TXAB: The Christ Almighty Blog

31 October 2015

Positive. Encouraging. White. K-LOVE.

My least favorite radio network.


’Cause without that space, they’ve simply misspelled “clove.”

I stopped listening to radio in the early ’00s, ’cause I got an MP3 player. It wasn’t the iPod I wanted (I finally got one of those in ’04): It was a pocket computer, a Windows PocketPC, which among other things included a mobile Windows Media Player. I also discovered podcasts around that time, and even though I still had dial-up internet at home, I set up the computer to download a bunch of shows overnight, and I started ripping every CD I owned into my good ol’ Gateway. Loaded up the SD card and never looked back.

The pocket computer still works, by the way. I like to use my technology till it completely dies. Phooey on planned obsolescence: I wanna squeeze a decade out of it, at the least. It’s why I still use my clamshell iBook. Sometimes I gotta plug it into my Android tablet to make it work… but I digress.

The last radio stations I regularly listened to was a “nineties and now” station at home, and a Christian pop station at work. ’Cause I was teaching at a Christian school, and some of the bluenoses frowned on the secular stuff. I could only get away with jazz, ’cause they had no clue Louis Armstrong was sky-high on “gage,” as he called it, when he sang; or that Miles Davis was half out of his mind on heroin. For that matter, we have no idea how many tabs of Vicodin our favorite Christian artists might’ve been prescribed when they recorded… but again, I digress. Point is, don’t judge.

On my way to work, if I ran out of podcasts, I’d sometimes tune in preacher radio. And get annoyed when the station was full of cessationists, all of whom preached the impotent gospel of “Christianity isn’t what we do; it’s what we believe. So get your theology straight.” ’Cause when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, Mt 25.31-46 he’s gonna quiz us on the catechism, right? Feh.

Christian pop stations were annoying too. All happy, peppy, but not-at-all-challenging music. Plus that particular station kept promoting itself with the slogan, “Safe for the whole family.” I grew up on Narnia books, so my attitude about Christ is more like that of the Beavers on Aslan in the first one: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he’s not safe. But he’s good.”

No, the station wasn’t K-LOVE. Which did exist at the time: It broadcast out of Santa Rosa since 1982, changed its name to K-LOVE in ’88, moved to Sacramento in ’93, then to Rocklin in ’02. All this time it was buying translators and piping its signal to other cities, building its network. Northern California, where I live, is its home turf.

The more MP3s I accumulated, the more my interest in broadcast radio shrunk to nothing. By 2006 I didn’t even have a radio. Mom had my boombox—still does, and is welcome to it—and maybe there’s an old FM radio or two in a bin in the garage somewhere. The rare times I bother with radio, it’s an internet station. That’s it. If someone needs to broadcast something over the Emergency Alert System, I’m not gonna hear it. Oh well, so much for the tornado warnings.

But sometimes radio is inflicted upon me. Not just in stores which pipe it over the public address. Way too many of my fellow Christians are listening to K-LOVE. So when I’m at their houses, in their cars, or it’s a church work day and someone other than me is in charge of the music (and thank God, that’s not always the case), guess which radio network we’re tuned into? It’s that, or K-LOVE’s “edgier” sister network Air 1.

30 October 2015

The Fear.

Seems appropriate for the day before Halloween to talk about the Fear.

The main reason why Christians don’t act in faith?

Why we won’t share Jesus with our neighbors and coworkers? Why we won’t pray for people to be healed? Why we won’t ask God for miracles? Why we won’t prophesy, even though we’re sure God is talking to us right this instant? Why we don’t start ministries, don’t offer help, don’t encourage, don’t anything?

The Fear.

You’ve likely met Christians who’re the most friendly, outgoing, outspoken, extroverted people you’ve ever seen. Got no trouble with public speaking. No trouble sharing their opinions—even when you’d rather they didn’t. No trouble talking about their favorite movies, teams, products, politics. Maybe a little initial stage fright, but they shake it off quickly.

Then, when it comes to acting in faith, these very same Christians seize right up, and never snap out of it. It’s like someone cut the power. Someone crimped the hose. The meds wore off. Pick your favorite simile.

As outgoing as they might be, they immediately imagine the worst-case scenario. “If I act, they’ll…” followed by the most awful thing we can picture. Not, as people usually do, with a shake of the head and a “No thank you; not interested.” (Nor, as what usually happens in a country where four out of five of us consider ourselves Christian, “Um… okay.”) No no. It’s the worst-case scenario. The worst they can possibly come up with.

29 October 2015

He lives within your heart.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Jesus, huh? Nope. Lots of Christians get that one wrong, too.

Indwell /ɪn'dwɛl/ v. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.
[Indweller /ɪn'dwɛl'ər/ n.]

Only Christians use the word “indwell” anymore, so it’s pretty much our word. You’re not gonna find anyone talking about how they indwell their apartment. Or how there are mice indwelling the walls. Nope, it’s pretty much a word we Christians use to describe a spirit living in someone. Either it’s a demon possessing a demoniac, or the Holy Spirit living in a Christian.

I know evangelists like to tell people, “If you invite him, Jesus will come live in your heart,” and I know popular hymns go, “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today… you ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.” I also know those folks are mixing up their persons of the trinity. It’s not Jesus who lives in my heart; he’s too busy at the right hand of the Father, advocating for his followers on our behalf. Ro 8.34

In fact it’s the Spirit who lives in my heart. And yours, and every Christian’s. From the instant we turned to Jesus, from the instant God identifies us as his children, the Holy Spirit enters our lives, and is sealed to us as collateral—proof we really will receive the kingdom Jesus promised. Ep 1.13-14 What better proof do we need? God himself lives within us.

Jesus told his students once he left, the Holy Spirit would come, and take Jesus’s place in their lives. Jn 14.15-21 He’d be their adviser. He’d remind them of everything Jesus taught, and educate them in new stuff. Jn 14.26 And after Jesus was resurrected, he baptized them in the Spirit Jn 20.21-22 —to lead them, empower them, and get ’em to build this kingdom God’s so interested in. To construct them, along with all Christians, into what we call “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” 1Co 3.16-17

So when the Spirit came, he came to indwell us. Live in us. Not just hang around us, and pitch in when we need his help. ’Cause we always need his help.

28 October 2015

How to fake the fruit of the Spirit.

Why bother to actually follow the Holy Spirit’s lead when it’s way easier to become an expert hypocrite?

So as you know, Christians need to produce fruit, specifically the fruit of the Spirit. And as you may know, if you’ve been around Christians long enough, a whole lot of us claim we’re producing this sort of fruit… yet there’s something just a bit off-putting about the sort of “fruit” we’re cranking out.

The “love”' isn’t all that loving. The “joy” has an awful lot of sadness and resignation mixed in. The “patience” feels like despair. The “kindness” is artificial, and just a bit deceptive. The “peace” seems to have come about only after an awful lot of strife. The “forgiveness” has a bunch of strings attached, and the “grace” is extended only to popular people (“the elect,” as Calvinists call ’em) —not everyone.

So what’s going on? Is it just that Christians are terrible at producing the Spirit’s fruit? Is the problem that we’re attempting to achieve these traits by our own efforts, instead of letting the Spirit grow ’em naturally, so because they’re human they came out wrong?

No and no. The problem is we’re not attemping to develop the Spirit’s fruit. We’re trying to substitute real fruit with quick ’n dirty substitutes. We’re faking it.

Why? ’Cause it’s easier. ’Cause it doesn’t require us change for real. ’Cause it means we look good enough for church, but outside the church building we can be the same [rhymes with “gas tolls”] we’ve always been. Hypocrisy is always the easier, more popular path. It’s why the Christianists take it. But the only time we encounter Jesus on it is when he’s trying to wave us off it.

27 October 2015

Context? Who needs context?

Let’s steal a little biblical authority from the Holy Spirit, shall we?

Context /'kɑn.tɛkst/ n. Setting of an idea or event: The larger story they’re part of, the circumstances or history behind them, the people to whom they’re said. Without them, the idea is neither fully understood nor clear.
[Contextual /kən'tɛks.tʃ(əw).əl/ adj.]

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” It’s not from the bible, although from time to time someone will claim it totally is, and therefore it’s a divine command. It’s actually from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene 3. Might not be bible, but Shakespeare’s no slouch either.

Why do people quote it? ’Cause they literally mean it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. If you don’t borrow money, you won’t go into debt. If you don’t lend money, you don’t have to fret when your friends never repay you. Simple, prudent advice. Words they think we oughta live by.

Okay, so why’d Shakespeare write it?

Well, we don’t give a rip. We know what we mean by it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. We assume Shakespeare meant the very same thing. It’s straightforward enough, isn’t it?

But a Shakespeare scholar, or anyone who’s stayed awake through Hamlet, will recall where it came from: The wily King Claudius’s adviser, Polonius. He says it to his son Laertes, just before he sends the boy off to university. And if they recall anything about Polonius, they’ll realize… it’s actually not good advice. Polonius thought it was, but Polonius was a dunce. Every other thing he advises in the play turns out to be wrong, bad, foolish advice.

“Okay, Shakespeare put it in the mouth of an idiot. But it’s still sound advice.” Is it? Considering the source, it comes across as way more self-serving and stingy than when people assume it comes from God.

You see the problem. Context is important. We should care where our quotes come from. We might be giving bad advice. Or, when quoting the bible, we might make a divine command out of something which was never meant to be one.

26 October 2015

The word became human, and explains God.

This is the reason he came to us. Not atonement; he could’ve done that invisibly. But to reveal God.

John 1.14-18

John 1.14-18 KWL
14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us.
We got a good look at his significance—
the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth.
15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of!
‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.”
16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace:
17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became.
18 Nobody’s ever seen God.
The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.

We Christians have had the darnedest time translating and explaining this passage, because while it’s in really simple Greek, it’s deep. It’s profound. It tells us the word of the LORD, the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” because human fathers don’t have wombs, and any language which might give God feminine qualities tend to give certain macho guys the heebie-jeebies), the one-who-comes-after-me who’s really the one-who-came-before-me, grace and truth personified, the visible image of the invisible God Cl 1.15became flesh. Flesh. Meat. Blood and bone and muscle and tissue and nerves and fluids. An animal. Yet God.

People still find the idea blasphemous. It’s why heresies keep cropping up to claim Jesus isn’t really flesh: He only looked flesh. Peel off his human mask (eww) and there’s God under it. He only looked physical, but he was a spirit with a physical appearance. He only looked real, but he was a mass hallucination which confused the real world. He only looked like a man, but was a superman, a demigod, a new species, a hybrid, an alien.

But he wasn’t. He was human. Yet God.

24 October 2015

Happy Halloween. Bought your candy yet?

It’s Happy Halloween, not “Happy holidays.” Wait… wrong holiday.


A perfect opportunity to show Christlike generosity—and give the best candy ever. But too many of us make a serious point of being grouchy, fear-addled spoilsports.
(Image swiped from a mommy blog.)

For more than a decade I’ve ranted about the ridiculous Evangelical practice of shunning Halloween. I call it ridiculous ’cause it really is: It’s a fear-based, irrational, misinformed, slander-filled rejection of a holiday… which turns out to actually be a legitimate part of the Christian calendar.

No I’m not kidding. It’s our holiday. We invented Halloween. No it sure doesn’t look like Christians’ original intent, but that’s ’cause we let the pagans take it over and transform it from a fun time for children, to an inappropriate adult bacchanal, or a celebration of creepy horror movie themes.

Then there are the Pagans with a capital P—religious Pagans, as opposed to irreligious pagans. I call ’em neo-Pagans because their religions date from the 1960s. Yeah, that recently. They revived ancient religions, which is why that “neo-” bit goes before Pagan; but they greatly adapted those religions for present-day sensibilities. Ancient Pagans often had a lot of racial and sexual boundaries as part of their identity; modern Pagans decidedly got rid of the racism and sexism.

Anyway, neo-Pagans claim Halloween was originally Pagan, and Christians stole it from ’em in a futile attempt to Christianize it. This is utter rubbish. Yet because some of them call themselves “witches,” and because kids dress as totally unrelated witches on Halloween (whether the Harry Potter sort or the Macbeth sort), they insist it’s their holiday, not ours. And despite the total lack of historical evidence, a lot of gullible reporters swallow these claims whole, and repeat them every year. They’ve been doing it for so long, people actually try to debunk me, by quoting 10-year-old newsblog articles. Which were poorly researched and incorrect then, and just as wrong now.

Nature religions don’t even celebrate Halloween anyway. They celebrate autumn. The vernal equinox, the end of summer, the beginning of winter, the turn of the seasons—which took place a full month ago, back on 22 September. They celebrate the equinox-related harvest festivals, which in Irish would be Samhain /'saʊ.ən/, a contraction of sam fuin/“summer’s end.” Totally unrelated to Halloween. They just happen to exist within the same 45-day period.

23 October 2015

TXAB’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

Just in case you were worried about the current crop of candidates.

Every presidential election year in the United States, we get doomsayers claiming this or that candidate is probably the Antichrist. Or wannabe prophets claiming one of the candidates is Jesus’s personal choice; if he held American citizenship (and I’m surprised one of the political parties in Congress hasn’t voted him an honorary one by now) he’d totally pick that guy.

Of course, none of these folks have any insight, supernatural or not. They’re proclaiming their own personal politics. Some of ’em do it every election. In the process, any such “prophets” are unwittingly exposing themselves as false ones, even when their favored candidates win. Because God’s will is for Jesus to reign, not some party, nor some politician. Lucky for them, we no longer stone false prophets to death. Man, would that be satisfying.

However, I will point out it’s totally possible to determine which of these contenders might actually be the Beast of Revelation 13, or as he’s more popularly called, the Antichrist. Seriously. Because at the end of that chapter, St. John the Revelator stated the Beast’s number is that of a human, and it’s 666. Rv 13.18 Meaning if we know what John meant by “its number”—and we do—we can calculate it.

Ready to find out which of these folks are devil-spawn? Wait, lemme rephrase that: Ready to find out which of these folks are the ultimate devil-spawn? Well then you’re ready for The Christ Almighty Blog’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

22 October 2015

A religion that’s a little of this, a little of that.

Something many pagans are most proud of: The clever little personalized religions they’ve invented.

Eclectic /ə'klɛk.tɪk/ adj. Belongs to no recognized school of thought or organized religion; selects such doctrines and beliefs as they wish, from various religions and schools.
[Eclecticism /i'klek.ti.siz.əm/ n.]

One of the more popular platitudes you’ll hear among conservative Evangelicals is “I don’t have a religion; I have a relationship.” By which they don’t actually mean they’re irreligious; they do to to church and read their bibles and pray. They just don’t do dead religion—rituals which mean nothing to them. (Or so they believe. Just for fun, ask ’em sometime for the definitions of certain Christianese words. Sometimes they have no clue.) My point is they do so have a religion; there are plenty of things they do which reveal they devoted themselves to Jesus. Any pagan can see it. And they should; if there are no such signs, that “relationship” we claim to have is gonna suck.

In comparison, your average pagan insists they really have no religion. They don’t pray regularly, if at all. They read no holy books regularly, if at all. They never set foot in a church, except to attend weddings, funerals, recitals, AA meetings, go to the polls (yep, sometimes churches are actually used as polls in the United States) and watch the rare Christmas pageant. They don’t do religion, period. You do—’cause you adhere to a particular pastor, church, denomination, or creed; and you pray and read and do Christian things.

But John Lennon songs notwithstanding, plenty of pagans do so have a religion. It’s just not an organized religion. They believe various things about God. They aren’t always consistent, and didn’t all come from the same source. Some were borrowed from Christianity (i.e. God is love, Jesus was nice to everybody) and some not. They saw some clever Hindu teacher on TV with some appealing teachings. Their Buddhist friends once said something neat. They read this amazing article off the Internet which really resonates with them. They love the sitar parts of Beatles albums. And some of ’em invented their own ideas, all by themselves, because they’re no sheep; they’re really deep spiritual people sometimes.

Basically they’re practicing eclecticism. They just don’t know the word for it.

21 October 2015

When God tells us no.

Because God’s not a wish-granting genie.

If you ever go looking for books on prayer—and even when you don’t; when you’re browsing in your favorite (or less-than-favorite) Christian bookstore, and the book titles simply shout at you—you’ll notice a whole lot of them are about being successful at prayer: How to pray effectively. How to get our prayers answered. How to know our prayers actually reached God’s ears. How to be persistent at it, and thus get what we want. How to have the right prayer attitude, and thus get what we want. How to pray as God would want, and thus get what we would want. Yada yada yada.

What makes a prayer “successful”? Obviously, getting what we want.

Of course we won’t always admit this. We’ll try to make our answers sound less greedy, more spiritual, less self-centered. “Um… A successful prayer gets us closer to God.” Yeah, nice try Bubba. Closer to God for why? So we can get what we want.

Look, I already pointed out it’s okay to ask God for things. The Lord’s Prayer entirely consists of prayer requests, and we’re instructed to pray like that, so clearly God’s not gonna be offended when we tell him we want stuff from him.

But let’s be honest, for once: A successful prayer, as far as every Christian is concerned, gets results. We ask God for stuff, and God responds, “Yes.” He grants our request, we get what we want… and now that we got the pony we always wanted, we realize we gotta feed and brush the thing, and find some room in the backyard for it, and man do ponies poop a lot. And when you’re an adult, you’re too big to ride them… What exactly are ponies good for again?

Back to prayer though. Why do so many prayer requests appear to get a “no”—or dead silence, which is pretty much the same thing—from God? Why do so many pagans laughingly tell us we stand just as much a chance of dumb luck answering our prayers as God? Why do so many Christians, even the ones who write all the prayer books, so often not get what they ask God for? Even as they’re insisting, “All God’s promises are yes and amen,” 2Co 1.20 and “anything you ask in my name, I’ll do” Jn 14.13-14 let’s face it: They’re really not getting everything they asked for. Their loved ones still die. Their business opportunities don’t always come to fruition. And when they ask God certain questions, he doesn’t give answers—which is why the answers they give us come across as iffy and unbiblical.

What’s the deal?

20 October 2015

Faith. Real, legitimate, not-imaginary faith.

As opposed to the unreal, imaginary sort.

Faith /feɪθ/ n. Complete trust or confidence in someone/something.
2. Religion: A system of beliefs and practices about God.
3. A strongly-held belief or theory, maintained despite a lack of proof.
4. A name Christians like to give their daughters. My niece, fr’instance.
[Faithful /'feɪθ.fəl/ adj.]

“Faith,” wrote Mark Twain in his travelogue book Following the Equator, “is believing what you know ain’t so.” Atheists consider this their very favorite definition of faith. It’s the definition your average pagan also holds to. And, sad to say, many a Christian. “Faith” is the magical power to believe in goofy rubbish.

According to them, if I “have faith,” I have the power to believe in everything. I can believe in God, in angels, in fairies and elves and leprechauns, and that I can fly like Peter Pan. I can believe in TV preachers, in pastors with bad comb-overs, in politicians with bad comb-overs, in giving all my money to some nonprofit which doesn’t actually do anything useful. I can believe in UFOs and space aliens, in the Left Behind novels, in conspiracy theories, in the same things as “truthers” and “birthers” and Holocaust-deniers and Objectivists. I can believe in ghosts, poltergeists, mediums, psychics, and faith healers. I can believe climate change isn’t real, that dinosaurs and cavemen co-existed Flintstones-style, that the earth is flat, that the moon landings were faked, that the stars are glued to the back wall of the cosmos. I can believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, monsters under the bed, unicorns, fairytale endings, and that racism was cured in the 1960s.

All you gotta do is believe really, really hard. You read The Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio. Wishes do come true! That’s faith.

But as Christianity defines faith, no it’s not. The writer of Hebrews defined it thisaway.

Hebrews 11.1 KWL
Faith is the solid basis of hope, the proof of actions we’ve not seen.

19 October 2015

Recognizing and embracing the light of the world.

Light is a metaphor for a lot of different things in the bible. Here, it’s life.

John 1.1-13

John 1.1-5 KWL
1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.
2 He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.
Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.
Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.

In his first chapter, the author of John (probably John bar Zebedee, “the student Jesus loved”) pins a few metaphors on Jesus. We got word. We got light. And later John the baptist uses lamb. (Or ram; it depends on how meek or badass you wanna make Jesus sound.)

The word created life, and the author quickly started calling life “light” Jn 1.4 then said Jesus is the actual light coming into the world. Jn 1.9 In fact later in this gospel, Jesus made this claim about himself twice: "I'm the light of the world." Jn 8.12, 9.5 He comes to give us life. Abundant life in this age; eternal life in the next.

Even though the bible’s not a series of codes for clever Christians to crack, various Christians insist “light” means the same thing everywhere, and manage to mix up “Life’s the light of humanity” in verse 4, with “God is light.” 1Jn 1.5 You know, just like they mix up Jesus-God’s-word with the-bible-God’s-word. They’ll try to mash the “truth” they find in 1 John together with “life” (and let’s not forget way, Jn 14.6) and hit frappé. Any excuse to make the Light as clear as mud.

17 October 2015

Synchrobloggery.

Sometimes you just wanna know what other people think about the same topic.

Really, this is a story, not a non-sequitur: Back in 2007 my mother took a college course on Christian apologetics.

Since I’m the seminarian in the family, Mom kept picking my brain. And I’m really not the brain you wanna pick. Thanks to my Fundamentalist upbringing, I spent years studying apologetics… and trying it out on Dad, who’s atheist. Then I spent a few more years inflicting it on various other pagan skeptics. After some years working with real evangelists, who share the gospel instead of arguing it, I came to a rather heterodox view of apologetics.

Bluntly, apologetics are cessationists’ thoroughly inadequate substitute for testimonies. You don’t tell people about what God’s done in your life, ’cause as far as you believe, all his acts are theological, spiritual, invisible, and largely hypothetical. You don’t talk about what he’s shown you through your faithful obedience, ’cause you’ve not done a lot of that either. Don’t bother to develop any fruits of the Spirit. Instead, indulge one of the more self-gratifying works of the flesh: Argue. Verbally tear those pagans a new one.

You give ’em logical arguments for the existence of God. Explanations why the bible is historical and believable. Reasons the resurrection has to have happened. Ideas to believe, rather than a Person worth believing in. And most useless of all, reasons why evolution isn’t true—which tells pagans faster than any T-shirt slogan, “I don’t believe in science, and am therefore an idiot. Trust nothing else which comes out of my mouth.”

If you object to that characterization, I’ll deal with you later.

Obviously I don’t have a lot of use for apologetics. From the sound of it, neither did Mom’s professor: He was only teaching the class because somebody had to; it was a required course if you sought ordination. When Mom started sharing some of my conclusions in class, and revealed where she got ’em from, he decided maybe he and I oughta become “friends,” as they call ’em, on Facebook. His name’s John. Blame him for getting me into synchroblogging.

16 October 2015

Why we gotta have freedom of expression.

And in this age, we have Blog Action Days.


I’m participating in the Blog Action Day thingy, an attempt to get bloggers and their readers to focus on a particular worthy issue. This year it’s #RaiseYourVoice, an attempt to speak up on behalf of journalists, photographers, bloggers, writers, and pretty much everyone who’s not allowed to speak up for themselves.

In the United States, freedom of expression is pretty much the content of our Constitution’s first amendment: A guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, and to petition government.

Among us Christians, freedom of expression is a tricky thing. Because not every Christian is agreed we have freedom of expression. Or should have.

I know many a Christian who’s outraged, outraged, by some of the stuff on television. It’s just filthy. So, they tell anyone who’ll listen, they got rid of their TV. They threw it right out. They don’t watch it anymore.

…Well okay, they watch stuff on the Blu-ray player. And off Netflix. And sometimes they’ll reconnect the cable for sports. And they’ve downloaded every episode of Little House on the Prarie from Amazon, but watching old TV doesn’t count as “watching TV,” does it?…

Anyway. Some things, many of us Christians insist, shouldn’t be so freely expressed. “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth” Ep 4.29 and “Touch not the unclean thing” 2Co 6.17 and all that. We practice self-control, or at least we fake it really well. So others should practice self-control. And if they can’t, maybe we oughta pass some laws. Or, if doing so bothers our sense of libertarianism, we can just do as we usually do: Boycott them, boycott their sponsors, boycott their business partners, shout ’em down, hack their websites, slander ’em widely, and otherwise try to ruin them. ’Cause it’s our duty as good citizens and devout Christians.

But when other people do all that stuff to us—why, we’re being persecuted.

It’s a blind spot. A big black hole of a blind spot, where the inconsistency falls in and gets squashed into a singularity: “Those are entirely different things. They’re promoting evil. We’re promoting Jesus. (And our politics, which are Jesus-approved, so they’re part of the package.) Evil needs to be fought. And it’s evil to fight us, ’cause we’re on God’s side.”

So when I talk to my fellow Christians about freedom of expression, they’re all for it—for us. Not so much for others.

15 October 2015

“Call me Pastor.”

Some Christian leaders wanna make really sure we get their titles right.

Three years ago I got into a conversation with some guy at a Starbucks. It’s usually in coffeehouses such conversations take place; I’m in them so often. (I’m in one now as I write this.) He asked my name. I gave it. He gave his name as “Pastor Todd,” although Todd is not actually his first name, ’cause I changed it for this story, ’cause he’s not gonna look good.

Todd struck up a conversation with me, quickly found out I’m Christian, and we got to talking about our common beliefs. Like most people, he assumed since I’m not clergy, I must know nothing about theology. Which is a really naïve assumption, ’cause there are a lot of dangerously overeducated laymen like me around. Something I learned back in my journalism days: Never underestimate people. But never overestimate ’em either. Find out who they really are.

There are a lot of dangerously undereducated clergy around too. It just so happened Todd was among them. He tried to instruct me in certain areas he clearly knew little about. I expressed doubt, ’cause scripture; Todd tried to correct me, ’cause earnestness. I didn’t fret about it, ’cause Todd wasn’t wandering into heresy; Todd got more and more anxious, ’cause certain folks believe anyone who disagrees with them is heretic—and that it’s their duty to rescue us from hell, so he just had to get through to me. I think I kinda ruined his day.

To my point: At some point I addressed him by his given name, which as far as you know is “Todd.” He corrected me there, too.

Todd. “It’s Pastor Todd.”
Me. “I’m sorry. Your first name is ‘Pastor’? Or it’s ‘Pastor-Todd’?”
Todd. “Pastor’s my title.”
Me. “Oh. But you aren’t my pastor. No offense.”
Todd. “Still I’m a pastor, ordained by God. I should be addressed by that title.”

14 October 2015

There’s evangelicals, and there’s Evangelicals.

It doesn’t just mean “religious Protestant.”

Evangelical /i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl/ adj. Has to do with the evangel, i.e. the gospel.
2. [capitalized] Holds to the Protestant tradition of individual conversion to Christianity (i.e. being born again). Plus Jesus’s atonement, the bible’s authority, and an active Christian lifestyle.
[Evangelicalism /i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl.ɪz.əm/ n.]

I once heard a pagan define Evangelical as “somebody who actually believes in all that [synonym for doo-doo].”

I like it, but technically that’s not quite it. She was confusing the lowercase-E with the uppercase-E: She got her evangelicals and Evangelicals mixed up. And every Christian is the lowercase kind of evangelical: We all believe in this [dooky]. We may not agree about miracles, worship styles, how to interpret the bible, and whether electric guitars are of God (and I say they totally are). But we all agree Jesus is God the Son, our Lord, conceived by the Spirit, born of Mary, suffered under Pilate, crucified, died, buried, resurrected, ascended, coming back to judge and rule the world. Those who don’t believe the gospel are, by definition, not Christian. They might go through the motions because they like the trappings. But they’re closer to those girls who wear yoga pants yet never do yoga—much less practice Hinduism.

The uppercase Evangelical is a whole different animal. This is a Protestant movement which emphasizes individual conversion. In other words, you aren’t Christian because you were born one: Born into a Christian family or country, baptized as a baby, assimilated into your Christian culture. You’re Christian because you came to Christ, on your own. You confessed him as Lord, of your own free will. You’re responsible for being in this religion. It wasn’t just dropped on you.

Ironically the movement was started by John Calvin. Calvinists believe ultimately we’re not responsible for being in this religion: God put us here. We only think we chose him with our free will, but that’s only because he’s been working us without our knowledge. I could start ranting about the many unbiblical problems of Calvinist determinism, but let’s not go there today. I’ll just say they’re right about how our salvation isn’t up to our community or state. My parents can’t do it for me. My government either. Each of us has to decide for Jesus for ourselves.

13 October 2015

Introducing the Book Pile.

Hey, just be glad this isn’t a book-review website.

There’s this well-known pastor in my denomination. I’ve heard him preach, and found it impressive. When I found out he had a blog, I decided to subscribe to it. At the time it was mostly things he’d discovered in the process of writing his sermons, and the occasional rant about his politics. But two years ago it turned into nothing but book reviews.

Y’see, once your blog starts racking up the viewers, book publishers find out about it, and start offering you books for review. They hope your readers might wanna become their readers. And they’re not wrong; I’ve come across some really interesting books through some of my favorite blogs. So when they contacted me, I figured why not.

But lest you worry, Christ Almighty! is not gonna turn into a book blog, like that pastor’s site did. He began with books on Christian discipleship, branched into novels (and his novels aren’t my cup of tea), and doesn’t bother to write about Jesus anymore. I really need to unsubscribe from his blog sometime.

I’ll keep it to once a month. (Less often, if I haven’t found anything good.) No, not every book was sent to me for review, ’cause I’m gonna include the books I get on my own, and liked enough to let you know about. And no, not every book is gonna get a four-star review, ’cause if publishers send me something I don’t care for, I’ll say so. Too many bloggers seem to take the attitude of, “If you can’t say anything nice, be really vague or they’ll stop sending you books”—forgetting that if they send you nothing but crap, maybe you kinda want them to stop sending you books.

12 October 2015

Word!

Since Jesus is the word of God, Christians have produced a whole lot of weird theology around “word.”

John 1.1-5

John 1.1-5 KWL
1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.
2 He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.
Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.
Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.

Many Christians are fascinated by the word “word.” Mostly ’cause of the passage above. The word existed in the very beginning, was with God, and is God… and became the man we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

Why’d the author of John (whom, for tradition’s sake, we’ll call St. John) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? For centuries, the assumption was lógos/“word” came from Greek philosophy. Blame the gentiles: The early church’s writers didn’t know what the Pharisees taught, but they did know Greek philosophy, and insisted on interpreting bible through the lens of their own culture. Christians still do the very same thing today… but that’s a whole other rant. Let’s get back to criticizing ancient Christian gentiles.

Just our luck, the ancient Greeks had written a whole bunch of navel-gazing gibberish about the word lógos. ’Cause they were exploring the nature of truth: What is it, how do we find it, how do we prove it, how do we recognize logical fallacies, and what about words which can mean more than one thing? For that matter, what’s a “word” anyway? Is it just a label for a thing, or a substantial thing on its own? Maybe that’s why God can create things by merely saying a word. Ge 1.3 And so on. Follow their intellectual rabbit trails, and you’ll go all sorts of weird, gnostic directions. And the gentile Christians did.

Now let’s practice some actual logic, and look at John’s culture. What’d the Pharisees teach about what “word” means? Apparently they had their own interesting idea behind it.

10 October 2015

On hearing from God. Or not.

Too many Christians use “God told me” as a way to tell people, “So the discussion’s over.”

In this story I’m gonna bounce around in time a bit. Bear with me.


So much easier to hear God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Ten years ago. My pastor and I were discussing church stuff, as we did. We were chatting about the reasons why people join or leave a church. I casually mentioned that when there’s no obvious reason to quit a church (i.e. abusive people, leaders who won’t lead, heretic teachers, false prophets running wild, it’s a cult, etc.) people have no business leaving unless God tells them it’s okay.

“You know,” he blurted out, “in 20 years I’ve never heard a person say ‘God told me’ as much as you do.”

Yeah, it was a bad habit I was in. I’ve since got out of it.

No, not because God wasn’t really talking to me. Nor because he’s stopped. He still does. I just don’t point it out as often. Because people get the wrong idea, like my pastor did.

See, in his experience, Christians tend to use the line “God told me” for two reasons, both bad. The most obvious one is they’re showing off. “Look at me! God talks to me. Lemme tell you what he said.” They’re like name-droppers who wanna let everyone know they know celebrities, or important people, as if this makes them important too. As if God doesn’t talk to every Christian (though not all of us are listening). Now, I knew God talks to everyone, so I wasn’t saying “God told me” because I believed he was talking to me more than others. I wasn’t trying to show off. But if that’s what it looked like, best I stopped it. So I did.

The other, bigger problem are those Christians who say “God told me” in order to end a conversation. ’Cause God, they believe, gets the final word.

09 October 2015

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

If you tend to refer to him as “it,” I’m betting no.

Years ago a pagan relative of mine asked me, “You keep saying ‘Holy Spirit this, Holy Spirit that.’ What do you mean by that? What’s the Holy Spirit?”

“Oh,” I said, half-surprised, half-not-all-that-really-surprised, that she didn’t know. This being the case, it was time not to be Mr. Theologian. “Holy Spirit is another name for God.”

“Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on.

That’s really all the explanation we need to give most people. Trying to explain the trinity is going to become a big long discussion, and one we oughta save for new Christians. Mainly because they’ll want to understand the mystery… not mock it.

The Holy Spirit (KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. Therefore “Holy Spirit is another name for God” is a quick-’n-dirty explanation which points people in the right direction.

As opposed to the wrong direction, which is the more common view. Too many people think the Holy Spirit is a force, a power: God’s might, by which he gets stuff done. When God creates stuff, he does it using his spirit. When God heals people, he uses his spirit on ’em. When God saves people from sin and death, he dumps some of his spirit into them. When God drives out evil spirits, he knocks ’em back by throwing some of his spirit at them.

People call him “the spirit of God,” but think of that “of” as a possessive—something God has, not someone God is. After all, the Spirit does so many things for God, and for us, it’s easy to get the idea he’s nothing but an instrument or tool. Which is quite a lot like certain bosses treat their assistants and employees: Like they’re machines, not people. Same way with certain Christians and the Holy Spirit. We ungrateful humans treat him like a refrigerator full of treats, instead of the one who spiritually feeds and nourishes us.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He has a mind of his own, Ac 13.2, 16.6 even though he, same as Jesus, does as the Father wants. Jn 16.13 He’s not the Father, because he comes from the Father. He’s not Jesus either, because Jesus sent him to us. Jn 15.26 He’s his own person. And he’s God, Ac 5.3-4 same as the Father is God.

In fact, he’s the God we interact with on a far more regular basis than we do the Father. Because he’s the God who lives within us, who actually saves us.

08 October 2015

Trinity: The paradox in the middle of Christianity.

Be wary of anyone who says they have a simple, logical explanation.

Trinity /'trɪn.ə.di/ n. The godhead as one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
[Trinitarian /trɪn.ə'tɛr.i(.)ən/ adj.]

The Trinity is the hardest concept in Christian theology. It’s brought far wiser men than me to ruin. It’s based on two ideas. Both are absolutely true. And both absolutely contradict one another.

  1. There’s only one God.
  2. Three individual persons—Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit—are God.

Got that? Good. Hold both ideas in your head at once. Accept and believe both. Never dismiss one idea in favor of the other, or try to explain away one by using the other. And there ya go. That’s the trinity.

“Well no,” some folks are gonna object. “It’s not a contradiction at all. See, when you think about the trinity this way, the ideas don’t really contradict. It’s like this….” Then they proceed to give their explanation, which appears to sort out everything, but really does what I just told you not to do: It knocks down “There’s only one God” a little bit, in favor of “Three persons are God.” Or vice-versa.

Whichever idea’s their favorite, that’s the one they really support. ’Cause humans are creatures of extremes. Every single “simple explanation” does this. Either people subtly think there’s not really one God; or the Father, Son, and Spirit aren’t really individual; or they’re not really God—only the Father is, and the Son and Spirit not so much. In some wacky cases, people undermine both ideas, and are completely buggered.

Don’t be too hard on such people. They mean well. But they were raised to believe Christianity must be absolutely consistent—and if any part of it isn’t, the whole house of cards will collapse. As if Christ and his apostles and prophets Ep 2.20 are that flimsy.

07 October 2015

The Lord’s Prayer. Make it your prayer.

Which isn’t just the Lord’s prayer. He taught it so we could pray it.

Christians often don’t know what to pray. Or what we’re permitted to pray—as if God’s forbidden us from praying for certain things, and will smite us if we do. I really don’t know where that idea came from.

When Jesus’s students asked him how to pray, Lk 11.1 he responded with what we Christians call the either the Paternoster or Our Father (after its first two words, in Latin or English), or the Lord’s Prayer. There are two versions of it in the bible: Matthew 6.9-13 and Luke 11.2-4.

The version most English-speaking Christians are most familiar with, actually comes from neither gospel. Comes from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, which is based on an ancient new-Christian instruction manual called the Didache. Goes like so.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

06 October 2015

Pagans and heathens and nonchristians; oh my!

Believe it or don’t, it’s a Christian term for unbelievers.

Pagan /'peɪ.gən/ adj. Holds religious beliefs other than those of Christians (or other major religions).
2. Neo-Pagan: Practices nature religions, magical and occult traditions, or revived ancient polytheistic religions.
Heathen /'hið.ən/ n. (chiefly derogatory) A pagan.
2. An uncultured, inappropriate person.

I tend to use the word pagan to describe nonchristians.

Yeah, I know capital-p Pagans have appropriated the word to mean their religions. It’s just another one of neo-Pagans’ many historical inaccuracies. Ancient pagans never called themselves pagans.

“Pagan” is a Christian word, from the Latin paganus, meaning rustic or country-dweller. As opposed to Christians who live in the “City of God,” his kingdom. It’s not derogatory, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a way to indicate those inside Christendom, and those outside. (Whom we wanna invite inside.)

Heathen, on the other hand, has always meant “uncivilized.” As in “What have you little heathens done to my kitchen?” when the kids have left behind a giant mess. True, some pagans totally are heathens. But let’s be nice.

Anywho, the neo-Pagans began to call themselves “pagan” in the mid-1800s, when British and American mystics started to revive occult religion; and once again in the 1960s and ’70s, when nature religions did likewise. These would be the maguses, practitioners of magick (with a -k), Wiccans, druids, shamans, nonchristian faith healers, followers of various nature gods, and folks who brought back worship of the ancient Egyptian or Norse or Greco-Roman gods. They insist “pagan” refers to them. It does, ’cause they’re definitely not Christian. But some of ’em get annoyed when we Christians use the word “pagan” to describe any and every nonchristian—forgetting they swiped our word.

And properly “pagan” means people with no organized religion. Buddhists, properly, aren’t pagans. Neither are Muslims, Hindus… nor even neo-Pagans, even though they’re as disorganized as any religion can be. A pagan isn’t affiliated with any group: They’re not religious. They may believe in God; in fact most of ’em totally do. But they’re the people who insist, “I’m not religious” (and not in that Evangelical way which really means “I’m not legalistic”). Or “I don’t believe in organized religion.” Meaning they don’t want us to organize ’em, thank you very much.

05 October 2015

Introducing Jesus. Well, his gospels. Well, him too.

The four different perspectives on Jesus.

Mark 1.1 • Matthew 1.1 • Luke 1.1-4 • John 1.1-18

Mark 1.1 KWL
1 The start of the gospel of Christ Jesus, son of God.
Luke 1.1-4 KWL
1 Because many attempted to compose a narrative
about the things which had been fulfilled in our religion,
2 just as the first eyewitnesses handed things down to us
and became servants of the word,
3 I also thought, having closely, accurately followed everything from the start;
I wrote you, honorable Theófilus, 4 so you could know about what you were taught.
An accurate word.
Matthew 1.1 KWL
1 The book of the genesis of Christ Jesus,
bar David, bar Abraham.

These are the introductions to the synoptic gospels, the three gospels in the New Testament which tend to sync up with one another. Obviously there are differences in their intros. Mark starts abruptly, and in the very next verse gets straight away to John the Baptist, who leads into the story of Jesus. Matthew refers to the genesis of Jesus: His ancestry and birth. From here we go to a big list of who begat whom, stretching all the way back to Abraham.

Unlike the others, the author of Luke (what the heck, we’ll assume it’s actually St. Luke, same as the other traditional authors) explained to his recipient exactly why he wrote his gospel. Others have done gospels, but Luke did an extra-thorough job to find the truth and present something accurate we can base our religion upon. So here’s the real history of Christ Jesus. Theófilus might be the recipient’s real name, but in those no-freedom-of-religion days there’s just as much a chance it’s an alias: Theófilus means “God-lover.”

John tends to go its own way, so its introduction is a bit longer and more theological.

John 1.1-18 KWL
1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.
2 He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.
Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.
Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.
6 A person came who’d been sent by God, named John, 7 who came to testify.
When he testified about the light, everyone might believe because of him.
8 He wasn’t the light, but he’d testify about the light.
9 The actual light, who lights every person, was coming into the world.
10 He’s in the world, and the world came to be through him.
Yet the world doesn’t know him.
11 He came to his own people, and his own people don’t accept him;
12 of those who do accept him, those who put faith in his name,
he gives them power to become God’s children.
13 Not by blood, nor bodily will, nor a man’s will, but generated by God.
14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us.
We got a good look at his significance—
the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth.
15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of!
‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.”
16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace:
17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became.
18 Nobody’s ever seen God.
The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.

It’s deep, so I’ll analyze John’s intro in more detail another time.

03 October 2015

The spiritual gifts test.

Because we don’t really know how God’s supernaturally empowered us till we’ve filled out a few bubbles on a Scantron.

Some weeks ago I was obligated to take a spiritual gifts test. If you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s basically a written test which deduces what our spiritual gifts are. Allegedly.

Most Christians never bother to ask, “What are spiritual gifts?” Instead they nod their heads knowingly, as if they’re totally familiar with the concept. Then we ask ’em to list a few and they stammer out, “Um… uh… kindness? Friendliness? Encouragement?” No. Spiritual gifts aren’t talents which make us more “spiritual” (which, to many Christians, means “churchy”). They’re special abilities the Holy Spirit give us. Supernatural special abilities. Like these.

1 Corinthians 12.7-11 KWL
7 Each individual is given an individual revelation of the Spirit—to bring together.
8 For by the Spirit, while a word of wisdom is given to one,
by the same Spirit, a word of knowledge is given to another.
9 To someone else, by the same Spirit, faith.
To another, by the one Spirit, healing gifts.
10 To another, powerful activity.
To another, prophecy.
To another, the ability to judge spiritual things.
To someone else, families of tongues.
To another, interpretation of tongues.
11 One and the same Spirit acts in all these things,
dividing them to each of his own people however he wants.

I’ll define these gifts in more detail at another time. But today I wanna talk about the ludicrous idea that we can find out, through a written test, what miracles the Holy Spirit can empower us to do. Plus the fact too many Christians don’t find this ludicrous.

02 October 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 5.)

Finally we reach the end of the End.


Wrapping up the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1234

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not an End Times expert. ’Cause there is no such thing. There are only people who know how to grammatically and historically exegete the bible, and people who think there are no such rules and the bible means whatever makes ’em feel warmest and fuzziest. End Times “prophecy scholars,” who are neither prophets nor scholars, are only experts on all the semi-historical factoids they’ve collected to interpret their individual End Times Timelines. They don’t know, any more than any Christian knows, the specifics of the End. And since they’re expecting a straight-to-heaven rapture, instead of a joining-Jesus’s-invasion rapture, they’re gonna be mighty confused when things immediately take a 180-degree turn away from their expectations.

Folks, learn the lesson of Isaiah 53. That’s Isaiah’s vision of God’s suffering slave, who gets horribly killed for our transgressions. In Jesus’s day, many Pharisees rightly recognized this was a Messianic prophecy. Yet not one of them figured out how to reconcile it with the prophecies that Messiah would be a victorious, reigning king. Some of ’em actually taught there were two Messiahs—the suffering one and the kingly one. More of ’em chose to ignore the suffering Messiah entirely. He’s such a downer.

As a result, Jesus’s students, no matter how many times he warned them he was gonna die, totally didn’t know what to think when their Master got killed. “You’re not thinking,” he had to explain to two of them, “and your hearts are slow to trust everything the Prophets spoke. Wasn’t suffering necessary for Messiah to enter into his glory?” Lk 24.25-26 And even then they couldn’t fathom it was Messiah himself telling them this. ’Cause the End Times “experts” of their day were too busy predicting a Roman-vanquishing Messiah. So they missed the sin-vanquishing one.

Shoulda read the bible for themselves. And that’s what I tell you too. Don’t trust them. Don’t trust me either: Read Revelation for yourself. Yeah, it’ll confuse you; it does everybody. But it’ll bless you, Rv 22.7 in a way you can’t get by only reading the End Times “experts.”

Okay, now it’s time to wrap up this comic book and get to the Mega-Happy Ending. Jesus wins, y’know.

01 October 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 4.)

Trumpets, helicopters, Armageddon, Babylon. Just another day in the End Times.


More on the fearful future within the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1235

There are two ways people respond to my critique of John Nelson Darby’s beliefs about premillennial dispensationalism and the End Times. And it depends on whether they’ve utterly swallowed Darbyism. Some folks have just casually accepted Darby’s beliefs—“Hmm, that sounds reasonable; guess I’ll believe that till I hear a better explanation.” Sometimes they think my explanation is that better explanation, and sometimes they don’t. It’s okay; End Times views aren’t make-or-break doctrines. We’re free to disagree. (Just please, if you’re gonna quote bible at me, quote it in context.)

Then there’s the other camp. They’ve not only embraced Darby: His teachings are foundational to the way they live their lives. They’ve invested a lot of time in their Scofield bibles. They’ve put a lot of money into Darbyist commentaries, Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye books, “prophecy conferences,” expensive classes, and full college educations at credited or unaccredited schools. They believe America should isolate itself, so as not to get us sucked into the 10-kingdom nation of Antichrist. They believe the state of Israel’s enemies (more accurately, the Likkud Party’s enemies) are their enemies. They’re against any Middle Eastern peace initiative, for fear it’s fake peace. And any identification technology, for fear it’s the Beast’s mark. And any multi-denominational movement, for fear it’ll lead to the one-world religion. And any other End Times view than Darbyism isn’t just dismissed as “your opinion, and up for debate”: It’s heresy. You’re not just going to hell for it: Jesus will leave you behind in the rapture. (Somehow that’s worse.)

Much as I consider Darbyism to be problematic, and fruit of a poisonous tree, you’re not going to hell if you believe it. God’s grace is greater than any bad idea. I’m only trying to warn people away from the bad idea. It’s like when a friend asked me whether it’s okay for Christians to smoke. It’s not okay for humans to smoke, no matter what you’re smoking: Awful for your lungs and heart, not wise, can’t recommend it. But is it apostasy? Heresy? Do all smokers go to hell? Of course not. Your eternal life’s not at stake. Smoking’s just a really bad idea, with awful earthly consequences, so maybe we can avoid a lot of heartbreak with a little corrective thinking. Same deal with Darbyism.

Okay. Glad we cleared that up.