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Essay donated by a visitor to this web site

"Scandal Ė Justice - Faith" by Henry Hasse

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Most of the thoughts and words in italics below must be credited to Robert Brinsmead, an avocado farmer in Duranbah, NSW 2487, Australia. The rest are my own embellishments, all of which I have made my own and which also tell of the growth and development of my personal faith, even from as little as a year ago. I now believe this, am very thankful for Mr. Brinsmeadís offerings, and find myself compelled to share them with you.

Important: None of what follows is shared with the intent of convincing you of anything. What you make of them is entirely up to you.

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Scandal Ė Justice - Faith:

"Easter," as it has come to be called, declares to us the scandal of Godís justice. (The use of the term "scandal" will soon become apparent. Just think of it in terms of how the church leaders, the teachers of the law and tradition thought of Jesus, his treatment of the poor, sick and oppressed, and his teachings of the kingdom of God as compared to their own oppressive teachings.)

The historical Jesus of Nazareth used his real Hebrew name Yashua (Joshua). In his native Aramaic he called himself bar Nasha (Hebrew: ben Adam), not a title, meaning son of man (Adam), human one, or this man.

Every important feature of Joshua ben Adamís life was a scandal to the Jewish leadership.

His conception and birth was surrounded by very irregular, tragic circumstances. He was a Galilean whose rugged and independent spirit was despised by Jewish elite in Judea because no prophet, much less Messiah, could ever come from that northern hillbilly province.

His public ministry was likewise a scandal, having a reputation as a glutton and a drunk, ignoring the holiness code, living and eating with unclean folk, ignoring the canons of honor and shame by his non-discrimination, even baptized by John, a baptism of repentance!

Worse, he was put to death, condemned and executed as just another Galilean rabble-rouser hanging on a tree and scorned by God. He died utterly discredited, abandoned by all and apparently forsaken by God.

Everything about this unfortunate man would soon have been forgotten if it were not for "Easter," as the church of Constantine began to call it in 325 A.D. His resurrection convinced his dispirited little band that Joshua had been honored by God as a sign that God himself was keeping his promise to the human race; namely, that in spite of their humanity, they did, after all, possess the breath of his spirit of life, a precious gift, a spark from his fire, which was not about to disappear without a trace after the decease of their mortal body as it returns to the elements of the earth.

That is to say: Yes, everyone is human and does not always do the right thing, but God does always do the right thing, as he did in and through his promised image, Adam II, and he keeps his promise to save and set free all mankind from their hopeless, self-chosen wrong ways of oppressing others, including the resulting penalty of death, or separation from God. When this man, bar Nasha, gave himself up to mankindís oppressive religious and civil authorities, accepting their condemning and deadly judgments, ("Take me and let these go."), he ransomed us from the same fate. Because of his loving action for us, God thereby graciously offered him and all mankind his kingdom of peace with no strings attached. God weighed the justice of men and found it to be unfair, so he raised bar Nasha from the death that had falsely penalized him and invited him into his kingdom to be his right-hand man, his son. And because of his loving work, we too are invited into his presence to live as his sons and daughters, members of his family. Can you believe it? In the meantime, he does not leave us helpless. It is his loving spirit that has the power to turn us around with this good news and patiently teach us to be kind and loving and caring, following in his way instead of the oppressive and deadly ways of the world and its religious powers. Now we can practice the privileges and responsibilities of family membership.

Compared to mankindís justice under the law, is not this justice of God scandalous?

Unlike the cross event, the resurrection into Godís presence and kingdom is an article of faith just like the existence of God. Neither one is historically provable.

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Pressure to Explain the Scandal:

Unfortunately, the pressure to embellish his story and explain away the scandals of his life was too much for his followers. At first, the Word of God was the word of the resurrection. It was the "Easter" gospel pure and simple. They taught that mankindís authority and justice under the law was now powerless as a result. They spoke of the promise of his peaceful kingdom, the elimination of all oppressive behavior, the responsibilities of family membership as children of God, and the pouring out of his spirit to make it so even now. They spent no time arguing about Joshuaís divinity, his virgin birth, his providing a salvation by blood atonement, his incarnation, not even the Trinity or the sacraments, each of which were added by the church generations later, along with endless other doctrines and traditions, all based upon these embellishments. In fact, it is interesting to note here that nowhere did Joshua ben Adam ever say, "Write this down," and none of his followers ever recorded their own experiences with him as eye-witnesses.

The four Gospels were written between 70 and 100 A.D. and contain the traditions of second and third generation Christians. There is only one solitary eye witness in the entire New Testament: Paul, who wrote only two brief statements: "I saw the Lord," (I saw a lordly person.); and "He appeared to me." Eight words are all we have, not from a witness of the so-called Easter event, but from a witness who actually saw the risen one much later, no longer shrouded with a mortal body Ė and that experience supposedly blinded him for three days, focusing his attention and concentration on the meaning of his encounter. Second and third generation reports say: Peter said that he saw him and Mary said that she saw him, but not a word directly from Peter or Mary. These reports also say that the rest of his band also saw him and that a large group saw him, but not a word from any of them either.

The hush of awe and wonder remained with the movement for 40 years. The later the accounts, the longer the explanations; the further we get away from the event, the more embellished and fantastic the stories became. Also, after the Roman Legions destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. and began a systematic destruction of surrounding Jewish settlements, killing or dispersing their inhabitants throughout Europe, Christians were thereby encouraged to separate themselves and their religion from anything Jewish. The Gospels and Epistles reflected this need.

Paul, closest to the event, takes only four sentences to express his faith in the resurrection, but then proceeds to pass on the embellished stories and explanations told to him. Mark, decades later, needs eight. After him, Matthew expands the report to twenty. Luke, later still, reports in fifty-three. And the fourth Gospel, two generations after the event, long after the last eye-witnesses were deceased, expands the account to two full chapters, describing what the author could only know by hearsay. The further the distance from the event itself, the more colorful was the description, and yet, admittedly, not all that different from the embellishments and stories told by many preachers today in order to make their point while attempting to bring the meaning "home" and current to their listenerís lives and experiences.

The good news of the resurrection did not remain central in the churchís life for very long, and was instead relegated to its appointed place in the church year and rarely mentioned during the rest of the year. Very soon, the central issues became Joshuaís divinity and his blood atonement to pay for the sins of the world. In history, Catholicismís center became the Incarnation and Protestantís center became the blood atonement by substitution. One had to explain away the embarrassing circumstances surrounding his birth and the other returned to the old Jewish traditions of bloody sacrifices as payment for wrong doing and regaining acceptance from God in order to explain away the disappointing circumstances of his horrible death.

The whole Christian theological system began with the supposed premise of God having a law which required mankindís perfect obedience. Godís law decreed zero tolerance! One strike and we were out! Therefore, our disobedience required a perfect bloody substitute. And our salvation then became the vindication of this justice of the law. Unfortunately, and more importantly, this view of the cross event diminished the scandal of Godís real resurrection justice and surprising generosity while returning mankind to the justice of the law. Worse, it transformed the risen one into the Deity himself and put an infinite gulf between him and the rest of humanity.

When we consider how these traditions and "holy" writings came about and how they were used to divide the church later, and how they still do, perhaps Joshua, who was wise enough to see how the Jewish writings and traditions of the past divided and oppressed his people, was especially careful not to have any of his teachings written down and later misused. Never-the-less, followers many generations later did not recognize this danger, and proceeded to add "new" writings to the "old" Jewish writings at Rome in 382 A.D., then reaffirmed their choices of authenticity in 1563 at Trent. Some 330 years later, it was determined that they were all "holy," and authored by God via inspiration. (Pope Leo XIII) That was only about 114 years ago! We can only ask: What will church authorities and religious scholars oppress us with next?

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Back to Basics Ė Justice: Doing the Right Thing:

First, a few words on the faceless laws of nature, or natural laws of the universe, which rain and storm and flood, or erupt and quake and burn, perhaps even collide with or explode, but do not distinguish who may be in their path. In fact, they usually require a survival of the fittest, unless one has a "mustard seed faith." An evolving, developing, and ever active universe has no interest in justice or doing the right thing as if it were somehow thoughtfully godlike or human in order to bring out the best in survivors. Therefore, we need to be wary of blaming God or mankind for very natural disastrous scientific events. It misrepresents God and assumes far too much power over nature by mankind.

There is a legal kind of justice or pay-back justice, which has a useful purpose in a civil society where minimum standards of discipline have to be maintained. Such legal justice or civil law, contrived by men, may or may not be fair when legal courts judge as best they can with the only information available. This may also be misused by a despot dictator or a greedy shylock lawyer. But its primary and useful purpose in a civilized society is to protect citizens from those who would do them harm, whether they are foreign or domestic enemies. All too often, this type of justice can be misused by power-hungry legislators and demagogues as they oppress their constituents unjustly while thinking only of their lucrative positions.

According to religious church law, another form of pay-back justice, Joshua was found guilty of blasphemy for questioning and challenging its assumed authority and oppression over mankind; therefore, the churchís leadership claimed that he should be put to death for his teaching because it undermined and threatened their authority. According to Roman civil law, such charges of blasphemy were meaningless; however, since his teachings certainly were causing local riots among the Jewish leadership and disturbed the peace of Roman rule, a situation the local Governor could not condone because that threatened his position of authority, Joshua was subsequently sentenced to death to put a stop to a possible insurrection.

But there is also another kind of justice which is featured in the Old Testamentís stories of Godís acts on behalf of his people, embellished as they may have become. They tell of experienced salvation events from their enemies and expressed the need to explain to next generations how unusual and amazing they were. While filled with questionable adornments, especially those describing Godís brutal treatment of their enemies, possibly to cover or excuse their own brutal behavior, they do portray God as doing the right thing in terms of being faithful to a relationship, loyal to a personal commitment, faithful to a personal promise, and showing fidelity to personal obligations. It is a justice of love, based on unconditional acceptance, on being there for the other in time of need, for better or for worse. From the enemyís perspective, Godís act on behalf of his people was either seen as foolishness, in which case they experienced their own demise, or perhaps experienced it as beneficial when they chose to recognize that Godís act of justice could include them as well. The important thing was that their pagan neighbors were not to lead Godís chosen people astray from giving him alone all worth and praise or from treating each other with love and compassion.

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Misrepresentation - Inhuman Behavior Ė Being Human Ė Godís Justice

When the law is allowed to intrude as the mediating agent in human relationships, it not only keeps us at arms length from God, it keeps us at arms length from brother, sister, father, mother, wife, husband, child, friend, relative, neighbor, or stranger. Worse, it misrepresents God and his ways as being terrible, unfair, and unloving, as if he were some angry ogre playing recklessly with his creatures and creation. A natural disaster is thereby called "an act of God." Unjust treatment is excused as "doing Godís will." We cannot help but be judgmental, unforgiving, discriminatory, and above all, fail to be caring and compassionate. The justice of the law makes us inhuman and controlling. Our ideas and explanations of God make him appear to be a supernatural being filled with a vengeance toward all mankind who cannot do anything right. A "faith" based upon religious laws, writings, and traditions breeds inhuman behavior toward others, and misrepresents a loving God, the very opposite of its intention.

Being human is just like having two arms. With one we receive and with the other we give. We not only need God; we need others and cannot live without them. Being human means being dependent on Godís blessings through others on the one hand and rich in ability to do good and right to anyone on the other hand. Being human can also mean choosing to be independent from God by refusing his goodness from others and to not do good or right toward them as well; that is, choose not to receive goodness and/or not to give goodness. It continues to blame adversity on surrounding circumstances or on other folk rather than accepting possible responsibility for it or recognizing it as preparation for greatness and an opportunity for practicing loving acts.

According to Joshua ben Adam, we give Godís justice a human face by being forgiving, unconditionally accepting, and graciously non-judgmental toward others while thankfully receiving the same from them, thereby also recognizing the source of all goodness. It means living without looking down on any person as inferior or up to anyone as superior. Such behavior mirrors the loving justice of God, whether willingly given to others or gratefully received from others, always done graciously and freely, without strings attached or expectations for returned favors.

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Paradigm for Justice of the Law:

However impressive the Galilean teacher may have been to his little band of supporters, he appeared pathetically weak as he was quickly arrested and hurried off to a brutal execution. He not only died totally discredited in the eyes of the highest judicial authorities in the world, both religious and civil, but as it appeared, he was totally discredited in the eyes of God because, after all, the law said: Anyone hanged on a tree was cursed of God. It may also be quite likely that his body endured the usual and ultimate insult of Roman crucifixions Ė no decent burial, but thrown into pits to be scavenged by dogs and carrion. We rather hope that there was some truth to later accounts of his burial.

The world seems to be ruled by idiots and bureaucrats who, the moment they get behind the wheel of this juggernaut called "the justice of the law," they run people down. Religious authorities have certainly not been exempt from grinding up their share of human bones as well. (Papal Inquisitions) The death of Joshua ben Adam stands as a paradigm for the justice of this world, the justice of mankind, the justice of the law, civil or religious.

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Scandalous Gift of Godís Justice:

The God who has called the human race from the evolutionary mud of creation into consciousness and awareness of himself also has a destiny for this creature, a likeness of himself, one which will not be abandoned. His justice is a scandal to the judgment of the world. It is not calculated, measured out, and does not pay tit for tat. Itís the justice Joshua ben Adam tried to illustrate in his outrageous stories and act out in his compassion for the oppressed. It was this justice he trusted in when he was overwhelmed by utter failure and total disaster as he experienced the injustices of his religion and this world.

The good news of "Easter" is that death is not the final answer. Like life itself, the justice of God is a gift of inconceivable generosity. "You will be with me in Paradise." God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The justice of God is based on his unconditional divine love and promise which never at any time even contemplated locking anyone away from an unbrokered fellowship with himself. Since the beginning of mankindís consciousness and awareness of God, humans have had a choice to trust this love for them, or not, and to treat others accordingly. We still have the same choice. Nothing has changed, all the Old Testament Jewish traditional writings and explanations, based upon even older Babylonian writings, concerning our origin, not withstanding. Godís justice will always outweigh the justice of mankind.

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Future of Humanity:

Joshua ben Adam, a true human, capable of human errors, mistakes, and unloving trespasses, for which he was baptized by John, and for which he prayed to be forgiven while teaching us how to pray to our Heavenly Father-God, chose to trust Godís unconditional love and act accordingly. (i.e. If accurately reported during his arrest, and crucifixion: "Take me, and let these go their way. Father, forgive them. Theyíre just mindlessly following their rules and orders.") His resurrection, in the face of his scandalous life, was Godís assurance to us that this unconditional love of God is true. We can depend on being with him in Paradise, a new life that will not require the use of this mortal body of ours, certainly not with the space-time limitations it has now, and no longer subject to harmful bacteria, viruses, diseases, and the universal laws of nature, nor oppressed by the laws of this world, but just like Joshua and the thief who died next to him, humans who are now treated like family, sons and/or daughters of God, who now experience endless explorations, possibilities, opportunities, growth and development, within an infinite universe, possibly universes, but without mortal limitations. An awesome future, indeed!

Whoever lives and trusts Godís loving justice as Joshua ben Adam did will never really cease to exist in spite of what those still alive may witness, in spite of a lifeless body buried for worm fodder, to be eaten by carrion, drowned in the depths or burned to ashes and returned to the earth. Our life is attached to his spirit which will continue to exist and enjoy his fellowship and that of otherís in his Paradise, his expanding universe(s), under considerably different circumstances.

Finally, to assume to know what God will do with his breath-of-life-giving spirit in those who may currently mock this faith; that is, to say that the life of the one who refuses to trust this love of God may simply cease to exist, or may even experience something far worse for an eternity, takes New Testament embellishments based upon the justice of the law to the extreme, still does not yet realize how scandalous Godís justice really is, and presumes to lend instruction to God.

The more we recognize that Joshua ben Adam was truly human and only human, the more we will appreciate that the account of his resurrection is Godís word of love to the entire human race without distinction of race, religion, gender, or anything else. The more we realize how scandalous the real message of "Easter" really is, the more we will be wowed and overwhelmed by Godís justice, and the more we will have reason to celebrate and enjoy our life, including the experience of loving relationships and fellowship with any and all others, thereby already enjoying his "kingdom" to each otherís mutual benefit, and that, even in spite of any dire circumstances that may unjustly surround us in our current time and space.

Many religious notions need to be given up to come to these conclusions, I know. And now what follows? Awe. Relief. Tolerance. Understanding. Forgiveness. Generosity. Love. Thankfulness. Celebration. AnticipationÖand more. Very much more than is given up, and all of it freely given and freely received! Can you even begin to imagine what would happen if Christian pastors, teachers, and priests, Jewish rabbis, Islamic imams, Hindu and Buddhist priests, teachers and leaders of the LDS, Chinese, Japanese folk religions, and many others put aside their precious books and traditions and began to concentrate on sharing the free and loving justice of God?

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Originally posted: 2007-SEP-08
Latest update: 2011-APR-03
Author: Henry Hasse, reviewed and revised Summer, 2007, and still believedÖ.

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