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Showing posts from August, 2020

Are Christian jerks even Christian?

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Bouncing back to the question my pagan friend had in my first article on Christian jerks: “So you’re the real Christians, and they aren’t?” My response is “Kinda.”Other Christians will respond “No.” Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, and if we’re not producing fruit as Jesus expects, these folks will point out there’s no evidence of the Spirit within us, so he may not even be within us. No fruit, no Spirit, not Christian.And that’s a valid point.No seriously: That’s a valid point. If we’re truly following Jesus, fruit’s gonna grow! In part because we’re gonna mimic his compassionate, kind, loving character: We see how Jesus treats people, and we treat ’em the same way. We’re not gonna project our bad attitudes on him so we can justify ourselves; we’re gonna choose to adopt his good attitude. And the other part is when the Holy Spirit pokes us in the conscience—“Hey, quit being a dick”—we’re gonna listen, instead of pretending the devil’s tempting us to stop being so zealous.If we’re t…

White Jesus… and those who insist he stay that way.

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This is the only physical description of Jesus in the bible.Revelation 1.12-16 KWL12 I turned round to see the voice speaking with me,and in so doing I saw seven gold lampstands.13 In the middle of the lampstands: One like the Son of Man,clad in a full-length robe with a gold belt wrapped round his chest.14 His head and hair: White, like white wool, like snow. His eyes like fiery flames.15 His feet the same: White bronze, refined in a furnace. His voice: Like the sound of many waters.16 He had seven stars in his right hand. From his mouth came a sharp, double-edged saber.His face: Like the sun, shining in its power.Since it’s in Revelation, a book which largely consists of apocalyptic visions, people don’t take it literally. I find this to be true of even the nutjobs who take everything literally in that book. A Jesus with bronze skin and white hair? Gotta be a representative vision. ’Cause Jesus, as everybody knows, is white.Been white since medieval times—’cause that’s how artists p…

Misadventures with the dictionary.

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When I wrote about how to do a word study, I pointed out gotta use the dictionary last, for confirmation. Not first, as people tend to do.’Cause several mistakes in interpretation are precisely the result of reading the dictionary first. When we were kids, most of us were taught if you wanna know what a word means, look it up in the dictionary! So we came to think of the dictionary as a primary source of information. But when we’re doing word study, the dictionary’s not primary. The bible is.And for that matter, when a dictionary’s editors put it together, they did word studies. They don’t look up their words in a different dictionary. (The first guys to make dictionaries didn’t have dictionaries to go to.) They looked at literature. How’d previous writers use these words? How did John Milton, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, or John Wycliffe use the words? For an American English dictionary, they particularly look at how American writers use these words, ’cause we’re gonna use ’e…

The sort of poetry which doesn’t rhyme.

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When children are first exposed to books, they’re exposed to poetry. (What, you didn’t realize Green Eggs and Ham rhymed?) Starting with children’s books, all the way up to Shakespeare.And what’s the one thing English-speakers are all agreed upon about poetry? I’m not gonna wait for your answer: It rhymes.Except it doesn’t always.We were introduced to Walt Whitman in high school. To his stuff other than “O Captain! My Captain!”, which does rhyme; usually “Song of Myself” or “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d.” And a bunch of us objected, as do high schoolers across America: “This isn’t poetry. It doesn’t rhyme!” ’Cause we knew from Green Eggs and Ham on up: Poetry rhymes. That’s what makes it poetry.Well, no. Poetry’s about using wordplay to evoke emotion. It’s why it works so well with small children. But it doesn’t have to rhyme, or have a metrical rhythm, or any of the things we frequently find in traditional English-language poetry. True, lots of languages do rhythm and rh…

Atonement: God wants to save everybody!

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ATONEMENTə'toʊn.məntnoun. Action which fixes a broken relationship, such as paying a penalty, replacing a damaged item, or painting over defacement.2.The atonement: Jesus’s payment for humanity’s sins through his death.[Atone ə'toʊnverb, atoning ə'toʊn.ɪŋadjective.]Sin significantly ruined our relationship with God. Not irreparably; God can fix anything. And he did.Occasionally some preacher will break down the word atonement thisaway: “At-one-ment. God makes himself and us one.” It’s pretty close to the right idea. There used to be a word in English, onement, which means unity. Christian preachers started adding the at- prefix to describe our relationship with God: We’re unified now. What was broken is now fixed.The word English-speakers used to use to describe this was propitiation, one which still appears thrice in the King James Version Ro 3.25, 1Jn 2.2, 4.10 to translate ἱλασμός/ilasmós. But like most old-timey words, people don’t understand what it means, and most …

On trusting the bible—but first trusting God.

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Whenever Christian apologists write a book on their favorite subject, they either begin by explaining how they know God exists, or why the bible is absolutely trustworthy. It kinda depends on which of the two they consider the higher authority: God, because he inspired the bible; or bible, because it informs us about God.Custom dictates God should come first, so he does come first in most apologetics books. But not all of ’em, ’cause not every apologist hews to custom. And to be blunt, a number of apologists are total bibliolaters, so they insist it’s vital we establish the bible as an absolute before we can even quote it as an authority.Thing is, how do we prove the bible’s absolutely trustworthy? Well, here are the answers one apologist offers.Look how many ancient copies of the bible there are! Way more than other books, or contemporary books. That’s gotta mean something.Lookit all the statements the scriptures say about themselves, or other scriptures.Lookit all the contemporary a…

“You don’t know his heart.”

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No, this article’s not on the End Times. But I got a coworker who loves to talk about End Times stuff, ’cause he’s kinda obsessed with it.I don’t know that he’s from one of those dark Christian churches that’s likewise obsessed about it. I think it’s more like he’s young and enthusiastic, and End Times stuff just happened to get under his skin. It did me for a while, when I was a little kid and Hal Lindsey said Jesus had to be coming back soon, ’cause lookit the newspapers! Yes, when I was a little kid; I had an End Times comic book and my church taught on End Times stuff regularly. Little kids get exposed to this stuff all the time; my own nephews have recently discovered the Left Behind youth novels. Unless level-headed adults are around to guide and correct you through it, it can really mess you up.So he likes to bring up any little thing which might be an End Times harbinger, just to get my take on it. And most of the time I tell him he’s worried over nothing: Yeah, some of those …