Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Love Only for Some--The Hypocrisy of The Naked Pastor



I came across this comic and it was quite thought provoking. Take a look: click here

Hurting and Naked

If you're not familiar with the Naked Pastor you should probably at least be aware of him. I don't know David Hayward's spiritual journey except for what his About page says but I think it's safe to say that he's been hurt by people in the church in the context of personal doubts and questioning conservative Christian dogma. I say this because of the content of the overwhelming majority of his cartoons and his commentary on them.

Interpretation and Love

This specific cartoon and commentary are the best example I could find of why nobody should follow the shepherding of this pastor. When I first saw this cartoon my eyes were drawn to the Jesus figure and his words. My first thoughts were that the artist was trying to recreate a scene from the Gospels where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees (and other religious leaders) for interpreting the onus of the Law apart from grace, love and mercy. This was a common indictment by Jesus so it made sense that he would be speaking to Pharisees. So when I looked over I was surprised to see what seem to be pastors. I assumed that this was a dig at how some pastors are like Pharisees and I dismissed it as a trite and vapid commentary on today's church.
Next my eyes were drawn to the faces of the people. *Shame* "Oh. Good old shaming Jesus", I thought. Then I thought of Romans 8 where Paul says there is no condemnation for those in Christ.

I wanted to just leave it there but I started thinking more about what the Jesus character said. I started thinking that it didn't really make sense for Jesus to interpret the Bible since he spoke a majority of the content himself. I mean, he knows what he meant. I thought, also, that maybe the author was just trying to promote his own presuppositions (love over truth?) and a brand new Deconstructionist way of interpretation which would better match the current culture and he wasn't being very accurate, careful or thoughtful on the context of the cartoon.

Well I am glad to have had the author's commentary to explain his intent so I could rightly understand what he meant. (That is a basic rule of interpretation after all.) Hayward said that this is actually a redacted version of his original cartoon. I found it interesting that the original actually contained Pharisees in place of the pastors! So, why change it? Well he offers the reasoning for that, as well. Hayward was notified by a handful of people that this might possibly be taken as antisemitism and in fact one Jewish person who clearly is not familiar with the historical context did say that. He actually goes so far as to say that the cartoon took on a new meaning apart and quite different from the meaning he had given it so that it actually was anti-Semitic even though he didn't mean it that way!

 So, Hayward decided that offending Jewish people would not be a good idea. He also apparently did not think it was a good idea to correct their hermeneutic. This is ironic since this is exactly the goal of the cartoon! It seems safe to say that he is willing to change the meaning of a text or forgo sound principles of interpretation to make somebody feel good. One wonders then how he can claim a foundation for his own understanding of love including his hermeneutic of love promoted here.

 I assume he would say that it was not a loving thing to do to leave the cartoon as it was. He didn't want to offend or come across as being against Jews. What he did think was a good idea, apparently, was to offend and hurt pastors and conservative Christians. Remember the faces of the group of people on the left. *Shame* I find it hard to believe that Hayward thinks that the people being represented are actually ashamed or saddened by their interpretive method. It is probably best to see this as what David Hayward would like the folks represented here to feel: shame, condemnation, isolation, rejection and sadness. If you read a lot of his cartoons and commentary you will quickly see that those are all the things that he is accusing (accurately enough) the church of doing to certain types of people.

Here is where Hayward's hypocrisy begins to emerge. It is overtly apparent after spending a bit of time viewing his content that he is concerned for people who have been hurt by the church. However, this page makes it apparent that his concern and love only applies to some.

Hayward's Sheep

A perusal of a decent sampling of the cartoons available on The Naked Pastor website makes it clear who he is looking to protect and who they are being protected from. The idea is pretty clear. There are sheep, wolves, and shepherds. The wolves seem to be consistently evil and represent people who obey bad pastors. Shepherds also seem to be consistently bad. However, I think it's safe to say that the one good shepherd is the author, Hayward himself (and is arguably represented by the Jesus character). The sheep represent nominal Christians and there are at least 3 types: bad sheep who follow the bad shepherds, black sheep who leave the church for various reasons (e.g., dissension, church discipline, apostasy, 'enlightenment', etc.), and rainbow sheep who openly engage in homosexual acts.

Hayward seems to see himself as the correct representation of Jesus and the best example of being a pastor (thankfully he is not literally a nudist) who shepherds and counsels the dissenters and outcasts safely in a pin far away from the other sheep and shepherds. It's clear Hayward loves his sheep. However it is also clear that he has contempt for the rest of the fold and the other workers.

Notice in his commentary on this comic that he is not just afraid to be seen as anti-Semitic but he also says that the church is largely anti-Semitic itself and he even goes so far as to say that he doesn't want anyone to think that Christianity is better than Judaism! (It is at this point that liberal Christians start to take exceptions with the teachings of the apostle Paul.) In order to love non-Christians and those who have been put outside (by themselves or by church discipline, whether done rightly or wrongly) Hayward is more than willing to cause his enemies, the wolves shepherds and evil sheep, to feel all the things that he blames them for causing his sheep to feel. It's clear that his love only goes so far.

Hayward has made a career out of bashing the church and helping people leave it. (For more information visit his other website https://thelastingsupper.com/about-tls/) One has to wonder how long he can keep imagining himself as being a part of the true church while constantly condemning the church at large. When does his flock become the only true flock. This is always a danger with 'discernment ministries'. When you progress in your skills of discerning teachers, churches and denominations out of the true church you eventually run the risk of discerning yourself right out of the church because there's nobody left but you and your followers. It is important that we take notice that the author titled the comic "Love Versus the Bible".

David Hayward may think he's helping people but until he has removed the chip from his shoulder and the beam from his eye he is only creating a pen full of victims. I too say that we should follow Jesus teachings about love. I suppose I'd differ with Hayward where it comes to knowing what that means, where the authority that compels us to love comes from and what else Jesus and his appointed followers commanded us to do. At the end of the day I can say confidently that the Naked Pastor is not a shepherd whose voice should be heard.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

How Are Women Saved By Childbearing? (1 Tim 2:15)

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

1 Timothy 2 English Standard Version (ESV)

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Whenever I think I understand this passage about salvation and childbearing I quickly become a skeptic of my own understanding. That said, I think I can offer a simplified way to uncover what I think was originally a fairly plain meaning. I also believe this way of reading the passage will make it easier to remember the meaning of the text.
What is it that I believe would make this arguably enigmatic statement (which some have called the hardest interpretive challenge in the NT) something that can be simply and quickly decoded? Okay. Are you ready for this? You aren't going to like my answer.... It's context--the undefeated, reigning king of all interpretation.

So, maybe you are saying to yourself, "Yeah. I already knew that." Well, let me explain a little more. I think the context of chapter 2 is not just in chapt 2. First, let's zoom out. (You'll need your Bible for this next part.) The most important context for interpreting chapter 2 is in both chapters 1 and 2.
If we pull back a bit we see two things which are very important for providing clarity to our pesky passage--one in chapter 1 and the other in chapel 2. These two things will provide clarity by discussing purpose. As we look at those two things I think you'll begin to see why they're so important.

Paul writes in chapter 1 that he left Timothy at Ephesus to tell certain people that they shouldn't teach things which are contrary to Paul's teaching. Paul's reason for this is twofold: 1) these teachings produce things that are not in agreement with God's plan and 2) Paul's teaching produces "love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith" (1:4-5). Paul starts chapter 2 with prayer for those who are in charge of people. He also gives us the purpose for that prayer, namely, that it would produce lives that are peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified. The purpose for Paul's teachings and his prayer may be different but we should look at them as one unified goal for the people of Ephesus. If we put the individual purposes together into a sort of landscape painting then when we get to the didactic (teaching) sections of the letter we can place them onto this stage and more clearly see them against the backdrop as a whole integral message. We could summarize Paul's goals as the things which produce God's plan for our lives, including (to just name a few) purity, authenticity, peace, quietness, and godliness.

This background gives us insight into why Paul commands the Ephesians to do the things he does in this letter to Timothy. So, when we come across a passage that seems strange we can stop and look at it to see how it produces the good things which Paul says his teaching should produce. With this in mind let's put a couple passages "on the stage" to see how it works.

Firstly, we can go to verse 8, "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;". When read through the mesh of Paul's 'goals' it's easy to see that acting "without anger or quarreling" produces love (ch. 1), peacefulness and quietness (ch. 2). So, this verse fits right in with what Paul has already stated in 1 Timothy up to this point. That should come as no surprise.

Secondly, we can use vv. 9-10 as an example:
"9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." 

The question should come at once, 'What does this have to do with Paul's previously stated goals for the Ephesians?' Let's try another layout that might help visually.
(i) likewise also that women should adorn themselves

   (ii) in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control,

             (iiinot with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

        (ivbut with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works."
In line (i) Paul says women should adorn themselves, but in (ii-iv) he says how. It's clear that Paul isn't concerned with whether they should adorn themselves but how they should adorn themselves. Further, (ii) and (iv) describe ways to adorn, whereas, (iii) describe ways not to adorn. Put simply, Paul wants them to be living lives decorated with respect, modesty, self-control and good works rather than lives decorated with material gain, affluence and status seeking. Again, looking through the filter of Paul's epistolary purpose it's easy to see that a life lived with this kind of focus on a more inward appearance assists the person to "lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way". Let's continue.

Verse 11 should be pretty easy now that we understand how to use the "purpose filter". Quietness is in Paul's prayer. What about verse 12? Quietness again. (Note that in these verses learning submissively is contrasted with teaching authoritatively.)

Verses 13 and 14 serve as an example of the natural relationship of men and women by using the archetypal man and woman to support his statements in the previous verses. The idea is probably that God's authority was given to the "firstborn" (created) and that a massively detrimental consequence of the woman going outside the natural structure was that she became the first transgressor. Of course, a quick reading of Genesis 3 shows a few closely tied ideas found in verses 11 and 12. Have you ever noticed that the serpent came to the woman and not the man who was clearly the representative of humanity? Did Eve refer the serpent to him? No. Did she attempt to teach the serpent the doctrines of God? Yes. It could be argued that she taught falsely. She also gave Adam the fruit to eat which could be taken as an authoritative action. Of course, this could all be prefiguring the curse which befalls Eve (and arguably all women since) that she "will want to control [her] husband, but he will dominate [her].”¹ Obviously, this did not create any of the things which are part of Paul's goals for the Ephesians. So, these verses serve as both guidance and a warning.

Before we continue I must introduce you to a literary term which I think is used in the next (and final!) verse. The technical term is synedoche. Simply put, the term means "part for the whole". This is where we use a word which is part of something that easily represents the larger thing it belongs to. Let me quickly give some English examples before we move on. One is, "My old car broke down so I just bought some sweet new wheels." Are we to understand that the person bought a couple wheels or a whole car? How about this, "Do you know your ABC's?" Just those three letters? "The hand counted the cattle which totaled 300 head." There are two there. And my personal favorite,
"I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."² 
Hopefully it is clear that synedoche is a common human linguistic tool. Two words in v. 15 are used this way.
15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 
One is "she" and the other is "childbearing." (Technically there is no word here for she. The verb "will be saved" refers back to "the woman".) She (part) can be said to stand for women (whole) including Eve and the Ephesians. This makes sense of the change from singular (she) to plural (they) in this verse. Childbearing should be seen as standing for the whole of the role of women (which Eve forsook). Specifically, childbearing here represents the lifestyle which Paul has been asserting produces the things found in his purposes for writing his letter to Timothy. The rest of this verse,  "if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control", drives this point home. Paul is actually clarifying that the type of "childbearing" (proper feminine lifestyle) that saves is one that produces this type of life. We see a very similar idea in chapter 5 of this same letter.
"and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work."³

Okay, but how are they saved by living a proper feminine lifestyle? That sounds like a salvation by works. Well, to understand the salvation Paul is talking about here we just need to look at another passage in this letter where he uses the word.
"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."⁴
We often use salvation to refer to conversion. "When were you saved?" However, the NT writers often used it to refer to being preserved or to perseverance (eschatological salvation). Paul was not telling Timothy that he should attempt to gain conversion and be born again. He's telling him that by continuing in the faith he will be preserved in the end--he will persevere. In the same way, women--Eve, the Ephesian women and every woman--having been born again, persevere "in faith" in "God's plan" (1:4) by living godly lives consisting of all the things Paul prayed for (ch 2) and which he claimed are products of God teaching (ch 1).

To summarize, if you simply use the "purpose filter" that Paul lays out in chapters 1 and 2 then this passage isn't as hard to understand as it seems upon first glance. So, how can you easily remember that? My suggestion is to read the entire letter through that filter and see for yourself how Paul gives specific instruction on how to harvest the fruits of his teaching and his prayer.


¹Genesis 3:16 NET
https://bible.com/bible/107/gen.3.16.NET
²T.S. Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/44212/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock
³1Timothy 5:10 ESV https//bible.com/bible/59/1ti.5.10.ESV
⁴1 Timothy 4:16 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1ti.4.16.ESV

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Resurrection--Are You Fool?

Today happens to be April Fool's Day and Easter Day: April 1, 2018.
In my last post I discussed the idea of valid doubt or skepticism. Here I will discuss foolish doubt and foolish belief.
The Hebrew songwriter, King David of Israel, wrote of foolish skeptics in Psalm 14
The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?1

And in the first chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians from Paul of Tarsus he wrote to them,
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.2
We don't have to look too closely to see the contrasts between these passages. However, did you notice the similarities? Hmmm.... Let's discuss. David is speaking of fools who purposely remove the idea of God from their palates. Notice that they are saying in their hearts that their is no God. This should invoke in us the idea of purposeful suppression--borne of desire of the heart. They are not merely making an intellectual and scientific discovery and reporting back the data. In the rest of the Psalm we see what their reasoning is for making this heartfelt confession: evil. To quote St. Paul again, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them."Most honest men and women will admit (maybe not publicly), when asked whether they would want God to exist, will say no. Why not? Isn't God a crutch for the weak and a genie for the feeble-minded? The answer is obvious to the earnest truth seeker. These fools would deny the genie or the crutch because of their wickedness.

To better understand we can look at the first law of thermodynamics. This law tells us that heat is energy and cannot be destroyed but merely transferred. In much the same way, since God can not be destroyed, he must be displaced. What can an ant living in an ant farm do but develop a sort of psychological myopia when he has a desire to escape the all seeing eye of the 9-year old child who created that farm? So, the wicked persons described by King David are clearly believers in a contrived skepticism, but what about the persons described by Paul in his letter to ancient Corinth?

Paul, in verse 18, talks about a message which is foolishness to or with those who are perishing. This also can and should be thought of in the same humanly derived sense of discernment as the fool in Psalm 14. To the people who reject the message about Jesus' death and resurrection (the thing which signifies and solidifies the metaphysical implications of that death for humanity) it is absurd and foolish. That is, as far as they are concerned it is to be assumed as culturally foolish. This is the same in any culture--whether the culture's truth stems from philosophers, priests, scientists or shaman--it still stems from the culture. In the next verse (19) we see a quote from the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. Here God might seem to be saying that he will in fact destroy intelligence and wisdom! God forbid it! In fact, what it says is that he will destroy the wisdom of the "wise  men". It should be clear that God is in search of destroying that wisdom which is creation-made and contrary to the greater, more panoramic knowledge and wisdom of the creator. So, at the end of the day the believer in the message of Christ's death and resurrection is opposed to the creaturely understanding of what is true and possible in their known world. Christians, according to Paul, are fools in relation to the world, but wise in relation to the culturally transcendent knowledge of God.

If today is April Fool's day, then maybe it is the day on which we need to discover which kind of fool we are. One of the best ways might be to talk about the systematic, bottom up, minimal facts, or lowest common denominator approach of resurrection historian Gary Habermas.

In Gary's career he has developed a method of researching the facts of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that only focus on those facts that are accepted by all those who are intellectually honest--those who are not philosophically committed to the denial of Jesus at all costs. He has a clever way of finding out how many of modern scholars conclude that the necessary facts of the resurrection are undeniably true history. It's not that clever sounding after you hear it, but here it is: find the percentage of liberal, skeptical scholars who believe the bare minimum of the facts required to believe the resurrection of Jesus without a reasonable doubt and add that to the 100% of conservative scholars who affirm the same. (For reasonable doubt, though, refer back to Psalm 14.)

Habermas ultimately comes away with 4 necessary historical facts of the resurrection that have well over 90% of all scholars (liberal and conservative) affirming their historicity. Those facts are (1) Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught about the Kingdom of Heaven, (2a) Jesus of Nazareth was hung on a cross, (2b) Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for claiming his Kingship, (3) his students had inexplicable, genuine encounters with what they believed to be the risen Jesus of Nazareth and (4) an enemy skeptic of Jesus and his students, Paul of Tarsus, claimed to have had an encounter with the risen Jesus which he believed was 100% undeniable. Remember, these are not things that Christian apologist Gary Habermas thinks are historically true, but facts that 90+% of all New Testament historians believe are historically true!

Being honest in our approach to discussing the resurrection requires us to first to decide whether we are skeptics at all costs (fools of the heart) or willing to be led by the evidence even when our heart desires the opposite and believe in that which seems contrary to our current cultural epistemic model (fools to the wise). At the end of the day we must admit that anyone who denies the resurrection in light of the evidence is somebody who who has a deep desire--an ulterior motive--to deny the truth.



1Psalm 14:1-4; Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Bible Hub
2 1 Corinthisans 1:18-25; ibid.
3 Romans 1:18-19; ibid.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Are You Doubting Enough?

Everyone doubts. Everyone trusts. Nobody trusts perfectly or doubts perfectly in everything and at all times and in all ways. So, you could always doubt more or get better at it. The question would be, then, should you?

To answer that we should probably discuss why you should do anything at all. Some say that everything that we should do is really only pragmatic--that it serves a practical purpose. Some say that what we should do are the higher things--striving for virtues. Others say that there is still another more external and unchanging standard--this is what you ought to do. So, if those are our options (if there is another then let me know) then which one would motivate us to doubt more and even better?

Pragmatism would only promote doubting and skepticism when it called for it. We would need to look at it on a case-by-case basis. So, three would not be a need to increase. Skepticism can only be seen as a virtue when it is freeing you from some untoward behavior or social ills. However, to be totally skeptical in all things can never be a virtuous goal mainly because it would keep you from all other virtuous goals which require trust. Even pragmatism requires a very great deal of trust. An objective ought would actually require that we only doubt when it is necessary in order to understand better what it is that we must do in light of this standard. We should doubt only to find out what it is that we should not doubt--the ultimate objective ought.

As we can see from a short assessment, there is never a reason to doubt perfectly all the time, in every way and in everything. Doubt is merely a tool to be used and never something to aspire to. It is not the ultimate goal of the pragmatist, the nobleman nor the believer in objective standards. So, being skeptical should not be anyone's goal. In fact, as French philosopher Blaise Pascal said, 
"What then is man to do in this state of affairs? Is he to doubt everything, to doubt whether he is awake, whether he is being pinched or burned? Is he to doubt whether he is doubting, to doubt whether he exists? 
No one can go that far, and I maintain that a perfectly genuine sceptic has never existed."




Pensees ( Blaise Pascal, Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition, Translated by A. Krailsheimer)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

What Is The Perfect Law of Liberty? (James 1:25)


James 1:18-27
New English Translation (NET)
"18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. 20 For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21 So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. 23 For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
James uses three different words to essentially refer to the same thing in this passage. We will look at each usage to see what they mean separately as well as together to discover what it is that James means by "the perfect law of liberty". The three usages are (1) the message of truth, (2) the perfect law of liberty, and (3) pure and undefiled religion.

Let's first look at the "message of truth". In verse 18 James says that the message (some translations: the word) is how we were given birth. For James, the half-brother of Jesus, birth here would be referring to re-birth--being born again. Then, in v. 21 he calls it that message "implanted within you" and "which is able to save your souls." The message that births you, then, is also the one that saves your soul. Not only that, but it is also implanted in you. This message both saves and regenerates and after that it indwells you. This must mean nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, it also means more than that. We see in Jeremiah that the law of the new covenant will be written on the hearts of those men and women belonging to that covenant. 

Now, we will look at the law of liberty. Along with the "message of truth" James declares that we must live out the "perfect law of liberty" and not just take it in by the ear. You can quickly see that James merely continues his argument of the importance of being doers of the message by saying that we must also be doers of this law without making a new argument at all. Either the law of liberty exists in the message of truth or the message exists in the law. It should be clear that the message is not perfectly identical to the law but that the portion of each which involves application or (more likely) imperatives is the same. So then, he is referring to taking the same action in either case. That is, those things that we should do which are in the message are the same as the things that we should do which are in the law. So, the law of liberty and the message of truth both contain the same instructions for right conduct.

Lastly, we have pure religion. Just as in the law example of the mirror, here we have a person perceiving of themselves and then not living out a life in concord with that image. And we also have the idea of deceiving oneself both here and in the first section of the 'implanted word'. We can even see what I think is the same idea in v 24 where the man looks in the mirror and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. That man is not forgetful, but rather self-deceived! (There is also likely a tie to the double-minded man earlier in the chapter; cf. Moo.) So, once again James gives us a standard that is being heard or seen and then the absence or lack of living that standard out. That standard is, of course, God's standard of righteousness (see v. 20). Interestingly, here James gives us actual samples of that righteous conduct: "to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world." So, James warns that religious claims do not make you a righteous dude if you are simply going to the temple--pagan or Jewish--but rather it is the implanted word with the law of liberty working out good for those around you. So, once again the aspect of all three that should be obeyed are the same commands and should be plainly taken as referring to the same thing. 

Putting it plainly, then the law of our true religion is found in the message of Jesus. I think it is safe to say that James here is saying that the person who lays claim to the fulfillment of all religion (which we know today as Christianity) and received the gospel, law and teaching of Jesus Christ is only fooling themselves if they are not living out the Law of Christ. As Paul said in Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."