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Showing posts with the label #Faith

Pray like Elijah.

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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 NKJV 16 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

You say “faith,” but you mean religion.

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FAITH feɪθ noun. Complete trust or confidence in someone/something. 2. Religion: A system of beliefs and practices about God. 3. A strongly-held belief or theory, maintained despite a lack of proof. 4. A name Christians like to give their daughters. My niece, fr’instance. [Faithful 'feɪθ.fəl adjective. ] I bring up the definition of faith because today I’m addressing the second definition: A system of beliefs. A religion. A lot of Evangelicals in the United States have this idea that religion is a bad thing. It’s because they mixed up religion with dead religion, and they don’t practice that . They don’t go practice rituals they don’t believe in; they’re not just going through the motions. They have a real relationship with God. Which is why they’re so quick to tell everyone, “I have a relationship, not a religion.” Since they really don’t wanna use the word “religion” except to rebuke and mock it… how are they gonna describe their system of beliefs and p

“Believing for God” and viruses.

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As I write this, the United States is dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus; specifically COVID -19. It’s as communicable as flu, and a little more fatal, so people are encouraged to wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, and stay away from one another. And since humans are creatures of extremes, this also means they’re stockpiling supplies, “just in case.” This is why the grocery stores are running out of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and certain types of food. (The average American diet being as lousy as it is, y’notice the stores aren’t really running out of fresh fruits and vegetables though. Just saying.) Likewise a lot of major events, like sports and concerts—any venue where they’ll pack a lot of people in the audience—are getting canceled, just in case someone with coronavirus is there, and infects everyone else. Better safe than sorry. I live in California. Our governor encouraged everyone to cancel any large gatherings: Any events with 2

Time wasted on bad theology—and its temptations.

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When I was a teenager I wanted an audio bible. At the time I couldn’t afford one. This was back when they were on cassette tapes, and cost about $150. No foolin’. So I decided the only alternative was to do it myself. I cracked open a six-pack of blank cassettes, cracked open my bible, and started recording. Started with the New Testament. Got as far as Acts . Definitely took more than six cassettes! Then I came across an audio New Testament for $20. ( Narrated by James Earl Jones, too.) For a brief moment there I thought about not buying it. After all, I’d spent a lot of time making one on my own. I didn’t wanna consider it time (and cassettes) wasted. But what made more sense?—buy the superior product, or persist in doing it myself? Yep, I bought the audio bible. Years later I finally got the Old Testament too, ’cause someone put Alexander Scourby’s narration on the internet, and even though I only had a dial-up modem, I patiently downloaded every single tinny file. I’ve

Christians who lack faith.

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Nope, didn’t title this piece “Christians who doubt.” Because everybody doubts. Which isn’t a bad thing. Jesus doesn’t want his followers to be gullible simpletons who can’t discern the difference between truth and rubbish. Mt 10.16 If we just put our faith in people indiscriminately—believe everything our friends say, believe everything the politicians tweet, believe everything the anti-vaxxer websites claim, never fact-check our preachers to make sure what they’re telling us is valid—we’re gonna be such fools. Doubt away. But there’s a very particular form of doubt Jesus objects to most: Doubting him . So when we talk about “Christians who lack faith,” it’s not about Christians who question all the doctrines and teachings which we presume are settled, like good postmoderns will do. It’s about Christians who lack faith in Jesus . Yep him —not fellow Christians. And sometimes these Christians will try to mix these categories together: They’ll insist if you doubt them,

When faith gets shaken. (Not if. When.)

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Part of normal, healthy Christian growth is discovering we’re wrong. ’Cause we are. I’m wrong, you’re wrong; every Christian is wrong. We all have incorrect beliefs about the universe, God, Christ, the bible, salvation, how Christians oughta behave, everything. We learned them from other messed-up Christians. Or we learned them from our messed-up world, but assume they’re still correct, ’cause our fellow Christians believe ’em too. Or even despite what our fellow Christians insist. Fr’instance when a pagan comes to Jesus, she figures now she’s gotta give up all her porn. (Or any other frowned-upon activity.) She’s heard good Christians don’t get mixed up in porn, so she shouldn’t either. But of course she discovers all her Christian friends are super into porn, so she’s so relieved—hey, it’s no problem!—and that’s what she’ll believe from now on. If her pastor rails against porn, won’t matter; she’ll keep her own opinion. And keep it to herself, same as all the other inconsi

The fake fruit of fidelity.

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So as I wrote previously, the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians is πίστις / pístis , “faith.” Not, as too various bible translations render it, “faithfulness.” Like the ESV . Galatians 5.22-23 ESV 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Faith is also a supernatural gift of the Spirit, and various Christians wanna make a distinction between gifts and fruit. (Usually ’cause they have some problematic beliefs about the gifts.) So they prefer the interpretation “faithfulness.” By which they mean fidelity —you can be depended upon to do as you say, to stand up for those you love. And hey, fidelity can be an admirable trait. But that all depends on whom we show fidelity to. As humanity has demonstrated lots of times, we can show fidelity to some really godless people, ideas, and institutions. We can do profoundly stupid or evil things in their support—because

The prayer of faith. Or not.

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James 5.13-18. There’s a blog I follow. A few weeks ago the author wrote about how he no longer believes in prayer: He no longer believes it heals people. ’Cause he’s tried to heal people. He’s a pastor; he’s been in thousands of situations where he’s prayed for the sick and dying, or been asked to pray for them. He’s led prayer vigils and prayer chains, and begged God over and over and over again to cure people or let ’em live. He hasn’t got the results he wanted: Either God didn’t cure them (or didn’t cure them enough), or didn’t let them live. So he’s figuring prayer must not work that way: It’s not about making our petitions known to God, on the grounds God might intervene in human history and do us a miracle. It’s only about being God-mindful, and letting that personally transform us and our attitudes. He’s not the first Christian to claim this. I grew up in cessationist churches, and heard it all the time from Christians who don’t believe God intervenes; that pray

The fruit of faithfulness, or the fruit of faith?

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Where Paul lists the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians , a lot of bibles translate one of the words he used, πίστις / pístis , as “faithfulness.” But that’s not the usual way pístis gets translated in the bible. Typically it’s translated “faith.” And that’s what I believe Paul meant: Faith. Not faithfulness. Not that faithfulness isn’t an admirable trait; not that good fruitful Christians aren’t faithful to God—and faithful to fellow Christians, even when we mess up or sin against one another. But then again, nontheists, pagans, and people of other religions, are frequently faithful to their beliefs and principles, and notoriously stick to them even tighter than Christians will to ours. Heck, dogs are faithful. Loyalty doesn’t take the Holy Spirit. Misbegotten loyalty proves that. Whereas faith is obviously the product of the Spirit: When people don’t have the Spirit, we won’t trust the Spirit. We won’t believe the bible. We’ll invent all sorts of reasons why we needn’t believe i

Discernment: Actual deductive reasoning.

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God gives us wisdom. Use it to detect when people are leading us astray. I’ve written briefly on the supernatural kind of discernment—one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us to minister to others, But today I get to the stuff we totally realize on our own. Good old-fashioned brain-powered discernment. The ability to judge stuff. There are two kinds of discernment. There’s the supernatural stuff, one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us so we can minister to others, which enables us to realize stuff we’d never realize on our own. And there’s the natural stuff, the ability to figure stuff out on our own. Today I’m writing about the natural stuff. Unfortunately there are Christians who don’t realize there are two kinds. Either they think it’s all supernatural, and that every person with a knack for deductive reasoning must be some sort of prophet ( and no they’re not ); or they think none of it’s supernatural, including cases where the available evidence can’t possibly have

The Fear.

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Seems appropriate for the day before Halloween to talk about the Fear. The main reason why Christians don’t act in faith? Why we won’t share Jesus with our neighbors and coworkers? Why we don’t pray for people to be cured of illnesses, freed from addictions, rescued from troubles? Why we never even think to ask God for miracles? Why we don’t prophesy, even though we’re sure God is talking to us right this instant? Why we don’t start ministries, don’t offer help, don’t encourage, don’t anything ? The Fear. You’ve likely met Christians who’re the most friendly, outgoing, outspoken, extroverted people you’ve ever seen. Got no trouble with public speaking. No trouble sharing their opinions—even when you’d rather they didn’t. No trouble talking about their favorite movies, teams, products, politics. Maybe a little initial stage fright, but they shake it off quickly. But when it comes to talking about Jesus or acting in faith, these very same Christians seize up and never snap out

When faith won’t fit in the pagan pigeonhole.

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’Cause skeptics hate it when you inform ’em you don’t believe in wishful thinking either. When Christians define the word faith , we go with the definition found in Hebrews . “The solid basis of hope, the proof of actions we’ve not seen,” is how I usually put it. He 11.1 We haven’t seen something, but we believe it anyway—for solid reasons. Usually ’cause we’re taking someone’s word for it, like Jesus’s. When pagans define it, they either go with wishful thinking, blind optimism, or the ability to believe imaginary things without evidence. You know, stuff we shouldn’t believe. And to be fair, some Christians do think of faith that way, ’cause they haven’t read Hebrews , or their leaders did a sucky job teaching ’em about faith. It’s not like they got their false definition from nowhere. Yep, I read Hebrews , and my church leaders were pretty good about defining faith accurately. So when skeptical pagans start to mock faith—“Oh, you Christians only believe that rubbish because

Blind faith: Those who say “we see,” and don’t.

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When faith isn’t based on anything or anyone trustworthy. Whenever pagans talk about faith, their usual definition of the word is “the magical ability to believe goofy nonsense.” You know, stuff people really shouldn’t believe. In some cases stuff that’s dangerous to believe. Fr’instance antivaxxers. They believe vaccines cause autism, or contain poisonous chemicals, or believe they’re otherwise harmful. Hence they refuse to get their kids vaccinated. I’m not quite sure what it says about them, that they’d prefer to see their kids dead than autistic… but it’s nothing good. What I do know is, thanks to them, childhood diseases which should be a thing of the past, are back—and posing a grave danger not just to their children, but to other children with compromised immune systems, or for whatever reasons can’t be vaccinated. Their belief in goofy nonsense is deadly . So yeah, if this what you think “faith” means, of course you’d think it wrong. Even evil. But it’s not at al

Reason. And how faith interacts with it.

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Faith and reason are only contradictions when you’re doing faith wrong. Faith is complete trust and confidence in something or someone. When Christians talk about faith, we usually mean our complete trust and confidence in Jesus. (That or we’re using “my faith” to mean “my religion”; that or we’re using the word wrong. Which happens.) We put our faith in Jesus; we believe what he tells us about God; we trust his teachings, obey his instructions, and otherwise follow him. Of course when I talk about faith with pagans, I don’t always remember to clear up their misunderstandings about what faith is. Darned near all of them think faith is the magical ability to believe nonsense. As Mark Twain put it, faith is “believing what you know ain’t so.” If I have faith, as they define faith, I have the power to believe in Santa Claus —even as an adult, who should know better! If I have faith, I have the ability to believe completely unreasonable things. Indeed they should expect I believe c

Faith, works, and faith righteousness.

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If you believe in faith righteousness, you’ve misdefined faith as orthodoxy. Which is a work. Yet faith isn’t a work… right? Yesterday I brought up faith righteousness , the idea we’re saved by having all the correct doctrines and beliefs. I’ve found it to be a pretty widespread belief among new believers, who haven’t yet learned better; and Fundamentalists, who should’ve learned better, but those Fundamentals are just so darned important to them. Anyway they’re wrong; God saves us by his grace. Orthodoxy is a good work, so by all means pursue the right beliefs about God. By all means do good works. But we’re not saved by works. We’re saved first , by grace, so that God can empower us to do such works. Doing the works first, and trying to achieve salvation by merit, doesn’t work either. Not that plenty of people, including plenty of confused Christians, don’t try. Karma is a mighty ingrained idea in humanity, and it’s hard to wean us off it. But one common and odd little s

“Faith-righteousness”: Saved by what you believe.

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FAITH RIGHTEOUSNESS /'feɪθ raɪ.tʃəs.nəs/ n. A right standing (with God or others) achieved through orthodox beliefs. I coined the term “faith righteousness” some years ago. It’s a common American belief, based on several false ideas. First of all misdefined faith. Properly faith means trust; and Christian faith means trust in God. When we Christians talk about “justification by faith,” what this properly means is we trust God, and God considers us all right with him based on that trust. Y’know, like when Abraham trusted God, Ge 15.6 which was the foundation of their relationship. (And the foundation for Paul’s teachings on justification. Ro 4.3 ) But in popular American culture, faith means one’s belief system . It’s a definition we find all over Christianity too, especially among Christians who don’t care for the word “religion,” and like to use the word “faith” instead: “I don’t have a religion; I have a faith.” Meaning—to their minds—they don’t have rituals they d

Grow your faith!

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As I’ve written multiple times, authentic faith is not the magic power to believe ridiculous things. It’s “the proof of actions we’ve not seen,” He 11.1 KWL stuff we believe even though we haven’t seen it for ourselves, because we trust those who told us this stuff. Because they’re trustworthy. (And they’d better be trustworthy.) More than that: It’s when we act on this stuff. Fr’instance your friend told you a certain movie was good. You heard it wasn’t, but you have faith in your friend—specifically, his judgment about movies—so you ignore what everyone else told you, and go see the movie for yourself. And either your faith in your friend is proven, ’cause the movie was good… or it was broken, ’cause it sucked. Either way, you acted on faith. Yes, that’s faith . I know; the way people commonly define faith, it sounds more like you go to see a movie regardless of what anyone tells you, because you want so badly for it to be good, and are hoping it’ll be good if you wis

Certainty isn’t faith.

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Certainty may come later. Till then, we have faith. “I know this to be true, because I have faith.” I’ve heard more than one Christian say such a thing. It’s ’cause they don’t realize that’s a self-contradictory statement. Hebrews 11.1 KWL Faith is the solid basis of hope, the proof of actions we’ve not seen. Faith isn’t the solid basis of knowledge , but the solid basis of hope . Properly we hope certain things are true because we have faith. We don’t know yet. Gonna know eventually. But not yet. So when I read in the scriptures God’s gonna resurrect me someday, I gotta admit: I don’t know he will. Because the basis of knowledge is experience, and I haven’t had the experience of being resurrected. Yet. Now, Jesus did have the experience of being resurrected. He taught on, and believed in, the resurrection. Mt 22.29-32 He stated he’s the resurrection, and when we trust him, we’ll experience it. Jn 20.25-26 That’s why it’s an orthodox Christian belief. That’s why

Is faith a gift?

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Mixing up the types of faith, is why a lot of Christians don’t develop their faith. Oh, I won’t bury the lead. Is faith a gift? Well, supernatural faith is a gift. The other types of faith? Nah. I know why various Christians claim faith, all faith, is a gift. It’s usually ’cause it says so in their church’s catechism. Fr’instance the Heidelberg Catechism: 65. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: Where then does that faith come from? A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments. Various scriptures indicate that people have faith after hearing the gospel, Ro 10.17 and the writers of the catechisms kinda stretched these verses to imply it was the gospel, and God granting us the ability to understand the gospel, 1Co 2.10-14 which generated the faith in us. It wasn’t our ability to trust what we heard; it was God sorta flipping a switch in us so that n

Doubt’s okay. Unbelief’s the problem.

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Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Unbelief is. I’ve been told more than once, “In the scriptures, Jesus came down awfully hard against doubt. How then can you claim doubt is our friend? ” ’Cause Jesus’s objection wasn’t actually to doubt. It was to unbelief. Contrary to popular opinion—and way too many bible translations—doubt isn’t the opposite of belief. Unbelief is. Doubt’s not the same as unbelief. Doubt means we’re not sure we believe. Unbelief means we’re totally sure—and we don’t believe at all. Doubt’s what happens when we sorta kinda do believe. But we’re not entirely sure. So we suspend judgment till we get more evidence. And often that’s precisely the right thing to do. Y’realize Christians constantly get scammed by false teachers, fake prophets, and con artists who tell ’em, “Stop doubting me and just believe!” In so doing they’re trying to keep us from practicing discernment, because if we did use our heads we’d realize what they were up to. They don’t want u