Category Archives: Exegesis

The Bible. What is it good for?

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As is his wont, my King James Bible believing Dispensationalist libertarian Christian co-blogger Tim tagged me in his post (of the above image) on Facebook. 🙂

Be sure to get your doctrine from the Bible, not the traditions of man! (Colossians 2:8)

I really do appreciate the pro-tip. It’s just that there’s a whole lotta problems with this instruction. At least one of which renders Tim’s advice utterly useless!

One problem is that the cited verse, Colossians 2:8, does not even mention the Bible.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (KJV)

See! What this verse is really saying is be sure to get your doctrine from Christ, not the traditions of man! I agree! But let’s be clear. There’s no mention at all of the Bible in this verse. And I’ve made it quite clear in previous blog posts what my view is. It is that Jesus is inerrant, but the Bible isn’t. The Word of God is inerrant. His scribes, not so much. Yes, that’s right. I basically equate the Bible with “the traditions of man”. I don’t equate the Bible with Christ. The Bible as we know it hasn’t even been around a couple of thousand years yet. Whereas

In [the] beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (DARBY)

Believe it or not, another problem is that the KJV mistranslates this particular verse. And don’t believe it or do, so does the NIV. But of course! 😉

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ. (NIV)

Which is why I always have recourse to Young’s Literal Translation for times like this when it matters exactly what the Bible says.

See that no one shall be carrying you away as spoil through the philosophy and vain deceit, according to the deliverance of men, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to Christ (YLT)

It’s clear that “spoiled” is a KJV mistranslation of “spoil”. Yet at least the NIV has the good grace to provide a footnote (see above) to the effect that it has construed “the basic principles” (rudiments) as “the elemental spiritual forces” of this world.

But here’s the fatal flaw with Tim’s advice—be sure to get your doctrine from the Bible, not the traditions of man!—which renders it useless. Which Bible?

Tim’s telling me to be sure to get my doctrine from the Bible, but which one? As we all know, Christians (e.g., Protestants vs. Catholics and Orthodox Christians) can’t even agree on which books belong in the Bible, let alone which translations of the canonical books are themselves canonical.

Which Bible? Tim will, of course, answer the Authorized King James Version of 1611. Which is a fair answer to a fair question. But if I accept this answer, one thing’s for sure. I’m now getting my doctrine from the traditions of man, and from the traditions of one man in particular, viz., my co-blogger Tim Wikiriwhi! And not necessarily from either the true Bible (if, indeed, there even is such a thing) or Christ.

It comes down to this. When all is said and done, we must decide—each of us individually must decide—in what and/or in whom to trust.

I trust in Jesus, the Son of God, whom I know from the first-hand accounts of his ministry by the original gospel authors, from his work in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, from his work in my own life, and from personal encounter.

I trust in the deliverances of my own God-given moral compass when (not often, just occasionally) they conflict with what’s in the Bible.

So the Bible. What’s it good for?

Why, it’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, of course! 🙂

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The Word of God is inerrant. His scribes, not so much.


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Jesus is inerrant, but the Bible isn’t.

Anyone who’s spent any time in serious study of the Bible (or even someone who’s only delved into it intermittently) will have discovered, for themselves, apparent contradictions, of which there are very, very many.

Just for example, Ezekiel 33:11 (and Ezekiel 18:32) and Psalm 37:13 seem rather at odds.

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ (NIV)

but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (NIV)

How should a Christian respond to such apparent contradictions? It’s not easy maintaining contradictions. Maintaining a contradiction is surely the very essence of cognitive dissonance, and cognitive dissonance is something we all naturally seek to minimise.

Of particular concern are the apparent contradictions in Bible verses about salvation. Is justification through good works or by faith alone? Enquiring minds want to know.

The inerrantist response is to hold that the Bible is inerrant. On the premiss (due to Douglas Stauffer) that

God will preserve His word, and not allow it to pass away.

And then try to explain away the apparent contradictions. All of them. One attempt to do this (with particular emphasis on what the Bible says about salvation) is the doctrine of Dispensationalism due to John Nelson Darby.

Now, I can see that the above premiss has merit and that Dispensationalism is, in some sense, a reasonable response to the apparent contradictions in the Bible.

But doesn’t God operate according to the KISS principle?

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)

Dispensationalism is complicated. Doesn’t God’s fundamental message have to be intelligible to little children and simpletons? Because Dispensationalism isn’t.

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The errantist response is to hold that the Bible is not inerrant. To concede that it’s full of contradictions, some of which cannot be adequately explained away. But that, nonetheless

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (KJV)

and that Jesus’s fundamental message remains intact, which it does.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (KJV)

My reason for writing this post is my concern that those who hold that the Bible is inerrant are fooling themselves. In a bad way. Notwithstanding that Douglas Stauffer (already quoted above) tells us that

Satan has reveled in creating doubt concerning the authority of the words of God.

the simple fact is that there is doubt concerning the authority of scripture as it has been handed down to us. Not to acknowledge and to express doubt such as this is to deceive oneself and maybe others too. It’s my considered opinion that those who persist in maintaining that the Bible is inerrant are involved in more convolutions and contortions than David Bain trying to explain his movements on the morning of 20 June 1994, more turns than a sluggard on his bed, more preposterous suspensions of disbelief than an atheist proclaiming that this blog post is an anticipated result of the Big Bang. They’re playing the exegetical version of Twister—the game that ties you up in knots.

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I came not to bring peace, but a sword

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This is #4 in a series of posts on heavy metal and hard rock musicians who weren’t Christians when they started out on their careers but who made the choice to give their lives over to Jesus later down the tracks. (My co-blogger Tim’s already posted about Brian Welch of Korn, the legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica fame.)

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Featured musician #4 is Blackie Lawless. He’s the vocalist, rhythm guitarist (formerly bassist) and main songwriter for, and the last remaining original member of, the heavy metal band W.A.S.P. He’s also white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Lawless talks about his Christian faith and about religion and the heavy metal and hard rock genre.

You’re talking about a genre that, in general, is obsessed with the idea of God and/or the devil. Jazz, pop, there is no other genre that is absolutely obsessed with it as this genre is.

The Bible tells us, ‘The truth has been placed in the hearts of all men.’ In other words, people know what the truth is. What I see is people in the search of the truth. They’re all on a journey, the people that are attracted to this genre are people who are really a lot more in tune with it than they think they are.

I’m speaking from a direction where I know what I’m talking about. I was in the church until I was in my late teens, and when I left and came to California, I went as far away as you could possibly go. I ended up studying the occult for three years. I understand what they’re looking for — they’re looking for the same thing I’m looking for. I’m at a point now where I’m bilingual: I can speak their language. They can’t necessarily speak my language, but I can understand where they’re coming from.

When we say ‘religion,’ we kind of use that as a general term, and when people have the resistance that they have to it, they have every reason to feel that way. That’s part of what drove me away — the indoctrination of men that I received; it’s man’s indoctrination. Now, from my perspective, my faith is based on Jesus Christ and the Bible — nothing more, nothing less.

I don’t want to hear anybody telling me their ideas or their interpretations or interjections of what they’ve put into the Bible, like telling me I can’t eat meat on Friday, or I got to go and worship somebody’s old dead bones somewhere. That’s not in my Bible. There’s a lot of it. Every organized religion has it, every organized faith has it. That’s not where I’m coming from.

When I left the church and then I studied the occult, I walked around for 20 years and thought I was mad at God. I realized after 20 years I was not mad at God, I was mad at man for that indoctrination I received. For me I had to settle this issue once and for all, because I am not going to walk around with this anxiety of what’s going to happen to me and where I’m going. I got to know the truth. I got the Bible and I started reading and I thought I was going to disprove this thing once and for all.

Everyone says the Bible is written by men, but the Bible says it was men who were directly inspired by God. But I didn’t believe it for a minute. So I start reading and I start discovering and you have 66 books written by 40 different authors spread over three different continents, in three different languages, over a 2,000-year period. Most of the authors did not know each other, had no knowledge of each other, but yet I see consistently that they’re not just answering each other’s questions, they’re finishing each other’s sentences. It was mind-boggling, the deeper I got into it, and one day it hit me like a shot. I’m reading the living word of a living God. After that, I was just scratching the surface. Then, when you get even deeper into it, it’s beyond comprehension.

I cannot say it strongly enough. It is beyond impossible that it could’ve been written by men. I’m a writer, and even the writers that I know that I admire, I look at how we write, I know what our limitations are, and, like I said, it’s so far beyond our comprehension.

(Apart from the bit where he’s a rock star) I have much in common with Blackie Lawless. 🙂

I share his view that all too often “when people have the resistance that they have to [religion], they have every reason to feel that way.” Lawless says that he was driven away from Jesus by “the indoctrination of men” that he received in his youth. I can tell a similar story about the off-putting beliefs and behaviour of proselytisers in my own past. As can others I know. A friend on Facebook says

I stopped going to church in my late teens after being exposed to too much conservative fundamentalist theology. If this was Christianity, I didn’t want to know about it.

It took me 20 years to find my way back.

[T]he sad reality [is] that sometimes people who claim to speak for God make a very bad impression on people and it can turn them right off.

This has happened to many people. Myself included.

I found my way back. But many don’t.

[T]he same attitudes and behaviours that drove me away are still driving other people away. And this is no good for them. And no good for the Church, which is the Body of the Christ in the world.

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More about me and Blackie another day maybe. 🙂

Meanwhile, here’s the opening track from W.A.S.P.’s new album Golgotha.

This one!!!

Frantic disembowelment

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Judas Iscariot was one of the original Twelve Disciples. He betrayed Jesus to the Jewish religious authorities for the sum of thirty pieces of silver.

We all know what happened next. Jesus was crucified. But what happened to Judas?

The New Testament has two quite different accounts.

Here is what happened according to the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (NIV)

Here is what happened according to the author of the Gospel of Luke.

With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. (NIV)

Two quite different and seemingly contradictory accounts.

Big problem for the biblical inerrantists! They’ve got some explaining to do.

There are two possible ways to reconcile the verses:

  1. Luke’s purpose in Acts may have been simply to report what Peter said at a point in time when the apostles’ information on Judas’s death may well have been sketchy. After some of the Temple priests converted (cf. Acts 6:7), they may have given further details on Judas’s death that were later incorporated into the Gospel accounts.
  2. It is also possible that after Judas hanged himself the rope broke and he fell onto rocks that disemboweled him postmortem. Matthew’s emphasis then would have been Judas’s actions in taking his own life, while Peter’s emphasis was on what happened to him after his suicide.

That’s according to Catholic Answers. According to Luke Historians, Judas hung himself.

Whoever happened to suffer that bizarre disemboweling experience, it most likely wasn’t Judas Iscariot.

Inerrantists rightly point out that there is no logical contradiction between the two accounts of Judas’s death. The two can be harmonised and the traditional resolution of the seeming contradiction is a combined account, according to which “Judas hanged himself in the field, and the rope eventually snapped and the fall burst his body open.” Or perhaps the noose tightened on the corpse’s rotting neck, severing the head (which then “fell headlong”) from the body (which upon hitting the ground “burst open and all his intestines spilled out”).

Cool story. But hardly plausible.

Of course, the obvious explanation is that at least one account of Judas’s death has been embellished or entirely fabricated. But this obvious explanation isn’t available to the biblical inerrantist, who must do whatever is necessary to force-fit the recalcitrant facts to preserve intact the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching” or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”

Nothing wrong with a bit of ad hockery, or is there? There’s a lot wrong with a lot of ad hockery, and the simple fact of the matter is that the Bible is a mass of apparent contradictions and assorted anomalies.

I’ll be blunt. There’s a fine line between ad hockery and intellectual dishonesty, and biblical inerrantists are way over on the wrong side of it. (What if I told you all those Bible contradictions are there for a reason?)

So how did Judas really die? Disembowelment, of course. Keep it metal! 🙂

He that hath seen me

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For an entertaining exercise, name the third person of the Unholy Trinity.

Who is it? Mini-Me? Fat Bastard? Frau Farbissina? Or … ?

Brian Leftow on “One Person Christology” is Glenn Peoples’ latest blog post.

How can a Chalcedonian Christology avoid ending up with Christ being two people? If the divine logos (the second person of the Trinity) combined with a fully functioning human body and soul (which some people take to be the ingredients of a human being), that is surely two people and not one, right?

Commenter Nathan thinks it would be an entertaining exercise “to try and define Logos and Human as classes, and then try and bring them together to get incarnate Jesus.” He adds, “but ultimately it won’t work.”

Class, superclass, subclass, interface, implementation, instantiation, inheritance—these are all concepts in object-oriented programming (OOP). Object-oriented programming is a programming paradigm that represents things in the real world as objects with attributes (“properties”) and abilities (“methods”). In software development, object-oriented programming is the one true way. But in theology?

The theology question of the day is not

How can God be three persons?

but the closely related

How can the Incarnate Christ be only one?

By implementing the Human interface, that’s how! Not sure if serious or trolling? I’m serious. I think everything is software.

(Incoming! Genetic fallacy! “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” you say. “You’re a progr(h)ammer, Richard, so *of course* everything looks like software to you!” Nice try but no chocolate fish. Thales was not a tap.)

I’ll try to elaborate. But there’s a problem. Whereas the procedural paradigm is intuitive, the object-oriented paradigm is counter-intuitive. I started out in the procedural paradigm. Next stop, bitter experience. That’s when I made the paradigm shift. But it wasn’t easy explaining the object-oriented paradigm to myself then, and it won’t be easy explaining it to you now. That’s the problem. But I’ll try to elaborate.

I don’t always determine the meaning of a word by looking at its etymology, but when I do I look at the etymology of the word ‘logic’. The word ‘logic’ derives from the Greek λόγος or Logos, which has no exact translation but means, roughly, “reason, idea, word”. But Logos is the second person of the Trinity. Christ is Logos.

God is the author of the logic of the world, and his son is the expression of this logic.

So says philospher Nicholas F. Gier. Now, what is software but an expression of logic? Think about it.

In the beginning was the Code, and the Code was with God, and the Code was God.

Controversial? Heretical? Or just plain bat-shit crazy? No more so than the Logos Christology of the Gospel of John is any of those things.

A brain (and the body housing it) and a mind (the software running on it) are what constitutes a human person. Christ Incarnate was a human person. He was simultaneously the second person of the Trinity. How come he was not two persons, but just one? Simple. He was running different software. You and I instantiate the class DomesticatedPrimate. Christ Incarnate instantiated the class Logos. Christ is the class Logos. He instantiated himself.

An interface is an abstract class that defines a set of abstract methods. The Human interface is an abstract class that defines what it is to be human in terms of distinctively human attributes and distinctively human abilities. The classes DomesticatedPrimate and Logos have this in common. They both implement the Human interface.

That’s my destructive heresy for today. I’m not teaching it, mind. Just putting it out there.

OOP or Oops!? Be sure to let me know in the comments.

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Thou shalt THINK

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I noticed something interesting about the Great Commandment.

The first and great commandment is stated in the Gospel of Matthew

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy MIND.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (KJV)

and stated again in the Gospel of Luke

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy MIND (KJV)

and again in the Gospel of Mark

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy MIND, and with all thy strength (KJV)

(emphasis mine).

Notice how in each Gospel account you are commanded to love God with all your MIND? That’s odd, because Jesus is supposedly quoting a verse from the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. But there’s no mention of MIND.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (KJV)

So where did MIND come from? I think it’s a Christian innovation. I think Jesus is commanding us to THINK. What do you THINK?

Do you believe that the Bible (in particular, the KJV) is the inerrant Word of God? Then please explain why Jesus misquotes himself. (But first go away and have a THINK.)

O ye of little faith

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(P1) If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. (NIV)

(P2) You cannot move mountains from here to there.

Therefore, (C) Your faith is smaller than a mustard seed.

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (KJV)

St. Matthew-in-the-City

I find the latest billboard from Auckland Anglican church St. Matthew-in-the-City offensive.

I’m not someone who usually gets offended. My motto is, “Take drugs, not umbrage.” But I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out. So, just for once, I thought I’d give it a go. I don’t have any feathers, so I’ve ruffled what little hair I have left instead. I’m offended. Deeply so. And if you find *that* offensive, well … let’s be offended together!