I have been studying the new testament for the past 6 months and found a
lot of encouragement generally throughout and it was leading me to begin
to believe, though some parts of the text I found a bit troubling and not
often addressed by other Christians other preachers. I even discovered
some misinformation on the web site of the church I was brought up in from
a child. The church is a fundamentalist Presbyterian offshoot and when I
was able to present them with inaccuracies they had posted about the
European Union, they refused to acknowledge my concerns and they have
never seen fit to correct the error, mainly I think because it suits their
agenda of demonizing the EU for their own political advantage. This same
church espouses the belief that the Bible is the infallible word of God.
So obviously I was very disgusted by their lack of concern for truth and
undermines their Biblical authority etc.
That aside some texts still troubled me. For example, in one of
the gospels Jesus is said to have a favorite disciple and is described
as resting his head on his chest – now I have often heard skeptics claim
that Jesus might have been gay and of course I never went with that notion
for such an idea seemed blasphemy in the extreme. However I was very
shocked when I read the text for myself.
There other aspects of Paul’s teachings which seem to sometimes seem to go
against Jesus’ more liberal methods. Jesus saw no trouble going to mix
with harlots and publicans etc yet Paul seems to lambast such underclass
people at every turn. Paul in one chapter says that women should be under
man in social hierarchy and then in another passage he says there is no
difference between the sexes in the sight of God. His attitude towards
women seems so extreme, he prohibits them from even braiding their hair
and demanding they cover their heads in the church. Now these are minor
points and I suppose it is possible to explain them by the context they
are placed in. Paul prohibits drunkenness and revelry for example, yet
Jesus was quite happy to turn the water into wine for a wedding
celebration and Jesus seems to make little or no condemnation about
appropriate feasting or celebration. There are no doubt plenty more
differences, but I had come to a general position that perhaps, as some
scholars suggest that it was possible that some of the writings
attributed to Paul may not have been from his pen at all.
So I was able to brush these points to the side, however it was only
when I began to read Genesis and Exodus that I began to have serious
difficulties. No doubt you’ll know all the arguments without me rhyming
them off. I read up on some of CS Lewis’ theories but even this great
scholar had to admit to problems in his advanced hermeneutical approach.
The big problem being that
Jesus traced his lineage right back to Adam. So my question is, before
all these unpallatable illogical stories build up to cause me a major
stumbling block I would sincerely ask if you could recommend any reading
for me that may help me overcome my growing skepticism. No one is more
disappointed in myself to find my deepening faith of late suddenly being
undone by the very book on which my faith bases its doctrines. I had been
considering taking up some scriptural studies to deepen my knowledge so
that I might become a more useful believer but now I am greatly troubled.
I ask myself how all these respected Christians I know have been able to
resolve these mysteries, or am I just lacking in the grace I need to see
through all this.
I do not mind replying at all. That is what I do!
I really respect and encourage your reading of the New
Testament. The fact that you look for and even demand sound answers to
your questions is very commendable. God appreciates those who examing the
scriptures carefully to see if what they are hearing is in agreement (Acts
17:11). Keep it up!
Let me address some of your questions.
It is not my goal to put down any particular religious group,
but I would imagine you have come across a premillenial teaching. The idea
that the EU is somehow specifically predicted, for example, in the Book of
Daniel is almost certainly nonsense. One should take all the modern-day
applications of Revelation or Ezekiel or Daniel to specific events today
with a massive grain of salt. I discuss this a bit in an appendix in my
book on Daniel, “Daniel, Prophet to the Nations”, available at
www.ipibooks.com if you are interested.
The favored disciple you refer to is the apostle John. It is
apparent from the gospels that Jesus had an especially close relationship
with Peter, James and John. To imply any sort of homosexual aspect to this
relationship, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. Jesus was a very
masculine person, but he was willing and able to express affection with
children, women and men, as is made clear in the New Testament.
Apparently, one can see that he had a special relationship with John, as
is seen in John 21, but to imply any sort of sexual interest is blasphemy
of the highest order. Please do not let your cultural background (probably
similar to my own) see the relationship between Jesus and John as anything
more than a close spiritual friendship.
I can see why you might see a contradiction between Jesus’
attitude and that of Paul. I would comment that they were dealing with two
very different situations, and that if their comments are taken in
context, they do not contradict one another. Jesus was very hard on sin,
but very loving toward sinners. Paul warned against forming close
friendship with very worldly people, but he also specifically said that we
should not withdraw from the world at all (1 Corinthians 5), but that we
should simply remember to be careful to not be influenced by the world as
we reach out to them. As you read the letters of Paul, see if there really
is a contradiction, or if Paul, like Jesus, tells us to reach out to
sinners, but to not become too closely entangled in their sinful deeds.
Both Jesus and Paul give absolutely equal importance to men
and women. Paul and Jesus both had a number of women in their inner circle
of friends. This was unique and revolutionary in that day. Jesus and Paul
were both revolutionary in openly declaring that women are of equal value
and importance to men. Having said that, God has made the role of women
different than that of men in some ways. It is not as if they are not
equal, but they do have different roles based on their different
strengths. Jesus openly declared himself to be equal to the Father, yet at
the same time to be in submission to the father. Paul declared a similar
relationship between husbands and wives. I believe this is not
inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, although Jesus is not quoted as
making such a specific statement in the gospels. Does this make sense? Can
Jesus be equal in importance to his Father, yet at least in some sense be
in submission to the father? Can women and men be exactly equal in
importance and value, yet can women be in submission to men in a marriage
relationship? By the way, Paul does not declare women to be under men in
social heirarchy. In fact, Paul treated women as social equals. In the
church, there is not man-over-woman heirarchy–only in the marriage
relationship. That is how I see it. If you have specific verses in mind, I
would be willing to address more specific questions.
Paul and Jesus are absolutely in agreement on drunkenness.
Both were clear that having wine in moderation is not a sin, but that
drunkenness is a sin. Paul advised Timothy to drink s
ome wine for his
stomach problem and Jesus made wine for a marriage feast. At that time,
most people did not even drink straight water because it was so unhealthy.
What Paul and Jesus both very clearly condem is drunkenness. Some
religious groups condem all drinking of all alcoholic beverages, even in
moderation. This viewpoint cannot be supported biblically, although if an
individual chooses to completely abstain, that would be a matter of
I cannot absolutely prove that all the letters which are
traditionally attributed to Paul were actually penned by him. Whether
these books are by Paul or another disciple in the first century, the real
issue is whether God was able to give to us, through the early church, a
set of scriptures which is inspired. I have studied both the New and Old
Testaments extensively, as well as many “apocryphal” books besides and
find the entire Bible to have the marks of inspiration. This is discussed
in much detail in my book, “Reasons for Belief: A Handbook of Christian
Evidences” (also available at www.ipibooks.com) It would require an
extensive reply to your question to do complete justice to the subject.
Let me suggest you start by reading this book (please forgive
me, if this seems self-promoting…. I do not make money from the book!)
Let me also suggest you keep a running list of questions, crossing out
those which you have found a reasonable answer for. I am convinced that at
first the list will get pretty long, but with some work on your part, you
will find answers to most of your questions and the list will eventually
get shorter. Please feel free to write with more specific questions. I did
not address your OT question as it was not specific, but feel free to be
more specific on that.