Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for March, 2012

Jesus the Radical

Some people don’t want to believe in Christianity because it is ‘organized religion’, ‘conservative’, ‘mainstream’, ‘establishment’.

Actually, Jesus Christ himself was anything but conservative, mainstream or establishment, in fact he was considered a radical by the religious establishment of his day, the teachers of the Jewish Law, called the Pharisees.

He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, which was against everything the Pharisees knew and believed.  They could not conceive of God coming down to earth, and the Jews believed that the Messiah would be a conquerer, like King David.

Jesus exposed and called out the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, wicked and greedy. (Matthew 23)

He did many things that the Pharisees considered sin or blasphemy (the crime of claiming to be like God), like forgiving sins (Luke 5: 17-26), healing on the Sabbath (Luke 6: 6-9), associating with sinners, tax collectors (Matthew 9:11) and prostitutes (Luke 7: 36-39).

Jesus drove out demons, but the Pharisees claimed it was because he was the ‘prince of demons’. (Matthew 9:34)

The Pharisees considered Jesus a blasphemer and a radical who was gaining a following among Jews, so they plotted to get rid of him.  This led to his arrest, trial and sentence of death on the cross.

Next: The Most Radical Teaching of Jesus

Christians Are Hypocrites

Some people don’t want to believe in the Bible because they think Christians are just hypocrites.  They see some Christians who go to church and act so perfect and ‘holy’, who judge and look down on others, and don’t really follow Bible teachings, and they hide their own sins.

You may be surprised to learn that Jesus was against the phony religious people, in his day they were the Jewish leaders called Pharisees.

The following verses are edited from Matthew 23:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

“Everything they do is done for people to see, they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.  They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

The truth of the Bible should be judged by what it actually says, not by the actions of hypocritical Christians who claim to follow the Bible but really don’t.  The strength of the Christian message depends heavily on the integrity of Christians themselves.

Next: Jesus the Radical

Does the Bible Condone Killing in the Name of God?

The history of the Crusades begs a larger question, does God condone killing if it’s done for his name?

In the Old Testament, the Israelites often went to war with the consent of God, sometimes massacring people, including women and children, after they were conquered.  This was the case when Joshua conquered Jericho and other cities in the Promised Land.  For more info, read the Book of Joshua.

The Crusaders were probably inspired by such stories, for they committed similar atrocities, massacring both Jews and Muslims in their quest.

Even though the killings in the Old Testament are hard for some Christians to reconcile, the Bible says that God’s purpose was to keep the Israelites separate from the influence of the pagan nations and their gods.  The irony is that the Israelites turned to the pagan gods anyway, and they were also punished by God many times.  God didn’t destroy Israel completely, but he came close to it, they certainly didn’t receive preferential treatment when it came to punishment.

The whole of the Old Testament was preparing the way for Jesus to come.  Jesus was the ‘game-changer’, no longer was there any teaching about killing enemies, in fact, the central core of Jesus’ teaching, besides relationship with God, is to love others, even enemies, and to spread the word of salvation.  The message of salvation (the way to be right with God through Jesus) should actually be an expression of love, not judgement or hatred of others.

In Matthew 5: 43-45, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Christians during the Crusades may have felt justified in killing in the name of God, but Jesus changed all that.  The most important thing that Jesus taught was to love God, love others and accept God’s gift of salvation.

Next:  Christians Are Hypocrites

The Crusades

The Crusades were a series of military campaigns by Christians in the 11th to 13th centuries, to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims.  Today many people think of the Crusades as an dark period of church history, due to atrocities committed by the Crusaders, and the animosity it has caused with Muslims.

During the time of Jesus, the Holy Land was under the control of the Roman Empire.  After Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the church grew into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, also called Byzantine.

In 636 AD, Muslim Arabs defeated the Roman/Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk.  The Muslims still allowed Christians to make pilgrimages, but there were times of persecution.  When the Seljuk Turks took control, the Christians began to feel threatened in the Holy Land and in the Byzantine empire.

Pope Urban II launched the first crusade to reclaim the Holy Land, gaining support and rallying fighters by promising immediate entry into heaven for those who died in the cause, and also suggested material rewards, power and prestige. (These promises were not Biblical)

The Crusaders gained control of Jerusalem in 1099, and set up four Crusader states from the land they conquered.  Over the next two centuries however, most of the land was regained by the Muslims.  There were a total of nine crusades, most of the later ones ended by treaties between the Christians and occupying Muslims.

Next: Does the Bible Condone Killing in the Name of God?