Favor, grace, same thing.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 June

Grace is God’s generous, forgiving, kind, favorable attitude towards us. And favor means a generous, forgiving, kind, gracious attitude. In other words, they mean the very same thing.

This is some of the reason people don’t see grace in the bible as often as they oughta. They don’t realize grace and favor are synonyms.

When God grants people favor—when he picks favorites, be they individuals or entire nations—he’s showing ’em grace. They don’t merit his favor; they don’t earn it. You don’t earn it. That’s the usual complaint about favor: It’s not fair. “Why do you keep playing favorites?” Because they’re favorites. It’s not deserved; it’s inherently unfair. Just like grace—which is kinda what makes it awesome.

But I realize a lot of people use the term incorrectly. Such as when they insist, “You owe me a favor”—supposedly they’ve racked up enough karma points, and are hoping to draw from them.

Or “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Ge 6.8 NIV Too many sermons claim that’s because Noah earned God’s favor, by being the one good guy on a planet covered in sinners. Ge 6.9 Which’d mean Noah earned salvation—which is entirely antithetical to the bible’s main message. Nobody earns salvation. God is generous to people who are making an effort, but the idea that anyone merits forgiveness is one we need to watch out for; it undermines our message.

Noah, as the KJV puts it, “found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Ge 6.8 KJV Because the ideas are interchangeable. Both the Hebrew khen and the Greek háris get translated both ways. Note the KJV.

 GRACE, GRACIOUSFAVOUROTHER
HEBREW:
KHEN
(69×)
Ge 6.8, 19.19, 32.5, 33.8, 33.10, 33.15, 34.11, 39.4, 47.25, 47.29, 50.4, Ex 33.12-13, 33.16-17, 34.9, Nu 32.5, Jg 6.17, Ru 2.2, 2.10, 1Sa 1.18, 20.3, 27.5, 2Sa 14.22, 16.4, Es 2.17, Ps 45.2, 84.11, Pr 1.9, 3.22, 3.34, 4.9, 11.16, 22.11, Ec 10.12, Jr 31.2, Zc 4.7, 12.10 Ge 18.3, 30.27, 39.21, Ex 3.21, 11.3, 12.36, Nu 11.11, 11.15, Dt 24.1, Ru 2.13, 1Sa 16.22, 20.29, 25.8, 2Sa 15.25, 1Ki 11.19, Es 2.15, 5.2, 5.8, 7.3, 8.5, Pr 3.4, 13.15, 22.1, 28.23, 31.30, Ec 9.11 Pr 5.19, 17.8, Na 3.4
GREEK:
HÁRIS
(156×)
Lk 2.40, 4.22, Jn 1.14, 1.16-17, Ac 4.33, 13.43, 14.3, 14.26, 15.11, 15.40, 18.27, 20.24, 20.32, Ro 1.5, 1.7, 3.24, 4.4, 4.16, 5.2, 5.15, 15.17, 5.20-21, 6.1, 6.14-15, 11.5-6, 12.3, 12.6, 15.15, 16.20, 16.24, 1Co 1.3-4, 3.10, 10.30, 15.10, 16.23, 2Co 1.2, 1.12, 4.15, 6.1, 8.1, 8.6-7, 8.9, 8.19, 9.8, 9.14, 12.9, 13.14, Ga 1.3, 1.6, 1.15, 2.9, 2.21, 5.4, 6.18, Ep 1.2, 1.6-7, 2.5, 2.7-8, 3.2, 3.7-8, 4.7, 4.29, 6.24, Pp 1.2, 1.7, 4.23, Cl 1.2, 1.6, 3.16, 4.6, 4.18, 1Th 1.1, 5.28, 2Th 1.2, 1.12, 2.16, 3.18, 1Ti 1.2, 1.14, 6.21, 2Ti 1.2, 1.9, 2.1, 4.22, Tt 1.4, 2.11, 3.7, 3.15, Pm 1.3, 1.25, He 2.9, 4.16, 10.29, 12.15, 12.28, 13,9, 13.25, Jm 4.6, 1Pe 1.2, 1.10, 1.13, 3.7, 4.10, 5.5, 5.10, 5.12, 2Pe 1.2, 3.18, 2Jn 1.3-4, Rv 1.4, 22.21 Lk 1.30, Ac 2.47, 7.10, 7.46, 11.23, 25.3 Lk 6.32-34, 17.9, 24.27, 25.9, Ro 6.17, 1Co 15.57, 16.3, 2Co 1.15, 2.14, 8.4, 8.16, 9.15, 1Ti 1.12, 2Ti 1.3, Pm 1.7, 1Pe 2.19-20

Other translations have just as much a tendency to render these words as either grace or favor, depending on translator’s preference. Obviously the KJV’s New Testament translators greatly preferred grace, whereas their Old Testament translators could go either way.

The first 12 apostles.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 June

Despite the kingdom’s unlimited resources, let’s not be stupid with them.

Mark 3.13-19 • Matthew 10.1-4 • Luke 6.12-16, 9.1-2

The word apostle means “one who’s been sent out.” We Christians use it to refer to anyone whom Jesus has sent out. If your pastor sends you somewhere, you’re just a representative; maybe a missionary. But if Jesus sends you, you’re an apostle.

I know; some churches insist the only apostles are the 12 guys Jesus designated when he was walking the earth—with a special exception made for Paul, ’cause Jesus appeared to him special. I’d point out Jesus still appears to people special, and can therefore send any one of us to do anything he chooses. So yeah, he still makes apostles. But the first 12 guys are special, ’cause they’re the guys Jesus used to start his church.

As for why he picked ’em, we have to read the bit which comes before the list of apostles. It makes it kinda obvious.

Mark 3.7-12 KWL
7 Jesus went back over the lake, with his students and many groups:
People from the Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond-Jordan, Tyre, and Sidon.
Hearing about whatever Jesus was doing, many groups came to him.
9 Jesus spoke to his students so they’d have a boat nearby, because of the crowds.
Thus they wouldn’t crush him. 10 Jesus had cured many.
So the many plague-sufferers could touch him, they resorted to jumping him.
11 Whenever unclean spirits saw Jesus, they fell down before him,
shouting out, “You’re the son of God!”— 12 and Jesus silenced them, lest they expose him.

This was the massive job Jesus’s ministry was fast becoming. I already wrote about the intensity of the crowds coming to Jesus—it’s no wonder he decided it was time to pick apprentices. So Jesus selected 12 of his best students, took ’em someplace private, and designated them apostles.

Mark 3.13-15 KWL
13 Jesus went up the hill, summoned those he wanted, and they came to him.
14 Jesus made 12 whom he named apostles, who’d be with him
and he could send them to preach 15 and have authority to throw out demons.
Matthew 10.1 KWL
1 Summoning 12 of his students, Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits,
so as to throw them out and cure every disease, every illness.
Luke 6.12-13 KWL
12 It happened in those days Jesus himself came out to the hill to pray,
and he was spending the night in prayer with God.
13 When day came, Jesus called his students and chose 12 of them, whom he named apostles.
Luke 9.1-2 KWL
1 Calling together the 12 apostles, Jesus gave them power to cure; authority over all demons and disease.
2 Jesus sent them to preach God’s kingdom and to heal the unwell.

Lots of folks assume these 12 were Jesus’s only students. Obviously this isn’t true; after Jesus ascended there were about 120 students praying for the Holy Spirit, and two of ’em were nominated to fill Judas Iscariot’s slot. Ac 1.15-26 The apostles were simply the standouts among Jesus’s students. They were still students, but what made the apostles significant was what Jesus designated and sent ’em to do.

Namely the very same things Jesus did.

An irreligious religion.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 June
RELIGION ri'lɪ.dʒən noun. Worship of a superhuman controlling power, usually a personal God or impersonal universe.
2. Particular system of belief and worship, as demonstrated through actions and declarations.
3. A supremely important pursuit or interest, followed as if worship.
[Religious ri'lɪ.dʒəs adjective.]

A significant part of authentic Christianity is religion: We worship God, and we do it through actions. For any belief system which doesn’t take any action, which doesn’t result in any changed lives or good deeds (or even bad deeds), isn’t real. Or, as James puts it, it’s dead. Jm 2.26

But for a lot of Evangelicals in the United States, religion’s become a bad word. “Religious” has become mixed up with traditional. More specifically with the more empty, meaningless traditions which attempt to express worship through action, but don’t appear to bring us any closer to God.

Fr’instance. When we were kids, and somebody taught us a rote prayer, they didn’t always explain why we pray rote prayers, or what good they can do, or what use they are. Sometimes they assumed we already knew. Sometimes they gave us a brief but inadequate explanation. Usually they gave me a wrong explanation. Just as often, I’d get no explanation: “Just do it. It’s what we do.” Consequently we did it, but never saw the point. Didn’t feel like it was doing anything for us. Kinda boring, actually.

The proper term for this is dead religion: Actions we don’t really believe in. Works without faith.

If it were explained properly, would it be living religion? Sometimes. My church, I think, did a really good and thorough job of explaining water baptism to me. It’s why I still tell new believers to get baptized as soon as they can, and stop putting it off till it’s “convenient.” But despite their explanations I still don’t think it absolutely vital to dunk people, or especially to tip them backwards into the water so they can get it up their noses. But I digress.

The problem is, Evangelicals drop that adjective “dead” and simply call these works religion. To them, dead religion is what “religion” means. For Christianity isn’t about practices and rituals: It’s about faith in the living God, as defined by Christ Jesus. It’s about grace, where God grants us his kingdom despite our really obvious inadequacies. The rituals, the practices, the charity, the obedience? All that stuff’s optional, they insist, since we’re saved by grace, not works. Ep 2.8-9 And really, since the works so easily turn into works without faith, best to avoid it altogether.

That’s what Evangelicals mean when they sing Darrell Evans’ 2002 song “Fields of Grace.” Third verse:

There’s a place where religion finally dies
There’s a place where I lose my selfish pride
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace

My previous church used to sing this, and a number of ’em would give a big whoop when we sang, “religion finally dies.” Not because they’re disobedient, uncharitable Christians; not at all. Again it’s because they considered religion and dead religion to be one and the same, and they’re so happy to be done with the wasteful hypocrisy. As, I expect, does Evans when he sings this.

But here’s the problem. In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the government officially deleted words from the language. Supposedly to make it more efficient; why have the word “bad” when “ungood” can do the job? But really it was because they astutely figured if we don’t have a word for something, it’s harder to express that idea without it. So if we drop the word “religion” from Christianese… how do we discuss the idea of faith lived out in good works? which words take its place? Do any?

In my experience, no.

Christians, Islamophobia, and “Who Is Allah?”

by K.W. Leslie, 12 June

Yep, I’m taking apart a Chick tract again.

Recently an interesting yet annoying argument came up in a discussion group about the difference between devout Muslims, and the nutjobs who call themselves Muslim—then murder people and blow stuff up. Watch certain news channels and you’ll never hear there’s any difference. As a result many Americans think there is no difference. They assume the fakes are actual Muslims and call ’em “radical Islam.”

I’ve pointed out this is like claiming a white supremacist is a “radical Christian.” Scary thing is, there are many pagans who actually respond, “Yeah, that’s precisely what it’s like.” To their minds when you call yourself Christian or Muslim, even if you’re not at all like Jesus or Muhammad taught, it’s still what you are.

Anyway. If you wanna know how various Fundamentalists and certain conservative Evangelicals think about this, I find it really useful to turn to fear-mongering tract-maker Jack T. Chick.

Chick tracts are meant to convert people to Christianity. Mainly his particular narrow brand of Fundamentalist Christianity. Typically they do this by showing people their existing belief systems were invented by Satan, and if you’re in any way connected with those beliefs, God intends to toss you into fiery hell. In between the lines, somehow you’re expected to believe God loves you and wants you to turn to Jesus… before he has to destroy your wicked, evil pagan soul.

What’s far more likely is people are gonna respond to these tracts, “What is wrong with this guy?” and assume all us Christians think the very same things. And hate pagans too, and think they’re all devilish and bad.


No, this guy isn’t pointing to himself to imply he’s Allah. Pretty sure that’s blasphemy. Allah 1 (Reference numbers to this tract refer to images on the website; the cover is 1, the next page is 2, etc.)

As I pointed out in my bit on Chick’s tract “The Attack,” he’s totally willing to invent history and misquote bible to prove his points. He’ll do it again in today’s tract, “Who is Allah?” You can read it in its entirety on Chick’s website, along with a version for white people called “Allah Has No Son.” Both tracts aren’t just inaccurate: They include blatant lies.

I’m gonna quote the Quran in this article. Since I don’t know Arabic I didn’t translate it myself; I went with the Yusuf Ali translation, which is likely the same one Chick used. Unlike the bible, the Quran is one book, with 114 suwar/“chapters.” So I refer to ’em as Quran, chapter and verse. (Chick’s footnotes go like “Sura 5:33,” which just means “chapter 5.33.”)

The white-person tract’s title, “Allah Has No Son,” actually comes from Quranic teachings:

Quran 17.111
Say, “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner in his dominion:
Nor needs he any to protect him from humiliation: Yea, magnify him for his greatness and glory!”

Muslims are really big on saying that. They want to make it crystal clear that while they believe in Jesus—really, they do!—they don’t believe he’s God’s son. Nor that God has any sons.

As one of God’s adopted sons, I could explain the whole adoption idea… but this piece isn’t about rebutting Islam, but Islamophobes.

Demons.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 June

The evil spirits who get us to follow and worship ’em.

One fairly common pagan belief is animism, the idea everything has a anima/“soul,” or lifeforce. No, not just things that are actually alive, like plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. Inanimate objects could have a lifeforce too. Like weather, water, or fire, which certainly act alive. Like the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which pagans actually worshiped as if they were alive.

And lest you think that’s just an ancient pagan practice, look how often people still do it. People talk about the “vibe” of a place—a workplace, nightclub, school, restaurant, home, whatever. Or the luck attached to a charm or item of clothing. Or the “feels” attached to a favorite chair, blanket, toy, car. Or the “spirit” of a good idea, like charity, patriotism, wisdom, and prosperity.

The ancient Greeks believed these lifeforces were intelligent beings. Like little gods. Everything important had one. They weren’t necessarily important enough to be full-on theoí/“gods” (although they were pretty quick to promote the lifeforce of Athens to godhood; you might know her as Athena). But the rest were lesser gods, which the Greeks called daímones or daimónia.

Yeah, I know; Christians have a wholly different definition. To us, a demon is a fallen angel, an evil or unclean spirit. ’Cause the writers of the New Testament obviously saw them that way.

Mark 5.1-3 KWL
1 They came to the far side of the lake, to the Gerasene district, 2 and as Jesus got out of the boat,
a man with an unclean spirit instantly came down from the monuments to meet him.
3 He’d been living among the monuments. Nobody was able to restrain him, not even with chains.
Luke 8.26-27 KWL
26 They arrived in the Gerasene district, which is opposite the Galilee, 27 and as they got out onto the land,
they met some man who had demons, who came from the city.
He hadn’t worn clothes for some time, and he didn’t live in a house but among the monuments.

Note how Mark calls it an unclean spirit, and Luke calls it demons. It’s not a false definition. Demons are unclean spirits. If there’s any spirit attached to a creature or thing, which wants you to respect or worship it lest it get angry and throw a tantrum, it’s certainly not a clean spirit.

But I’m trying to fill you in on the mindset ancient pagans had when they talked about daimónia. They believed some of these spirits were benevolent, some malevolent. Some were helpful, some harmful. They’d actually ask the help of daimónia whenever they were in a jam.

And today’s pagans aren’t all that different. They won’t necessarily call these spirits daimónia, although neo-Pagan religions don’t mind borrowing the old Greek term, or the Latin dæmon, to describe nature spirits. But your typical irreligious pagan is gonna figure they’re just spirits, familiar spirits, friendly spirits, or even angels.

And unlike the ancient Greeks, pagans don’t always realize there are good spirits and bad. They naïvely tend to assume all spirits are good. All angels are good. ’Cause why, they figure, would these spirits be bad?—they’re “higher beings” than we are. They don’t have physical needs and desires; they’re better than that. Go ahead and seek their counsel and take their advice.

But we Christians know angels and spirits aren’t higher beings. They’re on the same level as we. Some of ’em serve God like humans do; Rv 22.9 and some of ’em defy God like humans do. They’re not better than that; a number of ’em crave power just like any human. Sometimes that takes the form of power over humans. A human to manipulate for its own gain or amusement. Or enter, and work like a meat puppet.

Jesus doesn’t teach like scribes.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 June

A new authority. One that really bugged ’em.

Mark 1.21-22 • Matthew 7.28-29 • Luke 4.31-32

As Jesus wrapped up his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew includes a comment about the way he taught his lessons, and the way his listeners reacted to it:

Matthew 7.28-29 KWL
28 It happened when Jesus finished these lessons, the masses were amazed at his teaching:
29 His teaching wasn’t like their scribes, but like one who has authority.

It’s much the same way Mark and Luke described it when Jesus first began teaching in synagogue.

Mark 1.21-22 KWL
21 Jesus and his students entered Kfar Nahum, and next, Jesus joined the synagogue.
He was teaching on Sabbath 22 and they were amazed at Jesus’s teaching:
His teaching wasn’t like that of the scribes, but like one with authority.
Luke 4.31-32 KWL
31 Jesus came to Kfar Nahum, a Galilean city.
He was teaching on Sabbath, 32 and they were amazed at his teaching,
because his lesson was given with power.

Incorrectly, preachers tend to claim this whole “not like scribes, but someone with authority” has to do with Jesus’s attitude when he taught. You know, like John Calvin described it: Jesus wasn’t some cold dead expounder of the scriptures, but a spellbinding public speaker who taught with charisma and enthusiasm.

The meaning of the Evangelists is, that the power of the Spirit shone in the preaching of Christ with such brightness, as to extort admiration even from irreligious and cold hearers. Luke says that “his discourse was accompanied with power,” that is, full of majesty. Mark expresses it more fully, by adding a contrast, that it was unlike the manner of teaching “of the Scribes.” As they were false expounders of Scripture, their doctrine was literal and dead, breathed nothing of the power of the Spirit, and was utterly destitute of majesty. The same kind of coldness may be now observed in the speculative theology of popery. Those masters do indeed thunder out whatever they think proper in a sufficiently magisterial style; but as their manner of discoursing about divine things is so profane, that their controversies exhibit no traces of religion, what they bring forward is all affectation and mere driveling; for the declaration of the Apostle Paul holds true, that “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1Co 4.20 In short, the Evangelists mean that, while the manner of teaching, which then prevailed, was so greatly degenerated and so extremely corrupted, that it did not impress the minds of men with any reverence for God, the preaching of Christ was eminently distinguished by the divine power of the Spirit, which procured for him the respect of his hearers. This is the “power,” or rather the majesty and “authority,” at which the people were astonished. Commentary at Mk 1.22, Lk 4.32

You might already realize the massive problem with this point of view: If Jesus has just gotta be authoritative because his teaching sounds so inspiring, it follows that anybody whose teaching sounds clever and intriguing must therefore be from God. And plenty of winsome con men are kinda counting on us to think like that. Makes their job easier.

Calvin got it wrong ’cause he was more interested in doing a little Catholic-bashing than boning up on his Pharisee history. (If you didn’t zone out in the middle of his big ol’ paragraph, that’s what he meant by “the speculative theology of popery.” He must’ve got really sick of it at the University of Bourges.)

Adultery, concubines, and marriage, in the Old Testament.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June

Years ago one of my eighth-grade students asked me what a concubine was. ’Cause he wasn’t familiar with the word, and it was in his bible. It’s in everybody’s bibles: Pylegéš/“concubine,” which Strong’s dictionary defines as “concubine; paramour.” I just went with the 21st-century term for paramour: “It’s a girlfriend,” I told him.

Later that day his mother called me to complain. She heard the story, spoke with her pastor, and he assured her a concubine is a wife. Not a girlfriend. What sort of morality was I attempting to teach her son?

Um… it wasn’t a morality lesson. It’s a definition. The morality lesson comes from whether you think the bible’s references to concubines is prescriptive or descriptive: Whether because the patriarchs did it, we can; or whether the patriarchs simply did it, but Jesus calls us to be better than they. (I’ll save you the guessing game: It’s nearly always the second one.)

The patriarchs had concubines. These were, as my Oxford dictionary defines ’em, “a regular female companion with whom a person has a romantic or sexual relationship.” Our English word comes from the Latin con cubaré/“to lie down with.” A patriarch would lie down with one of the women in his household, making her his concubine. Not necessarily have sex with her, as was the case with King David and his concubine Abishag. 1Ki 1.1-4 (And if you wanna argue Abishag wasn’t a concubine, then it doesn’t make sense why Solomon freaked out when his brother Adonijah asked to marry her. 1Ki 2.13-25 Claiming your father’s women meant you claimed your father’s kingdom. 2Sa 16.20-22)

Why do some Christians insist a concubine isn’t a girlfriend, but a wife? Simple: It’s a culture clash.

When we read the Old Testament, we’re looking into an entirely different culture with an entirely different worldview about sex and marriage. We don’t realize this: We figure since they followed God, and we follow God, we share worldviews. And in our culture, a married man with a girlfriend on the side is an adulterer. Well, all these God-fearing OT saints with concubines, like Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, or King David: We’ll can kinda, grudgingly accept they had multiple wives. But multiple wives plus girlfriends? Beyond the pale. That’d make them, to our minds, adulterers.

So to clear them of the charge of adultery, “concubine” can’t merely mean “girlfriend.” It has to be some ancient kind of wife.

Punishing ourselves. (Don’t!)

by K.W. Leslie, 06 June

Crack open a dictionary and the first definition you’ll find for penance is often “voluntary self-punishment as an expression of repentance.”

Actually that’s not what penance is supposed to mean. Our word penance comes from the Latin verb pænitere/“be sorry.” That’s all penance means: We regret what we did, we apologize, we ask forgiveness, and we resolve to do better in future. Period. When Christians confess our sins to one another, that’s all penance, penitence, repentance, or whatever word we wanna use for it, ought to consist of.

Problem is, the way Christians have historically demonstrated how sorry we are, is to prove it by making ourselves suffer. By undergoing punishment. Sometimes voluntarily. Sometimes not.

So let me make this absolutely clear: God’s kingdom is about God’s grace. Christians punishing themselves, or punishing one another, is contrary to grace. It’s not a fruit of the Spirit.

I won’t go so far as to call it a work of the flesh. That’s because there’s a time and place for penalties and consequences. But that time and place is only in the context of restitution, and the unrepentant.

When Christians hurt one another, we need to make it right as best we can. If we can’t, grace is gonna have to make up the difference. If the neighbor boy burns your house down, of course he can’t afford you a new house; forgive! But if he swiped your bike, of course he oughta return the bike—and even if he doesn’t, forgive! Mt 5.38-42 Any additional penalties need to be tacked on by parents or the state. Not the Christian; not the church. Christians are only to forgive.

Now sometimes Christians don’t regret their sins. They’d willingly do ’em again if the circumstances repeated themselves—and will even proudly say so. “Of course I hit him for insulting my wife; anyone who goes after me and mine should expect it.” When people are more interested in their rights, their lusts, their vengeance, their will, their flesh, than in following Jesus, these people need to be removed from your church before they harm you. ’Cause they will.

Applying penalties and consequences to Christians who wanna get right with God, means you’re teaching them this is how we get right with God. Not by trusting God to save us, but by striving to save ourselves. Not by grace; by good works. Not by receiving, but by effort. Not by love; by merit.

Nope, it has nothing to do with God. He does not want us to hurt ourselves. If you think God told you to do it, that wasn’t God. Period. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it, stop it.

There’s enough pain and suffering in the world as it is. God wants to fix it, not create more of it. He doesn’t do abuse. He doesn’t approve of self-abuse. Even though plenty of Christians claim, “God wants us to suffer so we truly understand and share Christ’s suffering,” Pp 3.10 or “God gave me this thorn in the flesh, same as he did Paul,” 2Co 12.7 or “I need to beat my body so I can develop self-discipline.” 1Co 9.27 WEB Obviously they’re pulling those verses out of context. They’re wrong.

Yes, in our messed-up world, Christians suffer. Everybody suffers. Life is suffering. Jn 16.33 But to manufacture our own suffering? To produce more suffering? It’s contrary to the kingdom. It’s devilish.

Evangelicals, climate change, and creation care.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 June

Why American Evangelicals don’t believe in, nor care about, climate change.

Gotta admit: For the longest time I was skeptical about climate change.

Back then it was called “global warming”—the idea of pollution changing our planet’s atmosphere, creating a “greenhouse effect” which trapped heat and gradually upped the world’s average temperature. And even if it did exist, big deal. So the world’s temperature went up a degree or two. What kind of impact would that make? Hardly any, I expected.

’Cause naïvely I’d imagined “average temperature” meant everywhere only got warmer by a degree. The north and south poles, however, got warmer by more than that. Warm enough for a lot of ice to melt.


Between 1980 and 2003, the north polar ice cover shrunk 1.6 million square kilometers. It’s getting so ships can now travel the Arctic Ocean. NASA

The reason I hadn’t believed in climate change was because, at the time, it was speculation. Based on evidence, but still speculation. I’m old enough to remember when scientists were predicting global cooling: Back in the 1970s, some scientists claimed another ice age was on the way, and the United States would be covered in snow like that lousy 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow. Global cooling, global warming; make up your mind, science guys.

But between the shrunken ice caps and sinking islands, I grew convinced. Obviously the poles are getting warmer; ergo the earth is getting warmer.

The “price of industrialization”—well, when Beijing can’t be bothered to filter their smokestacks. CNN

All right, if pollution is the problem, can we solve it? Of course we can. Some of you older folks remember when London, New York, and Los Angeles were covered in smog to the level Beijing currently is. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, and despite the nearby ocean making it legitimately overcast in the mornings, it used to remain “overcast,” in the wrong shade of gray, most days. It’s not anymore. California passed laws capping emissions. There was some uproar at the time, ’cause adjustment costs money, and those who have to spend the most on it really don’t wanna. But now we can breathe our own air… something China’s bigger cities can’t yet do.

So can we fight pollution and win? Of course; we’ve done it before. Humans, as the LORD once pointed out, can do whatever we set our minds to. Ge 11.6 At the time it wasn’t a compliment; we were up to no good. But we can do good. Not always for righteous reasons, but still.

Problem is, a significant number of politically conservative Evangelical Christians in the United States don’t believe in climate change. Even after they’re presented the very same evidence I was.

When pagans die.

by K.W. Leslie, 01 June

Have they no hope? Well, let’s not rule that out.

Yeah, this is gonna be a bummer of an article. Sorry. It needs saying.

When Christians die, it’s sad. ’Cause we’re never gonna see those people again in this lifetime. We often say, “We’ll see ’em in heaven,” and that’s true—though not quite as pop-culture Christianity imagines it. We’ll see them in the kingdom of heaven. Once Jesus returns to establish that kingdom, we Christians are all getting resurrected, and they’ll be back, better than before. As will we. That’s our hope.

But it’s not pagans’ hope.

The Latin word paganus meant someone from the country, and therefore not from the city. Christians adopted it to refer to people who don’t live in the city of God, or civilians who aren’t in the Lord’s army. By definition a pagan isn’t in the kingdom. Not going to heaven. They’re outside—and outside isn’t good.

So when pagans die, it’s a profound loss. Not only are we not seeing them again, we’re likely not seeing them in the age to come. Because they resisted a relationship with Christ Jesus, they don’t inherit his kingdom. They don’t come back with us Christians. They don’t get resurrected till Judgment Day, Rv 20.5, 12-13 and things don’t turn out so well for them: They go into the fire. Rv 20.15

I know; it’s awful. I don’t wish it on anyone. But it’s the path they chose.

Pagans are fond of denouncing us Christians for “concocting” this story, as if we invented it as some sick ’n twisted revenge fantasy. Which stands to reason: If you don’t believe in Jesus, of course you’re gonna think Christians invented this scenario. And it’d say all sorts of things about our lack of compassion, graciousness, and love—especially as your typical pagan believes in universalism, where everybody goes to heaven, whether they want to or not. So how dare we deny them a pleasant afterlife.

But this is no mere story. And we Christians didn’t concoct it. If pop culture ideas about hell are any indication, our ideas would be way worse. Popular depictions of hell don’t involve dark fire; they involve torture. Devils with pitchforks, jabbing people as if being burnt weren’t torment enough. Or ironic psychological horrors. Stuff that increases the suffering. Sick stuff.

True, some of those warped ideas were invented by Christians who wish all manner of hateful, painful stuff on pagans. And these people have serious problems with unforgiveness, and need to repent. We’re supposed to love our enemies, Lk 6.27 not devise brave punishments for them.

But again: The fire wasn’t our idea. And no, it’s not God’s idea either. He wants everybody to be saved! 1Ti 2.4

Then why’s it there? Because if people don’t wanna be anywhere where God is—if they wanna get so far away from him, nothing he created will be around to remind them of his very existence—there’d be nothing left but chaos. Darkness. Fire. Plus all the other people who likewise wanna be apart from God, so they’ll be serious downers. Hence all the weeping and gnashing. It’ll be awful.

It’s why Jesus described it as fire, and warns us away from that. Nobody has to go there! Don’t go there! Save yourselves. Ac 2.40 Turn to God.