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07 September 2018

Homecoming 2008.

About my anticlimactic 10-year college reunion.

The year is 2018. Meaning it’s been 30 years since I graduated from high school, and 20 since graduating from Bethany College, later Bethany University.

Do I feel old? Sure. I’ve felt old for years. Being old is fun. Especially since I don’t look it, still have all my hair, and none of it gray. I regularly startle the people at work when they find I’m not just a little older than them, but old enough to be their dad. (It’s the genes; my parents look young too.) But I don’t have any hangups about being old. Just the opposite: Bring on the senior discounts!

So is it a big year for class reunions? Not in the slightest.

Ten years ago, in 2008, there was a huge push for the high school reunion, organized by two people from my high school; one from my class, and one from the year before. I had no interest in attending, ’cause I didn’t like high school and had very few friends there. (Most of my friends were from church, and went to other schools.) The organizers spent months pestering the rest of us about registration. Especially when the down payments became due, and they quickly realized their grandiose three-day festival was gonna have to be seriously downscaled—that, or they’d have to personally be on the hook for everything. So their banquet, dance, and follow-up brunch had to be downscaled to a barbecue. Man were they bitter about that. Followed it up with some of the most hostile, passive-aggressive invitations I’d ever read. It was moderately attended, largely by people I don’t care about, or really remember. Very glad I didn’t bother.

So that’s likely why I’ve heard nothing at all from them about the 30-year reunion. Nor the 25-year in 2013; the wounds would’ve still been too sore.

As for college, some plans are fomenting from my CSU Sacramento journalism school friends, and that might come to something. But nothing from the Bethany alumni. The school closed its doors in 2011. Now all that’s left of it is a giant debt left over from years of financial mismanagement, a hostile alumni page on Facebook where people are still bitter about the school closing, and a campus that’s been since bought by hippies and turned into 1440 Multiversity. Bethany class reunions were organized by the school and held during Homecoming, but with no more school, I don’t expect anybody to put together any 20-year reunion. My class president, whom I’m still in touch with, hasn’t brought it up that I know of. She has a life, y’see.

I attended the 10-year reunion during Homecoming 2008. It was kinda pathetic. I was living in the area, and had Saturday free, so I went to it. Well, parts of it. May as well write about it.

06 September 2018

The bible is a way different book.

How the uniqueness of the bible… really doesn’t prove anything.

Christian apologists—especially when they kinda lean towards biblolatry—make a great big deal about how unique the bible is. To them, it’s a powerful argument why people ought not dismiss it as just another ancient book by dead white brown guys. The bible’s a distinctly, profoundly different book. It’s very unique. Only the most ignorant of skeptics would claim otherwise.

And then they go listing all the ways it’s totally unique. I’ll list a few in this article. But the big pile of ways the bible’s different, is meant to really impress someone that the bible is important and valid.

Which is a basic logical flaw: Unique doesn’t automatically mean important and valid.

Fr’instance let’s say a space alien came to earth, and presented us with his book of the best recipes for blergsperken. What’s blergsperken? I dunno. And none of the ingredients match anything we know about; what on earth is “raw sperkburf?” For all we know, the alien could be its planet‘s very worst cook. But his cookbook is definitely unique.

So the bible’s uniqueness doesn’t make it valid. Doesn’t make it invalid either! Uniqueness just happens to be one of the bible’s characteristics.

Popular apologist Josh McDowell confessed as much in the conclusion of Evidence That Demands a Verdict’s chapter on the bible’s uniqueness. Maybe as a disclaimer, or maybe because somebody pointed out the logical inconsistency—but he didn’t wanna throw out an entire heavily-sourced chapter.

The above does not prove the Bible is the Word of God, but to me it proves that it is unique (“different from all others; having no like or equal”). McDowell 1.24

And then McDowell went right back to dropping interesting trivia about the bible’s uniqueness.

Anyway I wanted to begin with this disclaimer, ’cause I want it clear the bible’s uniqueness only proves the bible is unique. Doesn’t prove anything more. But because Christian apologists insist it totally does imply something, you oughta be aware that’s just their biases talking: They love the bible, and isn’t it just the best book in the world? It must be inspired!

Well anyway. Let’s get into the ways the bible is different.

05 September 2018

Faith, works, and faith righteousness.

If you believe in faith righteousness, you’ve misdefined faith as orthodoxy. Which is a work. Yet faith isn’t a work… right?

Yesterday I brought up faith righteousness, the idea we’re saved by having all the correct doctrines and beliefs. I’ve found it to be a pretty widespread belief among new believers, who haven’t yet learned better; and Fundamentalists, who should’ve learned better, but those Fundamentals are just so darned important to them. Anyway they’re wrong; God saves us by his grace.

Orthodoxy is a good work, so by all means pursue the right beliefs about God. By all means do good works. But we’re not saved by works. We’re saved first, by grace, so that God can empower us to do such works. Doing the works first, and trying to achieve salvation by merit, doesn’t work either. Not that plenty of people, including plenty of confused Christians, don’t try. Karma is a mighty ingrained idea in humanity, and it’s hard to wean us off it.

But one common and odd little side effect of believing we’re saved by “faith,” is this insistence you’ll find among the faith-righteous folks: Faith isn’t a work!

’Cause it’s not. Says so in the bible.

Ephesians 2.8-9 KWL
8 You’re all saved by his grace, through your faith.
This, God’s gift, isn’t from you, 9 isn’t from works; none can boast of it.

Salvation isn’t from us. Isn’t from works. It’s from God, from his grace. It’s typically God’s response to our faith, though of course God reserves the right to save various people regardless. And since Paul said it’s not from works, but is through faith, he indicates faith isn’t a work. My trust in God isn’t something I do; it’s something I have. And if I really do have it, I’ll wind up producing good fruit and good works, Jm 2.22 because faith which produces no good works isn’t actually there, i.e. is dead. But the faith ain’t the works. It’s a whole different thing.

Well, when faith-righteous people are talking about faith, they don’t mean trust; they mean beliefs. And they try to shoehorn their new definition into the discussion about faith and works. Their doctrines, they claim, aren’t works! They aren’t things they do, but things they have. Also a whole different thing.

Except they’re not.

Christians believe what we do because we put our faith in Jesus. We trust that he’s right; we trust he doesn’t steer us wrong; we take his word for it that his teachings apply to our lives and accurately reflect God’s character. Again, trust in Jesus isn’t something we do, but something we have. Unless we don’t; then we don’t bother with his teachings, for we don’t believe him, for we lack faith.

The teachings—the stuff we believe about God—aren’t the same thing as faith. Yeah, we can have these beliefs, kinda like we have faith. But the basis of having these beliefs would be faith in Jesus. No faith in Jesus; no beliefs. (No real beliefs, anyway. Empty beliefs, or hypocrisy, ’cause without Jesus what good are they?)

So beliefs are based on faith. They’re the product of faith. The fruit of faith. The works of faith. They’re works. Works might prove that faith is real, Jm 2.18 and depending on the belief, they may do a really good job of conclusively demonstrating one’s faith. But they still aren’t faith.

04 September 2018

“Faith-righteousness”: Saved by what you believe.

Christians who think having the right beliefs saves them—and don’t realize orthodoxy is simply a good work.

FAITH RIGHTEOUSNESS /'feɪθ raɪ.tʃəs.nəs/ n. A right standing (with God or others) achieved through orthodox beliefs.

I coined the term “faith righteousness” some years ago. It’s a common American belief, based on several false ideas.

First of all misdefined faith. Properly faith means trust; and Christian faith means trust in God. When we Christians talk about “justification by faith,” what this properly means is we trust God, and God considers us all right with him based on that trust. Y’know, like when Abraham trusted God, Ge 15.6 which was the foundation of their relationship. (And the foundation for Paul’s teachings on justification. Ro 4.3)

But in popular American culture, faith means one’s belief system. It’s a definition we find all over Christianity too, especially among Christians who don’t care for the word “religion,” and like to use the word “faith” instead: “I don’t have a religion; I have a faith.” Meaning—to their minds—they don’t have rituals they do, but things they believe. Proper beliefs; correct beliefs; orthodoxy. And these things comprise “my faith”—and this winds up the “faith” they’re thinking of when they talk about “justification by faith.” We believe certain things about God, and God considers us all right with him based on our beliefs.

You should be able to immediately see how this can go wrong. Thing is, if you’ve been practicing faith righteousness all your life, you’ve got some pretty heavy blinders on, and your response is gonna be, “I don’t see what the big deal is. Of course we’re all right with God because our beliefs. And heretics aren’t all right with God; they’re going to hell. What, are you suggesting they’re not going to hell?”

No; I’m pointing out if you’re correct—that God determines whether we’re destined for his kingdom or hell based on our beliefs—you’re going to hell.

03 September 2018

Awake, sleepers!

Again, stop living like pagans; start living like Jesus.

Ephesians 5.1-20

Too many Christians have this unhealthy attitude of once we’re saved—once we’ve said the sinner’s prayer and decided we’re Christian now—there’s nothing more we need to do. The entire work of salvation was achieved by Jesus, so all we gotta do is sit back and let heaven come to us. ’Cause if we do try to act Christian… well, it’s a sign we don’t really trust that Jesus did all the work, but a sign we still think we’re saved by our own good karma. So such people won’t even bother to act Christian. Functionally they’ll have the same pagan lifestyle they always had—but the difference, they insist, is they believe in Jesus. That makes ’em Christian.

Rubbish, wrote Paul. If you’re Christian, you act like your Father. If you act like pagans, you’re clearly not God’s kids, and won’t inherit his kingdom.

Ephesians 5.1-5 KWL
1 So, like beloved children, become mimics of God.
2 Walk in love, same as Christ also loves us,
and gave himself as an offering for us, a sacrifice to God with a pleasing aroma. Lv 3.5
3 Porn, everything unclean or greedy—don’t even bring it up among you; it’s inappropriate for saints.
4 Obscenity, stupid talk, hurtful humor: They’re not for you. Thanksgiving instead.
5 If you know anything, know this:
No porn, uncleanness, nor greed—in other words idolatry—
none of these things have an inheritance in Christ and God’s kingdom.

Because Christians get nervous about these items which disqualify us from the kingdom, sometimes we define them broadly, and don’t allow ourselves to do anything which remotely sounds like them… and sometimes we define them really narrowly, and grant ourselves plenty of loopholes. Both extremes are foolish, so let’s not indulge them. Here’s how I define those words.

  • PORN (Greek porneía, KJV “fornication”). Any inappropriate sexual activity—namely promiscuity, or anything going on between you and someone you shouldn’t be having sex with. Like someone else’s spouse, someone under someone else’s authority, prostitutes and slaves (and I should mention they’re frequently the same thing), family members, and anyone the state bans you from having sex with. And since monogamy is a requirement for Christian leadership, polygamy’s also out.
  • EVERYTHING UNCLEAN (pása akatharsía, KJV “all uncleanness”). Few Christians nowadays bother to pay attention to ritual uncleanness, and many will insist Paul totally didn’t mean that in this passage; he meant sin. Wrong. If Paul meant sin, he’d’ve wrote “sin.” He meant cleanliness. Paying no attention to the cleanliness of yourself, your surroundings, nor your food, is a sign you don’t care about the sensibilities of others, including God. Christians are supposed to give a rip.
  • GREEDY (pleonexía, KJV “covetousness”). The desire to have more; frequently the desire to have more than anyone else. Anybody who won’t control their urges, especially when it’s at the expense of others.

And I should pause in this list to mention there are those Christians who interpret verse 5 to mean only greediness is idolatry. Nah. Anything we prioritize over God becomes an idol, and if you’re fixated on your sex life—even if it’s marital sex!—it can easily become an idol. As can an unclean lifestyle. Mammonism and avarice are really obvious cases of idolatry, but there are plenty others.