#0099 “God forgive you!” reprise
Scripture relevant to today’s posting…
31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Matt. 12: 31-32 (KJV)
Today I am beginning a series of postings that will end up in my new book. Just like the last series: Hierarchy vs. egalitarian communities I am writing this material as I go. With this in mind the material is rough-hewn in many ways and will be undergoing further editing before it finds its way into the book. As I am writing the concepts today I want to emphasize that my intention isn’t to defame religious men and women who are in the ministry who tend to propagate the Bible and the scriptures as the Word of God. Even though I assert that such misrepresentation of the Bible as The Word of God—though unintentional—is still blaspheming the Holy Ghost whenever it’s done attempting to sell this idea to their parishioners and others. My hope is that readers will try to consider why I make such a statement before dismissing it as a concept that is much too radical for conventional Christian ears. Remember the thrust of the new book is finding a new Christian narrative; one which is firmly based in the Bible, especially in the teachings of Jesus.
Words of the Bible vs. the WORD
In the gospel of John he says this….
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 1:1-5 (KJV)
The Bible is like a Charlton Heston movie depiction of God. Think of this movie in a VHS video format: it can be fast-forwarded or rewound to any particular part of the story; it can be freeze-framed, frame-by-frame advanced or slow-motion reversed to view scenes in a variety of ways. It’s got Dolby surround sound and it was filmed in 70 mm super cinemascope and Technicolor. The story features an all-star cast including 1000s of extras. Because of these features, viewers are fooled into thinking there is much detail and many options available to them in this dazzling presentation of the story of God. But as awesome as this production is, it has some inherent draw-backs with it. This story is only available to them (or anyone) in theaters; the plot is always the same and many of the characters conjure mental pictures of bygone actors such as: Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Charlton Heston. The content of this movie keeps looping over and over again in heater houses throughout the world and this has been going on for centuries. People of religion are trapped inside one of these theaters and, in a way are themselves stuck inside that looping movie. This is a metaphor; but it paints a picture of what the stories and doctrines (a.k.a.: the words of the Bible) bring to the spiritual table. The narrative they tell is designed to draw people into its hypnotic refrain and plant it deep into the heads and hearts of the movie-goers (parishioners or members).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the street is the WORD. Unlike the words of the Bible which are constantly looping over and over again drawing into their vortex the unwitting and the unsuspecting; the WORD is delivered within a whole different kind of format and is conducted on a different kind of frequency of energy. Both the format and the energy are emitted from the Omnipresent throne of God. In contrast to the metaphoric looping VHS tape; the WORD is the “live-streaming” revelation of the Holy Ghost. Using it we humans are able to receive up-to-the-minute updates from God in both our own life perspective and in our shared worldwide community perspective. With it we can unlock God’s authentic mind, heart and nature and tap into it for real-time guidance, inspiration and sense of interconnectedness among human beings!
The collection of written words that make up the Bible in its present form is not the same as the WORD—not even close. Religious ministers are often heard presenting the Bible in a way which strongly infers that it IS. This position is misleading and worse; it’s blasphemy. This sounds like a harsh and over-the-top assessment of the situation; however, I assure you it’s not. As participants of one particular Christian faith community or other, we have heard our priest, pastor or minister refer to the Bible as the Word of God. We may have known our pastor, priest or minister for a long time and know him/her to be a good and faithful person—someone who would never blatantly speak against God, let alone intentionally blaspheme the Holy Ghost. But, even though these ministers are unaware of what they are doing; it doesn’t mean it’s not what’s happening. There’s an old adage which says: The road to hell is paved with good intentions; well, that’s the kind of situation we have here. What’s God’s take on this? He still loves these people just like He still loves all of His children. He can’t do otherwise, because He’s God and that’s how He rolls. We will talk more about the blasphemy factor in a little bit; however before we can do that, we must go deeper into a discussion about the unconditional love component of God’s nature. To help us get into it, let’s revisit the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant…
23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. 25Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
Matt 18: 23-27 (CEB)
The traditional interpretation tends to focus on the end of this parable; however I think the above section tells us something very profound and revealing about God’s divine nature. What comes later in the story speaks about the frailty of humanity and it doesn’t say anything really new or inspirational. We will look at that part in a minute but before we do, we must come to grips with this first, foundational piece of the story. Let’s begin by asking a few questions. These questions have to be hypothetical because this is a parable which is, by its very nature, hypothetical. There are no definitive answers; but the questions and their hypothetical answers should be logical and consistent with the story. If they are—the lessons Jesus is trying to get across to us readers will present themselves…
- How did this servant get himself so far into debt?
- Why did the master let him get so far into debt before calling in the loan?
- Why did the master respond with such brutality: demanding that the man’s wife, family and all his possessions be sold so that the proceeds would go towards the repayment of the debt?
- What made the master (God) change His mind and forgive the debt altogether?
- Which aspect of the master’s response conveys His authentic nature—the brutal taskmaster or the benevolent and forgiving philanthropist?
The key to understanding Jesus’s lesson about this parable is riding on what answer we come up with for question #5. The answer might also bring insight into this the matter of blaspheming the Holy Ghost.
We’ll pick it up from there…next time.
If you have a question or a comment about this or other postings please feel free to send them in. As usual, thanks for reading.
TBC: Wednesday, June15, 2016