Friday, January 5, 2007

refuting "so much garbage"

"I was raised on the Book of Jesus
till I read between the lines"

---Barbra Streisand

Who is this figure, Jesus, whom (according to the New Testament) even his immediate disciples, all Jews, referred to as "Lord" and "Christ"?

The title "Lord" was used in biblical times as it is now, to denote respected personalities. The patriarch Jacob addressed his brother Esau as "my Lord" after their reconciliation. (Genesis 33:12-14) The name "Jesus" is the Greek translation of "Y'shua," or "Joshua," which means "YHVH saves" in Hebrew. (YHVH, the most sacred name of God in Judaism, has often been mistranslated as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah.") Christ or "Christos" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew title "Mashiach," or Messiah, which means "annointed one."

The kings were called "Messiah," because they had been annointed with oil. (I Samuel 10:1; I Kings 1:39) There was also the implication of a spiritual annointing with God's presence for special service. Messiah was a title, therefore, which could be used as a designation not just for kings, but for priests and prophets.

The prophet Isaiah considered Cyrus the Persian ruler a Messiah because he had been chosen by God to liberate the Jewish captives. (Isaiah 45:1) Isiah and Micah expressed hope for an ideal Davidic ruler who would perform God's will. Jeremiah and Ezekiel hoped for the restoration of the Jewish nation under the leadership of a just and righteous Davidic ruler. "Messiah" thus represented a future king of the house of David. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was descended from David (1:1-17) and was frequently addressed as "son of David" (9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9,15, 22:42). His father Joseph was also called "son of David." (Matthew 1:20)

Jesus has been called the "Son of God." God adopted Israel as His son; Israel is called the son of God in the Bible (Exodus 4:22-23; Hosea 11:1). With the establishment of monarchy, the king was also identified as a son of God. His coronation was the occasion on which he became the adopted son of God (Psalm 2:7; II Samuel 7:14). In the Book of Job (1:6, 2:1, 38:7), the angels are called sons of God. In Hebrews 1:5, 5:5, God is quoted as having said to Jesus at his baptism, "Thou art My beloved son, this day I have begotten thee." Hebrews 2:10-13, John 1:12 and Romans 8:16-19 all describe God bringing many sons to glory.

Jesus called himself "Son of Man." The prophet Ezekiel was addressed by God as "son of man" (Ezekiel 2:1). In Hebrew, "son of man" ("ben adam") was a synonym for "man." Psalm 8:4 uses it in plural. Daniel refers to "one like a son of man" (Daniel 7:13), representing a coming Messiah and "the saints of the Most High" receiving the kingdom from God at the closing of the age.

Both Jesus and John the Baptist were considered prophets by the people. (Matthew 11:9, 21:11, 21:26, 21:46; Mark 6:15, 11:32; Luke 7:16, 7:26, 9:19, 24:19; John 4:19, 6:14, 7:40, 9:17) Jesus placed himself in the tradition of the prophets before him. (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24, 13:3; John 4:44) He frequently compared his ministry to the ministries of Noah, Lot and Jonah. (Matthew 10:15, 11:24, 12:39-40, 16:4, 24:37-39; Luke 10:12, 11:29,32, 17:26-29,32)

Jesus was called "Rabbi," meaning "Master" or "Teacher," 42 times in the gospels. The ministry of Jesus was a rabbinic one. Jesus related Scripture and God's laws to everyday life, teaching by personal example. He engaged in healing and acts of mercy. He told stories or parables--a rabbinic method of teaching. He went to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), taught in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23, 13:54; Mark 1:39), expressed concern for Jairus, "one of the rulers of the synagogue" (Mark 5:36) and it "was his custom" to go to the synagogue (Luke 4:16). John the Baptist, like Jesus, was also addressed as "Rabbi," or Teacher of Scripture. (Luke 3:12)

Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15) These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations.

When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28) Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs." His gospel was intended for the Jewish people. Even the apostle Paul admits that the gospel was first intended for the Jews, and that the Jews have every advantage over the gentiles in this regard (Romans 1:16, 3:1-2).

When a scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Torah, Jesus began with "Hear O Israel, the Lord, thy God, is One Lord." This is the Shema, which is still heard in every synagogue service to this day. "And you shall love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus concluded.

When the scribe agreed that God is one and that to love Him completely and also love one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," Jesus replied, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:25-28)

"Do not suppose I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets," insisted Jesus. "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20) Jesus also upheld the Torah in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid."

Nor do these words refer merely to the Ten Commandments. Jesus meant the entire Torah: 613 commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He then quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well: "Do not defraud." (Mark 10:17-22)

Jesus' disciples were once accused by the scribes and Pharisees of violating rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:5), but never biblical law. At no place in the entire New Testament does Jesus ever proclaim Torah or the Law of Moses to be abolished; this was the theology of Paul, a former Pharisee who never knew Jesus, but who used to persecute Jesus' followers. Paul openly identified himself not as a Jew but as a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8)

The argument against biblical vegetarianism that I usually get from Christians is that they think they are no longer under Mosaic Law, because the apostle Paul referred to his background as a former Pharisee and his previous adherence to Mosaic Law (with its dietary laws, commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals, etc.) as "so much garbage." (Philippians 3:4-8) But Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law, he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals!

While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath. "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked. (Luke 13:10-16)

Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed which grows into a huge tree, with the birds of the air nested in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19) On yet another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath. "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:1-5)

Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep. He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock:

"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home,he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

"I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)

Jesus' response to rabbinical law and the excesses of the Pharisaic tradition is often misunderstood. "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him," taught Jesus, "but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man." His disciples could not understand this. "What comes out of a man," Jesus explained, "that defiles a man. For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders. Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness...blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (Matthew 15:11-20; Mark 7:14-23)

Jesus was more concerned with one's internal nature than he was with one's external behavior. Jesus attacked not just killing and adultery, but the inner mentality and desires which cause such actions. (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28) Jesus went to the root cause of sin, looking past social factors and one's surrounding environment to the individual conscience before God.

Proof of this can be seen in Jesus' opposition to the Pharasaic method of saving sinners: "For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Did he who made the outside make the inside also?" (Matthew 23:25-26; Luke 11:37-40)

A person's heart or conscience can be known by his words and his deeds. Jesus warned his followers to "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Therefore, by their fruits you will know them...Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things." (Matthew 7:15-20, 12:34-35: Luke 6:43-45)

According to Mark (a gentile writer), Jesus' conclusion that nothing from the outside can defile a man indirectly made all foods permissible. If this were true, however, Simon (Peter) would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals. (Acts 10:9-16) Nor would James, the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19), who held a leading position at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:13), have required all gentile converts to Christianity to abstain from blood, strangled meat, fornication, and food offered to pagan idols. (Acts 15) The resurrected Jesus himself demanded that his followers refrain from eating food offered to pagan idols (Revelations 2:14).

It is significant that the idea that all foods are permissible is not recorded in Matthew's gospel (which reflects more of the Jewish tradition than any other gospel), but only in Mark's gospel, and Mark was a gentile writer, and not one of the original apostles. Even if it were true, would it justify unnecessarily harming or killing animals to begin with? Jesus' teachings on nonviolence and the kingdom of God, his insistence upon the moral standards given by God at the beginning of creation (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), and his teachings on God's compassion for all living creatures (Matthew 6:26-30, 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7,24-28, 13:10-16, 14:1-5) all suggest otherwise.

Jesus' words in Matthew 7:12, "Accordingly, whatever you would have people do for you, do the same for them, for this covers the Law and the prophets," are sometimes taken to mean Mosaic Law has been need only "do unto others." But Jesus was merely repeating in the positive what Rabbi Hillel had stated a generation earlier. Hillel was asked, "What is Judaism?" He replied, "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. That is Judaism. Everything else is commentary." Hillel's statement has never been taken to mean the Law has been abolished. There is no reason why Jesus' words should be interpreted as such, either. There is nothing in the synoptic gospels of Jesus to suggest a fundamental break with Judaism.

Christianity remained a part of Judaism even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Acts of the Apostles (2:22), we learn that Jesus' followers believed him to be "a man certified by God..." It was God who made Jesus Lord and Messiah (2:36), and they hoped Jesus would soon "restore the kingdom of Israel" (1:6). The first Jewish Christians went to Temple daily (2:46), celebrated the festival of Weeks (2:1), observed the Sabbath (1:12), and continued to worship the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob..." (3:13)

These Jewish Christians carried their belief in Jesus as Lord and Messiah from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and Galilee (1:4,8, 8:1, 9:31). Their numbers began to gradually increase. The initial 120 members of the Pentecostal assembly in Jerusalem grew to three thousand (2:41), then five thousand (4:4). Their numbers continued to grow; a great number of priests embraced the faith (6:7). The church enjoyed peace as it was being built up. (9:31) There was a strong community spirit; they broke bread and said prayers together (2:42). They shared property (2:44,46) and lived without personal possessions (4:32). Many Pharisees came to believe in Jesus (15:5) and this Jewish messianic movement was on friendly terms with Gamaliel, a powerful and highly respected Pharisee, who intervened on their behalf (5:33).

Simon (Peter) exercised authority in the early church (1:15, 2:14, 15:7). Peter's vision of a divine command to kill and eat animals (Acts 10:9-29) is often misunderstood. Frances Arnetta, a Christian vegetarian and founder of Christians Helping Animals and People, explains:

"...Peter had a vision while he was very hungry. In it, he saw a huge sheet lowered from heaven containing many kinds of animals which it was not lawful for a Jew to eat. A voice said to him, 'Rise, Peter, kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'No, Lord. I have never eaten anything common or unclean.' Then the voice said, 'What God hath cleansed, call not common.' After this exchange had taken place three times, the sheet was drawn back up to heaven with the animals safe on it.

"Some mistakenly believe that Peter was literally being commanded to slay and eat the animals. But if that were the case, they would not have been taken back to heaven alive. The correct interpretation of the Scripture is this. Like the other followers of Jesus, Peter was a Jew, and he thought the Gospel of Jesus Christ was meant only for the nation of Israel. But God was showing him, through the analogy of food, which Peter being hungry, could relate to, that Jesus died for all humankind, and that the Gospel was also meant to be taken to the gentiles, whom Peter considered unclean.

"The proof of this is that after reflecting on the vision, Peter was led by the Spirit of God to go to the house of Cornelius, a gentile, and he preached the Messianship of Jesus to him, saying, 'God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.' So one cannot find a command to eat meat in this passage or in any other in the New Testament."

Chapter 15 of the Book of Acts gives an account of a dispute which had divided the early church: to what extent were the gentile converts to observe the Law of Moses? The final verdict came from James, the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19). He said the gentile converts were to abstain from food offered to pagan idols, from blood, from anything that had been strangled, and from fornication. (Acts 15:29, 21:25)

These commands were not whimsically concocted; they were originally given by God Himself concerning any strangers dwelling among the Israelites (Leviticus 17:1-18,30). The prohibition against consuming animal blood was given by God to Noah (Genesis 9:3) who was not a Jew, and is repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 9:3; Leviticus 17:10-12, 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16,23,25, 15:23; Acts 15:19-20,29). The Bible identifies blood with life itself: "...for the blood is the life..." (Deuteronomy 12:23) The blood of a slain animal, which symbolizes the essence of life, must be returned to the Giver of Life.

Rabbi Samuel Dresner observes: "The removal of one of the most powerful means of making us constantly aware of the concession and compromise which the whole act of eating meat, in reality, teaches us reverence for life." According to Dresner: "...the eating of meat is itself a sort of compromise... Man ideally should not eat meat, for to eat meat a life must be taken, an animal must be put to death." Again, this prohibition against consuming animal blood was intended for the entire human race; thus the Bible upholds vegetarianism as a moral ideal.

Author Joseph Benson noted, "It ought to be observed that the prohibition of eating blood, given to Noah and all his posterity, and repeated to the Israelites...has never been revoked, but, on the contrary, has been confirmed under the New Testament, Acts XV; it is, thereby, a perpetual obligation."

Christian theologian Etienne de Courcelles (1586-1659) believed the apostles had discouraged at least the eating of blood, if not meat altogether. "Although some of our brothers would reckon it a crime to shed human blood, they did not think the same against eating animal (blood). The apostles, by their decree, wished to remedy the ignorance of these persons."

Church history relates that when the early Christians were accused of eating children, a woman named Biblias (AD 177) bravely protested against such charges, even under torture: "How would such men eat children, when they are not allowed to even eat the blood of irrational animals?"

Centuries later during the Trullan council held at Constantinople in AD 692, the following rule was established: "The eating of the blood of animals is forbidden in Holy Scripture. A cleric who partakes of blood is to be punished by deposition, a layman with excommunication."

William Bancroft Hill explains the Apostles' decree in his book, The Apostolic Age: "A pious Jew shrank from contact with the gentile world, because it seemed to him everywhere foul with pollution of idols, disgusting foods and licentiousness. Food offered to idols was held to be a communion with demons (Deuteronomy 32:17; I Corinthians 10:20), blood was the life element and therefore sacred to God; things strangled retained blood."

According to Hill, the rule against fornication referred not only to sex outside of marriage (I Thessalonians 4:3-5), but also to incest, which was prevalent among the gentiles. (I Corinthians 5:1). Many temples in the gentile world also functioned as religious brothels. The apostle Paul had to warn his followers of all this. (I Corinthians 6:15,18)

Contemporary Bible scholar William Barclay describes the impact of Christianity upon gentile converts: "...Christianity would disrupt their social life. In the ancient world, most feasts were held in the temple of some god...part of the meat went to the priests as their prerequisite; and part of this meat was returned to the worshipper. With his share he made a feast for his friends and relations.

"One of the gods most commonly worshipped was Serapis. And when the invitations to the feast went out, they would read: 'I invite you to dine with me at the table of our Lord Serapis.' Could a Christian share in a feast held in the temple of a heathen god? Even an ordinary meal in an ordinary house began with a libation, a cup of wine, poured out in honor of the gods. It was like a grace before meat.

"Could a Christian become a sharer in a heathen act of worship like that? Again, the Christian answer was clear. The Christian must cut himself off from his fellows rather than by his presence give approval to such a thing. A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian."

The apostle Paul repeatedly attacked idolatry. (Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:19-21) He recognized the immorality of accepting food offered to idols and pagan gods: "...that which they sacrifice they are offering to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons." (I Corinthians 10:20) Yet Paul then proceeded to give his followers permission to eat food offered to pagan idols! "You may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience; for the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (I Corinthians 10:14-33)

Paul told his followers they need only abstain from such foods if it offends their "weaker" brethren: "For if someone sees you...sitting at the table in an idol temple, will not his conscience, weak as it is, encourage him to eat food offered to idols?...If my eating causes my brother to stumble, I shall eat no meat for ever, so that my brother will not be made to fall into sin." (I Corinthians 8:1-13)

Not only does this contradict the Apostles' decree concerning gentile converts (Acts 15), it contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself. In Revelations 2:14-16,20, the resurrected Jesus specifically instructs John to write to two churches that they not eat food offered to pagan idols. Secular historian Dr. Martin A. Larson writes in The Story of Christian Origins that the seven Asian churches Jesus wrote to (Revelations 1:4) were Jewish Christian churches that had repudiated Paul. (II Timothy 1:15)

Paul, who once persecuted the brethren, considered himself a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8). Jesus, on the other hand, insisted that even seemingly insignificant demands from the Law of Moses could not be set aside. (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17) It is hard to tell at times if Paul rejected the entire Law or only its Pharisaic excesses, since he quoted the Law as spiritual authority (e.g., I Corinthians 14:21,34). On at least one occasion, he acknowledged the Law to be spiritual, but admitted his own inability to observe it. (Romans 7:12,14-25)

On another occasion, Paul stated that laws are laid down for the lawless: morality is meant for those who would otherwise lack morals. (I Timothy 1:8-11) Many of Paul's statements are not against the Law itself, but against the hypocrisy with which it was being enforced or observed (Galatians 2:1-14), and the fact that the gentiles were not obliged to follow all of Mosaic Law. (Acts 15)

Paul told his gentile followers that it is best to abstain from meat or from food offered to pagan idols so as not to offend the "weaker" brethren. (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8:1-13) Paul's use of the word "weak" has been debated. Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing believes Paul used the word "weak" with a positive connotation. According to Paul, "God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the strong." (I Corinthians 1:27)

Describing his tribulations for the cause of Christ, being caught up in the heavenly spheres, and a revelation from Jesus, Paul wrote:

"If I must boast, I shall boast of matters that show my weakness...I will boast, but not about myself--unless it be about my weakness...the Lord...he told me, ' strength comes to perfection where there is weakness.' Therefore," Paul concluded, "I am happy to boast in my weaknesses...I delight, then, in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 11:30; 12:1-10)

Paul wrote further that Jesus "was crucified out of weakness, yet he lives through divine power, and we, too, are weak in him; but we shall live with him for your benefit through the power of God...We are happy to be weak when you are strong." (II Corinthians 13:4,9)

Taken in this context, the word "weak" suggests complete dependence upon God.

Since Paul refers not only to his vegetarian brethren as "weak," but also the brethren who refrain from eating food offered to pagan idols, he was either a false prophet contradicting the resurrected Jesus (Revelations 2:14-16,20), or he was using the word "weak" with a positive connotation.

Again, if Jesus really did come to abolish the Law and the prophets, Peter would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals (Acts 10). Nor would there have been a dispute in the early church as to what extent the gentiles were to observe Mosaic Law (Acts 15). The final verdict for gentile converts came not from Paul (a Roman), but from James, the brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19).

When Paul, a Roman who used to persecute Jesus' followers, visited the church at Jerusalem, James and the elders told him all its members were "zealous for the Law." They reminded Paul that the gentile converts to Christianity were to abstain from idols, blood, strangled meat, and fornication. (Acts 21:20,25) James wrote an epistle refuting Paul's misinterpretation of salvation by faith. James stressed obedience to Jewish Law (James 2:8-13), and concluded (2:26) that "faith without works is dead."

Paul says if anyone has confidence in Mosaic Law, "I am ahead of him" (Philippians 3:4-8). Would that include Jesus, who said he did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets? Would that include Jesus, who said whoever sets aside even the least of the laws demands shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19)? Would that include Jesus, who taught that following the commandments of God is the only way to eternal life (Mark 10:17-22)? Would that include Jesus who said that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid (Luke 16:17)?

Paul may have regarded his previous adherence to Mosaic Law as "so much garbage," but it should be clear by now that JESUS DIDN'T THINK THE LAW WAS "GARBAGE"!

If Christians assign greater value to Paul's teachings over those of Jesus, then "Christianity" really is "Paulianity".

I'm not saying Christians should all be circumcised and following Mosaic Law. The Reverend Andrew Linzey, the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations and author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals (1987), rejected such an approach in a 1989 interview with the Animals' Agenda. I'm merely saying that Christianity for the past 2000 years has been based on a misunderstanding. My friend Rankin Fisher (a former Missionary Baptist minister), quoted a Methodist minister friend of his as having admitted, "We (Christians) aren't really following Jesus. We're following Paul."

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