Question 21

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October 29

 

I am Jewish. I practice the same faith as my ancestors who have maintained the religion of David, Solomon, Moses, and Abraham.  I understand that these ‘Old Testament’ Patriarchs are respected and revered by Christians, while modern Jews are ‘lost’ and condemned in the eyes of Christians.  Do we not worship the same God?

 

MB   

______________________________

 

Dear MB

 

You are not alone.  The Christian Gospel of Wrath condemns all ‘false’ religions and their practitioners; all Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Druids and Animists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons (ask Mitt Romney about it!).  

 

The most rabid apostles of wrath condemn regular people who drink alcohol, dance to secular music, study science, practice birth control, or mow their lawn on Sunday. Protestant apostles of the Gospel of Wrath condemn Catholics who read the same Bible, revere the same heroes, and worship the same God.  The Heaven of Wrath is going to be a very gloomy and sparsely populated place.

 

Why would a devout Jew in Old Testament times, like David, be a man after God’s own heart, while a devout Jew in the 21st century is condemned as an enemy?

 

Jesus was Jewish. The Apostles were all Jewish.  Jesus said he came to reform the faith of Abraham, not condemn it. Matthew 5:17 ‘Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.  I have come to fulfil them.’  Jesus became angry with Rabbis who deliberately misinterpreted scripture, but he was infinitely patient with the crowds of ordinary Jews.

 

Do any of the New Testament epistles condemn Judaism?  No.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote the most detailed analysis of the difference between Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah and those who didn’t.  After explaining to the Romans that Old Testament promises of mercy and salvation had been extended to include gentiles like them (chapter 9), Paul asked if righteous Jews could now be condemned.   He agonized over the fate of his Jewish brothers and sisters who did not believe that a crucified carpenter had been the conquering Messiah foretold by the prophets of old.

 

Romans 9:3-4 ‘For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Romans 10:1. ‘Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I testify that they are zealous for God....’    Paul’s conclusion is that God will not forsake the children of Israel. Romans 11:25-26. ‘I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all of Israel will be saved as it is written.’

 

Theologians disagree about the nature of this ‘mystery’, and about what Paul means by ‘a hardening in part’,  ‘until the full number of the Gentiles has come in’ and by ‘all of Israel will be saved’.  No one can doubt that Paul believed his zealous, righteous brothers and sisters were still an integral part of God’s plan of salvation.

 

If you ask Christians whether they believe you are condemned for being a Jew, you will hear a number of opinions.

 

Many Christians believe, with good reason, that the dividing line between heaven and hell is determined by whether we choose good or evil.  Wilful, malicious criminals have no place in heaven. Decent, law-abiding believers have no place in hell.  Therefore ‘good people’ of all faiths, races and nations should be ‘saved.’  These compassionate Christians will quote verses about God’s mercy and compassion and his desire that none should be condemned to eternal torment.  (2 Peter 3:9) ‘He is patient with you, not wanting everyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’

 

Does this mean that everyone will end up in heaven, and that hell will be empty?  Universalism is a theology that proclaims every single soul will be saved.  Universalists believe that God, in his infinite patience, will eventually convince every soul that sin is not freedom or pleasure, but bondage and suffering.  When the rebels finally recognize this reality they will reject sin and be saved.   Universalism is not unlike Eastern religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) which believe that full enlightenment will be attained after the soul experiences a large number of reincarnations.

 

The Christian Gospel of Love does not rule out the possibility that everyone could be saved, and certainly would not deny that God wishes everyone to come to repentance.   However, the Gospel of Love is based on freewill and personal responsibility.  This is the ‘mystery’ that Paul alludes to.  It is possible for any individual to prefer sin over salvation and to choose hell over heaven.   Why anyone would make such a choice is a mystery but this must remain a possibility.

 

What does it mean to ‘choose’ sin?  To answer this question we must define what we mean by ‘choose’ and by ‘sin’.

Choice requires freedom of will.  It also requires distinct options. On what basis could someone choose ‘the correct’ glass of water out of an infinite number of identical glasses of water?  The available options must be perceptibly different in their appearance and their nature.  It is not sufficient to know that glass A contains pure water, that glass B contains brackish water and that glass B contains deadly poison.  No responsible choice can be made without knowledge, which requires accurate information and time to process it.

 

Sin is the root cause of all suffering.  The harm caused by murder and robbery are self-evident.  It is not hard to connect the dots between dishonesty, greed, betrayal and the suffering they cause.  But sometimes good intentions, such as repression of evil, can cause unintended suffering. Understanding the full cause and effect of sin requires accurate information and sufficient time to process it.

 

Sin and freewill are both extraordinarily complex.  It is easy to mistake lawlessness for freedom and it can take decades, or even centuries, to recognize the full consequences of our wrong choices.  A perfect example is the choices parents make.  Excessively severe or permissive parenting can harm a child permanently, and the damage can be transmitted through generations.  

 

All religions agree that we are sinners who cause suffering for ourselves, our families and our neighbours.  All religions propose cures for sin and suffering.   All religions agree that it is virtually impossible in this short life to attain freedom from sin and suffering.  

 

Where does that leave us?  Is there hope for anyone?  The final book of the Christian Bible, John’s Revelation (or Apocalypse) describes a 1,000 year resurrection of the dead.  This is a place for the human race to acquire information about choices and consequences and to provide sufficient time to process the knowledge.

 

Justice requires a time and place for the unfinished business of this world.  Deceased infants are just one example.  Should they all go to heaven?  Or Hell?  Or Limbo?  Where is justice if infants have no choice and no responsibility?  A 1000 year resurrection would provide everyone with full knowledge of choices and consequences.  There would be no ambiguity about the difference between good and evil.  The dividing line between heaven and hell will be a choice between good and evil.  The choice will be available to all religions and nations.

 

Of course, choice means commitment.  This is what is meant by sanctification.  We must commit to a complete psychological and moral transformation. We are not ‘saved’ from sin until we are totally free from its power over our thoughts and emotions.

The Gospel of Love conceives of a God who is patient, compassionate and just.  It remains a mystery why freewill requires trial, error, suffering and redemption, but is possible for mortal minds to grasp that much of our suffering is self-inflicted.  How many Christians believe that Jesus is an actual Saviour who can free them from sin and that the Holy Spirit can wholly transform their hearts and minds?  Not enough.

 

Tragically, most Christians have been subverted by the Gospel of Wrath, which is built upon Original Sin.

What is the difference between sin and original sin?  Sin is a personal choice.  We are neither inherently good nor evil but free to experiment with both.  Original sin is something we inherit from Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God 4,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden.   

 

Augustine subverted Christianity to embrace the doctrine of Original Sin in the 4th century.  Augustine had his reasons.  He was leading a war to the death against Pagans, and Original Sin was his weapon of mass conversion. It was highly effective. Within a generation all the Pagans of the Roman Empire had submitted to Augustine’s new religion.

 

What are the dominant characteristics of the Gospel of Wrath?

 

The most prominent is that Jesus Christ was metamorphosed from Saviour of the entire human race to the universal destroyer. The only means to be saved from original sin was baptism. The dividing line between heaven and hell was no longer the choice between good and evil, but between baptism and damnation.

 

Augustine was deadly serious about this new religion.  He declared that children dying without baptism were excluded from both the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life. 

 

This raised uncomfortable questions.  What happened to the Abrahams and Davids who never heard of Jesus and never had an opportunity to be baptized?  The best answer that Augustine could come up with was that God alone was in charge of who was saved and who wasn’t.  This opened the door to the impenetrable doctrine of predestination.  Augustine refused to be sidetracked by theoretical questions about people who lived in the past or who lived in remote countries. He was only concerned with the Pagans of the Roman Empire and about them he was categorical; they must be baptized or damned.

After Augustine died and the Roman Empire had been Christianized, it was possible to be less ruthless.  Unbaptized babies were transferred to the gloomy demimonde of Limbo.

 

What about a righteous Jew?  Christianity had severed ties with Judaism by the end of the first century. The destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem was interpreted as a sign of divine wrath against stiff-necked Jews who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Throughout the Dark Ages, Jews were often made to suffer as scapegoats whenever divine wrath was inflicted via drought or plague.  By the Middle Ages Jews were condemned as Christ-killers and accused of murdering Christian babies to drink their blood. This inglorious history is documented in Robert Wistrich’s book A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad.

 

What about the modern world?  The Reformation did not bring an end to the Gospel of Wrath.  Both Luther and Calvin were obedient disciples of Augustine.  Both Luther and Calvin were adamantly opposed to freewill.  For Reformers, God alone decided who would be saved. The Calvinist Jesus did not atone for all, but only the elect few. Salvation and damnation had nothing to do with human choice or personal merit. The Reformation God not only wished that multitudes would perish, but had predestined it from the dawn of time and done so for his own pleasure. Needless to say that neither Luther nor Calvin lost any sleep over the damnation of Jews. Luther became a notorious anti-Semite whose writings were revered by German Nazis.

 Most modern Christians would prefer to ignore Augustine, Luther and Calvin. They would prefer to believe that God is love and justice.  But they still accept the underlying principles of Original Sin. They believe you need to be ‘saved’. Whatever they have been taught about the 1000 year resurrection it has nothing to do with giving people like you a ‘second chance’ after death. 

 

Why are modern Jews ‘lost’ and condemned in the eyes of Christians?  

 

The Gospel of Love does not condemn you, although few Christians could explain why.  The theology they have inherited was created by Augustine, Luther and Calvin and has never been disavowed.  

 

The Gospel of Wrath can call upon entire libraries of books to demonstrate why God hates you, MB, along with all other non-Christians, and all ‘bad’ Christians. The Heaven of Wrath is going to be a very gloomy and sparsely populated place.  It is not where you or I would want to spend eternity!

 

Comment or Question?

 

 

Tags: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Druids and Animists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Mitt Romney, Robert Wistrich’s A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, Reformation, Predestination.