Who do you say Jesus is?

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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by kaufmannphillips » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:22 am

Hello, Karen,
karenprtlnd wrote:
Jesus Christ is without question one of the most dimensionaly available Lords, not only for the domestic american reader, but for the simple and the crude as well. That anyone, including "gentiles" are welcome, is also a refreshing consideration.
(a) The first sentence here is curious.

(b) Judaism allows gentiles to become Jews.
karenprtlnd wrote:
Hey Kaufmannphillips. Your a white caucasian american person, yes?
How come your choosing to adopt yourself into Judaism? Yet not all the way.....
(a) Judaism has nothing to do with one's race or nationality.

(b) I began my journey with Torah about sixteen years ago, due to an encounter with Matthew 5: 17-20 (a passage that differs, and tellingly so, in its parallel in the Book of Mormon @ 3 Nephi 12:17-20). I remained a Christian for perhaps nearly another ten years, but my thought and practice continued to evolve until I reached a question of identity, which I decided in favor of Jewishness. There were a lot of elements involved in this decade or so of development, and to narrate them appropriately would take quite a bit of time and effort. At present, I have numerous other obligations.

(c) Jews generally do not consider it necessary for gentiles to become Jews.
karenprtlnd wrote:
Also, I've always sensed that the writings of the Old Testament and the New Testament have a distinct Judah-Islamic violence about them. Am I right?
Could you elaborate on your question here?
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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by kaufmannphillips » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:30 am

Jason wrote:
All kidding aside, the church has held different opinions on this throughout its history (especially early) and has, save for Rome, not had a single authority by which to govern Trinitarian orthodoxy. When the councils met to discuss this they were debating Scripture. Therefore it has always been the writings of the apostles and, before them, the prophets who decided these matters. {color added}

kaufmannphillips wrote:
A historical study of the councils would not reduce their decisions to the writings of the apostles and the prophets.

Jason wrote:
That would depend upon which decisions we are talking about. The Trinity doctrine (which I believe is correct) still arose late and I've seen no evidence that any particular council (except for perhaps the first council in Jerusalem) was inspired or given authority by the Heavenly King.
I do not claim inspiration for the conciliar decisions; even so, I object to characterization of the conciliar decisions as being decided by scripture (as found in the tinted section above). Historical study of the councils will suggest other important factors in their decisions besides scripture; the contributions of politics and philosophy must be taken into account.

Very often people imagine that their understandings are based on scripture, without recognizing to how great an extent their understandings depend upon influences from outside of scripture. People naturally import external assumptions, methodologies, and biases into their readings of scripture - and the result can be understandings that do not accurately reflect the text itself.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
"We" have a rather limited privilege when it comes to making rules of "orthodoxy." That market has been cornered considerably by 1500+ years of investment.

Jason wrote:
Right, but why should we not exercise our privilege? Also, to be completely accurate, there was always a minority of Christians who didn't submit to the authority of the Roman church. This was always a minority bunch and most were executed but still... God seems to favor minorities. :)
(a) You may exercise your limited privilege, but you should also be realistic about its limitations. Minority rules of "orthodoxy" are sectarian until demographics shift sufficiently to render them otherwise.

This is not an issue of doctrinal accuracy or of religious propriety. "Orthodoxy" is a historical label, reflecting the hegemonic stance within a religious tradition. Then again, scope and context matters. "Orthodox" LDS doctrine will address the hegemonic stance within that sectarian movement; this same stance, however, will not carry the label of "orthodox" when it comes to Christian doctrine on the larger scale.

(b) Is it that G-d favors minorities? Or is it that - too often, as it happens - what G-d favors is embraced by only a minority of human beings?

How many minorities are there that G-d does not favor?
kaufmannphillips wrote:
Certain specific hypotheses related to the Trinity are rejected by the hegemonic stance of the church across time, even when taking into account both conciliar and non-conciliar parties. And some or all of these hypotheses are nevertheless held by unwitting Christians in the present day.

Jason wrote:
The hegemonic stance of the church is only important when one properly defines what the church is. Are you speaking merely of the institution which began in Rome, had a great schism, and a thousand years later broke off into hundreds of splinter organizations?
I am thinking of the broad field of Christian religion over twenty centuries - taking into account the presence of minor sects, but gauging their significance in light of demographics.

Once again, this is not a matter of doctrinal accuracy or of religious propriety. If we were to ask what "orthodox" Islam believes, we would not be asking which stream of Islamic tradition is most palatable from our perspective or from G-d's perspective. Likewise for Christianity, or for Judaism, or for whatever religious tradition.
Jason wrote:
Well, the bible contains the only real records of what Jesus and the apostles taught. Therefore, a rule of sola scriptura is hardly necessary if one understands where the source of authority for one's belief is derived. For the Christian our authority comes from Jesus and the apostles - specifically their written records. To a more subjective degree, we are governed by the leading of the Holy Spirit. And near as I can tell, the Holy Spirit has not informed me on these matters. {color added}

kaufmannphillips wrote:
Most Christians - historically and presently - belong to churches that do not reduce authority to the written records of Jesus and the apostles. Many Christians believe in authority found in the church itself.

Jason wrote:
Many Christians do indeed believe in the authority of the institutional church, I'm just not one of them - an opinion that would've cost me my head at certain periods in history. But you also don't recognize Orthodox Judaism as authoritative, correct? Does that make you wrong about which writings you choose to follow? We must not think that majority opinion determins truth. The minority could obviously be wrong but it can't be assumed.
I do not assert that majority opinion corresponds to truth, or that minority opinion is necessarily in error; rather, I object to making a broad characterization of Christian perspective, that in actuality telegraphs an understanding held by a minority of Christians (as found in the second tinted section above).
kaufmannphillips wrote:
You have the privilege of formulating your own theological understanding as you see fit, but you should be cautious when declaring what "Christians" think or believe. History and facts on the ground may dispute your assertion.

Jason wrote:
I don't understand this statement. We both agree the majority of Christians throughout history have held a Trinitarian belief so I don't dispute that. I'm only disputing your idea that conformity to majority opinion is what puts one "in the club." Your thinking is very traditional here, which surprises me.
I am addressing the second statement of yours that I have tinted above - a statement about what Christians think or believe.

You have the privilege of deciding what you think or believe. You also have the privilege of deciding what you imagine Christians should think or believe. But you do not have the privilege of deciding what Christians actually do think or believe. Christians themselves determine that by their aggregate decisions.

So when you comment on what Christians do or think or believe, you should be careful to try and make sure that your comment corresponds to what Christians actually do or think or believe. And when you intend to comment on what you imagine Christians should do or think or believe, you should be careful to try and make sure that your comment telegraphs "should"ness, and that it does not telegraph an actuality that does not (as yet, anyway) exist as a fact on the ground.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
The mitzvot may or may not come from the Creator in a conventional sense. But one way or the other, the situation remains the same: whether the immediate result of human imagination or of extraordinary mystical encounter, the mitzvot are the stipulations of a commitment to G-d.

Jason wrote:
Why is it evident that the mitzvot are the stipulations of a commitment to G-d? The Buddhists, Hindus and Atheists might take issue with that statement. The Athiest or Buddhist, for example, would say those are commitments to your imagination so why think there's any virtue in living out the mitzvot? I'm afraid you have to take an objective stand here, right?
(a) The mitzvot are stipulations of the commitment because the human individual has articulated the terms of the commitment.

(b) Whether or not G-d exists only in the individual's imagination is a tangential concern here, not an essential one. G-d's being imaginary would not preclude his being an object of the individual's commitment.

(c) From your perspective, exactly which sort(s) of thoughts need to be objective for one to act upon them? If I hear a knock at the door, must I believe my hearing to be objective in order to check the door? Or do I check the door, even though it seems that sometimes my subjective hearing tells me there was a knock when there was none?

And if I think a course of action to be the right one, how utterly certain must I be of my correctness in order to act upon it?
kaufmannphillips wrote:
Let us imagine that Hilkiah vows to G-d that he will not shave his beard. Of course, he will become quite handsome, but that is a secondary issue ;) . Whether the idea was Hilkiah's invention or whether it was immediately inspired by HSHM, Hilkiah is responsible to fulfill his commitment and not shave his beard (so long as the vow is not sin, so as to be repented of rather than fulfilled). {color added}

Jason wrote:
The argument you gave still doesn't seem to align with reality. What if Hilkiah, instead of musing over his facial hair, had vowed to kill every Palestinian who lived on his block out of service to HSHM? Would this commitment be honored just because he made a sincere vow and kept it?
(a) Note the third tinted section above.

(b) Hilkiah may choose, rightly or wrongly in G-d's eyes, to honor or repent of whatever commitment he has made.

If I were to be more exhaustive: this, acknowledging that Hilkiah may and/or may not objectively exist, that Hilkiah may and/or may not objectively be able to choose, that G-d may and/or may not objectively exist, that G-d may and/or may not objectively have eyes, that G-d may and/or may not objectively assign rightness or wrongness to Hilkiah's choice, that Hilkiah may and/or may not objectively have made a commitment, and that I may and/or may not be fully accurate in any of my perspectives or comments, in comparison to an objective point of reference. But perhaps you will excuse me for not adding these kinds of disclaimers to every comment I make? :)
kaufmannphillips wrote:
When it comes to predictions of things that later happen, in literature like the Tanakh, these are less than compelling indicators. We are so far removed from the texts that in some cases we may hardly ascertain whether the "prediction" was actually written before the events of the "fulfillment" or not. Likewise, in some cases we may hardly ascertain whether the "prediction" and/or the "fulfillment" have represented fairly the facts on the ground. Beyond this, if the Tanakh is accurate in its portrayal of there being many prophets - "true" and "false" ones - it stands to reason that a certain percentage would be shrewd and/or lucky enough to make successful predictions, and naturally these would be the ones preserved by the recorders of tradition. And finally, there is a major "safety valve" built into the system, in that many predictions without an apparent fulfillment can be salvaged as applying to the future or to some unknown circumstance.

Jason wrote:
So if Isaiah or Daniel made predictions given to them directly from the Heavenly King, what might we expect those to look like? Couldn't someone always discount them as speculative, lucky or the result of forgery? I know the flavor of modern sholarship is to discount prophecy because it's prophecy but that's not a very open minded way of doing business.
My comments here do not depend upon assumptions concerning the relative likelihood or unlikelihood of prophecy per se.

Is it difficult to appreciate that a "prediction" that is not meaningfully substantiated - that this is less than compelling, even though it might be true?
Jason wrote:
But speaking of this - have you, in your studies of Rabbinic teaching, noitced a common or orthodox view of prophecy?


I have a long, long, long way to go in the area of Rabbinic literacy.
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"The more something is repeated, the more it becomes an unexamined truth...." (Nicholas Thompson)
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by Jason » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:39 am

Emmet, I'll address the longer post when time permits. But for now I'll answer your earlier question to me.

I wrote:
I think Karen is asking why this peasant rabbi named Yeshua would be executed by the Romans at all - the implication being that he must have been seen as a serious threat to power or else a depraved criminal. The only records we have about Jesus tell us he had no intention of becoming an earthy king and that he was a kind man to the poor, certainly not a notorious criminal. These are the facts as we have them and without any mention of miracles. Even secular documents confirm at least this much.
You asked:
(a) Could you please reference these secular documents?
Regarding the secular documents, I was referring to the fact that Jesus existed and was regarded as a kind man and not a criminal or someone worthy of death. Josephus ben Mattathias who (in the undisputed portion of his text) wrote that Jesus was a doer of good works. Tacitus, Pliney and a few others seem to confirm his existence. I am aware of the various arguments put forth to discredit these and other documents which shed light on Jesus and the early Christians but I'm not so impressed with them at this time.

I also consider the writings of the early Christians (which are extra biblical) such as Papias and Clement of Rome to be very informative, though such writings can't be considered secular. When we lump together the early secular and religious writings about Jesus we gain a pretty full picture of the man whom Pilate killed. And yet, to be honest, I wish we had more. John said it would be impossible to catalog everything Jesus said and did - but I wish someone had!

However, and having nothing to do with the above question, I agree with your earlier point that a relationship with God and not a relationship with historical documents is the goal of our endeavor. Though we can learn a ton about what Jesus said and did during his earthly domicile (enough to exhaust even the most serious student) my aim is to know him personally in the present day and walk with him now. I made a post not too long ago relating to the fact that my relentless studies often turn into a distraction, at best, and possibly an idol, at worst. Do you ever find that to be the case in your own life?

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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:10 pm

Jason wrote:
The only records we have about Jesus tell us he had no intention of becoming an earthy king and that he was a kind man to the poor, certainly not a notorious criminal. These are the facts as we have them and without any mention of miracles. Even secular documents confirm at least this much. {color added}

kaufmannphillips wrote:
Could you please reference these secular documents?

Jason wrote:
Regarding the secular documents, I was referring to the fact that Jesus existed and was regarded as a kind man and not a criminal or someone worthy of death. Josephus ben Mattathias who (in the undisputed portion of his text) wrote that Jesus was a doer of good works. Tacitus, Pliney and a few others seem to confirm his existence. I am aware of the various arguments put forth to discredit these and other documents which shed light on Jesus and the early Christians but I'm not so impressed with them at this time.

I also consider the writings of the early Christians (which are extra biblical) such as Papias and Clement of Rome to be very informative, though such writings can't be considered secular. When we lump together the early secular and religious writings about Jesus we gain a pretty full picture of the man whom Pilate killed.
When pressed, you have provided only three secular citations: Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny.

(a) The Pliny text may be found here. It makes no comment whatsoever about Jesus himself.

(b) The Tacitus text may be found here. It has nothing good to say about Jesus.

(c) The Josephus text, as you are aware, is complicated by apparent Christian redaction. But it will suffice for me to point out that it says nothing about Jesus "ha[ving] no intention of becoming an earthy king" or about him "[being] a kind man to the poor" - and to point out that one source does not justify your assertion that even secular documents confirm your characterization of Jesus.

Beyond this, you may refer to Papias and Clement if you like, but as you have acknowledged these are not secular. Unless you introduce further examples, your "pretty full picture of the man whom Pilate killed" consists of sectarian literature by followers of that man, and about a half-dozen sentences - themselves probably overwritten by sectarians - from one man who almost certainly never met Jesus himself (having been born ca. 37 CE).

It is not my aim to embark upon a critical discussion of the person of Jesus in this thread. But I'm not going to let you get away with an overblown claim like the one you have made - and really, Jason, neither should you let yourself get away with it. If you are going to advocate for your Jesus, you should be careful to do so in a reliable manner.
Jason wrote:
However, and having nothing to do with the above question, I agree with your earlier point that a relationship with God and not a relationship with historical documents is the goal of our endeavor. Though we can learn a ton about what Jesus said and did during his earthly domicile (enough to exhaust even the most serious student) my aim is to know him personally in the present day and walk with him now. I made a post not too long ago relating to the fact that my relentless studies often turn into a distraction, at best, and possibly an idol, at worst. Do you ever find that to be the case in your own life?
(a) With my formal studies, deadlines and workloads can come at times when there are other things on my mind or heart. But such is life. If one has a spouse, or children, or a career, any of them may seem distracting in demands they place upon time, energy, and attention.

I think it worthy to emphasize intimacy with G-d in the midst of all things. Yes, there may be times when we need to disengage from "distraction" in life, but our regular concern must be to engage life in such a way that our spouses or children or careers (or what-have-you) are participating - knowingly or unknowingly - in our intimacy with G-d.

G-d will help us discern "what"s and "when"s and "how much"s, when it comes to disengaging this or to engaging that at various times, and the suitable balance at times between various activities.

(c) On occasion, I am wary that my religious thought may be an obstacle to seeing the truth. But it can be good to doubt oneself.
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Post by Jill » Sun Feb 01, 2009 5:05 pm

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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by Jason » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:31 pm

When pressed, you have provided only three secular citations: Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny.

(a) The Pliny text may be found here. It makes no comment whatsoever about Jesus himself.

(b) The Tacitus text may be found here. It has nothing good to say about Jesus.

(c) The Josephus text, as you are aware, is complicated by apparent Christian redaction. But it will suffice for me to point out that it says nothing about Jesus "ha[ving] no intention of becoming an earthy king" or about him "[being] a kind man to the poor" - and to point out that one source does not justify your assertion that even secular documents confirm your characterization of Jesus.
I wonder if I'll ever get to your longer post but we're in no rush here, I suppose. I clearly should have used the term "extra-biblical" rather than "secular" because they are not the same thing and I had sources in mind other than those which are strictly secular. So I'll definitely concede that. However, I would dispute the Josephus passage because the portion I quoted is not part of the disputed text, at least that I'm aware. The fact that Roman sources like Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius mention the Christian sect is primarly important because they are 1) early documents and therefore generally considered reliable, and 2) demonstrate that Jesus had a following of devotees that had spread rapidly.

But we do have a massive collection of Jewish writings that prove my claims about Jesus. You don't accept those because they are considered religious texts but I see no reason to doubt what Luke wrote over what Herodidus or any other ancient historian wrote. I read Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars" last year and he is certainly opinionated and biased, yet is considered a good historian. The same with Josephus. So my argument, as you've pointed out, about the character of Jesus primarily rests in the abundant collection of canonical and extra-biblical texts from early sources. The secular sources (there are six of which I'm aware) tell us more about his followers, something which might provide details about the leader himself, if only by inference. But you're right - I should by no means rest my case on secular sources. Likewise, I hope you wouldn't rest your case on the opinions of only liberal scholars about the ancient texts as if they have no bias themselves. I only make that point to preempt the popular argument that the writings of early Christians are untrustworthy simply because Bart Ehrman, or whomever, is an eloquent writer. :D

I don't distrust the Koran because the scholars say it's whack. I distrust it, along with the Vedas or Tripitaka, because they make no claims which can be studied or varified. Only Christians offer up this kind of scrutiny of its texts and claims, something Anthony Flew wrote about in his latest book. There are other reasons I distrust those writings, obviously, but I'm making a singular point about examination.

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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by kaufmannphillips » Fri Feb 06, 2009 12:51 pm

Hi, Jason,

Because of the vector of our "short line" conversation, I'm going to transplant it to the "Christian Evidences & Challenges" section. I'll keep an eye here for the "longer" one; no rush - I still owe you a response on another thread.
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by Jason » Fri Feb 13, 2009 4:45 pm

Emmet, here's my stab at the longer text:
Jason wrote:
That would depend upon which decisions we are talking about. The Trinity doctrine (which I believe is correct) still arose late and I've seen no evidence that any particular council (except for perhaps the first council in Jerusalem) was inspired or given authority by the Heavenly King.
Emmet wrote:
Very often people imagine that their understandings are based on scripture, without recognizing to how great an extent their understandings depend upon influences from outside of scripture. People naturally import external assumptions, methodologies, and biases into their readings of scripture - and the result can be understandings that do not accurately reflect the text itself.
I don't think any of us have obtained absolutely clarity in our opinions of Scripture. But it does seem that some opinions are more correct than others and this is sometimes seen in debate. So I certainly take into account my own bias and prejudice when forming my opinions about Scripture and doctrine. Call me sentimental but I think the plain things of Scripture like charity, faithfulness and humility are the most overlooked practices, whereas "doctrinal" study often leads good people into unnecessary contention. I've been guilty of this as well and it's to my shame. These days I try to focus more on "practicing the virtues" as N.T. Wright put it. While I have strong "doctrinal" opinions, I often find that none are so great as love for my fellow man, even to the exclusion of bread and butter hegemonic stances.
Emmet wrote:
(a) You may exercise your limited privilege, but you should also be realistic about its limitations. Minority rules of "orthodoxy" are sectarian until demographics shift sufficiently to render them otherwise.
We all exercise our limited privilege and there's no need to point that out. I'll admit that I have an aversion for words like "orthodoxy" since I'm very much aware that orthodoxy has shifted to various extremes throughout church history. The doctrine of hell is a good example of this. The tre-trib rapture also seems to be the dominant view of the church in our epoch and neither I, nor yourself (as a former COGA minister) find that a biblical view.
(b) Is it that G-d favors minorities? Or is it that - too often, as it happens - what G-d favors is embraced by only a minority of human beings?
Of course, the latter.

Emmet wrote:
You have the privilege of deciding what you think or believe. You also have the privilege of deciding what you imagine Christians should think or believe. But you do not have the privilege of deciding what Christians actually do think or believe. Christians themselves determine that by their aggregate decisions.
So what if I made the statement: "A true Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" Am I now in error because I've imagined what a Christian should think or believe? In your discussions you don't seem to account for objective truth. By way of example, saying a Christian should love others is no different than saying electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom. Both are objective statements, even if any number of people wish to disagree with them. In other words, I account for a standard by which we weight different opinions. If I make a claim like, "Christians should love their enemies," and you make a statement like, "the middle-age church commands that Christians burn their enemies," then we can use a common method to determine who is correct. Which of these did Jesus actually teach? That's our standard if we are talking about Christians.

Emmet wrote:
Is it difficult to appreciate that a "prediction" that is not meaningfully substantiated - that this is less than compelling, even though it might be true?
Sure it might be less compelling but that's subjective to the individual. For example, I see ancient written texts where God sets in place a system of sacrificial offerings where innocent animals are slaughtered for the sins of the multitude. Then I see the prophets speaking of a Messiah who would suffer in similar ways to those innocent animals. Then I see a great tumult arising in the first century where a sect of Jews claim an innocent man, sent by God, died for the sins of the multitude. Shortly after, the animal system was abolished by foreign conquest and that tiny sect of Jews spread to Gentiles and then throughout the whole world, just as that innocent man had predicted. Now you may not find that compelling in the least but from where I sit, it's certainly something to ponder.

Bless you, friend.

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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:55 pm

Jason wrote:
Since the doctrine is somwhat fuzzy (I say somewhat because I AM a Trinitarian Christian) in scripture, we shouldn't make it a rule of orthodoxy.

kaufmannphillips wrote:
"We" have a rather limited privilege when it comes to making rules of "orthodoxy." That market has been cornered considerably by 1500+ years of investment.

Jason wrote:
Right, but why should we not exercise our privilege? Also, to be completely accurate, there was always a minority of Christians who didn't submit to the authority of the Roman church. This was always a minority bunch and most were executed but still... God seems to favor minorities. :)

kaufmannphillips wrote:
You may exercise your limited privilege, but you should also be realistic about its limitations. Minority rules of "orthodoxy" are sectarian until demographics shift sufficiently to render them otherwise.

Jason wrote:
We all exercise our limited privilege and there's no need to point that out.
A comment like "we shouldn't make it a rule of orthodoxy" merits discussion of perspective on defining "orthodoxy."
kaufmannphillips wrote:
You have the privilege of deciding what you think or believe. You also have the privilege of deciding what you imagine Christians should think or believe. But you do not have the privilege of deciding what Christians actually do think or believe. Christians themselves determine that by their aggregate decisions.

Jason wrote:
So what if I made the statement: "A true Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" Am I now in error because I've imagined what a Christian should think or believe? In your discussions you don't seem to account for objective truth. By way of example, saying a Christian should love others is no different than saying electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom. Both are objective statements, even if any number of people wish to disagree with them. In other words, I account for a standard by which we weight different opinions. If I make a claim like, "Christians should love their enemies," and you make a statement like, "the middle-age church commands that Christians burn their enemies," then we can use a common method to determine who is correct. Which of these did Jesus actually teach? That's our standard if we are talking about Christians.
(a) You argue about the way things "should" be. I argue about the way things are. On the face of it, my argument is more easily suited to objective truth than yours - it is not based upon philosophical or moralistic ideal, but upon simple evidence.

Christians are what they are; what they should be is another matter. If Christians do not love their enemies, then Christians do not love their enemies, whether or not they should do so.

(b) "Which of these did Jesus actually teach?" may be your standard when it comes to talking about Christians. But Jesus does not establish the identity of Christians; indeed, the word "Christian" did not exist during his ministry. Christianity is a world religion - defined, like all religions, by its constituents. Christians establish their own identity, by their choices.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
Is it difficult to appreciate that a "prediction" that is not meaningfully substantiated - that this is less than compelling, even though it might be true?

Jason wrote:
Sure it might be less compelling but that's subjective to the individual. For example, I see ancient written texts where God sets in place a system of sacrificial offerings where innocent animals are slaughtered for the sins of the multitude. Then I see the prophets speaking of a Messiah who would suffer in similar ways to those innocent animals. Then I see a great tumult arising in the first century where a sect of Jews claim an innocent man, sent by God, died for the sins of the multitude. Shortly after, the animal system was abolished by foreign conquest and that tiny sect of Jews spread to Gentiles and then throughout the whole world, just as that innocent man had predicted. Now you may not find that compelling in the least but from where I sit, it's certainly something to ponder.
(a) Please identify the "prophets speaking of a Messiah who would suffer in similar ways to those innocent animals."

(b) I see ancient written texts where human sacrifice is rejected, and where one person is not to be put to death for the sin of another person. I see ancient written texts speaking of one G-d, with none other except him.

I also see a generation (or two) that sacrifices animals after the death of a famous individual - including amongst their numbers, it seems, some of that individual's partisans (q.v., Acts 21:18-27; cf. Numbers 6:1-21, esp. vv. 14 & 16). And I see a historical religious community that has, through its own misinterpretation and intransigence, refused to carry on its ritual paradigms. But I do not see this community's failure in this department as sufficient justification for scuttling people into a tradition that enshrines idolatry and injustice.
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"The more something is repeated, the more it becomes an unexamined truth...." (Nicholas Thompson)
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Re: Who do you say Jesus is?

Post by Jason » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:05 pm

(a) Please identify the "prophets speaking of a Messiah who would suffer in similar ways to those innocent animals."
You know them. Isaiah 52 and 53. Psalm 22. How about some Rabbinic traditions about these scriptures (footnotes in parentheses):

Pesikta Rabbati, which Jewish scholars date to the sixth or seventh century C.E., is a rabbinic document on the festivals of Israel. It speaks of a suffering Messiah in this way: [When He created the Messiah,] the Holy One, blessed be He, began to tell him the conditions [of his future mission], and said to him: ‘Those who are hidden with you [your generation], their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke...and because of their sin your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth.' [Psalm 22:25] Do you accept this? The Messiah said...‘Master of the worlds! With gladness in my soul and with joy in my heart I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish; and not only those who will be alive should be saved in my days, but even the dead who have died from the days of Adam the first man until now.'1 (Raphael Patai. The Messiah Texts (Detroit, Michigan:Wayne State University Press,1949), p. 112.)

The Midrash Aseret Memrot states that Messiah will be made a trespass offering: The Messiah, in order to atone for them both [for Adam and David], will make his soul a trespass offering, [Isaiah 53:10,] as it is written next to this in the Parashah ‘Behold my servant.' [Isaiah 52:13]2 (S.R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1969), p. 394.)

In the Midrash Konen (110-1100 C.E.) We find the following: Messiah Son of David who loveth Jerusalem...Elijah takes him by his head...and says, ‘Bear thou the sufferings and wounds wherewith the Almighty doth chastise thee for Israel's sins;' and so it is written, He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. [Isaiah 53:5]3 (Patai, p. 115.)

I came across these interpretations when looking up Jewish thoughts on Messiah.
(b) I see ancient written texts where human sacrifice is rejected, and where one person is not to be put to death for the sin of another person. I see ancient written texts speaking of one G-d, with none other except him.
There are two objections here: 1) Human sacrifice is banned by God, 2) Christians believe there is more than one God.
As to the first argument, the fact that God bans his people from sacrificing humans is correct. But the atonement is not an exact parallel. John 3 says God sent Jesus because he loved the world, not because he needed appeasment. I don’t pretend to know how the suffering and death of Jesus accomplished victory over evil and sin, but I tend to think it was fundamentally a demonstration of love – an innocent man giving up his life for the guilty. In a courtroom setting, it hardly makes sense. That’s why I no longer use that particular argument. We don’t think it’s loving to kill an innocent person for a guilty person but what if the innocent person is you and you are willing (as in -- it was your idea) to lay down your life to save the guilty party becomes you love them? Maybe you jump in front of a bullet that’s headed toward someone you know if morally corrupt. That is not human sacrifice, it’s a demonstration of love. I think this example more closely parallels what happened in the atonement.

As to the second point about there being only one God – we are in full agreement. If you possess any nuance at all in your thinking you’ll see that it’s possible that we Christians don’t believe in many gods. In fact, you limit God by claiming he can’t be bigger than your box. If it’s possible that some aspect of God took on human flesh and became like us for a time then your critique is not fair.
I also see a generation (or two) that sacrifices animals after the death of a famous individual - including amongst their numbers, it seems, some of that individual's partisans (q.v., Acts 21:18-27; cf. Numbers 6:1-21, esp. vv. 14 & 16). And I see a historical religious community that has, through its own misinterpretation and intransigence, refused to carry on its ritual paradigms. But I do not see this community's failure in this department as sufficient justification for scuttling people into a tradition that enshrines idolatry and injustice.
When God required that animals be sacrificed for the sins of his people, what was he showing us there? When the prophets spoke about Messiah, to whom were they referring? Israel? The writer himself? A future king? Do you reject all but a small portion of the Hebrew Scriptures? If so, why do you do so?

Thank you for your valuable time, Emmet. I truly appreciate you sharing your mind with me.

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