Posts

God doesn’t owe us anything for fasting.

Image
I’ve pointed out fasting is a great way to focus our attention on God so we can pray better, hear him better, and develop our self-control. But no, I don’t guarantee you’ll grow in all these ways when you fast. All things being equal, you probably will. But as you know, there are lots of ways people can bollix our own growth. If we’re fasting, yet the rest of our lives are just as sinful as ever, why should we expect anything to change whatsoever? And yet Christians do: “I’m fasting! That should count for something.” The Hebrews did it too, y’know. They’d fast, then make prayer requests ’cause they believed fasting would show the L ORD they were serious, and it’d move him a little faster. It’s why Jehoshaphat told Jerusalem to fast so God might rescue them from invaders, 2Ch 20.3 and why Esther asked the Persian Jews to fast before she petitioned the king. Es 4.16 Since God apparently acted on the petitioners’ behalf in these stories, Christians get the idea fasting mak

Happy Martin Luther King Jr.® day!

Image
In the United States, the third Monday of January is Martin Luther King Jr. ® Day. Due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it doesn’t fall on his actual birthday of 15 January 1929, but it’s close enough. It’s a day to honor the life and acts of civil rights leader and Christian martyr, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ® He was one of the principal leaders in the 1950s civil rights movement, and a pastor in the Progressive National Baptist Convention. (One of that denomination’s founders… after the National Baptist Convention, USA , ousted King ® and other activists for being too activist.) One of the few photos of Dr. King ® in the public domain. Wikimedia So… what’s with all the little registered-trademark symbols (®) next to his name throughout this article? It’s because Martin Luther King Jr., ® his likeness, words, speeches, books, writings, and so forth, are owned by the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., which is wholly owned by King’s ® children Martin I

Time wasted on bad theology—and its temptations.

Image
When I was a teenager I wanted an audio bible. At the time I couldn’t afford one. This was back when they were on cassette tapes, and cost about $150. No foolin’. So I decided the only alternative was to do it myself. I cracked open a six-pack of blank cassettes, cracked open my bible, and started recording. Started with the New Testament. Got as far as Acts . Definitely took more than six cassettes! Then I came across an audio New Testament for $20. ( Narrated by James Earl Jones, too.) For a brief moment there I thought about not buying it. After all, I’d spent a lot of time making one on my own. I didn’t wanna consider it time (and cassettes) wasted. But what made more sense?—buy the superior product, or persist in doing it myself? Yep, I bought the audio bible. Years later I finally got the Old Testament too, ’cause someone put Alexander Scourby’s narration on the internet, and even though I only had a dial-up modem, I patiently downloaded every single tinny file. I’ve

Sins which send you to hell?

Image
Quoting from John’s first letter: 1 John 5.15-17 KJV 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. This passage has managed to confuse an awful lot of Christians. What’s John mean by ἁμαρτάνουσιν πρὸς θάνατον / amartánusin pros thánaton , “sinning unto death”? Or sinning not unto death? Both Paul and James wrote that sin causes death. “The wages of sin is death” Ro 6.23 and “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” Jm 1.15 and all that. They weren’t just speaking of sins which obviously cause death, like murder and suicide and abortion; or sins which indirectly but still kinda obviously cause death, like gluttony or add

The usual substitutes for being fruity.

Image
How do you know someone’s Christian? Duh; by their fruit. But sometimes I hear this very question—“How do you know someone’s really a Christian?”—not just from newbies, but from longtime Christians. People who’ve been Christian all their lives. We’re not talking brief lives either; I got this question from a seventy-something Christian a few years ago. He says he grew up Christian, and I don’t doubt it. Yet he didn’t know how to tell a Christian from the real thing. What’d he think was the litmus test for Christianity? Same things most people in popular Christian culture imagine: RELIGION. Regularly reading your bible, praying, and going to church. FAITH. Believing really hard that Jesus is gonna save us. SINNER’S PRAYER. Believing because we said the sinner’s prayer once, at some point in our lives—however long ago that was, and regardless of how much growth we’ve done since—Jesus is gonna save us. ORTHODOXY. Believing all the correct things about God. Get anything

How to study your bible.

Image
When I was a kid, I went to a Fundamentalist church. Say what you will about these folks: They’re big on studying the bible. Not all of ’em know how to do it properly—and they definitely didn’t teach me how to do it. (Man alive was I over-dependent on the notes of my Scofield Reference Bible!) But I gotta give ’em credit for making a serious, earnest effort just the same. They really wanted to know what was in there, and rightly believed every Christian should. Yet even while I was in that church, I discovered I knew way more about the bible than others. Not ’cause I’m a genius or anything, although I do have a really good memory. I knew more simply because I read the bible. I read the commentaries in the bible, plus everything about the bible I could get access to: I studied . And most Christians honestly don’t. Most humans don’t. As soon as we get out of school—whether high school, university, or grad school—we figure we never, ever have to study again, and don’t. We qu

We’re wrong about God, y’know.

Image
One of my favorite Peanuts strips goes a little something like this. (I liked it so much I used to include it in the Theology banner.) Peanuts, 9 August 1976. Peanuts Worldwide Theology is the study of God. If we’re gonna follow God we gotta study him. Gotta find out what he wants, what he expects of us. Heck, gotta find out if he’s even a “he,” and we’re not using the wrong pronoun. (Fastest way to yank the chain of certain Christians: Use a different one. But let up after you’ve freaked them out a few minutes. Be nice. ) Square One of theology is humility , the recognition of who we truly are. And who are we? Well the most common Christian response to that question is “Um… nobody really.” Which isn’t entirely true. That’s the answer we give ’cause our fellow Christians expect it of us… and it’s hypocrisy, because we don’t really have that low an opinion of ourselves. It’s false humility: Pretending to be what we deep down know we’re not. If we truly thought we were

Instead of spiritual warfare… a culture war.

Image
Spiritual warfare is about resisting temptation. It’s about fighting our own self-centeredness, our tendency to produce works of the flesh, and anything which tempts us to choose ungodly, evil behavior. Tempters might be evil spirits, but more often it’s just our own corrupt nature. Regardless, we gotta fight it and follow Jesus. But to many Christians, spiritual warfare doesn’t look like this at all . It’s about being a “prayer warrior” and praying really hard for things. Because our prayers somehow provide energy to the angels fighting the demons in the clouds above. Or so the Frank Peretti novels tell us. And to Christianists, spiritual warfare has nothing to do with praying away the demons, nor self-control. Spiritual warfare is solely about fighting Satan and its evil plan. What’s its evil plan? To take over the world. Didn’t Satan tell Jesus it already ruled the world? Luke 4.5-8 KWL 5 Taking Jesus up, Satan showed him every kingdom in civilization in