Showing posts with label #Christianism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Christianism. Show all posts

Can’t divorce works from faith.

by K.W. Leslie, 20 June

James 2.20-26.

To demonstrate how works are part of faith, James pulled two examples out of the bible: Abraham and Rahab. Both are good examples of faith. So much so they got listed in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11… for the very same two acts of faith James brought up. He 11.17-19, 31

Now, how do we know these two people had faith? Because they acted on that faith. Abraham trusted God so much, he was willing to sacrifice his son to him. Ge 22.1-14 Rahab believed so strongly God was giving Jericho to the Hebrews, she risked her life to hide two Hebrew spies from the king’s messengers, then sent the messengers on some wild-goose chase while she snuck the spies out of there. Js 2

Which I didn’t really need to recap; here’s what James wrote about it.

James 2.20-26 KWL
20 Do you want to know, you silly people, how faith without works is useless?
21 Our ancestor Abraham. Wasn’t he justified by works
when he brought his son Isaac up to the altar?
22 You see, since Abraham’s faith cooperated with his works,
the faith was achieved through the works,
23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham trusted God,
and God calculated it as righteous,” Ge 15.6 and he was called God’s friend.
24 You also see, since a person is justified by works, it’s not only by “faith.”
25 Likewise Rahab the whore: Wasn’t she justified by works
when she received the king’s agents and sent them out on another road?
26 For just as the body without a spirit is dead,
so too the faith without works is dead.

If faith is reduced solely to what we believe to be true, even then they’re empty beliefs if they don’t provoke us to act on ’em. Abraham could’ve claimed to entirely trust God. But had his response been, “Wait; I can’t sacrifice Isaac, ’cause you promised he’d be my heir, and produce nations, and… no, this command makes no sense; I’m ignoring it,” so much for that faith.

Likewise Rahab could’ve claimed she trusted God, but had she played it safe and handed the spies over, Joshua would’ve simply sent in more spies, and she and her family would’ve been wiped out along with the rest of Jericho.

And neither of these people would become the ancestors of Jesus. Mt 1.1-5 And for that matter, his brother James, the very author of this letter.

Unproven, uncomfortable, devilish faith.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 June

James 2.18-19.

More than once in these James articles, I’ve mentioned Christians who don’t realize sola fide means justification by faith alone; who think it means salvation by faith alone. And because they know we’re not saved by works, Ep 2.9 they therefore insist faith isn’t a work. Can’t be. ’Cause we’re not saved by works.

I don’t know that James suffered from Christians who believed the same way for the same reason. More likely he was just dealing with people who don’t understand what faith is. Lotta Christians have that problem. Some of us still think it’s the magic ability to wish so hard, stuff comes true. Which is what’ll happen when you base your theology on Disney princess movies instead of your bible.

It’s why James had to demonstrate, from the bible, why this sort of thinking was all wet. But first his comment about how even demons, the lesser gods of Greek mythology and the fake gods behind idolatry, also have faith—for all the good it does ’em.

James 2.17-19 KWL
17 This “faith,” when it’s all by itself and takes no action, is dead.
18 But someone’ll say you have faith—and I have works.
Show me your workless “faith.” I’ll show you, from my works, faith.
19 You have faith that God is One. Good job!
The demons also have this faith—and it grates on them.

I should first point out my translation differs from the usual way bibles render verse 18:

James 2.18 NIV
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Historically su pístin ékheis kagó érga ékho/“you have faith and I have works” has been translated as a quote, as stated by this hypothetical tis/“someone” James brought up.

The reason I don’t translate it as a quote, is because if you believed faith and works were two different things, would you argue, “You have faith and I have works”? Aren’t you trying to argue you’re the one with the faith? “You have faith” is a concession; you’d lose your argument immediately. You wouldn’t say, “You have faith”; you’d say “I have faith,” the exact opposite. Taking the quotes off means you did say you have faith.

The reason other translators do translate it as a quote, is because it’s better Greek. James should’ve phrased it aftós pístin ékhei—“But someone’ll say he has faith—and I have works.” Writing su pístin ékheis/“you have faith” makes it feel like the pronoun su/“you” has no connection with the pronoun tis/“someone.”

Because we translators have to know and follow the rules of Greek grammar, we forget sometimes the writers of the New Testament didn’t follow them. (Like us, Greek wasn’t necessarily their first language.) If they suddenly look like they’ve contradicted themselves, it might be a grammar problem. Translators need to remember the meaning of the text is infallible, but the grammar of the text is flexible. Grammar’s rules are a human invention, not a divine one. If the NT writers break those rules, it’s okay. Adjust for that, and make sure they get their point across.

All right, back to the demons.

An irreligious religion.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 June
RELIGION ri'lɪ.dʒən noun. Worship of a superhuman controlling power, usually a personal God or impersonal universe.
2. Particular system of belief and worship, as demonstrated through actions and declarations.
3. A supremely important pursuit or interest, followed as if worship.
[Religious ri'lɪ.dʒəs adjective.]

A significant part of authentic Christianity is religion: We worship God, and we do it through actions. For any belief system which doesn’t take any action, which doesn’t result in any changed lives or good deeds (or even bad deeds), isn’t real. Or, as James puts it, it’s dead. Jm 2.26

But for a lot of Evangelicals in the United States, religion’s become a bad word. “Religious” has become mixed up with traditional. More specifically with the more empty, meaningless traditions which attempt to express worship through action, but don’t appear to bring us any closer to God.

Fr’instance. When we were kids, and somebody taught us a rote prayer, they didn’t always explain why we pray rote prayers, or what good they can do, or what use they are. Sometimes they assumed we already knew. Sometimes they gave us a brief but inadequate explanation. Usually they gave me a wrong explanation. Just as often, I’d get no explanation: “Just do it. It’s what we do.” Consequently we did it, but never saw the point. Didn’t feel like it was doing anything for us. Kinda boring, actually.

The proper term for this is dead religion: Actions we don’t really believe in. Works without faith.

If it were explained properly, would it be living religion? Sometimes. My church, I think, did a really good and thorough job of explaining water baptism to me. It’s why I still tell new believers to get baptized as soon as they can, and stop putting it off till it’s “convenient.” But despite their explanations I still don’t think it absolutely vital to dunk people, or especially to tip them backwards into the water so they can get it up their noses. But I digress.

The problem is, Evangelicals drop that adjective “dead” and simply call these works religion. To them, dead religion is what “religion” means. For Christianity isn’t about practices and rituals: It’s about faith in the living God, as defined by Christ Jesus. It’s about grace, where God grants us his kingdom despite our really obvious inadequacies. The rituals, the practices, the charity, the obedience? All that stuff’s optional, they insist, since we’re saved by grace, not works. Ep 2.8-9 And really, since the works so easily turn into works without faith, best to avoid it altogether.

That’s what Evangelicals mean when they sing Darrell Evans’ 2002 song “Fields of Grace.” Third verse:

There’s a place where religion finally dies
There’s a place where I lose my selfish pride
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace

My previous church used to sing this, and a number of ’em would give a big whoop when we sang, “religion finally dies.” Not because they’re disobedient, uncharitable Christians; not at all. Again it’s because they considered religion and dead religion to be one and the same, and they’re so happy to be done with the wasteful hypocrisy. As, I expect, does Evans when he sings this.

But here’s the problem. In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the government officially deleted words from the language. Supposedly to make it more efficient; why have the word “bad” when “ungood” can do the job? But really it was because they astutely figured if we don’t have a word for something, it’s harder to express that idea without it. So if we drop the word “religion” from Christianese… how do we discuss the idea of faith lived out in good works? which words take its place? Do any?

In my experience, no.

Christianism’s usual idols.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 March

Christianism is a socially-acceptable outward form of Christianity. Whether there’s any actual Christianity underneath it, isn’t for me to say. Sometimes there’s a real live relationship with Jesus, an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit, resulting in some of his fruit, mixed in there somewhere. But the reason I still call it Christianism is ’cause there are glaring errors in the religion. Way too much fake fruit. Way too many compromises with the gospel.

Compromises, I should add, made for the sake of accommodating other gods. Christianism creates a façade of Christianity, but underneath it there are a lot of other religious practices which don’t follow Jesus much. They support other ideas. They seek other powers. They promote other movements. And if Jesus teaches otherwise, they mute him, reinterpret him, or ignore him, in favor of those less-than-Christian goals.

In a word, it’s idolatry. And since it’s everywhere, and plenty of other “good Christians” believe and practice the very same thing, Christianists assume it’s part of Christianity, and never ask themselves what the Spirit really wants ’em to do. Even when he’s given them serious doubts about popular Christian culture: They suppress those doubts and embrace the culture. They feel very pleased with themselves for turning off their brains, figuring that’s what God expects us to do when we “love the Lord your God with all your mind.” Mk 12.30 Makes ’em righteous Christians.

This resistance kinda exacerbates the problem. Because the Spirit is shouting so loud, in order to quench him Christianists try to keep themselves too busy to listen. They focus on public displays of piety. They pray and meditate less often, and when they pray in public, it’s always at God or towards God, never with God. (Lots of ’em aren’t sure he talks back anyway.) They claim the Spirit illuminates what the scriptures mean when they read their bibles, but in reality they look for meaning in their study bible notes, or in their favorite preachers and books.

If you don’t listen to God, of course there’s gonna be way less fruit. Less repentance, change of heart, internal struggle against sin, or pursuit of holiness. Less worship.

And more idolatry.

Christians in private, but reprobate in public.

by K.W. Leslie, 20 February

Whenever people claim to be Christian, but it’s kinda obvious they’re following the Christian crowd instead of Jesus—or at least sucking up to the Christian crowd heavily in order to get votes—I call ’em “Christianist.”

It’s a word I learned from Andrew Sullivan, and it’s a godsend. ’Cause too many people don’t know what to call such people. Fake Christians? Cultural Christians? Christians-in-name-only? I don’t wanna call them false Christians, ’cause they may very well have an actual saving relationship with Jesus. Maybe they just suck at religion. Maybe they’re hiding their light. A lot of partisans claim our current president is a “baby Christian,” and the reason his behavior is as filled with bad fruit as a moldy mock apple pie, is because he hasn’t learned any better… but he does know Jesus. Well, “Christianist” gives him the benefit of the doubt.

But people of course assume by “Christianist” I mean you’re not Christian. So I get rebuked from time to time for using the term. How dare I state certain people aren’t Christian… just because I see no evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in these people’s lives: You don’t know what’s in their heart.”

Well, Jesus said it’ll be obvious in their fruit, so I think we all know; it’s just when you’re partisan or biased, you don’t wanna see it.

But let’s give ’em the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know how they are in private. I only know what they do in public. In public they’re just awful.

They’re promiscuous, and sometimes proud of it. They’re unethical. They blatantly worship Mammon, and prioritize it over the needy. They’re filled with fear, hatred, and anger. They get envious, jealous, and partisan. Try to pick fights; try to cause division; try to create enemies. Y’know, stuff which indicates they’re not gonna inherit God’s kingdom. Ga 5.19-21 Yet I’m expected to ignore all the bright red flags because I’m “not supposed to judge.” Or I’m not supposed to forget God’s grace can save any a--hole, ’cause hey, God saved me.

Let’s not forget the “fruit” these miscreants regularly point to. Some claim they read the bible; problem is we’ve no evidence they live by what they read from the scriptures. (Being able to quote bible doesn’t count.) Or they claim they pray; problem is we’ve no evidence they ever heard God talking back. Which is a vital part of prayer, y’know. Granted, they might be cessationists who believe God doesn’t respond, or only speaks to prophets—even when their churches teach otherwise.

Or they go to church! Fr’instance many politicians claim to be Catholic. Problem is, we all know they’re hardly in lockstep with their church’s teachings. The Roman Catholic Church’s views on abortion and the death penalty are widely known: They’re prolife, and consider both acts murder. Yet political conservatives ignore their church on the death penalty, and progressives ignore their church on abortion. Politicians claim it’s ’cause they heed the public will, and won’t foist their church’s teachings upon the public. Problem is, their every action proves their church’s views aren’t theirs: They publicly, loudly, and vigorously defend the contrary view with legislation, speeches, marches, and rallies. If you claim to be a church’s member, yet publicly stand against your church’s interpretation of the fifth commandment, stands to reason you likewise ignore their other teachings.

In sum, their public actions declare for all the world to see, “I don’t give a sloppy wet crap what Jesus teaches.” It’s the passive (in some cases passive-aggressive) form of denying Christ before others. Something Jesus kinda sees as important:

Matthew 10.32-33 KWL
32 “Everyone who’ll agree with me before the people: I’ll agree with them before my heavenly Father.
33 Those who’ll refuse me before the people: I’ll refuse them before my heavenly Father.”

I can’t say with absolute certainty they belong to Jesus or not. But they really haven’t given me a lot of evidence in favor of such a relationship.

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 January

All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.

“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.

SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”
ME. “It’s still Christmas.”
SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”
ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?
SHE.What lasts 12 days?”
ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”
SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”
ME.I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”
SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”
ME. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”
SHE. [irritated scoff]

Tell many a Christian that today’s the 11th day of Christmas, and that’s the response you’ll get from them. The irritated scoff. Christmas ended last month. And good riddance. They were so done with the holiday once Christmas dinner was over. And if they weren’t, the hassle of returning Christmas gifts did it for ’em.

Like I said back in my advent article, a lot of people have adopted the mindset our popular culture foists upon ’em. To them, the Christmas season begins on Black Friday, ends 25 December, and the rest is just aftermath and cleanup. Put the decorations away as soon as possible, ’cause it’s time to concentrate on the new year. And the stores are already selling Valentine’s Day items. (“Already? Are you kidding me?”)

But if you’ve burnt out on Christmas, it’s because you’ve not really been celebrating Christmas. You’ve been celebrating the awful Mammonist substitute the stories peddle. Our churches unwittingly help ’em do it too. We perpetuate the idea of a one-day holiday, a frenzy of gifts and toys and events, and a slapped-on veneer of “Remember the reason for the season!”

In fact Christmas is primarily about how Christ the savior is born. If you’re doing Christmas correctly, and someone brings up the word “Christmas” after the 25th, that’s the mental image which should’ve immediately popped into your mind. Not decorations, toys, and obligations. Jesus has come. ’Cause if your first response is to scoff… you did it wrong.

“If my people pray, I’ll heal their land.”

by K.W. Leslie, 27 October

2 Chronicles 7.14.

Today’s out-of-context verse is really popular with civic idolaters, those folks who assume when Jesus returns, he won’t overthrow the United States: It’s the one exception to the kingdoms of this world which must become part of Christ’s one-world government. To them, it already is his kingdom, and Americans already are God’s chosen people. It’s just we’re heavily mismanaging things. But once we call upon God… well, lemme quote their beloved bible verse.

2 Chronicles 7.14 KJV
…if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Right. If our Christian nation returns to God, and returns to proper Christian values (as defined by popular Christian culture), and makes big shows of repentance like public prayer and voting for the prolife political party (and never mind what the party’s candidates think about the needy, the stranger, the widows and orphans—heck, women in general): God will heal our land. Turn it into his kingdom on earth. Make it paradise. Maybe even hold back on the End Times for a few more years, so we can finally accomplish all our personal goals for wealth, romance, and material success, without that pesky rapture messing up our schedule. Yet at the same time, in our church services, claiming we’re getting the church ready to meet her groom. Rv 21.2

Yeah, it’s a wholly inconsistent theology. But fear’ll do that to people.

Anyway, whenever I object to them ripping 2 Chronicles 7.14 out of its historical context, I regularly get accused of not loving the United States like they do. And they’re right: It definitely ain’t like they do. I love the United States like God loves the world—and wants to save it. Jn 3.16 I want as many Americans as possible to turn to God. I don’t assume they already have. Polls prove we think we have, but crime and abortion rates prove we haven’t. So I remain mindful my citizenship is in God’s kingdom. And every time the Holy Spirit wakes me up to the fact the United States and the kingdom are opposed, I’m siding with the kingdom. Every time. As should every Christian—instead of bending the truth till we can play both sides.

When we remake Jesus in our image.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 September
PROJECTION prə'dʒɛk.ʃən, proʊ'dʒɛk.ʃən noun. Unconscious transfer of one’s ideas to another person.
[Project prə'dʒɛkt, proʊ'dʒɛkt verb.]

When we’re talking popular Christian culture’s version of Christianity, i.e. Christianism, we’re not really talking about what Jesus teaches. We’re talking about what we’d like to think Jesus teaches. We’re talking about our own ideas, projected onto Jesus like he’s a screen and we’re a camera obscura. We’re progressive… and how about that, so is Jesus! Or we’re conservative… and how handy is it that Jesus feels precisely the same as we do?

Y’know, the evangelists told us when we come to Jesus, our whole life would have to change. But when we’re Christianist, we discover to our great pleasure and relief our lives really didn’t have to change much at all.

We had to learn a few new handy Christianese terms:

PAGAN WAY OF SAYING ITCHRISTIAN WAY OF SAYING IT
“I think…”“I just think God’s telling me…”
“I strongly think…”“God’s telling me…”
“I feel…”“I just feel in my spirit…”
“I don’t wanna do that.”“We should just take that to God in prayer.”
“That scares me.”“I just feel a check in my spirit.”
“That pisses me off.”“That just grieves my spirit.”
F--- you and the horse you rode in on.”“I’ll pray for you.”

and we learned a few handy ways to act more Christian. Like learning all the Christian-sounding justifications for our fruitless behavior. Like pointing to orthodox Christian beliefs as the evidence of our new life in Christ; it’s way easier to learn and repeat than to develop fruit of the Spirit. Like how to act like Christians when surrounded by Christians, but be your usual pagan self otherwise, and never once ask yourself whether this is hypocrisy.

As for what Jesus actually teaches, for actually following him: Christianists figure we do follow him. ’Cause we believe in him. Jn 6.40 That’s how you get eternal life, right? Jn 3.16 Just believe. Nothing more. So we do nothing more. We’ve got faith, God figures this faith makes us righteous, Ro 3.22 and being righteous means we’re right. God rewires our minds so everything we think is right and good and usually infallible.

Problem is, that’s not how we become right. That’s how we stay wrong. That’s how we wind up arrogantly assuming the way we think, is the way God thinks. That all our depraved, self-centered motives are spiritual insights into how God’s gonna bring glory to himself. How God’s sovereignty and God’s kingdom works. How God’s sense of justice and wrath is gonna affect all the people in the world who, coincidentally, are the objects of our ire, spite, and disgust.

God’s ways are not our ways. Is 55.8-9 All the more true if we never bother to study God’s ways. But when we’re Christianists we think we know his ways, ’cause we have his Spirit (whom we barely follow), learned a few memory verses (some even in context!), skimmed a bit of bible, heard Sunday sermons for the past several years… and all our Christianist friends believe the very same way we do. There’s no way we could all be leading one another astray.

Dark Christianity.

by K.W. Leslie, 26 January

God is light. For this reason Christians ought not walk in the dark. 1Jn 1.5-10 People don’t bother to read this passage in context, and assume “light” and “dark” has to do with truth versus lies, or revelation versus mysteries. Nope; it has to do with obedience versus sin. Christians shouldn’t sin, and when we live in light, we oughta stay out of sin.

But more than that. We shouldn’t fixate on sin either. We shouldn’t obsess about what sinners are up to. We shouldn’t analyze the devil’s works in order to understand it better, Rv 2.24 on the pretense that knowledge is power. Our strength isn’t mean to come through our studies of devilish strategies: We’re to be strong through God’s power. Ep 6.10 Resist temptation. Lead others to the light.

However, there are loads of Christians who firmly believe a significant part of our duties—if not our only duty—is to study sin, fight it, and condemn it.

In preparation these folks spend an awful lot of time on the dark side of Christianity. They wanna instruct the church in Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, and be ever vigilant to battle He Who Shall Not Be Named. (Forgive all the Harry Potter references, but there are an awful lot of parallels. It’s like J.K. Rowling grew up Christian or something.) Namely these areas:

  • The fall of the angels, the fall of humanity, original sin, total depravity.
  • Sin, mortal sin, unforgiveable sin, spiritual death, spiritual suicide, apostasy, heresy, works of the flesh, temptation.
  • Satan and its fellow tempters: Unclean spirits, devils, demons, idols, antichrists.
  • Spiritual warfare, exorcisms, intercessory prayer, hedges, umbrellas of protection.
  • The End Times: Signs of the times, fulfillment of end-times prophecy, rapture readiness, tribulation, the Beast.
  • Theodicy, judgments, punishments, double predestination, hades, purgatory, hell, second death.

True, all Christian theologians deal with this stuff, ’cause it’s part of Christianity. It’s the stuff Jesus defeated and frees us from, so we now can have an abundant life in God’s kingdom.

But to certain dark Christians we’re not free of these things. Not at all. ’Cause there’s still evil in the world, isn’t there? We still have the gates of hell to knock down. Jesus’s mission may have been to destroy the devil’s works, 1Jn 3.8 but they don’t believe he’s yet accomplished it. They believe it’s now our mission. They don’t consider the fact our own depravity might get in the way of accurately identifying evil, or corrupt us into using devilish methods to fight it—that Jesus really does want us to have nothing to do with evil.

Because dark Christians figure our primary duty isn’t to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, but fight sin, people don’t see them as bringers of light, peace, hope, love, and good news. Just darkness. They make pagans flinch and fellow Christians facepalm. Our job of proclaiming good news becomes significantly harder, because now we gotta make up for the fruitless actions of these nimrods: Pagans think we’re all like that, or suspect any loving actions on our part have, at the back of them, hatred, fear, horror, and judgment.