Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I suppose we could say the letter is addressed to me ...

I recently read something titled What if Jesus Meant All that Stuff?. It was a letter addressed to unbelievers, and can be found here

Two things caught my attention. The first part was this: I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

The apology is nice, and I've seen this in other areas, basically structured the same. The acknowledgment that some Christians have behaved in less than stellar ways, and the damage that caused, is appreciated. But there comes a point at which apologies lose sincerity. If someone has punched me in the face ten separate times, and has apologized each of those times, the apology becomes meaningless by the third time or so. If you're truly that sorry, stop engaging in the behavior that leads you to keep apologizing in the first place. Apologies need to be followed up with a clear demonstration of a commitment to avoid the behavior. Otherwise, the apology just becomes a "get out of jail free" card.

The second section that caught my attention: For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name.

This strikes me as right along the same lines of telling non-Christians to look to God, not to Christians. But based on Biblical claims, that doesn't fly with me.

Say we're all told about a weight loss pill. This pill guarantees that anyone who tries it will lose weight. No exceptions. When 100 people actually try the pill, it turns out that 40 people have not lost any weight. 40%. When we question the pill makers on this 40% -- who demonstrate that the claim about the pill doesn't match the results we've all witnessed -- we're told that we can't look to the people to see the results. We have to look at the pill. Don't reject this pill because of those who used it. Base your encounter with the pill on the pill itself.

The reason why those interested in the pill looked to those who tried the pill is because the whole way the pill was described was by its reaction to people. The only way we could look at the pill, evaluate the claims of the pill, was by how it affected people.

And it's the same with God. No, God isn't the same as a pill, He's not designed or created to serve a need for people ... but He is described as someone who makes the old man new, who rescues people from their sin, someone who lives inside His children as the Holy Spirit, someone who departs fruits to His followers -- these followers that we're supposed to be able to identify by how they love each other.

All of those are claims about how God influences the very people He created. In order to see how well those claims stand up to reality, we have to look at the people themselves. The people are the results, and the results are what everyone wants to see. They want to see the validation of the claims themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Haiku-ing the Bible. With a shout-out to Star Wars!

I was tagged from Kay at

Summarize the Bible in five statements, the first one word long, the second two words long, the third three words long, the fourth four words long and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.


Hope answered.

Words, not God.

Truths we cling to ...

Depends greatly on your POV.

Whoever wants to play, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The mirror tells no lies ...

From Frank Schaeffar's book, Patience with God: Faith for People who don't like Religion (or Atheism)

My aunt Janet -- my mother's older sister -- joined the U.S branch of [the Closed, or Exclusive, Brethren the Taylor/Symington/Hales] group in the late 1950s. Aunt Janet was ordered to leave her husband and two young sons, because they didn't join the group and she could have no fellowship with them, including even eating in the same room. She moved out, once my aunt was forbidden to sleep in the same house as "unbelievers"...
That gap, which all evangelical/fundamentalists say they believe is established between the "saved" and the "lost" -- now and for eternity -- was enforced here in this life by the Closed Brethern. In the midst of the Closed Brethern's ever-shrinking world, followers like my aunt were totally walled off from their families ... it must have been a nightmare of self-revelation for Mom because my aunt Janet was doing nothing more than practicing an exaggerated version of what Mom believed herself. My parents believed that the lost were to be eternally separated from the saved. And my parents always said that in this life, no one could be complete as a person without accepting Jesus, so the separation began right here on earth ...
My mother never did get over her sister's betrayal of her family. It must have been shocking for my mother to see the logic of the sort of Christianity my parents believed in lived out to a radical extreme.

Back when I was in college, an evangelical friend and I were in a bookstore, and found ourselves in front of the Left Behind series. She had already read the first one, and aside from finding it just bad writing overall, she hated the theology within it and said that it distorted what the Gospel actually was, as well as distorting what God was like.

I didn't say anything at the time, but that was because I was too stunned by her comment, and didn't know where to start. This was someone who went to a Baptist church, who believed that the death of Jesus was to satisfy the wrath of God and he took the punishment we all so justly deserved. This was someone who believed in the "saved" and the "lost," and that those who were "lost" had a one-way ticket to hell. This was someone who believed that that if you were "lost," God couldn't stand the sight of you, and you were disgusting in His sight. She believed that Jesus would return, and when he did, he wouldn't be in that great of a mood towards the vast non-Christian majority.

The Left Behind series was the "logic of her belief system taking to it's most radical extreme." If God was so wrathful that only the bloody death of His son -- the son who took on all the sins of the world -- satisfied Him, who believed that every person He created deserved to be tormented for all eternity, who was disgusted by His creation ... why *wouldn't* He behave in the manner the Left Behind series depicts?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

God doesn't want robots -- He just wants you to do whatever He says.

The argument for why God doesn't just take everyone to heaven is that He gave humans free will. He wants people to choose to love Him, and doesn't want to force anyone to love Him. He doesn't want robots.

I can understand the not wanting to force people to love Him. I don't get the not wanting robots part. The whole reason for Jesus as a Savior is because God is a Holy God, and can only tolerate perfection. People are not perfect in any sense, having inherited the Adam nature. Depending on how far one's theology takes this, everything you do is tainted with sin, no matter how "good" it is. As a penalty for the sin and disobedience, Jesus took on humanity's punishment, thus satisfying the wrath of God.

If God can only tolerate perfection, and sin is essentially going against God or some form of disobeying God, and thus God can only tolerate sinless creatures (for those are the perfect creatures) and the only way to be sinless is to do exactly what God wants ... isn't the thing that God wants the same as a robot? Someone who does exactly what He wants?

Because that's exactly what a robot is: it's something that does exactly what the creator commands.

And then if the robot does not behave as the creator commands, it is declared defective, and is either fixed, or trashed. Perhaps melted down in a burning fire, and thrown into the scrap heap.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I don't even know how to title this one.

I recently (and by recently, I mean in the last five minutes) on another blog that essentially stated that God couldn't restore someone's faith by a miracle, because then the person could no longer have faith. Instead, the person would essentially have knowledge that God existed, which would've removed the person's free will ...

So, is the conclusion here that if God provides some sort of miracle in order to restore a person's faith, God has removed that person's free will?

Can I now argue that God removed the free will of the Apostles, since the biggest turning point in their faith was the miraculous resurrection of Jesus? And since Paul received a vision of Jesus -- also a miracle -- he also no longer had free will?

Because the faith of both Paul and the Apostles was jump-started by some sort of encounter with a resurrected Jesus. Which was a miracle. Their faith never would've happened, otherwise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Things apparently only I wonder about.

I was out shopping with my roommate this weekend, as we had some coupons set to expire soon. As we were leaving a store, I asked her the following: "Do you ever wonder how often conservative Christians get disappointed that a thunder storm is just a thunder storm, and not the second coming of Jesus?"

Surprisingly, this is not something she has ever wondered.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

God got rid of all evil today, so I'm no longer available to write this post.

One of the claims I see about why God doesn't just eradicate all evil this very second is that if God did do that, He'd have to wipe out all of humanity, as we all have evil tendencies.

But if God can only eliminate evil by destroying people, then how can anyone get to heaven? The whole premise behind the salvation and sanctification is that one is slowly changed to be like Jesus, and once one dies and gets to heaven, you are back to your original, pure, sinless state. And thus, no longer have an ounce of evil.

So if God is able to eradicate the evil in a person without destroying them, why can't He do the same to everyone? Or is this tied to He can only eradicate evil is someone has made the choice to repent and follow God?

To say that God can't destroy evil without destroying us comes across as saying that evil is an inherent part of our nature, something we were intended to have from the beginning. But the whole idea behind the Fall is that humanity was distorted from its original purpose -- and thus, evil isn't supposed to be an inherent part of anyone's character.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Punch me in the face: it's only what I deserve.

I was perusing some blogs tonight, and came across describing a situation. The blogger had ventured to a Christian blog that had some rude Christians. The Christian commentator called them on it and said that they were supposed to represent Christ to the world, and since Christ treated the rude Christians in a way they did not deserve (kindness, mercy, and compassion and so forth), then the least the rude Christians could do is treat others in a kind fashion.

I've always looked at the idea of representing Christ as following the Golden Rule, loving one's neighbor, not responding in the "eye for an eye" fashion, and basically being a really good person. But when a Christian is called to represent Christ, does that mean that a Christian is called to treat a non-Christian in a fashion that s/he doesn't deserve?

I'm not talking about the clear-cut cases of not retaliating if someone hits you, or steals from you, or is just an overall dirtbag towards you. I'm talking about a situation where you see a stranger in the street struggling to load packages into a car, and the Christian comes over to help. That is a method of representing Christ, and yet the loving behavior is in fact something the stranger doesn't deserve.

Or if a Christian is polite to a stranger in the street -- just a smile or a pleasant greeting -- and acting as a representative of Christ. Yet if Christ treats us as we don't deserve, then don't the strangers on the street deserve nothing less than to be punched in the face?

Or if representatives of Christ comfort parents grieving for a child. Or offer food to a starving person, or shelter to the homeless. If you are representing someone who in fact treated people in a fashion they did not deserve, then isn't there an implication that the Christians are saying that the grieving parents, the strangers, the homeless don't deserve the kind or polite treatment?

The thing is, I don't think a majority of Christians -- regardless of where they fall on the conservative or liberal scale -- would say that most strangers deserve to be punched in the face. Or that the homeless deserve to have no shelter or that those who have no food deserve to starve. They do in fact deserve kind treatment.

Yet their very theology, the very person they claim to represent, says something different.

Edit: I've received a few comments indicating that my post wasn't precisely clear -- which I'm grateful for, because I was still working through why this whole thing bothered me when I wrote this.

It was mentioned that Christians would say they are called to express the love of Jesus to people, and be his hands and feet. Or that the Bible didn't really call out the behavior I listed in the post.

And I think my discomfort can be summed up like so: rude Christian was chastised by moderator Christian for his rude behavior. This chastisement wasn't in the form of you are supposed to love your enemies, or to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The chastisement was in form of telling the rude Christian that you were treated by Christ as you don't deserve. Why was that connected with an admonishment to be polite? Why was that tied to the idea of representing Christ to the world? The implication I was seeing is that being polite to non-Christians was something they didn't deserve. Or just being polite to anyone. And since the representative of Christ is tied to all areas, like helping the unfortunate, does that mean that the unfortunate don't deserve help at all?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Everytime I download a tv show, I commit adultery on Comcast.

I got into a discussion today about when Jesus permits divorce. My friend is conservative protestant, and so I pointed out that Jesus really only permits the man to divorce when the wife was unfaithful. She said both abuse and adultery were acceptable reasons.

I asked about the abuse, as I couldn't recall any particular verses speaking to that. She said that it was explained as abuse was a form of adultery, in that the husband (or wife) was cheating on the covenant of marriage and the promises s/he made, and thus divorce was acceptable.

We moved on to a new topic as I pondered this. I then asked her about a situation where the husband is emotionally distant: he works all the time, does very little with the wife, doesn't listen to her. Isn't that also a form of adultery, based on her definition? And based on her definition, couldn't divorce then be justified in a lot of cases?

I remember that portion of the conversation concluded with how emotional situations were complicated. But in my mind -- and I didn't say this because it would've opened up a *huge* can of worms -- it sounds like a stretch. We have a clear-cut example of where Jesus says that someone can divorce, and it's not abuse. It's adultery. Not only that, but it's adultery as understood in the basic form: sexual unfaithfulness to the married partner.

And suddenly this gets stretched to include abuse as well? It adultery does include abuse, then why say there are two situations where divorce is okay? There's really only one situation, and that's adultery, only adultery means unfaithfulness to wedding promises. It sounds more like conservative Christians understand that they'd get a huge amount of flack for saying that someone would have to stay with an abusive partner, and so came up with a convoluted reason as to why abuse is an acceptable reason for divorce.

Now, to be fair, there could be a Biblical verse about abuse that's as direct as the adultery ones. But she didn't bring one up, and I can't think of one.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

May God use the bullet in your heart to save you.

I recently proof-read something for a friend, and found a particular instance that I feel is common in some evangelical circles. Unsaved Person A ends up in a bad situation. Saved Person B, or several Saved People, pray for Unsaved A. They not only pray that Unsaved Person A will be delivered from this bad situation, but that God will use the bad situation to show Unsaved Person A the Truth, and thus person A will be saved.

That type of behavior does not sit well with me at all. I know that the evangelical means well, but it's exploitative behavior. One person's tragedy should not become the evangelical's opportunity to try and work something extra in. The tragedy should be allowed to stand on its own. If person A needs someone to listen, then s/he should be listened to, no strings attached. If Person A needs a specific form of help, then that help should be given, no strings attached.

And yet, if a prayer is uttered that the situation is used to achieve a certain outcome, then there are a lot of strings attached.

I find myself right not unwilling to share a lot of personal news with evangelical friends, for this very reason. I don't feel anymore that they'll just listen and sympathize, if I'm struggling with something. Rather, I feel that the struggle will turn into a tool they use in a prayer to God for God to use that situation to save me. It's like whatever happens in my life is just used by them, for something else. My life will turn into some sort of project, with them trying to build a particular outcome.

Any tragedies, or even any joyful events, in my life are not their opportunities.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This world is not my home. Venus is!

So here's some things I've been contemplating.

A lot of times, I hear Christians say that the Earth is not their home, or that when they die, they'll go home to heaven. Or their pilgrims in a strange land. To me, that idea would make more sense if, based on the Bible, people had originally been created in heaven. But they were originally created in a certain section on Earth, and then kicked out to another part on Earth. So shouldn't Earth be their home, regardless? Or was it that Earth was the original home, and then when that got messed up by sin, home was relocated to heaven? But if heaven is where God is, and we were created to be in a relationship with God, why weren't humans originally created in heaven?

That, and let's say (taking the story literally) that Adam and Eve did everything right, and we were still living in Eden to this day. If they didn't eat of the fruit, then they didn't disobey God, and then wouldn't have introduced sin into the world. Without sin, you don't have death. So let us say that all the people who have been born over the last 6,000 years were still born in this sinless, deathless world. They'd never die. How would they all fit on the planet?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thinking is a hellish thing to do.

A big part of evangelical theology is that Jesus died to satisfy God's justice, and took the punishment that humanity deserved.

But evangelicals also say that those who reject Jesus are sent to hell, where there will be punishment for all eternity.

So, if the punishment is eternal hell, and yet Jesus took the punishment that humanity deserved ... shouldn't Jesus be in hell for all eternity?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The pride is a monkey on my back. But a cute monkey.

I fully admit that I could have a bias in writing this particular post, as I fall in the liberal Christian/agnostic side of things, rather than the conservative/fundamentalist side, and thus I will see more things "wrong" with the conservative side than I will with the side I favor.

But I'm noticing in blogs I've peeked in on that a lot of debates tend to descend to an attack on a person's character. For instance, a fundamentalist will make a claim about God or the Bible. I'll rebut it, either using "logic" (as in, if we say that God is just, do the actions attributed to Him match the definition of justice?) or possibly a Bible verse that I feel disagrees with the position. The fundamentalist may respond in kind, but more often than not, it debate inevitably ends on the fundamentalist telling the liberal/agnostic/atheist to lose the sense of pride, of being unwilling to submit to God, of loving one's sin too much, and that is why the non-fundamentalist is not exactly like the fundamentalist.

My immediate reaction is usually one of frustration, because rather than stick to defending the claims, we go on the ad hominem route. How is the pride/love of sin at all relevant to discussing the claims made by both parties?

Second, the inability to divide the fundamentalist and God. Now, I understand that the fundamentalist feels that s/he is following the will of God. But to the other side, they are not disagreeing with God. They are disagreeing with what the fundamentalist has *claimed* about God. What comes across is disagreeing with the fundamentalist is the same as disagreeing with God, which is incredibly arrogant.

Third, the inability for the fundamentalist to put him/herself in another's shoes. I can understand someone who honestly feels that all non-Christians are misguided, blinded fools just stumbling their way to hell. I get that. But I truly don't think they can consider things from the viewpoint of another, since the points themselves aren't refuted. They never say "I can understand why you have a legitimate disagreement with this." No, it's a matter of the non-fundamentalist willfully suppressing the truth, or wanting to elevate him/herself over God, or something else like that.

How can a dialogue possibly go forward after that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pascal Wagering myself to a new man.

I've seen Christians on quite a few blogs proclaiming that that even if their faith proves to be false, at least they've lived a good life, and don't lost anything. Yet if all the non-Christians are wrong, there will be hell to pay.

That moment of brilliance just came to me. I didn't plan the paragraph that way.

Yet, Christianity is also supposed to be life-changing. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've seen a Christian saying about another Christian that "s/he is doing it wrong." True Christians aren't hateful, spiteful, mean, rude, cruel, anything negative you can think of. A true Christian has been re-born, and now has the Holy Spirit residing in him/her, and is slowly growing to develop the fruits of the spirit.

I don't see how the two ideas can co-exist. If you're clinging to faith out of a fear of hell, or feel that if you're wrong in the end, you won't have lost anything, how can that be life-changing? How can that type of attitude produce any sort of growth, or make someone throw off the old man for the new? Pascal's Wager is -- in today's times -- pretty much a fear-based wager. And how can fear help develop any sort of Spirit-fruits?

I feel that Pascal's Wager discredits a major claim of Christianity -- the complete moral overhaul, which produces a "new man."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

God is absent, except when He's not.

God is just. Hell is the absence of God. Hell is where people go if they reject God, for God is a just God, and sin must be paid for.

So if Hell is experiencing the justice of God, doesn't that mean that God is not absent from Hell?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gobble-planning God.

I see a lot of comments all over the place about how a Christian had a plan for his/her life. A plan that s/he was passionate about, and wanted more than anything else. The plan never occurred, and the Christian ends up doing something different with his/her life.

The Christian then claims that the life s/he now has, the one that God planned, is so much better than anything the Christian attempted to do on his/her own.

How does the Christian know this? How could any of us know this unless we experienced both options, and were able to compare them equally? I can understand someone saying, "Based on the evidence I have available, I can conclude that the life I have now is better than the life I thought I wanted." And I can understand someone using "know" in that context. Yet that isn't the context I get when Christians say that the life they have now is better than the one they planned -- rather, this is absolute, 100%, do not pass doubt-Go certainty.

And they can be that certain. Yet I would say these are the same Christians who would turn around and tell atheists that atheists can't make the claim that there is no God, because atheists haven't been to every corner of the universe, or something like that. So if one can't know there isn't a God unless one has examined every microscopic corner of the universe, one can't say that s/he knows God's plans are better than the original idea, as that person hasn't lived both plans.

Note -- I'm talking about people who were passionate about option A, and are now living option B and claim to do so passionately. I'm not talking about someone who's option A was a dead-end job, and option B is the most exciting job imaginable. Then again, I don't think we can say that anyone ever really plans on having a dead-end job, can we.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Truth forecast: cloudy

A lot of the justification I see in terms of the Bible is how its truth has stood firm over the last 2,000 years or so: what was true in the time of Jesus is true today.

If this is the case, shouldn't we expect the understanding and interpretation to have not varied that entire time?

I recently came across a post from a rather well-known Christian (in Christian circles, at least) about Matthew 25, and the parable of the talents. This person was connecting the parable to how Christians use what God has given them. The parable was "obviously" meant to show how God will react with how we respond to our talents: if we use them to produce results, as the first two servants did, then God will be pleased. If we are like the lazy servant, and fear losing the talent, then God will cast us away.

One problem with that interpretation -- according to The Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, the above interpretation isn't anywhere close to what's going on in the parable.

To quote:

In the "limited good" world of the first-centuary Mediterranen, however, seeking "more" was morally wrong ... because the pie was "limited" and already all distributed, an increase in the share of one person automatically meant a loss for someone else. Honorable people, therefore, did not try to get more and those who did were automatically considered thieves. Noblemen avoided such accusations of getting rich at the expense of others by having their affairs handled by slaves. Such behavior could be condoned in slaves since slaves were without honor anyway ...
When the day of accounting arrives, we find the master rewarding those who were vicious enough, shameless enough, to increase his wealth for him at the expense of so many others. These slaves, in fact, are just like their master. For we find out from the third slave (and the master agrees) that indeed, the master himself is quite rapacious and shameless "a hard man, reaping where he did not sow and gathering where he did not scatter seed." In other words, he is by definition a thief. A "hard" man is one whose eyes/heart, mouth/ears, and hands/feet are rigid, non functioning, arrogantly inhumane ...
From the peasant point of view, therefore, it was the third slave who acted honorably, especially since he refused to participate in the rapacious schemes of the greedy, rich man. Moreover, the harsh condemnation he received at the hands of the greedy owner, as well as the reward to to servants who cooperated, is just what peasants had learned to expect.
Pages 124-125.

So my question is, if it's the Holy Spirit that leads the reader to the correct interpretation of Biblical passages, shouldn't our interpretation today match the understanding from 2,000 years ago? Rather than being a direct opposite?

It's situations like these, where a correct interpretation is dependent on understanding historical context, and the common interpretation pretty much matches how the Western Society behaves, that makes me feel religion as a whole is man-made and man-directed. It would be much more convincing to have someone with no understanding of that culture come to interpret the parable of talents the way it was understood back then.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Empathy, thy name is not OneSmallStep.

One of the critiques I see in response to the Christian faith is the element of prayer, and how it doesn't measure up to what Jesus says in certain New Testament quotes. Prayer is meant to bring one closer to God, or provide a sense of peace.

Essentially, God is not a gumball machine, and your prayers aren't quarters.

I came across this blog recently that was for a woman who's husband had a bad accident, and ending up dying from the injuries a month later. A lot of the posts were from people who knew the woman and her husband, and these people were reporting on the husband's status, as well as asking for prayers.

And here's where I come across as incredibly callous.

While I had did have a lot of sympathy for what the woman was going through, I kept stumbling over the prayer reports. Many of these prayers were asking for specific things -- that the doctors would know what to do, that the injuries would subside, that the husband would be okay.

And any amount of improvement, any positive sign, was treating as an answer to the prayers. When the husband was looking better? The bloggers said that the prayers were working and to keep them up. They encouraged others to prayer as well. When the improvement continued? It meant that God was really responding, and then the bloggers listed out more prayers. They also praised God for His goodness, when the doctors reports were encouraging.

Isn't this situation pretty much treating God as a gumball machine? The thing is, based on what I read, I wouldn't say these people were shallow about their faith. They were certainly sincere, they obviously had read quite a bit of the Bible. They might even be people who would say that non-Christians are just reading those certain Jesus verses wrong, and prayer isn't meant as a laundry list.

Yet, do they really believe that? Because all of their behavior points to treating God as though prayer influences Him. All of this behavior points towards taking those Jesus verses as a literal statement. So then how can non-Christians be accused of misinterpreting the verse, or taking the verse out of context, when Christians treat the verses in the same manner?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bible has voices in its head.

I find it much easier to read the Bible when realizing that not all of it is going to agree. If I have to read it with the belief that it's inerrant, then it ends up looking incredibly schizophrenic to me.

For example, forms of Christianity teach that we are all depraved, cannot please God without Jesus, have no righteousness of our own, God hates us (unless Jesus intercedes), the Law is only meant to show how sinful one is, following the Law leads to death and self-righteousness and so forth.

Then I read a few Psalms:

Thou hast tested my heart and watched me all night long; thou hast assayed me and found in me no mind to evil. I will not speak of the deeds of men; I have taken good note of all thy sayings. I have not strayed thy path and never stumbled.

Psalms 17: 3-5

The Lord rewarded me as my righteousness deserved; my hands were clean, and he requited me. For I have followed the ways of the Lord and have not turned wickedly from my God; all his laws are before my eyes, I have not failed to follow his decrees. In his sight I was blameless and kept myself from willful sin; the Lord requited me as my righteousness deserved and the purity of my life in his eyes

Psalms 18: 20-24

The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul. The Lord's instruction never fails, and makes the simple wise. The precepts of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart. The commandment of the Lord shines clear and gives light to the eyes.

Psalms 19: 7-9

These are just a few examples. In other Psalms, we have the writer pleading with God to establish justice, for the writer's cause is innocent. Or stating that God will help the poor, the oppressed, the widows, and the orphans. And it's stated in such a way as though they deserve to be rescued by God -- aka, they don't deserve their current state of poverty or oppression.

And, yes, there are many Psalms where the writer is lamenting on his state of sin, and praying that God have mercy on him. But my question would then be if those Psalms are taken at literal face-value, to support a claim in man's sin-state, that has no goodness ... why can't the other Psalms also be taken at face-value, in terms of the writer stating that he's innocent, or he follows the law completely? What methods are there that would cause someone to take one literally, and the other figuratively?

Can we truly say that the Psalmist would agree that all people are wholly depraved, deserve nothing but eternal torment, lack any element that would please God, completely fail to follow a Law?

Friday, June 19, 2009

A sinner by any other name.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person --- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in the while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5: 1-12.

In a lot of blogs, I see the claim that while a Christian is saved, the Christian is still a sinner. Or a saint and a sinner. Or will still struggle with the effects of sin, while still being redeemed through the work of Jesus on the cross. Maybe they're a forgiven sinner, or something like that.

But is someone who is saved still supposed to lay claim to the title of sinner? In the Bible paragraph I just quoted, Paul makes a reference of Christ dying for us while we were still sinners. Usually, when someone is phrased "still [fill in the blank,]" it means that the person is no longer that [fill in the blank] at the time of the discussion.

For example: "I had a red car when I was still married."

"I had a lot of friends when I was still happy."

"Jesus died for me while I was still weak."

"Jesus died for me when I was still an enemy of God." -- and this example I find key. I would say that any Christian would claim that s/he is no longer the enemy of God, as s/he has been saved through what Jesus did. The unsaved are still enemies of God. Yet the Christian would claim to still be a sinner in some fashion? Based on the Bible paragraph, Paul comes across as inferring that the Christians are no longer enemies of God. He's also inferring that Christians are no longer weak. So in using the same language style, isn't he also inferring that Christians are no longer sinners?

On a different note, I read in a blog that someone used Romans 5: 8-9 to support the claim that God loves us and God proved this love by -- through Christ -- punishing Himself for everyone's sin so that no one would have to be punished. The applicable passages are in bold.

A couple problems I have with that idea. First, given all twelve verses, Paul is setting up a definite difference between God and Christ. The God one has peace with is different than the Jesus who provides that peace. The God views people as enemies is the God that Jesus reconciles those enemies to. The God that Paul boasts of boasting of through the Lord Jesus Christ. The God who has the wrath is the God whose wrath averted through the Jesus who is saving people. The only possible way the two are combined is in verse eight with God proving His love while Christ dies while people are still sinners. But based on the other verses, it makes more sense to conflate the idea of God's love with God providing His one and only Son.

Second, where in this verse does it say Christ is punished in the place of sinners? It says that Christ died for people while they were still sinners, and his blood justifies people so that they are saved from the wrath of God. It doesn't say how the blood saves, and it makes no clear claims of Jesus being punished for anything. Nor does it even make the death part be the end, since a later verse says that Christians will be saved "much more surely" by the life of Jesus.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Windows Vista is the Operating System of my Better Nature.

So here's a thought that hit me a few days back --

I think we've all heard the idea of appealing to someone's better nature, in order to accomplish something good. And there's a certain branch of Christianity that holds the idea that humanity essentially has no better nature, and anything good one does comes from God, and anything bad comes from the individual person. The only thing you're responsible for is the bad things. You have no control, no input, and nothing to do with the good things (which, in a way, almost makes the good things impersonal, because if it all comes from God, couldn't the good things come from anyone? Whereas the bad things are a result of the person's personality. Some people might steal, whereas other might murder).

Anyway, for people who believe that ... do they have a better nature to appeal to? After all, their better nature is a result of God, and not having any connection to their personality. So in appealing to their personality, wouldn't someone just be appealing to God? If so, why not cut out the middle man/the vessel and go to God directly?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God stole my third dimension.

On occasion, I'll listen to Christian music. And I'm wondering how much of it provides an insight into how Christians view a non-Christian life, and thus who are non-Christians. Are the lyrics merely hyperbole, or is there an element of 'this is what the outside looks like?'

I used to think that me, myself, and I were all that mattered

Alive, by Rebecca St. James.

The song here is basically about how God makes the person come alive (perhaps you gleaned that from the title itself). But my understanding is that Rebecca St. James became a Christian at a rather young age, and so I would doubt she'd have much non-Christian personal experience to draw upon. So in looking at this, does she truly think that those who are non-Christians think that they are the only people who matter? That they behave in that two-dimensional, selfish way? Not only that, but I've heard her introduce this song as "This is about how God makes us come alive!" So I'd say the song is meant to include more than just one person.

Shine on me with Your light/Without You I'm a cold dark stone

You are the Sun, by Sara Groves.

And while the singer here is singing from first-person ... does this mean then that all non-Christians are considered "cold dark stones?"

The only thing that isn't meaningless to me/is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free.

Conversations, by Sara Groves.

The ironic thing about this song is that it's written as an attempt by a Christian to explain to a non-Christian about how Christianity is helpful. Yet, if I take this verse extremely literally, then as the non-Christian isn't Jesus Christ, the non-Christian holds no importance to the Christian.

And even if I don't go to the extreme methods in literalness, I still find elements in it to be disturbed. To make one thing matter to the exclusion of all else can be dangerous to those around you. It's what we see in people who believe Jesus is returning any second now, and so why bother caring for the environment? It's not like we'll be needing one in the future. Or perhaps someone who is so pro-environment that it doesn't matter what happened to a group of people so long as a tree was saved. Or I just read that PETA is using the Tiller murder to promote vegetarianism with signs like "Pro-Life? Go Vegetarianism," and "Pro-Choice? Choose Vegetarianism."

Things like this are a huge roadblock for ever wanting to become a conservative Christian. As much as they can say that it makes them more compassionate, more loving people, I don't like how it almost forces them to view the non-Christians. There's no longer nuances, those shades of gray. People become these two-dimensional paper dolls. You're either alive in God, or solely self-focused. You either have God's light, or you're a cold dark stone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quiver Me Timbers.

I was feeling pretty good about life, and so decided to fix by that by reading Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,' by Kathryn Joyce. That knocked me into a depression in no time. I would say something along the lines of I should feel fortunate that it's just a fringe movement in the conservative Christian circles, but the book is pointing out that some of the more mainstream conservative Christians are making noise about how women should have more children, and using birth control is denying God's authority over your body.

Two things of interest: One, there's a mentality in the book about a "one of ours," and it's about how contraception is bad. To quote, a Quiverfull version of "He's one of ours": selectively appropriating historical figures who were the later-born children of their families to create a canon of the Waster world's six-, seventh-, or eight-born geniuses and greats. The moral is that the "contraceptive mentality" would have precluded the births of Washington, Mozart, Beethoven, and, by implication, possibly a savior."

The basic idea seems to be that if women use contraception, there will be a whole lot of necessary people no longer born. Now, I don't know if the implication in the quote is the author's interpretation, or if it's something Quiverfull people actually hinted at, but ... Jesus was the result conceived in the womb of a virgin. God didn't even use sex in the first place to create Jesus, so how could contraception have interfered with that in the first place? No only that, but my understanding is that conservative non-Calvinist Christians feel that people both have free will, and that God is in control, and has a plan, and is sovereign. So if God's plan involved Mozart being born, wouldn't God have seen that through, regardless if the woman was using contraception or not? Are they seriously suggesting that a hormonal pill is enough to stop an omnipotent God?

Then there's how this works in reverse -- perhaps we wouldn't have Mozart. But I believe Mozart considered his elder sister to be just as talented, if not more talented, than he was. Yet we don't know anything about her, because she was a woman, and only had two proper roles in society: wife and mother. How many geniuses have we lost in society because women had no rights, and were only expected to marry and produce children? How many geniuses have we lost because women couldn't have any control over their reproduction?

Second, one of the themes in the book is basically raising an army for God. Because these women are having anywhere from ten to eighteen children, they'll be able to take back society in a few generations, because they're rapidly out-breeding the non-Christians. The assumption on the Quiverfulls is that the children will be that type of Christian by default.

Doesn't that kind of conflict with the free will idea? One of the standard responses to why there's evil in the world, or why people will go to hell is that God loved us so much that He allows us to choose whether or not to follow Him. Yet these parents aren't saying that they'll give their children a choice in following God, they're raising their children to absolutely guarantee that the children will follow God. When the children reach the age of accountability, is anyone going to be surprised by their choice? Can we even say that they freely choose God, when no other option would've been presented?

Now, I can understand why these parents are doing this. Most parents do raise their children in the path they feel is morally right -- if a Christian feels that atheism is wrong, the Christian is not going to encourage his/her child to be an atheist. They would probably even say it would be extremely unloving of them to raise a child to be anything less than a Christian, considering the consequences of not being one. But in a way, are they respecting their child less than God is?

I just suddenly have this weird picture of all these people who were raised and accepted Christ as their Savior, suddenly faced with a God who tells them they aren't saved, because they didn't freely make the choice. Their parents made the choice for them based on their upbringing.

I'm also unsure how the Quiverfulls approach the concept of free will. There was a definite Calvinist/Reformed Theology trend in the book.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How far do you trust God?

Do you trust that God will always provide food? And yet millions starve to death.

Do you trust that God will always provide shelter? And yet millions have none.

Do you trust that God will always keep you safe? And yet millions of those who practice religion are murdered.

Do you trust that God will always keep your child healthy and alive? And yet many of those who practice religion lose their children.

I could keep going with examples, but that would be a waste of space.

I often see people proclaiming how they trust God, and how God will always be there for the, and God will always be a present source of help in times of trouble. And yet, that source of help and trust come down to a very vague concept of God being by one's side. I'm reminded of a scene in the book "The Shack" where the father asks God where God was when his daughter was abducted and murdered. God said that He was with the daughter the whole time.

Yet the daughter still ended up murdered.

I can understand how the idea of this total loving source being by one's side, offering peace and comfort. But it seems when it comes down to concrete examples -- in trusting that God will offer something with substance such as food or safety -- no one can claim that as a guarantee. Yes, people can point to examples where God provided such things. But every example, there's an example of nothing be provided at all. So no one can promise that God will provide health or anything for basic survival.

Perhaps someone can come back and say that they can trust that a good outcome will prevail, and that everything will turn out well for those who trust in God. But even this becomes vague in its way, because what does that mean? Someone can point to the murder of a child and say it will work out for good in the end. But then what's being trusted is some sort of vague concept of good -- nothing concrete.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

God is so good, He burned my house down!

Nothing's actually happened to my house. My house is fine.

But I've been thinking lately about all those news stories, when people were saved from disaster, or had something go their way, and they say, "God is good!"

Now, let's say I was accused of cheating on a test. I get called before the principal. After he examines all the facts, he concludes that I did not in fact cheat. I then say that the principal is a good man.

My statement about how good the principal is is directly dependent upon him judging in my favor. The two are connected. If he were to say that I did cheat and then punish me for it, when I did not in fact cheat, I would conclude that the principal is not good.

God is often treated in the same manner when people are praising Him for a wonderful outcome. He is good because He made a good thing happen. Yet if something bad happens, we never see believers then conclude that God is bad. Rather, He's mysterious, or His ways aren't our ways. In this situation, God's goodness is a simple matter of fact, independent of the outcome.

But when this is the case, does it mean anything to praise God when good things happen? God's not good because He did a good thing. He's good, period. I almost find it a useless means of praise, because it's just a blanket statement.

Unless the saying is there to re-enforce just how good God is? Except I still think we'd run into the same problem, if a good event is used as a reminder to just how good God is. Because God's goodness is once again dependent upon the event, rather than the nature of God.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Try out the sliding-sin scale today!

I see in a lot of places the idea that God doesn't really measure "levels" of sin. All sin is equal in the eyes of God, whether it be stealing a candy bar or wiping out an entire country. Both crimes get the maximum sentence, which is death/hell/a combination of the two/something else not all that pleasant. There isn't really a sense of a punishment that is proportionate to the crime. Rather, all crimes are equally bad.

Very often, the idea that all crimes equal the same maximum punishment is seen as okay, and a just thing, and who are we to question God?

I touched on this in the comments of my last post, but if that principle -- all crimes are equal -- are applied to actual people, would we really enjoy being around those types of people?

Then let's try applying that to a society. Say we lived in a country where capital punishment was given to those who stole candy bars. Capital punishment was given to those who committed adultery. And capital punishment was given to serial killers.

And that's just with actions we all agree are crimes (though the second one falls under a moral crime). What about someone who says something unkind to another person, and capital punishment is also applied there. Or someone who hates another, and thus must also be put to death. Or one of the favorite scenarios I see Kirk Cameron using -- if you've ever told a lie, you've broken one of the Ten Commandments, and thus deserve to go to hell.

Would anyone find that type of society just? Or compassionate? Or merciful? Instead, wouldn't we find that society to be on the tyrannical side? A society that gives no leeway for the imperfections of human nature?

Under no circumstances would anyone call that society good. We would say that living in that manner would be perhaps tantamount to torture, because everyone would be so worried about being imperfect that they'd never just be allowed to live.

The workarounds I see for this are that I can't judge God by man's reasoning, I must use God's reasoning. The problem is that as soon as God is described as good, or just, we need some way of defining those words. Otherwise, any description of God becomes meaningless.

Another workaround for this could be that we have to make allowances for the sinful nature of man. Since we know that no one is going to behave perfectly, we must have a society that operates in that fashion, so that people are constantly getting killed through capital punishment. If that were the case, then we wouldn't have a society left.

But isn't the fact that we're making allowances for the imperfection of man admitting that a law structure demanding perfection isn't just? That it's almost borderline cruel? If we're applying a standard of justice to this, then a society should organize its laws to require perfection regardless of how sinful said subjects of the society are.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I think, therefore I kill you.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment .... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5: 21-22, 27-28.

I see the Sermon on the Mount get used quite a bit to demonstrate just how sinful everyone is -- while you may not have physically murdered someone, if you were angry with them, that's just as bad. While you may have been physically faithful to your wife, looking at a non-wife woman is just as bad. Emotions and thoughts carry as much weight as actions do in the eyes of God. When you finally stand before God, He'll still have a fierce judgment for you even if all you did was think angry thoughts towards another person.

Yet, if thoughts carry that much weight, hold the same merit as actions do, does that mean that it works in reverse? Say I come across a starving person, and think loving, compassion thoughts towards him, or think about how much I'd love to give him food, and yet physically don't give him anything.

I highly doubt anyone would tell me that thinking about giving him food was just as good as giving him actual food.

Say person A is murdering person B, and I happen to stumble across the crime. I stand there, thinking that I should really stop person A, even picture myself doing so. Yet, I just watch as person B gets killed.

No one would congratulate me for stopping such an awful crime, even though I had good intentions towards doing so.

And we see this same situation in the Bible -- faith without works is dead. If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? James 2: 14-16

Thoughts alone don't seem to carry equal weight when it comes to being judged. Bad thoughts alone are enough to get one condemned, no matter what the action is, but good thoughts alone aren't enough to escape condemnation.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I believe in a God I don't talk to.

I've been pondering lately the ways in which I believe in God. And I'm not sure I can say that I believe in a God who personally interacts and cares about how I/we go about our lives.

For example, one of my co-workers was pregnant. She was two weeks away from delivery, only to have the baby strangled by the umbilical cord. When I learned about this, I felt an incredibly amount of grief and compassion for her -- not just for what she lost, but that she got that far into the pregnancy, and was so close. That, if she ever becomes pregnant again, she won't be able to enjoy the experience. That she had the room prepared, the name picked out, all her dreams about how she'd raise her child, and all of that was gone.

In looking back, not once did I pray to God asking Him to be there for her, to shower her with peace, or any of that. I didn't pray to God, asking how this could happen. I didn't actually pray to God, period.

In a second example, I found this week that I had made an unavoidable mistake when I submitted some numbers to another department (unavoidable because I interpreted what I was supposed to differently than how the other department operates, and there was no way for my interpretation to be caught until I saw the final numbers). Fixing this mistake is going to affect every other department.

In telling people what happened, and trying to see if it even can be fixed, I was trying to think of solutions. It was maybe five or six hours later that I thought I would pray to God ... followed quickly by a thought of having no idea how that would help. Either the mistake can be fixed, or it can't.

Based on these two examples, I see no way that I can currently say that I believe in some sort of personal God. If I did, wouldn't I be interacting with God in the two examples I listed?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Two hands can hold a lot of information.

I've been reading a lot of different blogs recently, and two things jumped out at me. Or maybe it's one thing, with two sides.

On the one hand, I've seen a lot of comments that essentially say the more one devotes to Christianity/Jesus/God, the more one is aware of one's need for a Savior. Your awareness of your sinful state is constantly re-enforced and revealed to you, and shows you more and more just how far aware you'll ever be from being like Jesus on your own.

On the other hand, there's the idea that the more one follows the path of Christianity, lets Jesus mold you/shape you/change you, the more Christ-like you become.

I've been trying to figure out if both ideas can be true at the same time, and I don't think they can be. If one is becoming more Christ-like -- the second option -- then wouldn't there be less of an awareness of one's sinful state, since there'd be less sin inhabiting a person, compared to the pre-Christian years? And, vice versa, if the journey with Jesus leads one more and more aware of one's sinful state, then one is in fact not becoming more Christ-like?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Legalize this!

If you read only the Synoptic Gospels for a while, Christianity starts to greatly resemble that dreaded legalism.

For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, "Pay what you owe." Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you." But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and the went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?" And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

-- Matthew 18: 23-35

The biggest thing I get from this section is that it's not enough to simply accept the forgiveness of God. If you don't forgive others, you won't end up in a great place. Which comes very close to the idea that your actions can determine whether you truly receive salvation or not.

I also think the Western world has a habit of glossing over just how prevalent the concept of slavery was back then. Not only are most of the players in this parable referred to as slaves, the lord was legally entitled to sell the slave, as well as the slave's wife and children. And it's simply presented as a fact of life. We can say that obviously God wouldn't endorse slavery as it's morally wrong (or that it wasn't actually slavery as we knew but barely qualified to what we define slavery as today). Yet the concept of slavery is so entwined in this parable, even up to the aspect of people being sold.

I'm pretty sure the overall point of the parable is the idea that if one is forgiven by God for something huge, it's incredibly hypocritical to turn around and refuse to forgive another person when what the other person did was done on a much smaller scale. But there's also an idea here that a person can in fact do something to release themselves from the debt, whereas the penal atonement theory teaches that you can't do anything, and Jesus paid the debt for you (Granted, it could easily be desperation, since the first slave owed a huge sum that he could probably never pay. Nor did he actually have to, as the lord forgave the debt, period).

The torture aspect also made me do a double-take. Odd. I can glide over reading the word "hell," as I'm kind of immune to that word because it's a rather common one. But the lord here is compared to the Heavenly Father, and the lord is also someone who handed the bad slave over to be tortured because the lord was angry over the hypocrisy. I understand the anger. But the lord/Heavenly Father actively handing someone over to be tortured is interesting to mesh with the idea of "God doesn't send people to hell, people send people to hell."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You only thought you were a Christian.

I've come in contact with quite a few former Christians who are now atheists. In all instances, the atheists were very conservative evangelical/fundamentalists. The charge is often leveled against them that they were never true Christians in the first place. Part of what's included in that charge is something along the lines of the atheist had more faith in the factual knowledge of the Bible, or the faith was too dependent on the factual knowledge of the Bible, rather than God Himself. Because the faith was so rigid, and not properly dependent upon knowing God, the atheist lost his faith for that reason.

These atheists have family members who are still the conservative evangelical/fundamentalists that the atheists once were. So if the atheists were never Christians because they never knew God, and because the faith was too tied up in a rigid view of the Bible, doesn't that mean that the family members who are currently Christians aren't Christians as well?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jesus vs. Old Age.

Would there have come a point at which Jesus would have stopped aging? Would he have reached old age, period?

Assuming for the moment that the Garden of Eden scenario really happened, and Adam and Eve were real people, would they have produced the way humanity does today? The normal course that we see today is that people are born, live, and then die of old age. Yet in the Garden, there was no death. So no would in the Garden -- assuming Adam and Even had offspring -- would have died of old age. I'm just wondering what the cut-off point was in terms of aging. Where would the body have said, "Age this far, and no farther?"

There's the idea that Jesus was without sin. Yet at the same time, he was born into this world and growing up in the same manner that all other people do. For all outward appearances, he would've died of old age at some point in time, thus receiving that wage that sin pays.

(Come to think of it, I vaguely remember some series like Left Behind touching on this, in that all the people who were Raptured to Heaven were then in bodies that were at the age of 33, and would be that age for eternity. It was somehow connected to the age of Jesus when he started preaching or was crucified).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who wants to live forever?

We see in the New Testament a few areas where Jesus is shown to be offering eternal life -- those who believe in Jesus have it. Or Paul saying that the wages of sin are death, but the free gift of eternal life comes from Jesus (or is something God offers to us through Jesus).

Yet we also have the concept of heaven and hell. Both hold the concept of an eternal existence. You either are eternally in Paradise, or eternally in a place that is rather unpleasant. Technically speaking, doesn't one have this eternal life regardless of where one ends up?

After all, that is what life is: existence. So wouldn't we logically say that when if God is offering someone eternal life, He is offering them the opportunity to exist forever? And if someone refuses this chance, that person will not in fact live forever? They'll cease to exist?

Except based on the heaven/hell theology, the person ends up in hell, which means the person is still existing. Does this mean we end up with a situation where while it does say that Jesus offers eternal life, "eternal life" means something other than the standard definition? Because if someone came up to me and said that s/he is offering me the chance to live forever, the implication is that I don't already possess the capability to live forever.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Uber-Literal moment.

I was reading a book that had some paragraphs discussing marriage in this life, and how it carries over into the resurrected life. The argument was that there would be no married people when the Christians are resurrected, and pulled from the example of Jesus saying that the woman who had the seven husbands would not be the wife of any of them in the life to come, for people are neither married nor given in marriage.

Then it made the mention that above all else, a Christian husband and a Christian wife are a brother and sister in Christ. Which, if I take to the literal extreme ... means that a brother and a sister have married.

It was a rather odd moment for me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Love Bomb.

Whenever I see someone essentially say that they aren't going to evangelize to a person (preach about Jesus), but rather just express the love of Christ to the person, I end up interpreting that sentence in the following way:

"I, the Christian, am loving you in order to get something out of you."

Essentially, the love has an ulterior motive. The Christian is hoping that the way s/he lives their life, or interacts with unbelievers, will be done in such a way as to make the unbeliever want what the believer has.

I can't help but find that to be a manipulative motive for loving a person. The intention is to produce a very specific result: get the unbeliever interested enough to make the unbeliever convert.

I don't get the same reaction if someone says that they love humanity because God created people, or they love others because of how much God loved them, and so how can they not express that love to everyone else?

I'd even prefer in your face evangelizing to the "convert them through love" approach. At least the former is being forthwright about his/her intentions. And while I doubt that every single Christian who has done the latter approach sees it as a backdoor approach (or maybe they do), it's also incredibly ... it's almost deceptive, in a way. The Christian is still trying to convince the unbeliever to convert, on some level.