To an American minister

There can be no argument now that the rising tide of fascist and white supremacist ideology in this country has reached a tipping point. In Charlottesville it was the Alt-Right, in El Paso a lone gunman, and in Oregon the Proud Boys – add to this a recent string of foiled mass-shootings, and it would be impossible to argue that the political far right has not escalated the conflicts in this country. Historically when the far right has sought political power, it has done so primarily via violence, and although the same can most certainly be said for elements of the far left, there has only briefly been a radical far left in this country who viewed violence as a means to an end. The era of the Weather Underground is gone, but never has the era of the Ku Klux Klan or white supremacy been snuffed out in the United States, from Jim Crow to Oklahoma City to a Walmart in El Paso. A literal civil war was not sufficient to exorcise these elements from society, evidenced not by monuments to the failed Southern rebellion, but the actions of individuals like Timothy McVey and the numerous perpetrators of the church, synagogue, and mosque shootings in the past three years. A resurgence of xenophobia now combines the worst elements of racism with the empowering elements of political rhetoric – and in this country, political rhetoric echos in church sanctuaries.

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The Core Message

It was represented to me that in my approach to the New Testament gospels I was missing the “core message,” and in the process I was seemingly denying the central tenant of Christianity, namely that Jesus is God. Although certainly central to Christian faith today, the notion that Jesus is God – that he was always and will forever be God – was not always quite so simple. Although it is evident that Christians believe Jesus is now God, there was at one point in time an extensive debate regarding the relationship between God and Jesus, a debate which ultimately culminated in the doctrine of the Trinity.

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The Eleventh Epistle to John

Historical analysis is not a judgement of truth. It is a judgement of fact, which is expressly different from the concept of truth. Simply because I am interested in exploring the larger historical context of the Bible in order to better understand Jesus, his followers, the community of believers, what they believed, the texts, the authors, etc., is explicitly not the same thing as avoiding its core message. I must reiterate that what you interpret as the core message in scripture is not necessarily the same core message that all other Christians interpret. This is even true today, with each “non-denomination” and denomination having its own emphasis of faith, taking conflicting stances among themselves on matters some find central to their beliefs. For example, how do you feel about the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s stance permitting same-sex marriage and the ordination of members of the LGBTQ community? There is clearly a question here about defiance of Law, as is often cited from the Old Testament. Do you think this means that PC(USA) is an illegitimate form of Christianity?

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The Tenth Epistle to John

On the webpage you sent to me, it states the following regarding Aramaic primacy: “Textual scholars have examined the Peshitta and found clear evidence of influence from later translations. The dialect used in the Peshitta is from a later time period than that of Jesus and His disciples.”  This is a fact, but it entirely ignores the fact that the earliest texts we have of the New Testament are dated precisely on the same methods they are using to criticize the Peshitta.  Both the conclusion that the earliest preserved fragments of the New Testament are dated to the 2nd-3rd Centuries and that the dialect of Aramaic used in the Peshitta does not match that spoken by Jesus and his followers is based entirely on the study of handwriting styles.

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