Gospels and War Stories

If you were going to tell the story of US involvement in Iraq, where would you start? The invasion in 2003? The Gulf War that started in 1990? Or would you go back farther?

You could go into detail about US, French, Soviet, and British support for Iraq through the course of the Iraq/Iran war that took place between 1980-1988. You might even want to go into detail about Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and the 9/11 attack because of its impact on the worldwide war on terror.

Or you could skip all that and tell the stories of the individual soldiers themselves. Both sides even, giving an utterly different and far more personal account.

It would probably be best to touch on all these topics to some degree or another, just placing emphasis on a few of the events while being briefer on others.

The same could be said of the 4 Gospels. When reading these biographies of Jesus’ life many notice the differences in the way they are told. And the differences are notable. One author may leave out details that the other authors emphasize. They may have events happening in slightly different order. Some contain the same saying but worded in a slightly different way or told in a different context.

They even start in completely different episodes in Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ family genealogy as well as the events before and during his birth. Mark and John start in adulthood and scarcely mention his birth at all, although John includes a preamble which explicitly states that Jesus existed before the beginning of creation. In fact John tells us that Jesus was the agent of creation, through which all things were made.

So which of the Gospels is telling the story “right”? Whose timeline is “right”? Whose testimony should we trust? Luke doesn’t even claim to have witnessed anything at all. Luke claims that he investigated the different eyewitness accounts and carefully constructed the best & most orderly account based on his investigation.

I recommend thinking about the Gospels the way you would think about the war in Iraq. It’s not about whether the story is wrong or right, it’s about where a particular author puts the emphasis, what information they found most pertinent. If you were going to try to learn about the war in Iraq you should read a multitude of accounts to take in as many perspectives as possible. By comparing the different accounts you will find details that one author casually glossed over or ignored, that a different author spent more time on. Through the different accounts a more complete understanding will emerge. Each narrative will converge on  a more decisive & complete story that is more complete than any one book alone.

That’s why we have four Gospels
That’s why we shouldn’t be worried about the differences
The differences make the Gospels stronger.
The differences reinforce that we are getting multiple, real accounts

Everyone sees and experiences the world differently

The Bible acknowledges that
The Bible canonizes that

I trust the Bible because it brings me the same diversity of experience I see everyday in the world around me

The Theory and the Revelation

There is one sure way to completely shut down an argument: show the person you’re trying to sway that you haven’t done the background research to know what you’re talking about.

In the realm of religion and science there are 2 perfect examples

Evolution
&
Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Christian Bible. It can go by a number of different names:

The Revelation to John
The Apocalypse of John
The Revelation
Revelation

I’ve even seen a long form of it spelled out as The Apocalypse of St John the Apostle

But it’s never called “Revelations”.

And anytime a person who’s trying to argue with a Christian adds an S onto Revelation there is a good chance that the Christian checks out.

The thought being:

This person isn’t taking this argument seriously enough to go do the tiny amount of research necessary to even argue with me.

Why would I listen to them, then?

The same in arguments about science.

The book The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin can also go several names:

On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

But it is never called “The Origin of the Species”

That’s not the name of the book and the same thing happens when people call it that in an argument.

The opponent checks out and doesn’t take the rest of the conversation seriously.

If you want to convince someone of your argument or even get them to take it seriously you have to understand the terms and sources they use. At least casually, so they’ll respect your thoughts on the subject.

In both these cases I’ve even seen works published with the wrong title. That shows that even editors of texts meant to be taken seriously haven’t done their due diligence to know the title of the book in question.

But these are just good examples

There are many more

The point is, before trying to persuade others you have to spend the time to know what others believe.

In all productive conversations I’ve ever had, it’s only when I try to see the world through beliefs that are not my own that I can approach someone to try to change their mind.

THOSE people are destroying society

Whoever they are. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be anymore that’s unstitching society. Uprooting our morals, our standards for what is acceptable. I really don’t know because so many of the arguments are silly

And so many don’t care to make an argument at all. They just care to identify a scapegoat

It’s

The Gays
The Jews
The Rednecks
The Latinos
The Blacks
The Scientists
The Atheists
The Catholics
The Mormons
The Millenials
The Capitalists
The Socialists
Hillary Clinton

THOSE people

Whatever

I don’t care about the scapegoating and labeling that obviously has nothing to do with what’s actually driving our society into darker and darker places

I did come across a great example of what’s destroying our society that has nothing to do with a scapegoat

The example is an incident that distills popular sentiments into a simple act

This young man knocked on a door for assistance and was met

With a gun

That my friends, is what’s destroying our society

I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– Matthew 25:35c NRSVCE

Nested Hierarchy

Finally, I wrote about Nested Hierarchy

I’m trying to keep this intro post as short as possible

…probably not doing a very good job though

Nested Hierarchy is the way I read the Bible. There are a number of ways to approach the Bible and many of them overlap

I’m just going to make a basic comparison here though

To contrast my view I’ll talk about a narrative hierarchy

That’s how we read most books

You start at the beginning of a book and read to the end, a straight line through the text

It’s an easy way to read for sure

That’s why most books are arranged this way; the beginning chapter creates a foundation and each chapter slowly builds on that foundation

I can’t read the Bible this way for one simple reason:

The Bible is not a book, it’s a collection of books

Some of the individual books have a narrative hierarchy, some don’t

But the collection as a whole definitely does not

So I have to look elsewhere for the foundation

I believe that foundation is Jesus

Jesus is the center of a nest, with the other layers in the nest built around him

Jesus is like an egg

The egg is the point of the nest
The egg gives the nest purpose
The egg is the reason the nest was built
Everything about the nest has to be viewed through the object at it’s center

I believe Jesus is the center of the Biblical nest

All the books of the Bible are read through the lens of Jesus

His teachings
His life
His death
His resurrection
His return

The books of the Bible have their purpose fulfilled by Jesus
Jesus is the reason this collection of books was built
Jesus is the point of the collection

The center of the Nested Hierarchy

This is a theological nest I’m talking about, others may use a similar nested approach but with a different goal.

A good example would be a historical approach. Instead of trying to find the theological center of the biblical texts you might try to determine which books were written first. Then you could look at the Bible in terms of how each book is related to those that came before it.

You could do the same with language or culture as the center around which everything was built

To be honest most of us use some combination of these different different approaches

Me included

But the most important to me is the the theological nested hierarchy

My theological perspective is definitely Christian. There are others as well.

Jewish theology for example. You could say that Jewish theology places the first five books of the Hebrew Bible at the center and builds theological interpretation of the other books around them. Those first five books are also know as the Torah or the Pentateuch.

Even Muslims revere the Bible, though they view it with the lens of their prophet and their holy book at the center

My lens is Jesus
Every book points to him
Every conundrum and question that the diverse writers of the Bible attempt to address are fulfilled by him

All of my beliefs, my faith flow from this method of understanding the Bible

The Nested Hierarchy of the Bible leads me to a number of different conclusions, many that other Christians don’t share

About history
About neurology
About physics
About human sexuality
About any aspect of life that I relate to by way of the Bible

All these conclusions and more are the result of reading the Bible as a Nested Hierarchy

The term nested hierarchy is used in a variety of contexts

Brain science

Genealogy

Those Russian dolls that fit inside each other

Reading about these examples might help illustrate what I’m saying here better than I can

I know that thinking this way has led me to many conclusions that other Christians would disagree with. I certainly disagree with many Christians as a result of my nested approach to the Bible.

I guess that’s one point of this blog

We can’t find common ground if we don’t understand each other. If you want to understand my religious beliefs whether you’re Christian or not

Nested Hierarchy is my staring point

Bridging the Gulf & The Argument for Altruism

George Price*
 
created a simple and elegant equation to explain altruism as an evolutionary strategy
 
Basically, life is a game

You can use different strategies
There are different players
As well as alliances and teams
 
All with similar goals
 
Live long
Have babies
& try to make sure your genes get passed on
 
A lot of strategies exist to accomplish those goals
 
One of them is altruism

Sacrifice for your reproductive partner
Scarifice for your child
Create social networks that support your family & make sacrifices for the group

So the group will protect your child
So the members of the group want to reproduce with you and your children
 
Altruism is a good strategy that can work very well
 
The others can work too
 
But many of them are based on dominance and violence and fear
 
The Bible is a complex argument about the right way to play this game
 
The authors of the Bible are players in the game trying to find the best strategy, arguing with each other
Sometimes arguing with themselves

And out of those arguments comes a clear answer
 
Altruism
 
The Bible is an argument that Altruism is the best, the correct strategy
 
Self sacrifice and loving your neighbor are the best way to play the game of life
 
And the Bible adds something else
Another reason to play the gam without judgment
To play the game with love
 
The Bible argues that Altrusim is the strategy that pleases God
Altruism is God’s strategy

That God became human and gave his life for us

because self sacrifice is the only strategy a loving God can use
 
When we choose a strategy based on dominance and violence and fear
A space between humans and God is created
And a space between you and your neighbors
  
God’s sacrifice in Jesus closes the gap
Bridges the gulf between humanity and God
Bridges the gulf between us all
 
Faith in Jesus
Faith in his life and death and resurrection
Means accepting the sacrifice
Answering the call to make altruism our strategy
Answering the call to make sacrifices in your life
As individuals
As socities
 
There’s no expectation that you’ll be perfect
And no one answer God’s call the same way
Your sacrifices will be different from mine

God’s strategy isn’t based on performance
You don’t have to earn God’s love

God’s sacrifice is absolute

But if you accept the strategy
If you accept the sacrifice

The strategy will begin working through you
 
The call to this strategy has always been here
It’s God’s call screaming from the books of the Bible

And it is now fully revealed in Jesus
 
Embrace the strategy of Jesus

Bridge the gulf

*The conclusion of George Price’s life is very sad. I recommend reading about it and thinking about why I’m encouraging everyone to think👆this way

George Price, the man who gave himself away

What does it look like to be Christian? Part 1

Impossible to answer

Believing in Jesus
In the Gospel

Should change me
The way I think
The way I behave

I should be transformed

But there is no way to verify that those changes have taken place

The change in one person won’t look the same as the change in others

Our actions may be a clue
But those actions can be deceiving
You can’t know the motive
What lurks behind the actions
What they are born of

Only God knows

That’s why I can’t judge

I don’t know your life
I don’t know your struggle
I don’t know your repentance
I don’t know what transformation will mean for you

So I don’t judge

But I want transformation for you
For everyone that craves it
I pray for it

I pray for you

the most direct offense against the Truth

I am definitely not a Roman Catholic but I do find that faith very intriguing.

I especially enjoy the faith and history of the Maronite Catholic Church, which is in the full communion with the Pope and the Roman Church.

But today I have a particular excerpt from their Catechism on my mind:

Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2483

In today’s world, in our media forms and practices, I feel this is particularly applicable.

I am increasingly concerned about the modern practice of following news sources that we identify with ideologically and ignoring all others.

As well as searching out online resources we already agree with. Then accepting everything that source says as fact.
If you don’t double check those claims and they turn out to be false, you’ve been lied to.

And I’ve started to wonder if failing at our own due diligence in regard to the information we accept and spread falls under the same category as the lies described in the Catholic Catechism.

Doesn’t the spread of information we don’t know to be true or false count as a direct offense against the truth?

Doesn’t it injure our relation to truth and to our neighbors?

I believe that spreading information without verifying its accuracy is equivalent with gossip.

The Catechism denounces that as well:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477

And even if the Catechism means nothing to you, turning to the Bible brings the condemnation to another level.

In this👇text the level of evil associated with gossip is unambiguous.
Because wow, I don’t see many protesters with signs that say “God Hates Gossip”

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God–haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 NRSVCE

Some would say this👆passage is about the consequences of being homosexual. But after running through that list, I recommend having a long think about the thoughts and actions being condemned here. I’m sure you’ll agree that those traits are common everywhere across all demographics

I believe that spreading unverified information on the internet is clearly a form of gossip. And if you believe that what the Bible says is true, have a think about what it means to gossip.

What a person’s insides are like if they are willing to spread gossip.

Agree or don’t; think on it.