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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

On Pharisees and Evangelicals

April 5, 2011 5 comments

“”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
-Matthew 23:13, 15

Jesus seems to be saying that the Pharisees are doing two things:

  1. They are making very specific demands on who gets to be saved and who doesn’t, yet they themselves seem to miss the point of the faith they are trying to defend, and are thus leading themselves astray.
  2. They are trying hard to get someone to agree with their list of required beliefs, and when they do find someone who does agree with them, they turn even worse than their mentors.

The Pharisees tried to show outsiders that they were “among God’s chosen”, by showing off the rightness of their beliefs and life choices. Among those distinctive views that they emphasized in order to impress others were their rightness on issues of sexuality, on prayer/fasting and on water rituals, among other things. Their reaction against those who did not conform to their own standards was to call them “sinners” and shun them from their assembly of Pure, Chosen, True Covenant Members.

In a sense I wish these admonitions against the Pharisees applied only to those with the same theology, superficially speaking. Us Protestants have historically divided religious views in only two camps: those who hold to “salvation by works” and those who hold to “salvation by grace through faith”, i.e. the right view. Hence, Pharisees are merely seen as the example of people in the former camp, and Jesus is the person in the latter camp setting and example for those who would position themselves to be in this theological camp.

Something makes me think this is totally missing the point.

First of all, the criticism Jesus continuously gives the Pharisees has nothing to do with a specific theological system of how one is made righteous, but rather of the attitude of religious people trying to reduce the Kingdom of Heaven to a strict set of requirements and expelling and shunning everyone who don’t live up to their standards.

Second, as I already hinted at the start, the Pharisees were not really legalistic in the sense that they were trying to earn their righteousness by moral “actions” – they relied on “works of the Law” in the sense that they tried to show their Covenant membership by doing “Jewish stuff”, rather than by a faith in God and his Messiah.

What sneaks up on me is the realization that Christians who hold to a strict doctrine of Sola Gratia and Sola Fide, may sometimes be the most guilty of being “Pharisaical”. Jesus primarily warned of Hell to those pious religious people who excluded and shunned others, not to sinners.

Now, I’m sure he’d have a word or two to say in an environment that was overly “inclusive” in a way that ignores truth. But what I’m saying is merely that a lot of us conservative Christians should be afflicted by Jesus’ words to the Pharisees. Yes, Liberal theology can be very dangerous.

But the theology that Jesus confronted wasn’t liberal in any way, shape or form. They were in many ways the Evangelicals of 1st Century Judaism.

PS. I’d very much like to talk more about that last verse as well. What are the dangers of evangelism? Can the wrong kind of evangelism make a person into an EVEN WORSE child of Hell than before? Hmm…

Babies, Law Court Judgement and Christ

February 10, 2011 5 comments

It’s been a while since my last post, especially in English. I might make yet another post later on to answer “what’s up?”, but I’m posting for another reason now. I was notified by my friend Lisa Greer this morning about Greg Boyd’s latest post on “Baby Universalism and Reasonable Infanticide“, and I realized I have quite a few thoughts on this. So I wrote her a reply, which I realized would work out as a blog entry! It sort of assumes that you have read Boyd’s blog entry, however, so if there’s anything unclear, it might be a good idea to read it.

This is a question I’ve been wondering about for years, but no one else has brought it up, so Greg did what he usually does and asks the question no one else dares to ask. I’m totally with Greg on this. Any logically and morally inclined person who seriously believes in baby universalism should wander around murdering all the babies within reach, as well as forcing mothers into having abortions. It reminds me of an atheist I met once who said that if he was a Christian (as he understood them), he’d force people into accepting Christ by any means possible, damning himself if he had to (Rom 9:3). When you think about it, the notion that God gives a free pass only to those who don’t enter into adulthood makes our lives into nothing more than a cruel joke. It basically gives a thumbs up to all the teenagers who kill themselves: “Good idea, there’s absolutely no good reason to continue striving in this world!”

I understand and sympathize with the basic view of God and babies that makes one assume God would never condemn a baby who hasn’t started making conscious choices, but in the end, I think this scenario proves the absurdity of “Law Court Final Judgement“.

Most Western Christians assume that the final judgement is a scene where Humanity is standing before God, and those who have consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime are magically Jesus-protected from God seeing their sin. Those who haven’t consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime, however, won’t be prevented from God seeing their sins, and so God’s alarms will go off and he’ll throw them into eternal hellfire, regardless of anything those people might say when they get into heaven, because they are all radically morally totally depraved sinners who hate God anyways.

When Baby Universalism is connected to this view of the Final Judgement, babies are presumably either given a free Jesus-contract, or they simply commit no sin that the Father has to torment them for. I think both these alternatives are weird. In my view, (original) sin taints all of creation, and although it depends what kind of infirmities God is looking for, babies are not perfect. Free will also doesn’t “pop up” at the age of 11-12 in children, they start making choices independent from their instincts very early on.

If God made an “exception” in the law court system to babies below the arbitrary age of accountability, does that mean he gives exceptions to people who had a bad upbringing? People who started hanging out with the wrong people in their teens? People who got bullied in school? If we wants to keep any consistency here, we should just say that God should give an exception to everyone, and accept universalism. The other option within the law court system is to go the other way with election instead, and just change God’s character so that he enjoys sending people to Hell. That works too.

One major problem with the West is that we view sin so individually, and primarily juridically. Sin taints all of creation, and it is contagious like nothing else. Everyone is at one level guilty of sin, and yet everyone is at one level a victim of it as well. This is why we in the confession of sins say: “Through my sin I am guilty of more evil than I understand on my own”. This reality about the nature of sin makes it hard for me to see how Western Law Court Justice can ever be appropriately meted out. It’s so pervasive, and it doesn’t seem to be fixable by punishment.

Because of this, I am less inclined to believe God’s problem with sin is that his Divine Justice must be fulfilled by meting out Just Punishment to all those guilty, which in the end turned out to be redirected to Jesus/Himself. You’d think the Crucifixion would be a lot more intense if God needed to pour out all the punishment and wrath on the God-man on the cross. Especially when you consider that the cross, according to this view, was supposed to be the punishment for all humans replacing our punishment in eternal hellfire, due to sin against the eternal God (by finite beings…). You’d think the punishment due to Jesus (if comparable with eternal torment) in this view would be more like a billion nuclear bombs exploding and imploding on him over… well, eternity? That’s not to say Jesus did not experience things beyond what met the eye on the cross. He assumed all of humanity, and thus, without having sinned himself, “became a curse for us”, and “bore our sins”, so all the weight of our evil was upon him in those last moments.

This is something I will explore as I write my essay on the Atonement, by the way, but it is not that I deny all substitutionary or legal language for the Atonement, but I believe the introduction of Western Human standards of justice into God’s character is a large reason why people can’t see the beauty of God in Christ, when he takes upon Himself the Sin of the world. He took on our sins as something that is in ITSELF horrific. Sin is horrific and deadly, not God. The only reason God’s holiness is dangerous is because Holiness (wholeness) exists, and sin, distorted creation, ultimately doesn’t. It is not creation, but yet we cling to un-creation when facing God. No wonder it is dangerous to fall into the hands of the Living, Existing God like that. You can read what I’ve previously written on sin and salvation here. But there is nothing inherently scary in God’s character. God, in Jesus Christ, took on all of Sinful Humanity and lived it out (without sinning) to its logical consequence, death. When God had finished that, the Old Adam was brought to his end, and Jesus Christ destroyed sin, death and the Devil who had lived as a parasite on that fallen humanity, and rose victorious on the Third Day, creating a New Humanity in Him.

I think the view of sin within the Orthodox Church, which Greg Boyd seems to share, is more compatible with the loving character of God as perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s problem with sin is that it damages us and our relationship to Him, each other, ourselves and everything else. He wants to heal us, but we flee from Him, in fear that He will judge us and accuse us. Who is the accuser? Not God, but Satan. We have made God into Satan, by assuming that his greatest problem with us is his punitive anger against our sins. In reality, it seems the only reason He reminds us of our sins is to simultaneously ask “Will you stop holding on to that and give it to Me, please?”. All He asks is that we stop making our tormentors (Sin, Death and Satan) into our lords, and make Jesus Christ our Lord instead. Through choosing to return to Jesus Christ and taking part of His New Humanity through the Incarnation, we are given a new identity in Him as righteous and holy. We are then to put on Christ’s Humanity  and put off Adam’s humanity every day, so we may walk and continue the Life of Christ on Earth, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Heb 2:14-18; Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:22,45)

Here is a wonderful passage fleshing out (pun not intended) the wonders of the Incarnation and its centrality to our salvation:

But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-The Epistle to the Hebrews, 2:9-18

And also:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

-The Epistle to the Romans, 6:4-13

From my understanding, in the Eastern view, the Final Judgement is about whether or not there is a sign of Divine Life inside of us, whether or not we take part of the Divine Energies that God wants to envelop us in. He gives them freely to all who seek His Face, and in the end, He will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). When this happens, the love of God will envelop everything. Those who refuse to see the truth of who God is, however, will experience His love as torment and wrath. They will not experience it this way because God created it such, but because their lord Sin has become their guide to how to interpret everything they see, like Gríma Wormstongue in Lord of the Rings. Heaven and Hell are the same place: the loving prescence of God, but He will not force Himself into anyone’s mind.

So Hell is a reality in our minds, and a state of mind that I’m sure all of us have already tasted. That is not to say, however, that being freed from Hell is a mere decision and change of mind. It is a deadly mind virus and a parasite, and if we do not let the caretaker of our souls, Jesus, uproot it, it could take over our entire existence, and harden our hearts towards God. As for what God in his loving-kindness will ultimately do to those who end up in this situation, I don’t know. As I have previously written (in Swedish), although with a lot less clarity on the nature of Judgement, I think there is Biblical support for the view that all that is not in accordance with God will be as if it never existed. However, I am not certain of this view, and in the end, I can only look to Christ and know that He is Good.

As for the babies, then… I don’t believe our souls become inactive after death. I think we are either purified or hardened against God. As I have to assume there has to be some point in staying alive on Earth, I believe babies must be given the chance to choose beyond this life instead. But I think Boyd gave the answer to this question in his blog post and elsewhere. As I said before, in the end, I can only hope that God will be God in all situations. If I see Jesus, I see the Father, and Him who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3, verbatim).

Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy!

Guds kärlek och villoläror

September 6, 2010 4 comments

Som jag nämnde i tidigare inlägg, och borde ha visat spår av under en längre period, så är jag till stor del på en resa i min teologi. Jag drivs av en enormt stor iver att ha en sund och sammanhängande världsbild, som stämmer överens med vad jag säger och gör. De flesta känner nog igen sig i detta, men för mig innebär det att jag också måste tänka kring hur olika teologiska tankar och idéer påverkar min världsbild. Många kristna tänker att så länge vi bara pratar om Guds kärlek och lever enligt den, så behöver vi inte reflektera kring några av de andra teologiska tolkningarna vi har gjort – det vore ju att kompromissa med budskapet i vår tro!

Frågan som har drivit mig under de senaste månaderna är denna: är budskapet i vår tro främst en samling dogmatiska lärosatser, som måste formuleras enligt ett visst sätt, och är den typen av frågor vad Bibeln oftast behandlar? Ibland får jag känslan av att kristna tror att vår tro handlar om ett tiotal grundläggande påståenden av Gud, varav ett är att han är kärlek och vill ha en relation till oss, men att detta inte har någonting att göra med tolkningen av de andra påståendena. Till exempel brukar det sägas att “Guds kärlek måste balanseras mot hans rättvisa och vrede”. Dessutom innebär tydligen per nödvändighet påståendet att Jesus är enda vägen till Gud att VÅR väg till Jesus är den enda vägen till honom.

Jag tror att det finns en stor rädsla och osäkerhet hos många s.k. konservativa/evangelikala/bibeltroende kristna. Om man tror att Jesus var den han sade sig vara i evangelierna, och vill vara i en kyrka som poängterar lärjungaskap efter honom, så gör många därifrån ekvationen att desto mer icke-politiskt korrekta eller s.k. “fundamentalistiska” åsikter man väljer att ha, desto mer trogen är man också Jesus. Så å ena sidan finns där en genuin tro och längtan efter att följa Jesus från Nasaret, Gud med oss, men å andra sida känner man sig tvingad att explicit eller implicit tro på massor av andra idéer som sägs vara baserade på Bibeln.

Exempel på sådana idéer är 6000-årskreationism, med tanken att det mest “bibeltrogna” sättet att tolka Urhistorien i 1:a Mosebok 1-11 är att läsa dem som en kronologisk berättelse som gör naturvetenskapliga påståenden om jordens tillblivelse. Detta leder till att man tvingas konstatera att jorden skapades ur intet för cirka 6000 år sedan. Även om många kristna idag känner tveksamhet inför den här tanken, tror jag att många plågas av en inre röst (eller konkreta röster från andra kristna) som anklagar. Dessa anklagelser säger har ofta i princip kontentan att du är på väg mot liberalteologins område, och därmed är på riktigt farlig mark. Snart förkastar du säkert Jesu gudomlighet och tanken på synd också!

Jag hade själv en längre period av mitt liv när jag hade den inställning jag skrev om ovan… Från den tidiga tonåren, då jag på allvar började ta tydliga åsikter i trosfrågor, började en attityd växa fram hos mig. Jag tog till mig enkla svar och tog en fientlig inställning till all kritik mot mina tolkningar av hur tillvaron såg ut. Jag fann en sorts “liv” från tanken på att jag hade rätt svar, och den översittarattityd med vilken jag förklarade hur fel andra hade. Det är spännande att vara politiskt inkorrekt, och Gud skulle säkert belöna mig för att jag sa att jag trodde på saker som jag egentligen trodde för därför att det var något jag kunde lägga ner tid och energi på att hålla igång tron på.

Grejen var bara den att jag levde med en sorts dubbelhet i detta. Jag kunde inte riktigt förklara för andra människor hur jag kunde ha de åsikter jag hade (om  t ex evolution, sex och helvetet), och fann mig själv tvivla allt med på det. Jag hade visserligen inte så många kristna vänner, men de jag hade vågade jag aldrig på djupet prata om de här sakerna med. Jag tror att känslan till stor del var ömsesidig. Istället blev jag allt mer påverkad av världen runt omkring mig när det gäller hur jag VERKLIGEN såg på de här frågorna, även om jag kanske fortfarande skulle ha sagt att jag höll mina gamla åsikter i frågorna. Detta ledde till en kris i min Gudsrelation, även om den redan innan var ganska ytlig. Jag flörtade med annan typ av andlighet (hednisk/fornnordisk sådan, till exempel), och lade ner med tid, tro och intresse i olika konspirationsteorier om jordens slut än i vad Gud ville göra här och nu, med mig eller med andra.

Men Gud hade en plan för mig. Genom ett möte med en lärare från Johannelund (LOE) på ett läger, väcktes mitt intresse för att fördjupa mig i tron. Efter studenten ansökte jag därför till Bibelskolan på Johannelund. De första stegen på den resan kan du börja att läsa om på den här bloggen, från oktober 2008 och framåt…

Gud har gjort så mycket i mitt liv, men det som han tydligast har gjort är att förvandla mig från en “rättrogen” religiös tro, som mest handlade om åsikter, till en levande relation med den levande Guden! I den relationen, och i gemenskap med andra med samma längtan, har jag allt mer fått föras in mot djupet av Guds förvandlande kärlek!

När jag började på Johannelund fanns det visserligen en längtan efter gemenskap och fördjupning, men min syn på teologi handlade mycket om att lära mig om djup, mystisk kunskap, och att kunna föra fram mina åsikter. En av de tidigare och största lärdomarna jag gjorde efter jag kom till Uppsala var dock detta, och fortsätter att vara:

Teologi är ett medel till ett mål, inte ett mål i sig. Nej, målet är relation med Gud genom Jesus Kristus. Det kan och får inte vara något annat. Om teologin inte bygger på husgrunden, Jesus (Matt 7:24), och om Herren inte bygger det huset (Psa 127:1), så är allting förgäves. Om vår teologi blir testet för vår frälsning eller källan till vår förtröstan, så har vi missat hela poängen med teologi. Om vår teologi pratar mer om Guds handlade i världen i allmänhet eller om vad vi måste göra, snarare än att vara en väg närmare Jesus Kristus, Guds Son, så är allting förgäves. Därmed inte sagt att vi bör strunta i att ha en ortodox lära. Men vad är problemet med en villolära, egentligen? Tänk efter!

Ibland uttrycks det som att hela världen går under om vi har formulerat evangeliet på ett bara aningen icke-ortodoxt sätt, då vi måste förstå exempelvis precis hur vi blir frälsta av nåd för att det skall kunna nå fram till oss. Gud blir begränsad av bokstaven, då evangeliet framställs som ett kontrakt: Människa dum, Gud arg och vill straffa, Jesus snäll och tar straffet, Gud tillräknar oss inte straff om vi håller ovan för sant. Slut på kontrakt. Med den synen på frälsning blir det klart att en “felstavning” kan förstöra allting! Allting som inte klart och tydligt förkunnar det här kontraktet är en villolära!

Jag tror dock att frälsningen och evangeliet ytterst sätt handlar om något annat, något mer. Jag menar att Guds längtan efter kärleksrelation är grunden till allting han har gjort, gör och kommer att göra för oss! Frälsning är befrielse från det som hindrar den relationen, och den är ständigt pågående! Då blir evangeliet allt som är sagt i kärlek och sanning. Dessa två är dock två koncept som inte kan skiljas från varandra, speciellt inte när det gäller evangeliet! Det går inte att “rent och klart förkunna Guds Ord” (Jesus själv!) om det inte sägs i kärlek OCH sanning. Det står att Jesus var “fylld av nåd och sanning” (Joh 1:14), därför går det inte att predika Honom på ett sätt som går emot hans karaktär utan att ljuga om Honom! Att säga något “sant”, speciellt om Gud, är också att vara kärleksfull. Likaså är det inte kärleksfullt att inte berätta om ondskan som finns i och runt omkring oss, som Gud vill hela oss från!

Så vad är då en villolära? Det är någonting som inte förmedlar den nåd och sanning som Jesus kom med. Allting som inte visar på vem Gud verkligen är och vill med sina älskade barn. Alla bilder av människan och synden som inte erkänner att vår relation till Gud hindras av vår egen inkrökthet. Alla falska bilder av Gud, som vill sätta “men…” efter meningen “Gud är kärlek”.

Med den definitionen av en villolära och ortodoxi, borde många av oss, jag själv inkluderad, nog ta oss en tankeställare på våra prioriteringar när vi talar om Gud. Vi bör lämna de teologiska tankar om Gud som inte pekar på Jesus långt bak i vårt bagage, och som bäst kanske fundera lite över det på vår fritid. Om vi låter “den rätta läran” i olika hänseenden utesluta människor, fast den inte har en tydlig anknytning till Jesus från Nasaret, så bör vi ta en seriös tankeställare.

Så lev i Jesu kärlek, och låt oss vandra vidare med Honom för ögonen i allt vi gör!