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Revelation: The starting point of theology.

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REVELATIONrɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃənnoun. A previously unknown fact (about God), often surprising or dramatic.2. (God’s) act of making the unknown known.3. [capitalized] the last book of the New Testament; Christ Jesus’s apocalypses of the future, given to John of Patmos.[Reveal rə'vilverb, revelator 'rɛ.vəl.eɪt.ərnoun, revelatory 'rə.vɛl.ə.tɔ.riadjective, revelational rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃ(ə)n.(ə)ladjective.]When I first taught theology, I found whenever I talk about revelation, Christians nearly always assume I’m talking about the book. (And half the time they think it’s Revelations, with an -s. And half that time, when they write it out, they put an apostrophe on the -s for no reason. Don’t get me started about the overuse of apostrophes.)Revelation, no -s, is anything God reveals to us humans. That’s all it is. If God tells you to put a sweater on ’cause it’s gonna be chilly outside, that’s revelation. God revealed it to you. Simple, right?And of course we humans overcomplicate the i…

Wisdom: Use your head!

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WISDOM'wɪz.dəmnoun. Having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Being wise.2. The biblical genre which explains and teaches how to think and practice good judgment.In the Old Testament, חָכְמָה/khokhmáh, “wisdom,” basically means the ability to think. To have a working brain. To use the sense God gave us, instead of passively letting stuff happen to us, and then blaming all the bad stuff on the government or the Republicans or the devil.You know all those Christian ninnies whose lives are an utter mess, who complain all the time about Satan trying to steal their victory, and try to ward it off with incantations by claiming their blessings? Yeah, that’s not the devil; that’s them. Their own lack of wisdom will create all that chaos just fine without Satan lifting a finger.Khokhmáh is the ability to understand cause and effect: When you do this, it produces that; when you don’t do this, it produces something else. You’ll notice a lot of biblical proverbs follow that format.Prov…

So… do you know Jesus?

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I know better than to assume everyone who browses TXAB is Christian.I learned better on other blogs I’ve done. ’Cause nonchristians piped up. There’s a certain personality type—the class clown, the noisy guy in the theater, the guy in the nightclub who wears way too much musk, the Facebook friend who over-comments on everything (which, I gotta admit, is sometimes me) —who can’t go anywhere without making their presence known. If you prefer to go unnoticed, these are the people you never wanna befriend; they’ll always embarrass you. And on blogs, they’re the sort who wanna make sure the blogger (i.e. me) knew they visited. Sometimes with a polite note, and sometimes by flinging poo like a chimpanzee.On blogs, sometimes they’re the troll who comments, in case any Christians are reading, “You suckers do realize all this religious stuff is [synonym for dooky]: Jesus is dead, the bible is science fiction, and churches are scams to separate the feeble-minded from their money.” Or the guy wh…

Faking the Spirit’s fruit.

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So you know we Christians need to be fruity. If we’re following the Holy Spirit’s lead, his character’s gonna overflow into the rest of our lives, and out pours his fruit.And you probably know lots of Christians who claim they’re producing this sort of fruit. And yet… there’s something just a bit off-putting about the sort of “fruit” they crank out.The love? Not all that loving. Their joy is either too manic, or has a lot of sadness and resignation mixed in there. The patience feels like despair. The kindness is artificial—and skin-deep; turn your back and they’ll say some really awful things about the people they were just kind to a moment ago, and you can only imagine what they have to say about you.Peace seems to only come about after an awful lot of strife. Forgiveness has tons of strings attached. Grace is only extended to popular people, not everyone.What’s going on? Duh; fruitless Christians redefining fruit. If you don’t have any real fruit, substitute fakes. Paint those road …

God doesn’t owe us anything for fasting.

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I’ve pointed out fasting is a great way to focus our attention on God so we can pray better, hear him better, and develop our self-control.But no, I don’t guarantee you’ll grow in all these ways when you fast.All things being equal, you probably will. But as you know, there are lots of ways people can bollix our own growth. If we’re fasting, yet the rest of our lives are just as sinful as ever, why should we expect anything to change whatsoever? And yet Christians do: “I’m fasting! That should count for something.”The Hebrews did it too, y’know. They’d fast, then make prayer requests ’cause they believed fasting would show the LORD they were serious, and it’d move him a little faster. It’s why Jehoshaphat told Jerusalem to fast so God might rescue them from invaders, 2Ch 20.3 and why Esther asked the Persian Jews to fast before she petitioned the king. Es 4.16 Since God apparently acted on the petitioners’ behalf in these stories, Christians get the idea fasting makes God move. They’l…

Happy Martin Luther King Jr.® day!

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In the United States, the third Monday of January is Martin Luther King Jr.® Day. Due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it doesn’t fall on his actual birthday of 15 January 1929, but it’s close enough. It’s a day to honor the life and acts of civil rights leader and Christian martyr, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.® He was one of the principal leaders in the 1950s civil rights movement, and a pastor in the Progressive National Baptist Convention. (One of that denomination’s founders… after the National Baptist Convention, USA, ousted King® and other activists for being too activist.)
One of the few photos of Dr. King® in the public domain. WikimediaSo… what’s with all the little registered-trademark symbols (®) next to his name throughout this article? It’s because Martin Luther King Jr.,® his likeness, words, speeches, books, writings, and so forth, are owned by the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., which is wholly owned by King’s® children Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice. (…

Time wasted on bad theology—and its temptations.

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When I was a teenager I wanted an audio bible. At the time I couldn’t afford one. This was back when they were on cassette tapes, and cost about $150. No foolin’. So I decided the only alternative was to do it myself. I cracked open a six-pack of blank cassettes, cracked open my bible, and started recording. Started with the New Testament. Got as far as Acts. Definitely took more than six cassettes!Then I came across an audio New Testament for $20. (Narrated by James Earl Jones, too.) For a brief moment there I thought about not buying it. After all, I’d spent a lot of time making one on my own. I didn’t wanna consider it time (and cassettes) wasted. But what made more sense?—buy the superior product, or persist in doing it myself?Yep, I bought the audio bible. Years later I finally got the Old Testament too, ’cause someone put Alexander Scourby’s narration on the internet, and even though I only had a dial-up modem, I patiently downloaded every single tinny file. I’ve since bought pr…

Sins which send you to hell?

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Quoting from John’s first letter:1 John 5.15-17 KJV15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.This passage has managed to confuse an awful lot of Christians. What’s John mean by ἁμαρτάνουσινπρὸςθάνατον / amartánusin pros thánaton, “sinning unto death”? Or sinning not unto death?Both Paul and James wrote that sin causes death. “The wages of sin is death” Ro 6.23 and “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” Jm 1.15 and all that. They weren’t just speaking of sins which obviously cause death, like murder and suicide and abortion; or sins which indirectly but still kinda obviously cause death, like gluttony or addictions or other lapses of self-c…

The usual substitutes for being fruity.

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How do you know someone’s Christian? Duh; by their fruit.But sometimes I hear this very question—“How do you know someone’s really a Christian?”—not just from newbies, but from longtime Christians. People who’ve been Christian all their lives. We’re not talking brief lives either; I got this question from a seventy-something Christian a few years ago. He says he grew up Christian, and I don’t doubt it. Yet he didn’t know how to tell a Christian from the real thing.What’d he think was the litmus test for Christianity? Same things most people in popular Christian culture imagine:RELIGION. Regularly reading your bible, praying, and going to church.FAITH. Believing really hard that Jesus is gonna save us.SINNER’S PRAYER. Believing because we said the sinner’s prayer once, at some point in our lives—however long ago that was, and regardless of how much growth we’ve done since—Jesus is gonna save us.ORTHODOXY. Believing all the correct things about God. Get anything wrong, and it means you’…