Tuesday, June 28, 2016

163. THE FAIL OF HUMAN DOCTRINE OVER THE "FALL OF MAN"

Many of the core beliefs of Christianity have been rooted upon the doctrine of “the Fall of Man.”  Most Abrahamic-derived religions maintain some form of the account of Adam in the Garden.  In the Christian version, the momentum for the object of God’s love and redemption starts with the Bible’s account of Adam’s “sin” in the Garden; it increases through scripture until the coming of Christ; and it exits in the book of Revelation.  The traditional story of redemption usually goes like this, with perhaps slight variation:

A perfect creation 

God created a perfect world with no sin, no death, God’s presence, a paradise.

God created a perfect human (Adam) for this perfectly created environment; God made him in His (pl., their) image; God gave him authority over everything in creation; God and Adam had a personal fellowship together in the Garden of Eden. 

Adam sinned and fell from God’s favor; there were bad consequences for humanity 

Adam rebelled against God and disobeyed God’s command; therefore, sin entered the world; Adam and Eve had to be evicted from the Garden of Eden, had to work for their existence, and had to now experience death. 

Man had spoiled God’s perfect creation.  Now death entered the world along with sin.  Animals then had to kill and eat one another for food.  

Man, through how own action and fault, had rebelled and fallen from his position with God.  This was the original sin.  Sin and death entered the creation through Adam, and the creation was not perfect anymore. 

At creation, Adam had been given the DNA (image) of God, but this was lost or irreversibly damaged beyond repair (at least, not repairable by humans).  Humankind was separated from fellowship with God because of Adam's sin.  

Because of Adam’s sin, sin, the guilt and shame of sin, and death were inherited from one generation to the next so that all humans thereafter stood condemned before God. 

God promised a rescue and a redemption for humankind 

But all was not lost; God promised that one day humankind would be redeemed back to the state of perfection of the Garden.

Mankind continued to rebel, and God had to intervene and put things back on track 

A wicked generation, Noah, the Flood; The Tower of Babel 

God’s promise of redemption back to Himself began to take form 

The call of Abram (Gen. 12); a promise is given to Abraham followed by a covenant by God. – Abraham’s genetic descendants would be a great number and inherit the land; from his descendants all people would be blessed; sign of the covenant - circumcision 

The promise was repeated through Isaac, Jacob, Judah 

The promise began to be fulfilled 

Egyptian slavery and release; Moses and the children of Israel; the Law of Moses given; the Law defines sin and prescribes penalties for sin, including condemnation and death; sins temporarily forgiven and rolled forward by the blood of animal sacrifices.

Conquest of the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land)

Tribes of Israel – Judges, priests; Nation of Israel – Kings

Israelites worshiped idols of other nations; conquered by enemies; exiled 

Prophets tell of a Messiah to come who will redeem Israel and restore the nation 

When the time had fully come, Jesus Christ came into the world as God in the flesh

Jesus fulfilled the Law and the prophecies, became the perfect sacrifice for sin; the Old Law of sin, death, and condemnation was no more; sins of all people for all time nailed to the cross; death defeated by resurrection.  Jesus died for our sins that we might be free from condemnation.  When we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and became obedient to His commands, we were justified in God’s sight; restored back to fellowship with God; redeemed back from the pit of hell.  We have been given back the DNA of God.

The Gospel, the Good News of redemption, salvation from the wrath of God against disobedience, needs to be preached to the world, because otherwise people will die in their sins which have been inherited from disobedient Adam.  Unredeemed human nature is depraved and bound for condemnation without accepting the saving work of Christ.

We still battle with the sinful nature; Christians still do wrong things, sin, and are disobedient.  If we confess our sins, God forgives our sins.  Christians say that they sin, or that they are sinners, but are forgiven by the blood of Jesus.  If we say we haven't sinned, we make Jesus to be a liar (1 John 1:10). 

Those who accept Jesus and maintain faith and obedience may be called “the elect,” meaning those who were foreordained and predestined for salvation before creation.  If once saved, always saved. 

So, the customary sequence is that God initially created everything in perfect condition; mankind disobeyed and messed up the creation, bringing condemnation, and death, which is passed down and inherited as a sin nature of depraved humanity. Jesus Christ came to redeem and restore those who place their faith and obedience in Him.  


(Note the above description is only a "straw man" for our purpose and is not being endorsed here as correct.)

As people have continued to study the passages used in the sequence of “Perfect creation- Fall of Man-  Redemption by Christ- the church today- Christ comes again,” problems and inconsistencies with some of the interpretations of passages in this story become increasingly evident. Even so, many of these problems are minor blemishes compared to some fundamental flaws that are more fatal.  The problems are questions that assume the Fall of Man doctrine is correct; whereas the fatal flaws show that the doctrine is human error.
 
Fundamental flaws in the Fall of Man doctrine:

[1] Anything, including the “Fall of Man” doctrine, is idolatrous when it centers on humans and not God.

[a] It is presumed that the story starts with Gen. 1:1.  The Fall of Man doctrine backs up to Gen. 1:1 because that is where physical creation started, which is what physical humans can understand well enough to form their own plot.  But, the subject of Gen. 1:1 is not humans – the subject is God, who predates the beginning of creation.  The understanding Gen 1-3 changes when the priority of creation is placed on God instead of physical humanity.  The mystery of the plan of God was revealed to the apostles, particularly Paul, who wrote about it in the epistles.  Rather than receiving God’s plan as revelation through Christ, humans essentially hand to God what they think the plan is and let the church run according to their own pattern.

[b] It is presumed that Gen. 1-3 must be literally interpreted, with “literally” meaning an English translation with words having the same definition as in modern English usage.  This, in turn, necessitates a position of Young Earth Creationism with a Bishop Ussher creation calculation of 4004BC and a 6000 year old earth.  The scientific illiteracy of this presumption is not as important as the error in forcing the Genesis creation account into one of physical human origins instead of an account of the eternal intent of God.  It forces the interpretation into something humans can understand in their limited mind instead of a creation from the mind of God.  Paul said it is God’s plan, not one of human origin.

[c] Humans are placed in a position of power to maneuver God’s creation.  Man was created to be in God’s image, not a substitute for God, not to take over the direction of the universe, as “deputy creator.”  In using the Garden story to form the ontogenesis of “sin,” humankind plotted subterfuge for the perfect creation while God had wandered off somewhere. 

[d] The Fall of Man story is not internally consistent.  If creation were perfect before Adam’s “sin,” where did the evil serpent come from?  Was the serpent not created?  Was the serpent outside of physical creation?  Did the serpent outsmart God?

[e] The “Fall of Man/original sin” doctrine was created as a result of a human question about human behavior, rather than finding the plan God designed for creation.

The human question is about right and wrong, good and evil, why evil and bad things happen, why we as Christians still have a “sin nature,” and why we succumb to temptation.  It is the same basic question represented by the (poor) choice made by Adam and Eve.  Everyone who has a human nature asks similar questions about their own less than desirable thoughts and actions, or those from someone else, that negatively affects others.  Augustine wrote about his questions regarding the sinful nature he once was a slave to, but it still sometimes harassed him even after being in Christ.  Since the arrival of the nature of the Spirit on Pentecost, Christians have recognized a battle between good and evil and have had questions about their separation.  The Greeks and Gnostics tried to deal with the natures by separating them, which was an early heresy. 

So, humans questioning their own human nature can relate to the struggle that Paul portrayed in Romans 7:7-25 – “I do what I don’t want to do which is the sin within me.” (vs 24).  Rescued by Jesus (vs 25).  Although we personalize this battle, Paul said it is with the law of sin.  But, by identifying ourselves with this sin conflict and personalizing it, we drag the battle forward 2000 years past the cross, as if Jesus has had, and still has to rescue every believer after every impure thought or action.  So, even after dying to sin for us and nailing it to the cross forever, does Jesus still have to perform “rescuettes” a billion times every minute all over the universe, with every one coming with a little dose of forgiveness?  Do we have to always be asking for that forgiveness?  Is this an operation of the grace of God, or is it works done by us? 

From where cometh this mess?  Paul said everyone has sinned (Rom. 3:23) and that sin was identified and defined as such by the Law of Moses.  With the preconception of looking for a culprit for our imperfect situation, Paul’s statement that “through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners” gives us the origin of it all – it was Adam.  That takes the search to the Garden and the story of Adam and Eve messing up the perfect creation for then and forevermore.  And the straw man of “original sin” builds from there. 

This entire excursion from question to answer is human-centric; it is not centered on “what is God’s will?”  It is “how rebellious mankind hijacked God’s will and what God had to do about the thing that mankind did.”  Like God is having to mop up after Adam’s spill?

This is a human-generated question with a human-fabricated answer.  Why isn’t that idolatrous?   This human question of the origin of sin is the wrong one, and so it shouldn't be surprising that the constructed answer is also wrong.  The church is so busy with trying to purify itself that it misses asking the right question, which is negligence because God has already provided the answer, beginning in the Garden, and it has nothing to do with a “fall” of mankind.

[2] In addition to centering on created humans rather than the Creator God, the development of the Fall of Man doctrine uses faulty inductive reasoning.

[a] Inductive reasoning goes from specific to general in application, like making a law within one state applicable to the entire country and enforcing it on everyone.  In the case of the Fall of Man, a “local question” about the sinful nature is taken as far as that question can go, which is the origin of humankind in Gen 1-3, and an “answer” is carved out of the story with some suppositions filling in spaces until a doctrine of depravity is formed which is then applied to all of humanity forever in time.  So, not only is the question wrong and the answer wrong, but the error is effectively amplified all over Christianity.

(Additional discussion on the risk of errors in inductive logic and selected retrograde analyses can be found in an addendum below this main post.)

[b] Additional compensatory errors have to be added to the “Fall of Man” doctrine as it is applied to later events included in Biblical history.  With the erroneous “Fall of Man” doctrine taken as a “given” presupposition, interpretations of the rest of the scriptures that follow start with the presumption that God is trying to recover and get His plan back on track (the Way) by rescuing and redeeming mankind from the consequences (condemnation and disfellowship) of Adam’s mistake. 

God’s intervention in the direction of the development of mankind in the Flood and the Tower of Babel are interpreted as God’s rescue.  The promise to Abraham is taken as God’s plan taking shape that will rescue and bless a rebellious world through his descendants.  Jacob’s blessing to Judah (Gen. 49:8-13) is said to restore God’s blessing to the world. 

If this were correct, one would expect the scripture would use these words to describe the significance of these events.  Rescue from Adam’s mistake; restore to the time before Adam’s “fall;” redeem man’s lost relationship with God

[c] Vocabulary words are lacking.  Note that the Old Testament does not use the vocabulary of “The Fall” doctrine in reference to anything related to the Garden, Adam’s “sin,” a perfect creation before Adam, Adam’s fall, etc.  Neither are other words used, such as “redeem,” “restore,” “rescue,” “return,” in reference to a perfect creation before Adam, but messed up by Adam.  Neither is there reference to a prior sinless perfect paradise to which we will return through Christ.

The “retro-words” (redeem, restore, rescue, return) are used in the Old Testament to refer in some way to Israel.  God rescued the Israelites from slavery (forward direction = good); the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt (reverse direction = bad).  “Restore” is used regarding bringing back Israel’s greatness, but even this was anterogradely fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost with the creation of kingdom of God on earth, the church.  The word, “redeemer,” takes meaning with the story of Ruth and Boaz, not with a correction action back in the Garden.

What was the promise by covenant made by God to Abraham – that through his seed all nations would be forwardly “blessed” or that all nations would be retroactively “rescued?”  Is the blessing a rescue?

Redeem, rescue, restore are used in connection with the work of Christ, but it is in relation to being released from the condemnation from sin and death by the Law, not the result of Adam’s supposed rebellious “fall.”

[3] The “Fall of Man” doctrine involves looking to the past instead of the future, explaining the present human condition by using a blast from the past instead of transforming the human condition by keeping eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1-2).  Our faith is perfected by looking to Jesus, not by examining our “sin” supposedly inherited from Adam.

[a] “The Fall’s” explanation for our sins sets human disobedience as the driver for the grace of God, the work of Christ in creation, and the message of the Gospel.  This doctrine promotes fleshly immaturity instead of spiritual growth.   It also retains that which Jesus died to erase – sin, condemnation, guilt, and death from the operation of the Old Law.  Most Christians would agree that sin produces guilt, shame, separation from God, death, and condemnation.  The Old Law defined sin and linked sin to death and condemnation.  Sin results in condemnation and condemnation comes from sin.

If the Fall of Adam produced an original sin that was passed on throughout humanity in the form of depravity, how did this depravity get past the cross?  Did human depravity only get blocked by the cross for “the elect?”  Did all the rest of humanity inherit depravity?  How does sin and depravity still exist past the blood of Jesus?  Is the significance of the death of Christ applied only selectively?  Have humans been given the authority to decide that? 

If sin produces condemnation, what does Paul mean in Rom. 8:1 -- “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  If there is no condemnation, then where is the sin?  If there is no sin, then where is the depravity? 

The doctrine of The Fall promotes a pseudo-scriptural basis for Christians carrying sin and depravity with them past the cross.  Christian feel they must admit that they sin and that they are sinners.  With sin comes condemnation.  If sin is carried along, then little doses of the justification by Jesus need to be passed out again and again to continually cover our continual sins.  (Maybe if we continue to do enough works?)  This continual recycling of spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:11-13) does not involve training into righteousness (Heb. 5:14); it focuses on the encumbrances to be removed instead of Jesus as the goal (Heb.12:1-2); and it crucifies Christ all over again, subjecting Him to public shame (Heb. 6:6).  This condition is the real depravity, which the writer of Hebrews calls, “apostasy” (falling away, Heb. 6:8). 

[b] The writer of Hebrews said concerning the race we run, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2).  There is no mention of Adam in this verse – only Jesus.  The race is one directed toward the goal, which is only Jesus.  The race is not a relay where one first runs and touches Adam and then runs toward Christ.  We do not run through the “fields of sin” so that we can understand atonement and forgiveness.  Jesus has accomplished this so that we can understand transformation into the likeness of the Creator.  We do not keep looking at entanglements – we throw then off because we have already been unshackled from the sin (Heb. 12:1). 

We become what we focus on.  Therefore, the doctrine of The Fall -- the sin of Adam, original sin, and human depravity -- is self-fulfilling.  The doctrine is of human invention.  When the doctrine invades into the church and consumes the mission of the church and the basis for the gospel, the doctrine becomes sin for the church.  Exalting the doctrine makes it like an idol.  Focusing on sin that we say we do not have glorifies sin and the sinful nature.  Being controlled by the sinful nature brings condemnation, depravity, and apostasy.  Sin is not just making mistakes; sin is choosing to continue and live in the mistakes that are made and to travel in a direction that is contrary to the will of God. 

[4] The doctrine of the “Fall of Man” discounts the work of Christ. (A more accurate word might even be “blasphemes.”)  Even if the “Fall of Man” were a legitimate interpretation of scripture based on a legitimate question, the cross of Christ and His shed blood should block the view of Adam.  How does sin and guilt and condemnation make it past the cross, except that our humanness drags it along with us?  We cannot put behind what we choose to drag alongside.  There is no carry-on baggage on the flight of the Spirit to transformation into the likeness of God.

[5] The doctrine of the “Fall of Man” does not “go back to the Bible” to look for the truth of God.  Rather, the search has sought only to explain the falsehood in ourselvesThe doctrine that resulted has remained protected and largely unchallenged for hundreds of years.  That doesn't mean it's right.

[a] We are justified by faith in Christ, not by our faith in a human doctrine that makes us feel we have it all worked out.  The doctrine of the “Fall” is not grace-based as it claims; it is grace that has been extracted from God by human works, or lack thereof – it doesn’t matter, it is still human-centered.       

[b] If we truly “went back to the Bible” like we claim we do, we would find the revealed foreordained plan of God that predates Gen. 1:1 – the predestined design of God for creation to fulfill.

[c] Sometimes, it may seem that these are just two ways to express the same thing, but it is not the same and it does have the same result.  The “Fall” doctrine leaves the church to focus on getting rid of sin; the foreordained plan of God is the church focuses on growing into the perfection of Jesus Christ, the Imago Dei.  The church can claim it serves Jesus while it is focusing on sin, but it doesn’t happen – two masters cannot be served.

Like the Jews who needed to remove the veil to see Christ (2 Cor. 3:14), we need to remove the filters of the “doctrines of Adam” so that we can more clearly see the foreordained plan of God for which Christ died to bring into the final age.

Isn't it time to reevaluate the presumed truth of the "Fall of Man" doctrine in light of the true revelation of God through Christ, as recorded in the Bible?

------- 
Some Questions To Consider:

Q1. If the "Fall of Man" doctrine is of erroneous human origin, what is the true doctrine revealed from God?

Q2. What problems are presented in the church because of the erroneous doctrine of the "Fall of Man?"  How does this make the church go in the wrong direction?

Q3. What changes would occur in the church if the "Fall of Man" doctrine should be abandoned and the eternal plan of God obeyed instead?  (see here)

Q4. Without Adam's "sin," what is the work of Christ?  From what have we been rescued?  Christ redeemed us from what?  What does reconciliation mean?  Weren't we once enemies with God?

Q5. Without Adam's "sin," what is the explanation for sin?  Isn't the world in sin?  Don't we all sin?  What about Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:10?

Q6. How does one explain salvation without first having doctrines of depravity and hell?
 

 Q7.  It seems like more problems are created by not having the "doctrine of human depravity" that there are by having it.

 

Some of these questions have been addressed in these other posts concerning the Foreordained Plan of God and the Fall of Man:













Are we, as a New Creation, restored to Adam's position before the Fall?



Addendum

The Fall is a creation of human interpretation using a retrospective analysis of scripture to answer questions that were current at one time.  As mentioned in a preceding paragraph, the doctrine of The Fall is an example of the fallacy of human inductive reasoning.

Inductive logic takes an “end of process” observation or question, forms corresponding conclusions or answers, moves upward (toward the top) in the process and/or backward in time (original, priority, precedent, purpose), and assumes those specific conclusions make a general, global application to a much larger field.

As the table (Deductive vs Inductive Reasoning) says, “Inductive logic allows for the conclusions to be wrong even if the premises upon which it is based are correct.”  Because the process of inductive logic takes a relatively small number of observations and applies them to a much larger set of questions, any error in the initial data or premises will be greatly magnified.  If the premises themselves are based on incorrect presumptions, then the entire picture can be corrupted.  That is why deductive reasoning is used in scientific research – the questions can be more easily validated and the results confirmed.  Inductive logic can be used, but the narrow inferences used in more global application must be confirmed deductively under each circumstance.  The more confirmations there are under a variety of different circumstances, the more secure an inductively derived concept might be.  If inductive reasoning is not confirmed by deductive reasoning, the concept might be valid under limited applications, but not universal, or the concept might be entirely wrong.





The doctrine of the “Fall of Man” is wrongly directed.  Time moves forward; development is forward; discovery is forward-looking; improvements are for the future; maturity is in the future; transformation is the future; Jesus Christ is the future.  A retrograde analysis for answers to questions is not the direction God has created things to work.  God’s direction for His creation is anterograde – forward into perfection, not retro- to explain our presumed imperfections.  The New Covenant does not prescribe archeological digging expeditions back in the Old Law, or even in the Garden of Eden. 

A doctrine is needed that looks prospectively – into the future.  We need a doctrine that is Christ centered, not sin-centered.  We need a doctrine that is formed by deductive reasoning, with validity confirmed by inductive reasoning.  We do not need a doctrine formed by inductive reasoning that ignores fallacies, globalizes itself in application, and then deductively forces itself on everything. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

162. DID JESUS DIE SO THAT WE WOULD NOT LOSE, OR DID HE DIE SO THAT WE WILL WIN?

Which is it?  It can't be both.

It was a Sunday morning worship service at an average congregation of Restoration Movement heritage.  We were the visitors from out of town.  The "regular" preacher was gone, so the youth minister, a recent college graduate, delivered the sermon.  It was an average to good sermon about Saul and Jonathan against the Philistines as recorded in 1 Sam. 14.  While Saul was in a defensive posture sitting under a pomegranate tree, Jonathan and his armor-bearer slipped away and, discerning a sign that the Lord was with them, attacked and killed a regiment of about 20 Philistines.  The commotion, together with a little earth-shaking from the Lord, confused the Philistines enough that they began killing one another, and they were routed by Saul and his men.  In the course of telling this story, the young minister made a statement of profundity - the application of which was quite possibly beyond his intention or recognition.  

"Saul was fighting to keep from losing; Jonathan was fighting to win."  

The mysterious profundity of this application became evident to the discerning eye during the following part of the service involving "the observance of the Lord's Supper."  It was a traditional observation - reading, songs, prayers, emblems (in the scripturally correct sequence) -- yes, all in decency and in order according to the "authorized pattern."  Nothing remarkable happened to particularly take note of, except in the shadow of contrast from the above statement.

The service continued:  There was a dramatic reading from the "Last Supper" (Matt. 26:26-30), a song ("Come To the Table"), the bread, a song ("Nothing But the Blood"), the cup, prayers.

Everything was handled within the range of "doctrinal acceptability."  The song: "Come to the table of mercy...." - mercy because we don't receive the condemnation we deserve; Jesus carried that burden in our place.  (NoteBut why did Jesus do that?)  Another song: "What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus; what can make me whole again, ...." The thought:  Except for the blood of Jesus, we would be nothing but sinners bound for hell.  The grace provided by Jesus' shed blood cleanses us from sin and saves us from condemnation.  (Again, why did Jesus do that?)  A prayer:  Do this in remembrance of me - remember Jesus hanging on the cross for you, in your place; you should be grateful by remembering and not forgetting.  (Again, why did Jesus do that?)  

Next, sing "Celebrate Jesus," wrap up, dismiss, and head for the restaurant.   

Okay, so, what is your problem with that?  Jesus died for your sins so you wouldn't go to hell, and you need to remember and be grateful He did that.  Do you think something's wrong with that, or what?

No, it's not a matter of what's wrong with that service (and thousands of thousands of others essentially like it); it's a matter of what's missing -- what is incomplete about it.  

Did Jesus die so that we would not lose, or did Jesus die so that we will win? 

What did God predestine before the world began that we would do -- not go to hell, or go to live with Him in eternity?  What does the foreordained plan of God say is His will for us -- to continue to celebrate the historical events giving forgiveness of sin or to be transformed into the character of Jesus Christ (the image of the invisible God, Col. 1:15)?  Will we lose our forgiveness if we don't continually regenerate human gratitude for it?  Is that the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5)?  Do we meet together to spur one another to remember a historical occurrence or to accomplish the purpose of that event with a view to the future?  (hint: answer in Heb. 10:25) 

The foreordained plan of God was that we would be transformed into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18), into the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10), which has been our destiny before time began (1 Cor. 2:7).  Jesus died, and our sins have been forgiven so that we can be free from the grip of the guilt of sin and death, so that we can do what? -- escape punishment or become like Him (Eph. 4:24)?   This is a fear vs. love battle.  Centering on escape from punishment is not being perfected in love, and being perfected is maturity (1 John 4:16-18).

So, how well does the traditional focus work for us?  How well does a focus on Jesus dying (to keep us from losing) promote spiritual maturity?  How well does concentrating on the historical sacrifice of Jesus cause us to go out in gratitude and proclaim Him without also saying "I have to do this?  It is my duty."  Aren't we to show our gratitude by glorifying Him as we become like Him and as we join together to build up the body into Him (Eph. 4:12-16)? Into what are we being transformed - ever-increasing glory or ever-increasing gratitude (2 Cor. 3:18)?  Glory supersedes gratitude; focusing on gratitude doesn't necessarily produce glory.  We can leave gratitude at the altar; glory comes from within (2 Cor. 3:18).

Heb. 12:1-2 says that we are to keep eyes on Jesus as we are transformed into the glory of God, not to keep eyes on our encumbrances that we have (supposedly) gotten rid of.  We can't focus on two opposites at the same time.  It doesn't work, and it isn't working.  

So, what spiritual value does the church's "traditional observance of the Lord's Supper" promote?  How many people think, "He suffered and died, so I really do need to try harder to be pleasing to God."  Thinking about Jesus in the flesh and responding in the power of the flesh.

The problem is not the Lord's Supper, itself; it is the form into which we have shaped that liturgy.  Christianity has developed a tradition of interpretation of a few verses about the Last Supper to mean that Jesus intends that we continue to honor what He did in the flesh instead of honoring Him at the right hand of God by being transformed by the Spirit (Heb. 12:1-2).

And, yes, I've got a problem with that.

Jesus made a choice to go to the cross so we would be free to make a choice to become like Him.  So, what would He have us to do - statically remember the historical choice He made or dynamically become like Him?  The Corinthian church separated the formality of the historical remembrance of Jesus from the present reality of how their lives should be shaped because of what He did.   They separated static liturgy from dynamic transformation.  Paul said - don't call your separate liturgical motions the Lord's Supper, because it's not.  That, and a few other wake-up slaps to the head, are in 1 Cor. 11:17-34.

What about recycling of sin, of forgiveness, and of a relief that we are escaping condemnation (as long as we continue to "remember")?

Focusing on sins and encumbrances - on either doing the sin or being forgiven of it - retains spiritual immaturity.  The church to whom the book of Hebrews was written was not growing into maturity - too many followers were staying in the milk of the word and not getting past the elementary teachings.  They were not moving into the meat of the word -- the maturity of righteousness (Heb. 5:11-14).  The writer gets more specific and lists in Heb. 6:1-3 some of these elementary teachings that were being recycled.  Some of these subjects sound like sermon material we have heard over and over.
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so." (NIV)
Did Jesus command that a liturgy be performed so that we would be continually reminded that we are sinners deserving death and eternal judgment, that the reason Jesus came to earth died was to take care of that (if we continue to fearfully repent), and that if we have enough faith, God will (barely) save us from the torment to which we are otherwise verily headed?  Is this the message that needs to be repeated over and over because we would otherwise forget?

Why do we find the need to refresh our memories that our sins have been forgiven?  Is it because we always need to be forgiven over and over because we continue to drag our sins with us, and we even point out and remind others that they have sins attached (and they are almost always bigger than ours). Jesus gave the plank vs splinter in the eye analogy (Matt. 7:3-5) under the Old Covenant to people who only knew the Old Law of Moses, when the foreordained plan of God was still an unrevealed mystery.  Now, under the New Covenant, instead of saying "Take the plank out of your own eye so you can more clearly see the speck in your brother's eye," Jesus would say, "I have removed the plank and the speck from both of your eyes so you can clearly see ME.  I died that you would focus on Me, not so that you could keep from losing to 'the attack of the planks.'  Is it "Identify those splinters and planks; don't let them impale you."  No, it is "Leave the planks and splinters behind and look forward, because the architect of your faith has a spiritual temple for you to build - the foundation of which has already been laid."  We can't be looking in our brother's eye for either planks OR splinters and keep our own eyes on Jesus.  Planks and splinters are defined by the Law of sin and death that no longer exists unless we choose to drag it along with us.  (A little condemnation does the spirit good?)

How really Christ-centered is our traditional observance of the Lord's Supper?  Are we to celebrate "the New Covenant in His blood" by thanking Jesus for continuing to remove our planks because the devil keeps putting them back in?  If we actually believe that He died once for all (Rom. 6:10), why do we continue to recycle His death over and over by the Lord's Supper as though we aren't really sure about that?  Why isn't that like crucifying Christ all over again and subjecting Him to public shame (Heb. 6:6)?

Recycling immaturity presents a bad witness

We recycle the old, old, story of forgiveness of sin instead of becoming the new, new Creation - made to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Our liturgical, traditional, legalistic, and "check it off" observance of the Lord's Supper that focuses attention back to Calvary does not follow the foreordained plan of God that calls for us to look forward to being transformed into God's glory.  

This retrograde focus is also what the church presents to the world, and what is called "evangelism," or, more recently, "missional."  (Note:  Need to get a new word = "transformational.")  What is that incomplete message?  We are telling the world, "Jesus saved us from hell, and He will save you, too, if you just say this and do this and that, because if you don't, you will have the same fate we barely escaped from.  So, we invite you to join us as we continue to fear that we might still be consumed by that which we have been delivered from."  What??

If we have to continue to recycle a remembrance that our sins have been forgiven, doesn't it show a lack of faith that we have been delivered?  If we live without the confidence that our sins have been forgiven along with the shame and guilt of the past, have we really escaped from anything, or do we drag the spirit of condemnation with us like the tablets of stone from the Old Law?

Did Jesus die so that the world would not lose (be condemned) or that the world would win through Him?  What does our favorite Billy Graham Crusade passage say about that (John 3:16-17)?  Instead of preaching escape from condemnation, the church needs to show the manifold wisdom of God in His eternal plan for us to become like Him (Eph. 3:10).  

There are human doctrines that have been designed to justify this approach.  Calvinism presents a straw man of inherent condemnation to set up the necessity of Jesus for the escape from hell.  That is not the foreordained plan of God, and the doctrine of universal depravity is fraudulent for that and other reasons.  Calvinistic thinking began as a response to Catholicism and has pervaded just about all parts of Christianity, especially in denomination-derived groups.

Our attitudes within the church need to change - they need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit instead of protected by competitive maneuvers from primitive tribal fiefdoms.  The church, with its doctrine, needs to be baptized within the Holy Spirit by Jesus.  Basically, the church needs to repent and be saved.  

Recycling immaturity leads to apostasy (falling away)

Hebrews (5:11-6:12) discusses classifications of immaturity (milk of the word) and maturity (meat of the word).  "Mature" is usually defined as "us," and "immature" is defined as "them."  But the passages give characteristics of both mature and immature.  Those who are mature are "acquainted with the teaching about righteousness" and those "who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (5:13-14).  This is the transformation process.  But, the immature stay in the elementary foundational teachings about Christ - repentance from acts that lead to death (or useless rituals), foundational faith in God, water washings, laying on of hands, resurrection, and eternal judgment.  The immature stay in their immaturity by recycling fundamental elementary teachings about Christ (6:1-3).  Like a liturgy performed according to accepted code every week or every month?  

The verses following Heb. 6:4 are not encouraging about immaturity recycling.  Those who are supposed to know of the goodness of the word of God and the power of the coming age fall away and crucify the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.  Was the Last Supper given so that we would remind ourselves each week that our sins really have been forgiven - as though we are going to forget?  If we need to be reminded that our sins are forgiven, isn't this like crucifying the human Jesus all over again when we "remember the suffering Savior hanging on the cross?"  Where does "proclaim" and "blood of the Covenant" and "drink it with you" fit into this?  

We are the future, not the past

We do not serve an historical Jesus; we serve a risen Savior, victorious over sin and death, who is seated at the right hand of God.  We are not transformed into history, but into an eternal future.
Heb. 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Phil. 2:8-11, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Col. 1:17-18, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."
How has this been working for us?

Many consider the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) to be the most important part of a worship service.  What testimony are we giving in this ceremonial performance?  Does it testify into Whom we are being transformed?  Jesus died so that we could be transformed into the likeness of God.  This was a necessary part of the foreordained plan of God - a plan that included Christ before time began (2 Tim. 1:9-10).  We honor the sacrifice of Jesus when we are transformed by the Holy Spirit into His spiritual likeness, not when we continually reinforce the human aspects of His death.

We say that we understand that the foreordained plan of God is important; we say that we understand that transformation is important, but apparently we don't comprehend the relation between the two - that they are the same - and that there is nothing more important in the universe.  If the church can't proclaim that (Eph.3:10), who will?

The liturgy of the Lord's Supper isn't the problem, but the way it is handled is a prime example of the incompleteness of understanding about the work of the Spirit of God in the church -- a poor understanding that has been maintained and protected for nearly 2000 years.  Changing the songs and reading some different scriptures and telling people to remember Jesus on the throne in addition to Jesus on the cross would make little to no difference.  It is the attitude of our minds that must first change.  

Finally, what about "recognizing the body" (1 Cor. 11:29)?  Doesn't this necessitate thinking about Jesus hanging on the cross?
1 Cor. 11:27-32, "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.  But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."
The Corinthians had a problem understanding the link between the body of Jesus on the cross and the body of Christ, the church.  They were separating the two events and performing the ritual of the Lord's Supper while discriminating against poorer brethren by eating in front of them when they had nothing.  Paul said (somewhat expanded interpretation), "You can't separate these events -- historical vs. what you do now.  Jesus died so that you could be transformed by serving one another in love -- becoming like Jesus by showing the love of Jesus to one another.  Don't call your liturgy the Lord's Supper, because it is not.  You demonstrate the history of Jesus' body on the cross, not by repetitive motions, but through present attitudes about his body, the church, and by your transformation into your eternal future.  Get a handle on this before the Lord's discipline comes."

When the history of Jesus' death is separated from the predestined reason for His death - our transformation - what is the result?  Paul said the result to the Corinthians was God's judgment and discipline, which included weakness, sickness, and death of some of the members.  

Examine yourselves to see if you are recognizing the foreordained will of God for the church when you take the Lord's Supper, because that is why Jesus died. 

Straining to win or trying not to lose?

Paul and the writer of Hebrews used the analogy of transformation as being like a race that is marked out (Heb. 12:1), that one trains for and runs to win (1 Cor. 9:24), and that is being run while straining toward the finish tape (Phil. 3:14).  We are not transformed into God's likeness by looking over our shoulder at history, like Lot's wife (Gen. 19:26).  We are transformed by moving forward in perseverance and the power of the Spirit.

So, what is the foreordained plan of God and the necessary mission of Christ on earth intended to do?  Is it God's will that His people (the elect) not lose or that they win?  How then should we live - as ones who barely escaped being lost and exist in fear of God's wrath, or as ones who are destined to become like God and live in His perfect love?

So, what do our actions reveal: Are we winners through Jesus Christ or just barely not losers?  It can't be both - the attitudes don't mix.  Jesus said you cannot serve both a worldly master and also God (Matt. 6:24).  Paul said it is the fleshly nature or the Spirit in control (Rom. 7:21-25).  "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Col.3:2).

Let us keep eyes only on Jesus and pray for renewal of the mind within the body of Christ, before we call the judgment of God down upon us because of our poor choices. 


Note added in edit, February 26, 2016:
The "observance of the Lord's Supper" needs to be understood in light of the meaning of "created in the image of God" (Gen 1:26-27), which is theme of scripture and part of the foreordained plan of God.  A new web site has been started to explore this topic.

The Imago Dei Research Initiative