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Monthly Archives: April 2019

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something that must certainly have seized His hearers’ attention: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30). Jesus repeats the admonition in Matthew 18:8–9, except there He adds the need to dispense with a foot as well as a hand and an eye.

The graphic word pictures of Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 still grab attention today, and they raise the question of how literally we should take Jesus’ commands in these passages. Does Jesus actually mean to say that we should pluck out our eyes or sever a hand if we are prone to sin? It may be of comfort to know that Jesus’ instructions in these particular verses are not meant to be taken literally. We need not mutilate our bodies as a punishment for our sin. Rather, Jesus means that we should be prepared to make exceptional sacrifices if we want to follow Him (see Matthew 16:24).

Jesus had just warned His audience against using their eyes for lustful purposes (Matthew 5:28), so His prescribed remedy for lust—to pluck out an eye—makes sense, in a radical sort of way. But it is the radical nature of His statement that makes it so memorable.

When Jesus advises us to pluck out a sinful eye or cut off an unruly hand, He is employing a figure of speech known as hyperbole. Hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration or an intentional overstatement. Examples of hyperbole in modern speech would include statements like “This bag of groceries weighs a ton,” “I’ve been waiting forever,” and “Everyone knows that.” The apostle Paul uses hyperbolic language in Galatians 4:15. Hyperbole, like other figures of speech, is not meant to be taken literally.

Jesus’ purpose in saying, hyperbolically, that sinners should pluck out their eyes or cut off their hands is to magnify in His hearers’ minds the heinous nature of sin. Sin is any action or thought that is contrary to the character of God. The result of sin is death, from which Jesus wants to preserve us (see Hebrews 2:9). Jesus warns of hell because He doesn’t want people to go there (Matthew 5:29–30).

Sin takes people to hell (see Revelation 21:8), and that makes sin something to avoid at all costs. Jesus says that, whatever is causing you to sin, take drastic measures to get that thing out of your life. “It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. . . . It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:8–9). Nothing is worth missing heaven for. Nothing is worth going to hell for. Nothing.

God takes sin seriously—seriously enough to sacrifice His only begotten Son to destroy it. We must take sin seriously as well. A lack of repentance is a crime punishable by eternal death. It is better to deny our flesh—to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand, as it were—than to risk sinning against God. God demands holiness (1 Peter 1:15), but we naturally tend to pamper ourselves and excuse our sin. That is why we need Jesus’ shocking, radical hyperbole to wake us from our spiritual complacency.

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On various occasions I have had some conversations with others on the idea of the commandment of "Thou Shall Not Kill", this is used as an attempt to justify some contradictions within the Bible. Or even the idea that Christians should not end life at all, or be involved in wars.

The trick is, the bible never says "Do not kill. In fact, what it actually says is "Do not murder". Could there really be a difference? Yes.

Now there is a longer discussion we could get into on that, but let's save that for another time. This article I would like to share what makes murder different from killing.

According to Bakers Bible Dictionary

Murder is distinguishable in the Bible from the larger category of killing. Thus, the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) is appropriately translated by the NIV and other versions as "You shall not murder" rather than "You shall not kill." The taking of lives in warfare, for example, would not have been considered murder. The word used in Exodus 20:13, ratsakh, occurs approximately 50 times in the OT and never refers to killing in battle, in contrast to two other words for kill that together occur over 300 times and quite often refers to battle contexts. Ezekiel 21:22 (21:27 MT) might appear to be an exception, but ratsakh (NIV: slaughter) is probably used there to indicate the slaying of innocent people rather than military combatants.

Ratsakh, however, can also refer to unintentional killing or manslaughter (e.g. Numbers 35:11); thus, the word does not necessarily mean murder but rather refers to taking an innocent life, whether intentionally or accidentally. The lone exception in Numbers 35:30. is only apparently so; it is rather a statement of poetic justice; "The murderer shall be murdered".

The prohibition against murder is grounded in the image-bearing character of humankind. Human beings are made in the image of God; therefore, to kill an innocent person is equivalent to striking out against God (Genesis 9:6)

Significantly, Jesus viewed His own approaching death in Jerusalem as murder in a long line of murders stretching from the murder of Abel by Cain, through the killing of the OT prophets, to Himself (Matt. 21:33-46; 23:29-39; Luke 11:47-54; 20:9-20)

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Was religion invented in order to control the population of nations? Some believe it is true. But, if it is, how could we know?  Where is the evidence?  We need something more than just an assertion.  After all, such an unverifiable and easy-to-parrot allegation doesn't make it true.  We need more.  Right? Or, is the citric going to deny us the evidence of his contention and yet still promote his belief?  Asking for verification from critics of religion, and Christianity in particular, in support of their proposition that religion was invented to control people, is yet to be delivered. After years of dealing with critics, I've not seen anyone provide the slightest evidence to support the notion that religion was invented to control people.

Nevertheless, let's proceed and look at some issues related to this initial question?

Religion can be used to control people

Yes, religion can be used to control people, but so can institutions like government, schools, marriage, and the military. If religion was invented to control people, how do we know that government, schools, and marriage weren't also invented in order to control people?  We can ask all sorts of questions but how could any of them truly be answered.  If someone is trying to disparage the idea of religion and dismiss it because it's "merely something used to control people," then shouldn't consistency demand that other social structures like the government, schools, and the military, also be criticized and dismissed?  If not, why not?

Who is doing the controlling?

Who is in control of the religions that control people?  If control is being exercised, there has to be someone doing the controlling. But who is that? Furthermore, are all of the sacred books that were written so long ago actually written with the intention of controlling people? Or, were they meant to be helpful and were used by others to control people?  Was the Bible that was completed 2000 years ago written by 40 different authors over 1600 years designed to control people? Was the Quran written 1400 years ago also written for this purpose?  What about the Bhagavad-Gita, the Urantia Book, the Book of Mormon, etc. Did different people in different times decide to start religions in order to control people in their areas?  I don't see any questions being answered by critics.

Control them for what reason? 

If it is true that religion was invented to control people, then what are they being controlled to do or not do? In Christianity, are they being controlled to be honest, faithful, to not steal, to be polite, loving, patient, kind, etc.?  Seriously, to control them for what reason?  Is it to keep people passive so they don't misbehave and riot, steal, or murder?  Is it to get them to not think and just follow blindly what doesn't have scientific merit - as if something scientific is necessarily true?  If anyone were to give an answer, all you have to do is ask how I know the answers correct?  In fact, are there any answers?

If a person believes in Christianity, what kind of control is he under?

As a believer in Christianity I am taught to be honest, faithful, not murder, to not steal, to help the weak, to be kind, to be patient, etc. I certainly don't manifest all these qualities perfectly, but these are the things seek after. Is this a control hoisted upon me by some ancient religious guru who decided that in order to get his way with people he had to make them honest, faithful, kind, and patient?  Does that even make any sense?

Are only religious believers under control and not secularists?

Religion is often singled out as the thing that is used to control people. Most often it is the secularists who raise this issue in order to denigrate Christianity as well as other religious systems. But they fail to consider that perhaps their own secularism could be a form of control when the secular society essentially is telling them what to believe about various things such as religion, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, taxes, etc. So the government and social structures like marriage, schools, etc., could be a means of controlling populations. If the secularists want to assert that religious systems have control over people, then they need to also assert that non-religious belief systems have control over people, too. They should be consistent.

Is the fear of punishment a means of control?

Yes, fear of punishment is a means of control. But, is it automatically wrong? When a parent warns his child that he will be disciplined if he does not stop kicking the cat, is this wrong? Just because someone complains that fear punishment means someone is under control, doesn't mean that such fear of punishment is automatically wrong. 

If pockets of religious control are evident as in cults, does it mean that religion as a whole is automatically false?

A mistake many make is falsely projecting a single incident to condemn the whole. It's fallacious.  It is similar to the Fallacy of Composition which is assuming that what is true of the part is true for the whole.  An example would be "The engine in that car is blue.  Therefore, the car is blue.  But for someone to say that since a cult establishes control over a group of people, therefore religion as a whole is meant for the same thing, is illogical. But that hasn't stopped people from repeating the same logical fallacies over and over again.

Conclusion

To say that religion was invented to control people is a mere assertion without facts, without validation, and raises a host of questions that can't be answered. It's easy for a critic to make a statement and assert that it is true. It's quite another thing to validate the statement as being true.

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Although the Bible warns us of attitudes and activities to stay away from, how seriously do most Christians follow biblical counsel?

God’s cautions are for our good, and ignoring His guidance and commands opens us up to being misled. To help us keep our feet on the path that leads to life, below are 10 biblical warnings Christ’s followers should take more seriously. 

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