Would Jesus be allowed to join – or to represent – your church?
The previous posting dealt in some detail with only one of the favorite “bandwagon issues” to which individuals and groups demand that their adherents, in order to be considered “faithful” or “orthodox”, must unequivocally subscribe. The discovery that there was no such idea included in the New Testament text provoked a broader investigation, and raised the question with which we begin.
I know a young man, deeply committed to the Lord and his ways, who was desirous of serving his people through a health initiative of a denomination to which he had related. The leader of the project had known and appreciated his faithfulness for a period of years, and requested that he be appointed for service. That request, however, was denied by the denominational hierarchy,not because they had any problem with his excellent academic or experiential qualifications, but because of the candidate’s conscientious refusal to sign a detailed “statement of doctrine” which included a number of assertions which, although amply footnoted with carefully edited “chapter and verse” references, went far beyond any ideas that could responsibly be derived from the actual New Testament message.
Now, it is perfectly reasonable that enlistees in the service of the King be deeply committed to him personally, and to the way of life that he advocated and demonstrated. But if you have followed many of these studies, it should be clear that Jesus on no occasion raised any philosophical or theological questions with those whom he called. He asked only for personal loyalty and obedience.
Most of the issues so adamantly defended by “doctrine police” deal with subjects which Jesus either chose not to address at all, or tackled head-on to correct popular misconceptions!
Here is a small sampling of “required beliefs” which, if insisted upon, would peremptorily exclude the Lord Jesus himself from the privilege of service or fellowship in many of the groups that most loudly proclaim their faithfulness!
Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament (except for editorial footnotes of the last couple centuries) makes any statement regarding the popularly disputed ideas of the “when”, “where”, or “how” of “creation.” Everyone assumed that “God did it” – Paul, in Eph.3:9 and Col.1:16, specifically refers to Jesus himself as the agent of creation. Jesus himself uses the word only three times: the incident in Mt.19:4 and Mk.10:6 regarding the creation of male and female, and Mark’s version of his description of the destruction of Jerusalem (13:9).
Much more attention is given to the concept of the NEW creation, which begins with one’s identification with Christ (Eph.2:10, 4:24 and Col.3:10), and its purpose: “for good works” Eph.2:10, and “for thy (Jesus’) pleasure” (Rv.4:11)!
Paul, in Romans 1:20, also asserts that it is IN creation that God reveals himself even to people who lack the correct “pedigree”!
- “Inerrancy” of both the Old and New Testaments
Repeatedly, Jesus made serious corrections (“you have heard it said … but I say to you…”) to the “Law”, and consistently referred to it as “your law” and never once as “God’s law”. There are six such corrections in Matthew 5 alone, and many more scattered throughout the gospel accounts. For more detail on this subject, please refer to the “Flat Book” posting.
- “Original sin”
This idea is mentioned only once in the entire New Testament, and that was not by Jesus, but by his Pharisee opponents (Jn.9:34)! Even Paul, the hero of the doctrine crowd, who love to cherry-pick isolated “verses” (or even just phrases in his writing) to support their theories, spends the first two chapters of his letter to the Romans – one of their favorite “cherry-picking trees” – establishing that the depraved condition of people was their deliberate choice, and not their original condition. Jesus himself never mentioned the subject at all.
- “Virgin birth”
Although this is certainly clearly a fact, being asserted in both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, Jesus never commented at all upon the circumstances of his birth. He repeatedly referred to God as his Father, but plainly was not overly concerned with his own genealogy.
- “Penal Substitutionary Atonement”
Please see Word study #151. This subject was never mentioned by Jesus. When challenged on his right to forgive (see Word Study #7), Mt.9:6, Mk.2:7, 10; Lk.5:21-24, neither he nor his challengers said anything about his death. It was his identity with God that was the source of his authority, and also of their fury at him.
- The “fate” of nonbelievers: condemnation to hell-fire, etc.
Although poor translations of “pisteuo” (Please see Word Study #1) can be twisted to support such an idea in Jn.6 and elsewhere, the word more accurately denotes faithfulness/loyalty than theoretical or philosophical “belief”. When Jesus spoke of “eternal” consequences, they were predicated upon the behavior of the people in question (Mt.25:31-45 and Jn.5:29) and not their theological opinions. (Word Study #10)
- Jesus’ promised return
Two things – and only two things – are significant and certain here: (1) He IS coming, to assume his rightful role of King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and (2) by his own testimony, No one knows when that will happen (Mt.24:36 and elsewhere). Just as significant are his very plain warnings NOT to follow people who pretend to know all the details of time and place and circumstances (Mt.24, Mk.13, Lk.21) and his statement to the disciples enroute to Jerusalem for the last time that “ALL that has been written about me” would then be fulfilled. By Jesus’ own testimony, therefore, NONE of the rhetoric about “unfulfilled” Old Testament prophecy could possibly be true. Please refer to Word Studies 164-167.
And those are just a few of the discrepancies. I stopped at seven of them because some of you folks seem to like that number – although that is another thing Jesus never addressed.
How about it? As the purveyor of this sort of teaching, would Jesus be allowed in your church?
It is long past time for faithful followers of the Lord Jesus to quit sniping at each other over their theological constructs, and get about the business of accurately representing him in a world so desperately in need of his touch!