Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comparison between Biblical and Evangelical Christianity

Bev had early suggested I create a more clear presentation of how my views on the Bible differ from the modern version of the gospel.

I spent today doing that very thing.

Any feedback is welcome.

I would welcome'request that anyone who finds the page interesting link to it on their own site.

7 comments:

Rachel said...

I read this and found it very interesting, especially the bit about how we obtain forgiveness and the question of how we are pleasing to God. Emmm - much to think about.

David Rudel said...

Thanks, Rachel. I very much appreciate your consideration of my alternate perspective.

Rahab, Nineveh, and Cornelius are all very important examples to keep in mind when considering these things. Note that Nineveh [who had no share in the gospel or any knowledge of a coming savior, for they were not sons of Jacob[ were given kudos by Christ Himself [Matthew 12:41, Luke 11:32]

Rahab in particular, because in her story we see both how important faith in God is [in particular, faith in God's power] while how unimportant faith in any notion of the gospel or God's mercy or anything.

Rahab believed that the God of the Jews was real and had power to destroy them, and she acted on that. She was "justified" as James says because her work was absolutely a proof of her faith [faith that this God of the Jews was real and had power]. However, she had no understanding of anything else regarding God...certainly no understanding of a coming savior, etc. She didn't even have any faith in God for her personal deliverance either, she put her hope in the promise the spies made for her, and that hope was contingent on her further actions (tying the cord, getting out of her home, etc.) If she had failed to do these things she would not have been personally delivered (the spies were quite clear in that regard), but she would still have been pleasing to God because her actions glorified the Lord.

This is shown in Abraham's faith as well, in Genesis 15:6, we are told Abraham had faith in God, but it was not a faith in God's promise but rather a faith in God's power to do the things God had just said. In addition to being the nuance of the Hebrew, we see immediately Abraham asking for proof so that he could trust in God's promise [Genesis 15:8].

We see this in the gospel's as well. Not faith that Jesus would heal but that He could heal. And it is exactly these evidences that Jesus most lauds [for example the Centurion or the Samaritan woman who had so much faith that she was sure that merely touching Jesus' phylacteries would be enough to heal her.]

Over and over again we see faith in God's power, not faith in "the gospel." per se. Note that when the prophets come to warn Judah, they don't tell them "It is really important that you have faith that a savior is coming five hundred years from now."

The faith the prophets called on Judah to have was a faith that God had the power to rescue them in their current plight, and faith that God had the power to honor those who did God's will. Isaiah 30:15 puts this beautifully:

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 1In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing,"

David pleased God not by looking forward to the Christ or knowing anything about life beyond the grave (Psalm 30:9) but because he had a heart for God and followed God's commandments [1st Kings 14:8].

Stephen Dawe said...

As an evangelical. I find your expression of what evangelicals believe, well, lacking in understanding.

For me, I've always thought of Christ coming not to make us "do good" primarily, or even to be saved. That seems a false dichotomy. Rather Christ came to provide a new heart, one that would love and serve God, and value Him above all else. The rest comes from that.

Evangelicals also do not as a rule put salvation as solely against God's wrath at the end of time, but against God's wrath now, in the temporal world AND at the end of time when he deliver's wrath to the world.

New covenant is pretty much what you seem to say it is for many evangelicals too.

Repentance for an evangelical means to turn away from the valuing of anything other than God as primary. If you sin after that, you need to wonder if you have really converted, because it shows a lack of value for God.

Forgiveness can have multiple meanings in context, which you are simply placing into one big catch all. For example, Stephen's stoning asked for forgiveness for the sin of stoning him to death. There is no inkling that this would be provided independent of faith in Christ. You are making narrative normative.

Ninevah, Rahab, Abraham, and all the examples you use believed that repenting and turning to God for mercy would DO something. Namely, that the just God of the universe would be merciful to them, despite his massive power and the fact he is angry.

Judgement is as you say (for us all, on what we do, think and say). If you think any of us will be justified there without God's mercy, well, reread Luke 18:9-14, especially 14. Or maybe you are just more righteous than I am.

Your desire to not talk about the Genesis 3 prophecy because "Paul wasn't talking to non-believers" simply fails to meet muster. If it is not to be seen in this way, why is it used at all?

Your treatment of original sin is a simple false dichotomy. If Adam leads to spiritual death, then we are spiritually dead and condemned to well separation from the spiritual, ergo......

Stephen Dawe said...

If I am correct, and the Gospel is that God reigns in power, is just to punish wickedness, and that He is merciful to us through Christ while staying just, how does that, at ALL, go against your understanding of Rahab, Abraham, etc.

After all, it is NOT just that God is powerful, but that He is good. If He is powerful and not merciful, Rahab and Nineveh were fools to repent, because God would either destroy them anyway in their sins (thus lets eat and drink for tomorrow we die), or perhaps people of faith should run like the dickens, find another god to defend them, or rebelliously and defiantly thumbing their nose at such a tyrannical god.

David Rudel said...

Stephen,
It should be noted that the term "Evangelical" has changed over the course of history, and there is no consensus as to what the term actually means. However with regard to the question of the Judgment, they are generally aligned in terms of the outcome (if not the mechanism or emphasis), and that is what is primarily at discussion here.

I've worshipped with and had fellowship with various factions of the evangelical movement for...well...mostly my entire life. It seems rather ambitious to claim that I am "lacking in understanding" of a movement that is so nebulous as to defy easy categorization anyway.

I want to respond to your various points:

For me, I've always thought of Christ coming not to make us "do good" primarily, or even to be saved. That seems a false dichotomy. Rather Christ came to provide a new heart, one that would love and serve God, and value Him above all else.

This is a very odd paragraph to me. The thing you say you see Christ as coming to do is precisely what "do good" means in terms of the Bible.

Evangelicals also do not as a rule put salvation as solely against God's wrath at the end of time, but against God's wrath now, in the temporal world AND at the end of time when he deliver's wrath to the world.

Actually, "evangelicals as a general rule" do not see salvation as solely against God's wrath, period. (see earlier point about evangelicalism being rather nebulous).

But, putting that to one side, I don't see how this remark in any way gainsays anything I mention on the page.

It doesn't matter if you are talking "dealing with wrath" in the temporal versus the permanent or even if you are talking about expiating versus wrath-redirection... in all cases the point is that "salvation" is being cast in terms of God's ledger or accounting of (individualized) sin.
That is a very Gentilized/Westernized conception and quite distant from the Judaism of the writers of the NT. Neither they nor the first several generations of church fathers afterward saw redemption with this in view.

New covenant is pretty much what you seem to say it is for many evangelicals too.

Obviously, I cannot gainsay your personal experience...but in mine there appears to be an irresistible tendency to mix in elements of heaven/recurring forgiveness/Judgment (or what is commonly called "justification"). Actually "mix in" is a bit too kind...

Repentance for an evangelical means to turn away from the valuing of anything other than God as primary. If you sin after that, you need to wonder if you have really converted, because it shows a lack of value for God.

Pish posh. You're essentially claiming that any sin is reason to doubt one's conversion. Should we doubt Peter's conversion based on Paul's reprimand recorded in Galatians?

Do we doubt David's valuation of God because of Bathsheba?
[to be continued]

David Rudel said...

[continuing]

Forgiveness can have multiple meanings in context, which you are simply placing into one big catch all.

Either you are forgiven of a sin or you are not.

There is no inkling that this would be provided independent of faith in Christ. You are making narrative normative.

??? I generally have more respect for arguments from silence than most...but this is ludicrous.

Furthermore, the "forgive others their sins and your father will forgive you yours" would not suffer from this concern. Are Jesus words (to a large body of people who had no clue Who He was or what was in store for Him) also not 'normative.'

Ninevah, Rahab, Abraham, and all the examples you use believed that repenting and turning to God for mercy would DO something.

No. That's where you are wrong. If you read Rahab's story closely you'll notice that she did not have any faith in God's mercy for her action. She put her hope/faith in the spies keeping their word.

The situation with Cornelius is similar. The Jewish teachings of the time did not contain much in the way of grace for those outside Judaism. That is why the apostles did not spread the gospel to anyone other than Jews at first.

But let's unfold your claim some more...if the only requirement is that you believe God will have mercy on you if you repent, then there is no real need or reason to believe in Jesus at all. Any theist can believe in a God who is merciful to those who repent...even one who has rejected Christ or never heard of him.

Rahab and Cornelius had no gospel to believe in when they did actions that pleased God.

Your desire to not talk about the Genesis 3 prophecy because "Paul wasn't talking to non-believers" simply fails to meet muster. If it is not to be seen in this way, why is it used at all?

Oh please. Romans 16:20 does not even fit what people try to do with it. Whose heel is Satan crushed under in Romans 16:20? And when does it happen?

Your treatment of original sin is a simple false dichotomy. If Adam leads to spiritual death, then we are spiritually dead and condemned to well separation from the spiritual, ergo

Except that is not what "spiritual death" means. Paul describes what spiritual death is and it does not relate to God's punishment for sin but rather the natural consequences thereof. Enoch and Elijah were "spiritually dead" but you don't see them "condemned" to anything.

After all, it is NOT just that God is powerful, but that He is good. If He is powerful and not merciful, Rahab and Nineveh were fools to repent, because God would either destroy them anyway in their sins

There are two points:
i) Your post argues from the perspective that everything comes down to our sin and God's forgiveness of it. But that does not show up in the story of Rahab and certainly not Cornelius. We don't read about God forgiving them or their becoming righteous based primarily on the forgiveness of past sins. Cornelius is simply told that his works have pleased God. Rahab is said to have been "justified," and the Greek word there has nothing to do with forgiveness [it is only twisted to mean that by those who create definitions for the term not found in any literature.]

ii) The point, as mentioned on the sheet, is that whatever these people did, it was based on faith in God with no reference to Christ, the gospel, etc. Most evangelicals would claim that Christ's sacrifice is only effective for those who believe in Him. The people I mention had no such Christ or Gospel to believe in [either in the looking-back or looking-forward sense].

Andy said...

Wow...somehow I am completly lost in the forest of this blog. All this arguing back and forth seems silly...and very "christianesque" in the sense of bickering Chrisitanity we seem to find ourselves in today. It is very tiring. Can we wonder why non-believers listen to us and wonder what ever pulls us together?

David, I need a bit of clarification...and I understand you may have already addressed this a dozen times in other comments...if you would be so kind though, I am trying to understand your point...

From WHAT do you beilive we are "saved?" What do you feel is the PURPOSE of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross? Why did God require such an awful sacrifice?

Faith...necessary for a salvation, and a persoanl relationship with Jesus Christ - how is this (faith) so easly compartmentalized in your rhetoric as being toward God, not toward Jesus; in God's immediate relief or mercy, and not forward looking toward future dealings? If we are to believe Scripture...aren't grace and faith gifts from God Himself?

I guess, I am on board with the view that modern Christianity often leaves Scripture behind. My confusion is if you are doing the same thing or not. I trust that you are serious minded in your quest to find and express that what we see today is a skewed vision of things related to God and His revelation to us. Perhaps I need to find a consice summary of what you are presenting. Thanks for listening to me be confused.

~ Andy