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

15 August 2018

Election: God did choose you, y’know.

Because you didn’t just wander into Christianity. God wants you.

ELECT /ə'lɛkt/ v. Choose for a purpose or position, like a political contest or a job.
2. n. A person (or people) chosen by God for a purpose or position. [Often “the elect.”]
[Elector /ə'lɛk.tər/ n., election /ə'lɛk.ʃən/ n.]

I grew up with a Christian mom, a Christian upbringing, and lots of relationships with people who happened to be Christian. Whole lot of opportunities to have God-experiences. It’s kinda like I was set up: Stuff was deliberately stuck in my path to influence me to become Christian.

Other Christians didn’t grow up the same way, of course. Things were a lot less Christian, a lot more pagan—or they grew up with another religion altogether. But at one point in their lives they were obviously nudged in Christ Jesus’s direction. Maybe they had a rough patch and Christians showed up to point ’em to Jesus. Maybe a miracle happened and they realized, not just that God’s here, but that Jesus defines him best. In some cases Jesus even personally showed up and told them to follow him—’cause he does that.

The fact is, God wants to save everybody. Jesus died to make it possible, and everybody’s been given the invitation to come to Jesus, be adopted by God, and enter his kingdom. Everybody, without exception, is invited. He’s not turning anyone away. (Unless they clearly don’t want him, or don’t mean it; but those are other discussions.)

But. Even though God’s invitation is for anyone and everyone, there are lots of individuals whom he makes a particular effort to save. Like me, ’cause he set me up to become Christian. Like you, more than likely: When you look back on your life, chances are you can think of many situations where God was getting your attention, moving you into place, coming after you. Some of them were really obvious moves on his part. Some were more subtle. Hey, whatever got you into the kingdom. But God definitely, specifically, wanted you.

And when that’s the case we Christians call it election.

29 May 2018

When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.

As Stevie Wonder put it, superstition ain’t the way.

SUPERSTITION /su.pɜr'stɪ.ʃən/ n. Belief or practice based on a false idea of cause and effect. Usually faith in magic, luck, karmic consequences, junk science, or ignorance. Sometimes irrational fear of the unknown.
2. Belief or practice held despite reasonable contrary evidence.
[Superstitious /su.pɜr'stɪ.ʃəs/ adj.]

Obviously the title comes from the Stevie Wonder song. (And if you don’t know it then you’ve been deprived. That bassline alone makes it a classic.)

Christians might claim we’re not superstitious: We trust Jesus, not circumstances! But spend any time at all among us, and you’ll find that to be utter rubbish. I would argue Christians are generally more superstitious than pagans.

Some of it comes from dark Christians who are entirely sure devils are lurking under everything they don’t like. I grew up among such Christians. Some of ’em actually tried to teach me that because the rock ’n roll backbeat runs contrary to the human heartbeat (and no it doesn’t), it makes anyone who listens to it extra receptive to demonic possession. That all sorts of things make people extra receptive to demonic possession. Your radio, your television, your computer, your phone; certain books, certain movies… I would guess the public library is just teeming with critters eager to jump us, if these folks are to be believed, and no they’re not.

Some of it comes from Christians who’ve been taught by young-earth creationists that you can’t trust science. So they don’t. But they’re willing to trust everything else, and unfortunately a lot of the alternatives are based on junk science, created by quacks and charlatans, promoted by fearmongers, spread by unproven anecdotes. They give people a false sense of “wellness” when in fact they’re not well at all. They get Christians to shun vaccines, avoid medication, fear psychiatry, reject treatments, refuse blood transfusions, and replace tried-and-proven methods with vitamins, herbs, oils, scents, homeopathy, and “eastern” (properly, pagan) medicine. You know, the stuff witch doctors tried in Jesus’s day, which ultimately left people so plagued with evil spirits, Jesus might’ve had to do more exorcisms than cures.

Some of it comes from Christians who have no idea how God talks to us. Often their churches never taught ’em, and sometimes don’t even believe God talks. So they had to figure it out on their own, and of course they’ve guessed wrong. Or they found some pagan ideas about how “the universe” speaks to us, gave ’em a try, they seemed to work, and that’s become their go-to method for “reading the signs,” interpreting the clues God supposedly leaves us in nature. Thing is, most pagan ideas are based on karma. So no surprise, a lot of the Christian practice of signs-interpretation is also based on whether we’re “worthy enough” for God to do stuff for us.

And some of it is just minor, silly things. Fr’instance my youth group once held a raffle, and just for evil fun I found us a roll of tickets whose numbers started with 666. Many of the adults in our church were pleased to buy our tickets… until they found out what their ticket number began with. Some of ’em wouldn’t even touch their tickets. It’s not like possession of a raffle ticket makes you complicit with the Beast! But still: That number is a serious boogeyman to a lot of people.

But superstition betrays two things: People don’t know or trust God as much as they claim. And people are seriously deficient in common sense. In some cases they suspend their common sense, ’cause they think they have to; they think they’re not allowed as Christians to trust science, or think it’s some sort of faith compromise.

But the reality is the Christians who tell them to do so, the people they look up to for spiritual guidance, are superstitious fools. So superstition gets spread instead of faith, even disguised as faith. And Christians get mocked for being morons.

It’s a cycle we’ve gotta break by using our brains: Demand evidence. Demand proof. Test everything. Same as we do (well, should do) with prophecy. 1Th 5.21 Don’t be gullible; be wise. Don’t be superstitious; persistently pursue truth.

07 May 2018

Killing the pigs.

How the destruction of 2,000 pigs wasn’t at all Jesus’s idea—and actually got in his way.

Mark 5.11-20 • Matthew 8.30-34 • Luke 8.32-39

Picking up where I left off: Jesus and his students traveled to the Dekapolis, a province (well, more like 10 provinces) in northern Israel inhabited by Syrian Greeks, located on the far side of the lake. They encountered a man (Matthew says two of ’em) infested with the sort of evil spirits which pagan Greeks worshiped as minor gods, a.k.a. demons. The spirits were making the poor demoniac’s life hell. They realized Jesus wouldn’t tolerate what they were doing to the man, and would order them out of there. But they had an idea, which maybe they could get Jesus to go along with.

Mark 5.11-13 KWL
11 There was a great herd of pigs grazing near the hill.
12 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “Send us to the pigs, so we can enter them!”
13 Jesus allowed them, and coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs.
The herd stampeded to the cliff over the lake—like 2,000!—and drowned in the lake.
Matthew 8.30-32 KWL
30 Far off from them was a herd of many pigs, grazing.
31 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “If you throw us out, send us to the herd of pigs.”
32 Jesus told them, “Get out.” Coming out, they went off into the pigs.
Look, the whole herd rushed off the seacliff and died in the waters.
Luke 8.32-33 KWL
32 There was a great herd of pigs grazing on the hill.
The demons begged Jesus so he’d send them to enter the pigs
Jesus allowed them, 33 and coming out of the person, the demons entered the pigs.
The herd rushed off the cliff into the marsh, and drowned.

You might remember devout Jews don’t eat pork. It’s because the LORD identified any animals which aren’t ruminant, which do have split hooves, as ritually unclean. And God specifically singled out pigs, Lv 11.7 because nearly every other culture raises and eats them, and the Hebrews might get the idea a popular food animal might be an exception.

No, ritual uncleanliness does not mean pigs are sinful, nor that eating them is a sin. The only consequence in the scripture for eating an unclean animal is you couldn’t worship. You’d first have to baptize yourselves and wait till sundown. Realistically, if your only worship consisted of going to temple three times a year, Ex 23.14 technically you could eat pork all year long, abstain during the temple festivals, and you were good. Well, not that good. But good enough for worship, which is why certain Jews eat treyf (unclean things) all year round, and only abstain for the holidays.

But Pharisees strived to stay in a constant state of ritual cleanliness. Their custom dictated that you had to be ritually clean to go to synagogue, and they wanted to be prepared to enter the synagogue at any given time. (Lessons went on all week long, y’know.) So this meant a constant state of ritual cleanliness, which means no pork ever. In fact the idea of a herd of pigs, raised on land that was historically part of Israel’s covenant, would’ve bugged Pharisees greatly.

Anyway some commentators figure this fact puts a new spin on the story: Here are some animals which shouldn’t even have been in Israel anyway. So Jesus likely had no qualms about the demons destroying them, and even permitted them because he wanted the pigs dead. Go ahead demons; purge Israel of its swine.

Okay, now back up a few yards and let’s think about how contrary to Jesus’s character this interpretation is.

13 February 2018

“Efficacious grace”: When God’s grace turns dark.

The sort of “grace” which turns you into a new creation… by reprogramming you.

Because popular culture tends to define God by his power, not his character like the scriptures describe him, 1Jn 4.8 a lot of Christians do it too. The result is a lot of bad theology, where God’s love, grace, and justice unintentionally (but hey, sometimes very intentionally) take a distant second to his might and glory.

Take grace.

Properly defined, grace is God’s generous, forgiving, kind, favorable attitude towards his people. It’s what reaches out to people who totally don’t merit God’s attention whatsoever, loves us anyway, turns us into daughters and sons of the Most High, and grants us his kingdom. It’s amazing.

But when you imagine God’s single most important attribute is his power… well, grace looks extremely different. It’s no longer an attitude. It’s a determination. You will receive God’s grace, become his child, and be on the track for heaven. Or none of these things will happen, because God’s grace will never touch you, because God doesn’t want you. No we don’t know why; he just doesn’t. No you can’t change his mind; piss off.

I know: Under this redefinition, God’s grace is still amazing… but only for its recipients. For everybody else, God seems arbitrary, and downright cold. Because only a third of the planet considers themselves Christian. (Figure some of them aren’t really, and figure there are those, like Abraham ben Terah, whom God’s gonna save despite their inadequate knowledge of Jesus. I think it’ll still come out to be a third.) This means God’s perfectly fine with two-thirds of humanity going to hell. If so, he created an awful lot of unwanted people… and is deliberately making hell more full than heaven.

Yeah, that’s the usual problem when you make God out to be deterministic: Suddenly his plans for the universe are mighty evil. But hey, determinists don’t care: God wields all the power they could ever covet, and they’re going to heaven. They get theirs.

Calvinists tend to call this deterministic form of grace irresistible grace. Although lately a number of ’em realize just how rapey “irresistible” sounds, so they prefer the term efficacious grace—that if God decides to be gracious to us, this grace is so powerful, so mighty, it will have an effect upon us, and will do as God intends. ’Cause to their minds, the Almighty doesn’t merely want things, or wish for things: He determines things. And since he’s almighty, what force in the universe could possibly stop him from getting his way?

05 February 2018

Has God predetermined everything in the universe? Evil too?

Suppose it was all God’s idea.

DETERMINISM /di'tər.mən.ɪz.əm/ n. Belief every event is fixed in place by external causes other than human will.
[Determinist /di'tər.mən.ɪst/ n., deterministic /di'tər.mən.ɪst.ɪk/ adj.]

I first bumped into the idea of determinism when I was a kid, ’cause my parents let me read Mark Twain. A lot of people assume, thanks to Tom Sawyer, that Twain was a children’s author. Not even close. And in his later years, after so many of his family members died and Twain became more and more cynical, some of the things he wrote were mighty disturbing. What are the chances I read that stuff? Yep, 100 percent.

In Twain’s novella The Mysterious Stranger, some 16th-century German boys encounter a young angel named Satan (named for his uncle—yeah, that uncle) who takes them on adventures. At one point, young Satan introduces the boys to the concept of determinism.

“Among you boys you have a game: you stand a row of bricks on end a few inches apart; you push a brick, it knocks its neighbor over, the neighbor knocks over the next brick—and so on till all the row is prostrate. That is human life. A child’s first act knocks over the initial brick, and the rest will follow inexorably. If you could see into the future, as I can, you would see everything that was going to happen to that creature; for nothing can change the order of its life after the first event has determined it. That is, nothing will change it, because each act unfailingly begets an act, that act begets another, and so on to the end, and the seer can look forward down the line and see just when each act is to have birth, from cradle to grave.”

“Does God order the career?”

“Foreordain it? No. The man’s circumstances and environment order it. His first act determines the second and all that follow after.”

The idea of being locked into a fixed future depresses the boys. But Satan cheers them up by pointing out how, as an angel, he can interfere with people’s chain of cause-and-effect, and change their futures for the better. To the boys’ dismay and horror, Satan’s idea of “better” usually consists of letting people die prematurely, or letting them go mad. In one case Satan even lets a person live a long, happy life… then die and go to hell.

Later in life I discovered Twain, or Sam Clemens as he was known in his private life, grew up Presbyterian. Must’ve been paying attention to all the Calvinism taught in those churches. Because Calvinism is pretty big on determinism.

Determinism, the belief we’re all victims of circumstance—and that even our free will is bound to do as circumstances have conditioned it to do—wasn’t invented by John Calvin and the Calvinists. Nor even St. Augustine of Hippo, whence Calvin first got the idea. It predates Christianity, predates the Hebrew religion, predates the written word. Humans have believed in it since they first saw one rock topple another, and thought, “What if all of life is like that?” Every religion has its determinists.

15 November 2017

Changing God’s mind.

And those who say God never changes his mind.

If you know your bible—heck, if you’ve seen The Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston—you know the Hebrews had a major lapse when they were at Sinai. The previous month, the LORD handed down his 10 commandments, then Moses went up the mountain to get more instructions, and while he was gone the people decided they wanted an idol. Whether this idol was meant to represent the LORD or some other god, we don’t know. What we do know is the idol violated the very command the LORD handed down last month. Ex 20.4-6

Understandably, the LORD was pissed.

Exodus 32.9-14 KWL
9 The LORD told Moses, “I see this people. Look, the people are stiff-necked.
10 Now leave me: My rage is hot towards them. I’ll end them. I’ll make you a great nation.”
11 Moses begged his LORD God’s face, saying, “Why this hot anger towards your people, LORD?
You brought them of Egypt’s land with great strength and a steady hand.
12 What will the Egyptians say?
‘He brought them out for evil, to kill them in the mountains, to end them from the face of the earth.’
Repent of your hot anger! Relent of the evil you plan for your people!
13 Remember your slaves Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
You swore by yourself to them when you spoke to them:
‘I’ll increase your seed like stars of the sky.
I give your seed all this land, like I said. They’ll have it forever.’ ”
14 And the LORD relented of the evil he said he’d do to his people.

That’s right. The Almighty backed down. A lowly human got him to do it.

And it’s not the only passage in the bible where God changed his mind. There are dozens. Here’s a few notable instances:

  • God regretted making humans. Ge 6.5-7
  • God regretted making Saul king. 1Sa 15.11
  • God relented from destroying Jerusalem with plague. 2Sa 24.16, 1Ch 21.15
  • God showed Amos two visions that he immediately took back after Amos protested. Am 7.3, 6
  • If a nation repents, God takes back the disaster he had planned for it. Jr 18.8, 26.3, 26.13, Jl 2.13-14, Ps 106.45 Like Judah Jr 26.19 and like Nineveh. Jh 3.10
  • If a nation goes rogue, God takes back the good he had planned for it. Jr 18.8, 10 And gets really tired of doing this. Jr 15.6
  • We used to be God's enemies, but now we're his friends. Ro 5.6-11

Problem is, this flies in the face of the beliefs of many Christians. Because they don’t believe God changes his mind. Ever. At all.

13 September 2017

Free will. And God’s free will.

He’s given us choices. Choose wisely.

A will is the ability to make choices and decisions. Might be limited in what we can choose. Fr’instance when I’m at In-N-Out Burger, I can either order a hamburger or cheeseburger; I can’t order a tuna sandwich. But the fact I have a choice, any choice, even a really small one, means I get to exercise my will. If they give me no choices—i.e. they’re out of cheese—I still have the choice to get a burger, or not.

Yeah, various people are gonna argue a limited free will isn’t truly free. Which reminds me so much of little kids who throw tantrums ’cause they don’t like any of their options. “But I don’t want cherry or pistachio ice cream! I want chocolate. If I can’t have chocolate I’ll have nothing!” And as the patient parent will usually respond, “Well, that’s your choice.” Limited choices are still choices. Even if you’re not given any options whatsoever, you still get to choose how you’re gonna accept that fact: Cheerfully, or bitterly.

Now if you wanna talk someone whose free will is pretty much unlimited, let’s talk God.

God’s almighty. He can do whatever he wishes. Including stuff we’d consider impossible: If he wants to change the direction of time, and move it backward instead of forward, he can do that. (Has done that. Is 38.8) I really don’t have the power to enforce my will, most of the time. It’d be handy if I could manipulate time like that. Whereas God has infinite power to enforce his will: If he wants to do it, he can.

So why’d I say his will is “pretty much” unlimited? ’Cause there are certain things God won’t do. Being almighty, he can. Being God, he won’t.

Like sin. It goes entirely against God’s character, which he’s never gonna violate, so he’s never gonna sin. He’s okay with bending “natural laws” whenever he wishes, but he’s not when it comes to certain moral principles. He’s willing to forgive sin, but not willing to no longer call it sin, and pretend it’s not a problem. He’s willing to change his mind, but not willing to renege on his promises. He’s willing to accept and save anyone, but not willing to force people to love him.

Now there are various Christians who confound being almighty with being God: Their definition of “God” is based on power, not character. Ability, not love. They figure since God has infinite, unlimited power, he has to be able to exert it… and if he can’t, it means whatever’s limiting him, not God himself, becomes almighty. If God will never break a principle, it means the principle is functionally God instead of the LORD.

Kind of a bogus idea. Who decided God would never break certain principles? God did. He put his own limitations upon himself. There are no external forces controlling him; he’s entirely self-controlled. (It’s why self-control is a fruit of the Spirit—these character traits are God’s character traits.) If God’s obligated to do anything, it’s only because he obligated himself to do it. Ain’t no strings on him.

Not that various immature Christians don’t think we’ve found strings we can tug on. Christians regularly claim they discovered one of God’s promises which applies to them, and they’re trying to hold him to it. “Lord, you promised no weapon formed against me shall prosper. Is 54.17 So I hold you to that.” Okay, first of all that statement was made to Jerusalem, not any generic Christian who wants God to magically make ’em bulletproof. Second it’s a statement about Jerusalem’s future: God said he’d rebuild it with precious stones and a God-fearing government, and under these conditions he’s gonna defend it. These conditions haven’t yet been met, which is why the present-day nation of Israel sometimes gets bombed. As for Christians, we’ve been promised persecution, Mt 10.21-22 and God is in no way obligated to fulfill out-of-context prophecies just because we really wish he would.

I’ve noticed the same Christians who doubt we humans have free will, are of two minds about God’s free will. Either they figure God has no free will either—he’s limited himself so much, he can’t move any further than we, which is why there’s so much evil in the world; he’s powerless to prevent it. Or they figure God has unfettered, unlimited free will… and because he could easily stop evil, all the evil in the world must exist ’cause God wants it there. (If not put it there.)

Both ideas are horribly wrong. But then again these folks are wrong about human free will too. So at least they’re consistently wrong.

18 May 2017

The age of accountability?

How old are we before God decides to withdraw grace? Yes, that’s what we’re talking about.

How old do we have to be for God to hold us responsible for our sins?

Wait, doesn’t he always hold us responsible? Well, not according to certain Christians.

See, from time to time a child dies. Which sucks, but this is life, and sometimes life sucks. It’s always sad, and grieving parents frequently look to their religious friends for some kind of comfort. ’Cause we know something about heaven, so they wanna confirm with us that heaven is precisely where their kid went. Mommy and Daddy’s little angel, happy and pain-free, will forevermore be looking down upon them.

Yeah, it’s never fun breaking the news to them that we don’t become angels when we die. ’Cause it’s such a deeply-held pagan belief. Some of us never have the guts to tell ’em otherwise. Hey, we figure, they’re grieving; let ’em believe their kid’s an angel. What’s it hurt? (Well, them. The belief will just become even more deeply-held, and then it’ll be a real pain trying to later explain how heaven really works.)

And it’s never fun breaking the news to them that, unless we trust Jesus to take care of our sins for us, we still own our sins. Therefore we don’t inherit the kingdom of heaven. And since they never raised their kids to trust Jesus any…

…Well you see where I’m going with this. Few Christians have the nerve to tell any grieving parents any such thing. We chicken out.

Lots of us instead embrace this idea of an age of accountability: There’s an age where God deals with us as a responsible human being. Before that cutoff point, we don’t know any better; we’re innocent; we’re spiritual minors; God couldn’t possibly hold our sins against us. For everybody before the cutoff, God practices universalism: Everybody goes to heaven. No exceptions.

Your pagan friends’ dead kid? Just squeezed in at the cutoff. Definitely in heaven. God would never send a five-year-old to hell. Six-year-olds definitely; hell’s chock full of ’em, screaming their bratty heads off. But never five-year-olds. Yes, little Tafadzwa is definitely in heaven. Yes, Tafadzwa now has baby wings like a little cherub.

Oh, it’s an utter copout. ’Cause the age of accountability isn’t in the bible anywhere. Seriously, not anywhere. It’s pure fabrication, invented to soothe grieving parents, and calm worried ones. When their pagan kid just died, parents wanna cling to hope, and Christians really don’t wanna be the ones to puncture it. (Well, most of us. There are certain a--holes who take a perverse glee in telling people, “Hey, it’s unlikely your kid was one of the elect, so they’re not in heaven.” I’ll get to them.)

Quite often it’s the Christians themselves clinging to hope: Their kids aren’t following Jesus, and they’re super worried the kids are gonna be pagan or apostate or even antichrist. So they wanna know there’s still a chance. The age of accountability is 30, right?

Now since this article is tagged #Grace, you can likely guess there actually is hope somewhere before the end of it. But you’ll have to bear with me as I dash several of the false hopes.

20 October 2016

Jesus’s first command: Love God.

The most important of the commands to follow.

When Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135–1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews) wrote the Sefer Hamitzvot/“Book of Good Deeds,” he sorted God’s commands into a list of 613. His first command was the first of the Ten Commandments, which in Jewish reckoning is this verse:

Exodus 20.2 = Deuteronomy 5.6 KWL
“I’m your god, the LORD,
who took you out of Egypt’s land, out of the slaves’ house.”

Makes sense, right? It’s the first one the LORD declared aloud from Sinai.

But when Jesus was asked the most important of God’s commands, he listed two. Respectively, they’re Moshe ben Maimon’s fourth and 13th commands.

Mark 12.28-31 KWL
28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.
Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,
“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:
“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.
30 You will love your Lord God with all your mind, life, intent, and strength.’ Dt 6.4-5
Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Lv 19.18
No command is higher than these.”

It’s kinda understandable why Moshe went with the first commandment. It is the first commandment, after all. And it identifies which God we’re to follow. We don’t follow one of the other beings which identify themselves, or which others identify for us, as God. When pagans refer to “the universe,” or nontheists mockingly refer to “the imaginary man in the sky,” we Christians reject those ideas as God. That’s not our God. Our God is the being Jesus identified as his Father; and when this being identified himself, it was as YHWH/“the LORD,” Ex 3.14-15 the name he permanently chose for himself. He’s the God who rescued the Hebrews from Egypt. That God is our God.

Identifying which God is our God, is really important to us humans. It’s why your typical theology book begins with nailing down which God we follow. The Father of Jesus; the God of Israel. There’s usually a bit in there about whether he exists, which is entirely unnecessary if you’ve met him (but a bothersome number of theologians aren’t actually sure they have… which is another discussion).

Of course if you ask God—as this scribe asked Jesus, God incarnate— he’s gonna say the most important command he gave is to love God. Just as he had Moses tell the Hebrews.

Deuteronomy 6.4-5 KWL
4 “Listen, Israel: Our god is the LORD. The LORD is One.
5 Love your LORD God with all your mind, all your life, and all your power.”

In Mark Jesus divided mehódekha/“your powerful[ness]” into two ideas: Dianoías/“intent,” and iskhýos/“strength.” Your mental power; your physical power. In case anybody was looking for a loophole—as we so often do—Jesus plugged it.

15 September 2016

When we remake Jesus in our image.

No surprise, we’re gonna find Jesus agrees with us nearly all the time.

PROJECTION /prə'dʒɛk.ʃən, proʊ'dʒɛk.ʃən/ n. Unconscious transfer of one’s ideas to another person.
[Project /prə'dʒɛkt, proʊ'dʒɛkt/ v.]

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.

01 September 2016

The best of all possible worlds.

When Christians assume “God’s will” means good fortune.

You mighta noticed my articles on God's will thus far, mainly focus on what God revealed in the scriptures to actually be his will. His commands. His instructions. His wisdom. What he literally wants us to do.

Problem is, whenever Christians wanna know about God’s will, that’s not what we mean. Nor what we want.

Poll the Christians you know, and our overwhelming attitude about God’s commands is they’re either “too hard” cf. Ac 15.10 or “old covenant.” We don’t care about the commands. Well, unless they make us feel good about ourselves ’cause we’re already obeying them—whether intentionally or accidentally. (And if we’re not obeying them, we offer our excuses.) Or unless they justify our prejudices, ’cause it appears God doesn’t like certain sins any more than we do.

But whenever we Christians say, “I just wanna know God’s will for my life,” you gotta understand we don’t mean God’s commands. We don’t wanna be directed to the Sermon on the Mount, or the Proverbs, or anything having to do with God’s revealed will. Instead we’re talking about the unrevealed will. God’s secret will. His plan for the cosmos… and where we fit in it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he loves us and wants to save us and give us his kingdom. Lk 12.32 We know about salvation and eternal life and resurrection and heaven. That’s not what we mean either, ’cause that’s not part of the secret will; that’s common knowledge. We want the insider knowledge. We want the stuff that’s none of our business. Ac 1.7 We wanna know the details of our own personal futures.

Specifically: We want a heads-up on all the significant decisions we’re ever gonna make in our lives. Whom to marry. Where to go to university. Which career field to pursue. Which job to take. Which ministries to dabble in. The best financial investments. The best schools to put our kids into. The perfect things to say at particular moments in time. God knows all the possible outcomes of these decisions. We’re not asking to know all the outcomes; we just want God to point us to the best one, so we can do it. ’Cause we assume that’s God’s will: The best of all possible worlds.

“I wanna know God’s will for my life” really means we wanna make certain we’re not just getting some ho-hum, lackluster, not-reached-its-potential, regret-filled future life. We want the best future life. The fun high-paying job. The spouse and kids who never tell us no. The ministry which requires no sacrifice whatsoever. We want God pouring out blessings like the world’s loosest slot machine.

Not God’s commands. Not his righteousness. Not the good works he set out for us to do. Ep 2.10 Screw that. It’s too hard. And it’s the old covenant.

11 August 2016

The Ten Commandments.

Namely, the ones God spoke aloud from Mt. Sinai.

The Ten Commandments (Hebrew, aserét ha-devarím/“ten words”) are the 10 commands the LORD spoke aloud to the Hebrew people from Mt. Sinai.

No, they’re not God’s only commands. When Jesus was asked about the most important, none of these commands made it into his top two. Mk 12.39-31 But they are the commands God considered important enough to tell everyone audibly.

A lot of Christians fetishize them. In the United States, we make monuments of them, and try to have them put in public places. Especially outside courtrooms. It’s debatable whether that’s legal, since governments aren’t supposed to promote one religion above all the others. Historically, Christians have got away with it by pressuring all the pagans to keep their mouths shut and let us have our way. Lately they haven’t been, so now we’re crying persecution. But that’s all I’m gonna say about that today.

In Christian schools, they’re on the wall of most classrooms. Christians are expected to know what they are. Though if you quizzed us, most of us would embarrass ourselves, ’cause we never memorized them. We couldn’t even find them in a bible if we wanted.

They’re actually in the bible twice: At Exodus 20.2-17 and Deuteronomy 5.8-21. The Exodus passage took place at Sinai, and Deuteronomy tells of when Moses repeated them to the Hebrews at Wadi al-Arabah, right before they entered Palestine. There are minor differences in the two lists, but big deal.

Strangely, though Christians make a big deal about ’em, many of us teach we don’t need to follow the Law in the Old Testament any longer, ’cause supposedly Jesus canceled it out with his death. Yet they’re nearly always willing to make an exception for the Ten Commandments: That part of the Law, we gotta follow. The rest can go by the wayside. (Well… okay, some of us will also keep the commands against homosexuality, ’cause if that command doesn’t count anymore, it’s gonna be hard to still call it “an abomination.” But the rest of the commands can go. Especially the ones banning pork. Love me some bacon.)

So, why are the Ten Commandments an exception? Usually ’cause we figure violating them is so obviously wrong, it doesn’t make sense to claim they don’t count. “Don’t murder”? Duh. “Don’t steal”? Of course. “Honor your parents”? I wish. “Don’t covet”? Well… um… er… okay, maybe once we redefine “covet” to mean “don’t want what you can’t have,” but make exceptions for everything we can have. Or buy.

18 July 2016

Remember the Sabbath day.

Our weekly holiday… and a command we regularly violate.

Believe it or not, we Christians actually have a holiday every single week. You likely forgot about it because it’s so regular.

It’s Sabbath. It’s the day God mandated (in the Ten Commandments, you know) that people take off. We’re not to work on it. We have the other six days of the week for that.

Exodus 20.8-11 KWL
8 “Remember to separate the day of Sabbath.
9 Work six days, and do all your work. 10 The seventh day is Sabbath.
It’s for me, your LORD God. Don’t start any work on it. That counts for you,
your sons, daughters, male slaves, female slaves, animals, or visitors at your gates.
11 For six days, I the LORD made the skies and the land, the sea and everything in it.
The seventh day, I stopped, so I the LORD blessed a day of Sabbath. I made it holy.”

And once again, in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 5.12-15 KWL
12 “Keep separate the day of Sabbath, as your LORD God commanded you.
13 Work six days, and do all your work. 14 The seventh day is Sabbath.
It’s for your LORD God. Don’t start any work on it. That counts for you,
your sons, daughters, slaves, ox, donkey, animals, or visitors at your gates.
Because your male and female slaves will rest like you:
15 Remember, you were a slave in Egypt’s territory.
Your LORD God got you out of there with his strong hand and extended arm.
This is why your LORD God commands you to do the day of Sabbath.”

Note God said it was ’cause he rested on the seventh day, but Moses said it was ’cause the Hebrews used to be Egypt’s slaves. It’s one of those little contradictions people like to pretend the bible doesn’t have. But really, there’s no reason we can’t accept both interpretations. After all, real life is messy like that.

Sabbath comes from the word shabbát/“stop.” God stopped creating the earth on the seventh day; Ge 2.2 likewise we’re to stop working every seventh day. We’re not meant to work seven days a week. We burn out. Our mental state collapses. God, recognizing this (’cause he made us, of course), put a moratorium on work every seven days: Stop. Rest. That goes for everyone.

16 June 2016

Ritually clean and unclean: Ready for worship!

It’s not literal cleanliness. It just happens to look like it.

From time to time the scriptures talk about tahór/“clean” and tamé/“unclean.” Sometimes it’s meant literally, like when the bible refers to pure gold or silver, or refer to a dirty person or animal.

But most of the time the scriptures use these terms not literally, but ritually—what the LORD defined as “clean” or “unclean” for the purposes of worship. “Clean” things could be used for worship; “clean” people were free to worship. “Unclean” things and people couldn’t. If you were clean, you could go to temple—and the Pharisees would let you go to synagogue. If not, not.

And if unclean things were used for worship anyway, or unclean people worshiped without first purifying themselves, there were dire consequences.

Leviticus 10.1-11 KWL
1 Aaron’s sons Nadáv and Avihú: Each man took his incense-burner, lit it, placed incense in it,
and brought it into the LORD’s presence—weird fire, which God didn’t permit them.
2 So fire came out of the LORD’s presence and consumed them.
They died before the LORD’s presence.
3 Moses told Aaron, “Here’s what the LORD says to those who come near him: ‘I’m holy.
I must be glorified in the presence of all people.’” Aaron said nothing.
4 Moses called Mišahél and Elchafán, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziél, and told them, “Come in.
Carry your family out of the sanctuary. Take them outside the camp.”
5 They came in, and carried them outside the camp in their tunics, as Moses said.
6 Moses told Aaron and his sons Eleazár and Itamár, “Don’t uncover your heads.
Don’t tear your clothes. Don’t die: Anger will come on the congregation!
Your brothers, and Israel’s house, will weep over the burning the LORD burned.
7 Don’t go out the Meeting Tent door, or you’ll die: The LORD’s anointing oil is on you.”
They followed Moses’s word. 8 The LORD told Aaron, 9 “You and your sons with you:
Drink no wine nor liquor when you come to the Meeting Tent. Don’t die.
This is a rule for every generation. 10 Distinguish between holy and secular, between clean and unclean.
11 Show Israel’s sons all the rules the LORD told them by Moses’s hand.”

The reason the LORD brought up being drunk on the job, is likely ’cause Nadáv and Avihú were drunk on the job. The LORD wanted it crystal clear this behavior wasn’t acceptable. Pagan gods regularly had drunk priests—getting farshnickert was often part of their worship. But the LORD God doesn’t just accept any behavior we categorize as “worship” just because we’re earnest, or we took all the right steps, or followed the right rituals, or said the right words, or feel really good about it. Think about the last time you got a really inappropriate Christmas gift. “A jar of back-pimple cream?” “A rhinestone collar and a leash? But I don’t have a dog.” “A gift card to a steakhouse? But I’m vegan.” And the gifter tried to shrug it off with, “Well, it’s the thought that counts”—when clearly no thought went into it, and they’re either trying to unload something by regifting it, or trying to passive-aggressively give you what they feel is best.

Well, that’s what jerks we’ve become when we try to foist our preferences upon the LORD, but have never bothered to find out—or don’t really care—what he wants. Eating ham on Easter would be an obvious example. Y’ever read God’s views on pork?

The LORD has standards. Expectations. If we really love him, meet them. Otherwise don’t waste his time, or insult him with rotten substitutes. He’s holy.

Some of us Christians get this, try to find out what God legitimately wants, and strive to bring him that. Other Christians… well, they do whatever popular Christian culture figures is holy. And since those folks don’t know the difference between holiness and solemnity, they figure what God wants is old-timey music, old-timey prayers, old-timey bibles, and Christians who wear fine-looking clothes to church. They never stop and think about whether these are clean clothes—literally or ritually. It’s about looking good for others, not what God wants. You know, the hypocrites’ old problem.

Well, here’s a pointer in the correct direction: What does God consider ritually clean?

06 April 2016

Meaningless things.

“Everything happens for a reason” doesn’t describe our God at all.

Ecclesiastes 9.11 KWL
I came back. I saw this under the sun:
The fastest don’t win the race. The veterans don’t win the battle.
Even the wise don’t earn bread. Even the intelligent don’t get rich.
Even the experts fall out of favor. Dumb luck happens to them all.

Et va-fegá/“time and accident” tends to be translated “time and chance,” like the KJV has it. I went with “dumb luck.” ’Cause that’s the concept the author of Ecclesiastes was going with. Dumb luck. It exists; it’s why the best and brightest aren’t guaranteed success, no matter what our culture insists.

Dumb luck grates on those Christians who insist nothing happens outside God’s evil plan. He’s got it all mapped out; he’s got everything under his thumb; even evil and chaos and destruction and sin are part of the arrangement. Dumb luck, they insist, can’t exist in the realm of our sovereign God. There’s no such thing as luck. Everything happens for a reason.

They hate when I point ’em to Ecclesiastes. ’Cause it’s part of our Holy Spirit-inspired bible, yet its author relentlessly insists plenty of things happen for no reason. At all. It’s the entire premise of his book.

Ecclesiastes 1.1-3 KWL
1 The words of “Qohelét” ben David, king of Jerusalem:
2 “Vapor of vapors,” says Qohlelét. “Vapor of vapors. It’s all vapor.
3 What profit is all the trouble of humanity, laboring under the sun?”

I’ve actually had people try to explain Ecclesiastes away, as if the book’s “pessimism” no longer applies or matters in the Christian era. Supposedly the author (a descendant of David who called himself Qohelét/“preacher”; most folks assume it’s Solomon) wrote it when he was depressed, and because he lacked revelation of God’s grand will of purpose, he didn’t know God has a plan for everything. So he wrote it out of his faithlessness; and it’s in our bible as a warning to people who likewise lack faith. You know, like Job’s friends. Don’t be like these guys.

That’s just how dead set certain Christians are in insisting upon their worldview: Let’s overturn entire books of the bible by claiming they’re ironic.

But the reason the Spirit inspired this book, and the reason we kept it in the bible, is ’cause it makes it clear: God isn’t behind every fumble, every failure, every accident, every coincidence. He’s behind a whole lot of things, but not all. Some things aren’t him. Some things are havél havalím/“vapor of vapors,” not just the breath you can see on cold days which quickly disappears, but the breath of that breath. Here one instant, gone the next. Can’t hold it, can’t catch it, can’t chase it. It’s empty, unimportant, meaningless. “Vanity,” the KJV puts it—implying it’s less than meaningless, ’cause time spent on it is time utterly wasted.

Does anything happen for a reason? According to Qohelét, anything God does happens for a reason. But everything else? Vapor.

10 March 2016

“What’s God’s secret, evil plan for my life?”

Yep, some Christians are convinced God has a whole behind-the-scenes deal going.

In seminary I was introduced to the idea God has two wills. Sometimes it’s called a “twofold will.” (As if that doesn’t also make him sound a little schizophrenic.)

There’s the will he’s revealed to everybody in the scriptures: The Law, the Prophets, Jesus’s teachings, and the apostles’ instructions. That’s the stuff he wants us to do, so get out that bible, look it up, and obey.

Then there’s apparently a second will: God’s plan for the whole of creation. From the time he first made it, to the point he’s gonna restore it, to our infinite eternal future with him, God’s set a plan in place for everything. But unlike the first will, the one he revealed to everybody, God hasn’t revealed this one. He’s revealed he has a plan, but the details are none of our business. True, if he feels like it, he may choose to reveal parts of the plan to his prophets. But it’s private. For the most part he keeps it to himself.

The revealed will, which contains all God’s precepts in the bible, is referred to as God’s will of precept; the other, God’s grand purpose for the universe, would be his will of purpose. My theology professor described ’em like so. (Well sorta; I broke his big long sentences into shorter ones.)


God’s “two wills.” Assuming you believe he’s double-minded.

Sounds good? Sure; it’s why the belief is so popular. It explains why we can say God’s will can never be frustrated—even though people sin all the time. It also makes God’s plan feel like a done deal: Our sins can never stop God. His plan will happen. Guaranteed.

But if we start taking this will-of-purpose concept to its logical conclusion, we start to slam into some really weighty problems. Particularly with that fifth point, found in both of them: When we violate God’s commands, it still achieves his will? God’s purpose can still be achieved even through human misbehavior?

Sure, claim the folks who teach this:

  • God’s selected only some people to enter his kingdom. The rest are going to hell. Why? Well, God spelled out his commands—his will of precept—and they broke ’em. So their violation of God’s commands suits his purpose: He was gonna send ’em to hell anyway. Now he has a valid, justifiable, ex post facto reason.
  • God’s plan is to restore all things. But you can’t have restoration unless something gets broken first. So part of God’s plan—his will of purpose—requires stuff to get broken. Human and devilish evil. Depravity. Destruction. Death. It’s awful… but now God can fix it, and now everyone can see how awesome he is. Isn’t that great?

Yeah, you’ve probably noticed the big, glaring problem with these descriptions of God: They make him out to be secretly kinda… evil.

03 March 2016

Sovereignty: God’s our king. Not our puppet master.

Our God reigns. But perhaps we oughta think about how he does so.

Sovereign /'sɑv.ər.ən, 'sɑv.rən, 'sɑv.ərn/ n. A supreme ruler.
[Sovereignty /'sɑv.ər.ən.ti, 'sɑv.rən.ti, 'sɑv.ərn.ti/ n.]

Usually people talk about a nation’s sovereignty—their right to do as they please, with no one telling them otherwise. Like in the face of international treaties: If the United States signed an agreement to cut pollution, but our President doesn’t believe in climate change so he felt like breaking it, hey, we’re a sovereign nation; more carbon for everyone! Or in the face of state laws which contradict federal laws: If Colorado wants to legalize marijuana, yet the FBI wants to jail me for growing a field of weed, which government takes priority?

But the Christian discussion about sovereignty is a little different. There, we’re talking about God’s sovereignty: His right and authority to rule the universe. He has a kingdom, and he the king. (If you wanna get picky, Christ means “king.” so Jesus is the king—but Jesus is God, so there.)

God didn’t create the universe, then leave it to function on its own, without his input or interaction. Kinda obvious by the fact he issues commands, either to nature 2Ch 7.13 or to us humans. 2Ch 7.17 He’s almighty, so he can enforce his commands: Make us obey, or penalize us when we won’t. And he has every right to command us, for he made us to do certain things—namely good deeds. Ep 2.10 If we don’t do as designed, he has every right to correct us. Even unmake us.

Yeah, there are Christians who believe God has no such rights. They won’t say it in those particular words; they know how rebellious and heretic it sounds. So they fudge around it and claim it’s God’s idea to not reign over his universe: God gave us free will, and he loves our free will so much, he’d never interfere with humanity. At all. “The Holy Spirit is a gentleman,” they insist, “and will never interfere with your life unless you grant him permission.”

Okay yes, God gave us free will. (Duh.) God gave your kids free will too. Does that mean if they get the brilliant idea to paint the cat, you’re gonna let ’em? Not unless you really hate that cat. (Often not even then.) Free will means we can make choices, but God has free will too. Freer than ours; we’re limited and he’s not. God can almightily clamp down on our bad choices. Just ’cause he doesn’t always, doesn’t mean he doesn’t at all.

Tell “God would never interfere with your free will” to those people who are dying, don’t wanna, but God’s not intervening, for he’s decided their time’s up. Tell it to women who want to become mothers, but God says no. Or men who want to pursue one vocation, but God redirects ’em to one he prefers. Or people who wanna move in various directions, but God both shuts the door and closes the window. Ac 16.6-7

See, either God’s in charge, or we’re in denial: We’ve decided he’s not really, and make no attempt to submit to his will or approval. Jm 4.15-16 Not the smartest plan. But indicative of Christians who believe God’s kingdom hasn’t arrived yet, and won’t be here till Jesus returns. Till then, they intend to enjoy life and do as they will. They imagine once Jesus transforms us in his return, 1Co 15.51-52 he’ll vaporize our sinful nature—so there’s no point in currently fighting it. Go ahead and sin; we’ve got grace. Until the King comes, sin gets to be king. (Scriptures to the contrary. Ro 6.1-2, 14)

03 February 2016

What, you thought there were only 10 commandments?

God’s 613 commands, and how Christians treat them.

Most Christians are familiar with the fact there are 10 commandments. Ex 20.1-17 Not so familiar with the actual 10 commands, but we do tend to know there are 10 of them, and it wouldn’t hurt to live by them. In fact the politically-minded among us think it’d be a good idea for the whole of the United States to live by them… although it’s a bit of a puzzler how we might simultaneously enforce “You’ll have no other gods before me” Ex 20.3 and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Amendment 1

Some of us have also heard the idea there are 12 commandments. Where’d the extra two come from? Well, someone once asked Jesus his opinion on the greatest command.

Mark 12.28-31 KWL
28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.
Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,
“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:
“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.
30 You must love your Lord God with all your heart, life, purpose, and might.’ Dt 6.4-5
Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Lv 19.18
No command is higher than these.”

Since these two commands aren’t among the 10, certain Christians tack ’em on at the end.

But there’s far from just 12 commands. There’s 613.

Technically there are even more than 613. But when you combine redundant commands—namely all the commands repeated in Deuteronomy, like the 10 commandments Dt 5.1-21 —you get 613 of them. Or at least that was the conclusion of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135-1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews). Moshe listed them in his book Sefer Hamitzvot/“Book of Good Deeds.” He had slightly different priorities than Jesus, which is why he put loving God at 3 and 4 in his list, and loving neighbors at 13.

These commands are mostly for everyone. There are many priest-specific commands, which don’t apply to the general population. (Although Pharisees customarily practiced ’em anyway, figuring all Jews ought to be as ritually clean as priests.) There are also many gender-specific commands, which apply to men and not women, or women and not men.

And let’s be honest: There is a double standard in the Law. Women and men may be equal in Christ, Ga 3.28 but not under Law. Fr’instance there’s a test for a wife’s faithfulness, Nu 5.11-30 but no such thing for husbands. ’Cause under patriarchy, men could have sex with any woman in their household. The Law abolished many of patriarchy’s customs—no they couldn’t have sex with just anyone they wished. But though abolishing patriarchy was God’s goal—with men in leadership or service practicing monogamy 1Ti 3.2, 12 and loving their wives like Christ loves his church Ep 5.25 —he didn’t do it outright in his Law. Though certainly the test of a wife’s faithfulness under the Law is considerably better than the previous patriarchal custom: Kills her without any trial. Ge 38.24

28 January 2016

Figure out what God wants.

It’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Too many of us Christians know God expects something of his kids. Loads of us preach it all the time: “God has a wonderful plan for your life. Just seek his face.” Problem is, when we seek his face, it’s only to praise him, not know him. The wonderful plan? We don’t know it, and never bother to find out what it is.

In fact a lot of us assume God’s plan is unknowable. It’s part of his secret will, his intricate plan for the universe which has been micromanaged all the way down to every single action we take. Which is secret because—let’s face it—there’s no way any one human can fathom it in all its complexity. Way too many moving parts. God is thinking a billion steps ahead, and if he clued us in just a little, it’d blow our minds.

Or, which is more likely, we’d respond like a backseat driver: “You know what you oughta do, God, is this…” and since we have the smallest fraction of information, we’re really in no position to judge how God rules the cosmos.

Anyway, the complexity of God’s master plan is too intimidating for a lot of Christians. “It’s way beyond me,” like the TobyMac song goes. True, the song’s more about how God stretches us beyond where we’re comfortable, but most Christians use the phrase as our excuse to stay comfortable. God’s will for our individual lives, God’s plans for our individual futures, the nature of God’s personal relationship with us—that’s too deep for us. Probably too deep for everyone, seminarians and scholars included.

Rubbish. And, might I add, disingenuous. People want God’s will to be far out of our reach, because it might just mean we have to change our lifestyles. A lot. You know, like Paul wrote:

Romans 12.1-2 KWL
1 So I urge you Christians, by God’s compassion:
Present your bodies to God as a holy, pleasing, live sacrifice—your logical worship.
2 Don’t follow the scheme of this age. Instead be transformed. Mind renovated.
Find out for yourselves what God’s good, pleasing, complete will is.

If learning God’s will—God’s complete will—weren’t possible, Paul wouldn’t have advised the Romans to do it. It’s not enough to give him our warm fuzzy feelings. He wants our bodies. He wants us to follow. Stop conforming to this culture; it’s passing away. Conform to the next one.

How? Seek God’s will. It’s not beyond us. God made it available. You know what Jesus taught. If you don’t, read your bible. Then do that.