Matt Walsh’s G. I. Joe Jesus

The following is a response to a post on The Matt Walsh Blog posted yesterday titled,

Jesus didn’t care about being nice and tolerant so neither should you

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/

My reply:

Before you go selling your G.I. Joe Jesus, you better be clear who he was raging against and why. If you are advocating Christians to go into the world and do more gay bashing or bomb more abortion clinics, you are misdirecting Jesus’ aggression. 

Jesus was very nice to repentant sinners and very ugly to religious people who thought they had all the answers. He really hated the “I’m right and your wrong” crowd.

Matt, this article sounds like you’re advocating Christians to go into the world shouting, “We’re right and you’re wrong!” 

I am very much a believer in G.I. Joe Jesus. But his rage comes against those in the house of faith who misrepresent the Father. His table turning torrent was in the “House of God.” Peter told us judgement begins with the House of God (1 Peter 4:17).

If you want to fight, it’s going to be against your father and mother, and pastor and brother, not against people out in “the world” you don’t care about.

Our fight is to keep the Gospel Message pure. Call to account those preaching in Jesus’ name. Our message as Christians to the world is not one of condemnation. 

What should our attitude as Christ Followers be to “the World”? John 3:17: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

You’re right that Jesus never used the word “nice” but he did use the word “love” a lot. 

Matt Walsh, save your judgement for the House of God.

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Bill Gothard is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

I have been trying to put the teachings of Bill Gothard behind me for many years now. It’s not an easy task. I came of age and was formulating the way I would approach my adult life while my brain was marinating in Bill’s man-pleasing, works-based, distorted version of living out the “Good News.”

My wife thinks I might have a version of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from following a works based religion for so long. Maybe it’s true. I do feel like I’m dealing with a horrible hangover that prevents me from seeing my life and responsibilities in a normal light.

I have since dived into Grace. I even got to the point where I finally accepted grace and felt like I didn’t have to question my Salvation anymore. Or maybe it wasn’t salvation I was questioning so much as just, “Is God pleased with me?” I really believed that in order for God to be truly pleased with me I had to get my life to look like Bill Gothard’s life.

I finally realized God is pleased with me because I believe in the One he sent, not because of how much I deny myself, or how much I force myself to do good, or to refrain from doing bad. I don’t have to be dependent on my own righteousness. I have also been understanding how fear has no place in my life as a believer and must be replaced with love.

But I’ve got to be honest, even with Bill Gothard out of the picture, I have still been struggling to understand how this Free Gift of Salvation is supposed to play out in my life. I mean, I know I’m not going to spend my life pleasing a blue suit clone maker hoping I have what it takes to be part of the Holy God squad believing the greatest thing I can do for God is remain spotless from sin and the world, always being freaked out that I’ll accidentally do something to give the devil a stronghold in my soul so he can take over and cause me to do all sorts of horrible things ruining my life and my “witness” for the Institute and somehow miss God’s will (whoa try to say that all in one breath). I know for sure I’m not going to do all that anymore.

But what am I going to do with my life? Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great catching up on some of the fun things I intentionally deprived myself of. You know, stuff like drinking beer and smoking tobacco and listening to rock cartridges (Basic Seminar reference), watching rated R movies. Growing a goatee. But how does God want me to live?

My wife and I stopped going to church for a long time. She needed to get away as much as I did. She grew up  immersed in a different Christian organization. I started thinking maybe my Billy G. PTSD is really a more fundamental problem with Christianity itself. My wife and I coming from two very different Christian perspectives were dealing with a lot of the same issues.

Bill Gothard is not the only thing wrong with Christianity. I just look around and I see leaders in other Christian organizations using guilt to rule over others. I see all the factions and denominations of Christianity fighting and arguing points of doctrine. I see Westboro Baptist people spewing hatred in Jesus’ name. I see Catholicism and Protestantism. I see Democrat Christians and Republican Christians both so sincere and so opposed at the same time. I ‘ve seen a missionary who devoted his life to the Gospel cursing God on his death-bed. I see well-meaning Christians who have eschewed worldly wealth only to find themselves desperate for money.

Mostly I see very few happy Christians. Is it Good News? Shouldn’t good news illicit some semblance of joy? Or maybe the Good News part gets buried under a mountain of human bull shit.

We can dismiss Bill Gothard and all the ones we would consider modern-day Pharisees, but we still have a huge problem in Christendom. It’s been there since the beginning. Read Galations and you see how quickly believers were able to miss the point and distort the Good News. Read 1 Corinthians and you see how quickly believers began dividing themselves into different factions following Paul, or Cephas, or Christ.

Christianity is a mystical faith. All attempts to capture it, pin it, classify it, and organize it fail miserably. They always have and always will.

What do I mean by Christianity is a mystical faith? Mystical means “having a spiritual meaning that is difficult to see or understand.” I would say based on the fact that 2000 years later we still don’t have a clear understanding of this faith that we can all agree on confirms its mystical qualities. It’s simply not easily understood.

Think about all the mystical stuff we read in the New Testament: How we were crucified with Christ. How we died and were buried with him. How we are now seated with God in the Heavenly places. How we are sons of God. How we no longer live in our mortal bodies, but Christ lives in us. Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us. Christ is the High Priest who made one sacrifice for all. All the many miracles. Walking on water.

But as strange as these ideas are, where most of the confusion seeps in is through a little crack I’d like to call “Now What?” We’ve got this pretty little tidy vessel of Christianity that tells me, if I only believe, God will throw away my report card and put Jesus’ report card in my file instead. Awesome! I love this idea that Jesus’ righteousness can be applied in my case on judgement day. But…and I mean a big old stinky BUT….Then inevitably someone swoops in with the old “bait and switch” sales tactic. It looks something like this:

“So Kris, this Free Gift of Salvation is really yours at no cost. But, why just squeak through the Pearly Gates by the skin of your teeth like the dude Jesus was “hangin'” with on the cross, when you can stroll through them Gates in style? Just a little effort on your part and you could even earn yourself an extra jewel or two in your heavenly crown. Why have your name merely written in the Lambs Book of Life when you could have it circled and outlined in Gold Leaf? And most importantly, why wait until heaven for your perfect sinless body, when you can beat yourself into submission right here on earth?”

“Yeah, that totally makes sense. I don’t want to just barely make a passing grade. I want to be on the honor roll! Thanks Jesus for this great certificate of Salvation you gave me. I’m gonna hang it on my wall for sure, but I’m gonna earn other awards I can hang right next to it too!”

You know what? The Apostle Paul and a lot of those guys were just as confused about the “Now What?” question, as we are today. In the book of Galations Paul rails against following the Law of Moses, specifically circumcision. But in the book of Acts we read he had Timothy circumcised because he was afraid of what the other Jews would think.

Think about most other religions and why they are so concerned with how you live your life. Because how you live your life is the whole point of their belief system. If you don’t live your life like this or like that, you will not attain the after-life rewards you want. And the religion has to demonstrate itself in practical ways so that your lifestyle can be visible to others, because the leaders of the religion must have some way of judging your performance, and you, the follower, must have some way of distinguishing yourself from unbelievers.

Christianity is different. You will attain the after-life prize you want by only believing and receiving the Free Gift. You don’t have to wait until your death bed to be assured of its certainty. So how should we live in the meantime?

Whoa, stop a second. There is the million dollar question: How Shall We Then Live?

Don’t be too quick to answer. Bill Gothard and thousands of pundits before him have attempted to answer and destroyed many lives. Don’t answer too quickly. You will be held to account if you cause any of God’s children to stumble. And be careful not to tell me I need to hang more certificates on my wall. Isn’t the one I got from Jesus enough?

This question of what we should do with our Redeemed lives is the vacuum we the people have created that gives Christian Leaders power over us. We have the question, they have the answer. We are the wandering sheep, they are the wise shepherds. The voice which gives us clarity becomes our master.

Bill Gothard’s over-reaching ministry and teachings are just symptom of a bigger problem within Christianity. It’s not enough that Bill identified 7 basic principles in the Bible. We want to know specifically how to apply these principles to our lives. We don’t want any guess work or struggling to find the truth for ourselves. We asked him to tell us exactly how our lives should look under these 7 “non-optional” principles.

And let’s be fair to Old Billy G. Does he tell us we won’t receive the Free Gift of Salvation unless we live his branded lifestyle? No. But should we still classify him as a legalist? Yes.

Believing we can please God with our own brand of righteousness isn’t just called legalism; it’s heresy. If we are still justified under the old law Jesus died in vain. Legalism, in the dirty sense we all despise, allows us to please God by just keeping a series of commands. But Bill would retort, “I’m not preaching my own righteousness. These are rules and principles which God himself outlines in the scriptures.” Yes, Bill, God gave rules and laws for the ancient Hebrews to follow, but I am not a follower of Moses, I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

If you are following the law it’s because you do not believe what God said about Jesus Christ.

You must decide. Do you believe in the Law? Or do you believe in Christ? You can not have both. Maybe you believe in a new law, like the one Bill Gothard created. Same principle applies. You can’t trust in God and the system. You must choose.

The majority of us recovering legalists were never trying to earn our salvation. I think we all agree, including Gothard, that salvation is free. I think we are propelled by a more basic instinct to please our Heavenly Father, because we want to know that God is pleased with us. He is powerful so we want to make sure we’re on His good side.

So the question of “How Shall We Then Live?” can be replaced with the more basic one of “How Do I Know God is Pleased With Me?” I like the second question better because it at least brings God into the equation. Or maybe it’s more like, “How should I live so I know God is pleased with me and he’ll bless me.”

Remember my silly “bait and switch” sales scenario? My character in that play is expressing his desire to be good and please God. He’s not content with just a passing grade, he wants to be valedictorian. He’s not trying to earn salvation, but in a sense, he is attempting to prove he is worthy of it.

Have you ever been given an unexpected gift by someone close to you? Someone you see everyday? A wonderful friend, boss, and mentor of mine once gave me a car. I had so many conflicting emotions. I was, of course, so grateful. But then I kept thinking “How can I ever repay her for this?” I started feeling guilty. What can I possibly do to prove my gratitude?

I was talking to my aunt on the phone about the whole situation and the conflict I felt about how this may change my relationship with this person. I told her how this gift is making me feel guilt and shame that I could never possibly repay such kindness. My Aunt, in her wisdom, told me to just say thank you. She told me someone with such a generous heart really only wants to hear a genuine and sincere thanks. That’s all she wants.

I gave thanks and received the gift. My friend and benefactor never tried to make me feel guilty or like I owed her anything. It only made us closer friends.

What if more of us lived out of gratitude and trust in what God said, instead of out of guilt and shame trying to prove ourselves? What if more of us read and internalized Brennan Manning’s teaching instead of Bill Gothard’s?

The following is not an answer to the “Now What?” question as much as just an observation:

I am a waiter in a restaurant. Typically how my job works is I serve people by advising them what to eat and drink, ensuring they have what they require at all times and generally keep them happy during their dining experience. If they are pleased with my service they leave me a monetary reward. I am motivated to provide good service in hopes of a reward. The idea being, if I give them the best service I possibly can then I can expect a greater reward.

But what if a guest sat down at my table and handed me a generous tip before service had even begun? It sounds crazy, but I’ve experienced this before. It is surreal. You can probably imagine the motivation I felt to ensure this guest gets the very best of everything I bring. I will move mountains to make sure their experience is the absolute best I can provide, even if it affects my timing on other guest’s tables.

Having experienced this makes me smile at the way God orchestrated the Gospel Message. We have our reward before we could even start thinking how to earn it. You don’t have to earn it, because you already possess it.

How does it make you feel to think it may be just that simple? If we shovel our way past centuries of human explanation and doctrine, lies and deceit maybe we will find that the reality of the Good News will inform us how to live all on its own. Maybe all God expects is a genuine and sincere thank you. Even if you could repay him, He doesn’t want you to.

Dear God, I’d like to trade in all my principles and laws and guilt and shame for more Trust and more Gratitude. Amen.

 

 

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How Bill Gothard Gave Me A Second Chance and How I Blew It

Where: The administrative office of the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy in Fresno, California, otherwise known as Bill Gothard’s law school.

Who: Myself, the Assistant to the Dean, and Bill Gothard’s voice via speaker phone.

When: The year 1997.

What: A disciplinary hearing of sorts.

Why: It was discovered that I had, on one occasion, used an office computer to view pictures of pretty ladies without much clothing (not nude, mind you. I wasn’t that brave.)

I don’t remember his exact words over that speaker phone, but I do remember the punishment that he devised for me. I was to give up the use of my truck for one month and walk to work. The office was an easy stroll from my West Nees boulevard apartment. On my walk, I was to meditate on scripture. I think he gave me a specific passage, but I don’t remember.

Now, to be fair, he could have just fired me, but he didn’t. And the “punishment” was really more of a rehabilitation program to help me overcome my “problem.” He was trying to be helpful. Now I can speculate that he was probably very sympathetic to my sexual urges.

Looking back on it now in light of all the allegations which have been raised against Mr. Gothard leading to his resignation from his ministry, of course I’m tempted to think, “You hypocrite! I was some kid looking at bra ads, but you were doing more than just looking and seriously hurt some real women.”

Just for fun. Maybe it’s my turn to devise a punishment for him: He should have his car taken away for life. He should also have his favorite blue suit taken away. He should be required to where some old dirty sweat pants and a stained wife-beater tank top with slippers. His comb-over should be laid down on the wrong side to reveal his bald head. He should then be required to go door to door in his neighborhood and admit that he is a sexual pervert.

On second thought I don’t know if I want to see a white-washed tomb inside out.

Or he could just repent, make amends, and maybe the punishment wouldn’t be necessary. Although I’m going to defer to the victims. It might actually bring them a lot of joy to behold “Homeless Gothard” kicking cans down the street.

Oh, by the way. I got caught looking at pictures again a few months later and was terminated. Oops. “But don’t judge me! (sob) You don’t know my story!” (yet).

Spin the Bottle

At this point in my little story, I have a serious dilemma. How am I going to spin this? It seems like one of those choose you’re own adventure stories. Turn to page 666 if you think Kris should use Bill’s hypocrisy as club to beat him over the head. Or turn to page 777 if you think we should use this platform to discuss how his “New Approach to Life” Gothard created let me down, and let himself down.

Wow, after all these years to realize I was as spiritual as Bill Gothard and we even shared a similar weakness. I always wanted to be as blessed as him. I wanted to prove I had what it took to receive the same kind of special treatment from God that he did. Look at all the blessings God had given him! If I could please God has much as Billy G. did, he would bless me like that too!

At this point in my life, if there was a spiritual elite, I knew I belonged with them. I was seriously serious about doing everything right and following God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I attended many Basic Seminars starting at age 12. I attended a special Apprenticeship Seminar in Indianapolis in 1993 at age 16 where I finally dedicated my whole life to God. I returned to Indianapolis two years later in 1995 after graduating high school (at home with ATI, of course) for the first installment of the EQUIP program. I was there for possibly the most difficult year of my life. But I did everything by the book. I was a Bill Gothard All-Star.

Immediately after Indy, I headed off to Virginia where I was an intern for Home School Legal Defense Association the last half of 1996. This was an incredible time. It was crazy going from the strict prison-like Gothard facility in Indianapolis with virtually no freedom to HSLDA where they gave four of us the keys to a new townhouse and a new car and said come to work in the morning. I was already headed toward law school before I even went to Indy.

After my internship at HSLDA, I went back to my home state of California where I applied to begin studying with Oak Brook College of Law. I was contacted by the Assistant to the Dean and asked to come work for them in the Fresno Office, a 2 1/2 hour drive from my home town. I agreed.

Don’t worry, I’m not writing this to defend myself and try to blame Bill Gothard for my failures. I’m attempting to paint a truthful picture of who I was and what my motives were then and how the system I had put my faith in let me down.

Some of you may have already decided that I must have been a “rebel” to have been fired by Bill Gothard for looking at lewd pictures of women. But I’m telling you, even at 20-years-old living on my own, I was striving to prove myself a good follower of God and of Bill.

You know what I was doing with my free time back then? I met an aspiring evangelist who was planning a tent revival in a ghetto part of Fresno. We did the revival for like 5 nights straight that was supposed to draw thousands, but it was more like a handful. I spent a lot of my time with him trying to get his ministry started.

I’m telling you, at the point of my failure and dismissal I was seriously doing everything I could to be a better Christian and prove to God I was His for the using. I was even attending a Bible study with my boss, and of course attending church regularly.

I did not listen to rock music. I did not watch T.V. or go to the movies. I’m telling you, I was playing by all the rules. I had my quiet time, I went to work, I studied my law books and went running for exercise.

Absolutely not a rebel. According to Gothard, my spiritual gifting was that of Prophet. I was a black and white truth seeking guy.

My Kryptonite

But my kryptonite was this ever-increasing, pesky little sex drive that was fully raging in my twenty-year-old body. If I could only have gotten rid of that annoying, ever distracting desire to interact with females! I remember having such a hard time focusing on my studies. Looking back, it’s comical to me now how many times I repented of the spirit of lust.

What I learned through all this is that even though I was trying so hard to be good, at my core I must be really bad and there was nothing I could do about it. If I had pleased God he would have blessed me by taking away this spirit of lust. Maybe I wasn’t even really “saved.”

What made all of this completely devastating was the young lady I was corresponding with in a courtship fashion. I had to call her dad and tell him what I had done. Well, that was over. Damn.

Immediately following my failure I hopped on a plane to Sioux City, Iowa for counseling with a Bill Gothard approved counsellor who specialized in sexual deviants. I was that serious about being good and marching onward as a Christian soldier.

I would spend the better part of the next 6 years trying to fix myself and figure out where I had gone wrong. Who was I? The one who wanted to do good? Or was I the one who would occasionally cast off restraint to scratch an itch? The Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hide dilemma.

I had told God I would remain unmarried if that was his will. I wanted to be great in God’s Kingdom like the Apostle Paul and like Bill Gothard, like John the Baptist. I admired that Mr. Gothard was unmarried, and as far as I knew, successfully controlled his sexual energy.

My damned sexual urges made me feel so ashamed. I wanted so bad to “surrender all” like Gothard had done. At this point in my life, my mind and my heart were miles apart.

Remaining unmarried gave Mr. Gothard this spiritual prestige  and almost Pope-like status. He had given up every worldly pleasure for God. Whether or not you ever consciously thought about it, we all put him on a pedestal. He was the most committed Christian you could find. Couple that with all the apparent blessings of God on his ministry, his righteousness was unparalleled.

Trying to live up to Bill Gothard’s perfect example of what a real Christian looks like broke me. I failed.

It has been so surreal reading of Bill Gothard’s actions and resignation in light of my history with him. Many of you must feel the same way. It’s just weird.

For those of us who lived his legalistic lifestyle, the fall of Bill Gothard is no less monumental than the fall of communism was in 1989. Here is a leader who promised us a utopian society if we trusted him and followed his rules. We put our faith in him and his desire to create a better kind of Christian. Now it has all come crashing down. The grand experiment has failed.

Being fair I’d like to point out again, he did give me a second chance. Maybe he was sympathetic . He did, after all, know what it was like to be a man with a sexual urge.

Back to My Story

How did I recover from my devastating public failure? I really didn’t. How did I eventually conquer my sex drive? I really didn’t.

I had to scrap Bill Gothard’s “New Approach to Life” and exchange it for a much older one. One based on the Grace Jesus provides and The Apostle Paul so eloquently defends.

In Galations, Paul recounts how he had to confront Peter for his dangerous hypocrisy. His fear of “the party of the circumcision” caused him to hide the fact he was eating with gentiles. He was preaching another gospel with his actions.

“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

This last little phrase describes Bill Gothard’s ministry: “…how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

And what about this:  “…if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

If you’re like me you have read Galations and just shook your head in disbelief. How could so many well meaning Christians have been lead astray by Bill Gothard despite Paul’s clear warnings about putting confidence in works and in the law?!

This leads into a discussion about the True Gospel. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” But we will save that discussion for another time.

This is now how I interpret my spiritual past: Bill Gothard brought me to the Law. The Law Brought me to Christ.

I guess in an backwards way I could thank him for that too.

Dear Mr. Gothard,

I don’t really want to condemn you. I was just being silly with that punishment I devised for you. I’d actually like to extend you the grace you extended to me. Although, it sounds like the authorities might have to design a punishment for you if you’re not successful in defending yourself in court.

I’m sure there are a lot of us that would love to forgive you as Christ forgave us. There’s only one catch to receiving Grace…you have to receive it. I mean, you must first believe you need it.

Dear Mr. Gothard. You are not going to be able to “work” your way out of this one. The only way out is to lay down your blue suit at the foot of the Cross.

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Where Bill Gothard Got it All Wrong

Of course Bill Gothard won’t admit to his wrong doing and hypocricy. Once again he is hiding behind a misinterpretation Scripture. He is citing Jesus Word’s in Matthew 5:23-24 for his resignation. These verses state,

23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

I guess he woke up yesterday morning, put on his Magic Blue Suit for another day of presenting himself spotless before the Throne, but then his super sensitive conscience in a still small voice reminded him he had hurt someone. He became so torn up about it, he decided to quit his job of 50 years to say sorry.

Man, what a martyr. What a great example of making a sacrifice for others. How selfless. He may just be Jesus Christ himself.

But it wasn’t a still small voice was it? No!!! It was thousands of screaming voices that finally got him to face the music.   What does that say about his conscience? It’s not speaking, or he stopped listening a long time ago.

I must give a huge shout out to all the hard work and bravery of those with Recovering Grace. Thanks to all my sisters who had the courage to drudge up their pain for the good of others. Now that courage sounds more like Christ to me.

Back to Bill

I think it’s fitting that he is hiding behind a passage in Matthew 5 because his whole ministry is based on a misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

Gothard loves to twist Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 to show that the standard for following Jesus is so much higher than even the Law of Moses. Let’s use a fun one that he should be focusing on right now, Matthew 5:27-28:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

We are all aware of these verses where Jesus points out the law of Moses and raises the standard even higher. This is the where Bill Gothard gets the justification for his “New Approach to Life.” I mean Jesus specifically says in verse 20 of Matthew 5:

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I guess you’re right Bill. Teach me how to be greater than the Pharisees, O Wise and Perfect One.

Wait a hot second. Something seems really off here. Jesus, who condemned the Pharisees is telling me to be better than them? I think we are missing something. What is it?

Two questions to understand The Sermon on the Mount: Who is the audience Jesus is preaching to? And what is the overall message of Jesus’ ministry?

First of all, what is Jesus’ consistent message throughout his ministry? We can back up to Matthew 4:17 to find out:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus’ message is for people to repent.

Second, who is Jesus preaching to in the Sermon on the Mount? According to the end of Matthew Chapter 4 he had a large crowd following him.

24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”

I think it’s safe say there were probably Scribes and Pharisees listening in as well based on how many times he condemns them.

Okay so Jesus is preaching a message of repentance to a crowd that is mixed. Some of them have already repented, been healed and are following him. Some of them are the Pharisees listening in to try to catch him in some sort of heresy with which to condemn him.

Jesus begins Matthew 5 by preaching to the choir. He declares Blessings for the Poor in Spirit, The Meek, The Peacemakers. He is encouraging those pressed in close who followed him from Galilee. He is not asking them to repent, because they already did.

Let me cut to the chase. I think it is plain that all the “You have heard that it was said…” portions of Jesus’ speech from Chapter 5:21-48 were specifically targeted at the Pharisees for one purpose. To get them to repent.

He couldn’t just use the Law of Moses to convict them, because they all kept the letter of the law perfectly. He had to dive deeper into heart motive to convict them of where true sin comes from.

Is Jesus really advocating a lifestyle with stricter standards than the Law of Moses? No. He is only concerned with repentance. To those who have already repented he encourages them (Blessed are you), to those who think they have it all figured out, who have not yet repented, he condemns them with a Higher Standard.

The fact that Bill Gothard latched onto verses 21-48 for the basis of his higher standard of living for Christians is indicative of one thing: If he feels Jesus is speaking these words to him, he is a Pharisee.

So, reading the Sermon on the Mount can help you determine where you are in your faith. Do you latch on to the words of comfort in the beginning of Matthew 5? Do you feel Poor in Spirit? Do you hunger for righteousness? Do you find yourself offering mercy to others because you know God has given it to you? If so, you have probably already repented and experienced God’s healing.

Or do you latch on to verses 21-48 and feel determined to be a good person and never hate your brother, and never lust after a woman, and never get divorced, and be careful what vows you make, and most of all strive, with all the discipline you can muster, to live Jesus’ command to “be perfect as your heavenly, father is perfect”?

If the later sounds more like you, you are a Pharisee and have not yet repented and admitted you need healing.

Is there hope for Pharisees? Is there hope for Bill Gothard? Yes, if he finally sees the Gospel of Jesus Christ for what it is: Repent. He must repent of all his pride in thinking he could please God and be better than the Pharisees. Repent for thinking he is better than other believers.

One last admonition for Bill Gothard to consider in this sensitive time of his life. Going back to Matthew 5:27-30:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Mr. Gothard, you can either live the rest of your days in repentance under the True Gospel of Jesus Christ or you can continue to live by the sword. But those who live by the sword will die by the sword. If you don’t repent you have no choice but to obey Christ and begin cutting.

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The Dark Ages are Over Now

The Council on Biblical Inerrancy starting back in 1977 was a group of ministers who decided to admit that the Bible has some seeming irregularities but to assure us that it is still infallible despite it’s errors. While I’m glad to learn the issue of infallibility has been addressed, I’m certainly not satisfied with the council’s reasoning. (you can read more here: http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI.shtml)

Infallible despite its errors? Hold on to your thinking caps, kids, it sounds like we could be in for a light speed jump into human logic hyperspace. But first…

Spoiler Alert

In this episode of “Let’s Find the Truth at All Costs,” I will eventually be switching roles and actually defending the Bible against dogmatic, ruthless Bible Experts, who in defending the Canonized Scripture, even to the point of sacrificing logic, inadvertently doom the truth of the Bible to the trash heap. Once again, they are giving people permission to throw out baby Jesus with the Holy Water.

The experts attempting to defend the the jots and tittles of the Bible, actually succeed in convincing us of only one thing: while they may allow us to love the Lord Our God with our Hearts, our Souls, and our Strength, apparently we are not allowed to love him with our own Minds.

This is How They Do It

In my first post I made a generalized statement that when experts insist on the Bible being perfect they give implied permission to throw it out if errors are found. I didn’t think I’d find a Bible Expert to completely agree with me. But I did.

I am currently reading a book called Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer. After reading my first blog post my dad sent me this book. Thanks Dad. I know you’re looking out for me.

Archer was one of the signers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and began work on this Encyclopedia shortly after the Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed. It was published in 1984.

After warning us of revisionist positions on the Bible which make excuses for the Bible’s errors, Archer declares that “Without Inerrancy the Bible Cannot be Infallible.” This statement is made after spouting off his credentials of course. He knows Greek and Hebrew and blah, blah, blah.

Does he really grasp what he is saying here? Mr. Archer is telling us that if we can find one true mistake or contradiction in the Bible, he is willing to throw out the whole thing.  Even the Gospel?

I’m actually shocked to hear a Bible Expert admitting this all or nothing view of the Bible. Personally, I thought I was being over simplistic in my reasoning but it does makes sense. I mean, if these 66 books are indeed the perfect word of God they should be…. well, perfect.

Okay, so I guess the burden is mine to prove The Bible has errors. But wait, thanks to Mr. Archer I don’t have to; he does it for me. He freely admits that the copies of the Scriptures we have today are flawed.

So the question is, Mr. Archer, how do you explain the errors in my Bible? His hypothesis is simple. The original texts which make up our modern Bible were indeed perfect; free of error. So where did these errors come from? Archer insists on blaming the scribes for making mistakes in their copies which were past down for generations.

That’s it?! That’s your brilliant explanation of the Bible’s inconsistencies?! A neat little theory, Mr. Archer, but may I point out that without those original texts you can never offer convincing proof. Oh, he uses his knowledge of Hebrew to show that if this word was written slightly different it would mean something else,  and even gives examples. Okay, I’ll admit, it’s compelling evidence but certainly not proof. It seems like a whole lot of work for nothing.

One troublesome thing about Archer’s approach is that he doesn’t seem to realize by admitting the Bibles you and I possess contain errors, he is assuming the burden of proof. I mean, if the Bible was the perfect document we are led to believe it is, then it would be up to the skeptics to knock it down. But it’s not perfect, he admits it, so he and these other Bible experts should shoulder the burden to prove and convince us.

But instead, in his commentary on the Kings vs. Chronicles problem of King Asa, Archer offers two possibilities to explain the error. He actually uses the word “possibilities.” He is not stating anything definitive. Without definitive answers, no one can truly be convinced.

In setting up his all or nothing, “No Infallibility Without Inerrancy” doctrine he gives a nice metaphor of a witness on the stand in a court of law. If an attorney can discredit a witness, his testimony, whether true or false, can be dismissed. Likewise if one part of the Bible can be discredited, the whole comes into question.

Sorry Gleason, I’m going to have to use your reasoning against you. In your testimony, you discredit yourself. It doesn’t matter how great your credentials are or how many ancient languages you are fluent in, when it comes to the discovery of truth, if you are not proven to be objective, your opinion and research means nothing to me.

If Senor Archer was a witness on the stand, I would ask him a version of the following question: “In this pursuit of learning the truth about the validity and inerrancy of the Bible, are you willing to accept the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth even if it indicates the Bible is not the perfect document Christians want it to be? Can you prove yourself to be objective in your research?”

Here is his answer: There is a section in the beginning of his book called Recommended Procedures in Dealing with Bible Difficulties. Procedure number 1, and I quote, “Be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists, even though you have not yet found it.”

He is encouraging his readers to be completely biased when searching for answers about the Bible’s errors. We should be prepared to do whatever intellectual gymnastics we must do to prove that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. This feels more like preaching to the choir than a real serious of defense of the Bible. We should all feel insulted. We are all being instructed by Archer to be dogmatic.

No Soup For You!

Why, in Jesus Name, is Archer so adamant about this all or nothing view of the Bible? Why does he tell me I have to stomach all of it or have none of it?

Because if the Bible was proven fallible, he says, “what solid truth it may contain would be left as a matter of mere conjecture, subject to the intuition or canons of likelihood of each individual.”

Because each person searching out the truth for themselves would be such a travesty (this statement is dripping with more sarcasm than syrup on a waffle). Are you kidding me?! Oh, you’re right, Biblical interpretation in the hands of just a few elite has been a glorious experiment in human corruption. You know what, even better, let’s just give the right to interpret the Bible to one person, that way we all believe the same thing and there’s no more arguing and we can just turn our brains off and follow King Richard on another one of his bloody crusades in the name of Jesus Christ. Oh, wait, but we protestants rejected the whole one person Pope leader thing.

It’s Getting Dark in Here, So Turn Your Brain Off

I am not opposed to putting my faith in the Truth of the Bible contains. But I am very wary of Biblical experts telling me I am wrong about the Bible being imperfect when it clearly is. What I’m wary of is this implied power play that seems to undermine my ability to see and assess the Scriptures for myself. It seems like the Dark Ages to me. The religious leaders telling me what the Bible says or doesn’t say. I can read it for myself now, thank you very much.

The experts need to realize when they ask us to believe that the Biblical Canon is without error despite our questions and reservations about its numerous problems, what they are really asking of us is to put our faith in them and their “brilliant” minds. Again, it sounds like the Dark Ages. “Don’t think for yourself. Don’t question our logic and doctrines. Just be good little Christians and do what you are supposed to do best: Believe the unbelievable.”

Why is this such a big deal to me? Because if we turn off our brains enough to listen to these so called Bible Experts, what’s next?  We believe what they say about the Bible being inerrant, then they’ll start claiming the Bible tells us to wear blue suits and never listen to the Beatles. They’ll say women should always wear skirts. We should all homeschool our kids. I’m sure these references are not lost on many of you.

My wife as a little girl was shamed when she questioned portions of the Bible she didn’t understand. She was told that in order to be a good Christian she had to believe everything the Bible says.

I know Christians who believe in evolution. Are you going to call them heretics because they don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation? Are you really confident enough in your understanding of Genesis to make that judgement of a sincere fellow believer? Do you realize the Genesis account was written thousands of years after “the fact”?

Move Over Gleason, Here Comes Something that Makes Sense

Okay, it’s my turn to defend the Message of the Bible from the doctrines of men who leave the intelligent, objective seeker no other choice but to laugh and discard.

What should we do about the Bible then? How should we approach it? How can we be sure if it is true or not? Or which portions may or may not be true?

Let’s revisit Archer’s courtroom scenario. He says if we put the Bible on the witness stand and it does not stand up to the tests of history or science it can not be trusted in matters of religion (he actually said that, page 23 paragraph 4). So he is in essence asking us to put the writers of all 66 books on the witness stand at the same time. Right? Imagine being in a courtroom with 40 witnesses being questioned simultaniously. So how does that work? I guess we ask a question and instruct them on the count of three to all answer at the same time. If one or more of the 40 witnesses answer differently from the rest, the entire testimony must be thrown out.

Wow, that is an incredibly stiff burden of proof. I think most judges and juries would be satisfied with two or three witnesses who materially agreed with each other when attempting to establish the facts of a case. We find that the Bible states in no less than 5 different places a matter may be established by two or three witnesses.

Are you following me? The Bible has 40 authors. The Koran has 1 author. The book of Mormon 1. In our Protestant Bible, The Good News story of Christ is told in no less than 4 different accounts.

We don’t have to wave a magic wand over these 66 books and demand that people accept them as truth with their brains turned off.

This is How We Do It

We must each approach the Bible like any good truth seeker should. Just like we do in our court rooms. The truth in a matter, the facts of a case can not be discovered without the testimony of witnesses. Because everything we believe is based on the testimony of another human being, the burden of finding truth has more to do with the reliability of the witness than anything else. Who is the source of this so-called truth? What are his/her credentials?

I propose we approach the Bible as a collection of testimonies; some of which are eyewitnesses and some simply repeating oral traditions. We take the focus off of the Canonized Scripture, stop insisting it is “without error,” and focus on what it’s writers are claiming.

Do you realize in defending this Bible you are really just defending the Institution of Men who compiled it? Bible experts are nothing more than self-proclaimed “expert” witnesses to the testimonies written in the Scripture Writings. But why should I listen to them when I can read the testimonies for myself? I’m a witness to the testimonies too. We are all on equal ground deciding whether or not the testimony of these witnesses is believable.

Coming Clean

The inconsistencies of the Bible don’t bother me. Based on the principle of 2 or 3 witness, I think the writings contained in these 66 books are quite compelling.

I want to be fair to Mr. Archer. Understanding how some of the errors in the Scripture Writings may have happened can be helpful. But let me state this clearly: we do not have to insist on the Scripture Writings perfectly agreeing with each other in order to build a strong case for the truth they contain. I guess we’ve been so embarrassed and insecure about all these holes and errors in the Bible we’ve failed to see the strength of it’s testimony.

Maybe we’ve been trying to patch the holes in our vessel so it will float, while not realizing it actually has wings and can fly.

Again, everything you and I think we know has come from the words and testimony of another human being. This is certainly true in matters of History and Religion. Determining which witnesses are reliable is mandatory to discovering truth. This is the essential element in determining any truth on any subject.

I want to be fair to the Canon of New Testament Scripture. The main principle used in determining the inclusion of a Writing is the witness principle. Which goes something like the writing must be by someone who has at least first hand testimony of Christ or of his Apostles. This makes sense. The writing only has as much strength as it’s writer’s witness to Christ and or His Apostles.

Therefore, what is convincing about the Scripture Writings is the witness accounts they provide. The long process of deciding which books should be included in a collection of Scripture Writings called the Bible by men who force their authority on us does not convince me one bit of their accuracy, truth or inerrancy.

Did you know Martin Luther wanted to throw out the books of James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelations because they didn’t line up with his doctrines and theology? Did you know the current version of our Protestant Bible wasn’t established until 1885?

Let’s stop placing our faith in the Institution of Men who decided on which Scripture Writings to place their big magic rubber stamp. We must push past the voices of men, to hear the voice of God. Like the woman with the issue of blood, we must push past the crowd of men to touch the hem of Christ’s garment for ourselves.

Yes, I agree it is much more convenient to place a big magic stamp over the whole Bible and declare it all true. But having a blind, dogmatic faith in a magic book is not necessary for us to call ourselves believers. We must reject any message that would discourage us lay people from loving, seeking, and worshipping God with our own individual minds.

Decide for yourself. Don’t follow self proclaimed Bible experts who promote Man Made Institutions. First step in discovering truth for yourself is throw out all the “expert” voices and re-read the Scripture Writings again for the first time.

Anyhoo… it’s just another beautiful day in the neighborhood. And we are all coming closer to free.

One last thought, do you realize Jesus is more concerned with freeing you from religious oppression than anything else?

Love you all.

Kristofer

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Is the Bible Truly “Infallible”?

I came across a radio preacher on my way home from work one night scanning through the FM stations. He was using scriptures from the Bible to “prove” that the Bible was the “infallible Word of God.”

He was quoting Scriptures like:

All Scripture is inspired by God…” 2 Timothy 3:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Wait. Let’s be real. This verse begs so many questions. What “Scripture” is Paul referring to here? Well, he’s not referring to the Big Black Book you have collecting dust on your night stand, because he didn’t have one of those. It was organized and bound long after Paul penned those words to Timothy.

The preacher was quoting an Old Testament Psalmist who says “The Law of the Lord is Perfect” as more “proof.” But the Psalmist is obviously speaking of the Law of Moses which we Christians don’t hold to anymore anyway (at least we shouldn’t).

Enough with the nonsense. This type of “preaching to the choir” proof of Scripture has to stop. There are two problems here. One is obvious, one is ironic:

First of all and obviously, this “logic” of selling the Bible with the Bible is an absurd argument. Do we seriously think we are going to convince people to believe the Bible because of some random verses it contains? If I write the following: “Everything I write in this post is true,” do you now feel inclined to take MY words as gospel?

Secondly, and ironically, not only is it silly to use verses in the Bible to prove that the Bible is “Infallible,” the truth is…

The Bible is Not Infallible.

If we have any hope of this current generation taking The Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously  we are going to have to come clean about the inconsistencies and flaws the Bible contains.

Is every last word in our Protestant Bible true and accurate? No.

What the What?! 

“But the Bible is the Perfect Word of God! Every word in it is breathed by God himself,” you say.If every word contained in the Protestant 66 books are truly God’s Own Words, apparently He enjoys contradicting himself, and He can’t remember who died when and how much money was paid for what. If God wrote it, He really should have got himself an editor.

Okay, maybe you’re getting offended right now and your “heresy meter” is starting to go off. Let’s just be objective and take a look.

Really? No Errors Anywheres? 

Here’s the definition of Infallible:

:  incapable of error : unerring :  not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint :  certain

By this definition the Bible can not be called infallible. Consider the following examples. We’ll start with some simple ones that involve numbers that just don’t jive.

Money for a Floor: In 2nd Samuel 24:24  David buys the “threshing floor” from Arahuah. He pays 50 shekels of silver.

In 1st Chronicles 21:22-25, a different account of the same story, it is indicated that David pays 600 shekels of gold for the property.

How many stalls? 1st Kings 4:26 gives account of the 40,000 stalls Solomon had for his horses.

2nd Chronicles 9:25 states Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his horses.

A Dead King Rages? In 1st Kings 16:6-8 we are told Baasha, King of Israel dies and his son Elah takes his throne in the 26th year of Asa, King of Judah’s reign.

But in 2nd Chronicles 16:1 we are told King Baasha fortified Ramah against King Asa in the 36th year of King Asa’s reign. Baasha is alive and well 10 years after 1st Kings tells us he died?

Are these transcription errors? I don’t know, but they are errors. The Holy Scripture, supposedly perfect, has some peculiarly irregular accounting errors.

One Sin…Okay, Maybe Two: Now how about 1st Kings 15:5 where we are told, “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite,” (NASB, italics mine).

For those of you not familiar with the Sunday School Story: Uriah was the first husband of Bathsheba, whom David had killed to cover up the fact she was pregnant with David’s child. Definitely a shameful act which the writer of 1st Kings is not willing to overlook.

But wait, 2nd Samuel 24:10-17 details the account of how David sinned in taking a census of his people against the Lord’s wishes. And it must have been a bad sin too, because 70,000 people ended up dead because of it.

Why does the writer of 1 Kings bother being so emphatic about David obeying God in everything, save one thing, if that is simply not true?

If every word of the Bible was effectively written by God himself, and God is perfect and true, why is the text not consistent and accurate?

If the Bible is not even accurate with numbers, how can we believe anything else it says? I know this is a very scary thought for those of us who have based our entire lives and way of thinking on the belief that everything in the Bible is true.

Most of us Christians  like to think our faith is completely rooted in a personal faith in Christ Jesus himself. But if we are honest, we will see that in most cases our faith is completely contingent on this idea that the Bible is the actual unerring Word of God. Take away the belief that every word of the Bible was “breathed by God” and most of us would be lost and confused.

How Did We Get Here? -or- Why Are Preachers So Chicken Shit? 

Why are our Christian Leaders not willing to face the inconsistencies in the Bible?  Have they really been studying it and not noticed? How can preachers be selling the Bible saying every word is true when it is clearly not? Maybe it’s because they don’t think we can handle the Truth. Maybe it’s because Christianity is a multi-billion dollar industry and they would all lose their jobs. Maybe its because without that Big Black Book  they wouldn’t have anything to beat you over the head.

I discovered some Bible inconsistencies years ago on my own, but I was completely unaware of the majority of the scripture examples I shared earlier in this blog post until a few short weeks ago. Can we at least admit how stupid we Christians look to insist that every word of the Bible is true when not even the numbers and dates are consistent? I hope you opened the Bible for yourself and looked up the verses I quoted above.

My Motivation: Why am I writing this? Why do I feel compelled to publicly challenge this Book we all pull so much faith from? I’m not challenging the narrative of the Bible. I’m challenging the way the Truth of the Scripture has been sold to us and how we continue to sell it. To be believers in God and His Christ must we really believe that every last word of the Bible was breathed by God?

Consider the introduction Luke writes to his Gospel clearly admitting he was not an eyewitness and that he consulted multiple sources for his book.

I feel compelled to start this conversation about the inconsistencies of the Bible for a very important reason:

I know people who grew up in church who have thrown out the Bible and it’s entire narrative when they discover the Scriptures don’t live up to the claim that they are “perfect” and “inerrant.” By selling them this idea that the words of the Bible are “infallible” we give them permission to throw out baby Jesus with the Holy Water.  Because if the claims we make about the Bible are not true, and inconsistencies are found, the logical thing for them to do is dismiss the Scripture and its Story entirely.

We are between a rock and a hard place. If we continue to insist on proving that the Bible is the Word of God because every word is unerring we will lose an entire generation of critical and objective thinkers, because it’s not. And if we want to “make disciples” as we have been instructed, we must look at these 66 books we call the Protestant Bible in a different light.

Personally, I’m not afraid to confront this idea that the Bible is not perfect. You know why? Because everything we humans believe we know is based on the words of another human being. It’s not the words that are important it’s The Source.

I believe the Biblical narrative is full of holes and errors so that we can look through it to understand it’s true message. Besides, the Bible is not the Word of God. John tells us the Word is God. God is the Word. In the beginning was the Word. Am I set free by words on a page or the Truth they contain?

In my opinion, The God who created Heaven and Earth didn’t bother to make the words of the various writings match because truth is not found in “jots and tittles.”

Personally, I want to know the truth at all costs. I want “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Even the truth about the Truth. Because if I know the truth, The Truth will make me free.

Do you want to be free? I pray you do.

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