Obeying Jesus in the face of Judgement

Dr Andy Angel is vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill in West Sussex, and has just published an intriguing book The Jesus You Really Didn’t Know, exploring the importance of judgement and obedience in the teaching of Jesus in the gospels. I asked Andy about the book and the issues that it raises.

IP: You talk about the prominence of judgement in the teaching of Jesus as an ‘elephant in the room’. What was it that led you to notice this? How prominent do you think judgement is in the gospels?

AA: The first time it struck me was near the beginning of my ordained ministry. About fifty curates were asked during a training session how many had preached on judgment in the last three years, and only three of us put up our hands. From then on, I began to notice how readily people preach on the God’s love and how easily people gloss over his judgment—which is interesting as Jesus spoke often about the coming judgment. For example, the gospel of Matthew has Jesus talk of this judgment in 20 out of 28 chapters.

By contrast, nowhere does Matthew’s gospel specifically mention the love God shows us. In fact, neither do Mark or Luke. Only John talks specifically of the love God has for us. The basic plot of all four gospels is the call to repentance and following Jesus in the light of the coming judgment – but only John explicitly makes the love God has for us central to the plot of the gospel.

IP: Rob Bell was perhaps the most widely read proponent of the idea that Jesus mostly taught about love, not judgement. What do you think Bell gets wrong in his reading of the gospels?

AA: Lots! One example is his attempt to re-read Matt 25:46 as not being “eternal punishment” but a “period of correction” in which people could still repent after death and enter eternal life. This seems to be key to his argument that love wins over judgment in the end. He claims that “age” (Greek aiōn) refers to a “particular intensity of experience that transcends time” and that “punishment” (Greek kolasis) means “correction” as the term was originally used of pruning. So, he argues, Jesus did not speak of “eternal punishment” but of this “period of correction” after death in which people could repent.

But neither aiōn nor kolasis mean the things Bell suggests anywhere else in the Bible or the Apocrypha. The Jewish biblical tradition on which Jesus draws never used these terms in this way, so it is wholly unlikely that Jesus was talking of “an intense period of correction”. He was talking of eternal punishment. If we fear judgment, I think the question we need to ask is not “how can I try to make these texts mean something different?” but “can I trust that the God of all justice can judge the world fairly?” – and I think God can.

IP: You describe the idea that Jesus brings us God’s love and grace, but makes no demands on us, as a ‘comforting myth that simply is not true’. What is the evidence from the gospels that Jesus was actually a ‘teacher like Moses’ who didn’t just die for our sins but taught us how to live in obedience?

AA: The parable of the wise and foolish builder captures it well: “everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man … and everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man …” (Matt 7:24-6). The words Jesus refers to are his teachings – not least in the Sermon on the Mount which finishes with this parable. Jesus makes it clear that he is not so much interested in our knowing his words but in our doing his words. And he does demand everything from us:“if anyone wants to follow me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Jesus asks for our all.

But Jesus does not simply tell us what to do, he personally commits to teaching us how to live. He said to his disciples and says to us all “take my yoke (which means ‘my teaching’) upon you and learn from me” (Matt 11:29). He does not heap moral burdens on us and leave us to struggle on our own. He promises to be with us throughout our lives, every day, helping us to live his way. That is one of the many reasons why prayer and Bible reading are so vital.

IP: It is often claimed that Jesus disregarded the law. Is that true?

AA: No. One of the really interesting things about this project was going through every text in Matthew where Jesus speaks of the law or is said to disregard the law. When you look into it, Jesus does not do this once. For example: Jesus did not break sabbath law. The law does not forbid healing on the sabbath. Nor does the law forbid plucking the odd ear of corn, so he did not justify his disciples breaking the sabbath law. What Jesus did do in both these instances was to suggest that there was no need to obey the traditions that the Pharisees had added to the law.

What is more, Jesus obeyed the law even in small details. For example, he wore garments with fringes as instructed in the law (Deut 22:12, mentioned in Matt 9.20, 14.36, Mark 6.56 and Luke 8.44). But this should come as no surprise, since his central teachings “love God, love your neighbour” come from the law (Matt 22:34-30; Lev 19:18; Deut 5:16-20). Even his declaring foods clean did not break kosher rules but only declared that foods eaten with unwashed hands were clean, as Matthew makes clear (Matt 15:20). If you think about it, it makes no sense at all to say that Jesus replaces the law with love (as some people do) because his teaching to love God and our neighbors as ourselves comes from the law.

IP: Is the combination of law and grace that we find in the teaching of Jesus also present in Paul? 

AA: Yes, but to answer the question biblically we need to change it. The Bible does not talk of “law and grace” so much as “grace and law”. God showed grace in liberating his people from slavery in Egypt, and then he taught them to live in grace and freedom by giving them the law. God promised to show grace to his sinful people by taking them out of exile in Babylon, and then to write the law on their hearts so that they could live in freedom and justice.

Jesus called people to repentance, to turn away from their sins, and then to live as he taught them. Paul wrote of Christ dying for our sin and our dying to our sin so we should put away our former sinful ways and live God’s way. Grace always comes first. God frees us from slavery, injustice and the power of sin. But grace does not stop at liberation or forgiveness. Grace continues in our learning to live in grace, love, justice and holiness. That is the work of the Spirit in us.

IP: You note ‘five words that every Christian should learn’. What do you think are the lessons here for the teaching ministry of the Church, and the discipleship of Christians?

AA: I think we need to get real. The five words are taken from the great commission (Matt 20:18-20)—authority, teach, obey, command and judgment (“end of the ages” is when Jesus comes again to judge). Jesus instructs his disciples to teach the nations to obey everything he has commanded. This may not have the “feel” many people in contemporary churches prefer as we like to make our own lifestyle choices. But Jesus’ teaching does not really leave us that option in areas of life about which he teaches. He assumes he has authority and if we are going to call ourselves his disciples, we need to acknowledge his authority and live accordingly.

We also need to get real with each other. Jesus has an amazing vision of a church where people acknowledge their faults in humility, and in grace help each other to grow. Sadly, I have come across too many churches where we do not open up to each other, acknowledge our frailty and sin, and accept help from each other in our weakness and vulnerability so that we can all grow in holiness and love. I long to see churches grow as communities where broken people feel safe to share vulnerability and find themselves growing in love and character as Jesus teaches us all how to live.

IP: How does Jesus’ call to obedience affect us pastorally? You share at the beginning some painful episodes in your own story; surely those who have been hurt need to know the compassion of Jesus, rather than his demands?

AA: Yes, and not quite. You allude to my sharing in the book that I was sexually abused as a cathedral chorister. Certainly this was painful, and for many years I avoided even thinking about it. But that experience formed in me wrong ways of thinking about myself and wrong expectations, none of which were life-giving. They needed changing if I was to learn to live a more fulfilling life – to live anything like the life God created me to live. They were never going to change without being challenged. My own experience in prayer and reflecting on Scripture over a number of years was that Jesus showed me his love by putting his finger on what needed changing and giving me the strength to step into new ways of living by the power of his Spirit.

The initial step came during prayer in Bolivia (while my nana was praying for me in Cardiff and had a vision of me stepping out of a cage). Other steps came through facing up to Scriptures, through prophecy and in prayer. But every step of the way – sometimes in tears – I knew that Jesus was surrounding me with his love, even when taking those steps unnerved me. I have learned that Jesus’ demands come from his compassion, that his service is perfect freedom. But this we can only learn from experience, from letting Jesus teach each one of us the joy of obedience.

IP: It has often been observed that the church needs to offer good news, rather than tell people how sinful they are. How do your findings here affect the way we communicate the person of Jesus to those outside?

Outside? Who said anything about teaching people outside the church? Like I said earlier, grace comes first. When we know the love of Jesus in his dying for us, and when we have given our lives wholeheartedly to him – then we begin to learn how to live his way. How can we learn from the loving Lord Jesus who longs to re-order our lives in grace if we do not know that Jesus? And we cannot know Jesus apart from accepting his forgiveness of our sins and giving our lives wholly over to him. When we do, he changes us. As we worship, share fellowship, read his Word and pray together, Jesus makes his presence as our teacher felt among us by changing and growing us in love and holiness. When that happens, it does make an impression on people because they see the difference. Now that difference, when and where it happens, really does communicate the person of Jesus to those outside the church as they see that something is happening (even if they try to explain it differently: “but surely you’re just really nice people” rather than “your Jesus really is amazing”).

Sadly, too many of us are settling for cheap grace – the attempt to possess forgiveness without being open to Jesus changing our lives and characters. Worse still, we pursue “worshiptainment” – finding the most professionally produced worship services in the hope that their amazing performances will quench our spiritual thirst. We confuse spirituality with aesthetics. Too often this just creates an addiction to aesthetic experience which does not find fulfilment because we have turned our focus away from Jesus by making an idol of “worship”. I think we have a lot of hard work ahead of us as contemporary western churches to get back on track. But none of this fazes Jesus who waits patiently and invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him – and it is there we find rest for our souls.

IP: Thanks very much for your time Andy!


Andy Angel is vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill. He trained for Christian ministry after teaching in secondary schools for ten years. He spent four years in parish ministry in Dartford before training others for Christian ministry in the South East (at SEITE) and more recently at St John’s college, Nottingham where he was the Vice Principal and taught New Testament. He has written books on angels, praying through times of suffering and the second coming.


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204 thoughts on “Obeying Jesus in the face of Judgement”

  1. This is really thought provoking. My sense is that more conservative churches do highlight sin and judgement regularly (alongside God’s grace) but the more charismatic ones (of which I am a part do so far less.)

    Andy speaks of not thinking about teaching those outside the church and grace comes first. In my context one of our challenges/opportunities is that Sundays have many non Christians/seekers etc with us (like many others) so we would always want to be presenting grace 1st to these guys. But then the next question is where does the teaching of the faithful occur?

    Reply
    • In response to Any bond (I am just ordering Andy Angel’s book, but was taught by him at St John’s and loved his teaching), perhaps in presenting judgement to to seekers a place to begin is presenting it as God’s response to injustice which is very topical right now. But I’m working on a more comprehensive response. Its also about trust and one of the reasons to trust God is His justice.

      Reply
  2. I am so past what the supposedly “learned” arguments are about. Pray that the spirit of God through Jesus Christ will open our understanding. Pray that our faith will strengthen us all our ways. Pray for knowledge of His words.

    Reply
    • ‘pray for knowledge of his words…’ along with
      a. reading them carefully and
      b. listening to others who have insight.

      I think that is way that Christian reading of the Bible has always worked best!

      Reply
  3. Helpful and challenging. If God’s judgement requires us to ” repent and sin no more” lest we be judged and punished for eternity, I wonder what sort of God this is? If we are all to face judgement (and inevitably condemnation and punishment) why did God send Jesus to die for us? This theology suggests salvation was not achieved.

    Reply
    • I think it is the kind of God who said ‘The person who hears what I says and does not do what I said is like the man who builds his house on sand…and what a great fall that was!’

      This is the consistent view of both Jesus and Paul. It doesn’t suggest that salvation has not been achieved; it suggests that salvation leads to change, and is not mere nominalism.

      Reply
    • Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly, being the only human who could. When He died, the Law was nailed to the cross and therefore no longer applies, hence it no longer has the power to condemn us. Instead one is saved by grace, through faith (trust), and we live by the law of Christ, which shows itself by love and good works.

      Peter

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  4. A helpful piece, and good to be reminded that Jesus was not opposed to *everything the Pharisees did – and if ‘kraspedon’ of his clothing refers to the “tsitsit” of the prayer shawl, maybe we should be wearing clerical vestments after all! 🙂 That Jesus spoke about and warned his hearers about the possibility of hellfire (Gehenna) should be obvious to anyone who thinks the Gospels give a basically historically reliable account. In fact, nobody talks more about this in the Bible than Jesus. “Even” Schweitzer and Bultmann recognised this element in what they claimed we could know about Jesus.
    If this element is downplayed or denied by Rob Bell and Brian McLaren (and Steve Chalke?), that is because these men have been essentially very able youth leaders and rhetoricians, and not biblical scholars or historical theologians. What Bell and McLaren believe now, I don’t know; I suspect they have moved further and further away from their cradle evangelical Christianity into ‘progressive spirituality’, but I haven’t followed their recent careers.
    But there is indeed a scholarly attempt to deny that the thought of eternal judgment has any place in the thought of Paul. Douglas Campbell of Duke University in his numerous books on Paul (most notably ‘The Deliverance of God’) denies that Romans 1.18-3.20 and ch. 4 represent the apostle’s thought but is a viewpoint of a supposed enemy of Paul that Paul is parodying to show it is ridiculous. According to Campbell, Paul believed in a God who was totally “benevolent” and totally without wrath, not at all “retributive” and – as a logical consequence of this – was giving salvation through Christ to everyone: universalism, in other words. Few people are convinced by the way Campbell handles the texts or by the historical assumptions he makes about Paul and Romans, but Peter Carrell, the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand has been singing the praises of this work in his blog. Bishop Carrell doesn’t seem to have noticed that if what Campbell says about God and Christ is correct, then Paul is point blank contradiction to the Gospels.
    And that would be a nice irony! For how often have we been told (as I was told once, by the Chief Secretary of ACCM) that “Paul was the second founder of Christianity” and Jesus has the “real message” which nasty Paul distorted. What goes round …

    Reply
    • Few scholars believe Campbell’s assertion that Paul is addressing a ‘false teacher’ in Romans. It’s patent nonsense. He should learn from Corinthians where Paul is addressing false teaching by directly quoting the teaching about sex in marriage. Whilst I don’t believe in everlasting conscious suffering for the ‘unsaved’ its a shame that some have tried to distort reality to remove judgement altogether.

      Peter

      Reply
      • You are right. I think Campbell’s thesis is completely bizarre, and from what I can discern so does most of the academy.

        It just has no methodological justification other than in Campbell’s imagination of what he thinks Paul ought to have said. Once more, another massive dead end in NT studies.

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      • Peter and Brian
        I don’t have my books to hand at present, but I don’t believe Douglas argues that there is no judgment. Rather, he sees God’s justice as distributive rather than retributive.

        Also, I’m not surprised that his scholarship gets scant acknowledgement. He exposes the ‘doublethink’ of some scholars’ arguments.

        Reply
        • No, Campbell claims it’s ‘corrective’ rather than retributive.
          He is a universalist who thinks everyone will be saved.

          Reply
          • Really? He’s just gone up in my estimation.
            He is a great scholar. And much underestimated.

        • As a sideline, I got a funny result from my study of Douglas Campbell’s brilliant and occasionally perverse book on dating Paul. Agreement on authorship: 13 out of 13. Agreement on dating: 0 out of 13.

          Reply
          • Actually Campbell denies that the Pastoral Epistles are Pauline – he thinks they are from the second century. That’s a standard 19th century liberal belief. On the other hand, he very much affirms that “Ephesians” (I think he calls it “Laodiceans”) is Pauline – while liberals almost universally deny this. He also claims that Paul was executed in Rome c. A. D. 57. I don’t think anyone follows his dating and his views on authorship. Incidentally Campbell also claims that the author of Acts was not Luke, did not accompany Paul, and invented the Areopagus incident to make Paul look like Socrates. He says this in his recent little biography of Paul which is a lively read but sprinkled with idiosyncratic claims. I think he does this to make Paul’s actual life fit with what he thinks Paul taught.

          • I had great fun looking at the Pastorals’ origin every which way, trying out (and indeed treating as chief-working-hypothesis) several different angles. The idea was to begin with the multidimensional data and to see which hypothesis fitted that, and also whether one hypothesis fitted it significantly better than rivals. I have not yet oscillated to a standstill on this and nor is my present working hypothesis without its complications. It is always best to seek a (basically) simple hypothesis, though there will always be cases where the history was in fact complex. This comprehensivist approach, for reasons too long to go into here, has so far yielded the idea that Luke (during Acts) became used to writing in persona Pauli (and had, specifically, tried his hand at Pauline pastoral writing in Ac 20), and that Acts and the Pastorals both evince knowledge of the collected Paul letters inasmuch as they tend to ‘use’ one letter at a time rather than writing seamlessly ‘from the brain of Paul’. (Since I date for other reasons 2 Peter in the 80s – see ch3 on Paul’s letters viewed as a whole – and Luke-Acts in the latter 90s, this allows a coherent historical development wherein there was a collection of Paul’s 10 letters – as known to Marcion – by the 80s or so.) However, these Paul letters lack closure. Luke (whose stylistic affinities to the Pastorals have been comprehensively and impressively described) was well placed to provide it, having accompanied Paul during his last years. In so doing, he also included perspectives he considered important for legacy’s sake. What I always urge is that any dating hypothesis be based on as large as possible a web of literary interrelationships and trajectories. One can’t speak of a particular work or set of works in a vacuum.
            In ignoring Acts – for now, anyway – and in much kite-flying (sometimes ignoring firmer data in favour of the more tenuous) Campbell’s dating-frame is very questionable at quite a few points (Ignatius and Polycarp parallels convince me that he dates the Pastorals far too late, for example) – but the great value of the book is in its multidimensional presentation of relevant factors for dating.

            Although I have not read his theological work, he has such a good mind (never second-hand, always fresh and independent) that I don’t doubt that he comes up with fruitful angles.

          • Does anyone believe the Pastorals were written by Paul or that Paul’s speeches in Acts are anything but an invention?
            Idiosyncratic over Ephesians yes. I think Douglas believes Colossians is Pauline too, and he used to believe 2 Thessalonians was and was written before 1 Thessalonians. He’s changed his mind on that, which is a pity.
            As for dating, I think he’s spot on, and not a bit radical. Knox got there first, many decades ago. Too many scholars rely on Acts rather than on Paul.

          • I wish you would make fewer sweeping statements, Penny. They are just everywhere. Why, for example, would Thessalonians be so early as the Caligula crisis? Other emperors were demonised and associated with expected Temple abominations. Knox’s fixed points are simultaneously less certain and less crucial than things like Festus’s accession and the Gallio incident, on each of which he pins himself into a corner. He revised his scheme in minor points a couple of times too, not that I can talk.

          • Penny, the only people who believe Paul wrote Ephesians are those who:

            a. note the wide range of styles of rhetoric in the ancient world
            b. note that Paul elsewhere demonstrates his ability to vary his style
            c. recognise that ‘justification by faith’ probably isn’t the centre of Paul’s theology, but ‘peace and reconciliation with God’ makes a much better candidate
            d. have actually done the stylometric analysis, and find that Ephesians is actually well within the linguistic range of the ‘undisputed’ Paulines.

            In other words—those who work based on evidence, not on their own philosophical pre-suppositions…

          • Ian
            I was responding to Brian re Ephesians. I see no reason why it isn’t Pauline. But this is currently an idiosyncratic view.

          • Christopher
            Take it up with Douglas! It was his earlier conviction that 2 Thessalonians referred to Caligula. He has since changed his mind.
            Knox’s dating (or Douglas’s) doesn’t ignore the Gallio evidence. It simply, if I remember correctly, places Gallio in a later Corinthian visit. I can’t check this. Knox and Campbell are locked away in storage. Drat.

          • Ian

            On your April 3, 2020 at 4:32 pm post.
            I believe Paul wrote Ephesians because I believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible. But I also believe that ‘justification by faith’ is the centre of Paul’s theology.
            Because ‘Having been justified therefore by faith we have peace with God through the Lord of us Jesus Christ’ and because reconciliation with God depends on our deliverance from condemnation (Romans 5:16, 5:18 and 8:1).

            Phil Almond

  5. I agree at all points. And have always agreed with Pannenberg and Moltmann etc about the supreme importance of the eschatological, simply because the larger scale something is, the larger importance it will have (cf. our phrase ‘life-and-death issues’). If people face the reality of death (including the very real chance of dying in a state not at peace with one’s Maker and origins) then they understand how to live. It has often been said. Hence the emphasis on judgment. But as for the fact that the message of judgment is central to Jesus and the message of love is absent for long stretches though still very much present, that is obvious to anyone who does a numerical ‘count’. Something that ideologues in the school of Rob Bell fail to do, thereby showing their dishonesty and their intent to make things in their own image or that of their culture. There are technical specialists in all areas of study – being a preacher or popular face of Christianity is not in any way equivalent to being a technical specialist.

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  6. How refreshing; and a straight-speaking Vicar to boot! I love his emphasis on the importance of actions and discovering holiness.

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  7. Agree with everything here – Looking forward to getting this book (amazon say not till mid May)

    Andy’s father Gervais was a major inspiration in my own faith journey & vocation – what a gifted scholar & preacher he was – seems his son has picked up the torch.

    Reply
  8. The gospel presupposes judgement – for without judgement there can be no such thing as mercy. Mercy mitigates judgment. That’s what it means. So e.g. John 3.16 – the context of eternal life as a gift is judgement (perishing). A gospel without judgment is meaningless.

    it isn’t the love of God that save us – or, more exactly, God’s love is necessary but not sufficient. It is the mercy of God that spares us from judgment if we believe in Christ. Of course God loves us – that’s why we are here. But it is no gospel merely to say God simply loves us – for that ignores the problems of sin, suffering and death. God has to be just – it’s only because he is just that there is any gospel at all. It’s is because he loves us that he has provided a way out – mercy. And that mercy is laid hold of by faith.

    Things get muddled by the use of the word ‘grace’ which is very familiar in Christian discourse, but otherwise a dead metaphor which takes some explaining.

    Mercy is sometimes called grace by St Paul – because mercy is an aspect of grace understood in relation to judgement – a matter of nuance rather than substance.

    But without judgment there is no gospel.

    Reply
    • Yes indeed. The gospel is essentially the good news that our sins can be forgiven, if we believe and live accordingly (Luke 3:3, 24:47). The one who died for our sins is also the one who will judge us. Peter (Acts 10:42) and Paul (Acts 17:31) were both careful, presenting the gospel, to make it clear that it is Christ who will judge our lives. How can divine forgiveness have any meaning except in the context of the judgement at resurrection? So pace Andy, I think the Church does need to be speaking to the world at large about this. The judgement is an immutable fact that everyone needs to hear authoritatively confirmed – I put it that way because many, I suspect, half-suspect anyway that there will be an end-of-life judgement but brush the thought aside. Forgiveness of sins – no punishment – is then really good news.

      Reply
    • ‘And that mercy is laid hold of by faith.’

      Could you clarify what constitutes ‘faith’ for you, and how this saves an individual?

      thanks

      Peter

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  9. What a breath of fresh air to read this. When we overemphasise the love of God to the point of putting everything Jesus said about sin, judgement and hell on permanent mute we end up with a sentimental and weak church that knows nothing of holiness, obedience or the fear of the Lord. That is the soil in which the weeds of heresy grow.

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  10. Another good article on an important theme, but left me a bit dissatisfied. When are we going to get to the nitty gritty, what about the children, the mentally handicapped, the mentally deranged, the abused… how can we justify an all round sweeping condemnation?
    AS I understand it the idea of hell died in the XIX century when people like George Eliot said it was basically immoral, eternal torment for temporal sins. The church got embarrassed about talking about it, then there were all those 18 year olds mown down in the first world war.
    It is appropriate to expect any sort of audience for the notion of eternal punishment, and do we want to get into the subject?

    Reply
    • Owen
      See discussion on original sin in ‘Plagues, judgment and the Book of Revelation’ under Biblical Studies. We can’t avoid the clear teaching (as I see it, though others disagree) on Romans 5:12-21 that the sin of Adam resulted in condemnation for all men (Romans 5:18). Starting there we have to wrestle with the issues you raise. As I keep saying, the gospel has two essential parts: a terrible warning and a wonderful invitation and promise. The Church is failing in its duty if she does not preach both parts. Let’s have the discussion on the points you raise.
      Phil Almond

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  11. Why pick on Rob Bell–who writes for the popular audience–when someone like David Bentley Hart is right there in front of you?

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  12. What a marvellous article.
    One particular point:
    1 “take my yoke (which means ‘my teaching’) upon you and learn from me” (Matt 11:29).

    An interesting understanding of yoke is found in The Jewish Encyclopaedia which includes includes the following abstraction:
    1.1 Yoke
    “Reign or sovereignty of God as contrasted with the kingdom of the worldly powers. The hope that God will be King over all the earth, when all idolatry will be banished, is expressed in prophecy and song (Ex. xv. 18; Zech. xiv. 9; Isa. xxiv. 23, Iii. 7; Micah iv. 7; Ps. xxix. 10), and with special emphasis in the later Psalms (xciii.-xcix.)”…
    “The Kingdom of God, however, in order to be established on earth, requires recognition by man; that is, to use the Hasidæan phrase borrowed from Babylonia or Persia, man must “take upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of God” (“‘Ol Malkut Shamayim”; “Heaven” is a synonym of “God”; see Heaven). This the Israelites do daily when reciting the Shema’ (Ber. ii. 2); so do the angels when singing their “Thrice Holy” (Hekalot); and in the future “all men shall take upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of God when casting away their idols” (Mek., Beshallaḥ, ‘Amalek, 2).”
    1.2 Yoke also refers to yoke of the Torah.
    See http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9328-kingdom-of-god
    2. In the context of Matthew and the Sabbath the expression yoke as a reference to “taking on the Sovereignty of Christ and learn from him carries an expansive profundity and weight.

    Reply
    • I have also read that a rabbi was said to have a ‘yoke’, which was their interpretation of the Torah. Jesus, the rabbi, said that we should learn from him, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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      • David,
        Without looking at it again, I think that can also be seen from the link to the full article, in the Jewish Encyclopedia as can the fact that
        Yoke also has a scriptural reference to yoke of slavery, which also has interesting connotations in regard to the text in Matthew: slavery to the law and tradition v slavery to Christ himself.
        Also in the context of Matthew it is Jesus himself who gives true Sabbath Rest, as Sovereign Lord of the Sabbath and/or in the ultimate freedom of Slavery to him as Lord rather than the Torah and tradition.
        It’s all about Christ, coming to him.

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        • (There was a song referring to the ‘yoke of slavery’, which brought to mind the days of overhead projectors – remember those? – and the acetate which had the misprint: ‘the joke of slavery’.)

          The yoke is also the means by which one learns (Matt 11:29). I have heard that the picture here is that a yoke takes two oxen, with the shaft to the plough between them. A young ox would be paired with an experienced ox in order to learn the task.

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          • Because the overlay of this sort of wisdom-material is in Matthew alone (some in Luke-via-Matthew), and further because Matthew has often been seen on internal evidence as a scribe from a scribal school who imagines ‘houses’ where others see none and emphasises the teacher/pupil relationship, Scripture, the model scribe 13.52 (Stendahl wrote on ‘The School of St Matthew’), I have seen this body of material as Matthew’s own work. Notice how other wisdom references cluster round here (11.19, 11.25). The relevant references are fully explored in Suggs, ‘Wisdom, Christology and Law in Matthew’s Gospel’ and Piper, ‘Wisdom in the Q Tradition’.

            See Sirach 51.23-27 (in the spirit of wisdom calling out in Prov 8 and the LORD calling out in Isaiah 55, to which 51.24-5 are closely related):

            51.23 RSVCE ‘Draw near to me, you who are untaught, and lodge in my house.’
            51.26 RSVCE ‘Put your neck under the yoke and let your souls receive instruction.’

            ‘Draw near to me

  13. The Apostle John speaks more than his fellow disciples about the love of God, simply because he was the disciple closest to Jesus himself. His own phrase: ‘The disciple that Jesus loved’ is our scriptural evidence for this FACT. This is why the Letters of John are so inspiring – especially to those of us who sometimes feel unloved by the leaders of the Church – one great exception in our day and age being the current Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. His so obvious love of the poor and those on the margins of society is a potent reminder of the Jesus he serves in his universal role as ‘pastor pastorum’.

    Reply
    • That’s all right for you Roman Catholics, with your Magisterium and tradition, but Anglicans do their theology on different terms.
      Nevertheless, I salute you Roman Catholics for resisting modern secular culture and affirming the sanctity of life and the nature of Christian marriage as a sacramental union of one man and one woman for life. Thank you, Father Smith and your Catholic Church, for standing up for life and Christian marriage, when so many Anglicans in the west have forgotten the teachings of our Lord.

      Reply
    • Dear Fr Ron,
      I would humbly suggest that the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” does not imply that Jesus did not love any of the other disciples! If that disciple is the source of the material for the fourth Gospel (as John 21:24 strongly suggests) then this is the disciple’s description of himself, not a discription from others. If that is the case, it is a description which flows from his own deep knowledge that Jesus loves him, and that this is the most important attribute about him from his own point of view.

      Should not all of us be able to describe ourselves as “the disciple whom Jesus loves”?

      To return to the subject of the original post, this then feeds into how we relate to Jesus. John 15 is perhaps the text for this. There is judgement and pruning. But the threat of these is not reason for our following Jesus’ commandments. Love, in response to His love, should be our motive for holding fast to his commandments.

      Reply
      • Thank you, David, for your kind response to my comment here. I personally do not doubt that God loves each one of us. We are all made in the divine Image and Likeness, which means that we are all capable of ‘loving one another as God loves us’. The problem with those who choose deliberately to emphasize the ‘judgment’ of God; is that this appears sometimes to cancel our ‘The Great Love of God as revealed in the Son’. It is not unimportant to note that Jesus sought fit to summarise ‘All the Law and the Prophets’ in his explicit directive: ‘Love God first, and then your neighbour as yourself’.

        This surely implies that loving God ensures the experience of God’s love for ones-self – the true basis for being able to love one’s neighbour.

        Reply
    • Fr Ron, your comment takes a bit of untangling. It is highly likely that the Apostle John is the disciple whom Jesus loved, but not likely that he is the author who uses the phrase. 21.24 is subtly worded to give 2 agreeing witnesses who enable certainty by virtue of being 2 not 1, in concert with other such formulations in chs 5, 8, 19. In all Johannine writings (or their background) ideas like ‘the 2 are 1’, ‘the 3 are 1’, ‘the 4 are 1’ are current, and may theoretically even have arisen through the need for John the Elder to hang on the coattails of John the Apostle.

      The Letters of John are often quoted on love, but sometimes by those who quite wrongly collapse all the 4 types of love into one.

      In addition your exalting of the historical value of the 4th Gospel is rare among liberals (meaning that the charge of ‘picking and choosing’ is inevitably going to arise) and therefore needs justification.

      Your exalting of it effectively above that of Mark is a minority position held by fewer than 1%. It would therefore be even more pertinent to ask for justification on that separate point, or at the very least for some idea of how Mark on judgment fits into your picture of the historical Jesus.

      Stay safe – Chris.

      Reply
  14. Actually Fr Ron is a retired priest of the Anglican Church of NZ ministering at St Michael and All Angels Christchurch where +Peter Carrell is bishop. Bless you Ron, not least for your kind hospitality when I visited Christchurch in 2014 and you showed me round.

    Reply
    • Really? But he calls the Pope his ‘pastor’ so I’m glad Father Smith supports his pastor’s teaching on the sanctity of life and the sacrament of Christian marriage.

      Reply
  15. “….Jesus speaks of the law or is said to disregard the law. When you look into it, Jesus does not do this once. ”

    And the story of the woman caught in the very act of adultery? His general attitude towards women?

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,
      An interesting point. But perhaps he did not disregard the law as much as show mercy under the law? As there is not a single instance in the Old Testament of the death penalty for adultery being enacted perhaps this was not so unusual?

      Reply
      • Thanks Colin. I find that idea very helpful – Jesus showing mercy under the law.
        That, I think, is why I can’t take seriously the idea of a God who subjects people to his endless wrath. It’s not the God who Jesus shows us.

        Reply
        • No I am not completely convinced by endless wrath either. The penalty for Adam was exile then death. For Israel the same. The endless punishment is perhaps endless separation from God in death? But I am still thinking it through.

          Reply
        • Andrew
          Quite a few of the terrible warnings in the New Testament come from Christ’s own lips. For instance, Matthew 13:37-43 (‘…and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth……..’); Luke 13:2-5 (…’No, I tell you, but unless ye repent, all similarly ye will perish’).
          We all have to take these warnings seriously and preach them alongside the wonderful gospel invitation to repent and submit to Christ. It is not up to us to assume that Christ will have mercy on all at the last.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • Phil: thanks – but I’m afraid I don’t share your view that article 9 has to be taken at face value. It’s confused and confusing and I certainly don’t find it something I want to preach about.

          • Phil: where does Jesus actually carry out this condemnation and consign someone to eternal wrath? Which verses show us Jesus actually doing that face to face, rather than forgiving them?

      • ‘As there is not a single instance in the Old Testament of the death penalty for adultery being enacted perhaps this was not so unusual?’

        Colin: I have heard this claim before – but I do dislike arguments from silence. And far from being a community of mercy, it could suggest a community of law breakers.
        However, I do think the eagerness of the Pharisees to stone the woman caught in adultery coupled with the stoning of Stephen to death for blasphemy and Paul Acts14v19 suggests there was a culture where devout Jews sought to apply the letter of Moses’ law.

        Reply
    • My thought on the relation between the incident of the woman caught in adultery and this post is that in the incident Jesus is precisely acting as a judge, where a judge is one who decides between the two parties coming before him (or her, c.f. Deborah). All the accusers of the woman had withdrawn. Jesus was able not to condemn, because the case against her had collapsed. His attitude to adultery itself was clear: “go and sin no more.”

      I think it stems from a view which sees morality and ‘law’ as rooted in relationship, rather than offenses against an impersonal set of rules. Thus, there is always an offended or injured party.

      I’m not sure what you mean in referring to “His general attitude towards women?” I assume that you would agree that Jesus had a very positive attitude to women, e.g. commending Mary sitting in the position of a disciple. Are you saying that Jesus breaks the OT law (better: OT teaching, for that is the better translation of ‘Torah’) in regard to his relationships with women?

      Reply
      • I’m saying that if you read episodes like that of the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the woman with an issue of blood to name three, then there is something of the unexpected.

        Reply
      • “All the accusers of the woman had withdrawn. Jesus was able not to condemn, because the case against her had collapsed“

        I don’t think this follows at all. The case against her was very clear. She had been caught in the very act. Jesus didn’t ask for further evidence. He questioned whether the punishment was correct. “Neither do I condemn you” means that He was clear that she should not be condemned to stoning.

        Reply
        • He didn’t question whether the sentence was correct. He forgave her just like he forgave other sinners who, like us all, deserve death for our sins. He was able to forgive sinners because he knew that in his death he would bear the punishment that they deserved. Just like God forgave David for his adultery with Bathsheeba and murder of Uriah. See Romans 3:25 ‘…remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God…’.
          Phil Almond

          Reply
        • Forgiveness is through an encounter with the living Jesus, there is no other way.
          A little premature, I know, but He is Risen; He is risen indeed.

          Reply
  16. I do not know in this thread how to pick up on Ian’s comment on the possible Pauline authorship of Ephesians. This is not my area of expertise, but in the authorship debate I have not seen any mention of how Ephesians 5:31-32 employs Genesis 2:24 the same way as in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 —the only two places it is used that way. That is, that the marital affinity relationship of Genesis 2:24 is how we come into the body/bride of Christ—’married’ to the seed of Abraham and thus heirs to the Abrahamic promise— the “profound” mystery of how the Gentiles are included in such.

    Reply
  17. “Forgiveness is through an encounter with the living Jesus, there is no other way.”

    Yes Geoff – I agree. I was asking for specific recorded face to face examples where Jesus condemns rather than forgives. It seems you can’t think of any either…..

    “And there are many in the crowds who turn away from him, from following him.”

    Very general comment – so does not class as a specific example. We have know way of knowing whether these people turned again later became followers.

    Reply
    • There is no evidence that they turned again. We only have scripture evidence that they turned away. You arguing from silence. Seems that you can not think of the thrust, sweep of the of Gospels. Those who are not for Jesus are against him.
      What we know as Holy Week provides significant written evidence of opposition to Jesus, which continued beyond physical bodily resurrection.
      Judas anyone? …wish that he’d not been born…sounds like…condemnation?
      And there are specific parabolic examples.
      And there are those who fell within specific categories of people who rejected Jesus.
      The rich young ruler turned away.
      The thief on the cross rejected Jesus.
      If we are not transformed by the reality of the crescendo of history during Holy week, the of the death of God the Son in his indivisible nature and his bodily resurrection, we remain dead in our trespasses and sins.
      We need an encounter with Christ on the cross.

      Reply
      • No specific face to face condemnation from Jesus there. Simply an invitation that he could become perfect if he wanted to.

        Reply
        • No specific face to face condemnation from Jesus there. Simply an invitation that he could become perfect if he wanted to.

          An invitation which he refuses, and a response from Jesus which is pretty clear that that refusal means he will not end up in the Kingdom of Heaven.

          The reason Jesus doesn’t condemn people is that He doesn’t need to: people condemn themselves to eternal punishment by rejecting the salvation that Jesus offers.

          One might also mention, for example, the criminals crucified with Jesus; in only one of the records does Jesus say that any of them will be with Him in Paradise, and in that only the one who requests forgiveness is told He will be joining Jesus. The others, clearly, are condemned by their refusal to accept the salvation which Jesus offers.

          It’s clear that Jesus offers salvation to everyone, but it’s equally clear that not everyone to whom he offers it accepts it. And if you refuse to be saved then you are not saved, pretty obviously.

          Reply
          • Who knows if the young man went away and changed his mind and then became a follower of Jesus later? We simply don’t know……
            Or is there only one chance?

            Have you sold all of your possessions? Are you rich?

          • Who knows if the young man went away and changed his mind and then became a follower of Jesus later? We simply don’t know……

            No, we don’t. But he did didn’t, then he’s not in the Kingdom of Heaven, is he? Jesus was pretty clear on that. Either the young man changes his mind, or he doesn’t get to Heaven.

          • Have you done what Jesus asked the young man to do S?

            No, and if I end up in Hell I won’t be surprised.

            But that’s beside the point. I don’t base my view of what is true on what would be nicest for me to believe. Do you?

          • S

            Just asking, where in the text does the gospel writer say that the young man isn’t or won’t be in the Kingdom?

          • Just asking, where in the text does the gospel writer say that the young man isn’t or won’t be in the Kingdom?

            The young man comes to Jesus. He asks what he must do to get eternal life. Jesus tells him. Jesus tells him, and he ‘goes away sad’. Jesus then says ‘Look, it’s hard for the rich to get into the kingdom of Heaven’ and the disciples react ‘But then who can be saved?’

            The clear implication is that the young man will not enter the kingdom of Heaven. Otherwise the disciples wouldn’t have reacted as they did.

          • Not at all. The clear implication is that with God everything is possible. Which is what Jesus tells the disciples.

          • Not at all. The clear implication is that with God everything is possible. Which is what Jesus tells the disciples.

            With God everything is possible but not everything will happen.

            It is possible for the young man to be saved, if he repents and accepts Jesus’ challenge. He doesn’t (so far as we know). So he won’t be saved (unless he repents later, but there’s no reason to think he will; plenty of people never do).

            The possibility of him being saved exists. But because he won’t accept it, a possibility is all it remains, not a reality.

          • Nope. Jesus told him what to do if he wished to be perfect and told his disciples that it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom.
            Nothing about not being saved or that anyone has to be perfect (which is impossible anyway).

          • Nope. Jesus told him what to do if he wished to be perfect

            Jesus told him what to do if he wanted eternal life. That’s the question he asked.

            and told his disciples that it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom.

            To explain why the rich man they had just seen was not going to be in the kingdom of Heaven.

            Nothing about not being saved or that anyone has to be perfect (which is impossible anyway).

            Quite a lot about not gaining eternal life or entering the kingdom of Heaven, which is what being saved is.

          • S
            Actually, no. What you are suggesting is eisegesis. It’s not what the text says.
            It may fit your soteriology. But it’s not scripture.

          • Actually, no. What you are suggesting is eisegesis. It’s not what the text says.

            Hey, everybody. Penelope has come down hard against eisegesis. Everybody remember this for when she does it next.

  18. Andrew

    The carrying out of condemnation and ‘consignment’ to eternal wrath of the unsaved will take place on the Day of Judgement when we are all confronted by a great white throne and the one sitting on it, from the face of whom the earth and the heaven fled and a place was not found for them. The one sitting on the throne must be the triune God. ‘And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire’.

    At that time we will all hear the voice of the Son of Man, to whom the Father has given authority to execute judgment; those who have done good will be raised to a resurrection of life, those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment.

    That terrible Day is also described in Revelation 6:14-17 ‘…and hide us from the face of the [one] sitting on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because came the great day of their wrath, and who can stand’.

    You are not taking the warnings that Jesus speaks seriously. You are assuming that on the Day of Judgment he will forgive everyone.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • No Phil. You are making huge assumptions, simply because you can’t answer the question. I was asking you for evidence of Jesus’ behaviour: where does Jesus actually carry out this condemnation and consign someone to eternal wrath? Which verses show us Jesus actually doing that face to face, rather than forgiving them?

      The answer, of course, is that in face of actual cases, the records show Jesus offering forgiveness. Now no one knows what will happen at the ‘day of judgement’. And so I stand by Colin’s earlier comment: Jesus showing mercy under the law. That, I think, is why I can’t take seriously the idea of a God who subjects people to his endless wrath. It’s not the God who Jesus shows us. The evidence is not in favour of eternal wrath.

      Reply
  19. Andrew
    You wrote, “Now no one knows what will happen at the ‘day of judgement’”

    What we do know about the Day of Judgment, from ‘A Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to the slaves of him things which it behoves to occur with speed’ is that ‘if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire’. And what we also know is that we will all hear the voice of the Son of Man, to whom the Father has given authority to execute judgment and that those who have done good will be raised to a resurrection of life, those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment.

    It is not surprising that there is no record in the Gospels of Jesus ‘carrying out condemnation and consigning someone to eternal wrath’; for two reasons. Firstly, as I said, that happens to the unsaved at the Day of Judgment. Secondly, because ‘For God sent not the Son into the world that he might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him’. Saved from what? From condemnation – ‘…and thou shall call the name of him Jesus, for he will save the people of him from the sins of them’. Only those who repent and believe in Jesus will have their names written in the scroll of life.

    What we have in the four gospels are multiple warnings to repent and believe and be saved. My fundamental point, stated previously, is ‘We all have to take these warnings seriously and preach them alongside the wonderful gospel invitation to repent and submit to Christ and be delivered from the condemnation that otherwise Jesus will pronounce at the Day of Judgment.

    It is you who are making the ’huge assumption’ that all have or will have repented and believed and so everyone’s name will be in the scroll of life.

    May I ask: in your preaching do you just not mention any of those multiple warnings to repent and believe?

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • When preaching I issue an invitation to ‘come and see’ what the Kingdom is like Phil. Seems to me there is good precedent for that.

      Reply
      • When preaching I issue an invitation to ‘come and see’ what the Kingdom is like Phil

        And what do you think will happen to those who refuse that invitation, and who continue to refuse it?

        Reply
        • I have no idea. God is the judge, not me.
          According to the law I would *think* the woman caught in adultery would be stoned…….. but that clearly is not reliable….

          Reply
          • I have no idea. God is the judge, not me.

            So you’re not sure they’ll be saved?

            Might it not be an idea to mention to them, then, the risk they are running?

            Otherwise you’ll have to answer for your negligence when they end up in Hell, won’t you?

        • Your question was: “And what do you think will happen to those who refuse that invitation, and who continue to refuse it?“

          That was the question I was answering. Nothing in there about people being saved.

          Reply
          • That was the question I was answering. Nothing in there about people being saved.

            I’ll be more specific then. My fault for giving you wiggle room, I know you operate in bad faith. Do you think people who refuse that invitation, and continue refusing it, will be saved?

          • I don’t think anyone can be forced to receive the kingdom of God.

            I just love watching you squirm out of ever giving a straight answer to a straight question. Are you related to Sir Humphrey Appleby?

          • S: No squirming needed. You are asking a human being about ultimate questions like salvation. There are no straight answers. There is only faith and hope.

          • No squirming needed. You are asking a human being about ultimate questions like salvation. There are no straight answers.

            Of course there are. ‘Do you think people who refuse that invitation, and continue refusing it, will be saved?’ is a yes or no question about what you think will happen to those people. I mean, it’s not like being saved is a continuum, is it?

            Either you think they will be saved or you think they won’t or you have no idea about whether they will be saved or not. So if you’re capable of giving a straight answer, which of those three is it?

          • It was Archbishop Ramsay who, when asked by a keen young man if he was saved, answered “I have been, I am being, and I hope to be…”
            You have to stop asking crooked questions if you want straight answers.
            S, with God all things are possible.

          • It was Archbishop Ramsay who, when asked by a keen young man if he was saved, answered “I have been, I am being, and I hope to be…”

            Well it’s a straighter answer that you’ve ever given.

            So the people who refuse the invitation: do you think they, like this Ramsey person thinks of himself, have been saved? Do you think they, like he thinks of himself, continue to be?

            A simple yes or no will suffice.

            You have to stop asking crooked questions if you want straight answers.

            There’s nothing straighter than a simple, straight question: do you think someone who rejects God’s invitation to salvation will be saved?

            S, with God all things are possible.

            Not true. God can’t make the illogical logical. He can’t make a four-sided triangle, for example. You can’t make nonsense true just by putting ‘God can’ in front of it.

          • S: I can’t reply any more clearly than I have. Matthew 19:26 is also clear on this. Salvation is a matter for God, not for me.

          • I can’t reply any more clearly than I have.

            Then you must be related to Sir Humphrey Appleby. He had a similar disability.

            Matthew 19:26 is also clear on this. Salvation is a matter for God, not for me.

            I never said it was a matter for you. I didn’t ask you, and God won’t ask you, what you think ought to happen. That’s not up to you or me.

            I asked you what you think will happen. That’s a perfectly straight question, and you’ve made it clear you won’t give a straight answer. Squirm away.

          • What I think *will* happen is that God will decide. I can’t see anything unclear about that!
            The story from Matthew I have quoted makes it clear too. And I know you think scripture can’t be wrong…..

          • What I think *will* happen is that God will decide. I can’t see anything unclear about that!

            And do you think God has told us what and how he will decide? Or has He left it a total mystery, like a teacher who refuses to explain the subject or the test beforehand so no one knows how to prepare and everyone’s marks are essentially random?

          • You are asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus: Who then can be saved?

            Answer: With human beings it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

            And if you look at two of the occasions that have been already discussed here: the Woman caught in adultery was shown mercy under the law; and the thief on the cross was told that he would be welcomed in paradise. So it seems that the only way into the kingdom is through the mercy of God doesn’t it?

          • You are asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus: Who then can be saved?

            No, I’m not. I’m asking: who will be saved? Not who can; who will? (Jesus certainly never seems to imagine that everyone will be saved)

            So it seems that the only way into the kingdom is through the mercy of God doesn’t it?

            Yes.

            What do you think will happen to those who refuse God’s mercy? Will God save them against their will?

          • You are asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus: Who then can be saved?

            No, I’m not. I’m asking: who will be saved? Not who can; who will? (Jesus certainly never seems to imagine that everyone will be saved)

            So it seems that the only way into the kingdom is through the mercy of God doesn’t it?

            Yes.

            What do you think will happen to those who refuse God’s mercy? Will God save them against their will?

          • If you want to know who WILL be saved S, then all we can know is what I have said: the unexpected seem to be saved. Adulterers, thieves…etc…tax collectors, sinners….
            (For greater clarity on this matter I think you need to ask God, not me)

            As to forcing people to be saved against their will: I answered that one yesterday. I repeat: I don’t think anyone can be forced to receive the kingdom of God.

          • Andrew

            You said in an earlier post
            “So it seems that the only way into the kingdom is through the mercy of God doesn’t it?”

            S me and you are all agreed that is the case. But my point is that we all need to preach the serious warnings. You say you do that ‘If it’s appropriate Phil, yes of course. But like all scripture, it needs interpreting.’ To me, and possibly to S, your ‘it needs interpreting’ suggests that you don’t believe that the ‘threats’ explicitly contained in the warnings that Jesus gave will ever be carried out for anybody. In other words, that at the Day of Judgment every human being that ever lived will have their names in the book of life whether they have repented and believed in Jesus or not. In other words, you don’t believe the ‘threats’ in the warnings are a real possibility which will happen to those who do not repent and believe.

            That is the disagreement, sadly.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil: true story. There was a young rabbi in training and he had an older rabbi as a mentor. The older rabbi taught the law assiduously from the pulpit. The younger rabbi sat in on some of the personal sessions in the older rabbi’s study. The younger one was perturbed that the older rabbit didn’t seem to press the points made in his preaching home when it came to applying it to the members of his congregation. So he asked the older rabbi about it.
            “Hugo” the older rabbi said, “in your pulpit give general rules. Treat everyone who comes to see you as an exception”.

            That, I believe is what Jesus did in his ministry. If you could just show me one occasion where in a face to face encounter that Jesus condemns someone to eternal wrath then I could believe that was a real possibility. But you can’t. And neither can S. But I’m listening….

          • “Hugo” the older rabbi said, “in your pulpit give general rules. Treat everyone who comes to see you as an exception”.

            So is ‘treat everyone who comes to see you as an exception’ a general rule, then?

            If you could just show me one occasion where in a face to face encounter that Jesus condemns someone to eternal wrath then I could believe that was a real possibility

            I have. There’s the rich man who fails to get into the kingdom of Heaven, and there are the criminals crucified alongside Jesus who do not ask Him for forgiveness and He does not say will be with Him in paradise.

          • He doesn’t say that to the rich young man. No condemnation. We don’t hear what happened. Jesus simply says to the disciples that with God anything is possible.

            Same as the thief on the cross. Jesus doesn’t say anything to him.

          • Andrew

            ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’.

            Jesus said those words. Do you not believe him?

            Phil Almond

          • Phil: see my true story above. Tell me where Jesus says this to anyone face to face and promises them, face to face, that they are going to eternal wrath and damnation.
            It’s general apocalyptic stuff. Typical of its time. I don’t disbelieve that he said it, but whether he intended individuals to be condemned in that way? I don’t see any evidence from the way he treated real people….

          • “So is ‘treat everyone who comes to see you as an exception’ a general rule, then?“

            Yep, it’s a general rule for pastoral encounters.

          • He doesn’t say that to the rich young man. No condemnation.

            The rich young man asks what he must do to get eternal life; Jesus tells him; he goes away disappointed and Jesus says ‘see, it’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven’.

            The implication is hardly opaque.

            Same as the thief on the cross. Jesus doesn’t say anything to him.

            Yes, which is a rather pointed silence when He says to another right beside, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise,’ don’t you think?

            Yep, it’s a general rule for pastoral encounters.

            I see. So tell me, what is the point of giving people general rules at all if they all know that you’ll treat them as an exception?

          • Thanks S. I don’t think we can make any further progress here. I trust you will know the depth of God’s love in these next three days.

          • Andrew

            You wrote, ‘I don’t disbelieve that he said it’ (‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’.)

            I hope you will agree that your statement might not be the same as saying ‘I do believe that he said it’. Because what you wrote could mean ‘I am not convinced that he did not say it, but also I am not convinced that he did say it’. Could you please clarify. I put it to you that your ‘I don’t see any evidence from the way he treated real people….’ must be referring to some words and acts of Jesus which you are convinced he did say and did do. In my long debate with Clare on Fulcrum it was clear that Clare distinguished in her thinking what she called ‘the real deal Jesus’ (certain words and actions that Jesus did say and do) from some of his words and actions which in her view he (probably) did not say and did not do. Is that what you are doing here – using the ‘real deal’ words and actions to rule out the doubtful (as you see it) words and actions?

            I explained in an earlier post why “It is not surprising that there is no record in the Gospels of Jesus ‘carrying out condemnation and consigning someone to eternal wrath’ (April 7 4:11 pm)”.

            But assuming (as I am convinced) that Jesus did say the terrible words I quoted, that is the evidence you keep asking for. Jesus always spoke the truth, and in those words he is definitely saying that he will send his angels who will collect the ones doing lawlessness (all of us by nature, unless we have repented and submitted to Christ) and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There is no doubt that he intends to do that. That is how he will treat some real people on the Day of Judgment.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil: I’m just not convinced your approach moves the kingdom of God any closer. As well as being Maudy Thursday the Church also recalls Dietrich Bonhoeffer today. He said many wise things but one of them was this:
            “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

            Jesus showed us what grace meant. That’s the real deal. I believe we are called to preach the good news. Not the bad. And so I want to say that I don’t think it’s that important if Jesus said those apocalyptic type of words. What’s really important is what he showed us – the grace of God. Bonhoeffer had it right. And so I don’t preach about some non specific type of judgement. I preach about the way Jesus encountered real people. Because that’s more likely to help people turn around.

          • I believe we are called to preach the good news. Not the bad. […] Because that’s more likely to help people turn around.

            But why would anybody turn around if what you preach is, ‘don’t worry about the general rules, you will be treated as an exception’?

            In the old analogy that seems so appropriate today, the good news is that we, Christians, have the cure for eternal death, and we want to give it free to anyone who will receive it.

            But that’s only good news to people who realise they are sick. If people don’t realise they are sick, why would the news of a cure — especially one which requires them to turn their lives upside-down — be good news?

          • That’s really simple S. Turning around is not a once for all thing. Suppose Phil does everything to prevent himself going to the lake of sulphur today. Supposing he becomes perfect today. Do you think he can keep it up tomorrow?
            And you yourself admit that you don’t do what the rich young man was asked to. Why not? Because even if you did, you know you’d start acquiring stuff again tomorrow, or else do something else that wasn’t right.

            Human beings have a propensity to F things up. That’s part of our condition. What helps us is is not being told we will go to hell – it hasn’t helped you after all, because by your own admission you are sick but still don’t do what Jesus suggests – but showing the grace and love of God to someone else. Real grace breeds grace. Condemnation just breeds resentment. Which one do you think brings the kingdom closer?

          • Turning around is not a once for all thing.

            Yes it is. Turning around means we stop going in the wrong direction — away form God — and in the right direction — towards God.

            Of course the journey is not smooth: we stumble, we fall, we slide backwards. We might even end up farther away that we started. We need God’s help to pick us up, to dust us down, to set us back on our feet.

            But the point is that its only once we know we are going in the wrong direction — the direction that leads to Hell — that we will turn around at all.

            If you just keep telling people, ‘don’t worry about turning around, God will save you anyway’ why would any of them ever turn their lives around?

            The cost of following Jesus is high, indeed, it costs everything. Why would anyone pay that cost if they didn’t have to? And why would they have to if they think that they can just carry on as they are and it doesn’t matter?

            You mentioned Bonhoeffer above; so why do you keep peddling cheap grace?

          • So why aren’t you following your own advice and doing what Jesus asked the rich young man to do S?

          • So why aren’t you following your own advice and doing what Jesus asked the rich young man to do S?

            Because I’m a failure. A condition also known as being human.

            The important thing is that we realise we are failures and ask God for mercy.

            But if you tell people that they don’t need to worry because God won’t let anything bad happen to them, that God loves them just as they are, why would they ever ask Him for mercy? Why would they ever think they need to as for mercy? Because after all if God loves them how they are then how they are can’t be that bad, right? If God will let them into Heaven just how they are then ‘how they are’ must be good enough to deserve getting into Heaven right?

            And that’s the way to Hell.

            The only way to get to Heaven is to realise that you deserve to be in Hell.

          • Don’t think I’ve heard or heard of anyone saying that to people S. But I’m glad you are so sorted!

          • Don’t think I’ve heard or heard of anyone saying that to people

            You never listen to the words you’re saying? That explains such a lot.

          • “Of course the journey is not smooth: we stumble, we fall, we slide backwards. We might even end up farther away that we started. We need God’s help to pick us up, to dust us down, to set us back on our feet.”

            …in other words..we need to keep turning around. And we can only do that by the grace of God.

          • …in other words..we need to keep turning around. And we can only do that by the grace of God.

            Yep. But if people don’t realise they are going in the wrong direction, and where they’ll end up if they don’t turn around, they won’t accept the offered grace and, well, then they’ll end up in Hell, won’t they?

          • Andrew

            You wrote ‘I believe we are called to preach the good news. Not the bad. And so I want to say that I don’t think it’s that important if Jesus said those apocalyptic type of words’.

            In my view we are called to preach both the good news and the bad if we want to be faithful to Jesus because that is what he did. I am dismayed by your view that any of the words Jesus said are ‘not that important’.

            You wrote ‘Turning around is not a once for all thing. Suppose Phil does everything to prevent himself going to the lake of sulphur today. Supposing he becomes perfect today. Do you think he can keep it up tomorrow?’

            According to the New Testament salvation is a process punctuated by events and declarations: election, calling, repentance, justification, adoption, conformation to the image of Christ, chastening, perseverance in good works, final perishing of the outward man in death, glorification. (See Article 17 which mostly captures this process).

            Justification is a ‘once for all thing’. But it is the beginning of the process. Those justified are not perfect until glorification. On the journey of sanctification we all offend in many things and have to confess our sins daily and be forgiven daily. Knowing we are justly condemned because of our sins can be the spur to cause us to flee to Christ from the wrath to come and to be justified by faith and begin the Christian life.

            Phil Almond

          • Of course Phil that isn’t what I said and I’d prefer you didn’t twist things. But enough. Have a very blessed remainder of Holy Week and Easter, both you and S.

          • Andrew

            Well, not quite ‘enough’ please. I just need to say that I suppose by ‘twisting’ you are referring to my “I am dismayed by your view that any of the words Jesus said are ‘not that important’”. I did not mean that your view is that ALL of the words of Jesus are ‘not that important’. To be clear I should have said “I am dismayed by your view that SOME of the words Jesus said are ‘not that important’”. Apologies.

            Regards

            Phil Almond

          • No. I regard everything that Jesus said of importance. I think it possible that he did not say those things in that way.

          • Andrew

            I am not grasping just what you mean. In your view did he or did he not say ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’.

            Phil Almond

          • I regard everything that Jesus said of importance. I think it possible that he did not say those things in that way.

            Oh that’s interesting. So what things do you think he did say and how do you distinguish them from the things you ‘think it possible that he did not say’?

            I mean do you have a time machine, so you’ve popped back to Israel in the first century and been earwigging?

            Because I can’t think of any other way in which you could have any source for what Jesus did and possibly didn’t say than any of the rest of us; that is, the Bible (note capital letter).

          • Hi S
            I hope you had a good Easter!
            You are raising questions that have been around for a long time. They were questions raised during my first week as an undergraduate theology student in the 1970s, and during my A level RS course before that. I suggest a bit of a look around the quest for the historical Jesus – an avenue (or several) of studies that has been around for over 100 years.

            Yes, we all have the bible, but of course we also all have tradition, reason, scholarship, experience. Perhaps you are a fundamentalist? I’m not, so I’m not sure we can usefully engage on this.

            What I said, of course, was “I think it possible that he did not say those things in that way.”….which is a bit different to what you claim I said. I think it more likely that Jesus said some things, and different traditions have built upon that and a writer like Matthew could have elaborated what he had heard for his own ends. There is a distinction to be made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.

            Christ is risen!

          • Yes, we all have the [B]ible,

            Corrected it for you.

            but of course we also all have tradition, reason, scholarship, experience.

            Which are all useful, to greater or lesser degrees (reason greater, experience — AKA anecdote — very much lesser) but none of which are any actual evidence for either what Jesus said or the way he said it. For that you need, as any historian will tell you, primary sources.

            So what primary sources have you got?

            I think it more likely that Jesus said some things, and different traditions have built upon that and a writer like Matthew could have elaborated what he had heard for his own ends.

            Indeed he could. That’s why it’s useful we have three other eyewitness accounts for comparison.

            But other than comparing with those other accounts, how can you distinguish what Matthew is faithfully recording from what he is elaborating?

            One thing you absolutely can’t do is bring your own a priori ideas to the text. For example you can’t say, ‘this is what I think Jesus was like, so anything Matthew records him as having said which would be incompatible with that must be made up, while anything Matthew records which supports what I already think Jesus was like is probably a faithful transcription.’

            And that seems to be what you invariably do. You judge the accuracy of the Bible record by how well it accords with what you think were the kind of things the Jesus you have made up in your head ought to have said.

            And that’s pretty much the opposite of doing history.

            There is a distinction to be made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.

            Absolutely. And the Jesus of history of course is only accessible — same as any other historical figure — through primary sources, What primary sources other than the Bible do you have for what Jesus and and how he said it?

          • S: There’s the Gospel of Thomas, the reconstructed Q document, the Didache…..
            As I say, it’s worth doing some research on the quest for the historical Jesus. Unless you ARE a fundamentalist?

          • There’s the Gospel of Thomas,

            Primary sources, not fan fiction.

            the reconstructed Q document,

            Which by definition isn’t a primary source, is it, if it’s ‘reconstructed’.

            the Didache…..

            I’m not as familiar with that but as far as I can tell it doesn’t even claim to be a primary source about what Jesus said, when and were, does it? Any more than Paul’s letters claim to be primary sources about Jesus.

            As I say, it’s worth doing some research on the quest for the historical Jesus.

            Everything I’ve read about such a ‘quest’ suggests they are as guilty as you of simply finding a Jesus who looks like what they wanted to find when they started because they start out by assuming that anything that might disagree with what they think Jesus ought to have done is made up. For example, they decide that Jesus didn’t do miracles, because miracles are impossible; on that ground they dismiss any stories of miracles as ahistorical embellishments; and then they loudly announce that their quest has discovered that the historical Jesus was a teacher who never did any miracles.

            Forgive me if I don’t feel inclined to look terribly much further into a field which is based on such blatant intellectual dishonestly.

            Unless you ARE a fundamentalist?

            That’s one of those terms that means such different things to different people that to claim it would make things less rather than more clear.

          • S: that is an interesting idea but….Where would I get pre-conceived ideas from at the age of 16 when I began studying these things? Far too young for that. Unless of course they were given by the Holy Spirit?

            And do you think that any text written in a different language 30-60 years after Jesus spoke the words can be counted as a primary source? On what grounds? You can’t even recall what you said On here 30 days ago unless you look it up.

            It seems to me that the only person with pre-conceived ideas here is you? and that unless a scholar agrees with you then they can’t really be a scholar? I understand your reluctance to look at a particular school of thought but I think I’d rather take notice of the professors of some of the worlds finest academies.

          • S: that is an interesting idea but….Where would I get pre-conceived ideas from at the age of 16 when I began studying these things? Far too young for that.

            Are you crazy? Lots of sixteen-year-olds have stupid, juvenile, naïve pre-conceived ideas just like yours. Just look at that celebrated Swedish international truant.

            And do you think that any text written in a different language 30-60 years after Jesus spoke the words can be counted as a primary source?

            Yes, if written by an eyewitness. That’s what ‘primary source’ means in history: something written by someone who was there.

            You can’t even recall what you said On here 30 days ago unless you look it up.

            Speak for yourself.

          • Thanks S, but as I say I think I would rather stick with the academy on this matter. Happy Easter to you!

          • as I say I think I would rather stick with the academy on this matter

            But only the ones who agree with you; yes, we know.

          • No. All of them. No reasonable person will only take notice of people who agree with them. That would be utterly stupid. But I’m confident that the whole of the (reputable) academy understands that the bible is not a thing (call it library, collection, whatever you will) that we should take literally. Context, intent and purpose are essential for our understanding.

          • But I’m confident that the whole of the (reputable) academy understands that the [B]ible is not a thing (call it library, collection, whatever you will) that we should take literally.

            Because you define anybody who disagrees with you as disreputable. Yes, yes, we understand you.

          • “Because you define anybody who disagrees with you as disreputable”

            Strangely, I think that is exactly what you do just a couple of posts above….

          • S
            Highly unlikely that any of the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection.

          • This conversation, as far as I have followed it, appears to me to be completely futile, since you are all talking past each other.

            Statements like ‘It is unlikely that any of the gospel authors were eye-witnesses’ is a complete waste of time, and not merely because it is untrue.

            It is worth saying ‘There has been a long-standing academic view that none of the gospels authors were eye-witnesses’. But denying that a. this is an assumption embedded in a particular approach to texts and b. that not a few scholars would now question this, is just a bit daft.

            And it closes any conversation down by playing a ‘superior knowledge’ trump card.

            From a canonical point of view, it also denies the basic claims of the text e.g. at the beginning of Luke and the end of John.

          • Ian

            I have commented very little on this particular thread, but find it interesting that you only feel the need to criticise or censure the views and comments of those whom I think you would describe as liberals. I might have written ‘I believe that none of the gospel writers was an eyewitness’, if other commenters on here (such as the anonymous ‘S’ and Christopher Shell), ever prefaced their views with a consciousness that they might be subjective or, indeed, wrong.

            So, I do believe, despite the work of Bauckham, et al that none of the gospels was written by an eyewitness, though it is probable that they contain eyewitness and contemporaneous material. I look forward to your correcting some of S’s more controversial beliefs in like manner.

            However, I don’t know if I will be commenting any more here. I think you have succeeded in creating a conservative echo chamber which serves neither scholarship nor ministry. Andrew may feel it is worthwhile to offer an antidote to some of the more eccentric conservatism on here; others clearly do not since I no longer see them contributing. I believe that the absence of their voices is a great loss.

          • I am sorry that you feel frustrated. I have not only ever criticised one side—I have been in touch over the years with several people asking them to moderate their comments. And more than once I have observed that these exchanges need a change of approach from both sides.

            But comments on the most recent post demonstrate that I haven’t succeeded in creating anything—certainly not an ‘echo chamber’ of any kind. And I am glad that you are continuing to contribute. Thanks.

          • Andrew wrote:

            “Context, intent and purpose are essential for our understanding”
            (of the Bible).

            Not only is it essential, I would have thought it was fundamental to it.

    • I wonder if Andrew Godsall has ever thought what Matthew 23.15 – a startling piece of direct address – means: ‘a son of hell’ is not a mild thing to call a person.
      Only be doing violence to the canonical Scriptures and denying that they are historically faithful can you end up with the ‘universalist Jesus’.
      But if Andrew wants to follow that procedure – slicing and dicing according to some extra-biblical criterion of “credibility” – what is to stop someone else coming up with another criterion? Andrew Godsall’s criterion is not that used by Schweitzer or by Bultmann, so how does Andrew know that they are wrong? Is it because he follows post-Christians like Dale Allison?
      When Humean-Kantian rationalism ruled, the miracles of Jesus were ruled to be unhistorical – until a different philosophy became regnant. Fashion is rather like karma.

      Reply
  20. The grace of God is never cheap, but is shockingly, offensively, free.
    The cost to Christ on the cross, is so infinite, that our finite minds can not grasp.
    What do we say to him as he hangs there in our place?

    Reply
  21. Andrew
    Some of your posts appear to include quotes from the Bible. For instance:

    ‘…..He questioned whether the punishment was correct. “Neither do I condemn you” means that He was clear that she should not be condemned to stoning’
    ‘Have you done what Jesus asked the young man to do S?’
    ‘The clear implication is that with God everything is possible. Which is what Jesus tells the disciples’
    ‘The answer, of course, is that in face of actual cases, the records show Jesus offering forgiveness’
    ‘Matthew 19:26 is also clear on this’

    From your posts I gather your view is that alongside the Bible ‘but of course we also all have tradition, reason, scholarship, experience’ and ‘I’m confident that the whole of the (reputable) academy understands that the bible is not a thing (call it library, collection, whatever you will) that we should take literally. Context, intent and purpose are essential for our understanding’

    I am wondering how you see the five quotes I gave above. What is your view on the degree of likelihood that Jesus did make those statements in the light of ‘tradition, reason, scholarship, experience, context, intent and purpose’?

    On my quote from Matthew 13, one of the parts of my case (but not the only one), (‘But assuming (as I am convinced) that Jesus did say the terrible words I quoted, that is the evidence you keep asking for. Jesus always spoke the truth, and in those words he is definitely saying that he will send his angels who will collect the ones doing lawlessness (all of us by nature, unless we have repented and submitted to Christ) and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There is no doubt that he intends to do that. That is how he will treat some real people on the Day of Judgment’), you posted:

    ‘I think it more likely that Jesus said some things, and different traditions have built upon that and a writer like Matthew could have elaborated what he had heard for his own ends. There is a distinction to be made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith’.

    ‘Could have’? What is your case from ‘tradition, reason, scholarship, experience, context, intent and purpose’ that Matthew did elaborate(d) what he had heard for his own ends’?

    And what about other warnings that Jesus said such as Luke 3:17, John 3:16, Matthew 18:8.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Phil: I’m short on time at the moment and away from my books. I can try to answer your specifics in time but before beginning to do that it would be helpful for me to know how you approach scripture generally. For example, do you regard it as at least possible that Jesus did not say everything he is reported as saying in the Gospels? Or is that option a complete non starter and heresy for you? If it’s a non starter, I don’t really think our conversation would be very helpful or edifying for others.

      Reply
      • For example, do you regard it as at least possible that Jesus did not say everything he is reported as saying in the Gospels?

        That is clearly possible. The only question is how, if that is the case, any of the records in the Bible of what Jesus said can be regarded as reliable?

        As a juror, if a witness is proved to be lying about one thing in their statement, that must cast doubt on the whole statement, correct? So the same is true for the Bible — correct? Or why is it different?

        Reply
        • It’s not correct and it’s entirely different because the bible is not one single witness. It is a large number of witnesses and their witness isn’t even entirely consistent.
          Added to that, if a jury were presented with a witness statement that was written 30-60 years after the event they would throw it out for lack of credibility. They would not believe that the witness could recall things clearly enough from such a long time ago. They would also be told that the witness statement wasn’t just a straight unbiased witness statement but was meant to convert people to a particular point of view. And then they would laugh to be told that the witnesses had actually been dead for 2000 years.

          So your suggestion raises many more questions than answers.

          Reply
          • Added to that, if a jury were presented with a witness statement that was written 30-60 years after the event they would throw it out for lack of credibility

            So why — given the Bible is so obviously unreliable — do you think Jesus said anything that is recorded in it?

            There’s clearly some things in the Bible that you think Jesus did say, or say something very close to, because you keep bringing them up.

            Why do you think those things weren’t just made up ‘to convert people to a particular point of view’?

            You asked it was possible that Jesus did not say everything he is reported as saying in the Gospels. Now will you answer an equally straight question: how can you believe that it’s possible that Jesus did say anything he is reported as saying in the Gospels?

          • That’s also very easy S: because that’s what the Christian community of faith – the church, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, believe. And they are the group of people, together with theologians and scholars, who help us understand what it was that Jesus did actually say. The bible are the title deeds – not the actual house.

          • That’s also very easy S: because that’s what the Christian community of faith – the church, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, believe.

            So? They could all be wrong, couldn’t they? Lots of communities believe things that are completely wrong. There’s an entire community out that that believes fifth-generation mobile telephone signals cause viral infections.

            What reason do you have for thinking that the Christian community of faith isn’t just as crazy as them?

            And they are the group of people, together with theologians and scholars, who help us understand what it was that Jesus did actually say

            And David Icke helps us understand that lizard-people are trying to wipe out humanity. Clearly the mere fact that some people believe something — that there’s a tradition’ or a ‘community’ — is absolutely zero evidence that that thing is actually true.

            So again: do you think Jesus said anything like any of the things He is recorded as saying? If so, why do you think that? How do you know you’re not just as crazy as David Icke?

          • S: I don’t have any more reason to believe it than you do. You believe that the bible can’t be wrong, but you can’t ever say why. You just say because the bible tells us it’s correct, which of course is just a circular argument = no argument at all. You have no proof. You don’t trust any scholars unless they agree with you. End of story really.

          • You believe that the [B]ible can’t be wrong, but you can’t ever say why.

            That’s not true. I absolutely do believe the Bible could be wrong. God might not exist; Jesus might not have risen from the dead. That’s all logically possible.

            What I don’t believe is that there’s any way to logically believe that some of the Bible is wrong, and some of it is right, and you can tell somehow which is which.

            Because as far as I can see, if the Bible is unreliable, even in part, there is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all of Christianity is in vain.

            And you so far haven’t been able to explain how you can possibly logically believe that Jesus rose corporeally from the dead if the Bible is unreliable, given there is absolutely no evidence, except for the Bible, that Easter happened.

            And — on past form — you won’t.

          • We’ve had this conversation so many times before S and it becomes tiresome. The question of ‘unreliability’ simply doesn’t apply to poetry and story.
            As to evidence for the resurrection: the evidence is with the community founded on the basis of it, not in a collection of books written after that community was founded. We are inheritors of the community, not of words in a book. Community came first, bible came second.

          • Oh and the number of factual errors and logical contradictions in the bible isn’t exactly small if you still want to maintain that such is the way we need to judge the texts.

          • The question of ‘unreliability’ simply doesn’t apply to poetry and story.

            So you think the resurrection is just a poetic story? Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead, walk around, eat fish and talk to people?

            As to evidence for the resurrection: the evidence is with the community founded on the basis of it, not in a collection of books written after that community was founded.

            That’s no evidence. There are communities founded on all sorts of crazy lies. The mere fact that a community was founded is zero evidence for the truth of that community’s claims.

            So: do you actually think that Jesus rose from the dead, or do you think it’s just a story? If the former, why do you think that?

          • There would be no New Testament if there hadn’t been a community first. Of course communities can be wrong about things. But tell me a book that isn’t wrong about some things and why. As I say, the bible contains factual errors and logical contradictions.

          • There would be no New Testament if there hadn’t been a community first. Of course communities can be wrong about things. But tell me a book that isn’t wrong about some things and why. As I say, the [B]ible contains factual errors and logical contradictions.

            No witness statement is ever 100% accurate either. The question is, is it reliable?

            I see you’re not going to answer the question about the resurrection, then. Did Jesus walk, talk and eat with people, in a real body, after his death, or is that just a poetic story? I think were going to have to assume if you won’t confirm otherwise that you think it is just a story, or ‘salvation history’, or that it happened ‘in a very real sense’, or whatever disingenuous fudge-phrase you want to use instead of admitting you don’t think it really physically happened.

          • I answered you on this in another thread not long ago. Firm believer in the resurrection S. The question you Always refuse to answer is why you believe the numerous factual errors and logical inconsistencies in the bible. You say that:

            “What I don’t believe is that there’s any way to logically believe that some of the Bible is wrong, and some of it is right, and you can tell somehow which is which.

            Because as far as I can see, if the Bible is unreliable, even in part, there is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. “

            The bible is clearly unreliable in parts. So by your own definition you have no evidence of the resurrection.

            But of course you can’t answer that point.

          • I answered you on this in another thread not long ago. Firm believer in the resurrection S.

            The physical resurrection? Can you type and send the words ‘I believe that after his death Jesus walked on the Earth, talked to people and ate with them’? Because I always worry that when you just say ‘Firm believer in the resurrection’ you have your fingers crossed and under your breath are adding something like ‘by which I mean an important spiritual event in salvation history’.

            You must admit there are people who do that: who use words like ‘resurrection’ but don’t mean by them what most people would assume they mean, but have their own special meaning which allows them to say things like ‘I believe in the resurrection’ while not actually thinking Jesus walked around after his death.

            (There are also people who do the same with say the word ‘God’, who say ‘I believe in God’ but by ‘God’ they mean something like ‘an abstract principle of the potential for goodness in the human race’ or some such nonsense).

            I just want to check you aren’t one of those.

          • I believe that after his death Jesus walked on the Earth, talked to people and ate with them.

            But it seems clear that you can’t believe that S, as by your reckoning of this, you have false evidence. Remember you wrote: “Because as far as I can see, if the bible is unreliable, even in part, there is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all of Christianity is in vain.”
            Again – I expect no answer from you.

          • I believe that after his death Jesus walked on the Earth, talked to people and ate with them.

            Excellent.

            But it seems clear that you can’t believe that S, as by your reckoning of this, you have false evidence. Remember you wrote: “Because as far as I can see, if the bible is unreliable, even in part, there is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all of Christianity is in vain.”

            I definitely didn’t write that. Because I capitalise ‘Bible’ correctly.

            And as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, I consider — assessing the totality of evidence — that the Bible is reliable on historical matters relating to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. If I were to be convinced that it was unreliable on that matter, I would obviously abandon Christianity; that would be the correct and only intellectually honest thing to do.

            Given that you do consider the Bible to be unreliable on matters relating to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, why have you not abandoned Christianity, as surely you ought to given you have no reason to believe it true?

          • I see. So contradictions such as the following don’t count?

            Comparing the genealogies of Luke and Matthew – both begin with Jesus’ father as Joseph (which has often been thought curious, given that Mary was a virgin), but Matthew claims Joseph’s father was Jacob, Luke claims he was Heli. Which is correct?

            Matthew lists 26 generations between Jesus and King David, whereas Luke records 41. Can both be correct here? Matthew has Jesus’ line of descent through David’s son Solomon, but Luke has it going through David’s son Nathan. Facts about Jesus’ life, surely?

            Matthew 2:13-15 has Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt with the baby Jesus immediately after the wise men from the east had brought gifts.
            Luke 2:22-40 claims that after the birth Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem for the time of Mary’s purification (which was 40 days, under the Mosaic law). Then they brought Jesus to Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord,” and then returned to their home in Nazareth.
            Strange for eye witnesses to get that wrong?

            Then with the death of Judas Matthew 27:5 has it that he took the money he had received for betraying Jesus and “Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.” But Acts 1:18 writes that: 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong,[a] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.”
            Two rather contradictory accounts from eye witnesses?
            Reliable?

            We could go on….and plenty in the OT. But the whole of the NT is reliable you claim?

        • I’ve got to admire the stamina of you two, continue on this long, though again I ask what it is achieving.

          On the question of ‘contradictions’, we need to take a much more nuanced approach. The fact that the gospels don’t record the same thing means that they are literary creations, not camcorders, and not much more.

          I address the supposedly hardest case in the NT—and find that the contradiction is more apparent than real, here: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/does-the-nt-contradict-itself-does-it-matter-2/

          Reply
          • “Literary creations, not camcorders, and not much more…”

            Exactly so. Thank you. And exactly what I was taught as an undergraduate over 40 years ago. The writers had a purpose and it was not to create an eye witness report.

          • Andrew
            Your April 20 7:39 pm post gives me the impression that you are saying that Ian is agreeing with your whole position. I don’t think this is so (Ian will correct me if he IS agreeing) because of what he says at the end of the link:
            “This comes back to something Mark Woods says early on in his reflection: ‘It’s true that logically, there’s nothing impossible about this way of reconciling two stories.’ And for me, it is vital that this is possible, even if it not the first thing that I want to do with these texts.
            If they cannot be reconciled—if they are not at some level reliable accounts of what happened—then they are not a credible witness. And if they are not, then they cannot tell me the truth about Jesus Christ.”

            Phil Almond

          • Thanks Phil. I have no idea if Ian agrees with the many things I’ve written on this thread. I was actually agreeing with the point he made about literary creations rather than camcorders. It isn’t a new point, by any means.
            I don’t at all accept the need to reconcile the many contradictions in the biblical texts. To need to do so is just a kind of fundamentalism that, for me at any rate, is the opposite of faith. Jesus Christ is alive, and not confined to the pages of a book.

          • “If they cannot be reconciled—if they are not at some level reliable accounts of what happened—then they are not a credible witness. And if they are not, then they cannot tell me the truth about Jesus Christ.”

            I think you are being too hard on the Bible Phil. At some level they are all reliable accounts, but what also needs to be considered is the reshaping of the accounts by the gospel writers to address the (generally unrecorded ) levels of understanding of the different communities of hearers, in order to present Jesus as the unexpected Messiah.
            Consequently, I would have thought that the accounts are bound to have different descriptive emphasis in places and this is where I think the level lies.
            To us, this reshaping is not always evident from a cursory reading of the gospels and requires some digging.

          • Chris
            Thanks for your interesting post (April 21 12:34am).

            You begin with a quote from Ian’s link.

            It would be helpful for me to understand how my point of view is perceived if you could expand on how you consider I am being ‘too hard on the Bible’, giving examples from my posts here or elsewhere that illustrate what you mean. Thanks.

            Phil Almond

          • Chris, I think you might have missed the point that Philip is quoting from *my* article. That is my point of view.

            Again, this debate will go nowhere unless both ‘sides’ can be clearer about what you mean. I fully agree that the gospel writers shape their material—but I also agree that, if the account really are contradictory they cannot be reliable witnesses. I therefore don’t go with the fundamentalist ‘Battle for the Bible’ position nor a blasé assumption that contradictions don’t matter.

          • Ian
            Thanks for your post. It would be helpful to me if you could explain what you mean by the “fundamentalist ‘Battle for the Bible’ position…” and how you see what you believe about the Bible differing from what I have stated I believe in my posts. Thanks
            Phil Almond

          • Ian and Phil

            Apologies- I think I have posted my reply in the wrong place! You need to look down a bit further.

      • Andrew

        My view of the Bible is that it is God’s faithful, coherent, true for God as well as true for man, not an exhaustive disclosure, but not contradicted by an exhaustive disclosure, whose promises will be honoured and threatened judgements carried out. This view includes the conviction that God and Christ did say what they are represented as having said.

        Or in other words there is an unbroken, unchanged, unmediated (by humans) chain of meaning and truth from the heart and mind of God to the words we find printed in our Bibles.

        In summary, the witnesses of the Old Testament to itself, the New Testament to the Old and the New Testament to itself give me the conviction that the Bible is a true message from God. Starting with God, Ending with us. God and Christ are there, as it were, in the Bible earnestly speaking to us in the words of the Bible, including the words they are recorded in the Bible as saying, as our hearts are graciously opened by the Spirit. And that the message is made up of true statements about who God and Christ are, what they are like, what they have said, say now, will say (on the day of judgment), what they have done, are doing now, will do (on the day of judgment), what they want us to be, to do and not do, what we need saving from, in what that salvation consists, how it may become yours and mine and ours. That message, the message from God, does get through to us unchanged as our hearts are opened like Lydia’s to attend to it. We are given a coherent and consistent picture of God and Christ, who are both terrible and wonderful. They are terrible in their holiness, in their majesty, in their righteousness, in their wrath against sinners, in their justice, in their sovereignty, in their reality, in their honesty. They are wonderful in their love, in their grace, in their mercy, in their patience, in their kindness, in their compassion, in their longsuffering, in their tenderness.

        This message grips the heart and soul as well as the mind. It leads us by grace to repent of our sins and to embrace in self-despair the Christ of which the Bible faithfully speaks, in his death and resurrection, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we attend to the message, meditate upon it, embrace it, obey it, tremble before it, we look to have experiential fellowship with God in Christ by his Spirit and for our love and concern for others, those in Christ and those still facing the wrath of God, to be increased.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • Thanks Phil but you managed to avoid the specific question. Let me put it to you again:
          For example, do you regard it as at least possible that Jesus did not say everything he is reported as saying in the Gospels? Or is that option a complete non starter and heresy for you?

          Reply
      • Surely the most important prerequisite in interpreting the Bible is obtaining a correct understanding of how it was understood by those who wrote it.
        I would not for example, think that the Bible is a reliable guide to cosmology. The ancients believed that the world was flat and existed in a small cosmos with a dome on top in which God was somewhere ‘up there’. This is not the same thing as saying that the Bible is ‘wrong’ but it was ‘right’ to them as that is how they understood the world. I cannot believe as they did about the physical nature of the world which we now know to be very different both from our knowledge and experience.
        One of the main purposes of Ian’s blog as I see it (correct me if I am wrong Ian), is to try and determine how the books of the Bible were understood by its writers not withstanding their inspiration by the Holy Spirit.

        This is easier said than done -witness the historical differences of opinion across Christendom – but it is well worth the effort.

        This is what I try to get from this Blog.

        Reply
    • Phil and Ian,

      Thank you for your replies. I haven’t actually read Ian’s link (!) – I was typing it late last night – although I must do so. Perhaps in my last post I did not express myself very well.

      What I am trying to say (I think) is that the writers of the Gospels (and other books) were addressing audiences for which we have relatively little knowledge of and would thereby have different perspectives and priorities in explaining the same events to their hearers. This is bound to result in a loss of conformity in their accounts. This kind of thing happens all the time in a court of law where witness statements are cross-examined so correlations and disparities are highlighted in order to give an integrated perspective that gives the most accurate account of an event.

      Now in saying this, I do not think differing accounts in the Bible of the same event are ‘contradictory’ rather that they are reflecting different human perspectives and priorities of the same event .
      Now while I do believe the Bible is ‘inspired’ (and what that means is for another thread and I don’t want to get into that here), I do think God in his wisdom does allow the human elements relating these events to shine through which to my mind, actually reinforces the validity of their accounts.

      When I was growing up as a Christian within a strong evangelical reformed tradition, I realised I had an unconscious belief in an ‘automaton’ view of divine inspiration which I still think is quite prevalent in some quarters, but I have come to see that in fact, God does allow the writers far more human expression and personality (warts and all) in relating events than perhaps we give Him credit for.

      As for your other comment Phil, I have read many of your posts with interest on this blog and you come across as someone with a deep knowledge and love of the Bible. However I do get the impression sometimes (rightly or wrongly) that you expect the Bible to function with a precision that is not actually warranted by the text. While you often quote verses and passages and quite justifiably so, your use of them seems to me, to demand a conformity that does not always reflect the human factors that I have just outlined above. So it is in this sense what I mean, when I say I think you are ‘sometimes too hard on the Bible’.

      Please to not take this as a criticism Phil as it is not meant as one. I do enjoy reading your posts and learn a lot from them. as I am sure many others do.

      Reply
      • ‘Now in saying this, I do not think differing accounts in the Bible of the same event are ‘contradictory’ rather that they are reflecting different human perspectives and priorities of the same event . ‘

        You appear here to be taking quite a different view from Andrew Godsall, who does think they are contradictory, but does not think that matters.

        Reply
        • Well, I think it comes down to what you mean by ‘contradictory’. In a literal sense I suppose you could say they are but in another sense they are not if you see the overall picture they are painting and take into account the human factors.

          Reading through the various post I am not quite sure what Andrew means when he uses the word ‘contradictory’ whether he uses it in a literal sense or one with human nuances or in some other way, but of course these things do matter if we are to arrive at the most accurate account of an event.

          Reply
        • Part of the problem is with the words we use to describe what is going on. A word such as ‘contradictory’ can seem very loaded. I don’t find it such a loaded word, but others clearly do and it doesn’t entirely describe what is going on either.

          I think there are contradictions: Judas can’t have died in two entirely different ways; Jesus can’t have had two entirely different genealogies; the crucifixion can’t actually have occurred both before and after the passover; the women can’t have found the stone both rolled away and not rolled away..etc etc. But these contradictions don’t bother me because: A I think they make the probability of the events more rather than less likely – if witnesses wanted to present a united front to convince people they would have harmonised the accounts. They didn’t… so B. We must question “What is the text telling that is something more than just the words?” It’s not factual history, but salvation history. The texts give insight into the communities who wrote them. I’m grateful to Chris Bishop for elucidating this point as well.

          What worries me is any insistence that the bible must be inerrant in these matters otherwise it becomes ‘unreliable’ in the key message about the resurrection etc. I think that’s just a version of fundamentalism and I am not at all persuaded by that view, and I don’t find ‘reliable’ at all a useful or meaningful word. I had some training as a journalist. I was taught not to take liberty with the facts. I was taught to write a good story. I was taught to present the facts in a way that made listeners want to know more.
          The gospel writers tell the truth, but they ‘tell it slant’. They want us to find out more than is in the text. The way we do that is in community with others. The texts, for me, are a starting point, not the final point.

          Reply
          • Yep, which you helpfully reference above. It’s a theory. As I say, I don’t find the contradiction a worry and don’t find myself wanting to explain it away.

      • Chris

        Thanks. I am committed to subjecting my views to the strongest possible criticisms to see if they survive. I am planning to review my disagreement with Andrew (and with Ian if he replies to my last post and if we do disagree). But here I will just say this: Among the strongest claims (but not of course the only claims) that the Bible makes are that God and Christ said and did, are saying and doing, will say and do statements and acts. What Andrew and I are disagreeing about is whether they did say and do, whether they are saying and doing, whether they will say and do those statements and acts. In particular, the statements and acts about God’s wrath, condemnation and retribution.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • And my point – which I’m afraid I don’t think Phil has ever quite grasped – is that Jesus *might* have actually said such things but doesn’t mean what Phil/others take it to mean. If the words were said, they were not to be taken absolutely literally. Like camels going through eyes of needles. The words are signs/symbols/pointers/metaphorical language and not simply factual and not intended to be so.

          Reply
          • This is my attempt to summarise and comment on Andrew Godsall’s views on the Bible and related matters expressed in this thread, especially as they have a bearing on my long-running disagreement with Andrew, on this and other threads, about the wrath, condemnation and retribution of God. I concentrate on the question of whether Jesus said ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’ and what Jesus meant. The same will be true of other warning passages.

            According to Andrew ‘the bible contains factual errors and logical contradictions’. ‘We are inheritors of the community, not of words in a book. Community came first, bible came second’. ‘We must question “What is the text telling that is something more than just the words?” It’s not factual history, but salvation history. The texts give insight into the communities who wrote them’. ’What I said, of course, was “I think it possible that he did not say those things in that way.”….which is a bit different to what you claim I said. I think it more likely that Jesus said some things, and different traditions have built upon that and a writer like Matthew could have elaborated what he had heard for his own ends. There is a distinction to be made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith’. ‘That’s also very easy S: because that’s what the Christian community of faith – the church, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, believe. And they are the group of people, together with theologians and scholars, who help us understand what it was that Jesus did actually say. The bible are the title deeds – not the actual house.’ ‘I don’t at all accept the need to reconcile the many contradictions in the biblical texts. To need to do so is just a kind of fundamentalism that, for me at any rate, is the opposite of faith. Jesus Christ is alive, and not confined to the pages of a book.’ ‘And my point – which I’m afraid I don’t think Phil has ever quite grasped – is that Jesus *might* have actually said such things but doesn’t mean what Phil/others take it to mean. If the words were said, they were not to be taken absolutely literally. Like camels going through eyes of needles. The words are signs/symbols/pointers/metaphorical language and not simply factual and not intended to be so’. ‘What worries me is any insistence that the bible must be inerrant in these matters otherwise it becomes ‘unreliable’ in the key message about the resurrection etc. I think that’s just a version of fundamentalism and I am not at all persuaded by that view, and I don’t find ‘reliable’ at all a useful or meaningful word. I had some training as a journalist. I was taught not to take liberty with the facts. I was taught to write a good story. I was taught to present the facts in a way that made listeners want to know more’.
            ‘The gospel writers tell the truth, but they ‘tell it slant’. They want us to find out more than is in the text. The way we do that is in community with others. The texts, for me, are a starting point, not the final point’. ‘Everything that Jesus said is of importance’.

            I comment:
            On one hand there is the Bible which reports Jesus as having said certain things. On the other hand there is the result of the community and theologians and scholars ‘who help us understand what it was that Jesus did actually say’. So when Andrew says ‘Everything that Jesus said is of importance’ I take it he is not referring to this library of books which ‘contains factual errors and logical contradictions’ but to the result of the deliberations of the community, theologians and scholars. Which community I ask? The community of all believers, living and dead, from the beginning until now? What has been the general attitude of that community of believers to the Bible, to the New Testament, to the words of Jesus recorded therein? Has it involved helping ‘us understand what it was that Jesus did actually say’? Was that general attitude, until recently, toward the sayings of Jesus in the Bible ‘he *might* have actually said such things’? Of course, when it comes to some theologians and scholars it is a different matter.

            About ‘literal’, ‘factual’ and ‘metaphor’ and ‘meaning’. There are obviously two distinct questions about ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’. Firstly did Jesus say those words. Is it a fact that he said them? Andrew says Jesus *might* have said them. Secondly, should we take them absolutely literally – Like camels going through eyes of needles. My understanding of ‘taking them literally’ would be that the ones doing lawlessness will be cast into a literal fire, a bonfire. I don’t take them literally in that sense. I agree that ‘furnace of fire’ is a metaphor. But when Andrew says ‘…not strictly factual and not intended to be so’ I have to say that a metaphor can convey meaning and truth, and the terrible truth of Jesus’ words is that those who do lawlessness will face terrible judgment on the Day of Judgment. There is simply no other way to understand his meaning. The gospel writers don’t ‘tell it slant’. They don’t want us to find out more than is in the text’. They want us to believe and obey. The texts are indeed a starting point, but a starting point to experiential knowledge of and love and obedience to Jesus. But they are also the final point. We have to listen, believe, know, love and obey for all of our lives until our redemption is consummated.

            ‘We must question “What is the text telling that is something more than just the words?” It’s not factual history, but salvation history. The texts give insight into the communities who wrote them’. I assume that Andrew is here speaking of the Biblical texts. Jesus’ sayings in the Bible include warnings, promises, commands, exhortations. If in fact Jesus said them we should surely start by paying attention to the words and what the words mean for us. For Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” In those warnings, promises, commands and exhortations Jesus is telling all his followers, the community, that until he comes again we should heed the warnings, embrace and cling on to the promises and obey the commands and exhortations.
            ‘Jesus Christ is alive, and not confined to the pages of a book’. He is indeed alive. The Bible tells us that ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’- have life by heeding, embracing, obeying
            Phil Almond

  22. Andrew

    I did answer your question about how I ‘approach scripture generally’. My answer to your specific question is that I don’t ‘regard it as at least possible that Jesus did not say everything he is reported as saying in the Gospels’, with the exception of the last verses of Mark’s Gospel and John 7:53 – 8:11, which I understand depends on questions of whether later manuscripts should be given less weight than earlier manuscripts. Apart from that the issue is a complete non-starter for me.

    God’s wrath, condemnation and retribution as well as his love, mercy and grace are all part of the DNA of the whole Bible. Attempts to strip out the former and leave the latter are just implausible.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • I think as one scholar has put it Phil:
      “The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.”

      and

      “That Christian faith is about belief is a rather odd notion, when you think about it. It suggests that what God really cares about is the beliefs in our heads— as if “believing the right things” is what God is most looking for, as if having “correct beliefs” is what will save us. And if you have “incorrect beliefs,” you may be in trouble. It’s remarkable to think that God cares so much about “beliefs.”

      Moreover, when you think about it, faith as belief is relatively impotent, relatively powerless. You can believe all the right things and still be in bondage. You can believe all the right things and still be miserable. You can believe all the right things and still be relatively unchanged. Believing a set of claims to be true has very little transforming power.”

      Reply
      • Andrew

        I pray above all that the Church and her Ministers will believe and preach both the terrible warnings and the wonderful promises in the Bible. So that by the grace and mercy of God the unsaved will heed the warnings and embrace the promises. That is what our long disagreement here and elsewhere has been about.

        That is why ‘Believing a set of claims to be true’ is so important.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
      • That Christian faith is about belief is a rather odd notion, when you think about it

        I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that ‘Christian faith is about belief’? I remember many talks during my youth pointing out that the Devil believes all the correct things, but isn’t going to Heaven.

        Your unnamed scholar sounds to me like they have constructed a rather flimsy straw man argument.

        Believing a set of claims to be true has very little transforming power

        Exactly. Believing a set of claims to be true is necessary but not at all sufficient.

        Reply
        • “I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that ‘Christian faith is about belief’?“

          Phil, for one, is claiming it in the comment just above.

          I’m delighted you agree with my scholar.

          Reply
          • Phil, for one, is claiming it in the comment just above

            Phil claimed that ‘‘Believing a set of claims to be true’ is […] important.’

            Which it is. It’s not sufficient on its own, but it’s a necessary first step. So I think that counts as ‘important’. Do you not?

          • Nope. I think the important first step is belonging.

            It’s not about what you think, it’s about pointing out that your scholar has constructed a flimsy straw man to argue against, and that nobody really holds the view that Christianity is just about ‘believing the right things’.

            As those youth leaders kept telling me, you can believe all the right things, you can have perfect knowledge, and still end up in Hell: just ask the Devil.

  23. Andrew
    You have probably realised that the quote in your April 19 7.34 a.m. post was not from me but from S. Also, quoting S in that way misrepresents his post – see his last sentence, ‘Exactly. Believing a set of claims to be true is necessary but not at all sufficient’. S hits the nail on the head in that sentence.
    Phil Almond

    Reply

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