This blog post is a direct reply to this post, which I came across when a friend of mine posted it on their FB page. The friend was upset by this post, and truth be told, I was too. My first reaction was to come out fighting, but due to the late hour and the importance of the message, I put it off until today. I am glad I did.
Helpful hint if you so choose: you may want to read Mr. Howell’s blog before proceeding so that you can have a reference. Or bring it up so that you can refer to it as I post.
Before I begin, I welcome your comments and viewpoints. I offer this perspective not only as part of my own freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but as one who is not afraid of varying views. Further, I am NOT interested in dictating how you should think or believe. I just offer this as my own view on the subject.
First, the person who wrote it is an American. As such, I affirm he has every right to write the post, express his personal convictions, and believe what he wants. I am GLAD that he has this freedom and applaud the time that he took to write it. He should not be censored. That is the American Way.
Having said that, I must also say that too many people feel that, in America, everyone must follow the Christian faith to BE American. Even as a Christian, I must emphasize that this is NOT the American Way. Everyone in this country has a right to believe whatever they want, or nothing at all. To impose, at the national or state level, the idea that the Judeo Christian Bible dictates the parameters in which all citizens must adhere is inherently wrong. Further, it defies our very constitution, which states very clearly that religion is allowed but does NOT define the laws of this land nor subjugates the law to it. This is well documented and has been ruled on in our country in great detail, an example of which is noted here (with links to the mentioned decisions if you’re interested) Note, emphasis was done by me:
“Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” Chief Justice Waite wrote in Reynolds v. United States (1878). The U.S. Court found that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, laws can be made to regulate some religious practices, e.g., human sacrifices, and the Hindu practice of suttee. The Court stated that to rule otherwise, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.” In Cantwell v. State of Connecticut the Court held that the free exercise of religion is one of the “liberties” protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and thus applied it to the states. The freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act is not absolute.”
So, my first point is that Mr. Howell has every right to believe and post about his beliefs, but that in no way means he can legally impose those beliefs on ANYONE in this country, even if he believes he holds the right to do so.
But here’s the deal, I AM a Christian and hold very strong convictions based on the Bible, just as Mr. Howell does. And I personally am brought almost to the brink of tears when the Bible is used in such a way as to condemn others, especially when the condemner appears to be doing so in what they claim is love. And HEAR ME, I don’t know Mr. Howell and therefore I put “appears” because I honestly do not know his heart. I don’t know ANYTHING about him. So, in large part if he says he wrote that blog in love, we should try to accept that. However, there are very specific things he says about the Bible I would like to talk about today, as a Christian and as an American. This may take a while because I feel like I have to respond point to point (as my 2.78 readers know is my modus operandi).
Mr. Howell’s assertions are in bold, my responses follow each point he makes.
First, I believe that the God of heaven, the God we read about in the Bible, created the universe and all that is in it, through His son Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-18).
As a Christian, I affirm this view of creation (though I do adhere to the scientific idea of evolution and such) and I look to God the Father and His Son Jesus as the supreme rulers over my life. However, I personally think it is wrong as Christians to stand like a toddler stomping his or her feet demanding that everyone else bow to the same God or belief system. “GOD IS IN CHARGE AND YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE.” I mean, don’t you hate it when a vegan sits in a restaurant and verbally decries how gross all of us carnivores are? I mean, dude, why you wanna be all up in my lunch? If you don’t eat any animal products, high five, now let me eat my steak in peace! I think it’s taints the awesome testament of my belief system when I push my very personal and very intimate and very wonderful feelings of Christ especially to the point of making others feel wrong or guilty for not seeing things the way I see it. And I believe that Christ never operated in that way. If He did, he would have called His legions of angels to knock the Pharisees and the Roman Leaders down when He was being tried and ultimately crucified. Instead, He was quiet. He was humble. He spoke only love to those who condemned Him.
And I contend that, if Muslim stood up and demanded that we follow his beliefs because the Quran stated this or that, many people such as Mr. Howell would have a heart attack. Well, my friends, many in this country react the same way when we pull out the Bible and say “listen up, you gotta follow this”.
Second, I believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant communication to mankind. It tells us of his power, love, and grace, but also of his judgment. It tells us of what he wants from his creation, but also what he does not want. It is by the words of that book that the entire world will be judged in the end of material existence—even those who rejected those words (John 12:48).
First, the Bible will not be used to judge us. Based on the Bible, CHRIST will judge us. Now, let’s not split hairs, the Bible is clear that the Word is Jesus. But to suggest that the laws will be used and what not for CHRISTIANS is not Biblical. The Bible is clear that, for those in Christ, the blood of Christ will be sufficient and no other “words” of the Bible will be manifest in the judgment.
Second, the scripture shared above is clear that Jesus was saying if you reject ME, judgment will be upon you. Again, Mr. Howell and I may believe that, but we need to accept that others may not, and often times do not. It’s like saying I believe aliens are real, and to prove it read this book my dad wrote about aliens being real. To insist a truth based on something that others don’t even accept is kind of silly. Basically, you’re saying “you better believe the Bible, which I know you don’t, because it says you’re toast if you don’t!”
But, again, I DO believe the Bible, and I DO believe I am no longer “toast” because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. But Mr Howell’s comment about “God’s inerrant communication” ticks me off, to be blunt. Too many Christians spout off this statement even though it is bogus. Hey, chill your heels, I am not saying the Bible is WRONG. It may have been pristinely communicated by God, but unfortunately it had to go through humans, which has been proven for all time are errant! Furthermore, we stupid humans have either bastardized the message over time, or may have maliciously changed it to meet our agenda.
’Tis true. My first offering of evidence is Jesus Himself, spoken thousands of years ago. After beginning His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 to teach His thousands of followers “The Way”, He began to RE-educate them on things that had been documented IN THE BIBLE, but which THE PEOPLE HAD COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTOOD.
Verse 38 starts with “you have heard it said”, and all the verses around that are clear corrections to misinformation or misinterpretation. Jesus straight out says, “BUT I SAY” and I will paraphrase “you got it wrong people, let me set you straight!”
Jesus quotes SCRIPTURE that had been followed in a certain way for THOUSANDS of years, and says, “I am telling you, what was REALLY meant was…….”
Example 1 (Matt 5:38-42): And eye for an eye, meaning you mess with me, I will mess with you (taken from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). This had been practiced by the Jewish nation for thousands of years and they used scripture to justify it. Jesus clearly says in Matthew it doesn’t matter WHAT someone does to you, you turn the other cheek and leave any retribution to God. And Jesus takes it further……they steal something from you? GIVE THEM MORE! Because the REAL way to being my follower is to LOVE. When you’re good with THAT, then you can go ahead and start playing God.
Example 2 (Matt 5:43-48): Love your neighbor, but hate your enemy. This was how the Israelites followed the Bible and felt justified in doing so because “the Word was inerrant”. But Jesus CLEARLY goes on to say “you have it all wrong”. The human interpretation of the Word had been flawed, and Jesus had to correct that incorrect belief system. Jesus is clear you love EVERYONE, even your ENEMIES. And He doesn’t qualify that by saying “as long as they don’t sin, then love them.” There is NO qualification. We need to love, period.
But it doesn’t stop there. The fact remains that the Bible was not written in English, and even after it was translated to English it has been translated many times and on too many “platforms” that often had nothing to do with God.
Example 1: the word “homosexual” does not exist in the King James Bible, the most famous of the first English translations offered in 1611; the term homosexual was first added to Bible translations in 1946. Some argue that the term “homosexual” didn’t even exist until the late 1800’s, so where it didn’t exist it could not be used and that the Bible is clear that the “action” was what we now call homosexuality. However, those who are honest with themselves admit that some of the original Greek terms used, especially by the Apostle Paul, have no definitive English translation and that we – with agendas or perhaps limited understanding of God and His Omnipotence – have said “meh, Paul must have meant homosexual”. Completely ignored is the fact that Greeks had forced homosexuality practice in place during Paul’s life (men forcing young boys to be their sex slaves) as well as non-Christian, pagan temple homosexual activities to pagan gods. Words that were used by Paul – such as arsenokoitai – didn’t really exist in his culture’s vernacular and if we’re truthful we’d admit we know not much more of its meaning today. And really, if Paul REALLY wanted to say “homosexual” he could have used a word clearly understood in his culture such as paiderasste. There are TONS who understand Greek and the etymology of this, so I encourage you to do a bit of research.
But ever further, within the last few years conservatives have decided that there needs to be a CONSERVATIVE Bible published! They said that there is “too much liberalism” in the Bible and that the “true intent of the Word” needs to be shown. Basically, they want to make the Bible say what they believe to be the truth. THAT IS DANGEROUS MY FRIENDS and just one example of error being added to the Word of God in print (not even talking about the errors added at pulpits day in and out! Can anybody say “Westboro Baptist Church”?) So exclusively quoting scripture and saying it is the truth because it is in the Bible is not the best platform to have.
As to the judgment piece…..um, holy cow! MY belief system states that every person will be judged, but NOT BY ME! The Bible is clear when we focus on the words of Jesus that we SHOULD not judge and if we DO judge, we are toast!
Matthew 6 is clear that if you don’t forgive others, you will not be forgiven.
Matthew 7 is clear that Jesus views us as hypocrites if we judge others while ignoring the fact that WE are sinners, too.
And let’s be real, Romans 3 is VERY clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of God. You. Me. People who are heterosexuals. People who are homosexuals.
So, TO ME, calling out ONE type of group in our society and implying they have fallen short, while NOT acknowledging that truly everyone else is in the same boat, is short sided, hypocritical, and a gross misrepresentation of the Lord that I have chosen to follow.
But that’s just me.
For everyone, what the sovereign God of the universe has said are the words of (absolute) “truth and reason” (Acts 26:25; John 17:17)—even if you choose to reject them.
This means that if I am going to be consistent in what I believe, I have to speak out against sin. Just because you don’t believe in God’s existence or that the Bible is his word doesn’t mean that it does not apply to you.
If I know that God will judge the deeds of every man and woman at the end of time, then I am compelled to speak about the matter. I have to persuade people to stop doing the things that are against God’s will, and that will ultimately harm them physically and spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Ephesians 5:11).
First, see my previous comments about using the Bible to make your point to people who don’t accept the Bible. Remember, Americans have rights in this country, and for me or anyone to say “yeah, you have rights but anyway, my beliefs trump them” is not cool.
Second, the Apostle Paul is clear that we should not judge those who are not believers and we should NOT tell them they are sinning. How can we hold them to a belief they don’t even acknowledge? This is clearly stated in 1 Cor 5:12, that those who do not believe can’t be held to it. It’s like saying we Americans have to live by and accept Sharia law that is prevalent in Iran! It does not apply to us as Americans, and it is not Biblical to demand non believers follow the Bible.
However, although 1 Corinthians is clear that believers in the church CAN be judged based on the Bible, I believe the context of this scripture are those that are causing strife and darkness in the church. And, I truly believe those who are in Christ no longer have their sin held against them as it is covered by the blood of Christ.
You are my neighbor. If I knew that you were about to step into danger, but instead of warning you I just stood back and let you be harmed, what kind of neighbor would you think I am?
Really, do you believe that getting in people’s faces change hearts? I have written about this before, but if a personal trainer came up to me in a restaurant and said “I noticed you’re overweight, you really need to eat less and I can show you how to get off your butt and exercise more” they would be telling the truth but I would still kick them in the face. IN FACT, if someone came up to me and said, “The Bible says gluttony is sinful” THEY would be right. Or that Jesus Himself said if you divorce and remarry, you are committing adultery……and oops adultery is right next to the more recent translation of homosexuals and is part of “the group” that cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But do you think, when people come up and share in this way, it would change anyone’s heart?
I contend that changing hearts is what we should be doing, and in doing so, actions follow. But then that exposes the fact that OUR actions pretty much suck, too. And that is not as easy to acknowledge, it is MUCH easier to point out the failures of others.
Further, why is homosexuality almost always the platform for this action when divorce is WAY more prevalent and “dangerous” to our faith community, based on many factors including the percentages that exist today in Every…….Single…..Church…….in comparison to homosexuality?
I would rather you be the neighbor, as a Christian, that Christ has called you to be. For He called you to love me, as noted in Matt 22:39, like you love yourself. And I am pretty sure you don’t start each day standing in front of the mirror reciting all the reasons you’re going to hell. I would hope that you loved me as Christ loves me, as He called us to do in John 15:12. And how DID Jesus love us?
He did not come to condemn. John 3:17
He died for EVERYONE, even those who are the filthiest there is. Even those that do not deserve it, and He did it with no strings attached, in that He’d do it even if no one accepted Him as savior. 1 John 2:2
Even as He lay hanging on the cross, beaten for something He was not guilty of, falsely accused and abused, even though they did not repent of their actions and certainly not because they deserved it……He said “Father, forgive them”. Luke 23:34
And I would like some example where Jesus called out the sins of anyone that didn’t have a platform of claiming they knew the heart of God, such as the Pharisees. It just didn’t happen. So, as a follower of Christ, I will focus on love and not judging because the Lord I claim to follow did not call out the sins of others.
So in order to be consistent with what I believe, I must speak out against homosexuality.
Wow. What about the other sins? You must be hugely busy because there are LOTS of things you must speak against. Like I don’t know…..not honoring the sabbath? I mean, that comes STRAIGHT from the 10 commandments! Homosexuality doesn’t even hit that level, and yet unless you start at sundown on Friday and follow the BIBLE through sunset on Saturday, you are sinning. And since your own blog put it this way if you follow the Bible, and the ten commandments, I am sure this is something you also talk about quite often and try to share with your Christian friends especially since we probably all meet predominantly on Sundays.
Certainly, I imagine you warn people how to handle black people (aka slaves) as that is clearly in the Bible, right? Further, I am sure you make sure all women follow scripture and advise them to leave their homes when they have their period. I am CERTAIN you encourage fathers to stone their daughters to death if they find out they have been sexually active before marriage, as the Bible demands.
I am sure that’s what you meant on your blog when you said your truth is absolute and unwavering and that you must speak out against sin.
Jesus is clear throughout scripture that He died to save us. He provided GOOD NEWS, and yet most of the time all I hear out of the mouths of Christians is condemnation and judgment. You think homosexuality is a sin? DO NOT DO IT! But I think the Bible has many more scriptures about not judging other’s “sin” while we all have pretty full time jobs working on our OWN sins. And again, let’s be honest here…….we all do sin every single day. As Christians though, we need to shut up about hell because we believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And because of that belief, we need to acknowledge those sins are COVERED ONCE AND FOR ALL. Homosexual or not.
I believe it is far more Biblical and important to not waste time, energy, and lives talking about our views of sin, other’s sin especially, and focus on loving each other. We should edify, encourage, and lift up those around us – NOT condemn them and focus on penalties and hell. Romans 14:1-13 is clear that we should not argue over things; let one believe this and another believe that, but we are called to LOVE each other and exist with each other. In fact, I will share verses 10-13 as they sum up this entirely:
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
Mr. Howell’s blog says, in essence, that he MUST be intolerant because his faith demands it, and that we need to tolerate his intolerance or else we’d be hypocrites. I am just saying, to me the Bible is clear that we need to focus on our OWN lives and sin and stop dictating or pointing out the sins of others, perceived or otherwise. And I truly believe, in doing so, we do more for spreading the Good News and representing the God we claim to follow.
Psalm 1:1 (which, to be clear, are DIRECTIONS to help Jews and ultimately Gentiles, not LAWS) says we should not stand in the way of sinners nor be scornful, and I will paraphrase by saying this “Dude, walk in righteousness and follow God, but don’t worry about those sinners around you.”
I’m not going to stop telling the truth.
Again, “the truth” of the Bible has already been proven to be potentially questionable, as part of understanding or malicious tampering. But even within the Protestant faith, WHOSE truth are we talking about? Lutheran? Assembly of God? United Methodist? Should we speak in tongues or not? Is baptism required for salvation? Should be abstain from all wine, or is it okay as long as we don’t get drunk? What about women in pants?
I bet there are dozens of truths just on the subjects I’ve listed above.
So, in sort of the same vein as Mr. Howell, I will share the platform of MY truth, based on two areas of the Bible and fully acknowledge others who believe the Bible may not interpret these scriptures as I do.
Matt 22:34-40 (emphasis mine):
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Gina: basically, if you can’t love God and others where they are, then the rest of the laws should not be our focus and, in fact, do not exist.
1 Cor 13 (emphasis mine):
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Gina: Basically, we need to love……our neighbors, our enemies. We need to act in ways that don’t make sense like giving those who steal from us more or letting someone who smacked us in the face hit the other side. Because, when we’re real about it as Christians, we deserve NOTHING Jesus did for us and yet He did it, anyway. And when we can collectively do that without focusing on sin so much, or our perception of sin and needing to “correct” those sins in others, ONLY THEN will our beliefs begin to spread into the hearts of others around us. Love wins. So stop using the Bible as a weapon to push others away from the very thing you want others to accept.