Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Do You Do With Jesus Death for Our Sins?

Christian: So is there no place in your story for the death of Jesus on the cross? Why do so many people respond to that message?

Michael's Response:


The story of the crucified God was useful and necessary for me as a troubled teenager, and for other self loathing people who require a divine parent that slaughter's his son for their wickedness. This message often brings some people to a place where they can lay down their self loathing and anger toward others by placing these overwhelming emotions and their deep psychic pain on the crucified Jesus. The universal appeal and success of this gospel of crucifixion reveals that many humans need this story to introduce them to a personal spiritual awakening. Through this murderous image they can unburden themselves by letting their parent punish and kill the bad child. In Christ, they see an angry Father (parent) punishing them for being such a bad little boy or girl. These people really see themselves as bad before daddy or mommy, deserving a whipping, humiliation and extermination.


At this point, the gospel story is neither fact nor fiction, but a necessary psycho-spiritual drama for a very real affect in the psyche. Many alienated and distraught people are often moved to deep feelings of remorse and hope as they identify with the crucified Christ who embodies all of their failure, self loathing and in-rage. By putting their face and sins on Christ, they experience a removal of guilt, a release from failure and sense of satisfaction by being vicariously punished for their sins. There is often a 'born again' experience. Something shifts in them, resulting in a change of heart that can last an hour or a lifetime.


But there comes a day, hopefully, when the gracious Father-God of Jesus dawns on them, and they can move beyond the God-Image of the punitive cross, developed by the Jewish legal theologian of temple sacrifice, Saint Paul, to the gracious God-Image of Jesus. Jesus presented a radical new God-Image that loved people simply because they existed as humans, with their failures and successes, warts and blemishes. But until that awakening to grace, these retributive, self loathing legalists must continue to vent their hatred via a God-Image that includes wrath, justice, slaughter and divine retribution.


Speaking as one who has been through this process and is still recovering, let me warn you, keep your eye on these folks, for they are often filled with manipulation and deceit, hidden agendas and secret addictions which not even their spouses or Christian friends know about. These hidden demons will one day pop out like a jack-in-the-box. You can bank on the fact that a person who worships a God who must slaughter His son in cold blood, is often a person harboring some dark secrets, a person who contains a psychological vault packed with self contempt and unconfessed troubles. A human being cannot believe in such a vindictive God and not be growing a festering tumor of anger, resentment and hatred. But they will tell you, and often actually believe, that they love everyone.

These people ingeniously project their self centered attitudes, bigotries and resentments through a lens they call God and the Bible. Just before I was forced out of the movement, I remember feeling like the Great and Terrible Oz thundering from behind his gigantic screen with flashing lights. I recall justifying my condemnation of humanity by wrapping my judgments in Bible verses which I arrogantly called "God's Word."

These people either begin by despising the human race, or end up that way. When they look in the mirror, they hate what they see; so they re-crucify that hideous image each day with Jesus, and make it their mission to crucify anyone who might question their system of self annihilation and going unconscious.

It is their belief in a justly offended God which allows them to non-chalantly consign the majority of the human race to eternal, conscious punishment. It is their belief in a narrow, doctrinaire God which causes them to condemn those 'heretics' and 'cultists' who might do good works, yet believe the 'wrong' things. It is a belief in their minority-superiority status that causes murderous hatred for people like Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. who would teach human equality before God and man.


So yes, I do see a place for the bloody cross as a starting point for those of us who must begin the spiritual path with a God who hates us for our myriad sins and catastrophic failures. The cross gives us a place to lay our sins and self loathing, a place to delete our failures, and an entry point where we could never imagine ourselves good enough to to be embraced by a God of universal love and unconditional acceptance. But the cross ought to move us to a resurrection and ascension. Sadly, many such people hang a cross over their church altars, around their necks and then live in the shadow of their narcissistic self-introspection and chronic resentments. They wonder why they are so depressed, bored and irritable. They wonder why their bodies are often sick and lacking energy. It is because they have not moved from the Mosaic God of wrath, to the gracious God of Jesus the Christ.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How Does a Person Get Right With God?

Christopher asked: How, in your view, is a man made right with God? (If he does need to be made right).

Michael's Response:

I follow the post-Mosaic biblical method for getting right with God. In Moses day, Sabbath breakers, murders and adulterers got right with God by being executed (sacrificed) for their unjust violations of the 'Law of God.' Lesser offenses required animal sacrifices for a man to get right with God as prescribed by Moses in Leviticus.

However, that all changed several hundred years later with Kind David. He presented it beautifully from a broken heart after committing murder and adultery. According to 'justice', David should have been stoned to death for his mortal sins. But instead we find this:

Psalm 51:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices,

whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

David got right with God by offering the sacrifice of a broken spirit and contrite heart. Notice here that the blood sacrifice is a thanksgiving sacrifice AFTER David got right through a broken, repentant, humble, amended heart. You cannot argue with the 'text.' Righteousness came from an internal spiritual shift or sacrifice of heart, not through some slaughtered animal offered for retribution to an angry God.

This is the way Jesus taught in the synoptic gospels, in contradistinction to the Pharisees and other Jews who slaughtered animals to establish righteousness. That is one of the reasons Jesus chased the poor stupid animals from the Temple. The 'forgive and love your enemies' God-consciousness of Jesus transcended the old 'eye for an eye' wrathful retributive justice of Elohim the Judge. Jesus brought pure, scandalous, legally unfounded grace – the same kind he often spoke of in his parables. Recall the story Jesus told of the workmen who worked different hours but were all paid the same! When the employee who worked 10 hours complained that the laborer who worked 2 hours got the same amount, Jesus said that the vineyard owner (God) said, "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:1-16)

Grace is not grace if it requires any kind of payment. Synonyms for grace are leniency, clemency, charity, benevolence and mercy. Antonyms for grace are severity, ruthlessness, exacting, legalistic preciseness. Grace is illogical, irrational, unjust and unreasonable. Real grace is shocking and scandalous when presented to a logical, exacting, legalistic religious community which requires their God to operate out of resentment and retribution like humans do.

The human understanding of God in the Old Testament was based on law, resentment, retribution and wrathful justice – just as modern day Islam operates. Jesus presented a newer and clearer understanding of God as a compassionate father who required only broken sorrow for sins. God does not change, but human understanding does, slowly. Jesus tried to change people's understanding of God from an exacting judge to a gracious father. Many Christians try to mix justice with grace and get justice. It is like trying to mix white paint with black paint – you will never get white. Grace is white paint.

If Christians spent as much time reading about and memorizing the words and acts of Jesus as they did Paul's interpretation of Jesus, they would return to grace. Go to the three synoptic gospels, the earliest gospels, and show me the conditions Jesus set forth for healing, forgiveness or acts of compassion. He never once set a condition that there had to be an animal or human slaughtered for the recipient to benefit. One reference is made to Jesus being a 'ransom' for the sins of many, but the context makes it clear that he is teaching his selfish disciples to be servants to other human beings rather than masters. In the ancient world it was common for a number of servants to be traded for a valuable member of a tribe or city. This common practice is still done today in the Middle East.

Jesus made it clear that a higher understanding of God had arrived. Moses brought the law of an eye for an eye, Jesus brought the grace of forgive your enemies without any form of remuneration. To require slaughter, blood and the literal gutting of Jesus is a legal notion based on 'eye for eye' theology

How is your child made right with you? Do you have to slaughter innocent animals, or another living human being if your child lies, steals, gossips, has pre-marital sex, or any number of 'sins'? What loving parent, besides Moses, Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, would think in terms of blood justice? Even the Old Testament prophets began to see that God required obedience rather than sacrifice. Do you actually believe that God's 'wrath' is such that He cannot do as do as the owner of the vineyard, exactly what he wants, even if it violates human standards of just remuneration?

The Christian theology of sacrificial slaughter and blood atonement was developed by Paul, understandably, since he was a Jewish theologian. I respect Paul as a brilliant man. He had a cosmic KONK on the head when he met the Living Christ who told him to go proclaim grace to the Gentiles. Of course he had to find a way to square it with his prior life training, as we all try to do. But Paul was wrestling with his understanding of that life changing experience, and hardly inspired as so many Paulinists (I won't call them Christians) have done. Why do you think the people in I Corinthians were arguing over interpretations, where we read from Paul, "What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Paul proclaimed the gospel of free grace and acceptance, as did many others, and each had a different way of explaining the details of 'how' it happened and 'what' it meant. The basic gospel is that God's Power is available to ALL who humbly, contritely surrender their swollen egos and enter into the Living Presence.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do You Pick and Choose What You Like From the Bible?

Christian wrote: "Do you simply read the Bible in regard to what you like and what you do not? Thomas Jefferson simply marked out the parts he did not agree with, yet calling it the "Good Book".

Michael's Response: This will be a short answer. Yes, I do, and so do you. After twenty years in the evangelical movement, as a seminary student, pastor and seminary professor, I came to see that everyone picks and chooses from the Bible, and have various subjective interpretations. There is no "Objective" approach to the Bible. Every human being reads the Bible through his/her personal education, theological slant, current morality, deep seated prejudices, preferred political views and the temperament they were born with. Stop the pretense that you take the whole Bible without picking and choosing. Christians choose to condemn homosexuals and yet wear mixed fabrics, eat pork and work on the Sabbath. Christians rail against sex before marriage and ignore that the same passage condemns gossip. Christians march against the evils of abortion and eat themselves into gluttonous oblivion at the Sunday night potlucks. Reformed Christians focus on the sovereignty of God passages, Wesleyian Christians focus on the free will of man passages. Pentecostals quote the healing passages, prophecy fanatics focus on Daniel and Revelation, Pauline Christians read and memorize Paul, social Christians focus on the gospels. Amillennialists allegorize and preillennialists literalize. Jefferson was just honest.


Christian wrote: "You say my doctrines make me exclusive, restricting people from coming to God except by the Christian path; well then, please tell me what you would call someone who claims that He is the "ONLY WAY TO GOD" as Jesus did in John 14:6? Jesus was very exclusive.

Michael's response: There are several ways, other than your literal exclusivistic way, to look at the John 14:6 passage where John wrote that Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." So I will play the Bible game with you, what Jesus and Paul did in the synagogues, resorting to the religious level of argumentation, requiring a cold, humanly collected set of books over the Living Spirit. And while I hold that the Bible is human document filled with valuable spiritual insights as well as glaring human ignorance, I will assume for the sake of argument that the John 14:6 passage is from Jesus, and to be taken literally:


What do we we do with those who were 'saved' before Jesus arrived with the 'only way?'

What about those pre-Christian biblical characters like Melchizedek, Abraham, Hagar, Jethro, David, Elijah and thousands of others right up to John the Baptist who knew nothing about Jesus Christ's atonement on the cross, or any of the other Christian doctrines developed between 30 AD – 400 AD. In other words, "How did those Old Testament folks 'get saved' if Jesus was the 'only way'; how did they know God before salvation was accomplished or understood?"

I'm not sure why so many Christians avoid this topic, or sweep it away by simply saying, "Well, Jesus' work was anticipated and applied backwards." That's convenient, but it begs the question – how much or little did these pre-Christian people know about 'Jesus?' If they knew nothing but simple faith, then any human can be saved by trusting the inner voice of God as Abraham did. You do recall that Abraham had simple faith when God told him to go to Palestine (Genesis 12-17); that is all Abraham knew and yet he was counted righteous before God. In fact, according to Paul in Romans and Galatians, Abraham is considered the epitome and father of faith. Logically then, any human being who, like Abraham, hears the internal voice of God and responds is 'saved.'

If that was the case, then it would have been better if Jesus had never come and made it harder by introducing more information and difficult doctrines. It is currently harder to 'get saved' than it was for Abraham! Please give me your answer to this question based on what I just said, "How much did the Old Testament characters know about Jesus being 'the only way?'


The 'way, the truth and the life' phrase was a common Mishanic saying Jewish teachers used often when referring to their teaching from the Torah, "Torah is the way, the truth and the life."

The author is contrasting Jesus' universal grace teachings to the narrow exclusivistic teachings of Torah. The Jews had claimed that their narrow, exclusive religious 'way, truth and life' through Torah was the only entrance into the coming kingdom. John's gospel, on the other hand, made it clear that Jesus came to 'enlighten every man,' (John 12:32) 'draw all men to himself,' (John 6:) including women, Samaritans, sinners, adulteresses and even thieves dying on Roman crosses. Jesus' teaching, which was called 'the way, the truth and the life' was all embracing, all encompassing and free without doctrinal hoops to jump through. This notion is reiterated in an ironical saying found in Matthew, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, few will find it." Most Christians interpret that to mean that very few humans will 'be saved.' Ironically, Jesus was again comparing the narrow, ethnically based, exclusivistic Jewish theological gate which allowed primarily Jewish males who knew and obeyed Torah to the new gate of openness which Jesus demonstrated everywhere in the gospels. The 'narrow gate' Jesus spoke of was the gate of universal inclusivity, while the broad gate was the gate of sectarian exclusivism.

In other words, the majority report (broad gate) was of human religious systems which typically think only a few of the select elect will make it, while the minority report (narrow gate) of humans like Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., hold that God includes all people based on unconditional grace and acceptance. So the 'way, truth and life' spoken of in John refers to Jesus teachings and actions which bring light to all men and draw all men to himself.

This grace teaching flies in the face of human ego and all social theory which documents that humans and animals prefer to remain in their own comfortable tribe or herd. Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims and most religious and political systems all prefer to fraternize with those who agree with them, thinking they are the only, or the best, way, truth and life. Only a few mystics and radicals like Jesus open the door for all humans with no restrictions or conditions except acceptance of the inclusive gift of immediate God connection. This is a gift we all currently have, we need only receive it: "To as many as received him, to those he gave THE POWER to become the sons of God." All humans have direct access to God (Christ), they only have to flip the switch of faith to turn on the POWER that is already present. That is why some passages seem to imply exclusivism; but as Jesus said, "I didn't come to condemn you, you condemn yourselves." Just as some slaves condemned themselves by refusing to accept the universal Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln, so also many people suffer spiritual enslavement by stubbornly remaining in ego after they see a way out.


John's gospel always focuses on adopting and adapting Jewish religious ideas and idioms, always expanding them beyond the LITERAL (Bookish) meaning.

John 1:1-3 is an example, stating that 'in the beginning was the Word' which is taken from Genesis 1. But in John it is used of the pre-existent Christ. Also in John chapter 1, Jesus' gift of universal grace is contrasted to Moses who brought the limited law to Israel.

The Samaritan woman was also corrected by Jesus about her literal view of 'living water' and her literalness of holy geography when Jesus said that God resides neither in Samaria nor in Jerusalem.

Jesus referenced the 'serpent on the pole' from the book of numbers.

The list could go on and on. An honest reading of John's gospel makes it patently clear that literalists are, well, childish simpletons. John never meant his gospel as an earthly, physical science of religion, a display case of finished dogma, or an objective journalistic study of spiritual facts – John never meant to imply that Jesus was a literal lamb, an actual door, a literal resurrection, or any of the metaphors found therein.

In another place, Nicodemus, a literalistic Jewish scholar of The Book was ridiculed by Jesus for taking his words factually around the theme of being 'born again.' One could just as easily imagine Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "I am the way, the truth and life, no man comes to the father but by me." Then Nicodemus responds, "How can a human being be the way, the truth and life?" Jesus says back, "You are Israel's teacher, and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people (book literalists) do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?"

Jesus was referring to heavenly things, metaphysical concepts, truths beyond literal facticity. The phrase 'way, truth and life' referred to his simple teachings, 'trust in God' (John 14:1). If they couldn't trust in an invisible God, then he said they could trust in him, follow his example and teachings.

Only a person reading this passage 2,000 years later can insert the convoluted set of Christian doctrines into that John 14 passage. If Jesus had meant that 'way, truth and life' referred to a substitutionary atonement, a tripartite God, the virgin birth, an inerrant Bible and all of the other fantastical manmade dogmas added later, Jesus would have done so at the time. If these issues were that critical for the troubled disciples, they would would have been added. Only humans can turn a mouse turd into a speed bump. Jesus' simple intention in John 14 was to help the poor concerned disciples know that his way and truth about all inclusive love and life was more representative of God than the complex religious dogmas, rituals and teachings of the Jewish sectarian Torah. Torah, Law, was a good start, but it found it's fulfillment in the deeper teachings of Christ and Paul. And Spirit is still guiding us into even deeper truths today as we see the radical application of Jesus' declaration of universal love which transcends morality, politics, creeds and all humanly invented obstacles.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Can The Spirit of God Dwell in 'Unbelievers'?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: Second, it seems to me that you have a slight case of Universalism by suggesting that the Spirit is free to all people. That is false, the Spirit dwells only in those who accept Christ. Jesus said just this very thing when he told his Apostles that the Spirit could not dwell in with the World. (John 14:15-17).

MICHAEL: Do I have a slight case of Universalism? Hell no, it is full-blown UNIVERSALISM, as you label it. Jesus called it God's unconditional love for all people with no strings attached. That is what grace is. Evangelicals try to turn justice into grace by saying that God had to slaughter his son on the cross to pay for human sins. That is not grace, that is retributive justice. Read the parables of Jesus where justice is violated over and over to prove the scandal of unconditional grace: of the workers who worked one hour and got as much as those who worked ten hours, of the welcomed home prodigal son who should have been stoned according to Levitical Law, of the adulterous woman and Sabbath breakers who should have been executed according to God's justice, of the lepers and menstruating woman who were law breakers. Why did Jesus tell these stories? Because he wanted to communicate the shocking scope of God's love. Yes, universal.

Furthermore, the 'World' spoken of in John's gospel does not refer to a group of people, or to a geographical designation, but rather The 'World' is a state of self obsession, or sectarian dedication. The 'World' (cosmos or order in Greek) is a condition of the soul, not a geographical location or literal group of believers. You are falling into the same trap as Nicodemus and the woman at the well who took Jesus literally – failing to see Jesus speaking in deeper spiritual metaphors. The Gospel of John is filled with metaphors and spiritual meat, not literal milk. Every human soul has both the 'World' of ego, self will, self centeredness, self rightness, self righteousness, etc in it. Every human soul also has the Holy Spirit in it, potentially able to 'dwell' or reign if this Spirit is allowed to supersede the ego. John also said 'he is the light that lights EVERY man', and that he draws ALL men to himself. Isaiah foresaw this 700 years earlier when he wrote, " In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance." (Isaiah 19) Why do you suppose Matthew went out of his way to say that the Assyrio-Babylonian Magi were the first to worship Jesus, and the Egyptians gave him refuge from Herod and Israel? The Spirit is free to all people Christopher, as it was to Adam, Hagar, Abraham, Melchizedek, Jethro, Rahab and a host of others who had never 'accepted Christ' or known about your Christian theological doctrines/Laws.

Can The Spirit of God Dwell in 'Unbelievers'?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: Second, it seems to me that you have a slight case of Universalism by suggesting that the Spirit is free to all people. That is false, the Spirit dwells only in those who accept Christ. Jesus said just this very thing when he told his Apostles that the Spirit could not dwell in with the World. (John 14:15-17).

MICHAEL: Do I have a slight case of Universalism? Hell no, it is full-blown UNIVERSALISM, as you label it. Jesus called it God's unconditional love for all people with no strings attached. That is what grace is. Evangelicals try to turn justice into grace by saying that God had to slaughter his son on the cross to pay for human sins. That is not grace, that is retributive justice. Read the parables of Jesus where justice is violated over and over to prove the scandal of unconditional grace: of the workers who worked one hour and got as much as those who worked ten hours, of the welcomed home prodigal son who should have been stoned according to Levitical Law, of the adulterous woman and Sabbath breakers who should have been executed according to God's justice, of the lepers and menstruating woman who were law breakers. Why did Jesus tell these stories? Because he wanted to communicate the shocking scope of God's love. Yes, universal.

Furthermore, the 'World' spoken of in John's gospel does not refer to a group of people, or to a geographical designation, but rather The 'World' is a state of self obsession, or sectarian dedication. The 'World' (cosmos or order in Greek) is a condition of the soul, not a geographical location or literal group of believers. You are falling into the same trap as Nicodemus and the woman at the well who took Jesus literally – failing to see Jesus speaking in deeper spiritual metaphors. The Gospel of John is filled with metaphors and spiritual meat, not literal milk. Every human soul has both the 'World' of ego, self will, self centeredness, self rightness, self righteousness, etc in it. Every human soul also has the Holy Spirit in it, potentially able to 'dwell' or reign if this Spirit is allowed to supersede the ego. John also said 'he is the light that lights EVERY man', and that he draws ALL men to himself. Isaiah foresaw this 700 years earlier when he wrote, " In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance." (Isaiah 19) Why do you suppose Matthew went out of his way to say that the Assyrio-Babylonian Magi were the first to worship Jesus, and the Egyptians gave him refuge from Herod and Israel? The Spirit is free to all people Christopher, as it was to Adam, Hagar, Abraham, Melchizedek, Jethro, Rahab and a host of others who had never 'accepted Christ' or known about your Christian theological doctrines/Laws.

Why Do Some People Need the Bible?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: You say that the epistle to the Galatians tells me to simply listen to the internal voice of the Spirit. I would give you all the credence in the world if you could show me a single verse. It seems to me that the same person who wrote that all Scripture was useful for rebuking, correcting, teaching and training in righteousness, would hardly say "just listen to the internal Spirit".

MICHAEL: Here is your Galatian verse: "All who rely on observing the law (theological verses) are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (Verses)." Galatians 1

As I mentioned before, Paul, Jesus and John spoke of at least two different kinds of religious people – those who are infants/children, and those who are mature/adults. In I Corinthians 1-3, Paul says to use the milk of the Word/Bible to talk with them because that is all they will listen to. They are incapable of seeing God teaching through all of life. So you have to accommodate them and demonstrate from their narrow set of texts to move beyond those texts! These milk drinkers, according to Paul, are worldly (self centered, sectarian, creedalistic and focused on a certain text or teacher). Then Paul spoke of those who could eat meat, or understand the deep things of God which are for the spiritually minded, those who have the mind of Christ. So yes, sometimes the Bible is used to correct and teach babies, but the Spirit teaches grown-ups directly.

The ultimate goal is to reach what Jeremiah prophesied 600 years earlier when he wrote that the LORD said, "That's right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won't be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master." God's Decree. This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They'll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I'll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I'll forget they ever sinned!" God's Decree." The Message Bible

Show Me A Verse to Prove It!

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: And if you could find me a verse to prove your point in Galatians --any verse--

MICHAEL: Let's look at the Gospel of Matthew and see whether or not your request for a verse sounds more like Jesus or the religious legalists who needed a verse from the Torah (Law).

1. "But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful (according to a verse) to do upon the sabbath day." Matthew 12:2

2. "How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful (according to a verse) for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?" Matthew 12:4

3. "Or have ye not read in the law (according to a verse), how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?" Matthew 12:5

4. "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful (according to a verse) to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him." Matthew 12:10

5. "How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful (according to a verse) to do well on the sabbath days." Matthew 12:12

6. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful (according to a verse) for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Matthew 19:2-4

7. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful (according to a verse) to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Matthew 22:17

8. Then one of them, which was a lawyer (wanting a verse), asked him a question, testing him, and saying… Matthew 22:35

9. Master, which is the great commandment in the law (verses)? Matthew 22:36

10. On these two commandments hang all the law (verses) and the prophets. Matthew 22:40

11. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law (according to a verse), judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matthew 23:23

12. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful (according to a verse) for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. Matthew 27:6

Why do you suppose Matthew's gospel plays this theme over and over like a Pentecostal praise chorus? It seems to me that both Matthew, and Paul in Galatians, are making the point that religionists are bound by their written theological creeds, rendering them incapable of following the Spirit of mercy, compassion and truth which 'blows where it will', not where the verses say it ought to blow.

How Can You Know Right From Wrong Without a Bible?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: We must have an objective Word from God, like the Bible, or people will do what they want. The idea of the Holy Spirit as the only guide is not enough. How would we know right from wrong without a Bible?

MICHAEL: Your point seems logical. That is why people write rule books, post speed limits along the highways and create doctrinal statements. This is how humans make a social community, and this is one way to get people to obey and do the right thing. But Jesus and Paul both went beyond written legal codes, believing that there was actually an invisible, powerful, interacting agent in the Universe they called the Spirit. This was called a mystery because it couldn't be detected by the five senses. It was called foolishness because it was no etched in stone, scribed on parchment or decreed on a mountain top. The role of Spirit was not to make laws for a social order, to make souls.

The Perfected Soul is like magnetic North, Divine Polarity – and the Holy Spirit is an internal compass and invisible Power that keeps moving us back to the Pole. It doesn't need written laws, but utilizes our physical and emotional sensations to remind us when we are moving off course. In fact, it will kick our ass if we go off course. Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus (Paul) are good examples. They were obeying God's Laws, but deviating from universal compassion and humane behavior. They believed that they were following the Spirit, but doubt, confusion, depression and misery caused them to seek out more Truth. Nicodemus' unhappiness caused him to sneak off to meet Jesus in a dark alley, and Saul was knocked to the ground in despair by the invisible Power of Spirit. The stories of people like CS Lewis and Malcolm X demonstrate what poet Francis Thompson called the invisible 'Hound of Heaven.' J.R.R. Tolkien read this poem and wrote:

'As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.
—The Neuman Press Book of Verse, 1988

Of course one can make the claim that the Spirit 'led me,' or that 'the Bible says,' but if they are mistaken they will eventually experience internal and external hell in their lives because of the force and power of Spirit. Remember what Jesus said, 'the Spirit will convict or convince the world of sin and righteousness,' (John 16) not the Bible. God's Spirit is quite capable of letting the claimant know whether he is operating out of selfish ego or godly connection. The problem of those who follow a Book, ranging from the Moral Majority to the Taliban, is that they think they have control by referring to an external, objective, rational text. They don't. The One who corrects is Spirit, so please stop using your Bible to do what only God can do. Leave external control up to the political and social systems. They are often way more effective and just than biblical religionists.

How Can We Know God Without a Bible?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: "Without an objective Book like the Bible, how can we know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and not our own desires and sinful urges?"

MICHAEL: That question kept me in the biblical, evangelical movement for a long time. Then I realized that Jesus answered the issue with a simple parable, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit. A tree is known by it's fruit." Notice that he said, fruit, not doctrines, fruit, not degrees, fruit, not mystical visions. Fruit, not Tarot cards or biblical creeds.

You see, a person can claim to get his information from the objective Bible, the Divine Spirit, the infallible Pope, the Holy Koran, a tuned-in Psychic, an inspired Shaman or any number of sources – but the ultimate proof is in the fruit or results. Jesus was talking to religious leaders who claimed special status with God because of their elite ethnicity and inspired scriptures, but Jesus was more interested in the way they treated Samaritans, Roman soldiers, those of other religious persuasions, lepers, unclean women, whores, drunks and others who were not part of their religious clan. He concluded that their lack of compassion and consideration for other humans proved they were not of the Spirit of God.

How does a man treat his wife and kids? How does a woman speak about her husband to her friends and family? Is he/she miserable, resentful, joyless, obsessed with lust, greed and hatred for his/her opponents? Does he/she gossip, slander, split the church over doctrinal issues and live a joyless, depressed life?

If you really study the early Church founders, you will see that their original arguments for their doctrinal positions had to do with the fruit of such beliefs, not their creedal orthodoxy. Irenaeus, for example, opposed the Gnostics because they placed too much stress on Spirit and not enough on the Body. Irenaeus believed that a full, soul-making life could not be lived day to day without recognizing that God created the material realm as a necessary and equal part in the soul-making process.

Won't Following the Spirit Will Lead to Divisions?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: You said the Bible has been very divisive with people arguing subjectively over different interpretations. I personally think that those who claim to 'follow just the Spirit' can be just as subjective and divisive. For example, think about a room full of people who never refer to the Bible to make a point, but instead say, "The Spirit-led me..." Aren't these people potentially just as likely to be following their own ideas and cause division?

MICHAEL: Of course, and I have no problem with the existence of divisiveness. There is a myth and tragic flaw in both Orthodox Christianity and Heterodox New Age Liberalism that the goal of life is to get rid of differences and divisions. Many people act like conflict and differences are to be avoided at all costs. So they create an 'objective' set of laws or documents to keep everyone in agreement and acting orderly. This is fine for politics, but not for spirituality. The spiritual life is meant to be conflictive and troubling before it is serene and orderly. The name Israel means, "he who struggles with God." Just as Jesus said 'the poor you will have with you always', the same is true of war and conflict. The human brain has two hemisphere which cooperate, but also tussle. Every human knows the feeling of having two opposing teams playing a very aggressive game on the field of internal soul. Jesus also said, "In the world you shall have troubles." (John 16:33) These troubles are purposeful and necessary aspects of the Cosmos. Nature takes form, dissolves and reforms through the clash and blending of atoms, molecules and chemicals; comets smash into planets to bring water; the four seasons blossom and erode in cycles. I personally see that the goal of life is to grow a soul through this dance of chaos and order, division and unity.

The 2nd century theologian Irenaeus taught that we are here on this planet to blend body, soul and spirit like cake ingredients in the mixing bowl of this world. (
Against Heresies ) Ultimate unity comes through dis-unity. Perfection comes from imperfection as the Chinese Tao Te Ching so beautifully says. Genesis one says that darkness and chaos were the seeds of light and life. Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Hebrew mythologies all begin with light emerging from chaos and darkness.

What you and I are doing right now by these dialogues is soul-making. Irenaeus pointed out that Genesis 1:26 says we are made in the 'image' (tselem in Hebrew) and 'likeness' (demooth in Hebrew) of God. He said that 'image' is the potential of Godliness and 'likeness' is the actual achievement of Godliness. Image is the block of unformed marble, likeness is the carved masterpiece. Life is a process of being hammered, chiseled, buffed, buffeted and polished by many trials and conflicts. In other words, as we live our lives, as we encounter the various trials and problems, we become increasingly conscious free moral agents who make choices which cause us to move from being a potential soul (image) to the actual, perfected, completed soul (likeness). Jesus was the first human to achieve that, and Paul held him up as the author and finisher of our faith, saying that if we continued to run the race of soul-making, God would perfect us unto the day of completion (Phil. 1:6). So I don't have a problem with people believing different things, as long as they are moving forward and honestly seeking Truth.

There are many spirits in the world, including the spirit in each of us which we also call our ego personality. Paul talked about the 'spirit in a man which understands the man' in I Corinthians. The Creator has allowed this diversity in order to create unique souls.

Can a 'Cultist' Have the Holy Spirit?

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: What do you say to the Jehovah's Witness or the Mormon who claims that the Holy Spirit speaks to him just as much as the same Holy Spirit speaks to the Orthodox Christian when clearly they believe completely different things.

MICHAEL: God/Spirit has no regard for religious titles, theoretical beliefs or rational doctrinal statements, but rather for behavior. The fruit of the Spirit is not beliefs, but actions and attitudes (love, joy, peace, etc.). Jesus made this clear over and over with the sermon on the mount, his other teachings and especially by his parables; for example, the Good Samaritan was doctrinally wrong, geographically mistaken and ethnically impure. Yet when a severely wounded man lay along the path, this religious heretic rendered humane behavior to a fellow human while the biblically pure Levite and priest walked right by the poor man.

When I was an evangelical minister and seminary teacher, I used to marvel at the kindness and compassion shown by certain Jehovah's Witnessess, Mormons or Buddhists, and would contrast their behavior with some of the arrogant, intolerant, miserable, impatient 'Christians' around me. When the Puritan Roger Williams was accused of heresy and chased out of New England by his Christian 'brothers' and taken in by the Indian 'savages' to found Providence, Rhode Island, Williams was famous for saying, "I'd rather live with the Christian Savages than with the savage Christians."

Of course there were loving Christians and intolerant JWs, Mormons and Buddhists – but I began to see that the evidence of Spirit was in behavior, not beliefs. Sadly, evangelicals have made 'beliefs' the fruit of the Spirit.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


WARNING: This is a very lengthy essay on the role of the Bible in modern evangelical Christianity. It attempts to prove that the Apostle Paul argues that we were never meant to read the Bible the way it is read today. If you read this, please send comments.


Jesus never once said, “And when I go away, I will make sure they write a book with four gospels and some epistles so I can teach you more truth.”


As an evangelical Christian, I was constantly being told to ‘get into the Word.’ By this, my teachers meant that the written Bible was the primary source of getting to know God and His wisdom. But it was clear to me that the Bible itself seemed to say that spiritual babies needed a book while the mature had direct access to God. As I studied the Bible, I began to notice that there were various levels of spiritual maturity. I John 2 speaks of this:

I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

John addresses a group of young men, or spiritual adolescents, identifying them as those who are learning that the Word of God dwells ‘in them.’ I suppose one could argue that John was suggesting that these disciples were memorizing scripture, but the fact that the Word of God ‘lives’ in them implies it is a dynamic, active internal spiritual presence, much like the Holy Spirit of Truth Jesus promised to send in John 14-16.

The apostle Paul also referred to levels of spiritual maturity and differing relationships to God’s Word. There are those who lived on spiritual milk, and those who ate meat, referring to the fact that some were infants and some were adults.

I think the infants were those who could come to God only through written or spoken words and a limited discursive mind. When Paul was visiting Jewish synagogues filled with skeptical literalists, he often admonished such people to search the Scriptures, or ‘get into the Word.’ But when he was with those not bound by the letter of the revealed Word, like the non-Jewish gentiles in Galatia, he told them to abandon the Law and be led by the Spirit. Most evangelicals place these two concepts together, teaching that we must read the Bible and allow the Spirit to guide our interpretation. John Calvin called this the witness or testimony of the Spirit. Evangelicals always tell you that the Spirit will never contradict the Word (Bible).

But it seemed to me that Paul was saying that the Word was for beginners and the Spirit was for those more spiritually advanced. The Law or Bible is for literalists while the Spirit is for those who have ears and eyes to see directly into the realm of Spirit. When Paul told people to study their Bibles, it was always for one reason: to show Jews or Jewish sympathizers that Jesus was the Messiah from their sacred Hebrew Bibles. Paul would use a literal passage to prove, for example, that the Jewish Bible allowed Gentiles into the kingdom unconditionally. These logical debates might remove some logical obstacles, opening the way for deeper spiritual understanding.

However, neither Paul nor Jesus ever told their non-Jewish followers to build up a body of doctrines and ethical rules from the scriptures. Galatians makes it clear that these mature Christians were free from the Law (sacred Torah or Bible) and that they were children of the Spirit. They didn’t need a book.

Paul makes this most clear in I Corinthians 3 where he addresses these two groups.

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

Paul makes it clear that infants who were still caught up in the world of sensory perception and rational, literal understanding needed milk. There would be times when the Christian churches began to fight, live selfishly and behave like babies, that Paul and others would use scripture for 'doctrine, reproof and correction.' (II Timothy 3:16) But keep in mind, this was for the infants spoken of in I Corinthians - for those who had to have Paul's pre-digested pabulum or 'letters' (laws) from God. Paul would initially introduce these Jews or Gentile Jewish sympathizers to the gospel by studying the Bible with them, but the goal was to let them see that there was deeper revelation beyond the printed page.

For them to get the deeper wisdom, they had to let go of human words, human books, human preaching, human theology and all human means. They had to see themselves as organically related to God, baptized into Spirit, immersed in the Eternal One. Jesus used the vine and branch analogy, teaching his disciples that they would be nourished directly, not intravenously. In I Corinthians, Paul uses the analogy of soil and seed rather than vine and branch.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

Paul makes it clear here that God is the soil in which a believer is planted. The soil contains what must have seemed like magic in those days, some strange power to cause plants to grow. No outside source could make the seed grow. Humans planted and watered, but some unseen Power caused the roots to descend and stalk to ascend. Jesus taught the same thing with a parable in Mark 4:

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

The phrase from Mark 4, ‘all by itself,’ is the Greek word automate, from which we get out word automatic. The soil has the power to give us what we need from the inside out. God is the soil and we are in it. Most Christians I knew never saw themselves in the soil of Spirit, organically encompassed by God, fed directly, rooted into, wriggling in the garden of Spirit. Most of them saw themselves as somehow mysteriously connected to Jesus, but ultimately needing to get the Word (Bible) ‘into them’ in order to grow and know God. The fact is that we are already in the Word and the Word is in us. The Word is the soil in which we grow. It nourishes us, fills us with nutrients, saturates us with water, magically cracks open the seed pod of ego, pushes us up into the light, grows a stalk, causes buds and blossoms, and finally produces what Paul calls the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ Fruit does not come by human effort or biblical knowledge, but by being in the Soil of God.

Paul also uses the analogy of a building or Temple, saying that men may participate in the construction, but the materials and final structure is God and His Spirit dwells in us.

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

There is no need to get the Word (Spirit) in us. One might as well try to put warmth in fire or moisture in water. The essence is intrinsic to the thing itself. To be in Christ is to be filled with Spirit. To be filled with Spirit is to be directly connected to God who can speak directly to us.

Paul then goes on to say to the adults that a spiritual man receives truth from the Spirit, which is the internal trans-rational meat as opposed to the external biblical rational milk.

"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
I Corinthians 2

The spiritual man receives truth internally, just as a man knows his own thoughts from within. A man’s thoughts do not come to him from outside, but from within his own spirit or mind. Paul could have used the analogy of a dream. Dreams arise from within the spirit of a man, not from the outside. So too, God’s thoughts arise in God. It seems almost ludicrous to have ot even point this out, but so many people seem to think that God’s thoughts arise from the Bible, the Koran, the Pope or some other external source. Inner thoughts speak to the inner mind. But this is the tricky part, because the natural response is, “Well, how do we know it is God speaking internally and not just my selfish, deceptive, self serving mind?!” Great question, and Paul anticipated that question, though I doubt we’ll care much for his solution. He writes:

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit..."

Paul teaches that there is a qualitative difference between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. When we are inconsiderate, self seeking, scheming, resentful and fearful, we are using the human mind. But when we are considerate of others, kind, forgiving, trusting and serene, we are accessing the mind of God. In another epistle, Paul calls these the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ as contrasted with the self seeking fruit of the religious legal or doctrinal code.

Paul is clear that a mature man does not ‘get into the Word,’ but rather the Word gets into him. This is a huge distinction, especially in an age where so many Christians speak of ‘getting into the Word.’ Mature people tap into a deep wisdom that comes from within:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

The 20th century Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, put it this way, “It is only through the psyche (internal spirit or soul) that we can establish that God acts upon us.” Jung wrote to a Swiss Pastor in 1932 that the human psyche is “boundlessly underestimated,” by Christians. Jung was puzzled that most ministers taught their parishioners that God spoke to human beings exclusively through sermons or books. Jung asserted that God has never REALLY spoken except in and through the internal human psyche. Jung wrote, “the psyche understands it and we experience it as something psychic (internal).”

No human, no matter how educated, rational and logical will ever know God rationally. This kind of knowing does not come from reading a book, not even the Bible. It does not come from learning and obeying laws, principles or mastering ‘how to’ manuals. This sort of wisdom comes from the internal Mind of Christ, the internal Spirit – it is the bookless meat as opposed to the biblical milk. It will not come through your eyes, ears or teacher:

However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen, (no books contain)
no ear has heard, (no sermons can tell)
no mind has conceived (no teachers can teach)
what God has prepared for those who love him"— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

If no eye has seen it, it can’t be words on a page. If no ear has heard it, it can’t be a sermon. If no mind has conceived it, then it can’t be rational ideas set forth by a theologian theology or philosopher. This troubles the materialist mightily. I recall those times when I mocked this spiritual voodoo as quackery and unsubstantiated hearsay. But until one experiences this kind of knowing, it is like trying to tell a ten year old boy that one day he is going to love kissing girls.

Paul goes on to speak of the “deep things of God,” which are the meaty things. By implication, there are the ‘shallow things of God,’ which refers to the milky things. The deep meaty things are beyond human logic, beyond ink and paper – and they won’t be gotten by reading the Bible or by ‘getting into the Word.’

On the other hand, the shallow milky things can be found in print, do have something of a rational basis and may present evidence, signs and proofs for the curious minded. Theologians and apologists can provide help just as pabulum can nourish the infant toward maturity. But this is kid-stuff, liquid pabulum for toothless infants. Paul is not saying this to make them feel inadequate or inferior – children are not inferior, they are just not adults yet. If one has not formed teeth, so be it. However, Paul does seem to imply that these folks either ought to be growing up, or they once talked and acted like they were mature and have retrogressed.

Paul further addresses those who go deeper:

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

Paul speaks of two kinds of words here, human words and Spirit words. Human words are what you are seeing on this page, comprised of an alphabet, vocabulary, syntax, parts of speech, etc. Human words may be used to a point, but until the Spirit translates them internally, they are just religious ideas and not Spiritual wisdom.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul says those who eat meat and get the deeper things of God do so because they have been given an extra mind, the Mind of Christ. This is a metaphor for having a new way of seeing and hearing; a way that takes us out of our self centered, inconsiderate, resentful, self obsessing mind. One can read a Bible all night and day and not be touched if he does not have the Mind of Christ – the mind that understands apart from the letter of the Word. Paul may have been recalling his own conversion experience on the road to Damascus when he heard the voice of Christ speak, “Saul, Saul, why are you resisting me?” Those of us who have had a spiritual awakening know something of this. Quite often, though not always, we were in state of distress prior to the ‘hearing’ of the voice of Spirit. There was an openness, a willingness and almost frantic desire to know something more than self centered human wisdom could know. For such a revelation, one does not need a Bible. There are many self centered, self important, self obsessed Bible scholars. One may hear such wisdom while reading a Bible, but not always. The writer of Proverbs says ‘wisdom calls aloud in the streets.’ In other words, wisdom is wherever a man or woman may be, if he or she has the Mind of Christ to hear it. No external props are necessary. No Bibles need be present. One does not even need to be literate. It is those moments when you are ready to rage at your partner, and a little voice whispers, “Calm down. You are mistaken and self obsessed again. This human being needs your kindness, not your rage.” That is the Mind of Christ.

So Paul makes it clear that mature spiritual adults need no Bible or alphabet, and that only spiritual babies needed milk, which was the 'letter' or the Jewish Bible. These Bible studies were nursery procedures to get them to grow some teeth so they could eat meat. The Buddhists have an odd saying, “When you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The idea is that once the Buddha has opened your spiritual eyes and ears to hear Truth, you no longer need the Buddha. He has done his job. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t learn more from the Buddha, but he has passed from being your primary teacher to your secondary teacher. Similarly, with the Bible, once you learn to listen to God directly, the Bible becomes a secondary teacher. It is more like a telescope than a trophy case. It is used to see into infinity rather than containing infinity.

So then, those who use the Bible today as the exclusive or primary source for hearing from God, according to Paul, are still little spiritual babies. No matter how many degrees they may have, they are infants. Like Nicodemus, they may be esteemed as prestigious religious teachers, pastors of mega churches and hold doctorates in Bible and theology, but as long as they use the Bible as a trophy case rather than a telescope, they are mere infants.

But mature Christians possess the Mind of Christ. Paul never says, 'the Mind of Christ is to be found in your New Testament or your Bishop,’ but in you. Jesus said the same thing in John’s gospel when he promised that the Spirit of Truth would reveal all things and dwell in his disciples. Jesus never once said, “And when I go away, I will make sure they write a book with four gospels and some epistles so I can teach you more truth.” Jesus sent the Spirit, not a book.


Every December, we are reminded by certain people that “Christ is Christmas”. What does that mean?

The word Christmas comes from two Latin words, Christ and mass. The word mass literally meant ‘dismissal.’ At the conclusion of the Communion Supper, the Medieval priests would say, "Ite, missa est,” which meant ‘Go, it is the dismissal.’ The priest was saying more than, “Ok, we’re done, you’re dismissed.” The intention was to remind the participants that they were now spiritually nourished and that they were dis-missed, or missionaries and agents of Christ’s gospel. So the word Christmas means to be missionaries of Christ’s gospel, or to actively share his gospel, or the good news.


But the gospel has been embarrassingly corrupted and complicated beyond recognition. The original Gospel of Jesus was uncomplicated, setting forth unconditional acceptance before a loving God for all humans – period. Jesus reminded people of a truth that is eternal, that God had always, and would always recognize anyone who sought Him.

We humans divide ourselves into groups based on social standing, gender, ethnicity, the colors of our flags, conflicting religious systems and differing political parties. But Jesus made it simple – no human being had a privileged standing before God. None! Christ’s radical mission (Christmas) was to let every human being know that God’s love and power were available to those who would trust or accept it. Jesus never once required anyone to believe in his death and resurrection, the Trinity, the virgin birth, an inspired Bible or any of the doctrinal accretions which have attached themselves to the Christian boat over the centuries, beginning with the Apostle Paul. Jesus gave one requirement, humble brokenness, a rare commodity among religious folks. That’s why he found a more receptive audience with whores and drunks. Some things never change.


Paul (Saul) the Jewish religious teacher originally hated this simple, all inclusive and unrestricted message of Jesus. It was an affront to his ethnically based Jewish Orthodoxy. Saul could not conceive of a God Who loved Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans equally. He was offended that Jesus and his followers placed men and women on equal footing, and that pagan slaves and Roman freemen were equal under God. Saul was outraged at the prospect of his beloved theological system not making him more right and righteous than others. Then Saul was converted and became a follower of Christ. That was great, but like most humans, Paul would think about his experience and complicate it.

As time went on, Paul began to find references in his Jewish scriptures which seemed to make more sense of Jesus than even Jesus and his uneducated disciples had known. Paul began to proclaim a new and improved Jesus, adding explanations and interpretations of Jesus’ life and death from the Jewish Bible. You can find Paul’s more complicated and conditional gospel in his epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, Colossians and Ephesians. Admittedly, Paul was brilliant and persuasive, but he added conditions again. Over the past two thousand years, others have emulated Paul and buried the gospel of Jesus under countless doctrinal dunes and divisive mountains.


I challenge you to read the Christmas stories in the gospels this year. After you read them, tell me who first came to worship the baby Jesus. Were they Jewish Pharisees and Levitical priests, or perhaps Baptists, Lutherans or Charismatic Christians. No, they were pagan Magi from Babylon and illiterate shepherds. Who protected Jesus from Herod? Israel? No, it was the arch nemesis of Moses, Egypt. The Christmas story goes out of its way to remind the reader that God’s unconditional love came to a dirt poor Nazarene, Babylonian pagans, Egyptian slavers and simple shepherds. That is the good news. That is the mission, to tell everyone that God requires nothing from them but simple spiritual surrender. Then the love of God and power of God floods in beyond comprehension.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hijacking Science: Fact, Fable, and Darwin {Guest Article}

By Dr. Rodney Stark, University of Washington and Baylor University Sociology Professor

Editor’s Note: This is an article from American Enterprise Online, a publication of The American Enterprise Institute. For other excellent articles, visit their website.

I write as neither a creationist nor a Darwinist, but as one who knows what is probably the most disreputable scientific secret of the past century: There is no plausible scientific theory of the origin of species!
Darwin himself was not sure he had produced one, and for many decades every competent evolutionary biologist has known that he did not. Although the experts have kept quiet when true believers have sworn in court and before legislative bodies that Darwin's theory is proven beyond any possible doubt, that's not what reputable biologists, including committed Darwinians, have been saying to one another.

Without question, Charles Darwin would be among the most prominent biologists in history even if he hadn't written The Origin of Species in 1859. But he would not have been deified in the campaign to "enlighten" humanity. The battle over evolution is not an example of how heroic scientists have withstood the relentless persecution of religious fanatics. Rather, from the very start it primarily has been an attack on religion by militant atheists who wrap themselves in the mantle of science.

When a thoroughly ideological Darwinist like Richard Dawkins claims, "The theory is about as much in doubt as that the earth goes round the sun," he does not state a fact, but merely aims to discredit a priori anyone who dares to express reservations about evolution. Indeed, Dawkins has written, "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane ...."

That is precisely how "Darwin's Bulldog," Thomas Huxley, hoped intellectuals would react when he first adopted the tactic of claiming that the only choice is between Darwin and Bible literalism. However, just as one can doubt Max Weber's Protestant Ethic thesis without thereby declaring for Marxism, so too one may note the serious shortcomings of neo-Darwinism without opting for any rival theory. Modern physics provides a model of how science benefits from being willing to live with open questions rather than embracing obviously flawed conjectures.

What is most clear to me is that the Darwinian Crusade does not prove some basic incompatibility between religion and science. But the even more immediate reality is that Darwin's theory falls noticeably short of explaining the origin of species. Dawkins knows the many serious problems that beset a purely materialistic evolutionary theory, but asserts that no one except true believers in evolution can be allowed into the discussion, which also must be held in secret. Thus he chastises Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould, two distinguished fellow Darwinians, for giving "spurious aid and comfort to modern creationists."

Dawkins believes that, regardless of his or her good intentions, "If a reputable scholar breathes so much as a hint of criticism of some detail of Darwinian theory, that fact is seized upon and blown up out of proportion." While acknowledging that "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" is a major embarrassment for Darwinism, Stephen Jay Gould confided that this has been held as a "trade secret of paleontology" and acknowledged that the evolutionary diagrams "that adorn our textbooks" are based on "inference ... not the evidence of fossils."

According to Steven Stanley, another distinguished evolutionist, doubts raised by the fossil record were "suppressed" for years. Stanley noted that this too was a tactic begun by Huxley, always careful not to reveal his own serious misgivings in public. Paleontologist Niles Eldridge and his colleagues have said that the history of life demonstrates gradual transformations of species, "all the while really knowing that it does not." This is not how science is conducted; it is how ideological crusades are run.

By Darwin's day it had long been recognized that the fossil evidence showed that there had been a progression in the biological complexity of organisms over an immense period of time. In the oldest strata, only simple organisms are observed. In more recent strata, more complex organisms appear. The biological world is now classified into a set of nested categories. Within each genus (mammals, reptiles, etc.) are species (dogs, horses, elephants, etc.) and within each species are many specific varieties, or breeds (Great Dane, Poodle, Beagle, etc.).

It was well-known that selective breeding can create variations within species. But the boundaries between species are distinct and firm – one species does not simply trail off into another by degrees. As Darwin acknowledged, breeding experiments reveal clear limits to selective breeding beyond which no additional changes can be produced. For example, dogs can be bred to be only so big and no bigger, let alone be selectively bred until they are cats. Hence, the question of where species come from was the real challenge and, despite the title of his famous book and more than a century of hoopla and celebration, Darwin essentially left it unanswered.

After many years spent searching for an adequate explanation of the origin of species, in the end Darwin fell back on natural selection, claiming that it could create new creatures too, if given immense periods of time. That is, organisms respond to their environmental circumstances by slowly changing (evolving) in the direction of traits beneficial to survival until, eventually, they are sufficiently changed to constitute a new species. Hence, new species originate very slowly, one tiny change after another, and eventually this can result in lemurs changing to humans via many intervening species.

Darwin fully recognized that a major weakness of this account of the origin of species involved what he and others referred to as the principle of "gradualism in nature." The fossil record was utterly inconsistent with gradualism. As Darwin acknowledged: "...why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?"

Two Solutions

Darwin offered two solutions. Transitional types are quickly replaced and hence would mainly only be observable in the fossil record. As for the lack of transitional types among the fossils, that was, Darwin admitted, "the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory."

Darwin dealt with this problem by blaming "the extreme imperfection of the geological record." "Only a small portion of the surface of the earth has been geologically explored, and no part with sufficient care." But, just wait, Darwin promised, the missing transitions will be found in the expected proportion when more research has been done. Thus began an intensive search for what the popular press soon called the "missing links."

Today, the fossil record is enormous compared to what it was in Darwin's day, but the facts are unchanged. The links are still missing; species appear suddenly and then remain relatively unchanged. As Steven Stanley reported: "The known fossil record...offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid."

Indeed, the evidence has grown even more contrary since Darwin's day. "Many of the discontinuities [in the fossil record] tend to be more and more emphasized with increased collecting," noted the former curator of historical geology at the American Museum of Natural History. The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism, Stephen Jay Gould has acknowledged. The first problem is stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear. The second problem is sudden appearance. Species do not arise gradually by the steady transformation of ancestors, they appear "fully formed."

These are precisely the objections raised by many biologists and geologists in Darwin's time – it was not merely that Darwin's claim that species arise through eons of natural selection was offered without supporting evidence, but that the available evidence was overwhelmingly contrary. Unfortunately, rather than concluding that a theory of the origin of species was yet to be accomplished, many scientists urged that Darwin's claims must be embraced, no matter what.

In keeping with Darwin's views, evolutionists have often explained new species as the result of the accumulation of tiny, favorable random mutations over an immense span of time. But this answer is inconsistent with the fossil record wherein creatures appear "full-blown and raring to go." Consequently, for most of the past century, biologists and geneticists have tried to discover how a huge number of favorable mutations can occur at one time so that a new species would appear without intermediate types.

However, as the eminent and committed Darwinist Ernst Mayr explained, “The occurrence of genetic monstrosities by mutation ... is well substantiated, but they are such evident freaks that these monsters can only be designated as 'hopeless.' They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination through selection. Giving a thrush the wings of a falcon does not make it a better flyer.... To believe that such a drastic mutation would produce a viable new type, capable of occupying a new adaptive zone, is equivalent to believing in miracles.”

The word miracle crops up again and again in mathematical assessments of the possibility that even very simple biochemical chains, let alone living organisms, can mutate into being by a process of random trial and error. For generations, Darwinians have regaled their students with the story of the monkey and the typewriter, noting that given an infinite period of time, the monkey sooner or later is bound to produce Macbeth purely by chance, the moral being that infinite time can perform miracles.

However, the monkey of random evolution does not have infinite time. The progression from simple to complex life forms on earth took place within a quite limited time. Moreover, when competent mathematicians considered the matter, they quickly calculated that even if the monkey's task were reduced to coming up with only a few lines of Macbeth, let alone Shakespeare's entire play, the probability is far, far beyond mathematical possibility. The odds of creating even the simplest organism at random are even more remote – Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, celebrated cosmologists, calculated the odds as one in ten to the 40,000th power. (Consider that all atoms in the known universe are estimated to number no more than ten to the 80th power.) In this sense, then, Darwinian theory does rest on truly miraculous assumptions.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the current situation is that while Darwin is treated as a secular saint in the popular media and the theory of evolution is regarded as the invincible challenge to all religious claims, it is taken for granted among the leading biological scientists that the origin of species has yet to be explained. Writing in Nature in 1999, Eörs Szathmay summarizes that, "The origin of species has long fascinated biologists. Although Darwin's major work bears it as a title, it does not provide a solution to the problem." When Julian Huxley claimed that "Darwin's theory longer a theory but a fact," he surely knew better. But, just like his grandfather, Thomas Huxley, he knew that his lie served the greater good of "enlightenment."

When The Origin of Species was published it aroused immense interest, but initially it did not provoke antagonism on religious grounds. Although many criticized Darwin's lack of evidence, none raised religious objections. Instead, the initial response from theologians was favorable. The distinguished Harvard botanist Asa Gray hailed Darwin for having solved the most difficult problem confronting the Design argument – the many imperfections and failures revealed in the fossil record.

Acknowledging that Darwin himself "rejects the idea of design," Gray congratulated him for "bringing out the neatest illustrations of it." Gray interpreted Darwin's work as showing that God has created a few original forms and then let evolution proceed within the framework of divine laws.

When religious antagonism finally came, it was in response to aggressive claims, like Huxley's, that Newton and Darwin together had evicted God from the cosmos. For the heirs of the Enlightenment, evolution seemed finally to supply the weapon needed to destroy religion. As Richard Dawkins confided, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."
Atheism was central to the agenda of the Darwinians. Darwin himself once wrote that he could not understand how anyone could even wish that Christianity were true, noting that the doctrine of damnation was itself damnable. Huxley expressed his hostility toward religion often and clearly, writing in 1859: "My screed was meant as a protest against Theology & Parsondom ... both of which are in my mind the natural & irreconcilable enemies of Science. Few see it, but I believe we are on the Eve of a new Reformation and if I have a wish to live 30 years, it is to see the foot of Science on the necks of her Enemies."

According to Oxford historian J. R. Lucas, Huxley was "remarkably resistant to the idea that there were clergymen who accepted evolution, even when actually faced with them." Quite simply, there could be no compromises with faith.

Writing at the same time as Huxley, the leading Darwinian in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, drew this picture: On one side spiritual freedom and truth, reason and culture, evolution and progress stand under the bright banner of science; on the other side, under the black flag of hierarchy, stand spiritual slavery and falsehood, irrationality and barbarism, superstition and retrogression.... Evolution is the heavy artillery in the struggle for truth. Whole ranks of...sophistries fall together under the chain shot of this ... artillery, and the proud and mighty structure of the Roman hierarchy, that powerful stronghold of infallible dogmatism, falls like a house of cards.

These were not the natterings of radical circles and peripheral publications. The author of the huge review of The Origin in the Times of London was none other than Thomas Huxley. He built his lectures on evolution into a popular touring stage show wherein he challenged various potential religious opponents by name. Is it surprising that religious people, scientists as well as clerics, began to respond in the face of unrelenting challenges like these issued in the name of evolution? It was not as if they merely were asked to accept that life had evolved; many theologians had long taken that for granted. What the Darwinians demanded was that religionists agree to the untrue and unscientific claim that Darwin had proved that God played no role in the process.

Among those drawn to respond was the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, who is widely said to have made an ass of himself in a debate with Huxley during the 1860 meeting of the British Association at Oxford. The relevant account of this confrontation reported: "I was happy enough to be present on the memorable occasion at Oxford when Mr. Huxley bearded Bishop Wilberforce. The bishop arose and in a light scoffing tone, florid and fluent, he assured us that there was nothing in the idea of evolution. Then turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed descent from a monkey? On this Mr. Huxley ... arose ... and spoke these tremendous words. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for an ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous."

This marvelous anecdote has appeared in every distinguished biography of Darwin and of Huxley, as well as in every popular history of the theory of evolution. In his celebrated Apes, Angels and Victorians, William Irvine used this tale to disparage the bishop's snobbery. In his prize-winning study, James Brix went much farther, describing Wilberforce as "naive and pompous," a man whose "faulty opinions" were those of a "fundamentalist creationist" and who provided Huxley with the opportunity to give evolution "its first major victory over dogmatism and duplicity." Every writer tells how the audience gave Huxley an ovation.
Trouble is, it never happened. The quotation above was the only such report of this story and it appeared in an article titled "A Grandmother's Tales" that was written by a non-scholar in a popular magazine 38 years after the alleged encounter. No other account of these meetings – and there were many written at the time – made any mention of remarks concerning Huxley's monkey ancestors, or claimed that he made a fool of the bishop. To the contrary, many thought the bishop had the better of it, and even many of the committed Darwinians thought it at most a draw.

Moreover, as all of the scholars present at Oxford knew, prior to the meeting, Bishop Wilberforce had penned a review of The Origin in which he fully acknowledged the principle of natural selection as the source of variations within species. He rejected Darwin's claims concerning the origin of species, however, and some of these criticisms were sufficiently compelling that Darwin immediately wrote his friend the botanist J. D. Hooker that the article "is uncommonly clever; it picks out with skill all the most conjectural parts, and brings forward well all the difficulties. It quizzes me quite splendidly." In a subsequent letter to geologist Charles Lyell, Darwin acknowledges that "the bishop makes a very telling case against me." Indeed, several of Wilberforce's comments caused Darwin to make modifications in a later revision of the book.

The tale of the foolish and narrow-minded bishop seems to have thrived as a revealing "truth" about the incompatibility of religion and science simply because many of its tellers wanted to believe that a bishop is wrong by nature. J. R. Lucas, who debunked the bishop myth, has suggested that the "most important reason why the legend grew" is, first, because academics generally "know nothing outside their own special subject" and therefore easily believe that outsiders are necessarily ignorant, and, second, because Huxley encouraged that conclusion. "The quarrel between religion and science was what Huxley wanted; and as Darwin's theory gained supporters, they took over his view of the incident."

Since then the Darwinian Crusade has tried to focus all attention on the most unqualified and most vulnerable opponents, and when no easy targets present themselves it has invented them. Huxley "made straw men of the 'creationists,'" as his biographer Desmond admitted. Even today it is a rare textbook or any popular treatment of evolution and religion that does not reduce "creationism" to the simplest caricatures.

This tradition remains so potent that whenever it is asked that evolution be presented as "only a theory," the requester is ridiculed as a buffoon. Even when the great philosopher of science Karl Popper suggested that the standard version of evolution even falls short of being a scientific theory, being instead an untestable tautology, he was subjected to public condemnations and much personal abuse.

Popper's tribulations illustrate an important basis for the victory of Darwinism: A successful appeal for a united front on the part of scientists to oppose religious opposition has had the consequence of silencing dissent within the scientific community. The eminent observer Everett Olson notes that there is "a generally silent group" of biological scientists "who tend to disagree with much of the current thought" about evolution, but who remain silent for fear of censure.
I believe that one day there will be a plausible theory of the origin of species. But, if and when that occurs, there will be nothing in any such theory that makes it impossible to propose that the principles involved were not part of God's great design any more than such a theory will demonstrate the existence of God. But, while we wait, why not lift the requirement that high school texts enshrine Darwin's failed attempt as an eternal truth?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Former Charismatic televangelist and fundamentalist pastor, Carlton Pearson, is being accused of heresy by many evangelical Christians (see article). He has recently experienced a larger vision of God's universal love, and has had the courage to speak out against the doctrine of Hell and the exclusivism of evangelical religion. This is my response to his detractors in their article . I know these Heresy Hunters all too well, I was once from their ranks. If my words seem emotional, direct and a bit harsh, it is because one must sometimes fight fire with fire. Even Jesus called the Pharisees a 'nest of snakes and painted tombs filled with rotting corpses.' There is a Hebrew Proverb which says, "Answer a foolish man as a fool." You see, I too was once a sectarin religious fool, spewing theological folly, until some brave warriors came at me with very challenging fire, exposing my folly. It worked. Their words shocked me into a new understanding. M. Scott Peck in his book, People of the Lie, says we must approach irrational and angry people with language they understand, namely force. Love is not always Hallmark cards and candy kisses. I know this contradicts New Age wisdom. Oh well. For those of you who are New Agers, at least enjoy my foolishness!!


Carlton Pearson is one of a growing number of modern reformers following in the Spirit-led tradition of Jesus and Martin Luther. Pearson woke up to the fact that human consciousness always expands by more clearly understanding the depth and breadth of God's universal, unconditional love. Pearson didn't fossilize in the evangelical church as many theologically trained ministers do. He understands the Bible as book of spiritual growth rather than a book of spiritual stagnation.

WATCHING GOD GROW UP - Expanding Awareness

You can't get around the fact that God changes as you read through the Bible. The angry and jealous God who destroyed the world with a flood and broke apart the tower of Babel in Genesis grew up to become the more oderly God of Law in Exodus, and then grew up to become the God of the New Covenant in Jeremiah, and eventually the God of universal grace in Jesus.

The old Christian Dispensationalists almost got it right. They brilliantly saw the radical shifts in God's attitudes and behaviors. Their mistake was in missing that the shifts in what they called dispensations reflected shifts in human understanding rather than in the ways God dealt with humans. The changes did not occur in God, but in human consciousness. I personally see the Bible as inspired in that it presents humans evolving through universal stages of spiritual development; from self centered egoism, to institutional law, to doubt and eventually to mystical universal grace.


Carlton Pearson undoubtedly recognized what many serious Bible students see, that the gospels of Jesus are different than the letters of the Apostle Paul. Paul was a Christian hating Jewish minister who was converted by a vision of the loving universal grace which Jesus taught. Like us all, after his spiritual experience, he was simply trying to make sense of his radical new encounter with God. Paul had graduated to another satge, or dispensation of consciousness. Paul never set out to write God's biography or the last word on cosmic redemption.

To the Heretic Hunters, I suggest you consider moving away from Paul and returning to the universal love of God as revealed by Jesus. Your 'expose' of Carlton Pearson's so called heresy reminded me of the Pharisees attacking Jesus with their legal 'text-pertise' and Torah-esque adherence to the heartless and rationalistic Law rather than to the infinite love of a truly incomprehensibly GRACIOUS God.


Please return to grace, and jettison your old resentment based atonement founded on Paul's Jewish theology which grew out of his Jewish culture, made even more retributive and obscene by Saint Anselm's theory of substitutionary atonement. A God who had to require Roman executioners to eviscerate and slaughter his son in order to appease his anger is neither gracious nor just, but akin to the likes of Saddam Hussein and other monstrous tyrants. How can you claim that Jesus taught us to love and forgive our enemies without retribution, and then teach that God requires an 'eye for an eye' in order to forgive? Your theology does not honor God's grace, but rather creates a God of resentment and retaliation.


Those of us stuck in the old Mosaic stage of wrathful justice must grow up in our understanding of the God revealed by Jesus in the Gospels! Many of us, even while evangelicals, knew in our heart at some level that our doctrines would not allow us true joy and freedom. Every evangelical minister I knew was secretly addicted to some substance or habit, and devoid of the spiritual fruit of power and joy. A person cannot walk in the Spirit, experience daily peace and have rivers of living water flowing from within when they believe in a God who has consigned the vast majority of humanity to everlasting, conscious punishment. Some part of me knew that God's love and communion was bigger than my narrow religious sytem, and that this Being would not send the masses to hell for not rationally assenting to a list of beliefs.

When I was entrenched in the sectarian system of this vindictive God, making my living off of these hateful, narrow doctrines as a paid minister, I often felt like the biblical character named Nicodemus. This popular Jewish minister was proclaiming his exclusivistic doctrines of moral 'light' while living in fearful darkness. He furtively sneaked out of his family home to meet with Jesus. Nicodemus told Jesus he found him intriguing, and that his miracles seemed to prove that Jesus was closer to the truth than the religious elite Nicodemus hung out with. Jesus nailed the cowering minister by telling him that he and the other sectarian religious leaders 'loved darkness rather than light.' I was like Nicodemus. For years I would not publically state my fundamental doubts. I finally did, and was excommunicated. Now Carlton Pearson has had the courage to do the same.

It is my prayer that more and more evangelicals will tell the truth and declare the really Good News of unconditional grace and acceptance of all human beings.


Michael Bogar

Michael's web page: