Posts

Hyperbole. So I don’t have to explain it a billion times.

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You saw what I did there, right? Hyperbole /haɪ'pər.bə.li/ n. Deliberate exaggeration: A claim not meant to be taken literally. [Hyperbolic /haɪ.pər'bɑl.ək/ adj. ] You may not be so familiar with this word, but you’ve seen examples of it all your life. And that’s not hyperbole. Humans use hyperbolic language to get attention. You might not think much of the statement, “I had to clean a lot of dishes.” You pay a little more attention to, “I had to clean a truckload of dishes.” The exaggerated image gets attention. May even inspire a mental image of a literal truckload of dishes. May even strike us as funny, horrifying, sad, irritating; like most acts of creativity, it runs the risk of pushing the wrong buttons. Of course some hyperboles are so overused, they get no reaction anymore. They’ve become clichés. “I worked my fingers to the bone” probably horrified someone the first time they heard it—“No, really? Ewww”—but nobody bothers to flinch at it anymore. Not even i

Modalism: The illusion of three persons in one God.

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On those who believe God is sometimes Holy Spirit, and sometimes Jesus. Modalist /'mod.əl.ɪst/ adj. Believes God has multiple personas, approaches, functions, or aspects of his nature—which other Christians confuse with trinity. [Modalism /'mod.əl.ɪz.əm/ n. ] When Christians don’t believe God’s a trinity, either they fully embrace unitarianism and insist Jesus isn’t God, or they kinda embrace unitarianism and insist Jesus is God… but God still isn’t three. He’s one. But he looks three, from our limited human point of view. Why’s he look three? Time travel. No, seriously. Time travel. I know; time travel hasn’t been scientifically documented. It’s still just theory. But we’re all familiar with science fiction, so we have a general idea of how it works. If you don’t: Imagine a man, whom we’ll call Doc Brown. (I know; real original of me. ) Brown has a time machine. He hops into it and travels 30 years into the past. There, he encounters himself from 30 years ag

Submission. It’s not domination.

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It has two definitions, and evil people are promoting the wrong one. Submit /səb'mɪt/ v. Yield to or accept a superior force, authority, or will. Consent to their conditions. 2. Present one’s will to another for their consideration or judgment. [Submission /səb'mɪs.ʃən/ n. ] Notice there are two popular definitions of submit in use. The more popular of the two has to do with acceptance, obedience, and blind capitulation. To turn off our brains, do as we’re told. And most sermons instruct Christians to do precisely that. Submit to one another, as Paul ordered. Ephesians 5.21 NIV Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ’Cause we kinda have to. If we can’t submit to God—if we insist on our own way, our own standards, our own values, our own lifestyles—it’s a pretty good bet we’re outside his kingdom. Romans 8.5-8 KWL 5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things. 6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind,

Praying when we suck at prayer.

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Hey, we’re not all experts. Years ago I was reading Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home , a useful book on prayer. In it he described the most basic, elementary form of prayer he could think of, which he calls Simple Prayer. Basically it’s just talking with God, which is all prayer really is. But I believe there’s a form of prayer even more elementary than Simple Prayer: It’s what I call the I-Suck-At-Prayer prayer. It’s the prayer every new Christian prays. The prayer every pagan prays when they’re first giving prayer a test drive. The prayer even longtime Christians stammer when we’re asked to pray aloud, and suddenly we feel we’ve gotta perform … but not overtly. Christians might pray every day and rather often, yet we’ll still pray the I-Suck-At-Prayer Prayer from time to time. It’s based on discomfort . It’s when we realize we need to pray in a manner we’re not used to. Maybe somebody else has been leading our prayers. Maybe we’ve been praying too man

The wealthy, their crimes, and their coming judgment.

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James 5.1-8. This next bit of James was directed to the specific people of James’s day. Problem is, not every Christian has understood this. You know how we humans are; we wanna make everything about us . So we’ve looked at this passage and tried to figure out how it applies to us and the people of our day. Especially the people of our day, since rebuke and judgment are involved: We definitely want those bits to apply to other people. Since James dropped a reference or two to Jesus’s second coming —an event which’ll take place at any time, a belief Christians have held since the beginning, and even Jesus’s first apostles watched out for it, as Jesus instructed—historically we’ve interpreted this bit as an End Times reference. It’s not really. In the New Testament, “the last days” doesn’t refer to the End Times, but the Christian Era. Ac 2.17, He 1.2 The “first days” were before Christ; the “last days” are after God’s kingdom has come near. As historians call ’em, BC and

Arianism: One God—and Jesus isn’t quite him.

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On Christians who think Jesus is a lesser god. Arian /'ɛr.i.ən/ adj. Believes God is one being, one person, not three; and that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings and lesser gods. [Arianism /'ɛr.i.ən.ɪz.əm/ n. ] So I’ve been writing on unitarian beliefs —namely that there’s one God, but contrary to how he’s been revealed in the New Testament, these folks insist God’s not a trinity. Now, pagans and other monotheists don’t bother with the New Testament, so of course they don’t believe in trinity. But Christians do have the NT —yet some of us still don’t believe in trinity. We’d call these folks heretics, and of course they’d call us heretics, and round and round we go. The first major anti-trinity heresy Christians came across is Arianism —a word pronounced the same, but not the same, as the white-supremacist view Aryanism. It’s named for Áreios of Alexandria (c. 250-336), a Christian elder—or in Roman Catholic thinking, a priest. In Latin he’d b

Free will. And God’s free will.

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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

Sometimes you shouldn’t say amen.

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It’s important to agree in prayer. It’s also important to know when not to. Ever been in this situation?— You’re in a prayer meeting, church small group, or some other Christian function. And whoever’s praying at the moment is saying something you totally don’t agree with. Something you kinda can’t agree with. Fr’instance someone who uses prayer time to go on long rants about stuff they don’t like, and disguise them as prayers. Sometimes it’s political stuff: “Oh holy Lord, knowest thou those liberals in Washington? Gettest thou them out of the White House!” Sometimes it’s social issues, or pet peeves, or whatever those radio talk show hosts have got ’em riled up about today. Or it’s bad theology. “Lord, I know you’ll give us what we ask because your word won’t return void,” even though none of what they prayed was his word (and it doesn’t even mean that ). Or assumptions about how some evil we’re praying against was part of God’s plan all along, or name-it-and-claim-it demand

Hurricanes and bad theodicy.

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The Atlantic hurricane season begins in June and ends in November: Weather agencies keep track of all the warm-weather tropical cyclones which crop up in summer and fall. (They give ’em names, in alphabetical order, and mix up the names every year.) The heat lets ’em grow in speed, size, and moisture, and warmer-than-usual weather means they grow extra large; often into full-on hurricanes. And if they make it to land, they create extra mess. The United States is was hit with two hurricanes in 20 days. Hurricane Harvey flooded southern Texas on 26 August. Hurricane Irma is currently working on the west coast of Florida. At its largest, Irma was a category 5, with 185 mph (295 kph) winds; this prompted widespread evacuations in Florida, and rightly so. Of course these aren’t the only natural disasters we get in the States. We get wildfires: I live in California, which has fires every year. Has ’em in drought; has ’em in flood years. Fire is how brush naturally clears, but huma

How we treat enemies—and how we oughta.

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The “ Matthew 18” principle—for when people sin against us. Luke 6.27-36 KWL 27 “But I tell you listeners: Love your enemies. Do good to your haters. 28 Bless your cursers. Pray for your mistreaters. 29 To one who hits you on the jaw, submit all the more. To one who takes your robe and tunic from you, don’t stop them . 30 Give to everyone who asks you. Don’t demand payback from those who take what’s yours. 31 Just as you want people doing for you, do likewise for them. 32 If you love your lovers, how’s this an act of grace from you?—sinners love their lovers. 33 When you benefact your benefactors, how’s this grace from you?—sinners do so themselves. 34 When you lend from one from whom you hope to receive back, how ’s this grace from you? Sinners lend to sinners so they can receive an equal payback . 35 In contrast: Love your enemies. Do good. Lend, never expecting payback . Your reward will be great, and you’ll be the Most High’s children: He’s kind to the

One God—but not interpreted through Jesus.

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Not every monotheist is Christian, y’know. Monotheist /'mɑn.ə'θi.ɪst/ adj. Believes there’s only one god. 2. Believes there are various beings known as “gods,” but only one mighty enough, or worthy enough, of the designation and worship. [Monotheism /'mɑn.ə'θi.ən.ɪz.əm/ n. , monotheistic /'mɑn.ə'θi.ən.ɪst.ɪk/ adj. ] Whenever Christian teachers talked about unitarians —people who don’t believe God’s a trinity —they assumed they were dealing with Christianity-based heresies of one kind or another. Like Arians or modalists. In the United States, that might’ve been true in the past, back when the population was predominantly European, and somewhat biblically literate. Ain’t the case anymore. Hasn’t been for decades. Christian teachers need to get with the times. Most of the pagans I encounter are unitarian. They do believe in God, in one form or another. They might’ve had contact with Christians (but don’t count on it), and some of our religious beli