Posts filed under ‘The Holy Bible’
Some of my readers seemed to get a little upset that I would say that birth defects or being born gay or transgender might just be a part of God’s plan. They mentioned the fall, when Eve and then Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One said that as he understood it God wasn’t in charge of the earth now.
Well, I think God’s always been in charge of the universe, not just the Earth. If not, then who is in charge? Us? That’s a laugh. Satan? That’s even funnier. God’s in charge right now. God was in charge back then. He may choose not to interfere on a daily basis or not to interfere unless we ask Him in, but make no mistake that God’s ALWAYS in charge. He can step in any old time that He likes.
I also stand by my statement that what we often perceive as people’s imperfections are a part of God’s grand design, a design so big and complicated that you can only see it from God’s perspective. Think of corn mazes and crop circles. You don’t know what you’re looking at until you see it from the air.
I don’t mean that what a lot of us would think of as diseases and defects are personally visited upon particular people as a punishment. That makes no sense. A little baby has done nothing to deserve fetal alcohol syndrome, as an example. I only mean that God purposely designed a world in which these things could occur.
Let me ask you something: do you really believe that God is so small that the mere eating of a piece of fruit totally thwarted his original master plan for the universe? That’s it. Us all-powerful humans learn the difference between good and evil, and all hell breaks loose. It’s back to the drawing board for God, like Wile E. Coyote.
No, the world is the same world that was created on day seven. The fall didn’t thwart God’s plan. But there had to be consequences for Adam and Eve’s actions. The consequences were banishment from paradise amongst other things.
What was Adam & Eve’s sin? Well, for one thing it was thinking that eating a piece of fruit would make them as knowledgeable as God. It was that arrogance and hubris. And for another thing? It was believing the serpent, taking the serpent’s word over God’s and assuming that God lies. It was failing to communicate with God and failing to trust God.
Why would God purposely create a world from the very beginning that included the possibility for error? Well, I’m not God, so I can’t know for sure. But I believe that there are three reasons. The first is so that we would learn to love one another in perfect love. We would learn that other human beings sometimes require help and care. We would learn compassion that way. When we show love for our fellow human beings that pleases God.
The second reason is that if God created a world that was all paradise all the time, then it wouldn’t really be paradise anymore. In order to recognize that you’ve got it good there has to be a corresponding opposite state of bad. Otherwise, good is just the status quo. There’s nothing good about it. It’s just what you’re entitled to as a child of God. Ho hum. Just another day in paradise.
Adam: Do you think God will walk through the garden again tonight?
Eve: Who cares? There’s no reason to talk with Him. We have everything we need.
And the final reason that I believe that God created a perfect world of imperfection: so that we would learn to love God and to rely on God. The whole reason that the human race was created in the first place was to be in relationship with God. If we have free will and everything goes hunky dorey for us all the time, then there’s not much reason to be in communication with God. To thank him, some of you might say. But how do you recognize the need for gratitude when everything is just perfect all the time? That’s just the way it is. Why would I want to thank anyone?
If God didn’t want to be in communion with us he would have chosen, instead, to make us pretty dolls that he could just sort of move about the world, in much the same way that a little girl plays with Barbie’s dream house. Greek mythology often refers to humans in much the same way, as the playthings of the gods. I don’t think we’re playthings. I think we were meant to be companions. God didn’t create us just because he was bored. He created us because he was lonely.
I’m not so full of myself that I think these ideas are original to me. I’m sure that if I had gone to seminary that I could give you the name of at least one famous theologian who thinks the same way I do on the subject and can probably discourse on it much more intelligently than I can. What I’m doing is articulating my theology in a way that works for me. Hopefully, it works for you, too.
You can disagree. God made as many viewpoints in the world as there are people. The important thing is that we do think about God and speak with God and spend time with God and live our lives according to what we can best divine to be His will. But it would be a mistake to ever think that we can comprehend God’s plan for the universe, no matter how much time we spend reading the Bible…or how much fruit we eat.
St. Iranaeus (pr. Ear-uh-nay-oose) of Lyons was born in the first half of the second century in a Christian family, something unusual for theologians and priests of his time, most of whom were adult converts. He was the Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is where modern day Lyon, France exists now.
Iranaeus is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in America. Iranaeus first came to the spotlight as a leader among Christian leaders when several priests were imprisoned during their persecution under the Roman leader Marcus Aurelius. Iranaeus delivered a letter to the Pope of the time, concerning the heresy of Montanism.
Iranaeus’ writings were very contemptuous of Gnosticism, and his views on the subject were influential in forming early church doctrine. He was very opinionated on the subject of Gnostics, and his prejudice sometimes led him to record inaccuracies.
For instance, there actually was a written Gospel of Judas; a copy that surfaced in Egypt in the 1970s partially survives to this day. Iranaeus had railed against the oral tradition of a secret document that purported to show Judas’ betrayal as a calculated piece of the Lord’s plan for Jesus, not a treachery but a humble obedience.
Also, Iranaeus claimed that Gnostics were sexual libertines. The truth is that Gnosticism was all over the map. Some Gnostics were promiscuous; others were stricter in their sexual abstention than was the official church. Later, he lost some credibility when these inaccuracies were brought to light.
His most important work was a book called Adversus Haereses, Latin for Against Heresies. It is from Iranaeus that we get the first inkling of a canon. He believed that the Old Testament and most of what has survived to be the New Testament should be considered scripture. He famously argued for the fourfold Gospel.
The fourfold Gospel was the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we know to be the gospel today. In Iranaeus’ time there were many gospels. The gospels tended to each be more popular in certain geographical areas. As an example, there was a Gospel of Philip, a Gospel of Thomas, a Gospel of the Virgin Mary, a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the previously mentioned Gospel of Judas, to name a few.
The canon wouldn’t be officially deliberated or decided upon until many years later, but undoubtedly Iranaeus’ views were influential in shaping the Christian bible. His vehement argument in favor of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John being the only recognized gospels suggests that it was a novel idea for the time. However, one might also conclude that they were the most popular and widely read gospels for the time, whereas the gospels that didn’t survive were lesser known, less widely read, and also possibly contained Gnostic views.
In Iranaeus’ writings against Gnosticism he introduced the concept of apostolic succession. He argued that the bishops of the early church could be linked all the way back to the Lord’s first twelve disciples and that none of these church leaders were Gnostics. It is from the concept of apostolic succession that the concept of papal supremacy further emerged.
Iranaeus had many other fascinating insights, much too many to expound upon in a blog post. But his most important contributions to early Christianity were his denunciation of Gnosticism and his contributions of the fourfold gospel and the doctrine of apostolic succession. He undoubtedly greatly influenced the future solidification of the Roman Catholic Bible many years before its eventual canonization.
He died in the year 202 A.D. and was later buried under the church he served, St. John in Lyons, which was renamed for St. Iranaeus after his death. The church and his remains were later destroyed by the Hugenots in 1562. Some church traditions hold that he died a martyr’s death, although there is no evidence to support this fact.
To read more:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” – Josephus, from Antiquities of the Jews
Josephus was a Jewish historian. He was a law observant Jew who lived from approximately the years 37 to 100 C.E. He watched and chronicled, among many other things, the existence of Jesus and his ministry and the birth of the fledgling church.
Why is he considered so important to Christianity? He wasn’t even a Christian. Well, he’s vitally important to Christianity because he provides us with an impartial view of the times. The writers of the Bible can be accused of bias for Christianity. The gospels, for instance, could be said to be pro-Christian propaganda.
What proof do we have in the year 2010, for instance, that Jesus even existed? Some atheists question not only Jesus’ divinity but whether or not such a historical figure even lived. Josephus puts that rumor to death.
Josephus was raised in Jerusalem to a family with priestly and royal connections. He was a soldier and a diplomat. He was a Hellenistic Jew (which meant that he believed that Judaism was not in conflict with Graeco-Roman thought) but also a Hebrew patriot. His works were written in Greek, and he is considered to be a Roman apologist. He was a Pharisee by birth but perhaps not by inclination. He served for the Jews in the first Jewish-Roman revolt, although there is some question as to his loyalty since he was the only surviving member of a suicide pact.
His most important works were The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. His works chronicle not only the early Christian church and Jesus but also the first Jewish-Roman revolt and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. Because of Josephus we have an account of Masada, the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise to power of Herod the Great. His works directly reference John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, and James the Just.
The oldest surviving manuscripts of Josephus’s works date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Justin the Martyr failed to include Josephus’ reference to Jesus in his Christian apologies, and Justin was a known admirer of Josephus’ writings. This leads some to doubt the authenticity of Josephus’ account of Jesus. They believe that the information may have been added later by someone with a pro-Christian agenda.
Many other passages, beyond the one quoted at the beginning of this article, however, corroborate New Testament characters and stories and the existence of the political climate and social mores that are present in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. These passages are unchallenged by scholars. It seems likely that there may have been some tampering with the text in calling Jesus the Christ, since Josephus was not a Christian, but there seems little doubt that he would have included information about Jesus.
This account of Josephus’ life and work is grossly oversimplified. To read more about Josephus for yourself, check out these links:
The New Testament consists of 27 books written by an assortment of different authors. There’s a lot of argument and speculation about who wrote a great many of the books, with some scholars even insisting that some of the Pauline letters were not written by Paul. There isn’t even any agreement about when the books were written.
The gospels could have been written as early as the 50s C.E. or as late as the second century. The debate for when and who wrote many books of the New Testament is important because it establishes the authenticity of the books. If the gospels were written within the Apostolic Age, then there is a good chance that they were written by eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.
If the date of authorship is later, then the gospels lose some of their clout as they are most certainly a written version of an earlier oral tradition. And we all know what happens when you play a game of Telephone.
The earliest church didn’t see a need for a New Testament. The Jewish scriptures were their scriptures. No need to reinvent the wheel. Also, early Christians were convinced that Jesus’ return was imminent. They wouldn’t have seen the importance of preserving church tradition or the stories of Jesus because they were convinced that Jesus was coming for them before they could have children to whom they might pass it on.
This might explain some of Paul’s views on celibacy and marriage, which would have been contrary to Jewish tradition. These views, in turn, undoubtedly influenced the monastic tradition.
Some extremely conservative evangelicals would argue that all four gospels were written by disciples or contemporaries of Jesus. But I would ask you to remember that these are the same people who like to say that Moses wrote the Torah, which requires him to have written of his own death. Seems unlikely to me. So, I think we have to at least be open to the possibility that the Gospels were written after the death of Jesus’ contemporaries.
Does this mean that we should automatically disregard the New Testament as nothing but propaganda for a fledgling religion, a sect of Jews who were concerned with communal living? Well, oral history isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to scripture. The myths that make up Greek and Roman mythology were originally transmitted this way. This is also probably true for much of the Old Testament as well.
One great argument for the accuracy of oral tradition is the commonality of the flood myth amongst various cultures. Given that it’s a story that circulated through numerous peoples in geographical areas that couldn’t have influenced one another, there seems to be at least one case for the relative accuracy of oral tradition.