Jesus on Getting to Heaven

Jim Lippard at The Secular Outpost pointed out something kinda funny for us at YouTube here, on what Jesus said to get to heaven.


Edward T. Babinski said...

There are more than just "8 things you have to do to get to heaven," consider this statement at the end of Jesus's lengthy sermon in the Gospel of Matthew (a sermon that many have nicknamed "The Sermon on the Mount"):

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father... Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man... And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man.
- Matthew 7:21-24,26

Now take a look at what those who "doeth the will of my father" to "get to heaven" must DO, as stated earlier in the "Sermon on the Mount":

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.
- Matthew 5:42

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again... But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again [=hoping for nothing in return]; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
- Luke 6:30,35

The commands above resemble the one already mentioned in the video, about "selling all you have." But they state, "give away" your possessions to all who "ask" for them, "hoping for nothing in return," or you won't get to "enter the kingdom of heaven!"

And this same sermon not only commands, "give to all who ask," but ALSO commands, ""Love your enemies... bless those who curse you... if struck on one cheek, turn the other... lay not up for yourself treasure on earth [do not save money!]... Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either [leaving you naked, since those two items summed up the clothing worn by ancient Near Easterners].

And the semon ends with the warning, as already stated above, of DO all this, OR ELSE.

Also in the Gospel of Matthew, the "sheep" and the "goats" in the parable of the final judgment are separated based on what they DID, i.e., their actions. So the earlier Gospels, like Matthew (compared with the last written Gospel, John), depicted a Jesus who stressed the necessity of righteous actions to get to heaven.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus even taught: "Pray in this way... Forgive us Father, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us," which is direct forgiveness simply based on having forgiven others (unlike John 3:16).


Secondly, the video should clarify that the idea of "hating other people" rather than "loving one's neighbor," is a relative one. It means that one's love of God should be so intense that one's love for others seems like "hate" in comparison. At least that's what some exegetes argue. Though Jesus's reply to one follower who wanted to go home to bury a dead relative was pretty strong, for Jesus allegedly said, "Let the dead bury the dead." Harsh, Jesus, harsh! Not exactly a "family friendly" statement that today's Religious Right would endorse.


Thirdly, when scholars compare the Gospels they note differences between the earlier and later Gospels, including differences that impinge on the teaching of Christian doctrines. For instance the Gospel of Mark is ostensibly the earliest story of Jesus's life (over 90% of what appears in Mark is reproduced in Matthew and Luke), while the Gospel of John was written last of all the Gospels. The earlier three Gospels featured a very "Jewish" Jesus when it cames to teaching about "how to get to heaven" or "inherit eternal life." Therefore, Jesus in the earlier tellings of his story stressed righteous actions above all else, and stressed loving God and obeying the commandments, and actively forgiving others in order for God to forgive you.

So the historical Jesus most probably focused on DOING THE RIGHT THING (even to the point of "selling all you owned," or, giving it away to "anybody who asked," including "enemies"). But why would anyone teach such things, and emphsize the necessity of practicing them as a way to get to heaven? Some argue that such teachings may have been the result of Jesus's belief that God's judgment day was near at hand, to cite a theologian:

It is Jesus' eschatology that accounts for the radical perfectionism of the application of his values, e.g., "Love your enemies... bless those who curse you... if struck on one cheek, turn the other... lay not up for yourself treasure on earth [do not save money!]... Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either [leaving you naked, since those two items summed up the clothing worn by ancient Near Easterners]...give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back [!], etc."

I can't buy Luther's way out, i.e., that Jesus was showing us how we can't obey these values, in order to prepare us for the gospel of justification by faith! Sorry, Luther! The text repeatedly says, "Do this to reach the kingdom, do this or be punished." I am thinking foremost of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is depicted as saying:

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets... Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits... Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire [apocalyptic speech]. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS." Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house [apocalyptic speech]; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell and great was its fall. [Matt. 7: 12-27]

Most perfectionists are neurotics: was Jesus? Not if he predicated perfectionism as the only way to live due to the nearness of God's actual judgment day! Then it would seem feasible!

Or as another has pointed out:

That generation [of Jesus' day] was not to pass away until the heavens should be rolled up as a scroll, and until the earth should melt with fervent heat... Filled with the thought of coming change, he [Jesus] insisted that there was but one important thing, and that was for each man to save his soul. He should care nothing for wife or child or property, in the shadow of the coming disaster... He endeavored, as it is said, to induce men to desert all they had, to let the dead bury the dead, and follow him. We know now - if we know anything that Jesus was mistaken about the coming of the end, and we know now that he was greatly controlled in his ideas of life, by that mistake. Believing that the end was near, he said, "Take no thought for the morrow, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or wherewithal ye shall be clothed." It was in view of the destruction of the world that he called the attention of his disciples to the lily that toiled not and yet excelled Solomon in the glory of his rainment. [The parable even has an appropriately apocalyptic ending: "The grass of the field that is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace!" Mat 6:30] Having made this mistake, having acted upon it, certainly we cannot now say that he was perfect in knowledge.

blondlieut said...

As a good liberal Christian, I only have this to say. I have had to watch the word "Christian" be hijacked by your remaining comrades "in the fold," who somehow think that being a Christian means being a "Bible-believing" Christian-- even if that seems to me to be believing in the wrong thing.

It's always seemed like a tremendous house of cards to me to build faith on top biblical inerrancy (or should i say, biblical idolatory) and a couple of pet cultural peeves in lieu of an actual spiritual life (although I suppose "easier," in the same way that Burger King is easier than real food).

So pardon me if I look on in horror if you all engage in the same sort of literal biblical analysis to "debunk" Christianity as you did when you were on the other side-- I mean, sorry, but I didn't buy much that kool-aid then, when it was in the service of hateful, gay-bashing Republican millenial Iraq invading politics.

You might not be Christians any more, but is it just me, or does that still seem, well, evangelical? And does it still seem like you're taking the Bible literally in order to debunk Christianity?

You folks really are the one-trick ponies I always thought you were, even after you've left Christianity behind!!

God forgive them, they know not what they do.

Richard Hurst

Dennis said...

How can anyone read the full Sermon on the Mount and come away thinking that they could possibly be considered "righteous" by their own works thus earning their entrance into heaven?

Matthew 5:22 "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

So even if we do all the other good stuff, becoming angry at that lunatic driver who nearly drove you off the road earns you "judgment".

Matthew 5:28-29 "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart … If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."

So even if we do all the good stuff and somehow never get angry with anyone, just looking at woman the wrong way can earn you judgement.

Clearly, the Sermon on the Mount was intended to show our inadequacies and that we couldn't possibly follow the Father's will in every way.

Dennis said...


What does the word "Christian" mean to you?

I think the definition "follower of Christ" is appropriate. Was Jesus an inerranist? Clearly he was. How many times did Jesus quote the OT scriptures when he could have easily used his own authority to say whatever he wanted. Jesus once rebuked the Sadducees and told them they were in error because they didn't know the scriptures. How often do you look to the Bible for your source of spiritual knowledge?

How was Jesus any less Bible idolater then the inerranists you attack?

blondlieut said...

It seems to me Jesus uses the Hebrew Bible as any good liberal Christian does, as the source of study and inspiration. Of course he quotes from it, as we would. Of course he rebukes others who don't know it. He also rebukes those who follow it the letter but not the spirit of the law. I think even someone as problematic as *Paul* says that.

But keep quoting from the Bible, you're just making my point for me. :)

Richard Hurst

John W. Loftus said...

Richard, we're debunking evangelical Christianity here, so I'm sure you and I have many agreements on that score. Liberal Christianity has it own problems, not the least of which is this: what if the whole Christian community of believers is wrong? Liberals defer to the community of faith, don't they? Well, what if they're all wrong?

openlyatheist said...

Isn't that the beauty of religious terminology? It can only be defined by the religious.

Denounce New Coke and someone will come along to tell you that Classic Coke was the real deal all along.