Fisking the Sermon on the Mount

“Fisking” is a term I used to see a lot on the internet, which sadly seems to have fallen out of use. It means a point-by-point critique, and they can be a real joy to read. Today, I give you a fisking of the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These are some warm and fuzzy thoughts, unfortunately they seem wildly optimistic. No really, I’m not just saying that out of a commitment to criticize whatever’s there, for the sake of a blog post premise.

It really is true that sometimes people mourn and are not comforted, the meek don’t inherit anything, thirsts for righteousness aren’t filled, the merciful don’t receive mercy, nobody and nobody sees God. Not every nice thought is an accurate description of the real world, and it’s important to live in the real world.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Flattering Jesus, very flattering. The thing about letting others see your good works is good advice, but you shouldn’t do it so that people will glorify God, you should do it so that other people are more likely to do likewise. Also, this seems to contradict what Jesus says elsewhere about giving alms in private.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Given how awful the Old Testament is, this paragraph should totally disqualify the Sermon on the Mount as any kind of repository of wisdom. Yet even Sam Harris has nice things to say about the SotM. I think this says a lot about how far people’s perceptions can be distorted by the fact that everyone around them believes something.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire.

No. Just no. Especially the part about hellfire for saying “you fool.” Or even for saying whatever the insult was in the original language. I don’t know how severe the particular insult was, but it can’t have been that bad.

But it’s not just that part that’s problematic. Because yeah, of course we should be angry at people for doing bad things. In fact, reading the Bible you could sometimes get the impression that Jesus sometimes got angry at people for doing bad things.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

It would be nice if reconciling with people were that easy, that you could make a commitment to always being willing to drop whatever you’re doing to reconcile with anyone who has anything against you.

(In fact, I’m pretty sure that would be a horribly self-destructive practice in some cases. Let’s face it, some people are toxic.)

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

Okay, maybe the thing about plucking out your eye was hyperbole, but equating thought crime with an actual crime is crazy talk either way. Especially when it manifests in such a horribly sex-phobic way.

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

I don’t think I even need to explain why this is a terrible policy. We all know people who’ve divorced and been the better for it, right?

Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

On the contrary, oaths are a really useful practice, letting imbue our statements and promises with varying degrees of seriousness. Fun fact, though: while fundie pseudo-historian David Barton is mostly lying about the Constitution being based on the Bible, this is one passage that’s legitimately reference in the Constitution. The reason the Constitution gives presidents the option to say “affirm” in the oath of office is to accommodate Christians who were sticklers about this passage.

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

I’m against “eye for an eye” punishments, but resisting evildoers, and not giving people everything they ask you for, are often good ideas.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The argument that we should love our enemies for the sake of being better than the gentiles is a pretty crappy one. That said, maybe you could defend the “loving your enemies” policy somehow. As long as that doesn’t entail not resisting them when they try to do evil to you.

Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Okay, this is what I meant when I said contradicting himself about whether you’re supposed to do good works publicly. Also he’s wrong about giving alms in secret.

Admittedly, noticing that people give alms in order to be seen giving alms is an important insight. But the solution to that is to put some effort into optimizing your almsgiving for actually helping people, not continuing to do what you were doing before, only in secret.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The idea that many people pray in order to be seen praying is, again, an important insight. I discussed that a little bit here.

When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

If God is omniscient, not filling your prayers with a bunch of things he already knows seems like a win for logical consistency. But if God is omniscient, why pray at all?

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It’s really odd for God to be so focused on one thing. I mean, forgiveness is nice and all, but should it really be the sole deciding criteria in whether God forgives someone?

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Again, worthwhile insight about the reasons people do certain things.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Alternatively, don’t store up treasure anywhere, just worry about other people’s well-being.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Huh?

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God[aa] and his[ab] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I’m down with not being greedy, but what’s this “therefore”? “Don’t be greedy, therefore don’t worry at all about your physical well-being”? That’s terrible advice. Even if your ultimate goal is something else, food is kinda important.

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Now obviously hypocrisy is bad, but trying to avoid hypocritically judging others by never judging anyone ever seems like a massive over-correction. And I’m guessing that Jesus wasn’t the first person to notice that hypocrisy exists, though I’d be interested to hear someone who actually knows about pre-Christian texts railing against hypocrisy.

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

Um, okay.

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

This is all empirically false. Prayer, as far as we can tell, never works. Also, if you imagine how scummy these words would sound coming out of the mouth of a Peter Popoff, it reinforces the idea that Jesus may have been the ancient equivalent of such modern “faith healers.”

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The first part is good advice, but it isn’t actually a good summary of the Old Testament.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Well that sucks. Wouldn’t a loving God want to do something about that, so that more people could be saved? And an all wise and powerful one actually be able to succeed?

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

I guess that’s a good principle, but without advice on how to identify “good fruit,” it’s kinda useless. Also, you kinda gotta wonder what the bit about trees being cast into the fire means.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!

Actions are what matter, I can get behind that. Seems to contradict what many Protestants believe about being saved by faith, though.

Okay, so in summary, Jesus is right that hypocrisy is bad, actions are what matter, and many people give alms, pray, and fast mainly in order to be seen doing those things. But the Sermon on the Mount also contains an astonishing amount of bad ideas for something that’s often held up as the pinnacle of wisdom, and that even Sam Harris has nice things to say about.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire.

    This verse does come in handy when someone whips out “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (psalm 14:1)

    You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?

    To someone familiar with chemistry, this is just dumn.

    • alfaretta

      When I was a fundie, we were taught that at the time Jesus said this, the salt available wasn’t necessarily pure — so if the salt portion went out of the salt they were eating, it was no good anymore. I am not a chemist, so I can only imagine how that would happen.

      • Rain

        Yeah I was “explained” a lot of things like that too when I used to go to fundy church. Did you know that wine was really grape juice? Did you know God had to be tougher on the people in the Old Testament because just because? I bet you didn’t know that Satan influenced one or the other of the parts of the Bible where the two Judas death stories contradict each other. :D

    • Bon

      I’m not familiar with chemistry, so could you explain please?

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Common table salt is sodium chloride. Sodium chloride does not become less sodiumy or less chloridey.
        If you had some kind of mixture, and the sodium chloride got leached out, leaving behind a disproportionate amount of impurities, then I suppose it would have “lost its taste.” But the only way to restore the salty taste is to add more sodium chloride.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a
    certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces
    his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit
    adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    You will often see this cited as support for “traditional marriage” of the monogamous sort. But if you read carefully, it just bans most cases of divorce. It says nothing about how many wives a man may have.

  • Soldier

    I highly doubt you put any sincere effort in to practicing the lessons to see what the results were. But i would bet that you assumed a lot more than you should have, and also put a lot more effort in trying to critique the lessons. You might be able to fool yourself and a few others about them, but not the majority of people. So you’ve done a critique, why not now really study those lessons and like a scientist, put the procedures to the test?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Because I’m not A. J. Jacobs.

    • Bon

      Can you give an example of a test that a scientist could do, using the sermon on the mount as an guide?

  • Rain

    You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

    Sounds great (I guess?) except nobody is actually salt. Entirely false anyway, since people can improve themselves. (Assuming that’s what the hell he’s talking about.)

    You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

    Wonderful, except nobody is actually a light. Although it definitely is a less completely preposterous metaphor than the salt one.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Sounds great (I guess?) except nobody is actually salt.

      Except Lot’s wife, of course.

    • Observer

      “Except nobody is really a light.” Please tell me your post is a joke. If not, what has atheism sunk to.

      • Rain

        Nope not joking. Your comment is even worse than mine because the dumbest least common denominator atheist (hypothetically me, for the purpose of argument) doesn’t determine what atheism has sunk to. Your comment makes even less sense than mine, lol. So what does that make you? (I’m only kidding.)

  • Dan F.

    Maybe I’m confused about the definition of “fisking” – this reads more like a “point-by-point” assertion to the contrary than a point by point critique. Did I miss something or was that what you intended? Maybe i’m equivocating “critique” and “rebuttal” when I should be equivocating “critique” with “assertion to the contrary” or something like that…

  • f_galton

    A lot of terrible advice in that sermon.

  • Jerry Lynch

    I think it would have been far more helpful to have read Christian authors’ explanations of the Sermon and tackle their comments than to fisk, critique, rebut from an atheist point of view. I am no scholar of the Bible yet it is plain you quite miss the point of these passages. If you could have answered what it means “to mourn” and “be comforted” in these passages, for example, and just that verse, then you would have had to change your entire approach and maybe blow off the fisking altogether. If you are clueless as to how this Sermon is read by those of faith with dedicated study, it is a foolish endeavor.

    This is not calling you a fool; it is talking about certain actions that you took: fisking without study. To call someone a fool, by the Sermon’s standards, is saying that person is hopelessly lost and of no account, never to be listened to or taken seriously; a final judgment on their character. It is prideful, arrogant, to do so and a threat to oneself by its form of blindness and lack of tolerance.

    You take a metaphor and conduct a chemistry exam on it? What’s a way for salt, or any spice, to lose its flavor? Look deeply, not just closely.

    “…and it’s important to live in the real world.”
    For me, the Sermon is radically different than conventional wisdom and contrary to worldly values. It is a way to live on earth as if already in heaven, despite any and all circumstances and conditions that we find ourselves in. It presents a whole new attitude and outlook on life that frees us from a dependency on “the real world” for our satisfaction, peace, or actions. Study a little and we can talk.

    • hf

      Did God tell you personally what the word “fool” means? What did he look like?

      Try an experiment. Go find Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law (or any ‘holy book’ you disagree with). Pick a random section. Figure out what you would say if you were honestly trying to defend it. Then compare that to what you just wrote here.

      • Jerry Lynch

        hf, lol, what?

        • hf

          ‘Evidence’ means something more likely to happen if the claim is true, than if the claim is false.

          Does your comment count as evidence? Or would you make an equally convincing defense of a false and harmful sermon, if society had trained you to defend it?

          You can find The Book of the Law online here.

      • JohnH2

        ” honestly trying to defend it”

        Defend it as what? As being from God?, That is impossible as it explicitly says it is not from God in each section multiple times, even if one didn’t know anything about the symbolism that is being used.

        In fact, even without resorting to the symbolism it explicitly says it is from Satan (and with what little of the symbolism I know even more so). Given what it says otherwise I could quite easily attempt a defence of it being supernatural in origin via its claimed source.

        Or I could also take some of its assertions very much at face value and argue that it is from Aleister Crowley, who considered himself to be the Ultimate God (and so with everyone else individually under the assertions made) but mixed this under a veil of mysticism, hermetic ideas, influences from philosophers, and a variety of other sources.

        Given that it is taking a decidedly Gnostic world-view I suppose I could attempt to defend it under the Gnostic assumption that Satan is actually good and God is evil and that we are higher gods than God who has imprisoned us and etc (which consistently combines the first two readings). And under this reading if one believed it then an equivalent to Jerry Lynch’s first post could be written with exclusions on peace, and an inversion of some of the values as being good or bad.

    • Rain

      I think it would have been far more helpful to have read Christian authors’ explanations of the Sermon and tackle their comments than to fisk, critique, rebut from an atheist point of view.

      Christian authors have some special insight or something? Weellll aren’t they special.

      • Jerry Lynch

        The fisking done here is not unlike reading the fisking of evolution by a fundamentalist using Genesis for its authoritative critique.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      You take a metaphor and conduct a chemistry exam on it? What’s a way for salt, or any spice, to lose its flavor?

      Some spices owe their flavour to organic compounds. These may be volatile, and evaporate away over time. Or they may break down chemically into other, less flavourful compounds, or be destroyed by heat. None of those apply to salt. Sodium chloride is sodium chloride.

      • Jerry Lynch

        Again, this is a metephor, not a literal statement. It is talking about what brings out the flavor of life and the flavor you can add to another person’s lfe. You can lose this flavor by, say, being negative or cruel.

        • Kodie

          Omnipotent son of god might have picked another spice to exemplify the metaphor?

  • Jerry Lynch

    Sorry but I need to add that your, er, critique–fisking–is shallow; it is exactly what you said it was not: “No really, I’m not just saying that out of a commitment to criticize whatever’s there, for the sake of a blog post premise.” You do not care to understand or explore but only to tear down. (R u a Repupblican?) Trite and banal at the same time; cruel appraisals I know but you appear to need a bracer. Do your homework first or your cause or whatever the reason for this blog will be easily dismissed.

  • Jerry Lynch

    Hmmmm…having read the comments of ur readers, I see why you are sloppy in research. Does no one think that follows ur blogs, all rabid to tear down religion at any cause, including the sacrifce of critical thinking?

  • JohnH2

    “No really, I’m not just saying that out of a commitment to criticize whatever’s there, for the sake of a blog post premise. “

    Right, I completely believe you….

    The Beatitudes have very deep meanings, and a many of them. For example, to be poor in spirit is to recognize ones dependence on God, in other words to have faith in God. To mourn can be to mourn for what one has done wrong, to experience the sorrow that leads to a change in behavior and being (otherwise known as repentance). To be meek may be to be willing to submit to the will of God and keep His commandments (and in this case, Baptism). To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to desire to do and be good, and if one does so then one will be filled with the Spirit. In terms of Mercy, Jesus is expressing the idea that if one would have God extend His Mercy to us then we should likewise extend mercy to those around us. The Bible is filled with stories of people experiencing Theophany, and what I know to be additional scriptures contain many more examples, even to the present day, of those who have seen God; In this case it is your assertion that they have not seen what they have claimed to have seen verse their testimony that they have seen God, despite many dieing and knowing they would for testifying that they have seen God. Since they did see God then they are accurately describing and living in the “real world” and it is you, not them that are mistaken about the true nature of reality.

    “Also, this seems to contradict what Jesus says elsewhere about giving alms in private.”

    Sorry, but no it doesn’t. It is not necessary to give to charity in public in order for others to notice that one is a good person. One should give to the poor, but one does not need a press conference to do so but that isn’t even what is being talked about here. Here is being talked about being a good person and if one is a good person then others will notice it and will also lead a good life (which as we all know from scripture is what glorifying God is).

    “Sermon on the Mount as any kind of repository of wisdom.”

    Jesus is saying that He is not abolishing Justice nor is He teaching a law that should be the legal code of a people but is instead giving the promised law which is to be written in our hearts. This utter (and likely purposeful (and very unoriginal)) misunderstanding colors much else of what you have to say.

    “we should be angry at people for doing bad things.”

    Why should we be angry at others for doing bad things? Why should be let others actions dictate our own personal tranquility and happiness? One can only control ones own actions and own emotions, not that of others and giving others the power to dictate ones actions and emotions is lessening oneself. This doesn’t mean we should ignore what others do, but we should not let their actions control our own.

    “but equating thought crime with an actual crime is crazy talk either way”

    This is about mastering ones own thoughts, actions, and desires, not about legality.

    “letting imbue our statements and promises with varying degrees of seriousness. “

    Jesus is saying that if one should do what one says that one will do, and should not need an oath to do so.

    “and not giving people everything they ask you for”

    It says “who begs from you”. Attempting to help those in need helps us not to be so self-centered but instead be more aware of the world around us and how we can better help the world itself be a better place.

    “That said, maybe you could defend the “loving your enemies” policy somehow. As long as that doesn’t entail not resisting them when they try to do evil to you.”

    One can not control the actions of others, only ones own actions. It is easy for situations to escalate quickly from a simple misunderstanding, unless one resists the urge to assume evil of others but instead attempts to love others and try to understand what they were intending and why.

    “Also he’s wrong about giving alms in secret.”

    The point, again, is that Jesus is teaching us to have the change be internal rather than an external restriction on us. One should give alms because they care about the poor and not because they care about how other people think about them. Caring about others will lead to more and better action rather then doing that which will receive the most public attention.

    “God is omniscient, why pray at all?”

    The purpose of prayer is for the person praying, to put their will in line with the will of God. Praying also show a recognition of ones own poverty of spirit and both demonstrates and assists one in being meek, merciful, and pure in heart leading to a change in oneself which qualifies one for the blessing available by obedience to the laws on which they are predicated.

    “it really be the sole deciding criteria in whether God forgives someone?”

    The second great commandment is to loveone neighbors as oneself so refusing to forgive others is a gross violation of that commandment. Since one can only be saved from ones sins and not in ones sins, meaning that one must change ones being and behavior then one is not truly saved if one continues to violate such an important commandment. This again is about the gospel being an internal change in a person rather then an external checklist which one goes through.

    “other people’s well-being.”

    I believe Jesus already covered that.

    “Huh?”

    If you think evil things then you will do bad things, even if you do not otherwise intend on doing so.

    “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    This is the important point which you appear to have missed in that section.

    “judging anyone “

    Judge the action, not the actor. The actor may be doing bad things out of ignorance or for a variety of other reasons; they are still worthy of respect and effort.

    “never works”

    I believe I have shown this to be demonstrably some measure of false.

    “Wouldn’t a loving God want to do something about that, so that more people could be saved? “

    Everyone has an equal opportunity to be saved.

    “Seems to contradict what many Protestants believe about being saved b faith”

    More that many Protestants have a confused idea of what faith is. Faith involves actions, not just a profession of belief. One can profess belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster but until one drinks beer and takes religious holidays on Fridays and actually embrace contradictions in ones actions then one has not actually demonstrated any faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster

  • Observer

    I’m an atheist, and I agree with those who say your discussion of the Beatitudes is shallow. Pointing out that the world is not actually like that, that people really do suffer, the meek really do get trampled on, etc., is not a rebuttal, because the speaker, the literary character called Jesus, is not describing what goes on in this world, he’s promising that these things will happen in the next world. Whether that next world is a separate realm called heaven or simply the same world we all inhabit once everybody is transformed in spirit (both interpretations taken by Christians over the years) is not relevant to your critique.

    You actually haven’t rebutted anything. Yours is simply a failure in reading comprehension. The subject is not the world as it is, but a promised world yet to come. To rebut it you would have to show that such a world isn’t possible (in both its supernatural and natural forms) or that such a world isn’t really desirable. I’m sure you’re capable of mounting either argument, but until you do you haven’t fisked anything.

  • disambiguator

    FISKING THE FISKER: Not surprising that an atheist, being absent of the Spirit of God, finds fault with the Bible in general, an especially the message from Jesu’ Sermon on the Mount. Which is a proof of Paul’s observation:

    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are
    foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are
    spiritually discerned.1Corinthians 2:14

    As to whether these so called fisking of words spoken by someone an atheist does not believe in, and being devoid of faith, seems as if the author is poorly equipped for embarking on a ‘fools errand’ and is a proof of Paul’s second observation:

    For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He
    taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 1 Corinthians 3:19

    And for the atheist readers, don’t get you feathers ruffled, I have heard it said on good authority that God does not believe in atheists. Have a blessed day!


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