What the New Testament means to me

This exchange occurred at Messiah Truth:

MT 3

The New Testament equips me to love All.

On the one hand, one who diligently lives as Jesus taught eventually reaches a point where loving All is not merely a possibility, but a responsibility. I am at that point now.

On the other hand, loving All of necessity entails loving situations, events and people one might much more easily abhor.

1 Corinthians 12 applies to the need to love one’s whole self.  We are acquainted with an individual who finds one feature of himself, or rather of his story, so abhorrent that he preoccupies himself with it, until the self-hatred becomes unbearable; at which point he lashes out.  I wrote “A short route to agony” with that person specifically in mind.

In 1978, I applied through the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries to become a missionary to Japan; I would teach English at a Japanese Christian high school.  As part of this process, they required me to read William Stringfellow’s An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land.  I hated it.  For the most part, it was a typical 1970’s radical screed, blaming America for every single problem that exists in the world.  One point stuck with me, however.  Stringfellow opines that the Kingdom never does or will manifest in any permanent or worldwide basis; the Kingdom instead appears here and there, now and then, in a community that honors the gifts of its each and every member.

1 Corinthians 12 applies equally here.  I belong to “A real church in a real ’hood.”  We are diligent and intentional about being that sort of community.  Now, I have learning opportunities here: even though I am homeless myself, it is easy for me to look down on “the critters and the crazies” whom I meet at McDonald’s.  Birur nitzotzot relates: evangelism entails facilitating each person’s discovery of his or her own way to shine.

In the Parable of the Great Dinner, the master directs his servant:

“‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” 23Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.'”

In the Kingdom, there are no outcasts.  Everyone has a place at the table.

(Originally posted 2014-09-24.)

21 thoughts on “What the New Testament means to me

  1. Whoa! Ezekah may know a lot of Judaism, but he knows little of nothing about Christianity. He therefore ought to be a little more cautious about making sweeping pronouncements about the New Testament unless he has read it. God is quoted as directly speaking several times in the New Testament:

    Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Luke 9:35, 12:20; John 12:28; Hebrews 1:5-8; Revelation 21:5-8

    You should have called him on it.

  2. I can understand your discomfort, but the question is whether God ever speaks, and if He speaks, why would He do so if He doesn’t intend what He says to be intelligible? And if He’s capable to communicating with us and we write down what He says under His inspiration, then what is written is no less authoritative, no?

    1. This could get really interesting.

      I do not ascribe authority to any text.  The only authority I recognize is What Is.  That, I believe, is God — What Is.

      So it’s not clear to me that God can be a person, and also not clear that God can speak — in words.

      Yet on the one hand, when a presenter at chapel says, “We have a word from the Lord,” my ears perk up and I really do expect a message from God uniquely for the people gathered at that place and time.  In other words, prophecy.  I’ll link to several posts below.

      On the other hand, when someone says, “God said …,” how do we discern where it really came from?  Ellen G. White wrote down her visions, and some of it is really good, and some of it is really whacko.  Yet many Seventh-Day Adventists hold it all as tantamount to Scripture.  How do we tell?

      Related: The emperor’s new clothes: False prophecy in the news
      Related: Disembodied speech

      Certainly, if God speaks, God means the speech to be intelligible.

  3. You describe God as “What Is.” What, exactly, is that? We may both use the English label God to describe something that we believe, but that of course doesn’t mean that we have the same referent. What do you mean by “God”?

      1. You might as well have said, “jwduxuuw.” I have no idea what you mean by “What Is,” or “All.”

      2. With due respect, your theology isn’t well thought out at all. Your statements are merely bare assertions without even an attempt at argument for why you believe what you do. Moreover, to say that God is all that He is and all that He is not is a straight logical contradiction (A=~A) and as such is unintelligible.

        And you cannot say that your views pose a problem for Christianity unless you address their arguments in defense of their theology and God’s omnibenevolence (And no, Jewish/Christian philosophers do not merely appeal to the Scriptures).

      3. We can’t begin to talk about speech coming from something unintelligible. We first need to know what we’re talking about. Since your definition of God is self-canceling, any attempt to explain speech or communication must first establish why such a “being” is capable of communicating.

      4. If God can communicate with His creation and if God is infallible, then it follows that God’s communication is also infallible. So, in this context, it’s not a question of capacity; it’s whether God ever indeed communicated with the intent that His communication be written for the benefit of His servants.

        Historically speaking, there appears to be but one group which claims to have had such an experience and revelation, and that is the nation of Israel. There were some 2,000,000-plus witnesses of the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and Jordan River, being sustained for 40 years by manna, witnessing the pillar of cloud by day and and the pillar of fire by night, the giving of the Law to Moses, and the miraculous defeat of their enemies. Their eyewitness accounts were passed to succeeding generations, and the Law God gave them was also passed down with exacting care as copies were worn through use.

        Standard objections to this testimony appear unreasonable at best. To state that it was made up by a cadre of zealots would have gone nowhere because millions of people would testify that what they wrote never happened to them. If the cadre kept them in line via threat of force, it is highly unlikely that both they and succeeding generations would carry that fraud forward. The Mormon counterexample is not analogous because at best, 13 men claimed to have seen the so-called golden plates, so others took it on faith that they were telling the truth. Anybody hearing the reading of the Law would know immediately that it contained falsehoods if the events it describes did not happen.

        The only other objection of note is the acknowledgement that something highly unusual happened to Israel and that they indeed may have had some sort of paranormal experience, but it does not follow that the cause of that experience is God. But that also carries the assertion that the “cause” lied to Israel (that He is almighty, etc.). Although it is logically possible that the cause lied, it is unreasonable to pursue without evidence. What is there in what He communicated a lie? Where is that kind of dishonesty in what He communicated? Where in all of the world’s history is there another group which can make similar claims? If God said that He chose Israel among all other people, and if history is bereft of evidence of any group making similar claims, and if the people He chose to reveal Himself to have testified to the validity of the claims made in the text we now have, I think the evidence if far stronger for the validity of the Bible than against.

        I could literally write a book on the topic, so this is an extremely truncated summation.

      5. (1) Do you ascribe similar authority to the New Testament?
        (2) Do human beings NEED God to speak to them?
        (3) Billions upon billions live and have lived without access to Torah. How does God speak to them? How does such a person discern when God does and does not speak?

      6. This particular stream of dialog is in reply to your question:

        How do we tell what speech attributed to God, comes from God?

        Since you don’t want to discuss that further, then I’m done here. I won’t go off into tangents when we cannot even settle on my reply to your question.

        Thanks for the dialog. See you down the road.

      7. The Sinai revelation answers that?
        What about folk who don’t have access to the Sinai revelation?
        If you want to bow out of the discussion just now, I have to respect that.

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