Sunday, May 24, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part IV

In my last post in this series, Common Legalist Arguments - Part III, I went over the idea that in the New Covenant we are commanded by God to obey His Old Covenant laws. We saw that the New Covenant is about a new law of faith, not an old series of 613 or so laws which the Bible calls "the ministry of death written and engraved on stones". We saw that the law itself was good, but man could not handle them. We saw that before it was "obey external laws because you must" and now it is "flow with Spirit in you because you love to".
This time, I would like to address what the Bible says about the old law being gone.

Argument #4
"Where does it say the law is done away with?"

The Bible never says the phrase "the law is done away with". But that isn't the real issue anyway. The real issue is where does it say the law was given to the Gentiles? The Old Covenant was with Israel only and the Gentiles were never commanded to become Jews in order to become Christians (I'll get deeper to that in future posts - like this one: "Confusing the Covenants").
But to answer your question... "law" itself is not done away (there is a "law of faith"), but rather Old Covenant law was done away. This was done by necessity.
First, let's start by looking at the nature of covenants themselves.

Once a covenant is established, it cannot simply be altered.
(GAL. 3: 15) Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.

Herbert Armstrong taught the Old Covenant law was changed by Jesus. (I was told Herbert Armstrong changed the law.) Now, has anyone ever thought to ask how that can possibly be? Is God not a judge? Is He not quite familiar with principles of law? Does not His own Word say that no one may add to nor take away from the covenant He made with Israel?

(DEU. 12: 32) 32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

In order for it to be altered it had to be ended.

(ROM. 10: 4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

"End" here can mean "limit" or "goal", but a termination or cessation is also a perfectly valid translation -- especially for those who believe the KJV is inerrant. So, that leaves us with three ways to view this: 1) Jesus is love and Godly love is the goal of the law, 2) Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, 3) Jesus put an end to the law for those who have faith.

Even while agreeing with the first two, many legalists say that third option is not possible. Let's investigate that. Jesus was a primary party to the Old Covenant. He died. Covenant over; law too. It's that simple. Paul goes over this in Romans 7: 1-4.

(ROM. 7: 1-3) 1 Do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to men who know the law — that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

When a husband (which the Word was to Israel) dies, the wife is released completely and totally from any contract or agreement. Thus is Paul's point here (he was not speaking about marriage but about the Old Covenant). When Christ died, the Old Covenant and all that it entailed was utterly nullified. This is an inescapable Bible fact! (Not to worry, Jesus fulfilled it anyway.) But it's gone in the letter. And not only that, each of us has also died with Christ which is an additional point of release. The Old Covenant is doubly nullified.

(ROM. 7: 4) 4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

If you did not die to the law, then you are bound by it and cannot belong to Christ nor Christ to you. Is to be estranged from Christ really what you want?
Paul's conclusion:

(ROM 7: 6) But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

And this is again approached from yet another angle by the anonymous author of Hebrews.

(HEB. 7: 11-12) 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

The Levitical priesthood and the laws they taught and enforced were incapable of bringing perfection (HEB. 7: 11, 18-19). Ergo, they were changed out for a new system that would (Christ's perfection that is, not our own - not in this flesh anyway). It could not be simply changed out at a whim or else it would have been done differently, but it was changed out at the end of the Covenant, ie. at Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus' death and resurrection changed the entire order of things. The Old Covenant was replaced in its entirety by a New Covenant (HEB. 7: 22; 8: 6-7, 13). The New Covenant is not a modification of the Old. The implications of the change in priesthood alone obliterate that notion. It is a complete and total replacement for it. As verse 18 says, it was "annulled". In stark reality, Jesus Christ could not be our High Priest if the law were not nullified.

(HEB. 7: 13-14) 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood

And since that is the case, there must be a change in the law (v. 12).
The law being annulled and replaced, what takes its place? Anarchy? No.

(ROM. 3: 21) 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets
(ROM. 8: 15) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

To say "the law is done away" is NOT to say "we may do whatever we wish". This is a false dilemma presented regularly by legalists. To present this idea is to ignore all the very many times the New Testament says such things as "we should serve in the newness of the Spirit." Anyone who says we need the Old Covenant law to bring us to righteousness has not paid close attention to their Bible. The following is a list of things that do not come by the law:
Justification (GAL. 2: 16)
Righteousness (GAL. 2: 21)
The Spirit (GAL. 3: 2)
Perfection (GAL. 3: 3; HEB. 7: 19)
Miracles (GAL. 3: 5)
Inheritance (GAL. 3: 18)
Life (GAL. 3: 21)
Grace (GAL. 5: 4)

How can we present the Old Covenant law as the answer when clearly that contradicts God's own inspired words? A desire to be holy, living in a Godly manner, is noble. I applaud the motivation. But it must be tempered with all of the Biblical evidence, not just buzz phrases like "Big 10" or cleverly worded arguments from false prophets. As a guideline, the Ten Commandments are fine, but as a binding law God saw fit to replace them with a New and better covenant. How can we remain in the Old Covenant when the New has come in? Do you not know that the 10 Commandments ARE the Old Covenant!

(EXO. 34: 28) So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
(DEU. 5: 1-21) … 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said… [lists the Ten Commandments].
(DEU. 9: 9) When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.
(DEU. 9: 11) And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
(DEU. 9: 15) So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.

Legalists insist on the 10 Commandments. I used to insist on them. Why? I thought it was the right thing to do! I was taught that for years. I thought that the 10 Commandments were the pinnacle of God's desire for us. In opposition to God's own words I believed perfection would come from closely following the law (or rather, a grossly cherry-picked version of the law). I listened to men who proclaimed with authority that righteousness came from the 10 Commandments. (The law itself was righteous, unfortunately mankind is not.) I was not able to grasp grace. I was not taught the Biblical truth that if we have faith then we will receive the Holy Spirit, and if the Holy Spirit is in us IT will teach us and lead us into all righteousness (JOHN 14: 26) - not the law. This is precisely why the New Testament is adamant that it is not our own righteousness from the law that God desires, but His righteousness (from the Spirit in us) that comes by faith.

(ROM. 1: 17) For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
(ROM. 3: 20-22) 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...
(ROM. 4: 5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
(PHP. 3: 9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith
(2 PET. 1: 1) Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours
(GAL. 3: 10-14) 10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Paul mentions Abraham. What of Abraham?

(ROM. 4: 13-14) 13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless

Loved by God, it isn't the law that is unrighteous, but mankind. If you set out to follow the old letter of the law, you are setting yourself up for either frustrated failure or false pride. The law functions to condemn us. What do you seek to accomplish by the law? To earn anything with God? Perhaps you think that if only you can do well enough THEN God will deliver you to His inheritance? Do you think that if you compare yourself to someone else, setting yourself up as more righteous than they, then God will realize how you deserve a reward? Do you not see clearly how that sets you and your own efforts up and takes the focus away from Christ and His efforts? God does not owe anyone anything! We do not inherit the Kingdom through our own effort. We do not keep it through our own effort. This is not about us, it is about Christ! Christ secured salvation for all who have faith in Him. Rather, you will accomplish what you seek through faith in Christ who can bring you there. The catch with the law is that if you accomplish all the law commands but stumble in one point then you have failed in all. God does not want to see His children condemned. That is why He sent His only Son, so that all who believe (MAR 16: 16; ACTS 16: 31) WILL be saved. That Son, our Savior and High Priest, paid the price for our sin, ransoming us from death and making complete reconciliation between us and God our Father one time only and for all time. And when He said "it is finished", He went on to sit down at the right hand of God and rested from His work. It is finished.

Perhaps you have overlooked these very many verses I quote here directly from God's word. Perhaps you have explained them away somehow. Please consider that all of these things are from God, the Old Testament as well as the New, and they cannot be so easily dismissed. Please consider that perhaps the reason why you have never looked at them in this way could be, just maybe, because your ministers are teaching you the beliefs of a human being - Herbert Armstrong or whomever - and they are themselves not interested in seeing things from any other perspective. I cannot speak for everyone who thinks of themselves as a teacher of the law, but I have met many who are so filled with pride that they think they can do no wrong (Ronald Weinland for example), and many who will teach whatever is required by the one who signs their paychecks.
As Bereans Did on the other hand has asked you for nothing except that you pray and ask for God's truth to shine in your heart. We don't claim to have all the answers. What I personally have is this - I was once a legalist (breathing out condemnation and judgment towards others), but Christ has shone me a more perfect way. The inexplicable joy that I feel compels me to share this with you. I pray you find that way!

(ROM. 10: 5-6, 8-11) 5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: ...
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

If you trust in Him to do all that He has promised, then being motivated by His Spirit go and set aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Not as an article of Old Covenant law, but as an article of faith in Christ!

In closing, deeply loved by God, consider this:
(HEB. 10: 38-39) 38 "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back [to their own righteousness from the law and the condemnation that comes from failure to achieve it??], My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

God bless you and prosper you and speed you into His New Covenant!

[Also see Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part V]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Case for Teaching The Bible (TIME - Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007) by David Van Biema

I came across these two very interesting 2007 articles online and wanted to share them with you, our readers:


Miss Kendrick came ready, with props. The day's topic was the Gospel of Matthew. "You can divide all the Beatitudes into two parts," Jennifer Kendrick explained to her teenage audience. "The 'Blessed are the whatevers,' like 'the meek,' and then the reward they will get. So I've made some puzzle pieces here." She passed out construction-paper sheets, each bearing either the name of a virtuous group or its reward, in black marker. "And you've got to find the person who has the other half. What's the first one in the Bible?"

"The poor in spirit," mumbled a crew-cut boy.

"O.K. What goes with the poor in spirit?"

A girl in the front of the room replied, reading from her sheet, "For they will see God."

"Nope," chirped Kendrick. "O.K., find the person that matches yours. I'll take the roll."

By which she meant an official attendance roll. Because the day was Thursday, not Sunday. And the location was not Oakwood Baptist Church, a mile down Texas State Highway 46, but New Braunfels High School, a public school that began offering a Bible-literacy class last fall. The class has its share of conservative Christians. Front-row center sat Rachel Williams, 18, whose mother does teach Sunday school at Oakwood. But not 20 ft. away sat a blond atheist who asked that her name not be used because she hasn't outed herself to her parents. Why take a Bible class? I asked her. "Some of my friends are Christian," she said, shrugging, "and they would argue about, like, whether you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, and I'm like, Okaaaay ... clueless." Williams signed up for a similar reason. "If somebody is going to carry on a sophisticated conversation with me, I would rather know what they're talking about than look like a moron or fight my way through it," she says. The class has "gotten a lot of positive feedback," she adds. "It's going to really rise in popularity."

The same might be said about public-school courses on the Bible nationwide. There aren't that many. But they're rising in popularity. Last year Georgia became the first state in memory to offer funds for high school electives on the Old and New Testaments using the Bible as the core text. Similar funding was discussed in several other legislatures, although the initiatives did not become law. Meanwhile, two privately produced curriculums crafted specifically to pass church-state muster are competing for use in individual schools nationwide. Combined, they are employed in 460 districts in at least 37 states. The numbers are modest, but their publishers expect them to soar. The smaller of the two went into operation just last year but is already into its second 10,000-copy printing, has expressions of interest from a thousand new districts this year and expects many more. The larger publisher claims to be roughly doubling the number of districts it adds each year. These new curriculums plus polls suggesting that over 60% of Americans favor secular teaching about the Bible suggest that a Miss Kendrick may soon be talking about Matthew in a school near you.

To some, this idea seems retrograde. Citing a series of Supreme Court decisions culminating in 1963's Abington Township School District v. Schempp, which removed prayer and devotion from the classroom, the skeptics ask whether it is safe to bring back the source of all that sectarianism. But a new, post-Schempp coalition insists it is essential to do so. It argues that teaching the Bible in schools--as an object of study, not God's received word--is eminently constitutional. The Bible so pervades Western culture, it says, that it's hard to call anyone educated who hasn't at least given thought to its key passages. Finally, it claims that the current civic climate makes it a "now more than ever" proposition. Says Stephen Prothero, chair of the Boston University religion department, whose new book, Religious Literacy (Harper SanFrancisco), presents a compelling argument for Bible-literacy courses: "In the late '70s, [students] knew nothing about religion, and it didn't matter. But then religion rushed into the public square. What purpose could it possibly serve for citizens to be ignorant of all that?" The "new consensus" for secular Bible study argues that knowledge of it is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen. Let's examine that argument.

Is it constitutional?

TOWARD THE BEGINNING OF THE COURT'S string of school-secularization cases, the most eloquent language preserving the neutral study of religion was probably Justice Robert Jackson's concurring opinion in the 1948 case McCollum v. Board of Education: "One can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for ... which he is being prepared," Jackson wrote, and warned that putting all references to God off limits would leave public education "in shreds." In the 1963 Schempp decision, the exemption for secular study of Scripture was explicit and in the majority opinion: "Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment," wrote Justice Tom C. Clark. Justice Arthur Goldberg contributed a helpful distinction between "the teaching of religion" (bad) and "teaching about religion" (good). Citing these and subsequent cases, Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, says, "It is beyond question that it is possible to teach a course about the Bible that is constitutional." For over a decade, he says, any legal challenges to school Bible courses have focused not on the general principle but on whether the course in question was sufficiently neutral in its approach.

Why should I care?

HERE IS ONE OF PROTHERO'S FAVORITE stories of Bible ignorance. In 1995 a federal appeals court upheld the overturn of a death sentence in a Colorado kidnap-rape-murder case because jurors had inappropriately brought in extraneous material--Bibles--for an unsanctioned discussion of the Exodus verse "an eye for eye, tooth for tooth ... whoever ... kills a man shall be put to death." The Christian group Focus on the Family complained, "It is a sad day when the Bible is banned from the jury room." Who's most at fault here? The jurors, who perhaps hadn't noticed that in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus rejects the eye-for-an-eye rule, word for word, in favor of turning the other cheek? The Focus spokesman, who may well have known of Jesus' repudiation of the old law but chose to ignore it? Or any liberal who didn't know enough to bring it up?

According to Religious Literacy, polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Bible holds the answers to "all or most of life's basic questions," but pollster George Gallup has dubbed us "a nation of biblical illiterates." Only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. Most can't name the Bible's first book. The trend extends even to Evangelicals, only 44% of whose teens could identify a particular quote as coming from the Sermon on the Mount.

So what? I'm not a very religious person

SIMPLY PUT, THE BIBLE IS THE MOST influential book ever written. Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it is the best-selling book of the year every year. In a 1992 survey of English teachers to determine the top-10 required "book-length works" in high school English classes, plays by Shakespeare occupied three spots and the Bible none. And yet, let's compare the two: Beauty of language: Shakespeare, by a nose. Depth of subject matter: toss-up. Breadth of subject matter: the Bible. Numbers published, translated etc: Bible. Number of people martyred for: Bible. Number of wars attributed to: Bible. Solace and hope provided to billions: you guessed it. And Shakespeare would almost surely have agreed. According to one estimate, he alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times. As for the rest of literature, when your seventh-grader reads The Old Man and the Sea, a teacher could tick off the references to Christ's Passion--the bleeding of the old man's palms, his stumbles while carrying his mast over his shoulder, his hat cutting his head--but wouldn't the thrill of recognition have been more satisfying on their/own?

If literature doesn't interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history. "The shining city on the hill"? That's Puritan leader John Winthrop quoting Matthew to describe his settlement's convenantal standing with God. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln noted sadly that both sides in the Civil War "read the same Bible" to bolster their opposing claims. When Martin Luther King Jr. talked of "Justice rolling down like waters" in his "I Have a Dream" speech, he was consciously enlisting the Old Testament prophet Amos, who first spoke those words. The Bible provided the argot--and theological underpinnings--of women's suffrage and prison-reform movements.

And then there is today's political rhetoric. For a while, secular liberals complained that when George W. Bush went all biblical, he was speaking in code. Recently, the Democratic Party seems to have come around to the realization that a lot of grass-roots Democrats welcome such use. Without the Bible and a few imposing secular sources, we face a numbing horizontality in our culture--blogs, political announcements, ads. The world is flat, sure. But Scripture is among our few means to make it deep.

Doesn't secular teaching about the Bible play into the hands of the religious right and the secular left?

YES. BOTH. WHICH MAY SUGGEST THAT EACH is exaggerating its claim. Fundamentalist pastor John Hagee has complained that The Bible and Its Influence, a curriculum Kendrick uses in her class, could "greatly damage" youth too callow to "decipher" what he called its misrepresentations of Scripture. He cited its observation that contrary to Christianity, "other origin stories tell of ... gods who themselves are created." Hagee thundered that this could convince a student that polytheism is as valid as monotheism. But evangelical pundit Chuck Colson favors Bible-literacy courses. "Would I prefer a more explicitly biblical Christian teaching?" he asks. "Of course. But you can't do that in public education. What you can do is introduce the Bible so that people are aware of its impact on people and in history and then let God speak through it as he will."

First Amendment sentinels like Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer and the author of Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and the Perils of Piety, fear that given America's overwhelmingly Christian cast, even neutral Bible instruction would amount to preferencing. "If you teach the Bible outside of close conjunction with other religions," she says, "then it becomes a kind of promotion of the majority faith. It becomes too hard for most folks to draw the line between teaching and preaching." Yet the American Jewish Congress's Stern, who has participated in Supreme Court establishment-clause-violation cases, sees Bible class as a plus for anyone following in his footsteps. "Take creationism," he offers. "Unless you are literate in the first two chapters of Genesis, you have no idea what people are fighting about."

All such discussion, of course, assumes that the two sides of the culture wars are duking it out over impressionable young minds. Prothero rejects the premise. He says he has never seen a Bible-literacy course change anyone's faith one way or another. "I think the academic study of religion provides a kind of middle space between those two ways of talking. It takes the biblical truth claims seriously and yet brackets them for purposes of classroom discussion," he says. "It works in a way that feels safe to both the believer and the unbeliever in the room." And people are "tired of the culture wars," he insists. "There's a broad middle who want to do something productive."

So who are the leaders of this movement?

DECADES AFTER THE Schempp DECISION, most school administrators, lawsuit-averse by nature, had eliminated almost any treatment of religion. Then during the evangelical renaissance of the 1990s, a theologically conservative North Carolina group called the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools compiled an outline for Bible courses. The curriculums reached the attention of Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, based in Arlington, Va., who favored teaching about religion in school but didn't think what he was looking at passed constitutional muster. He composed a document, The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, that accomplished two crucial things: it provided bright-line standards on what the law allowed and collected endorsements from so broad a base of advocates (the American Jewish Committee, the Council on Islamic Education, the National Association of Evangelicals and the liberal watchdog group People for the American Way, to name a few) that even the most nervous school board could find what he calls "safe harbor" for a course teaching about the Bible.

Haynes also brought in Chuck Stetson, who wanted to take the next step: a secularly acceptable Bible textbook. Stetson's religious credentials alarm church-state separationists. He is a graduate of Colson's Wilberforce Centurion project, a study group pledged to "restore our culture by effectively thinking, teaching and advocating the Christian world view as applied to all of life." Yet he claims his commitment to his textbook's constitutionality determined its secularity. In late 2005 he unveiled The Bible and Its Influence, which was vetted by 40 religious and legal scholars, including Jews, Protestants and a Roman Catholic bishop. Meant to be read alongside a Bible, the book's 373 oversize pages provide a clearly written--if selective--theme-and-style analysis of key passages in most of the biblical books. Its sidebars--"Cultural Connections," "Historical Connections"--do much of the heavy lifting in transforming a Bible commentary into a textbook.

It seems more legally palatable than its competition. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which has offered its curriculum since 1993, claims a bigger market (382 schools in 37 states) than the newcomer (85 school districts in 30 states). But its 1999 edition reportedly recommended materials from something called the Creation Evidence Museum; a "question for reflection" in the 2005 version suggested that the logistics of Noah's Ark would have been more manageable if some of the animals were babies or hibernating. In 2002 a Florida district court ruled unconstitutional a course that critics claim was loosely based on its New Testament portion (the Council denies a connection). Its spokespeople claim it is refining itself as it goes and its most recent edition, which came out last month, eliminates much literalist bias--but still devotes 18 lines to the blatantly unscientific notion that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

Some secularists are worried about who will teach the literacy classes. Joe Conn and Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have expressed a concern about how teachers willing to give the Bible secular treatment would be found, particularly in states where vast majorities are evangelical. They note that Stetson's history sections are almost exclusively positive. "A textbook should offer objective study about both the positive and negative uses of the Bible," Conn writes. "Where is the analysis of the role of the Bible in the Inquisition or the Salem witch trials?" They specifically question the tone of a final section, "Freedom and Faith in America," which omits the high court's school-secularization rulings and ends on a truly odd note: a Chinese social scientist attributing the "pre-eminence of the West" to the fact that the "heart of your culture is ... your Christianity." Unlike most of the book, this seems written by Stetson the true believer who took Colson's Centurion program.

A modest proposal

A BASIC QUESTION: WHY TEACH THE BIBLE and not comparative religion? It may not be necessary to provide Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism with equal time, but it seems misguided to ignore faiths that millions of Americans practice each day; and a glance at the headlines further argues for an omnibus course. Yet could a school demand that its already overloaded kids take one elective if they take the other? Concerns about whether a Bible Belt Christian teacher could in good conscience teach a religiously neutral Bible course also plagued me. Was high school Bible study one of those great ideas that vaporizes when exposed to air?

I visited New Braunfels high in early February. Jennifer Kendrick is committed to The Bible and Its Influence, but as a starting point rather than a blueprint. "It gives me ways to approach the topic, and then I put together something else," she says. She's unconvinced of its impartiality. "It will bring up Catholicism and mention Gandhi, but you can tell it's written as if I am a Protestant Christian teaching Protestant Christians."

Actually, she is a conservative Protestant. But her students don't know that, and nothing in the class I saw suggested it. Kendrick aces the compulsories--notes John Locke's use of the Beatitudes and Frank Zappa's riffs on "the meek shall inherit the earth," and ponders why various politicians have found it more convenient to attribute the "city on a hill" to Winthrop rather than to Matthew. When a student asks how Jesus could say the meek shall inherit the earth, when Christianity inherited it only after attaining tremendous strength, she suggests, "When he was giving the sermon, people took it not just as a physical award but an emotional or spiritual kind of award. Later on, when they became more powerful, say, in the Crusades or something, they weren't trying to inherit the earth. They were trying to take it over." Explaining why Jesus' famous sermon took place on a mount, she reminds the students that Matthew was writing for Jews, and a mount is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. "So, supposedly," she says, "Jesus is the new covenant, the new law, for the Jewish people."

She gives over much of the class to a Socratic symposium on Jesus' simplest yet most difficult sayings, which reveals a lot about the class's earnest attempts to make sense of rather disparate worlds. "'Turn the other cheek'--Does that mean we're supposed to let them hit you on the other cheek too?" she asks. A boy answers, "You should, you know, just take what's coming. It's not like if someone hits you. If someone doesn't give you the right change back, you shouldn't come back looking for a fight." A girl argues that it is more of an ideal than a mandate. "So it's a guideline," asks Kendrick, "and you apply it to the situation and see what fits?" This, in turn, upsets a girl in the third row, who asks, "Does that mean that the Ten Commandments are exceptions?"

Kendrick: "That they're literal?"

Everyone: "Yes!"

Trying to make sense of both this consensus and his possible future, an ROTC cadet notes, "Some people say, 'Thou shalt not kill' is really 'Thou shalt not murder,' and in Ecclesiastes it says, 'There's a time for war and a time for peace.'"

I could find little to object to here and much to admire. Here was a conservative teacher going way beyond The Bible and Its Influence, but not in a predictable direction. She name-checked the Crusades, avoided faith declarations and treated the Bible as a living document to be pored over rather than blindly accepted. She even managed to fit in other faiths. Moving on through the Sermon on the Mount, she pulled out another sheaf of papers. "So I'm gonna give these examples of Golden Rules from different cultures. Read 'em and share 'em with the class." They ran from Buddhism to Baha'i. And most did sound a lot alike. Shouted one girl: "The Golden Rule remix!"

One successful class teaching the Bible as an academic subject hardly guarantees that it will work every time or everywhere. But Kendrick shows that it can work. "Bad courses will be taught," predicts Prothero, sitting in his B.U. office with the inscription Sans Dieu Rien--Without God, Nothing--carved above the fireplace. (True to his nonsectarian position, he calls its presence "a coincidence. This used to be a private house.") "People will teach it as a Sunday-school class. And we'll do what we always do when unconstitutional stuff happens in America. We'll get a court to tell us what to do, and then we'll fix it."

Prothero may be overly sanguine about the workings of the U.S. court system. But even if he's wrong, this shouldn't stop schools from making some effort to teach the Bible. The study doesn't have to be mandatory. In a national school system overscheduled with basic skills, other topics such as history and literature deserve core status more than Scripture--provided that these classes address it themselves, where appropriate. But if an elective is offered, it should be twinned mandatorily with a world religions course, even if that would mean just a semester of each. Within that period students could be expected to read and discuss Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, a few Moses-on-the-mountain passages and two of Paul's letters. No one should take the course but juniors and seniors. The Bible's harmful as well as helpful uses must be addressed, which could be done by acknowledging that religious conservatives see the problems as stemming from the abuse of the holy text, while others think the text itself may be the culprit. The course should have a strong accompanying textbook on the model of The Bible and Its Influence but one that is willing to deal a bit more bluntly with the historical warts. And some teacher training is a must: at a bare minimum, about their constitutional obligations.

And, oh yes, there should be one faith test. Faith in our country. Sure, there will be bumps along the way. But in the end, what is required in teaching about the Bible in our public schools is patriotism: a belief that we live in a nation that understands the wisdom of its Constitution clearly enough to allow the most important book in its history to remain vibrantly accessible for everyone.

David Van Biema is TIME's senior religion writer. His first cover story on the topic ran in 1996

Alabama Picks a Bible Textbook

By David Van Biema Monday, Oct. 22, 2007

alabama_bible_1022 The Bible & It's Influence

Alabama has became the first state in the Union to approve a textbook for a course about the Bible in its public schools, and its surprisingly uncontroversial decision may prove to be a model for others.

According to Dr. Anita Buckley Commander, the Alabama Director of Classroom Improvement, there was no opposition to the October 11 vote by the state Board of Education to include The Bible and Its Influence on the state's list of accepted textbooks. The Board held a hearing on the issue and no one showed up; the book was approved by a vote of 8-0.

The textbook is a product of the Bible Literacy Project, founded and run by Chuck Stetson, a conservative Christian New York-based equity fund executive. Assessing scripture and its subsequent influence on literature, art, philosophy and political culture, it was specifically designed to avoid the Constitution's church-state barriers. Although the text, which has been on the market for two years, is now taught in 163 schools in 35 states, no state had previously endorsed it.

The Bible and Its Influence has a fascinating constellation of supporters and critics. Some of its more liberal champions, such as the American Jewish Congress's counsel Marc Stern, feel that the republic can not only survive but will actually benefit from public school courses on a document as culturally central as the Bible — as long as the classes avoid being devotional. Evangelical heavyweight Chuck Colson hopes that God will speak to students even through a class that is secular in intent. Those opposed to the book include secularists who argue that it already violates the First Amendment and fundamentalists who see its approach as secular and therefore diluting the value of what they see as God's inspired word.

Despite the book's smooth passage through the Alabama school board, it had caused a firestorm in the state's House of Representatives only a year ago. Democrats who liked the book — and may also have been interested in burnishing their religious credentials — had submitted a bill making it the mandatory text for any public school Bible-study classes. State Republicans who didn't like the book, and may also have wanted to deny the Democrats the political God Card in an election year, ensured by their vociferous opposition that the Democratic bill was eventually voted down in committee. Something similar happened in neighboring Georgia, where Democrats submitted a bill prescribing The Bible and its Influence, but Republicans turned it into a much less specific endorsement of Bible classes.

Precisely why the Alabama Board of Education succeeded where the legislature failed (with one distinction: the school board didn't rule out the use of other texts) remains something of a mystery. Presumably most Alabamans would welcome a public school course on the Bible, even if it were from a secular standpoint; "I don't see how [the book] would scare anyone" who has read it, comments Commander. It may be that the Board of Education, which she describes as politically "balanced," is not as caught up in partisanship as is the Alabama House. Moreover, the book was not the Board's sole focus: in fact, its attention was monopolized by a discussion about school reading texts.

Although the Bible Literacy Project officers are thrilled with its success in Alabama, they are not necessarily counting on replicating it elsewhere fast. There are 22 states with similar low-key selection methods, but they tend to consider different curriculum categories year by year, and in some states the category including a Bible course textbook will not roll around for another eight. So, says a spokesperson for the Project, "we have to sit around and wait." In other states, the book doesn't appear to fit into any of the established categories of study. And then there are the 28 states where such decisions are made by local rather than statewide school boards.

The Bible Literacy Project is philosophical about the delays created by the different legislative processes in different states. Although a more centralized legislative initiative would result in faster adoption of the text, that process can fall victim to politics, as Alabama's experience shows. And, for advocates of studying (as opposed to preaching) religion in the public school curriculum, the low-key introduction of the text, whether locale by locale or through the workings of state boards like Commander's, offers an opportunity to assess its fairness and effectiveness before it becomes a nationwide fact.

The Case for Teaching the Bible

Alabama Picks a Bible Textbook

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You’ve Left… Now What?

You’ve dared to question. You’ve dared to be honest with yourself. Huge steps. And then the really huge step… you left. But now what? Where is the truth? Who has it? Does anyone? How do know who has the truth? How do you find them?confusion

Let me share with you what happened for me.

For me, what got me to questioning Ron Weinland’s teachings, was at FOT 2005 when he stated that Christ was created. I just about had a cow! I was attending with my Mother, and I remember that evening, she was talking to me, asking me questions, as if to see where I stood. I was shocked that she would even entertain the idea. But she seemed to accept is so quickly and so easily. I was beside myself.

Upon returning home, I continued to listen to Ron every Saturday and immersed myself in the Bible, in search of truth. I started by asking questions of my spouse, who had been New Covenant for years. Everything I heard seemed to make sense. Then I would call my Mother and ask her questions. Everything I heard seemed to make sense. How could that be? They believed differently, so how could they both seem to make sense?

I went around and around in circles for a good week like this, asking them questions. That’s when I realized I had gone to the wrong source in search of answers. They weren’t with my Mother. They weren’t with my spouse. They were with God. I told God: “I want to know the truth. I want your truth. I don’t care what it is, I have no preference… if we’re to keep holy days, fine. If we’re not, fine. It doesn’t matter, all I want is your truth.”

I spent, literally, ten solid months immersed in study, and I repeated my request to God frequently… and you know what? He granted it… and I’m not the only one who asked for this and received it. I’m convinced this is what’s required in order to receive the truth; truly and without preference, wanting God’s truth.

Ask yourself, and be honest; “Do I have a preference? Would it matter to me if “A” was the truth and not “B”, or vise versa?” This can be revealing, and being honest with yourself is highly respectable.

In case you’re thinking it, I’ll mention something my sister said when she was trying to figure our if Ron Weinland was God’s prophet or not. She said that some of us need others to teach us stuff because they know more than we do.

Well, it is true that some are more mature in the Word than others and that’s why I love Bible discussions with others, but the Holy Spirit is our teacher. Read these verses:

1Jn 2:26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Jn 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jn 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth.

1Co 2:12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

Mt 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

So, you’ve left… Now what? You ask yourself if you have a preference. If you do, then you have something to work out. Talk to God about it. If your sincere, I’m sure he will help you with that… and then when, or if, you don’t, you tell God, and you ask him to reveal his truth to you, you dig into your Bible and you see anew!

You don’t need to set out looking for a new teacher. Don’t be counting on someone else for your salvation. It is your responsibility to make sure you are receiving the truth. You can’t ride someone else’s coattail into the Kingdom. Don’t mistake what I’m saying, I’m not negating church, church and fellowship is great, I’m saying just don’t rely on someone else for truth. Rely on God and his Holy Spirit to teach you all things.

God bless you in your quest for his truth.OneMinuteBibleStudy

You may be interested in reading my articles: Do We Need To Be Taught By Others?, and: On Bereans & Poem From Ex-Member

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Bereans & Poem From Ex-Member

I wanted to post, here at ABD, this poem submitted to Mike at Don’t Drink the Flavor Aid (5.6.09), by Kirrily, who recently left Ron Weinland’s organization. I feel this poem can speak on a personal level to those still with Ron, and perhaps give them the strength to allow themselves to ‘dare to question’. Let me, if you will, repeat myself, yet again:

Act 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

More noble character? You mean it’s noble to question the teacher!?! Well, the Bereans questioned Paul every day! They examined the Scriptures every day, to see if what Paul said was true! They weren’t chastised or cursed for this, they weren’t accused of questioning or doubting God… they were praised. Why? - Because it is our responsibility to make sure we have the truth. - Because we cannot ride someone else’s coattail into the kingdom. Of all the people to question… they questioned Paul! Is there someone whom we see as so high on the totem pole, that we dare not question? Even so, one of noble character… questions.

Following is Kirrily’s poem:

Poem to Ron Weinland

Your words full of wisdom
They made perfect sense
The warmth of your smile
The safety in participation with you

Growth in mind, in spirit
The reality of where we were headed
No fear, just anticipation
Our days were full of tomorrow, not today

Our loved ones feared
But we were not diffused
Tomorrow was what mattered
Most friendships passed away
New ones were forged

Our past was what shaped us
Our present was reforming us
Our future was set
If only we did not give up

To conform, to transform
To allow the change, to see the change
Our lives in the present, only to prepare
Prepare for the Kingdom of God

We were fed, we were clothed
Nakedness in mind and spirit was not experienced
Friendship and warmth in preparedness
We were not alone

We had each other
We were prepared, ever learning
Steadfast, immovable in our belief
We were special, we knew what was to come

Arrogance of mind, of attitude
We did not see it in ourselves, only others
It was all around us, never in us

Looking down upon others
Calling it something else
Knowing ‘The Call’ wasn’t theirs – yet
Hoping that day would come

Their eyes were shut
Ours were open
Their minds were closed
Ours were enlightened

They could not see
We saw clearly
They were in deception
We were in truth

Attitudes shifted, timelines changed
Things were suddenly unclear
Was this still the truth?
Did we fail to see?

We repented, we were wrong of course
We stood firm
We did not give up
We wanted, had to have, total resolve

Time went by
We adjusted our attitude
Looking forever inward
Knowing we must not doubt
Life went on

One day it hit
One day was all it took
To look into the eyes of others
The feeling of superiority suddenly recognized, obviously unfounded
It was shocking to see what we had become

Questions needed to be asked
Questions were not answered
We were told we could not longer see
That God was no longer with us

Friendships forged through separation from the world
Ended, were broken
No longer part of the truth, we were told
Suddenly, we were alone

We had the truth, we would not let go
It was only our leader
It was only our belief
He was not who he said he was

Looking for a teacher
Looking for food, finding none
The mess that was WCG
So many daughters, so who is really the whore?

The 10 is what we have now
The basic, the unchanging, Gods Law
The truth is what we seek
The truth is still not found

Time passed
Healing was slow
Time to recover
Time to awaken

The pain, the agony
True humbling took place
Brought to nought
The foundation was all that remained

A counterfeit is barely recognized from the true
First you must know what is true
Who is true
By what they say coming to pass, not failing

Acknowledging we believed a lie
Believed a witness, a prophet
Consumed with his own truth
A truth he believed was given, he was never giving up

A witness, a prophet
Believing his own self
Believing what was ‘given’
Until the end

We wish him no harm, no foul
Only wishing, hoping that no others are hurt
The hurt we carry with us,
The hurt we can hardly bear

What we saw in him as humility, became arrogance
What we saw as steadfast, became delusion
What we saw as the truth, was actually his own truth
What we saw as belonging, was actually being lost

Cursing who he believes as being the blind
To death
The mockers, the deceived
From his point of view, are not they too – potential Children of God under PKG?
Yet – they are cursed to die

True humility
Is admitting when you are wrong
Those of us who left, were humbled, we admitted our error
Those who remain, ignore their pride
Its harder to leave, than to stay
It’s harder to admit you are wrong, than stay in deception

We were taught pride is our ultimate enemy
We thought pride was far from us
Pride in fact, was what we lived, what we were, what we became
Leaving brought us true humility
True knowledge of Pride

Admission of being wrong
Not easy, not safe
Pride is what prevents
Acknowledgment of being wrong.

Pride is Ronald Weinland
We see you
We still love you
Just stop – let the people go

You are not the truth
You do not have the truth
You are wrong
You are false

The pain you have caused was not intentional
The agony you yourself bear is great
Just acknowledge you’re wrong
Don’t let your pride win.

Pride is what you are
Pride is what you became
Pride is you’re here and now
It will not be allowed to be your future

The End is nigh
That, we still believe
But yours must be closer

We forgive you
But this lie can not continue

May 6, 2009


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.

Acts 17:11


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part III

In my last post in this series Common Legalist Arguments - Part II, I went over the idea that "God wants us to be obedient." We saw that it isn't about external obedience from an external law but an internal change of heart from an internal faith and indwelling of God.
This time, I would like to approach what may very well be the second half of that same idea. But I see this as the heart of legalism itself.

"We are commanded in the New Testament to obey God and His laws"

This argument is very tricky to address, not least of all because it's very hard to nail down even an adequate description of it. The buzzwords here are "command", "law", and "obey". Yes, these words exist in the New Testament. But what's really at the heart of this argument is the desire to make the New Covenant conform to the Old, and that simply is not possible.

The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant (JER. 31: 32). What is happening here is people have been taught to view the New as a renewal of the Old, with its laws and commands and ordinances and requirements. The struggle of this post is to show how that approach, although it may appear to fit, in fact is not the correct approach. In other words, the challenge of this post is to show a more perfect way. What I ask is for the reader to pray for understanding because I find it difficult to fully communicate this to you because what I will be describing will seem like a technicality, or a slightly different way of viewing the exact same thing. Truth is, however, it is much more than just that. It is a crucial distinction.
I think it would help to start in Jeremiah 31.

(JER. 31: 31-34) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [this is a New Covenant; it is not just a slight alteration or a renewal of the Old] — 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers [The phrase "according to the covenant" is taken from the word "covenant", so this could read "Not the covenant...". No, not that covenant at all!] in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke [and people still break it who teach we must keep its requirements], though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law [Singular! "Law" not "laws".] in their minds, and write it on their hearts [here is the crux of the issue: which "law"?]; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more [and thus He has done; the Old Covenant is gone, replaced in its entirety, and unavailable to us - the New has come in].

People who say this is the merely Old Covenant written on our hearts (until very recently I was in agreement with you) please look at the covenants and see what I am inadequately trying to explain. In the Old it was "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not". In the New it is "I will write", "I will be", "I will forgive". Do we see the change in focus here? There was nothing inherently wrong with the old law. The law IS good! But the problem was in our hearts. We cannot keep it! So long as we say "I must", we prevent God from saying "I will". If God says "I will", then it is a promise, He most certainly will (if we step aside and let Him)! And if He is in us, so will we. But not because of us, rather in spite of us and because of Him!

Now it is no longer about "because of the law I must" rather it then becomes "because of my heart I want to". It was our hearts that prevented us. The law could not bring about righteousness inside us because the law, as good as it was, cannot change our hearts. At best we had an outward show. It was external. Now God Himself is internal.

Now we must ask, "want to what?" In other words, when the New Testament says "law", what "law" are we talking about here? This is the true crux of the problem. One group sees this as meaning the Old Covenant law lightly modified and brought forward into the New. As if to say that God has changed us in order to be compatible with the unchanged law. I am no longer among that group. There is a more perfect way. God has changed us AND the law... AND the promises.

Let's ask what law did God write on our hearts? With a New Covenant comes a new law.

(JOHN 13: 34-35) 34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
(JOHN 15: 12, 17) 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(GAL. 5: 14) The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
(I TIM. 1: 5) The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
(I JOHN 3: 23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
(I JOHN 4: 21) And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(II JOHN 1: 5-6) 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

It is obvious what law the New Testament is referring to!
How is it that I used to believe that the 10 Commandments were what was required of us? I was taught, and I accepted, that these 10 were the summary of God's will for us. They were the peak, the pinnacle of God's will! "The Big 10," they are called. But this is a misnomer! There are greater things than the 10 Commandments.

(MARK 12: 28-34) 28 One of the teachers of the law [notice closely that this man is a teacher of the Old Covenant law] came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" [Now we will see what God instructs a keeper and teacher of the 10 Commandments as to what are God's priorities!] 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' [NOT one of the 10.] 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [Again, NOT one of the 10.] There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

There is nothing more to ask. These are the greatest commandments according to God. Greater than the 10 Commandments. And Christ spoke these words during the Old Covenant period! So many times in the past few years I listened to HWA's ministers proclaim that the 10 Commandments are subsets of these two. Yes, they are! SUB-sets. Lower. While these two are greater. That is God's opinion, not something I made up. How can these men be so very close - fully understanding the beginning - but not coming to the ending?
But I tell you something more, there is a principle greater still. What is it? LOVE! How is it that love is greater even still than these things which Jesus said were the greatest commandments?

(I JOHN 4: 7-8) 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

This is a principle, not necessarily a command. God IS love. You cannot be greater than God, and God is love. His command is for us to love. This is the pinnacle. This is the apex. This is the height, the peak, the topmost. All else comes down from this and this fulfills all else. Love. And if God is in us, love will be in us, God will be loving through us. It is exactly as Christ said:

(JOHN 14: 15) If you love me, you will obey what I command.

Do we see this as saying, "If you love Me, you will be making a hopeless effort to keep the Old Covenant law"? (Thus forgetting that Jesus just got done saying "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.") Or do we see it as, "If you love Me, My Spirit, My Father, and I will be in you, making our home with you, and I will be fulfilling all righteousness in you, taking you along with Me despite your failings"?
Once again I say, as I say over and over and over, that it is not about us, it is about Him!!!
Why, then, do men insist that we look farther down the line when we can have the very essence of God in us? If we have love, we have all else. Why do we bicker and argue over a day of the week? And that in direct violation of what Paul taught in Colossians 2: 16!

These next verses confuse so very many people who merely have had it explained to them incorrectly, which hopefully now we can fix:

(ROM. 13: 8-10) 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Why does Paul quote these specific selections of the 10 Commandments? Is it to tell us they are still in effect? NO! It is to emphasize that all the law ever tried to do was point you towards love. See what Paul says, "whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" And see again his conclusion, "Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Paul isn't saying "keep the 10", he is saying "love and you have fulfilled ALL!"

It is at this point that most Armstrongists will tell me that I am talking in circles. "Aren't you just keeping the 10 Commandments anyway?", they ask. I tell you that what a person does is fulfill ALL law, not just the 10, and not just fulfill but full up, press down, and fill up again until running over!! The New Covenant bursts the Old like new wine into old wineskins and tears it like an unshrunken patch on old clothes. They cannot get past the idea that love is greater than the 10 Commandments. YES, I am keeping the righteous requirements found in the 10, but not for the sake of any external law which Paul called "the ministry of death, written and engraved in stone" (II COR. 3: 7) and a "yoke of bondage" (GAL. 5: 1). It seems subtle, but it is not - it is the difference between "ministry of death" and "promise of life". Paul says clearly:

(GAL. 5: 4) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

And, again, Paul says:

(GAL. 5: 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

Now is when the Sabbath always comes up. If I am keeping the 10 Commandments, why am I not obeying the 7th day Sabbath? A legalist will hold this up as proof that love does not fulfill the law, but it's not me that they try to prove wrong, it is Jesus Christ.
Herbert Armstrong would always ask "What problem does mainstream Christianity [HWA used more derogatory terms, but I digress] have with the 4th Commandment?" I ask much the same! What problem does HWA have with the 4th Commandment? He is the one that taught all the law was magnified. Circumcision is of the heart, adultery is of the heart, covetousness is of the heart, murder is of the heart. They were magnified, he said. But who asked "then what of the Sabbath?" If all of those things were magnified, then what of the Sabbath? How was it "magnified"? [I am not using a Biblical argument here. I am merely addressing HWA's craftiness.] The answer is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. And here is how He "magnified" the 4th Commandment:

(MATT. 11: 28) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Remember how at the beginning of this post we saw that the Old Covenant is "thou shalt" but the New Covenant is "I will"? This is the same thing here. It does not say "the Sabbath day will give you rest", but "I will give you rest." Christ is our Sabbath. If we have Christ in us, we will be fulfilling even the righteous requirements of the Sabbath day, because our spiritual rest is in Christ and no longer in any mere physical rest on one physical day. People say "we need to set aside time to be with God." Yes, I don't argue that. But if God is in you, He is always with you, and you do set aside time to be with Him. People say "we need to not pursue our own gain on the Sabbath". Well, if Christ were in you, you would be a living sacrifice. If you give 100%, when are you living for yourself that you would have to cease that on merely one day of the week? Wouldn't you be setting aside your own gain always? Don't we see how the Sabbath is magnified, if I may borrow the man's argument?

(ROM. 8: 8-9) 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

This isn't a post about the Sabbath. I don't want to get any deeper here on this side-tangent than I have already. For more on that than I could possibly expound upon, read Justin Martyr's "Dialogue With Trypho". Pay special attention starting in chapter 10 where Justin asks, "Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed, than this, that we live not after the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe sabbaths as you do?" Justin wrote in the early 100's AD, immediately after the age of the Apostles. He is a primary example of how the first century church REALLY operated (as opposed to how HWA said they operated).

Back to the subject at hand. The New Covenant is not like the Old. It may appear to be a subtle difference, but it is in reality deeply profound if Christ opens your mind to it. God's own nature is "written on your heart". In other words, your nature is becoming like God's. This is something I remember from Armstrongism. They taught this principle. Why do they not achieve it?

(ROM. 9: 30-32) 30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."
(ROM. 1: 17) For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

It is by faith indeed and faith only. As Paul said "by faith from first to last". This is not about keeping law, the 10 Commandments or any other. The "law" is love. But it is not in that we keep a law of love, but that we have faith in Christ, and by that faith the Spirit is in us, and by that Spirit in us we love, and in love we have fulfilled all the righteous requirements of all law without ever pursuing righteousness through law. It is by faith!

I am a blessed man. Blessed beyond anything that I have ever deserved or could earn. I have met wonderful people since I left Armstrongism (not that I say the people I knew while I was there were not wonderful, but the people I know now are wonderful too). The difference is, the friends I now have are a blessing to my soul, while the friends I once had were well-intended but a distraction to my faith. I still love them dearly! They are better people than I am. I pray that they will receive the eye-opening faith that I have undeservedly been gifted by God. But my new friends are a benefit to my faith. Read what Seeker and Luc and Raccoon have said in their comments to my previous post.
Seeker wisely likens what I am trying to convey to a parent/child relationship. Which would you rather have, children whom you have to command and correct but whose hearts are far from you, or children who are so in tuned to what you desire for them that they just do everything by nature (even though they are still flawed)? Obviously the latter is by far the better. Again, which is better, a servant or a friend? Obviously a friend. And that is what God wants from us! We can not, I repeat CAN NOT, obtain this relationship by law. It must come from faith. Even though both children are for all practical purposes doing much the same, one is pursuing by law and the other by faith.
The Pharisees kept the commands, but since their hearts were so far from God they added all sorts of extra things until what God wanted was not being done and what was being done missed the point entirely. But they kept the law! Why wasn't it good enough? Because it cannot be! And this is no different from the teachers of legalism today. Oh, sure, they say "keep the 10 Commandments", but as certainly as the sun rises in the east they then add to it such things as tithing, food laws, holy days, etc. Before you know it, since their face is towards the Old Covenant, that is where they run off to. So what we're really, honestly talking about in this argument #3 is not just the 10 Commandments by any means, but a greater creeping in of the Old Covenant. And right back we are imprisoned in what Jesus died to redeem us from.

Saul, a Pharisee, was "as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." (PHP. 3: 6). Yet Saul, once his heart was changed, gave all that up for rubbish!

(PHP. 3: 7-9) 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith

Here, Paul, an Apostle who was taught by Jesus Christ Himself, tells us that any righteousness we may obtain from pursuit of law is rubbish! Why, then, do we still have this debate, now some 1,900 years later? Why don't we consider pursuit of law as rubbish? This third legalistic argument is destroyed!! Not by me, but by Christ on the cross! Why do we still say "We are commandded in the New Testament to obey God and His laws"? And if after all of this you still say "I will still go to church on the 7th day Sabbath" then fine and well. I have no argument with that at all. Be fully convinced in your own mind, not doing this by law but by faith. I ask that you not condemn those Christians who do not view it necessary to keep a 7th day Sabbath, calling them "worldly" or "so-called Christians"; conversely do not place yourself upon a pedistal as if you will be in a greater resurrection because of the law (there are 632 laws in the Old Testament, of which you keep but 10, and imperfectly, but by faith they keep the righteous requirements of all 632). Know that you must not judge another man's servant (ROM. 14: 1-10).

Wisely Christ said "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (REV. 3: 20). Why is Christ outside of His temple, knocking to be let in? Let Him in!! Beloved of God, I pray for all men, but most especially and sincerely for those who are already Christians yet are unwittingly trapped in a legalistic pursuit of rightousness that no man can accomplish. I pray you will step FULLY into the New Covenant. I pray you will no longer sit on a fence between the two, accomplishing neither! The New Covenant is not "thou shalt", but rather "I [Jesus Christ the King of Glory] will". If we are to obey anything in the New Covenant it most assuredly is not the precepts of the Old. It is about faith and love. It is about Christ and not us. I pray you will ask Christ to let Himself into His temple. It may be dark where you are, you may not be able to find the door, but cry out to Him and He will open (and no man will ever again shut). God bless you and open your eyes and your heart and give you peace!

[Also see Part I, Part II, Part IV, & Part V]

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part II

In my last post in this series Common Legalist Arguments - Part I, I went over the idea that "The law is harder to keep; the Spirit helps you to keep it, grace makes up for your failures." We saw the flaws hidden in that approach. Now, I would like to investigate the next argument that I commonly hear from legalists. I believe this one is much craftier and more likely to trip us up.

Argument #2
"God wants people to be obedient."

This is a well crafted argument; very sly in its design. After all, who wants to be seen as DISobedient? Herbert Armstrong was filled with these clever little traps. But never the less, is this the right approach to a New Covenant relationship with God?
Answer: absolutely, positively not!!

One can always go to the Old Covenant, which we have as an example to us, and see exhortations to obey. Regulations and restrictions controlled, from the outside, almost every aspect of a person's life. The inside, however, rarely changed. Israel as a majority did not obey, and they received the punishments prescribed in the law. Now it becomes all the more easy to distract a person and claim that unless we obey then we will draw the wrath of God on us as we see in the Old Testament.
But in contrast, in the New Covenant God does not want obedience,
(JOHN 15: 15) 15 No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends...
He wants people to be faithful and believe in His Son. That is the very core of the Good News! We are already saved; we need merely accept and confess it. That work of salvation already is complete, once and for all time, from Jesus' death, forward into all eternity. If we are faithful, and generally after baptism, God will then grant us His Spirit. It is that Spirit which causes God's will to be fulfilled.

This argument, made by the very people who say God commands us to obey a law made much harder (a claim we have shown here to be incorrect) betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of the New Covenant. Why? Because the law, as holy and righteous as it was, controls from the outside whereas the Spirit of God in us transforms from the inside. It is not about us. It is not about what we do or fail to do. It is not about control. It is not about obedience. It is about Jesus Christ. It is about God replacing the sinful persons we are. Out of sinfulness creating righteousness. Who besides God can do such a marvellous thing? It is He who does the work, not us. He does not control, He transforms, not from the outside but from the inside. The difference is likened to a child learning to obey, and a mature adult who has learned well and puts away the childish things.
We are re-born. We are not reborn into the same Old Covenant, or even a modified Old Covenant, but a glorious New Covenant. Not subject to the old letter of the old law and ordinances, but to the spirit of a Spiritual law of love.
This new Way, this spiritual way, replaces the old way in its entirety. The old way isn't altered, but is destroyed completely. Even so, the new way fulfills the righteous requirements of the old way. The new is not without righteousness even though there is no law written in stone, the new way fills up the old way and overflows it; tearing it like an unshrunken patch on old clothes; bursting it like new wine into old skins.

That being the case, we would have to ask, what do you mean when you say "be obedient"? You say "obey", but you don't "obey" (GAL. 6: 13)! Only one Man has ever been sinless. So, "obey" what? The Old covenant law? The Old Covenant is gone (ROM. 7: 6; II COR. 3: 7, 11, 13). Do you seek to earn? You cannot earn anything from God; it is a gift (ROM. 5: 16-18; EPH. 2: 8). What good comes of your partial "obedience", then? Righteousness? Your righteousness is like filthy rags (ISA. 64: 6). Righteousness is not of the law anyhow (GAL. 2: 21). What does make a man righteous?

(ROM. 5: 19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

It is Christ! And Christ alone. You can't be "obedient". Men tried for 1,500 years under the Old Covenant and failed. It's not about you. To even think that you can do anything is to deny Christ.

(GAL. 3: 2-4) 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

To think you know anything, let alone do anything, you do not yet know as you should (I COR. 8: 2).

(ROM. 10: 2-3) 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God

Romans 8: 3 says people seek their own righteousness. How do they do that?

(PHP. 3: 9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith

This expressly says God DOES NOT want you to pursue your own righteousness from the law!! This completely smashes the second legalistic argument! People say "God wants obedience." But God Himself says that He doesn't want you to pursue your own failed righteousness, He wants His own righteousness! This is a profound difference not to be taken lightly!

The law was brought in to condemn you so that you could clearly see how hopeless you are and how you must depend entirely on the grace of God. He has saved you. And that is the length, breadth, width, height, and depth of the good news! In what way is that insufficient?

(ROM. 5: 15-18) 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

No, God wants people to be faithful. He will take care of the obedient on His own.

(ROM. 9: 30-32) 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.

If people were actually obedient to what God says He wants, they would have faith. Once faith has come in, they would have the Spirit. The Spirit would bring in love. Love is the fulfillment of the righteous requirement of the law. But it would all be because of God's grace, and nothing of your own. As I once heard, "Jesus Christ did not come to make you better, He came to replace you." (GAL. 2: 20)

Deeply loved by God, I hope you all come to fully understand what the New Covenant entails. I pray you are completely transformed from the inside by the indwelling of the Spirit of God. If the Spirit is in you then you are the temple of God, and are made holy by His presence, not by anything at all that you can say or do (or not). Be transformed! Step into the New Covenant!

If there is an obedience, it is to the truth. God's word is truth, and it desires faith. If there is a commandment, it is to love. God is love. It is about God, not us. In all sincerity invite Christ in to do these things from the Spirit within you, and you have fulfilled ALL righteousness.

(I PET. 1: 22-25) 22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

[Also see Part I, Part III, Part IV, & Part V]


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.