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Showing posts from May, 2021

Born sinners?

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So I discussed original sin —the human self-preservation instinct, distorted into an innate self-centeredness which means we’re inevitably gonna sin. It’s just how we’re wired. Unlike Jesus, who has a built-in divine nature which way predates him becoming human, which makes his first instinct to never sin… our first instincts work the other way. Thing is, many other Christians don’t describe original sin this way. At all. Most Christians are of course Pelagian, and think there is no such thing as human depravity and original sin. They figure humans are born blank slates, and could choose to be good as well as evil. God created us good, Ge 1.31 so they figure our natural tendency is towards good… and society messes us up, so blame it . And then there are dark Christians who go to another extreme: They think original sin means we’re born evil . Born sinners . They don’t figure we’re merely born with selfish and sinful tendencies ; we’re born with all the sins of Adam

Original sin: We were born this way.

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ORIGINAL SIN ə'rɪd.ʒən.əl 'sɪn noun. Innate tendency of humans to sin, inherited from the first humans as a result of their first sin. Initially God made the universe, including humans, and declared it very good. Ge 1.31 That goodness was undone by sin : Our first ancestors, our representatives in paradise, Adam and Eve, were ordered to not eat from this one particular tree… and did anyway. Humanity got banished from paradise, and now suffers from toil, painful childbirth, and death. So instead of being born “very good,” like God originally made humanity, every human is now born with a significant birth defect: We’re not innately good. We’re innately selfish. We come out of our mothers’ wombs screaming for what we want: Milk, a clean diaper, to be held, or we’re otherwise uncomfortable and can’t express ourselves any other way. As soon as we gain the ability to say “No!” and slap other people, and lie and steal to get what we want, we do that too. Our worlds revo

Sin.

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SIN sɪn noun. Immoral behavior—as defined by religious morality. 2. Violation of God’s law or known will. 3. A reprehensible action, or serious shortcoming. 4. A state of human nature in which one is alienated from God. 5. verb. To commit a sin, offense, or fault. [Sinful 'sɪn.fəl adjective. ] I used to think it was a copout when Christians claimed they weren’t entirely sure what “sin” meant, or is. Sometimes yeah, they’re trying to weasel out of something: They’re sinning their brains in, and don’t care to define their behavior as sin, so they’re hoping to either plead ignorance, or get us to admit there’s some kind of gray area, and grant them some leeway. But too often, I’ve found nobody ever spelled it out for them when they were new Christians. Nobody ever sat the newbies down and told ’em, “Here’s what sin is.” I grew up Christian, and they absolutely told us kids what sin is—and to not do it!—but churches tend to forget adults didn’t always have that up

Quenching the Spirit.

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1 Thessalonians 5.19-21. More farewell stuff from the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians ; general advice which can apply to Christians of any and every church. Each of these one-verse or one-line instructions have turned into entire sermons, lessons, and even doctrines. And in fact today I’m only gonna deal with three short verses, mainly because of what’s been taught about them… and of course what’s been mistaught. 1 Thessalonians 5.19-21 KWL 19 Don’t extinguish the Spirit: 20 Don’t void prophecies. 21 Examine everything: Hold onto what’s good. In the King James Version this becomes “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” That’s the version I memorized as a child. Back in the 11th century, Margaret Atheling of Wessex (later, St. Margaret) was an English princess who grew up in exile in Hungary. She went to Scotland to marry King Malcolm Canmore, third of his name. The story has it she nearly drowned while cro

Pentecost.

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I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little. Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so. Acts 2.1-4 KWL 1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place. 2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them, and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other tongues, in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability. 4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the time were devout men from every nation under heaven. 5 When this sound came forth , the masses gathered, and were confused: Each one of them was hearing their own dialect sp

Sleep-deprived Sunday morning services.

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When I was a kid, I liked church. My friends were there, the pastor was a decent preacher, and the Sunday school classes were interesting. (The music wasn’t so great; as an adult I went to churches with way better music.) But even so, some Sunday mornings I really didn’t care to go. ’Cause sleep. I wanted to sleep. I stayed up way too late the night before. Usually because I watched Saturday Night Live , or Doctor Who reruns on public television, or some other late-night movie or show. I’d be up till 1 a.m.; usually 2. Yeah, television is a lousy excuse for being exhausted the next morning. But in college, I hung out with friends till very late Saturday night—and that’s no better of an excuse. So come Sunday morning, when Mom trying to get us out the door so we could be at church by 9, church was the very last thing I wanted to do that morning. I wanted sleep. Needed sleep. What good was church gonna do me if I dozed off during the sermon? You know, like my other friend

Messianic prophecies.

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Messianic prophecies are the scriptures in the Old Testament which are about messiah. And by messiah (Hebrew מָשׁיִחַ / mešíyakh , “anointed [one]”) the scriptures mean somebody who’s put in a high authoritative position. Like head priests Ex 40.15 or the king. 1Sa 9.16 But over time messiah simply came to mean king —the guy the L ORD chose to lead Israel, or at least Jerusalem and Judea. And when he became king, there’d be a ritual ceremony where someone dumped a hornful of oil (maybe about a liter) all over the new king, representing the L ORD pouring out his Spirit upon the king… assuming the king bothered to listen to the L ORD any. Most didn’t. So since messiah means king , every king of ancient Samaria and Jerusalem—yes, even the rotten ones like Ahab ben Omri, Jeroboam ben Nabat, and Saul ben Kish—was a messiah. Seriously. In fact every time David ben Jesse was given the chance to kill Saul, or have him killed, he’d refuse—because Saul was messiah. 1 Samuel

Building up our fellow Christians.

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1 Thessalonians 5.12-18. This is the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians , and we’re getting to the part where the apostles wrapped up the letter: They moved away from the specific concerns of this particular church, and gave the same general advice they’d give any Christians of any church. So of course these things apply to us as well. 1 Thessalonians 5.12-18 KWL 12 Fellow Christians , we ask you to get to know those who labor hardest among you, who stand up for you in the Master, and correct you. 13 We ask you to be led by them, more in love than anything, because of the work they do. Keep the peace with one another. 14 Fellow Christians , we urge you to correct the irreligious. Share your story with those who keep messing up. Help the weak. Be patient with all. 15 Watch out lest anyone might pay back evil for evil; instead always pursue good for one another, and everyone. 16 Always rejoice. 17 Pray without slacking. 18 Give thanks for everything, for this

Don’t be surprised if they hate you. They hated Jesus too.

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Matthew 10.24-25, Luke 6.40, John 13.16, 15.18-25. Today’s passages get frequently taken out of context by Christian jerks. So let’s deal with them up front. Jerks either deliberately try to offend, or don’t care that they do offend. And there are a lot of Christians, religious or not, who behave this way. They want people to be outraged. They want division and strife. They don’t care that these are works of the flesh; they’re not that fruitful anyway, and are way more interested in doctrinal purity than goodness and kindness and grace. So when people get angry, they perversely assume they’re doing something right. After all, didn’t Jesus say we’re blessed when people condemn and rage against us like the ancients did the prophets? Lk 6.22-23 Everybody hates you! Rejoice! Of course they’re going about it the wrong way. If we have God’s mysteries and share them, yet we don’t do so in love (and no, tough love doesn’t count), we’re an annoying noise; we’re nothing, and ga

Lying so we can win the debate.

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Christians lie. No we’re not supposed to. There’s a whole teaching about this. It’s actually not the “don’t bear false witness ” command, Ex 20.16 which has to do with perjury. It’s the one about how Christians need to be rid of lying, and tell the truth to one another. Ep 4.25 But we lie just the same. Usually to get out of trouble. Sometimes to defraud. And sometimes when we debate with antichrists, and wanna score points, we borrow a rather common tactic we see in politics: We ignore whether our “facts” are all that factual. Oh, we wish they were factual, ’cause they really help our case. We’ll psyche ourselves into believing they’re factual. We’re willing to dismiss any evidence which says it’s false knowledge. We’re totally willing to perpetuate fraud. Yeah, it’s fraud. There’s a command against that too. Mk 10.19 But Christians dismiss this particular sin, ’cause we figure it’s so important to win these arguments, score victories for Jesus… and really stick i

False knowledge, and how it’s confused with faith.

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There are plenty of people who “just know” things. And man alive, are they frustrating. Y’see, they can’t tell you why they know what they do. They don’t know where they got their knowledge, nor what it’s based on. Not that it matters where they got it: They believe it. You can’t tell them any different. But they’re wrong. It’s false knowledge. I’ll tell people something they’ve not heard before, and they’ll respond—whether in Sunday school, my classrooms, or the workplace— THEY. “Why, what you’re saying can’t be true, for I know different.” ME. [ patiently ] “Well your knowledge is wrong. Relax; we’re all wrong sometimes.” THEY. “Nope; can’t be. I know this.” ME. “Okay, maybe I’m wrong. So prove your case. Show me why you’re right.” THEY. “Don’t need to. I know I’m right.” Every once in a while they’ll really try to prove their case. Turns out there’s a thousand holes in their reasoning. Easy to see, easy to chip away at. But they can’t see the holes. An

Postmodernism: Don’t take “truths” for granted.

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POSTMODERN poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn adjective. Coming later than modern. 2. A 20th century concept and style in arts and criticism, representing a departure from modernism, typified by a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies. 3. Anti-modern. [Pomo 'poʊ.moʊ abbreviation , postmodernism poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.iz.əm noun , postmodernist poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.ist adjective , postmodernity poʊs(t).moʊd'ər.nə.di noun. ] I grew up postmodern. I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t realize, at the time, how badly it scared the heebie-jeebies out of Christian apologists. The label’s not new. It first cropped up in the 1950s. Artists and architects started using it to describe the hip, exciting things they were doing. The current scene was “modern,” so they claimed they were beyond modern, post modern; whatever modern was, they weren’t. Pomo is a common abbreviation, although some pomos really hate it. I don’t, and use it. Gradually people began to clai

Stay on the lookout for the second coming.

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1 Thessalonians 5.6-11. In the original text of 1 Thessalonians it was all one continuous stream. No punctuation, no sentences, no paragraphs. We had to figure these things out by their context. The sentences are easy enough to figure out, but naturally Christians are gonna disagree on the rest. Hence different Greek New Testaments disagree on where the paragraph breaks should go… and since I’ve been writing about this book a paragraph at a time, y’might notice I’m not precisely following any one GNT. Textus Receptus and United Bible Societies’ edition: One big paragraph from 1-11. Nestle-Aland: One big paragraph, but they capitalize the first word in the sentences which they think might be the start of a new subject, and therefore are debatably new paragraphs. Tyndale House: Four paragraphs. 1-3, 4-5, 6-10, and 11 by itself. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Emphatic Diaglott has 1-4, and 5 all the way to the end of the chapter. But I don’t think its focus was on proper paragr

Completing the cities of Israel before the second coming.

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Matthew 10.23. In the middle of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, there’s this verse, only found in Matthew , which goes like yea. Matthew 10.23 KWL “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another! Amen amen! I promise you, you might not finish the cities of Israel before whenever the Son of Man might come.” Because translators tend to automatically convert any sentence with οὐ μὴ / u mi , “never,” into absolute statements (like Luke Skywalker’s “I’ll never join you; you killed my father!”) they dismiss all the subjunctive verbs Jesus uses in such statements. He said might never , but they translate it as if he said never . Because people find comfort in absolutes. Especially when the absolutes promise ’em something they want. We want Jesus to return! (Well, most of us.) So here, Jesus promises, with “amen amen,” that his students might not have to be chased through every city in Israel before he returns for them. And Christians nowadays, who want Jesus to return

Does God listen to pagans when they pray?

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I’ll answer the question in the title right away: Yes. God listens to pagans when they pray. And, well, duh . Of course he listens to them! He listens to everyone. He knows what everyone’s saying, what everyone’s thinking, and whether what we’re saying and what we’re thinking line up. (And when they aren’t, he knows we’re being hypocrites. ) He knows what our needs are; he hears us express ’em to him; he knows whether we’re sincere. True of everybody. Not just Christians. Why’s this even a question? Because of course there are Christians who claim he doesn’t. Only we get access to the Almighty; only true believers. (And maybe Jews… depending on whether they like Jews. If they like Jews, they always manage to find an exception to the “no pagans” rule; they’re God’s chosen people so he has to listen to them, doesn’t he? And if they’re antisemites, either Jews are simply another type of pagan he dismisses; or God’s rejected the Jews ’cause of the sins antisemites claim are

Do we really get whatever we ask in Jesus’s name?

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While the idea of “God’ll give us whatever we ask in Jesus’s name” has been largely misunderstood, misinterpreted, and abused, by Christians who wanna depict God as if he’s a magic genie who grants way more than three wishes—or like Santa Claus, who will only give you presents if you’re good, so be good for goodness’ sake—the reality is Jesus does hear prayer requests. And isn’t just willing, but eager , to answer the good requests. John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Here’s the context of this scripture; it’s important, y’know. At the time Jesus was speaking with his students about leaving them; about returning to his Father. Once he’d done so, they’d be miserable. But once he comes back in victory, having conquered sin and death, they’ll be ov

“In Jesus name”—and why it doesn’t always work.

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Jesus told us, more than once, we can use his name whenever we ask the Father for things. John 14.12-15 KJV 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.   John 15.16 KJV Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.   John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Usually Christians are fully aware o