27 June 2024

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Our English word blasphemy comes from the Greek word βλασφημία/vlasfimía, and largely means the same thing: It’s irreverence towards, and slander against, people and things we oughta reverence. We Christians tend to only use it to describe irreverence towards God (and bibliolaters to describe irreverence towards the bible), but the ancients applied it to all sorts of things. Like irreverence towards the temple, Moses, the prophets, and the scriptures. Even kings and emperors; yes you could blaspheme a king. Especially when they were one of those kings who claimed godhood. Some politicians still kinda get that way.

Some blasphemy is totally unintentional, like when we claim stuff about God that’s not so. Like when we claim, “God’s gonna send you to hell for that!” and no he won’t. Or when we claim God’s secret will is for evil to happen, and no it’s not.

Other times it’s totally intentional, ’cause we’re pissed at God over something he did or didn’t do, so we yell at him a bit, or otherwise throw a tantrum and say some evil things. God is fully aware we’re just acting up. And once we snap out of it, he forgives us. He’s gracious like that.

But then Jesus said this:

Mark 3.28-30 NASB
28“Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”30because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Said much the same thing in two other gospels. In context, it’s part of the story where Jerusalem scribes visiting the Galilee gave their expert opinion, and declared Jesus did his exorcisms by the power of Beelzebub (in Aramaic Baal Zevúl, a local pagan god; their euphemism for Satan). Not the Holy Spirit. Jesus pointed out their reasoning was stupid: Satan’s not gonna fight itself, and if it is, it’s falling apart. And this is where he said blaspheming the Holy Spirit means you committed an αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος/eoníu amartímatos, “sin of the age,” or “eternal sin.” Mt 12.31-32, Lk 12.10

Historically, Christians have taught this means a sin which disqualifies you from Kingdom Come. Your friends and family are gonna join Jesus at his second coming—and you are gonna sit on the bench. Or stay dead till Judgment Day. Then go into the lake of sulfur and fire.


Hence some Christians are terrified of committing it. Afraid they might accidentally, unintentionally commit it. So afraid, they’re afraid of critiquing any miracle or prophet—even though we’re supposed to double-check these things, and make sure they’re really God. But they refuse to, lest they say “It’s devilish” when it’s really the Spirit, and stumble into blaspheming the Spirit. And that’s why so many Christians let so many phonies get away with so much evil.

On the other extreme, some Christians claim blasphemy of the Spirit never, ever happens. Not anymore. ’Cause cessationism! As soon as “that which is perfect has come,” 1Co 13.10 which cessationists insist refers to the bible, God switched off the miracles: He doesn’t need ’em to confirm his message anymore, ’cause now the bible does that. The conditions under which blasphemy of the Spirit could happen, no longer does. So whenever you see a “miracle,” or hear a “prophecy,” feel free to say it’s from Satan. The blind and deaf and paralyzed aren’t cured anymore; that’s Satan. Jesus doesn’t appear to people anymore; that’s Satan. And when those people respond by repenting, transforming their lives, producing good fruit, likewise praying for people and curing ’em: Yep, more Satan—hoo boy is that devil tricky, acting exactly like the Holy Spirit does in the bible, just to confuse people.

And on yet another axis you have those Christians who are quick to point to other scriptures which state God forgives every sin. 1Jn 1.7, 9 Every single possible potential sin; no exceptions. If you’re worried about the scriptures’ warnings against blaspheming the Spirit, relax! God forgives all.

Lastly we have the Christians who try their darnedest to redefine blaspheming the Spirit so it’s not what Jesus warned the scribes against doing. It’s some other thing. It’s apostasy. Or it’s numbing your conscience so much, you can’t tell the difference between good and evil anymore; confounding the Spirit with Satan is just a symptom of the real problem.

I think instead of convenient little answers which make us calm down and stop worrying about committing this sin, we oughta figure out for real what it is, whether we do it, and whether we can still get into God’s kingdom even if we did it.

26 June 2024

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian?

Years ago; different job. One of my clients needed to get his life straight—which didn’t require him to go to church, but it definitely doesn’t hurt! And since he grew up Jehovah’s Witness, and since the JW church was right down the street from where he lived, that’s where he went. Very quickly he became a cage-stage JW, and tried to tell me how wrong I was… and I told him, “Come back and talk Jesus to me when you can demonstrate more fruit of the Spirit; maybe then somebody will want to listen to you.”

That’s pretty consistently been my experience with the JWs: They’re right, I’m wrong, and any time I ask ’em questions about their beliefs, they presume I’m just trying to sow doubt. Which—I’ll be honest, and I’ll upfront tell them this too—I totally am. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a heretic church, and the reason they proclaim so many heresies is because of their one core problem: Pride. Pride in being right. Pride in being the only church that’s right, while the rest of us are wrong and going to hell. And because they figure we’re wrong, their founders looked at every orthodox thing Christians believe, and deliberately experimented with the very heresies we rejected. And kept a bunch.

And the JW’s really attract prideful people—because hey, you wanna be right about God, don’t you? I’ve no doubt there are exceptions; there are actual humble Jehovah’s Witnesses in existence. It’s just I’ve never met any of them. Ever. Maybe you have; that’d be nice. I simply haven’t.

25 June 2024

Still not ready for solid food.

1 Corinthians 3.1-9.

The Christians of ancient Corinth had divided themselves into factions which, it appears, weren’t getting along. There was the Apollos faction, emphasizing the teachings of the apostle who evangelized them; there was the Paul faction, emphasizing the teachings of the apostle who’d evangelized them. There was also a Simon Peter faction, and a Christ faction (or, likely, a “Christ only” faction; phooey on his apostles!). 1Co 1.12

This behavior, Paul and Sosthenes rebuked in 1 Corinthians. If these apostles are legitimately following Jesus—and from what we know, Apollos, Paul, and Peter certainly did—their teachings should harmonize. We might see minor discrepancies, ’cause the apostles weren’t infallible; only Jesus is. But these discrepancies should be irrelevant, ’cause all these guys are pointing beyond themselves, at Christ Jesus and his kingdom.

I’ve said more than once Paul isn’t infallible, and I’m fully aware there are gonna be Christians who balk at this idea. I mean yeah, they’re gonna acknowledge Paul’s various screw-ups which Luke recorded in the Acts of the Apostles; they’re right there in the bible; we can’t deny ’em. But they’re also gonna emphasize Paul wrote scripture, and his New Testament letters are fully trustworthy doctrine which Christians have followed for millennia. Arguably every Christian, with the exception of a few heretics, puts ourselves in the Paul faction. Apollos doesn’t have any letters in the New Testament… unless he’s the unknown author of Hebrews, and likely he’s not.

Still, Christians breaking ourselves into sects and flinging around the word “heresy” as if anything we don’t like qualifies as heresy: Yep, it started happening in the ancient church. Still happens. And shouldn’t. We need to overcome our differences and work together, and stop giving ammunition to antichrists who’d rather see all of us gone, and are as happy in a pig in poo whenever we fight one another.

In today’s passage, the apostles emphasize how Apollos and Paul are on the same team. Same Jesus. Same Holy Spirit empowering both of ’em.

1 Corinthians 3.1-9 KWL
1Fellow Christians, I can’t speak to you as Spiritual people,
but as fleshly people,
as “infants in Christ.”
2I give you milk, not solid food,
for you’re not ready.
You’re not able to feed yourselves even now,
3for you’re still fleshly people.
Why is there zeal and strife among you?
Aren’t you fleshly people?
Do you walk like pagan humans?
4For when someone might say, “I’m of Paul,”
and another, “I’m of Apollos,”
aren’t you pagan humans?
5So who is Apollos? Who is Paul? Servants!
You believe because of them,
however the Master gives faith to each person.
6I plant and Apollos waters,
but God is making you grow,
7so neither the planter nor waterer is someone vital,
but God is the grower.
8And the planter and waterer are one!
Each of us receives our own paycheck
for our own labor.
9For God is our coworker;
it’s God’s farm, God’s building.

24 June 2024

Want divine insight? Listen to the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2.6-16.

Paul and Sosthenes start 1 Corinthians by talking about how they didn’t present the gospel of Christ Jesus with clever, wise reasoning, but with supernatural demonstrations of power.

But this is not to dismiss wisdom! It’s important. It’s just the kind of wisdom they’re talking about comes from the Holy Spirit, and in ancient Corinth, the only kind of wisdom the Corinthians knew about was Greek philosophy. Which, let’s be honest, is kinda clever in a lot of ways. But when the Greeks speculated about what God is like, they got him way wrong. The Greeks, particularly Plato of Athens, were into determinism big-time. There was a whole lot of speculation about the secret will of God or the gods. Stuff that’s actually leaked into Christianity, heavily influenced by former neo-Platonists like Augustine, and of course Augustine fans like Jean Calvin. Determinism has corrupted many a Christian’s concept of God, and kinda makes him out to be evil—if everything that happens was all pre-determined by God, there’s an awful lot of evil baked into the plan, isn’t there?

Proper wisdom, godly wisdom, comes from God himself. Namely the Holy Spirit, who is God, who’s come to live within every Christian and steer us right… provided we listen to him. You wanna know the deep things of God? Start listening to the Spirit!

1 Corinthians 2.6-16 KWL
6We speak of a comprehensive wisdom;
a wisdom not of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age; it’s meaningless.
7But we speak of God’s wisdom,
previously hidden in a mystery,
which God pre-decided before the ages
for our glory.
8Which none of the rulers of this age knew,
for if they knew,
they wouldn’t have crucified the glorious Master.
9But just as it was written,
“What eye doesn’t see and ear doesn’t hear,” Is 64.4
and doesn’t enter the human heart—
what God prepares for those who love him.
10God, through the Spirit, revealed them to us,
for the Spirit explores everything;
God’s depths as well.
11For who comprehends about humans,
and things about humans,
if not the spirit of a human that’s within them?
Thus also God-stuff
nobody knows it but God’s Spirit.
12It’s not the world’s spirit we accept,
but the Spirit who’s from God,
so that we might have known
the things from God which he gives us.
13We also speak of God-stuff
not in human teachings or wise lessons,
but in Spirit-teachings,
comparing Spirit-stuff to Spirit-stuff.
14A soulish person doesn’t accept the things of God’s Spirit,
for it’s “moronic” to them,
and they can’t understand it
because it’s discerned through the Spirit.
15A Spiritual person discerns everything
—and is discerned by no one.
16For “Who knows God’s mind? Who can advise him?” Is 40.13
We have Christ’s mind.

21 June 2024

Blasphemy: Slandering God’s character.

BLASPHEME blæs'fim verb. Say something about God (or holy things) which isn’t true. Slander.
2. Speak irreverently about God or holy things. Sacrilege.
[Blasphemer blæs'fim.ər noun, blasphemous 'blæs.fə.məs adjective, blasphemy 'blæs.fə.mi noun.]

Popular culture tends to define blasphemy with the second definition: It’s a synonym for sacrilege, when one treats the sacred profanely. When we make fun, or make light, of holy things. When we tell jokes about God, or treat our bibles like any other book, and set ’em on the floor or take crayons to them to make colorful doodles in the margins. When people take God’s name in vain. When I treat him like my dad instead of OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. (Heck, people think I’m blaspheming when I don’t capitalize all the Almighty’s pronouns.)

Really, people consider it blasphemy when they personally feel insulted—“on the Almighty’s behalf,” but really because they disapprove. If I don’t take off my hat in church, or wear jeans to a service, or take off my shoes, I’m blaspheming.

Yep, take off my shoes. I’ve done that multiple times. I could understand people’s objections if my feet were stinky, but they object because they’re offended by my naked feet. That is, till I quote ’em some bible:

Exodus 3.4-5 KJV
4And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

Yep. You’re the one insulted by bare feet; God’s insulted by you wearing your fancy leather loafers in his holy presence. Now take ’em off. And the socks.

Anyway, thanks to the sentiments of conservative popular culture, I apparently blaspheme a lot. More than one Christian gets their knickers in a knot over my behavior. Including titling this blog Christ Almighty! They’re insulted, and therefore they presume God’s insulted. But this is just projection. As I demonstrated, they seldom know what offends God and what doesn’t… and back when I was a little kid, I realized that’s kinda important. You don’t wanna offend your savior! Might be a good idea to read that bible. But I digress.

For these folks, by blasphemy they really mean lèse-majesté, a handy French term which means “less majestic”—it was when the people of France treated their king in a way he didn’t consider consistent with the dignity he merited. (Well, imagined he merited. I’m American and the only king I recognize is Jesus. The rest, whether they know it or not, usurp his title.) Lèse-majesté is the invention of petty, insecure despots, who want everyone to suck up to them under pain of death. Esther experienced it when she had to petition the Persian shah for her people… but if she showed up unannounced, the shah might interpret it as an insult and have her killed. Es 4.11 Good thing he thought she was hot.

The reason Christians so often use lèse-majesté as our definition of blasphemy, is because there’s a bit of despotism in us. God’s neither insulted nor offended when his kids boldly approach his throne of grace. He 4.16 He wants us to do so. Invites us to do so. God has a thick skin—and a sense of humor. In contrast, these Christians don’t, and take offense because deep down they wanna be treated with rarified respect—and if that’s how we gotta behave with God, it makes it all the easier for them to suggest maybe we oughta treat them, “the Lord’s anointed,” with similar worship.

Hence they attempt to enforce divisions and ranks and barriers in God’s kingdom—all the stuff Jesus abolished by making every single one of us into God’s children, priests, and kings.

Well, enough about what blasphemy’s not. Let’s get to what it actually is.

20 June 2024

Miracles first; message later.

1 Corinthians 2.1-5.

I grew up in a cessationist church; they believed God doesn’t do miracles anymore, and all their ministries and preaching was adapted to that worldview. So when they talked about sharing Jesus with other people, they never, ever talked about doing supernatural stuff as a part of it. No prophecy, no praying for people to be cured of various ailments; nothing like Jesus and the apostles did in the bible. Just… apologetics.

They didn’t always call it apologetics, but basically that’s what they did, and likely still do: Explaining why Jesus is Lord, what he did to save us from sin and death, encouraging people to believe this wholeheartedly, and say the sinner’s prayer. And ever since that church, I’ve read a bunch of other curricula about how to do evangelism; I even worked for an evangelism ministry for a year. Largely that’s what Evangelical evangelists focus on: Tell people how they can be saved, then talk ’em into believing it and embracing Jesus.

In contrast, in the bible, Jesus or the apostles would go somewhere, either prophesy or cure someone, and crowds would appear wanting to know, “What just happened? What’s this about?”—and then the apostles or Jesus would talk about God’s kingdom, and people would follow Jesus. Maybe get baptized.

No apologetics necessary! You don’t have to convince people God is real when they just saw God act. Yeah, they might deny what they just saw, or what it means, and we might need to challenge them not to. But that takes more commonsense than apologetics.

Anyway, in today’s passage Paul and Sosthenes remind the Christians of Corinth that this is what Paul did. Since he was already talking about earthly wisdom versus God, he just wanted to remind ’em he didn’t evangelize them with wisdom. He did stuff, and let the power of the Holy Spirit do all the speaking.

1 Corinthians 2.1-5 KWL
1Remember my coming to you, fellow Christians:
I come, not with an authoritative lesson,
nor preaching wisdom to you—
God’s now-revealed mystery.
2For I didn’t figure I knew anything about you,
except Christ Jesus, and this man crucified,
3and I became weak, afraid,
and greatly shaking among you.
4My lesson and my preaching
wasn’t lessons of wise persuasion,
but a demonstration of the Spirit and power
5so your faith wouldn’t be in human wisdom
but in God’s power.

And yes, cessationists are all wet. We can still do this. Always could. I’ve done it. Works great.

19 June 2024

“Moronic Christian beliefs” are God’s wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1.17-31.

Right after Paul and Sosthenes critique the church of Corinth for dividing themselves into factions, the apostles get sidetracked into a talk about how the gospel they preach… is kinda stupid.

And yeah, making that statement is immediately gonna offend certain Christian snowflakes, so lemme explain, same as the apostles explained. To the world it’s stupid. To the world, which respects power, wealth, clever politicking (or even petty and stupid politicking, ’cause pwning your opponents counts as a win to them), popularity, fame, and especially the confusion or destruction of your foes, Christ’s victory over sin and death makes no sense.

In the Roman Empire it especially made no sense. Jesus of Nazareth was a convicted felon, who got the death penalty, and died in a nasty, embarrassing way: Buck naked, wrists and ankles nailed to a cross, left to suffocate and bleed out and die. That’s as big a defeat as any of ’em could imagine. That was a sign from the gods you were cursed. And this was the guy Christians worshiped, and called Master and King. Made no sense.

In today’s passage, the apostles kinda shrugged and said, “Yeah okay. It’s moronic. To you. Because you’re too proud to realize just how brilliant it actually is.”

1 Corinthians 1.10-31 KWL
17For Christ doesn’t send me to baptize,
but to evangelize.
And not with a wise message,
lest Christ’s cross be made irrelevant,
18for the cross’s lesson is “moronic”
to those who are destroying themselves.
To you who are being saved,
it’s God’s power—
19for it was written:
“I’ll destroy the wisdom of the wise.
I’ll nullify the thinking of the thinkers.” Is 29.14
20Where’s a wise person? Where’s a scribe?
Where’s a person who regularly disputes with this age?
Doesn’t God make the world’s wisdom “moronic”?
21Because—in God’s wisdom—
the world doesn’t come to know God through wisdom,
God is pleased through “moronic” preaching
to save those who believe in him.
22Jews ask for miraculous signs
and Greeks seek wisdom.
23We preach a Christ who was crucified;
Jews are scandalized,
and to gentiles this is “moronic.”
24To those who are invited, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom,
25because God’s “moronic” plan is wiser than humans.
God’s “weakness” is stronger than humans.
26For look at your invitation, fellow Christians!
Not many wise—by carnal standards.
Not many powerful.
Not many noble.
27But God chooses the world’s “morons” for himself,
so he might embarrass the wise.
God chooses the world’s weak,
so he might embarrass the strong.
28God chooses the world’s inferiors and outcasts.
Things which aren’t,
so he might negate things which are,
29so no carnal person
can elevate themselves before God.
30From this, you’re all in Christ Jesus,
who becomes our wisdom from God.
And justice! And holiness. And deliverance.
31Just like it was written:
“Promoters? Promote God!” Jr 9.24