Friday, September 16, 2011


The silence of the group was all that Tom needed to know that his plea had been attended. All of them, for once, seemed to be in a listening mode. The brief but complex answers he had given about his journey to Earth had cast a shadow of calm in which he could clearly redefine his essential questions to them.

In that continuing silence, save the sound of metal forks hitting a ceramic plates and the slurping of thick, black coffee, he reached for his big, black Bible.  He opened it on the table and turned once more to the page with a rectangle hole where John 3:16 once rested.

"Now returning to my first question I will rephrase it.  Who is in the Kingdom of God? In other words, we know about the sacrificial system but for whom was Jesus sacrificed and who is covered by his blood?"

David spoke, "Now you are asking too many questions at once."

Tom flashed a serious type of grin, "They are all perspectives of the same question because one clear answer will resolve them all."  Then he turned and faced David directly, "I will start with you Pastor Smith since your definition of the Kingdom is most restrictive. Last week you said that this verse in John was not true and you had to take into considerations other verses . . . correct?"

David replied as Tom stuffed another circle of tomato into his mouth, "That is not true!  I've never said that John 3:16 wasn't correct and frankly I'm a bit offended that you cut a piece out of God's Holy word.  In Revelations it says that if you take away from the scriptures, you will be taken away from eternal life. So cutting out passages is walking on dangerous ground."

Tom finished swallowing and wiped his mouth with his napkin. When his throat was clear he continued, "What I did in the physical realm with a knife blade, you had already done with a linguistic knife. I was just following your lead. You see, when the English words but, unless or however are used, they are verbal knives. For example, if I said 'I going to meet this group exactly at 8 AM next Wednesday, however, if there is another RV jack-knifed in the road, I may be late.' Then the however negates my previous statement, which was, I will--with certainty--be here at 8 AM."

"I wasn't negating John 3:16, but I was  just saying it wasn't that simple and you need to look at all of the Bible.  When you interpret the Bible, you should put it in context."

Tom continued, "In our culture, we are so use to dealing in logic. Therefore, again not speaking arrogantly, I must make this more clear to you because, your culture makes choices based on emotions. The fact that here sits a table of, I think you say it in colloquial English, "arm chair theologians,"  yet your friendship has to exclude the discussion of the most important questions of life. But you have to avoid the discussions because you folks discuss within the shell of emotion.  So, what I'm saying, is that I want to have a frank discussion in logic."

Everyone looked puzzled as Tom took a drink of his tomato juice. "So, speaking in logical terms, there are two things that 'taking a verse in context' means to you.  The first is really a contra-diction and the other is a pro-diction or what you would say is corroboration. Pastor David, when you say that we must take John 3:16 in context I think you mean the former.  For example, if I said that 'the house had windows" and then later I said 'the house windows had curtains,' that would be a corroboration.  But if I said, 'the house had windows' but in another place I said, 'the house was windowless' . . . now that would be a contradiction. Do you see my point?"

Everyone was nodding their heads . . . save David.

"Now this verse, which I cut out, said that the way to enter the kingdom or to have eternal life or however you want to define it, is given simply to whoever believes in Christ.  Now, if other verses say something about that belief, then it is a corroboration. But David alludes to verses that say that there is more to it. So, that is a contradiction and it nullifies the first statement. So, who around this table believes that verse is really true?"

David's hand shot up, Michael raised his hand as did the father, Debra and Greg.

Tom smiled. "So it looks like we are in agreement . . . but that agreement is only skin deep. I want to explore beneath that skin to find out the truth and I will cut out all the passages, which are not valid."

Tom turned once more to David, "Pastor Smith, since you have already added one contradiction to John 3:16, why don't you continue. What other verses define what makes one a Christian?"

David rubs his face and looks serious for a moment. "You are trying to trick me. I believe in that verse as much or more than anyone around this table. Nowhere did I contradict it."

"I beg to differ pastor Smith. You told me just a minute ago that if I cut that verse out of the Bible I would be in danger of not being in the Kingdom. I think you take that notion from Revelations chapter 22 verse nineteen, And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  Isn't that correct?"

David answered, "That's the correct verse. There are other verses that further define John 3:16. For example I think the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. It points out that a real Christian shows love, patience, peace and etc."

Tom looked puzzled, "But I've studied this book for many hours a day and for many years. I don't have your culture, but I do have your language . . . and our logic. That passage is not about what defines a Christian, but what is the outward changes that the Holy Spirit can gradually make in a person and in a society.  So, if we held it up to be proof of being a Christian, that you must act peaceful, lovingly, joyfully and etc, that would be a contradiction."

Michael finally adds to the discussion, "Tom, what David is trying to say that if you took John 3:16 alone, then it would be what we call 'cheap grace.'  That someone who has done terrible things could just believe in Jesus and instantly be perfectly clean in God's eyes and not worry about their behavior anymore. They could be as bad as ever and still be a Christian."

Tom smiled, "Well, in all honestly, and in great logic . . . that's exactingly what it sounds like to us."   

Debra was smiling, "You know, I think that is a beautiful way of looking at the gospel . . . Jesus plus absolutely . . . nothing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The preachers are taking it on the chin!