Light, Revelation

Identity Theft

I was reading my Bible Study Fellowship notes while savoring a hot cup of black gold (with cream). The topic was John’s vision of the throne room. Everything was clipping along just fine.

“The Bible speaks of other believers who received visions of God’s transcendent nature and character,” a new paragraph began, and it mentioned Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Good, good, good and good.

And then:

“The apostle Paul was ‘caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’”

Whoa! What?

When was Paul “caught up to paradise”? I checked the footnote to see what Scripture they based that statement upon.

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,  or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  2 Corinthians 12:1-7

How does Paul saying he knew a man who was caught up to the third heaven translate to HIM being caught up to paradise?

I was too comfy and too lazy to get out from under the cozy afghan on my cozy sofa to brave the 22 chilly steps (44 round trip) to my library to grab The Bible Knowledge Commentary, so I stayed put and checked an online commentary.

Matthew Henry: “for doubtless [Paul] himself is the man in Christ of whom he speaks.”

Doubtless? I’m in doubt.

Mr. Henry proceeded to commend Paul for his humility in not referring to himself directly. Paul’s humility? Since when? In that very same chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.  I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.  How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!   2 Corinthians 12:11-13

Those defensive and accusatory remarks don’t sound like the model of humility to me.

Even his self-deprecating remarks come off as humble brags. Take this one, for example:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Philippians 3:3-6

And then there are all the I, I, I’s of 1 Timothy 2: I urge, I was appointed, I am telling the truth, I am not lying, I want, I also want, I do not permit.

John often referred to himself indirectly as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and it was well within his personality to do so, he did so consistently and there are verifiable incidents that tie that descriptor to him.

But indirectly and humbly referring to himself in the third person was NOT within Paul’s personality and no where else was it his m.o.

So let’s get logical: In the context of 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 – where Paul is arguing that he is equal to the apostles who actually walked with Jesus – a humble, indirect statement just doesn’t make sense.  If ever there is a time to speak boldly and directly it is when arguing a case or asserting one’s credentials.

Perhaps it was due to Matthew Henry’s impressive and exhaustive work that this doubtful interpretation has been promulgated in commentaries ever since. Even by my beloved BSF – who taught me to read the Scriptures for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When I read, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven,” for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  I hear Paul saying that he knew someone who had been given a vision. And that person may have shared it with him. Or that person may have told him he couldn’t share it with him.

And I wonder whether that person was John, because John and Paul may have very likely crossed paths in Ephesus.

Or perhaps it was someone else altogether.

All I know for sure is that Paul DID NOT say that HE was “caught up to paradise.”

So why does the church twist Scripture and logic and temporarily change Paul’s personality in order to say he did?

Perhaps, when it comes to the church’s love affair with Paul, the lover is blind to its beloved’s blemishes.


The Inerrancy of God

My blogging friend, Wally (I love Wally), reposted something today and all I could think was, Wally, Wally, Wally, I hate to be a thorn in your side, but I must. Even though I am weak with the flu, I must.

So I started to beat my familiar drum in the comment space of the original post, but it was getting rather long so I moved it here. I tirelessly (well, not entirely tirelessly) continue to beat this drum because the church hinges way too much on this one-half of a sentence that Paul wrote to Timothy.

So here we go. The text of the original post is in black, my comments are in crimson:

“Time and time again the question of inerrancy comes up. This is surprising given the fact that 2 Timothy 3:16 is clear that all Scripture is God-Breathed.”

First of all, I don’t think God-breathed means what you, the author, thinks it means, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Second, when Paul wrote the words, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”  he was referring to the Law and the Prophets; to the Old Testament.  The books that make up the New Testament had not all been written and none of them had yet been canonized as Scripture.

“God is the author of Scripture.”

According to the verse upon which you built your argument, God is not the author of Scripture, He is the inspirer of Scripture. There’s a difference. If I say that your post inspired my post, then I would be correct. If I say that you authored my post, then I would be incorrect. By definition, the inspirer is not the author.

“So to question inerrancy is to question God.”

Your logic is flawed. I can easily believe that Scripture might be flawed AND that God is absolutely perfect.

I believe that God’s inspiration of Scripture is perfect; man’s recording, recopying, translation, interpretation and teaching of it, not so much. 

If you believe that EVERYTHING on earth has been corrupted by sin, and that NOTHING is perfect this side of heaven, then why would Scripture be exempt? Scripture is an earthly book. I doubt there is a single copy of it in heaven. Why would anyone there need it when they have the Living Word right in front of them? The Living Word is perfect, but our copy has man’s imperfect fingerprints all over it.

“Do we believe in a God that errs? Or do we believe in a God that is perfect in every way? This is a huge question with massive implications.”

Those are huge questions with massive implications, but they have nothing to do with the inerrancy of Scripture because Scripture is not equal to God.

God is three in One – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not four in One – Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Scripture.

“If we have a God that [should be who] errs, we cannot rely on Him for anything. If that be the case, what is our hope of salvation?”

Our hope of salvation is in the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf. It is the victory His blood, sweat and tears won for us. 

Scripture merely tells His story.

News reports get details of true events wrong all the time, but that doesn’t mean the event didn’t happen and it doesn’t change the truth of what happened.

“There are some who say that parts of the Bible are inerrant while others are not. The problem with this theory is, how do you decide which is which?”

Here’s how I decide: If Jesus said it (as recorded in the gospels) or dictated it (as in Revelation), then I have 100% confidence in it.  If Jesus quoted it our referenced it or directed questions back to it (the Law and the Prophets) then I have 100% confidence in it.  The rest I ask God to explain to me.

“The answer is simple, the Bible is all or nothing. We do not get to pick and choose which parts are true or correct. They all are. That is not to say that people do not abuse that fact, they do. People on both sides of the aisle abuse this by taking certain laws and saying we must still follow them today or be a hypocrite, or worse, in danger of eternal damnation. However, these stances are horrible examples of good interpretive work.”

I dare say the church’s extrapolation and fast-and-loose teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16 is also a poor example of good interpretive work.

“In the final analysis, we must affirm inerrancy as believers. If we do not, we have no basis for our faith and no reason to believe the message within the pages of the Bible.”

I disagree. Man can be wrong and God can still be right. My faith is in God.

Feel free to weigh in, even if your comments grow long.


Aha & Amen: Do You Speak Christianese?

Here I go, messing with the Christian status quo…

Legalese, the language of lawyers, makes everything sound so complicated.  It’s a trick, to make you think you need them, even for the simplest of tasks.

I’m pretty good at understanding legal documents, so over the years various friends and family have asked me to translate for them.  The first step is to eliminate 75% of the words – the “heretofore”s, the “to wit”s, the “aforementioned”s and the redundant phrases.

Fortunately, while looking something up today, I discovered that there is a movement to simplify the language of legal documents, so regular folks can understand them.


My face breaks out into a wry smile whenever I get into a discussion/debate with a fellow Christian (it’s almost always with a man) and, upon being challenged, he breaks out words like hermeneutics and dispensationalism and eschatology.  To intimidate me, to let me know that he is out of my league.  Except he’s not.  I know what all those words mean and I can use them with the best of ‘em.  But I don’t.

Because Jesus didn’t.

Jesus used language his hearers could understand.  He talked fishing to fishermen, farming to farmers, legalese to Pharisees.  Granted, sometimes He spoke in parables, to weed out those who had no ears to hear, but to those who did have ears, He spoke plainly and simply.

My daughter has remarked that all she has to do is sprinkle some Christian phrases into her tumblr posts and she instantly gets a ton of “notes” (likes and reblogs).  She’s tried it a few times.  I resist that temptation.

But I think it might be fun to do a little experiment:  Write a post with easily recognizable Christian phrases and then write a post that has EXACTLY THE SAME MEANING, but without the phrases.  See which one does better.  I’m guessing the former would win by a landslide.

Too often we Christians “like” anything that sounds Christian, and we are suspicious of anything that lacks the proper Christianese.

I wonder what would happen if we took it one step further:  Write a post that sounds really Christian, but is actually theological gibberish.  And then write a post that hits the theological nail squarely and brilliantly on the head, but includes absolutely no Christian jargon.

I’d be willing to bet the first post would win again.  Except that Christians don’t bet.

When you know God well – His character, His purposes, His love – you can use Him in a sentence.  You can apply your knowledge of His character, purposes and love to various situations and to the mindset and experience of a variety of people.  Because you know that it’s the concepts, character, purpose and Love that matter, not a specific set of words.

It takes more effort to really communicate who God is than it does to throw out familiar phrases.

It’s the difference between taking an essay exam versus multiple choice.  One shows that you can apply the concepts you’ve learned, the other shows that you have memorized, or at least can recognize, some phraseology.

So, my dear fellow Christian bloggers, I’m going to throw down a challenge:  Write a post that nails one of Jesus’s teachings (not Paul’s, Jesus’s) without using ANY Christian jargon.  Just explain it the way He would – straightforward and simple.

That way EVERYONE on the internet can understand it.  And perhaps say, “Aha!” or “Amen.”

P.S.  You have my permission to post a link to said post in the comments.  I’d love to read it.

Copyright 2015, Light & life

faith, Light

When Faith Doesn’t Work

A discussion began in the comment section of my last post and, since I have a lot to say, I decided to continue it here.  We were talking about how wonderful it is that Christians can be wrong on certain issues and still “march into heaven arm in arm.”  That was Wally Fry’s phrase and I really like it.

Later Wally said, “The sad truth is, many denominations still preach a gospel of justification by faith and works, or faith with salvation being kept and maintained by works.  Sadly, those who maintain hope in their own efforts as the basis for entrance into heaven…won’t be there in that march.”

The world is going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a hand basket and we Christians are still putting time and energy into the old separation of faith and works debate.  It’s silly, if you really think about it, because faith and works cannot be separated.  So let’s think about it.

James said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

Exactly, James, the two are intertwined.  Jesus said so, too.

Remember when He separated the sheep from the goats?  The sheep clothed the naked, fed the hungry, cared for the ill, visited the imprisoned.  They weren’t even aware that their eternity was at stake.  They just did those things because God was living in them and those are the things God does.  Good trees produce good fruit.  They just do.

The goats, on the other hand, thought they were fine with God.  They spoke godly words: “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but they did nothing to  actually bring anyone peace, warmth or nourishment.  God was obviously not living in them.  Bad trees can look real good and healthy and full, but if they don’t produce any fruit, what good are they really?

It’s not the works you do, the fruit you produce that saves you, it’s the fruit that shows you are already saved. They are evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive in us.

With regard to vines and branches and fruit production, Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”  So if Catholics are doing good works, it is only because they believe in Jesus and His Spirit is at work in them.

They BELIEVE in Jesus.

Paul said, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

We protestants love Paul, right?  So why do we have so much trouble believing that our Catholic brothers and sisters – who have confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord – are really saved?

Oh, because they are adding on to their faith, and that is WRONG, wrong, wrong.  Salvation = faith + NOTHING!

Faith + 0 = salvation.

Anything + 0 = the thing.  So, when it comes to salvation, if all except faith = nothing, then works = nothing.  Works = 0.

Therefore faith + works (0) = faith.  Follow?

Adding works to faith does not negate faith.  The person still has faith.  The person still believes that Jesus is God and that He saves us.  My Catholic grandma had a portrait of Jesus hanging in her hallway because she believed Jesus is God.  Yes, the Catholic church added purgatory and penance to the mix.  Yes, the Church became controlling and corrupt.  But she believed in Jesus.  Those who corrupted the Church will be judged according to their corrupt deeds.  She will be judged according to her faith in Jesus.

But here’s the thing I really wanted to point out:

Protestants add works to their faith, too.

I know plenty of Baptists who have faith in their perfect doctrine.  They put A WHOLE LOT OF WORK into defending that doctrine.  One Baptist blogger accused me of not being a real Christian because I did not agree with every jot and tittle of her iron-clad doctrine, which she puts a whole lot of WORK into defending.

I used to lean legalistic.  It was the doctrine I was taught.  But then the Spirit pointed out to me that Jesus died for PEOPLE, not doctrine.  Perfect doctrine does not save anyone.  It is important to know the Scriptures in order to know the heart, character and purposes of God and, therefore, I have set my mind to understanding them.  To understanding Him.

But Jesus’s final instructions to us were not to defend doctrine.  That was Paul’s gig.

Jesus said, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (italics added)

So the question is, what did He command us?

Keep the (ten) commandments.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Get to know HIM.)

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Which includes:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Hmm, the list does not include “make sure EVERYONE precisely separates works from faith.”  “Actually,” He would likely say, “Please don’t.”

I don’t believe that it’s “all good” and that anything goes.  And I am peeved by Christians who presume to speak for God when they are clearly unfamiliar with Scripture, who make it up as they go along, but I am certainly not going to condemn my Catholic brothers and sisters or exclude them from the march into heaven.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide me and my Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters into all Truth, it’s my job to love them, and to enjoy a humble walk with God.

And to have an occasional respectful debate with my friend Wally.

Oh and thanks Martha Kennedy for this:

“Rumi said, ‘To those who love God, the only religion is God’ meaning there are no hairs to split, there is only God.”


church nonsense, Light, war on women

Uh oh

Yesterday’s post ended with Anne saying:

So I said, “Father, I hear you, I know what you are saying, but I have to ask you one more question and then we’ll just put this issue to bed, but what did Paul mean when he told Timothy, ‘I permit not a woman to teach or have authority over men’?”

And this is what God brought to my mind alright, and there is disagreement on this and I just agree to disagree.

Hold up a minute.  God is capable of making Himself perfectly clear.  Agreeing to disagree might be an indication that neither party has the whole story.  When things don’t add up, there is more to the equation.

But I checked it out with scholars after that, people who know Greek – which I don’t – and they said that my emphasis was correct.  [That the emphasis is on authority.]

This is where we often go wrong.  A “scholar” gives us a scholarly explanation and we say, “Oh, okay” and continue on our way.  But I can’t be satisfied with a scholarly pat on the head if I am going to get to the bottom of anything.  So I took a look at the passage for myself.  1 Timothy 2:12-15:

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet”. v. 12

I looked up all the Greek words.  I found no emphasis on the authority part.  What I did find was a more literal translation:

But a woman is not allowed to teach nor (first occurrence: take her own life or the life of another) act under her own authority, hence she does not meddle in the affairs of others.

There is no “I”.  Was it added to give the words the weight of Paul’s authority?  Perhaps Paul was just stating the current state of affairs under Jewish law, rather than instructing the church on how things should be.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. v. 13

Sorry, but Paul is incorrect.  It’s a common misconception, but man was not created first. God created men and women at the same time.  On the sixth day.  Surely he read Genesis.  God created man and woman in His image, at the same time and with the same purpose, then He formed man and then He fashioned woman.

It’s like this: I just hosted Thanksgiving dinner.  I spent many happy hours poring over recipes in order to create the perfect menu.  The menu was created weeks before the meal was actually prepared.  Long before the first potato was mashed and the first rolls were baked, I knew exactly what would be on that table.  The point is, God created everything in those 6 days but some of what He created didn’t appear until later.  As soon as He speaks something into existence, it exists, even if it cannot yet be seen.

All of mankind – male and female – was spoken into existence at the same time.  Woman wasn’t created as an afterthought for lonely man, man and woman were created together for God.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. v. 14

As I explained in Winning the War on Women, Eve was deceived and she sinned.  She admitted it.  Adam was there and he ate, too.  Therefore, if Adam was not deceived, then that means he was aware that what he was doing was wrong and he did it anyway.  That is rebellion, which carries a more severe consequence.  (Luke 12:48)  Hmmm, did Paul miss that?

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. v.15

Okay wait.  Paul told the Ephesians that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works so that no one can boast.  Remember?  So which is it?  Saved by grace, not by works or saved by childbearing?

Let’s recap this passage as translated:  Women cannot teach or have authority over men, and must keep quiet, because Adam was created first (wrong), because Eve was deceived (and Adam flat out rebelled) and because a woman’s only hope of salvation is to bear children.

None of that squares with Paul’s actions (he co-labored for the gospel with women) and it doesn’t square with things he wrote elsewhere.

So was Paul mistaken, misquoted or mistranslated?  Was he trying to be please/appease everyone?  Was he merely reporting on the way things were, rather than teaching how they ought to be?  I have theories.

But for now let’s get back to Anne:

But this is what God seemed to say to me:   That the emphasis is on the authority.  And that He did not want me to teach or have authority over men – to teach from a position of authority over man.

Two things:

Seemed to say?  If it wasn’t crystal clear then it might not have been God speaking.  Because God knows how to make Himself clear.  Dig deeper, Anne.

Furthermore, we were created in His image, male and female.  Why would God put a portion of His image in authority over another portion of His image?  There is no hierarchy to the trinity – not in heaven anyway.  So why would He instill a hierarchy in us?

But that I was not only free, I was commissioned and commanded to go into all of the world to share my personal testimony of who Jesus is in my life and to give out His word.  And that he would determine the audience.  But that I was to be faithful to the message He put on my heart.

We are free.  But we will never be as free as God created us to be as long as we listen to God through the filter of Paul.

What if the church regrouped and put Paul into proper perspective?  What if we entertained the notion that he is not infallible, that his words do not carry the same weight as the teachings of Jesus?  We twist and convolute our understanding of Scripture to satisfy our insistence that Paul’s words are “God-breathed”, but what if they aren’t?  Jesus never said they were.  Paul didn’t even say they were.  Paul was referring to the Law and the Prophets when he said all Scripture is God-breathed, not to his own writings.  What if we turn things around and force Paul’s writings to conform to Jesus?  Or would that wreck everything?

My daughter saw this statement on a forum of pastors discussing how they handle the issue of women in leadership:  “I allow women to lead worship, as long as there is a man on stage with her.”  In case she does what?  Mis-sing a song?  Assert authority over the men singing the songs?

When we use Paul’s miswhatever writings as a church manual, things can get pretty ridiculous.

Which brings me to tomorrow’s (much shorter) post, the “You’ve got to be kidding me” conclusion.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  Feel free to chime in.  Respectfully.