What does the Bible mean (part 1 continued)

My friend, Joey Guido, and I are having a conversation about the Bible. This is a real life conversation between two men who approach theology and God from different perspectives (You can learn more about Joey in this blog introduction and then shoot over to his blog and check out some of his great resources). Our hope is that as we dialogue, we will show that it is possible for two thoughtful men who don’t always agree to have an intelligent, frank, and respectful conversation.

This is an ongoing conversation so you’ll want to read Part 1 and the Comments and then join the conversation here!

Joey says:

I have a few comments/questions in regard to your response:

I’m wondering why God would ask for innocent creatures to be sacrificed “so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). That doesn’t seem fair, let alone Godly. It’s like a killer going on trial for murder, being convicted, but then his DOG is killed while he’s allowed to go free.

What has he learned? Where’s the negative consequence for his actions? The poor dog! When an animal is sacrificed to atone for a person’s sins, that person is not taking responsibility for their actions. What do you think about sin being attoned for with death — especially the death of an innocent animal?

Paul says:

Hey Joey! Thanks for starting off with easy questions (cough, cough…).

The key here is that there is more involved than just killing an animal. Fundamentally the sacrifice has to do with the faith of the one sacrificing the animal. His/her faith that God would receive this sacrifice in a substitionary capacity was what saved the offender. The faith of the offender and his/her obedience to God’s sacrificial law was what “justified” (i.e. made the offender right before God) him/her. The offender learned NOTHING if there was not deep sorrow and repentance evidenced through sacrifice.  Here are a couple of verses that will bring better understanding to this point:

  • Proverbs 15:8  The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
  • Proverbs 21:27  The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable– how much more so when brought with evil intent!

OK, you asked what I thought about an innocent animal being sacrificed as a result of my sin. I think it sucks, but I’d sure rather an animal die than me when I sin! God has said that the punishment for sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 3:23). In the Old Testament era He created a sacrificial system in which an animal (a very specific type and quality) could stand as a substitute for the sinner. In the New Testament era (which continues today) He sent His Son, Jesus, to be that sacrifice. The whole point is that when someone sins something or someone has to die. He created a substitionary system. Again, it sucks, but I sure appreciate it.

The reality is that every wrong must be punished or the justice of God is compromised. He has created a system in which we do not have to be punished and therefore both His justice and love are satisfied. His justice is satisfied through atonement and His love is satisfied in relationship (made possible by the atonement).

Make sense?

Joey says:

As far as God getting angry, I simply don’t buy it. He’s God, not some immature 5th grader with anger issues. Anger is a human emotion. There is so much smoting going on in the Old Testament, it reads more like a mobster movie than a spiritual guide book. Maybe I’m looking for the wrong things. I was expecting good life lessons like Jesus gives, not a smote fest.

Paul says:

Well, when we think of anger we usually think of some dude in a beater on COPS. Anger is a human emotion BUT remember this… we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and screwed up by the bad decision Adam and Eve made (Romans 5:15). Human anger is a distorted version of God’s anger. Anger is not always a bad thing. I’m sure you can think of times when anger is actually a good and justified response (e.g. the abuse of a child).

Scripture teaches that God is perfect (i.e. no sin & no flaws). His original creation was perfect like He is. Sin has messed that up! God is in the process of restoring us (through our faith in Christ and obedience to His teachings) and this world and is deeply angry with the sin that deters us! His desire is to restore us so we can enjoy Him and the life He makes possible for us both now and later!

As far as what you’re finding in your Scripture reading… it is like a mobster movie and it’s going to get worse the further you read! The beauty of all of these disturbing images and stories is that God is working in and through the most unlikely characters and events! He redeems broken people and uses them to create something beautiful! You can’t fully appreciate the beauty of the Bible and even history until you’ve waded through the ugliness.

For what it’s worth, I absolutely love the phrase you’ve coined, “Smote Fest”. Very nice Joey! Very nice!

Joey says:

OK, so God shows mercy on Cain, but then just three pages later we see Noah curse Canaan! (Genesis 9:25). When Noah’s son Ham “saw his father’s nakedness” (9:22), he wakes up from a drunken slumber and curses Ham’s son Canaan. In this case it’s not God doing the judging, but the message is right there in print — a 6,000 year (poor) legacy of punishing the innocent. Why does Cain get mercy and Ham go unpunished, while Canaan and those poor animals get screwed?

I get it when you say, “we are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.” But what about people who don’t believe in Jesus that are good people? Or people like me who believe that Jesus existed, but practice another religion? Is my lack of Christian faith punishable?

Paul says:

Why do the innocent get screwed? It’s the story of the formation of nations. Why are the students in Iran getting screwed? Their leaders are making choices that impact their nation. Leaders make decisions the results of which impact the people of that nation. So it is in this case. The good news is that though the nation may be cursed, the individuals in that nation may still find and be loved by God.

Now to the hardest question you’ve asked thus far…

what about people who don’t believe in Jesus that are good people? Or people like me who believe that Jesus existed, but practice another religion? Is my lack of Christian faith punishable?

I believe that there are a TON of people who don’t believe in Jesus that are incredibly good people.

I believe that there are a TON of people who believe that Jesus existed but practice another religion.

I also believe that Jesus was/is alive, and He said these words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). What do I do with these words Joey? What do you say to Jesus when He says these words?

Is your lack of Christian faith punishable? Answer the above question and let’s go from there.

Alright Joey… it’s your turn!

3 thoughts on “What does the Bible mean (part 1 continued)

  1. In regard to the sacrifices for atonement of sin:

    Believe it or not, death is always necessary for life to continue. As a culture, we are very removed from this reality. We eat in order to live. We put money on a counter for the food, but what we forget is that we are actually paying somebody to kill an animal for us. That animal’s death makes it possible for us to eat and live. Without that animal’s death we wouldn’t have food and we would die. (no vegan arguments pls).

    The ancients were in tune with that reality. Much more than we are today. They would kill an animal to provide for their physical needs. The animal dies so they can eat and live. Of course, it still happens today – we just don’t see any of the blood.

    In a spiritual sense, this is part of the reason that the animal sacrifice made such a powerful visual practice. Any animal can die for us to eat and live, but only a certain – set apart – animal can die for our spiritual life.

    Which, of course, set the stage for Christ’s death and resurrection. The ultimate and final sacrifice.

  2. This is a great posting. I recently started reading the entire bible with the help of a bible plan posted here because I felt the need to re-read the bible now that I’m in a different phase of life. Much of what I read and learned was during school age. As an adult I need read the bible again, and in turn teach my kids and others. The old testament is tough to get through, but the lessons are important as they lead to the new testament. Making the old testament relevant to our everyday life is awesome. Thanks guys.

    Keith

  3. I’m back!

    OK, I can certainly address your question. You said the following:

    “I also believe that Jesus was/is alive, and He said these words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). What do I do with these words Joey? What do you say to Jesus when He says these words?

    Is your lack of Christian faith punishable? Answer the above question and let’s go from there.”

    My answer: To me, Jesus is part of who created our world our lives and our Universe. Just as “God,” is the Gather, the Son & the Holy Spirit, he can also be Buddha, Wakkan Tanka (American Indian) as well as many other religious figures I am too ignorant to remember.

    In essence, those who worship Buddha are NOT worshiping a false idol. They’re simply seeing a different slice of God (who is everything, right?).

    So when Jesus says the only way to heaven is through me, it couild be interpreted literally as, “me, Jesus, just me and nobody else.”

    OR – Jesus may be speaking metaphorically, meaning that the only way to “heaven” is through spirituality, through being the best person you can be – responsible, loving, forgiving, etc.

    What about a child who dies before he/she is old enough to make a choice to follow Jesus? What about animals who don’t have a voice like ours? Are their souls inferior to ours? I do not think so. Would Jesus, this incredible manifestation of peace and love, consider a pig or a rat any less worthy of life than a human?

    So no. I do not see myself being punished because I practice spirituality in a way that works for me. I think Jesus would be happy that I found spirit, because no matter what label you put on it, at its core, it is a universal spirit that gives us all life and purpose.

    When I hear Jesus’ words, they are not an ultimatum, but an invitation to join with spirit. Just as you found spirit through Jesus, others may find spirit through something/someone that appears different from Jesus. Beyond the “appearance,” it’s still the same spirit.

    Peace

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