There ought to be a law


In another blog entry, as can happen, we diverged off on a Rabbit Trail about the “forcing” of one’s beliefs on another. I complained, as can happen, that many Christians are attempting to force their beliefs through the medium of the American legislative and Judicial branches, rather than persuading society as a whole as to the viability of the Christian morality system.

Actions speak louder than words. Christians don’t show the viability of their belief by practicing them, they attempt to show them by passing laws about plaques and prayers. Look, if you don’t believe them in practice, why should I?

Practically, the primary method of evangelism as exhibited by the American Christian is the attempt to pass a law to make the citizens “look” like they are Christians.

Do you really think God is pleased with a law that prohibits homosexuals from marrying, because it forces America to “look” like it is a Christian? Like making a child squirm and yell, and draw and wiggle through a Church service, but it still counts, because he is there.

I blogged this before, elsewhere, but it seems to still be applicable.



We aren’t the ones mandating that Christians must do such-and-such, and act in a certain way. Your Bible is. We are the ones reading it, and seeing that you have no interest in following its mandates either. If you aren’t interested, why should we be? More importantly, why should we have to follow some of your rules, if you aren’t?

You want to show the world the viability of Christianity? Start acting like Christians! It is hard for us to buy that you believe this stuff, when we see you living in million dollar houses, generating college funds for your children and driving new SUV’s. Oh, we do too, but we aren’t claiming the Bible as the absolute moral authority. You are.

While the esoteric debate of absolute vs. relative morality can be interesting, at some point we need to look at the pragmatic side of the matter—how does it work? When we see how terribly skewed Christianity apply their claimed independent basis for morality, we see a system that is just as relative, and often worse, than any secular humanist could devise.

It is like the child, who upon being formed by their mother to “Go ahead, take the medicine, it tastes good” asks their mother, “If it tastes so good—YOU try it.” The resulting grimace and hesitation is enough information. In spite of the argumentation, practice demonstrates that Mom can’t swallow her own medicine.

Christians have manufactured a list of morals. By alleging it came from a God, they attempt to elevate this list to supercede any list created by mere humans, and trumpet it as, therefore, superior. By defining the God as absolute (albeit unable to verify this claim in any way) this list becomes an “absolute” standard.

I understand that a Christian cannot know everything on the list. I understand that the Christian cannot comprehend some of the things on the list. For the moment, it is enough to know that we have such a list, providing us insight on do’s and don’ts.

But Christians themselves do not follow this list. In fact, they are astoundingly horrible at doing so.

They take their list and start circling certain items as being moral/immoral. Items that any human could come up with. Items that do not cost the Christian anything:

“Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not lie.” What is so remarkable about those circled items? Societies that never even heard of the Christian God developed these concepts. Any human, anywhere, can develop a set of morals such as these. Attributing them to a God is not remarkable. Billions of non-Christians subscribe to these tenets.

After having this list waved about as an extraordinary system of morals, it is high time I reviewed that list, and see just how “absolute” the Christian is being. I can read the Bible too. Remember, this is a list from a God. The human is in no position to pick-and-choose which morals they like, and which ones they don’t. It is an all-or-nothing prospect. If the Christian cannot explain how God-caused atrocities such as Joshua’s genocide are on the list, they certainly have no authority to question the more minor restrictions.

Paul says that entire Law can be summed up as “Love your neighbor.” (Rm. 13:9) Jesus confirms that. (Mark 12:31, Matt. 22:36, Lk. 10:28) If this is number one (or two) on the list, and is emphasized into a place of importance, we must look at it more closely. What does it mean to “Love your neighbor”? Jesus broadly encompasses “Neighbor” to include enemies. (Matt. 5:34).

What moral, what law do we find on this list now? “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Luke 6:29-30. Wow! When is the last time we saw a Christian argue that should be the number one concern of Christians today? Remember, this is YOUR list, in which YOUR God put it at the very top.

You hold abortion as a sin. It is on the list. Circled. Because of the inability to convince society as a whole, you attempt to pass laws and mandate through the Judicial system by fiat what you cannot do by persuasion. Why are you skipping past the more important laws, as pointed out by your God? You want me to be convinced of your “absolute morality”? Start applying it uniformly. Start petitioning just as hard for laws that cost you, not laws you can live with.

Where is the outcry for the reform of all theft laws to carve out an exception when a Christian is stolen from? It is right there on the list. It even precedes “Do not murder.” If your God thinks it is of the most important, why don’t you? You march against abortion clinics. Where are the Christian clinics where anyone who asks for assistance is given freely? Please READ Luke 6:27-36. These “Christian clinics” should so clog our cities and towns that people cannot get to the Abortion clinic without passing 5 or 6 of them. Dare I say, if you converted your Churches into places where people would freely receive food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and jobs without questions, without admonition, without sanctimonious disapproval you would be stunned at how we would start to look at your “absolute morality.”

Want to take a stab at the very heart of atheism? Stop behaving like one. If you believed that these morals came from a God, you would act on it.

I am unimpressed with philosophical argument, when I see this. Want to make an impact in the world? Want to prevail on this argument easily? Stop picking and choosing your “absolute morals” and start living them. Within your letter to you Congressperson about eliminating abortion, include a mandated Christian-help center.

A rich Christian should be a witticism like “plastic glass” or “jumbo shrimp.” Jesus says, if you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor. (Matt. 19:21, Mark 10:21) Stop worrying about material possessions. (Matt. 6:25-34) Give everything you own. (Luke 21:2) I’ll help you out—Christian women can sell or give all their gold jewelry and pearls for the benefit of the poor. 1 Tim. 2:9.

You consider homosexuality a sin. I understand. You desire to pass laws to prohibit homosexual marriage. (Why you want to pass a law prohibiting “sinners” from marrying, since your own system would mandate the elimination of marriage, is beyond me, but so be it.) Fair enough. In looking at your list, I am looking forward to all the proposals on the ballot reducing the amount of Bank Savings, and stock portfolios, and real estate that professing Christians may own.

I am eagerly anticipating the reforms that all of Christendom will be propelling forward with exuberance to eliminate government-assisted aid to the elderly and those needing assistance, as it is clearly the responsibility of the Christians. (James. 1:27) With the elimination of their wealth, it would be easily done.

Come ON! Can anyone point me to a rally, to a petition, to a conference, a proposal, anything in which we see Christians claiming other Christians are not doing their part, and it is time to pass some laws enforcing it! Give me a break.

Our health system is long overdue for some much-needed assistance. Christians, in following their own “absolute” morals will no longer require medicine, hospitals or Doctors for diseases. James 5:13-16. By even using such facilities, they are demonstrating a lack of faith, (Matt 17:20, Matt. 21:21) which I am sure will equally be a crime, once Christians have their way.

More importantly Christians should replace hospitals for sicknesses. (The Bible is never quite clear on injury-related problems.) As any believer is able to heal the sick. (Mark 16:15-19). Jesus even indicates that believers can do MORE than he ever did in the miracle department. (John 14:12)

Want a law that says doctors should be convicted of murder for performing an abortion? Great. I assume that the law will also indicate that any person that goes to a Christian for healing and dies will equally be a victim of Murder. If you can’t heal by your faith, as required by your “absolute moral” then you can’t call yourself a Christian. The number of people claiming to be “Christian” would drop into the single digits. At least that would get you out of giving up your Mutual Funds, wouldn’t it?

And what exactly ARE you doing, complaining about the laws in the country in which you live? If you are facing persecution, isn’t that to be considered a joy? Are you allowed to complain about it? Nope. (James 1:2, 1 Peter 2:13-25, Philippians 2:14). Funny, when I look at your list, I don’t see that one circled, do I?

As I start to inspect this list, and its circled items, a pattern emerges—the Christian only circled the items that do have a cost to the Christian. “Do not steal.” Most people do that anyway, that is an easy one to circle. “Give everything you have to the poor.” Now the Christian starts waving the list real fast, and spouting philosophical meta-arguments of the values of absolute morality, hoping no one ever really looks at what the Christian is actually proposing.

Look, it is very simple. You want to impress the world with absolute morality? Start with laws imposing Christian morals on Christians. Any group that is willing to do that type of self-sacrifice is worthy of notice.

In the meantime, I am less than impressed with your “absolute morality.” If you don’t buy it, why should I?

23 comments:

Spartacus said...

Two quick things. First, your analogy of a mother telling her child that the medicine tastes good in order that he take it is inherently flawed. The mother wants her child to take the medicine because she knows it is good for him. She attempts to deceive him because she knows he isn't able to understand the long term benefits of the medicine and instead focuses on its unpleasant taste. Granted, when confronted with her deception (that the medicine tastes good) she tells the truth; I am willing to bet that if she were sick she would in fact take the medicine. However, your analogy does have some merit. Many Christian doctrines and teachings, "mandates" if you will, are similar to the medicine that doesn't taste good but has glorious benefits in the long run. Where Christianity differs from your analogy is that it doesn't try to decieve people into thinking the medicine tastes good. Take abstinence before marriage as an example. Christian teach that you should not have sex before marriage. Christians also teach that refraining from sex will not be fun and it will be hard. But they also teach that the long term benefits are huge, even though they may not be immediately visible. It looks to me like Christianity gives us the medicine and all the info up front.
Second, you complain that Christians are forcing their morals upon everyone else through their use of the legislative and judicial branches of government. With regards to the legislative: Christians can be said to force their morals upon a minority who doesn't agree or want them. Just as any majority is a legislative body can be said to do the same thing. This is how republics operate. To say that a majority in this system of government should not impose its morals on a minority is to say that we should live in a moral and legal anarchy. If you are an anarchist, then so be it. I just thought i'd make that clear. With regards to the judicial branch: You cite abortion as an issue where Christians are trying to impose their will on people through an unrepresentative branch of government. I would agree with you, but I would also say that anti-aborition advocates have done the same. To keep things simple, I would ask the question of which side has been seen as right throughout history; and if you ask that question then i think you have to acknowledge that the Christian argument is one that has been supported for nearly two centuries in this country. The advent of the Warren Court and the subsequent anti-abortion rulings (Griswold laid the ground work, then came Roe, Casey, Hill, and many more) were a grieveous departure from Constitutional precedent that had been in place for nearly all of this nation's history. If Christians are engaging in judicial advocacy now, it is advocacy towards the historical norm and not away from it. I would argue that it is the latter you should be most afraid of.

xblairx said...

hello there. jsut a passer-by, but your post intrigued me. sadly, i share many of your sentiments. my friends and i have been trying to figure out what it really means to follow Jesus, and the things that christians fight for, in North America at least, are often not the same things that Jesus wants us to fight for. i wish christians could look beyond their comfort zones and really begin to follow Jesus. i do think that christians are coming around. although it has happened slowly, i do see people selling all their posessions, and i do see people living non-judgmental lives when it comes to issues such as homosexuality. i have a hope for christianity. sometimes it is hard to see, but it is there in the hearts of some.

Mark Plus said...

spartacus writes,

Take abstinence before marriage as an example. Christian teach that you should not have sex before marriage. Christians also teach that refraining from sex will not be fun and it will be hard. But they also teach that the long term benefits are huge, even though they may not be immediately visible. It looks to me like Christianity gives us the medicine and all the info up front.

For personal reasons this christian teaching makes me exceedingly angry.

Let me explain by way of analogy: To me watching adult movies resembles watching watching science fiction. How so? you might ask. Because in both porn and sci-fi I get to see men doing the kinds of things I've not had the opportunity to do in real life (up to my current age of 46). Having sex with a woman, going through the Stargate to another planet -- nearly the same difference, from my perspective.

As for marriage? I have no control over that. You can't find a wife the way you can go to the animal shelter to adopt a cat.

Yet by christians standards I have lived sexually "morally," except for Jesus' weird definition of "adultery" in Matt. 5:28. But I'd almost bet money that most christian men wouldn't want to wind up in my situation.

Spartacus said...

Your sci-fi/pornography parallel is certainly a valid one. I think sci-fi can have very positive effects on people and can allow them to use their imaginations in very good and acceptable ways; but it can also have negative effects, and can promote uses of our imaginations for negative and unhealthy purposes. What I think the difference with pornography is that it always promotes uses of our imaginations for unhealthy purposes. If a sci-fi movie degraded men and women's dignity then I would disapprove of it. I disapprove of porn because I think it does just that. Not to mention, I'm much more likely to go have sex after watching porn than I am to go murder aliens after watching Starship Troopers. Does this mean I can always stop myself from indulging in a dirty movie. No. But it does mean that I recognize the dangers inherent in both sci-fi and porn; and ask God's help in removing the temptation for both.
The fact that you are 46 and have yet to be with a woman is impressive. And while i'm impressed because I don't know if I would be able to last that long myself, I also feel sorry for you. You're correct in thinking that most christian men wouldn't want to be in your situation, in fact, i think no man would want to be in your situation. As a guy, I know what it feels like to want to love a girl intimately (physically and emotionally) and be loved by her too, and I don't think i'm going out on a limb by saying you know what that feels like also. But I have to trust daily that what the Bible teaches about abstinence and marriage is for my own good. Even if its the worst tasting medicine in the world, it's still medicine and it's still made to make me better.

tigg13 said...

Spartacus, I couldn't help but notice that you pretty much ignored the primary point of the original post.

Do you follow God's laws as far as giving up all your worldly possesions and dedicating your life to loving your enemies, helping the poor, healing the sick, etc., etc.?

Do you advocate the passing of laws that force christians to act in such a way?

If not, why not?

Professor Doktor Matthias Flay said...

Wonderful post.

Way back when I was an evangelical Christian, I wrote up and presented a Bible study on this topic in my college group at my (relatively affluent) church. It was titled 'Decadence,' in kind of a tongue-in-cheek way, but the Bible study itself was quite heavy on Scripture, specifically, that which tells us what Jesus wants from us.

Two guesses as to how that went over.

The church never had a problem passing out yard signs opposing gay marriage, or petitioning Marilyn Manson out of our city, but turning the other cheek? Giving to those who ask of us? Hell no!

I was accused of personally going after people in the group, which wasn't my aim at all. Inspired by the well-known book 'Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger,' I merely wondered why we Christians were so different from the kinds of people Jesus describes as his sheep. I was probably less well-off than most of the people there, but I was still incredibly uncomfortable thinking about the luxurious life I had, and what little I or my community does for the needy, compared to what is asked of us.

Apparently this feeling isn't all that common in the evangelical community.

paul said...

The law of love. I always wrestled with this one as a 'christian.' I came to the place of believing that the law of love was like all the others given by 'God' in that they/it could not actually be kept consistently, but were/is there to show us our lacking. So, why show us our lacking? Because in our lack we understand our dependence on and need for 'God' and turn to Him? So,ultimately, 'christianity' is about relationship, not doing stuff? "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you, away from me you evildoers!" Matthew 7:21-23. Gee, these all seem like good things to do, and I can't figure how you perform miracles and cast out demons apart from 'God,' but I digress. It would seem that doing this stuff is not the ticket. As DagoodS points out, loving your neighbor is the second item, loving God is the first. So, perhaps, loving God equals loving my neighbor? i.e., if I do the first (love 'God'), that will be loving my neighbor. The second is fullfilled in the keeping of the first? Doing "...the will of my father who is in heaven." If the pharisees could not rely on the stuff written down in a book as guidance of what the will of the father was...can 21st century 'christians'?
It seems 'Christianity' today is a repeat performance of what Jesus purportedly encountered 2000 years ago. The religious people of that day thought they were following Gods law, and were harsh and punitive in their approach to life. Sound familiar? Let's pass laws restricting and punishing 'non christian, ungodly', behavior.
How does one know the "will" of the father who is in heaven? Many 'christians' believe God talks to them through the bible. There is biblical precedence for prophesying and performing miracles, casting out demons (all seems like good stuff). But 'Jesus' says, not enough, "I never knew you." So the important issue seems more about 'knowing Jesus' (or being known by him), not doing stuff. Lots of people talked to Jesus today, did Jesus talk back (sop in most relationships).... No, Jesus gave this 'love letter' (i.e., the bible) and that's how Jesus talks to people...yet, if you just follow what's in the letter, you'll be cast away because Jesus never 'knew' you. I'd say 'christianity' is missing something here. Sorry DagoodS, I hope I didn't go wayyyyy off your post...you struck a chord in me.

Dennis said...

How did an evangelical charity like Samaritan's Purse take in 237 million dollars in 2004 if at least a few Christians aren't being charitable?

I think some of you have the idea that being charitable means giving money to anyone that stops you in a parking lot. I don't think Jesus meant for us to be stupid with the resources he has blessed us with. There are ways of giving to other people without handing cash over to someone looking for a way to get their next fix for whatever habit they have.

Spartacus said...

Tigg,
Do I give away all I have, spend all my time helping the needy, and never fail to love my enemies? No. If I did, I wouldn't have much of a need for grace. Do I tithe a portion of my paycheck, do I help serve at my local homeless shelter, and try to humble myself in light of being humiliated and attacked by some...yes. As a christian i'm called to maintain a balance between my responsibilities. Giving away all my money would hurt my ability to care for my family. Neglecting work to serve soup would be irresponsible for the same reason.

Personally, I wouldn't vote for a law that forced people to give all their assets to the poor or to spend most of their time doing community service because I think doing so would be detrimental to society and would create an imbalance in the culture. The point I was trying to make in my earlier comment was simply that we live in a republic and a democratic system, and because of that I don't really have a right complain against a majority of people who vote to pass such laws. I do have a right to try to convince them and others that those laws are imprudent. But I'm not being disenfranchised and my speech isn't being limited.

DagoodS said...

Spartacus,

Three points.

1) I meant the Mother/Child and the Medicine more as an illustration, rather than an analogy. We are all familiar with situations in which a person imposes a duty on another, but when the tables are turned, is unable to live under the same standard.

Phrases such as “Do as I say, not as I do” or “A taste of your own medicine” come to mind. That was all.

2) Yes I am familiar with the concept of a Republic in which the majority votes laws which affect the people as a whole. What I see, though, is that the majority votes laws that have the least impact on themselves, and the greatest impact on the minorities. We see, in America, the constant battle of the majority of the legislative branch being rich, imposing laws that have the least impact on the rich, and the greater impact on the poor.

Or the warmongers, as a majority, imposing laws that the have the least impact (and the greatest benefit) for themselves, and the greater impact (and least benefit) for those advocating peace. It is the constant struggle.

And that is EXACTLY what we see in Christianity, too, isn’t it? That the majority of a Christian nation impose laws that have the least impact on Christians, and the greatest impact on the minority position. And who cares, right? That’s what makes them the minority position. The phrase, “Sucks to be you” comes readily to mind. Once that minority becomes the majority, the Christians can whine and complain how they are being persecuted.

In other words, Christians act just like other humans when enforcing laws. The difference being, that Christians give MORAL justifications for doing so, and when I look at the entire package of what they claim is moral, they are deliberately picking and choosing which moral items have the least impact on themselves.

3) tigg13 is correct, you avoided the primary thrust of this blog entry. But you did refer to two items of interest—pre-marital sex and pornography.

If those, too, are on the “Christian hit list,” where is the outcry to enact and enforce laws making pre-marital sex illegal and all pornography illegal? Where are the ballot proposals, the petitions, the websites, the slogans, the banding together? Where are the questions for politicians in debates as to where they stand on the ban on pornography and pre-marital sex?

In the 2004 election, eleven U.S. States voted on a ban on homosexual marriage. Not one state voted on ban on pre-marital sex. Why did Christianity fail to pursue that course? There are two reasons:

a) It is not popular. Sadly, even among non-believers there is a great deal of homophobia. Homosexuals are in the vast minority, despite one’s position on religion.

BUT, if Christians began to rally together to ban all sex outside of marriage, the popular opinion would abandon them. That is not a well-received position! Soon, Christians would be seen as a fringe group, odd, outsiders. They would be treated as cultish.

Christianity is extremely interested in putting on a show that is accepted. Testing shows a ban on gays is popular, go with it! Testing shows a ban on sex outside of marriage is unwelcome, bury it in sermons and statements, but let the laws sit where they will.

b) A ban on sex outside marriage and on pornography would impact the Christian right where they live. Easy for me to pass a law putting a Nuclear Reactor in YOUR backyard, much tougher to vote one in mine! A ban on homosexual marriage only affects a vast minority of Christians (and even they fell guilty about it.) A ban on sex outside marriage affects a majority of Christians.

Last I looked, Christians engaged in sex outside marriage just as much as non-believers. Are you aware of the explosion of problems with pornography in the pastoral sector once the internet came into public use? It was one thing for those pastors, elders, deacons and trustees to only get porn when they traveled out of town, at some liquor store no one would ever recognize them. Difficult.

Once internet porn became readily available, and those church leaders could view porn anytime, in the privacy of their own home, it became a prevalent problem. The programs for church leaders addicted to porn filled up overnight.

Not just the leaders, of course, but members and attendees as well.

Christians are engaging in sex outside marriage and enjoying porn at the same rate as non-believers. If we imposed a law banning those items, we would be forced to convert our churches to jails, because the churches would be empty, and the jails overcrowded.

Oh, Christians can preach and stomp and yell how they are against porn. Against sex outside marriage. But in the privacy of that voting booth, they would never, NEVER vote in such a ban, because it would far too much impact on their own life. Easier to vote a ban on homosexuals, something that “wonderful majority” (note quotes) will never be tempted with. Too bad for the minority. “Sucks to be you.”

And don’t get me started on the financial voting….

DagoodS said...

Professor Doktor Matthias Flay, I can only imagine how well that talk went over! I chuckled, thinking about it. They were all squirming in their seats, KNOWING you are correct, and not daring to cough.

Easier to put the blame on you. “Bad motives” and therefore they can dismiss your entire message with a sigh of relief. Because if you had bad motives, nothing you said could be correct, right? And then quash those troubling statements down and never speak of it again.

paul,

“Knowing Jesus” is not enough. If you look at those passages, the “love” is tied directly to an action. Luke 10:30-35. A Samaritan sees a man beaten by the road. You know the story. Does Jesus say, “The Samaritan knew me, and showed love”? Nope. Does Jesus say, “The important thing here is that the Samaritan desired a relationship with this man”? Nope.

Jesus says, “The Samaritan acted and helped. That is loving your neighbor.”

Further, Matt. 25 gives the sermon that Jesus WILL judge, based on actions. In fact, in those passages, the people explicitly state they did not know Jesus, and the King says that by virtue of their actions, not their knowledge, they will receive their reward. The passage in Matthew 7 tells us that we will know people by their fruits—what they do. And Jesus also indicates that it is not enough to “hear” his saying, but to “do” them as well.

Jesus demands action, not just knowledge, not just belief. Actions that Christians are more than willing to impose on others by legislative mandate, when it has no impact on them.

DagoodS said...

Spartacus,

Giving away all my money would hurt my ability to care for my family. Great point. What I see are Christians that are worried about their children’s college funds, Christians worried about putting food on the table, Christians worried about mowing yards, building additions, putting in pools.

Just. Like. Non-believers.

What did Jesus say about your ability to care for your family? Aren’t you supposed to live by faith, and trust him for your food, clothing and shelter? How can you make this statement in light of Matthew 6:24-31.

Humorously, Jesus makes the exact same point I do in Matt:6:32 by stating that even the Gentiles seek those things. Jesus wants you to stand out and be different. Live by faith.

What did Jesus say about giving away all your money? Jesus praised the widow for giving away all her money, right? Mark 12:41-44.

Christians are extolling me to take note at how fleeting and fragile these few years of life are as compared to eternity. Yet they are just as concerned, have just as many bank accounts, and live exactly as if there was no eternity just like I do.

I like a comfortable life—so do they. I plan for my future here on earth—so do they. If Christians really thought that billions and billions and trillions and trillions of years were dependent on just a few, brief years here, would they be so concerned about whether their family drove this year’s model of an automobile?

Spartacus, I truly hope that you do NOT give away all your money. I understand (since there is no God to support you) how foolish that would be. The problem you face is that we, too, can read your Bible. We, too, see what Jesus says you are to do. We, too, see that Jesus says hording items makes you no different than us. We, too, see that you are picking and choosing which morals to impose; i.e. the ones that affect you least.

If we see that you, pragmatically, do not believe it, why should we be convinced?

Dennis,

I don't think Jesus meant for us to be stupid with the resources he has blessed us with. Please see the verses I pointed out to Spartacus. Out of curiosity, how big of a bank account did Jesus say you should have? How much of a retirement plan? How much in your children’s college fund? Can you point out where Jesus provides some limitation as to how much one should give away, from what God has given you?

Luke 6:30 says, “Give to everyone who asks of you.” Perhaps you can give us the textual criticism that indicates that verse was inserted, and that was not what Jesus truly said.

Verses, Dennis, please. We can read them. Seem pretty straightforward to me. Can you point out verses that hold your position? Thanks.

There are ways of giving to other people without handing cash over to someone looking for a way to get their next fix for whatever habit they have. You are absolutely correct. Instead, you can take the cash out of the bank and sponsor them in a rehabilitation program. Or buy them a meal. Or rent them a hotel for a week.

No, WE don’t think charity is giving money to anyone that asks for it in a parking lot. Jesus does. If you, as a Christian, do not think that those words are recorded correctly, why should we?

Spartacus said...

DagoodS,
That's a lengthy comment and one in which you made some excellent points. Unfortunately, I don't have the time right now to respond to all of them, so i'm going to pick one.
Pornography. You say that pornography is just as big of a problem inside the church as it is outside of it, and I agree. I've seen the studies. I've also seen studies that have showed the rate of divorce amongst church goers to be equal to, if not higher, than the general population. These statistics are sad, but they are not unexpected. Christians are no better at not sinning than anyone else. We fall short of God's requirements of us constantly and that is made even worse by us knowing those requirements and being called to a higher standard. The apostle Peter denied even knowing Christ 3 TIMES after he had been warned he would do it, and telling Christ that it was impossible, that he would never deny him. All this leads to a single point, and that is that Christians sin just as much as unbelievers. Any Christian who claims to be above such sins as pornography or extramarital affairs simply isn't realistic and doesn't understand the Bible. Any Christian who holds an unbeliver responsible for a sin, while excusing himself, by claiming a higher moral ground, is not loving his neighbor as he should.
It seems to me that a Christian who votes to outlaw pornography is creating a law that would be just as harsh on himself as anyone else, at least according to the statistics. A christian would vote to outlaw pornography not because the law is easier on him and harder on people he doesn't like, but because he thinks doing so would have a positive effect on society and culture; and that one of the same reasons why someone would vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

What parable are you talking about in Matthew 25? Are you talking about the parable of the virgins where some were turned away by the bridegroom when he refuses to open the door and replies "I do not know you"?

I think you are talking about the parable of the goat and the sheep. Right? Take note that this parable doesn't start off with God separating the sheep by their works but it starts off with God separating the sheep from the goats. If you understand the context of the rest of the Bible, you will understand the significance of the righteous being called the sheep. Sheep are those who have put their faith in the shepherd and followed him. The goat represents a stubborn animal that wouldn't follow. The goats were judged according to their actions. The picture of a shepherd and his sheep is a beautiful illustration and it doesn't make any sense in the view that sheep somehow earn their status as sheep by giving to the poor. Also notice that the reward of heaven being given to the sheep is referred to as an inheritance. An inheritance isn't something earned and doesn't make sense with your interpretation. If you understand the doctrine of adoption, then inheritance makes sense and adds to the significance of this parable.

I don't understand how you interpret Luke 6:30 'Give to everyone who asks you' as meaning that we must had over cash to anyone who approaches us in a parking lot. Aren't there ways to give other than with money? The whole section in Luke 6 about loving your enemies and giving to others without expecting anything in return is summarized by verse 36: 'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.' God in his infinite wisdom doesn't give us everything we ask of him because we would probably choke on our worldly desires. If a drunk approaches us and wants us to buy him another drink, maybe there are other ways we can give and show love.

paul said...

DagoodS: "Knowing Jesus is not enough..." Yep. "Faith without works is dead" after all. Right there with ya.

My point is the trouble christianity has discerning what Gods will would be. Using the bible to decide Gods will is... problematic.

The first law is love, actually it encompasses all the rest. "God is love." All of His actions are born out of His character. Does God employ any less love in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah than He does defending the woman caught in the act of adultery? Or flip it around, back in the days of an eye for an eye. David, a "man after Gods own heart," commits murder...and his son gets the axe. How many "christians" would argue in favor of the death penalty, for example?. Using which scripture?

How can christians enact legislation when Gods rulings are so...fluid? Doing good stuff isn't enough, only "doing the will of the father" can even be considered good. And this knowledge, apparently, cannot be derived from a book or law carved on stone, but rather must be learned on a case by case bases from the One and only (don't ask me how). Who can argue against "casting out demons?" Well...Jesus. It's only appropriate ("good?") to cast out demons if it's the "will of the father."

So, how can one legislate Gods will? According to some christians, that was tried once and failed...thus the new covenant with laws written on the heart, not in Washington.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

Jesus did talk about stewardship and using what he has given to us wisely. Please see the parable of the talents in Matthew 26. Just between the parable of the bridegroom and the parable of the sheep/goats we were talking about.

Rich said...

I would agree with this post in the sense that christians aren't living what they teach. It would be easier for converting people if they could see us living as we should. From a great amount of experienc with this I say it is the biggest problem faced by us. I will go further to say that we as believers will be judged more harshly for turning people away by our lack of living properly then we want to know. We shouldn't need more laws on the books to forc people to do anything. It should be by example that we teach. It is absolutly correct that we should act as has been pointed out by a couple of people here. One more thing to point out here is that truth is truth and doen't change because its not liked or practiced/lived.
I think that Christ also wants us to realize that its the little things that will make the biggest difference in the end. It has been well stated that the big things are easy, murder, steal, ect... Thats why i believe that the little things will make the differenc becasue they were the most pointed out things in scripture. Look at Christ teachings while he was here. The two most important being love God and love your neighbor. if you are fulfilling those two simple principals,beliver or not, youare doing exactly whats expected of you. loving your neighbor requires actions and those actions prove that you follow the first. I think that is what Jesus is talking about when he says that he doesn't know you, if you only worry about openly showing one thing and behind closed doors another then you are fake and not known to Christ. When I have time to find the charity verses I think that will finish my thought here but I have to go for now. I do have to thank you guys here because your posts actually are helping to strenghten my resolve and testimony.

DagoodS said...

Spartacus,

Thank you for your honesty in recognizing that Christians are little different in their actions. I appreciated your forthrightness.

paul,

Perhaps the reason God’s will is so hard to determine is that Christians are using a book created not by one individual, but by a committee? And when a group of humans put together a project, it is of no surprise that conflicts appear.

Dennis,

How can you say the goats were judged by their actions, but the sheep were not? Yes, the verses indicate that they were divided. It goes on to say HOW they were divided. Or was it just a completely amazing coincidence that only those God chose as inheritance were the ones that were generous?

You don’t understand how “Give to everyone that asks of you” means….uh….”give to everyone that asks of you”? Again, there are ways to do it without simply handing over cash. Unfortunately for the Christian those ways require time, effort and (gasp, the HORRORS!) maybe actually getting to know the other person to determine what their needs are.

And the Christian is often too busy getting to their Pancake Prayer Breakfast, or their Christian Bowling League, or Christian Investment Counselor to actually spend time with the person, and that leaves the quick fix of tossing a fiver. And that money may be used to do (gasp!) a non-Christian activity, so even that is denied.

You want to avoid Luke 6:30 by claiming that 6:36 is a “summarization”? By what methodology (other than rationalization) do you make this determination? What other verses are summarizations? And how merciful was God? He committed suicide in order to fulfill his own justice. Are you willing to go that far? What is a Hamilton to a crack whore, if you are to go the extent of committing suicide for them?

Your justification for not providing money seems hollow if you are to, like God, be willing to even commit suicide for their betterment.

And how does the parable of the talents fit finances? Are you saying that talents really mean…talents? (As in money.) That God desires you to invest, rather than give to the poor, the stranger and those in need? How do you align that with the rest of Matthew 25?

I was always taught that Scripture must interpret Scripture. That if two things in the Bible appeared out of line, we must determine what is the best course to align them, rather than say it is a contradiction. Claiming “talents” in the parable are abilities, not finances would align all of Matthew 25. Saying it is money causes only contradiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Bible is contradictory enough. Do you want to feed a skeptic even more, though?

rich,

Thank you, also, for your honesty. It was your comment, elsewhere, that initiated this post, believe it or not.

But let’s kick it up a notch, shall we?

In your post you indicate all the things that Christians must do. You use the term “we” and “us” (appropriately might I add.)

Why are Christians doing all the work? What is the difference between you and I, if I am working at being generous and you are working at being generous? Where is the divine spark?

What I see are Christians, agreeing with me, that Christians are pragmatically no different than non-believers. What I see is Christians, through their own human effort, are attempting to be better individuals. Sadly, I also see other Christians, like other non-believers, attempting to justify not being generous.

Simply put, I look at non-believers, and look at Christians and see the same human gamut of differences. Where is the divine difference? Should Christians be seen as different? Should I be better at separating the sheep and goats? Or is it all the same? Being a believer makes no pragmatic difference as to being not?

If there is no difference in Christianity, why should I believe there is a Christian God?

(not to pick on you, rich, this is a question for all.)

paul said...

"If there is no difference in Christianity, why should I believe there is a Christian God?"

You're just looking at the wrong Christians DagoodS. Remember Jesus said "...the way is narrow, and few be there that find it..."
So, if one is looking for Jesus in His followers, one must first find/identify one of "the few."

Doesn't it come down to being able to identify a "difference" in oneself? I think we can only come close to substatiating an/the effort to be one of "the few" using our own lives as examples. When we discern no real difference in ourselves sans Jesus, how can we believe there is a Christian God?

Dennis said...

How can you say the goats were judged by their actions, but the sheep were not?

Because I understand the meaning of this parable in light of the rest of the Bible. If you understand the final judgment that will come some day, those believers that follow Jesus as sheep follow their shepherd will be praised by God for their good deeds. Everyone else will be judged according to their actions (or lack thereof).

Yes, the verses indicate that they were divided. It goes on to say HOW they were divided. Or was it just a completely amazing coincidence that only those God chose as inheritance were the ones that were generous?

No, they weren't divided according to what they did. It clearly says the sheep were divided from the goats. I've already discussed the significance of the reference to sheep and inheritance. Once the sheep were divided from the goats, the King praises the sheep and rebukes the goats. It's only your inference that a person becomes a sheep by giving. That is not a doctrine supported anywhere else. Sheep are those who follow the shepherd. If the whole point of the parable was to explain that people will be separated on judgment day by whether or not they were charitable, then why the whole sheep/goat thing? Clearly the sheep/goat thing represents something more than just charity. It's not a coincidence that the sheep are praised for their charity. All true followers of Christ are charitable people according to what the Bible teaches us.

Take a look at what Jesus said just a few chapters earlier in Matthew 21:31-32. Righteousness isn't something we can earn. It's bestowed upon us when we repent and believe. Jesus referred to the sheep as those who are righteous in the Matthew 25 sheep/goat parable. We need to read this parable in its context to understand it. Besides, why did Jesus even need to die on the cross if our inheritance could be earned so easily?

You don’t understand how “Give to everyone that asks of you” means….uh….”give to everyone that asks of you”? Again, there are ways to do it without simply handing over cash. Unfortunately for the Christian those ways require time, effort and (gasp, the HORRORS!) maybe actually getting to know the other person to determine what their needs are.

Forgive me if I thought that your interpretation of this verse meant that we should hand cash over to anyone who asks us for it. That's what I thought you were implying and that would be irrational. I agree with you that there are many Christians who are selfish but I disagree with your generalization because there are many Christians that will stop what they are doing and try to help people that ask for it.

And the Christian is often too busy getting to their Pancake Prayer Breakfast, or their Christian Bowling League, or Christian Investment Counselor to actually spend time with the person, and that leaves the quick fix of tossing a fiver. And that money may be used to do (gasp!) a non-Christian activity, so even that is denied.

Let's be reasonable. There is no way any person can devote 100% of their time to each responsibility that Christians are given. Taking time to fellowship with other believers is one of those responsibilities.

You want to avoid Luke 6:30 by claiming that 6:36 is a “summarization”? By what methodology (other than rationalization) do you make this determination? What other verses are summarizations? And how merciful was God? He committed suicide in order to fulfill his own justice. Are you willing to go that far? What is a Hamilton to a crack whore, if you are to go the extent of committing suicide for them?

It bothers me when people take a word that has a negative connotation, such as suicide, and then distort the meaning of the word just so that they can use it against someone else. If you knew of a person who's father died while doing something to save their life, would you dare tell that person their father committed suicide? I hope you wouldn't but that's what you have done. Making repulsive statements won't convince me you are right.

Getting back to our discussion, how have I avoided Luke 6:30? I am only avoiding what I interpreted to be your view that this meant we should give money to whoever asks. Are you saying that Luke 6:36 doesn't summarize the verses just before it?. Don't these verses tell us that we need to be merciful just as God has been merciful?

Your justification for not providing money seems hollow if you are to, like God, be willing to even commit suicide for their betterment.

Is it harmful to buy a drunk another drink? Do you understand this? I am not against helping a drunk, but there are much better ways to help.

And how does the parable of the talents fit finances? Are you saying that talents really mean…talents? (As in money.) That God desires you to invest, rather than give to the poor, the stranger and those in need? How do you align that with the rest of Matthew 25?

I see nothing in this parable that says we need to invest our money and never share any with others. What I see is a parable that tells us to be good stewards with everything that God blesses us with. Our money, our abilities, our time, our knowledge of how a person can be reconciled with God.

I was always taught that Scripture must interpret Scripture. That if two things in the Bible appeared out of line, we must determine what is the best course to align them, rather than say it is a contradiction. Claiming “talents” in the parable are abilities, not finances would align all of Matthew 25. Saying it is money causes only contradiction.

The contradiction only exists when you insist that the parable of talents means that we should only invest and hoard money and not give any away. That's a position that is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible so it must be thrown out (besides, it isn't even supported by the text).

Rich said...

DagoodS,
"Why are Christians doing all the work? What is the difference between you and I, if I am working at being generous and you are working at being generous? Where is the divine spark?"

The "work" Christians should be doing is speading the gospel of Christ and convincing others, by our actions, that there is a reason to follow Christ. As far as doing Good things for the betterment of society there is no difference between you and I. And further than that God recognizes and blesses those who follow his teachings regaurdless of religious
view. So were is the difference? Baptism by one with authority is one big saving ordinance that has to be performed in order to be saved and enter heaven. Christ, who lived without sin, sought out John the baptist so he could be baptized. John the baptist was one with the auhority to perform this ordinace. Christ set the example here by being baptized even though he had no sin.
It seems to me there is a big problem in our world of not wanting to take responsability for our actions. So rather than accept that we try to justify why we don't do certain things. I wonder sometimes what Christ will say on judgement day when these justifications start spweing out of peoples mouths?

"If there is no difference in Christianity, why should I believe there is a Christian God?"
The end result is the celestial Kingdom, living with God for the rest of eternity, or falling short of that mark. Since there are ordinances that have to be performed on earth to enter into the kingdom then there are also those that have to hold the authority/priesthood to perform them. Christ's church is here on this earth and that authority is held within. So the big trick is to find where it is. Now we are back to faith and prayer. If you truly seek the truth and ask in faith through prayer you will find it.
By the way I don't mind being picked on. I was trying to remember also which post this came from and what I said. I can hardly remember where I have been commenting let alone what I say. lol

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

What was the point of the story of the sheep/goats as to what humans should do? Now, having answered that, how were they divided?

Although a moot point, as you indicate that “all true followers” are charitable people, which is precisely my point. The “true followers” were divided by being charitable. It is not coincidence.

You say there is no way to devote 100% of your time. I agree. But there IS a way to devote 100% of your money—live by faith. Why aren’t Christians doing that, I wonder? Why are they only (barely) devoting 10%? Even the heathens can do that and live comfortably!

What about the verses that say Jesus will provide, don’t worry about it? Matt. 6:24-32. Or the praise for the widow giving away everything? Mark 12:41-44. How do those equate with Jesus saying people should not be “foolish” with their money by giving it all away?

I did not mean to upset you with the word “suicide.” God died for humans. Would you consider this an ultimate sacrifice? If you are to follow God, how is giving a finski to a homeless person not required?

Good question. IS it harmful to buy a drunk a drink? What are a few more moments of happiness? Even if this bothers your conscience, there are too many ways for you to give away all your money to save people from starving, or to obtain medicine, that you would not have any left to worry about the drunk getting some.

Ah yes, “good stewards.” The counter always used for Christians to defend their poor portfolios from taking a betting by the other passages in the Gospels.

Remember-interpret scripture with scripture. Luke 6 says give to anyone who asks. Matthew 6 says don’t worry about even the basics, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Mark 12, Jesus praises a widow who gives all her money. (Is THAT being a good steward?)

Now let’s look at the parable of the talents. I claim that Jesus is talking about abilities (which one cannot “give” away) and to use them, rather than fail to use them. That interpretation conforms with Luke 6, Matthew 6 and Mark 12.

You claim that Jesus is saying to be a “Good steward.” (and note the master DID say to invest the one talent in the bank.) That conflicts with Luke 6, Matthew 6, and Mark 12.

Now, either my interpretation is correct, OR the Bible contradicts itself. I actually believe the latter, but am attempting to give Christianity the benefit of the doubt and try to line up the stories as best I can. If you prefer contradiction, that is fine with me. In which case I would agree with your contention that the talents parable means to be a “good steward.” What, exactly are the parameters between “being a Good steward” and not “hording your money”? Since Christians claim morality is absolute, I am not looking for a relativistic, “depends on the person.” Thanks.

I asked for your methodology by which you determined that Luke 6:36 was a summation of Luke 6:27-35. You did not provide any, but merely asked whether I did NOT think it was a summation.

Do you want to know what I think? I, personally, think that Christians look for every excuse under the sun to not follow the very clear mandates of vs. 27-35. They are quite clear as to the length and breadth of the charity Jesus expects. Therefore they fall on vs. 36, claiming it is somehow a conclusion, something that not only encompasses the previous verses, but trumps them in some way.

Since God is not merciful to everyone, and Christians only have to be merciful as God is merciful, this gives Christians the excuse to only be merciful to some. The verses about “Loving your enemy” and “Give to everyone” are therefore eclipsed, in the Christian’s mind, by the license to exemplify the prejudicial actions of God in vs. 36.

Of course that renders the bits about only loving those that love you back, and how even the non-believers can do that, as meaningless, but hey—it avoids that pesky problem of giving away so much money Christians cannot lease a 2007 model vehicle.

What is “mercy”? It is the deliberate restrain from enforcing justice. Now, the very next verse, verse 37 talks about what? Judgment. More closely tied to justice than love. If you want to know what I think, these are various statements, claimed to be made by Jesus, that Luke and Matthew independently clumped together. Vs. 36 goes with vs. 37, not vs. 35. Makes sense. It is not a summation—that becomes contradictory.

paul and rich, I have a blog entry that has been rolling around in my mind. I will try to answer your comments within it, once it goes up.

Rich said...

Nothing like sparking another blog eh?
I think of a few verses that have ben quoted a few times and it makes me reflect alittle. Why would someone go to the judgement and have lived a good christian life and then have Christ tell them he didn't know them? I think DagoodS have a god point here in that we are not doing everything we should. I also believe that if we are continually trying to improve then we are on the right track. The most important thing to remember here is that we will make mistakes in this life. It was expected and known from the beginning. That is why a savior was provided for us. Justice has to be met as well as mercy. Christ paid justice by his sacrifice, and yes it was the single greatest act ever. Mercy can now be fulfilled if we use Christ's suffering to pay for our sins. If we don't we must ourselves pay for that sin. Repentance is the means by which we can use Christ's suffering to pay for our sins.
As far as the debate here about giving money instead of buying million dollar homes and new SUVs, I believe this to be true. I also believe that unless your own house is in order you can't be very effective at helping others. If I save money for my kids education so that they become contributing members of society rather than burdens to society. Members of my church are counciled to aquire no debt other than a home or education. I own a few toys and they were all bought with cash, but I also give plenty of help to all I can. I did say this before and it still applies, just because a principle isn't lived doesn't make it false. I do believe that if you give a man a fish you fed him for a day but teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
On a final note, truth is the important thing to seek out. People will almost never practice what they preach, sadly its true, but that doesn't change the truth. It is why few enter the Kingdom of heaven.