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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Genius of Talking Out One's Ass

Literally talking out one's ass requires a genius most of us mere mortals do not possess. That is controlling one's sphincter to "shape" the flow of air past the spincter into reconizable sounds, more commonly known as "words." Learning that talent can only be called genius. (Yet we see so many on the right who have perfected the art of talking out your ass, maybe the genius of it is today greatly diminished... If people like Malkin, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Townhall.com, The Corner, LGF, Powerline, etc. can do it, then it can't be all that intellectual.)

But there is one unique form of talking out your ass that dominates. I see that you're way ahead of me here; yes its Christianity. The concept of Christianity is based on the principle of talking out your ass. So here we move from the literal (which requires genius) to the metaphorical (which requires nothing more than the ability to string a couple of words together into some meaningless sentences).

So here's the meat; the reason for writing this post:

Over at RaptureReady, Jack Kelley has an article up which defies all logic, and, coincidentally steps into an area in which I have spent years studying: the logic and structure of the New Testament. (For the record, I am not one of the emailers he discusses.)

The general thrust of his post is that there appears to be a disconnect between the gospels of Paul and the Jerusalem Apostles. (I wrote my book on this very subject.) But what interests me about his article is not that we have different interpretations of the texts of the Bible, but that he fails to see the glaring disconnect in what he does write. I will not critique his entire article, for I have already done that in my book, as his arguments are nothing new. He even admits as much.

So let us examine two excerpts and consider what they really are saying in terms of the value of Christianity as a "path to heaven."


Was the doctrine of Grace unknown in Old Testament times? Over 1000 years before Paul began preaching, King David had this to say after sinning with

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:1-2 & 16-17)

See how David makes no attempt to restore himself to righteousness through his own works. According to the Law both he and Bathsheba should have immediately been put to death. David humbled himself before God, confessed his sin, asked to be forgiven, and was. (2 Samuel 12:13)

So from this passage we see how Jack is arguing that a person can get into God's good graces by being repentent before God Almighty. Now if being forgiven by God is a good thing, and can be done by human piousness, then what does the Christian have to say about the status of David's eternal soul? Is David in heaven for being "right" with God?

I don't know. But let's see what Jack has to say about Jesus:

When the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the work that God requires?” they gave Him the clearest opportunity of His ministry to hand them a list. Here He was, a Jewish rabbi, standing in Israel speaking primarily to Jewish people who wanted to know what God required of them. He could have referred them to the 10 Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the 613 laws of the Torah. But how did He respond? “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

Then He said that it was God's will that everyone who looked to the Son and believed in Him would have Eternal life. (John 6:40) Their salvation was based on their belief that He had come to save them, not on their behavior. Just like ours.

Much of His teaching from the Sermon on the Mount had been aimed at convincing them that they could never attain the necessary righteousness by keeping the Law. He even commanded them to “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) This can only be achieved when God's righteousness is imputed to us by faith. Those who advocate the different Gospel hypothesis would have us mix some combination of grace, faith, and works to arrive at the Jewish formula for perfection. But it can't be done. Grace is defined as an unmerited favor. As soon as you add work, it's no longer unmerited. The two don't mix.

He is correct, the two don't mix. How can one be a good person before Jesus by being repentent and getting into God's good graces (and therefore presumably getting into Heaven -- unless David is in Hell for being born before Jesus...) and then suddenly after Jesus, the only way into heaven is by believing that the man, Jesus, is God?

Given the two differing systems of entry into heaven (if I were a religious person), it certainly seems like the moral high road would be to be a good person, follow the rules and when they are broken, be repentant. The second almost seems like a cop-out in comparison: believe in the man-god and ignore the rules, yet still gain entry into heaven.

Of course, that isn't true either. Jesus and by extension, Christianity, still require a strict adherence to rules, only they seem to be new rules. Now the only things that Christians are concerned about is homosexuality, abortion, and the evils of science. So a gay believer in Jesus would still not gain entry into heaven, according to many Christians. Rules still matter.

This is the fatal flaw in Christian theology. Somehow, before Jesus, Jews were able to gain entry into heaven via their actions: repentence and good deeds aimed at the glory of God. But after Jesus, the rules changed. That was no longer enough; belief in Jesus as God was the primary (only) way to gain entry into heaven. The rules changed in mid-stream. And this rule change was due to a God-head who does not change, and whose rules are never changing (ala the whole silly concept of "traditional marriage.") But then, even Jesus has rules. Paul has even more rules.

Jack gives this simple statement regarding rules:
I can't tell you how many times folks who believe differently than I do have advised me to just read the Bible carefully and I'll embrace their position, but that's another story.

Sorry, Jack, but a careful reading of the bible is not necessary here. Only a casual reading will expose the reality of the bible. It may be another story from the one you present here. But it is the story. Either rules matter or they don't. If they matter, then anyone who follows them is good. If they don't then only in believing in Jesus matters. Considering the sheer animosity towards homosexuality of most fundamentalist Christians, I would have to say rules matter. If rules matter, then Jesus is not relevant.

...And Jack Kelley is talking out his ass.

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At October 28, 2007 11:09 AM, Blogger Heather Annastasia said...

I absolutely agree that Christianity (and every other religion) has perfected the art of talking out of one's ass, and it's always amusing to counter biblical arguments by quoting the passage that says the exact opposite of whatever the christian is trying to prove.

Still, I like the approach of forcing a little history on the religious. First, they will concede that at no point did the Bible materialize directly from heaven (so God didn't write it). Then I go into the history of how the holy book actually came to be (that there was a continuous line of Jewish writings from near the beginning of their culture up to and beyond Jesus; that the Jewish hierarchy decided which writings were holy and belonged in the Torah, and that a pagan Roman emperor decided which writings were holy and belonged in the Bible).

I think the history of the Bible should be taught in school; it would have the effect of pulling the curtain back on the Wizard of OZ:

"Why, you're just a man!"

P.S. I'm all about nuclear power. Keep fighting the good fight.

At October 31, 2007 12:16 PM, Anonymous naiko said...

The entire matter of salvation has always been a rather confusing matter to me (especially when I was growing up in a fundamentalist church and still believed in such a thing). Your frank analysis of this quite apparent problem of the rules do/don't matter dichotomy + jesus in the mix is a good summary of a lot of issues in typical christian theology. All I can say is, thanks for framing the issue in a useful way! It is good food for thought and possibly a response blog-post.


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