Saturday, January 30, 2016

Does Christianity Teach Immortality of The Soul or Resurrection of The Body?

Jesus ate supper in a resurrected body
"As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 
"Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."
And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them" (Luke 24:36-43).
Immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body are separate historical beliefs.

Immortality of the soul is based on Plato's Greek dualism.

Resurrection of the body is based on Jesus' Jewish Christianity.

Most in Western Christianity have been taught to interpret certain passages in the NT with an assumed Greek dualism of the soul being more important than the body. This is not early Christianity. First-century Christianity involves the belief in the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul escaping it.

Why does this matter?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Faith Is Not Absolute Certainty

Greg Boyd writes,

"I contend that certainty-seeking faith tends to inflict a selective learning phobia on those who hold to it. It’s no secret that, at least in America, evangelical Christians sort of have a reputation of being narrow-minded and intolerant. Deny it though we may, research has established it."

"There are a number of plausible explanations for this, but I believe one of the main reasons has to do with the widespread assumption that a person’s faith is as strong as they are certain."

"Imagine a Christian I’ll call Bob. Like most other conservative Christians, Bob believes that he is saved by believing the doctrines that are “necessary for salvation.” And, like most others, Bob assumes that his faith is as strong as he is free of doubt."

"It’s apparent that for Christians like Bob, one’s sense of security is anchored in their level of confidence that their beliefs are correct. If Bob were to lose confidence or change his mind about any of these things, his salvation, as well as his acceptance as a fellow “saved” believer in his church, would at least be thrown into question, if not absolutely denied. Not only this, but Bob’s sense of identity, purpose, and well-being is wrapped up in his remaining convinced his beliefs are correct. With so much at stake, how open do you really think Bob would be to seriously studying books and dialoguing with people who might pose strong challenges to his core convictions? And how capable do you suppose Bob would be at objectively assessing the merits of points of view that disagree with his own, were he to somehow muster the courage to examine them? The answer, I think, is obvious."

"Not only this, but neurological studies have shown that the pleasure centers of our brain are activated whenever we encounter facts or opinions that confirm beliefs that are important to us. Conversely, they also reveal that our amygdala, which controls our “fight or flight” reflex, is activated when we initially confront facts or opinions that conflict with these beliefs. And, as we noted in the previous chapter, most of us know firsthand, to one degree or another, how painful it is to doubt beliefs that are important to us. Cognitive dissonance over important matters can be excruciating!"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Bible Does Not Interpret Itself

 "The Bible says..." "God's Teaching," etc.

Tautology is "using different words to say the same thing even if the repetition does not provide clarity."

Tautology also means "a series of self-reinforcing statements that cannot be disproved because the statements depend on the assumption that they are already correct."

Even for those who claim to use the Bible to interpret the Bible, tautology is involved because the other verses that are used are assumed to have a self-evident meaning, too.

Why is this important for Americans to understand? Because American thinking is built on "self-evident truths."

In an excerpt well worth your time found here, Richard Hughes exposes five myths America lives by. One of the five myths is the myth of "Nature's Nation." I have included a quote from Hughes below that I use to show how a part of our worldview influences our interpretation of the Bible.

I believe that the ingrained myth of Nature's Nation in American minds hinders insightful and edifying Bible study, and therefore, it hinders commanded Christian maturity (2 Pet. 3:18).

There Are 5 Major Myths
Hughes writes:
"The myth of Nature’s Nation is rooted squarely in the principles of the American Creed. The creed proclaims that among all the truths one might encounter in a lifetime, there are certain truths that are simply 'self-evident,' and require no formal proof..."
"Those truths are 'self-evident,' the creed contends, because they are rooted in 'Nature and Nature’s God' and therefore reflect the way things are meant to be.... the notion of Nature’s Nation has often annulled America’s debt to history, tradition, and culture and led Americans to believe that the contours of American civilization—the way things actually are—simply reflect 'the way things are meant to be..'"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Imagine There's No Heaven

Jesus Ate Suppers With People
This post does not address the intermediate state of Paradise, only the final destination of Christians.

It is paramount to understand the difference between our 21st century concept of Heaven and the first century (Jewish) concept of Heaven in order to interpret the NT correctly. 

The NT does not contain abstract "eternal" truths and "principles" for "all time." The truth in the NT was recorded in specific contexts, and context determines meaning.

The first century Jews believed that "Heaven" was the Messianic Banquet, not a place where we go after the Earth is gone.

I believe that the Lord's Supper is that Banquet. I do not mean this as ushering in The Millennium, but that we are to live on earth as it is in "Heaven." What N.T. Wright calls a "now but not yet" reality that Jesus established.

Luke records,

"... When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God...'" (Luke 14:15). 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Avoid Being Institutionalized

Christians should avoid being institutionalized.

What I mean by institutionalized can be illustrated by a conversation from the movie Shawshank Redemption (edited for explicit content) between Red (Morgan Freeman) and Heywood (Michael Sadler) and Floyd (Brian Libby).

If you recall in the movie, Brooks (James Whitmore) was let out of prison, but ended up hanging himself because he could not function outside the institution of prison.

The lesson is clear: institutionalization hinders a person's ability to mature and function outside their isolated community. The only way an institutionalized person can live is on the "inside."

The conversation is set in the prison yard...
Red: "Brooks ain't no bug. He's just... He's just institutionalized."
Heywood: "Institutionalized, my $@#."

Red: "The man's been in here 50 years, Heywood. 50 years. This is all he knows. In here, he's an important man. He's an educated man. Outside, he's nothing. Just a used-up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn't get a library card if he tried. You know what I'm trying to say?"

Floyd: "Red, I do believe you're talking out of your $@#."

Red: "You believe whatever you want, Floyd. But I'm telling you, these walls are funny. First you hate 'em... then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes... you get so you depend on 'em. That's institutionalized."

HEBREWS 13:7-18 in Context

Being Questioned By Authorities
When Jesus was asked by the religious rulers,

"By what authority are you doing these things?"

In his article--Mark 11:27-33--The Question!

John Mark Hicks writes,

"Jesus does not deny he has authority. Indeed, he implicitly asserts it. Moreover, the previous day he had acted on that authority by cleansing the temple. He simply refuses to justify his authority to those who not only would not believe what he says but who are only interested in some pretense for executing him."

"Jesus exercises the authority of the kingdom of God against the authority of the temple priests and rulers who live in shocking compromise with Roman authorities."

Reading Hicks blog and watching an interview on The O' Reilly Factor discussing "corruption" and a lack of "oversight" as the main culprits for problems in our society caused me to want to examine Hebrews 13:7-18.

In conjunction with the article, the interview reminded me that "oversight" is not about controlling others as one man once told me oversight meant, but is leading by example, desiring to be involved in the lives of people where they live, caring selflessly, and having the courage to confront corruption.

The damage done by corruption among the few in the state who are in power over others, as depicted in Hicks article and O' Reilly's interview, results from the inaction of people (overseers) not wanting to be troubled for standing up to the status quo.

When those in power are challenged--they don't like it--and often seek to punish those they view as troublemakers for challenging their power. Often the powerful just want others to join them so the status quo may continue. This is certainly the easiest thing for anyone in any generation to do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As A Man Thinks, So He Is...

“All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe...individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains.”

“A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition. It has been usual for men to think and to say, "Many men are slaves because one is an oppressor; let us hate the oppressor." Now, however, there is amongst an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgment, and to say, "One man is an oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves."

“The truth is that oppressor and slave are co-operators in ignorance, and, while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. A perfect Knowledge perceives the action of law in the weakness of the oppressed and the misapplied power of the oppressor; a perfect Love, seeing the suffering, which both states entail, condemns neither; a perfect Compassion embraces both oppressor and oppressed. He who has conquered weakness, and has put away all selfish thoughts, belongs neither to oppressor nor oppressed. He is free.”