Monday, February 28, 2005


If there are any believers in the Bible among those who have been reading this blog, I would hope that they will be seriously disturbed at my demonstration of the way the churches have misrepresented core Bible teachings. Martin Luther got rid of the centrality of the Pope but he was after all an Augustinian monk and there was an awful lot of Roman doctrine that he did not get rid of. And not much has changed since among alleged Christians.

No doubt, however, the largely pagan teachings of Christendom today are psychologically satisfying to a lot of people and that satisfaction will always be what matters most. The appeal of the churches will not be diminished just because people become aware that the foundations of their faith are not as advertised. People believe what they believe and that it it.

I imagine, however, that somebody will want to ask me at some stage whether there is a church that still relies on the Bible for its teachings. Broadly, the answer to that is that the smaller sects do take the Bible more seriously and some of them do take note of at least parts of what they read there. I am no expert on fundamentalist sects but the best-known such sects are Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. But the SDAs are rather illogical about how you determine what the 7th. day is and Jehovah's Witnesses try to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to the conflicting OT and NT versions of the afterlife.

If I were religious myself, I think I would become a Jew. Everything about Christendom would then fall into place: Christendom makes perfect sense as the Devil's version of Judaism: A false and deeply offensive view of God, a false hope for the afterlife, a false Messiah who achieved nothing that the real Messiah would have achieved, high holy days (Christmas and Easter) that are undisputably pagan in origin, symbolism and timing and, to top it all, a pre-eminent symbol of the faith (the cross) that is borrowed directly from the fertility religions that the prophets all struggled against. Given such a view of Christendom, it is no wonder that it tried so hard for so long to exterminate the real people of God!

Still, it seems a pity that the original Christianity was one of the many ancient religions to die out. It was in its day a faith of great power. By all accounts, the early Christians even followed Christ's teaching: "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). And they survived and flourished in a harsh world for hundreds of years despite following that "impractical" teaching. In the end it was not external attack that destroyed the original Christianity but the corruption from within that came with respectability and power. Constantine has a lot to answer for.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

1 Corinthians 15

I have just noticed a few interesting points about 1 Corinthians 15. From verse 12 we see that Paul actually wrote his diatribe about the spiritual nature of the resurrectuion IN RESPONSE TO other early Christians who DENIED the resurrection. In other words, the pagan immortal soul doctrine was influential in the early church more or less from the word go. And if you are an immortal soul you don't need resurrection. So the fact that both Paul and John stressed the centrality of the resurrection shows that there was a fight between the Hebrew and pagan views from the beginning -- with the NT writers clinging to a version of the Hebrew view. In both the OT and the NT, the view is that eternal life is ACQUIRED, not inherent. It is attained through resurrection from death at the end of days. You are not immortal from the beginning.

That view is even expressed in what is probably the favourite evangelical scripture -- John 3: 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." This scripture could hardly be clearer in saying that you have to DO something (i.e. believe) in order to get eternal life. Otherwise you just perish. Or as it says in 1 Corinthians 15: 53 "this mortal nature must put on immortality". So how anybody claiming to be a Christian can believe we are born with an immortal soul is quite beyond me. It flies in the face of all scripture.

And 1 Corinthians 15:28 is also completely fatal to the Trinity doctrine. Paul says that after the resurrection, "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to everyone". If the Son is subjected to the Father, how can the Father and the Son be equal -- as the Trinity doctrine requires?

Verses 44 and 50 however mark the departure of Christianity from Judaism: "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body" .... "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God". The resurrection is an entirely spiritual one.

Well, maybe my mission here is complete now. I think I have shown beyond reasonable doubt that the teachings of the Bible are radically different from (and in my view a lot simpler and more sensible than) the largely-pagan teachings that mostly pass for Christianity these days. Let him who will, hear.


The man who dreams of “a world without gays”, Archbishop Vercoe, is representing New Zealand at an Anglican Church crisis meeting in Ireland to determine the fate of gay clergy.

The meeting has ended in division, with the Episcopal Church in America and the Anglican Church of Canada being voluntarily thrown out of the Anglican Consultative Council until 2008 until they reconsider their decision to accept openly gay clergy.

New Zealand’s Anglican Church will fall into line. Bishop of Auckland John Paterson says the church welcomes homosexuals, but does not permit them to hold leadership roles, such as that of bishop.

Archbishop Vercoe, the leader of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, caused a storm last year when he told the Herald he dreamed of a new moral uprising that would rid the world of gays. The Maori bishop’s comments were defended as culturally sound by liberal Pakeha church leaders, despite condemnation from prominent figures within Maoridom.

Following a public outcry, Vercoe backtracked slightly on the comments and claimed he never dreamed of a world without gays. His semi-retraction was made in a written statement released through the Anglican National Office. Vercoe has not given any interviews to the media since.


Saturday, February 26, 2005


Did Christ die on a cross? It seems unlikely. The two words used in the Greek NT to refer to the cross are "stauros" and "xylon". "Xylon" simply means "wood" and "stauros" simply means "stake". Because of Christian convictions about the cross, however, all Lexicons do give "cross" as one of the meanings of "stauros". But in classical (pre-Christian) Greek, "stauros" seems always to have meant simply "stake". So Christ probably died with his hands pinned ABOVE his head. Why would the Romans go to the trouble of adding a crossbar just for the purpose of executing a criminal when a stake with no crossbar would do the job equally well?

So why do Christians venerate the cross? Simple. It is another of the many compromises the early church made with paganism. The cross is probably the most ubiquitous religious symbol there is. It long predates Christianity and is found all over -- from ancient Egypt, through Babylon to India. Even the pagan Norsemen used it.

{And the Indians particularly liked (and like to this day) their hooked cross -- the Swastika. Though the Indian swastika and the Nazi symbol are actually mirror-images of one-another. See here. So strictly speaking the Nazi symbol is NOT a Swastika -- and the Nazis didn't call it one either. They called it simply a "Hakenkreuz" (hooked cross)}.

Why was the cross so popular? Because many ancient religions -- such as the worship of Baal of Peor that the Hebrew prophets battled so valiantly -- were what are politely called "fertility" religions: Sex worship in plain terms. And the cross is a stylized picture of sexual intercourse. So it is sad and ironic that the fertility religions that the Bible so fiercely opposes have injected one of their great symbols into the centre of Christian practice.

The earliest symbol of Christianity -- as found in the Roman catacombs etc -- was of course a fish-shape rather than a cross. And the fish shape was simply a slightly disguised "Chi" -- the first letter of the name "Christ" in Greek -- shaped very much like a capital X in our alphabet. And I won't even try to say how it is pronounced.

The soul is mortal; Christ didn't die on the cross; the Nazis didn't use a swastika -- where will it all end? Am I the craziest man on the internet? If you think so, just check up for yourself on anything I say. But don't rely on dictionaries and encyclopaedias and summaries. They will just give you the conventional story. You have to get a lot closer to original sources than that. Most dictionaries even tell you that conservatives support the status quo -- and few claims could be more laughable than that. Every conservative I know would like to see a HEAP of things changed!


The Anglican Church stood on the brink of schism last night after the US and Canadian Churches were told to “voluntarily withdraw” from the Communion’s central governing body in a bitter row over homosexuality. The two Churches were told by leaders of the worldwide Church to “consider their place in the Anglican Communion” before the next Lambeth Conference in 2008. The concluding statement of the week-long Primates’ meeting in Armagh represents a conservative success in forcing the liberals in North America to consider whether their stance over gays is compatible with membership of the Anglican Communion.

The United States Church is effectively facing an agreed withdrawal from the Communion over its consecration of the openly gay bishop Gene Robinson to the New Hampshire Diocese if it does not fall in with the demands of the Windsor Report, which called for statements of regret over gay consecrations and same-sex blessings and a moratorium on similar actions. The Canadian Church is facing similar conditions over its authorisation of same-sex blessings in 2003. The communiqué also commits the Communion to “pastoral support and care of homosexual people” and acknowledges that Canada and the US acted within their constitutions. But it is nevertheless expected to precipitate further crises in the liberal churches of the West, including the Church of England. Thousands of lesbian and gay Christians and their supporters are threatening to leave if the US and Canada Churches are sidelined.

The Primates’ response to the crisis is set out in a statement that was due to be published today but was hurriedly released last night after leaks from the closed meeting indicating that the liberals were to be penalised. Conservatives, mainly from the “Global South” churches in Africa and Asia, had wanted the suspension and then expulsion of the Episcopal Church of the US and the Anglican Church of Canada if they failed to repent. But canon lawyers, who have been heavily involved in the Primates’ meeting at the Dromantine Roman Catholic retreat centre, advised that there was no legal process by which any of the 38 provinces can be suspended from the 77-million strong Communion. They were instead asked to voluntarily withdraw for at least three years.

The US Church, with more than two million members, is one of the smallest but is also the wealthiest, financing communications systems in many of the provinces that object most to its liberalism. At least one African province has refused to accept any more cash.

Thirty-five of the Anglican Communion’s 38 Primates have been closeted in guarded quarters at the retreat centre. The bulk of the work towards the end of the meeting was done by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canturbury, Dr Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, and Bishop Frank Griswold, the US Primate, in consultation with John Rees, the Church of England canon lawyer. They were said to be exhausted when they emerged with the completed draft, early yesterday evening.

Although the communiqué represents a victory for the conservatives, a senior source said it was not correct to speak in terms of suspension or of measures being taken against the US Church. The correct language, he said, was “withdrawal”. He continued: “The churches of the US and Canada have got to follow their own constitutional processes. The whole thing has to be done properly. They have to go and consider their position. They are the ones who have to tell us what they want.” The two Churches, which sparked the crisis with the consecration of a practising gay bishop and the authorisation of same-sex blessings, have until the 2008 Lambeth Conference to meet the demands of the Windsor Report, which called on them to regret their actions, impose a moratorium on future similar actions and come up with theological justifications for what they have done.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Revelations 20

A reader has asked me to comment on this text (Verses 12-15):

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire".

One has to be cautious about taking texts from Revelations literally but what this text says does in fact accord well with Paul's account of the Day of Judgement as given in Romans 2 and discussed by me two days ago. The imagery used is vivid ("lake of fire") but the writer makes sure we do not misinterpret it by himself giving the interpretation of it ("this is the second death").

So once again we see a resurrection of both the goodies and baddies with the baddies being consigned to a "second death" immediately after being judged. There is of course no mention of eternal torment for the baddies -- only death -- as in the whole of the rest of the OT and NT. And note that we again find no mention of immortal souls. If everybody was still alive they would not need resurrecting. The idea of resurrecting people only to kill them again (the second death) seems bizarre to me but that is what the book says happens to the baddies, like it or not.

The text "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire" may seem puzzling at first but once we move beyond the vivid imagery and remember what the word "hades" refers to in the NT (and the Septuagint) it is perfectly straightforward. It is saying that from then on there will be no more dying -- hence no more graves (hades) and no more death.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


I suppose I should say a bit more about the Bible's use of the word "spirit" ("ruach" in Hebrew and "pneuma" in Greek}. The usage of "soul" ("nephesh", "psyche") is confusing enough but it can be more or less translated as something like "this particular individual" but our translation job is quite a bit harder with "spirit". As I have already pointed out, its basic meaning is "breath" but a whole host of figurative usages follow on from there. In Luke 4 we find Jesus with the power of God's spirit on him and that he then drove out the spirit of a demon. So both God and demons can HAVE spirits as well as BEING spirit entities! I guess "spirit" equates to "influence" in those cases.

So various mentions of people as having a spirit cannot be taken as showing the existence of an immortal soul. There will always be various interpretations possible. As I mentioned earlier, "life" is often a good translation.

Ecclesiastes 3:21 is sometimes taken as implying that man has a spirit that goes "upward" on death whereas beasts have a spirit that goes downwards on death but Solomon is actually ridiculing that belief if you look at the context. (And even in the KJ, the verse does end with a question mark!). Most translations do however muddle the meaning of the context rather badly by rendering the word "ruach" as "breath" in verse 19 (where both men and beasts are said to have the SAME "ruach") and rendering "ruach" as "spirit" in verse 21. Which at least shows that "ruach" does give translators a lot of problems, I guess. Oddly enough, the Douay, of all translations, makes it clearest that v. 21 is a mocking question. The Douay (the original Catholic translation) is normally known for its lack of clarity. It reads: "Who knoweth if the spirit of the children of Adam ascend upward, and if the spirit of the beasts descend downwards?" As the Douay is primarily a translation of the Vulgate, I guess Jerome must have expressed it clearly.

Well, I think that wraps up what I want to say until I get more emails arguing with me so if I post nothing tomorrow, blame yourself for not challenging me more! I am sure most of my readers think I have got a awful lot wrong but I am still waiting for someone to show me where! I do have one persistent correspondent who thinks that his personal experience with God is authoritative but my interest is in what the Bible says, I am afraid.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

ROMANS 1 & 2

Chapters 1 and 2 of Romans are interesting, being mainly a condemnation of various sorts of sin. Both male and female homosexuality are condemned as earning death but it specifically says that we are not to make that judgement. Only God can.

What is of greatest interest, however, concerns the day of judgment. In chapter 2, the wicked are said (v. 5) to be treasuring up for themselves a DAY of judgment. In verse 7 we read that the good guys get everlating life and in verse 8 and 9 we learn that the wicked guys get wrath and fury which will be experienced by them as "tribulation and distress" (RSV).

So it looks as though the evildoers get resurrected too, but only for one day, so God can tell them what he thinks of them. That is what it says, anyway, and who am I to argue with what it says? Others can interpret it away if they like but my interest is in what it actually says.

Note that it is only the good guys who are said to get anything everlasting. All the evildoers get is a day, after which they "perish" (v. 12). I suppose that makes some sort of sense. God is often presented in the Bible as someone with fairly human emotions (he seems to have a great need for praise) so I suppose he can feel a need to blow off steam too.

Note that the tribulation is said to be experienced by the wicked "soul" in the KJ but by the wicked "human being" in the RSV. That reflects what I have already said about the Greek word "psyche" in my post of 20th. Translating it as "soul" is misleading.

Moral Equivalency: The Religious Left Gets It Wrong

“Failure makes you reassess.” So says Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, and he ought to know. A number of Democratic Party members are looking to Wallis right now to help with their own political reassessment. Wallis is what the New York Times calls a “leader of [the] religious left,” and as he says, “The Democratic Party has increasingly had a problem as being perceived as secular fundamentalists.”

So now Wallis is much in demand among Democratic leaders who want to learn “to be much more forceful and clear in communicating their faith and values to the electorate.” Wallis’s favorite argument, as reported in the Times and elsewhere, is that the Bible makes more than three thousand references to poverty—far more than abortion or homosexuality—and yet religious conservatives, in his opinion, are obsessed with the abortion issue. So, says Wallis, the religious left is more in tune with the Bible than are conservatives.

This argument was popular during the presidential campaign, repeated even by some conservatives. You may remember my commentary on historian and author Mark Noll. I admire Noll greatly, but I was disappointed by his decision not to vote because he thought neither party was right about the issues that concerned him most, including poverty. It is a perfectionist attitude that fails to take into account the fallen world we live in. Even the magazine to which I’ve been a contributing editor for more than twenty years wrote an editorial suggesting that Christian voters might have to choose between the sanctity of life and social justice.

The implications of this argument are clear: that is, all moral issues are equivalent. So, pick and choose among them; as long as you get seven or eight right answers, you’re okay.

Frankly, I find that thinking muddled, at best. We oppose abortion because we respect the fact that all humans are made in the image of God. How can you be genuinely sympathetic to the poor and the downtrodden if you don’t respect their most fundamental right? I would go so far as to say that unless you’re consistently pro-life, you’re not going to be a reliable defender of the poor.

Why do you suppose that in this ministry we have been going into the prisons for the past three decades? Why do we help people dying of AIDS? Why do we—and so many other Christians—visit the most dangerous places in America? Because the people there are our brothers and sisters, created, like us, in the image of God.

Why help the poor if we don’t believe all lives are equal in God’s sight? If you support ending the life of a child because it will be born into poverty, how can you logically call yourself an advocate for the poor?

The religious left is trying to tell us that you can take away the reason for doing something and still expect people to do it. Nobody’s going to win the allegiance of serious evangelical or Catholic voters by offering handouts to the poor with one hand while taking away their human dignity with the other. Sorry, Jim Wallis, all issues are not morally equivalent. The first one, the right to life, is non-negotiable. It undergirds all others: Take it away, and the whole house of cards collapses.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


I tend to assume a fairly high level of exegetical knowledge among readers of this blog but I guess I go too far at times. The following email exchange with a valued reader gave me a bit of a laugh. The reader asked me was I going to say anything about the Holy Ghost and I replied:

"Not really. If Christ is not God that rather knocks out the holy ghost too. But I might get around to mentioning it as a matter of interest in its own right eventually. Is it coterminous with the paraclete, for instance?"

My reader replied:

"That had me doing a quick Google search. Yes, that and the more general question of what is meant by the term holy ghost. In a sense, Christ was tangible (a fact Thomas took advantage of), but the holy ghost is of a different nature."

To save other readers a Google search, the Paraclete is the "comforter" or "helper" Jesus said he would send in John 14:16 ("Paraclytos" in the Greek).

The only point I want to make today, however, concerns Jesus being tangible at the time of his apparition to doubting Thomas. I think 1 Corinthians 15:50-56 makes it pretty clear that Heaven is a spiritual realm and Jesus was clearly not in heaven at the time of his post-crucifixion apparitions. So I think we have to conclude that the Bible teaching is that Jesus is now a spiritual being but that there was a special effort made in the immediate post-crucifixion era to have him re-inhabit his earthly body for the purpose of encouraging his followers. I don't think there is any warrant for concluding that he is still inhabiting his earthly body now that he is back in Heaven. So I would disagree that the Holy Ghost and Jesus differ in one being spiritual and the other not.

My own personal interpretation of what the Holy Spirit ("Ghost" is an old term -- "pneuma" in Greek) is would simply be that it is a form of divine inspiration or support -- i.e. not a person in any sense but a form of special assistance from God to holy people. But I have no firm views on the matter. Note however that when Jesus died (Luke 23:46), he said that he entrusted his "spirit" ("pneuma") to God. And also note that the literal meaning of "pneuma" is "breath" or "air" (hence our word "pneumatic" for things filled with air) so any interpretaion we put on it beyond "breath" is figurative. But it seems safe to say that "pneuma" is not a person, whether holy or not. "Life" would probably be the most generally useful translation of its figurative uses.


"The Anglican Primate has moved to expel from the Australian communion a conservative cleric who plans to act as a flying bishop for parishes opposed to the ordination of women. Peter Carnley declared unacceptable yesterday the consecration of Queensland priest David Chislett as a bishop by a conservative offshoot of the US Episcopal Church. Father Chislett, rector of All Saints Wickham Terrace in central Brisbane, was consecrated by the Traditional Anglican Communion in Rosemount, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. "It seems that the Reverend David Chislett has left the Anglican Church of Australia to join the TAC," Dr Carnley said in a statement.

Dr Carnley, the liberal who defied canon law more than a decade ago to ordain women as priests, said the Anglican Church was not in communion with the TAC and there was no constitutional provision for licensing someone consecrated by it.

Father Chislett, vice-chairman of the conservative Forward in Faith movement and a vocal critic of the 1992 decision to allow the ordination of women, plans to travel around Australia pastoring to parishes who refuse to accept the ministrations of women priests. Bishop of The Murray Ross Davies has licensed him as a bishop in his diocese. "We need a flying bishop and now we have one," Bishop Davies said.

In a fiery sermon at Father Chislett's consecration, TAC primate John Hepworth said: "Your ministry is partly unknown but it is a ministry to communities that are broken and altars that are cracked."

Dr Carnley said he was disappointed with Father Chislett's move. The soon-to-retire Primate warned conservative Anglicans leaning towards the Catholic Church to take note of Father Chislett's status. "The purported consecration of a bishop without an office within which to function may be little more than shadow boxing," he said.

More here

Monday, February 21, 2005

Matthew 25:46

"And they will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life" (RSV)

I discussed this scripture on 12th. but I want to revert to it here because I received emails that were skeptical of my comment about verse 41 -- where sinners are consigned to "eternal fire". I pointed out in my usual inconvenient way that it was the FIRE that was eternal, not any sort of suffering by those cast into it. But it is not unreasonable to ask whether being cast into a fire and destroyed is a fair interpretation of "eternal punishment". Doesn't the expression "eternal punishment" suggest something ongoing, something that keeps on happening without letup? Indeed it does -- in English. But the Greek word so translated above is not about that at all. As I have mentioned, the word is the adjectival form of "aion" -- quite a vague word in Greek but which baasically means an "age". So "of an age" would be the most literal translation of "aionion" but the age concerned is not clearly specified -- though in context it could of course be taken to mean all time. Funnily enough, however, there is a near synonym to "eternal" in English that distorts the meaning of the Greek word less -- "everlasting". "Everlasting" does not suggest some ongoing process, just as the Greek "aionion" does not.

So with all that behind us, what is meant by "everlasting punishment"? The text itself really answers that very clearly. The everlasting punishment is contrasted with everlasting life so it is clear that, as in other scriptures, the fate of the sinner is death, not torment. And, as I mentioned before, the Greek word for "punishment" used here had as its original meaning "lopping off" so that makes the point clearer again. But why everlasting death (or lopping off)? Why death for all time? Because it is a death from which there will be no resurrection. Resurrection is only for the good guys. And the life gained at resurrection by the good guys is for all time just as the death of the bad guys is for all time. And in the NT the resurrection is not into a flesh and blood body but into a spirit form. 1 Corinthians 15:50-56 is pretty clear about that. Note that verse 56 again specifies that death, not torment, is the outcome of sin.

I think I have just about covered most of the stuff I wanted to cover now so what I post from now on will I think depend on what emails I get about the issues I have raised. There are a few texts in Revelations which seem to be about hellfire etc but, like the rest of Revelations, they are of course visions with a symbolical meaning so I will not go into any of that unless someone particularly wants me to do so. Interpreting visions is definitely not my strong point, however.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


The idea of an immortal soul inhabiting each of our earthly bodies is a pagan (mainly Greek) one. Let us look at some occurrences of the word "soul" in the KJ. The Hebrew word usually translated as "soul" is "nephesh" and the Greek is "psyche" but the translators play fast and loose and sometimes translate the same word in different ways.

In Genesis 2:7 we read that at the time of creation "man became a living soul (nephesh)". Note: "BECAME", not "received". So man IS a soul, he does not have one in him. And 1 Corinthians 15:45 quotes that Genesis text approvingly, using "psyche" as a translation of "nephesh". In 1 Peter 3:20 we read that in Noah's day, "eight souls (psyche)were saved" so again souls are persons rather than part of a person. And in Genesis 9:5 we read that souls have blood: "your blood of your lives (nephesh) will I require". And you can hit souls with swords in Joshua 11:11: "and they smote all the souls (nephesh)... with the edge of the sword. And in Genesis 1: 20 (RSV) we read that animals are souls too: "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures (nephesh)". And in Leviticus 24:17,18 we read that souls can be killed: "He that killeth any man (nephesh) shall be put to death". And in Ezekiel 18:4 we read that the souls of sinners will die: "The soul (nephesh) that sinneth, it shall die". Acts 3:23 "every soul (psyche)... shall be destroyed". Ezekiel 22:27: "to shed blood and to destroy souls (nephesh)" ..... And I could go on.

So where is your immortal soul in all that? Whatever the soul is, it sure aint immortal according to both the OT and the NT. It is pesky when you read what the Bible actually says isn't it? The original Jewish and Christian hope is for resurrection. You don't have a bit in you that is immortal anyway. It is truly amazing that almost all allegedly Christian churches preach the Greek doctrine rather than the Biblical one. And it is the pagan element that is mystical and absurd. The Bible is much more down to earth (in more ways than one). I personally think that the Bible is a great book. If only more Christians read it ....

Saturday, February 19, 2005


"And his name will be called "Wonderful Counseller, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"

One of my correspondents thinks the above verse is a trump text for proving the rightness of the Trinity doctrine. He may be grieved to see how little discussion it needs.

These lines (immortalized in one of the great choruses of Handel's "Messiah") are of course a reference to the coming of the Jewish Messiah and (read the context) the restoration of the throne of David in Israel. But is not Jesus the Messiah? Let us take it that he is. So does that not prove that Jesus is a mighty God and the everlasting Father, as the trinitarians say? Not quite. Once again I am going to play that dreadful atheistic trick of mine and look at what the text actually says. The text does not say that he IS the mighty God etc, only that he will be CALLED those names. In South America there are a whole lot of guys running around called Jesus. Does that mean that they ARE Jesus? I think the question answers itself. And "Salvatore" (savior) is a common Christian name among Italians. But I have yet to meet a Salvatore who saved anybody from anything that I know of. And one of my favourite composers is Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (John the Baptist Pergolesi) but I am pretty sure he never baptised anyone.

And Isaiah 9:6 was good prophecy, wasn't it? Because Trinitarians DO call Jesus those names, making Isaiah 9:6 probably the most accurate prophecy in the Bible -- but based on a knowledge that people are often fulsome in the praises and names they give to people they love or greatly respect (particularly among Mediterranean populations).

Wasn't that an easy one?


"At the end of three hours of debate in the church's general synod - essentially its parliament - meeting in London on Wednesday, members accepted the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, that it discuss the matter further at its next meeting in July, with a decision on whether women priests are fit to be bishops to be made perhaps some time next year. If the decision is finally taken then, it will still take several years for the first female bishops to be appointed.

The vote will be a mere 31 years since the Church of England decided there were no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood, 20 years since the US Episcopal church elected its first female bishop and 12 years since the first ordinations of women took place in the Church of England.

Wednesday's synod heard calls from male representatives that the church was in danger of moving too swiftly.... The synod was debating a report published last November following several years of deliberation by a church committee - with a majority male membership. It offered a range of alternatives, from agreeing to women's consecration as bishops to rejecting it, but did not come down on one side or the other.

One representative, Gerry O'Brien of Kent, south-east of London, said many ordained women did not believe central tenets of the faith. He suggested a survey had shown that only a third of women priests believed in the virgin birth of Christ.

Another, the Reverend David Banting of Essex, east of London, who chairs the conservative evangelical pressure group Reform, demanded that women's groups campaigning for change be called off, comparing one to the Irish Republican Army and another to the Irish republican political party Sinn Fein.....

Dr Williams told the synod he had set up yet another working group to evaluate the options proposed in the previous report, to report back to the next synod."

More here

Friday, February 18, 2005


I am not going to say much of an exegetical character today but I think I do by now owe readers a brief statement about what I find in the Bible about the afterlife. In the course of debunking the Hellfire doctrine I have pointed out a fair bit of scripture that could be held to deny all possibility of an afterlife as that is usually conceived. So what is going on? ALL religions (excepting Leftism) believe in some sort of afterlife so what is the Bible version?

I have avoided mentioning the topic so far because it seems to me that the Bible is not entirely consistent about it. The Bible IS consistent about the Trinity and Hellfire doctrines because they are simply not there. They were always pagan doctrines rather than Hebrew ones. But the acccount of the afterlife seems more wobbly.

The MAIN theme as I see it however, clearly focuses on resurrection. In the OT the idea seems to be that you die and go into the grave and cease to be entirely at that stage. It is only divine power at the time of the coming of the Messiah that enables good guys (only) to be recreated for physical life on an earth restored to Edenic conditions.

Jesus and his followers seem to have modified the story a bit, however. For them there will still be a resurrection at some time in the future (at the second coming, presumably) but it will not be a resurrection into physical bodies but as spirits -- though again the resurrection is for the good guys only. The baddies stay in everlasting death. So Heaven is due for an almighty population explosion some time, in other words.

It will be noted that this explanation calls into question the idea that we all have in us already a spirit part called a soul. We are RECREATED as spirits, we are not spirits already. There are of course many scriptures mentioning a "soul" but the Greek and Hebrew words concerned -- "nephesh" and "psyche" -- could equally well be translated in other ways -- as "breath" or "life" for instance -- and indeed they sometimes are.

But more of that huge topic at some later date.


"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the church. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.... For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" -- I Corinthians, 14: 34,35

"The Church of England took the first step at the General Synod meeting in Westminster yesterday towards the consecration of women bishops. The first are now expected to be consecrated before the end of the decade, opening the way for a woman Archbishop of Canterbury within a generation. The process to remove the legal obstacles preventing the ordination of women to the episcopate is expected to begin in earnest at the next synod meeting in York in July.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, who chaired the working party that examined the theology of women bishops, said that the evidence from the Bible and the Church Fathers indicated clearly that women exercised leadership in the early Church. “No one reading the history of the Church can fail to be impressed with the apostolate exercised by faithful women down the centuries,” he said. Regarding the timing of the debate, he said: “There are those who feel that, as a matter of justice, women priests should now be eligible for episcopal appointments and the Church’s credibility is being damaged, both among her own members and in the world, because of the bar on women being bishops. “There are others, however, who argue that now is not the right time. The Church is facing a number of serious issues which threaten to divide it. Is this really the time to introduce another cause of division?”

Christina Rees, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, the chairman of Watch, the successor to the Movement for the Ordination of Women which has campaigned for women bishops, said: “Contrary to what some say, by having women and men ministering together at all levels we will not be conforming to the world, but we will be most truly counter-cultural, showing what authentic equality is in a way that the world does not.” The first women priests were ordained in 1994, two years after the synod voted to ordain them but 19 years after it agreed, optimistically, that there were “no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to priesthood”. The intervening period was spent debating the many fundamental objections that subsequently emerged.

The move towards women bishops is expected to take far less time because most of the fundamental objectors have now left the synod, if not the Church. More than 720 priests have resigned, with 424 qualifying for compensation that cost the Church £26 million, the synod was told.

Their loss has been more than outweighed by the ordination of several thousand women, of whom more than 1,200 are now in stipendiary posts. In addition, 1,000 parishes, less than one tenth of the total, have passed a resolution stating that they will not accept a woman priest. Any decision to ordain women bishops will have to incorporate a means of enabling such parishes to remain within the Church".


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Luke 16: 22-25

"The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame" (RSV)

I have been looking forward to writing a comment on this old chestnut. I am sure most of my readers will be saying something like: "There you are! An explicit picture of torment in Hell from the lips of the saviour himself! What more proof do you need for the reality of Hellfire? How is Dr. Ray going to wriggle out of that one?

Well, I am not going to wriggle out of anything. I am just going to do my usual trick of casting off the blinkers of preconception and looking closely at what the text actually says. And when you do that it is crystal clear that the text will not do the job it is usually made to do. It is in fact probably the text that has given most comfort to those who want to import pagan ideas of divine torment into Christianity -- but it in fact mocks those ideas. Let me point out the obvious:

Do Christians believe that Heaven is a place where there are physical bodies with bosoms -- physical bodies that even lean on one-another for support and fellowship? No? Quite to the contrary, Christians believe that to be the OPPOSITE of the truth. They believe that Heaven is in fact a spirit realm. So if we believe the "Abraham's bosom" bit of the parable to be the opposite of the truth, why don't we believe the "torment in Hades" bit to be the opposite of the truth too? You can't have it both ways (unless you are a Leftist, of course). You cannot honestly pick out one part of the story and say that is a colourful parable and then pick out another part of the story and say that part is literally true. It is at least a pretty desperate case of special pleading if you do.

The only really interesting question (though not a crucial question) in the whole matter is WHY Jesus chose that particular parable. And I don't think that is far to seek either. With Roman soldiers all about the place and Greek culture so pervasive that the NT was actually written in Greek, there can be no doubt that the full range of pagan ideas was well-known in the Israel of Jesus's day. And Jesus was actually using such ideas to mock them. Having Father Abraham physically up there in heaven ready for people to lean on was obviously not literally true so it was equally not true that Hades was a place of suffering. Jesus was in other words having a gentle dig at the idea of Hades as a place of suffering.

My account of Jesus's motives just given is my own and people can take it or leave it without doing any harm to anything or anyone but the one thing you cannot get around is that the parable is meant NOT to be literally true. Is Heaven a place where you can dip the end of your finger in water and cool somebody's tongue"? Wouldn't the fires of Hell evaporate the water long before it got to somebody's tongue, anyway? So such a physical and hence non-literal account of Heaven in the story strongly implies that Hades as a place of torment is not literally true either. So the text is if anything an ANTI-Hellfire scripture rather than one that supports Hellfire.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Matthew 25:41

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels ..."

This scripture is an excellent example of how easy it is to read pre-existing assumptions into a text. It looks like as good a reference to the conventional doctrine of hellfire as you could get, does it not? But once again we have to look at exactly what it says and does not say. And all that it says is that the FIRE is eternal. It does NOT say that the people cast into it will stay alive in some sense. Without our preconception blinkers on we would assume that anyone cast into such a fire would perish immediately. And the text gives us no warrant to assume otherwise.

A interesting (but not crucial) subsidiary question is why the fire should be eternal. The easy answer to that is that we are not to know the ways of God but I think we can do better than that. If you read the context to the passage, it refers to Jesus's second coming and the judgment of evildoers at the end of days. Given that context, the most obvious answer is probably that God keeps the fire burning as an eternal warning against any further rebellion or backsliding.

But I think the Greek gives us the best answer of all: The Greek word translated as "eternal" is "aionion", from "aion". And "aion" is used much more loosely than our word "eternal". It is in fact the same word that we use in English in the spelling "eon", so "aionion" could at a pinch be translated as "eon-like", "eon-lasting" or some such. Among the meanings given by Abbott-Smith are "a space of time" and "a period of history". It can even mean "the present age". So I rather sympathize with the translators who do not translate "aionion" at all in this passage. It is in fact no more securely translated than "sheol" or "logos" are -- which are other examples of Bible words that are sometimes not translated.

Nonetheless, I do think the context helps us a lot here. The fact that it refers to the glorious end of days makes it pretty clear to me that the fire referred to is the fire OF THAT AGE. "aionion" means "of that age" in the given context, not eternal. So, "depart from me into the fire of the end of days" would be my understanding of what Jesus was saying.

I am obliged to one of my readers for bringing this text up. It was not one that was originally on my "menu" for comments. He also asks me to comment on Isaiah 9:6 but I will leave that for another day.

Daily Duck also seemed to think today's text is a great hellfire text. Daily Duck seems to be an atheist but he is trying harder to defend Hell than the Christians seem to be at the moment! Like the doctrine of the Trinty, the doctrine of Hellfire is a rather scurrilous misrepresentation of the God of the Bible so perhaps it might disturb some atheists to hear that the God of the Bible is not such a bad chap after all! I personally would like to see all the pagan accretions (such as Hellfire and the Trinity) cleaned right out of Christianity. I am am sure Christianity would win more converts if it got rid of such unscriptural absurdities.


With atheist bihops presiding over the trials, however, convictions are not to be expected. At least they recognize that they have a problem, I guess

"Clergy who deny the Virgin Birth or the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ will be tried as heretics under a new measure voted on yesterday at the General Synod of the Church of England. The measure could also be used to try clergy who preach liberal doctrines on homosexuality from the pulpit.

More than 150 lay synod members met separately at the synod at Church House, in Westminster, Central London, yesterday to discuss ways of bringing unbelieving clergy to book. The synod’s house of laity voted by 121-35 for heretic clergy to go on trial. An earlier attempt to put clergy on trial for breaches of doctrine was defeated narrowly at the synod last July. Although the laity have no power as a house to push the measure through on their own, they are understood to have the support of the bishops. Margaret Brown, an Anglican Catholic traditionalist from the Chichester diocese, put a motion before the laity making it possible to try clergy on doctrine grounds alone.

Clergy suspected of error would be reported by parishioners to their bishops, who would investigate them and, if action was deemed necessary, would bring them to trial before a tribunal of bishops, theologians and laity, chaired by a legally qualified person. Ultimately, a heretic clergyman or woman could be removed from office — in effect defrocked. But a bishop could also dismiss a complaint as malicious or frivolous. The bishops are understood to be sympathetic to the call from the laity, and heresy trials are expected to come back before the synod in 2006.

The timing is significant because this year the present five-year synod, which operates along parliamentary lines, draws to a close and a new synod will be elected. Sources said that the new synod was likely to be more evangelical and conservative than the present one, reflecting the Church’s swing to the right over sexual and other issues. The new synod — even in the house of clergy — is thought more likely to accept heresy trials for doctrinal error than the present synod was last July. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was among those who supported the measure when it was defeated in the house of clergy by four votes.

Mrs Brown said that heresy trials had been thrown out in July because the measure had also included means of addressing ritual and ceremonial matters, meaning that evangelicals were afraid that the Catholics would use it to force them to wear dog collars in church, while Catholics were afraid that the evangelicals would use it to stop them wearing their elaborate vestments. She said: “It is far far worse if we have a clergyman or clergywoman in the pulpit and they are preaching heresy and do not believe in the tenets of the faith, the Virgin Birth, bodily Resurrection of Christ and all the other tenets of the faith. “What is faith if we do not preach Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ glorified? We will not get far in winning souls for Christ which is what we should be doing all the time.” She continued: “We must have clergy who believe the Gospel.”

The Church of England’s doctrine is set out in the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church Fathers, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Creeds."


Tuesday, February 15, 2005


The author of Daily Duck has asked me to comment on Matthew 13:37-43 -- a very interesting scripture that I may get back to in future posts. I will just makes some brief comments today, however:

"He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (KJ)

Tares are of course weeds or burrs, a curse for farmers. The obvious question is whether this is a description of evildoers being cast into hell. The "wailing and gnashing of teeth" is certainly familiar in that context. That reminds me of a story:

It was a Pentecostal congregation in which a certain amount of impromptu response from the congregation is allowed. The preacher read out the scripture above and warned his congregation that it might happen to them. A cheeky old guy called out: "But I aint got no teeth". The preacher didn't miss a beat: "Teeth will be provided", he replied.

Seriously, however, Jesus makes it perfectly clear what he means. He describes the fate of evildoers as being the same as that of weeds: "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire". Do weeds burn forever? No. They are just gathered up, quickly and completely destroyed and then the fire goes out. So we see here as in the rest of the Bible that the fate of sinners is complete destruction, not torment. And naturally those going into the fire might be expected to do a bit of "wailing and gnashing of teeth".

It may be of note that the Greek word here for "furnace" ("kaminos") is also used in the Septuagint at Genesis 19:28 where the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is described: "The smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace". So a furnace fire as an image of complete destruction is one that Jesus could well have inherited from the OT. And his frequent quotations from the OT do show that he knew his OT pretty well. People must have listened pretty carefully to readings from the scriptures in those days.


Given my criticisms of the CoE, I thought that I should point out that there are still SOME real Christians left in it. Below is an excellent letter from a traditional clergyman of the CoE:

Letter from The Revd. Dr. Peter Mullen to Boris Johnson

December 2004

I am honoured to have been singled out as among "the usual suspects" by A.N.Wilson (Spectator18/25 Dec) for my criticisms of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But I have criticised Dr Williams's utterances only twice: first when he said that the West should not respond militarily to terrorist attacks and secondly when he declared that his faith had been shaken by the murder of children at Beslan. I thought the Archbishop's opinions about the war on terrorism naive and sentimental; and his reaction to Beslan theologically inade-quate.

Wilson is fond of name-calling, but he has a long way to go before he can match Lord Habgood who once described the traditionalist Archdeacon George Austin as, "like the Fat Boy in Pickwick Papers who makes your flesh creep". In similar vein, I must say the Archbishop of Canterbury always reminds me of the Circumlocution Officer.

Anyhow, Wilson is welcome to his own very public agnostical agonising - an agony which, I suspect, be-comes rather less agonising but certainly ever more public as the years go by. But he is wrong when he says that those who believe basic Christianity "are a tiny minority of the population of this planet" and that traditional believers might as well admit the game is up and resign. In fact traditional Christianity is thriving worldwide. It is strong in the USA of course where, to the chagrin of bien pensants like Wilson, Christians have just won a second term for a conservative President. The faith is burgeoning in Central and South America too where Pentecostal Christianity and the conservative morality that goes with it is reclaiming millions of drug addicts, restoring decent community life and consequently improving the living standards of the population.

African Christianity is now doing so well that it sends missionaries to Britain to preach the gospel to the generation of apostates and ideological liberals such as Wilson who have abandoned it. It was the traditional Catholics in Poland and other Soviet satellites who did much to throw off the dehumanising totalitarianism of the Communist evil empire - though this is no doubt regarded as regrettable by Wilson among the usual fellow-travellers. In short, Christianity is alive and well wherever it is being celebrated, preached and practised according to the traditional model. Catholics who use the Latin Mass and Anglicans who have stuck to The Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible report well-attended services. The Orthodox, who have not much altered their liturgy since AD 1054 are thriving.

In truth, Christianity everywhere is enjoying a big revival. It is only in northern Europe with its post-En-lightenment ragbag of liberalism, pluralism, secularism and political-correctness that the churches stand empty. In other words, it is precisely the modernising, debunking, snobbish and patronising attitudes of clever people like A.N.Wilson which has done so much to remove the historic faith from the cultural land-scape of England.

The modernisers among the bishops and in the General Synod have dominated the English church these last forty years and all but destroyed it. They have denied or distorted every cardinal doctrine of the faith. The Resurrection of Our Lord reduced to a subjective feeling of cheered-upness among the disciples. The Virgin Birth dismissed as a mistaken reading of the Book of Isaiah. They have swallowed whole the notion of secularisation and adopted as their keynote the words of the demythologising theologian Rudolf Bultmann: "You can't believe the miracles and the Resurrection in an age of electric light and the wireless". Why not?

The leading group of modernisers, called Affirming Catholics - alleged motto Girls in the Sanctuary, Boys in the Bed - actually affirms nothing as a recent survey revealed that many of its members disbelieve the Incarnation and the Resurrection, while the doctrine of Original Sin merely offends their refined sensitivi-ties. These "liberals", as they like to be called, who constitute the hierarchy detest the Christian past and dismiss our forefathers in the faith as "primitive". Really they are old-fashioned Whigs in new Guardianista clothing - apostles of the discredited doctrine of "progress". And God help anyone who stands in the way of these ecclesiastical totalitarians as they bully conservative clergymen and steamroller traditional parishes into adopting their puerile new versions of the Bible and their trashy modern liturgies. Their aim, largely accomplished, is to remove entirely from use at public worship The King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. As the then Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Santer, once wrote to me, "I don't have any Prayer Book enclaves in my diocese".

Roll up, roll up to see all the formative articles of the faith denied! Original Sin, along with "the devil and all his works" obliterated from the Baptism Service. And in the progressive hierarchy's long march to the sunlit uplands there is no hint of the frailty of human nature. But if there is no sin, what was Christ's death for?

The Marriage is no longer "a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication" but a debased rite in which the priest prays, "Let them be tender with each other's dreams". There ought to be a rubric in the margin at this point: The congregation shall now throw up: bride's family's side first.

The six magical words of one syllable which go back as far as Chaucer "With this ring I thee wed" done away and replaced (to make the meaning simpler?) with eleven words, "I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage". This is a piece of idiocy which I would have thought beneath invention even by the morons on the Liturgical Commission. Don't they see that if the groom has to tell his bride that the ring is a sign, it means that the sign isn't working? All the earthy and rooted bits in the Funeral - "worms", "vile bodies" etc - abolished. But if they are too squeamish to mention the reality of death, why should we believe them when they pretend to speak of the resurrection from the dead?

The hierarchy launched their Alternative Service Book in 1980 under the slogan "The greatest publishing event in 400 years". Twenty years later they banned it. Yes, banned it. A funny operation, book burning for "liberals". Its replacement Common Worship is even worse. This is the book in which those most solemn words at the consecration, "In the same night that he was betrayed" can be omitted and replaced with "He had supper with his friends". The result of all this iconoclasm is that people have voted with their feet and the congregations have dimin-ished spectacularly. Where they have not diminished but increased and thrived is precisely in those churches so despised by A.N.Wilson: the Bible-based evangelicals and the traditional anglocatholics and high church.

I must say that one of the great joys among traditional believers these days is the spectacle we can now en-joy of the liberal hierarchy's Pyrrhic victory. At last there they sit in full control of the Church of England - except that the only meaningful parts of the church have gone their own ways, leaving the liberal bullies with no one to boss about.

I do not write about these matters as an amateur or dilettante, lately stumbled on to the derelict ecclesiastical landscape. I have been a priest for 35 years and watched the tyranny of apostates in high places and I know that people do not want a pale, euphemistic religion in which the gospel is reduced to a metaphor for the so-cial policies of the soft Left. But they will come to church to be moved and stirred by words that are worth their weight in glory and to hear sound teaching.

People are coming into our St Michael's in increasing numbers, and even more so since we announced our Campaign for Real Religion in this magazine. If A.N. Wison will stop turning down my invitations to him to come and preach for us, he will be assured of a warm and not uncritical welcome.

(The Rev'd Dr. Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange. An excerpt from the article being replied to can be found here. More about the Parish Church of St. Michael's Cornhill here)

Source (PDF)

Monday, February 14, 2005


David Boxenhorn has an excellent post up about Hell from a Jewish viewpoint. He says he has been to one Hell several times and really likes it. Go read.

Since I have not got any emails from anybody challenging my account of the Biblical Hell so far, I don't yet feel energized to finish off my comments on it (I have a few things to say about various passages in Revelation etc) so I will just follow on my post yesterday about the new CoE (Church of the Environment) by noting that even some evangelical churches are getting the Greenie virus. Any claim to righteousness is attractive, I guess. But they would be well to be suspicious of such worldly creeds. And taking a position on matters that are the subject of fierce debate in the scientific community is really dumb:

"Thanks to the Rev. Leroy Hedman, the parishioners at Georgetown Gospel Chapel take their baptismal waters cold. The preacher has unplugged the electricity-guzzling heater in the immersion baptism tank behind his pulpit. He has also installed energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs throughout the church and has placed water barrels beneath its gutter pipes - using runoff to irrigate the congregation's all-organic gardens. Such "creation care" should be at the heart of evangelical life, Hedman says, along with condemning abortion, protecting family and loving Jesus. He uses the term "creation care" because, he says, it does not annoy conservative Christians for whom the word "environmentalism" connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats. "It's amazing to me that evangelicals haven't gone quicker for the green," Hedman said. "But as creation care spreads, evangelicals will demand different behavior from politicians. The Republicans should not take us for granted."

There is growing evidence - in polling and in public statements of church leaders - that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible. "The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."

In October, the association's leaders adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" that, for the first time, emphasized every Christian's duty to care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a sustainable environment. "We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said the statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches. "Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."

Signatories included highly visible, opinion-swaying evangelical leaders such as Haggard, James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Some of the signatories are to meet in March in Washington to develop a position on global warming, which could place them at odds with the policies of the Bush administration, according to Richard Cizik, the association's vice president for governmental affairs. Also last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, weighed in for the first time on global warming. It said that "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment." The magazine came out in favor of a global warming bill - sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn. - that the Bush administration opposed and the Republican-controlled Senate defeated.

Polling has found a strengthening consensus among evangelicals for strict environmental rules, even if they cost jobs and higher prices, said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. In 2000, about 45 percent of evangelicals supported strict environmental regulations, according to Green's polling. That jumped to 52 percent last year. "It has changed slowly, but it has changed," Green said. "There is now a lot of ferment out there."

Such ferment matters because evangelicals are politically active. Nearly four out of five white evangelical Christians voted last year for President Bush, constituting more than a third of all votes cast for him, according to the Pew Research Center. The analysis found that the political clout of evangelicals has increased as their cohesiveness in backing the Republican Party has grown. Republicans outnumber Democrats within the group by more than 2 to 1. There is little to suggest in recent elections that environmental concerns influenced the evangelical vote - indeed, many members of Congress who receive 100 percent approval ratings from Christian advocacy groups get failing grades from environmental groups. But the latest statements and polls have caught the eye of established environmental organizations. Several are attempting to make alliances with the Christian right on specific issues, such as global warming and the presence of mercury and other dangerous toxins in the blood of newborn children.

After the election last fall, leaders of the country's major environmental groups spent an entire day at a meeting in Washington trying to figure out how to talk to evangelicals, according to Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. For decades, he said, environmentalists have failed to make that connection. "There is a lot of suspicion," said Schweiger, who describes himself as a conservationist and a person of faith. "There are a lot of questions about what are our real intentions."

Green said the evangelicals' deep suspicion about environmentalists has theological roots. "While evangelicals are open to being good stewards of God's creation, they believe people should only worship God, not creation," Green said. "This may sound like splitting hairs. But evangelicals don't see it that way. Their stereotype of environmentalists would be Druids who worship trees." Another reason that evangelicals are suspicious of environmental groups is cultural and has its origins in how conservative Christians view themselves in American society, according to the Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network. The group made its name with the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign against gas-guzzling cars. It is focused on reducing global warming.

"Evangelicals feel besieged by the culture at large," Ball said. "They don't know many environmentalists, but they have the idea they are pretty weird - with strange liberal, pantheist views." Ball said that the way to bring large numbers of evangelicals on board as political players in environmental issues is to make persuasive arguments that, for instance, tie problems of global warming and mercury pollution to family health and the health of unborn children. He adds that evangelicals themselves - not such groups as the Sierra Club or Friends of the Earth, with their liberal Democratic baggage - are the only ones who can do the persuading. "Environmental groups are always going to be viewed in a wary fashion," Ball said. "They just don't have a good enough feel for the evangelical community. There are landmines from the past, and they will hit them without knowing it."


Sunday, February 13, 2005


The little sermons I put up on this blog may be brief but they take me quite a while to write. Many books get opened in the course of writing them. Sadly, I have not really had time for that in the last 24 hours so I am putting up below some of the more sensible extracts from an article about a fellow unbeliever, conservative economist Ludwig von Mises. The comments do follow on to some extent from my discussion of whether Jesus was a Leftist or a Rightist. I think the scriptures are clear on that but, as usual, the mainstream churches tend to prefer their own ideas to what the Bible says. On to Mises:

"Writing in the middle of the twentieth century, Mises observed about Christianity and socialism: "The Christian churches and sects did not fight socialism. Step by step they accepted its essential political and social ideas. Today they are, with but few exceptions, outspoken in rejecting capitalism and advocating either socialism or interventionist policies which must inevitably result in the establishment of socialism."

Unfortunately, nothing has changed since Mises wrote this almost fifty years ago. Liberal churches and denominations that have all but abandoned traditional orthodox Christianity have also abandoned the free market. Their pleas for "equity" and "social justice" are pleas for socialism, pure and simple.

Conservative churchmen today are for the most part interventionist to the core. Their support of government-financed "faith-based" initiatives and moral crusades, their incessant demands for constitutional amendments, and their acceptance of state intervention as long as it is on behalf of their causes are only exceeded by their ignorance of the most basic economic principles. Read Mises? He was an agnostic Jew, why should I read Mises?

Mises did not shy away from engaging religious defenders of socialism. He rightly criticizes religious rejecters of capitalism whose only fault with Marxian socialists is "their commitment to atheism or secularism." Mises perceptively points out that "many Christian authors reject Bolshevism only because it is anti-Christian." The Church "opposes any Socialism which is to be effected on any other basis than its own. It is against Socialism as conceived by atheists, for this would strike at its very roots; but it has no hesitation in approaching socialist ideas provided this menace is resumed."

But Mises did not condemn religious ideas because he was an agnostic. To the contrary: "The popular attacks upon the social philosophy of the Enlightenment and the utilitarian doctrine as taught by the classical economists did not originate from Christian theology, but from theistic, atheistic, and antitheistic reasoning." It would therefore be a "serious mistake to conclude that the sciences of human action" and liberalism are "antitheistic and hostile to religion. They are radically opposed to all systems of theocracy. But they are entirely neutral with regard to religious beliefs which do not pretend to interfere with the conduct of social, political, and economic affairs."

The fact is, not only atheists, but even religionists have almost universally accepted socialism and interventionism. They are all guilty, as Mises tragically recognized: "The atheists make capitalism responsible for the survival of Christianity. But the papal encyclicals blame capitalism for the spread of irreligion and the sins of our contemporaries, and the Protestant churches and sects are no less vigorous in their indictment of capitalist greed."

Accordingly, Mises criticizes both religion and atheism at the same time for the same economic fallacies. Both "Christian Socialism" and "atheist socialism" have brought about the "present state of confusion" in the world today. Both pious Christians and "radical atheists rejected the market economy." Both divines and atheists rejected the ideas of laissez faire. "Militant antitheists as well as Christian theologians are almost unanimous in passionately rejecting the market economy.""

More here

I am still struggling a bit with if and how to continue this blog. I doubt that I will be able to put up a solid dose of scriptural exegesis every day so I will need to intersperse the exegeses with some easier stuff from time to time. I have a strange fascination with that weirdest of all religious organizations, the Church of England and its "daughter" churches -- so I may put up something about their antics from time to time. I am actually a great fan of the CoE's 39 "Articles of Religion". I may be the only person alive who IS a fan of the 39 articles. They are generally seen as hopelessly archaic -- but if you read them you will see that they hark back to a time when the CoE was a passionately religious organization -- an organization that was much closer to the NT than most modern churches are. So I may point out a few things of interest in them occasionally. All CoE priests once had to pledge their belief in the 39 articles in order to be ordained but nowadays all they have to say is that they agree with them "in a general sense" -- which is a typically Anglican way of saying nothing.

I was once at a dinner party with an Anglican priest who is also an academic and I did at one stage start to quiz him on certain aspects of the 39 articles -- rather to his discomfiture. I did however after a while inform him that I am an atheist and that cheered him up greatly. He was much happier with an atheist than with a believer in the 39 articles! I can't say I was surprised.

Below is what the CoE stands for these days. The "E" no longer stands for "England". It stands for "Environment". Note that there is not a single mention of Christ below:

"The Church of England is embarking on a green revolution, rolling out an eco-friendly policy under which organic bread and wine will be served for Holy Communion, clergy will recycle waste products and fair trade products will be sold at fetes. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will set out his vision of a greener world at a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England this month that will challenge Britain to tackle global warming. In a discussion document being circulated among synod members, the Church of England says that the world's climate is close to a "tipping point". The Church warns: "The sudden changes that would occur in weather systems, the fertility of the soil, the water and the world of living creatures if this tipping point were reached could be devastating." It points out that even if "ecological devastation" is not on the horizon "it has to be realised that growth without limit has to be curtailed".....

Dr Williams will introduce the report that also backs the widespread claim that industrialisation has damaged the environment by global warming. He recommends that Christians adopt "sustainable consumption", recognising their duty "to celebrate and care for every part of God's creation". The synod will debate the issue on 17 February, the day after the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gases comes into force. The church is critical of countries such as the United States which have dragged their feet over the protocol. In a second discussion document on the environmental debate, the synod is asked to recognise that Kyoto is not enough. "It has taken far too long to be ratified as each country fights for its own interests [the US is notable among countries which have declined to sign]; its targets fall very far short of what is necessary." The synod will be asked to support the principle of introducing a system of quotas for CO2 emissions that take account of a country's size of population rather than its industrial strength.

But the Church of England will begin its own campaign by introducing eco-friendly policies in its churches. Among practical ideas for local churches are schemes such as recycling, car pooling and selling fairly traded products at church fetes. Clergy will also be encouraged to use natural materials in worship such as organic bread and wine. In his foreword to Sharing God's Planet, Dr Williams calls on each parish to undertake an "ecological audit".


Saturday, February 12, 2005


The other word in the NT sometimes translated as "Hell" or "Hellfire" is "gehenna". So what is/was Gehenna? It was Jerusalem's incinerator and crematorium, that's what it was. But, given Jewish law, only animals and the bodies of criminals were thrown into it. And they used sulphur ("brimstone") to assist the burning. Beginning to sound familiar?

So Matthew 10: 28 is the scripture that tells us most about it all: "Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna" (RSV -- except RSV translates Gehenna as "hell").

The clearest thing we note from this scripture is that Gehenna is a place of DESTRUCTION, not torment. As indeed a crematorium is.

But what are we to make of Gehenna destroying souls as well as bodies? Are not souls immortal? Apparently not. Bad guys are not sent to suffer in Hell after all. They are just destroyed. God is actually a far more decent chap in the NT than he is in the picture of him preached by traditional Christians. He just puts baddies out of their misery, he does not torment them. Only bad guys end up in Gehenna so if you go there both your body and your soul perishes.

There is a bit more to the story than that actually. The Greek word translated above as "soul" is in fact "psyche", which at its most literal simply means "life". But more on that another day. Matthew 5:29,30 and Mark 9:47,48 are also references to Gehenna in the Greek. As Gehenna was essentially just a large pit, bodies did not always burn immediately but worms and maggots got them.

The idea that sin leads to death rather than eternal torment is also explicitly stated in Romans 6: 23 "The wages of sin is death" and Ezekiel 18:4 also says that "the soul that sins shall die". And 2 Thess. 1: 9 also says that sinners will suffer eternal "destruction" (RSV).

But what about Matthew 25:46 -- where sinners are said to go off into eternal punishment? I can almost hear generations of priests and nuns slavering over that one! Sadly, they were not thinking very hard. The word translated as "punishment" is in Greek "kolasin", which does indeed mean punishment -- but what sort of punishment? The word derives from "kolazoo", which originally referred to "cutting off" (tree branches etc). So your particular branch of the tree of life gets cut off if you are a sinner. That is your punishment -- not eternal torment.

But considerations of the Greek aside, in the secular world death is the ultimate punishment -- so why should we be surprised that eternal death is the punishment God metes out too? Is God less merciful than we are?

A bit more tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Christians usually believe that ALL the Bible is the word of God so what I pointed out yesterday about the OT version of what happens at death should have disturbed a few adherents of the paganized doctrines that generally pass for Christianity these days. Nonetheless, I suppose the view of the NT as a higher enlightenment is reasonable and perhaps some readers are hoping that the NT message coincides with what they have been taught. It doesn't.

Unlike the Hebrew, there are at least TWO words in the NT that are sometimes translated as "Hell" -- "hades" and "gehenna". Today I will just talk about the most common such word -- "Hades". Hades is of course the word the ancient Greeks used for the the underworld in their mythology but I hope that paganism is not so rife that people are going to use pagan meanings to tell us what the NT meant by the word. So let us look just at how "hades" is used in the NT itself. Does it mean "Hell" or anything like it?

Well, if it does, some pretty surprising people go there. As even one of the creeds says, Jesus went there. Perhaps it was a cold day and he needed warming up! Creeds aside, however, in Acts 2: 25-27 (KJ) we find that God did not leave Jesus's soul in Hell -- implying that Hell was Jesus's first port of call. The word in the Greek is however "hades" and if we understand that word to mean the same as its Hebrew equivalent, "sheol" -- i.e. "the grave" or "death" -- the passage makes perfect and unremarkable sense. And note that the passage in Acts is a quotation of Psalms 16: 8, where the word translated in Acts as "hades" is in fact "sheol" in the original Hebrew. "Hades" was thus demonstrably used by the NT writers to express their familiar Hebrew conception of "sheol".

OK. So let us look at Revelation 20: 13,14 in the KJ. We there find that "hell" gives up the dead but that both righteous and unrighteous dead are among the folk concerned. Righteous people go to hell? A bit odd, don't you think? But again it makes perfect sense if we interpret "hades" as simply referring to the grave.

So all the passages that refer to "hades" in the NT are clearly not referring to anything like what we are normally told about hell. And without those passages, the NT says very little that could be interpreted as describing hell.

More tomorrow on hell in the NT.


As I am only a very amateur linguist whose main skill is looking up what others say about issues of language, I am most grateful that two real linguists have been following at least same of my posts on this blog. David Boxenhorn has a discussion of how I interpret Genesis 1: 26. He initially concludes that I am wrong but then notes a post by Marc Miyake which says that I am right! So I seem to have come out of that one OK (Breathes sigh of relief).

I think my position actually falls somewhere betweem David's and Marc's. David says that Hebrew has no general honorific plural, only a plural word for God, and Marc says that Hebrew probably did originally have a more general honorific plural. I think my position is closer to Rashi's insofar as Rashi says that we are looking at a special case here. As I said in my original post, the usage is closely parallel to the English royal "we". English is, like Hebrew, one of the languages which does not have a generally used honorific plural but it does have that one "Royal" exception. So particularly where the word for God (in Hebrew) is customarily given in a plural form, I think use of another plural to indicate dignity on one particular occasion would be readily understood. In fact it would probably be better understood than the English Royal "we". I am sure that there are a lot of Americans who would understand the Queen's usage of "we" as referring to herself and Prince Phillip!

Putting it another way, I don't think the "us" of Genesis 1:26 was grammatically required. I think it was a conscious departure from normal grammar made in order to express dignity.

Rashi's explanation seems to me to add up a claim of divine whimsicalness, which stikes me as a stretch, though his point that the single plural usage is immediately followed by a reversion to normal singular usages is well-taken. See David's post for more on Rashi's argument.

I am also pleased to see that David agrees with my interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4. And the great Jewish scholar Maimonides seems to be even more emphatic on Deuteronomy 6:4 than I am! Since what I find in the scriptures about both the nature of God and the afterlife is much closer to the Jewish view than the usual Christian view, I suppose I should say that I am not myself Jewish in any sense. I was in fact born and bred a Presbyterian. But I am not the first to opine that the Scots and the Jews have a lot in common!

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I think I will soon put this blog on hold. I originally started it with the aim of showing that you can be a good follower of Christ without having to accept all that mumbo jumbo about the Trinity and I think I have now shown that.

For the moment, however, I will carry on with a few iconoclastic comments about the afterlife. The orthodox view of what the Bible teaches is that we all have souls within us and that these souls whizz off to Heaven or Hell upon our death. Catholics get extra options. If you are a Catholic your soul can also whizz off to Purgatory or Limbo. Limbo is where dead babies go, apparently.

Just to set the teeth on edge a bit, read this bit of general advice for mankind:

"For the living know that they will die but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hatred and their envy have already perished, and they have no more forever any share in all that is done under the sun.... Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going"

So who wrote that? Some pagan? Some Greenie Church of England bishop? No. It's from Ecclesiastes in the Bible -- chapter 9: 5-10 (RSV).

Can anybody square that with a soul that goes to heaven or hell upon death? Hard to see how: The dead know nothing. They do not even have love. No thought or knowledge where you are going. I would like to hear what my Christian readers think of it. I think it will be quite a wriggle to get out of what it says. They will try to claim that it is the body being discussed rather than the soul but that is not remotely what the text says.

Just one point of interest at this stage. Note that the RSV very wisely does not translate the Hebrew word "Sheol" referred to here as the common destination of mankind. KJ translates it as "grave" and it is in other places translated as "Hell". But it is a pretty funny sort of Hell if nothing happens there! And "sheol" is the ONLY OT word translated as Hell. And the Ecclesiastes text quoted above defines it about as clearly as it could -- as a place of everlasting nothingness rather than as a place of everlasting torment or bliss. That's where we're all going, folks, to everlasting nothingness. As an atheist, I agree.

I don't suppose I need to mention that a fiery hell of everlasting torment was a common pagan belief in the ancient world -- Babylon and such places. Just like the trinity, in fact.

I understand that Orthodox Jews don't believe in a soul that whizzes off to Heaven or Hell upon death.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


The essential point about Jesus is surely that he was even in his own time an avowedly religious leader rather than a political one and, as such, he does not fit neatly into any modern political category and was in fact uninterested in how the affairs of the world should be ordered. His constant focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven and its entry requirements rather than on any earthly kingdom. So traditional Christian teachings about how the world should be ordered have had to evolve with only a little guidance from the master himself. On balance, however, Jesus does show a realism when he discusses the state of the world that is encouraging to conservative views of it.

Nonetheless, the fact that, in his spiritual guidance to his followers, Jesus opposed condemnation of others and retaliation for evil, that he also opposed selfishness and materialism and preached love and compassion could be seen as consonant with what Leftists advocate (but do not practice). And undoubtedly it is. That is why Leftists advocate it. It suits Leftists to pretend to believe that Christ's spiritual teachings can be taken as a template for organizing the affairs of the world and that only evil men or evil classes of men stand in the way of bringing about a socialist Utopia or any other desired state. That the world will always fall far short of the high ideals that Christ set they ignore. In this sense, Leftism is akin to the old Pelagian heresy, as Christ himself was emphatic that, although perfection is to be sought (Matthew 5:48), it is only to be obtained through faith in him (John 3:18). As Jesus summarized it to Pilate, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

It seems obvious, however, that if you treat your fellow man kindly as part of your highroad to Christ's Kingdom of Heaven you will also want to support political policies that are kindly towards your fellow man. But note here that what Christ said was to give your OWN possessions to the poor -- not to give OTHER PEOPLE'S possessions to the poor. So Catholic "Liberation theology" and its Protestant equivalents -- which preach the latter course -- is simply bad theology. And the Holy Father (who is in general no great friend of capitalism) has proclaimed that too, of course.

So the main motivation behind Catholic socialism would seem to be the wish of the church to curry favour with the often poor members of its congregations but some attempt to treat Christ's counsel about the surest path to the afterlife (e.g. "Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven" -- Matthew 19:21) as if it were also advice about how to run the affairs of the secular world is also of course involved -- materially assisted by the fact that theologians seldom seem to be very literate in economics.

So in many countries this does sometimes result in people hearing from Catholic pulpits condemnations of the "greed" of capitalism. Yet is it not greed to demand something that you did not earn? Is it not greed to use the coercive power of the government to take from others? Is it not greed to use the coercive power of unions to receive an unfair wage, often at the expense of other less-unionized workers? Is it not greed to demand that church members pay you a certain percentage of their wages? So the second-rate theology that fails even to ask such questions results in many Catholics worldwide hearing from their priests a message that is in some ways not very distinct from the message of Marxist revolutionaries.

I conclude therefore that there is absolutely NO warrant to see Christ as a Leftist. The central doctrine of Leftism is "redistribution" of property. Does anyone seriously suggest that the unworldly teacher from Nazareth supported taking people's goods off them and giving them to someone else? It is an absurdity with no basis in scripture. So that makes Jesus a conservative at least by default. And in most of the statements I listed two days ago he clearly shows an acceptance of the world as it is so that too is clearly incompatible with Leftism. But in his promotion of human nature as imperfect ("lost" or "fallen") he is DEFINITELY a conservative. Leftists view mankind either as having no inherited tendencies at all or as having a benign human nature. But, as I should perhaps re-emphasize, he was really not interested in the affairs of this world so his politics emerge incidentally to his message as he saw it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I am not the only atheist who is eccentric enough to take an interest in early Christian history. Stephen Quick is another. He has a blog here in which he advances the theory that the Dead Sea scrolls tell us about the early Jewish Christians and the disciple James (Jesus's brother) in particular. He has emailed me the following thoughts on whether Jesus was conservative:

Jesus was a conservative in as much as he was trying to restore the temple (much as many American conservatives decry activist judges that are distorting the Constitution). The Herodians that occupied the Temple were intermarried with gentiles which, therefore, polluted the Temple. They also engaged in cousin marriage, hence the charge of fornication.

As for the "church" being leftist, I've mentioned before that Paul was a Herodian and a Roman citizen (his "get out of jail free card") as well as a gentile Christian and he certainly had an agenda of accommodation with the powers that be, doing everything in his power to destroy the family of Jesus (James, Thomas) and disciples that may have known Jesus (Peter) or otherwise make them look foolish. Jewish Christianity died with James and the destruction of the Temple, leaving only Paul's version of events. We are left with Gentile Christianity. So the leftists won.

The view of events related above is that of Robert Eisenman, the leading Dead Sea Scroll researcher, albeit a minority view.

BTW, the "poor" mentioned in your blog entry are the "ebionim" which is a particular group of people that is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls and does not indicate all poor people everywhere -- as is the deception by the Christian church today.

I don't think I agree with much of that but it is an interesting viewpoint anyway. So on to the main business of the day: The texts that suggest Jesus was a Leftist. Here are the ones I know of:

Jesus did say that it was as hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24) and he did tell a seeker after holiness to first sell all his wordly goods (Matthew 19:21). He did advise "giving freely" and advised against accumulating both money and worldly goods (Matthew, 10: 9,10; 6:19 and 6:31-34). He preached equality among the faithful (Matthew 20:25-28). And he was very much a pacifist (Matthew 5:39).

Tomorrow I will offer an answer to the Left/Right question but emails about other texts that I should consider are welcome

Monday, February 07, 2005


I think I might give the trinity a rest for a little while, though defences of it will still be received with interest. I think I might have a quick look at whether Jesus was a Leftist or a conservative. It's an old chestnut, I know, but the Leftist invasion of the senescent mainstream churches does tend to raise the question of what Christ's Gospel really was. Are the current teachings of such "liberal" churches Christian or not? The churches concerned would of course normally claim that they are but don't really push the claim. As Leftists are traditionally anti-religious the argument has usually gone by default to the conservatives. Leftists have usually not wanted anything to do with any religious figure so conservatives can claim Jesus as one of their own with little opposition.

And that claim is not without reason: Jesus did after all say, "For ye have the poor always with you" (Matthew 26:11) and he did make a point of dining with rich businessmen (Luke 19:1-8) and he did praise entreprenurship and profit (Matthew 25:14-30). And he did rebuke his disciples for proposing to sell their luxury goods and distribute the proceeds to the poor (Matthew 26:10). He denied being a revolutionary (Matthew 5:17) and preached obedience to the law (Matthew 5: 19; Mark 12:17). He preached compromise (Matthew 5:25) and opposed divorce (Matthew 5:32). And Jesus did of course inherit the Jewish view that mankind is in a "fallen" and imperfect state and preached that only faith in him could correct it (Luke 19:10; John 8:7, 32).

I think that those are the texts that would usually be used to indicate that Christ was in the conservative camp. I would welcome other suggestions. Tomorrow I will put up what I think are the chief texts that put Jesus in the Leftist camp. And then I hope to show that the question is not such an old chestnut after all and that it does have a fairly clear answer.