Essentials of Christianity Part 2

I now would like to look more closely at the doctrines and beliefs which the bible itself claims as necessary to affirm in order for one to be a true Christian. Surprisingly I have found very few which are deemed necessary by the authors themselves. Monotheism, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, salvation by grace alone, and the gospel. Non-essential doctrines and beliefs do not serve to undermine any necessary doctrine and there is no command to adhere to them. Freedom in these areas is recognized by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 14, along with a brief overview of some non-essential doctrines which were common in the formational years of the Christian church. Examples of some non-essential doctrines include: inerrancy of the bible, methods of baptism (full emersion or sprinkling of water), frequency of communion, and length of creation days. Beliefs concerning these subjects does not exclude one from Christianity.

Monotheism is the belief there is only one God, is the uncreated creator of-and separate from-the universe (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 33:6; 96:5; 115:15, Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21, 22, 24; 46:9; 47:8). This view stands in stark contrast to polytheism, which teaches the existence of many gods, a view common to many eastern religions. The bible acknowledges the perceived existence of multiple gods, but that they are false (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:28; 2 Kings 19:17-18; Psalm 97:7; Isaiah 37:19; 42:17; Jeremiah 14:22; 16:20; 18:15; Daniel 5:23; Zechariah 10:2). Similar to polytheism is henotheism, and differs in that while there are believed to be multiple gods, only one deserves worship and adoration. Pantheism suggests there is no distinction between the Creator and the universe. It tends to equate God and the universe and is contrary to the biblical teaching that they are separate. Similar to pantheism is panentheism which is the belief that the universe is a part of God, but not completely God. Thus in Exodus 20:3-6, the command to direct worship to YHWH Himself and no other. Anywhere the bible speaks of the existence of gods, it affirms only YHWH as the only real deity, and all others as false and powerless. For this reason monotheism is a necessery beliefs for the Christian.

Second, the deity of Jesus of Nazareth is spoken of through out the New Testament (NT), and alluded to in the Old Testament (OT). That Jesus is God, is central to what it means to be a Christian. Christians since the first century have worshipped Him as God, having taken a human nature to come in order to reconcile fallen man to Himself. The idea that it would be God Himself who would come is written in the OT and is not strictly a Christian idea. Psalm 49:7-9 reads: “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him–For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever– That he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay” and states explicitly that your redemption nor someone else’s can be redeemed by a mere man. It is Jesus that gives everlasting life, John 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”, John 4:13-14 – “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”. John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish”. See also Romans 5:21; 6:23; 1 Timothy 1:16; Titus 3:6-7.

The OT and NT both teach the only savior is God Himself, Isaiah 43:11 – “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me”. Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer”. Luke 1:47-“And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior”. 1 Timothy 4:10 – “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers”. Since the Advent, Jesus is also referred to as the only savior. Luke 2:11 – “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”, Philippians 3:20 – “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”, 2 Timothy 1:10 – “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. See also, Titus 1:3-4; 2:10, 13; 3:4-7; 2 Peter 1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:18.

In many passages Jesus is called God both directly and indirectly. Paul writes in Titus 2:13-14 -“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession”, 2 Peter 1:1 – “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. Indirectly, by application of OT verses referring to God are then in the NT applied to Jesus. Isaiah 45:22-23 – “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance”, compared with the passage in Philippians 2:10-11 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Application of the title Savior has been covered in sections above and is significant. In the OT, God Himself claims to be the only Savior and the NT writers and followers of Jesus knew that. It is expressed by their continual use of “God our Savior” in their writings, but they also use Jesus name interchangeably as being the savior, even within the same verses. The language used indicated they have not abandoned their belief in only one God, and only one savior, it seems as though they recognize Jesus and God are the same.

The subject of the deity of Jesus is quite an extensive endeavor. Neither time nor space will allow an exhaustive apologetic for Jesus’ deity. For a quite thorough and readable treatment of the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, I suggest the book “Putting Jesus in His Place” by Bowman and Komoszewski.

Following Christ’s deity is the necessity of His resurrection. There is a reason that Jesus needed to be resurrected, physically in the same body. First, sin is destructive in nature. It is why living things die. The whole purpose for Jesus’ punishment and dying in the first place was that it was done in our stead. In order for that substutionary atonement to be effective, Jesus needed to be sinless. If He was not free from sin the suffering on the cross would have been for Himself and not for others. His being raised was in essence, defeat of the perils of the consequence which sin delivers. It is full trust in Jesus that He is God, crucified, and raised from the dead which delivers us from the punishment which we deserve for transgressions against God. Therefore belief that Jesus’ resurrection is a factual event in history is crucial. For Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 – “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied”. Basically our faith, if it is worth anything, must rest in the actual resurrection of Jesus. Without this fact being true, our faith is wholly in vain and of no value.

With Jesus’ resurrection comes opportunity for man to be saved from the just sentence we all rightly deserve for our transgression of God’s law. But the sixty-four dollar question is, how? Is it something we earn, what must we do to be saved from the wrath God declares is due to all who break His law? It is natural for a person to think salvation is something which must be earned, after all, nothing in life is free, right? Additionally, it almost seems right to us, that we make it better. How many of us have wronged someone whom we love only to ask them “what can I do to make it right?” This urge to somehow right the wrong ourselves is innate, but is this what God has required of us? The bible is clear about our means to the salvation Christ has provided: we are not, indeed cannot be saved by anything we do ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works”. Works is a biblical term roughly meaning obedience to the law, which is in essence doing good. It is by the grace of God, through our faith that it was Jesus who bore our punishment, and that He did it completely, and that it is not anything we can do for ourselves. Galatians 2:21 – “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly”, hence, if salvation was something we could do ourselves Jesus is irrelevant. It could not be more explicit than in Romans 4:5 – “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness”. See also, Galatians 3:21, and Romans chapter 4.

The final indispensable affirmed doctrine is the gospel. The gospel proper is not the same thing as gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All four accounts contain the gospel, but they themselves are not the gospel. The gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also”. It is this series of events which is the gospel, and is recorded by the four evangelists. Paul goes further saying in Galatians 1:8-9, NIV – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Paul makes it unambiguous, the gospel is very specific, and it is not to be distorted.

As we have seen affirmation of certain beliefs and doctrines are non-negotiable to Christianity according its authoritative religious text, while others are not. The main thing to glean from this piece is no one is arguing that one cannot believe anything they want. This is not an argument for the truth of Christianity.  Believe what you will. Christianity and the doctrines and beliefs which define it, are found within the bible. Though many people will give many different answers to the question, “what must a Christian believe in order to be a Christian?”.  Christians do not define Christianity, the bible does. If one is intent on claiming the bible as their chief religious text you must consider it for what it is. This holds true for any other religious system. Muslims are not free to alter the Qur’an which dictates what it means to be a Muslim, according to their preferences. When you abandon the contents of the bible relating necessary beliefs, you forgo your true association with Christianity, and have in all practicality, invented a religion of your own.


Related Article: Essentials of Christianity Part 1

Comments

  1. I agree with each of your stipulations, and I think they lay the basis for anyone who professes Christianity.

    Based on this formula, I think a lot of people who get cast under the “not really Christian” net would not be so quickly condemned. I don’t see anything here that contradicts RC, for example, and though I remember the constant warnings of my youth that JW was a “works based” faith, I’m not familiar enough with them to assert that they break the salvation by grace stipulation you mentioned. Maybe.

    But your formula seems to allow for universalism, annihilationism, anabaptism, and charismatic or revivalist sects- all of which I have seen cast away as heretical.
    Do you then believe these things to be heterodoxy?

    • Heres the thing with the whole enterprise. The Bible is clear on what is essential. But there are many non-essentials which lead to essentials, almost like a spider’s web.

      For example, adultery is a sin. But one could be forgiven of the sin and be saved nonetheless, since technically you don’t gain or lose salvation based on a particular behavior. However, there are the passages (in 1 John, for example) that say living in continual sin is evidence that you are not truly repentant, since one cannot truly love God and continue in and love sin at the same time. So continual sin, and even endorsement of sin (Rom 1:32, for example) basically is evidence you aren’t saved. It’s enough to leave someone pondering, looking up to their left scratching their chin. I’ll admit it sounds like talking out both sides of my mouth, but I’m sure it has been explained more adeptly than I have here.

      I have never been one to believe you need perfect theology for salvation (which is borderline gnosticism), but I have always wondered how far off you could be and still be saved. Romans 14 acknowledges there is room for disagreement in the nonessentials, but then again too much disagreement might be too much.

  2. Excuse the follow up, just subscribing to follow up…….

  3. Also,
    I just discovered these are the same as the CARM prerequisites. Do you follow that site?

    • I’ll respond with more substance when I get a chance later tonight.

      When I had decided to post on this, I had looked around for what others thought about which were essential. Some had more, some had less. I remember agreeing that what carm had determined agreed with what I had determined.

      • It was really creepy actually. I happened to go to the CARM site after reading this post only because another blogger claimed to frequent the chat section. No interest in this argument at all. Then I clicked on universalism because I cannot help myself, I’m fascinated by peoples arguments against it.
        Lo and behold I found these exact points on their site.
        Coincidence……I think so.

        P.S.- You should read the laughable argument AGAINST universalism there. It is a giant “I hope you don’t buy into other unrelated heresies that I CAN beat up on, or you are going to hell. Also, Pascal’s Wager!!!! Suck on that, heretic!” bumbling mess of non-sequiturs, shell games, and clusterf&@%ery. Really. Go check it out…..

        • I dont spend much time on CARM. I used to hang in the chatroom when I was doing something else on line or needed a quich Bible reference (its funny, just ask “where in the BIble…” and you get 2 or 3 references pretty quick) but no longer do. I was banned…perminantly, for saying “it sucks that you cant use colored or italicized font anymore”. I broke the cardinal sin of criticising the decisions of the administration.

          I would say, as would many others, that believing in universalism–per se–is not a damnable sin. However, it does directly contradict what the bible does say about salvation and how and through whom it is attained.

  4. I couldn’t disagree more with your final sentence. And I’m not sure why I feel impelled to argue for a doctrine that I obviously don’t believe in, but your statement is a sloppy half-truth at best.
    I have never met a universalist who claimed that salvation was not through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not one.
    I have never met a universalist who claimed that salvation was not a gift, the product of God’s perfect Grace.
    So neither of your statements hold water in that respect.
    What I assume you mean is that you want salvation to be through the tangled Calvinist doctrine of by grace alone through faith alone, which has some convoluted biblical grounding but is not entirely clear.
    It also involves a boatload of ignorance with respect to passages that imply otherwise.

    I’m not saying you are wrong, just wrong when it comes to your justification for dismissing universalism.

    • Im not suggesting they dont use orthodox language (like JWs and LDS, same words, different definitions), I’m suggesting doctrinally, salvation need not come directly through Jesus, thats universalism, You, me, even Z. Inclusivism is what you described. Secondly, i was making mention in passing, not establishing an argument, I’m sure you can see that.

      Through Jesus alone, through faith alone, is not strictly Calvinist, most evangelical denominations believe that.

      If you want we can argue for/against universalism another day. I have a sleep study I’m leaving for in 15 minutes.

  5. And so I have to wonder why, since I and my tribe all ascribe to your essentials list, why you treat us with suspicion and sometimes derision? Why do you suspect that some people who disagree with you on non-essential matters may not be Christians?

    • Its the particular issue, and type of issue. If we were talking about baptismal practices it would be one thing. But you and your tribe are embracing sin and encourage others to do so. That is dangerous.

      • Well, we certainly aren’t doing so deliberately (“embracing sin,” that is). Rather, we prayerfully seek God’s will.

        Consider this, John, my tribe would consider your opinion about Christians and war, or about marriage equity, wrong. We are folk who seek God’s will, study the Bible and pray for wisdom to follow in God’s way by grace and we think you are biblically, rationally and morally mistaken in your positions on at least those two topics, and probably have done so for longer than you’ve been alive, judging by your youthful appearance.

        And yet, even though we think that you’re mistaken, we would not suggest you’re not a Christian or that agreeing with us is essential for Christianity, even on these topics that we think are quite obvious biblically and morally and rationally.

        Do you think we’re right to consider these disagreements to be about matters that are not essential to salvation, or do you think we ought to treat your (from our point of view) wrongness to be evidence that you are not saved? Do you think we ought to treat your faith with suspicion?

  6. But you said nothing about NOT being mistaken (giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming we’re mistaken) on a topic as being an essential.

    Do you think one has to agree with John on all issues as an essential for salvation? Of course you don’t.

    Do you think one has to agree with John (or, if you prefer, “agree with a majority in the church”) on certain issues as an essential for salvation?

    Is perfect knowledge of right and wrong an essential of salvation? You don’t list it here.

    • Another friendly reminder, wondering if you might answer this question when you get a chance…

      Thanks!

    • I don’t see any allowances made for people mistaken about Jesus. Or mistaken about monotheism. The Bible says people who do not…X await eternal punishment.

      I’m not sure why you parse this “agree with John”, I merely cite the Bible itself using essential language about certain doctrines. It has nothing to with me or my standard. If you don’t like what the Bible says about an issue, tell God when you see Him that you think He did it wrong.

      • I have no problem with the Bible, brother John. I just disagree with YOUR interpretation on some points. And so, I still wonder what your position is on salvation. You SEEM to be agreeing with me, that the essentials are grace, God and Jesus, as you talk of in your post. And so then, it seems that you think where you and I have disagreements are in the area of NON-essentials. In short, we disagree about a few behaviors (gay marriage, war, and maybe a few others), but agreeing with John or Dan on these behaviors is NOT part of the essentials for salvation.

        Do we agree on that point?

        And, if so, then why the distrust of folk like me and mine? If we’re truly brothers in Christ, as I believe us to be, then any disagreements we have – however strongly it might be on those few issues – they’re in house disagreements. The Bible clearly says that we can tell who is a Christian, when they love those in the family of God, love their fellow church members.

        Do you love me, John – this poor old sinner, saved by God’s grace humbly and prayerfully seeking God’s will in my life, by God’s grace – do you love me and accept me as your brother since I affirm all of your essentials?

        Will you treat me with the love and respect the Bible calls for? (And, really, by “me,” I am not speaking of myself, but all those progressives, anabaptists, methodists, presbyterians, etc who disagree with you on a few non-essential points).

        • Well, Dan, the Bible tells us to rebuke a brother when we see him sinning. Fair enough?

          The Bible tells us that to cause another to sin is itself a sin, fair enough?

          The Bible tells us to not countenance unrepentant sinners among us, fair enough?

          So as long as you advocate for the moral benignity or goodness of homosexual sexual relationships I will continue to fight you on it, fair enough?

        • I, for one, am fine with disagreements. I disagree with you, after all, on these non-essential points, even though I think you are wrong. I am fine with pointing out when an argument is wrong.

          I’m just saying that we who have been saved by God’s grace should do so in a way that reflects respect and love.

          So, yes, by all means, if you think I’m mistaken, disagree with me. Fair enough. Express your disagreement. But acknowledge that it is an in-house disagreement between fellow Christians.

          Fair enough?

          Do you love me, John, and will you treat me and mine with the love and respect called for in the Bible, even though we disagree and even when you express that disagreement?

          Any straight answers to these questions?

        • Sorry, one more line of questions: Since I think you are sinning in your attitude towards gay folk and we both agree with the concept of “rebuking a brother when we see him sinning,” what do you think MY rebuke towards you should look like? What IS that balance between love and respect and rebuke?

          For my part, I’ve tried to gently rebuke the argument, respectfully but strongly, offering apologies when I’ve made a mistake, all the while recognizing that I am addressing my fellow Christians whom I love. I’ve tried to do so by pointing out the (what seem to me to be) obvious biblical and logical and moral errors in their arguments, without getting into their personal character or faith. Do you think that is the right way for me to strive to rebuke folk like you, whom I believe to be sinning? Or do you think the rebuke should be stronger, more condemning, more strident?

          That is a serious question, I’m interested in how you think I should handle our disagreements, since we seem to agree that it is okay to correct another. I hope you can find it within you to answer these.

          • Calling sinners, sinners is not a sin. So unless you can point me somewhere where I have mistreated homosexuals, you’ll have a point. But just because call homosexual sexual relationships sinful and morally wrong doesn’t make me wrong, biblically speaking.

        • John…

          But just because call homosexual sexual relationships sinful and morally wrong doesn’t make me wrong, biblically speaking.

          You’re begging the question and ignoring my questions, John. I am of the opinion that the Bible and common sense is abundantly clear that healthy marriage relationships are a good thing, gay or straight. Your calling something good, “bad,” is the sin. It is sinful because, 1. It is a falsehood and 2. It drives people AWAY from Christ and from Good.

          I fully understand that you have a different interpretation of the Bible. I am fully aware that I can’t “prove” my position to you, any more than you can “prove” your position to me. So, stating the point in question (This behavior is sinful) in an effort to support your case (this behavior is sinful) is circular reasoning and begging the question.

          But that is off topic. MY questions to you on the topic being discussed here are:

          1. Do we, or do we not agree, that disagreements about gay marriage and war are NOT essential points of salvation? That is, holding the “right” opinion about these behaviors is not necessary for salvation, agreed?

          2. If we agree that far, then can you ALSO agree that, where we disagree on these non-essential matters, we ought to do so in love and with respect for one another, because this is two Christian brothers disagreeing?

          3. Do you love me, John? As a brother in Christ, do you love me?

          4. IF I THINK YOU ARE SINNING (I’m not asking if you agree with me or if my position is sound), what do you think my rebuke of you should look like? Have I been too harsh, thus far? Not harsh enough in my treatment of someone whom I believe to be holding a sinful position and “continuing in sin”?

          If you could please answer those questions on this topic, I’d very much appreciate it, Brother John.

          • Its not begging the question if the Bible lists those who engage in same sex sexual relationships as being in sin. You have taken the position that it’s ok to make the passage mean the opposite of what it says.

        • Soo.. are you just going to ignore my questions?

          For my part, John, let me just say that I do love you (as much as anyone can rationally say that about a stranger whom they’ve never met). You seem like a decent guy with a good heart. You seem to be concerned about truth and communication with others. I have no serious doubt in your faith or your heart. I just disagree with you on a handful of your conclusions on non-essential tenets/behaviors.

          I love you John, and wish you the best. Quite seriously.

          But I’d still like you to answer my questions, if this is a blog that is open to honest questions and open dialog on the topics you are posting.

          • Its not that I dont want to answer your questions, or that I’m not interested in truth. I don’t particularly like you, you are depleting the little patience I have for you, and have been debating ignoring you all together.

            Instead of asking the kinds of questions I have told you I hate (ie severely reduced ideas designed to force someone to agree with you, since a yes or no or brief answers are wholly insufficient, and thus making me dislike you even more), why dont you just make a Biblical case for the moral goodness of homosexual sex on your blog, and I will address it on mine.

        • John, the topic of THIS POST that you wrote and invited comment upon, is the notion of the essentials of salvation. I have written that I AGREE with your list of essentials, then asked the related question, “So, what do we do on disagreements between folk who AGREE on the essentials – how do we handle that? What does rebuking look like?”

          WHAT in any of my questions is so offensive to you? This seems rather astounding. Here I am, AGREEING WITH YOU, and just asking follow up questions. In WHAT WAY are my questions offensive? IF you would only spell that out, then I COULD CHANGE, or at least try to. As it is, you appear to be getting emotionally upset for reasons that I can’t honestly discern. IF I knew what was bothering you, THEN I could try to change. But all you’re saying is, “[You’re asking] severely reduced ideas designed to force someone to agree with you, since a yes or no or brief answers are wholly insufficient, and thus making me dislike you even more.”

          In what possible way is asking, “How ought I rebuke you, if I think you are sinning” doing this?

          Again, IF YOU WOULD JUST BE SPECIFIC: “Dan, when you say…, I find that troubling because…” This vague “severely reduced ideas” is not telling me anything.

          I guess I’ll quit commenting at least for this post, because you seem so upset, but I honestly don’t know what is getting you so distraught. I am at a loss.

          My apologies for doing whatever it is I’m doing wrong, Brother John, if anything.

          Peace. Seriously.

          • How do we handle disagreement? We look to specific Bible passages on the relevant topic, not argue from concepts. So in this example, the Bible specifically says same sex sexual relationships are morally wrong, even called an abomination. The bible explicitly states homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. So if you wanted to rebuke me, you’ll have to show me where the Bible says as explicitly that those passages mean the opposite of what they say.

            I’m not going to rehash my distaste for your tactical approach.

            Rebuking me involves showing me from the Bible, specifically, why my particular view is wrong using passages which explicitly discuss the topic at hand.

        • George? Anyone else? Do you see what I’m missing? I’d be glad to listen to anyone who has an idea as to what I’ve done wrong here.

        • John…

          We look to specific Bible passages on the relevant topic

          Okay, since you responded… All right. We have done this, then. Right? You and I have looked at the Bible as it relates to homosexuality. And you and I have come to differing conclusions on the topic. Now what?

          Do you think we ought to be huffy and angry towards one another because neither of us could “prove” to the other we’re right? Or do you think we should say, “Okay, my brother Christian, I strongly disagree with you. Perhaps we can speak of this again, if either of us has a new angle on it?” and move on, do you think?

          That is, AFTER discussing a non-essential topic and not coming to agreement on it, then what? Is it okay with you to disagree with that person and still consider them a beloved brother in Christ? Or do you think something else should happen? Should they continue to repeat the same arguments over and over or what then?

          Should I consider you STILL my brother in Christ, even though I think you are seriously mistaken on a couple of non-essential behaviors?

          • We have never discussed the issue in depth. You have never made a case for same sex marriage or homosexuality using the bible, you have only said long term commitment and love and marriage are good in themselves, therefore homosexuality is endorsed by the bible.

        • Okay, so then, in order to rebuke you, you want me to offer you the full-on biblical reasons why you are mistaken?

          And then, once I have done that – and you having done the same for me (although there’s no need to since, having come from that position, I’m well aware of it) – then what?

          If two believers, saved by grace and seeking God’s will, can’t agree upon the sin nature of particular behavior or two, then what? Should we disassociate over disagreement over two non-essential behaviors? Should we treat one another with love and respect, knowing that each thinks the other is wrong on these few non-essential behaviors?

          Then what?

  7. As I have said before- much the John’s chagrin- I actually feel like Dan has a point when it comes to homosexuality. Every mention I am aware of can be written off by 1. claiming that Jesus fulfilled the Law (Sorry, entirety of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) or 2. Pointing out that every other reference seems to be in context of pagan ritual. (read: anything by Paul) .
    Christians seem too willing to shout “context” when the passage at issue contradicts their personal politics and insist that other passages require absolutely no context: they stand on their own.

    I have previously written that it is indefensible for a Christian to argue for homosexuality biblically, but I might suspend that judgment given an argument like Dan has forwarded. I’m not coming out definitively on one side or the other, and really- it makes no difference to me. I just honestly believe that Dan makes some persuasive points about the context of those passages.
    Perhaps, given that I neither want nor expect to see the end of Christianity, I’m partaking in the same “wishful thinking” that John charges Christians of.

    • Heres the problem with that George. If youre going to argue that homosexuality is only condemned in pagan rituals, then youd also have to argue that murder and adultery is only wrong in pagan ritual context. Homosexuality is not isolated from other passages, such as 1 Cor 6, where homosexuals are listed among murders and the like. Romans talks of burning with lust after one another, not some ritual. So if we’re going to include something that is not there, then we must apply the same “pagan” contest to all the other condemned behaviors mentioned along side.

      For example, sex with anilams is ok as long as it is a loving committed kind of sex, since it is mentioned in the next verse of Lev 18 where homosexual sex is called an abomination. It must also be ok to have intercourse with your neighbors wife, as long as it isnt in a pagan context, but rather in a loving and committed way.

      You see, if we are going to argue that homosexuality is only wrong in pagan contexts, even though that is not explicit in the text, all the other behaviors mentioned along homosexuality would also have to be acceptable as long as it isnt done in a pagan way. Is that what we should believe? Or does the text mean what the text means?

      The Bible never distinguishes between kinds of homosexual relationships. A distinction has to be read INTO the text, it is not read from it.

    • John, here’s the problem with your reasoning on this point…

      If youre going to argue that homosexuality is only condemned in pagan rituals, then youd also have to argue that murder and adultery is only wrong in pagan ritual context.

      No, you don’t have to argue that at all. You just don’t.

      We look a few verses over and see that cutting the hair on the side of your head is condemned in Leviticus. But we don’t say, “Well, if you’re going to argue that cutting your hair on the side is only condemned at that time, then you have to say that only murder was condemned at that time, but not now.”

      It does not logically follow.

      • But hair cutting is not right next to homosexuality in prohibitive text, murder, adultery, and sex with animals is.

        You have to contort, stretch, and twist in order to get your understanding out of the text, and that you do.

        • John, “Do not cut your hair” is found in Lev 19, between 18 and 20 – where you find the only two apparent references in the OT to some homosexual behavior. It’s all part of God’s rules for Israel at that time.

          In Lev 19, you find, “do not steal,” “do not lie,” “do not wear polyester” and “do not cut your hair.”

          IF you are saying that one can’t discount one line without discounting the other line in Lev 18 and 20, then that is true also in Lev 20.

          No distortion or twisting.

          Your point does not logically follow. You don’t even think so.

        • John, here’s the problem with your reasoning on this point…

          If youre going to argue that homosexuality is only condemned in pagan rituals, then youd also have to argue that murder and adultery is only wrong in pagan ritual context.

          No, you don’t have to argue that at all. You just don’t.

          John, why can’t someone say, “THIS verse is mentioning a moral truth that is applicable today. THAT verse is mentioning a moral that is NOT applicable today…”? You do this, yourself.

          “Men shall not lie with men…” which you say is talking about all homosexual behavior and is an applicable prohibition, you say, today.

          “…if they do, kill them…” which is the VERY NEXT LINE – the end of the same sentence – and you say that is NOT a moral applicable today.

          Why CAN’T someone say, THIS verse is referencing a universal truth and THAT verse isn’t? You do it, after all, do you not?

        • …annnd AGAIN, John, you’re resorting to an ad hom attack rather than dealing with the point I made.

          WHAT in what I’ve said demonstrates a “lack of theological understanding,” John?

          The point stands: It does not logically follow that we can’t argue that THIS line is universally true and THAT line isn’t, since we all do it and, well, since it just does not logically follow.

          IF the OT were a STEP BY STEP RULE BOOK FOR OUR LIVES and we were all agreed upon that, then perhaps you could make your point, perhaps. But it isn’t.

        • John,
          I’m really disappointed that you can’t or won’t respond to the point Dan made about Leviticus.
          In the exact same verse it says to kill homosexuals, yet we do not give this commandment any moral weight, yet the part about homosexuality being an abomination- that gets to be held up as a moral command. It seems reasonable that if one wants the Law to stand, one must stand for the Law. My point originally was that Jesus fulfilled the Law, and as such some things in the Law are self evidently still morally wrong, while others are not. So we are left with the NT and common sense to guide our moral actions.
          For example, the bible has exactly zero references to “not buggering children” as being morally good, yet we know that it is horrible. Why?
          Jesus never wasted a single breath on homosexuality. The two or three times that Paul does, it is connected to fornication and pagan ritual. Why?
          Again, I have no horse in this race, but I just want to see someone systematically dissect Dan’s argument- instead of just stomping on the ground and shouting “no!”. I know that Dan has style issues, John. I get that he has a habit of trying to boil his argument down to incremental “Do we agree”s, and that it comes across as PA at times.
          That doesn’t mean he has no argument, or that we ought to just talk around him instead of to him.

        • John,
          I’m happy to hear your response, but rest assured if it has anything to do with the stock response that we must accept the legal requirement but not the prescriptive judgment, it will fall short.

        • George…

          I know that Dan has style issues, John. I get that he has a habit of trying to boil his argument down to incremental “Do we agree”s, and that it comes across as PA at times.

          I find this chagrin about my “do we agrees” to be interesting. PA? As in Passive Agressive, really?

          Perhaps it would help to point out that this is just a way I have of doing systematic Bible study. I think it safe to say that it’s part of what led me away from the belief that “the Bible” or God condemn any and all gay behavior. Like this…

          1. I look at a notion that some have derived from the Bible (any and all gay behavior is wrong, for instance) and then I look at the passages in question.

          2. In so doing, the first thing I see is that there is VERY little discussion of any gay behavior in the Bible.

          3. “But,” I might say to myself, “Does very little mention equate to acceptance of behavior?” And of course, my answer to my own question is No.

          4. I then notice that, indeed, in the few places that have been cited to be talking about SOME form of gay behavior, it IS almost certainly talking about some form of gay behavior. Lev 18, Lev 20 and Romans 1, for sure, seem to be speaking of a prohibition against some form of gay behavior.

          5. “But,” I might ask myself, “Does this NECESSARILY equate to a condemnation of ALL gay behavior? Does it necessarily equate to a universal rule against ALL gay behavior?” And, of course, the answer is, not necessarily – maybe yes and maybe no… I’ll have to look a little deeper.

          6. So, I look at Lev 18 and Lev 20. Clearly “men laying with men” is considered wrong, right along with bestiality and incest.

          7. “But,” I ask myself, “what is it specifically speaking of and to whom is this addressed?”

          and so on. It’s a series of questions to see where I agree and disagree with the thesis in question, to see what the Bible does and doesn’t say about a passage. There truly is no aggression intended in asking these questions. When I reference someone as “brother” I mean it sincerely, since I truly consider John (and George), in this instance, to be my brother. It also serves as a reminder to myself to try to keep the conversation respectful.

          It’s the way (one way) I conduct Bible study with myself, why wouldn’t I use the same approach with others?

          But maybe I’ll have to move away from this approach, or at least how I’m handling it, because John is not the first one to get disturbed by my asking questions to find out where we agree or not, and to suspect sinister motives where none exists.

          Is that what’s disturbing you, John? Just my sorta socratic method of asking questions to seek truth?

          • Youvde made explicit the problem with your exegesis, the bible does not distinguish between “kinds” of homosexuality, it condemns same sex sexual contact. You impose distinctions the text doesn’t make. That’s called reading into the text. That’s how people come to wrong conclusions. By your meathod we could justify adultery. Sure the bible says adultery is wrong, but should we conclude all kinds of adultery is wrong? Should we conclude all kinds of incestual relatilnships are wrong? Should we conclude all beastial sex is wrong?

        • That’s begging the question, John.

          We’re both looking at the text and asking, “Is this a prohibition against all gay behavior, for all times and cultures, or is it something more specific?”

          You can’t answer the question, “Is this a prohibition against all gay behavior” with the answer, “Yes, this is a prohibition against all gay behavior. We can know this because it’s a prohibition against all gay behavior!”

          Whether the text does or doesn’t condemn all gay behavior IS the question. You can’t claim it as the answer. That’s begging the question.

          I offer the EXPLICIT words of the text in Lev 18, 20 and Romans 1 where, in each case, it identifies the “bad behaviors” as being part of the pagan systems around them. Based upon this, we can see, AT THE LEAST, that there appears to be (if not “are certainly”) some contextual specifics to the people and behavior in question.

          What evidence do you have that this MUST BE SPEAKING about all gay behavior, and that no other interpretation can even be considered?

          • That’s nonsense that it begs the question. When you see a sign in a park that says “no riding bicycles in park”, do you say to yourself that ‘surely the sign doesn’t mean all bicycle riding, only some kinds of bicycle riding’. Do you think it begs the question to conclude the sign prohibits all bicycle riding? Or is it reasonable to conclude that all bicycle riding is prohibited unless otherwise stipulated?

            You are making unwarranted provisions. It does not beg the question to interpret a text that makes no distinction in prohibitions in types on homosexual behavior to be therefore prohibiting all homosexual behavior.

        • …And just so you know, by offering my first seven steps of my Bible study process on this point, that was not my entire reasoning/exegetical process, just giving you an example of the same sort of questions that I ask of you, I ask of myself. In my example’s seven steps, I had not even reached a point where I was ready to change my position, I was only setting up some rational points based on what the Bible does and doesn’t say.

          If you’d like, I could go through a simplified step by step walk through the whole process that led me prayerfully and biblically AWAY from the position that I held and that you hold now, to the position I hold now.

        • John, if I were to go to an archeological dig and see an ancient road sign that said, “no wheeled carriages,” I would not make the presumption that the nearby current road was still under that same prohibition and that it applied to cars. Nor would I presume that I even know what the sign means by “wheeled carriages,” for sure. (That’s probably not the best example, but hopefully you get my point).

          We’re not talking about a sign put up by the same culture in the same era speaking the same language. We’re speaking of rules and stories written by/to an ancient people, in multiple different languages in a vastly different society. You are imposing distinctions the text doesn’t make, nor does rational, careful, prayerful exegesis demand.

          You are begging the question. But don’t take my word for it: Ask some unbiased observer.

          • Now you’re diverting from what you had said. You had made the claim that even though the text of the bible makes no distinctions in kinds of homosexual relationships, that we are nevertheless justified in believing it surely didn’t mean all homosexual relationships. Yet another example of your disingenuous tactics.

        • You had made the claim that even though the text of the bible makes no distinctions in kinds of homosexual relationships, that we are nevertheless justified in believing it surely didn’t mean all homosexual relationships.

          What? What specifically (ie, provide the quote) do you think I’ve claimed? Because I have no idea what you’re speaking about here, John. It appears to be another ad hom diversion.

          “Even though the Bible makes no distinctions in kinds of homosexual relationships…?” I have not said that, don’t believe it.

          The Bible barely touches on any homosexual behavior, but it DOES a bit. It speaks of gay rape (Sodom/Gomorrah, etc). It speaks of temple prostitutes. It speaks of catamites (boy sex slaves). It speaks of pagan rituals and practices. Those are distinctions of a series of what I would consider bad sexuality (and those instances would be bad, whether they were gay or straight).

          What it does not speak of anywhere are positive, healthy homosexual behaviors. The Bible no where condemns nor promotes them. It’s a silent topic in the Bible.

    • As to the MIS-translation of “malakos” as homosexual in 1 Cor 6, well, it is a mistranslation.

      1Co 6:9: The word “effeminate” is found only one time in the King James version (this verse).

      The Latin word from which we obtain “effeminate” is “EFFEMINARE,” and it means “make feminine.” Strong’s Concordance defines this Greek word for “effeminate”–“MALAKOS”–as “a catamite.” A catamite is a boy kept by a pederast, who is a man who practices sexual relations with a boy.

      Certainly, those who force a boy into sex acts are not walking in God’s ways, but then, neither are those who slander. And neither has anything to do with healthy homosexual relationships.

  8. Friendly reminder: You said…

    I will george, tonight when I have time to explain it. He knows better, or should. I gather he is banking on most others don’t.

    And, ignoring the ad hom part of that false and unsupported (and unclear) charge there at the end, any chance on addressing the questions raised?

    • I’ll get to it when I get to it. If I am not timely enough for you, perhaps you’ll find someone who is. I have already asked you to lay out your case and have not done so. You have been very general and far too vague as to your interpretive method. So either wait until I’m good and ready, or present your actual case, not just an outline or description of your view.

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