The Gospel Story – Act 1: Creation and Fall

February 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm 55 comments

In an effort to produce more creative writing on the de-conversion website (and stir the able minds of our readers to seriously consider their faith (or lack thereof (wow, I’m not sure a triple parenthetical is good grammar))), I hereby present to you: the gospel story in its entirety. Being complete with historically accurate facts, a fundamentalist friendly framework, tongue-in-cheek humor, and many twists of irony, this small set of condensed Biblically faith-based narratives is sure to warm your heart and give you the eternal security for which you have always longed but did not know it yet because you are blinded by Satan. For best results, enjoy with a warm cup of holy water or a wheat wafer and non-alcoholic wine (unless you suffer from frequent stomach ailments).

In the beginning God exists for an eternity. At some point he begets a son and chooses him to be the sacrifice for a world he is going to create. Then he looks ahead and sees all the people in the world who will eventually choose his human sacrifice as their salvation and elects them to that very salvation. [Or something like that. It depends on your denomination and interpretation of complicated theological topics like predestination and free will. But these probably don't affect your salvation. Well, they might, depending on whether they are true or not. Don't see a pastor about them unless they scare the hell out of you. But I diverge.]

Then God creates angels, who – though being spiritual in nature – are quite indistinguishable in features from the physical creation he is about to create. In fact, according to Paul they are often confused as gods and worshiped via little stone and wooden creations. Some of them can walk, talk, have wings (though there is no air in the spiritual realm), and they come and go from God’s throne. That is right, God (though spiritual and having not yet created the physical realm) has a throne in heaven and these angels come and go from it. There are lots of neat physical mirror-like surfaces, smoke effects, water effects, jewels, and sacrificial equipment in God’s spiritual throne room.

Then one angel gets the wonderful idea to rebel. With him fall one third of the angels in heaven. This angel’s name is Lucifer and he is soon to become known as Satan (the accuser). He is the most beautiful in all heaven among all the angels, and though sin does not yet exist, Satan becomes arrogant and rebels against the God who created him. He is cast down “like lightning” from heaven to earth.

Did I say earth? That’s right. You see, God had created a planet and the cosmos particularly for habitation by physical creatures. In six days he created this planet and all of the cosmos (stars, sun, moon, light, and every other physical thing) because after everyone fell he needed a good length for a week so men (who were going to become mortal at some point, even though God was not sure man would fall because he was going to give them free will) would not work themselves to death. God, though being outside of time and not a physical creature and incapable of tiring, rested for one complete 24 hour day to be a good example to men after he would give them the Law where he would say they should rest for 6 days. Then God said everything was “very good”.

It was at this point that Satan, though being outside the cosmos (and therefore outside of time) fell “like lightning” (though he was a spiritual creature and gravity only exists inside the universe) to this planet. When faced with what form to take, Satan chose to take the form of a serpent. Though it may not yet seem important, serpents at this time had legs.

Now for some reason, even though all creation was perfect anyway and built for habitation by men, God created a garden. He then placed Adam in that garden. Then, though all other mates for animals were created from dust, God created Adam’s mate – Eve – from one of Adam’s ribs. Adam was then lacking a rib. God gave Eve to Adam. This is why some Christians celebrate the fact that men have one less rib than women to this day.

Now in the garden God created a tree called the Tree of Life. He also created another tree called the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil (which can also be translated as the Tree of Knowledge of Everything). Though Adam was free to do anything and he had no clue what death was (because it did not yet exist and he did not know everything and did not mind because he did not know he was supposed to mind), he was told he could not eat from this tree or he would die the very day he ate from it.

Now Eve, being more easily deceived because she was a woman (even though everything in creation was “very good”), was tricked by the Serpent (Satan embodied) into eating from this tree because the Serpent told her that if she ate from it she would be like God. And being a woman (and therefore wanting to be like God) she ate from it. Her husband – being a man and therefore easily tricked by the wiles of women who want to be like God – ate as well. This is not sexist, it is the truth and the way in which God made men and women different and should be celebrated.

Then they were naked. Actually, they were naked before, but it was just then that they realized they were naked and wanted to cover up, because nakedness symbolizes spiritual nakedness even though this is not just a symbol in this story. At this point God, though on a throne in heaven and outside of time and nonexistent in a physical body, was somehow walking in the garden and called for his two people creations. Adam and Eve covered up with fig leaves at some point (the fig tree being one of the original species God created). They were afraid of God (because of the tree incident) and hid.

After a conversation with God, the two were banished from the garden. Eve had an increase in childbirth pain and was subservient to her husband. Adam now could not enjoy taking care of a garden but had to toil over the soil. The serpent lost its legs. The biggest loss, of course, was the fact that Adam and Eve could no longer eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. God, always on the safe side, stationed one of his angels with a sword (because guns were not yet invented by men and for some curious reason angelic inventions seem to always lag one step behind human inventions) at the entrance of the garden to keep Adam and Eve and their little youngin’s away. Adam and Eve did not die on this day physically as God said (because if they did we would not be here). Instead, they died spiritually, which means they were separated from God (even though God is everywhere).

After this, God introduced death and its subsequent perfectly ordered systematic food chain into the world. Actually, the food chain is a little confusing at this point because men cannot eat meat yet. But death did exist because God sacrificed some form of a goat to get the animals skins that Adam and Even now wore. But regardless of the introduction of death, for some reason people lived a really, really long time. This is probably because it was before the flood and a massive canopy of water existed above the hard dome of heaven wherein the stars, sun, and moon were fixed. This canopy of water kept the bad rays from the sun (even though all creation was “very good”) from attacking man’s sensitive skin and causing them to age faster. Or it could be that some of that Tree of Life was still floating around in their bloodstream.

After many generations, men began populating the earth. Somehow men became more evil and God had a problem with the fact that they would take any woman they wanted. (This was before Joshua Harris discovered God’s plan for courtship and men did not consult and wait on God for him to lead the right person into their life.) Not only this but some of the angels (though being spiritual) began to have sex with women with physical penises and sperm and produced nasty monsters called Nephilim, which roamed the earth and became legends and mighty hunters. According to the Book of Enoch (which the inspired Jude quotes from as authoritative and which Revelation alludes to quite a bit), these now physical sons of God were punished by losing their bodies and became all the invisible demons that roam the world terrorizing people to this day (with ghost sightings, hunched backs, strange voices, possession, and more).

God, though outside of time and unable to change his mind, became grieved that he made man, got upset, regretted his earlier decision, and figured he had better destroy everyone (because he is holy and has a hard time just fixing things without the physical shedding of blood once men, who have the illusion of free will, mess things up). So he sent a flood that covered the entire earth and killed everything. Even though mountains should not exist at this point (because mountains only come about via deadly tectonic plate shifts and everything was very good on day seven), the flood waters covered the highest mountains. The waters came from inside the earth (actually “under” would probably be a better translation because the earth was considered pretty flat at this time) and a massive canopy of hovering water that existed between the atmosphere and the massive hard dome (the firmament) that contained the fixed stars. This water was held miraculously in place to protect men from deadly gamma rays and bad things like that from the universe even though everything was “very good” on day seven when God (who does not need to rest), nevertheless, rested.

But Noah found favor in the sight of God because he was righteous and had carefully followed God’s rules on courtship and his thoughts were not always evil like the rest of mankind.

To be continued… (remember, your eternal salvation depends on your understanding of this story!)

- Josh

Entry filed under: Josh. Tags: , , .

Becoming free from the conditional love of Christian friendships The Gospel Story – Act 2: Human Sacrificial Love

55 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Luke  |  February 14, 2009 at 12:53 am

    haha! brilliant! that’s about how the story goes under a fundie telling of it. disjointed and confused.

    as a student of the Gospel, i find it an interesting cultural mirror. but it is not self-apparent but rather self authenticating. like all things, we must wrestle with it and probe it’s strenghts and weaknesses, insights and limitations. All the while keeping in mind that stories and philosophies are mental fabrications. There has never been a single doctrine by which one could enter the true essence of things.

  • 2. orDover  |  February 14, 2009 at 1:18 am

    I lol’d!

  • 3. Quester  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Is this inteded as a serious look at anything, or just bait?

  • 4. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:18 am

    “Is this inteded as a serious look at anything, or just bait?”

    That depends on who you ask. At one time, everything I knew here was taken as seriously as if my own life depended on it.

    I didn’t write this to bait anyone, I just think that its good for those going through de-conversion or having recently gone through de-conversion to take some time to laugh at themselves a little. Perhaps? No?

  • 5. Emily  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:29 am

    Hahahaha!! It was when I realized that the story did indeed look like this when condensed that I started causing trouble in Bible study class and eventually deconverted from evangelicalism.

  • 6. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Emily –

    I used to hear people at church say all the time “Its easy sometimes to overlook the forest for the sake of the trees…” or something like that. The point being that we would spend so much time on individual stories / passages / doctrines, etc. that we would “forget” the “big picture”.

    Well, here’s the big picture folks.

  • 7. Quester  |  February 14, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Just curious what reaction you’re going for, Josh (though I hadn’t known this was one of yours). There seem to be ten “biblical” versions of the gospel story for every denomination of Christianity there is. Various takes on what it means to be the second Adam; looking at Christ as substitution/sacrifice/gift/role model, saving us from Hell/Satan/temptation/sin/death/law/punishment/God’s wrath, and saving us for Heaven/God’s love/life/freedom/participation as co-creators of God’s kingdom which starts here and now and touches eternity, if only we believe/receive/accept/live/rely on God’s grace/actually we can’t influence it at all.

    There’s nothing wrong with laughing at ourselves. You might want to provide an opening paragraph framing this as such– then again you might not. Your article just looks, to me, like bait for every wanna-be internet evangelist to come and say, “Well, if you believed this, no wonder you deconverted! You weren’t aware of the true gospel which I will now share with you.”

  • 8. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Quester –

    I appreciate your concerns and do think they are founded. I’m giving it some thought. I don’t want to ruin the entire effect of the story by giving an intro explaining my purpose. On the other hand, I do want to make my points clear by the end of the story – and think I can pull it off.

    “There seem to be ten “biblical” versions of the gospel story for every denomination of Christianity there is.”

    Honestly, by the end of the story I think I will have made this point so loud and clear that few will be able to express the “true gospel” without muddying the waters even further or rejecting a large portion of the Biblical or apostolic narrative, thereby shooting themselves in the foot and demonstrating that their own version of Christianity is their own invention. If the story, taken as literally and clearly from the mouths of the ones who first propagated and believed it ends up looking like a massive fairy tale, how will an evangelist coming along and tweaking it make it look more real? It will demonstrate, in story form, why we have all rejected the entire thing.

    Once a person knows that Santa can’t fit all those presents in his sleigh, no amount of tweaking the story makes it more believable.

    I’ll give this some more thought. Anyone else have any objections, thoughts?

  • 9. Edwin Palathinkal  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:31 am

    ROFL! That was a good one…

  • 10. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Quester –

    There we go, I think I was able to provide an intro that set the “tone” of what I am attempting to accomplish without hurting the overall effect of the narrative. Haha! Hope you guys enjoy :)

  • 11. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    “but it is not self-apparent but rather self authenticating”

    If something is self-authenticating, does this not mean that it is self-apparent? The law of non-contradiction is self-authenticating and this is what makes it self-apparent. No?

  • 12. Lucian  |  February 14, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Here’s my little contribution to the discussion on this topic.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    (remember, your eternal salvation depends on your understanding of this story!)

    THIS is the real heart of the problem. Even if the 10 (to the 10 power) other versions of the gospel are brought in here, the BIG problem is that every single one of the folks who bring us those versions, and tell us we did not understand the true version, will insist that the version they have is the really true one and that “our eternal salvation depends on our understanding of their story”, which, as I said, is the really true one.

    [I think I caught the spirit of the writing there didn't I? It's a bit infectious.]

  • 14. Quester  |  February 14, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks, Strummr, I look forward to seeing the rest.

    Lucien- Athanasius’ On the Incarnation is a fun take on the story. I really enjoyed reading and wrestling with that one back in seminary.

    Leo- Except for those who believe in an inclusivist (Jesus will save everyone no matter what) or universalist (everyone will be saved by god, however they recognize or approach god) gospel. But, yeah, only those with an exclusivist view of the gospel feel an need to share it- more often than not.

  • 15. Yurka  |  February 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Even this version is more plausible than the alternative you push: Something magically appearing from Nothing by Nothing. Matter + Time + Chance. From the goo to the zoo to YOU!

    Have fun suppressing (or at least mightily trying) the knowledge of the truth (Rom 1).

  • 16. Quester  |  February 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Suppress it, Yurka? Here Guitarstrummr is, having carefully gained our trust, now trying to proclaim the gospel message as clearly as he can to those who no longer believe in a god, let alone the Christian God. What more can you ask for?

    I suppose it’s too much to ask that someone who’s been here as long as you have, without ever figuring out the purpose of this site, to understand what the word “suppress” means. Heck, I’d be impressed if you showed any indication you understood the concept of “truth”!

  • 17. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    “Even this version is more plausible than the alternative you push: Something magically appearing from Nothing by Nothing. Matter + Time + Chance. From the goo to the zoo to YOU!”

    Oh? Since when have I pushed this?

    At least I took 15+ years of Bible study and several years of college Bible classes to learn what is probably similar to your view (and its various alternatives) in detail. It is why I am able to recite everything above.

    Please come up with more than a straw man of my position.

  • 18. Yurka  |  February 14, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Please come up with more than a straw man of my position.
    But this whole parody is almost nothing but strawmen:

    According to the Book of Enoch (which the inspired Jude quotes from as authoritative
    Just because Jude quotes from it doesn’t mean he thinks it’s inspired. I might cite a factual article from the New York Times, but that doesn’t mean I believe the editorials. Why did you even bring this up? Aren’t you just trying to cast doubt on the canon? But you see that it is fallacious to do so in this way, so why do it?

    which means they were separated from God (even though God is everywhere)
    And what is the point of that jab? since you are satirizing something no one believes. In any case, ‘separates’ is a metaphor used in explaining the text, the text doesn’t actually say that.

    I’d urge anyone reading this to ask themselves whether this actually represents people’s views.

    And quester – your definitions of inclusivist and universalist are the same, but this is wrong. Inclusivists believe some people will be saved through Christ without ever knowing about Christ in this life. If you really think there is any doubt as to what the Bible teaches on this point just read John 14:6 and Romans 10.
    You are all free to misinterpret scripture, you will not be struck dead like Uzzah when he touched the ark, but don’t conclude therefore that the Bible isn’t clear on matters relating to soteriology. You can deliberately disobey laws and come up with bizarre interpretations of them to ease your guilty conscience. You may not even get caught. But that doesn’t change the fact that the law is clear and you are guilty.

    And don’t drag in the %.0001 wackos claiming to be Christian that claim that certain eschatological views or getting baptized a certain way are *necessary* for salvation. That doesn’t prove the Bible isn’t clear, any more than voodoo faith healers prove that modern medicine is bogus.

  • 19. Luke  |  February 14, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    hey ‘strummr, good question!

    “If something is self-authenticating, does this not mean that it is self-apparent?” no. i meant that the Bible is a human document with not just one, but a variety of cultural bias and concerns and cosmologies. we have to understand those first before applying these stories to our current story.

    all this to say that the “plain sense of scripture” proclaimed by the fundies is a load of crap. we need tools to figure out what it means. once we do, it’s an authentic mirror of our social location and culture.

  • 20. Gary  |  February 14, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Even this version is more plausible than the alternative you push: Something magically appearing from Nothing by Nothing. Matter + Time + Chance. From the goo to the zoo to YOU!

    You have it backwards, Yurka. Whatever alternative is being pushed, it dispenses with the notion of something “magically” appearing. It is the alternative that youpush that invokes magic, a fabulous feat of prodigious prestidigitation carried out by the Great Magician. How he performed the trick, no one apparently presumes to know.

  • 21. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    “Just because Jude quotes from it doesn’t mean he thinks it’s inspired.”

    A classic. Well, in that case, just because Jesus quotes from it doesn’t mean Jesus thinks its inspired either. Or when Matthew quotes. Or Paul. Or any of the New Testament writers. In fact, we have no clue which Old Testament books are inspired or not because we’ll never know if those quoting them weren’t just making the same point Jude was. In fact, we have no clue. At all. Because maybe they were just quoting from old books because they thought they were good stories?

    Yurka, what gives you the right to selectively pick which quotes in the New Testament count as ascribing authority and which ones do not? Did you know that when the canon was “confirmed”, those doing the confirming also thought other books (like the Shepherd of Hermas) were inspired as well? Just because it does or does not make it into your favorite canon does not mean that it was not considered to be inspired or authoritative.

    Have you read the book of Enoch or the history of the book? There is no way I can think that Jude would quote that book (or the Assumption of Moses), unless he assumed that the contents contained therein were inspired. Especially given the contents and context of Jude.

    “Aren’t you just trying to cast doubt on the canon?”

    You still haven’t figured this out?

    “since you are satirizing something no one believes.”

    I was taught this. I’m not kidding. We were taught that death means “separation”. Separation of the body from the spirit, of the spirit from God, etc.

    “In any case, ’separates’ is a metaphor used in explaining the text, the text doesn’t actually say that.”

    Yeah, the text says they would die the day (24 hour day) that they ate of the tree. They did not. So someone has to invent a reason why this did not happen, hence the separation metaphor. Its explaining away a problem with a literal reading of the text. Its what Christians do all the time because they have to. Just as the New Testament writers explained away the real meaning of Old Testament prophecies and “plopped in” the Messiah.

    “That doesn’t prove the Bible isn’t clear, any more than voodoo faith healers prove that modern medicine is bogus.”

    If all you want is good results (like a good doctor), and good results are defined as people who end up with a faith like yours (not like the wacko Christians) then be my guest.

    Only one question: what gives you the right to determine which Christian groups are wacko? What standard are you appealing to to make this judgment?

    My guess is it has more to do with clear reason than with your faith claims. And if that is true, then I think, to quote Hitchens, I “win this round”.

  • 22. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    “all this to say that the “plain sense of scripture” proclaimed by the fundies is a load of crap. we need tools to figure out what it means. once we do, it’s an authentic mirror of our social location and culture.”

    Actually, I think get where you are coming from – and I agree to a degree (darn poetry). Anyway.

    Yes, the “plain sense” is a load of crap. The problem is this. At what point is the line drawn between theological truth and cultural beliefs? Is God himself nothing more than a cultural phenomena which also happens? Or do we draw a line here? What about laws? Is cannibalism allowed in some cultures because of its cultural relevancy or not?

    If one looks too deep into the culture of the Bible, God Himself disappears altogether and becomes nothing more than a cultural interpretation of natural phenomena.

    At what point do you stop yourself?

  • 23. Yurka  |  February 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Only one question: what gives you the right to determine which Christian groups are wacko? What standard are you appealing to to make this judgment?

    The main one would be inconsistency – inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument. For example, the Mormon interpretation of
    1 Co 15:41 (There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory)
    is that there are 3 “levels” of heaven, the celestial, terrestrial, and the “telestial” (a nonsense word Smith made up).

    But he does not interpret other texts in this idiotic way (the context only shows that in heaven we will be distinct from one another). If I went up to him and told him that in heaven leaves would grow out of us and that we would all be affixed to Jesus on the basis of John 15 (I am the vine, you are the branches), he’d say I was wrong.

    These groups CANNOT defend what they say. When nobodies like James White face off against them, they defeat them with ease, NOT because White has any particular skills (except doggedness), but because he has such an easy job, given what he’s defending.

  • 24. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Yurka –

    You are correct. All I am saying is that it is inconsistent to claim that Jude is not quoting the Book of Enoch as inspired or authoritative but then to claim that Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy as inspired and authoritative when there is nothing in the text to determine that. I’m not sure if this is what you are saying, but it appears the position you are coming from. Am I correct?

    There is almost nothing that I find more inconsistent in the Bible than the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old. This, in my mind, means that the New Testament is a failed argument.

  • 25. LeoPardus  |  February 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

    PLEASE! Stop trying to do logic Yurka. It’s beyond you.

  • 26. Luke  |  February 14, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    “God Himself disappears altogether and becomes nothing more than a cultural interpretation of natural phenomena.

    At what point do you stop yourself?” -strummr

    and there in lies the problem! people have been fighting over this religion was invented.. well.. at least the christian religion anyway. this problem is best laid out in Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr and i would do a great disservice to it here, but will try to simply answer your point of ‘where to stop yourself’ just in my own terms.

    i believe in revelation which i define as ‘sometimes you just know something before you know how you know that something.’ ever get those? i believe this comes from some where other than myself and think that it’s God connecting some ideas or experiences in my brain. now the question becomes what do we define God as… and there’s the extremes of God personified (made in HIS image) to God is just a culture’s highest ideals. of course, one can venture of this scale and say there is no god, but i’d say that’s the extreme of god being the ‘highest ideal’ in a strictly philosophical sense.

    where i stick on this is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. the more i learn about the Bible the more i lean toward God as highest ideal… but my experience has lead me the other way (but more of an energy than personification). i just have a feeling that my cognitive brain can’t understand but my intuitive brain totally does. that’s just my experience and how i make sence of the world… the question is, do you understand and agree with the categories i’ve established.

    and once again, i’m coming as an Ultimately Clueless Clod on a yellow submarine… so there’s my bias.

  • 27. Yurka  |  February 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Did you know that when the canon was “confirmed”, those doing the confirming also thought other books (like the Shepherd of Hermas) were inspired as well?
    You can’t necessarily draw that conclusion just because it was in Sinaiticus. Producing high quality manuscripts (animal skin as opposed to papyri) like that was a big undertaking, so they used opportunities like that to include other books that were considered edifying or historically important, but not necessarily canonical.

    Well, in that case, just because Jesus quotes from it doesn’t mean Jesus thinks its inspired either. In fact, we have no clue which Old Testament books are inspired or not because we’ll never know if those quoting them weren’t just making the same point Jude was. In fact, we have no clue. At all. Because maybe they were just quoting from old books because they thought they were good stories?

    Jesus uses very high words for Moses (in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: “If they believed Moses they would believe even if one came back from the dead”, or in John where Jesus says “If you believed Moses you would believe Me”). And Moses appeared on the mount of Transfiguration so I’d say that the Pentateuch is without doubt endorsed as canonical not merely on the level of citing an historical source as with Jude citing Enoch.

    As for the Psalms, prophets, we know what OT books were canonical because we know that first century Jewish Rabbis (and later Jerome) did not regard the apocrypha as canonical.

    Yurka, what gives you the right to selectively pick which quotes in the New Testament count as ascribing authority and which ones do not?

    It’s not arbitrary – there are three criteria for canonicity. The book had to be written by an apostle or associate of an apostle, it had to be in widespread use, and it had to conform to core doctrine. You may disagree with inspiration, but people were not arbitrarily selecting books according to their fancy.

  • 28. TitforTat  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    and once again, i’m coming as an Ultimately Clueless Clod on a yellow submarine… so there’s my bias.(Luke)

    I have a feeling if I watched and listened to you preach, I might want to go for a swim. ;)

  • 29. guitarstrummr  |  February 14, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Yurka, have you even ever read the book of Enoch?

    And I know the criteria for canonicity, which, by nature, exclude the book of Hebrews. They thought it was written by Paul and it was not.

  • [...] Recent Discussions Luke on The Gospel Story – Act 2: Human Sacrificial Loveguitarstrummr on The Gospel Story – Act 1: Creation and FallTitforTat on The Gospel Story – Act 1: Creation and FallYurka on The Gospel Story – Act 1: [...]

  • [...] 15, 2009 In Act 1, we discussed the events that lead to the fall of our world (which brought about death and [...]

  • 32. The Nerd  |  February 16, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Hahaha! Josh Harris…

  • 33. LeoPardus  |  February 16, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    It’s not arbitrary – there are three criteria for canonicity. The book had to be written by an apostle or associate of an apostle, it had to be in widespread use, and it had to conform to core doctrine. You may disagree with inspiration, but people were not arbitrarily selecting books according to their fancy.

    Right. “The Shepherd of Hermas”, “The Didache”, a couple “gospels” and “epistiles” were all used as “canonical” by some fathers and were all considered for inclusion. By contrast, Revelation, James, Jude, II Peter, II/III John were all strongly considered for non-inclusion. It was not as simple as the Sunday School lessons told you. In the end it came to a vote and even after that books like Shepherd and Didache were still widely used in many churches.
    No it wasn’t all settled in one, divinely run council as you were mistaught. The canon we know today evolved over many years and was still questioned long after the supposedly “final” Cathaginian Council.

  • 34. Josh  |  February 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    LeoPardus –

    As I sat listening in my Bible Intro class at Bible school, I was becoming quite astonished. How could others not recognize how convoluted all this was?

    There were numerous canons – especially in the first century – that God-fearing believers honestly and truly believed to be the proper canon. Many of these included copies of copies of translations of translations, often distorted in their content. The lack of preservation of original meaning is the primary reason that men like Daniel B. Wallace still have a a job. They are still trying to figure out what the original text said – and in many cases cannot possibly know. What is more confusing is that no one can possibly know that even the oldest manuscripts we have contain what was originally written by the authors. A manuscript’s most volatile period is in the first one hundred years of its distribution, due to the fact that there are the fewest copies and the wording has not become public knowledge. Is it no surprise to find that we have next to no manuscript copies from the first one hundred years after the New Testament books were written? Could it be that so few exist because they were destroyed as new ones were made and things were changed. Just ask Celsus.

    But the thought that bothered me the most was this: if so many believers – so close to the events themselves – believed firmly that the canon they had (like the Syriac or Coptic texts) was the inspired Word of God, how can someone today say that those silly believers back then were mistaken and then in the same breath declare that the canon we have today is the “true” one? This seems extremely insulting and arrogant, like saying that those poor, sad believers did not have the textual criticism science that we do today, so we can let them off the hook. Does it not ever occur to anyone that if God honestly wanted to inspire His Word He would also be interested in giving men the tools to understand it? Why did He wait nearly 3500 years after the first manuscripts were written to finally “allow” men to discover the textual criticism methods to give them the ability to finally be able to get really “close” to the original meaning of the text. What about all the poor fellows in history who died unable to use these tools accurately? They died with all sorts of massive misinterpretations of God’s Word in their minds. And what is the point of having God’s Word when you cannot understand it? Seriously, what’s the point? Whose fault is that? Peter once supposedly said that we have all we need for life and godliness – before the New Testament was completed. Then Christians today claim that we need the entire New Testament for life and godliness. Does this not contradict Peter? Not only are we told we need the entire New Testament, we need a massive collection of textual helps that were not invented until recently. And we need commentaries, and Bible classes, and a massive economic system of Christian book publishers, Bible colleges, seminaries, etc. And then that is not enough. You have to submit to the interpretation of your local church on matters – unless it bothers your conscience too much. Then you can look for a church that agrees with your interpretation. There is always another church that holds the interpretation you fancy.

    And then each church – with all the same tools and Bible helps – believes their interpretation is the accurate one. The “true” one. The one that the Holy Spirit has revealed to them.

    And Christians, despite the millions of hours of research and billions of dollars spent still cannot agree on whether a person can, say, lose their salvation or not. Or whether men have free will. Or what day Jesus died on. Or how the Holy Spirit communicates to men. Or how to deal with homosexuality. Or end times prophecies. Or soteriological issues.

    Sure, its fun to study the stuff – especially when you have an entire flock looking up to you with open spiritual mouths ready to soak up your knowledge and submit to your advice and associated interpretations. Sometimes I wonder how much a subtle desire for power plays into many pastoral positions. Everyone likes to feel in control. Everyone does. How much more in control someone feels (I know this from experience) when they can expound the very Word of God to a group of individuals and have their eyes light up and their lives change because of it. I know the feeling, it is empowering, addicting, and leaves one feeling on top of the world. How enrapturing it is to feel that one is doing the will of God and to see others change their behavior, their thinking, and their entire lives based on a few words I uttered.

  • 35. paleale  |  February 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Josh, I also know that feeling of power. It scared the hell out of me, angered me, frustrated me, saddened me. As a worship leader I knew exactly which chords to play and how to sing certain phrases of songs to make my ‘audience’ feel and respond a certain way. As an assistant pastor I could say basically whatever and the recipient(s) would acknowledge my words as having come from a source of authority. Mind you, I’m not what you would consider an educated person. I didn’t go to college for biblical studies or get a master of divinity. I dropped out of college (pursuing a advertising design major) and went into “missions”, which was more or less just a church-validated way of saying ‘life of adventure and excitement’. And this is where I got my ‘authority’ to speak to people from a pulpit. The actual pastor was even worse. My pastor actually sat down at lunch with me one day and told me that the Holy Spirit had personally given him the correct verse by verse translation of the entire bible. There were two other churches right next door to us, another church a mile down the street one direction and another slough of churches in the opposite direction… and this guy alone had the truth. I left soon after that conversation. I ended up converting to Catholicism because I believed it be the most historically accurate version of Christianity since its origins the most documented throughout antiquity. And there I found yet more independent translations of scripture, opinions on social issues, political manipulations, etc. Despite historicity, despite the centuries of authentication and study, it’s still just a bunch of dudes taking votes and giving their own opinions.

    Granted, my experience does not prove that there certainly is no God or gods, but it gives me a pretty good indication that Christianity is no different from any other religion or organized group of people. Book or no book.

  • 36. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Wow, paleale, good points. It is scary that your pastor honestly believed that God had given Him that. I ran into similar situations and soon discovered that people who felt more “inspired” in [insert interpretation here] were generally more inclined to see it as the Spirit’s involvement. Just as a person can get excited about writing a song and finding just that right note that causes an ecstatic emotion, I feel that most believers interpret their emotions as they study the Bible in much the same way except that they interpret the source of the emotions as coming from the spiritual realm.

    The feeling of power. It scared the shit out of me too. I remember the more I studied the Bible the more scared I became because I realized that less and less could I claim to be speaking on behalf of God because I really did not know what God was saying anyway. The more I studied, the less I knew. The less I knew, the less confident I became that I knew what God was saying. The less I knew what God was saying, the less adequate I felt in teaching it as truth. The less adequate I felt, the more scared I became that others were pushing me into those positions. I finally reached a point where I felt uncomfortable even sharing the gospel because I felt like I was manipulating people into a decision. I knew all the tricks of the trade, and what is more – I knew they were tricks.

  • 37. Luke  |  February 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    ” I remember the more I studied the Bible the more scared I became because I realized that less and less could I claim to be speaking on behalf of God because I really did not know what God was saying anyway.”

    absolutely! i’m taking a preaching class right now and man, i’ll tell you.. the first class was scary as shit. all my fellow classmates thought that when they preached they were saying the Words of God. i thought that this was bullshit.. so i asked if they could put a % on it.. how much was their words and how much was GOD’s WORD! results were 50% to less than 1%. i don’t believe that’s what i’m doing at all on Sunday…

    all i’m doing is talking of God to people. just setting up a feedback loop where, hopefully, someone is inspired. the gospel does speak to the mysteries of being in the world, so it cannot be spoken to or by persons who are too sure of their convictions.

    i’m in the yellow submarine like the rest of you, what the hell do i know? but let me tell you what i see from the periscope, then you let me know what you see. cool?

  • 38. TitforTat  |  February 16, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Luke

    Use the FORCE……….woohooo.

  • 39. paleale  |  February 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Luke–

    all i’m doing is talking of God to people. just setting up a feedback loop where, hopefully, someone is inspired. the gospel does speak to the mysteries of being in the world, so it cannot be spoken to or by persons who are too sure of their convictions.

    I understand where you’re coming from. For the most part, that’s how I envisioned myself when I spoke to people. Unless one is a megalomaniac or a charlatan (or both), most pastors have a good self-image regarding their motives in their chosen vocation.

    So we’re just setting up a dialogue. A feedback loop. It all sounds great and I’ve seen it in action. I’ve initiated it. The problem arises that even though you or I may not view ourselves as anyone particularly knowledgeable or special the congregation does. And in my experience, I’ve found that when a pastor discloses his less-than-complete knowledge of the mysterious subject at hand (‘Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy like you that the Lord has given this task to’) the result can be an ever more trusting or even gullible congregation due to your humility and integrity. It can start a real feedback loop.

    How do you deal with the quasi-celebrity status that comes with the role now? And if you understand the uncertainties of the subject matter, how do you reconcile the bullshit percentage that you know with the bullshit percentage that you don’t know?

  • 40. Luke  |  February 16, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    hey paleale,

    that’s a good question… the quasi-celebrity status and the view of ourselves as anyone as particularly knowleable… i’m just getting into this thing and have limited experience… so in a way i’m still very much an idealist and in a theoritical stage of my ministry.

    i can only speak to how i’ve handled that in the few situations that have popped up and i say “i’ve studied this for a long time and come to my own conclusion… i have no ownership on knowledge, no one does, but if you disagree, i’d love to hear how you’ve come to your conclusion.” thus starting a real feeback loop. hope that satisfies…

    what is your experience in this area? how do you handle it or keep your congregation from getting too gullible? how do you set up a congregation that one can push against yet they can push back?

    RAWK!

  • 41. paleale  |  February 17, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Luke–

    Good points and good outlook. I don’t disagree with you at all on the ownership of knowledge (unless Facebook’s new terms of use agreement has anything to do with it) because knowledge is always being pushed further and amended. I do believe that empirical knowledge must be differentiated from faith or revelation however. The two cannot cross platforms. I believe you know this so I’m just stating the obvious because I like to say shit that makes me look smart. Lol! But since faith and revelation are both subjective they actually require ownership to a degree.

    As for my own experience, I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of the given trust and I don’t know how to protect one’s self or one’s congregation from the inherent dangers. I don’t think that a ‘congregation’ is an institution that can be set up to push back. One would almost need a round table discussion of sorts in order to maintain the open ended conversation that it sounds like you’re looking for. Perhaps on a small scale at that. Once you step behind a pulpit or onto a podium you have taken on a mantle of authority whether you like it or not and people will view you as a credible source of direction for their lives. It is a staggering responsibility.

    I struggled with this as a musician. The Christian music industry is a clever beast when it comes to public image. And everywhere you go, the people you play for have already decided that you have ownership of knowledge. They want you to have it. Some of them need you to have it. On a certain level it was an honor and a bit flattering, but it was also just so darn unrealistic. I couldn’t handle the dichotomy anymore so I bailed.

  • 42. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 17, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    “The Christian music industry is a clever beast when it comes to public image. And everywhere you go, the people you play for have already decided that you have ownership of knowledge. They want you to have it. Some of them need you to have it.”

    I can remember the frustration me and my more spiritual friends had toward the music industry growing up. We could not understand why the Christian music industry was so, well – vague in their lyrics. One could almost replace “Jesus” with “my girlfriend” in so many songs and have the song work perfectly.

    As I grew older and learned more about the faith I realized why this was so. The music industry sports musicians who know little theology in the first place, and in the second place if you are specific in your theological outlook in a song you begin to radically alienate large portions of the Christian population and lose sales. This is due to the lack of unity and fragmentation among churches. And why are churches fragmented and not unified? Well, it depends on who you ask…

    If you ask a conservative, they might tell you it is because churches are no longer following God properly and standing up for the truth and that “truth divides” and Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword… etc. etc. If you ask a moderate they would say it is because some people are too judgmental (conservatives) and this causes fragmentation but that the liberals are no different than the rest of the world and should not be considered real Christians. If you ask a liberal, they might say it is because churches have lost sight of the real heart of the gospel – loving one another – for the sake of following rules and standing up for doctrines that God never intended to be taken so seriously.

    If you ask an agnostic, they will probably tell you that the fragmentation stems from the fact that the message was never clear in the first place :)

    Given the evidence of the former three divisions in Christianity, I would have to say the latter group has the better answer.

  • 43. bernerbits  |  February 17, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    And if you ask a Pastafarian, you will get the truth: That all religions and sects are but Noodly Appendages of His Mighty Deliciousness.

  • 44. paleale  |  February 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I will give my life to Him. May his sauce reign forever!

  • 45. orDover  |  February 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    RAmen.

  • 46. Ubi Dubium  |  February 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I just recently got my copy of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s much more intelligible than the bible. For instance, there’s only one version of the “Eight I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts” instead of the two or possibly three in the OT. And – Pirates make better chosen people than a bunch of rule-obsessed Bronze-age goat hereders.

    YARRRR and RAmen!

  • 47. Jeffrey  |  February 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Don’t bring your synergistic heresies into the Truth of Pastafarianism. THERE IS NO SAUCE. Only spaghetti. No meatballs, no sauce, only spaghetti. The literal meaning of spaghetti is a form of pasta. If we worshiped a spaghetti dinner, his Noodly Goodness would be called the Flying Spaghetti Dinner Monster.

  • 48. paleale  |  February 17, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    These synergistic heresies you speak of have been handed down to us through the ages depicted in noodly art dating back to the earliest known records of Pastafarianism. Much like the frescoes which dominated the blasphemous cult of Christianity, we view these artistic masterpieces as an early form of catechism for believers of the day. If you’re going to get specific, you’d better decide how His Noodliness is prepared. Boiled, baked or raw? I believe in the softness of His noodle.

  • 49. paleale  |  February 17, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I left out fried. As in the electric chair.

  • 50. Jeffrey  |  February 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Pictures of the FSM are imagery, and not meant to be taken literally. I suppose next you will ask if His Noodliness can make a pot so big that even he can’t fill it up!? The FSM needs no cooking. People who believe otherwise are making a, um, diety in their own image of dinner.

  • 51. bernerbits  |  February 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    People who believe otherwise are making a, um, diety in their own image of dinner.

    But He loves low-carbers as well!

  • 52. LeoPardus  |  February 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I’m glad sauce isn’t important. I like marinara and my kids like alfredo, but we can be one happy family together at dinner time. No need for a food fight.

  • 53. SnugglyBuffalo  |  February 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    As I recall, heresy and blasphemy is virtually impossible in Pastafarianism.

    Argue about the details all you want, in the end you still get beer volcanoes and strippers regardless.

  • [...] own. So here is “The Gospel According to Josh.” You can read the original posts here, here, and here. In the beginning God exists for an eternity. At some point he begets a son and [...]

  • 55. Lyra's Alias  |  June 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I feel like laughing at this kind of stuff is healthy regardless of your philosophical position. Taking things seriously all the time is exhausting and probably not psychologically healthy. So uh, yeah. Good job.

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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