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Showing posts with the label #Theology

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

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Years ago a pagan relative of mine asked me, “You keep saying ‘Holy Spirit’ this, ‘Holy Spirit’ that. What do you mean by that? What’s the Holy Spirit?”“Oh,” I said—half surprised, half not-all-that-surprised, she didn’t know. And since she’s pagan, the simplest answer was best: “Holy Spirit is another name for God.”“Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on.Yeah, I could’ve given her the full-on theological explanation of what spirit is, how Jesus revealed him, who he is in the trinity, what he does, how he lives in Christians, and how he’s a he instead of an it. But that’s the introduction we really oughta save for new Christians. Mostly because they’ll want to know all this stuff. Pagans don’t always care.But basically the Holy Spirit (KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. “Holy Spirit is another name for God” is a quick-’n-dirty explanation which points people in the right direction.As opposed to the wrong direction, which is all too common: Too many people think the Holy Spirit is a force…

Jesus’s resurrection: If he wasn’t raised, we’re boned.

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Of Christianity’s two biggest holidays, Christmas is the easier one for pagans to swallow. ’Cause Jesus of Nazareth was born. That, they won’t debate. There are a few cranks who think Jesus’s life is entirely mythological, start to finish; but for the most part everyone agrees he was born. May not believe he was miraculously born, but certainly they agree he was born.Easter’s way harder. ’Cause Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. And no, he didn’t just wake up in a tomb after a two-day coma following a brutal flogging and crucifixion. Wasn’t a spectral event either, where his ghost went visiting his loved ones to tell them everything’s all right; he’s on a higher plane now; in time they’ll join him. Nor was it a “spiritual” event, where people had visions or mass hallucinations of him, or missed him so hard they psyched themselves into believing they saw him.Christians state Jesus is alive. In a body. A human body. An extraordinary body; apparently his new body can do things our cur…

The faith statement. (And mine too.)

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Typically when Christians talk about what’s orthodox Christianity and what’s heresy, we usually mean what we consider orthodox and heretic. Not what Christianity as a whole considers orthodox and heretic. We don’t think about the whole; honestly, too many of us suspect most of our fellow Christians aren’t real Christians.But when you talk to individual Christians, we tend to not have all our Christian essentials, our “mere Christianity,” sorted out all that well. What’s the minimum requirements for Christianity?—well, for a lot of us it’s usually these.Gotta believe in Jesus: That he’s real, was literally born, literally died, literally rose from the dead, and is literally coming back—to do what, varies. And his teachings are important… though how well we literally follow himalso varies.Gotta believe in the trinity. Though whether we actually understand trinity well enough, also varies. (Too many Christians don’t really understand what the Holy Spirit does, so they’ve largely replaced…

Who decides what’s orthodox and what’s not?

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I’m involved in a few different discussion groups. In one, the subject of Darbyism came up: One of the members is a Darbyist and wanted a shout-out from all his fellow Darbyists in the group. Turns out most of us aren’t Darbyist at all; in fact a number of us consider Darbyism to be unbiblical and faithless. I’m pretty sure he was surprised, if not horrified, at the non-support.Of course, among all the expressions of non-support, one newbie went even further and declared Darybism is heresy. There he went too far, and got a little backlash himself—some of it from the same folks who take issue with Darbyism. ’Cause Darbyism is wrong—often profoundly so—but not heresy. We mustn’t throw around the H-word so casually.But of course many don’t know the difference between wrong and heresy, and sometimes think there is no difference: Heresy is whenever we get something wrong, and everything wrong is heresy. Getting the trinity wrong is heresy… and so is mispronouncing “Habakkuk.”Yeah, obviousl…

Orthodoxy: Getting our theological ducks in a row.

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ORTHODOX'ɔr.θə.dɑksadjective. Correct; conforms to what’s commonly or traditionally believed true; generally accepted as right.2. Usual, conventional, normal, customary.3. [capitalized] Of the ancient churches originating in the eastern Roman Empire, which formally split from the Roman Catholics in 1054.[Orthodoxy 'ɔr.θə.dɑks.inoun.]Christianity is primarily about trusting and following Christ Jesus. We read what he taught, agree with him, and do as he said; we join his kingdom, with him as our king.An important secondary thing (and you just know people miss the point and turn it into the primary thing) is what we believe about Jesus. How we understand him, and who we understand him to be, are mighty important things. ’Cause when we misunderstand who Jesus is, we follow him wrong. Aren’t even following him at all, in many cases: We’re following an imaginary Jesus who looks a lot more like us, and our biases and prejudices… or who looks more like the cult leaders who got us to …

Bad theology: When it’s not based on revelation.

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The starting point of theology is revelation, the stuff God reveals to us.Problem is, not everybody agrees. They think the starting point is us: We have questions about God, the universe, whether we can have a relationship with God (or at least get stuff out of him), death and the afterlife, good and evil and karma, and salvation. And people figure theology is when we seek answers to these questions, and get wise-sounding answers from the smartest gurus. Or even become a guru ourselves, ’cause guruing doesn’t look all that hard.Yep, even Christians do it. Years ago, at another church, my pastors began to invite a lot of clever guest speakers to come preach to us. These guys would regularly tell us what they think they’ve figured out about God. Some ideas were based on actual personal experiences with God—which I’m not knocking, but I wanna remind you our God-experiences need to be confirmedlong before we start developing ’em into theology. These guys were not so scrupulous. They felt …

Revelation: The starting point of theology.

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REVELATIONrɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃənnoun. A previously unknown fact (about God), often surprising or dramatic.2. (God’s) act of making the unknown known.3. [capitalized] the last book of the New Testament; Christ Jesus’s apocalypses of the future, given to John of Patmos.[Reveal rə'vilverb, revelator 'rɛ.vəl.eɪt.ərnoun, revelatory 'rə.vɛl.ə.tɔ.riadjective, revelational rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃ(ə)n.(ə)ladjective.]When I first taught theology, I found whenever I talk about revelation, Christians nearly always assume I’m talking about the book. (And half the time they think it’s Revelations, with an -s. And half that time, when they write it out, they put an apostrophe on the -s for no reason. Don’t get me started about the overuse of apostrophes.)Revelation, no -s, is anything God reveals to us humans. That’s all it is. If God tells you to put a sweater on ’cause it’s gonna be chilly outside, that’s revelation. God revealed it to you. Simple, right?And of course we humans overcomplicate the i…

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 since bought pr…