Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunni, Shia, Atonement, the Gospel

In a recent message, my brother Norman provocatively asked:

Does anyone know the difference between a Suni and a Shia? From what I can gather they are lined up against each other in all the mideast. Why can't the Muslims just get along with each other? Of course, if they did, they'd unite against the rest of the world, right?

Sunnis believe the leader of Islam should show an honorable, religious nature, above all other qualities. Shi’as believe the leader should have descended from Muhammad, regardless of how honorable or religious he seems. I agree with the Sunnis. Saddam Hussein adheres to Sunni beliefs, as do most of his faction of followers in Iraq.

I would ask you why Christians didn’t get along with one another during the reformation and rise of Protestantism about 600 years ago, but I know you know the answer, so I won’t ask.

Religion, however crass, base, illogical, or primitive, means “devotion to supreme values.” Those values seem so supreme in the mind of the religionist as to compel one to believe the entire universe should embrace them wholeheartedly.

Let’s take Christianity in general as an example. The bulk of Christians, many of whose antecedents warred against one another over ideology, hold the common belief that

  1. Jesus died on the cross as a human blood sacrifice to atone for man's sins, and that
  2. Accepting that notion on faith somehow washes away their sins and allows them to go to heaven and enjoy eternal relationship with God (be saved), whereas
  3. Not accepting that notion on faith will cause the unbeliever to burn in hell forever.

Many Christians espouse and push that atonement doctrine with all their hearts, stuffing it into every possible sensory orifice of every possible child and adult with all the vigor they can muster. If you argue against the notion, there will be hell to pay. And you never get your pesky questions answered, questions like these:

  1. Since God ordered his children not to murder others as a major tenet of the 10 commandments, why would he break that rule in ordering the sacrificial murder of Jesus?
  2. Why would the Father order a sacrifice of his only begotten son to pay for the sins of others when such an order violates principles of justice and fairness? Isn’t God always fair and just?
  3. If the Father loves his imperfect, sinning children on earth and wants to save them, wouldn’t he love his only begotten sinless son at least as much?
  4. Why would the Father order the death of a being nearly his equal? Since Jesus rose from the dead, doesn’t that put his sacrificial death in the category of a sham? If his death had a sacrificial nature, why didn’t he stay dead?
  5. Isn’t the murdering of a human being as a sacrifice an effort to bribe God so that he will show favor to his children even though they do not deserve it? Can we bribe God?
  6. Doesn’t the offer of a sacrifice to God as a bribe to keep him from punishing us sort of turn God into some kind of divine Mafia Chief?
  7. If God is “no respecter of persons” why would he accept any bribe or sacrifice at all for any reason?
  8. Didn’t Jesus show disdain for the concept of sacrifice by overturning the moneychangers’ tables, driving sacrificial beasts out of the temple, shunning sacrificial meat at his Passover feasts, and saying “love is greater than all the burnt offerings”?
  9. What need or want could God have for sacrifice if he already has everything he wants and needs?
  10. How can belief in sacrifice make man able to have relationship with God when at least 18 different bible scriptures clearly state that the Spirit of God indwells our minds? What could be closer than that? How can any other relationship possibly compare to our Father’s individuated presence in the human mind?
  11. Didn’t Jesus teach in Matthew 6:14 and 15 that if you forgive the sins of others, your Father will forgive yours, but if you don’t, he won’t? Doesn’t this mean your forgiving others earns your Father’s forgiveness, even if you don’t believe the death of Jesus had a sacrificial nature? Doesn’t it also mean that even if you believe the death of Jesus had a sacrificial nature, you will not have your Father’s forgiveness so long as you refuse to forgive others who have sinned against you?
  12. Didn’t Jesus teach in Luke 10:25-28 that if you love God and your fellow humans you live forever (you go to heaven after you die)? Doesn’t that stand true even if you don’t believe Jesus’ death had a sacrificial nature?
  13. Didn’t Jesus say he was sent to this world in order to teach the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
  14. If so, how does the concept of his sacrificial death fit into that gospel when Jesus taught the gospel early in his ministry, but never mentioned his death till over 3 years into his public ministry, and even then he told the apostles to stay quiet about it?
  15. If the purpose of Jesus’ life on this world was to die a sacrificial death, why didn’t he teach about that atonement doctrine throughout his public ministry instead of NEVER mentioning it publicly, not even once?
  16. If the belief in the sacrificial death of Jesus was so important to man’s salvation, why didn’t Jesus say so on the morning of Pentecost when he gave his apostles his final orders before ascending into Heaven?
  17. Why did Jesus tell his apostles to go into all the world teach all he had commanded, and to spread his gospel to every creature, when neither his commands nor his gospel contained any words of reference to the atonement doctrine?

Many related questions exist which, answered honestly from the scriptures, will reveal, as do the answers to those questions above, the utter falsehood of the atonement doctrine. Very simply, Jesus never taught it, and he ignored it in giving the Great Commission to his apostles to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not the atonement doctrine.

On the morning of Pentecost, Jesus delivered his Great Commission then disappeared from view for the last time during the apostles’ earth lives. And yet, that very afternoon, Peter forgot everything Jesus had said when he took the people in the upper room to the temple court and preached his fireball sermon on the history of the Hebrews, how they had killed their prophets and killed Jesus too, and the importance of the fact of the “risen Christ.” Peter did not mention a single fact about the Gospel of the Kingdom ofGod Jesus had labored so prodigiously and against such immense political opposition for more than 4 years to teach to the apostles and other followers and listeners.

Behavior like Peter's causes false beliefs to spread like wildfire. Bombastic but misguided orators alter the original truth to something of their own creation because of what they think has importance or relevance, ignoring what their master taught them. The apostle Paul carried the error even further by replacing the Gospel with his own personal religious philosophy – the atonement doctrine, something Jesus never taught.

And, if we’re honest about it, we must admit that the atonement doctrine propounded by nearly all Christian churches drives away people of good education and common sense. Just one byproduct of the focus on the atonement doctrine rather than on Jesus’ Gospel of devotion to the principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man (Norman and I call it FOGBOM – don’t bother, I already own the main domain names) lies in the religion of Islam. Islam still does focus on good things, in spite of horrible aspects like the insane belief that dying in holy jihad while battling infidels earns earthly treasures in heaven. Those good things include focus on devotion to God (praying 5 times a day), doing God’s will, helping the poor and downtrodden (like orphans and widows) through the poor tax, and religiously adhering to the specific teachings of their Prophet.

If Christians adhered as strongly to the specific teachings of Jesus, most likely Islam would never have started because missionaries would have taken the real gospel to Muhammad, and he would have become a greater proponent of the Gospel. As it is, he warned all Muslims in his recital (the Koran) to heed the gospel, the REAL gospel, even though he did not know what it was. Sadly, most Christians don't know either. Don't worry, if you can't enumerate the points of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, you will soon have a remedy for that problem.

I personally believe adherence to the atonement doctrine and other religious delusions of the apostle Paul set back the spread of Jesus’ real gospel at least 1500 years. As a result the world contains 2 billion Christians and a billion Muslims instead of 3 or 4 billion Jesusonians or Gospeleers. And the world faces daily and terrible crises at the hands of a violent, vituperative minority of Muslims who rush headlong for the destruction of the West and all infidels (including Christians and Jews) who resist Islam.

We would probably be right to blame that on Paul, but at least we can say Christianity did spread to 2 Billion because of the few teachings of Jesus that manage to peek through the shroud of the atonement doctrine. And that’s a good thing. Maybe Paul meant well, and maybe not. I feel inclined to give him rave reviews in his methods, and the benefit of the doubt as to his motives, but I have no doubt that he screwed up, big-time, in the content of his message.

Nevertheless, I believe Christianity faces a renaissance sometime in the next couple of hundred years as its leaders resurrect the real gospel from the bog Peter and Paul tossed it in nearly 2000 years ago, and breathe new life and liberty into it. Maybe a new kind of John the Baptist will arise to bring the Gospel back to the forefront of Christianity where it belongs.

I know that will happen. It’s only a matter of time.

Just remember that Christianity had a 600-year head-start on Islam, and it began from the enlightened teachings of a brilliant Son of God to flourish in the western centers of learning and culture and experienced birth amidst Jews who had 2,000 years of history in the growth and stabilizing of their religion. By contrast, Islam got started from the expressions of the illiterate orphan Muhammad who claimed a visionary connection to Gabriel (not to the Father himself, as did Jesus) in an exceedingly backward and primitive area of the world where the people still worshipped the moon and multiple deities.


Muslim factions fight now somewhat like Christian factions fought 600 years ago. Give Islam another 600 years to catch up, and it will reform itself significantly, as did Christianity.

Let us hope Christianity also reforms itself by resurrecting and putting at the forefront of their religious philosophy the Gospel of Jesus, obliterating the abhorrent and illogical atonement doctrine (no offense intended, but a spade is after all a spade).

And now, as a little treat for those of you with some curiosity as to how you can precisely enumerate the tenets of the Gospel, I present this excerpt from the very end of Paper 140 of my favorite book of religious truth. I encourage all of you truth-seekers and gospel advocates to memorize it, for it contains the very heart and soul of Jesus’ mission on and to this world.

The Urantia Book, page 1585.

This same evening Thomas asked Jesus: "Master, you say that we must become as little children before we can gain entrance to the Father's kingdom, and yet you have warned us not to be deceived by false prophets nor to become guilty of casting our pearls before swine. Now, I am honestly puzzled. I cannot understand your teaching." Jesus replied to Thomas: "How long shall I bear with you! Ever you insist on making literal all that I teach. When I asked you to become as little children as the price of entering the kingdom, I referred not to ease of deception, mere willingness to believe, nor to quickness to trust pleasing strangers. What I did desire that you should gather from the illustration was the child-father relationship. You are the child, and it is your Father's kingdom you seek to enter. There is present that natural affection between every normal child and its father which insures an understanding and loving relationship, and which forever precludes all disposition to bargain for the Father's love and mercy. And the gospel you are going forth to preach has to do with a salvation growing out of the faith-realization of this very and eternal child-father relationship."

The one characteristic of Jesus' teaching was that the morality of his philosophy originated in the personal relation of the individual to God--this very child-father relationship. Jesus placed emphasis on the individual, not on the race or nation. While eating supper, Jesus had the talk with Matthew in which he explained that the morality of any act is determined by the individual's motive. Jesus' morality was always positive. The golden rule as restated by Jesus demands active social contact; the older negative rule could be obeyed in isolation. Jesus stripped morality of all rules and ceremonies and elevated it to majestic levels of spiritual thinking and truly righteous living.

This new religion of Jesus was not without its practical implications, but whatever of practical political, social, or economic value there is to be found in his teaching is the natural outworking of this inner experience of the soul as it manifests the fruits of the spirit in the spontaneous daily ministry of genuine personal religious experience.

After Jesus and Matthew had finished talking, Simon Zelotes asked, "But, Master, are all men the sons of God?" And Jesus answered: "Yes, Simon, all men are the sons of God, and that is the good news you are going to proclaim." But the apostles could not grasp such a doctrine; it was a new, strange, and startling announcement. And it was because of his desire to impress this truth upon them that Jesus taught his followers to treat all men as their brothers.

In response to a question asked by Andrew, the Master made it clear that the morality of his teaching was inseparable from the religion of his living. He taught morality, not from the nature of man, but from the relation of man to God.

John asked Jesus, "Master, what is the kingdom of heaven?" And Jesus answered: "The kingdom of heaven consists in these three essentials: first, recognition of the fact of the sovereignty of God; second, belief in the truth of sonship with God; and third, faith in the effectiveness of the supreme human desire to do the will of God--to be like God. And this is the good news of the gospel: that by faith every mortal may have all these essentials of salvation."

# # #

6 comments:

Rogers Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rogers Meredith said...

Since God ordered his children not to murder others as a major tenet of the 10 commandments, why would he break that rule in ordering the sacrificial murder of Jesus?

Rogers: This is simple equivocation. YWHW most surely allowed killing in times of war and also instituted the death penalty. Jesus death on the cross was the sacrifice of a willing victim.


Why would the Father order a sacrifice of his only begotten son to pay for the sins of others when such an order violates principles of justice and fairness? Isn’t God always fair and just?




Rogers: He would have been fair and just to completely wipe out sinful humanity. Instead He was merciful and bore the penalty for sin Himself, in the death of Christ the second person of the Trinity.


If the Father loves his imperfect, sinning children on earth and wants to save them, wouldn’t he love his only begotten sinless son at least as much?

Rogers: The sacrifice of His Son is completely consistent with this.


Why would the Father order the death of a being nearly his equal?

Rogers: Christ submitted to the will of His Father and did not count His equality with The Father something to be grasped at (Phil.2).

Since Jesus rose from the dead, doesn’t that put his sacrificial death in the category of a sham?

Rogers: No Jesus resurrection from the dead proved His sinless-ness (death could not hold Him) and vindicated His obedience to The Father

If his death had a sacrificial nature, why didn’t he stay dead?

Rogers: See above


Isn’t the murdering of a human being as a sacrifice an effort to bribe God so that he will show favor to his children even though they do not deserve it? Can we bribe God?

Rogers: No Jesus is both fully human and fully God. The death of a mere man could not satisfy justice for the sin of Adam was a sin against an eternal God.

Doesn’t the offer of a sacrifice to God as a bribe to keep him from punishing us sort of turn God into some kind of divine Mafia Chief?

Rogers: No sacrifice satisfies justice. Is the paying of a parking ticket a bribe?

If God is “no respecter of persons” why would he accept any bribe or sacrifice at all for any reason?

Rogers: See above.

Didn’t Jesus show disdain for the concept of sacrifice by overturning the moneychangers’ tables, driving sacrificial beasts out of the temple, shunning sacrificial meat at his Passover feasts, and saying “love is greater than all the burnt offerings”?

Rogers: Sacrifice is a matter of the heart. The money changers problem was a heart problem.


What need or want could God have for sacrifice if he already has everything he wants and needs?

Rogers: YHWH did not "need" a sacrifice but consistent with His nature He demanded one.

How can belief in sacrifice make man able to have relationship with God when at least 18 different bible scriptures clearly state that the Spirit of God indwells our minds?

Rogers: Not apart from faith which is a gift from God. You are putting the horse before the cart and taking scripture out of context.

What could be closer than that? How can any other relationship possibly compare to our Father’s individuated presence in the human mind?

Rogers: The Spirit indwells only the believer.

Didn’t Jesus teach in Matthew 6:14 and 15 that if you forgive the sins of others, your Father will forgive yours, but if you don’t, he won’t? Doesn’t this mean your forgiving others earns your Father’s forgiveness, even if you don’t believe the death of Jesus had a sacrificial nature?

Rogers: No forgiveness is always understood and can never be divorced from the covenant context.

Doesn’t it also mean that even if you believe the death of Jesus had a sacrificial nature, you will not have your Father’s forgiveness so long as you refuse to forgive others who have sinned against you?

Rogers: If you have not the one the other is impossible.

Didn’t Jesus teach in Luke 10:25-28 that if you love God and your fellow humans you live forever (you go to heaven after you die)? Doesn’t that stand true even if you don’t believe Jesus’ death had a sacrificial nature?

Rogers:
No.
Didn’t Jesus say he was sent to this world in order to teach the gospel of the Kingdom of God?
If so, how does the concept of his sacrificial death fit into that gospel when Jesus taught the gospel early in his ministry, but never mentioned his death till over 3 years into his public ministry, and even then he told the apostles to stay quiet about it?

Rogers: Untrue.

If the purpose of Jesus’ life on this world was to die a sacrificial death, why didn’t he teach about that atonement doctrine throughout his public ministry instead of NEVER mentioning it publicly, not even once?

Rogers: He most surely did.

If the belief in the sacrificial death of Jesus was so important to man’s salvation, why didn’t Jesus say so on the morning of Pentecost when he gave his apostles his final orders before ascending into Heaven?

Rogers: He had already done that see; Luke 24ff.

Why did Jesus tell his apostles to go into all the world teach all he had commanded, and to spread his gospel to every creature, when neither his commands nor his gospel contained any words of reference to the atonement doctrine?

Rogers: Not true see above.

Rogers Meredith said...

You migh want to join the discourse found here:

http://www.reformationsuperhighway.com/viewthread.php?tid=1198

Rogers Meredith said...

Still no reply? C'mon Bob......
Why won't the spacemen help you out? Maybe they are asleep or in the bathroom....

Rogers Meredith said...

Bob,
You sound so very wise in your comments but when a Christain minister stands or seeks to stand toe to toe to you in defense of the faith you are silent. Where are your convictions? Where is your desire for the truth?

Bob Hurt said...

Rogers Meredith, I did not see your comments until today, more than a year after you wrote them. Must have happened because of a huge email backlog on my end.

I consider the bulk of your assertions as specious arguments born of falacious reasoning and ignoring facts of Jesus's direct, unequivocal teachings.

I personally believe The Urantia Book gives people the most enlightened and accurate rendering of Jesus' life and teachings, for it does logically and spiritually deal with the fallacies of the atonement doctrine. So, I encourage you to read that last third of the Urantia Book before engaging me in debate.

However, one does not need the Urantia Book to grasp the gospel message of FOGBOM that Jesus both taught and lived. You should attend to Jesus' direct and unequivocal teachings as documented in the red words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, even though they suffer from inaccuracies in recording and rendering. Read and absorb these, at a minumum:

Matthew 6:14-15
Luke 10:25-28
John 3:16

In these Jesus claims that

1. if you forgive others of their sins against you, your Heavenly Father forgives yours, but if you don't he won't.

2. If you love God and your fellow humans, you will live forever (in Heaven and beyond, of course)

3. If you believe Jesus' teachings (embrace your sonship with God) and his authority to teach (the equivalent of "believeth on me") you will have eternal life (in Heaven and beyond, of course).

Bottom line, you either believe those words of Jesus or you don't. If you believe them, then you embrace the gospel he taught and lived, and you are saved. If you don't, then you have preoccupied your thinking with squirrelly beliefs that, pursued to their depths, take you to some other destiny, or at best take you on a time-wasting rabbit hunt into some oblivion from which you might never return

I personally believe that fundamentalist Christians' embrace and propounding of the atonement doctrine leads people astray because it involves them in illogical conclusions about the mission of Jesus to this world and the nature of God and man's relationship to God. In the final analysis, such people can get to Heaven, not for the abhorrent reasons they think, but because they merely want to go to Heaven and someday become like God. They just waste a lot of time in the process, and they delude others by focusing them on the nonsensical atonement doctrine rather than on the gospel Jesus taught.

In due course I might take all of the points in your challenge and deal with them in more detail, but as a lot I have already given them more attention than they deserve. Meanwhile, I encourage you to read The Urantia Book (download your own Windows Help File version at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ubees/files/urantia.chm), and start heeding the direct teachings of Jesus from the red words in the bible which you probably think you already believe.

Bob Hurt