05 March 2015

Why I don’t want to go to church:
Their politics.

I do go to church. As should all Christians. But in this series I discuss the reasons why I’m tempted not to.

For about two months, I attended my aunt’s church. That was plenty.

See, the pastor was a conspiracy theorist. One of those “the Trilateral Commission is trying to create the New World Order under our noses, and the black helicopters are already coming to take out their opponents, so start stockpiling gold, canned goods, and guns” kind of conspiracy theorist. He was supposed to preach on the scriptures from the lectionary, and would; but he’d often find some way to wander away from the scriptures and start talking about some scary thing he believed our government was doing, which he’d just read on the Internet—“This stuff is out there, people. Read it yourselves!”

After one Sunday where he set his bible aside altogether, and spent the entire sermon on some secret plan the Saudis allegedly had to take over the American oil industry, I had enough. I wasn’t going back to that church. Didn’t matter how much my aunt liked it; I was done. I went there to worship and hear about Jesus, not listen to this guy’s rambling fears.

Okay. Conspiracy theorists are easy examples to pick on. Now let’s hit a little closer to home: The preacher who can’t stop criticizing the government. The preacher who can’t stop denouncing the President. Or, if the President is of the same party, the preacher who can’t stop praising the President for being a man of character, conviction, and faith—the next best thing to Jesus being in the White House.

04 March 2015

James 1.16-18:
The real God.

My beloved Christians, don’t go astray:
Every good gift, every perfect present, is from above,
coming down from the Father of heavenly lights.
There are no retrogrades, no phases, with him.
His will, by his truthful word, gave birth to us,
so we’re the firstfruits of whatever’s been created.

James 1.16-18 KWL

In verse 15, James used a pregnancy metaphor to describe how lust produces sin. In these verses, he keeps up the metaphors: God’s like the planets and moon, only he doesn’t go through phases. We’re like firstfruits—the crops the Hebrews were meant to tithe from.

But there’s a point to all this. James wasn’t just trying to show off how his brother Jesus wasn’t the only one in the family with a knack for interesting imagery.

“Don’t go astray” refers to the previous idea—that God isn’t the source of temptation and suffering. We are. Determinists regularly make that mistake: They figure God is almighty, and figure if they were almighty, they’d be in control of every little thing in the universe, including evil. So God must be sovereign too. Even though he regularly, clearly objects to our sin—implying he hasn’t taken absolute control of our sin too.

03 March 2015

Evangelism in the United States.

There’s a myth going round the United States that we Christians are a tiny, oppressed minority, shrinking all the time thanks to the forces of paganism and atheism in our secular culture.

Well, I do door-to-door evangelism. You wanna find out how secular your city is, try tabulating them like a census worker: Go from house to house, and meet ’em where they live. What you’ll find out is we’re hardly a minority. We’re the vast, overwhelming majority. On average, four out of five identify themselves as Christian. In more devout towns, 99 out of 100; in more pagan towns (i.e. San Francisco or Portland), it’s still way more than half.

To be fair, a lot of these self-described Christians aren’t all that Christian. They don’t go to church. They can’t tell you when they’ve last read a bible; they don’t know. They say grace on Thanksgiving, but otherwise don’t pray unless they really want something. They might do something religious on Easter or Christmas. That’s about it. They’re the I-got-baptized-and-that-counts kind of Christians.

That’s why our culture is so pagan: Functionally, most of our Christians are pagan.

02 March 2015

Pentateuch.

Pentateuch 'pɛn(t).ə.t(j)uk n. The first five books of the bible: Genesis through Deuteronomy. Also called “the books of Moses,” or in Hebrew, Toráh/“Law.”

The first five books of the bible explain the entire basis of God’s relationship with humanity and Israel. Genesis introduces the creation of humans, introduces God’s friend Abraham, and shows God’s dealings with Abraham and his grandson Israel. Exodus is about how God freed Israel’s descendants from Egyptian slavery and established his covenant with them. Leviticus and Numbers are about what happened in the Sinai wilderness, and Deuteronomy consists of Moses’s final message to the Israelis before his death.

Jews call these books the Toráh, or Law. They’re essential to Judaism: The commands in the Law are the basis for everything Jews teach in the Mishnah, their commentary on the Law; and the Talmud, their commentary on the Mishnah. The Pharisees, who wrote the Mishnah, regularly referred to the Law as their final authority. Jesus did likewise, both when he corrected the Pharisees, and when he gave his own teachings about God’s Kingdom. After all, it’s in Exodus that the LORD himself introduces the idea of Israel as “a priestly kingdom, a holy nation.” Ex 19.6 Jesus simply fulfilled what was started in the Law.

01 March 2015

Faith-righteousness.

You may have heard of works-righteousness: A belief, held by most pagans and certain Christians, that our good works make us righteous, and will save us. Despite Paul teaching us how we’re saved by grace, not works, Ep 2.8-9 and Isaiah pointing out our good deeds are pathetic when compared to God’s infinite goodness, Is 64.6 there are always holdouts who insist no, they’re good people; certainly good enough for heaven, and have nothing for God to forgive.

Well, today I’m gonna discuss faith-righteousness: A belief, held by certain Christians, that our faith makes us righteous, and will save us.

We’re saved by faith, they insist. Jesus said so, after he healed people: “Your faith saved you.” Lk 7.50 Faith saves. And they have faith. So they’re saved.

Faith in what?

Your March 2015 monthly checkup.

First Sunday of the month. And just as people make New Year’s resolutions, it’s as good a time as any to resolve to follow Christ Jesus better, and get religious about our relationship. If you’ve already been working on it, hopefully this encourages you to keep it up.