What God Did Not Say

It is sacrilege to put words in God’s mouth. It is the height of hubris to speak for God, as if God did not make Himself clear. When it comes to religion, theologians cannot help themselves; they simply must speak for God. The theological fallout is lay Christians carry the heavy burden of attempting to justify how there are three in one and one in three when it comes to the “godhead.” What a curious and non- Biblical term that is. This becomes ever more complicated when fiddling with defining the divine and human natures of Jesus as a part of the three-in-one “godhead.”

God certainly did speak to His creation. There are many hundreds of Biblical references to God speaking to His people from Genesis to Revelation. In the first verse of Genesis, God created His creation. Then, in the first short chapter, He specifically spoke, proclaiming His work was good. Adam and Eve were spoken to, as was Moses. Throughout the Old Testament God spoke to His people and His Prophets. In the Gospels God and Jesus had some of the most intimate and compelling exchanges in the Bible. Finally, God spoke to the Apostles and the writers of the Bible. Recognize Scripture is not merely a collection of Bible stories. It IS the spoken word of God.

When God speaks, it is often an awesome event. “The Lord thundered from heaven” (2 Samuel 22:14). “The God of glory thundereth” and “the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness” (Psalms 29: 3-9). The longest conversation with God comes in the Book of Job. The tremendous tenor of it is made plain in Chapter 38 when God speaks from the whirlwind asking Job where he was when the foundations of the earth were laid, and if he could change the stars in the sky. All the way to Revelation God speaks with unequivocal authority: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Revelation 1:8). Awesome, just awesome!

God does not always speak with the voice of intimidating and dramatic events or revelation. In the 18th and 19th chapters of First Kings, Elijah was pursued by Jezebel wanting to kill him but was thwarted by an earthquake and fire. God comforted the exhausted Elijah with “a still small voice.” God spoke to Jesus solemnly as in famous Luke 3:22: “Thou art My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

God is succinctly summed up in the Shema of the Hebrew and Jewish tradition from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” Notice the one. God specifically reiterates this with “I am the Lord thy God” no less than seven times: Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6, Psalms 81:10, Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 48:27, Isaiah 51:15, and Hosea 13:4. In Genesis and Exodus alone God spoke in the singular twenty-seven times about the covenants with Israel using “My covenant” and “I covenant.” And, when God spoke to Jesus, it was always in the singular. Of the many hundreds of times when God spoke, there is only one oddity.

“Let us make man in our image.” Genesis 1:26 is simple fodder for those who are compelled to make a sophomoric attempt at speaking for God. This “us” is in no way evidence of a trinity, but rather God and His attendant angels. God makes it clear He is a single God when He tells us, “I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24). God reiterates this again with, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). These verses among hundreds of others tell us God is one God. But because one errant interpretation among the hundreds of other singular verses, theologians and indoctrinated lay Christians believe they can speak for God in the pluralistic three-in-one and the one-in-three.

It is a pretty big deal for God to be three persons in one being. In fact, this is the biggest deal of all in the Bible and the biggest deal to Christians. Lay Christians labor over this mystery, and theologians build entire careers on this conundrum. However, and this is a gigantic HOWEVER, not once did God ever say, “We, the three-in-one and the one-in-three, covenant with Israel.” God did not compel Job with, “We will demand of thee, and thou will answer Us” (Job 38:3). From the second verse of the Bible to the second to the last verse of the Bible, God did not say: “Surely We will come quickly” (Revelation 22:20).

Six times God tells us He is a jealous God. Tampering with His words and His being is the height of hubris. Christians needn’t speak for God. There is no need or reason to pick up the weight of a man- made mystery and turn God into an egg or water. All we need do is accept God the Father, His Son the Christ, and listen to the gift of our Paraclete in the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, Jeremiah 33 tells us He (not we) will forgive our inequities and remember our sin no longer. It is sacrilege to speak for God!

The Christian Sanhedrin

The Jewish Sanhedrin Bungled Jesus’ Case!

When Athanasius spoke on the topic of tradition we thought he had settled everything once and for all, but no! There were still some holdouts lurking around the Reunion who were plainly at odds with the majority view.  It was clear that something had to be done! The Reunion organizers were in a real pickle until someone suggested taking a close look at the Jewish Sanhedrin. Admittedly, the Sanhedrin definitely bungled the situation with Jesus. Other than that, they had run things in Israel unopposed for a very long time. If Jesus hadn’t come along they would likely still be in charge! Maybe it was time to take a close look at how they did it!

Would Our Speaker be Origen or Eusebius?

The Reunion Organizers considered having Origen speak on maintaining order since he was so bright and well known. Eusebius though, was the final choice even though many thought he was just Constantine’s flunky. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and it sure didn’t hurt Eusebius’ career! In a strange twist of fate Eusebius and Athanasius had been fierce adversaries throughout their lifetimes. They gladly excommunicated each other whenever circumstances allowed! The possibility of fireworks between them made the atmosphere of the reunion just crackle with electricity!  Hearing from Eusebius so soon after Athanasius had spoken promised to be truly exciting.

Eusebius Was a Famous Church Historian

Moderator: We have the rare pleasure tonight of hearing from one of the church’s most important and well-known historians! Eusebius of Caesarea is our speaker and I’m sure you will be most interested in what he has to say. Even though it is well known that Eusebius and Athanasius were enemies, Eusebius has promised not to say anything derogatory about Athanasius.  He has also agreed not to excommunicate Athanasius tonight so let’s all relax and give a warm welcome to Eusebius of Caesarea!

Audience: Respectful applause.

The Jewish Sanhedrin Was Powerful

Eusebius: Thank you! Thank you! It is such a pleasure to be here! I want to assure you that I will not say anything nasty about Athanasius even though it sure wouldn’t hurt to tell the truth about him. If I thought his ego could take it, I’d give you an earful! Instead of talking about him let’s talk about how wonderful it is to have the authority to enforce truth and stamp out error! History reveals that was the privilege and responsibility of the Jewish Sanhedrin and of the new and improved Christian Sanhedrin too! Yes, I know there are some who would disagree that there even IS a Christian Sanhedrin but let’s talk about it.

Church Councils Are the Christian Sanhedrin!

Let me remind you that the word Sanhedrin simply means assembly or council and in Israel it had a lot of clout! It had 70 members who met at the Temple pretty much every day except the Sabbath and what they said was LAW! The members of the Sanhedrin were the undisputed rulers of religious life and of the Temple in Jerusalem. Most people knew was not a good idea to get on the wrong side of the Sanhedrin! Things in Israel generally ran smoothly under their rule and no one dared resist their authority, at least not until Jesus stepped on the scene! He made a habit of challenging their authority and sometimes He even opposed them on their own turf and they hated Him for it!

The Sanhedrin Enforced Jewish Traditions

You may be wondering, what exactly did the Sanhedrin do? Well, its job was to make sure everyone followed the letter of the law and observed Jewish traditions in the way the Sanhedrin deemed essential.  It was a powerful force for maintaining tradition as long as there was Temple worship in Jerusalem. Its power was limited only by Rome and it couldn’t execute anyone without permission from the Roman authorities, but that was just a minor inconvenience.  Later, when the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered, the Sanhedrin fell on hard times too and was finally disbanded altogether in 425 AD.

Jesus Challenged The Sanhedrin!

The chief priests who made up the Sanhedrin wanted to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing and were always trying to trap Him with trick questions.  When a woman was caught in adultery they said “The Law says we should stone her to death! What do you say?” Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Sanhedrin allowed concession stands to operate in the Temple but Jesus drove the vendors out with a whip! Then He turned over the tables of the money changers! They thought Jesus was determined to make them look bad! He openly challenged their opinions and rulings and they wanted to silence Him so much that they came up with a plan to kill Him. When Jesus finally acknowledged that he was the Messiah they accused Him of blasphemy and sentenced Him to death at the hands of the Roman authorities.

Church Councils Enforce Christian Traditions

The new and improved Christian version of the Sanhedrin is called a Church Council its members  are called Church Fathers. Interestingly enough the Christian Sanhedrin came into power at roughly the same time the Jewish Sanhedrin was going out of existence! The Jewish Sanhedrin is no more but the power of the Christian Sanhedrin is as great as ever! Yes, the Christian Sanhedrin only rules in absentia today but that’s still pretty impressive when you think about it! Interestingly, each group resorted to murder at the hands of civil authorities when their authority was challenged.

Jesus Got Killed for Claiming to be the Messiah

Some things never seem to change! The issue that finally got Jesus killed by the Jewish Sanhedrin was His claim to be the promised Messiah. (If He had claimed to be the second person in a triune God they would have just thought He was crazy.) This was the very same issue that got so many non-trinitarians killed by the Christian Sanhedrin. These oddballs simply believed that Jesus was their Messiah and Savior!  For some reason they did not buy the idea that He was a second “person” in God. Jesus’ simple claim to be the Messiah and Son of God (not God Himself mind you) resulted in His own death. Many of His followers have died for exactly the same reason!

Sanhedrins and Councils Should be Feared!

What is the lesson to be learned in all this? We proclaim that keepers and enforcers of tradition are to be feared and respected in every age! Those who dare to challenge religious authorities and traditions often end up dead! It would be nice if things were otherwise and you should know that killing those who disagree with us is not always our first choice! Our fondest hope is that those who dispute our theology would come to their senses. Sadly, many believers refuse to acknowledge our authority and we are sometimes left with no choice but to kill them.

The Death Penalty Protects Traditions!

Some people may need to perish in order to preserve our cherished traditions. The Jewish Sanhedrin proclaimed this very thing when they sentenced Jesus to death (John 11:50). Killing people is an effective way to protect religious traditions!  Some believers say Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God but recklessly deny that He is of exactly the same essence as the Father! These simpletons are entitled to the severity of God but not His goodness. This may sound a little rough but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

The Christian Sanhedrin Rules in Absentia!

Many governments in modern times refuse to execute our enemies for us but there is always hope this will change! In the meantime we encourage believers to at least label those who disagree with us as heretics. Treat them with the contempt they deserve! This is about the best we can do for now. The true wisdom of our Christian Sanhedrin is shown by how long it has survived and ruled in absentia! We are still in charge and we aren’t even physically on the scene anymore!

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight! It has been a great honor to be here with you. Is it almost time for dinner? I can’t wait to see that great buffet I’ve heard so much about!

Moderator: My goodness everyone, this has certainly been an interesting evening! We are so glad Eusebius could join us and share his unique historical insights and perspective! Who knows what might come next? Only time will tell!

PS: Are we being a little too direct here? We certainly hope not! Our motto is, “Tell it like it is” but we try to do it with kindness and humor and sometimes we even succeed! If you agree, why not tell a friend about  theologyallstars.com  and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Tradition is Our Mighty Fortress

When Athanasius finished speaking on the Splendor of Tradition we headed right back over to the Seafood Buffet. We were as contented as can be! When someone suggested “Let’s get some more!” the idea was hailed as true genius. Some thought “more” meant more King Crab. The more spiritual types among us figured it was a signal that we should hear more about tradition from Athanasius! After some lively discussion we decided that these were both great ideas! Ath was always agreeable to speaking his mind so he quickly agreed to do another session. Then we all loaded up on more seafood! Everyone was excited to know that we were going to hear another great talk by Athanasius!

A Mighty Fortress Rocks the House!

It was an unforgettable experience to hear the majestic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” coming over the loudspeakers. Those magnificent bass notes shook us right down to the bone! It was just like having a huge pipe organ in the room! Pipe organs weren’t even used in churches until the 14th century so that made it even more impressive!  “A Mighty Fortress” wasn’t written until the 16th century and everyone loved the sense of majesty and awe it inspired. Finding out that it was written by Brother Marty (Luther) clinched it for us! It would be hard to imagine a more perfect beginning for what was to come.

Moderator:  Brethren could it get any better than this!? We have already had some great sessions, we have enjoyed great food and we have even played the strange game called golf! I don’t know about you but I wish this could go on forever.

Audience:  Let’s stay here! Let’s refuse to leave! We don’t want it to end! We love Las Vegas!

Chanting:   “We won’t go! We won’t go! We won’t go!”

Moderator:  I’m afraid God has other plans Brethren! The reunion committee that negotiated with God to get us here says that we have to go right back where we came from as soon as this Reunion ends.

Audience:  What a bummer! Booing. That’s not fair!

Athanasius… Our Doctor of Dogma!

Moderator:  It looks like we are stuck with the destinations we earned in our lifetimes but since we still have some Reunion time left we should make the most of it! Here tonight to help us do just that is our Doctor of Dogma and Top Dog of Triune Tradition, Athanasius!

Audience:  Enthusiastic applause, clapping, and shouts of welcome back Athanasius!

Athanasius:  Greetings dear friends! Let’s dig right into our topic. I plan on covering a lot of ground but don’t worry!  We’re going to make it back to that great buffet in plenty of time so you can all relax!

The Kingdom Belongs to God! Tradition Belongs to Us!

Everyone knows that God intends to protect His Kingdom! Many people have learned the hard way that we intend to protect and defend our traditions! First of all, let’s review some of the factors that can make traditions succeed or fail. Just remember that God protects His Kingdom and we protect our traditions! The Kingdom is His but the traditions belong to us!

We have learned some valuable lessons from the flawed traditions that caused Israel so much trouble. You can rest assured that we have wisely avoided those flaws with the traditions we have created. Two good examples of Jewish traditions that ultimately flopped are the prohibition against working on the Sabbath and the need for ceremonial handwashing before every meal. Let me explain!

Jesus Openly Challenged Tradition!

Jesus took His disciples through a field of grain on the Sabbath and they started plucking heads of grain (which was work). They started eating it with unwashed hands (because it’s hard to wash your hands in a cornfield). The religious authorities cried FOUL! but Jesus let them know their traditions didn’t measure up. His disciples were hungry and He cared more about them than a few rules. Jesus intentionally broke their tradition again by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath! He did it in a synagogue right in front of God and everybody! Many people realized that Jesus was right and the way they observed traditions was wrong. A whole new religion was being established right in front of their eyes! Jesus had openly challenged their traditions!

Traditions Can be Contrary to God

Jewish traditions were so concrete it was easy to see how they resulted in calloused decisions down here on earth. Sometimes those traditions were totally contrary to what God wanted!  Higher quality traditions could have saved the nation of Israel a whole lot of trouble. We have carefully avoided the mistakes that caused Israel so much distress! I am about to show you the secrets of building traditions that can withstand the test of time! Trinitarian Dogma is without a doubt the greatest religious tradition of them all and is indeed our Mighty Fortress!

Audience: This is good stuff Athanasius! Tell us more!

Good Traditions Intimidate Average People!

Athanasius:  One secret of our success is that the tradition we built was not easy or even possible to understand! In fact, it is so incomprehensible that we don’t really understand it ourselves and we created it! Average people are so intimidated by our scholarship and intellectualism that they hardly ever challenge us! We easily overwhelm people who question us with arguments they are unable to understand much less resist. Confounding and incomprehensible complexity is our ally, our strategy and our friend!

The Greatest Traditions Are Abstract and Mysterious

Another secret of our success is that our trinitarian tradition is not the least bit concrete! It is so abstract that it can’t even be envisioned even though learned scholars say otherwise! Is that great or what! It is almost impossible for people to see how our theological tradition could be contrary to God’s wishes. The Trinity is an ethereal mystery that has virtually nothing to do with what we say or do down here! Nothing we do will never make the trinity itself look bad. People will adhere to the tradition we bestowed on them in spite of our behavior! That my friends is the hallmark of a truly great tradition! Israel may have blundered by developing concrete traditions but we got it right!Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Think about it! We have constructed a secure fortress for ourselves out of next to nothing and it has lasted nearly 1800 years! No one knows how to break down its walls and we are safely surrounded by theological traditions that few dare challenge or question! We are experts and we are in the majority! If anyone even thinks about disputing our teaching we laugh them to scorn, call them heretics or eliminate them! It is plain to see that we  have won the day! Behold what we have built!

From somewhere up above a voice was heard saying, That’s all well and good children but you should have built on something more solid than the sand of your own thoughts. Building on the words of Jesus would have been far better. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But no one seemed to pay much attention.

Pomp and Rituals and Great Architecture!

Athanasius continued: Yes, yes, I know what some of you are thinking! “What about our pomp and architecture and rituals and hierarchy? Aren’t they important too?” The answer is “Yes! of course they matter!” These are things people get very attached to. They are useful  accessories that decorate the walls of our Mighty Fortress and make it look genuinely religious. We like them because they add a certain “Wow factor” to the tradition we have built. As far as all these other things are concerned, I say the more the better!

Now I want to make an honest man of myself and finish my remarks while there is still plenty of time to get back to that terrific buffet. Thank you all for your respectful attention! I’m sure going to miss these meetings when we have to leave this town.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 

Background

It Was Time For a Theologians Reunion!

It was very late in the day (but before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ) when it suddenly dawned on us that the time had finally come for a reunion! We hoped the great theologians of the church might all get together in one place and explain things to the rest of us in ways normal human beings could understand.  Theologians just love to explain themselves so we had no trouble at all getting them to show up for our grand event. God even gave all of them permission to attend! Our hearts were filled with anticipation and excitement because we knew that at long last all the confusion about eternal truths would finally be laid to rest. What follows is the unabridged and unbiased account of pretty much everything that went on from beginning to end.

The “Church Fathers” Wanted Us Think Right

The ancient philosopher theologians we call “The Church Fathers” were a brilliant bunch! In their wisdom, they tried to lead us down a path of right thinking. But… is it possible that instead they ended up unleashing violence and hatred between brethren on a scale never before seen?  Our fond hope is that this reunion transcript will help us see things more clearly. Someday when Jesus returns He will reveal what He thinks about our religious traditions. In the meantime we’ll just have to do our best to figure it out all by ourselves.

Romans Thought Christians Were Enemies of the State

The early disciples of Jesus traveled all over the place establishing small pockets of believers around the Mediterranean and Europe. Eventually there were enough Christians to seriously annoy the Romans for lots of reasons that seemed pretty important at the time. They were known as enemies of the state who ought to be killed or at least tortured until they came to their senses. Persecution didn’t work very well though and Christianity flourished in spite of it.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!

Early in the fourth century a pagan emperor named Constantine ruled that Christians weren’t so bad after all and that it wasn’t necessary to kill them anymore!  It was a classic “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!” strategy. Until then Christianity had flowered secretly into a host of different varieties that co-existed in relative peace.  As soon as churches were free to worship openly trouble started. Who believed the right way and who was wrong? Who was a true Christian and who was not? Disputes between Christians became so intense that Constantine saw these religious divisions as a threat to the Roman Empire. The emperor just wanted an end to all the fighting.

Constantine Held a Church Council in Nicea

In 325 AD Emperor Constantine invited 3000 church officials  to a council at his summer palace in Nicea. (about 300 actually showed up) The idea was that they would talk things over and iron out their differences.  Then they would vote on a short statement of faith (a creed) that would become binding on all believers. Surely this would end all the conflict! What could be easier and more sensible than that? What could possibly go wrong? It turned out that a lot went wrong in a hurry!

The Nicene Creed Caused a Lot of Violence

The Nicene Creed they voted on enshrined Trinitarian dogma as the official dogma of Christianity. It also unleashed so much violence between believers that even pagans were scandalized by how much the Christians hated each other. To this day most Christians still solemnly recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday…. even if no one really understands exactly what it means. With these things in mind we could see that the only way out of this mess was to host the Theology All Stars Reunion! So that is what we have done.

Anyone Who Disagrees With Us Must be a Heretic

Heartfelt apologies are hereby offered to the disciples of any particular philosopher or theologian who may be offended by our humble reporting. Nevertheless we must press on and share this honest and accurate account of their lofty words and heroic deeds with you. Be assured there is no fake news here at all. No indeed! This officially authorized transcript is guaranteed, certified and warranted to be absolutely 100% accurate and unbiased. For this reason anyone who disputes this account is hereby declared a heretic, expelled from fellowship with those of us who have the right opinions, and banned from doing anything we consider worthwhile on behalf of or in relationship to anything that has anything to do with ANYTHING related to God. On the other hand, may God richly bless all those who agree with us.

AMEN

Let us begin…

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes