Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Keeping Some Context

This is written as a Christian retort to an atheist who attempted to turn Scripture against itself to show that "nobody can get to heaven." Of course, this atheist doesn't believe in heaven. She's just saying that nobody could get there by Jesus' standards, anyway, because the bar is set so high. She lays it down as an eight-step, biblical process.

Step 1, according to her, is found in Luke 10:25-28:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?"
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself?"
And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."

Now, the atheist thinks this step is pretty simple. I do too. However, Jesus is not implying that we can earn our salvation here. No one has been able to keep this part of the Law. "All have sinned," (Romans 3:23) "There is none who is good," (Luke 18)...and the list goes on. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my Commandments." (John 14:15) This includes His command to repent, turn from your sins, accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord [a.k.a. the road to salvation.]

The "second step," Luke 18:18-22, is where her thought-processes get interesting:
A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
"You know the commandments. 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

The atheist came across with the false impression that Jesus is saying--in order to enter heaven--everyone must sell everything they own. This is what I say:
First of all, look at what the ruler said, "What must I do to be saved?" This teaches us two things about this encounter:
1.) Jesus' general advice could apply to everyone's salvation, but any particulars apply only to the individual.
2.) The man was showing his self-righteousness and self-reliance. He wanted to know what HE could do to be saved. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and THAT NOT OF OURSELVES, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8, emphasis added)

Jesus FIRST told the man to keep the Law; the man thought he had. But no one has kept all of the Law, all of the time. And if you break one part of the Law, you're guilty of all. (James 2:10) That's why Jesus questioned the man's assessment of good. The man likely had a misunderstanding of the Law, and Jesus also knew that He was breaking the First Commandment continously, by making a "god" out of his wealth. Note verse 23, which says that man was "very sad," because he was "very rich." He did not want to give up his money to be saved or in order to follow God. The Bible tells us that we "cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13)

Jesus was not saying that everyone has to sell all their belongings. He was pointing out that the man could do nothing himself to be saved for he had already violated the Law and was still violating the Law: He would need Jesus. If he sold all he had, it would be the equivalent of repenting--it would demonstrate that he had removed his god of money--but He would still need to follow Jesus.

That being said, Christians are merely "stewards" of God's wealth and should be using it for His will and glory.

Step 3, Luke 14:26-27, 33:
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."

The atheist feels there's some hypocrisy here. How can you hate your parents and honor them? How you can hate everybody and love everybody? This is what I say:
Here another thing is taken out of context. "Hate" is used here in a statement of hyperbole. Jesus is making an extreme comparison. Jesus, again, is saying that God must be our priority--again referencing the First Commandment. Remember that many families would hinder a member from becoming and growing as a Christian, even to the point of execution sometimes. Jesus was saying that salvation is more important than family unity or safety.

The atheist also tossed in verse 33 as another example of giving up everything. But notice:
"who does not give up all his own possessions." We must not cling to our own possessions selfishly. We must be willing to offer them to God and keep our focus on God and spiritual things, for "What does is profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) We must "store our treasures in heaven," (Matthew 6:20), for "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Step 4, John 6:53-57:
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me."

First of all, I think when an atheist turns to the topic of communion, it shows that they really don't have a great argument. Anyways, the atheist thinks this is "grotesque" and "satanic." I say:
I'm sure we are all familiar with the woman at the well. The blood and body of Christ means no more in the literal sense than the "Living Water" which Jesus offered the Samaritan woman is actual water. It's spiritual and figurative. Jesus said about drinking and eating of Him: "Do this in remembrance of Me." (1 Corinthians 11:24) We must always remember Christ's sacrifice and act on that remembrance. We must always rely on Jesus's blood sacrifice and His sacrifice only to cover our sins. We must partake of His sacrifice--spiritually and figuratively. During the Last Supper, Jesus said about the bread and wine [and I paraphrase]: "This is my body; this is my blood." (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) So we don't have to be vampires: but we should keep this sacrament, in spirit, if not in deed.
Besides, no one, including the original disciples, could or did eat and drink Jesus' physicality. Therefore, even if the Gospel writers are thought of as conspirators, then it is implied that Christianity has an internal out-clause. Why would the Gospel writers make dis-proving Christianity so easy?

Step 5, Matthew 18:3-4:
He said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The atheist thinks there's something strange with this. I don't see anything strange here. She says it doesn't have anything to do with humility, but I say:
1) Look at verse 5: "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." So it has nothing to do with actually becoming a child. It's about losing pride and humbly asking for forgiveness, for "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) So yes, humility is a big part of salvation--becoming "like a child" is a big part of salvation. Humility is a natural precursor to salvation.
2) The atheist seems to think that being like a child means being gullible. I say:
It certainly does not mean gullibility. And I must say, anyone who believes in atheism, evolution, and the lack of a need to believe in absolutes, definitely does not have room to talk about gullibility.
3)This passage likely partially means dependence on God and in Jesus. Like a child would trust and depend on his parents, so are we to depend on and in God. This takes us right back to the rich man. One must "cling" to the Savior to be saved. One must "trust in," "believe in," "believe on," and "have faith in"--in other words, depend on-- Jesus Christ and God. because "without faith, it is impossible to please God"(Hebrews 11:6) [and therefore impossible to be saved].
See, the same theme runs through this passage.

Step 6, John 3:3-8:
Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
"Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everything who is born of the Spirit."

First things first. The atheist says that "Jesus is completely wrong here. We do know where the wind comes from and where it's going." Well, a couple things to note:
1.) Certainly people of those times didn't have knowledge of the currents.
2.) Secondly, we cannot track with complete accuracy the wind. Jesus was not necessarily talking about major currents; He might've been merely talking about the unpredictable breeze.

Then, the atheist shows how much she's like Nicodemus, by her saying, "What Jesus says here makes no sense." Well, as the saying goes, nothing makes sense to someone without the sense to make sense of it. Jesus said, "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (John 3:12)

Here's an explanation:
If a man is to experience the grace of God and enter into everlasting life, he must experience a radical change of heart, which is like a new birth. He must become a new person.
...Jesus explained that the new birth is by water and the Spirit. He was referring to baptism in which the water is the symbol of the purification accomplished by the Spirit of God. The new birth is inward, not outward, and is a rebirth of the soul. This work is like the wind. It cannot be traced or charted, but the results of His presence are obvious and cannot be denied.
(Ministry of Christ By: Francis Breisch, Jr.) [emphasis added]

Step 7, Matthew 5:20:
"For I [Jesus] say unto you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The atheist thinks that this means we really are expected to follow the 600+ laws that the Pharisees followed. But Jesus was actually saying two other things:
1.) First of all, the Pharisees had corrupted the Law. They had narrowed some parts and expanded others. They "tithed mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law," (Matthew 23:23) like the essence of murder and adultery, hate and lust. (Matthew 5:21ff)
2.) Jesus was once again showing us that--to enter heaven on our own merit--we'd have to be "perfect, as God is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) This is impossible--not even Christians can match up to this standard, for it would require total perfection--past, present, and future--not just future perfection. Therefore, we need Jesus' sacrifice, for there “ is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Step 8, John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

The atheist actually has nothing to say about this. Her point was proving it's not that simple according to Jesus. Here's her last few paragraphs:

If you are a normal, intelligent adult, then 3 things should now be obvious to you. The first thing is that John 3:16 is only one slice of an eight slice pizza. However, you have probably heard John 3:16 thousands of times and you never hear about the other seven slices. The other seven steps have just as much weight in the bible, but you never hear about them. Why is that? It's because when you look at the other seven steps, they make absolutely no sense.
Let's see, you have to love everyone and hate everyone. You have to be a little child and also be a pharisee adult following the 613 ridiculous laws. You have to eat flesh and drink blood and then there is the part about selling everything. Jesus actually mentions that part twice because it is so important. But let's be honest, you are not going to sell everything. NO ONE IS. This entire list is ridiculous.
That leads us to the second thing. It should be obvious to you that jesus had no idea what he was talking about. He was making all of this stuff up. If jesus were perfect, then everytime he talked about eternal life, he would have given the same answer. Any intelligent person can understand that. Instead, jesus's answers were all over the map. They all contradict each other and they are impossible to follow.


1. The "other seven slices" only seem to hold the same amount of weight in the Bible if you take the entire Bible out of context. They actually hold the same amount of weight WHEN TAKEN IN CONTEXT.
2. Although John 3:16 is over-quoted, no honest Christian will say it's as simple as one verse anyway.
3. Jesus made different points different ways and similar points different ways. So why would He speak like a broken record? Salvation is not altogether simplistic, and Jesus used several examples and analogies to help the people understand.
4. Did Jesus not know what He was talking about? I've already proven He was being perfectly consistent.
5. "That leads us to the third thing. It is time for us to state the truth. HEAVEN IS A FAIRYTALE. It is a fairytale just like Jack's beanstalk and santa's sleigh. Heaven is completely imaginary."--Beepbeep
And this is from the person who doesn't believe in absolutes. Plus, the fact that she can't possibly be certain--I know she's wrong--so she's speaking from her personal preference and opinion and beliefs.

Lastly, I realize I'll be accused of "interpreting" the Bible according "to what I want to believe," but that's false. In all factuality, what I'm doing is called "keeping things in context," or--in other words--doing the exact opposite of what this atheist is doing.

~Kingdom Advancing.

p.s. If anyone genuinely wants to know how to be saved by Jesus Christ from their sins, let me know and I'll do my best to help you out.

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