Sunday, October 23, 2005


An Australian reader emailed me some interesting points about the Old Testament background to the text

Jeremiah 29 has some interesting things to say about what God required of his people, the Israelites, while they were living in captivity in Babylon. At verse 7 God says, "And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace." That is, God is telling the Israelites not merely to submit peacefully to the rulership of a Babylonian king but to actively pray that the peace in Babylon would continue. They were to get on with their lives - build houses, plant gardens, get married, have children - and wait for God to do something about their situation. They were not to get involved in insurrections. They were not to be "activists", destroying the peace of the city.

Now look at the Jewish Wars. The "religious activists" among the Jews of the time tried to force a political/military solution to their perceived problem of Roman overlordship and it was their terrorist activities that led eventually to the destruction of the temple, the city and their millenial dreams.

But remember also that Daniel (who read Jeremiah to find out how long the captivity would continue) was a servant in the Babylonian king's court. He didn't have nothing to do with politics. When Daniel was asked to interpret the king's dreams (because no one else could do it satisfactorily) politics became his concern. What he did was tell the king the truth as he saw it, or as it was revealed to him.

Rendering unto Caesar does not mean that Christians should have nothing to do with politics, only that wherever a Christian is working he or she should obey God, pray for those who govern over them and not seek to damage or overthrow the government by illicit means. But the government's paid servants aren't the government. They are among the governed. If they do well in their jobs then they are only doing what God requires of us all. If they don't do well then they, too, can expect to be subject to the "sword" - as some of our public servants currently are in the Vivian Alvarez case.

Friday, October 21, 2005

ROMANS 13: 1-7

Should Christians obey the government, no matter what? I consider that in the post below. Note that there are two German words below. "weltfremd" means "foreign to this world" and "Obrigkeiten" is the Luther version bible translation of "superior authorities". Luther used the "Obrigkeiten" passage to advocate support for the Princely rulers of his day.

1: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2: Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3: For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5: Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6: For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7: Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
8: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9: For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10: Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11: And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
12: The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13: Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.

One of my regular correspondents -- of Dutch origin but living in the USA -- recently wrote to me as follows:

In your scripture commentaries, have you ever written on Romans 13: 1-7? I have had a rough time with the notion that all government authority comes from God, and it's our Christian duty to genuflect to it.

The first time was when I attended a Presbyterian church. Unlike many American Presbyterian churches today it was a sound, conservative congregation with a good minister. But then, after several years, there was a local controversy about the area's public hospital. It had replaced two old, private hospitals, but then the new professional managers and the Board went on a building spree which a lot of the taxpaying public thought was excessive. It so happened that three members of the hospital Board were prominent in the church, and they were getting a lot of flak - deservedly so, I think, because even financial conservatives, when they're elected to public office, tend to throw prudence overboard and go along with the empire-builders on their staff. Building big, useless monuments has always been irresistible to people who handle the public's money, Anyway, one Sunday the minister preached on Romans 13, advocating that we honor and obey these free-spending public servants because they'd received their positions from God - well, that's when I became seriously disenchanted. In the first place, I don't believe the government of Paul's time was into running as many things as today's governments are, so where does this stop? It would mean that in countries where the government runs EVERYTHING - you know which ones those were - the population would be genuflecting constantly. Besides, I had a hell of a lot more respect for the nuns that used to run one of the now-closed hospitals than I did for the highly paid "professionals" in charge of the new one. I also happened to know a lot of them were incompetent, but that's another story.

In addition, I don't see a lot of support elsewhere in the Scriptures for Romans 13, and I think it's a sound principle that concepts that only occur once or twice in the Scriptures may be taken with a grain of salt. Then there is the question of Paul as a politician. The Roman Christian congregation he was writing to contained a lot of Jews - maybe a majority, and the Roman government of the time was pretty distrustful of the Jews in Palestine, who had a tendency toward insurrection.

Fast-forward twenty years, and we've been attending a Conservative Baptist church. It has a lot of similarities to the Presbyterian church I spoke of except for the music - I will never be able to relate to the so-called worship songs, too many of which I think are trite, unsingable retreads of seventies pop songs. But then, there are some aspects of American culture I will never connect with. Anyway, the minister at this church is a great guy; having grown up hearing the bloodless, weltfremd ministers of the Dutch Reformed church I think it's good to have someone who started out in the regular world and only later got his calling. Jerry started in life as a fireman and a part-time boxer, attended Bible College in his spare time and then, like the minister in the Presbyterian church, he was a missionary for some years. With his background he draws a lot of firemen and policemen to his church, and he is the Chaplain for all local police departments, which means he is called to minister to survivors and relatives whenever serious accidents have occurred. You have to respect that; I couldn't do it.

But guess what: the other Sunday he turned to Romans 13, his basic message being that all public "servants" - policemen, firemen, teachers, hospital workers, administrators of all kinds - are entitled to special respect - he came real close to suggesting they were superior people and made them stand up and enjoy applause. Well, I've seen policemen perform go-slow actions because they didn't get their raises, I've heard them lie in court, I've seen teachers behave like hoodlums on the picket line, I've seen enough corrupt politicians, and let's not get into the armies of well-paid lazybones shuffling paper everywhere. Besides, if all authority comes from God and shouldn't be challenged, how come we had the American Revolution? (American War of Independence is a more appropriate description, but ignore that aspect.) "Shouldn't Queen Liz and Tony Blair still be in charge of the USA?" I challenged Jerry at the exit. Well, no, that was different, he said. Taking a deep breath I started into the fact that King George was good enough for the Australians and the Canadians - but my wife poked me in the ribs to move on.

I wrote in reply:

Turning to an atheist for spiritual counsel is certainly testimony to how bad the churches have become.

But the answer is clear: Both Paul and Jesus made it very clear that their concern was to show the way to the afterlife. They did NOT think this world or its government was their concern -- Caesar's things to Caesar etc

So the advice concerned is SPIRITUAL: It will be better for your personal development if you ignore politics. And politics is so crazy that there is a lot of sense in that. Paul's view that the Obrigkeiten were put there by God is a way of saying: accept whatever God's purposes are (as with the problem of evil) and don't question it. Just keep your own life pure.

But we can do many things for non-spiritual reasons -- including challenging authority -- but while that may help this world, this world is not the important one

And, as I alway stress, context is very important. If you read the verses right through to verse 14 you can see the truth of what I said. Paul even laid out in detail what your personal conduct should be and how that would lead you into the coming Kingdom of Heaven. And perhaps the wisest verse in the passage is:

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same

In other words, if you keep your nose out of politics and just live a good personal life, you have little to fear from any ruler.

So it was clearly the view of Christianity's founders that involvement in politics (the affairs of "this world") is, if not absolutely wrong, at least inadvisable and certainly bad for you spiritually. So the attempts by various Christian groups over the years to legislate morality ran against the advice of their own Christian scriptures. If Christians HAD followed the advice of their founders and not tried to intervene in the political affairs of the world around them, Christianity would not have the bad repute it does today have among the many non-religious people who resent being dictated to about what they should do in their personal lives. Christian authoritarianism has, in short, shamed Christ.

Note however that there is NOTHING in the scriptures that forbids Christians from voting according the their consciences nor is there any prohibition on voting itself. And note that the New Testament was written in Greek and that the concept of voting for your government was at that time already centuries old in the Greek-speaking world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Only a small part of this blog is on the page in front of you. If you want to follow my attempted reconstruction of what 1st century Christians believed, you need to click on the ARCHIVES link in the green column to the left and start from the earliest date there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I have said a bit about Solomon previously on this blog but I think he is well worth reflecting on again

I wonder how many people realize that they do have copies of most of Solomon's surviving writings? They are, of course, in the Bible. I should perhaps initially note that King Solomon's words are so much at variance with all else that occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures (they are amazingly modern) that they do serve to attest that the Hebrew scriptures (the "Old Testament") are not some coherent canon but rather a simple and unauthoritative accretion of what was seen as popular or profound over many years. That was saved and revered which people liked or respected for one reason or another.

"Practical" men sometimes say with great pride: "Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may be dead -- that is my motto. I don't worry about all that Bible stuff". How amusing it is that they are in fact quoting the Bible in saying that. The "motto" concerned is in fact Solomon's most frequent advice in the book of Ecclesiates.

In psychological terms, much of Solomon's writings (e.g. chap. 1 verse 14 in the Revised Standard Version of Ecclesiastes) could be seen as classically depressive ("Vanity of vanity, all is vanity and a striving after wind") so one could conclude that Solomon was probably something of a drug abuser by the standards of his day (the relevant drug probably being alcohol) As King of Israel he certainly would have been free to booze all he liked.

Let us note, however, that the decrying of human strivings is a very common theme in religious thought and it would surely be stretching it to claim that all such decriers have been boozers! Most were in fact ascetics.

I myself am no ascetic but I am nonetheless acutely conscious of how unimportant most of what we do is to anyone but ourselves. Even the most famous man of today will almost certainly be totally forgotten in a thousand years -- and a thousand years is as nothing in geological time. We remember a few people from the past (Solomon, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha Gautama etc) but they as nothing compared to those who have been forgotten. Hammurabi is hardly a household name today, is he? Yet he was probably one of humanity's great minds and he was certainly a bigshot in his day. Knowing that sort of thing does make it hard to take oneself and one's concerns seriously.

Note however that Solomon WAS a religious thinker. If you read ALL that he says (e.g. the last two verses of the book -- though they COULD have been added by a later hand), you will see that he does in fact repeatedly profess some quite clearly religious beliefs -- though they are rather sparse by the standards of his times.

My favourite quotes from Solomon: "Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days" (Ecclesiastes 11:1); "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest" (Ecclesiastes 9:10); "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong" (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

There is however much more to Solomon than these few short quotes. I would very much recommend the careful reading of the whole of what he wrote -- preferably in a modern translation. His words are sometimes more Delphic than those of Mahatma Gandhi or Dale Carnegie but that poses a challenge that is well worth rising to. The "bread on waters" quote, for instance, is generally taken to refer to good deeds done without foreseeable reward. Solomon has the perhaps optimistic message that you will get an unforseen reward for such deeds. In modern terms we might translate Solomon as saying: "Be kind to others whenever you can as you never know when that will come back to benefit you": A sort of pragmatic idealism!

I think the immediate reason why Solomon sounds so modern is that he was King in Jerusalem and, as such, had everything. In those days only a King could have many of the things that we now take for granted -- extensive leisure, constant entertainment, effectively infinite booze, high quality and varied food, for instance. Having everything that people normally want or idealize, however, he could see how trivial normal materialistic aims in the end are and successfully developed a deeper set of values. That he was able to do this in conjunction with his clear rejection of belief in an afterlife is, however, strong evidence of what a remarkable mind he was -- particularly in the context of his times. He was in my view a supreme realist.

Friday, May 06, 2005


"Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother." And he said, "All these have I kept from my youth up." Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."

Luke 18:20-22.

This quotation is one of the allegedly "Leftist" quotations from Jesus and I have already discussed them previously -- see here and here.

I also thought, however, that the following comments from Australia's famous Father Rumble were rather good. They are taken from Radio Replies: 1588 Questions and Answers on Catholicism and Protestantism (Rockford, Illinois. TAN Books and Publishers, Inc. 1979 [originally published: 1938 by Radio Replies Press Society, St. Paul, Minnesota]) page 105. In my youth the good Father was simply referred to as "Rumble" and his columns defending Catholic doctrine were carried in many newspapers. They were much discussed.

474. He commanded the rich young man to sell all, and give it to the poor.

This was not a command, obliging in conscience. It was a special invitation which the young man was free to accept or reject. If the possession of goods as such were evil, Christ would have been recommending the young man to cause evil in the very ones who bought or accepted possession of his goods. But you have misunderstood the passage. The rich young man said to Christ, "What must I do to be saved?" Christ replied, "Keep the commandments." Thus He specified what was necessary for salvation. But hearing that the young man had kept them, He went further: "If you desire not only to be saved, but to be perfect, then do more than is of obligation. Sell all and follow Me." The young man turned away sad, for he had not the generosity of character required. But the Gospel does not suggest that he was lost. No man is lost who loves God enough to keep all the commandments. Meantime, in the Catholic Church, thousands of Priests, Brothers, Nuns have renounced all worldly possessions and have vowed poverty for the love of Christ, giving up the right to possess or administer anything in their own name. Thus the invitation of Christ is fulfilled in the Religious Orders of the Catholic Church.

473. Was not Christ poor, and did He not forbid the hoarding of treasure on earth?

Christ Himself set the supreme example of poverty, although, as I have said, Judas carried the purse containing money for His use, and for the needs of His Apostles. But Christ never commanded that His followers should adopt actual and absolute poverty. God had sanctioned the right of private property when He gave the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." The right to private property is therefore just and not sinful. Christ did forbid men to make earthly goods their only treasure to the exclusion of their spiritual welfare. In fact, He warned those who have mammon or wealth, not necessarily to give it up, but to make it their friend by giving alms to the poor.

475. Christ said that a rich man could not enter Heaven.

He did not. He said that the rich would encounter special difficulties in the matter of salvation. But this is not because they are rich. It is because rich people are in danger of being so attached to their earthly goods as to forget God. The same Christ said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." A rich man can be poor in spirit by being at least sufficiently detached from his worldly goods that he would not for all of them offend God.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Matthew 16:18-19: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church". (Douay)

I note from The Pope Blog that the passage in Matthew 16:18-19 is rendered in Latin as Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. This is the passage upon which the Roman church relies for its doctrine of apostolic succession. The theological point at issue, of course, turns on the fact that the name "Peter" means "rock" -- so the claim is that Christ was going to build his church on Peter.

The Greek very clearly gives the lie to this claim so I am pleasantly surprised that the Latin preserves the distinction found in the Greek. According to my Chambers-Murray Latin dictionary, "Petrus" is unknown as a word in Latin but "Petra" ("petram" in the quote above as "petra" is there used in the accusative case) is a known word. And it means exactly what it means in Greek: "a rock, a crag". My Abbott-Smith Greek Lexicon gives the Greek meaning of the same word as "a rock, i.e. a mass of live rock as distinct from "petros", a detached stone or boulder". And "petros" is of course also the name translated from the Greek into English as "Peter". The full passage in Greek is: "ou ei petros kai epi tautee tee petra oikodomeeso mou teen ekkleesian"

So both the Greek and the Latin say that Christ was going to build his church on a rock-mass but only the Greek makes clear that Peter was no such thing. Peter ("petros") was more a pebble than a rock-mass. So it would appear that Christ -- with his usual love of parables -- was referring to himself as being the rock-mass upon which his movement would be founded rather than it being founded on a small stone ("petros") such as one of his disciples.

And I guess I should note in passing that "ekkleesian" does not really mean "church" or even "congregation". It means "called-out-ones" -- showing that Christ here, as always, was looking towards the Heavenly Kingdom rather than this world.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes about 3,000 years ago. But sometimes blogs do end:

Well, I think I have now covered pretty well the topics I wanted to cover here so this blog will now be joining my RECIPE BLOG and my MARX BLOG in being placed on hold. As with the other two blogs, however, I will be happy to post new material if something comes up in my emails that warrants it.

My decision to cease daily postings here arose partly out of my having committed the sin of David (2 Samuel 24) -- in numbering my readers. I have had a counter up for the past week which tells me that this blog gets about 60 hits per day. That compares with around 600 hits per day on Dissecting Leftism. So this is a very tiny corner of the blogosphere. 60 hits per day still probably amounts to a couple of hundred readers per week overall and I would be loath to abandon that many readers except for something else that the counter tells me: Almost all readers come here via Dissecting Leftism. So if I do put up any new posts here I will notify that on Dissecting Leftism and interested readers should find it.

My principal aim in doing this blog was to get people to read their NT more attentively and compare their beliefs with first-century Christianity. If I have done that for a few people I am pleased. Early Christianity was a faith of great power -- as judged by the strength that it gave believers in the early days of the Roman empire. So if anyone were to revive that faith today, I am confident that it would still have great strength and influence. But the reason I sent my son to a Catholic school was my belief that ANY passing on of the teachings of Jesus will be of great benefit to those who listen.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

JOHN 5: 21-30

"For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me".

I have so far concentrated heavily on Paul's account of the Day of Judgment in 1 Corinthians 15 because it is undoubtedly the most carefull spelled-out account in the NT but I thought I should also draw attention to at least some of the accounts given by Jesus himself. And the scripture above is I think fully in accord with the account Paul gives.

Once again we see that Jesus is seen as the agent God uses to run the show. We see that the alternatives are eternal life and death, not Heaven and Hell. We note that it is twice said that the dead SHALL hear the voice of God -- which assumes that they are not already alive somewhere and listening. We note again that ALL the dead (good and bad) are initially resurrected -- with the good guys going straight off into eternal life (compare Paul's description of the good guys being changed "in the twinkling of an eye") and the baddies going off not directly into the second death but rather into "judgment" ("kriseos" in the Greek -- the basis of our word "criticism"). This implies that the unrighteous dead get a prolonged examination before final death -- a divine courtcase or trial. That "kriseos" describes some sort of extended "legal" proceeding is also what is behind the statement (verse 24) that he who believes "cometh not into judgement". The good guys don't have to stand trial. They just get waved straight on. Note that Revelation 20:12 also seems to envisage an extended Day of Judgment legal process with books being opened and people being judged according to what is in the books.

There is however one rather curious point: What are we to make of "and now is"? Is Christ saying that the resurrection is happening at exactly the time he speaks? The fact that he teams it with a verb in the future tense ("shall") suggests not and the Greek word concerned ("nun") is in fact used in several different ways in the NT. In John 12:31 ("Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out"), for instance, it clearly means "presently" or "soon" and that is presumably also the meaning of the word in the passage above.

Britain's lost Christian culture

More than half of British people have no idea why Easter is celebrated, a survey revealed. Just 48 per cent of some 1,000 adults questioned for the Reader's Digest Magazine poll correctly answered the resurrection of Christ.

In addition, a massive 92 per cent failed to recognise Karol Wojtyla is better known as Pope John Paul II, according to the survey. People appeared to struggle with religious figureheads, with two-thirds clueless as to the identity of the Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams and 42 per cent unable to name Judas Iscariot as the man who betrayed Jesus.

Despite their lack of religious knowledge, the poll found 64 per cent of people quizzed believed in God and 58 per cent in an afterlife. "Britons have a strong spiritual sense, with a majority expressing a belief in God and an afterlife, but they have little grasp of or interest in the basic tenets of Christianity," said Reader's Digest editor-in-chief Katherine Walker. "Many people who would profess to be Christian know little more about the faith than they do about other world religions," she added.

More here

Friday, March 25, 2005


The OT view of what happens after the coming of the Messiah is straightforward. As we see in (say) Isaiah 11, the expectation is of the world being once more transformed into a big Eden in which resurrected man will live forever. But the NT has a different story. As I have recently been discussing at great length, the NT expectation is that good people are resurrected into a spiritual life in the Kingdom of Heaven. So what happens to the earth after that? With the exception of some texts of arguable implications in the book of Revelation (e.g. chapter 21) I know of no text that really answers that. Curiously enough, however, one very well-known text does seem to touch on it:

Matthew 6:10 "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven".

That text certainly does seem to suggest a restoration of God's kingdom to power ON EARTH. And there will presumably be somebody on earth to do God's will. So who will be there on earth if all the good guys have been transformed into spirit beings and taken up residence in Heaven (as 1 Corinthians 15 tells us)?

I think we just have to accept the obvious here: It is envisaged that human life will continue on earth but in a perfected form. The old OT vision is, then, not completely abandoned. And it is presumably because the old OT vision was well-known that nobody in the NT really tried to spell out what the ultimate future of the earth was.

So the Heavenly destination of the good guys who have lived between the Fall and the Day of Judgment is presumably a reward for their great virtue, not something that keeps on happening forever and ever. And since there will be no more death, there would be no more need for any more resurrections of any kind anyway.

A small question that remains is what the source of the continuing earthly population will be. If the bad guys have all gone off into the second death and the good guys have gone off to Heaven, would not the earth be empty at that point? It would seem so. But the God who created man in the first place should have no trouble creating a few more people to restart the earthly population, I guess.


In their strong statement of support for lesbian and gay clergy, and regret for the actions taken against the liberal provinces of the West, the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have firmly aligned themselves with Canada and the US. "Whether this accelerates schism of the Anglican Communion depends on what they do now. The Scottish Episcopal Church is a small church, with just 45,000 members. Compared to the 17.5 million members of the orthodox evangelical province, Nigera, it has a small voice. In Scotland, the Presbyterian Church is the main Christian presence, the Roman Catholic Church second.

But the episcopal church's status as neighbour to the Church of England and its already well-established reputation as a liberal province, thanks partly to the leadership of its former Primus, Bishop Richard Holloway, give its actions weight out of proportion to its size. The statement in support of gay and lesbian clergy and blessings of same-sex relationships was made by the College of Bishops in response to the Primates' Meeting in Newry, Northern Ireland last month.

The US and Canada, who provoked the crisis two years ago by electing the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and authorising same sex blessings in the New Westminster diocese, were asked to impose a moratorium on future similar actions and to voluntarily withdraw until 2008 from the Anglican Consultative Council, the British charity that is the management body at the centre of the Anglican Communion. The indications from Canada are that the church there remains defiant. In the US, the bishops have agreed to call a halt to all episcopal ordinations, straight as well as gay, until next year's General Convention can debate the matter.

The Scottish bishops have added to the instability of the situation. They have not formally authorised any same-sex blessings services, and are unlikely to do so. They will continue to ordain gay people to the priesthood, as churches around the world still do, where they pass the usual selection criteria. As yet they have not announced plans to consecrate a gay bishop. But episcopal vacancies come up all the time. The Scottish church has already passed legislation to permit the consecration of a woman bishop, although has yet to do so. The future of the Anglican Communion could now depend on what happens when the next episcopal vacancy comes up in Scotland, and on whether the church decides to elect a married man with children, or to make a statement and choose one of their clergy who meets all the criteria but just happens to be in a stable, loving relationship with a member of the same sex. And this could even be a woman.

(From The Times)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


An email from a reader:

"Your attempt to explain (away) Paul's use of the word "body" in "spiritual body" makes no sense as the Greeks already had a perfectly good word to describe a spirit -- i.e., "spirit" (pneuma: wind, breath). Just as today a person talking about seeing the body of a ghost would be jarring, so too it was for Paul's readers. The question you leave unanswered is why Paul should use that phrase rather than the typical "spirit."

Paul does of course use the word "pneuma" in 1 Corinthians 15. In verse 44 we read: "it is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body". The word translated as "physical" is "psyche" and the word translated as "spirit" is "pneuma".

Note however that on other occasions "psyche" is translated as "soul" and "pneuma" is translated as breath. So one could conceivably translate the verse as: "It is sown a soul body; it is raised a breath body" -- which almost means the opposite of the usual translations of the text.

So we see the language difficulties Paul was battling with in this passage. If he had been a modern man he might have written: "It is sown a physical entity; it is raised as a non-physical entity". But he just did not have such linguistic resources or usages available to him. He had to use the language of the people he was writing to. He had to use a very limited and ambiguous everyday vocabulary -- which is why he expressed his message in so many different ways in that passage. But in all those different ways the common theme is of a transformation of people into something very different and much grander that what they were in their previous earthly life. So his message lies in the whole of the passage rather than in one part of it and that is why verse 44 is normally translated as it is. The translators "get" what Paul is driving at. The context determines the meaning.

And the same applies to the word "body". It too cannot be taken in isolation and has to be seen in the context of the passage as a whole. Paul just did not have such a word as "entity" available to him so has to use an ordinary Greek word -- "soma" -- to express his meaning. And note that Paul does repeatedly use the word metaphorically -- he does not always use it to mean something with two arms, two legs, heart, eyes, ears etc. The best example of that is his use of the word to describe a group of people as a body -- as in Romans 12:5: "So we, though many, are one body ["soma"] in Christ. He was clearly using the word "body" ["soma"] there in a highly abstract sense. So any claim that Paul's use of "body" in 1 Corinthians 15 must indicate something like a normal human body is naive -- particularly as that view was what Paul was clearly trying to dispel in the passage as a whole.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


There is an article here which tries to contrast what Jesus taught with what Republicans are doing today. It is really just a stream of Leftist abuse rather than a real argument but I guess one should occasionally say something about such attacks. Here's a few excerpts from it for starters anyway:

As we enter another Easter Season, it's become all too obvious that if Christ returns, those who hate in Jesus's name will have him slimed, then killed. Christ was a long-haired peace activist who would have hated the war in Iraq. "Blessed are the peacemakers" Jesus said in his defining Sermon on the Mount. "Turn the other cheek...Love thy neighbor." Such hippie-radical ideals are the "Christian" right wing's worst nightmare. The GOP would never tolerate an upstart like Jesus gathering a following in the face of their corporate-fundamentalist crusade. These are Christians who love power but would despise the actual Christ, just as they love a Zionist Israel but can't tolerate actual Jews.

In the wake of Jesus's exemplary life of non-violent rebellion, a perverse liturgy weighted by twenty centuries of intolerant bloodthirsty bigotry has erupted in his name. Attacks on people of color, on nations with oil, on humans of the same gender who love each other, on youth who enjoy sex..all have become enemies of a new fundamentalist crusade doing in Christ's name things that would have left him sickened and horrified.

If Christ came back today to resume preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Karl Rove would slime him in the media, then kill him outright, then turn his words into right wing hatespeak, then kill those who refuse to follow in his name.

But would Jesus stand for the slaughter of 100,000 Iraqis in his name merely because of oil and dubious Biblical prophecy? How would Christ view a president in love with the gas chamber and electric chair? What would Jesus, who hated hypocrisy above all, say about a Bush who scampers back to prolong the life of a brain-dead woman who wanted to die, but who gleefully executes 150 people as governor and as many more as president as he can get his hands on? How would Jesus cope with a self-proclaimed Divinity demanding the death penalty for children?

"Christ was a long-haired peace activist". I wonder how that jibes with "I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34 RSV)? And one thing Christ certainly did NOT do was preach peace selectively. Leftists wanted bombs for Christian Serbia but want a peaceful approach to Islamofascists.

"it's become all too obvious that if Christ returns, those who hate in Jesus's name will have him slimed, then killed" What's the evidence for that? There's none at all, or if there is, it is not spelt out. As it stands it is pure baseless assertion.

""Blessed are the peacemakers" Jesus said in his defining Sermon on the Mount. "Turn the other cheek...Love thy neighbor.". What our Leftist fails to mention is that NOBODY (except for a few small sects), Leftist or Rightist, practices that today. In fact, Christ himself did not follow it. He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple and said, "I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34 RSV). Leftists find it impossile to get into their power-mad skulls that Christ's whole aim was to save men from the consequences of sin and get them into the Kingdom of Heaven. He was not concerned about their survival on this earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is the constant theme of his words as recorded in the Gospels. And telling us how to get into Heaven was, of course, exactly what he was doing in the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). He essentially has no advice about how to run this world or survive in it. His advice is about what is best for you spiritually. And every time you DO turn the other cheek it WILL be better for you spiritually. Whether it will be better for your survival in this world, however, he simply does not address. So those who DO want to survive in this world have to find their own rules to live by. And any group that stopped defending itself would not last long. And it is as a defence against further attacks on America such as the 9/11 events that American troops have now taken the fight onto the home soil of the Islamists.

"If Christ came back today to resume preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Karl Rove would slime him in the media, then kill him outright, then turn his words into right wing hatespeak, then kill those who refuse to follow in his name". Again, sheer abuse and assertion.

"But would Jesus stand for the slaughter of 100,000 Iraqis in his name merely because of oil and dubious Biblical prophecy?" Here our Leftists shows the usual Leftist complete lack of concern about the facts. The article in The Lancet claiming 100,000 deaths in Iraq has long ago been refuted (e.g. here) but that simply does not matter to our Leftist. He KNOWS -- just as he knows that the war is all about oil and so completely disregards the 9/11 events.

Attempting to reason with people like that is a complete waste of time. He is not interested in getting at the facts and does not attempt to. Promoting himself and his wisdom is all he cares about and he seems to think that abuse is a good way of achieving that.

(I have put up an earlier version of this post at Blogger News too.)

Scotland: Fury as bishop says no to gay teachers in Catholic schools

The Bible teachings are crystal clear in both the OT and the NT (e.g. Romans 1:26-29; 1 Corinthians 6:9) but they don't seem to get a mention

The Catholic Church risked isolation [How awful!] last night after it emerged that senior churchmen want to bar homosexual teachers from Catholic schools. Politicians, local government and parent groups all warned against discrimination when a senior bishop insisted that the church's new charter for schools would prevent gay teachers from securing jobs in Catholic schools or gaining promotion if already employed. Bishop Joseph Devine, president of the Catholic Education Commission, said the church's blueprint for its schools - A Charter for Catholic Schools - made it clear that homosexuality was incompatible with Catholic education. He said in an interview: "Being homosexual would not at all be compatible with the charter. It would cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in the charter. "It would be offering a lifestyle that is incompatible with Catholic social teaching."

Bishop Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said the charter would provide the framework to make sure gays were not employed in Catholic schools and would probably limit the promotion opportunities of those already employed. He said: "In practice, I would think that it is possible that some may have been hired, but [the schools] may not have known until it was too late. "That's our fault for not making the proper checks and references. The charter tightens it up."

The charter does not explicitly ban the hiring and promotion of gay teachers but it calls for all teachers to support the ethos of Catholicism in their jobs. It states that all staff would be "expected to support and promote the aims, missions, values and ethos of the schools". This could be interpreted in a number of ways, but for Bishop Devine it means a bar on all homosexual teachers.

The Catholic Church has had discussions with COSLA, the local government body, over its charter and the councils are adamant that any plans to discriminate in any way against homosexuals are not acceptable and not legal. The charter has yet to be implemented, and it has run into problems principally because, if interpreted in the way Bishop Devine believes it should be, it could easily be seen as blatantly discriminatory. [Of course it is!]

The Rev Ewan Aitken, COSLA's education spokesman, said: "Local authorities would never countenance discriminating against a teacher because of sexual orientation. Councils would be in court in seconds." COSLA's condemnation was backed up by a statement from the Scottish Executive that stressed the need to hire the best staff possible regardless of any other factor. A spokesman said: "The Executive would expect authorities, in pursuit of their statutory obligations, to employ the best staff available." Peter Duncan, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: "I do not see any reason for discrimination on race or sexual orientation or gender." Fiona Hyslop, SNP MSP and shadow minister for education, said: "The SNP would expect a non-discrimination element to be part of the revised schools code."

Judith Gillespie, from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, described Bishop Devine's views as "very sad". She said: "His comments are worse than unfair and it reflects on the church that it wants to reject a group of people who are not choosing their lifestyle. I thought Christianity was about inclusion and brotherhood."


Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I am a bit peeved by this article. It is on a Christian site that aims to appeal to young people and the way they aim to do that is by being "progressive" -- i.e. Leftist.

Here is an excerpt:

"A news headline from the BBC World Service website caught my attention last week: "MTV Launches Channel for Africa." I was intrigued. I clicked. The headline pretty well summed it up. It's called MTV base. About one third of the music represented on the new channel will be authentically African. Weekly documentaries will highlight promising artists. Broadcasting will be beamed via satellite throughout the continent and will also be made available on "free-to-air" networks. The article was meant to be informational and straightforward, but what was written between the lines disturbed me most. I did some further research.

The issue I have with MTV Africa isn't the music. Nor is it the television. The problem lies in the calculated dissemination of the American brand of cultural insolvency MTV has created that has no place being in our own society, let alone being proselytized to another. MTV's gross irresponsibility on this issue is the moral equivalent of cultural colonialism. Cloaked in the guise of "good intentions," MTV purports to bring African music and culture to the masses. But their false altruism is transparent. In actuality, MTV does not want to bring African culture to the masses at all; it wants to take the wildly successful business model grown popular in the United States and abroad, and indoctrinate a new land with a message of decadence and moral corruption.

This kind of crusade-esque guerilla marketing is frightening when you consider the zeal with which it is elicited. Couple this with the fact that its initial offering will be made free-of-charge in some markets. OK, here's a quick lesson in Business 101: nothing is ever truly free. MTV is counting on getting people hooked on a golden calf of image addiction and then selling it to them-be sure of it. The deeper underlying issue that MTV needs to face is the gaping chasm between responsibility and exploitation..... Bringing MTV to Africa is exploitation. Africa is a continent wrought with war, devastation, disease, pestilence, drought, famine, governmental corruption and every conceivable ill. In some countries such as Zimbabwe and Botswana where sexual promiscuity runs rampant, one in every three people are suffering from HIV/AIDS. A Darwinian struggle for existence is lost on a daily basis with death counts sometimes in the thousands. Millions of people are homeless and living in primitive refugee camps hoping to receive one meal of porridge a day. War and death are a way of life. Racism is endemic.....

For centuries the white man has brought trouble and exploitation to Africa-trying to force his ways on a people too burdened to fight back. Africa has lost many battles with the West, and it will lose this one, too. And perhaps most unfortunately, it will become increasingly de-cultured rather than culturally enriched because of MTV's insatiable appetite for "greener" lands. And I can't help but wonder-will there be no shame?

The paternalism of that ("We know what's best for you, you poor dumb Africans" is the basic message) quite sickens me. But that's what you expect of Leftists, of course. What bothers me is that even some serious conservatives seem to agree with it. Like this guy. I think some conservatives need to rethink their assumptions.

And, conservative or Leftist, it is certainly not New Testament Christianity. "My Kingdom is not of this world" is what Jesus said (to Pontius Pilate -- John 18:36) so a New Testament Christian would not be concerned with anything as worldly as MTV. What Jesus tried to do throughout his ministry was to get people to lead personally Holy lives and as far as the rest went, to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Mark 12:17). I give some of the sects great credit for trying to do just that by leading unwordly lives but I am afraid that mainstream Christians seem rather deaf to that teaching of the man they claim as their Messiah.

I don't see anything wrong with voting, however. That is just another of Caesar's requirements these days -- one of the smaller requirements in fact. But a New Testament Christian would be evangelizing for personal Holiness as a highroad to salvation, not for worldly political issues. And I think the evidence is that churches which DO concentrate on the Gospel are the ones that have most success in attracting people.


Or is it just hopping on a bandwagon?

"Abortion was propelled to the centre of the election campaign yesterday as the Church of England threw its weight behind demands for a thorough review of legislation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who declared that there was a "groundswell of distaste" at the way the current law works, was backed by senior Anglican clergy who not only questioned the current 24-week time limit, but also the whole of the 38-year-old Abortion Act.

All the main churches across Britain have drawn up guidelines on how churchgoers can challenge candidates at election meetings organised by local Christians. Christians, especially Roman Catholics, are expected to use the meetings to ask candidates from all parties to support a review of the law.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Rev Tom Butler, the vice-chairman of the Church of England mission and public affairs division, backed Dr Williams, saying that many Anglicans were deeply concerned that there were more than 500 abortions a day in England.

Methodist leaders also said that the issue needed to be "revisted from time to time" in the light of advances which gave very premature babies a greater chance of survival.

Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative backbencher, led calls for a Tory manifesto commitment on holding a debate in government time on lowering the legal time limit on abortion, in which MPs would be given a free vote.

The growing clamour will increase pressure on Tony Blair, although Downing Street said last night that his view remained that abortion was an issue of conscience that should be addressed through a Private Member's Bill, not government legislation.

Church of England bishops would support a reduction in the current time limit of 24 weeks, which has been called for by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader. The bishops are not just concerned at the relatively small number of late abortions, which amount to less than 1 per cent of the total, but also at the way that the number of abortions has increased. Dr Williams said yesterday that the current law was causing "more and more of a shared unhappiness and bewilderment". He indicated that the election campaign could provide an opportunity for voters to question individual candidates but dismissed fears that debating abortion could lead to single-issue campaigning, as it has in parts of the US. "The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some Neanderthal Christian Right is alarmist nonsense," he said.

Although he did not say that he opposed abortion outright, he said that, for a large majority of Christians, including himself, it was impossible to regard abortion as "anything other than a deliberate termination of a human life", and that the advance of technology had reinforced anxieties. "Whether it is a matter of evidence about foetal sensitivity to outside stimuli (including pain), the nature of foetal consciousness, or the expanding possibilities of saving early foetal life outside the womb, the trend is inexorably towards a sharper recognition of the foetus as a natural candidate for `rights' of some kind," he wrote in The Sunday Times.

The Archbishop's intervention came after Mr Howard said that he favoured reducing the limit from 24 to 20 weeks and promised that, if elected, he would find parliamentary time for legislation. The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, commended Mr Howard's statement last week, saying that he was pleased that abortion would be debated before the election.

David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the Commons Health Committee, said: "My view is it is very sad that an issue as important as this only emerges in the weeks before an election. I think it is unfortunate that there is no serious debate on this issue. There are arguments on both sides and I would like to see an objective view taken in terms of current science."

Anne Quesney, spokeswoman for Abortion Rights, accused churches of trivialising women's rights: "It is very saddening to see the debate is being fuelled by the Church of England after political leaders have clearly said this shouldn't be an election issue. "The ultimate agenda of trying to make abortion illegal is very damaging as it doesn't make abortion go away."

Given the divisions in the Church of England over homosexuality and women bishops, abortion is unusual as an issue that unites most senior clerics, bringing liberals, Catholics and evangelicals together."

(From The Times)

Monday, March 21, 2005


A good Christian comment on the Greenies by a Professor of Atmospheric science

That the Creation exists to sustain us may sound presumptuous, but it flows from the faith-claim that we humans are created in the "image of God." This means human life is valuable above all Creation. Now, as a scientist, I cannot prove that human life is of such great value, it’s a matter of faith. But, a worldview which values a chickadee as much as a child is not evangelical.

When faced with difficult choices about the relative value of human life, evangelicals err on the side of humanity. Hypothetically, we choose the African child over the humpback whale and the Alzheimer's patient over the giant sequoia … every time. Fortunately, we do not face such contrived situations. Our environment can sustain us and still remain vibrant. The good news is, it's happening more and more thanks to affordable energy.

Jesus commanded us to dignify human life by working to enhance the health and security of all, especially the poor. How do we honor both the environment and human life if the latter consumes the former? Ultimately, affordable energy is key to enhancing health and security with minimal environmental impact. Economist Julian Simon called energy the "master resource," because it "enables us to convert one material to another." From my personal point of view then, since energy grants us longer and better lives, suppressing its availability devalues human life. My "green" evangelical friends, already nervous, will cringe at this next part.

That Texas oilman who provides cheap energy to sustain a poor family through the winter? That engineer who designs new, but power-consuming devices to aid the crippled? That entrepreneur who finds a cheaper way to bring vital goods to the consumer? These people are doing work that by biblical standards must be called righteous. They are solving human problems, honoring human life.

Affordable energy underpins virtually every solution discovered in the past century. Think about it: U.S. lifespans up over 60%; per-capita, food-calorie production up worldwide despite a population boom; the list is endless. Would these have happened without accessible energy? Generating carbon-based energy produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a natural greenhouse gas which, in increased proportions in the air, is linked to rising temperatures. Please note, CO2 is vital because without it, life would cease. Plants love it. If rising CO2 poses a serious threat to us in our ever-changing climate, evangelicals should be first to sound the alarm. However, if the hard numbers of science tell us the threat is inconsequential or benign, and further, that well-meaning regulations actually make human life more difficult without affecting the climate's trajectory, we should stand for something else.

We face real environmental problems today. While a missionary in Africa I witnessed the destruction of rich forest habitats because poverty drove people to burn wood for energy … inefficient, polluting wood. As the energy "hunter-gatherers," women were especially burdened with huge costs of time and labor. Wildlife vanished. Too, these precious people lived and died with water-borne diseases. Where human life suffers, Jesus' commandments are not being "accomplished." And, where human life suffers, the environment does as well. Do you want to protect the environment in a significant way? Why not work to provide energy and clean water to 1 billion people in need? That means burning carbon in some fashion today, but using something better (and cheaper) tomorrow.

Environmental initiatives can deceive, especially those dealing with climate change. They sound so innocently altruistic. But underneath, they generally constrain energy, that "master resource," making life more difficult. When considering an environmental issue, evangelicals should think first about its impact on one important component in the ecological cosmos - us.


Sunday, March 20, 2005


I have lifted this post from What the Bible Says:

"God instituted Capital Punishment for the crime of murder (Genesis 9:5-6), which was singled out as an attack upon God himself and the most serious offense. There were 36 separate offenses throughout the Old Testament (Book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy) that were punishable by death including Murder (no pity), rape, sacrificing to false gods, and so on. We can find instances of execution being carried out in the Bible (e.g., Leviticus 24:10-16). It was practiced both in ancient Israel (as reflected in the Old Testament) and in Judea in the first century (as reflected in the New Testament).

Execution was given theological justification, both in the Old & New Testament. The Pentateuchal rationale for capital punishment was not basically in terms of societal order, and thus modern utilitarian values (e.g., does it deter?) have no bearing on the validity of the biblical attitude toward the penalty even though the Bible states it does deter (Deuteronomy 19:20; also see: Eccles. 8:11). The motive for capital punishment was not human desire for vengeance (retribution), and thus modern theological abolitionists on that basis cannot criticize it. There is not a verse in the Bible in either the Old or New Testament that overtly departs from the consensus on the topic. There are no theological stances in either testament (be they forgiveness of enemies, love, non-vengeance, etc.) that may be taken as an implicit challenge to capital punishment. The Bible distinguishes killing in battle, or in self-defense, or in accident, or as execution, from murder and negligent homicide (which alone merit execution).

Some Christians pretend that Jesus Christ broke with the traditions of the Old Testament or take the position that he replaced it, but this couldn't be further from the truth as Jesus himself explained during the Sermon on the Mount. This would also include capital punishment, they say, which was repeatedly sanctioned in the Old Testament. Christ said,

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17)"

Saturday, March 19, 2005


(I liked the article below so I will make it my post for today:)

Here we go again! A "core group" of "influential" evangelical leaders is about to try to address "global warming" using political weapons. Like previous efforts - Prohibition in the 1920s and the Moral Majority with which I was associated in the 1980s - this one is doomed because it distracts and dilutes the primary calling of evangelicals. Do evangelicals have time on their hands because they've finished the mission to "go and make disciples of all nations"? Is this not a great enough commission that "global warming" and a host of other "issues" must be added to make evangelicals contemporary and relevant?

The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, a Washington lobbying group, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created." Rev. Cizik offers no biblical citation for his view. There is no biblical expectation that a "fallen" world can, should or will be improved prior to the return of the One to whom evangelicals are supposed to owe their complete allegiance. Rev. Ted Haggard, president of NAE, says he has become passionate about the issue because he is a scuba diver (but not a scientist) and has seen how "global warming" affects coral reefs. What about passion for Jesus Christ?

The religious left has long tried to sway evangelicals into embracing its social agenda. It would appear they are finally succeeding. Rev. Ronald Sider, who heads Evangelicals for Social Action, a liberal Christian group with an agenda that reads like Democratic Party talking points, told the Times, "Evangelicals have sometimes been accused of having a one- or two-item political agenda." A document he helped draft, called "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," is aimed at making "it very clear that a vast body of evangelicals today reject a one-issue approach," he says.

Jesus is appropriated these days for all sorts of things with which he would have nothing to do. Remember the "What Would Jesus Drive" campaign that attempted to convert people from their SUVs to more environmentally friendly cars? Those on the left and right who misuse Jesus think they can have the best of both worlds. Desiring the approval of one, however, mostly leads to disapproval from the other.

Should politicians be unclear as to the source of evangelical power, Rev, Haggard says, "We do represent 30 million people, and we can mobilize them if we have to." Leaving aside whether he "represents" 30 million people and whether they would all vote and lobby in lock-step (they didn't in the '80s), this is a far cry from "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

The first description of Satan is that he is "subtle." (Genesis 3:1) Another translation says "crafty." Satan tempts to do what seems good. Liberal churches have long believed in a doctrine of salvation-through-works, as if helping the poor was the chief responsibility of government and an end in itself, rather than a means for individuals to communicate the love of God to poor people. The social gospel is about causes, not Christ; agendas, not Alpha and Omega; politics, not the Prince of Peace; more of this world and less of the next one. It's a subtle, but effective, means of distracting evangelicals from their paramount calling, which is about conversion, not political convictions.

By focusing on the other kingdom, one can have the most influence on this kingdom. By attending mainly to improving this world, one is doomed to futility and can do little for the other one. Look at past efforts of religious activists - left and right - and note their limited success when the focus has been on transforming culture, rather than converting hearts. This is going to be another failed effort that will lead many astray, divert resources from more effective pursuits and leave little of eternal value. Better to "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20) rather than on earth where they do.

(From Cal Thomas)

Friday, March 18, 2005


An email from a reader:

As for the gospel of Mark, scholars have proposed a number of explanations for why the gospel of Mark should have originally ended ubruptly before the resurrection appearances. Some have suggested, for example, that the orginal text may have been lost or damaged, while others have suggested that the ending may have been a literary device (i.e., to criticize those early Christians who may have emphasized the resurrection at the expense of the crucifixion; it's interesting to note that many movies, such as Gibson's The Passion, either ignore the resurrection or similarly downplay it). However, no scholar that I know of says what you say, that it means Mark did not believe in the resurrection. The very last line would seem to make this perfectly clear:

"And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you."

This is not what you'd expect from a writer who does not "believe" in the resurrection.

In answer I simply say that I approach these things probabalistically. The failure of one of the Gospel writers to mention any of the post-resurrection appearances is certainly a stark omission in need of explanation. Whether there are other scholars who agree with what I think to be the obvious explanation -- that Mark was one of the doubters -- doesn't butter any parsnips as far as I am concerned but I would nonetheless be surprised if modernists such as Bultmann and Thiering disagreed with me.

And the last verses of Mark do not really say much. Mark reports what the women say they were told by the angels and leaves it at that. In fact, as I see it, the fact that Mark reports a prophecy of post-resurrection appearances and then fails to mention whether any such appearances took place seems revealing. Surely he would have hastened to mention something as striking as fulfilment of that prophecy if he had believed in it.

But anyway, suffice it to say that we know there were those who were never convinced so whether Mark was one of them or not adds little.

I feel I owe my readers an apology for going into these matters at all. My basic aim is simply to elucidate what the teachings of the NT are. Whether I personally believe in those teachings is an unimportant matter to anyone but myself. But I do slip up occasionally and say what I think of the truth of the teachings concerned. I should not. I undermine my own project by doing so.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


A reader referred me to this rather jocular article by some alleged pagan ("pagan" = "attention-seeker" most of the time as far as I can see) about the Genesis story. The writer is obviously not a bad Bible student but what he says is still fanciful rubbish as far as I can see.

He points out quite correctly that there are two creation stories in Genesis -- with the second one being immediately after the first and comprising only Genesis 2:4-7. I am too lazy at the moment to type it out here but do look it up in your Bible. It IS quite different from the story of Genesis 1.

Our pagan, however, deduces from this that there were two different creations being referred to and I don't think that is supportable. He does, however make one point I had never noticed before -- that in story 1 the creator is said to be "Elohim" (God), whereas in Story 2 the creator is said to be YHWH (Yahweh). I must say that the difference is a curious one and from a textual criticism viewpoint would tend to indicate that Story 2 is much older than story 1. Hesitancy about use of the divine name is a fairly late development. Story 2 also has YHWH taking a stroll in the garden during the cool of the day so that should indicate an older story too. A more anthropomorphic view of YHWH would be taken by most textual critics as indicating an earlier text. So story 1 was probably tacked on to the beginning of Genesis as a much later effort at a more sophisticated account of the creation.

Our pagan's point about "Elohim" being a plural form is true as far as it goes but does not indicate the plurality he claims. The word takes singular verbs so is intended as singular. With the Hebrew insistence on there being only one God it could hardly be otherwise. The plural form is then just another example of a plural being used as an honorific (as in the British Royal "we").

So are the two creation accounts so different as to be contradictory or even accounts of two separate events? It must be said that they COULD be accounts of two separate events but I don't see that they are in any way contradictory. The story that before the rains came there was a pervasive mist need be seen as nothing more than an added detail.

The interesting thing about story 2 however is that YHWH created man on the SAME day as he created the heavens and the earth -- whereas in Story 1 man was not created until the 6th day. I think this should upset only the most extreme fundamentalists, however. Throughout the Bible, words have both literal and figurative uses -- the various usages of even common words are one of the great plagues of scriptural exegesis in fact -- and it seems perfectly clear to me that "day" is being used in a figurative way in Genesis -- meaning "a period of time" rather than "24 hours". So I certainly see no contradiction between story 1 and story 2. Story 2 is simply using a less detailed timescale.

Perhaps I should mention the obvious -- that even in modern English we do use "day" figuratively --- in expressions such as, "In my day it was different". And the Hebrew word concerned has a variety of meanings too. I am too tired to go into that at the moment but look at 2 Peter 3:8.


I don't take much interest in textual criticism as my primary interest is in the NT and it is not a large feature of NT studies.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (NKJV)

This is another of Paul's descriptions of the day of judgment and again we find him using a fair bit of figurative language. This time entering and leaving tents and swallowing up are not used as metaphors but we do get two other very common metaphors used: Sleep used as an analogy for death and the sky used as a symbol of Heaven (the latter being a symbolism we also see in Luke 24 and Acts 1 -- see my post of 11th). That Paul really is talking about the sky we see from his mention of clouds and meeting the Lord in the air ("aera" in the Greek). I presume that nobody would want to argue that the terrestrial atmosphere is the actual venue for the afterlife and so would agree that rising up into the sky is being used here as a metaphor for the transition into the spirit world. To be consistent, then, we also need to argue that the dead are not actually just unconscious but rather that sleep is being used as a metaphor for death. In other words, the divine power can restore the dead to life just as people awake out of sleep.

It could be argued that, with the primitive knowledge of physics existing at the time of Christ, people really did believe that the afterlife was located somewhere in the sky -- and the use of the same word ("ouranos") for the sky and for Heaven might seem to encourage that view. Note however that in the sophisticated 21st century we still do exactly the same. It is still not uncommon to refer to the sky as "the heavens" while Heaven is also understood as a spirit realm. And the idea of the afterlife as happening in a non-physical realm altogether different from ordinary life on earth is so clearly set out by Paul elsewhere (1 Corinthians 15) that it would be absurd to say he was incapable of distinguishing between the two ideas and usages or that he was confused about them. So we must conclude that the above passage is simply a continuation of Christ's practice of using vivid imagery (e.g. sheep and goats) to teach a lesson in an easily assimilable way. It is not meant to be taken as the whole story.

It must be conceded, however, that Paul does in all his accounts of judgment day seem to envisage proceedings as BEGINNING on earth: Christ appears; ALL the dead are resurrected to life on earth; judgment is rendered; the wicked go off into the "second death" and the righteous transit to everlasting life. In 1 Corinthians 15: 51,52 the change into an eternal existence is said to occur in "the twinkling of an eye" but in the passage from Thessalonians quoted above a rising into the sky is envisioned as occurring. I don't think those two accounts can be reconciled without taking the whole passage above as a vivid metaphor -- particularly since the teaching clearly is that the afterlife is not something that you physically go to: "It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15: 44 RSV).

To change the subject a bit: My Christadelphian correspondent is a bit cross at me for not giving his theories more of a run on this blog so I will just point out that the scripture that I have just quoted above would seem to be quite contrary to the Christadelphian account of the resurrection. It says we will BE a spiritual body, not that we will be a physical body INFUSED WITH spirit. Christadelphians are not of course alone in thinking that there are physical bodies in Heaven but I cannot see that any of them are giving due heed to what 1 Corinthians 15:44 actually says.


Excerpt from an article by Christie Davies

"At the end of the nineteenth century, there were comparable levels of religiosity in Britain and the United States. The British lived in a culture in which the assumptions of Protestant Christianity were taken for granted. Few people believed strongly, but everyone believed a little. Throughout the population there was a somewhat vague general acceptance of central Christian beliefs, a strong respect for sacred things, a liking for church-based rituals to mark the turning points in life (and particularly its ending), a moral code of helping others that was rooted in Christian ethics, and a liking for and ability to sing hymns, both of which had been learned in Sunday School. Even football crowds sang “Abide with Me” or “Bread of Heaven”; today they sing songs full of thoughtless blasphemies, obscenities, and thought-out sexual and racial abuse to upset their opponents. Regular attendance at Sunday School was a standard part of most people’s youth, and it was the place where standards of respectability were inculcated. Britain’s was a society with a remarkably low and falling incidence of violent and acquisitive crime, illegitimacy, and addiction to opiates. Public drunkenness was a problem, but it was gradually ceasing to be so; by the 1920s it had all but disappeared.

This is the world Britain has lost. The first turning point was the First World War. Before that war there was already a degree of uneasiness about the strength of religion in Britain; after the war it was clearly in decline. The decline of religion was slow and punctuated by periods of recovery, such as the early 1950s. From the mid-1950s onwards, however, the previous prevailing religious culture collapsed, and by the millennium Britain was one of the most thoroughly irreligious countries in the world. Less than half the population believes in God. For many of those who do believe in God, their belief is not in a personal God who is a guide to conduct or a source of solace but a mere impersonal and irrelevant something-or-other.

In 1901–1911, half the British population under fifteen was enrolled in Sunday School; in 1957 three-quarters of those over the age of thirty had attended Sunday School at some time in their lives. By the end of the twentieth century, less than 10 percent belonged to a Sunday School. An entire culture had been lost. In England in 1913, 70 percent of all live births were baptized in the Church of England; in 1956, it was still 60 percent, but by 1997 it had fallen to less than a quarter. In the 1950s in Britain two-thirds of those questioned said they believed Jesus was the son of God and only a fifth expressed disbelief. By the 1980s, less than a half of those asked said they believed this and nearly 40 percent said they did not believe. In the 1950s most people believed in the central tenets of Christianity or at least went along with the dominant belief of their culture. By the 1980s, this was no longer the case. By the end of the millennium, many Christian denominations in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales, were predicting their own imminent demise in the twenty-first century. A few evangelical, Pentecostal, and fundamentalist groups thrive, but they lack numbers, have little influence on the wider culture, and are ignored and even snubbed and discriminated against by the secular liberals, who control broadcasting and education.

One consequence of this, or at least a social change that is closely correlated with it, is the collapse of respectable Britain. By the standards of 1905 or 1925 or 1955 Britain is a criminal society, a society with a substantial minority of violent people and an even larger minority willing to indulge in planned dishonesty. In 1927, there were only 110 robberies reported to the police; there were thirty times as many in 1997. Most of this increase occurred after 1955. Even if some part of the recorded increase may be dismissed as merely greater reporting and improved recording, it remains a massive change. In 1927, one’s chance of being mugged was absolutely negligible. Even today it is not all that likely an experience, but it has become one of the ordinary risks of life to be thought about and around which life is planned—enough to constitute an important qualitative change.... "

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

2 Corinthians 5

Just a few more comments on the NT teachings about the day of judgment:

Just as Jesus used a lot of parables, Paul too uses a fair bit of figurative laguage. In 2 Corinthians 5: 1,2 we see the body called a tent or house that we inhabit. And we are said to long to put on a heavenly tent instead. This metaphor could be taken as supporting the immortal soul doctrine. The real "we" just "puts on" an earthly or heavenly body. To draw that conclusion would of course be to ignore the obvious -- that Paul is NOT speaking literally. Our body is not REALLY a tent (though when I look in the mirror sometimes I wonder if I might not end up that way unless I change my diet) and we do not REALLY "inhabit" it.

And Paul does make that clearer in verse 4: "so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life". So there is not just a "stepping out of" but a complete "swallowing up". Paul is just using whatever metaphor he can -- be it housing or swallowing -- to express the inexpressible, namely a personal identity that somehow is recreated in another form on judgment day -- or "we shall all be changed", as Paul puts it with admirable simplicity in 1 Corinthians 15: 51.

And then verse 6 returns to the "home" metaphor: "While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord".

This way of speaking is however fairly inevitable. The original Hebrew idea of resurrection that we see in the OT is perfectly simple: Our old physical body is just re-created in a perfected form -- minus the warts, as it were. So it is easy to see how the old and new bodies could be essentially the same. But if we are recreated in a spirit form, how can the spirit form be in any way identified with the old physical form? I suppose the idea is that our characteristics endure. Our new form will have characteristics that will somehow reflect whether in life we were large or small, quick or slow, sensitive or insensitive, weak or strong, patient or impatient etc. The whole idea sounds utter nonsense to me but all religions do seem to believe that some transformation such as that does happen so who am I to argue?

The NT is only unusual in that it posits a prolonged and utter death before the good guys receive eternal spirit life on judgment day. Most religions seem to think that you transform into a complete spirit being immediately on death -- and that belief has seeped into modern-day Christianity too.

I probably should make clear at this point that my aim with this blog is NOT to convert anybody to anything -- be it atheism or membership of some sect or anything else. My only interest personally is basically an historical one -- to get clear what the original religion of the NT was and to contrast it with Christianity today. The only influence I hope to have on readers of this blog is to get them to read their Bible more attentively -- to see what it actually says rather than seeing its words through a lens of conventional preconceptions. I make no judgment about which or any version of Christianity is best in any sense. I was myself brought up as a Presbyterian and sent my son to a Catholic school so I think that should make clear that I think that Christianity generally is a good thing rather than some particular version of Christianity being best. Although I am a complete atheist (unlike many of my former academic colleagues, I don't even believe in Karl Marx), I think that the teachings of the gentle Jesus have had a tremendous transformative influence for the good on the human race.

As well as being a scripture blogger I am of course also a Marx blogger. But I study Marx for the opposite reason to my reason for studying the Bible. I want to see what was behind such a force for enormous evil in the world. And if you read Marx for long it is pretty clear what has made him such an influence -- he was absolutely filled with hate and contempt for just about everybody. So the haters and enviers of the world have always found in him a kindred spirit. If I were religious, I think I would see him as the Devil made flesh.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Most of the world's religions claim that there is some immortal essence or "soul" within us all that survives death. The ancient Hebrew religion as recorded in the OT is then most unusual in saying that death is death and that is that (see e.g. my post of Feb. 20th. and lots of passages in the book of Ecclesiastes, particularly chapter 9). The OT hope for an afterlife is blessedly simple -- it lies not in an immortal soul but in a future resurrection back into perfected physical life in a restored Eden on this earth -- as described in (say) Isaiah 11.

And as I also point out in my post of Feb. 20th, the NT carries on the rejection of an immortal soul and offers hope in the form of a resurrection. But it is not the same simple old Hebrew resurrection. The pagan fascination with a spirit life had taken hold and the hope now became for a resurrection into the spirit realm (e.g. John 14:2) -- or God's Kingdom, as Jesus usually describes it. And in 1 Corinthians 15 that is set out as unambiguously as it reasonably could be.

Now that should not disturb most Christians too much as both Jesus and Paul make clear that they build on the OT to create a new and better understanding of reality. Although both Jesus and Paul quote the OT extensively to justify what they say, they are clearly claiming to offer a new understanding of the matters they discuss.

Not all Bible students are happy with that, however. They view the Bible as being one whole and think it should be consistent from beginning to end. They cannot accept that the NT tells a new and better story than the OT. They want the OT and NT to be consistent.

That is a big ask however and fairly heroic assumptions have to be made to accomplish it. Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians are the only ones I know that make a serious attempt at it but there are presumably others. The Jehovah's Witness solution is probably the easiest -- they split the difference and say that some go to Heaven and some stay on Earth. The Christadelphian solution seems to be to say that the body survives but without its blood! From what I have seen the arguments for both stories are specious and I don't think my readers would be interested enough for me to spend time rebutting them. My Christadelphian correspondent has however sent me a brief summary of the scriptural argument as he sees it so I reproduce it below for what interest it may have. I suspect that most of my readers will find the reasoning involved to be really stretching it.

Christ was raised to an immortal body which is not flesh and blood but flesh and spirit. Please consider these verses: 1st Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” For something to be quickened, a something has to exist to be operated upon to be “quickened”. In other words, you cannot quicken a nothing. In immortality, the blood is no longer needed to give life to the body. Spirit, which is God’s power (not a 3rd person of the ‘Trinity’) is the life of the immortal body. These ideas play out in John 3:6 with Nicodemus: John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Spirit does not give birth literally to spirit or itself, but to people who are born of the spirit (Joh 3:5-8), or in other words, quickened, made alive or energized by the spirit. And the same is found in Galatians 6:8 Galatians 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. “of the spirit...” Christ’s change to immortality then is described in 1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Firstfruits... That means there are others who will follow the same pattern. And so we find the promise of 2 Peter 1:4 is consistent with this: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” So to be a partaker of the divine nature is to live by His spirit, or power.

I think we just have to accept that the OT and the NT accounts of the afterlife are different and take it from there. From what David Boxenhorn says, modern-day Jews cheerfully accept several quite different accounts of the afterlife all at once! I must confess, however, that I don't at all understand how serious Jewish students of scripture can accept belief in an immortal soul in view of the number of times that those same scriptures describe the "nephesh" as mortal. I guess they must place a lot of emphasis on uses of the word "ruach" but Ecclesiastes 3:19 must give them a few difficulties there. That scripure says that animals and people have the same "ruach" ("spirit" or "breath") so Heaven must be overrun with billions of rats, cats and dogs (just for starters). Good if you want to have a chat with a dinosaur or a pterodactyl, I guess. Very confusing!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I have got a lot of correspondence lately that needs reply. I am a bit lost where to start. It's all my own fault, of course. Some time ago, I threatened to put this blog on hiatus unless I got more challenges and questions coming in and I have been busy writing up answers every night since!

Anyway, if you have been reading this blog for long you know that I have a compulsive fascination for that parody of Christianity known as the Church of England -- and its daughter churches, of course. So you will understand why I liked the email below:

"I'm a Christian myself, and my wife is training at seminary for the Anglican church of Canada. We are in the evangelical wing of the ACof C, in a liberal diocese of a liberal (ecclesiastical) country, which for my wife and her fellow students is like signing a lease for an office in the twin towers on Sept 10, except with advance notice of what's coming.

The situation vis a vis looming expulsion from the Communion is for real, but even if that weren't happening the Canadian and US Anglican churches are crashing due to the predictable effects of liberalism. In our diocese our bishop has closed a dozen parishes and has a dozen more on his list, because -- surprise surprise -- nobody is interested in going to a church to hear mushy vacuous liberal piffle, nor will they open their wallets to pay for it.

CS Lewis predicted it all quite neatly back in the 40s, when he told a group of seminary students that if the priest is a liberal he will find he has 2 types of parishioners. The first will be those who disagree with his theology and, since no one wants to have to evangelize ones own priest, will go somewhere else for instruction in their faith. The 2nd will be those who agree with his theology and find it gives them no reason to go to church. The end result will be the same--an empty church".

My advice to my correspondent above was to emigrate to Sydney (Australia). The Sydney diocese still seem to accept the 39 articles and their seminary and churches are packed, of course. They remind us of what the CoE once was. They even evangelize in neighbouring dioceses. Something that gave me a great laugh was when one of their priests set up an evangelical style "family church" (He could not call it an Anglican church) in a neighbouring diocese and soon had huge congregations -- while the bishop of the diocese concerned spend his Sundays in his cathedral preaching to about 6 old ladies in flowered hats! That may be an exaggeration but not by much.

To my mind, one of the saddest events recently in the Anglican Church of Australia was the demonizing of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth. He served in Brisbane for some time so I got to know him a little -- enough to know that he is a true man of God -- which is more than I would say for most of the Anglican episcopate. His service to the church has now been cut short however because of a huge public uproar engineered by the Leftist media. The outrage was over the fact that he insisted on a proper judicial standard of evidence when an accusation of sexual abuse was brought against one of his priests. Apparently priests have to be assumed guilty until proven innocent according to the media.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


A couple of days ago I put up some links to the site of Steve, my Christadelphian correspondent. He has emailed me again since then with some comments about how he became a Christadelphian -- which I thought readers might like to see. He has also put up some scriptural challenges to me that I will deal with one by one over the next few days. So first his biographical notes and then on to some of his exegetical comments:

"I was not born into the Christadelphian community. I was raised Roman Catholic. By late high school I was intellectually and morally very dissatisfied with Catholicism. There were too many mysteries and too much history that showed the corruption and crimes of the Church. What a witness history is... if men would only avail themselves of looking at history! The Church will apologize for the crimes of 'its sons and daughters' but when has it apologized for -- to start with -- the crimes IT committed?

So by late high school I was looking into the Baptists, Methodists, charismatic movements -- really about anything that might have some answers. They were, like the Catholicism I left, religions that were built on tradition, contradiction, convenience and above all feel-goodism. Particularly striking to me about modern Christianity was the corruption of the clergy (cp 1st Joh 4:5) and its reliance on one or two verses wrested to prove their doctrine, whereas the rest of the Bible was ignored. I knew that if there was a God, he would not have so many pious frauds working for Him. Also, there was no serious study of the Bible or history and no attempt to reconcile the two (as to what happened, why it happened, and man's nature).

It was about that time that I met a Christadelphian then started studying things for myself, Bible open. When I saw that Christianity was built on fables as I had previously understood, though instinctively, and that the Bible could be understood in a way that did not contradict itself, that it explained man's nature, and above all, that it gave a purpose for why God created man, why mankind suffers &c -- Num 14:21; Psa 72:19; Matt 6:10; Acts 15:14; Isa 11:55-13 to start with -- it got my attention.

If I had not found the Truth, I would have turned to atheism for the sake of intellectual honesty. That might shock a liberal Christian, but if a person lies to himself, if he loses his own intellectual integrity, though he owned the world, he'd still be the poorest and most miserable man alive.

2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables".

And now for an exegetical challenge: Steve writes:

Regarding 1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. You wrote, "1 Corinthians 15 tells us that there is no flesh and blood in Heaven". That is true but where does the Bible say that men go to heaven, besides Christ? There are a number of verses that would indicate otherwise: (John 1:18, 6:46, 3:13; Pro 30:4; Acts 2:34; Rom 10:6; Exo 33:20).

OK: "No-one has ever seen God" (John 1:18 and John 6:46). This does not say no-one WILL see God. That happens after the resurrection. "No-one has ascended unto heaven .. but the Son" (John 3:13). Again right. That comes after the resurrection. Note, by the way, how that text rules out an immortal soul going straight off to Heaven. "Who has ascended unto Heaven and come down?" (Prov. 30:4). Again that speaks of pre-resurrection times. "David did not ascend into the Heavens" (Acts 2:34). Again: Not yet. "Who will ascend into Heaven?" (Romans 10:6). Again, not yet. "For man shall not see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). YHWH is here explaining to Moses why Moses cannot see him so is clearly referring to physical man not resurrected immortal man.

So that was easy. As for where does the Bible say that men go to Heaven, that is 1 Corinthians 15 for starters. Paul there mostly refers to the post-resurrection spiritual afterlife of the righteous without saying "where" it is for the excellent reason that as a spirit realm it does not have a "where". Towards the end of the passage, however he refers to it as "the Kingdom of God" and if God's abode is not Heaven how do we explain Matthew 24:36, Mark 12:25, Galatians 1:8 and Revelations 10:1 -- all of which say that Heaven is where the Angels live. Aren't the angels part of God's kingdom? And what about Acts 3:21 and Romans 10:6 which say that Heaven is where Jesus is until the Second Coming? And Matthew 5:16 which says, "give glory to your father who is in Heaven" And I guess I don't need to mention the Lord's prayer.

I could go on....