Posts Tagged ‘gospel

24
Aug
09

Force of Arms, Force of Words

So, if you’re not one of those people who check the “Recent Comments” menu in the sidebar around here, you will have missed a recent and ongoing conversation between me and a poster named Wes regarding an old post from February. You can find the post and comments by clicking here. It’s a fairly modest-sized post and the comments haven’t gotten too extensive, so please read it all first before we continue here.

Wes brings up some valid points, and I will copy and paste certain of our comments from that other thread here, though not all of them.

Now, my basic point in the February 3rd post was that we must strive for peace, but that sometimes, violence will be necessary. I brought up a passage from Paul about living in peace as much as we are able, and Wes countered, logically enough, with Matthew 5:38-40…

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

Fair enough. I responded, in part:

…there is a lot to be said for taking shit from someone and not retaliating. But this is a very individual statement by Jesus…What I think it that Jesus wants us to refrain from revenge most especially, and to refrain from responding to violence with violence.

Wes said a lot of things in response, and good ones, but I don’t want to paste the entire response here. But one thing he did was take exception with my “individual statement” comment since Jesus was speaking to a large group, and I clarified, in part:

My purpose for saying “very individual statement” is that it applies to the individual more than anything else. That is, I should be able to take routine abuses in life and not retaliate against them. But if someone lays hands on a member of my family, for example, I will defend them. Without hesitation and, I believe, with God’s support. Also, if someone comes up to me intending to physically harm me or kill me, I will defend myself. Jesus’ words are not meant to convey the idea that I should just take a beating and throw away my life because some crazed or violent human has come upon me.

Wes’ response, in part:

Everything you just said in your last reply was your own opinion, right? … i am extremely open, in fact i really desire, the truth from God, so if you have scripture that backs what you are saying, id love to know it, so i can change my own behaviors/attitudes and align them with the purposes of God as revealed thru his word.

OK, that is the critical stuff, I think. So, on I go…

Yes, much of this is my opinion. That is, my interpretation. And we should all know, as children of God, that the Bible requires intrepretation. Individually, collectively, through prayer, etc. The Bible is not a direct how-to guide. It doesn’t handle every situation and doesn’t anticipate every societal or technological change.

If we don’t apply logic and interpretation at times, we can easily turn the gospel into something oppressive at times. After all, couldn’t one take Paul’s comments about obedience of slaves and Jesus’ comment about turning the other cheek and argue that Blacks in the United States during slavery should have quietly endured their abuse and never tried to escape? Couldn’t we argue that people who helped slaves escape violated not only the gospel’s message but also the commandment against stealing (the slaves were, after all, property).

But that would ignore the fact that the “slaves” Paul referred to were more like indentured servants, and that some of those he referred to may not have been indentured at all technically, but low-level servants who owned nothing and had no place to live aside from their master’s property. Or the fact that he also meant “workers” (employees in our modern lingo). It would also ignore the fact that slavery in Jewish history and in Greek and Roman history was something that was often time-limited or that one could earn their way out of.

It would also ignore the fact that slavery as it was inflicted against Africans and American-born slaves Blacks in the United States was unjust on all levels imaginable. They were treated as chattel, and not humans.

But still, you could take Bible passages and argue that it should have been allowed to continue until the people perpetuating it came to their senses (which, given the fact that Jim Crow didn’t end all that long ago and still nominally exists in some parts of the United States means it might still be going on if people had sat by passively).

Yes, one can say that Jesus simply told us to suffer whatever comes our way and never lift a finger against it. But didn’t he also talk about his followers being able to pick up poisonous serpents and eat any harmful thing and not become sick or die? Taken to its finishing point, isn’t that the source of the madness among some that causes them to handle live rattlesnakes in church and sometimes die, or to deny medical care to their child because prayer should be enough?

Logic must come into play. Wes argues that God uses soldiers and law enforcement officers to just ends, suggesting that if they use violence, it’s more likely to be OK than if I do. Well, that may often be the case, though often such people are used by men for selfish institutional or personal ends. My point, though, is that a law enforcement officer isn’t always available.

Do we seriously think that if I see a man trying to knife a child on the street, that I am supposed to stand there and let it happen? Do we think that Jesus, who said it was better that a millstone be tied around a person’s neck and he be cast into the sea than to lead a child to sin is someone who really wants that? No, he would expect that I save that child. (And note, Jesus suggests that we honor children and don’t harm them, yet the Bible supports corporal punishment…which is right? Both, of course. One must balance one against the other with love and logic and prayer..again, logical interpretation must be in play).

What the Bible spends most of its time exhorting us against is violence against the innocent, against vengeance, against needless fights and arguments, against taking violent action as a convenient answer.

Let me put forth a few scenarios:

SCENE 1: Strange man comes up to the door of my house, and I answer it, and he says, “I’m taking all your stuff.”

What I will do is slam the door in that man’s face, not say, “Come on in and take it.” If he tries to block the door, I will push him out. If he forces his way in, I will assume that he means me harm and I will defend myself. Will I try to kill him or maim him? I hope not. Am I, as Wes suggests, putting my belonging ahead of God’s will? No. This is  man who may very well mean me harm. Someone who may return to do this again if I simply say, “OK, take all that I have.” Because you know, part of it is that what is in my home isn’t just mine. It is my family’s. They are things that I need for my family to be clothed, sheltered and fed. I’m not going to hand those things over just because some random guy bullies me. That’s taking the words of Jesus too literally and not the spirit of them. If the government seizes my stuff, I don’t have much to say about it, aside from legal redress later if possible. If a neighbor takes my lawn mower because I never gave back his power tools, I should just shut up and/or negotiate a peaceful exchange of property later. This is logic. Letting random psycho take my stuff is not an option.

SCENE 2: Man is preparing to rape my wife or daughter.

Please, Wes, don’t tell me you believe I should calmly call the police and then passively let it happens, or slink out of the house to wait for the cops. It might be wise to call the cops first. I certainly should refrain from killing the perpetrator. But I will pull him off my loved on and I will subdue him. Or die trying.

SCENE 3: Man demands I give him my coat or my car, or he will hurt or kill me.

OK, in all honesty, I should probably give it to him, and probably will. This is in stark contrast to someone who comes to my home and can come back if he finds me to be easy pickings. The coat or car are singular belongings. They are mere items, and killing the man or fighting him serves no purpose. However, let’s take a little twist. If said man is wearing a nice warm coat and accosts me in the middle of a snowstorm, and says, “Give me your coat and be on your way,” I am not going to allow him to expose me to harsh elements and possible death just because he’s a psycho jackass. I will keep my coat unless he forces it away from me. If he’s a homeless guy wearing rags saying, “I need that coat more than you do in this cold” I trust God and give it to him, even if he’s threatening, because he is in need. And desperate. A long cry from someone trying to do me harm for their own pleasure.

SCENE 4: Someone picks a fight with me in a public place.

I’ll try to avoid the fight. If the fight starts, I will attempt to end it as quickly as possible, with as little harm to the perpetrator as possible. That’s why I learned some basic self-defense and still remember how to do a sleeper hold. But I will not say, “Hit me.” Tell me, what godly purpose do I serve in that example? If I shout, “My Lord, forgive him what he is about to do,” and just stand there, I am stupid. Someone comes up and slaps me across the face and calls me a punk, no I shouldn’t get into a brawl with him. But that’s a blow that comes from nowhere, that I am not expecting, and I should be willing to take it and step away if possible. But not take a beating that could end my life or put me in the hospital. Jesus did not say, “Let yourself be crippled, or killed.” He said “turn the other cheek.” If Jesus wants me to be willing to die at the hands of any random homicidal bully, he would have said, “Resist no man with violence, even if it be unto your own death.” Jesus spoke in parables and examples. To think he wants us to lay down and bleed or die for every cruel person who might chance upon us is ridiculous.

Now, all that said, let me get to Wes’ other point, about my profane speech. Notice that for one thing, I don’t use those words very often anymore around here. And to be honest, I never just let loose an unending string of invective. I still use them, but I am more judicious in how I do so. I use them typically for specific reasons. Exhortations against speaking profane or obscene things doesn’t mean I can never use a cuss word. I have at times called people obscene things, and that is wrong. I have used such words in conjunction with God’s name, and that is wrong. But if I say, “That’s a motherfucking stupid thing to do,” I am making a point. An emphatic point.

Jesus talked about certain people’s mouths being like open sepulchres. If you don’t think that was some pretty provocative wording, every bit as bad as calling them “shit-talkers,” you need to think again. Words have power. Power can be misused and it can be effectively used. I have done both things with cussing.

As to Wes’ concerns that it may be a stumbling block to some people, so be it. Many of Paul’s writings were a stumbling block to folks two millennia ago, and they remain so for people today. Doesn’t make them wrong. I have addressed my swearing around here before, and have mention of it in the “about me” stuff for this blog. If the occasional f-bomb around here or scatalogical reference is going to blow someone’s mind, they can go somewhere else. (No, Wes, I’m not telling you to go away; what I mean is that people don’t have to stay if I make them uncomfortable, nor would I want them to put themselves through that).

One of the reasons “Shit” is right in the header title of my blog is so that people will know right away what they might be getting into. And the fact is that, by and large, I make more than 90% of my points without having to swear.

01
May
09

Light Weight

orange-glowIn various things I’ve been reading on some of the blogs I frequent, and in just assessing myself and my approach to both the physical and the spiritual world, I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole “light of Christ” and “light of God” thing.

That is, as a Christian, I should be a reflection, as much as possible, of my savior and my father in Heaven. Their light, via the Holy Spirit, should shine through me. Ideally, in promoting the gospel, I will be both a beacon to draw people into discussions about faith and salvation, and a lighthouse to help point them in the right direction. Or a candle to help them study something and understand it as it relates to the Word of God.

But it occurs to me that this is a much heavier burden and responsibility than it might at first seem. It’s already daunting enough to try to be the best person I can be and to sometimes stop thinking of my wants so that my duty to God can be carried out.

What is more daunting is to realize that light isn’t always a good thing. We are supposed to be lights for God and Jesus, but sometimes, we don’t illuminate but rather blind people.

Shining a flashlight into a person’s eyes is not generally something that person will desire. It will make them look away, and it might evoke a nasty response if the flashlight is held there long enough. Going overboard and saying too much, too fast to someone about Christianity can be so generally blinding as to make it impossible to see the core truths and foundational things a person needs to start with before they dive deeply into a faith walk.

And, well, the military and special forces police officers sometimes uses flash grenades to stun and disorient people. That’s essentially light as a weapon.

I try to be light in this blog. And I don’t refrain from being snarky and even obnoxious at times. I don’t know that any of that will change any time soon, but I wonder if it must one day. Do the words and attitudes I throw out help to guide people in to learn more?

Or are the words I use (foul or otherwise) actually flash grenades that will do nothing but harm?

I don’t have answers. But it does bear examination.

And, hopefully, personal illumination.

19
Nov
08

Wild Wednesday: Conspicuous Christianity

OK, so I messed up. Miz Pink e-mails me yesterday with something along the lines of: “Uh, Deacon, I have a third kid. Could you maybe tell me what the Two-fer Tuesday topic is BEFORE Tuesday?”

So, yeah, I forgot about Two-fer Tuesday. All my fault. So, to make up for it, we’ll mash me and Miz Pink into one post (seriously, Mrs. Blue, it’s purely platonic; more like playing Twister than anything sexually scandalous). We’ll call it Wild Wednesday (stupid, I know) and we’ll take turns on the topic of:

Conspicuous Christianity

Deacon Blue says…

christian-bumper-stickersThere is, sometimes, a fine line between proclaiming Jesus and wearing one’s Christianity proudly, on the one hand, and being a complete douchebag on the other hand.

I live in a town that is large enough to technically be a city (I guess) but small enough that I see the same folks over and over. And the same cars over and over. There are some notable ones that are festooned with bumper stickers and windshield stickers and sometimes big painted signs that proclaim that driver’s devotion to Jesus.

These visible reminders of the person’s piety remind us to follow the ten commandments, keep God as the co-pilot, to revile Charles Darwin as a godless heathen bastard who pissed in our collective Christian Cheerios, value life, honk if we love Jesus and so many other things.

God help me, I just want to smack many of these people.

It’s not that I’m against letting people know you’re Christian. By all means, we should be proud to follow Jesus Christ. It’s not that I’m against sharing your feelings. I have a bumper sticker that supports the value of unions and another one that proclaims the mistreatment of farm workers.

But moderation and tact are useful here. I think two bumper stickers is plenty. Three tops. But I see vehicles that sport five, six, eight, ten stickers. One car I see nearly every day has so many sticker about pro-life stuff and some very Catholic sentiments that the driver might just as well have one bumper sticker that says: “Follow the way of the Roman Catholic Church or ye shall suffer eternally!”

There is a truck I see every few weeks in the grocery store parking lot near my house that has so many signs protesting the practice of abortion, most of them huge wooden signs with big painted diatribes that are attached to the sides of his vehicle, that he might just as well have a couple that say what he really wants to say: “I hope all of you bitches who’ve ever had abortions burn in hell!”

It’s not just Chrisitians who do this. There are some obnoxious pagan-oriented bumper-sticker crazed drivers and a few “guns are great and we should raze the forests to the ground” oriented cars. But I’m talking about the conspicuous Christians today, so those other folks don’t matter.

I guess what I’m saying is that we need to determine if we are really lifting up Jesus, or if we are screeching so loud that we turn people away from him. Bumper stickers can be cool, but only in small amounts, and they are highly unlikely to make anyone consider becoming born again.

Miz Pink says…

pink-crossIf I am doing my job right as a Christian…as someone who’s supposed to spread the gospel…I shouldn’t have to tell you I’m Christian. You should be able to see in my actions that there is a peace and a strong center in my life and see the “light of Christ” shining from me. If I’m doing what I should be doing.

And when you see that light, you should be able to notice some little thing, like a simple little gold cross around my neck or some small religious oriented trinket on my desk…or whatever…and be able to know that I follow Jesus.

Or, if you are having troubles in life…something that faith and being born again might begin to fix, you should be able to see that I get through nasty things in life with some sense of peace and humility and be able to ask me what keep me going…so that I can tell you who and what it is that does keep me going.

If I have to shout from the rooftops that I am a Christian or if I have to wave my faith in front of your face, I probably haven’t done my job right.

Instead, I’m probably like those priests in Jesus’s time that had the long robes and phylactries on their arms and said loud prayers so that people could see how devout they are.

That’s so wrong. That’s not doing the job God set out for us.

01
Nov
08

Drive-by Scripture, Mark 6:4

Jesus was telling them, “A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own home.” (Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, verse 4)

Although I dearly love the rhythm and flow of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, I figured I’d go with the International Standard Version (ISV) here, because it’s much more clear in terms of meaning in modern language.

This passage is from a comment Jesus made to his disciples, and probably anyone else in listening range, when he was preaching in his home town of Nazareth. He wasn’t getting the warmest reception, either. People who had known him for years, since he was a child, were acting like, “Who the hell does he think he is? This is that carpenter son of Joseph, right? Go out and build some cabinets already instead of trying to teach us about God.”

And Jesus’ point about how prophets and others like them can get a good reception abroad, but rarely with people who think they know them, is well taken.

But it makes me think of something else.

Are we making Jesus welcome in our own hearts? Or even in our Christian churches?

I think that it is becoming increasingly comfortable for preachers to preach God, but to minimize or ignore Jesus. Despite the fact that without Jesus, Christianity is meaningless and so would be our salvation.

People don’t like to hear about Jesus unless you just say, “He was a wise and just teacher.” Point out that he is the only path to God, and suddenly, even some Christians start going, “Whoa there!”

It seems to be that more and more (and I’ve seen this at various churches I’ve attended), Jesus is without honor in the very house of God…the physical churches…and in the true body of the church, which would be us so-called believers.

Are you truly honoring Jesus? Or are you kicking him to the curb like his neighbors, friends and family in Nazareth did?

23
Sep
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Living by Deacon Blue

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Book of Romans, chapter 12, verse 2

One of the foundational concepts of being a child of God and a follower of Christ is to be in the world but not of the world.

In other words, we have to live here until we cash out. So, we have to be able to function. Have healthy relationships. Do productive work. Support our friends and family. Help those who need help. All that stuff and more.

But we aren’t supposed to get caught up in trying to master this world. Some of us will be great successes, but not all of us. And it shouldn’t be something that we get bent out of shape trying to pursue. This world is temporary and to worry about only the matters of the flesh leaves our souls highly vulnerable. In fact, it can put our salvation in jeaopardy because if we focus only on the world and never on the spirit, we will not seek connect to God, and that is how we as humans become born again and secure our salvation. Those who don’t worry about their spirits are not all that likely to become born again in the first place.

And once you are born again? What do you do then? Cut off the world?

Please. Have fun trying.

I don’t advocate retreating from the civilized world and living in a cabin. I don’t advocate living in a fantasy land that says we shouldn’t worry about anything in this world like our damage to the environment because that’s God job. I don’t recommend getting so preachy with folks that you cannot carry on a simple conversation about work or world events or the football game on Sunday.

Being born again means staying aware of your spriritual side and never letting the affairs of the world swallow that up. This is, of course, a silly thought to someone who doesn’t believe in a spiritual realm because to them, all there is to life is living in this world. They want to make the most of the time they have.

To some extent, those of us in the spirit also should relish our time here and make the years we have good ones. We have to make the most of our time too. But we can’t make it our sole concern. Also, making the most of our times means spending time on things related to the flesh when necessary but also spending time on matters of the spirit.

And if that makes us look silly or crazy to the non-believers around us, so be it. It’s not them we need to answer to in the end. It’s not them we should devote ourselves to pleasing.

22
Jun
08

The Great Divider by Miz Pink

Wooooopsie!

Little miss me was supposed to post something on Saturday. That’s supposed to be my regular day around here now (in addition to the twofer Tuesday thang) I could go blaming my girlfriend who is about to go through a divorce and wanted to hang out last night, but truth is I still had time to post something. But it probably woulda been crapiolio because I was fresh outta ideas. But church today gave me a nice gospel passage to talk about, so it’s all to the good now.

And what am I gonna talk about? Gospel o’ Matthew chapter 10, verses 24-39. I know, I know, a decent chunk of reading for the average American but you’re reading a blog so how average can ya be? You must like reading. But if you’re really pressed for time you can focus on verses 34 through 39 becasue that’s the controversial part…the part the really rankles some people. Including the woman who read that passage before today’s sermon at church. And the pastor apparently almost lost a close friendship a few years back talking about this passage. Here’s that thorny part by the way:

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

As the liturgist today was fretting about verbally as she prepared to read the entire passage (which is about the meaning of discipleship), she even said, “I like to think that Matthew didn’t really understand what Jesus meant to say.”

And to that, I ask “why the heck not?”

I know it sounds harsh of Jesus to put it that way, but what’s wrong with putting the son of God, the savior of the world…and by extension his big daddy upstairs…ahead of your family? Are the creator of the universe and the guy who is responsible for making it possible for you to avoid eternal damnation some punks you should disregard? Isn’t their eternal cause…and the mission of evangelism and discipleship they put before us more important than any of our worldly concerns?

I’m not saying we should disregard our families and I’m not saying everyone should go out and spread the gospel while leaving their loved ones in the dust. But when you get down to it, that’s not what Jesus was talking about really.

Remember, he was preaching to guys and gals who were Jewish! Waaaay back in the day! To follow him and accept that he was the messiah when most people thought he was a fraud and a troublemaker (especially the saduccees and pharisees) was to put yourself at direct odds with your families. Most people had to basically reject what their families were telling them to follow Jesus. So, back then (and even for some time after Jesus rose from the dead, since the vast bulk of Isreal was still Jewish and not followers of Jesus and most of the Gentiles worshipped multiple other gods and goddesses) Christianity was a huge divider of families. But to embrace your family’s desires would have been to reject Jesus and thus salvation and redemption. Jesus was telling them it was a hard choice but a needed one. People had to choose sides and that meant pissing off family and friends and employers and even the leaders of society.

Today, the average Christian in the first world at least doesn’t really have to deal with that. Let’s face it. If you’re born into a Christian family in America or Europe or someplace else where Christians aren’t persecuted, your family isn’t likely to be divided much by your beliefs in Jesus. Though it is still possible. Maybe you have liberal Christian parents who think the entire Bible is just symbolic. Well then if you take a more fundie view, you might have to choose Christ over your kin. Doesn’t mean you have to reject your family but it does mean you have to be willing to incur their anger maybe to do the right thing. And if your family is Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever else and you take up believing in Christ, well you can best be sure you’ll probably ruffle some feathers and maybe be unwelcome at family gatherings.

And how about not being in a Christian tolerant country  at all? Think of the missionary folks who go out to the Middle East or China or wherever to preach the gospel. They find people who hear and take the gospel to heart. Sometimes they get imprisoned and tortured and even killed for doing it. And the people they preach to may risk the same. Imagine choosing Jesus and not only having to face the wrath of your parents but also the wrath of you own country and police.

But Jesus is that importnat. Salvation is that valuable. Hearing and sharing the gospel is that important.

Jesus came in love…filled up with it…and he came as representative to us of God’s love for us. But he also was willing to tell us things that would make us queasy and shake us up, because choosing faith in Jesus and his Father and accepting the holy spirit aren’t easy things. They come at a price. But the reward is so much greater than the price.

Christianity is meant to bring humans back into grace with God. It aint meant to bring people together on Earth. It can. And ideally it should. But sometimes, it is impossible to do both. We shouldn’t hear Jesus’s words that he comes to divide as being counter to his mission. It’s a recognition that what he offers isn’t always an easy pill to swallow. But few things of true value in this world ever come easy. So why should something that is of the next world be any easier?

22
May
08

Who picked this stuff out?

So, there were a lot of letters from apostles floating around in the days of the early Christian church, but there wasn’t general agreement as to which ones were the actual canon of Christianity until around the middle of the second century—and it still wasn’t “official” even then. So, based on that alone, why do we accept the current books of the Bible as being the “right” ones? Couldn’t it just have been a bunch of guys in a religious old boy’s network screwing with us to promote their own power and their own ends? Why should we trust that they picked out the right books to put into what would eventually come to be called the Bible?

Well, here are a few reasons that I think are good ones.

First, let’s handle the Old Testament. Aside from some reordering of certain books and the addition of a couple in the Catholic version of the Bible, the Old Testament is pretty much the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh. Now, there are some things in there that I don’t take 100% literally (I’ll get around to starting my Old Testament series soon), but as far as being the inspired Word of God, I have to accept those books because that’s what Jesus taught from. If it was good enough for Christ, it’s good enough for me, and for the most part early Church leaders didn’t muck around with it, so as far as I’m concerned, it stands strong.

But what about the New Testament? Folks point out rightly that the epistles in there (the letters written to various cities and groups by apostles and others who were setting the foundation for the church) certainly weren’t the only letters out there by church leaders. How can we know that they ones that were picked were the right ones? Folks say it was inspiration from God, but anyone can say that. In general, I think that with opinions flowing and changing, the fact that certain letters stood out and were widely accepted by the mid-second century is probably a pretty good indicator of their resonance and staying power, and thus their inspired nature.

As for the gospels, why only the four “synoptic” gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and none of the others, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary? or the Gospel of Binky the Elder, for that matter?

Well, Judas didn’t write the Gospel of Judas—so there’s a big ding right there—and the document seems to be no older than the second century, which puts it well after Jesus’ death, unlike the synoptic ones that have origins much closer to Jesus’ lifetime, written by people who knew Jesus. Basically, it’s a work of fiction in the Gnostic tradition to recast Judas and his role. It might be interesting, but it’s ultimately no different than historical fiction that authors write today. It cannot be trusted.

As for the Gospel of Mary, it isn’t even clear which Mary (Mary Magdalene or Jesus’ mother) is the supposed author. Also, even if it is accurate (and the oldest surviving copy is missing several pages, so there’s no way to figure out what it was supposed to say in its entirety, unlike the synoptic gospels, which have hundreds of copies in multiples languages that can be compared and contrasted to ensure the whole story is there). Besides, this “gospel” isn’t focused on the teachings and life of the adult Jesus, and thus really isn’t a gospel at all. Again, interesting reading, and perhaps not fiction, but also not suitable for advancing the great commission.

As for the Gospel of Thomas, it’s not clear enough whether it was written anywhere near as close to Jesus’ lifetime as were the synoptic gospels, nor whether it was actually penned by the apostle Thomas. The stark ways in which is departs from the synoptic gospels in terms of philosophy and theology make it too likely to have been a heretical work and not something truly in the spirit of God’s new covenant with humans.

In general, though, looking at the whole Bible, what strikes me is this: In at least three gatherings of big muckity-mucks of the church in the years 393, 397 and 419, they all agreed to keep the books in the Bible as they were, which mirrored an Easter letter in 367 by the Bishop of Alexandria that listed the books of the Bible that should be considered canon. So, why don’t I hold to the old boy’s network conspiracy theory, even though it was an old boy’s network meeting each time? Because if I were among a bunch of guys and we were trying to figure out how to control people through religion, I would probably be trying to slip in some newer stuff (Hell, it worked for John Smith when he invented what would become the Mormon church and bilked everyone into believing his ridiculous new gospel of Jesus).

I mean, really. The general population way back then, the rank-and-file believers—they weren’t educated, and they don’t know how to read. So, if you’re the church leaders, why not declare that some of your writings, or those of earlier church leaders whom you agree with, are divinely inspired? Who’s going to challenge you on this? No one. And presto!…the Bible becomes your tool of control and propaganda. All you have to do is find some good stuff that someone else had already written, or write your own stuff (sufficiently in line with established doctrine so as to not be suspect, but spun to suit your needs) and make it canon.

The fact that they didn’t suggests to me that they were trying very hard to make sure they chose writings that were from divinely inspired people who lived during the time that Jesus was alive. Yes, a lot of these bishops and popes and shit from those old days were bastards. A lot of them were power-hungry, greedy, deviant freaks. But not all of them. And clearly, even those that did have personal agendas drew the line at messing with God’s word, which at least says their religious and spiritual aims were on target (in this case, at least), if not their worldly activities and goals.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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