The gospels weren’t written with red ink

When I questioned my friend about his statement that he takes Jesus “much more seriously” than he takes Paul, another friend jumped in and said, “You mean the red letters, right?” Wow! Talk about rattling my cage.

Again, I see this as a pendulum swing away from teachings that travel from the manger to the cross to Pentecost without taking a breath along the way. We need the words of Jesus, his teachings. We need the red letters.

But let us never forget that the Word became flesh. The Word didn’t become more words. God could have sent us The Collected Sayings of Messiah Jesus instead of allowing his Son to take human form. But that’s not what happened.

Jesus came and lived among us. When those that walked with him described his life, they talked about how he went around doing good (Acts 10:38). Talk is cheap; Jesus lived out what he taught. His followers spoke of the miracles he did by God’s power (Acts 2:22). To them, what Jesus did was as important as what he said.

I don’t want to lose Jesus’ weeping at Lazarus’ death. I don’t want to forget how he reached out and touched an untouchable leper. I want to remember that he changed water into wine and cleared the temple. I want the image of him sitting and eating breakfast with his disciples on the shore of Galilee.

I value the teaching, as well. I want to be reminded that in the beginning was the Word, that he was with God and was God, that he made everything. I want to be reminded that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Red-letter Christianity loses insights like that which were provided by those who knew Jesus best.

I don’t believe in a “canon within a canon” that makes certain books authoritative and reduces others to mere suggestions. I don’t accept the idea of a “canon within the gospels” that says red letters carry more weight than black ones.

Red-letter Christianity is trying to follow a bodiless Messiah. It ignores the importance of the Incarnation. There are lots of books with wise sayings and helpful teachings; if we only read the red letters, the gospels become more examples of the same.

A friend of mine was recording a video about his ministry and said, “I’m a red-letter Christian because I try to do the things that Jesus did.” Through his mistake, he gave an excellent argument against red-letter Christianity. We’re called to be like Jesus, to imitate him. If we only use half the gospels, we won’t be able to do that nearly as well.

The Word became flesh… not more words.

Links To Go (January 20, 2017)

Oh no, look what Trump’s done: He’s appointed someone to Cabinet who ONCE PRAYED

Am I reading that right? Is the newspaper that exposed Watergate really suggesting that the most important detail about a Cabinet appointee is that he “once led a prayer?”
Stop the presses!
I mean, is the political staff of the Post really so out of touch that they think somebody praying is first-sentence material for a breaking news alert?:

That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century

Traffic-camera laws seem like such minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty that few grasp their constitutional significance. But they reflect a profoundly mistaken view of American constitutionalism. One might say that the traffic camera is a sign of our times. Its widespread use and acceptance reveals how far we have drifted from our fundamental commitment to self-government. When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

Upon The Death Of A Grandson

I know that Nathan is with Jesus in glory for his confidence was not in himself but in his Lord who died for him. Christ had to bear all the horror of our death to bring us eternal life. We may have victory over death in him but we can never accept death as good, normal and acceptable. For when we cease to rage against death we have given up on life itself.

Be Careful Calling Someone a “False Teacher”

But Jesus teaches us to examine the fruit of people’s lives. If someone is full of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness – but they teach something incorrectly – they are NOT someone you need to go to war against. They are an “Apollos” and need to be treated as such. On the other hand, if someone is a lover of money, constantly quarreling and fighting, or hateful and rude, this is the kind of person who needs to be sharply rebuked, silenced, and avoided.
There are false teachers and there are mistaken teachers; we need to practice discernment to know one from the other.

God Always Seems To Have An Idea

I’m to do what we are all to do when facing challenges that sometimes make us cry. We praise God. We tell Him “thank you”. We do not flinch. What we do is live in certainty that as one door closes others break open. This is the way it will go for me and how it will unfold for you.
God is never out of ideas. I truly believe that He has wonder in mind that no man or woman has dared even inquire about; let alone approach.

The immaculate gospels vs the inadequate epistles (?)

It’s amazing how the four gospels came into being, isn’t it? How they dropped down from the sky with no human intervention. Unlike other books of the Bible, these four contain no human elements; all other books of Scripture must be judged by their contents.

I’m sorry… is my sarcasm showing? Let me say that I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the whole Bible. What I’m trying to say is that we mustn’t make the gospels into what they’re not. When my friend posted, “I take Jesus much more seriously than I take Paul,” I responded, “Don’t you mean that you take Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John way more seriously than you do Paul?”

Let’s remember that the gospels are church documents. They were produced by the church, for the church. They are teaching documents, every bit as much as the letters are. They are occasional documents (written for a specific need), just as much as the epistles are. They were written by inspired human authors, just as the writings of Paul were.

We can’t reject parts of the Old Testament because “they don’t fit what we know about Jesus.” (Yeah, I’ve heard that argued) We can’t reject Paul’s teachings because we think they conflict with what Jesus said. Frankly, the conflict is in our interpretation of what each said, not what they actually said. The first four books of the New Testament are not to be excepted from any scrutiny that we do of the other books. If you’re willing to reject Paul, or not take him seriously, be prepared to do the same with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

In my last post, I emphasized the importance of the gospels. But that importance in no way takes away importance from the rest of the New Testament or the rest of the Bible. If you take the Jesus we see in the Bible seriously, you have to take Paul just as seriously. We don’t get to pick and choose.

Bringing back the gospels

We’re talking about the idea of favoring the gospels over the epistles, considering the statement: “I take Jesus way more seriously than I do Paul.” Let me speak first in favor of the proposition.

I believe that we need to preach Jesus more than we do his church. I think we need to preach Jesus more than we do doctrine. People need a Savior.Believers and non-believers need to be pointed to Jesus, urged to imitate him, follow his teachings, do the things he did.

Historically, many Christians have neglected the gospels; this has harmed the church. In a group on Facebook, some people were discussing the Nicene Creed. The creed basically says that Jesus came to earth, suffered, and died. Nothing is said about what he did nor what he taught.

As I mentioned yesterday, many in churches of Christ have wanted to begin with Acts 2. The only important things about Jesus were seen to be his death, burial, and resurrection. Life? Teachings? Minor points. Part of the “Old Testament that was nailed to the cross.” We’re New Testament Christians; that stuff doesn’t affect us. That was the teaching.

That’s wrong. Very wrong. The New Testament church focused on becoming like Jesus. It’s hard to become like him if we don’t know what he did. (which is why the “red letter” movement is equally off base; it takes away importance from the life of Jesus and the things he did)

We need to restore the gospels to their rightful place in the church. So if we’re willing to modify the above statement and say, “I take the gospels as seriously as I take Paul’s writings,” then I’m in full agreement. But if we choose to take away importance from the epistles in order to give more worth to the gospels… I’ve got a problem with that. I’ll take about that in the next few posts.

Choosing Jesus, rejecting Paul

The other day a friend included this in a Facebook post:

“I take Jesus much more seriously than I do Paul.”

That statement didn’t sit well with me.

On the one hand, well… yeah. Jesus is Lord of Lords. He should be taken much more seriously than any other human.

But it seems to me that this friend was echoing a sentiment that I hear in the church today, a need to downplay the writings of Paul and emphasize the gospels. He wasn’t really talking about Jesus and Paul as individuals, but about their teachings.

Historically, churches of Christ have often been guilty of doing just the opposite, preaching Paul and ignoring the gospels. I’ve written before about the strange doctrine that would seek to relegate the gospels to a time long past, discounting their relevance and applicability to people today. That’s an extreme form of the traditional view that argues “The New Testament begins with Acts 2.” (I’ve heard that exact statement)

Today’s view would seem to be the expected pendulum swing that happens so often as churches, as people react to one view by going to the opposite extreme.

I want to spend a little time examining the “gospels only” approach to the New Testament. I’ll include the “red letters only” view as well, which tries to take quotes from Jesus and elevate them above the rest.

Feel free to voice some opinions now or wait until we start trying to cook some of these half-baked thoughts.