Romans 3:1-4

Romans 3:1-4 (ESV)

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!  Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
 and prevail when you are judged.”

Paul continues with one of the great themes of Romans – – Jews and Gentiles.  He is reviewing and foreshadowing the main point – – we are all sinners and can all be saved by God’s grace in Christ.  That helps me make sense of Romans 1 and reminds me that I am very much part of the they.

I recently read the book Nailed by David Fitzgerald.  In balance I read Simply Jesus by NT Wright.  Fitzgerald argued that Jesus did not exist.  Wright argued that Jesus was a Jew.  The first book helped me to understand an uncommon but important objection to faith.  I may write more about it later answering with the scholarship of Will and Ariel Durant.  The second book has had me thinking for a month and is more relevant to this passage of Romans.

If there is a God who reveals truth, then he chose the Jewish people to do so.  If there is an incarnation of that God, then he was a Jew.  I ascribe to the propositions and accept the conclusions.  Where then is the Christian anti-semite?  The same place as the Christian racist:  in deep sin.  I believe not just in a deist energy and order, but in a revelatory God who spoke into time and history to people with words.  These people were the Jews.

Christian anti-semitism is a non-starter and needs to be answered with scripture.  This passage in Romans is a good place to start.  Romans 3:23 is coming.  Just like Romans 1 we realize that all humans are in the same boat before a holy God and are in need of rescue.  God keeps promises, even when we don’t.  The original promise to Abraham recorded in Genesis was that the world would be blessed by him.

The Jewish people and promise were not abolished by the coming of Jesus Christ.  If you are a Christian, remember the context of your faith and ethnicity of your savior.  Do not tolerate anti-semitism.  You cannot do so and honor the scripture.  Likewise, remember that God disciplines those he loves.  When the Hebrews scriptures (Christian Old Testament) record the Jews turning from him, suffering in captivity followed.  Do not endorse anything Jewish or Christian only because it bears the name – – use the same lenses that God grinds in scripture:  justice and mercy.

Pascal

–1:16

13 comments

  1. “If there is a God who reveals truth, then he chose the Jewish people to do so. If there is an incarnation of that God, then he was a Jew” …

    I shiver in fear of a God that not only selects a single race for his message, but also a single person. Other than the message itself, I look at this God’s methods.

    Why does this God not give everyone on the planet this message? Why is his message not as clear and bright as the Sun is to each and every one of us? Why must some men climb mountains to receive it on behalf of everyone else? Why must we search under the rocks and in between the grass for the meaning of this message? Why does he leave us to interpretations and commentaries by other humans, equally handicapped as us?

    The age-old question: why has he forsaken us to fear, uncertainty and doubt?

    To me there is just one answer: this was a delusion of one man. It spread like a virus across the world. Like a worm, it wiggled and squeezed itself into the minds of men.

    There are many like this particular delusion; it was not the first, certainly not the last. We suffer from these dangerous prescriptions, as we saw in Paris and Pakistan.

    God’s selection of a single race and a single man is a dubious method, and one that will continue to haunt us. Many more will come forward with such messages, and many more will fall under its force.

    Then, the message itself.

    Let’s just take the latest incarnation of this delusion, from none other than Jesus and his two commandments. How useless the first one, and how natural, innate and intuitive is the second.

    Of the first, that God is above all, and needs our love; without our love, he no longer has any concern for us. This is the so-called “covenant”. What kind of God is this? A parent who behaves like this would be thrown in jail for neglect and child abuse.

    For me, it is hard to imagine a God who does this. To me, a God would love an atheist more than a believer; because an atheist applies his “God-given” mind and finds these ancient manuscripts humorous. My God has a sense of humor!

    If we discard the first, what do we have left? A principle that needs no god for its meaning, its universality, its truth, its necessity. A principle that all manner of men alike have come up with independently and several times in history; and many animals too.

    Democracy, Humanism and Free Enterprise – these are the only principles that are worth living by. These are the only principles that give a positive value to life on Earth with other humans, rather a life in heaven with Gods and Angels. That is our belief at http://atheist.in

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello Rajeev and welcome.

      I’m grateful for your honest objections and clear articulation. I don’t take issue with your logic, only some of your words. I’ve been thinking more about the word delusion. It has a formal definition with precise meaning: fixed, false belief. The atheists that I am getting to know are humble. That surprises most of my Christ-following friends and calls them to the highest form of flattery – – imitation. Humility requires that beliefs not be fixed. Russell articulates this very well in his post on the faith poll. I took the faith poll and chose gnostic. You have may also. I don’t think that means we are fixed, but rather that we have made decisions. Great topic for another post or comment stream.

      What about false? The core claim of any faith is supernatural. Science has no tools to evaluate supernatural claims. I am foolish to look to science for confirmation of my supernatural claims. That is a core reason that I don’t believe or argue the YEC of my childhood. Any logician would disdain the use of natural tools to disprove supernatural claims. I cannot say with certainty that your claim of atheism is wrong. The converse is true. The burden of truth argument was renounced by its author, Antony Flew in his wisdom or senility of age.

      Why did God use one people to bless the world? That’s what the passage claimed and what you correctly argued against. The core of this claim to me is not the injustice of the first clause, but the mercy of the second. You and I are included. I think neither of us are Jews.

      Is loving others self evident? Evolutionary biology strongly argues – – no. History strongly argues – – no. The further you get from the bullseye of your filial circle the weaker the forces of kin selection and reciprocal altruism.

      Democracy. Humanism. Free enterprise. Says who? Nietzsche disagrees and I find his conclusions difficult to argue with. For all his faults, he is internally consistent. From whom do you get normative authority? Yourself? Another may be stronger than you and say no.

      I honestly do welcome this conversation and I’m clearly still learning – – the content of which can be ascertained by the book list published for 2014 & 2015 in the sidebar. I also accept that you do love people, do love justice and do love mercy. I would just like you to articulate – – why?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Hi Pascal,

        I hope it’s ok if I jump in a little. I’m curious: if tomorrow all scientist, theologians, and philosophers got together and came to a 100% consensus that there are no gods would you then stop loving people, justice, and mercy?

        Please keep in mind that the question is a thought experiment meant to help think through the question you’ve asked. Try to ignore that the situation is likely an impossible one. It’s not meant to be a trap question, just something to help think about the issues involved.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would not stop loving people, justice and mercy. I would have a harder time explaining why I did it. Against our filial devotion, kin selection and reciprocal altruism stands the brute fact that we are animals driven primarily by personal survival. Does evolutionary psychology or enlightenment philosophy have sufficient normative explanatory power? It is empirically demonstrable in ancient and recent history?

          I accept that the moral law is imprinted on our race. How did it get there? Evolutionary psychology as described by Robert Wright in “The Moral Animal” (2014 bookbar) is one reasonable explanation that must be considered. C.S. Lewis’ explanation in “Mere Christianity” that it serves as evidence of a creator God is another.

          I think that my faith in my own love of people, justice and mercy would be shaken as my intellect finds non-theistic normative reasons less convincing. I hope that wasn’t too circular – – I’m only on my second cup of coffee!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Pascal!

            It was so great seeing you and your family last night!

            About the Moral Law
            I used to subscribe wholeheartedly to C.S. Lewis’ view of the Moral Law, echoed by Francis Collins in the book you recently finished reading. That position – some sort of “special act by God to imbue a soul with a conscience to man, which we interpret as the moral law within us” – became less likely as I learned about the steady climb up the moral latter that we see from single celled organisms to those with more and more complex brains and social systems (dolphins, elephants, various versions of primates, etc.). When I learned of all this, it became more natural (and I felt it was more in line with the evidence) to see man as the next step in the evolution of the herd, and advanced morality as an emergent property of reasoning and the survival benefit of living together in large communities. In other words, it became harder to justify the specific need of a special act to cause the “dramatically different” moral conscience found in humans. I realized that I had gone along with Lewis and Collins in their construction of another “irreducibly complex” effect that must have required a “God of the Gaps” – but it soon appeared that the Moral Law in humans was not so irreducibly complex when I learned more). In light of this, it became difficult for me to see the Moral Law as proposed by Lewis and Collins as being required, or even more likely than the natural explanation. Possibly, certainly, but less likely than the natural explanation – in my humble opinion.

            I’m curious if you think the naturalistic explanation is not sufficient. Or, taken another way, could God have arranged the moral law (to emerge as it has in humans) as a natural product of evolution, without a special intervention/tweaking at some point in our recent speciation history (e.g. between an older line of traditional “apes” and Neanderthals, etc.)?

            A clarification of your comment
            Can you clarify this sentence a bit? I think I’m misreading it.

            I think that my faith in my own love of people, justice and mercy would be shaken as my intellect finds non-theistic normative reasons less convincing.

            Thanks!

            Gentleness and respect,
            –Russell

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Hi Pascal,

            I have been planning on a post in February on this topic for a few months now, so you get a little preview here. 🙂

            I am no expert in meta-ethics but I’ve at least read enough to almost fake knowing something about it. First, I think this is a very important question, and I also do not think it’s an easy one by any means. As far as Nietzsche being the only consistent atheist regarding morality, I’ve seen many apologists use this line of thinking (Craig is famous for it). It’s ok reasoning to some extent but I’m not entirely convinced. I’m probably categorizing things a bit wrong, but speaking broadly I see 2 other non-theistic meta-ethical views besides nihilism. One posits platonic moral properties which exist outside of humans. Another posits that there are certain attributes common to all humans that pragmatically create common values which end up leading to common ethical precepts. I’m not going to get into much detail here, but suffice it to say I just don’t see the problem as black and white as some apologists make it out to be.

            But that’s just background noise for me. In thinking a bunch about morality and writing some about it on my blog a while back something occurred to me. No matter where I place my meta-ethics in the end I desire to be a good person – mainly expressed in traits like honesty, love, care, and kindness. I’m perfectly ok with a god having put that moral sense within me although I’m doubtful that’s where it came from. And even if there isn’t a god I still have that same moral sense within me and I choose to follow whatever it is that may represent true goodness even if what is good is simply a pragmatic naturalistic game theory kind of thing which seems to leave me a bit dissatisfied.

            When I was a Christian I chose to follow the Jesus I thought still existed because I believed that he represented what is truly good. I was drawn in by some of the beautiful sayings in the sermon on the mount. I wasn’t following because I thought he was the most powerful one with the keys to afterlife so I better listen to whatever he says no matter what he asks, even if it goes against my moral sense. This seems to be the theme of the Abraham/Isaac story, as well as the genocidal conquests in the old testament and those things go against my own moral sense.

            This is the sense of irrelevance that I mentioned last month to you that I have regarding gods and morality. While I wouldn’t say it’s completely irrelevant, given the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much clarity when it comes to the question of the existence of gods it seems to me as pragmatically irrelevant. If it was clearer I would say differently.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I look forward to your February post. May I think and post a reply to this comment, perhaps your post, my self? I’m afraid that I’m not as well versed as you, but I share your interest. Stay tuned …

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Hi Pascal. I was a little confused by the wording of your question (perhaps it’s rhetorical). But I’d like you to know that you can reply whenever you like, wherever you like, and never if you like. I appreciate and enjoy reading all your responses, but there are no expectations. Also want you to know that I’ve gotten some interesting personalities on my blog since I’ve been blogging, so if you comment there it could bring some interesting personalities here (e-mail me if you’re not sure what I mean).

                As far as being well versed, I’m not really all that well versed myself. You can probably get pretty well caught up to where I am at by searching for “morality” on my blog and reading what I titled Morality Posts, starting here: https://truthiselusive.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/the-morality-posts/

                I am going to attempt to tie a lot of that together in that February post.

                Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi again, Pascal!

    I’m curious about what you thought of Nailed. I’m so proud of you for reading it. It must have required a lot of love for me in order to get you through it! Here’s my brief take on it.

    It wasn’t convincing throughout and there were certainly some weaker points. However, I did learn from it and I felt it echoed many of my own skeptical thoughts more eloquently than I could. It also raised some historical points that I’m skeptical of until I can learn more. I don’t know enough about him as an author to know how much to trust (which is my constant problem as a skeptic). With that said, I was glad to finally hear an alternative set of arguments to illuminate that point of view and, having grown up in the church, I feel more balanced after having read it. In case your curious, I did not set it down holding the final conclusion that Jesus never existed. However, I do think it’s possible that he didn’t exist as a physical person, and that possibility is at least eyebrow-raising.

    Gentleness and respect,
    –Russell

    Like

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