Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping the law

There has been a common misconception amongst certain Christian circles that when Paul spoke against those who enforced "the law," he was speaking about Jews. This has furthermore been morphed into a belief that Judaism is a legalistic religion in which one must follow the law in order to be "saved."

This can not be further from the truth.

To break down what Christian often mean by "being saved," it usually refers to, ultimately, eternal life not spent in Hell. This will be an important point later on.

The real question is, is sin a black and white issue? In God's eyes, do you either obey all 613 of his laws or break one and then break all? We can not answer for God, but we can explore what His people thought.

E.P. Sanders in his book "Jesus and Judaism" craftily divides Jesus' words and our english word "sinners" into two categories: The wicked, and the 'amme ha-arets. The wicked are those who "sinned willfully and heinously and did not repent. It is often said that the wicked were 'professional sinners'" (pg 177). These professional sinners were usually those who deliberately took advantage of the common people, usually depicted as those who take inflated interest from their debtors and thus keep the poor, poor.

The 'amm ha arets, or common people, "were not irreligious. They presumably kept most of the law most of the time, observed the festivals, and paid heed to some of the more serious purity regulations."(182) These common people, those who went to church not all the time, tried their best to not lie and to give to the poor were included in God's eternal plan. In fact, no one ever thought the common people would be excluded from salvation! (189) Sanders presses this issue to even say that the uneducated, those who did not know the law, were also included in the plan for salvation!

So who receives God's judgement?

Paula Fredricksen in her article "Judaism, Circumscision, and Apocalyptic Hope" in Mark Nanos' "The Galatatians Debate" writes that even the Gentiles had a part in God's eternal plan. The Gentiles are simply cleansed from their idolatry, and are henceforth deemed "His people." ( see 246-247 especially)

So, again, who receives judgement? For the Christian it is those who do not accept the sacrifice Jesus gave so that we don't have to be bound from by the law. But I just showed that the law was never seen as so binding when it comes to salvation! If God had an eternal plan for the Gentiles, what did Jesus come to do then?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Homosexual Argument Fails

The issue of homosexuality and God/Jesus seems to have been awakened with the recent outing of Jennifer Knapp's homosexuality. At least in the circles of Christianity I am exposed to.

You can read Christianity Today's interview with Jennifer Knapp here:

Also see here, a Ministry I have close ties to which has decided to devote a blog series to address the issue of homosexuality:

In the later link, you'll find some of the fallacious arguments used by the Christian church to argue for a Bible that is completely against homosexual marriage. I will address the main arguments and why they fail here.

1.) Jewish law forbade homosexual marriage. Biblically, this is 100% incorrect. The Bible does, however, read "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Lev 18:22 The context of this verse will further my argument for why this statement is incorrect:

Lev 18:21 - Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

Lev 18:23 - Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.

It is very clear that these passages are a separation form the former passages in the chapter. We have ceased talking about general sexual taboos and have entered the realm of pagan worship. The verse on homosexuality is no exception.

To further this point, there are no ancient records of homosexual covenental couples. The only records we have, thus far, on homosexual practices are in cult worship, i.e. orgies. Therefore, it is impossible for the Torah to be addressing consensual homosexual relationships as they did not exist. It is very obvious that they are addressing something different and higher than simply the sexual relationship between same sexes.

2.) Jewish law is separated into 3 parts: judicial, moral, and ceremonial. We are not obligated to follow anything but the moral. This argument is completely fabricated and nonsensical. Who separated the law into these parts? Certainly not Jesus, and certainly not any Jew! It's baseless. It may sound good, but it has no foundation whatsoever. Torah is Torah, period.

This argument is usually used to avoid those knit-picky people who point to other verses in the context of the homosexual verses. For example, Leviticus 18:19 says not to lay with a women during her period. If this is a sin on the same line as homosexuality, than men should be more conscientious of when a woman is menstruating. Or, in the context of Lev 20:13, those who curse their parents should be stoned. So the next time you see a little kid throwing a tantrum in the marketplace, get your rocks ready!

3. Homosexuality is called an abomination, and is therefore a higher standard than any of the other laws. This only holds water if 1) you know the Hebrew understanding of the word, or 2) you can validate this with extrabiblical sources and traditions that show that this was the case. I can not do either of these, and do not know Hebrew well enough to say if it really holds water. Also, Lev 11:10 reads that eating shellfish is an abomination as well. Although, I believe, this is a different Hebrew word, arguing that it's different than the Hebrew word used for homosexuality only works if, again,you know Hebrew well enough to argue this.

The best argument I've read for a biblical argument against homosexuality is found in William Webb's book. Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.I highly suggest reading it. However, even he see the point I made in #1 and sees it as a major failing point in the argument.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Holy Guilt

If there is one thing I miss and hate at the same time - it's the constant self-reflection and guilt found in the fervent Christian walk.

Hate because I could never quite accept who I was at that moment: pray more, love more, forgive more, worship deeper, .. the constant inner turmoil! I find it strange - yet not so strange - that the day I left Christianity, the day I ceased depression and suicidal ideation. I'm sickeningly happy, happier than I've ever been.

And yet something tugs on me when I see the deep convictions found in Christian blogs, journals, prayers, and sermons. What does the atheist have but his or herself to encourage improvement? What presses me to love my husband deeper but my own desire to do so? The Christian believes in an outer Good and Perfect being that calls them to be "holy as I am holy." Holiness being this completely unobtainable property.

But yet this creates a life long tug-of-war between the overflowing mercy of God's Grace and the call to "take up your cross" and follow Christ. One day the beleiver may be standing strong on verses that speak of their sonship and adoption into the Chosen People, and the next day mulling and cutting themselves over verses that require higher standards than they could ever reach.

How can a human being endure such constant warring? Does God really wish to do this to His people? Is this even desirable? Do we have a choice if He indeed exists?

I can say as an Atheist I've become who I could never accept I was/am, and yet inside I still hear the voice saying egotism and cynicism is not right and holy and there is something higher to reach. But yet - if I was only who I am now before I could have fought and won so many more battles. If I accepted the strength I have, the egotism, the out-spokenness I wouldn't have lost so many friends with my shyness and inability to speak my mind because of my belief that this was how God wanted me to be.

But is Atheism the answer? I doubt it. Yet if someone could surely help me see an alternative to this Holy Guilt and turmoil I'd be glad to hear it.