Other apologetics, however, say that Paul could have just been referring to marks of torture in the name of Jesus.

Galatians: In Review
There's really nothing to be said here that hasn't been said in the reviews of Paul's other letters. Paul just seems to be further damaging his credibility by constantly contradicting himself in different letters to different people. With every new letter Paul seems to come up with a new concept that Jesus never talked about.

*News*
Here we have some interesting mental gymnastics in an attempt to save the bible's credibility:
With the busy topic lately of "Is the entire Bible true?" I'd like to say this: To the unbeliever, no amount of evidence or persuasion will suffice. To the born-again Christian, no more is necessary; plenty exists already.
I don't think the bible, by it's very nature (+/- 2000 years old), can give horribly credible evidence. Though, the bible's credibility could be easily verified if it's "writer" would simply appear to everyone in existence and say "hey, the bible is true".
Abstaining from certain foods was an Old Testament requirement. The New Testament says all foods are permitted. Both are true, but there is a timing issue. Since certain foods were considered unclean, the practice of abstaining was symbolic and pointed futuristically to a time when cleansing from sin and uncleanness would come. Jesus fulfilled that with His sinless death on the cross; therefore the old practice no longer has value.
That's perfectly consistent until you consider that Jesus said none of the Old Testament laws would be abolished. Jesus also says that we should follow the Old Testament laws in order to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but Paul says that's unnecessary.
Homosexuality, slavery and polygamy always have been wrong. It is man who has chosen to ignore that. Jesus did not address slavery because He was fulfilling a much larger purpose of redemption and of challenging people on the state of their eternal souls, not getting caught up in every single thing to which he could have called attention.
Whoa, now I'm really lost. Where does the bible say slavery (besides the spiritual slavery of Paul) is wrong? The Old Testament promotes it, unless a Jew is the slave. And the New Testament doesn't condemn it. It's the same idea with polygamy. The Old Testament certainly doesn't forbid it. And nobody in the New Testament even mentions it. I'm obviously missing some moral commandment that's hidden away in the bible, somehow making it consistent with modern morality.
Honoring the Sabbath is still correct. Christ reiterated that. Honoring God in one's heart is the most important. Do people honor it? Not most. Is that God's fault? I don't think so. It is mankind that has made it difficult to do with our busy schedules. My hat is off to the Chick-fil-A-ers of the world!
In what way did Jesus reiterate that we should honor the Sabbath? Jesus in fact says that we should break Sabbath law so that we can do good, just like any other day. Even if he had said we should unequivocally keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath is on Saturday. You've been honoring a Sabbath day, not the Sabbath day. "Hats off" would really be in order for Chick-fil-A (they are closed on Sunday, if you don't know what I'm talking about) if they, say, donated all their Sunday profits to charity. That would truly be in keeping with the wishes of Jesus.
Most folks who keep pointing to these alleged discrepancies do not understand the purpose and timing behind some of these Old Testament requirements nor the fulfillment Christ finished, and thus why it is no longer applicable in the New Testament. They just see a discrepancy.
All the discrepancies are easy to clear up if you simply (as this writer has done) completely fabricate various biblical teachings that aren't actually there. Paul would be proud.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

341: Still not Crucified

Galatians 1-3
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' " - Galatians 3:13

The book of Galatians is yet another letter by Paul scolding a church (this time the Galatians) for not behaving. I'm starting to get Old Testament repetitiveness flashbacks.

Paul says that the Galatians have turned from one gospel, and gone to another. We are never told the author of this mysterious other gospel, or who delivered it to the Galatians. We are only told that it is not from Paul. In fact, this seems to be Paul's litmus test for whether the gospel is legit or not. If it's Paul's, it's correct, if not, it's not correct.

Paul is so serious about this principle that he says even if an angel from heaven descends and tries to teach a gospel different from Paul's, the angel should be eternally condemned. I wonder what happens if Jesus returns and tries to un-teach some of Paul's nonsense. I guess Paul would have him eternally condemned too.

The rest of the first chapter is Paul recounting his miraculous conversion story. He can't stop himself from slipping in some conceited douchebaggery. "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers". Of course, his awesome Jewry was leading him to send Christians to their deaths, maybe that's not something he should be bragging about.

Chapter 2 starts with Paul recounting his first trip to Jerusalem. He says that this is when he realized that he should preach to the gentiles. The apostles, says Paul, agreed to his preaching to the gentiles on the condition that Paul "remember the poor". Paul says that this was the very thing he was eager to do. Remember them as he's robbing them, I guess.

Paul then says that he rebuked Peter for his refusal to eat with the gentiles. He says that Peter was not acting according to the gospel. Of course, neither is Paul.

In chapter 3 Paul goes on a long rant about the law of the prophets. He says that the only thing the law is good for is cursing everybody. But Jesus has become the curse for all of us by being "hung on a tree". Based on the bible, I'm not sure where, when, or how Jesus was killed. You'd think the writers could at least be consistent on these basics.

Paul then tries to convince us that God's covenant with Abraham was actually about Jesus. And that somehow God's law only applies until Jesus arrives.

Paul talks pretty regularly about nobody being bound by the law anymore. Why is it, then, that Christians condemn other people based on Old Testament law, if not even they are bound by it?Moreover, why is it that Christians claim to base their morality on a set of laws that the bible says don't apply to them any more? This reminds me of an awesome article in The Onion I just read.

I'm really ready to be done with these stupid letters from Paul.

*News*
Can you quote the bible in scientific journals? Apparently not:
Though it might work for The DaVinci Code, apparently citing the bible doesn’t fly in a scientific journal. Virology Journal apologized yesterday for publishing a paper titled “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time,” which attempts to diagnosis “a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Did this journal not read over the article before they published it? Next thing you know they'll be publishing articles about the most common color for unicorns, or the genetic makeup of fairies. This is an excerpt from the "scientific" article:
The Bible describes that when Jesus touched the woman, the fever retreated instantaneously. This implies that the disease was probably not a severe acute bacterial infection (such as septicemia) or subacute endocarditis that would not resolved instantaneously.
Right, he can bring people back from the dead, and cure paralytics, but instantaneously curing septicemia is one step too far. Maybe instead of worrying about multi drug-resistant bacteria, we should be worried about those pesky Jesus-resistant bacteria.

As further "evidence" for their bacteria theory, these "scientists" consider whether the patient could be demon-possessed:
One final consideration that one might have is whether the illness was inflicted by a demon or devil. The Bible always tells if an illness is caused by a demon or devil (Matthew 9:18-25, 12:22, 9:32-33; Mark 1:23-26, 5:1-15, 9:17-29; Luke 4:33-35, 8:27-35, 9:38-43, 11:14). The victims often had what sounded like a convulsion when the demon was cast out. In our index case, demonic influence is not stated, and the woman had no apparent convulsion or residual symptomatology.
Does this mean to say that if the bible had said the woman was demon possessed that they would have to throw out their bacteria theory? Thus, I guess, accepting the possibility of demons as a scientific fact? Maybe the Virology Journal should at least skim the articles they publish.

(via Discover)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

340: Super Apostles & 2 Corinthians: In Review

2 Corinthians 10-13
"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing." - 2 Corinthians 12:11

Paul really goes off the deep end today. This entire section seems like Paul got shitfaced and wrote the Corinthians an angry letter.

Like any drunk trying to write a letter, he starts out rather incoherently. Chapter 10 starts out with a long-winded appeal to the Corinthians to come back to Christ. If they are obedient, Paul says, they will be able to capture thoughts and make them obedient to God. And they will also be able to "punish" every act of disobedience. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he's speaking in metaphor, but I can't be quite sure that he hasn't just lost his mind.

This is my favorite part of the chapter:
I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
Christians seem to be big believers in the absolute truthfulness of eyewitness accounts. So listen to this eyewitness account, Paul in person is "unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing". Notice that Paul doesn't actually rebut this, he just tries to claim that people in writing are exactly like they are in person.

Paul spends the rest of the chapter trying to legitimize boasting (which he's going to do for the rest of 2 Corinthians). He says that while some boast with their own standards, Christians boast with God's standards. And when they boast, they "boast in the Lord". Of course, the Lord constantly tells us to be humble (both Yahweh and Jesus), so what makes Paul think God wouldn't tell him to shut the hell up?

Paul's opening to chapter 11 is priceless:
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.
Hell yeah we are.

Paul goes on to say that he's jealous for the Corinthians (with a "godly jealousy"), because he promised them to Christ as virgins. I haven't the faintest idea what Paul is talking about. Is he talking about mental virgins? Indeed he seems to be. Paul says that when someone comes to them and preaches Christ in a different way than he did, the Corinthians accept it.

Paul calls these other preachers "super-apostles". Is he being sarcastic? Is he talking about the real apostles (the twelve)? Either way, Paul says these super-apostles have led the Corinthians astray from their "pure devotion to Christ", thusly breaking their mental virginity (I guess).

Paul then brags about providing the gospel free of charge. But now that the Corinthians are failing to be good Christians, Paul says that he's "robbed" the other churches by taking their money to preach to the Corinthians free of charge. He would have been robbing them even if he did succeed with the Corinthians. After all, didn't the Corinthians then pay for Paul to go preach somewhere else? How is this "free of charge"?

Next, Paul says that he is going to start talking, not as the Lord would, but "as a fool". I thought he was already doing that (he just said he was). Paul says he's doing this because the only thing the Corinthians understand is foolishness.
What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
He goes on for quite a while longer about how he was shipwrecked and beaten and how he has to worry about all of his churches all the time. This, I guess, makes him a superior Christ worshiper? Is Paul somehow showing the Corinthians what not to do? Is he being sarcastic? Or is he just lowering himself to their level in the hopes of their salvation? Either way, he comes off as a nut job (or "out of his mind" as Paul describes himself).

Chapter 12 is a continuation of the boasting, "although there is nothing to be gained" says Paul. Well I guess that throws out the theory that Paul is hoping for the Corinthian's salvation. Paul is now, self-admittedly, rambling on for no reason.

Paul decides to tell a story about a man he knew. This man, fourteen years ago, was taken up to the "third heaven". How many heavens are there? He says, in heaven, this man heard things that he is not permitted to tell. Paul says that he will only brag about this man, but not himself (as if he hasn't already been bragging about himself).

In order that Paul wouldn't be conceited (I think it's a little late to prevent that), Paul says that God sent him a messenger of Satan to be a thorn in his side. Paul pleaded for God to take the thorn away, but in the end Paul decided it was a good thing. Because "[God's] power is made perfect in weakness". For brevity's sake, we'll just pretend that makes sense.

In the last half of chapter 12 Paul rambles on about how the Corinthians should be grateful for hearing Paul's message, because Paul is much better than the super-apostles. I still don't know who these other apostles are, or if they're really super.

Paul starts chapter 13 by saying that this will be his third visit to the Corinthians. Wait, I thought he wasn't even going to visit them for the second time? We seem to have been severely left out of the loop here. Paul then randomly says that every matter "must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses". Is Jesus's appearance to Paul established by two or three witnesses?

The rest of chapter 13 (pretty short) is about testing yourself and making sure Jesus is really in you. Paul ends by saying that we should aim for perfection, and live in peace. Living in peace would probably be far easier if Paul had never written these letters.

2 Corinthians: In Review
There's not too much to add from the Romans/1 Corinthians review. Except maybe that Paul is even more obviously nuts.

Is this really a guy that you're willing to base your life on? A guy with no evidence of Jesus appearing to him. A former Pharisee that obviously denies some of Jesus's more loving attributes. A self contradictory bigot at every turn. What makes people think this guy is legit?

More an more every day I realize that there are followers of Paul all around me, rather than followers of Jesus. Instead of striving to be Christlike, they strive to be Paullike. That is, constantly bragging, conceited, bigoted, and half insane. Oh, and we can't forget homophobic, and women controlling (neither of which Jesus ever mentioned).

I think I could almost deal with people being like Jesus. Then we'd only have to worry about people trashing temples, stealing donkeys, drowning pigs, and maliciously killing fig trees.

*News*
Oh boy, let the twisting of Christopher Hitchens's words begin:
Hitchens is not an atheist, however. His agnosticism often seems to undo God, but he is admittedly incapable of doing so, merely limited as he is to undoing the legitimacy of divine spokespersons. He reveals his limits in this interview.
Link to the interview here, if you care to watch it, I warn you though that it's almost exactly like the CNN interview I already had on this blog.

The "limits" Hitchens reveals in the interview are the limits of not being able to disprove anything (except in mathematics). Yes, at some point you can't disprove God, just as you can't disprove invisible unicorns or floating teapots. That certainly doesn't make me an agnostic on the subject of invisible unicorns.
As he deals with the awful burden of esophagal cancer spreading through his lymph nodes, he is concerned about rumors of a death bed confession. He is trying to make clear to us what he believes before he is incapable of doing so later-on.
In fact, if you watch the interview, he clearly says he's not concerned. Perhaps he has reason to be concerned if people are already trying to twist his words to this extent.
Despite that over-arching political concern, Hitchens' first real philosophical assumption is that the universe exceeds in complexity, full human understanding. And so, uncertainty is inescapable. He did not discover the principle, he must concede to it. He also concedes the possibility of a prime mover.
Again the writer is quote mining. Like I just explained, I too concede the possibility of God, just like I concede the possibility of invisible unicorns. That still doesn't make me anything but an atheist. Or an agnostic atheist if you really want to get technical.
Hitchens mission against these taxing shepherds [priests] subverts his acceptance of new possibilities, however. He cannot know beforehand, what his death will or will not teach him.

I hope Hitchens recovers by whatever miracle or medicine. And I hope for Hitchens that he knows he is loved by the universe, as is my hunch.
I have a hunch that the writer of this article is an idiot trying to take advantage of someone's possibly imminent death. Fortunately, I don't make judgments about people, much less the universe, based on my hunches.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

339: Paul, Also a Socialist

2 Corinthians 5-9
"At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality..." - 2 Corinthians 8:14

In the first part of chapter 5 Paul tells us that we all long to be "clothed with our heavenly dwelling". Maybe I would long for that if I had any idea what Paul was talking about. He then rambles on for awhile about how he would rather be dead and with the Lord.

Paul then says we shall no longer regard anyone from a "worldly" point of view. He says that we once regarded Christ as worldly, but we should regard him this way no longer. Jesus wasn't a worldly man? I thought that was the whole point. In fact, Paul is the one that said Jesus had to give a worldly sacrifice for our sins.

Paul ends all this babble with "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God". Jesus has no sin, therefore he is sin, therefore we're righteous? What? I think Paul had a little too much to drink before he drafted this letter.

Chapter 6 begins with Paul listing all of his hardships (and presumably that of the church, because he says "we"). This includes beating/imprisonment/sleepless nights/etc. Does this mean to say that Paul is writing this after he's imprisoned? I think I've given up trying to put a time frame on these letters. Paul ends by saying that the Corinthians are withholding affection from him.

We then come to the quote Pat Robertson used in yesterday's news story. "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?". Paul doesn't necessarily refer to marriage, he just says that people should not be "yoked together" with unbelievers. If this is referring to marriage, Paul is contradicting himself. And not only himself, but Jesus. After all, Jesus hung out with all sorts of "sinners". It's interesting that Paul compares unbelievers to "Belial" (a demon). Jesus did cast out demons, but he never "cast out" unbelievers from his company.

Paul spends the entirety of chapter 7 saying that he's glad his letter effected the Corinthians negatively. This is because (Paul thinks) it's made them better people. Paul says that "Godly sorrow" leads to repentance.

Chapter 8 is all about giving. Paul talks about the poverty stricken Macedonians who, even though they were poor, gave more than they could afford to the church. Paul says that he is not commanding the Corinthians to do the same thing, but he wants to test the sincerity of their love by "comparing it to the earnestness of others". Allow me to paraphrase: "The poor Macedonians are out-giving you. Therefore they love Jesus more. What the hell is wrong with you?". I'm still not sure why everyone is giving to Jerusalem. Couldn't the Corinthian church do just as much good with the money?

Paul then says that he doesn't want the Corinthians to have hardship while he gives their money to someone who isn't in need. He just wants everyone to be equal. Isn't Paul doing just that? What great need is the church of Jerusalem in? Paul continues talking about these imaginary "in need" people. He says that the Corinthians should give to them when they are in need, so that they may receive money if they are ever in need themselves.

Again Paul repeats that all of this is in the quest for financial "equality". If there is a difference between this and Socialism, I don't see it. Of course, the church of Jerusalem isn't actually in need, so this is more like theocracy.

Paul ends chapter 8 by saying that he's going to send Titus to Corinth. I'm still not sure why he's not going himself.

Chapter 9 is again all about giving. This time Paul lays on the guilt even more heavily. He says that he's been boasting about the Corinthians to the poor Macedonians. He then says that he fears that one of these Macedonians may come to Corinth and find that he's been lying. In which case Paul would be ashamed that he'd been so confident of the Corinthians. Again, allow me to paraphrase: "If you don't give us a bunch of money, everyone is going to be ashamed of you".

Paul tells the Corinthians that those who sow generously will reap generously. This is starting to sound like some bad Ponzi scheme. Is Paul really implying that the Corinthians are going to get back any of the money they're giving? Or maybe he's talking about "spiritual" rewards (even though this would contradict what he's said before).

Paul even has the gall to say "God loves a cheerful giver". If you buy that, you should cheerfully give me all your money. Of course, it's not me that wants you to give me your money, it's God. This is blatant exploitation of Jesus's order to give away all your money.

*News*
We have yet another person saying I can't possibly understand the bible, because I don't believe:
These days it seems that every time you turn around you hear another nonsensical leftist "interpretation" of the Holy Scriptures. Where is all this hermeneutical wackiness coming from? Maybe from people who literally cannot grasp God's written message. I'm using the term "disbeliever" here to mean someone actively opposed to the Biblical Jesus, as distinguished from someone without Christ but not openly hostile to Him.
Incidentally, "nonsensical leftist interpretation" is exactly the way I would describe Paul's letters.
The Bible is a big book, and people who aren't interested in hearing what God has to say aren't likely to take time to read the whole thing. But quoting a verse without knowing its context is like the squawking of a parrot. Polly can mimic the sounds of speech, but you can't carry on a conversation with her. The disbeliever can copy and paste verses, but the meaning is opaque to him (though he insists he sees it perfectly).
My favorite part of finishing the bible will be never having to hear this argument again. Not to give any credence to the argument. Reading the bible all the way through, admittedly, is a rather momentous task that most people just don't have the time (or the patience) for. So all Christians have to do is say that you have to read the entire thing to make sense out of even one small portion, and they can "win" any biblical argument. This is, of course, terribly intellectually dishonest, but it doesn't keep nearly every Christian I've ever met from using it.
When such a bird lights upon a sentence like, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1a), he's likely to create an instant doctrine: "Shut up and pay your taxes." He doesn't know that the Apostle who penned those words was executed for disobeying the governing authorities.
Wait, what? That passage had nothing to do with paying your taxes. The point of that passage is that God appoints the rulers, so to disobey the ruler is to disobey God, which will bring "judgement" upon you. And Paul was imprisoned because he was falsely accused of breaking Jewish law (not the Roman government's law). Talk about taking something out of context. I decided to try to Google how Paul died, just to make sure he didn't somehow rebel against the Roman government before his death (after all, I haven't read that far yet), and I found this on Wikipedia:
Neither the Bible nor other history says how or when Paul died. According to Christian tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero around the mid-60s...
How can I be taking something "out of context" when it's not even in the bible?
I could write a letter to my cat, including the word "TUNA" in great big letters, and he probably wouldn't respond at all. Some human-feline communication is possible (or so I've been told), but this isn't the right approach. Communication must be adapted to the species.

Disbelievers are the wrong species to get a written message from God. To think about it from the other perspective, God would be sending Morse Code to turtles if He tried to get a complex message to scoffers. The disbeliever is still Man, Version 1.1. — the model with the Fatal Error. The believer is Man, 2.0. "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17) — he is a new kind of being.
If critical thinking is a fatal error, then yes I'm full of errors. This is another argument that attempts to avoid obvious biblical contradictions. If someone says "in order to understand my holy book, you have to first believe with all your heart that everything it says is true" then run away. Nothing honest and "obviously" truthful should ever require that you already believe it.
In His terrifying way, as He did when He hardened Pharaoh's heart, the Almighty is honoring the disbeliever's wish for God to "go away," by solidifying that decision. The scoffer waving the Bible is claiming knowledge that he has pointedly refused: the knowledge of God. That's what the Bible gives. That's what the disbeliever will not, and therefore cannot, have.
How can someone wish for something he/she doesn't believe in to "go away". In fact, if God exists he has my personal invitation for tea at my place whenever he'd like it. I tend not to have ill will towards things that don't exist.
Someone will say that I'm proclaiming a "Secret Decoder Ring" theology. And in a way, that's true. No competent General announces his plans to the other side. But God in His goodness and love has given each human being a decoder ring. You have one, believer. You have one, too, unbeliever. Disbeliever, you have the very same secret decoder ring I do.

That ring is your will.

All you have to do is turn it.
I've seen people using this decoder ring. I think all the decoder ring does is blind people to obvious contradiction. Sorry, changing my will would require that I have evidence a change is necessary.

Monday, August 9, 2010

338: Give Them to Satan or Not?

2 Corinthians 1-4
"When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

"If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." - 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

After Paul's long introduction to this second letter, he tells the Corinthians that the church is having problems in Asia. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that "We are under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure". What happened to "God doesn't give anyone more than they can handle"? Paul ends this by saying he needs the Corinthian's prayers, so that God may more readily assist them in Asia.

Paul spends the rest of the first chapter, and the beginning of the second, explaining why he won't be able to make a second visit to Corinth. I say he "explains" but in the end I'm not really sure why he doesn't make the second visit. He rambles on for awhile about the answers to all promises being "yes" through Christ. Except, apparently, for Paul's promise to return to Corinth. The only reason he gives for not visiting is that he was "sparing" the Corinthians another visit from him.

Next Paul tells the Corinthians that, if they have forgiven anyone, Paul forgives them too. Of course, if they had followed Paul's previous letters they would have thrown people that needed forgiven into the clutches of Satan. Anyway, I thought Jesus had already forgiven everyone, regardless of Paul's approval.

Chapter 3 is about how the glory of Jesus must be more glorious than the glory of Moses. This, Paul would contend, logically follows, because the glory of Moses only brought destruction but the glory of Jesus brings life. Paul's ramblings seem to get more vacuous every day.

In chapter 4 Paul repeats that God has blinded some from the message of Jesus. Some get personal visits from Jesus (like Paul), while others are intentionally blinded from seeing the message of Jesus? Why?

Paul ends the chapter by saying that we should focus on things that are unseen, rather than things that are seen. "For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal". Incidentally, things that are unseen are also sometimes nonexistent.

*News*
What does Pat Robertson think women should do with their committed boyfriends who just happen to be atheists:


Christ didn't have fellowship with people that believed differently than he did? What bible is that in?

This is reason #5382 that you shouldn't be taking relationship advice from Pat Robertson. It's interesting that Pat still goes the "it's never going to work" route, when the woman said that her and her boyfriend had been together for four years. It obviously seems to be working enough for them to stay together for four years.

By the way, Paul mentions interfaith marriages (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). In fact, he specifically mentions that people should not get a divorce in marriages where one spouse is a nonbeliever. He also says that the believing spouse "sanctifies" the unbelieving one. First, Paul is acknowledging that these marriages exist. And second he is giving his de facto approval to them by saying that they should not end in divorce.

Does Pat bother to read his bible between his bouts of vitriol?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

337: Dead Seeds Grow & 1 Corinthians: In Review

1 Corinthians 15-16
"But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body." - 1 Corinthians 15:35-38

In the beginning of chapter 15, Paul feels the need to remind the Corinthians what the gospel is. As usual, he takes some liberties with the storytelling. He first tells them that Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. He ends all of these assertions with "according to the scriptures". Paul then says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at the same time. He, for good reason, doesn't end this with "according to the scriptures" because it's according to no scripture that I know of.

"Five hundred eyewitnesses" is often cited as conclusive evidence of Jesus's resurrection. Unfortunately it seems that Paul has just completely made this up. There's also the strange assertion by some apologetics that if the Corinthians didn't believe Paul, they could just go ask some of those other witnesses (that Paul says are mostly still alive). They seem to forget that Corinth is over 800 miles away from Jerusalem. I doubt anyone from the Corinthian church swung by Jerusalem to crosscheck Paul's sources. Even if they had, what would they have found? You'd think the twelve would have mentioned these 500 people in their own gospels if they had existed.

Paul next tries to convince people of the resurrection. Apparently some in the Corinthian church don't believe in resurrection, yet still believe in Jesus. Paul rightly says that the story of Christ doesn't make much sense without the resurrection. Paul asks the Corinthians, "Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?".

I'd never heard of this, but apparently people used to (and still do in LDS churches) baptize themselves to give the dead some sort of by-proxy salvation. Far from denouncing this practice, Paul uses it as a main point in his argument. Paul's "approval" of this after-death baptism is a fairly controversial topic, and I've found several websites doing some wild mental gymnastics to get out of Paul's endorsement. After all, if after-death baptism is illegitimate (in the eyes of Paul) why is he using it to legitimize his argument?

Paul then says something strange (he still seems to be on the topic of resurrection), "I die every day - I mean that, brothers - just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord". Is he still talking about bodily resurrection? Is he claiming that he dies every day and is resurrected? This is another rather controversial internet topic. Some say that he meant that every day he recommits himself to Christ, while others say that Paul was referring to the possibility of his martyrdom. Both of these turn Paul's words into a metaphor (and take him way out of context), which really doesn't seem like what he's trying to do here. If he's speaking in metaphor why would he say that he means this just as surely as he means that he glories over them with Christ Jesus. Does he metaphorically glory over them?

Paul's argument just goes down hill from there. Paul says that some ask him "How are the dead raised?". In response to this, he says that seeds must die before they grow. This echoes Jesus's message from the book of John. Needless to say, seeds don't die before they grow (though they may appear to). Again, God (who supposedly inspired this writing through the Holy Spirit) seems to forget some fairly basic things about his creations.

The rest of the chapter is spent talking about how your earthly flesh will be different than your resurrected flesh.

In chapter 16 Paul tells the Corinthians to do what he told the Galatians to do in respect to money collection. There's a couple of things wrong with this. First, why did the compilers of the bible put Corinthians and Galatians so obviously out of order (the book of Galatians is right after 2 Corinthians). And second, why is Paul bothering to tell the Corinthians to do what the Galatians did? How are the Corinthians supposed to know what he's talking about?

In the end Paul just explains what he wants the Corinthians to do. He basically tells them to have their money ready when he gets there so he doesn't have to go around collecting. Paul says that he will send messengers back to Jerusalem with the money. What's so special about Jerusalem? Couldn't the Corinthian church put the money to good use? The early church seems more and more like the Catholic church every day.

Paul ends his letter (like in Romans) with some irrelevant greetings/personal requests. But it's in the bible, so it must have some profound meaning that I'm missing.

1 Corinthians: In Review
Paul's influence on modern Christianity continues to surprise me. From the "body of Christ" concept, to waiting for everyone to arrive before eating a meal. Paul's influence seems to be everywhere. Unfortunately, Paul also seems to have his hand in the Christian subjugation of women (think pre-WWII), and the ostracism of "sinners" by telling the church to cast them out.

My objection to Paul is still the same. Aside from his own testimony he isn't legitimized by anything. Even the apostles only reluctantly allowed him to stay in Jerusalem. It's sad that the message of Jesus, which I might be talked into considering "good" for his time, is being so utterly corrupted by Paul.

Jesus, who didn't have much to say about women, is somehow trumped by Paul who says what women should be subservient to men. Jesus, who never condemned homosexuals, is trumped by Paul who says they should be expelled from church as "sinners".

Christians tout Paul as a perfect convert to Christianity. But some of these seemingly un-Jesus (for lack of a better adjective) concepts seem to stem directly from the ideas of the Pharisees, which Paul was before he was a convert. After all, subjugating women and the condemnation of homosexuals is an idea directly out of the Old Testament. It seems a little ridiculous to point out that the New Testament condemns homosexuals, based on the ramblings of a former Pharisee.

Christians would do well to recall that they belong to "Christianity" not "Paulianity".

*News*
This article is all about how we should be inspired by none other than Paul. This should be good:
The Apostle Paul wanted everybody to know about Jesus Christ, the anointed One. After all, Paul's life was totally transformed by Jesus. Through his own personal experience, Paul knew that Jesus was the only Savior and hope for mankind. Having tormented Christians, bringing many to death, Paul understood that the change within his own life, had to be supernatural and real.
Why don't I get a Jesus visit? The answer I always get from this is, "If you were visited by Jesus then you wouldn't have to have faith". Paul is allowed to be completely faithless, but I'm not? It doesn't seem very godlike for Jesus to give eternal salvation to some (through personal appearances) but not others ("others" being pretty much everyone else). Maybe I just haven't sent enough Christians to their deaths like Paul.
In a world of instant pudding, fast foods, DSL, and all the other convenient "fast" things available to us, people in our culture often forget about commitment. Frequently those who do make radical changes, because of their commitment to Christ, are labeled fanatics. That can actually be a compliment, because according to the dictionary, "fanatics simply are persons marked and motivated by a cause." Commitment is also a positive thing, and is described as "a pledge to do ­ state of being bound emotionally or intellectually, to a course of action or to another person or persons."
Yes, it's the instant pudding and DSL (wait, DSL is fast?) that's made me unable to commit to Jesus. And fanatics are "marked and motivated by a cause", but they also occasionally fly planes into buildings. I don't think you're being complimented.
Paul most assuredly knew that following Jesus Christ, would take total commitment. He was not one to "water down" truth. Unfortunately many people are hearing a different Gospel today. Jesus is the only One that brings us to God. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6 KJV) Jesus also stated, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow, and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62 NLT)
Paul didn't "water down" the truth, he just plain old made shit up. It's interesting to see that the second quote (Luke 9:62) is widely accepted. The context of this was that a potential follower of Jesus wanted to "look back" and say goodbye to his family. Jesus responds by saying that he cannot even say goodbye without being made unfit for the Kingdom of God. I'm not sure how this "screw your family" message is useful for converting people (which this article is surely trying to do).
I want everybody to know, that Jesus died on that cruel cross, just for you. You can receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord right now. When you pray with all of your heart, He hears and answers. Jesus will never turn you away, as you come to Him with a sincere heart, with a decision to follow Him all the days of your life. "and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37 NAS)
Just for me? Well I guess everyone else is in trouble. "Jesus will never turn you away", except for in the quote the writer just mentioned where Jesus says that you're not fit for the Kingdom of God if you want to go say goodbye to your family.

If my world of instant pudding and DSL has taught me anything, it's to not commit your life to something that seems blatantly contradictory and false.

 

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