Textual variants.

by K.W. Leslie, 27 April

’Cause sometimes the bible’s oldest copies won’t agree.

TEXTUAL VARIANT 'tɛks.tʃ(əw.)əl 'vɛr.i.ənt noun Form or version of a document which differs in some respect from other copies or editions of the same document.

Before the printing press was invented in the 1400s, books were copied by hand.

Sometimes this was done carefully and conscientiously. The Masoretes, fr’instance, were Jewish scholars who wanted to be certain they got exact copies of the scriptures, with super-duper anal-retentive precision. So they invented a very careful procedure, including a system of checksums, to be sure every copy of the bible was an exact replica. It’s why, when you compare the first-century Dead Sea Scrolls with 10th-century copies of the Old Testament, you find astonishingly few differences. Dudes knew what they were about.

Other times, not so much.

Even when they knew this was a very important book. (Heck, back then most books were considered important. Hand-copying meant publishing was crazy expensive.) Copyists had a bad habit of duplicating books in a rush. Popular books were occasionally copied in a group: You get a roomful of scribes, one of whom slowly dictated the “original,” and the rest of whom wrote it down en masse. Naturally mistakes would happen.

Which was no surprise to any literate ancient: People make mistakes. An ancient Christian would assume if this was a verse they’d never heard before, or one they’d learned differently, it must be some scribe’s mistake. Fr’instance the Egyptian commentator Origen (185–254), in his commentary on John (my translation):

203 “These things happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” Jn 1.28 204 Yes, it’s indeed printed in all the copies, “These things happened in Bethany.” We’re not ignorant it’s like this, and got this way long ago: We’re well aware it’s “Bethany,” according to Irakléon. But we’ve come to the conclusion it shouldn’t be “Bethany” but “Bethabara”—we’ve been to these places, following the history of the footsteps of Jesus, his students, and the prophets. 205 This evangelist declares Bethany is the hometown of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, about 15 stadia [2.8 km] from Jerusalem. There isn’t any same-named Bethany in the area of the Jordan. They pointed out Bethabara, by the Jordan’s banks; our inquiries found that John baptized there. Origen, John 6.24

Yep, Origen went to Judea, and his tour guides told him there wasn’t any Bethany near the Jordan, then pointed him to Bethabara, convinced him this was the right place, and probably sold him a few souvenirs. I once had some folks in Israel try to similarly convince me about the location of Jesus’s sepulcher, among other “biblical” sites they built churches atop.

So was Origen right? Nah. Thanks to archeology, we know there was another same-named Bethany on the east bank of the Jordan. (Today it’s called al-Maghtas, Jordan.) Hence our current editions of the Greek NT stuck with the Βηθανία/Vithanía, “Bethany,” which Origen groused was in all his copies of John. Most of our current translations follow suit.

The few who don’t are going off the Textus Receptus, which has Βηθαβαρᾷ/Vithavará (KJV “Bethabara”). That’s because Origen managed to convince some folks he was correct—and the editor of the Textus, Desiderius Erasmus, was one of ’em. Since the King James Version used the Textus as its baseline, that’s what we find in the KJV and NKJV. Jn 1.28 NKJV

So there y’go: Two ways variants happen. Copyists, in their haste, slip up; and know-it-all interpreters rejigger the original to suit themselves.

Do we perform sacraments or ordinances?

by K.W. Leslie, 25 April

Many Protestants are weirded out by, and water down, this “sacrament” language.

ORDINANCE 'ɔr.dɪ.nəns, 'ɔrd.nəns noun. Authoritative order or decree.
2. Religious ritual; particularly one ordained by Christ.
3. What Evangelical Christians call sacraments.

I refer to certain Christian rituals as sacraments. But you’re gonna find many Evangelicals really don’t like that word. To them, we don’t call these practices “sacraments.” We call them “ordinances.”

Why? Officially, lots of reasons. Unofficially it’s anti-Catholicism.

See, a lot of Evangelicals come from churches and traditions which are historically anti-Catholic. True, all the original Protestants originated from various spats with Catholicism. But these folks were raised to be particularly leery of Roman Catholic beliefs. To them, “sacrament” has a lot of bothersome theological baggage attached. So they refuse to use it.

But we gotta call our rituals something, and for some reason “ritual” is out. So what these folks have chosen to emphasize is the fact Christ Jesus ordained certain rituals among us Christians: He ordered us to do ’em, and that’s why we do ’em. The two these people single out are holy communion 1Co 11.23-26 and baptism. Mt 28.19 (Some of them also recognize Jesus mandated foot-washing, Jn 13.14-15 but not every church is willing to list it as an ordinance. Which probably merits its own article.)

You’ll also find these Christians still practice a lot of the other sacraments. They just won’t call ’em ordinances either, ’cause Jesus didn’t ordain them. Although often the apostles did.

CATHOLIC SACRAMENTSEVANGELICAL EQUIVALENTSWHO ORDAINED IT
BaptismBaptismJesus
ConfirmationConfession of faith at baptismPeter
EucharistHoly communionJesus
PenanceCounseling, confession, and intercessionJames
Anointing the sickAnointing the sickJames
Holy ordersLaying hands on people for ministryThe LORD, to Moses
MatrimonyWedding ceremonies9th-century Christians

As you notice, Evangelicals still anoint and pray for the sick. Still lay hands on people they’re sending out to do ministry. Still perform wedding ceremonies, funerals, and baby dedications. Still counsel and intercede for people. It’s just they won’t call these other things “ordinances” because they’re not the three ordinances Jesus gave us… and they’ll still try to avoid the word “ritual,” even though it’s precisely what we’re doing.

It’s all about “not doing as Catholics do,” even though we’re totally doing as Catholics do.

“I’ve never heard that before.”

by K.W. Leslie, 24 April

When ignorance disguises itself as skepticism.

In bible studies, whenever certain topics came up in the passages we’re reading, my habit is to bring up the different beliefs and interpretations which different Christians have about them. You might notice I also do this on this blog. Yeah, I do it all the time. For three reasons.

  1. My church is hardly the only one out there. Hardly the only denomination; hardly the only tradition. Hardly got a monopoly on the truth. Lots of other Christians have pitched their two cents on these issues. Some of their ideas are useful.
  2. And some of ’em aren’t. They’re problematic. So it’s a bit of warning: At some point you’re gonna run into people who actually believe such things. (Even in your own church—what with the way Americans switch churches so often, not everybody grew up with your traditions.) You’ll wonder why the two of you seem to be talking past one another. Helps to know where they’re coming from.
  3. In general, it’s not wise for Christians to develop the idea, “There’s only one way to think about this—and it’s how I think, and everyone else is wrong.” No; we’re all wrong. So these are my reminders no one Christian, myself included, has all the answers. But some of us have different parts of the whole.

Most of the folks listen. Or politely pretend to, anyway.

But in one bible study I attend, there’s a person (we’ll call her Marlies) who regularly scoffs, “I don’t know where you meet these people. I don’t know any Christians who think that way.”

She’s hardly the first person who’s told me this. I’ve met people like this ever since seminary. I used to be this person.

Marlies has been a Christian three decades. But like a lot of people, she’s chosen to exist within a handcrafted echo chamber. Back when she was a newbie, she determined generally what she will and won’t believe. She then shunned everyone who won’t believe likewise. She doesn’t really come to these bible studies to learn, but to judge: She’s trying to make sure her church isn’t quietly teaching heresy behind her back.

But because Marlies’s entire Christian life has been spent within this echo chamber, where nobody tells her anything other than what she chooses to believe, there’s a lot of Christendom she’s wholly unfamiliar with. She doesn’t know Christian history. Doesn’t know other movements. Doesn’t know other denominations. Doesn’t care: She’s never gonna read their books, listen to their podcasts, interact with their churches. They’re not Christian enough for her, so she’s gonna pretend they’re pagans and leave them be. That is, unless she’s trying to share Jesus with them… but because their beliefs don’t line up with hers enough, she’s pretty sure they only think they’re Christian.

So when I talk about different Christians, Marlies doesn’t really believe in different Christians. Can’t believe true Christians would actually hold such beliefs. Kinda wonders about me, since I seem to think these crazy people are nonetheless Christian. Hence the scoffing: “I’ve never heard such a thing before.”

After all, Marlies figures she’s the baseline for Christianity. If she’s heard of it, or agrees with it, it’s Christian. If not, it can’t be.

It’s actually how a lot of Christians practice theology. It’s just that they tend to be quieter about it. Marlies isn’t. She’ll publicly proclaim she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. And kinda take some pride in that… even though the room is occasionally full of people who grew up in churches like that, and know exactly what I’m talking about.

Don’t just believe. Behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 April

James 1.22-25.

I grew up among Christians who believe they’re saved by faith. Not, as the scripture teaches, God’s grace. It’s weird, too; they read the very same letter of Ephesians as the rest of us (“by grace ye are saved” Ep 2.5 KJV), yet they somehow bungle their interpretation of 2.8 (“for by grace are ye saved through faith” Ep 2.8 KJV) and assume through takes precedence over by.

This isn’t a unique phenomenon either. To this day I run into Christians who think they’re saved by faith. All they gotta do is believe in Jesus—which is correct; it really is all we gotta do—and they’re saved. But they’re not saved by believing in Jesus. Nobody is. We’re saved by grace.

If we were saved by faith, it’d mean in order to be saved, I have to believe certain things. Believe ’em really hard. Reject every other belief, no matter how likely I might be to believe them instead. Sort out my beliefs so I’m believing all the correct things. Get my theological ducks in a row. And then I’m saved.

Um… doesn’t that sound like work to you? We’re not saved by works. Ep 2.9

“Well yes,” these folks reply: “We’re not saved by works. We’re saved by faith. Faith’s not a work! It can’t be, otherwise we wouldn’t be saved by it.” And then they proceed to demonstrate how they’re not saved by works… by not doing any.

What kind of [synonym for “messed”]-up Christians did I grow up among? Well, like I said, it’s not a unique phenomenon. Loads of Christians figure the only thing they need do, as Christians, is straighten out their theology. Good deeds are for those people who don’t really believe they’re saved by faith—who probably don’t have any faith anyway. So they practice “works righteousness,” and try to earn salvation. Unlike them, whose strenuous efforts to get every last obscure doctrine correct… somehow isn’t an attempt to earn salvation.

Anyway, these folks don’t know at all what to do with the letter of James. ’Cause not only did he equate faith with works in the next chapter (a lesson they’d love to call heresy, except it’s in the bible), he had lots to say about people who figured their beliefs matter, but their deeds don’t. Like so:

James 1.22-25 KWL
22 Become doers of the word, and not merely self-deceiving hearers,
23 because if you’re a hearer of the word, yet do nothing,
you’re like a man studying the face he was born with in a mirror:
24 He studies himself… and goes away, and quickly sets aside what sort of person he is.
25 You who look down into the perfect, freedom-giving Law, and remain there,
aren’t becoming forgetful hearers, but doers of good work.
What you’re doing is awesome.

James drilled directly down into their lifestyle. It’s not enough to listen to sermons. It’s not enough to shout “Amen!” when the preacher says clever things. It’s not enough to memorize bible verses and church doctrines. We gotta act on the word, the message, the prophecies, as given. We gotta behave like Christians. Not just believe like Christians.

“The gates of hell”: Just how won’t they prevail?

by K.W. Leslie, 19 April

Matthew 16.18.

Jesus once asked his students who they thought he was. Simon Peter, his best student, correctly identified Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. Mt 16.16

(Since we Christians recognize Jesus is the Father’s only-begotten son, Jn 1.18 we tend to read that into it, rather than recognize “Son of God” as one of Messiah’s titles. In historical context it’s not what Peter meant. But I digress.)

In response Jesus pointed out how awesome this was (KJV “blessed”) because Peter hadn't just deduced it; this was a case of supernatural discernment, or special revelation. The Father had personally revealed this to Peter. Mt 16.17 Which is kinda awesome.

Then Jesus said this:

Matthew 16.18 KJV
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The words Jesus used were pýlai ádu/“hades’s gates.” Latin turned this into portae inferi/“inferno’s gates.”—inferno being their word for the underworld, but in the day’s popular culture, this’d be hell. So that’s how Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, the Geneva Bible, and the King James interpreted it; and the ESV, ISV, Message, and NLT follow their lead.

But as I explained in my article on the four hells, that’s not what hades means. Hades is the grave. The afterlife. The place of the dead. That’s why other translations went with “the powers of death” (Expanded Bible, J.B. Phillips, NCV, RSV) —although that interpretation also has its problems.

Who’s the Man? That’d be us Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 April

American Christians’ persecution mentality… and the sober reality.

There’s a 2006 Sprint commercial pertinent to this discussion. I attached the video… which has been on YouTube a while, so let’s see how long it continues to stick around. The dialogue:


Stickin’ it to the Man.
Assistant. “Is that your new Sprint phone?”
Boss. “Uh-huh. With Sprint’s new Fair and Flexible plans, no one can tell me what to do. I can talk when, and how I want. It’s my little way of… sticking it to the Man.”
Assistant. “But… you… are the Man.”
Boss. “I know.”
Assistant. “So you’re sticking it to yourself.”
Boss. “…Maybe.”

Sprint’s sales pitch follows.

What makes this commercial funny is the idea someone in the ruling class, underneath all his success, still has a little bit of rebellion in him, getting satisfaction from the idea of resisting someone who’s got one over him.

What also makes it funny is it’s self-delusion. In fact he’s resisting no one. Sprint wants people to have their phone and data plan. They invented the packages and sell them to anyone, whether the Man or not. Hence the ad. This guy can imagine he’s sticking it to the Man all he likes, but nobody’s harmed by the fact he can spend all day on the phone. Well, depending on what he does on that phone.

By “the Man” we usually mean someone in the ruling class who can actually get consequential stuff done, even change things for the better… but doesn’t, ’cause the status quo profits him. For that matter, the Man created the status quo to profit himself, and won’t change it until he sees profit in another direction. If fighting pollution suddenly became super profitable, we’d see a whole lot of people miraculously come to believe in climate change. (The downside is the common misbelief that when something is profitable, it’s probably a scam; it’s a view which keeps the gears of conspiracy theorists spinning.)

Here’s the issue. If this dude is the Man, but he imagines someone else is the Man, you do realize he’s not utilizing any of his power to improve anything. He figures that’s someone else’s job.

It’s a common problem we have in the United States. Because we’re a democracy, we imagine everyone’s equal. And yeah, as far as votes are concerned, we are. But as far as power’s concerned, we’re not even slightly equal. Some of us wield a great deal of power: Authority, wealth, charisma, public influence, political capital. Others wield little to none. As Stan Lee famously put it, with great power comes great responsibility. Or as Christ Jesus put it, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Lk 12.48 KJV

But those who can make positive changes, who are best equipped to do and fix and improve things, don’t. Not ’cause they really can’t, or don’t care: It’s because they believe it’s not their duty. They don’t have the power. They aren’t the Man. Someone else is.

And there’s a popular mindset among Christians where not only are we not the Man, but the Man’s busy crapping all over us.

Theists and deists: The ways people believe in God.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 April

Most pagans do believe in God, y’know.

THEIST 'θi.ɪst adjective. Believes in the existence of God or gods.
2. Believes in one God, a personal being, the universe’s creator, who interacts with its creation.
[Theistic θi'ɪst.ɪk adjective, theism 'θi.ɪz.əm noun]
DEIST 'di.ɪst adjective, noun. Believes God exists, specifically as a creator who doesn’t supernaturally intervene in his universe.
[Deistic 'di.ɪs.tɪk adj., deism 'di.ɪz.əm n.]

If you believe in gods, you’re a theist. People tend to bunch theists into different classifications, depending on how many gods they believe in, and how. Both religious and irreligious people (and the Christian term for the non-religious is “pagan”) alike fall into these slots:

  • MONOTHEIST: Just the One God, thanks.
  • POLYTHEIST: Multiple gods. Sometimes two, a good and bad god, in a dualistic system. Sometimes three, among heretic Christians who really misunderstand the trinity. Sometimes a whole pantheon.
  • HENOTHEIST: Multiple gods, but they only deal with the one, so functionally they’re more monotheist than polytheist. The other gods are off limits, bad, or have their own realms which don’t involve us any.
  • PANTHEIST: The universe is God. (People often assume Hindus are polytheist, ’cause of all their gods, but really they’re pantheist.)
  • NONTHEIST: No god.

There’s a certain category of theist called deist, a person who believes in God… but believes this God largely leaves us humans alone, so in return we largely leave him (or her, or it, or them if you’re polytheist) alone.

This God created the cosmos. Made the Big Bang go bang. Maybe directed evolution so humans would arise; maybe didn’t. Probably provided us some form of afterlife, so when we die we don’t simply cease to exist. May expect us humans to be good… or maybe he doesn’t care. See, pagans don’t believe in organized religion, so they don’t accept anyone else’s views—not Christian, nor Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, nor anyone—as to what God’s like. Nor do they believe we can deduce what he’s like from nature, either. Their conclusion: God’s unknowable.

Deism insists God’s too foreign, too transcendent, too far beyond figuring out… other than assuming he’s good. Generally deists agree God’s good. (Won’t always agree what they mean by “good,” but still.) Since God’s good, we should be good. Concentrate on that. Be selfless and noble and rational and generous, and strive for all those other humanist ideals.

But as for what God’s like: Don’t know, so don’t fret. He’s too different. Probably not at all interested in what we’re going through, ’cause we’re too puny and petty to be worth his worry. If he cares about us at all (and maybe he does) he’ll sort us out somehow. If he doesn’t… well, what can we really do about it? Best to just live our lives. Be good. But otherwise don’t worry about God.

I know: This apathetic attitude towards God sounds an awful lot like a nontheist’s apathetic attitude towards no God and no religion. Both groups definitely have apathy in common. But the big difference becomes obvious once deists and nontheists drop apathy. When deists finally decide to take their beliefs about God seriously, they tend to fall into a religion. Whereas when nontheists decide to take their beliefs in no God seriously, they pick fights with theists.

When we’re surrounded by sickness and evil.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 April

A psalm for whenever we feel like we’re crapped upon.

A lot of the “problems” westerners go through are what we call “first-world problems”: If you’re rich and comfortable, little annoyances get exaggerated into big huge crises. Like when your phone battery dies, or the grocery store shrinks your favorite yogurt from 150 grams to 100 and raises the price a nickel, or somebody cut in line at the coffeehouse, or someone misunderstood your latest tweet and got all offended. Now your day is just ruined.

Poor people just laugh at these woes as ridiculous. ’Cause they are.

Parents of teenagers know what I’m talking about. I used to teach grammar, and my kids would write poetry, and sometimes they’d write really awful poems in which they’d bellyache about the “problems” in their largely problem-free lives. Rarely were they legitimate—like not having enough food, like fighting a difficult disease, like child abuse. Just a bunch of first-world problems. This or that kid was mean to ’em. Parents wouldn’t give them the money to waste on toys or clothes or concerts. And who needs good grades when you’re gonna be in the NBA someday? Teenage angst is largely the result of new hormones affecting a young mind that doesn’t yet know how to handle ’em. But kids assume it’s all this other dumb stuff.

Anyway. You want some real suffering, kids, you listen to David ben Jesse. Dude peaked too soon, making his king crazy jealous, forcing him into hiding for years. Once he finally took the throne he had to fight three civil wars—and that’s on top of all Israel’s external foes.

Plus, at the time he wrote this psalm, David apparently hadn’t changed his drawers in way too long, leading to a savage case of crotch rot in verse 7… and that’s the optimistic interpretation. Best I don’t speculate further. But you think your life sucks? David’s really sucked.

Yes, my translation made it rhyme again.

Psalm 38 KWL
0 David’s psalm—something to remember.
1 LORD, don’t correct me angrily, instructing me in heat,
2 because your arrows fall on me. Your strong hand has me beat.
3 My flesh’s instability from your indignant face;
my bones lack peace; my sinning moves your presence out of place.
4 I’ve more misdeeds than height! a heavy, heavy load for me.
5 My wounds all stink and rot thanks to my clear stupidity.
6 I’m twisted, bent way down; I walk in darkness all the day.
7 My burning genitals!—unstable flesh just wastes away.
8 I’m numb. I’m very crushed. My groaning heart through which I’ve cried—
9 My Master, my desires and sighs are obvious. Don’t hide.
10 My heart vibrates. My strength is gone. My eyes’ light: Also gone.
11 My loves and friends both shun my plague. My nearest: Far along.
12 Some want to trap my soul, have me wreak havoc, do what’s wrong.
They meditate on tricks to play upon me all day long.
13 I’m deaf, so I heard nothing. Mouth not open. I stayed mute.
14 Much like a man who doesn’t hear, I’d nothing to refute.
15 I hope in you, my LORD, my Master God. Reply, I plead:
16 I said, “These big shots hope to see me trip on my own feet.”
17 For I expect to fall! It’s like I’m walking on a thorn.
18 My evil I confess; my sinning causes me to mourn.
19 My enemies, alive and strong—and liars—come in droves.
20 Instead of goodness, vice; since I chase goodness, they oppose.
21 Don’t leave me, LORD! I need you here. Please don’t be far away.
22 Save me quick, my Master and my savior—come today!

Baptism: Get saved, get wet.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 April
BAPTISM 'bæp.tɪz.əm noun. Religious ritual of sprinkling water on a person’s forehead, or immersing them in water, symbolizing purification, regeneration, and admission to the church.
[Baptist 'bæp.təst noun, baptizand 'bæp.tɪ.zænd noun, baptismal bæp'tɪz.məl adjective.]

Whenever the ancient Hebrews did something ritually unclean, before they went to temple they had to make themselves ritually clean. How they did that was to simply wash themselves with water and wait till sundown. After which point they could go to temple.

Since you only had to go to temple three times a year, this didn’t require a whole lot of ritual washing. That is, till the Pharisees showed up. To them, any form of worship required people to be ritually clean. So if you went to synagogue, whether daily or just for Sabbath, you needed to be ritually clean. Gotta wash.

How the Pharisees (and today’s Orthodox Jews) did so was to create a mikvéh/“collection [of water].” Basically a vat, pool, or something large enough where a person could stand upright underwater. It had to be “living water,” by which they meant running water: Something had to be dripping into it, and preferably draining from it. You walked into it, fully clothed; then walked out and waited for sundown. This, they called váptisma/“dipping, soaking,” and it’s where we get our word baptism.

If you were a new Pharisee, you’d be baptized as part of joining the synagogue. And that’s where John the baptist got the idea for his form of baptism: If you were repentant, and wanted to turn from your sins to follow God, here was baptism.

Since Jesus (though he personally had no sins to repent of) submitted to John’s baptism, and instructed his students to baptize any new students, Mt 28.19 baptism has become the rite of Christian initiation. You’ve decided to follow Jesus? Get baptized in water. Get forgiven. Receive the Holy Spirit. Ac 2.38

There’s another form of baptism, called baptism of the Holy Spirit. I discuss that elsewhere.

Like every sacrament, Christians get obsessed with doing it properly, or believing all the correct things about it. Sacraments, you recall, represent something God’s doing. Not so much us. We do the ritual, but God does the spiritual reality behind it, and that’s the relevant part. Still, you know how self-centered we humans get: “Oh, if you did it that way, it doesn’t count.” As if God’s not gonna embrace a new follower because we used a bottle of water instead of the nearest river.

Misreading and mistreating those who mourn.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 April

Job 4–5

After Job suffered the tremendous disaster of having his children, employees, and livestock all killed in one day, three of his friends came and sat shiva with him. Jb 2.11-13 For a week they said nothing.

Then Job vented for a chapter.“Wish I’d never been born; Jb 3.3 why didn’t I die at birth; Jb 3.11 I wish I were dead.” Jb 3.20-22 The usual stuff people say when they’ve suffered an earth-shattering loss, particularly when loved ones die. Stuff we’re supposed to listen to, sympathize with… and watch these people in case they actually try to act upon any of it. (Half the time they’re all talk, but sometimes they’re not, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.)

But you know how humans are: We try to fix one another. We don’t leave it in the hands of professionals, who know how to guide people to make good choices. We tell ’em, “You know what you oughta do,” and tell them so. Or worse, we try to do it for them.

So in Job, here’s where all the bad advice begins. The first to talk was Job’s friend Elifáz of Teyman (KJV “Eliphaz the Temanite”). Therefore he’s gonna get picked on first. It is, as the LORD told Elifáz at the end of the book, wholly inaccurate information about the LORD. Jb 42.7 Yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my fellow Christians proclaim all same foolish things. It’s like they never even read this book… well, beyond the first chapters and the happy ending.

Job 4.1-6 KWL
1 Elifáz of Teyman replied. He said:
2 “Are you too weary for anyone to prove a thing to you?
Who’s able to stifle your sayings?
3 Look, you’ve strengthened many, and made weak hands strong.
4 Your sayings upheld the stumbling and strengthened bent knees.
5 But now this comes to you, and you’re ‘weary.’ It smites you and you panic.
6 Wasn’t your fear of God overconfidence? Your path of integrity your hope?”

There y’go, Elifáz. Start smacking him while he’s down.

Before this disaster, Job was a great man, a wise man, full of good advice, ready to help people when they were in need. Then disaster struck, and he understandably fell to pieces. “So where’s your God now? Where’s your faith? Did you even have faith before?”

Okay. In the Christian life, sometimes we’re gonna go through crises of faith. Which is totally normal: When we don’t know any better, we mistakenly put our faith in the wrong things. Rituals instead of relationship, things instead of people, feel-good ideas instead of truth, “I now know best” instead of “I’m wrong but Jesus is right,” putting people on pedestals where they don’t belong, declaring doctrines non-negotiable when they totally are, and conversely prioritizing favorite attitudes over the real non-negotiables.

In order to set us right, sometimes the Holy Spirit has to smash these idols. Which will really discombobulate us. We thought God gave these things to us, or wanted us to believe or have them, or would never interfere with such things… and how mean it was of him to take ’em away. Like pouty children, sometimes we even don’t care to talk to our Father for a good long time afterwards.

But this wasn’t at all what Job was doing.

Job hadn’t made an idol of his kids, employees, and livestock. He didn’t turn on God; he’d made a big point of saying such behavior was stupid. Jb 2.9-10 Job had integrity: He didn’t follow God only when times were good. We get like that. We love him when we’re prosperous, but when times get rough we’re no longer sure he’s around—or if he even exists. Job wasn’t going through any such crisis of faith. But Elifáz’s words suggest that’s what he assumed was happening. He totally misread the situation.