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Showing posts from September, 2019

If you don’t follow Jesus, of course you misunderstand him.

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John 8.21-29.As you know, those who imagine Jesus is only a great moral teacher, and figure “I’m the world’s light” means that and no more, tend to ignore the radical statements Jesus made about who he is, what he can do, and who sent him and why. They refuse to recognize him for who he is. When he made roundabout statements about it, they deliberately chose to misinterpret him; when he made blunt statements about it, they wanted to kill him. John 8 contains both such things.So let’s get to those things. Back to temple, Jn 8.20 where Jesus was teaching yet another lesson to skeptical people.John 8.21-29 KWL21 So Jesus told them again: “I’m going away.You’ll seek me, and you’ll be destroyed by your sins: You can’t go where I go.”22 So the Judeans said, “He won’t kill himself, will he?”—because Jesus said, “You can’t go where I go.”23Jesus told them, “You’re from below. I’m from above.You’re from this world. I’m not from this world.24So I told you you’ll be destroyed by your sins,for wh…

Listening to our God, not our gut.

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Jude 1.19-25.Years ago, I had to deal with an unteachable co-worker. We’ll call him Ulises. Nice guy, but nobody could tell him a thing: He knew what he already knew, and figured he already knew best. This attitude eventually got him fired. Our boss discovered repeated warnings just weren’t working, and sent him home.Ulises followed his gut. Most people do. They encourage us to. We’re supposed to listen to that deep inner voice which tells us what we really oughta do. What we really want, what’s really best for us, what’s the right thing to do: The inner voice knows all. Don’t starve it.Sometimes we call it following your instincts, following your hunches, following your gut; following the core of our being which knows the difference between wise and dumb, true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. Christians imagine it was put there by God. And it’s not a new idea, believe it or don’t; it’s always been around. Every generation dusts it off and repackages it.The ancient Greeks ca…

When Christians have no respect for leadership.

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Jude 1.14-18.I previously explained when Jude referred to the mythology of his day, it doesn’t mean Jude considered these books historical or authoritative. I bring this up again ’cause Jude quoted a bit from 1 Enoch, a fictional firsthand account of heaven as shown to Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch. (Who went there y’know. Ge 5.24)Jude 1.14-15 KWL14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them,saying “Look, the Lord comes with myriads of his saints, 15 making judgment upon all,examining every life against all their irreverent work, irreverently done;concerning every harsh thing the irreverent sinners said against him.”No, 1 Enoch wasn’t actually written by Enoch. It was written in Aramaic, a language which didn’t even exist in whatever century Enoch lived in. It claims to be by him, so we call it pseudepigrapha, which means “fake writings.” But it’s fanfiction. Well-known fanfiction; Paul even took the idea of the “third heaven” from it, 2Co 12.2 ’cause that’s where paradise i…

Rebellion against God’s authorities. Not his angels.

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Jude 1.8-13.Previously I brought up the people with whom Jude disputed in his letter: The folks who were going their own way, embracing their favorite myths instead of Christianity, going astray, and leading others with them.And I suspect the reason Jude kept referring to Pharisee mythology throughout his letter, was because these ancient Christianists were likely also referring to Pharisee myths. Christians still do it too, y’know. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard non-biblical stories about Satan, used as proof how it behaves or what it’s up to. Preachers like to claim these stories give us insight into devilish behavior. More like insight into how little homework people do before they get behind the pulpit and claim to teach God’s word.In my experience, when a person’s quoting myths instead of bible, not only do they take bible out of context, but usually take the myths out of context too. So what I believe Jude did here (and yeah, I admit I’m biased in favor of thi…

Lessons from Jewish (and Christian) mythology.

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Jude 1.5-8.Jude 1.5-6 KWL5 I want to remind you—though you knew all this already:First the Lord rescued his people out of Egypt. Second, he destroyed those who didn’t trust him.6 Including the angels!—who didn’t keep their original authority, but abandoned their own dwelling.For their judgment on the Great Day: Kept in indestructible chains, in the dark.Jude isn’t the only apostle who finds it fascinating that God judges angels. (And apparently we Christians judge ’em too. 1Co 6.3) Simon Peter brought ’em up, 2Pe 2.4 and Christ Jesus himself taught the everlasting fire was constructed for them. Mt 24.41 The apostles liked to point out God doesn’t spare angels when they sin, and he’s mighty close to them… so why do we presume he’ll spare us humans when we sin? Grace is awesome, but it’s still not a free pass.Irritatingly, popular Christian theology has made the apostles’ idea meaningless. How? Because we teach angels don’t get judged the same way as humans. Different species, different…

All right, let’s plow through Jude.

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Jude 1.1-5.On my previous blog I was midway through Jude, and then I stopped doing that blog and started TXAB. So some people were wondering whether I’d ever go back to it… and others didn’t care, ’cause Jude’s an obscure little letter which makes no sense to them, and they’d rather I analyze other books. And cut out that whole debunking popular Christian myths thingy I do, and just reconfirm all the things they already believe.My mini-rant aside, yeah I dropped the ball, but here I pick it back up.Jude 1.1-2 KWL1 Judah, slave of Christ Jesus, Jacob’s brother, to those in God the Father—those whom Christ Jesus loves, those whom he watched over, those whom he called.2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you all.“Judah” would be Judah of Nazareth, brother of Ἰακώβου/Yakóvu, i.e. Jacob of Nazareth, who’s better known to us as James. (That’s what happened after medieval English-speakers mixed up the Latin names Iacobus and Iacomus.) This’d be the James who was bishop of Jerusalem,…

Worldviews: What Christianists promote instead of orthodoxy.

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WORLDVIEW'wərld.vjunoun. A particular philosophy about life, or concept of human and social interaction.When Christians talk about worldviews, we’re talking about politics.Yeah, Christian apologists who examine “the Christian worldview” claim they’re talking about how we Christians understand the world around us, based on what God created it to be—as opposed to how pagans and nontheists interpret things. But three things you’re gonna notice really quickly about their interpretations:It invariably leads to a politically conservative point of view—regardless of whether Jesus even addressed, much less supports, their favorite conservative views.It invariably leads to their particular church’s views on God. Fits extremely well if you’re Calvinist or Fundamentalist… and less so if you’re not. (God help you if you’re Roman Catholic.)It doesn’t promote loving our neighbors so we can point ’em to Jesus. More like being appalled at the stuff they’re trying to sneak past us, and therefore a…

When’d the events of the bible take place?

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Humanity largely uses the Gregorian calendar, Pope Gregory’s 1582 update of the Julian calendar, which was Julius Caesar’s 46BC update of the old Roman calendar, which according to legend was an update of Romulus’s 10-month 360-day calendar. So, y’know, it’s clearly not the calendar Moses used.Add to this the fact the bible’s authors didn’t really tie their events to specific dates. They rarely said, “On the , such-and-so gave this prophecy….” Didn’t occur to them to be this kind of exact. That’s a western priority, and one a lot of today’s middle easterners share. But it’s not an ancient middle eastern one. Doesn’t make a story more true, or feel more real and less mythological or fairy-taleish, when you can begin with an exact date instead of “Once upon a time.”This lack of dates makes westerners bonkers: We wanna know when these events happened! What year did the Exodus take place? What year did Abraham die? When’d Noah’s flood happen? We want details, dangit. But honestly, we don’…

“Christ-followers”: Rebranding for the wrong reasons.

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CHRIST-FOLLOWER'kraɪst fɑ.loʊ.ərnoun. Adherent or devotee of Christ Jesus.2. One who believes themself a real devotee of Christ, as opposed to other Christians.To be fair, a lot of Christians aren’t doing the title “Christian” any favors.There are irreligious Christians, who figure all they need do is believe, and figure obedience is for suckers people who don’t believe. There are fruitless Christians, whose character is no different than pagans, but who point to their beliefs or works and think that should count for something. There are Christianists, who don’t know there’s any difference between their culture or their politics, and what Jesus teaches—but they clearly aren’t doing as Jesus teaches.And there are Christians who aren’t as bad as all that. They’re working on it. Some harder than others. But let’s give ’em some grace, shall we?But other Christians have decided there are so many substandard Christians, the title “Christian” has simply been ruined. Same as the titles “E…

When God answers our mundane prayers: Thank him!

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I’ve written before about how we can pray for ordinary stuff. That it’s okay to pray for ordinary stuff. God wants us to cast all our cares on him, 1Pe 5.7 and not worry about all the silly daily things we ordinarily do, and that pagans fret about. Mt 6.25-33 So go ahead and pray for God to help you find your phone. Or to speed up a traffic light. Or to help your kids do well on that spelling quiz. Or for a generally good day.And y’know, plenty of Christians already do precisely this. We pray all the time for little trivial things. “God, I’m gonna be late!” “God, take care of this.” “God, help her out.” Some of us make these little prayers all day long. Good!Thing is, God answers these prayers. All the time. Sometimes with no. Frequently yes.But because they’re mundane requests, because our prayers are so numerous—and kinda automatic and unthought—we kinda take God’s answers for granted. We have a good day… and forget to credit God with it. We assume circumstances made our day good. L…

More than a great moral teacher: The world’s light.

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John 8.12-20.If we skip the Adulterer Story as we read John (as we probably should, ’cause whether it happened or not, it didn’t happen at this point in John), this lesson took place right after Sukkot was over, after the Judean senators had decided Jesus isn’t a relevant prophet. Because, among other things, he’s Galilean.Which only goes to show they didn’t know anything about Jesus’s family and backstory. They could’ve found it out with some very minor investigation. Talk to any of Jesus’s family members; they knew the entire story. But the senators didn’t bother, and stuck with their fairly superficial observations—which Jesus, in today’s passage, calls judging “according to the flesh.” Jn 8.15 They presumed they knew better, and missed their Messiah.So when Jesus made really bold statements about himself, they naturally balked: These statements are too bold. You can’t go making unsubstantiated statements like this. Like “I’m the world’s light.”John 8.12-20 KWL12 So Jesus spoke aga…

Bible “difficulties”: The passages which won’t do as we want.

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Whenever you hear Christians refer to “bible difficulties,” you’d think we meant scriptures which’re hard to translate, hard to interpret, hard to understand, or hard to follow. Often we do. Certainly I do.But why do Christians consider these scriptures difficult? Three reasons.We believe the bible contains no errors—but these passages appear to be in error, or appear to contradict other scriptures. Like Jesus’s two different genealogies.We have certain beliefs, doctrines, traditions, or assumptions—and these passages appear to violate them. Like Christians who don’t wash feet, Jn 13.14 or Christian men who don’t kiss one another hello. Ro 16.16 We don’t wanna say these passages don’t apply anymore… but honestly, we don’t wanna follow ’em either.These passages actually are obscure, and Christians throughout history (and Jews too) have found ’em hard to interpret.The most common reason would be the first one: Discrepancies. Scriptures which appear to contradict other scriptures… or rea…

Our error-free, perfect bible?

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INERRANCYɪn'ɛr.ən.sinoun. Belief the bible contains no errors of any kind.[Inerrantist ɪn'ɛr.ən.tɪstnoun.]We Christians put a lot of trust in the scriptures. We trust their authors to steer us right when it comes to God, to Christ Jesus, to salvation, to eternal life. We use them as confirmation the stuff God tells us personally, the stuff he reveals to Christians as we follow him, is valid. We’re basing an awful lot of our beliefs on the bible. It had better be up to the task.I believe it is. As far as God and Jesus and salvation is concerned, the bible’s infallible: It’s an accurate, trustworthy, truthful description of the stuff we need to know to connect with God, and corrects us when we go astray. That’s why God inspired it, why Christians kept it, and why we read it. 2Ti 3.16Inerrantists claim this isn’t good enough. They insist the bible has no errors. At all. Period.In order for the bible to be truly authoritative, inerrantists figure it has to be perfect—as they defin…

The fake fruit of fidelity.

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So as I wrote previously, the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians is πίστις/pístis, “faith.” Not, as too various bible translations render it, “faithfulness.” Like the ESV.Galatians 5.22-23 ESV22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Faith is also a supernatural gift of the Spirit, and various Christians wanna make a distinction between gifts and fruit. (Usually ’cause they have some problematic beliefs about the gifts.) So they prefer the interpretation “faithfulness.” By which they mean fidelity—you can be depended upon to do as you say, to stand up for those you love.And hey, fidelity can be an admirable trait. But that all depends on whom we show fidelity to. As humanity has demonstrated lots of times, we can show fidelity to some really godless people, ideas, and institutions. We can do profoundly stupid or evil things in their support—because we value them more than we…

The prayer of faith. Or not.

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James 5.13-18.There’s a blog I follow. A few weeks ago the author wrote about how he no longer believes in prayer: He no longer believes it heals people.’Cause he’s tried to heal people. He’s a pastor; he’s been in thousands of situations where he’s prayed for the sick and dying, or been asked to pray for them. He’s led prayer vigils and prayer chains, and begged God over and over and over again to cure people or let ’em live. He hasn’t got the results he wanted: Either God didn’t cure them (or didn’t cure them enough), or didn’t let them live.So he’s figuring prayer must not work that way: It’s not about making our petitions known to God, on the grounds God might intervene in human history and do us a miracle. It’s only about being God-mindful, and letting that personally transform us and our attitudes.He’s not the first Christian to claim this. I grew up in cessationist churches, and heard it all the time from Christians who don’t believe God intervenes; that praying for the sick to…

The Adulterer Story… if it even happened.

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John 7.53 – 8.11.Today’s passage is called the Pericope Adulterae, the Adulterer Story, about a woman caught committing adultery, and Jesus was expected to judge her, and didn’t. It’s a really popular story in Christendom, and even pagans know the line, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Jn 8.7 KJV It’s used as the basis for a lot of live-and-let-live, “who am I to judge?” beliefs.Two things though.That’s not what Jesus meant by “He that is without sin.” I’ll get to that.This entire story isn’t found in the earliest copies of John. Nor the gospels. It got added in the 300s. It’s a textual variant.That second thing tends to really freak out Christians when I point it out to them. But just about every copy of the bible but the KJV points this out. The whole passage is put in brackets, or prefaced by “The oldest copies of John don’t have this story.” Some more daring bible translations even put the whole thing in the footnotes, and John 7.52 is immedia…

Prophets in the bible: Read their books!

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THE PROPHETSðə 'prɑf.ətsnoun, plural. Biblical writings by and about God’s Spirit-inspired messengers.2. [In Christian bibles and book order] Books in the Old Testament primarily consisting of prophecies. Usually Isaiah through Malachi.3. [In Jewish bibles and book order] The second major grouping of the Hebrew scriptures: Books written between 1000 and 400BC; Joshua through Malachi.Sometimes I refer to “the Prophets,” and I admit this can be confusing to Christians who grew up Jewish. To Jews, “the Prophets” are the middle part of their bible—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the 12 minor prophets.But to Christians, “the Prophets” are the books with prophets’ names on them, specifically written by them, specifically full of their prophecies. Isaiah, Jeremiah (and Jeremiah’s book Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some of us throw in the New Testament book…

Summaries of the New Testament’s books.

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Did the summaries of the Old Testament’s books, so it’s time I summarized the New Testament’s books too.Gospels.The gospels, I should point out, aren’t Jesus-biographies. They only focus on his ministry: Proclaiming God’s kingdom has come, and he’s its king; teaching us how we’re to live in his kingdom, starting now; and his death and resurrection.Because people think of gospels as Jesus-biographies, they regularly miss the fact Acts is also a gospel: It likewise proclaims God’s kingdom has come, with Jesus its king; how we’re to live, with examples from the apostles’ behavior; and the aftermath of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Acts was written as a sequel to Luke, and arguably they oughta be read together as one giant two-part book. Still, people’s confusion means a lot of New Testament booklists have Acts in its own standalone category of “history.”GOSPEL, ACCORDING TO MATTHEW. A gospel of Christ Jesus, written particularly for a Jewish audience. Hence all its Old Testament quotes…

Summaries of the Old Testament’s books.

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It’s nice to have the book order memorized, but it’s far more useful to know what’s in the books. So here’s a brief summary of each book of the Old Testament.Books of Moses.GENESIS. These are the formation stories of the earth and the Hebrew people.Creation.Adam and Eve and humanity’s fall.Noah ben Lamech, and humanity wiped out by floods.Babel, and humanity’s scattering.Avram ben Terah, or Abraham the Hebrew; his relationship with God, and his relocation to Canaan.Jacob ben Isaac, or Israel; his relationship with God, and the creation of his large family—the ancestors of the 13 tribes.Joseph ben Jacob, or as the Egyptians called him, Chafnat-pahaneakh; how he went from slavery to become Egypt’s vizier, and his brothers’ relocation to Egypt.EXODUS. Primarily it’s about the Exodus—how the Hebrew descendants of Israel became a nation, became enslaved by Egypt, and had to be saved by the LORD himself. It tells how the LORD did that, through 10 plagues of judgment upon Egypt. It introduce…

God’s still small voice?

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Y’might’ve heard this story before.1 Kings 19.11-13 KWL11The LORD said, “Go out. Stand on Mt. Sinai before the LORD’s face.”Look, the LORD passed by.A great, strong wind tore away the mountain, breaking rocks before the LORD’s face—but the LORDwasn’t in the wind.After the wind, an earthquake. The LORDwasn’t in the quake.12 After the quake, a fire. The LORDwasn’t in the fire.After the fire, a voice—a thin whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his robe and went out to stand in the cave’s opening.Look, the voice to him said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”This is the only instance in the bible of a ק֖וֹלדְּמָמָ֥הדַקָּֽה/qol demamá daqqá, “a voice, a thin whisper,” better known by the way the KJV puts it, “a still small voice.”The only instance. Nowhere else is the LORD described as talking this way. Usually he’s super obvious, and super loud. Frighteningly loud, and even people who knew and loved him would cower in terror, ’cause God’s louder than the loudest thing t…

The senators dismiss the Galilean prophet.

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John 7.37-52.The last day of the Sukkot festival was treated like Sabbath.Lv 23.36, Nu 29.35 Every day, God was presented a ritual food offering; on the last day they presented a ritual drink offering. The priests drew water from the Šiloakh pool (where Jesus later sent a blind guy to wash himself) then walked round the temple’s altar with the water. Then the officiating priest lifted his hand to indicate the ritual was over… and then this happened.John 7.37-39 KWL37 On the last day, the great day, of the Sukkot feast, Jesus stood and called out,saying, “When anyone thirsts, come to me and drink!38When one believes in me, as the scriptures say,‘Rivers of living water will flow from his womb.’ ”39Jesus said this about the Spirit who was about to receive those who believed in him:The Holy Spirit hadn’t yet come, for Jesus hadn’t yet been glorified.Jesus’s bible quote isn’t an exact quote of anything. He was going for a general idea of water bubbling up from within, as implied in verses …