The God Squad: From the mailbag
Q: In your recent column, “Are there many paths to heavenly salvation?”, you discussed the differences in worshiping God. As you pointed out, non-Christians have perhaps the most difficulty with John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the father but by me.” Yes, this verse serves as a divide between Christians and many other religions. Yes, Jesus said: “I am the way”; but let us interpret “the way” as “love”. Isn’t it possible that “love” is “the way”? Isn’t it more meaningful? Will it not serve as a stepping stone to harmony among all religions?
l John 4:7 reads: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” Perhaps, more Christians should become aware of the beauty of this verse. -- J
A: I love your compassionate solution to one of the most vexing texts in the Christian Testament. However, Jesus was a person not a synonym for love. Jesus loved but Jesus was not love. If the Beatles were right and “Love is all you need,” then the need for Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection would evaporate.
Christianity is not just love and only love. Christianity is a religion that saves believers from sin. Love may be enough — dear God I wish you were right — but there is much more that is needed for salvation than just love. To quote the prophet Micah chapter 6 we need to do justice. love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Whatever those commandments mean, they surely mean more than just being a loving person. I am not insulted by John 14:6 but I cannot find myself in that verse. Still, I do wish you were John and that you could go back and edit that difficult verse.
Q: In the Jewish faith is there a belief in an afterlife? -- G in West Haven, CT
A: Yes—but—not until the arrival of post-biblical Judaism called rabbinic Judaism, which added the Talmud to the list of Jewish sacred texts after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the first century of the common era. In the Bible, there is no belief in life after death. For example, Job’s comforters never mention Heaven as an answer to him because they did not have it. Then, in the year 331, before the common era, Greek ideas of matter and form began to be accepted by teachers who would later be called rabbis. They taught that our bodies (matter) die and decompose but our souls (form) live on with God in the World To Come (Heb: olam habah).
This teaching was adopted by the early Christians and later by the Muslim faith and called Heaven. However, it all began with Judaism. Many rabbis do not speak about this luminous teaching of Judaism and this troubles me greatly.
Q: Can God forgive someone who has talked to spirits in the cause of good and to help people? If they decide to stop doing it because God doesn’t like it, can they then be forgiven? Thanks. Looking for a true bible answer her. -- P
A: Talking to spirits or using psychics to communicate with the dead is expressly forbidden by Judaism and Christianity.
The reason for this prohibition is that their powers, even if they are real, draw us away from God’s words and seduce us into following the words of human beings. These mediums also can have a financial motivation to create their predictions. I have also seen that such psychics can block a mourner’s grief work by convincing them that death is not a real final barrier between the living and the dead. Father Tom Hartman, my pal, did not agree with me. He was much more open to what he believed to be the healing powers of psychics. I came to believe that such dialogues with the dead ought to be a surprise not an appointment, and that they should happen without any professional assistance. However, I am definitely going to check this out again with Tommy when we meet up in Heaven.
As to your question there is no doubt that God can and will forgive a brief and mistaken dalliance into the spirit world. The Christian Testament affirms this in a true Bible answer, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men" (Matthew 12:31). Sitting in while some person you pay rings up grandma Mary may be a sin but it is not an unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. So don’t worry, but try to keep your conversations limited to people who have an area code.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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