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Old Testament

God Never Changes … or does She?

I got an email from a friend asking me:

“ … there’s just one thing that I’m still not sure about: the idea that God changes over time. And the reason this bugs me is because, to me, that means we can never know who/what God is. How do we know that God really is love? What if God really use to be as violent as He/She/It was back in the Old Testament?”

I thought it would be good to post part of my response here and compare notes (theology, after all, is dialogical).

 There are 3 things that we need to flesh out (pun intended) about this question:

1. While God may not change, how humans view and speak of that God evolves. There is little doubt that over the centuries how we conceptualize and even construct our language about God (or Gods) has changed, adapted, morphed, absorbed and modified.  There is no reason to shy away from that. It is a healthy response to growing awareness and – I will even say – progressing revelation.

God is at work in our midst and God has also given us Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us. We say that God is infinite, but as I have heard it said “then no matter how much we know about God – there is infinitely more to know.”

The only objection to this seem to be a ‘you think that your better than them?’ defense of the ancients. Seriously – that is the only real defense I hear of conserving antiquated notions of God. Don’t you dare going moving stuff and changing what they set down! 

That is silly. We must acknowledge as Merold Westphal told us in his visit to the podcast that all our knowledge is situated or what we call perspectival. This is where Elizabeth Johnson’s book “She Who Is” becomes so valuable. I wrote about this in ‘She Who Is Not’ and ‘Horse Gods’.

2. Many groups and thinkers would challenge the notion that God doesn’t change. As Keith Ward points out in God: a guide for the perplexed 

 “ it is important the see how different the classical view is from the popular view. Whatever the Trinity is, it cannot consist of three distinct ‘parts’ in God, who has no parts. Whatever is meant by ‘God becoming man’ is cannot mean that God changes by taking on human flesh. Whatever is meant by the Holy Spirit working to sanctify the hearts of man and women, it cannot mean that God is actually changing by acting like a finite being in history. All statements about God changing and acting, wether they are in the Bible of not, must be metaphors, All changes are in finite things, and not in God, who is changeless.”

Ya see – the old Platonic conception of changeless ideals means that there could not have really been an incarnation. The stories in the Old Testament about God ‘changing his mind’ must be anthropomorphism. You run into to real problems really quick if you say that God never changes.

Now, having said that – we can say, as a matter of faith, that the character and nature of God never changes. In fact, I would go as far as to say that when we say that God never changes, what we are commenting on is God’s loving nature. You want to know why I can say that so confidently as a Christian …. it’s because I believe that the highest  revelation that we have of God in this world is in Jesus.

 3. Process thinkers have an especially helpful take on this.  Built into a Process theology is a dipolar nature of God.  They distinguish between the Primordial nature or God and the Consequential Nature  (some get even more advanced and add a Superjective nature … but that is for another time.)   The Primordial nature sets out all the possibilities  – the Consequential nature is the perfection of the divine experience. Therefor the Primordial nature of God, what God desires, is preserved and can be said to ‘never change’ while God is fully participatory and even impacted by what happens.

 What are your thoughts?  Is there anything I could add to make this stronger? 

God as She-He-They

Originally posted at Homebrewed Christianity as “She Who is Not”

Earlier this week I had a post about language and God talk that incorporated C.S. Lewis’ poem “A Footnote on All Prayers”.  Part of what came out of that was an exchange with J.W. about pronouns, the Bible, and Inspiration. I wanted to transfer some of that over here (I have edited it for clarity) in order to open up the conversation to more people.

J.W.: So, what does your god look like? And how is that look any different from Piper’s or Driscoll’s?

Me:
Thanks for asking! Actually there is quite a substantial difference. Let me point out just a couple of things to start:
A) I don’t believe that language about God is univocal (as I have said). SO we begin in humility understanding that all our words, metaphors and concepts are OUR best attempt.
B) I believe that langue (since it is not univocal) functions relationally. When Jesus uses ‘Father’ language, he is talking about the WAY in which relates to a father. Not that God’s ontological being is Father in an exacting and representative way. It is an expressive use of language. That is the nature of language.
C) The way that Scripture is expressed is historic. I believe that the Bible is Inspired by Holy Spirit. That means that Holy Spirit was at work in the authors and ultimately in those who collected and validated the canon. (I confess this by faith). Those authors were historically situated and particularly located. They expressed their thoughts in their best language in their best frameworks. We see that historical locatedness and account for it when we engage their writings.
D) Whether you call it ‘original sin’ (I don’t) or ‘human nature’ or (my favorite) relational brokeness and conflicting biological impulses … humans have a problem. We are not 100% whole. Something is wrong (we don’t even do the good we WANT to do). That means that in every epoch and era there are things in place that are not perfect. Those show up in scripture – since it is a snap shot of its environment. The Bible is fully human (and I believe fully divine in a Process sense) but it is not ABSENT of humanity. It is full of humanity.
So If you take just those 4 things in contrast to Piper and Driscoll, then my God talk is:

  • in Humility not certainty or pushy
  • Relational not static or exacting
  • Historical not trans-historic
  • Human not un-human

Does that help? SO that is my starting point. From there I diverge wildly from the other two.

J.W.
Well, first of all, thanks for a response.
Second, no offense, but you use an awful lot of words to not say too much. Or, to say the same thing over and over while denying that you are saying one thing, yet actually affirming another. Since I don’t have any real idea what you believe Piper and Driscoll believe, I still don’t know that you are painting a different god or not.
You start out saying that all expressions of God are only a best attempt, but then you claim to believe the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, which is it? Our best attempt, or Holy Spirit inspired? See the problem there. It’s either one or the other, can’t be both.
Certainly the Bible is written situationally. God could have inspired men to write it so it only made sense at one point in the entire course of time, or He could have inspired it so that it meant the same thing from beginning to end, from the beginning of time to the end of time. And written so that ordinary people could figure it out with a little help from His Holy Spirit. Which is what I believe. You seem to believe that only post-modern thought with a lot of help from certain philosophers can figure out this whole humility, relation, human thing. Sorry, way too many creeks have flowed over their banks throughout history for me to believe that only recently have we been smart enough to figure this whole mess out.
God (Holy Spirit) inspired the whole Bible. He could have very easily caused His writers to use words that wouldn’t mean anything to their (at the time, current) readers, but would only matter eons later. IF that is what He intended.
Again, you haven’t showed me anything but dichotomies, and nothing of substance that disproves anything Piper et al believe-which I still don’t know what you believe they believe.

Me:
1) I did use a lot of words, but it was to say quite a bit. Unfortunately it was not what you were looking for so you think I didn’t say much. I assure you that I say quite enough in my 300 words to get in a lot of trouble in many circles!
2) You are 100% wrong that “It’s either one or the other, can’t be both.” Inspiration is not the OVERriding of human intent – it is the filling UP and expanding of human intent. Inspiration does not make something inhuman. You are thinking of something else not inspiration. Then you accuse me of dichotomies? Weird. I am talking about a participatory-relational model that transcends either/or thinking. You must be confused.
3) Here is an example of the difference (which you apparently were not able to pick up on): It is equally a valid to call god She as it is to call god He. Because in the end, god is neither. Those are pronouns that stand in for their antecedent but which do not entirely explain god or contain god’s ontological reality. God did not give Christianity a masculine feel. We did. God is God that is beyond our biological categorizations and anatomical classification. God is not defined by those – we simply conceptualize God and these terms and portray those conceptions in our language.
This is the nature of language. It is symbolic – analogical – and metaphorical.  That does not mean that we are not saying anything when we talk about God. We are. It does not mean that there is no inspiration. There is. Those are not mutually exclusive.
To quote Elizabeth Johnson in She Who Is :

Words about God are cultural creatures, intwined with the mores and adventures of the faith community that uses them. As cultures shift, so too does the specificity of God-talk.

To call God She is just as accurate and as inaccurate as calling God ‘he’.

 

Jesus and Storms

There has a been a vibrant conversation this week about whether God is in control of the weather. (see what I did there?) I have learned a lot from the people who believe that ‘he’ does send, direct, and control things like hurricanes. They are sincere in their belief and many have really thought about how to reconcile the tensions that come up in the discussion.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a threshold that the conversation stalls at. There is just a moment when these two ways of reading the Bible seem irreconcilable. I am not intending to ‘bridge the gap’ but I do think that there is a way to help those who think that God sends hurricanes to see how those of us who don’t still read the Bible.

I want to talk about Hermeneutics (the way we read the Bible) and specifically the Second Naivete. Here is a 9 minute video by Image of Fish that explains this well.  Here is a quick summary for preaching the text this way.

My thesis is this: when we come to passages like Jesus calming the storm, it is impossible for us in the 21st century to read it or understand it as people did in the 1st century. The pre-modern mind had a different relationship to story, idea, text, and experience than we have. So even when contemporary believers attempt to have a pre-modern reading of the Bible, they can not. When they try to reconcile their world and experience to the world and experience in scripture there is an inherent gap.  That gap must be bridged or accounted for or it becomes prohibitive. The tension represented by the gap becomes untenable for one’s faith.

Here is how I read the storm stories in Matthew 14:22-23, Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21. I believe that the event really happened and the disciples really experienced that moment. I take it by faith. Now I have said before that the point of the story is not for me to walk on water or for me to tell storms to be quiet. The point of the story is to hear the word of Christ to ‘be not afraid’. It this sense, I think that the important part of the text is not physics (how did Jesus walk on water) but poetics (what is the message). The problem for some modern readers is that if Jesus did not literally walk on water then they can not literally be not afraid. It is a 1:1 rational. I get that. and I will even concede that to them if they will talk to me about hermeneutics.

But – and this is a big but – it is quite a leap to move from the disciples’ experience of Jesus calming a localized storm on a sea while he was incarnate, to the contemporary believer watching satellite footage of last week’s hurricane on the Atlantic coast and  asserting that God is ‘in control’ of the weather. That is an irreconcilable set of assumptions.

When Jesus was incarnate he calmed a storm one night does not equal God sent Hurricane Irene.

Some people have a real problem giving up a naivete or even wrapping their head around it. I  had an amazing conversation with a Bible College student about Emergence Theory and the first 3 chapter of Genesis. When I explained how I thought the importance of the text was not a literal report of those first 6 days (or why in one story man is created after plants and in the second story it is before – Gen 2:5-7) but the truth about HOW God works with God’s creation to bring about a new and preferable reality. This person got really annoyed and said “then why even read Genesis at all if it is not real?” I explained that it was real. That really is how god works with humanity and creation.

After a while I said, ” you are like the person that finds out that there is no Santa Clause for real and that Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25th and says “then Christmas doesn’t mean anything- it is not worth celebrating”. You would be wrong. Christmas is the most beautiful thing in whole world. It is the message behind it (the poetics) that give it it’s meaning.

I know that reading the Bible while being aware of the gap (between the pre-modern world and our contemporary mind) can be jarring and disorienting. I get why not everyone will want to do it. But I also think that it is far better than the other option which is to insist on fabricating a pre-modern reading when one does not have pre-modern mind. It just can’t be done with integrity. It is better acknowledge where we are at, admit that things have progressed & changed, and to authentically engage the text from our radical and particular located-ness.Jesus calms the storm

Next time: I will address how much more FUN it is to be a Christian once you embrace the hermeneutical gap!

How do we read the Old Testament?

I had said (over at FB) that “the God revealed in Christ has a power that is neither coercive nor unilateral.
The God of the Old Testament would never turn the other cheek. Jesus presents to us a view of God that is a radical renovation of previous conceptions.”

As Christians we talk about god particularly not generically. We are not God-ians in a universal sense but Christ-ians in a specific sense.

My friend Ryan wrote a thoughtful response about reading the Old Testament. Here is Ryan: 

In a way, the characteristics of God often portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures appear to be incomplete. The reason I say that is because the writers and communities that formed those Scriptures were locked into a particular time and place and could only see dimly the pictures of God they were given. I do believe that it is not God that changes, but our understanding of who God is. So I would absolutely agree with your initial post, that in Christ we get the fullest picture of who God is, (i.e. power, grace, mercy, judgment) though we still see dimly because of 1st century culture and our own present one. What Christ does enable us to do is understand what we aren’t able to see in the Hebrew Scriptures without the reality of his incarnation. We can then reexamine the God described in the Hebrew Scriptures with a fuller picture of God’s unique character, through the lens of Jesus. This is truly a gift.

Part of the problem with our modern ways of dissecting Scripture are that we expect the fullness of who God is to be revealed in every single letter and word. This seems to miss the messy and real life process that was undertaken in writing these Scriptures to begin with. Communities of faith, albeit inspired by God, still had to wrestle with the inconsistencies of who they believed or wanted God to be, and who God actually revealed God’s self to be. Because we have the entire canon at our disposal we don’t see the centuries that it took to arrive at the understanding of Christ as the incarnation and fullest expression of God’s self. 1 Peter 1:10-12 provides this perspective, that it was never the intention of the Hebrew Scriptures to be the et. al. portrayal of God, but that when the Messiah was revealed he would make God known. Finally, that same Christ whose Spirit infuses God’s people, is continuing to make God known to us, in order that we might see less dimly and be given the grace of seeing God for who God truly is.

Earthquakes Hurricanes and Politics

Earlier this week, Michelle Bachmann said something stupidor at least something that I regarded as such.  Later she said she was just joking. I posted it on Facebook and some people actually tried to defend her thinking that ‘god’ caused the earthquake and hurricane.

I have written before about how God does not direct tornadoes or punish the people of Haiti for some deal their ancestors made with the devil. I have said that Crucifying Job’s God” href=”https://bosanders.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/crucifying-jobs-god/” target=”_blank”>we need to update our concepts and adapt our frameworks (theological, philosophical, sociological, spiritual, etc.) to the realities of the 21st Century and not allow ourselves to get limited by what the ancients believed/understood in the first couple of centuries C.E.

What follows is an amalgamation of my comments in that Facebook conversation. I have modified some of them to account for responses by those in the conversation.

When I say that God did not cause these things, I am talking about  intervention, ‘an act of God’.
Do you believe that God intervened in the natural order to make the earthquake and the hurricane? Did God cause them as part of ‘his’ plan?

I do not.  But I also understand that those who want to believe like Bachmann that god does work this way and that scripture does not allow us to think otherwise … is certainly is one way to be a Christian. – a way I think made a lot more sense in the pre-modern world… but it is one way to be a christian.

That being said, it is not the way that I am looking for. I do not want to be limited to only the physics and meta-physics of the first centuries C.E. As christians, I want to incorporate modern realities, acknowledge scientific advancement and adjust to expanding knowledge. I want to grow up out of humanity’s infancy. This means we adapt and integrate to leave behind some of the previous ways of thinking.
Christianity is a perpetual maturing toward reality and moving from milk to meat.

In this rubric, the Bible is an inspired and authoritative record of God’s dealings with a part of humanity as interpreted and then represented by those individuals and communities in their understanding and capacity.

This is where ‘all or nothing’ thinking really fails us. I’m not saying to  “throw out” the teachings or worldview of those who wrote the Bible. I am saying that we need to integrate. You have to have something old to integrate the new into. Otherwise it is replacement. I just don’t want to be limited ONLY to first century meta-physics. I obviously don’t want to chuck everything Paul said.

Here is why this is so important: part of the good news that the church has to proclaim is that the world is God’s and that God by God’s spirit is present at at work in the world!!
My hesitation here is what you mean by ‘in charge’ because God is not an Caesar-Emperor with ‘thumbs up- thumbs down power’.

  • that conception of god is to miss that counter-narrative provided by Jesus. God is NOT like Caesar. Jesus shows us something different – that God is NOT like the powers of this world.
  • those who miss this counter-narrative, often also miss that the God revealed in Christ is at work in Holy Spirit at this is why we must be Spirit Christians and not Old Covenant Christians just getting out frameworks and word pictures from the days of Kings. Jesus provides a revision to that understanding and a counter trajectory to simply sticking with that previous understanding.

When we say that it is time to update some things we are NOT saying that the ancients knew nothing about physics or metaphysics. Let’s say that they were exactly as proficient in their day as we are in ours. That is all we can do – do the best we can do in our time as they did in theirs.

What I am 100% against is saying that they knew MORE than us and we need to stick with ONLY what they knew!

There is no other area other area of our life where we stick with the knowledge of the 1st century.

 

I wanted to add a link to “making sense of the miraculous” for those who are interested

>Jesus is not Violent

> When we talk about God as Christians we are not talking about a generic conception of God. As Christians we believe in a very specific concept of God, one that was most fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

 For people that believe in Jesus and call themselves Christians, I think that it is important that we get something strait: Jesus was not violent. That is the first proposition. The second theory flows out of that: since Jesus was not violent, maybe his people should not be violent either. 


I know that there are those who will object. Some of them will even point to verses in Scripture. I will try to look at each of the objections that I hear as best I can as quickly as I can.
Old Testament
I think that it is important to recognize that we are not GOD-ians, or Spirit-ians. We are Christians.We would take our cue from Christ.

Here is my concern: Every time some Christian wants to be violent and can not find a way in Christ to justify it – they reach back into the Old Testament in order to do so. This is a bad way to read the Bible.  Sometimes, when christian ministers speak, it almost comes across as if Jesus never came.  When I say “Jesus was not violent” you can’t just jump backward and say “In the Old Testament God…” That is not the right way to do it.

Turning over table in the Temple
Whenever I say that Jesus was not violent, almost without exception the first thing someone says is “what about when he cleared the Temple?”  In passages like John 2:15, Jesus makes quite a ruckus in the Temple – driving out the animals that were for sale and turning over the tables of the money changers. 
I would just point out three things: A) it was the only time that he did something like this. It was an exception. B) he did not harm any human or living thing. He cracked a whip and turned over tables. C) this act was in protest of those who had made religion big business, profiting from the vulnerability of others. 
So often I hear this verse used to justify supporting violence and ironically it is by those who have made the christian religion big business and make a handsome profit off of it. That should tell you something.
The Book of Revelation

in chapter 19 of John’s Revelation you hear this: 

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

Somehow this becomes permission to be violent to other countries and to people of different backgrounds or persuasions. 
The error is threefold:


1. To derive doctrine from apocalyptic literature in difficult at best. The very nature of the genre is poetic, fantastic, and explosive. It really should not be read like the rest of scripture. I am firmly convinced that each genre should be read in ways that are appropriate to the nature of that genre. The Histories of the Hebrew Testament, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles (or letters) and the Apocalyptic all need to be read in distinct ways.     


2. To miss that his sword is a non-sword – it is his Word !  I call this “the problem of jesuSword”  and though it can be confusing, it’s important to see that it is not Jesu’s Sword  but Jesus’ Word !!   What brings the nations to submission is not a sword but Jesus’ Word – or the word of the Word (if you prefer). To miss this is to miss the point all together. It is to think that the Romans did the right thing is nailing Jesus to the cross. It is to miss that Jesus was killed unjustly and the injustice pains the heart of God.  There is poetry in that Jesus told Peter to “put away” his sword (jJohn 18:11) and said that if his kingdom was of this world that his followers “would fight” (John 18:36). The implication is that his kingdom’s power does not originate with this world* and therefor his followers will not fight. 


3. Some people justify violence by saying “Jesus even said that he came to bring a sword”   but think about the whole sentence… what did he say? 

Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—   37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

 Here is the important thing: swords were meant to guard families. To protect me, my things, and those close to me! Jesus says that his sword it to divide up families – and I think he was being ironic !!  Because  in his day swords were actually for defending one’s family – for guarding me and mine. In this sense, Jesus’ “sword” is an un-sword… or an anti-sword. It does the opposite of what human swords are used for.  Jesus’ sword is not for defending family but for dividing family. Jesus did not come with a human sword but the opposite!! 

The Kingdom suffers violence
In Matthew 11:12 Jesus says that the Kingdom “suffers violence” and that the violent “try to take it by force”.  I know that this is a tricky passage. Some people see it as saying “you have to be aggressive to enter the kingdom” but I think it is more appropriate to read it as “violent men try to seize to use for their own purposes”.  Regardless, either reading does not give us permission to be be violent and advance the kingdom of Christ “by the sword”. 
Clarification
I am not a pacifist.  I am not passive.  I am actively and passionately non-violent.  I believe that violence begets more violence. Sometime – a person who wants permission to be violent in Jesus’ name will pull out the big two examples and ask me either “what about the Nazis” or “what if some guy broke into you house and was going to rape your wife”?   These are always the big two and I will deal with them next week in “Breaking the Bell Curve”.  Suffice to say – barring those two examples, most of what we are talking about with burning heretics, Godly nationalism, and militarized violence does not primarily fall into those two famous categories. They are just all too normal human violence baptized in Jesus’ name. 
Example
Let me get down to the heart of the matter. Here is an example of exactly what I am talking about. There is nationally known pastor in Seattle, Washington who is famously quoted as saying “Jesus is a cage fighter with a tattoo on his thigh and a sword in his hand, determined to make someone bleed”. He said this in reference to the fact that he “could not worship somebody that he could beat up.” 
Some people dismiss statements like this and chalk it up to testosterone fueled, overly inflated, pumped up hyper-masculinity.  I think that there is something much deeper and much more sinister involved. I think that it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God and the interpretation of Christian scripture. 
What is noteworthy is that in Revelation 19, the sword is not in Jesus’ hand but it comes out of Jesus’ mouth. That seems important in the poetic nature of Revelation. This sword is not your average sword. It is not in Jesus’ hand and that makes you wonder if the way in which this sword “strike down” the nations is not in bloody violence but in a kind of destruction that would happen as a result of a sword that proceeds from the mouth of God?  Let’s ask ourselves “is there something that comes from the mouth of God that radically impacts or consumes peoples and nations?”  Is there something sharp that comes from the mouth of God … something sharper than any two edged sword? 
_____
I am suggesting that we need to be open to consider at least three ideas:
1. that since that time in church history when the church rose to Roman power and began to kill people (burn, hang, and behead) what we often call Christianity has been very different than the initial vision of Jesus and the precedent set by the early church when Jesus was killed by Romans and the church suffered violence. 
2. that when groups of nationals are invaded by violent foreigners who mix commerce and religion with genocide and ethnic cleansing, that maybe the rejection by the indigenous population of the alien religion can not be called a rejection of christianity. Maybe when groups like the Native American tribes who were assaulted by European invasion were not actually rejecting what you and I would know as the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
3. that when preachers get stuff like this wrong, that it essentially changes the message and thus the addition of violence to the gospel makes it a different enough message that they are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ anymore but a different gospel. Maybe he doesn’t just quote this passage wrong, maybe he has Jesus all wrong.
Now usually people say “no no it is not a different gospel – it is just an adding of something to the gospel.” It is the gospel plus violence. 
But I would ask, if the example and model of Jesus and the apostles is essentially and fundamentally  non-violent, and one adds violence to it… does it then essentially and fundamentally transform the gospel into something that is then not the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
But is it possible that this preacher did not just get a detail wrong but is actually portraying Jesus wrong. That he is not just adding something to the gospel but is preaching a different gospel and thus is not preaching the gospel? 
I guess a fun example would be : if I write a book about how English is the best language and how everyone should speak English. Then someone translates that my book into French… that would be complicated. But what if they then appropriated the message and said that French was the best language and everyone should speak French… would that then be a different message?   Even if it were based on my original book, had the same title and used all the same stuff – it would be a different message.
I think that they would not just have translated my message but would have changed my message. Essentially and fundamentally they would be saying something different than I was.  They would not be promoting my same message. 
This is the exact situation that I think we often have. People use Jesus’ name, read from the Holy Book and even put crosses on the outside of their building and on their stage. It has all the markers of a Christian message. Here is the problem – it has a fundamentally different message and motives than Jesus did. It uses Roman models and methods and thus it is not in keeping with the Spirit of Christ. 
Jesus was not violent. jesuSword is not Jesu’s sword but Jesus’ word. It’s not a sword – it is an un-sword or an anti-sword.  When we miss this detail, we miss the message.
* the phrase “not of this world” does not mean that Jesus power has nothing to do with this world, but that it does not originate with this world (unlike Herod’s or Pilate’s). It definitely impacts the world and is for the world. “Not of this world” does not mean that it has nothing to do with this world and is for a “world that is to come”. It means that it is fully IN the world but that the source of its power is not OF the world.  

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