The Biggest Lie in Our Bible

There is a lie in our Bible. The lie consists of a deceptive label, a traditional label that contradicts the key feature of the new covenant described by Jeremiah the prophet in a relatively obscure but significant prophecy.

The Lying Label: “New Testament”

Calling “New Testament” a lying label may seem like bombast or hyperbole, but characterizing the label as deceptive and misleading is accurate. The “new testament” has been incorrectly identified for Christians as twenty-seven canonical texts–instead of the authentic internal working of God–for almost 2,000 years. This is not a minor technicality or an insignificant piece of trivia. The misrepresentation has distorted the thinking of Christendom from the time of Tertullian, directing us, the intellectuals among us in particular, toward externals and away from God’s internal presence.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the passage which alerted the Apostle Paul to the fact that the old covenant would one day pass into history and be replaced by the new covenant. Jeremiah’s prophecy is foundational for Paul’s discussion of the new covenant in II Corinthians 3.

If you are new to Jeremiah 31, this is the key thing to keep in mind: the phrases “new testament” and “new covenant” are functionally identical. Each phrase is an acceptable English rendering of the same Biblical words, בְּרִ֥ית חֲדָשָֽׁה׃ and διαθήκης νέας. Jeremiah’s “new covenant” and the misguided label “New Testament” are both derived from the same Hebrew and Greek words.

Jeremiah Prophesies a New Covenant

“The days are surely coming,” says the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel
         and the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt,
a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,” says the LORD.
“But this is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,”
         says the LORD.
“I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts;
And I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”
         says the LORD,
“because I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sin no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Application One: Looking within for God’s New Covenant

The first and most important thing to learn from this is that in order to know and experience God’s new covenant we need to look within ourselves because that’s where God put it.  We need to start here, with ourselves. We need to experience for ourselves this internal covenant written on our hearts before we can help someone else. We need to find out how the new covenant works for us as individuals, inside, before becoming ministers of the new covenant is possible.

Application Two: Becoming a Minister of the New Covenant

A wise man said, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” He was living out Jeremiah’s written-on-the-heart understanding of the new covenant.

I have to confess that I am not a competent minister of the new covenant. All my training and most of my experience has been strictly ministry in the letter. And the letter kills. I’m working on this. I’ve seen many times how ministry in the letter kills. Coming off “letter ministry” is like overcoming an addiction, a very respectable and socially acceptable addiction. I don’t know exactly how it works–how to minister the new covenant of the Spirit, or how to stay clean and sober.

What I do know is that the new covenant was not written on parchment, and is not published on paper. God has written, and continues to write, the new covenant on our hearts. This means that being a minister of the new covenant is not equivalent to preaching and teaching from what is popularly called “the New Testament.” 

I understand that some people will not accept Paul’s dichotomy between the letter and the Spirit for “ministers of a new covenant,” and that’s okay. It is not essential to believe the internal/external dichotomy.  Authentic ministry is possible with a variety of beliefs, contradictory beliefs, even unscriptural beliefs. It’s possible that accepting this distinction isn’t intended for some folks. Like Jesus’ description of celibacy, perhaps it is intended only for those who are called to it.

This internal/external dichotomy is, however, understandable and acceptable for others. I don’t know that Jeremiah fully understood what a covenant written on the heart would require, but I do know that Paul accepted Jeremiah’s description of the the new covenant. Jeremiah’s covenant-written-on-the-heart is a major presupposition of all Paul’s thought. 

Application Three: The Conflict of the New Covenant, the Promise of μετανοια

Feelings of insecurity, intimidation, and confusion can result from not having chapter-and-verse proof texts for beliefs or convictions, especially when they are contrary to beliefs and convictions of one’s particular religious community.  And we know, like it or not, that there is almost always Biblical support for differing convictions. Often believers are not Biblically literate enough to know the “objective support” for their inner witness, and confusion results. God is not the author of this confusion. One cause of confusion is some people’s unfortunate habit of insisting on their way as the only way.

Are there problems with this understanding? Of course there are. But the solution to these problems is not the denial of God’s own provision for guidance during this time of the new covenant.  Problems that arise from embracing the new covenant will certainly be outweighed by the unpredictable fruit of repentance, of μετανοια.

Application Four: The Present Tense New Covenant

Here is a list of the key points of Jeremiah’s prophetic description of the new covenant:

  • The LORD is going to make a new covenant with his people.
  • The new covenant will not be like the old covenant.
  • This is the new covenant, and how it differs from the old:
    • The LORD will put the law within them.
    • The LORD will write the new covenant–on their hearts.
    • They will not teach one another.
    • They will not tell one another to “Know the Lord,”
    • Because they will all know God, from the least to the greatest,
    • Because the LORD will forgive their iniquity.
    • The LORD will remember their sin no more.

We are in the era of the New Covenant, and these descriptions are now in the present tense, not located in some vague and indeterminate future. Let me edit some of these points to reflect our present reality:

  • The LORD has put the law within us, or, God’s law is within us.
  • The LORD has written the new covenant on our hearts, or, God’s new covenant is written on our hearts.
  • We don’t need to teach one another.
  • We don’t need to tell one another to “Know the Lord,”
  • Why? Because we all know God already, from the least to the greatest.
  • The LORD has forgiven us for missing the mark.
  • The LORD doesn’t even remember that we’ve missed the mark–totally ignores it.

Any understanding of the new covenant initiated by God the Messiah must begin here, with Jeremiah. The new covenant is already within us, written on our hearts.  We all know God, all of us, so that no one needs to be encouraged or taught to know God.

Application Five: Assumptions for Ministers of the New Covenant

When you are concerned about people, you need to know this:

  • They already know God.
  • God’s law has already been written on their hearts.
  • They don’t “need” you to teach them anything (just as you don’t need me to teach you anything, either).
  • Where they miss the mark, they are already forgiven.

Application Six: Vital Ministry and the New Covenant

My last application here applies to clergy’s aspiration and desire for spiritual ministry, church growth, revival, church vitality, etc.  If we take seriously the examples of Jesus and Paul, and we consider their ministries genuine and worthy of emulation, we need to be willing to jettison partial and incomplete understandings in order to supplement (or replace) them with more complete understandings.

According to Paul, there is a world of difference between ministering in the Spirit and ministering the letter. The letter kills, but the Spirit brings life. If we find that our ministry from the Scripture bears less fruit than we would hope, this might be the reason.  A wise man said, “You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

The key feature of the contradiction: The old covenant was chiseled in stone and written on scrolls; the new covenant is written directly on our hearts. One trains us to look outward for truth; God urges us to look within.

μετανοειτε ηγγικεν γαρ η βασιλεια των ουρανων; η βασιλεια του θεου εντος υμων εστιν.

[For more on Paul’s inward focus, click here and here.]

 

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About Ron Goetz

Author, Widower, Grandpa, Son.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Repentance, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to The Biggest Lie in Our Bible

  1. Rick James says:

    Bibliolatry is as grave a sin as those discussed by Paul in Romans 1. It’s outcome is as life-crushing and deadly (to certain constituencies) as is the once wide-held notion that black people don’t have souls, or that God’s created order of things consigns blacks to slavery.

    Shame on the Church for raising this canon to a level it should not posses. God will deal severely with those who have harmed – certain constituencies of – God’s beloved because of their idolatry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a few sincere questions, which I’ll number for the sake of clarity.

    1) Do you believe that atheists know God–people like Richard Dawkins?

    2) How do you reconcile the idea of not needing a teacher to a passage like Eph. 4:11, which says that Christ gave the Body teachers?

    3) Along the lines of #2, if the New Covenant was inaugurated by the shedding of Jesus’ blood, that means that the biblical witness of Jesus’ acts post-resurrection took place after the New Covenant was instituted. So, what are we to make of Jesus’ command (commonly called the Great Commission), that we make disciples and “teach” them to observe all that He has commanded?

    4) Is there no need to share the gospel, since everyone knows the Lord?

    5) Is there no need to ask for forgiveness since God has already forgiven us?

    I want to reiterate that my intention here is to get your perspective, not to challenge it. Thanks.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for your very pertinent questions–they flow directly from what I’ve written.

      I had been planning to write first about Paul’s reliance on Jeremiah’s prophecy in II Corinthians 3, but I may begin by responding to your questions first.

      I remember you and I became FB friends a number of years ago. It’s good to finally get better acquainted.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Pastor Weekly, I discussed the various New Testament voices on the subject of teachers a while back. Click https://biblethumpingliberal.com/2011/07/23/new-testament-teachings-on-teachers/ to read the entire article. My comments here are adapted from that post.

      From the Pauline School we have, as you pointed out, a list of spiritual gifts to the church: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11) Note that the two “offices” that are almost universally present in the churches throughout history are the ones most compatible with hierarchy and formal paths for education and ordination–pastors and teachers. These two also bear a close family resemblance to a major cast of characters in the gospels–Pharisees and scribes. For the Pauline School, the presence of teachers in the church is taken for granted.

      Priscilla, a prominent member of the Pauline School, shares Paul’s total acceptance of teachers: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:12)

      Unlike Priscilla, James the brother of Jesus urges fewer teachers, not more. “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)

      On the other hand, God Incarnate said, “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.” (Matthew 23:8-10).

      John follows Jesus closely, “You do not need anyone to teach you, the anointing he gave teaches you everything; you are anointed with truth.” (I John 2:27)

      Obviously, the easiest part to understand of this intra-biblical discussion about teachers is the general acceptance but differing emphases of Paul, James, and Priscilla. “Teachers are among God’s gifts to the churches, but sometimes there should be more, and other times there should be fewer.”

      The harder element to “explain” is this acceptance of the teaching office (or role) in the face of Jesus and John, who say, “Not only do you not need teachers, but don’t let anyone even call you a teacher. You have the Holy Spirit now!”

      If you bring in questions of authorship, then the authorship of Ephesians comes up, and whether that letter was written by Paul himself as opposed to his close associates.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Obviously there will always be teachers in Christian communities. Since there are a diversity of perspectives in the Greek scriptures on this topic, that same diversity is acceptable in the Body of Christ.

      Jesus described the good news he was called to proclaim this way: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

      Different people will describe the “good news” in different ways. Some will insist that their way of describing the good news is the only way, and that’s okay. It’s understandable. Something I have noticed about Jesus’ way of ministering is how individual it was. He didn’t have a one-size-fits-all message that he rattled off to everyone, like the Four Spiritual Laws. If he is our Model of Ministry, we should consider the possibility that we too can respond to different people differently.

      Regarding asking God for forgiveness, there are already a number of approaches to sin, confession, and repentance. Some Christians believe we need to confess and repent every time we sin. Others believe we confess and repent the first time we come to Christ. There are other approaches as well. This diversity exists for at least two general reasons. First, the Greek scriptures has several different approaches to these topics. Second, the different approaches appeal to different personalities.

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      • Tim Attwell says:

        Hi Ron,

        As I see it confession and forgiveness are part and parcel of Christian spirituality, but why? Quite rightly, as you have pointed out on the basis of Jeremiah 31, we observe that forgiveness is already there. Methodists like to speak of “prevenient grace” – the grace of God that comes before we ask for it and which makes confession possible. We have the desire and ability to confess and ask for forgiveness because we know in advance that we are loved. Without that assurance we would not have the chutzpah to go looking for it!

        So why confess and ask for forgiveness at all? It’s a matter of taking responsibility for our own actions. We don’t confess and seek forgiveness because God won’t accept us until we do, we confess and ask for forgiveness in order to become responsible adults.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    You say “The misrepresentation has distorted the thinking of Christendom from the time of Tertullian,”, but I can only assume here you are thinking of Roman Catholic tradition and not actual early Church Father teachings, because they certainly don’t make this misrepresentation themselves. The neptic tradition is alive and well within Eastern Orthodoxy, and is based on the practices and beliefs of the ancient Church. Look into hesychasm for more info on this, it is Christian meditation which is straight Orthodox teaching, nothing fringe or esoteric.

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  4. Catherine says:

    The label “New Testament” misleads in another way, by implying that the rest of the canon (the “Old Testament”) is less relevant and possibly even outdated. If we think of the two parts of the Bible as the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures, we avoid the error, and we pay appropriate respect to the Jewish roots of our tradition.
    But your superb analysis goes well beyond terminology. I especially appreciate your insight that all people know God. The lessons God writes on my heart are meant for me, not for my neighbor the “sinner” or “atheist.” Thanks for this gentle and clear reminder.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      The lessons God writes on my heart are meant for me, not for my neighbor the “sinner” or “atheist.”

      I wouldn’t have put it this way, but you’re right. We’re given to universalizing things, reticent to make our own necessary changes (repentance: μετανοια), and we find it hard to quit meddling with other people instead of taking care of ourselves first.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    As a wise dance instructor (or was it a fuse lighter in a gold mine?) said- “Timing is everything.”

    My question relates to “The days are surely coming.” Couldn’t this be referring to the millennium? In addition, It does not say “the church”, it says “with the people of Israel”, I don’t believe that you and I are specifically “the people of Israel”. It is plainly referring to all of “Israel- seems new millennial to me as know one will be arguing about it having been taken place.” It says they will no longer teach each other or say to one another “Know the Lord.”. This plainly has not occurred yet and is the proofing evidence for what is being referred to in the scripture. And maybe this is a stretch here but what will occur to cause “the people of Israel” to come to this place? Maybe after they will mourn for him as an only child. Yet to come. Am I way off here?

    Love ya bro. Noel

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Hebrews 8:8-12 reproduces Jeremiah 31:31-34 in its entirety in order to demonstrate the fact that God the Messiah has instituted a “new covenant” in place of the old. According to the author of Hebrews, Jeremiah’s announcement of the new covenant is proof that the old covenant is now obsolete. Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). The author of Hebrews extols the superiority of the new covenant extravagantly.

      I have read a number of rationalizations that try to explain why we shouldn’t look to Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy to understand our Christian life today, even though we supposedly live under the new covenant as described by Jeremiah. People who mount these arguments see the chasm between the new covenant described prophetically, and and what we have today. As I said before, it is quite possible that the truth of new covenant life is not intended for everyone.

      I believe the sticking point for most of these refuseniks is the idea that God’s truth is now written directly on the human heart, and not on parchment or tablets of stone.

      But unless Jesus instituted two new covenants, one for Israel and Judah, and one for the rest of us, or we want to dismiss the Letter to the Hebrews as mistaken or wrong-headed, then Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a valid guide to what we should be hoping to attain today.

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  6. nightprayers says:

    @ Catherine – IMO, another, perhaps more precise paralleling in English of the designation of the two sets of scripture are Hebrew Scriptures and Greek Scriptures, a simple linguistic designation according to original or primary language of the two sets of books. If we use Hebrew instead in its role as a designation for a people, then not all portions of the Hebrew Scriptures are equally Hebrew and some are more precisely Jewish than others. The linguistic designation more accurately covers the bases. Likewise, all of the canonical scriptures of Christian origin were written in Greek. Or at least any preliminary editions in Aramaic are mere speculations without reliable evidence. Furthermore, the philosophy of the Greeks as well as their language infuses these books. You could call them Christian Scriptures, but they were not the only ones, many non-canonical ones being pushed to the side. A Hebrew/Greek designation allows for the linguistic/ cultural/ philosophical distinction between the two distinct collections of canonical books to be seen for what they are rather than what they ain’t.

    @ Anonymous – My understanding of Ron’s thoughtful and thought-provoking post is, in essence, that the kingdom of God is within you. Not within you because you believe certain doctrines but because it is inherently present within you. IMO this is completely compatible with atheism though not at all requiring atheism to make sense. The atheist need not believe a God exists and wrote X on her heart in order to have the experience of truth emerging from her ethical core rather than being handed handed down from an external deity.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      I never use the phrase “Old Testament” anymore, and only rarely “New Testament.” I’ve consciously trained myself to use “Hebrew scriptures” and “Greek scriptures” instead, partly out of respect for Judaism, and partly out of respect for Jeremiah’s prophecy.

      And I understand the situation of “atheists” the same way, although I don’t know how “they” would feel about it!

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m no theologian, course I don’t need to be if it’s all written on my heart but this seems like a real stretch. The bible’s pretty common sense.

    “The days are surely coming,” says the LORD,
    “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel
    and the people of Judah.

    (“Again common sense says it ain’t atheists, Pod people, Buddists or the tea party. It plainly says Israel and the people of Judah.”)

    It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors (Whose ancestors exactly?)
    when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt,

    (Who did He lead out of the land?)

    a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,” says the LORD.
    “But this is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel (Who?) after that time,”
    says the LORD.
    “I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts;
    And I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    No longer will they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD,’
    because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”
    says the LORD, (It certainly ain’t happened yet or am I missing something here?)
    “because I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sin no more.”

    (I guess if context doesn’t count for anything- Pass me the bong and a cold one and let me tell you a bedtime story.)

    Like

    • Ron Goetz says:

      You might want to open your Bible to Hebrews chapter 8. Hebrews 8:8-12 reproduces Jeremiah 31:31-34 in its entirety in order to demonstrate the fact that God the Messiah has instituted a “new covenant” in place of the old. According to the author of Hebrews, Jeremiah’s announcement of the new covenant is proof that the old covenant is now obsolete. Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). The author of Hebrews extols the superiority of the new covenant extravagantly.

      I have read a number of rationalizations that try to explain why we shouldn’t look to Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy to understand our Christian life today, even though we supposedly live under the new covenant as described by Jeremiah. People who mount these arguments see the chasm between the new covenant described prophetically, and and what we have today. As I said before, it is quite possible that the truth of new covenant life is not intended for everyone.

      I believe the sticking point for most of these refuseniks is the idea that God’s truth is now written directly on the human heart, and not on parchment or tablets of stone.

      But unless Jesus instituted two new covenants, one for Israel and Judah, and one for the rest of us, or we want to dismiss the Letter to the Hebrews as mistaken or wrong-headed, then Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a valid guide to what we should be hoping to attain today.

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  8. Tim Attwell says:

    Does an atheist “know God”? Many atheists do not regard as credible a concept of God that posits a deity that is little more than a tribal totem, thinly disguised. This totem god is invoked to heteronomously impose social control by threats of punishment or rewards for compliant behaviour. Additionally, this god is invoked to supernaturally manipulate environmental, social, political, material or economic conditions to the advantage of its devotees. This “god” is of the order of those that Elijah strove so valiantly to discredit (1 Kings 18: 20 – 40) but which is common to much narrow and naive religion nowadays. Put another way, the concept of god promoted by so many apparently fervently religious people is simply too small to accommodate the majestic realities many scientists gaze upon daily.

    Many people choose to call themselves atheists, not because they do not “know God”, but because they do, and what they “know” is much greater than the concept of “god” many want them to believe in. It’s instructive that 1st and 2nd century CE Christians were accused of being “atheists” because they didn’t subscribe to belief in inadequate representations of divinity or transcendence. Do some atheists “know God”? You bet they do, that’s why they are atheists.

    Others, who may or may not describe themselves as atheists, distance themselves from the strictures of legalistic (at worst) or moralistic (at best) religion because those strictures keep people in a state of perpetual minority, unable to think or decide for themselves and well described by St Paul in Galatians 4: 1 – 7. Legalistic or moralistic religion, heteronomously imposed, stands squarely in the way of the purpose of life in the Spirit: “until all of us come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the full stature of Christ…etc (Ephesians 4: 13ff). Put another way, Legalistic and moralistic religion, heteronomously imposed, prevents people from being restored to the image of God through engagement, by the Spirit, with Jesus Christ (see: Romans 8: 29; 2 Corinthians 3: 18; and especially Colossians 3: 10.) This is an example of what Jeremiah 31 is getting at.

    “Ministering in the New Covenant” involves facilitating people’s emergence as whole, reconciled, mature, thinking, self-controlled (as in autonomous) and free moral agents – to borrow Abraham Maslow’s language, as self-actualizing persons. This is what Jesus was getting at in John 8 verses 32 and 38, when he said: “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” and ” If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for these comments, Tim. I’d like to pick up on one strand.

      You equate self-controlled with autonomous. I agree, self-control is the same as autonomy. If I have self-control, then I control my self. I am not controlled by something outside myself. I am not controlled by the opinions, approval, or disapproval of “man,” that is, other people. If I have self-control, then I am not controlled by custom or tradition. (Also, self-control does not mean forcing myself to live by someone else’s rules.)

      Jesus, our primary example, was self-controlled, he was autonomous. He was not controlled by people’s approval or disapproval, he was not controlled by custom or tradition. Also, Jesus was not controlled by the letter of scripture. He used scripture in his ministry, but he was free to disregard , modify, and contradict scripture, and did so many times. Some people will spontaneously attempt to circumscribe his dismissal of this or that Bible verse, explaining why in this case or that case it was permissable, but this is the definition of casuistry. Others will insist that Jesus was uniquely allowed to do this, but this is to dismiss Jesus as an unrealistic model for his younger siblings. Jesus was autonomous, he was controlled by himself, not by the Scripture.

      “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” Jesus was abused and rejected for some very specific actions and attitudes. We will be abused and rejected for those very same actions and attitudes.

      Being autonomous doesn’t mean that Jesus was independent or isolated. He was One with the Father, and this “relationship” was vital for him. He was in union with the Father, just as we are One with the Father and with Jesus. But this Oneness with the Godhead is internal, just like everything else in this experience of the new covenant. The Oneness of the Father and Jesus was not visible. It was unverifiable. The Oneness was discernible, yes, but completely deniable if one so wished.

      The scribes and Pharisees demanded, “By what authority do you do these things?” Jesus refused to tell them anything, didn’t give ’em squat.

      When I feel compelled to provide scriptural justification for everything I do, when I can barely blow my nose without a Bible verse to “back me up,” then I am not self-controlled. God’s personal action in my heart through the Spirit, conscience, and the Imago Dei are apparently insufficient for me. That’s an example of my lack of faith, a lack of trust.

      Tim, thanks again for describing those three groups of people, and how each group deals with the simplistic, Sunday school, anthropomorphic picture of God that dominates popular Christianity.

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      • Tim Attwell says:

        The issue of heteronomy versus autonomy in the formation of an integrated and whole (“healed”) personality is central to both the psycho-social development of persons and the saving ministry of Jesus. Personal psycho-social integration is a secular expression for the state of reconciliation with God, self and others that we Christians understand to be at the heart of the work of Christ in human life. Central to both is the ability of a person to feel, think and act spontaneously on the basis of his or her own internal locus of control in ways that sustain congruent relationships with his/her self and his/her social, natural, economic and spiritual environment. The work of Christ in the life of an individual establishes basic trust, a sense of acceptance and acceptability, identity and belonging, openness to others, meaning and purpose — in other words the whole gamut of building blocks for an integrated personality. Jesus refers to “abiding in my love” (e.g. John 15) and Paul to “the spirit of adoption” (Romans *: 15- 17). Positive engagement with the self, life and the world flows naturally from that internal base.

        When someone lacks an integrated internal locus of control, in other words, lacks basic trust, a sense of acceptance and acceptability, identity and belonging, openness to others, meaning and purpose etc, that person will feel insecure and instinctively look for an external locus of control — rules (such a person will be forever afraid of “stepping on the cracks”), an authority figure, a tyrant or controlling personality to lean on. The psychological driver in such a person is fear. Obedience to the heteronomously imposed rules, instructions and manipulation by the tyrant etc will induce a substitute sense of security, compensating for the lack of personal internal integration and therefore security. Psychology would call such a person “co-dependent.” Having to look for proof texts and the like is a prime example of such co-dependency. I believe that the contest between Jesus and the Pharisees is an outstanding example of the contrast between integrated personality (Jesus) and co-dependency (the Pharisees.) Many thanks, Ron, for raising an issue that is critical to the integrity of the Gospel and the ministry of Christ and his Church.

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  9. I want to respond to the comment about atheists and knowing God. Part of the issue for any person of faith is the fact that we give all sorts of attributes to God (based upon our limited understanding of scripture) yet God is beyond our comprehension. For all we know, the mythic and seemingly unattainable Unified Theory of science is the same as God. Or God might be a collective of students who have created a computer program similar to Sim City that is our very reality. Or God could be any number of other beings beyond human imagining. In the end, it does not matter what or who God is. As humans we can only apprehend small facets of God. Perhaps atheists embracing the truth of science are also embracing what people of faith consider the truth of God and thus we squabble as humans over semantics.

    And when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commandment (which I personally do not think should ever super-cede Christ’s new commandment to love one another), perhaps the “teaching” quotient has been mis-interpreted for generations. Most of us look for affirmation of our choices, so we view “preaching and teaching” and “conversion” as not so much turning people to God through loving one another as we consider it a commandment to get others to have the same spiritual experience we have had. This is self-defeating in two ways. It denies God the power to deal with the individual according to that person’s needs and experience. It self-aggrandizes one’s own understanding, diminishes others’, and promotes sectarianism and division (none of which seem to correspond to Christ’s own words).

    So perhaps we should be humble in our beliefs and through the examples of our daily living show the reality of a loving life and teach others by example, encouraging them to search for truth (however it appears), and honoring Christ’s words about feeding the hungry, taking care of the poor, helping the ill, and visiting those in prison. Then we can trust God for the salvation of all.

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    • Tim Attwell says:

      Hi James, I like your open endedness when it comes to our human concept of God. Any description of God or God’s attributes must, of necessity, be symbolic or analogical and point beyond themselves. Problems arise when we forget this cardinal rule and regard our symbols or analogies for God as fixed and not plastic. Meanwhile, it does matter what our concept of God is, or rather, what symbols or analogies dominate our concept of God. For instance, some symbols and analogies for God, when not counterbalanced with others, result in a a fear filled, vengeful, judgmental and life denying “take” on life, self and others. Many forms of religious fundamentalism and extremism operate with just such ossified and frankly neurotic projections of human dysfunction.

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  10. Tim, thanks for your comments. They prompted me to think about the nature of faith versus knowledge. Most of us do not want to live in a state of faith and hope, preferring to have our hypotheses accepted as fact – i.e. knowledge. Perhaps it is that human insistence on knowledge (even knowledge based upon mistruth), rather than faith that is at the heart of the problem here.

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  11. Valerie says:

    Are you a leader/pastor in what could be the Communities of the New Covenant? I was just reading where you said your being a pastor was a goal not achieved…

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Valerie, I’d like to think I’m open to the Spirit’s leading. Right now I’m in a mainline church where my ministry is somewhat limited. I feel quite “underutilized.”

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  12. Excellent post. I would also add that possibly the New Covenant is not interpreting the scripture literally. This is the “letter” of the law. Paul plainly tells us in Galatians it is all an allegory. The New Covenant is realizing that God is within us. Jesus tells us this is where true kingdom is found. The mystics who wrote the Bible meant this all along.

    Blessings.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      As Daughters and Sons of God, we have the same authority and options that our Elder Brother did. Looking at the details of what is recorded in the scriptures, He is our model, our example. He used the scripture generously, and ignored the scripture when he chose. Ultimately, we are responsible for our actions, and cannot foist responsibility for what we do, or do not do, onto a Bible verse or someone’s interpretation, tradition, or doctrine.

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  13. Melissa says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog. I found it while searching for differing views on several issues.
    This entry really spoke to me. It is a struggle to be a Christ follower. Differing viewpoints, interpretations, spiritual backgrounds, and personal journey trying to live harmoniously as the body of Christ…well, I’m not even sure how to end that sentence.
    I do try to follow my heart and I try not to get sucked in to religious bickering. Too often these discussions are composed of two sides trying to force their opinions rather than having a true exchange of ideas.
    I often wonder if my beliefs are “correct” or if I’m finding justification for what I want to believe. I will continue to trust that while I am actively trying to follow Christ, he will lead me where I need to go and that might not be the same place that my neighbor needs to go.
    Thanks to all of the contributors.

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks for this reply, Melissa. Beliefs–they’re in the intellect. Writers are by definition intellectuals. But our “final exam” won’t cover our doctrines and theology. In fact, there’s no test at all. Matthew 25: 31-46 says that the king will already know who is his–by their works.

      We all have much in common, and one of those things is thinking that our doctrines and theology mean spit to God. He measures us by how we treat others.

      Unfortunately, I am still an intellectual. I’m trying not to get sucked into religious bickering. But there is a lot of sound, liberating, wise teaching in the scriptures. And for some people, scriptures are important. They won’t believe it unless they see it there. But even then, as you commented, we often are looking for justifications for what we believe. But that’s not entirely bad, because sometimes everyone else we know actually DO have it wrong! But that’s not important, proving that I’m right.

      Thanks also to you, Melissa!

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  14. Arnold Botha says:

    Since my radical conversion really getting to know God in 1994 aand I come from a pastors family – I took the bible counted the pages held it up looked at it and said made a statement that changed my whole in the ministry new covenant of with God – “God it is impossible as my pastor say Your ministry is guided by this book 1 680 pages your entire life God tied up in this book”. I knew from then onwards that my life with God and He healed me from a serious illness doctors couldn’t – that as I was during this illness looking for answers in the bible as being told by my pastor and pastors world wide you will find for your whole life answers in the bible that when I opened the bible for an answer – “God said CLOSE THE BOOK I said what God said if you want to be healed close the book I your God and Best Friend never came in book form or any form you want to discribe me”. I said You my very Best Friend are going to make me a very lonely person among this body – God said never will you ever be lonely with Me the creator, updated second by second NEWS-CASTOR inside of you who will reveal the truth to you every second of the day. I was healed from this serious illness and many other illnesses along the way. Since 1994 have I never closed my eyes when praying – when they ask me to open an assembly I stand in front as they want to bow their heads and close their eyes I immediately say – “whow whow lift up your heads open your eyes and smile we are not bowing down in front of a idol smile – then I say thank you Lord our Best Friend those who know You know that they brought You with them as you live inside of them and I also brought You here this morning with me so our Best Friend we are going to have fun today thank you for giving us life and life abundantly – I do not say amen just walk off and go and take my seat. I have learned as Peter’s shadow cast over people so they were healed and done without any sacrificial prayers like the preachers do today (as I say use castrol gtx oil for healing) and at the gate of beautiful also no prayer to God to heal the cripple man in fact they just spoke and gave the person what they have and things happened – l soon learned without speaking to just put my hand on the ill person without speaking a word and the person is healed.

    I am writing a book about the God that is – “PRESENT TENSE” right now this very minute in time as I am writing the God that is in this highly technology world of ours not apostle Paul who went in a (todays world) a very old wooden boat to Rome – the now world where the world has to know and believe that God is alive, well, passed all His exams and can do His work alone through us without any papers inbetween Himself and us. The responsibility on us today is enormous to show a witness with all the challenges to show people around us that we with God in us can make a difference and a enormous difference.

    Since I closed the book the bible in 1994 with the healing of the illness I had God reveals to me how they actually lived those days in His name. I will open the bible and this may be 2 times a year when God reveals something to me when I speak to pastors and show them like Paul did showing the old covenant scrolls to the jews not the gentiles the error of their ways.

    When ever you want to praise and worship God and you put your hands up stretching higher and higher rather put your hands on your chest and move it around on your chest and say thank you Lord for living inside of me – the devil lives out there. God lives closer to us than we live and know ourselves. HE knows how many times our heart beat today we don’t.

    When I write to pastors preaching over the Christian TV programs and quote and ask them please explain to me – 1 John 2:24 to 30 – Hewbrew 8:13 old covenant obsolete and 2 Corthians 3:14 to 17 where you mind gets clouded by the reading of the old testament even now – they block my email address. It just shows you how confused this present preacher, pastor, leaders of denominations really are when you even quote passages from the bible yet they cannot comment or preach from these passages I referred to.

    Love in Christ
    Arnold Botha
    Cape Town
    South Africa

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    • Ron Goetz says:

      Arnold, the inability of clerics to perceive spiritual truths, what seems to me to be willful blindness, is sometimes baffling and incomprehensible.

      Jesus commented more than once on their blindness. Jesus’s comment that follows, is not directly related to your comments, but is just one example of the incredibly stubborn and willful rejection of spiritual truth.

      “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
      (Luke 16:31)

      I hope your efforts bear fruit. Despite the resistance you meet, stay hopeful and strong.

      Like

  15. Arnold Botha says:

    Dear Ron, me coming from a pastor’s family i am told the only way to God to know Him and His kingdom is through His word the bible – after my radical re-birth in Christ where I had a personal face to face encounter with my creator I quickly realised and found out in 1986 that the only way to know God and Himself is through Him – friend to friend – two people talking to one another having daily conversations about anything and everything.

    My indwelling Father knowing I want to talk to Him to find the best way for my day He gives me so much direction and the closer I grow to Him the closer my friendship becomes stronger and stronger with Him.
    I told my wife the reason why my love for her is emencely strong is because of my love for My Indwelling King, Father and Friend.

    When I address pastors I ask one question and make one statement – why do you have inbetween yourself and God the indwelling Father of all — a book a bible – printed pages from a tree God made Himself – you when you address your congregation you hold in your hand a bible and between yourself and God and also your congregation whom you want to teach you teach them also to have I between themselves and God their Creator a bible — WHY?

    I ask them to close the bible for one month just one month – not to preach from it or quote anything from the bible – the bible will not dissappear in this month – just stand in front of your congregation and tell them what you did in the name of your indwelling God this week and ask your congregation to also come forward to testify what they did in the name of your indwelling God and then after one month’s testimonies from you and the congregation check see whether you and your congregation has grown together knowing each other in a greater way and if you need to use bible stories 2015 years ago again??

    Astounding what you hear.

    Love

    Arnold

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