Posts

Showing posts from January, 2020

Proselytism: Don’t force Jesus upon people!

Image
PROSELYTIZE'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪzverb. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another.[Proselyte 'prɑs.ə.laɪtnoun, proselytism 'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əmnoun.]From time to time, when we Christians share the good news of Christ Jesus with other people, we get accused of “proselytizing.”It’s one of those words which, to quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess BrideGiphyProperly, to proselytize means as we see in the definition above: You’re trying to convert someone. And you’ve not made it an option: They must become Christian. They will become Christian. You’re gonna try every tactic you can to make it so. You’ll promise outrageous things, you’ll fudge a few details, you’ll threaten ’em with hell. Whatever it takes.Forced conversions, hard sales pitches, and death threats (and hell threats) are all definitely forms of proselytism. Is that really what we’re doing?Well… sometimes it is. And it should never be. God’s kingdom runs on grace, and if our presentation of the gospel ever tu…

Fruit doesn’t grow spontaneously.

Image
Fruit of the Spirit is the product of cultivation. If we actively follow the Holy Spirit, if we seek his direction and adopt his attitudes, in short order we’re gonna share his attitudes.And if we passively just figure, “I’m Christian, so I’m going to heaven, so I’m good,” we’re not cultivating a thing. We’re not producing fruit. We’re the same selfish people we’ve always been. Maybe with a few Christianese labels slapped onto our bad behavior in order to justify it to ourselves, but ’tain’t fooling God any.Sadly that’s the default in Christianity. Lot of fruitless Christians out there. We figure since we don’t earn our salvation, we don’t need to work for anything. We can just sit on our widening western rear ends, do no heavy lifting whatsoever, and God will do all the work.Instead of resisting temptation and obeying God’s commands, we do cheap grace.Instead of demonstrating we’re Christians by our love, Jn 13.35 we demonstrate it by rattling off our statements of faith.Instead of p…

“Fasting” from one thing at a time.

Image
When it comes to fasting, many Christians wanna know what’s the very least we can fast for it to “count.”Two thoughts.First of all I gotta make sure they’re not fasting for the wrong reasons. We’re not obligated to fast: God never commanded it, and we’re not disobeying him when we skip a fast, break a fast, “cheat” on a fast, or diet instead of fasting. True, our churches might want us to fast, and legalistic churches will even require it. But unless you swore to God you’d fast along with ’em, you’re not sinning if you don’t fast. (And of course lying about it, or pretending you’re fasting when you’re not, is always wrong.)Likewise I don’t want people to think we fast so we can earn karmic points with God. Again, he never obligates us to fast. It’s a practice we do. It helps us focus on him in prayer, and helps us develop self-control. (And even if God did order us to fast, he doesn’t “owe us” when we obey; that’s our duty. Lk 17.10 What, did you not receive enough trophies for partic…

Karma: How we imagine the universe seeks justice.

Image
Matthew 5.38-42, Luke 6.29-31.KARMA'kɑr.mənoun. The sum of one’s deeds in this life (and previous lives), used to decide one’s fate in future lives or the afterlife.2. The sum of one’s deeds in this life, used to decide one’s fate in this life.3. One’s destiny or fate, seen as the result of one’s deeds.[Karmic 'kɑr.mɪkadjective.]Karma is a Hindi word, from the Sanskrit karman, “fate.” Because Hindus and other eastern religions believe in reincarnation, karma has to do with why you’re born into your particular family, class, comfort level, or caste: You deserved it. Not from anything you did in this life; it’s the actions of your previous life, and when you got reborn, the universe assigned you to the place you deserved. If you were good in your previous life, now you’ve been rewarded with a blessed life; if your life sucks, it’s your own fault for being bad in your past lives. Be good now, and maybe next time you’ll be born into a better caste. ’Cause evil means the universe w…

Revelation: The starting point of theology.

Image
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!

Image
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?

Image
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.

Image
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 …