"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Wanting To Know

This is the third installment that started with Why I Am Not A Christian.  Part Two is Making A Case.  If you haven't read Knowing God, Parts 1 - 5 this probably won't make enough sense to you.

Something I’ve never heard preached from a pulpit, or taught in a Sunday School class, is a lesson on the nature of God.  I once got a small taste of a lesson tucked in a teaching by the late Dr. Walter Martin.  It came up because you can often run into people who get their kicks by trying to come up with nonsensical, stupid questions to trip up believers.  If I had the power to enforce a rule in Christendom, it would be that new believers are not allowed to attempt evangelizing on their own unless they can pass a test on how to deal with most of these objections.  I know that it’s not practical and will never happen, but this goes along with why the Church has so many things wrong today.  I want to start building my case by starting with the nature of God, but I think I need to explain this problem first.

It is easy to see why a non-believer looks at the vast array of denominations; Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, etc. and thinks, “Those stupid Christians can’t agree on anything.”  Who can blame him?  Then you look at the cults of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, etc., and if you really know some basics about the Bible you wonder how did those people get so screwed up?  The extremes to come out of these outliers are people like Jim Jones of the Guyana massacre, and David Koresh of Waco, Texas.

All of these denominations, even though some of them are so mainstream and ineffectual in society, have one common thread.  They lack a proper hermeneutic.  This is a fancy word for the logical, methodical way of interpreting Scripture. In a nutshell, it’s the proper method for determining what the Author meant to say so that you thoroughly understand it.  It is sorely lacking in just about all the churches I’ve ever been in.  I readily admit that humans are imperfect, and the imperfection of all human institutions are multiplied by the interaction of humans.  But I also have to ask, “How long would Microsoft last if only a few of its employees could agree on how the software is supposed to work?”  How long would you last at your job if you ignored the instructions and just made up procedures?  Not only some that didn’t have anything to do with your job, but some that actually contradicted the mission of your employer?

How did denominations like the Seventh Day Adventists create bizarre offshoots like William Russell who created the Jehovah’s Witnesses and David Koresh?    How do you get a Fred Phelps spewing his vile, hateful garbage and casting a pall upon all who claim allegiance to Christ?  How did we end up with Christmas, which no God-fearing Christians in America would have considered celebrating prior to the 19th century?  How did Christians come to calling Sunday the Sabbath instead of the seventh day as it had been since Adam and Eve? No hermeneutic and virtually no discipleship.

How many times has it happened to you, where you had to explain to someone, “Not only is that not what I meant, that’s not even what I said!”  I sometimes wonder if God just has a recording in heaven that just plays that sound bite over and over.

America is filled with unaccountable, independent churches.  Baptists can be very big on this concept.  In such a church, you can just raise your hand and tell the congregation that you feel led by the Holy Spirit to start a ministry and preach the gospel, shortly after having become a convert.  Chances are, everyone will be enamored with your gusto and zeal and will encourage you.  It is unlikely that the elders will take you aside and thoroughly question you to find out how much you know. To see if you actually understand correct doctrine and are ready to take on the schemes of the enemy.  The reasons the elders don’t do that is because not only are they unconcerned about what error you might fall into and then pass on, but they don’t know the answers either.  Remember what I said about my story when it came to searching for answers. (See: Knowing God) Most church leaders ignore Paul’s instructions on ordaining leaders in the congregations.  It is important to note that the only reason Paul had to write these instructions to the churches in the gentile areas, was because it was simply understood and a way of life for the Jewish believers who had been practicing Torah for centuries.  

The Jehovah’s Witnesses began because William Russell took the basics from Ellen B. White and the Seventh Day Adventists, but decided that he alone knew better how to interpret the Bible and set the standards for doctrine.  David Koresh did basically the same thing but was far less concerned with decorum.  In both cases, their followers succumbed to the cult of personality and the gift of charisma.

Why am I spending so much time and space on this background?  So as to contrast it with the Master Himself.  Let’s carefully consider the facts.  Based on Scripture, Yeshua was clearly of miraculous conception and the Spirit of God was upon him from that time on.  The event of his being in the Temple asking questions, most likely following His Bar-Mitzvah coinciding with Passover, demonstrates that He knew His identity even then. See Luke 2:41-52.  Why did he wait until age thirty to begin his ministry, keeping His identity as Messiah a secret?  The timing of fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel is not a sufficient answer.  

I believe He did so out of respect for the traditions of the elders.  Do not be bamboozled into thinking that all traditions were held in contempt by Yeshua, but only those that were used to negate Torah.  He didn’t start His ministry until age 30 because he would have seen as an arrogant upstart otherwise.  A Jewish boy was expected to memorize Torah by the age of 13 and his Bar Mitzvah into adulthood.  There was no concept of adolescence in most of history.  From that point, a young man is expected to keep his mouth shut and keep learning by listening to the debates of all the men over age 30.  Only after all of this intense, thorough, and yet informal “schooling,” and having reached the age of 30, he could start offering his opinion on the Tanakh as being authoritative, and yet opinions were almost always given “in the name of” (authority) of a much greater sage. 

Back to my original issue about understanding the nature of God.  This is important because it would seem that most of Christianity seems to endorse the idea that God changed everything when Messiah came.  Where is the evidence for this?  Most all of the Torah and the Prophets is about giving us a picture of who the Messiah is and what he would do.  In both His first advent and then His second, in which the misunderstandings of the roles of Meshiach ben Yosef and Meshiach ben David has served to prevent most of the Jews from accepting the one Christianity calls Jesus of Nazareth.

When you think of Scripture as the autobiography of God and see the amazing supernatural evidence to that effect, you have to take seriously that He means what He says and He is careful about choosing the words.  Yeshua even made a point about the tense of the words when questioned by the Pharisees.  Also it should be logical that an omnipotent God can see to it that most of His word gets passed down through the ages accurately (see: Knowing God, Part 5).

My point is to ask the logical question, “Would the God of the Bible give mankind His Torah, His instruction book, repeat over and over that these instructions and commandments were forever and everlasting, and then send His Son to say, “Hey everybody, all that stuff that Daddy told Moses?  Y’all can just ignore that stuff now.”  As I’ve already shown, Yeshua didn’t say that.  In fact, He said just the opposite.

To say that the God of the Bible would have one system of rules for one set of people and then another almost non-existent set of rules, or rather just two completely indefinable rules for some other people, would mean that He is a capricious god like what the Romans and Greeks believed in. I can’t seem to come up with any other word for that kind of thinking other than blasphemy.  If that seems to harsh, maybe you can suggest another idea?  And please don’t think I’m just trying to be mean.  If this is the first time you are being challenged to think about this, I’m sure it’s uncomfortable.  Let me assure you that God does not hold us accountable for what we don’t know, or for being deceived and unaware of the deception.  However, once you’ve been confronted with the facts and you still insist on going your merry way, you’ll have to discuss it with your Creator.

I was at a church where a woman interjected herself while I was answering a question about Torah, saying that we didn’t need to worry about Torah, to which I asked her how she dealt with Matthew 5:17-19, quoting it to her, but before I could finish, she said, “I’m not going to listen to that, and I’m not going to read it.”  Even after all the encounters I’ve had over the years, I was still a bit stunned.  

The next installment is "Getting The Big Picture."

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