Saturday, March 2, 2013

What about all of the good things in the New Testament that you missed?

Check out today's episode

I have recently finished reading the New Testament and I am collecting my thoughts about what I read in this series of posts. Today I am finishing the series by discussing all of the good things which were briefly mentioned in the New Testament which I have yet to discuss. Other entries in this series:
pic found here
  1. Slavery
  2. The Apocalypse
  3. Women
  4. Violence
  5. Sexuality
  6. Obedience
  7. Fear
  8. Blasphemy
  9. Wealth
  10. Binary Thinking
  11. Faith
  12. the Afterlife and Free Will
  13. Suffering
  14. Family
  15. Forgiveness
  16. Love
  17. Interpersonal Conflict
  18. Generosity
Some people might complain that I spend all of my time focusing on the negative parts of the bible. I'm sure this is partly true, I try to give as balanced a perspective as possible but the bad stuff really just jumps out at me (and is easier to write about). Also the good stuff seems few and far between, and it is often underdeveloped. I have tried to write a full post on any topic that was given a reasonable amount of attention in the New Testament, today I am going to look at a handful of topics that were just mentioned briefly and were really not meaty enough for a complete post on their own.

One of my issues with the good things in the New Testament has been that they often seem to be an afterthought. This is exemplified in the verses which are just lists of things which you should or shouldn't do. It's nice that they are mentioned, but given that they are not being given any real depth, it seems a bit cheap. At some point I got annoyed at these types of verses and stopped keeping track, so my list here is incomplete, but I will go through what I have. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Ephesians 4:1-2 tells us to walk with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Colossians 3:12-15 tells us to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, loving, and peaceful. 1 Peter 3:8-9 tells us to have sympathy, love, and a humble mind. James 3:14 tells us not to lie, be selfish, boast, or jealous. Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us to avoid bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander and to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Colossians 3:8-9 tells us that anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk are bad. Do you see what I mean that these are not satisfying, next let's look at some verses that give the ideas a little more attention.

Let's start with things that we should avoid. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us we should not "let the sun go down" on our anger. While I think it sometimes a good idea to give things time and let them cool off, staying angry for too long can definitely be a bad thing. James 1:19 also tells us that we should be slow to anger, it also says we should be slow to speak and quick to hear. Good advice on all counts. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and Revelation 2:2 both tell us to avoid evil, I'm not sure we would all agree one what is "evil", I can definitely get behind people trying to shine a light on things they think are bad in an effort to make the world a better place.   Ephesians 4:25 tells us to not tell lies, but to instead be truthful with our neighbors, again generally good advice. And finally Luke 12:1 tells us not to be a hypocrite. This last one might be the hardest as it is very easy to see faults in others and very difficult to see faults in ourselves. All the more reason we should have this in mind.

what about things that we should do? Matthew 18:4James 3:13 and James 4:6 tell us that we should be humble. This is good advice, although you have to know when to talk yourself up a little bit. James 5:7-8 and  Revelation 2:2,3,19 tell us to be patient, which is definitely a really important life skill. Luke 18:1-8 and 2 Corinthians 12:14 both tell us to be persistent, even in the face of injustice. Philippians 4:11 tells us to be content, and Philippians 3:12 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 tell us to always be improving ourselves. These are all good things, but they also seem self-explanatory so I don't know what to add here. 

Sometimes atheists will say that there is nothing of value in the bible. I'm sure I have said it a few times myself, clearly that is not the case. This post (along with the last handful of posts) proves that there are things of value in the bible. The thing we have to ask ourselves is if there is more good than bad or is it the other way around? Looking back at my posts, I think it is pretty clear that the bad outweighs the good. Of course there is a lot of subjectivity in how I organized these things, especially in this post I have a lot of topics put together. I think I have combined things in an appropriate way, but I'm also sure a Christian would expand this post into a bunch and take a few of my negative posts and combine them together. Honestly I would love to see a Christian do this same exercise and see how they compare the good and bad, if only because it would force them to acknowledge and evaluate the bad that is there.

I'd like to thank everyone who has been following my readings up to this point and hope you will join me as I jump into the Old Testament on Monday. I'd just like to throw it out there that if you are a fan and you have any friends that you think might be interested in this kind of this, the beginning of the old testament would be a perfect time to tell them about it :)


  1. The vast majority of the country focuses on the good parts of the bible. Your analysis is likely unbalanced, but it's more far balanced then the entirely positive view.

    1. Agreed :)

      The other thing to keep in mind is that I am definitely judging the bible, not the Christians. I think it is fair to say that most (all?) Christians do not support slavery, and yet the bible most certainly does. I would also argue that most Christians do not view women as poorly as the bible would have them, but unfortunately many will treat women as unequal to men. I know in my church growing up women were certainly allowed to speak, but things were far from equal.

      Many have said this before, but the average Christian is much better than their holy book is. It's a shame they can't see that for themselves.

  2. Most of the "good' parts of the New Testament you mention are things my parents taught me as how I should act, not my church. Most of what they taught me was what not to do if I didn't want to go to hell. That is what I remember the most from my childhood being raised "Christian"... though I was much older before I realized I was one...I thought until my teens I was only a Catholic and everyone who wasn't was going to hell no matter how good they were. :)

    1. I agree we learn what we should do at home, the church likes to take credit for it though. It's funny that you mention the Catholic thing, my dad was raised catholic but once told me that when he was a kid he had protestant friends and it didn't make sense to him that they would go to hell. At some point he and my mom left Catholicism and join a protestant church instead.


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