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The bible’s not a biology textbook!

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Leviticus 11.13-19 • Deuteronomy 14.11-18 • Jonah 1.17 • Matthew 12.40 During a talk with a fellow Christian, we went off on a bit of a tangent. ME. “…Like when Jonah got swallowed by the whale…” HE. “Sea creature.” ME. “Whale. How’re you getting ‘sea creature’ from kítus ? ” HE. “From what?” HE. “ Kítus . The Greek word for ‘whale.’ The word Jesus used when he talked about Jonah being in the whale’s belly three days and nights. Mt 12.40 It’s the word we get our adjective ‘cetacean’ from, which refers to whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine mammals.” HE. [ confused; betcha he didn’t expect me to know what I was talking about ] “But Jonah said he was swallowed by a great fish.” Jh 1.17 ME. “Sure.” HE. “Well a whale’s not a fish.” ME. “Not anymore. It was a fish in Jesus’s day.” HE. “Whales used to be fish…?” HE. “Yep. No, they didn’t once have gills then evolve lungs. They used to be fish because the ancients classified them as fish: If it lives

Praying or singing yourself into an “altered state.”

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The fear that we’re so excited to worship God, Satan might grab a toehold. Last month I had a correspondent, whom I called Fenella, object to the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) on the grounds it’s vain repetition. Fenella’s concern is one I’ve heard dozens of times: When Christians pray something over and over and over, they figure we’re doing it to psyche ourselves into a state of euphoria. Other Christians have the very same complaint about the way certain churches do their music, or pick particularly repetitive songs: All that repetition isn’t done to praise God; it’s to whip ourselves into an altered state of consciousness. The “trance state,” as some of ’em describe it. Once we’re in this trance, they worry we’re susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Naughty pastors might try to insert heretic ideas in our minds. Although more of these concerned Christians are more worried about demonic activity. Nevermind the fact these Christia

Seeking Jesus—who’s curing people in the next town.

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And how this got Jesus’s students to reconsider a few things. Mark 6.53-56 • Matthew 14.34-36 • John 6.22-25. After Jesus and Peter walked on water, the gospels go in different directions. Mark heads down south to Khinnerót, a town about 8 kilometers south from Kfar Nahum. Once they land, Jesus and his students do some stuff there. Matthew follows Mark’s lead and tells much the same story. Whereas John stays in Beit Sayid, where the 5,000 got fed, where everybody was wondering what happened to Jesus. Then they went to look for him, and it looks like they found him at his home base of Kfar Nahum. Which isn’t Khinnerót. Readers get their choice as to how to interpret this divergence. Some of ’em claim it’s a flat-out contradiction: Jesus went either one place or the other, and can’t possibly have gone to both places. Others point it doesn’t need to be a contradiction: First Jesus landed in Khinnerót, then walked the 8 klicks to Kfar Nahum, and by the time the people final

“The most important election of your life,” it’s not.

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Election Day in the United States is this coming Tuesday. I confess: I still haven’t yet read my state’s propositions. I’m gonna, ’cause they’re the most important thing on the ballot. Not the candidates, and that includes the people running for governor and mayor. The stuff in the propositions directly affect citizens’ lives in a significant way on a consistent basis. Our elected officials? Yeah, they can affect us in a similar way. Like when they wanna radically change things, and that’s the platform they’re running on. Or when they have no such agenda, but they’re fools who lack self-control. It doesn’t like we have any such people in the current crop of candidates, other than the third-party folks who seldom poll well and rarely win. True, partisans are claiming the opposition party’s candidate is one of those radicals or fools, but that’s an old political tactic meant to put fear in the voters and rile up the base. But once again, this election is being touted as “the m

Small groups. Are you in one?

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If you’re not truly interacting with fellow Christians, you need to be. Jesus feels it necessary for his followers to have a support system. That’s why he invented the church. That’s why we gotta go to church. We need family: Sisters and brothers in Christ with similar experiences, who’ve been through what we’re going through, who can aid and encourage us. We’re not meant to go it alone! But many churches are so large, it’s really easy to be alone anyway . Sunday morning services are where we’re meant to worship God together, as a group. But they’re seldom set up to be interactive. Interaction slows things down, y’know. And when a church is full of non-social or antisocial people, they kinda like things that way: They can go to church, talk to no one, never share, never get to know one another, never give a testimony. They’ll sing with the music, listen to the preacher, take holy communion, and that’s it: They didn’t interact with one another. Just with God… assuming they aren

Blind faith: Those who say “we see,” and don’t.

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When faith isn’t based on anything or anyone trustworthy. Whenever pagans talk about faith, their usual definition of the word is “the magical ability to believe goofy nonsense.” You know, stuff people really shouldn’t believe. In some cases stuff that’s dangerous to believe. Fr’instance antivaxxers. They believe vaccines cause autism, or contain poisonous chemicals, or believe they’re otherwise harmful. Hence they refuse to get their kids vaccinated. I’m not quite sure what it says about them, that they’d prefer to see their kids dead than autistic… but it’s nothing good. What I do know is, thanks to them, childhood diseases which should be a thing of the past, are back—and posing a grave danger not just to their children, but to other children with compromised immune systems, or for whatever reasons can’t be vaccinated. Their belief in goofy nonsense is deadly . So yeah, if this what you think “faith” means, of course you’d think it wrong. Even evil. But it’s not at al

Ditching the Old Testament?

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Yep, you should memorize certain verses. NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIAN /'nu tɛs.tə.mənt 'krɪs.tʃən/ n. One who professes to live by the teachings of the New Testament [instead of the Old]. 2. One who holds to the invalidity of the Old Testament, and the validity of the New. Whenever I talk about what we Christians think, believe, and behave, I quote bible. I’m trying to show how these views are based on, or at least jibe with, the scriptures. ’Cause Evangelicals uphold the bible (or at least claim to), so they wanna know there’s a valid proof text for what I’m talking about. And every so often, one of ’em will say, “I don’t think that’s what that verse means.” Which is fair; let’s take a closer look at it. I’ve been wrong before, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to double-check a proof text. Really, Christians oughta do it more often, because you simply can’t trust popular Christian culture’s interpretations of the scriptures. Too much bias; not enough bible. When

Jesus and Peter walk on water.

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And how this got Jesus’s students to reconsider a few things. Mark 6.46-52 • Matthew 14.23-33 • John 6.16-21. Right after Jesus had his students feed 5,000-plus listeners, he sent ’em to the far side of Lake Tiberias (i.e. “the Galilean Sea,” although it’s not quite that big. The Great Lakes are way bigger.) So while Jesus dismissed the crowds and left to pray, the students rowed their way south. And the rowing wasn’t easy, ’cause the weather didn’t cooperate. Mark 6.46-48 KWL 46 Saying goodbye, Jesus went off to a hill to pray. 47 Much later, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 A Seeing the students tortured by the rowing, for the wind was against them… Matthew 14.23-24 KWL 23 Saying goodbye to the crowds, Jesus went up a hill by himself to pray. Much later he was alone there. 24 The boat was already many stadia away from land, tortured by the waves, for the wind was against it . John 6.16-18 KWL 16 When it beca

False witness and fake news.

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What makes certain Christians so immune to facts? It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t bear false witness. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, after all: Don’t claim anything knowingly untrue about your neighbor. Don’t spread gossip, which is nearly always half-true, if not entirely untrue. And in this present day, we have to bear in mind a lot of “news” sites are really gossip sites. Their writers didn’t bother to go to journalism school, and their publishers don’t care about journalistic standards of truthfulness and accuracy; all that crap just gets in the way of being able to publish sensational clickbait. So when they hear of something, or even just assume something’s true, they don’t bother to confirm or fact-check it. Especially when it suits their biases. Fr’instance if they don‘t like the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like an idiot; if they love the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like a saint. So sinc

“But in these last days”… prophecy stopped?

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How people’s doubts got added to our bible translations. Hebrews 1.2 In the New International Version, the book of Hebrews begins like so. Hebrews 1.1-2 NIV 1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The English Standard Version translates it similarly. Hebrews 1.1-2 ESV 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Other translations also present the similar idea: In the past God spoke through the prophets, but in the present he speaks through his Son. So the argument goes whenever cessationists wanna insist God doesn’t speak through prophets anymore. Prophets, they insist, are an Old Testament

Prophetic dreams… and whether you had one.

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Of course God can speak to us in dreams. But he hasn’t spoken to us in every dream. When we sleep, we dream. Not all of us remember our dreams; I seldom do. Psychiatrists have all sorts of theories as to why, and a really popular one is that our brains are sorting out all the memories we haven’t yet processed… and because the brain is designed to recognize patterns and find meanings in the meaningless, it sorts the memories by turning them into a narrative. The narrative won’t always make sense. Doesn’t actually have to. I believe (though I won’t claim this is infallibly true) the reason some of us hear God speak to us in our dreams, is because God’s voice is one of the unprocessed or under-processed memories we had during the day. We weren’t really giving him our full attention at the time. But we did hear him. Our subconscious picked it up, at least. And once we’re asleep, as every subconscious memory is getting dredged up and looked at, of course God’s voice is gonna be in t