Lies we believe #3: God’s justice demands that sin be punished

There is no doubt that God demands justice. But exactly what is “justice”? What does it look like?

justice1The understanding that springs immediately to our minds is derived from Criminal Law. When a crime has been committed against an individual,  the injured party “demands” justice: the perpetrator must be punished and the punishment must fit the crime (e.g. an eye for an eye). If the perpetrator is let off we would be quick to declare that justice has not been served. Yet even if the injured party were to choose to forgive, the law of the land would still require a sentence to be administered in order to satisfy justice. There must be punishment. Justice, then, operates under the “law of retribution” and as such has little room for mercy. Indeed, to show leniency would be to thwart justice. Justice and mercy stand directly opposed. Continue reading “Lies we believe #3: God’s justice demands that sin be punished”

Is the Bible without error?

Examining (honestly) the problem with multiple texts

Firstly, before we can answer the question, we must distinguish between the Bible as written in its original language and its translation into another tongue.

Firstly, is there a perfect English translation?

Given the plethora of English translations over the years, with constant revisions and updates, no single particular version (not even the King James’ Bible) can be declared to be the “authentic, error-free” translation. In many ways this is because Hebrew and Greek thought is so different to the Anglo-Saxon world of English. Extensive judgement calls have to be made by the translators, and these tend to be made within an existing theological framework. Where no direct English equivalent exists, a substitute word has to be found, which will never have exactly the same scope nor subtleties of the original. By definition, since it is flawed human beings making the judgement call, there can be no wholly accurate translation. Which version would that be anyway?! Continue reading “Is the Bible without error?”

Is God the Father Mad, Bad or Good?

How can a merciful God command genocide?

“..in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them… as the LORD your God has commanded you” (Deut 20:16-17)

“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'” (1 Samuel 15:3)

There can be no disputing that this violent portrayal of God is incompatible with the merciful God revealed in Christ who commands us to love our enemies: Continue reading “Is God the Father Mad, Bad or Good?”

Lies we believe #2: There is a gulf between God and Man

Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God is ‘at hand’ i.e. that it is close to us. The Apostle Paul declares that God is not far from any of us (Acts 17:27). Psalm 139 attests that there is nowhere we can go to that God is not (Psalm 139:7-8), that he hems us in (Psalm 139:5).

Why then do we think that God is far off, that there is a gulf between us? This idea has come from the erroneous idea that because God is “holy” he cannot allow himself to be in the company of sin (and therefore sinners). There are two passages which are often called upon in support of this notion:

1) Isaiah declares that our sins have made a separation between us and God. Therefore, it is said, there must be a real physical separation.

2) Habakkuk, in wrestling with God, argues that God is “too holy to look on sin”. Since we are sinners it thus follows that God cannot even look on us, and therefore must have separated himself from us.

But let us read these texts carefully. Continue reading “Lies we believe #2: There is a gulf between God and Man”

Who killed Jesus?

Reading the New Testament I am struck by just how many times it records the hostility of the Jewish leaders towards Jesus. There was already enmity between the Pharisees and John the Baptist (Jn 1:24-25) with the questioning of John’s right to preach repentance. They were so intent on protecting their own authority that the Jewish leaders were thus also riled from the moment Jesus’ ministry began, at first just hostile (Mk 2:6-7, Mk 3:2, Jn 2:18) and then, very early on, bringing the knives out (Jn 5:18, Luke 4:28-29).

The Gospel record of this murderous intent of the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law is extensive:

Continue reading “Who killed Jesus?”

If “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” had been written today

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a traditional old English Carol, reputed to date back to the 15th/16th century. It is one of the oldest carols we still sing today.

One cannot help but wonder whether, had it been written more recently, the lyrics might run more like this…

God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day

To save us from the Father’s wrath whom we had disobeyed

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy.

The correct lyrics are, of course… “To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray”. In other words – Christus victor!

What a wonderful source of encouragement and connection to ‘the faith as handed down by the apostles’ the old carols can be.