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Showing posts from March, 2017

Get hold, and get rid, of your anger.

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James 1.19-21. God is stable. Jm 1.16-18 He’s not prone to wild mood swings, nor does he have some secret evil plan where he tricks us into sin Jm 1.12-15 as an excuse to smite us—which he conceals beneath a veneer of goodness. God’s no hypocrite. And, as is appropriate for God’s followers, we shouldn’t be that way either. Ordinarily humans are creatures of extremes. Our emotions tend to be wild, crazy, out of control… or totally repressed. If we’re the overemotional sort, we point to the emotionless sort as totally wrong, and vice-versa. The repressed person objects to emotions as wildly inappropriate, and emotional people as possible candidates for heavy medication. The out-of-control person objects to emotionless people as unhealthy and stunted, and at some point they’re gonna snap and need some of that heavy medication themselves. But the fruit of the Spirit is prahýtis /“gentility,” or gentleness —the ability to keep control over our emotions. A Spirit-following C

God’s existence. In case you don’t consider it a given.

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When apologists try to make God appear in a puff of logic. Properly speaking, God’s existence isn’t a theology subject. It’s an apologetics subject. Theology is the study of God, and it takes God’s existence for granted: Of course he exists. Duh. Otherwise we wouldn’t waste our time. But for the sake of apologists, a lot of theology textbooks start with an obligatory chapter on God’s existence. The better-written books point out the scriptures take God’s existence for granted: Genesis starts with “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” Ge 1.1 KJV with no preliminary explanation: “See, a ‘god’ is an almighty cosmic being, and here’s how we know only one of ’em exists…” God’s just there , calling worlds into being. The better-written books also point how we know there’s a God: Special revelation. God talks to people, and performs the occasional miracle, so we know from personal experience he’s around. He may be invisible, but his presence among believing Chr

General revelation: How to (wrongly) deduce God from nature.

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Problem is, the details vary widely. GENERAL REVELATION /'dʒɛn(.ə).rəl rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃən/ n. The universal, natural knowledge about God and divine matters. (Also called universal revelation, or natural revelation.) 2. What the universe, nature, or the human psyche reveal to us about God. A number of Christian apologists love, love, LOVE the idea of general revelation. And I always wind up on their bad side, because as a theologian I have to point out it’s a wholly unreliable form of revelation. It’s so useless it actually does pagans more good than Christians. This, they really don’t wanna hear. Because they’ve pinned so many hopes on it. Y’see, apologists deal with nontheists , people who don’t believe in God and are pretty sure he’s never interacted with them before. What apologists try to do is prove God has so interacted with them before. If the nontheist can’t remember any such events, the apologist will try to point to nature and claim, “See, that’s a way

Prayer books: Prayers for every occasion.

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Namely the prayer books of certain denominations. If you’ve ever been to a wedding, or watched a wedding on television, y’might’ve noticed when it was an actual member of the clergy officiating the ceremony, she or he was holding a little black book. Assuming the minister wasn’t winging it, or hadn’t downloaded a little something from the internet… or hadn’t, more impressively, committed the ceremony to memory. Most people assume the book is a bible. When I was a kid, that’s what I assumed too. So I went poking around for the wedding ceremony… and discovered it’s not in there. There are no wedding ceremonies in the bible. Wedding parties, sure; but in bible times you hashed out the marriage and dowry details between the families, and that done, the bridegroom went and got the bride, took her home, and they were considered married. No ceremony necessary. The western marriage ceremony is a pagan invention, which we Christianized, so of course it’s not in the bible. So what’s thi

Jesus sentenced to death by the Senate.

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Mark 14.61-64 • Matthew 26.63-66 • Luke 22.67-71 I’m discussing the three synoptic gospels because if you read John , the way it’s worded makes it sorta look like Jesus didn’t even have a trial before the Judean Senate. First Jesus went to the former head priest Annas’s house, Jn 18.13, 19-23 then he went to the current head priest Caiaphas’s house, Jn 18.24, 28 then he went to Pilate’s headquarters Jn 18.28 with the death penalty already in mind. Now, it may have been that in between stops at Caiaphas’s house they went to trial, but John neither says nor suggests so. John was probably written to fill in some blanks in Jesus’s story, but every once in a while like this, it creates whole new blanks. Anyway, back to the synoptics. My previous piece was about Jesus testifying about himself. Today it’s what Jesus was guilty of, and why they sentenced him to death. Mark 14.61-64 KWL 61 B Again, the head priest questioned him, telling him, “You’re Messiah, the ‘son

Jesus testifies about (or against) himself.

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Mark 14.60-64 • Matthew 26.62-66 • Luke 22.67-71 Messiah means king. Christians forget this, because to us, Messiah means Jesus. So when the ancient Judeans wanted to know if Jesus was Messiah, to our minds their question was, “Are you the guy the Prophets said was coming to save the world and take us to heaven?” and there are so many things wrong with that statement. One of ’em being that’s not what anybody in the first century meant. If you know your American (or British) history, you’ll remember a tory is someone who prefers the status quo, and a whig is someone who really doesn’t. (I’m not gonna use “liberal” and “conservative,” ’cause the United States is such a mess, everybody’s a whig.) Regardless of how you like or hate the status quo, “Messiah” means one of two things: Tory : You’re a traitor. ’Cause the Romans and Judean senate are in charge, and you’re here to overthrow ’em, and we can’t have that. Whig : You’re a revolutionary. (So… whom do you want us

The four hells.

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By which I mean the various words translated “hell,” and how only one of ’em is really hell. C.S. Lewis famously wrote a book called The Four Loves . Not that there are four loves; actually there are more like eight. But there are five words in ancient Greek which tend to be translated “love.” (Two of ’em in the New Testament: Agápi and fílos . The others are found in the Septuagint: Éros in its verb-form eráo , and the nouns storgí and xénios .) Lewis wanted to highlight four of ’em and talk about how people love in these four different ways. People read, or hear of, The Four Loves and assume, “Wow, Greek is so precise and exact. It’s got four different words for love!” No; it’s the fact translators aren’t precise and exact. Those words can just as easily be translated affection ( storgí ), friendship ( filós ), romance ( éros ), and charity ( agápi ). Check out any thesaurus and you’ll find we have way more than four words for “love.” English can be just as precise as G

Tongues. And how they develop prophecy.

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It’s definitely not one or the other. 1 Corinthians 14.1-5 Tongues are a controversial practice. Not just because far too many Christians believe God turned off the miracles and therefore has nothing to do with tongues, bible to the contrary. To be honest and blunt, tongues are easy to fake, and easy to abuse. Christians who pray in tongues have a bad habit, and therefore a reputation, of being undisciplined about it. Which was entirely the point of Paul and Sosthenes writing 1 Corinthians 14: They didn’t wanna forbid nor ban tongues, like certain overzealous Christians do, and in so doing squelch everything the Holy Spirit wants to achieve through ’em. They simply wanted the Christians of Corinth to police themselves. Stop letting your tongues-speakers run amok. Stop prioritizing tongues above unity, harmony, and especially prophecy. Best I stop summarizing and get to that chapter. 1 Corinthians 14.1-5 KWL 1 Pursue love. Be zealous for the supernatural. Most of al

The poor you will always have with you. So screw ’em.

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Matthew 26.11. It’s kinda obvious when people quote the following verse out of context: They always drop the second part of the sentence. ’Cause the context is found in that part. Matthew 26.11 KJV For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. Although I have often heard plenty of Christianists quote this verse in its entirety, just to make it look like they’re quoting it in context… then quickly say, “And the part I wanna focus on are those words ‘Ye have the poor always with you,’ and never mention the other clause again. It’ll only get in their way. The point they wanna make with it? They wanna justify doing nothing for the poor. Because there are poor people in the world. Somebody wants to help them. Give to them. Create jobs for them. Create charities to help them. Create social programs to take care of them. Enlist their aid, whether through private donations or tax dollars… and they don’t wanna help. Now how does a Christian, the recipien

Jesus accused with false testimonies.

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Mark 14.55-59 • Matthew 26.59-61 • Luke 22.66 • John 2.18-22 All my life I’ve heard preachers claim Jesus’s trial wasn’t just irregular, but downright illegal. What basis do they have for saying so? Next to none. It’s because they interpret history wrong. They point to rulings in the second-century Mishna and the fifth-century Talmud. They assume the first-century Jewish senate actually followed those rulings. That’d be entirely wrong. The Mishna consists of Pharisee rulings and traditions. The Talmud is a Pharisee commentary on the Mishna. Now, who ran the senate in Jesus’s day? The head priests. Who were Sadduccees. And the Sadducees believed Pharisee teachings were extrabiblical, and therefore irrelevant. So when the Mishna declares trials shouldn’t take place at night (although Luke actually says it took place during daytime Lk 22.66 ), and declares there shouldn’t be same-day rulings, preachers nowadays declare, “Aha! This proves Jesus’s trial was illegal!” Just the o

Christianism’s usual idols.

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Christianism is a socially-acceptable outward form of Christianity. Whether there’s any actual Christianity underneath it, isn’t for me to say. Sometimes there’s a real live relationship with Jesus, an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit, resulting in some of his fruit, mixed in there somewhere. But the reason I still call it Christianism is ’cause there are glaring errors in the religion. Way too much fake fruit. Way too many compromises with the gospel. Compromises, I should add, made for the sake of accommodating other gods. Christianism creates a façade of Christianity, but underneath it there are a lot of other religious practices which don’t follow Jesus much. They support other ideas. They seek other powers. They promote other movements. And if Jesus teaches otherwise, they mute him, reinterpret him, or ignore him, in favor of those less-than-Christian goals. In a word, it’s idolatry. And since it’s everywhere, and plenty of other “good Christians” believe and p

Idols: Prioritize nothing ahead of God.

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What happens when worship goes anywhere but towards the Almighty. Idol /'aɪ.dl/ n. Image or representation of a [false] god, used to worship it. 2. Person or thing that’s greatly loved, revered, or worshiped. [Idolatry /aɪ'dɑl.ə.tri/ n. , idolater /aɪ'dɑl.ə.dər/ n. ] It’s often said humans were created to worship. It’s something humans do instinctively; so much so, most people on the planet believe in a god of some form. Thus if we’re not worshiping Y HWH /“Jehovah”/“the L ORD ,” the one true God, we’re just gonna latch ourselves to some other god, or something else, and worship that. Might be a spouse, parent, child, friend, or some other loved one. Might be a pop star. Or a position in business or government. Or power. Wealth. The pursuit of the perfect high, whether from drugs or sex or adrenaline. The pursuit of a comfortable existence. Some possession or hobby or philosophy you intend to devote all your time and life to. You name it, you can make an idol o

Sanctus.

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A really old, really popular rote prayer. The name Sanctus comes from the first word of the Latin translation of this prayer. Musical bonus: A song by a friend of mine, James Thomas La Brie. Big instrumental first part; and of course his version of the Sanctus in the “Hosanna in the Highest” part. YouTube The first three lines come from Isaiah 6.3 , where the serafs are shouting in praise of the L ORD ; the last three come from Matthew 21.9 , where the people shout in praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Holy holy holy Lord God of power and might Heaven and earth are full of your glory Hosanna in the highest Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord Hosanna in the highest The form comes from St. John Chrysostom. Earlier English translations, as are found in the Book of Common Prayer, have for the second line, “God of Sabaoth.” The Roman Missal has “God of hosts.” These are all translations of the Hebrew Y HWH Chavaót /“L ORD of vast numbers,” and

Jesus getting abused by his guards.

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Mark 14.65 • Matthew 26.67-68 • Luke 22.63-65 • John 18.22-23 I’d already mentioned Jesus getting slapped by one of his guards: John 18.22-23 KWL 22 Once he said these things, one of the bystanding underlings gave Jesus a slap, saying, “You answer the head priest this way?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I speak evil, testify about the evil. If I speak good, why rough me up?” The other gospels likewise tell of how the people in charge of him began to abuse him. In Mark it was after he’d been found guilty. But in both Matthew and Luke , it was before his actual trial before the Judean senate. They didn’t care to wait for a trial; they’d already judged him guilty themselves. Mark 14.65 KWL Certain people began to spit on Jesus ; to cover his face and punch him, to tell him, “Prophesy! Which underling gave that punch?” Matthew 26.67-68 KWL 67 Then they spat in Jesus’s face and punched him. Those who hit him 68 were saying, “Prophesy to us, Messiah: Which

Jesus’s pre-trial trial.

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John 18.12-14, 19-24 In the synoptic gospels, right after Jesus’s arrest, the crowd took him to the head priest’s house. But John stated they actually took him to the former head priest’s house; that of Khánan bar Seth, whom historical records call Ananus, and whom the KJV calls Annas. There, the Gospel of John relates, the courtyard was where Simon Peter denied Jesus, and inside the house there was also a bit of a pre-trial trial. Annas wanted to check out this reported Messiah for himself. After all, what if he actually was Messiah? What if he suddenly called down 12 legions of angels Mt 26.53 and took his kingdom by force? Annas may have already made up his mind about Jesus, but he wasn’t stupid; he still needed to meet the man. John 18.12-14 KWL 12 So the 200 men, the general, and the Judean servants arrested Jesus and tied him up. 13 They brought Jesus to Annas first: Annas was the father-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas, who was head priest that term. 14 Ca