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Showing posts from September, 2018

I am not the baseline. (Neither are you.)

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Which, as a follower of Jesus, I’m not allowed to presume. He should be our baseline. Whenever I have God-experiences, ranging from when he tells me stuff during prayer time, to watching him cure the sick, my usual response is humility. ’Cause it’s God, you know. Even though Christians who live a life of faith oughta see miracles on a regular basis, and oughta have the Holy Spirit empower us to do all sorts of supernatural things, I can’t imagine growing indifferent or jaded to the fact God’s doing stuff. He’s still awesome, and it’s incredibly gracious of him to include and involve us in everything he’s doing.Fells this way to me, anyway.To others… well yeah, their bad behavior and bad fruit kinda indicate they do take God’s presence and power for granted. I’m thinking in certain pastors and Christian ministers in particular; some I know personally. They tend to be unkind, judgmental, fearful, and ungracious. Their financial practices are suspect at best, conniving at worst. I needn’…

Doggy heaven.

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We don’t know the details of God’s relationships with his other creatures. Probably shouldn’t speculate. Years ago, in my junior high school bible class, one of the students asked about doggy heaven. And just for evil fun, I horrified her by quoting Revelation 22.15, which describes New Jerusalem in the new heaven and earth:Revelation 22.15 NIVOutside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.So, I joked, all dogs apparently don’t go to heaven. Looks like they go to hell.No, that’s not the proper context of the verse. The text does literally have oikýnes/“the dogs.” But you have to remember what dogs were to ancient Judeans. Some of them did have pet dogs, a practice they picked up from the nations round them. But generally dogs in Israel were scavenger animals: They ate garbage, roadkill, and picked off rats and other vermin. They were ritually unclean, not to mention physically uncle…

The flood story and theodicy.

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As I said yesterday, when skeptics ask me about the flood story, primarily what they wanna deal with is the idea of a global flood. Earth doesn’t have enough water to cover all the landmasses, and the young-earth creationist explanations for whence and whither the water, generally sound stupid to them. Pointing out how Genesis states the land was flooded, not the world, quickly sorts that out to their satisfaction.I have yet to run into a non-Christian skeptic whose problem with the flood story is that God flooded the world. I have met Christians who struggle with it though. Generally their problem comes from their Pelagianism.Y’see, Pelagius of Britain believed humans are inherently good. ’Cause we were created good, y’know. Ge 1.31 But sin bollixed all that, and now humanity is inherently selfish and corrupt—but Pelagians can‘t believe that. After all, they know lots of good people. And optimistically figure all most people need is a nudge in the right direction, provide us good inf…

The flood story.

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In Genesis there’s a story about a massive flood. Rain for a month and a half; waters which covered every hill in the area, and killed every living thing. It was, states the author of Genesis, God’s way of getting rid of the violence in the land—by getting rid of everybody but one righteous (well, righteous enough) family.Starts like this.Genesis 6.11-21 KWL11 To God’s face, the land was ruined. The land was full of violence.12 God saw the land. Look, ruin!—all flesh ruined its way in the land.13 God told Noah, “To my face, the end of all flesh is coming:They fill the land with violence before them. Look, the land is ruined!14Make yourself a box of cypress trees. Make living spaces in the box.Plaster it from the inside to the outside with asphalt.15This is how you’ll make it: A box 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high.16Make a window in the box, a cubit from the top. Make a doorway in the box’s side.Make bottom, second, and third floors.17Look at me: I bring the deluge of w…

The parent, master, or boss’s obligations.

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Ephesians 6.1-9.Properly, the command ypakúete! means “super-listen”—pay very close attention. So why do so many bibles render it “obey”? Cultural bias.Parents want our kids to obey us. Isn’t that what honoring your parents Ex 20.12 means? Isn’t that therefore what Paul meant? And we assume slavedrivers also wanted their slaves to obey them too—and if they didn’t, they’d whip ’em to death. Heck, some parents beat the tar out of their kids when they won’t obey. Kids and slaves: Same boat.But remember: Paul was comparing relationships between parents and kids, and slaveholders and slaves, to that of Jesus and his kingdom, or God and his adopted children. How does God treat his children? Or slaves?—’cause you do realize we’re both.Yeah, I’ve heard various preachers claim we’re not slaves anymore; that we stopped being slaves as soon as God adopted us, or that our relationship with God changed in the New Testament era. That too is cultural bias: These preachers grew up in free countries, …

Christianity is under attack!

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An acquaintance pointed me to a pro-Christianity group on Facebook. Four hundred members strong, ready to fight to the teeth for Jesus.…Well, more accurately, they intend to fight for Calvinism. Jesus is in there somewhere. Though you’d never know it from their cage-stage rage, which is pretty far from Christlike. But don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not trying to single out Calvinists. Lots of Christians get this way. Doesn’t matter which -ism they’re promoting.As I regularly gotta remind Christian apologists, one of the common pitfalls of kicking ass for Jesus, is it’s way more about ass than Jesus. It’s about fighting. Jesus is the excuse. We want a “righteous” justification for anger, for tearing people a new sphincter (metaphorically, I hope!), and what could be more righteous and noble a cause than Jesus?Plus Jesus is under attack! Christianity is under attack! People wanna get rid of Christians, ban religion, drive us out of the workplace and government and everywhere. Push us und…

Reason. And how faith interacts with it.

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Faith and reason are only contradictions when you’re doing faith wrong. Faith is complete trust and confidence in something or someone. When Christians talk about faith, we usually mean our complete trust and confidence in Jesus. (That or we’re using “my faith” to mean “my religion”; that or we’re using the word wrong. Which happens.) We put our faith in Jesus; we believe what he tells us about God; we trust his teachings, obey his instructions, and otherwise follow him.Of course when I talk about faith with pagans, I don’t always remember to clear up their misunderstandings about what faith is. Darned near all of them think faith is the magical ability to believe nonsense. As Mark Twain put it, faith is “believing what you know ain’t so.” If I have faith, as they define faith, I have the power to believe in Santa Claus—even as an adult, who should know better! If I have faith, I have the ability to believe completely unreasonable things. Indeed they should expect I believe completely…

Alcohol and Christians.

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On an internet debate club discussion group, I got into it with some fella who was insistent Jesus didn’t drink wine. He’d read my piece, “Jesus provides six kegs for a drunken party,” and was outraged, outraged, that I dare suggest Jesus drank wine. ’Cause no he didn’t.It was a clear case of the guy projecting his beliefs about alcohol upon Jesus. And he’s got lots of support for his beliefs. Ever since the United States’s temperance movement began in the early 1800s—the movement which got us to ban alcohol in our Constitution (seriously!), Christians in that movement have invented and spread serious distortions of the bible’s historical background so that the folks in the bible didn’t really drink wine: Either they drank unfermented grape juice, or they watered down the wine so greatly, the alcohol content by volume was similar to that of non-alcoholic beer.These false stories have been published for so long, anti-alcohol Christians simply accept ’em as truth. They’ve heard them all…

Scribes: Ancient Israel’s scholars.

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It wasn’t just that they knew how to write. SCRIBE /skraɪb/ n. One who writes [for a living].2. In ancient Israel, a bible scholar; one with expertise in the Law and theology.In our culture, we strive for universal literacy: We want everybody to be able to read. ’Cause in a democracy, if the people are gonna run the country, they need to be educated to that level. (Of course, if nobody but private-school kids get such an education, only the wealthy will really run the country… which is a whole other rant, and one I don’t care to go into today.)But just as democracy has only recently been widespread in human history, universal literacy is also a relatively new idea. Bounce back in time to the Roman Empire, and maybe 15 to 25 percent of the people could read. The rest could not.Not because they were dumb. Humans are just as smart now as they were then. It’s because they didn’t have access to an education. Only those who could afford literate slaves who’d teach their kids, or those who c…

Men and women, equal in Jesus’s church.

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Ephesians 5.21-33.At this point in Ephesians Paul gets into male/female relationships, which in ancient times were unhealthy and domineering, and—no big surprise—they’re just the same way today.We got a lot of relationships which are structured as unequal partnerships, where the man’s bossing the woman around and thinks he’s entitled to because he’s the man; or where the woman’s bossing the man around and thinks she’s entitled to because she’s smarter. Or whatever excuse works for the domineering spouse: They make all the money, they do all the work, they’re tougher, they’re bolder, they’re stronger, they deserve to be the alpha. It’s entirely Darwinian, which means it’s entirely unChristian.What Paul taught instead is mutual submission: If you really do love one another, you don’t boss each other around! You take one another’s needs and wants into consideration. You help each other out. You care for one another. Like when you pamper yourself at a nice restaurant or a day spa. And not…

Homecoming 2008.

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About my anticlimactic 10-year college reunion. The year is 2018. Meaning it’s been 30 years since I graduated from high school, and 20 since graduating from Bethany College, later Bethany University.Do I feel old? Sure. I’ve felt old for years. Being old is fun. Especially since I don’t look it, still have all my hair, and none of it gray. I regularly startle the people at work when they find I’m not just a little older than them, but old enough to be their dad. (It’s the genes; my parents look young too.) But I don’t have any hangups about being old. Just the opposite: Bring on the senior discounts!So is it a big year for class reunions? Not in the slightest.Ten years ago, in 2008, there was a huge push for the high school reunion, organized by two people from my high school; one from my class, and one from the year before. I had no interest in attending, ’cause I didn’t like high school and had very few friends there. (Most of my friends were from church, and went to other schools.…

The bible is a way different book.

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Christian apologists—especially when they kinda lean towards biblolatry—make a great big deal about how unique the bible is. To them, it’s a powerful argument why people ought not dismiss it as just another ancient book by dead white brown guys. The bible’s a distinctly, profoundly different book. It’s very unique. Only the most ignorant of skeptics would claim otherwise.And then they go listing all the ways it’s totally unique. I’ll list a few in this article. But the big pile of ways the bible’s different, is meant to really impress someone that the bible is important and valid.Which is a basic logical flaw: Unique doesn’t automatically mean important and valid.Fr’instance let’s say a space alien came to earth, and presented us with his book of the best recipes for blergsperken. What’s blergsperken? I dunno. And none of the ingredients match anything we know about; what on earth is “raw sperkburf?” For all we know, the alien could be its planet‘s very worst cook. But his cookbook is…

Faith, works, and faith righteousness.

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If you believe in faith righteousness, you’ve misdefined faith as orthodoxy. Which is a work. Yet faith isn’t a work… right? Yesterday I brought up faith righteousness, the idea we’re saved by having all the correct doctrines and beliefs. I’ve found it to be a pretty widespread belief among new believers, who haven’t yet learned better; and Fundamentalists, who should’ve learned better, but those Fundamentals are just so darned important to them. Anyway they’re wrong; God saves us by his grace.Orthodoxy is a good work, so by all means pursue the right beliefs about God. By all means do good works. But we’re not saved by works. We’re saved first, by grace, so that God can empower us to do such works. Doing the works first, and trying to achieve salvation by merit, doesn’t work either. Not that plenty of people, including plenty of confused Christians, don’t try. Karma is a mighty ingrained idea in humanity, and it’s hard to wean us off it.But one common and odd little side effect of be…

“Faith-righteousness”: Saved by what you believe.

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Christians who think having the right beliefs saves them—and don’t realize orthodoxy is simply a good work. FAITH RIGHTEOUSNESS /'feɪθ raɪ.tʃəs.nəs/ n. A right standing (with God or others) achieved through orthodox beliefs.I coined the term “faith righteousness” some years ago. It’s a common American belief, based on several false ideas.First of all misdefined faith. Properly faith means trust; and Christian faith means trust in God. When we Christians talk about “justification by faith,” what this properly means is we trust God, and God considers us all right with him based on that trust. Y’know, like when Abraham trusted God, Ge 15.6 which was the foundation of their relationship. (And the foundation for Paul’s teachings on justification. Ro 4.3)But in popular American culture, faith means one’s belief system. It’s a definition we find all over Christianity too, especially among Christians who don’t care for the word “religion,” and like to use the word “faith” instead: “I don’…

Awake, sleepers!

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Ephesians 5.1-20.Too many Christians have this unhealthy attitude of once we’re saved—once we’ve said the sinner’s prayer and decided we’re Christian now—there’s nothing more we need to do. The entire work of salvation was achieved by Jesus, so all we gotta do is sit back and let heaven come to us. ’Cause if we do try to act Christian… well, it’s a sign we don’t really trust that Jesus did all the work, but a sign we still think we’re saved by our own good karma. So such people won’t even bother to act Christian. Functionally they’ll have the same pagan lifestyle they always had—but the difference, they insist, is they believe in Jesus. That makes ’em Christian.Rubbish, wrote Paul. If you’re Christian, you act like your Father. If you act like pagans, you’re clearly not God’s kids, and won’t inherit his kingdom.Ephesians 5.1-5 KWL1 So, like beloved children, become mimics of God.2 Walk in love, same as Christ also loves us,and gave himself as an offering for us, a sacrifice to God wit…