Free Northerner has quoted the Nicene Creed and several selections from the Bible in his opening statement on what it means to be a Christian.
Free Northerner cites the Nicene Creed (325) but quotes the First Council of Constantinople (381). It’s hard to know what parts of the Bible to cite and what non-Biblical source to trust. Do we trust the Nicene / Nicene-Constantinople Creed, which was unaware of the Gospel of Thomas (discovered in 1945), or do we trust the Gospel of Thomas, written three hundred years before the Creed? To be a Christian one must clearly make such choices, although how such choices are to be made is not clear.
Free Northerner quotes 1 Corinthians 13. This is a lovely chapter, and includes a verse (1 Corinthians 13:11) that is meaningful to me “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Fine advice, and I am confident Free Northerner would agree. I do not know what Free Northerner thinks of 1 Corinthians 13:8, in which God tells us that prophecies shall fail. Does that make God a liar, or does that make the prophets liars? Why not both, as 2 Chronicles 18:22 tells us “the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets” and Jeremiah 4:10 confirms “Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people.” Free Northerner says that the sinner chooses sin, but when God hardens a man’s heart and tells him lies I would not call that a choice. God seems to my mortal morality to be a mite monstrous to condemn those who lived before Christ, those who lived in isolation during and after the life of Christ and pre-linguistic babies to eternal Hell for a salvation they had no chance to learn of.
Free Northerner quote 1 Corinthians 15. The books of the Old Testament are considered necessary to the books of the New Testament, because they include the prophecies that Jesus is said to have fulfilled. But when the Old Testament contradicts the New Testament, no resolution is at hand other than the faithful believing selectively what they want to believe and quoting selectively what they want to quote. 1 Corinthians 15:20 claims that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. That is supported in the Bible, as long as one ignores 1 Samuel 28:11 & 14 and 1 Kings 17:22 and 2 Kings 4:32-35 and 2 Kings 13:21. Jesus Himself was the necromancer in Matthew 9:23-25, Matthew 27:52-53, Luke 7:12-15, Luke 9:30 and John 11:43. Perhaps Jesus and His followers forgot that they’d reanimated the dead only a short time earlier. It’s easy to overlook such things as corpses walking down the street. “Many” of the dead walked all the way from the graveyard to Jerusalem and were seen by “many” but aside from Matthew 27:52-53 there’s no record anywhere else of this singular event. To see the dead walk the earth is strange, not make note of it is more strange. But to be a Christian makes zombie-time no big deal, except that one time when it happened, then it’s a big deal. 1 Corinthians 15:28 is one of those verses where the explanation is “it’s a mystery!” as if that were any sort of explanation at all. “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” To untangle that, we must turn to John. John 10:30 quotes Jesus saying “I and my Father are one.” John 14:28 quotes Jesus saying “My Father is greater than I.” Here, then, is what Jesus is saying…
I = Father
I < Father
Go on, wrap your head around that. God wants all things to be subdued to God, and that includes the Son of God, who is also God, who therefore is God subdued to God and God subdued by God at the same time and in the same way. To be a Christian is to abandon the logic necessary to explain even to ones-self how to be a Christian. You just gotta believe!
Free Northerner quotes John 13. This is where we learn (John 13:2) that God loved Judas so much that He made a devil that overpowered Judas and caused him to betray Christ. Something to keep in mind when a Christian speaks of our free will ability to choose to be sinful or righteous. All of God’s creatures are free, but some are more free than others. We also learn here (John 13:3-5) that ritual nudity was practiced by the first Christians, another way to be a Christian that was good enough for Christ but not good enough for today’s Christians. Free Northerner doesn’t address any of this, but he does quote the genuinely good bit of advice found in John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” That’s good advice, but not something a Christian should say or do. Deuteronomy 4:2 forbids new commandments. So does Deuteronomy 12:32. So does Revelation 22:19. Jesus said (Matthew 5:17-19) He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill the law, and that not one jot or tittle was to change. Except the part He changed. Which He could not change. Which He changed. Which… if you want to be a Christian, you just have to live with the knowledge that you can never know how to be a Christian.
Free Northerner quotes John 14:23-24. That is a surgically precise selective quote on how to be a Christian. Not ten verses earlier we learn something a bit more remarkable about Christians. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) Wait, anything? Even things Jesus did, and things more amazing than what Jesus did? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” (John 14:12) If all Christians can do everything Jesus did, and more, it isn’t clear why He’s still so special as to say He, alone, is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus is very special and not very special at all, at the same time and in the same way, and you have to believe in both at once to be a Christian. But once you hold both thoughts in your head you’ll have magic powers just like He did. Powers of transubstantiation, levitation, controlling animals, raising the dead, prophecy and most of all damning people to eternal torture. Jesus said to be a Christian is to be better than Christ.
Free Northerner quotes Luke 10:27. That’s another fine verse, in which Christ ignores His own commandment against making new commandments by way of encouraging people to care for their neighbors. And by neighbors, Jesus means strangers as well as the familiar. Jesus says He will enable those who love their neighbors to do so without hindrance just a few verses earlier in Luke 10:19: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Yay! Somebody get news to Asia Bibi right away, because the serpents and scorpions are closing in. And a few verses before that, in Luke 10:9, Jesus says again that His followers will have a 1+ healing spell and can cure any sickness just by asking Him. Paging Dr. Christ, paging Dr. Christ, ebola and HIV and my knee hurts when it rains. No? No, my lack of faith must be the thing that holds back Christ from keeping His promise all these hundreds of thousands of years. Let’s just get to the heart of the tenth chapter of Luke, where (Luke 10:23) Jesus makes it plain what it means to be a Christian. “All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.” Get it? You just know, you just have a special feeling in your tummy-tum that the same God that monitors the electron paths of every atom in every molecule in all the physical universe has taken a break and given you the secret of how to be a Christian.
The early Christians were not unaware that Jesus Christ said not once and not twice but thirty times that He would return two thousand years ago. Christians today are also not unaware of these thirty failed prophecies but to bring that up just muddies the waters so shhhh, shush now. Free Northerner says that the death of Christ on the cross, baptism and the difference / lack of difference between God and Jesus are central to what it means to be a Christian… but that he will not get into them. I say that to be a Christian means anything that anyone says it means. Not being able to explain otherwise aside from ‘you know… be good and stuff… believe the right things, whatever they are… ‘ suggests Free Northerner also thinks to be a Christian means anything that anyone says it means. There’s a multi-thousand year old church (or two), and being a member might be the means to be a Christian. But maybe not. There’s the Bible, and following what the Bible says (here but not there) might be the means to be a Christian. But maybe not. Don’t get all caught up in the details, just make sure that you attend to all the details. To be a Christian is just… you know…
There are men who memorize sports scores. Other men can recite lengthy sections of dialog from Shakespeare, or Three’s Company. And there are even men who can quote the Torah, or the Bible, or the Quran as if it these books were open before them. I myself know a thing or two about the Bible, and about Shakespeare and Three’s Company and plenty more. What makes me different from some of these men is that I don’t think any of these facts and figures and quotes and chapters and verses are magical spells transcribed from the voice of an invisible monster that lives in the sky. Should that voice that nobody else can hear say he should kill somebody, well, Free Northerner would. Religions are the creation of men. To be a Christian is to forget that while many things are wonderful, no thing is sacred.
- Trevor Blake is the author of
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays
(Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014)