Monday, August 13, 2007

Who, or what, is a Christian?

I saw another post ask this question, and the usual responses followed: justified in the blood of Jesus, someone who holds the right beliefs (resurrection, correct atonement theory, correct belief of the nature of Jesus).

That's not how I would've answered.

When it's used in the New Testament, it means those who followed Jesus, or those who were disciples of Christ. It's reasonable to infer, therefore, that Christian basically means "Christ-like." "Christ" means the Messiah, or Anointed One. So to be Christian is literally to be "Anointed One-like."

I'm trying to think of an exemption to this, but usually when we say that someone is like another person, it's generally to describe characteristics or behavior. If I am like my friend or family member, it's because I would do what the friend/family member would do, or vice versa. So if we are to be Christ-like, then we would do what Christ did. Otherwise, we reduce "Christ-like" to believe as Jesus believed.

The Gospel of John focuses a lot of Jesus as the divine son of God, who Jesus was and his relation to the world and God, and to believe in the son is to receive eternal life/salvation. Inevitably, that gets used a lot in defining Christian.

Here's my problem: John is one of four books that details the life of Jesus. It's in the minority, and yet it gets used as a majority (I'm referring the books that deal with Jesus when he walked on this planet only right now). The other three books show that Jesus places a huge emphasis on action. The harsh words he had were for the religious elites -- those who clung to the correct beliefs at the expense of all else, including their fellow humans.

Let's take the Samaritan. By all accounts, the Samaritan was a heretic, a sinner, and definitely on the "outs" with God because he had the wrong beliefs. And yet that person was the most "Anointed-One like," because he behaved as an Anointed One should. When the three people would stand before God, who would receive the praise?

When we look at our neighbors today, and compare the behavior of some who call themselves Christian to others who call themselves agnostic ... I can't help but think the agnostics are going to receive the praise, because they truly behaved as though Anointed with the Spirit of God.

No, this is not a matter of "earning" salvation. Repentance and turning from sin can come in a variety of ways. If we work with someone who is an absolute jerk, and the understandable response would be to belittle this person, we are repenting through responding with calmness. We are repenting if we decide to see past the jerk-facade, and into the factors that influenced him as a child, or even still influence him. We repent by looking past the surface. We turn from sin when we refuse to hold onto our anger, or refuse to let "the jerk" influence our response, or refuse to let "the jerk" discolor our ability to love him or her.

So who is a Christian? Someone who is Christ-like. Someone who behaves as Jesus did, who sees as Jesus did.

24 comments:

SocietyVs said...

"someone who holds the right beliefs" (Heather)

You actually brought this to my attention a while back and I now use it as part of my theology - why? Because it is 'true' - believing right does not make you right (namely if you place your actions below your belief system - segregating the 2 somehow).

"No, this is not a matter of "earning" salvation. Repentance and turning from sin can come in a variety of ways" (Heather)

Much agreed! It's just a pattern of life/values we can choose to adopt and live by. I have never understood how one can segregate one's actions from faith in Christ - to me that defeats the whole purpose of his teachings (which are 'to live by them').

"So who is a Christian? Someone who is Christ-like. Someone who behaves as Jesus did" (Heather)

Agreed! I think (as you have taught) it matters what 'you do' and not what 'you believe'. I think the current church theology is missing the boat by a mile - so much so - that believing the right things is what faith is reduced to (when all the while doing was the point of Jesus). I find it do funny I have a hard time reading current doctrinal statements without laughing - you literally just have to agree to the theology to become a minister - and the doctrinal statements 'teach' people to 'believe' correctly vs. actually 'living' correctly. Very few doctrinal statements ever mention 'love you neighbor or treat others how you want to be treated' (very rare if any exist). I would ask plainly - where's the gospel/good news then?

I think the faith is mis-guided at this point and needs serious look at what people are thinking is faith as compared to what actually is - as defined by Jesus. So mis-guided people can believe correctly and yet act horrendously in the 'name of Jesus'...anf I ain't wondering 'why' anymore...so thank you.

StaCeY said...

I was just thinking today how man has a need to "label" everything... from designer jeans... to well... designer genes.

titles... position... ownership rights... you name it... man tries to stamp a label on it.

we are owned by the "tags" we wear. instead of looking deep into the person... we're more concerned with the tags and labels attached... dangling... and branded on the person "in question". This is how we "identify" who they are... so we know where to organize and compartmentalize them in the boxes of our minds.

But we are not "figurines" to be labeled. We are not I-dolls to be bought sold and traded according to the most popular "in" fashion labels of the day.

We are WHAT WE DO ... and what we say... and how we see and touch... the world and others... in any given moment. It is in observing a sucession of these given moments in the living of a person... that we begin to sense who they are. Their actions are the brush strokes of their lives... and the world is our canvas!

In the world of "the Christ like"... counterfiet labels abound.

I prefer to walk unlabeled... and let my life speak for itself.
This is also how I choose to "know" others.

In eternity... the labels will all fall and disintegrate... as leaves from a long gone season....

yet there we will each stand in the wonder of our unique... and unlabelable realness.

Mystical Seeker said...

Near the end of Matthew, it was also said that God judges people based on their behavior rather than their beliefs.

It really is a pet peeve of mine that many Christians think that God rewards and punishes us on the basis of having the right beliefs.

DagoodS said...

The problem that I often see though, heather, is that the various Gospel authors depicted very different Jesuses (“Jesi”?) and depending on what a person desires to justify often determines which “Christ” they want to be “Christ-like.”

I wish I was kidding about the following. I am not.

I have been informed that since Christ deceived (Luke 24:28) they are entitled to deceive me, since I am a heathen.

I have been informed that since Christ rebuked non-believers (Matt. 11:20), they are entitled to ignore me.

I have been informed that since Christ referred to the Pharisees as fools, blind, and vipers (Matt. 23), they are equally justified to call me names, insult me, and disregard any of my statements.

Since God (in the form of Christ) is not obligated to show mercy to all (Rom. 9:15. But contrast Luke 6:36); equally it is quite, quite “Christ-like” to deny me mercy as well.

Since Christ confidently condemned people eternal condemnation (Mark 3:29); they are on very “Christ-like” ground to do so as well.

Finally, it has been pointed out to me time and again that Christ, in the role of a Judge, is under no obligation to turn the other cheek, give up his cloak, or love his enemies. Being Christ-like…well…need I go on?

Frankly, I wish people would be human. I wish they would do better than being Christ-like. ‘Cause a lot of the people claiming to act just like certain Christs did—I’m not too interested in receiving their “Christ-like” attitude.

SocietyVs said...

"I have been informed that since Christ deceived (Luke 24:28) they are entitled to deceive me, since I am a heathen." (Dagoods)

Interesting take on that scripture on 'their' parts - but I would add in that nowhere is deception actually taught as an attribute to be valued (it just seems that Jesus never revealed his identity in the story - by vs.31 they actually do realize it is him).

"I have been informed that since Christ rebuked non-believers (Matt. 11:20), they are entitled to ignore me." (Dagoods)

Interesting - again on 'their' part. I would note the cities Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are all cities with some religious back-drop (being in Israel) - and again he in not saying this to any single 'individual' but 'cities'.

"I have been informed that since Christ referred to the Pharisees as fools, blind, and vipers (Matt. 23), they are equally justified to call me names, insult me, and disregard any of my statements" (Dagoods)

Then those same 'people' must be very mis-guided in their view of scripture. Matt 23 is a long sermonette about the hypocrisy of the 'religious leaders' - is anything it's more ammo for you than for them (but I know where you're coming from here - ever read Frank Walton?). I would also be quick to point out Matt 5:22 seems to point out 'calling names in anger' is unjustified - and if anything - needs to be made right before even approaching God (v.24). Plus there are 100's of passages on the idea of forgiveness - not so much in the weight of 'calling names' just;y.

"Since God (in the form of Christ) is not obligated to show mercy to all (Rom. 9:15. But contrast Luke 6:36); equally it is quite, quite “Christ-like” to deny me mercy as well." (Dagoods)

Again those 'ignorant' people. How can one even forget the beatitudes (blessed are the merciful)? Also mercy is so cornerstone to Jesus' actions it becomes one of his main characteristics (ie: healings and parable teachings). Luke 6:35-36 also back this up - 'do good expecting nothing back' (as part of mercy). As for Romans 9 Paul again is making the point (in that whole book actually) about Gentiles and Jewish people sharing the same faith - and God had mercy on the Gentiles (which seems to be his point a lot in that book).

"Since Christ confidently condemned people eternal condemnation (Mark 3:29); they are on very “Christ-like” ground to do so as well." (Dagoods)

Well then those people must serve their own interests by virtue of argument. No one person is in the place of 'God' to make a judgment call like that - or to play God in that sense. Even if that blasphemy is 'unforgiveable' - who decides that? Us? Nowhere in that passage is that hinted we are the 'judges'. But I would also filter this through Matt 7:1-5 about judgement (also in Luke) - judgement starts with 'ourselves' and ends with 'ourselves'.

"Finally, it has been pointed out to me time and again that Christ, in the role of a Judge, is under no obligation to turn the other cheek, give up his cloak, or love his enemies" (Dagoods)

Huh? In the gospels it is plainly laid out he does turn the other cheek, give up his cloak, and loves his enemies - where is this exactly coming from? One needs look no further than Luke's account of the trial and crucifixion (to be honest) but it's all over the gospels.

"Frankly, I wish people would be human. I wish they would do better than being Christ-like" (Dagoods)

I have to disagree - although I know what you mean here in some regards - but I can't state it much plainer than as humans we borrow from others to make our lives complete (knowledge) - or 'no man is an island'. What's so bad about using Jesus' teachings. So some people take these teachings to have power over others - been there and seen that - and it is straight 'out of character' for the gospels. I don't have time to defend all the claims you have heard - but I have heard them too - but they are wrong by virtue of the stories they read (which is why I am quite awe-struck by their interpretations).

DagoodS said...

SocietyVs,

I don’t necessarily disagree with their interpretation of Jesus. Again, that is part of the inherent problem of being “Christ-like.” If one holds that Jesus was God (either individually or part of a Trinity) then the Tanakh’s accounts of God ordering the soldiers to capture the virgin females, count the gold, and kill the baby boys would be “Christ-like” as well.

Think of how silly the concept of what Christ did with his enemies. Presuming they were the Pharisees (a history I obviously doubt, but let’s follow along) first he chides them. Then he eternally condemns them for blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Calls them snakes, blind, fools and white-washed tombs. Yet at the cross he says, “Forgive them.” After they die, he sends them to hell forever.

Curious sort of up-and-down relationship. If Jesus sent any Pharisees to hell, what was it he was asking the Father to forgive on the cross?

Mark was painting Jesus as a Midrashic type, taken from Paul’s Jesus and the Tanakh. Matthew was painting Jesus (from Mark) as the prophetic fulfillment of a Messiah, with a touch of Cynic philosophy. (The bits we like—such as the Sermon on the Mount, Golden rule, etc.) Luke was painting Jesus (from Matthew and Mark) as a historical being. John’s authors were painting Jesus as a son of God, with Gnostic influence.

Due to these different perceptions, and different goals, as well as the books being written at different times (Note John’s change from “Pharisees” to “Jews” or Luke’s more positive portrayal of Pharisees) we end up with different Jesuses.

Jesus DID pretend to go on further on the road to Emmaus. This is a common point made (in addition to many others) of God using deception. If Christ deceived, and we are to be Christ-like, it is arguably acceptable to deceive. If Christ confronted the religious leaders, and we are to be Christ-like…and so on.

What we cannot do (in my opinion) is disregard the “Jesus bits” we don’t like, simply under the method that we don’t like them. They ARE there. They can’t be exegeted away with “Gee, that conflicts with another verse.” (In fact, those I have discussed the “love your enemies” would state that the verses about Jesus judging “trump” the “love your enemies.” Others say “Love your enemies” trumps judgment. Which is it?)

I agree that there is nothing wrong with borrowing from Jesus’ teaching. I say we can do better than Jesus teaching! Jesus took “don’t do to others what you don’t like done to you” one step further by saying “Do unto others what you like have done to you.” I say take it even further and “Do to others what THEY would prefer done to them.” See? Even Jesus can be improved upon.

Mike L. said...

A Christian is someone that accepts the vision of Jesus for what the world could be and makes that vision their own vision.

A Christian is someone that is able to see the world in a new way by seeing what it could be if God's will was done on earth. In that way, we were blind but now we see.

Mystical Seeker said...

I agree with Mike I.'s comment. I think that Jesus's message was really about bringing to fulfillment the Kingdom of God, which is, as Mike says, "if God's will was done on earth." To follow Jesus, in my view, is to work towards bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Heather said...

Society,

** find it do funny I have a hard time reading current doctrinal statements without laughing - you literally just have to agree to the theology to become a minister**

I have a hard time as well, because so many of them were culturally determined. Like the atonement theories, or even the founding of the Catholic church. Much (pretty much all of it) of that was created seems to be through Greek thought, not Hebrew thought.

**Very few doctrinal statements ever mention 'love you neighbor or treat others how you want to be treated' (very rare if any exist). I would ask plainly - where's the gospel/good news then? **

You know what else is fascinating? In almost all of the doctrinal statements I read, the epistles are quoted the most, followed by John. The Synoptic Gospels take up maybe 10%, and I think I'm being generous with that.

Stacey,

**I prefer to walk unlabeled... and let my life speak for itself.
This is also how I choose to "know" others.**

I think this is why I don't like to call myself a Christian anymore -- there's too much associated with that name. I would rather just be human.

Mystical,

**It really is a pet peeve of mine that many Christians think that God rewards and punishes us on the basis of having the right beliefs. **

It's one of mine as well, because it reduces this life to almost nothing. I read somewhere that this perspective is like treating the Earth as a launching pad to heaven. It makes everything about you worthless, except the belief structure.

Heather said...

DagoodS,

Way to cast a damper. ;) The nice thing for me is that I don't hold with the Trinity or that Jesus was God, so I don't see a conflict. I also don't think that portions of the Tanakh's God-picture was accurate, but people imposing their own culture onto God.

I am also familiar with the type of Christian you describe. They very much focus on the judgement aspect, as since the next time Jesus comes back, he'll be the Judge and throw ... 90% of the people into the lake of fire?

It's always interesting, though, because of how often we're told by this type of Christian that we're horrible sinners and have failed at perfection. We cannot do what Jesus did, which is why Jesus came. And yet in the judgement area, they are confident that they can be exactly like Jesus, and have him nailed down (sorry, no pun intended).

I would disagree with three of your points. Or, the points that others have used against you.

**I have been informed that since Christ referred to the Pharisees as fools, blind, and vipers (Matt. 23), they are equally justified to call me names, insult me, and disregard any of my statements.**

The problem I would see with this type of behavior is that the Pharisees were portrayed in the gospels as legalistic and the religious elite, who were ignoring God and oppressing everyone. They had a set path that one must follow to reach God. So if anyone would be the Pharisee in this situation, it would be the Christian rebuking you.

**Since God (in the form of Christ) is not obligated to show mercy to all (Rom. 9:15. But contrast Luke 6:36); equally it is quite, quite “Christ-like” to deny me mercy as well.**

I've seen this also interpreted as God telling people "I'll have mercy on whoever I damn-well please." As in, people don't get to determine whether another person is allowed to receive mercy or not. We may feel the person should be punished, but we don't get a say. so it's not that God doesn't show mercy to everyone, but that God determines it, not people.

Plus, Romans 11 shows that God hardened Israel in order to bring the Gentiles in, which was a form of mercy. Eventually, all of Israel would return.

**Since Christ confidently condemned people eternal condemnation (Mark 3:29); they are on very “Christ-like” ground to do so as well.**

It seems that those who address you this way are missing the point, though. The people were attributing the work of God to Satan, which was blasphmeing (sp?) the Holy Spirit, and thus sent one to eternal condemnation. If someone says that they can condemn because Jesus did ... are they doing so because you said that the Christian performed a miracle through Satan?


**What we cannot do (in my opinion) is disregard the “Jesus bits” we don’t like, simply under the method that we don’t like them. They ARE there. They can’t be exegeted away with “Gee, that conflicts with another verse.” **

I agree (and may have gone against this, because I didn't address all your verses. I dind't really have a response for them :). And this was precisely what troubles me about taking the Tanakh literally, because the parts we don't like are there. Such as the aspects of slavery. It's in the Bible, it's given rules and regulations in the Bible. We've clearly risen above the Bible, in trying to stop slavery. We've risen above the sections in the Bible that treat women as second-class citizens.

I deal with those verses by saying that they are a product of their time. That may be dismissing them, but to me, my response makes the most sense. Slavery was perfectly acceptable back then -- of course they'd receive slave-rules from God.

**In fact, those I have discussed the “love your enemies” would state that the verses about Jesus judging “trump” the “love your enemies.” Others say “Love your enemies” trumps judgment. Which is it?**

Honestly? It's up to the eye of the beholder. Which is precisely why I don't hold the Bible as inerrant, because inerrancy is always determined by a subjective viewpoint.

Heather said...

Mike,

Thanks for your response. I like how it incorporates the whole person, not just the belief-aspect.

DagoodS said...

Heather,

Sorry for the damper!

I agree with your statement as to what the gospel authors were attempting to portray in the Pharisees. (Note to lurkers: The gospels are NOT an accurate depiction of Pharisees, but heather already knows I know that.) And that accusing me, an atheist, in the same light as the Pharisees is humorous. However they attach that to 2 Pet. 2:1-7’s accusation against “false prophets” and “heresy” (which I apparently qualify) and broadly state the Jesus was rebuking “false teaching about theism” (technically accurate) and bingo-bango—I’m a Pharisee again.

As to the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit it has quietly morphed into attributing salvation of humankind or myself, to my own means, whereas actually Jesus saves. Therefore, by rejecting Jesus, I am blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This cleverly allows for eternal damnation for ONLY the wrong belief (in line with Romans) AND gets rid of the pesky problem of an “unforgivable sin.”

Again, the concept of “Christ-like” can be transformed into just about whatever we want. You hit the nail on the head with “Eye of beholder.” That is precisely what happens.

Heather said...

DagoodS,

Given the research you've done, is there any book that specifically deals with how the Pharisees are used in the NT, and contrasting that to actual behavior? It was kind of alluded to in books I've read by Paula Friedekson (I know I'm spelling her last name wrong).

**However they attach that to 2 Pet. 2:1-7’s accusation against “false prophets” and “heresy” (which I apparently qualify) and broadly state the Jesus was rebuking “false teaching about theism” (technically accurate) and bingo-bango—I’m a Pharisee again.**

You could go a completely different route, and say that they're saying you don't exist, since they're comparing you to people who didn't really exist (as in, the Pharisee portrayel in the Bible).

What's always interesting about Bible verses that speak out against unbelievers/false prophets/heretics is that they so often seem to be arguing against strawmen. I know plenty of non-Christians who don't act the way the Bible says they do.

**As to the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit it has quietly morphed into attributing salvation of humankind or myself, to my own means, whereas actually Jesus saves. Therefore, by rejecting Jesus, I am blaspheming the Holy Spirit.**

Wow -- this is actually used? That just seems to be twisting the text. Do you ever get the feeling that if the NT writers were alive today, they wouldn't recognize Christianity at all?

**Again, the concept of “Christ-like” can be transformed into just about whatever we want. You hit the nail on the head with “Eye of beholder.” That is precisely what happens. **

You must drive people nuts sometimes, because nothing you post or comment on is ever black/white. :) I mean, as it is, I think people answer "who is a Christian" wrong, given that "Christ-like" isn't really equal with "set of beliefs."

DagoodS said...

heather,

While I don’t agree with his eventual conclusion, Hyam Maccoby’s “Paul the Mythmaker of Christianity” raises some interesting questions as to how Paul could not have been a Pharisee. In doing so, he points out some historical aspects of Pharisees.

Josephus describes the Pharisees:

“Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason's dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in any thing which they have introduced; and when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of man can act virtuously or viciously. They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; on account of which doctrines they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about Divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities give great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also.”

I can do some more digging, if you are interested.

Heather, the more I study this, the less “black and white” there is.

Heather said...

DagoodS,

I'll add the book to my amazon wish list. And if you could do more digging, that would be great -- you seem to have the best idea of where to dig.

**Heather, the more I study this, the less “black and white” there is.**

And this is precisely why I could never be a conservative Christian, because the black/white viewpoint doesn't work with the Bible, or even how its used to interpret other religions. I mean, look at the prophecies Judaism had for the Messiah. They had specific, valid, reasons as to why they didn't accept Jesus as a Messiah. But conservative Christianity seems to focus on making the Pharisees two-dimensional, rather than actually addressing the issues.

Pastor Bob said...

Heather

2 things

1. Acts says that in Antioch people were first called Christians. The word in Greek means little Christs, so your concept of a Christian as one who follows Christ's way is accurate.

2. Pharisees: there is a lot of research being done on Jesus and Judaism in the past few years. Jesus agreed with the Pharisees most of the time. There are two historical problems about Jesus, Pharisees and Judaism. The first one is that in the 1st Century Christians and Pharisees were competing to be the future of Judaism. The Pharisees were winning. The gospels reflect this competition so the Pharisees come out as the bad guys. But when you compare what Jesus said at what the early rabbis said they are often similar. Second the historical Jesus people over the years tended to separate Jesus from his environment, looking for sayings by him that were not similar to things being said by the rabbis, a terrible mistake in my opinion. And some of the historical Jesus people, particularly in the first search for the historical Jesus, were antisemites.

Heather said...

Pastor Bob,

**The word in Greek means little Christs, so your concept of a Christian as one who follows Christ's way is accurate.**

That's pretty much what I was going for. The belief aspect is more in terms of salvation, such as Paul saying that you will know you are saved if you confess Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart of the resurrection. so when people ask who is a Christian, they're really focusing on salvation, not the "little Christs."

I'm really interested in the new scholarship about the Pharisees -- I currently have on my bookshelf books by NT Wright, EP Sanders and James D.G. Dunn on the New Perspective on Paul.

And I think that many people do often forget that Jesus was a Jew, and thus influenced by that environment.

MOI said...

Hi Heather,

I agree with you 100 percent. I guess what fascinates me and what makes me an agnostic christian rather than an atheist, is the fact that this man, Jesus, who lived so long ago, can literally somehow "indwell" the hearts of some and make them behave in humble and servant like ways in the face of awful circumstances. It seems hopeful to me to cling to such in the face of horror. That it can even change ME, who is the proudest, least pliable, least humble, and stubborn person I know, is proof enough for me that believing "in" this Jesus holds some kind of power. What it is, I don't know, but I do know it's not believing correct doctrine!

Mystical Seeker said...

I think that Pastor Bob raises valid points, although I also think that it is easy to go too far and deny that there was anything unique about Jesus's message with respect to the Judaism(s) of his day. This is the problem that I have with Amy-Jill Levine, who is so concerned with preserving the good name of Judaism against anti-semitism that she virtually goes so far as to deny that Jesus was anything other than a bland, undistinguished Jew within a sea of Jewish homogeneity. Maybe I misread her, but it seemed that she rejects the idea that Jesus, as a good Jew, would have criticized the collusion between Temple authorities and the Roman Empire for example. This would be utter nonsense. (Consider the example of Jeremiah and the temple for a moment.)

Judaism in Jesus's time was not homogenous--there were many varieties of the faith, there were Pharisees and Saducees and Essenes and followers of John the Baptizer and God knows what else. Judaism was in ferment back then. It was not homogenenous. So within that context, there could be lots of variety of religious thought, and the groundwork for a revolutionary religious figure like Jesus within the Jewish tradition had been laid.

Thus it isn't a matter of a fixed and limited Jewish tradition that Jesus must have either stood within as a good Jew or stood outside of as a rebel. Instead, Judaism encompassed variety, and Jesus stood within that overall context of multiplicity of Jewish perspectives. And, contrary to Ms. Levine, a good Jew could certainly have opposed the temple domination system of that era.

Pastor Bob said...

Wow mystical we agree again!

I read somewhere that some others told parables about priests and Levites too, and that the people listening to the story would know as they were named that they were the bad examples. The shock in Jesus' parable was that the good example was a Samaritan.

Sorry I don't remember who wrote this.

And yes, Judaism was a real ferment in the 1st Century. I suspect we don't know a lot of what was going on because Rabbinic Judaism and Orthodox Christianity both "won," so we don't have too many writings from the losers.

Heather said...

Moi,

**That it can even change ME, who is the proudest, least pliable, least humble, and stubborn person I know, is proof enough for me that believing "in" this Jesus holds some kind of power. **

I think you've touched on what Christianity, or what any religion, should be accomplishing, regardless of doctrine: changing people for the better, and allowing what God created to be broadcasted to the world.

Mystical/Bob,

** Instead, Judaism encompassed variety, and Jesus stood within that overall context of multiplicity of Jewish perspectives. **

I think this point is very important to keep in mind when reading the NT, not just because Jesus was Jewish, but because, as you said, there wasn't one "type" of Judaism to speak against, or comment on. Yet that's how the NT often gets read, with Judaism seen as legalistic -- okay, but which one? And nothing about Judaism is that simplistic, especially because I don't think there's any Jew who would say the Torah allows them to earn salvation.

Bob even touches on this in his comment (or maybe I'm reading too much into the comment?) -- winners dictate history, and winners can have the habit of simplifying the loser's position (granted, not in something like the Allies vs. the Axis -- although even that can't be too simplified, because it's not like it went from everything peachy one day to the Holocaust the next. That took time to build).

Pastor Bob said...

Heather

Actually there is new research on Paul suggesting that he was NOT reacting to legalism in Judaism.

See this article in Christianity today for this discussion:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/august/13.22.html

Heather said...

Pastor Bob,

Yup. The New Perspective on Paul. I have books by both authors mentioned in the article -- Wright and Dunn.

I think some of the reactions of the PCA are interesting, because they're reacting based on tradition, rather than "sola scripture." Now, the PCA may honestly think that they are reacting on sola scripture alone. However, I'm sure that Wright and Dunn would argue that they are proposing this based on the BIble and historical data, and thus the PCA would be reacting because the new perspective is going against a few hundred years worth of tradition, and thus "must" be wrong.

SocietyVs said...

I liked the article in CT about Paul - but to be perfectly honest - all that could of been easily gleamed from reading Paul's epistles without a doctrinal lense of some sort...which for many shades what Paul is actually saying in those epistles.

I couldn't agree more with this:
"Faith remains central to Paul's doctrine of justification, because it means that Gentiles do not need to become Israelites when they become Christians."

I have always felt Paul was trying to say this in how letters - and every one of them seems to address this issue (almost exclusively). So what is a Christian? He/she is a anyone and anywehere - just have to follow (believe and act) the teachings of this Jesus - the Christ.