Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why I support same-sex marriage politically, but not theologically (and why this is justified)

For Christians, this is an era of historical significance—and not just because of the marriage issue. While defending the institution of marriage is an important and worthy goal, the divorce debate has uncovered a question that is similar to Justice Scalia's: When did it become acceptable for Christians to embrace and endorse divorce and remarriage afterward?

Like Mr. Olson, I would say there is no specific date in time. It was the result of an evolutionary cycle in which the church became more accepting of rampant idolatry.

At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since divorce culture could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.

The idolatry of Christian divorce/remarriage advocates takes two general forms. The first group still recognizes the authority of God's Word, or at least still believes in the general concept of "sin." They will freely admit that, like other types of fornication, sex between remarried people is forbidden in the Bible with only narrow exceptions, and even excluded by Jesus' clear and concise definition of marriage. Yet despite this understanding they still choose to embrace it because they have made an idol of American libertarian freedom. They have replaced Jesus' commandment—"You shall love your neighbor as yourself"—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none."

In endorsing laws based solely on the secular liberal-libertarian conception of freedom (at least those that produce no obvious self-harm), they are doing the very opposite of what Jesus called them to do: They are hating their neighbors, including their divorced and remarried neighbors. You do not love your neighbor by encouraging them to engage in actions that invoke God's wrath (Psalm 5:4-5; Romans 1:18). As Christians we may be required to tolerate ungodly behavior, but the moment we begin to endorse the same then we too have become suppressers of the truth. You cannot love your neighbor and want to see them excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5).

The second group has completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time. Not surprisingly, this god seems to change his mind in ways that comport exactly with the secular morality of twenty-first century America. A prime example of this embrace of a progressive, open deity is found in a comment by former evangelical pastor Rob Bell. Bell recently said:
What we're seeing now, in this day, is god pulling us ahead into greater and greater affirmation and acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters . . . and we're realizing that god made some of us one way and some of us another and it can be a beautiful thing.
Bell goes on to clarify that what he advocates is not an affirmation and acceptance of repentant sinners, but affirmation and acceptance of their sin. Bell has rejected the God of the Bible, a God that is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and embraced a false idol that tells him that what is considered sin changes based on the fickle attitudes of Americans.

Bell, like other remarriage advocates, has moved beyond the temptation and struggle we all have with idolatry ad have boldly set up their idols for all to see. Yesterday, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many Christians displayed the red equals sign—a symbol of divorcee rights and "marriage equality"—so that their friends, family, and followers would see that they stood with the forces opposed to God's Word.

For too long those of us in the church have grumbled to ourselves or remained silent about this open idolatry. We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can't both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God. We seem more worried about the judgment of the kids in the youth ministry than we do with the judgment of a wrathful and holy God. We are so troubled by the thought that remarriage advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they've already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity and replaced it with an idolatrous heresy—one that is as destructive and hateful as any that has come before.

What is needed is courage in speaking the truth: We cannot love our neighbor and tolerate idolatry and unrepentant rebellion against God. We cannot continue with the "go along to get along" mentality that is leading those we love to destruction. We must speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31) and accept the fact that those who have fallen away may not ever return. We must choose this day whom we will serve. Will we stand with the only wise God or with the foolish idol-makers of divorce and remarriage?

I realize that the shock value of this trick only works once and that those who read my last post on marriage were likely not taken in by it again. This is a post by Gospel Coalition editor and author Joe Carter, again edited to be about divorce rather than same-sex marriage. I don't mean to keep belaboring the same-sex marriage issue--believe me, I have plenty of other less current things to write about--but it is all over the news with the Supreme Court case and in lots of my friends' discussions, so here I am.

I also realize I have never clearly stated my own position on gay marriage, only on issues I see with how other Christians are approaching it. This is because I think a big part of the problem is Christians clinging to their "Biblical" positions to prioritize correct theology over loving people. But this refusal could also be interpreted as some kind of sneaky attempt to get my ultra-controversial views under the radar, so I'll briefly state them.

Biblical Argument for "Traditional" Marriage

The usual go-to verse in debates about the definition of marriage is Genesis 2:24: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." I don't think this verse is a deliberate attempt to state a once-and-for-all definition of marriage, but is stating the basis for the Jewish definition of marriage. (It's not actually asserting that this is what marriage is, but explaining why marriage is what it is, based on the creation order) Nonetheless, this verse is then cited by Jesus (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7-8) and Paul (Ephesians 5:31). Granted, Jesus is talking about divorce and Paul is talking about the church-as-bride-of-Christ metaphor, so neither is intentionally making the kind of crystal-clear definition of marriage that conservative Christians so desperately want today--they are simply assuming that this is how marriage is. (Jesus appeals to this definition to argue against easy divorce, which may have had the kind of "popular" status gay marriage is enjoying today) But I think that is still meaningful.

Paul's argument in Ephesians for marriage as a metaphor indicates that there is more going on here than simply a special living arrangement for a man and a woman who love each other very much. Marriage is a God-given preview of the relationship that Christ will have with the church. Never having been married, I feel fairly unqualified to speak to this, but I think God desires that every marriage be a reflection, however imperfect, of the love between Christ and His bride. And (going way out on a limb here) I think the only kind of marriage capable of reflecting this is the kind God has instituted--between one man and one woman.

Critics of this view are quick to point out that the Bible depicts all kinds of marriages, as this chart says; why are none of them supposed to be normative, only "traditional" marriage (why, then, is it called "traditional" marriage anyway)? Or, similarly, why are Christians focusing so much on homosexuality (condemned in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13) and not any of the other hundreds of Old Testament laws, like not wearing clothing made of composite materials (Leviticus 19:19)? Isn't this just cherry-picking?

To the first objection I would point out that, quite obviously, we are not living in ancient Palestine. The Bible is breathed by an eternal God, but its words are steeped in a particular, distinctly temporal and human context. It may be valuable for us today, but it was not written to us. I consider judging Biblical morality by modern standards to be not only bad exegesis, but just a bit arrogant--have we officially Figured Out ethics to the point where we can freely judge what is and is not affirmed (or not condemned) in the cultures of the Bible?

When we clearly spell out the kind of moral expectations for the Bible this kind of trans-cultural comparing implies, the absurdity becomes more evident--how dare God command Abram to go to Canaan without first having him free all his slaves, rehire them as paid laborers with benefits, anti-discrimination policies, and minimum wage, dictate total gender equality with his wife and the other women in his household, renounce the barbaric culture of clan rivalry and warfare he was steeped in, see all the gods of the surrounding pagan tribes as primitive superstition, etc... Additionally, these alternative marriage setups weren't so much endorsed as they were provisioned for in the law ("If a man...") or "just happened". God is perplexingly silent either way on His approval of, say, Abraham fathering a child through Hagar.

To the second I would point to the above argument and say that I am definitely not just basing my theological opposition to same-sex marriage on Levitical law. Rather, I am basing it on the pattern for marriage I see set up in Genesis, affirmed throughout the rest of the Bible, and based on the love between Christ and the church. This is not cherry-picking or proof-texting, it is (I hope) solid Biblical theology.

So far, I don't think I've departed from the conservative Christian platform at all. Friends who oppose same-sex marriage for reasons like the ones I just explained: I was like you once. I understood the Biblical evidence, I got that God created marriage as a total union of one man and one woman reflecting Christ and the church, and so I thought that marriage should naturally be defined as such. Until, one day, the thought came to me: "So the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior and marriage. Why on earth does that mean same-sex marriage has to be illegal in America?"

(Re)Defining Marriage and Other Reasons

This is what I am getting at by editing these writings to be about divorce instead of gay marriage. Divorce is much more clearly condemned in the Bible than gay marriage, both by Jesus (Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12) and Paul (1 Corinthians 7:11), with the only exceptions being a nonbelieving spouse wanting to leave and possibly unfaithfulness (given as a reason in Matthew, but not Mark). Yet I have never heard of anyone, Christian or otherwise, lobbying to make American marriages legally indissoluble. Christians who ardently oppose gay marriage on Biblical grounds really are cherry-picking; why try to enshrine this one issue in law and not countless others? Why not try to legalize Matthew 5:42 by abolishing property rights? I am not saying we need to base our legal system on the teachings of Jesus; I am saying that on the issue of gay marriage we seem to forget the reasons why not everything the Bible teaches, however clearly, has to be a law. I have already said a few years ago more about why naively trying to legislate Biblical morality is disastrous here.

In a follow-up comment, Carter elaborates on why he is not being naive or cherry-picking, why same-sex marriage is an issue that Christians must take a stand on and not, say, property rights.
The State has the right to recognize any relationships it wants and to provide and regulate any benefits it chooses. What it does not have the right to do is to redefine an institution that existed prior to the State. And the "theocracy" canard is a red herring. Applying biblical principles to how we govern our society is not theocratic.
This is what Christians appealing to the "Biblical definition of marriage", as I described it above, are getting at--I think this is how they can feel threatened by another couple's right to marry that doesn't seem to affect them in any way. What is at stake here is not just the happiness and legal benefits of same-sex couples--it is the very definition of marriage. But again, there is evident inconsistency. God's definition of marriage also includes its permanence as a God-ordained union (Matthew 19:6), yet we seem to have accepted the legality of divorce in America. Isn't the ability of married couples to mutually decide to part ways at least as much of a threat to the "definition of marriage" or the practical institution of marriage, given the divorce rate of about 50%? And why, indeed, do we place such great importance on our secular government getting God's definition of marriage right? Why must the Christian church and the state fight over one definition of marriage?

And this "definition" language doesn't just apply to marriage. Jesus' definition of a Christian consists of holding to His teachings (John 8:31, 15:14) or love for one another (John 13:35), the state's definition is self-identification as a Christian. The Biblical definition of a church is a group of Christian believers coming together in love and worship, part of the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24), the state's is a tax-exempt organization of believers of any faith (or the lack thereof). Clearly it is possible for Christians and the state to have two different, incompatible definitions of things. Why is this not possible with the definition of marriage?

Again, another approach I see taken by Christian opponents of same-sex marriage is that heterosexual marriages are better for society, particularly for any children they may have, as this protester is expressing. For one thing, the underlying issue here is same-sex adoption, not same-sex marriage. But, again, even while this may be true (interestingly, even some gays agree) it's safe to say going through a divorce is at least as hard for kids as is having two moms or two dads who love each other and stay together, to say nothing of other myriad issues that affect kids today. If the welfare of children is the underlying motivation for protestors' stand against same-sex marriage and not merely a justification for it, there is some serious denial or tunnel vision going on in how they apply this value.

Conflating theological and political opposition to same-sex marriage is one underlying mistake I see in the above (unedited version of the) article. Authentic Christian faith and tolerance of same-sex marriage are tacitly assumed to be mutually exclusive. Any deviation from an unyielding stance of condemnation is "embracing, endorsing, and encouraging" homosexual behavior, becoming more concerned about not offending anyone than remaining faithful to God. But I would say that my arguments against the evangelical opposition to same-sex marriage come from the same motivation as Carter's post: not trying to tone down the gospel to "fit in" to modern society or not offend anyone, but to follow Christ and take scripture seriously.

The Example of Christ

How can this be so? Consider the life of Jesus. The Jews' expectation of the Messiah was a military-political revolutionary in the vein of Judas Maccabeus (who was believed by many Jews to be the Messiah until his death). But Jesus stubbornly defied everyone's expectations by saying virtually nothing about politics or social upheaval; this simply was not His mission. Indeed, in John 18:36 He says to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." Jesus' concern was not political in nature, changing the conditions of the kingdoms of this world, it was incarnating a completely different kingdom that is not of this world at all, with any ensuing political change merely a side effect of the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is why I strongly question the automatic linkage Christians make between same-sex marriage being unbiblical and trying to make it illegal.

Again, who did Jesus associate with, besides His disciples? Tax collectors (like His disciple Matthew, Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14), "sinners", (Matthew 11:19, Mark 2:15-17, Luke 15:1-2), Samaritans (John 4:4-42), and Gentiles (Matthew 15:22-28, Luke 7:1-10)--in general, the castoffs and outcasts of His society. It was the Pharisees, the "holy" men who claimed the moral high ground, for whom He reserved most of His scorn (see Matthew 23). Obviously there is much that Jesus could have condemned about the lives the people around Him were leading, yet in most cases He says nothing; He stays and eats with them and attracts them to His teaching. With Jesus, there is no hint of "you are a nasty tax collector who has perverted God's definition of charity and you had better repent before I'll accept you, and I'm going to keep reminding you of how bad you are until then".

Yet Jesus does not endlessly tolerate peoples' sin or treat it like it's no big deal. The difference is in the order in which He does things. With the Pharisees (and, I fear, with much of evangelicalism today), the order is "repent, clean up your abominable sin to some degree, and then God will love and accept you". Of course evangelicals will deny that this is how they are treating homosexuals, but I fear the consistent condemnations of their lifestyle as offensive to God, their unions as illegitimate, and the virtual anathematization of any Christians adopting a more tolerant stance sends them the message: "repent, adopt a life of celibacy, conform to the Biblical definition of love and marriage, and then you can be loved and accepted...maybe". Theological conservatives say your stance on gay marriage is a matter of accepting the truth of the gospel, but I am more concerned with whether we as Christians are seen more as representatives of an otherworldly kingdom or as homophobic bigots. (These two things don't have to, I would say shouldn't, coincide)

But the example of Christ tells a different story. Jesus loved and welcomed all sinners, repentant and nonrepentant. For Him, love--unconditional love--came before their repentance, not after. He was still concerned about their sin, but not in the narrow, behavior-based sense that leads Christians today to have "favorite sins" that they rail against, but their sin as a whole, their separation, alienation, and rebellion from Him. His solution to the problem of lost, wayward sinners was then to go to them and show His love to them, wherever they were. Only once they repented, once they turned to Him and decided for themselves to follow Him, could the process of cleaning up their lives begin. So, for example, with tax collectors, Jesus does not even mention their much-despised habit of collecting more than they were supposed to and pocketing the excess until they respond to Him with belief and ask, "Teacher, what should we do?" (Luke 3:12-13)

Brothers and sisters, gays are the "tax collectors" of our day. So whose example will we follow: that of the Pharisees, judging and condemning them from Biblical high ground, shutting the door to heaven in their faces (Matthew 23:13) by holding their sin between them and Christ, railing against the dust in their eyes while blind to the planks in our own? Or will we follow the example of Christ, striving after humility and harmony, modeling the love of God for the lost, and inviting them closer to Him?

Lastly, this doesn't really have anything to do with the rest of my post, but a few days ago I became aware of the existence of queer resistance to "marriage equality". Granted, this should be no comfort to evangelicals because many in this category oppose marriage altogether on the grounds that it is inherently unequal. Still, even though I disagree with this view even more strongly than I do with theological acceptance of same-sex marriage, I was too fascinated to be offended; it's interesting to see voices of dissent from within the "other side".


  1. Dude! Very interesting, definitely helpful! It is a thought that has definitely come to mind sometime but this is much more thought out than I have ever managed to get ;)
    Thank you much!

  2. David,
    Your thoughts, passion, and concise theological balance are mesmerizing. Way to go dude! Seriously, you managed to look at the debate with as much of an unbiased worldview and Christ view as can be expected. Thanks.

  3. I come at this from a very different angle than you. You think somehow that the government allowing divorce for reasons other than the one specified by Jesus is equivalent to the government allowing homosexual marriage...really/ First, before there was a Jesus there was a Moses and he did allow divorce for any reason, but he forbade homosexuality. Even from a Christian perspective, the non-Christian is "under the law" -- one is only "under grace" after conversion. So I see no problem with the government allowing frivolous divorces (like the Law of Moses does) and yet banning homosexuality (like the Law of Moses does).

    "The second group has completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time." The Christian, even the most die-hard Calvinist opposed to open theism, makes this claim as much as any open theist. Because they say that although God allowed divorce for any reason under the Law of Moses he has changed his mind (Jesus himself makes this argument!)!

    I believe that the government ought indeed to support traditional marriage, true traditional marriage, i.e. the definition of marriage in the Law of Moses. Marriage is between one man and as many women as he can financially support and wants to marry, and divorce is allowed for any reasons.

  4. "For too long those of us in the church have grumbled to ourselves or remained silent about this open idolatry [of divorce]."

    How is divorce idolatry?

  5. "Brothers and sisters, gays are the "tax collectors" of our day."

    no. that would be the IRS.

  6. You may have misunderstood--the section above the horizontal rule is an article by another author I edited to be about divorce instead of gay marriage, to show what the usual evangelical logic looks like when applied to another issue which has even more Biblical support. I definitely don't stand behind this post or the edited version--I am merely showing what it looks like.

    I meant the "tax collector" quote more abstractly. By "tax collectors" I am drawing an analogy between two groups of people who are commonly ostracized and looked down on by the "upright" members of society who claim moral knowledge, and on whom Christ has compassion that looks very different and countercultural.

    1. "I meant the "tax collector" quote more abstractly."

      I actually did get that. I just don't see any validity to doing that. Its not like homosexuals didn't exist in Jesus' time. If homosexuals were an underdog group he approved of like "tax collectors" supposedly were, he could have hung out with them too. Homosexuality was quite common in ancient Greek society, although the Jews obviously viewed it as an abomination thanks to Deuteronomy. If Jesus wanted to change that, he could have; he was building a new religion after all. Yet he didn't. The reason why he was inclusive of "tax collectors" is because really they weren't sinners, just perceived as being so. So long as an IRS agent isn't unlawfully targeting people for extra scrutiny for their beliefs, or unlawfully extorting extra money from them, its not a sin to be a tax-collector. Zacheus, one of Jesus' tax collector disciples, make this point, I think in Luke, where he climbs in a tree to see Jesus and Jesus invites himself to Zacheus' house for dinner, the Pharisees complain that Jesus is going to go eat at the house of a sinner, and Zacheus defends himself : "Lord, if I ever defrauded anyone, I've repaid him 5-fold!" He wasn't a criminal sinner tax collector -- the Pharisees were just assuming all tax collectors were crooks. But with homosexuals, it was different: the Law clearly defined homosexuality as a sin (it didn't do this with tax collectors) so there was no way around this judgement.

    2. As to "Prostitutes" I don't think Jesus hung out with actual "prostitutes": I think its a mistranslation for "whores" and I think they were only thought of as whores by the Pharisees because they had been married to Gentiles at some point not because of being actual whores going and whoring around. Either that of they were in fact Gentile women who had married Jews. After all, to this very day, Jews called all Gentile women Schikzas (you may have seen the Seinfeld episode). Now as Seinfeld explains the term "Schikza" (obviously I don't know how to spell it) it simply means a non-Jewish woman, and he explain that Jewish men are always attracted to Schikzas because they're "not like their mothers." In reality, however, the word Schikza is Yiddish for "whore". So, like modern Jews, the Pharisees had a tendency to see all women of non-Jewish ethnicity as "Schikzas" that is, "whores." So Jesus hung out with women who were not born Jews yet who probably were married to Jewish men, or had been married to Jewish men at some point. You can look around some modern Frum Jewish sites and see that even Baal Teshuva women, that is, secular Jewish women who convert to being Frum (i.e. observant) are thought of as whores after their return to Judaism. The assumption in the Frum Jewish community is that anyone who hasn't lived their whole life as a Frummie has undoubtedly engaged in a lot of extramarital sexual activity. This explains the so-called "prostitutes" that Jesus hung out with.

    3. We seem to be coming from very different, incompatible starting points. If you want to debate basics like the trustworthiness of the Bible and its authors, how to interpret it, the nature of salvation, or resurrection, let's just do that instead of you telling me I'm wrong because your assumptions are different than mine.

    4. If that's what I was doing on this post, I was unaware of it. But it is true we hold very different perspectives on those issues. The thing is, the orthodox Christian half-pharisee position has become the only position represented in the same-sex marriage debate really. It ought to be just a debate inside the Protestant churches rather than a political debate considering it all centers around how you guys think Jesus hung out with actual prostitutes and that "tax collectors" is just a sit in for any underdog group. The debate is all about Jesus and whether he really called for repentance or not. Of course you guys read right there in the gospels that Jesus said "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" but you either don't take that seriously, or re-interpret repentance as meaning "repent of not believing I am God to believing I am God" rather than "repent of your sins." And this is what is at the heart of the same-sex marriage debate: its simply the impolosion of Protestantism, the failure of Protestantism to persist being revealed and sublimating itself into the political arena. A religion that teaches justification is by faith alone and that living right is taboo cannot continue forever as a religion: at some point it devolves into just being liberal politics, and at some point the notion is more accepted by atheists than theists. We are seeing the dissolution of Christianity through its Protestanization. Even the Catholic church now basically is faith onlyist (just with some praying to Mary). In the aftermath of Christianity's impending death at the hands of the same-sex marriage debate, I foresee something much more like Sadduceism arising and conquering the future of religion. But I'm sure I'll be dead by that time.

    5. You are making vast, sweeping generalizations, treating the Bible as a book of opinions to twist and discard at will, and in general using my posts to go on rants. I am all for honest, open dialogue on my blog, which this is not. I recommend starting your own.

    6. "treating the Bible as a book of opinions to twist and discard at will"

      What is the Bible? Or rather, which Bible? To you Paul is the Bible and the Old Testament must retroactively fall in line. To me, the Old Testament is the Bible and Paul doesn't measure up but is found to be a very bad abuser and misinterpreter of the Bible. I get the Christian outrage against anyone pointing out that the Bible existed before Paul and that Paul was just an interpreter of it. You guys love to imagine that Paul wrote first and then the Old Testament misinterpreted him! But that's not how it really works.

    7. If you read more of my blog you would see I have thought extensively on Paul's use of the Old Testament. In a conclusion influenced by the writing of Peter Enns, I now think Paul was reinterpreting the Old Testament, reading a meaning different than the original one out of it, because his new knowledge of Christ led him to rethink everything he'd previously known. I am well aware of the danger of looking at the rest of the Bible only through the lens of Paul and missing out on what it has to say as you twist everything to be about salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

      I'm guessing you're Jewish, in which case I'm sorry, but my writing is based on a very different starting point than yours.

  7. If you really do want to discuss the resurrection, I would begin any conversation on that topic with Psalm 37. The whole thing is about the impending non-existence of the wicked vs the permanence of the righteous. And I take those categories as stated, not as redefined by terms like unbelievers vs believers. Not one Scripture written prior to the last book of the OT to be written, Daniel, ever speaks of a resurrection of the wicked.

  8. "I'm guessing you're Jewish"

    Not really. I was raised Christian. I've thought about Judaism, but I would not want to simply trade one book of Old Testament misinterpretation (the New Testament) for another (the Talmud). Both Judaism and Christianity are flawed precisely because they inherited the mistaken mythological constructs of the Pharisees brought with them back from Babylon and imposes on the Old Testament and somewhat codified into its last book, Daniel: the notion that God controls all governments, that this world is a battlezone between good and evil angels, that there is a resurrection of the unjust. All these ideas (especially the near-omniscient devil idea) merge together somehow into requiring that these religions reject freewill to a certain extent and replace it with predestination (for how could we possibly defeat a near-omniscient being without being predestined to be saved by some ubermench?) and thus begin to denigrate keeping God's commandments as not good enough and finally as taboo: just wait for the ubermech to save you and if you're the "elect" he will, so they both worship a Messiah character not really found anywhere in the OT, the Christians thinking this mythical savior has already come and the Jews hoping for him to come, but the OT never promised any such figure nor said he was necessary. All the Messianic prophecies are about various different little figures, Hezekiah (Isa 7), Zerubabel (the "out of Bethlehem Ephrata the smallest tribe" figure). Babylonian mythology about the Zoroastrian Saoshyant was simply taken out of Babylone by the Pharisees and a common Hebrew term, Messiah (annointed one) which used to refer to a regular priest of king was applied to this mythical end-times savior that is nowhere promised in the Old Testament. Religion should be about doing God's will; not waiting for or worshipping a mythical fairy tale figure from Babylonian mythology.

  9. You could teach atheists a thing or two about ridiculing a caricature of what Christians believe. What theologians or philosophers have you read that support these ideas? Have you read Matthew and Hebrews, given that they were written to Jews largely to show how Jesus is the continuation and completion of promises made in the OT? Without the NT, the moral of the Bible is just, "Better luck following the law this time so you don't get exiled again".

    The success of the Mosaic covenant largely depends on the Jews keeping the commandments, keeping themselves holy, and continuing to worship God, a task at which they fail time and again. What you call misinterpreting "authentic" scripture I call a progression of the Israelite revelatory understanding of God, for example when Hosea 6:6 says "I desire mercy, not sacrifice", hinting at a system more fundamental than the Mosaic covenant. How the OT fulfills God's promises to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him is also unclear until Jesus comes along and starts teaching gentiles and Samaritans. I see the central theme of the NT as God coming (in the form of Christ) to be with His people when they couldn't make their way to Him.

  10. "Have you read Matthew and Hebrew...?" Of course. I've read the whole of the Protestant Bible many times. What I haven't yet finished reading, however, is the Apocrypha, although I've read most of it. Its 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Maccabees I've never been able to finish, although I did finish 4th. I think that Sirach meets your challenge about "Better luck following the law this time so you don't get exiled again."

    "Hosea 6:6 says "I desire mercy, not sacrifice", hinting at a system more fundamental than the Mosaic covenant."

    You could also throw in Micah 6:8 where someone asks the prophet what kind of sacrifice God demands, and his response is "He has shown you, o man, what is good: and what does the LORD require from you but to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God?"

    These sorts of passages that teach God doesn't really care about sacrifices tend to disprove rather than establish Christianity, since Christianity is all about believing in the necessity of Jesus' sacrifice....yet Hosea says God desires mercy not sacrifice. Christians must contradict this in order to establish that God demands sacrifice so much he cannot have mercy without a perfect human sacrifice, that unless Jesus was crucified God would have to send us all to hell, and unless a person will believe that Jesus sacrifice was necessary God will broil them for all eternity. If someone were to point out Hosea 6:6 or Micah 6:8 they would instantly be labelled a "Pelagian" heretic and told they are going to hell for denying the absolute necessity of Jesus' sacrifice. This "hinting at a system more fundamental than the Mosaic covenant" is really just a hinting at the fact that the moral side of that Covenent is the important one and that the ceremonial side is just busy work, and this is something I think Sirach demonstrates quite well and hence shows the path towards something much more coherent than Christiany's contradiction of quoting "Mercy not sacrifice" and following it up with "but if you don't acknowledge the absolute necessity of a perfect human sacrifice God will broil you in hell for all eternity."

    1. "How the OT fulfills God's promises to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him is also unclear until Jesus comes along and starts teaching gentiles and Samaritans."

      I think the book of Sirach with its universality apart from requiring belief in a perfect human sacrifice answers this challenge well. As does an accurate knowledge of history. The whole world was already somewhat "judaized" before Christianity came along: Christianity would have had no success otherwise. There were Synagogues in every city in the Roman empire nearly, and little communities of either Jews or Samaritans everywhere. And the Gentiles were interested in this concept of ethical monotheism: they attached themselves loosely to the Synagogues as "God-fearers" and accepted (dun dun dun; you guessed it) only the MORAL side of the Tanach without the sacrifices and circumcision and so on. God was already blessing the whole world through Abraham by bringing the concept of moral monotheism to the Gentiles via the presence of Jewish and Samaritan synagogues all over the world. All Christianity did was take advantage of this and use it to make a more popular religion, one that combined dying and rising god themes from the mystery religions with the concept of ethical monotheism in order to create a huge organization in which priests could make a buck. If you don't know this history it would take little more than a reading of Acts (and you can throw Josephus in for good measure) to catch up on it. When Paul entered a city he went to the Synagogue first because there always was one everywhere he went; and in the Synagogue he met Gentiles who had never converted to Judaism but believed in the Jewish God and cared about the moral law, and he was able to trick these folks into accepting the notion of a necessity of a perfect human sacrifice while he was not so able to trick the Jews themselves into believing this.

  11. From your sweeping generalizations and dismissals of those who disagree with you (read: absolutely everyone else), your refusal to cite any other sources than your own conspiracy theories and say-so, and your refusal to give straight answers to my questions that cast doubt on your position, I conclude that you are a theological crank. I crave honest, open discussion and constructive criticism on my blog, which this is not. If you're looking to start an argument about the origins and basic axioms of Christianity, I suggest visiting reddit. If you continue here, I will be forced to start requiring moderation for comments. Good day, sir.

    1. I wont continue here, so you needn't bother with turning moderation on. But I will say this one last bit. Conspiracy theories? Really? Christianity is THE conspiracy theory: There is an omniscient, omnipresent, undefeatable devil running around making people do bad things and as a result there's no way that we could ever merit even the most moderate of good afterlifes, not even partially, not even with God's mercy assisting us; but nay because this invisible enemy is nearly equal to God, the only solution is for God to commit suicide to save us all. Furthermore, all religions that came before Christianity are Christian heresies, despite having been first. and especially Sadduceeism which is really just anything Jewish or Israelite prior to 2 centuries before Christ, is the worst of all Christian heresies, despite its being the authentic religion that Christianity claims to be the fulfillment of and which it has really no even solid point of contact with. Everything that ever happened in the world was a preparation for God's great saving suicide, and he only gave the Law to prove that; no it wasn't given to tell us we should not murder or commit adultery; don't you know "thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery" were only given to prove how impossible it is for us to not do these things? The Law was only given to prove we can't keep even the simplest of commandments! Only the suicide of a God can save!!!! --- Now that's one hell of a conspiracy theory, and its just regular old orthodox Christianity.