Posted tagged ‘Bible’

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

July 7, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 102795786 Copyright: monkeybusiness

This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.


When the Bible Comes Alive – What is Your Story?

May 5, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 61118525 Copyright: 4masik

How many people have experienced reading the Bible, or trying to read the Bible, before “becoming a Christian”? I did. I took a World Religion class as a freshman in college, and in that class I read the Bible for the first time. I have distinct memories of it.

I am not unintelligent. I was second in my law school class. I say that not to boast, but to make a point. Human intelligence is limited, and in particular, it is limited by our perspective.t

Our perspective is that of a finite being who lives a very, very short amount of time and, then, dies.What can we really know of an infinite God? On our own, given our limited perspective on a very small planet in a small solar system in a vast universe, what can we understand of the Maker of it all? In our 100 years, if we are fortunate to live that long, what we can we really know and understand of the 13.7 billion years of the existence of the universe. From our perspective, we have learned a great deal, but compared to what?

We have only to compare to ourselves – other people with limited perspectives as our own!

And if there be a God of this incredibly vast universe, this God would have to be greater still. He would have to be “other” than the universe to have created it. Things don’t create themselves. This material universe filled with matter and space and existing in time would have to have been created by a timeless, space-less, matter-less (immaterial) God who exists on a “plane” other, outside of and beyond the material world we live in.

The words and thoughts we have to define what that other existence might be like are wholly inadequate to describe it because it is completely other than anything we know. We can only describe it in terms of our existence bounded by time, space and matter, yet we have some sense of something beyond, like prisoner who spent his whole life in a small cell, who sees the sunlight streaming in through the bars of the window above him,  but has never seen the sun.

So what does this have to do with reading the Bible?

I realized as I read it in that World Religion class in college that, if God did exist, He would have to reveal Himself to us. We could not reason or research or experiment our way to knowledge of God. That would be like trying to find a painter in the canvass of a painting.

God would have to reveal Himself to us.

And, if God made us, He would know how to communicate Himself to us in a way that we could understand. In my experience, I have learned this to be true. What’s your story?


Sharper Than Any Two-Edged Sword

May 4, 2015


When I started this blog, I promised some autobiographical accounts, not that anyone is waiting with baited breath for them. True to my word, though, I will oblige.

I just revised one of my first blog posts, One of My First Light Bulb Moments. In that post, I recounted some early revelations about the Bible that marked my spiritual journey while I was still an unbeliever. I recalled my observation of the intricate harmony of the Bible and acknowledgement that the Creator of the world could communicate to us if He desired to, and He could also protect that communication if He wanted to.

I had these thoughts as I read the Bible for the first time in college. There were other thoughts too. The additional thoughts were not as philosophical; they were much more personal and uncomfortable.

In fact, reading the Bible made me feel uncomfortable. It was sharp. It seemed to expose my heart. It seemed to suggest I was at enmity to God. I virtually squirmed as I read it.

Though I read the Bible as part of an academic class on world religions, I approached each world religion as part of my own journey for truth. Not just the world religions class, I approached every class in college as part of my truth journey. I was eager to delve into the meaning of life. I was very much a product of 1960’s and 1970’s culture in that respect.

I did not really recognize the discomfort I was feeling as I read the Bible until I came across the following verse:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) 

There it was: staring me in the face was an explanation for why I felt so uncomfortable. I at once desired to put the Bible down and leave it alone and to press further like a person exploring a cave in the dark with trepidation. God seemed unapproachable to me, and the conviction I felt was painful; yet I could see there was something there.

The Bible, unlike most religious texts, is unique in confronting the sinful, imperfect nature of man in all of the pride, selfishness and pettiness that we so clearly see in other people, of course, but are much less likely to see in ourselves. The Bible uniquely reflects that pride, selfishness and pettiness back at us. It forces us to be honest with ourselves.

It was many months before I learned a lesson that changed my life forever. If we do not turn from the conviction, but allow it to have its way with us, God’s Word brings us to the cross.

At the cross we see God, intentionally divested of His glory, dying as a sacrifice for us, redeeming us from the sin that is in us.  We are not left to be perpetually convicted of our sins; we are shown the way out of our condition that God provides. When we confess our sins and believe, we find the glorious truth of salvation, forgiveness of sin and relationship with our God and Creator.

“[W]hoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned….” (John 5:24)

We must first see ourselves for who we are, as difficult and uncomfortable as that can be. The Living Word does that: it exposes the sin, but it also shows the way to mercy and forgiveness. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. The painful exposure of the sin that resides in us gives way to the healing that we desperately need by the same Word that smites us.

The Bible That Makes You a Scholar

April 10, 2015

bookstoreI am truly excited to share some things that are revolutionary for people who want a deeper, richer understanding of the Bible. (more…)

Read the Bible Yourself and then Decide

July 30, 2014

In the Bible by Leland Francisco

Believers and unbelievers alike make mistakes in reading the Bible. People rely on certain passages and certain viewpoints to the exclusion of others. People miss the forest for the trees, as they say.

Within the “Church”, the number of denominations is partially a result of different emphases on different aspects of God, the Bible and other things. When this proclivity tends to the extreme, it results in things like witch hunts and cults. Many of the dark periods of church history are, in part, examples of an inflexible adherence to specific certain truths, doctrinal, political or other views of Christianity to the exclusion of others.

Any overemphasis on specific passages or positions or facts can lead to an unbalanced view of God and error. (more…)

Conservatives, Progressives and Sheep

June 20, 2014

Light Post Against WoodsChristians are a very diverse group of people. From fundamentalists to Unitarians, there is a quite a range of beliefs. There seems to be little in common at the ends of the spectrum, and sometimes even from the middle to the ends.

The temptations are to stick stubbornly to one set of beliefs to the exclusion of others or to accept them all.

It can be rather daunting to consider all of the very earnestly and sincerely held beliefs of people who call themselves by the label “Christian”. Live and let live is certainly my tendency. When Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate”; however, I want to be one who enters that narrow gate (or door), wherever it is! For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matt. 7:13-14 & Luke 13-23-34 (door)) Much rests on being “right”.

There are certain accepted, fundamental and core doctrinal statements that most of the Christian world accepts. Jesus was God who came in the flesh, was born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, suffered and died on the cross and rose again. He died as atonement for our sins, and by his death and resurrection we are forgiven and may enter into fellowship with God. Jesus was God and man. He is part of the godhead – being God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit – three in one. There are certain things that are accepted by most people who call themselves Christian. Is this the narrow gate? (or the wide path?)

There were certain things that were accepted by the religious leaders of Jesus’s time, too, and it turns out they were wrong about many of those things. Jesus called into question the spiritual interpretations and conventions of His time. The Sadducees and Pharisees were the spiritual leaders, and they more or less represented the conservative and progressive points of view. The Sadducees were the conservative “old believers”, accepting only the Mosaic Law and rejecting the newer revelation. They were the aristocratic priesthood focusing on temple worship. The Pharisees were the progressives, embracing the newer revelation (the rest of our Old Testament), believing in resurrection, angels, spirits and rewards and punishments after death.

The Pharisees were a lay group of priests and more in touch with the common man. That may explain why Jesus seemed to run into them more often. Significantly, though, Jesus raised the ire and was rejected by both groups. It seems both the conservatives and progressives of the day missed the boat. (And, that is the problem with labels.)

Jesus did not embrace the conventional beliefs of his day. He was God who became man and walked among His own people, and his own people knew Him not. He seemed attracted most to the irreligious and sinners.

Jesus took issue with accepted beliefs of religious leaders in His time (calling the Pharisees such endearing terms as “white-washed tombs”!), but we also see him describing the right way as narrow and few will find it. No wonder so many Christian groups see themselves as the only way. Who wants to admit their way is not “the” way, especially if there is only one Way.

I am not sure we can really compare today with the time of Jesus. God was doing a new thing, something that had never been done. God was inserting Himself into His own creation and moving the story of man in a whole new direction. Still, I think it is noteworthy that both the conservative and progressive religious leaders had issues with Jesus, and He with them.

When Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman at the well, he was speaking to one who would be rejected by both camps of Jews. She questioned why He, a Jew, would ask her, a Samaritan, for water. Jews and Samaritans had fundamental disagreements over where to worship and who were the chosen people of God. There was even a greater chasm between Jews and Samaritans than Sadducees and Pharisees. Jesus blew through the doctrinal divide by speaking of living water that quenches thirst so that anyone drinking of it will never thirst again.

It was not that Jesus was rejecting what we might call “closed-minded” thinking. He was rejecting wrong thinking. Jesus clearly thought it important that people believe and understand truth. Jesus says one of the most “closed-minded” things imaginable when He said He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father except through Him. (John 14:6)

And, so the “dilemma” continues: who is right and who is wrong? In some sense, it is not a matter of right and wrong thinking. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus whether the Samaritans who worshiped on their own mountain or the Jews who worshipped in Jerusalem were right, Jesus threw her a curve ball: it is not where you worship, but who you worship (the Father) and how (in spirit and truth).

Jesus says the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, and so His followers will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him. (John 10:7-11)

I was prompted to write this after reading an article on 16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible compared to how fundamentalists interpret the Bible.

I do not want to be dismissive of doctrine. I am reminded that, from early on, the disciples and apostles who were entrusted with the very message of Jesus, delivered to them in person and visited upon them by the Holy Spirit in dramatic fashion on the Day of Pentecost, were very protective of that message. Examples of their concern for the truth of the message exist throughout the New Testament. The message, itself, is obviously of central importance.

They also learned that things like the food a person eats, whether a person is circumcised or uncircumcised, whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile does not matter. It does not matter if a person worships on a mountain or in Jerusalem, in a temple or not in a temple; what matters is the living water, God the Father, worshiping in spirit and truth. It is a matter of the heart. The Shepherd calls His sheep, and the sheep know His voice. We are ultimately all either in a relationship with our God or not. And that makes all the difference that matters.

Bias is Revealed in What we Consider and Fail to Consider

August 31, 2013
Siloam Tunnel inscription records

Siloam Tunnel inscription records when workers from the 8th Cent. B.C. met when digging from opposite directions. The inscription is now located in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum

When skeptics claim that Bible believers are biased, they are right. The truth is we all are biased, skeptics included. Some may be more aware of their own bias than others, but we all have our biases.

I am fascinated with stories of people who had one “bias” at one time and changed to the opposite “bias”. It happens both ways: atheist to believer/believer to atheist. Someday I will explore the similarities and the differences in those stories. There are some common threads, but that is a topic for another day. (more…)

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