Questions from the web…

Posted by on June 28, 2005

[UPDATE: Joel said it was alright for me to publish his name here. The post that started this is here.]

Joel Esler posted some questions on his blog the other night about Christianity in general. I had started to respond on his site but thought I might respond to his questions here so I can refer back to them. They are some interesting questions…

This post will be an attempt at answering the questions from *MY* Christian Perspective.

Here are the questions…there will be a quiz tomorrow…

Things I am confused about

1. If Jesus is God’s son, how are Jesus, God, and they Holy Spirit, one person? Isn’t that physically impossible? And when Jesus died, he said “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. So Jesus Died. Gave his spirit to God, who again, is a different person. But I thought they were one?

Ah yes, the question of the Trinity(No Joel…not Carrie Moss). I never attended Seminary so you won’t see those $64 dollar words here that I’m sure Singlemind will chime in with. 😉

The best Earthly analogy I can come up with for the Trinity is that of a Board of Directors. A Board of Directors are a collection of individuals that function as a single entity. When “The Board” says jump, the employees say how high on the way up. When a Board member walks through the halls of a company the employees offer that person great deference.

The Christian Trinity is essentially the Board of Directors for the Faith. There are three members and they are all “The Chair”. Every vote of the Christian Board of Directors is tallied and the totals come up as 1 FOR and 0 AGAINST. I know it doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t it make sense? Because God created us and there is no way for the creation to ever fully understand the creator. When the created begins to understand the creator then the created BECOMES the creator…and thus capable of utterly destroying itself.

To think of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the human sense you are taking away the very thing that sets them apart from us…their divine nature. So when you say:

If Jesus is God’s son, how are Jesus, God, and they Holy Spirit, one person? Isn’t that physically impossible?

you are mixing two completely different realities. In our physical world, yes…it is impossible. But God CREATED the physical world and can do with it as He pleases. In Heaven it will be quite clear as to how the three entities are one Entity. As long as we are living and part of this world we have no hope of fully understanding what makes the Trinity the Trinity….but I think the Board of Directors is about as close as it gets. 😉

2. Who is the Pope?

I’m going to push this off for another post I think. Big HUGE things to comment on with this and I touched on them in the comments of Joel’s post.

3. Who is right?

This one is tough to deal with and stay Politically Correct…but since when have I concerned myself with being PC? Seriously though, the answer to this question is a matter of Faith. If you have two people arguing over their fate if they jump from the top of the Sears Tower and one claims he can start flying before he hits the ground and will land back on top of the tower while the other one claims she will fall to her very messy death and then bounce about 3 feet into the air…who is right? Clearly the wise lady is right. She doesn’t have to jump to prove it because she has total FAITH in her decision. Her friend may tell her that if her faith was strong enough she could fly like he can but it won’t shake her Faith because she simply believes.

The Christian simply believes that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus. Nothing will shake their Faith…not even a good rant by Tom Cruise! We believe we are “right” and try like the dickens to bring other people to Faith because we don’t want to see anyone go to hell. Some folks take this whole evangelism thing to the extreme and they are wrong in doing so. Our task as Christians is to be here with answers for those who ask. We can’t bring anyone to faith in Christ. All we can do is try to live life as Christ would have us live it and let the non-believers see Christ in our daily lives. While we believe we are “right”, we should ALWAYS defer to the “seekers” judgement because it is THEIR decision to make. If it were my decision to make for others then everyone I meet would become Christian upon my laying eyes on them.

To see just how strongly we believe we are “right” you should just read this(and in the spirit of Fairness, here’s an counter point to Cassie Bernall’s story that I have to admit is intriquing and makes the same point).

Now then…all that being said…I’m sure that you will find Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, and any other religion followers claiming they are ALSO right. Debating the “rightness” of a religion or faith can lead to big nasty fights so I try to stay away from that. If it comes down to it I’m willing to simply say, “Well, we disagree then.” and leave it at that. I would rather maintain the relationship than to have the friend thinking I’m a pushy little twit and then inflating that perception to apply to ALL Christians. Unfortunately, there are some who do not hold my view.

4. Should we stop interpreting the Bible and start following it?

This question is a personal favorite of the entire list and I have to answer with a RESOUNDING YES! When I read the Bible I follow a very simple rule. If the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense. That way there is no interpretation to do. It has been said that the Bible contains many contradictions, that the Bible was written by men and therefore mistakes should be expected, that the Bible has many great stories but those stories have no real power. I disagree with all of the above because I have complete FAITH that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. No one is going to convince me other wise. My next post is going to be what we Christian’s like to call my “Testimony” or the story of how I came to Faith. I’ll give a little spoiler here I guess.

From about 1988 to 1998 I was a practicing Gardnerian Witch. I never killed a single baby or sacrificed a single virgin. Never killed any livestock for the purposes of a “spell” or anything silly like that. I didn’t believe in a “devil”, “heaven”, “hell”, or any of the other Christian concepts except for the idea of a supreme higher power. While a Witch I saw and experienced many MANY things that were of a “spiritual” nature. I watched over days as bones were healed well ahead of their normal healing time. I have also felt the power of Scripture holding me back and changing my behavior. Wild allegations? I can see where some would say that but I say it’s the truth.

Why the spoiler? I use it to illustrate how Scripture was used against me with direct and immediate effect. No hollywood special effects or anything but when that guy quoted Jesus my breath was taken away. He didn’t scream or make a wild gesture…he just said it. For those that say the Bible has no power I say bullcrap because I’ve felt it.

5. How does the Bible fit into modern society? For example, Abortion.. Bible says it’s wrong… Okay… Well Someone rapes your 11 year old daughter, and she becomes pregnant.. is it wrong then? If you say, “Well the Rape should have never taken place in the first place” Good point. I agree.. But it happened… what now?

To answer this one could fill a library. I’ll take a stab though.

The Bible is essentially a book on relationships. How we are to interact with other individuals. I think “society” has twisted the Bible into a harsh rulebook with harsh penalties for breaking the rules. There are a few, a very few, folks who read harsh rules and punishments INTO the Bible and they are ROUNDLY condemned by the rest of the Christian Faith. Those bone heads that kill doctors who perform abortions is an excellent example of those who read harsh rules into the Bible. It’s these people that give “society” a reason to pigeon hole the Bible and Christians in general. Pity that. I don’t believe we can apply the Bible to any social strata because, again, it’s about individual relationships and not how groups of people should function. Now, if an entire group of people BELIEVE then each individual will interact with the other individuals as the Bible would have us interact and therefore by extension the entire group will function in accord with the Bible. To my knowledge there has NEVER been such a group of people that could pull this off without some trouble coming from somewhere.

To answer your direct hypothetical situation I have to give my own personal opinion. The 10 Commandments say do not murder. Killing an unborn infant is murder. Therefore allowing the 11 year old rape victim to have an abortion would be murder. That’s very legalistic and I believe it is extreme. If it’s my little girl we get the abortion because she isn’t ready to be a mother and her mother couldn’t raise both the little girl and the little girl’s baby alone(with me serving multiple life sentences because I hunted the bastard down and slowly skinned him alive). I will have surely sinned in doing this(my feeding the rapist his own genitalia is obvious but the abortion would be sinful as well). The Bible would call me to forgive the rapist and therefore set an example for my daughter….but I just don’t think I could do that. If it’s me, I pray for forgiveness earnestly…probably while I’m removing the rapists spine one vertebrea at a time.

Okay okay…the bottom line to this is that at least in America we DO have to draw a line between our Civil and Criminal Law and the Scriptures. There is no way that I would expect my friend Deepa(from India and a Hindu) to bow to the laws of Deuteronomy in this life. I certianly will never bow to Sharia Law. The Bible applies only to CHRISTIANS as far as “Society” is concerned. As a Believer I would say the Bible applies to EVERYONE but ONLY in the sense of how people should relate to God and each other.

This whole flap about the 10 Commandments in public settings is a waste of bandwidth. It’s an attack on the Judeo-Christian beliefs that formed English Common Law and therefore the American system. I don’t want SCOTUS making decisions that effect EVERY citizen of America based on Biblical concepts. But I also don’t see a problem with recognizing the foundation of our legal system.

Last modified on June 29, 2005

Categories: Faith
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7 Responses to “Questions from the web…”

  1. Steve G. Says:

    Pilgrim,
    I thought I’d kick start the discussion with a response to some comments you made in the original discussion.

    There’s a HUGE difference between Peter, chosen by Christ his ownself, and the very next leader of the Catholic branch of Christian Faith.

    There is a difference of course in that they are, well….different people. But the question is not around the person of Peter per se, but rather his unique role as an apostle. That role is an office or duty he is performing for the Christian community and was a direct commission to him (Peter) as well as the other apostles from Christ himself. I think it’s fairly clear that at the very least the apostles had a special place of leadership in both the spreading of the faith and the teaching of the faithful. The question then becomes whether that role/office/duty/responsibility was to be passed on to the next generation of the Church leaders.

    The Catholic understanding is that indeed this was the case, and that this was the only way to ensure the truth and integrity of the teaching (remember, the NT hasn’t even been fully written yet, let alone the canon determined during the apostolic age). The early church had one test as to whether someone was to be an acknowledged leader. That test was apostolic succession. The basic thinking was Jesus taught the apostles, the apostles taught their successors, their successors to the next generation of successors, and so on and so on. Saint Irenaeus as early as the late 189 A.D. century explains it thus (sorry for the long quote, but I hate proof-texting and context is important)….


    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    “Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time” (ibid., 3:3:4).

    “Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth, so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. . . . For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant conversation, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question?” (ibid., 3:4:1).

    “[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth” (ibid., 4:26:2).

    “The true knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere” (ibid., 4:33:8).

    For me, as a Protestant, the position of Pope is really no better than my local Pastor.

    Even if it can be shown that a direct, documented, historical succession from Peter to Benedict XVI exists? In what way can you ensure that your pastor is being faithful to the true teachings of Christ? What is your test?

    but the claim that the Pope is infallible I can’t quite grasp.

    I think you can, and in fact already do without realizing it. I gather from other comments you’ve made that we agree that scripture is the inerrant, inspired, infallible word of God, correct? So in recognizing that, you recognize that the Holy Spirit used clearly flawed men who in and of themselves where not inerrant or impeccable to communicate a true and flawless message. In other words, he protected these screwed up men from screwing up when writing the gospels. Peter after all denied the Lord three times, and was basically told he was thinking with the mind of Satan (get ye behind me), yet,….he had the protection of the HS to pen two letters we call scripture.

    We Catholics just take that a step further. We argue that in order for the Christian message to be protected, the HS guaranteed that Peter and his successors would likewise be protected when it comes to matters of doctrine and morals

    Peter, while being crucified upside down, was no different than the Peter who heard the cock crow that third time, or the Peter who was at Pentacost. Surely, he was Blessed by Christ, but to claim he was SINLESS(infallable) is…well…the difference between my Protestant Faith and your Catholic Faith. 😉

    And herein is a HUGE (and extremely common) misunderstanding as to what infallibility is. It’s why I suggested the links I did. Infallibility is not, nor ever has been, understood to be the impeccability (sinlessness) of Peter or any of his successors. Infallibility is rather a gift, given by Jesus to the church, that when the Bishop of Rome (Peter and his successor) speak on Faith or Morals (a limited sphere), they can not teach error. More accurately, the HS prevents them (as with the writers of scripture) from teaching error by virtue of their office and not by any inherent virtue in their personhood (whether Peter, JPII, or any other person).

    I hope this begins to clarify things, but I realize there are so many assumptions I am taking for granted here and so much meat to tackle that it’s only the barest of beginnings.

  2. Joel Esler Says:

    Don’t know if this allows html, but click here for my further thoughts on God.

  3. steve g. Says:

    Good gravy! I had two long comments that took me quite while to post earlier today. They are now gone (different computer). Even on the other PC that I posted from, while I could see the comments, they weren’t incrementing the counter. Ugh! I’ll see if I can recreate most of them when I have a chance. Just wanted you to know I checked out your blog and am interested in continueing the discussion.

  4. Steve_Galv Says:

    >>Board of Directors is about as close as it gets

    I’d like to offer a different analogy that I think is a little better (not mine, but borrowed from JPII). I think the family in fact is the closest analogy we have to the Trinity.

    The Trinity in fact can be accurately described as a life giving union/communion of Persons. The persons in question are the Father and the Son. The life brought forth from that union of love is the Holy Spirit. In the case of the Trinity, that union is so real, complete and perfect that it forms a third person who is Co-Equal to the Father and Son. In other words, Father eternally pouring out his totality and love to Son. Son eternally receiving and returning that love in it’s totality and perfection and returning it to the Father. That relationship being so real, total, and perfect is realized in the person of the Holy Spirit.

    Now the family, while not a perfect image of this, is as close as we can get. It also can be described as a life giving union of persons. The persons in this case are husband and wife. Their union of love, while not perfect and total can bring forth a third person who is wholly real and individual in and of himself/herself. Each person retains their individuality, while at the same time being part of the one entity called family. Again, not perfect, but we cans see the parallel and the image of the Trinity most clearly here. JPII in his Theology of the body argues that indeed, nothing else in creation is a better image of the Trinity than the family.

    >>>All we can do is try to live life as Christ would have us live it and let the non-believers see Christ in our daily lives.

    I couldn’t agree more. In the words of St. Francis…. ‘Evangelize always, and when necessary, use words.’

    >>4. Should we stop interpreting the Bible and start following it?

    In principle, the answer of course is yes, and I can agree with much of your response, but……there is a more fundamental problem in Christendom that is lurking in this question. Follow what? The bible is a complex text (yes, I do believe it’s the inspired, inerrant word of God), written over a roughly 1000 year period, in specific cultures and times in history. To simply say follow it implies that it’s an easy thing to understand, which I think is manifestly not so.

    The evidence for this is that even in the parts that you or I may think the clear sense is obvious, we would disagree with each other. The further evidence is the absolute Chaos in Christendom over doctrine, and not over trifles, but over essentials (baptism, Eucharist, justification). Put plainly, interpretation is inherent in the reading of the bible. Of course we should follow the bible, but we should follow the correct understanding of it. The real questions then boil down to what that correct interpretation is, and who (if anyone) has the authority to declare it such?

  5. pilgrim Says:

    sorry guys…I moderate comments and haven’t had a chance to check them until just now.

    I’ll respond later tonight to Steve’s comments…this is going to be an interesting discussion!

  6. Steve G. Says:

    oops! sorry for ‘spamming’ you with all my attempts. I’ll be more patient now that I know.

  7. SingleMind Says:

    Steve:

    Interpreting the Bible is not a matter of rocket science, and–being a rocket scientist, I would know. 😉

    Seriously, while there are passages in which the understanding can be nebulous, the vast majority is not difficult.

    Most of the “difficulty” arises when we seek to impose our own agendas into the Scriptures.

    We have the natural inclination to smooth over the hard passages rather than assume they mean what they say unless the rest of the corpus of Scripture provides clarification.

    The other difficulty is that–to interpret it properly–you have to have a grasp of the entirety of Scripture. The Old Testament, for example, does not exist in a vacuum: in fact, we have the New Testament, something the patriarchs, kings, and prophets did not have at their disposal.

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