Showing posts from April, 2020

“Love is a verb.”

From time to time you’re gonna hear a preacher claim love isn’t a noun, but a verb.
dc Talk singing “Luv Is a Verb.” Yeah, this was the state of Christian hip hop in the ’90s. Sad. dc TalkLargely I blame dc Talk’s 1992 song “Luv Is a Verb,” in which they looked up love in a dictionary and were apparently gobsmacked to discover yep, it’s a verb.Pullin’ out my big black book’Cause when I need a word defined, that’s where I lookSo I move to the L’s quick, fast, in a hurryThrew on my specs; thought my vision was blurryI looked again but to my dismayIt was black and white with no room for grayYa see, a big V stood beyond my wordAnd yo, that’s when it hit me, that luv is a verbLots to pick apart there.Other Christian songs can talk about the death and resurrection of Christ, the atonement of humanity, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation itself, in one verse. But dc Talk needed the entire first verse to talk about using a dictionary. It’s not a deep song, yo.Seeing as dictionaries list ma…

Prayer instead of wisdom.

We see this happen all the time, but the current COVID-19 outbreak is just making it more obvious: We got Christians who ignore science, ignore all medical and professional and government advice, ignore commonsense… because they pray.They have access to the Almighty, and he can stop every potential bad thing from happening to them. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” and all that. This being the case, it’s okay if they ignore safety warnings. They got faith.You should have faith like they do.Bluntly, no you shouldn’t. They’re fools, and that’s not faith. It’s wishful thinking.Faith is based on a trustworthy person or thing, and Christian faith is of course based on Christ Jesus. Faith is based on evidence, He 11.1 and that evidence is God’s word, whether it comes from the scriptures, from God’s prophets, or from the stuff he tells us when we pray. (All of which oughta jibe with one another.) If it’s not based on any of those things—if it’s based on knowing God is almighty, yet…

Depravity: Humanity is messed up, yo.

DEPRAVEdi'preɪvverb. To make immoral, wicked, or twisted.[Depraved di'preɪvədadjective.]TOTAL DEPRAVITY'toʊ.dəl di'prøv.ə.dinoun. The Christian belief that unregenerate human nature is thoroughly corrupt, sinful, and self-centered.2. The Calvinist belief that all human nature, regenerate or not, is this way.[Totally depraved 'toʊ.də.li di'preɪvədadjective.]Present-day Christianity has been heavily influenced by popular culture and popular philosophy. And vice-versa. Sometimes for good; sometimes really not.Humanism, fr’instance. It’s the belief we humans have great potential to do great things. It emphasizes rejecting our instinctive, conditioned behavior, and solving our problems through rational, selfless ways. It emphasizes human rights and human worth. After all, God figures we have infinite worth: He loved us so much, he sent us his Son. Jn 3.16Problem is, one of humanism’s core beliefs is Pelagianism, the belief humans are inherently good. Humanists insis…

Before the war come the fake Messiahs.

Mark 13.5-6, Matthew 24.4-5, Luke 21.8.After Jesus commented the temple’s eventually coming down, some of his students wanted to know when. So Jesus started talking about the events that preceded the temple’s destruction in the year 70. Historically Christians have called this the Olivet Discourse, ’cause Jesus shared it on Mt. Olivet.In context, it’s about the Jewish War. The students wanted to know when the temple’d get destroyed; Jesus told ’em about when the temple got destroyed four decades from then. Fake Messiahs showed up and rallied the people to overthrow the Romans; the Romans sent reinforcements; the Judean people decided the End had come and decided to go all in with the false Messiahs, and a bloodbath followed. The Romans slaughtered half the world’s Jews, destroyed the temple, and left Israel without a homeland for 19 centuries.If you don’t know this history, it’s because Christians downplay it. Certain of us are so desperate for information about Jesus’s second coming—…

The “spirit of Jezebel.”

Every so often, Christian preachers will denounce what they call a “Jezebel spirit” in their churches. Some of ’em do it all the time, so they presume their churches know what they mean by that. ’Tain’t always so.No, it’s not the ghost of Queen Jezebel bat Ethbaal of Samaria, possessing somebody and making ’em do evil stuff. Nor even is it the way Jezebel acted or behaved. Might be closer to the way Bette Davis’s strong-willed character Julie behaved in the 1938 movie Jezebel, but that’s assuming anyone’s even seen the movie, and betcha they haven’t.It’s meant to be based on something Jesus said in Revelation. But since Jesus didn’t spell out what he meant, people guess at it, typically guess wrong, and claim all sorts of behaviors they don’t like “come from a Jezebel spirit.”Let’s dig into biblical history, and from there we can see where all the usual popular misinterpretations come from.Jezebel of Samaria.Jezebel bat Ethbaal of Sidon (Hebrew אִיזֶבֶל/Iyzevél, probably meaning “exa…

Loving the world: Do or don’t?

Let’s start with some contradictory-sounding scriptures, shall we?1 John 2.15-17 KJV15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.John 3.16-17 KJV16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.Nope, John wasn’t using one of the other Greek words for “love” in these verses. Same one, ἀγαπάω/aghapáo, “to love.” Don’t love the world, he advises in his letter; but Jesus states in the gospel God loves the world, and sent us his Son to save it. So… don’t love…

Pray like Elijah.

When our pastors encourage us to pray, sometimes they do it by quoting this particular verse. Maybe not in the NKJV as I’m about to, but all the good translations have the same gist.James 5.16-18 NKJV16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.“See?” they conclude: “Elijah was a person just like us. Bible says so. And when he prayed, it stopped raining for three and a half years; 1Ki 17.1-7 and when he prayed again, it rained like crazy. 1Ki 18.41-46 Your prayers can have just as much effect as his. So pray!”Yeah, but… Elijah wasn’t a person just like us.I mean he’s human like us. James says that, anyway: He has “a nature like ours,” or as …

Saved from what?

Four things you’re gonna notice about every religion in the world:They try to explain who God is, and what he’s like: Caring nurturer, or wrathful disciplinarian? Disconnected first cause, or deterministic micromanager? The sum total of everything in the universe, or totally removed from everything? The object of all our faith and devotion, or not relevant? The only thing that’s real, or doesn’t even exist? Where does he fit between these extremes?—or is he paradoxically both?They try to explain what happens after we die: Afterlife, new life, another life, or annihilation?Morality: How ought humans live?—in light of who God is, or in light of what happens after we die.How ought we compensate our clergy for all the valuable insights they’ve given us? Money? Free stuff? Sex?Yeah, that fourth thing is a bit cynical, but the issue is there, y’know. Even in the benign religions.But why do people pursue religions in the first place? Simple: It’s salvation. They wanna get saved.Saved from wh…

Jesus predicts the temple’s coming down.

Mark 13.1-4, Matthew 24.1-3, Luke 21.5-7.All Jesus’s life, the temple had been under construction.The first temple was a tent, constructed by craftsmen under Moses’s rule, sometime in the 1300s BC. Christians tend to call it “the tabernacle.”The second was a gold-plated cedar building, constructed under Solomon’s rule in the 900s BC. Christians and Jews tend to call it “the first temple,” and if you’re only gonna call it a “temple” once it’s in a permanent structure, okay it’s the first temple. But not really. It got burnt down by the neo-Babylonians in 587BC.The third was probably made of stone, same as most buildings in ancient Israel. It was built under the Persian governor Zerubbabel bar Šealtiel in 522BC.The fourth was also stone, started by Herod 1, who decided to take Zerubbabel’s temple and improve it to Roman standards of quality. Didn’t get finished till the 60s CE. Christians and Jews tend to call the third and fourth temples “the second temple,” and Herod’s reconstruction …

The Mizpah covenant.

Genesis 31.48-49.When I was a kid, and people hadn’t yet figured out how to use the internet for shopping, my family got the Sears catalog. Basically it was a 500-page, full-color, softcover book. It’d contain every single thing Sears sold—particularly stuff you couldn’t find in its stores, but thanks to the catalog you could order it by phone. Then wait 4 weeks for it to be delivered. Yep, a month. Sometimes longer. (Anyone who’s nostalgic for “the good old days” is a moron.)
A typical mizpah coin.When bored I’d browse the things. Usually the toys. But next to the toy section was the jewelry section, and among the baubles Sears offered were mizpah coins. Maybe you’ve seen them too… or maybe half of one. They’re meant for couples. The coin is split in two, and one partner gets one half, the other t’other. You have to put them together to read the entire verse:Genesis 31.48-49 KJV48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called …