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The rapture. Yes, there is one.

Happens when Jesus returns. And not before.Rapture /ˈræp.tʃər/ n. At Christ’s return, when his living and resurrected followers are taken up, and meet him in the air.2.v. To be taken up to meet Christ in the air.There are a number of Christians who don’t believe in the rapture. In part because the End Times scenario they hold to, doesn’t include any rapture. The End of Days idea, fr’instance: The world ends, or we otherwise die, and we go straight to heaven. Or not. No uncomfortable, material resurrection or millennium; just bliss and ease and comfort. It’s sort of a rapture: When we die, hallelujah by and by, we “fly away”—to heaven. That’s how we meet Jesus in the air.And there are a number of Christians who do believe in the rapture. Myself included. Nope, we don’t all agree about what it’ll look like. In fact a segment of Christendom, who call themselves “premillennial dispensationalists” (and I call Darbyists), imagine it’ll be secret: Nobody sees Jesus come and get us. One day a…

Jesus’s easy victory over the devil.

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Mark 1.12-13, Matthew 4.1-11, Luke 4.1-13.Mark 1.12-13 KWL12 Right afterward, the Spirit threw Jesus into the wilderness.13Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days, getting tested by Satan.He was with the beasts. Angels were serving him.That’s the extra-short version of Jesus’s “temptations,” as they tend to be called: Peirádzo/“test” is often meant in a tempting sense, ’cause part of the test is how badly we want what’s offered. But is it in Jesus’s divine nature to go about getting these things the wrong way? Nah. He’s never gonna put himself above his Father’s will. So let’s not treat these tests like they really made Jesus doubt his commitment to the Father. Any devout Christian can easily resist such temptations.The Mark version doesn’t have a lot of details: Just Jesus and the devil, out in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t have to be way out in the middle of nowhere; in fact it’d be a stronger test of will if Jesus was just within sight of civilization. (As was the case in the Judean de…

Why leave your church?

Sometimes for good reasons. Sometimes bad. Up to you to decide.As I’ve said previously, at some point Christians have to switch churches. Sometimes for good reasons; sometimes not.GOOD REASONSBAD REASONSDEBATABLE REASONSGod instructs you to go elsewhere.They kicked you out.Church leaders are untrustworthy. Sinning, abusive, fruitless, jerk-like, and unrepentant; or just not doing their jobs.Ditto church members—and the leaders do nothing about it.They’re a cult, or have a cultic reputation. Too legalistic, demanding, judgmental. If you don’t obey/conform, they have penalties.They’re dark Christians: Too much fear and worry, not enough love.You, or they, are moving to a new city. Or you work for another church.Your spouse goes elsewhere, and isn’t coming back. Period.You consider church to be optional anyway. Sleep, sports, or recreation—even doing nothing—seem better options.They’re not cool enough. Or anymore.You don’t like anyone there. You have no friends there. You burned a lot of…

When pagans believe they’re Christian.

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’Cause they like Jesus. So doesn’t that make ’em Christian?In the United States, roughly seven out of 10 people believe they’re Christian. I live in California, where it’s six out of 10. (I’m not just pulling these numbers out of my bum; the national stats and state stats from a 2014 Pew Forum study.)Which matches my experience. When I share Jesus with strangers, about two out of three tell me they’re Christian already. They don’t necessarily go to church; that’s another issue. But they do figure they’re Christian. For all sorts of reasons:Actual individual experience with Jesus.Said the sinner’s prayer once.They’re a regular at their church. (How regular varies. Twice a year, they figure, counts.)Got baptized.Raised Christian, or their family’s Christian.They consider themselves spiritual. And when they contemplate spiritual matters, Jesus is in the mix somewhere.Now, let’s explode that last definition: They’re “spiritual,” by which they nearly always mean they believe in the superna…

Denominations: When churches network.

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DENOMINATIONdi.nɑm.ə'neɪ.ʃənnoun. Organized network of affiliated churches.2. Autonomous branch of a religion.[Denominational də.nɑm.ə'neɪ.ʃən.əladjective.]When Jesus began his church, it had a really basic organization: The Twelve, the apostles whom he hand-picked to lead his followers… and his followers.Over time this evolved. As it kinda had to, ’cause the church spread. The Twelve didn’t stay in Jerusalem: Simon Peter went to Rome, Andrew to Greece, John to Ephesus, Jude and Simon to Syria, Bartholemew to Armenia, Thomas to India, and so forth. The followers spread out to different cities in the Roman Empire, and to the barbarians outside the Empire. They founded new groups.All sorts of questions began to crop up about how connected these groups were with one another. Of course since power is always a stumbling-block for us humans, there was also concern about what authority various apostles and bishops in other groups had over the new congregations and their leadership.Th…

Kicking ass for Jesus. (Don’t.)

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The use and misuse of Christian apologetics. APOLOGY /e'pa.le.dzi/ n. A logical argument used to justify a behavior, theory, or religious belief.[Apologetic /e.pa.le'dzet.ik/ adj., apologist /e'pa.le.dzist/ n.]APOLOGETICS /e.pa.le'dzet.iks/ n. The study and use of logical arguments to defend [usually religious] beliefs.“This is Leslie,” he said, introducing me to a new Christian he’d just met. “Leslie knows a lot about apologetics.”“Well, theology,” I corrected him. (Among a certain Christian crowd, confusing theology for apologetics is a common mistake.)I actually do know a bunch about Christian apologetics. Learned the field in high school; practiced it for years. I learned all the standard Christian arguments for the faith. And over time I got to know all the anti-Christian arguments, as presented me by real live intellectual anti-Christians. Arguments woefully left out of a lot of apologetics books and classes, which means they wind up blindsiding your average youn…

The baptism of Jesus. And adoption. And anointing.

If Jesus didn’t need to repent, why’d he undergo John’s baptism?Mark 1.9-11 • Matthew 3.13-17 • Luke 3.21-22 • John 1.29-34Mark 1.9 KWLIt happened in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of the Galilee,and was baptized by John in the Jordan.Matthew 3.13-15 KWL13 Then Jesus came from the Galilee to the Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him.14 John was preventing him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you! And you come to me?”15 In reply Jesus told him, “Just permit it. It’s appropriate for us to fulfill everything that’s right.”So John permitted him.
Okay: Baptism, i.e. ritual washing, was usually for Jews who were ritually unclean: They’d touched an animal they weren’t allowed to eat, anything they found dead, an open wound; they’d expelled bodily fluids of one sort or another; in general they needed to wash themselves and their clothes before they went to temple. John the baptist co-opted the ritual and used it on sinners who wanted to repent and get morally clean. Same practice, new …

Wanna become a prophet?

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Like prayer, prophecy isn’t complicated. It’s just our doubts—and our own voices—get in the way. There are two misconceptions about the word “prophet.” One’s a minor problem; the other’s huge. Small problem first: What a prophet actually is.Loads of people assume prophets are the same thing as prognosticators: People who know the future, or who can predict it really well. Pagans think this, which is why they treat prophecy like psychic phenomena. And cessationists think this: “Prophecy,” to them, is all about being able to interpret the End Times. It’s why all their “prophecy conferences” consist of End Times goofiness instead of actual prophets talking shop.True, God talks about the future quite a lot. Be fair; so do we all. “That’s on my schedule for tomorrow,” or “I’ll do that in the morning,” or “Can’t wait till Saturday.” Like us, God either talks about what he’s gonna do in the near future, or the soon-coming consequences of poor choices: “Stop doing that; you’ll go blind.” Sinc…

The disobedient Christian.

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“Not perfect; just forgiven” is how they justify their sinful lifestyle.1 John 2.1-5I’ve known Christians who greatly object to my using the term “cheap grace.” Grace, they insist, isn’t cheap. Well of course it isn’t. “Cheap grace” isn’t about grace being cheap; it’s about people treating grace as if it’s cheap. It’s about taking God for granted, figuring if Jesus cancelled out a trillion sins by his death, what’s another? Heck, what’s another thousand? And since we have that blank check on forgiveness, why go to all the trouble of cleaning ourselves up and sinning no more? Self-discipline is so hard. Easier to just do as comes naturally, and stay the same bitter, selfish wankers we’ve always been—but we’re saved, so we get to go to heaven!As a result of this lousy attitude, this is the bumper sticker we find on many a Christian’s car:Christians aren’t perfect.
Just forgiven. Okay yes, it’s technically true. But for every Christian who’s using it with the proper sentiment, “I’m not per…

Patriarchy: When fathers ruled the earth.

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The system of government we find in Genesis—which some try inflicting on their own families.Patriarchy. /'peɪ.tri.ɑrk.i/ n. System of government where the father, or eldest male, is ruler.2. System wherein women are largely excluded from positions of authority.[Patriarchal /'peɪ.tri.ɑr.kəl/ adj.]When people talk about patriarchy nowadays, they tend to mean the second definition above: Women can’t seem to find their way into any official or significant positions of leadership. They can have unofficial power, like a First Lady; they can have insignificant power, like being in charge of cleaning the break room. (Gee, what an honor.) But never any serious authority; the “old boys’ network” keeps shutting them out.Because the “old boys” don’t wanna work with women. Especially don’t wanna work for women. Doesn’t matter the reasons; they’re all different forms of sexism. It’s a way-too-common problem in the present day. But actually sexism isn’t what this article is about. (Not prima…