Missing the point on Matthew 25

I find several common themes of those who reflexively quote Matthew 25 (“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”).  It is a great passage that many sound teachers use properly, but false teachers abuse it regularly.  It is the pet verse of the Leftist writers and commenters at the Sojourners’ blog but they never get it right.

1. They don’t speak up for the 3,000+ of “least of these” who get killed in the womb every day because they are unwanted by their parents. They support the party whose platform calls for more abortions via taxpayer-funding. Who could be more vulnerable than those being killed for being unwanted?  If they applied this properly then they are killing Jesus in effigy by supporting abortions.

2. They don’t understand the context of Matthew 25: It is written to brothers and sisters — i.e., fellow believers — those in the church, not everyone else.

3. They think that lobbying Caesar to take from neighbor A by force to “give” to neighbor B qualifies as obeying Matthew 25. But take that to its logical conclusion: Would it qualify as obeying to lobby the government to make other people visit those in prison on your behalf, as also mentioned in that passage? Of course not. Jesus told you to do those things yourself.

4. They don’t read to the end of the chapter, because they typically deny this part:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left,‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  . . .45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Do all those quoting Matthew 25 to justify forced wealth redistribution as a Christian act also affirm the truth of eternal punishment?

Do they think He will really return and glory and make a final judgment of people?

If you want to argue it is good public policy to do certain things, then feel free. But that is not what Matthew 25 means.

Matthew 25:31–46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Tony Campolo still teaching falsehoods

Via Campolo Praises United Methodist Political Lobby – Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD).

Commenting on homosexuality, Campolo said: “’Love the sinner and hate the sin.’ Kind of makes you puke, doesn’t it?…Love the sinner and hate your own sin.”

That’s a typical false argument.  The question being debated is whether it is a sin.  It is no more judgmental to say it is a sin than to say it isn’t.  We do hate our own sins.  We just aren’t going around saying that our sins aren’t sins, and that the church must change their definition of our sins or we’ll protest their conventions and split  denominations.

Keep in mind that it wasn’t like oxymoronic “same-sex marriage” was the norm in churches, other religions and atheistic countries for the past couple thousand years and then the mean old Bible-believers came along to spoil things.  The false teachers brought this up, not us.

He warned: “Just to discuss it drives people out of your churches into fundamental independent churches—perhaps independent of God.”

That’s ironic!  They are making a god in their own image and then judging independent churches of being without God?  Indeed.

Anyone claiming to be a “Red letter Christian” needs milk, not meat.  The original writings were all red letters in the sense that they turned out the way Jesus wanted them to.  Matthew’s account of Jesus is no more authoritative than Paul’s.

Read the entire link if you have the stomach for it.

Where do they get these things?

A theological liberal made the following comment on this massive thread:

As to the documents, I prefer the oldest and assumed to be the most authentic of the 4 gospels, Mark, from which the others drew a lot of material. It was placed second in order behind Matthew, however, by the patriarchs, in hopes that it would be less often read, and it has worked out that way. Because as you know, it ends with the execution of Jesus for threatening the state with his teachings–there is no resurrection. That part was added at a later time.

I responded with the following points.

1. Christians know that all the Gospels are authentic.

2. If the early church was trying to hide the Gospel of Mark, they would have left it out, not “hidden” it behind Matthew.

3. The resurrection is in the earliest manuscripts of Mark. The potentially late additions are verses 9-20 (just check your footnotes).

And He didn’t threaten the Roman state with his teachings.  He was brought to the Romans by the Jewish leaders.

Regarding Paul, she said:

To his credit, he never even claimed to have known Jesus, only to have had visions about him during his mysterious spasms.

Where does she get her biblical information?  Does she have documentation for her claim that the patriarchs were trying to hide Mark, or is that just groundless speculation?

It is sad that she has been so wildly misinformed. I encourage her and others to actually read what the Bible says instead of just repeating sound bites from their “pastors.”

Thoughts on tithing: Something to offend everyone!

money2.jpg

It is stewardship campaign season so I wanted to rerun this post from 2008, which had an interesting comment thread.  I’m also adding this link describing a plan for giving generously.  The four suggestions were simple and excellent.  One that has worked well for us is the Lifestyle Cap:

Lifestyle cap.  As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving? 

Living below your means — not just within them — is a great place to be.  As you cap your lifestyle in terms of cars, housing, clothes, vacations, etc. you’ll be amazed how much more you have to give and save.

—–

I have mixed views on the Biblical concept of tithing.  On the one hand, I think 10% is a nice, round number and a great amount for people to give.

But I don’t see New Testament support to make it a requirement for Christians, and I see many preachers take Old Testament verses that were just for the Israelites and project them onto the New Testament.  The only NT passage that I am aware of that mentions tithing is Matthew 23:23, and that was to point out the hypocrisy of the listeners (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former”).

Also, 10% was not the upper limit for the Israelites.  My guess is that many of the people reading this could give more than that.  We’re in the richest 2% of people who ever lived, and I think that as a country we’re wasting a huge opportunity to put our wealth towards advancing the Gospel and his kingdom around the world.

Some think they can’t afford to tithe, though God expected the poorest Israelite to give 10%.  If you really want to give 10%, you can find a way.  Think of it this way: If your boss cut your pay 10%, what would you do - die?

And the hypothetical wage cut figure really isn’t 10%, since your contributions are tax deductible.  Roughly speaking, going from 0% giving to 10% would reduce your spending by roughly 8% or less.  And if you are already giving, say, 5%, then it would only impact you by 4% of your income.

Most importantly, I really don’t like to over-emphasize anything that might turn giving into a legalistic enterprise, because that can take the fun out of it.  Giving should be joyful!

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Yet if we really believe what Jesus said and don’t consider this next passage just a sound bite, our giving habits will reach into eternity.  Right after we die I think we’ll have some serious regrets about how we handled our money much of the time, and some serious joy over the good decisions we made.

Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Is that enough of a contradiction for everyone?  How do you help turn people on to the joys of giving without making it legalistic and burdensome?

Don’t be slaves to the 10% target, but don’t assume you are limited by it, either.  You may be able to give much more.  Are you taking advantage of the opportunity you have in this life to help advance God’s kingdom?

And when you give, give intentionally and give to God first.  Don’t give him what is left over.

P.S. Here’s a good article on why the often-used example of Abraham is not a good justification for requiring tithing.

Are you sure about that?

I enjoyed this post at Pyromaniacs: (Less) tersely put: omniscience and certainty revisited, where the subject of certainty was discussed.  I hope you read it all.  Many theological liberal / “emergent” types are ironically certain that we can’t be certain about things.  But there are core things about God that a professed believer could only miss by trying very hard.  And oh, how they do try to miss them!

To profess certainty, non-Christians must feign omniscience.

Christians begin with the confession that they (1) do not possess omniscience, but (2) are by grace confidants of the only one who does possess it.

Thus Christians alone not only can be, but are obliged to be, humbly certain.

. . .

“Thus Christians alone not only can be, but are obliged to be, humbly certain.” The Christian, insofar as he actually practices the faith he professes, necessarily affirms the inerrancy of Scripture as the very word of God. In so doing, he claims to possess a revelation from the only one who actually does know and understand absolutely everything that exists, since He is the Creator of absolutely everything that  exists.

Ironically, however, there are those who (A) claim to be Christian, but (B) choose to feign uncertainty on unpopular issues where the Bible is pretty clear.

Return to the subject of homosexuality. The Bible really is univocal on that particular behavior (e.g. Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). As it is on wifely submission (e.g. Eph. 5:22, 24). Or the exclusivity of Christ and His Gospel (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12). Or the reality of eternal conscious torment of the lost in Hell (Matt. 25:41, 46).

These are not murky penumbras, but clear doctrines. Not that a devoted opponent cannot fabricate some murk; it is axiomatic that great distance from the Word necessarily creates greater murkiness (Isa. 8:20). Any clear statement can be smudged… including this one. But the professed believer who adopts a pose of tentativeness on such issues is in the precise-reverse position of the unbeliever who adopts the pose of certitude.

If you come across “leaders” whose message is that you shouldn’t be certain, then you can be certain about one thing: You shouldn’t follow them.

Somewhere Greg Koukl is smiling . . .

Never read a Bible verse is one of the simplest and most important Bible study lessons you’ll ever get.  Always read what surrounds the text to ensure you understand the context of it.  I expanded on that theme in a class I taught to high school students a couple months ago.  One challenge with that age group they are hard to read.  They sit there politely, but often it is hard to tell if they are really engaged.

But I got some nice news today: One of the students loved the lesson and shared it with her mom.  Her mom got a lot out of it and shared it with someone at Care Net Pregnancy Center, who may use it there.  So the benefits of this lesson spread out quickly and effectively without me knowing about it until today.  Sometimes you just have to trust the process.  Sow the seed generously and let God make it grow where He likes.

I also picked up a new thought on the importance of reading in context.  I had already noted in the lesson below how often Jeremiah 29:11 is misused.  But in talking to the Care Net volunteer today I realized another problem with it that I added:

Also, deep down people know that is a false promise.  Try telling that to someone who has seen nothing but misery in the lives of those around her.  How can she believe in a God like that?

If you haven’t checked out the web site, blog or Podcast of Stand to Reason I highly encourage it.  It is the best organization I know for clear thinking Christianity.

Here is my outline from the class.

——

How to read in context: Don’t just read a Bible verse (a great slogan and lesson from Stand to Reason – http://www.str.org).  Always read at least a paragraph, and preferably a section or a chapter.  Looking at what came before and after will help ensure you are getting the right meaning.

A simple and effective way to read the Bible
  • Read it – 1-3 chapters (less for doctrine, more for history)
  • Question it
    • What portion stands out to me?  Why?
    • Is there an example for me to follow?
    • Is there an error for me to avoid?
    • Is there a duty for me to perform?
    • Is there a promise for me to claim?
    • Is there a sin for me to confess?
    • What does it not mean?  (If a difficult passage says the opposite of other more clear teachings, you know what it can’t mean)
    • Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
    • Pray it – pray scripture back to God
    • Share it – helps others, and helps us to remember it

We should read it in the way the authors intended it, depending on the context and type of writing.

  • When was it written?
  • Who was it written by / to?
  • Type of writing
    • History
    • Metaphor / illustrations / parables
    • Doctrine
    • Poetry
    • Figures of speech – i.e., exaggerations

Important points about reading in context

  • We don’t like to admit we’ve made mistakes, so we hold onto bad interpretations
    • Solution: Swallow your pride, get it right and remember to read in context next time.  For the record, I have misused every verse in this lesson.  Some mistakes are more serious than others.
    • We have all been guilty of reading out of context.  Our choice is to dig in our heels and continue to use it incorrectly or humbly accept and use the correct teaching.  2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
    • God can forgive this error just like He delights to forgive everything else done by those who trust in Jesus.
    • Fear of getting it wrong
      • Reading in context isn’t that hard to do!  Don’t be afraid of misinterpreting – just read surrounding passages and study notes.
      • We have an important point we want to make and we can’t use that verse for it any more
        • Find another passage to prove the point you wanted to make.
        • If you can’t find another verse to support it, maybe your point isn’t valid or particularly important.
        • Once you get it right, don’t be smug about it.  You’ll need to bite your tongue a lot and only correct people inappropriate settings and ways (e.g., Bible studies, one-on-one, etc.).
        • Great news: Even though you may have misunderstood the meaning, it still has a meaning – and it may be better than the one you thought it had!

Sample passages – the part in bold is what is frequently used out of context.  Note how just reading a couple surrounding verses shows the real meaning.

 Even one of the most famous verses ever gets misused.  Not everyone goes to Heaven – only those who trust in Jesus.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most commonly misused passages.  It isn’t about achieving great sporting victories or leaping tall buildings.

 Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

 You only have to go back ½ of one verse to get the context.  Paul has a secret!  A secret about what?  A secret about how to be content in every situation.  It is a great message – actually, much better than the typical application.

And another very commonly misused verse is Jeremiah 29:11.  I see this abused on a regular basis in sermons, on t-shirts, signs, etc.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4, 10-11 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .  This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 There is actually a great message in Jeremiah 29:11: God makes huge promises and keeps them.  The Israelites had been taken into captivity because of their rebellion and worship of false gods, but God promised to bring them back.  And He did.  But He did not make a generic promise to all people and at all times to prosper them.

People even throw that verse at non-believers, but that would give them a false sense of security.  God’s message to them is the opposite.  If they don’t repent and believe, his plans for them are horrible!

Also, deep down people know that is a false promise.  Try telling that to someone who has seen nothing but misery in the lives of those around her.  How can she believe in a God like that?

If you want to encourage people, try Matthew 11:28-30 instead (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”)  That points them to the Jesus.

Both Christians and non-Christians abuse Matthew 7:1.  Jesus isn’t saying to never judge, He is saying not to judge hypocritically.

Matthew 7:1-5 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

People have used Matthew 5:39 to oppose capital punishment.  But it is hard to turn the other cheek when you are dead, and it is unjust for the government to “turn the other cheek.”  It would mean that we’d never punish anyone for anything.

Matthew 5:39  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Christians often use Matthew 18:20 reflexively when talking about praying together, but is Jesus not there with you when you are by yourself?

Matthew 18:15–20 (ESV) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. . . . And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

The part in bold makes people squirm.  Reading the whole passage helps put it in perspective.   I doubt many wives will complain about husbands who love them as Christ loves the church.

Ephesians 5:22–33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself . . . “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” . . . However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Malachi 3:8 gets misused a lot in stewardship campaigns.  Robbing God?!  That can’t be good.  But it is not a New Testament concept (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.).

Malachi 3:6–10 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

False teacher profile

I realize it is a risk to feed a narcissistic, attention-loving personality, but I am posting this as a public service.  While Dan Trabue is a small-time false teacher, he uses my blog to go to other sites to share his false beliefs.  He is predictably disingenuous, but it is very time consuming to replay the same conversations over and over.  Comment threads can literally go into the hundreds when refuting him.  He uses the same basic script, posing as an otherwise-orthodox Bible-believing Christian who was dragged kicking and screaming to his current pro-gay theological positions.  But the truth is something quite different.  He delivers a deceptive fallacy-fest on many topics.

Not surprisingly, he bears false witness about me by claiming I bear false witness about him.  Here’s what I mean: He knows he continued to comment at my site after being told to stop, that he continued to email me after being told to stop and continued to follow me to blogs and reply to me after being told to stop — and he even wrote my pastor!  These are all facts of history that he lies about in trying to claim slander, gossip and false witness — but of course he’s the one slandering, gossiping and bearing false witness.

Now before you act surprised, remember that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing doing the work of Satan.  Of course he won’t doesn’t mind lying about these things.

What is amusing is that when I post a link to this page after Dan denies my simple request and replies to me on blogs he has followed me to, he tries to claim I’m bearing false witness.  But his replies prove my point.  I made one more attempt to get Dan to stop bothering me by posting this at another site.  It only took an hour for him to ignore my simple request and prove my point about him.

Dan: “Where is the love? Where is the grace?
I sadly rebuke you in the name of Christ our Lord.”

Neil: Thoroughly documented blog-stalking false teacher Dan Trabue claims that he views me as a brother in Christ and loves me. When one considers how love manifests itself, it usually involves some sort of sacrifice — giving of time, giving of money, or sacrificing health, safety or even life itself. At least that’s how Christians throughout the century showed love.

Now carefully consider what I have asked Dan Trabue to do to show his “love”: Nothing. Literally nothing. I don’t mean I didn’t ask him anything. I did ask make a request of him: Do nothing. Do not comment on my blog, do not email me, do not reply to me on other blogs.

So has Dan the “loving, tolerant brother-in-Christ” demonstrated his love by adhering to my simple request to do nothing? Nope. He continually responds to my comments even though I never address him.

So here we are once again, wasting valuable time because Dan cannot perform what is literally the easiest request ever made in the history of the universe: Don’t reply to my blog comments.

So prove me wrong, Dan. Don’t respond to this comment or to any other comment I ever make, and I’ll do the same for you. What could be easier? Just do nothing and you will have exhibited the tiniest amount of evidence that you can accommodate the simplest and easier request for love ever.

If you type so much as an “OK” in response or if you ever reply to me again then I’ll update the post on my blog and re-post it, noting how “loving” Dan Trabue literally couldn’t bring himself to do nothing in response to a request from someone he insists is a brother-in-Christ to him. (If you want to complain about me on your blog, then by all means do that. I don’t read it so I don’t care. I just don’t want to interact with you, ever.)

Will you comply with the easiest request in the history of man to give the slighest bit of evidence of your alleged love, or will you prove yourself a hypocrite for all time? Your call! I’m good either way.

Most authentic Christian blogs ban Dan once they figure him out, though some perform a great public service and keep him engaged and limit the damage he does elsewhere (sort of like how engaging Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons keeps them from sharing their false teachings with your neighbors).

People like him can be confusing to seekers and he and his kind are the ones causing great divisions in the church.  Therefore, it is important to demonstrate his errors in the most concise way possible.  Otherwise, he wastes an inordinate amount of your time and gets his (im)moral victory of leaving the impression that these topics are toss-ups for the real church.

Dan is the guy who contacted my pastor because I took away Dan’s commenting privileges here and asked him not to email me.  Yes, the Internet can be a creepy place.  My pastor and I had a good laugh over it, as he is a true man of God and quite comfortable with my theology.   Dan tried to say it was part of a Matthew 18 church discipline issue, but he begged the question by assuming that he is a brother-in-Christ.  My point was that someone with his views and approach is no brother-in-Christ of mine.

The false teachers highlighted in the Bible probably referred to themselves as “brothers,” but that meant as much as it does when false teacher Dan says it.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

So this will be a one-stop shopping post, complete with a shortcut link – http://wp.me/p1wGU-2SV . When Dan plays his game you can just link here to give an overview of his views and his mode of operation.  I’m glad to see people whale on false teachers who are more honest (in a perverse sort of way) about their heresies, but it is best not to feed one like Dan who poses as a Bible-believer.

“Prebuttal” to Dan: This isn’t slander, as you typically claim when I recount these facts, because slander is verbal and libel is written.  And it is all true, so it isn’t libel.  And it isn’t gossip because you open yourself to criticism when you post your heresies publicly.  I know you read this blog religiously (heh) even though I ignore yours.

Bubba is one of my all-time favorite commenters and has been remarkably thorough and patient in exposing Dan’s false teachings and style at other blogs.  He graciously let me borrow one of his comments to post here.  They include links to Dan’s and other sites as evidence.  There is so much more that could be added, such as his un-biblical views on the atonement and communion, but this should be sufficient.

Again, I normally have a “don’t feed the trolls” policy, but I think many of you will be glad to have a link like this handy as a shortcut in addressing Dan.  Many thanks to Bubba for his excellent work.

I’d like to make clear that my intent wasn’t to offer some exhaustive list of Dan’s character defects or most controversial statements, or even to document what I think are his worst traits.  It’s just that I believe that, in isolation, Dan Trabue’s comments sometimes gives the false impression that he’s a poltical and theological moderate who so thoroughly respects all of the Bible’s teachings that he wouldn’t make claims about the Bible that the text doesn’t make for itself.  Even if everything he writes only implies all this and the explicit claims are strictly accurate, the total effect can be misleading because there are substantial material omissions.  My goal is to provide the context that provides some of the more noteworthy details of his beliefs, in order to correct that false impression his writing may create.

I hope your readers notice that I do a lot of explicit quoting, linking to the original discussions so people can judge for themselves.  Even when I describe his position in my own words, I merely describe and try to do so without judgment.   I do not think it can be reasonably argued that it’s an ad hominem attack simply to provide neutral descriptions and sourced quotes of a person’s beliefs regarding the Bible.

So far as I know, Dan has never substantially changed his position on anything I quoted.  He has routinely claimed that I grossly misunderstand him, but he’s never explained how.  I’d love to hear an unambiguous clarification that, of course, Dan believes that God actually did command everything the Bible attributes to Him, that Christ’s death caused our salvation, and that His bodily Resurrection is a truly essential doctrine.  I’m not optimistic on that front.

Here’s Bubba’s original quote posted at this site.

Deriving from Lev 18 and 29 (and Gen 19) a universal prohibition of homosexual behavior may be like stumbling onto the right answer for a math problem despite some arithmetic errors. The destination’s right, but the route was wrong.

As a general rule, it’s not the case the Old Testament regulations for the nation of ancient Israel (the only true theocracy, governed by God through His prophets and judges) apply to the church under the new covenant.

Dan Trabue goes too far. Even if certain passages prohibit homosexual behavior only in certain contexts, it’s still true that the Bible condemns the behavior EVERY time it’s explicitly mentioned. That those times are few isn’t determinative, nor is the context of Canaanite behavior. AFTER ALL, Leviticus 18 and 20 also prohibit adultery, incest, and bestiality. The latter is mentioned even less frequently than homosexuality, so should we start examining whether our condemnation of sheep-bothering is merely cultural and not really biblical, on the pretense that it was forbidden only in the pagan temple but not in the bedroom or barn, as the case may be?

Dan concludes that the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn every possible configuration of homosexual behavior, but Bible study alone simply does not explain the leap from that conclusion to the conclusion that God blesses ANY configuration.

He notes that fidelity, mercy, etc., are good for everyone, but it doesn’t follow that God condones all possible familial arrangements in which these qualities aren’t excluded — prudence is good, but God doesn’t bless bank robberies if they’re well planned — and it’s possible that God made us male and female for a reason, and that reason is lifelong heterosexual monogamy.

It’s true that the Bible permits deviations from that arrangement, celibacy being perfectly moral, divorce being an explicit concession to our hard hearts, and polygamy being perhaps an implicit concession to a fallen. But, just because the Bible permits SOME exceptions, it doesn’t follow that it permits ALL exceptions — or this PARTICULAR exception of so-called “gay marriage.”

Anyway, we shouldn’t look primarily to the Old Testament when the New Testament is clear enough about which rules are carried forward. In its concluding chapter, Hebrews tells us not to worry about dietary regulations (13:9), but we should keep the wedding bed undefiled (13:4). Paul wrote that we shouldn’t be judged by what we eat but should refrain from “porneia,” sexual immorality (Col 2:16, 3:5).

Paul is also quite clear in Romans 1: because of man’s idolatry, God gave up the unrighteous to impurity (1:24), to dishonorable passions (1:26), and to a debased mind (1:28), leading to all manner of evil, including envy, murder, and slander. Even if one were to put a heavy emphasis on the fact that this consequence of homosexual behavior was in the context of idolatry, it’s still impossible to conclude that homosexual behavior is biblically permissible.

AFTER ALL, God wouldn’t “hand over” an idolator to behavior that is good or even morally neutral. “They were idolators, and so God gave them over to prayer and almsgiving” DOES NOT WORK as a logical progression, nor does the idea that they were idolators, and so God would give them over to morally neutral behavior like square dancing and poetry readings.

If that weren’t enough, Jesus Christ Himself made clear, in Matthew 19, that God made us male and female so that a man (male) would become one flesh with his wife (female). He immediately included celibacy as a righteous alternative, but nothing else: divorce was permitted only as a concession. The fact that this passage occurs in the context of divorce isn’t determinative: the principle, rooted in man’s very creation, is obviously universal and has wide-reaching consequences. It’s completely incoherent to tell a man that God made him male to become one flesh with a woman, only to turn around and say that God blesses a “marriage” with another man.

I’ve never met a Christian who had a plausible argument that the Bible permits such an arrangement, and I believe I know the Bible well enough to know that I never will.

I certainly don’t expect such an argument from Dan Trabue. It’s been a while since we’ve cross swords, but he and I have spent literal years and thousands of words in verbal combat.

My opinion of him is not very high at all, to understate things drastically, and Dan insists that I constantly misunderstand him. It may help those who don’t know him to have a little context about his beliefs, from his own hand.

Here, Dan laments when word games and biblical exegesis are used “for political ends,” but it’s not as if he’s a political moderate or an agnostic, and it’s not as if he has a problem invoking Christ’s name on the subject of politics. On his own blog he has written, “in my experience, the vast majority of US/western type of socialism/communism supporters are supporting a more egalitarian, just, equitable system that looks to take seriously the teachings of Christ.”

On the other hand, he wrote a poem for “W and his spawn” accusing free-market conservatives of deicide and the idolatrous worship of a bloodthirsty god. The poem must be read to be believed, and Dan is proud enough of the work that he published it twice in two years.

Here, Dan writes that he loves the Bible. Elsewhere he has written, “I DO love the Bible, but I DON’T accept that every line is a perfect representation of God’s Will.”

What lines are questionable? Well, the Old Testament passages where God commands wars of annihilation, Dan speculates that they could be essentially revenge fantasies: “Sometimes in the Bible, you have a powerless people who have been oppressed and it is completely natural for them to want to see a God that would take revenge for them, or allow them to take revenge. It’s a natural human response to oppression and we ought not judge it too harshly, especially we who have never known oppression.”

He entertains the possibility because he believes that the Old Testament attributes to God commands to commit literal atrocities:

“When we read that ‘God says’ to kill disrespectful children or that when we invade a country, we are to kill everyone – including the children and babes, BUT to save the virgin girls so we can make them our wives – when we read passages like that, we don’t need a Bible verse to straighten that out for us. CLEARLY, our God-given sense of logic and morality shouts out that such behavior is atrocious and wrong.”

(He does this on the way to arguing against the OT prohibition of homosexuality. Here he writes, “Sometimes, rules in the bible are time/people-specific.” Apparently, sometimes, the rules are altogether immoral for all people, or so Dan believes.)

The New Testament has its own problems, as Dan believes that it is “doubtless” that some of Paul’s letters betray some combination of sexism and homophobia.

Here, Dan writes that he esteems the Bible as a “book of truths.” Elsewhere he has elaborated on that position, writing, “that is not to say that I consider all the stories therein to be likely strictly fact-based.”

He even stated it more bluntly: “I think the Bible is a book of Truths. Not facts.”

What facts does he doubt? On the Passover — the central event of Judaism, commemorated annually for literally millennia, and the event through which Christians understand Christ’s death — he writes, “I find it hard to believe as a literal historic event.”

Dan affirms the “Big Truths” of the Bible, but not necessarily the “little details.”

Little things, like the story of Jonah, the Tower of Babel, and — ahem — THE VIRGIN BIRTH…

“For myself, if I were to find out that Mary was not actually a virgin or that Jonah was not actually swallowed by a great fish or that the tower of Babel story is just a mythological explanation of how people learned different languages, not a factual explanation, if I learned any of that to be factual, my faith in God would be intact because, well, my faith is in God, not these details.”

…and THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.

“Why can the resurrection spoken of in 1 Corinthians not be metaphorical? …if he were raised spiritually, not bodily, is that not a resurrection, too?

“Why can’t we be wrong on details as long as we get the big Truths right?”

Dan will be clear to state that he believes in the bodily Resurrection, but then again, he’s written, “I and my company are not of the sort that insist upon a literal interpretation of the Creation or even the Resurrection story.”

So far as I know, Dan has never written that the Crucifixion is one of those dispensible little details — but he hasn’t written otherwise, either, and he denies the direct causal connection between Christ’s death and our justification, forgiveness, and salvation from sin. He believes that we are saved by God’s grace but not Christ’s death, and that the latter is only an expression of the former.

“I believe we are saved by grace AND because of that grace, Jesus died for us. In THAT sense, one might say that our salvation is caused by Jesus’ death (as it is a representation of God’s grace). As I have said, it is not a scriptural phrasing of how we are saved (ie, the Bible does not SAY our salvation is caused by Jesus’ death) so I don’t think it’s the most biblical way of expressing it.”

I think one should keep all of this in mind when evaluating Dan Trabue’s positions on the teachings of the Bible.