Category Archives: blog

Ep.9 Women in the Bible



In this episode, ‘Wo Men, Wo Problems’, ‘Dangerous’ is joined by Lenae (while BeaTs is on holiday) to discuss some of the groovy women in the Bible and what they can teach us. Exploring such questions as why articles on Biblical women are aimed only at women; how these women tended not to screw things up as much as the men did and how one woman got her miracle by making Jesus laugh.

Produced by Debs

Reach us at unspokenchurch@gmail.com

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Epiousios – one word, lots of questions



Salutations,

In the podcast we touched upon the word epiousios and I want to cover some stuff we didn’t get to.

To recap epiousios is the Greek word that is translated as ‘daily’ in ‘daily bread’. It’s also the only place in the whole of Greek writing that it’s found. That’s weird because Koine Greek had a word for ‘daily’ so why did the Gospel writers feel the need to invent a new one?

Well, there’s more to it than that so let’s kick off with a deeper look at the word. Most invented words (I’d say all, but there’s always one exception) are either an onomatopoeia (a word for a sound such as ‘swoosh’ or any animal sounds) or a portmanteau (two words smashed together such as smog, brunch and sitcom). Epiousios is a portmanteau (as indeed is portmanteau) and what’s interesting is that portmanteaus usually fill a void. Smog is smoke and fog and is a particular weather event only found in cities; brunch is breakfast and lunch and is a meal betwixt the two.

On first look epiousios does not fill a void, there was already a word for ‘daily’ so what gives?

Theory 1: Jesus made the word up

Theory 2: It was a long and theologically complicated sentence that the writers distilled down to one word

Theory 3: What we talked about in the podcast, that it means more than just daily; that there are ideas of manna from Heaven; Jesus as the Bread of Life or supernatural needs for the day.

There are two more interesting points that this brings up that we didn’t get to cover in the podcast:

Number 1: Where does the word originate? It makes no sense that both writers made up the exact same word, rather it suggests that Matthew and Luke got the prayer from another place. Normally it is agreed that they got there information from Mark, but Mark doesn’t have the Lord’s Prayer in it. So what gives?

Well, many consider that there is a, now lost, document of Jesus’ sayings that scholars call ‘Q’. Someone jotted down all the sayings of Jesus, as He said them, with no plot. The gospel writers then used this Q document within their narratives of Jesus’ life. Personally I put forward that Matthew wrote this Q document and that’s why the Gospel is attributed to him. After all if the apostle himself wrote the Gospel, why would he have felt the need to copy Mark’s account? John, the other apostle to write a Gospel, wrote his own thing. So this appearance in Luke and Matthew, but not in Mark, along with this very specific word, gives credence to the theory of some sort of ‘sayings’ document.

Number 2: Jesus spoke Greek. There’s actually a surprising amount about this on the Internet. The language of Judea and the areas where
Jesus spent most of His time spoke Aramaic. Ergo, Jesus spoke Aramaic. Except Koine Greek was the lingua franca of the whole area. This being so there are some that argue Jesus would have known Greek, even spoken it. He does speak to some people around the Greek Decapolis. In fact, even the fishermen that Jesus chose as disciples would have spoke and wrote Greek in order to write their Gospels and letters. Ooh, which is a topic for a later podcast, but is that possible? Maybe they had a translator, but, and I’m spit-balling here, why would they write in Greek if Aramaic was the dominant language? It would make sense that the Gospels were written in Greek because that was the language that Jesus taught in, that all their notes were in.

Does it matter? Not really. It’s not faith changing, but it is interesting that nestled in a very common set of verses is a single word that throws up a lot of questions. It really highlights just how much is out there (or in there) that we never talk about in church. And some of those are faith changing; some of those change the way we live out our religion.

Peace

‘Dangerous’

(Just my thoughts, they don’t represent BT or Beanyman’s views)


To Tarshish!



Salutations,

BT recently led a small ‘Chapel’ service where he talked about Jonah and it struck me again how much I am like Jonah, but also, considering my recent blogs, how Jonah is exemplary of the consumer church mentality.

Let me first paraphrase what BT said (as parsed through my own brain) as it’s well worth consideration. First he ran through the story and pointed out that though the beginning was a great story, it’s not the important bit. In fact this whole blog entry comes from the fact that BT shone his spotlight on the last chapter of the book, it was this chapter that held the important message not the fun story of the fish. I think that’s also true for Daniel (lion’s den versus prophecy) and is a pitfall we need to be wary of with any story we teach in Junior Church. It’s easy to remember the story from our youth and not reevaluate it as adults.

His main point was that Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and ultimately he is bitter that God chooses to be merciful. BT then challenged those assembled to consider if there are people we don’t reach out to because we don’t want them to be saved, or don’t think they could or should be. Now originally I didn’t think this applied to me as I can’t think of anyone I dislike that much (geez, I’m holy), but his message has continued to challenge me and, I realise, I didn’t get it. It’s not so much that I don’t want people to be saved, but that there are people that I don’t try to save because I don’t like them (so never bother to talk to them) or don’t think would be interested (so don’t try) and in fact there are obviously people I don’t want saved, anyone I don’t tell about Jesus! I can say I want to see people in my community saved, but if I don’t actually go out and try to spread the Gospel then, well, my actions speak louder than words.

I guess ‘to Tarshish!’ could be the clarion call for many of us when called to share the Gospel. Haven’t we all found excuses not to tell people about Jesus? Mainly from being shy or worried they would mock us. BT pointed out in his talk that Jonah, in telling the sailors to throw him overboard, was basically saying ‘I’d rather die than go to Nineveh!’. Throwing himself to death into a stormy sea seems a little extreme… until you ask me to go door-knocking with pamphlets and then ‘To Tarshish!’ you’ll here me cry.

But Jonah wasn’t shy and socially awkward so why was he so desperate to escape his calling? For that we need a quick history lesson (I heard that groan) and it might shed a slightly more sympathetic light on Jonah. You see Nineveh was an Assyrian city (and a more likely owner of the famed Hanging Gardens) and the Assyrians were a great (and brutal) power that invaded and controlled a lot of the region. Jonah would not have been a great fan of the Assyrians and would have been happy to hear that Nineveh was going to be destroyed.

Think of it this way: I’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump (as President) and if I heard he was going to be impeached I’d be pretty happy (as I think someone with political experience would be better in the role). If God then commanded me to go to Washington and explain a few things to Mr. Trump in order to stop that impeachment, well, I’d have a hard time. Especially if I knew that he would most likely continue with his policies such as dismantling universal healthcare and travel bans.

The issue is that Jonah was still working on his own agenda. It’s an extreme example, but perhaps a lesson to us about just how far we have to go in submission to God’s plans for ourselves and the World. It strikes me while writing that the story of Jonah is an embodiment of the command to love our enemies. A tale to show us what that looks like (or what it doesn’t look like) and how difficult that command can be. Also that there is no one who is exempt from that commandment, no one who is too much of an enemy.

Sorry, tangent.

After Jonah has done his duty and preached to Nineveh he goes and sits down in a little shelter to watch it burn. Which doesn’t happen. And he’s cross. He then complains to God that He’s too nice. “See?” he says. “I knew you’d save them, that’s why I didn’t want to go.” And again it’s an extreme example, but is it, at it’s core, any different from us deciding what or how something should be done and balking at the idea that God wants it differently?

Let’s take it to an extreme the other way. The church leadership decide that the church service needs to be re-jigged. Then there are cries (at least there used to be from some of the older generations) that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ as if the layout of the church or the service is somehow an integral, dare I say holy, part of being church. Yes we might attract new members, win new converts to Christ, but not if it means leaving my comfort zone.

While Jonah waits for Nineveh’s destruction God causes a plant to grow up and shade him and then sends a worm to eat it. Jonah is happy and then back to his default angry. God challenges him on it, pointing out that Jonah did nothing to make the plant grow nor tend it. God then points out that Jonah had great concern over the plant (which had nothing to do with him) so shouldn’t God have concern over a huge city?

In both cases Jonah felt he had a right to be angry, he felt he had a say, but in both cases it had nothing to do with him. He didn’t make the plant appear and he didn’t have a say in it’s death; in the same way he had no say over the destruction of Nineveh. He just thought he should have a say when God merely called Him to do God’s work, speak on behalf of Him.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever wished God’s destruction on a city? Do we get overly concerned, even angry, about how we do church or what, and how, others are doing? Jonah was so concerned with what he wanted, what he thought was right, that he ignored not only God’s wishes, but also His sovereignty. I don’t know if that’s you (probably not, you seem pretty awesome), but it’s definitely me. Even when I am doing Kingdom work I can do what I think the people need, or worse, what I think God wants rather than letting Him lead. And of course then there’s all those times that, at best, I haven’t considered God or His plan in my decisions and, at worst, deliberately done whatever I’ve wanted knowing it’s wrong. I guess that’s kind of taking a ship to Tarshish, isn’t it? Perhaps we don’t do it deliberately, but we’ve still been going in the opposite direction to the one God wants.

We talk about giving our life to Christ, but it’s not easy is it? If you’re anything like me then you assumed that having become a Christian you were supposed to carry on with normal life, going to school/work etc etc, but you were supposed to be a good witness while you are there. And we do, don’t we? Society is such that we can’t really escape it. We can’t wander around preaching like Paul or Isaiah, we just hope that God gives us some Kingdom work to within the structure of the lives we have chosen.

And that’s not wrong, but maybe we need to expect more from God and His plan. Again, I assumed God’s plan for my life was something about getting a job I enjoyed and falling in love; it was always couched within the societal norm.

So what do we do? I hardest of hard things: try and let go. It’s like that trust exercise where you fall back and trust the person to catch you. What if God doesn’t catch us? What if it all goes wrong? But God is big enough and close enough to catch us.

So maybe it’s time for a prayer. A prayer to check our course, are we going the right way? Are we heading to Nineveh or Tarshish?

I’ll finish with what I’ve learned looking at Jonah again. I think the real lesson is that it doesn’t matter what we think or want. Life is like the plant that grows up to shade him. We get it for free and it’s good and we have no right to think we have any control over it. We have no right to complain when it isn’t as we want it. Life is God’s not ours. And you know what? Life isn’t important, it isn’t the focus. Life with God in eternity is.

A final analogy: Eternity with God is Mount Everest and life on Earth is base camp. However exciting, fun, beautiful base camp is, however nice the people are, whatever the challenges and rewards of it, it’s not the point of the expedition. The point of base camp is to prepare people to reach the summit…


Jesus Loves You (that is all)



Salutations,

I want to apologise. I’ve been very ranty, haven’t I? I have the habit of talking in a way that is almost accusatory; sort of suggesting that you’ve got it wrong when most likely you’re doing it better than I am. I can tell you why too. I’ve never had to temper my messages with love, there’ve always been others around me to do so. For instance, at my old church I used to preach once every two months and as the pastor was giving pastoral sermons I knew I didn’t have to. I could be the one that gave the type of hard hitting, challenging message that he (due to having to pastor) could not.

Another reason for it, if I’m getting really honest, is that I am working all this out as I write it. In a way, I’m talking to myself, challenging myself to do the things I don’t. I sometimes worry I say all this stuff and people are just thinking: “yeah, we do that, dude, you mean you don’t?”. Of course I hope that some of what I am saying is challenging you too.

What I am saying (other than sorry) is that this is my discipleship, I focus on what we (might be) doing wrong and forget to be loving. Tear down and forget to build up. If I am going to be a leader, and by releasing this podcast and writing these missives I guess I am putting myself in that position (like it or not), then I have to show people the right way, not just the wrong one.  And, hell, that goes for whether I am a leader or not, it’s what we should all be doing, isn’t it?

We’re called to love and I hate writing that sentence. I hate it because the word ‘love’ has been coloured by ideas of romantic love, that it’s something soppy. Not at all. Jesus calls us to a selfish love. He tells us to love others as we love ourselves and that isn’t a soppy, romantic love, but a fierce, loyal, passionate, determined love. Think of the urge to survive, self-preservation, the fight we put up in situations of danger. This is subconsciously how we love ourselves and that’s the kind of love we’re supposed to show to others.

So, yes, I am sorry if I’ve been ranty. My purpose for doing this podcast and these missives is to try and build you up, not tear you down. I wonder, and worry, that maybe how we do church, our traditions, are holding us back from a better understanding, and therefore better relationship, with God and that goes for me more than anyone.

Jesus loves you and He has a plan for your life. Whatever you’re going through in life right this minute, know that because, sometimes, that’s all we need to know.

Peace

‘Dangerous’

(This is all me though I reckon BT and Beanz would agree with the final sentiment)


A God of Verbs



Salutations,

Through my stints leading Communion last year I got hooked up on the phrase ‘Do this in remembrance of Me’. I had always accepted (considering the context) that it meant remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection, but I found a new angle because questioning church and tradition is, apparently, my thing.

Everything that Jesus does and says is about moving forward, the language of discipleship is couched in movement, just consider ‘follow me’. And we talk about walking with Jesus; learning, teaching, preaching; we talk about prayer (active) rather than meditation (passive). Look at the amount of verbs just in Isaiah 1v17: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”.

Let’s look at Luke  9 v.58 – 62 (or Matthew 8 v.20 – 22) where Jesus talks about having no where to lay His head. What Jesus is talking about here is the never-ending nature of following Jesus (until we get to Heaven), that there is no rest from it, you don’t get a break from it when you’re tired. In the following verses Jesus reprimands people for asking to go back and say goodbye or bury someone before following Him. There is no going back only forward

Consider again the command ‘follow me’, do we take that as an action or more along the lines of following someone on social media, a passive activity? If discipleship is meant to be an active thing full of verbs, why do many of us (in the West, at least) do so little? Why is it that in almost every church I’ve ever been to there is a small group of people who do almost everything? Turn up to support almost everything?

I appreciate that people may not have the talents needed to run a sound desk, play an instrument or speak at the front, but in my church one of the things you can do is pass out the Communion, all you need is basic hand/eye coordination and yet the roster is so small you see the same people doing it again and again. Why don’t more people volunteer? It’s a serious question we have to be asking ourselves if the Church is ever to grow. If someone new does come to church then what do they learn? That you come and sit and receive while a group of special (holy? or at least holier?) people do the work. Is that what the church in Acts looked like? (Actually it probably did, people don’t change as much as we like to think). I’ve seen too many new, excited Christians become fellow pew-warmers, but it’s no surprise, is it when that’s the culture we cultivate.

Ask this simple question, how many non-churchgoers use your church each day? Is it open to the public or locked up unless there is a church event on? Is it part of the community or just in it? Is it a place to serve or is it a hidey-hole for us to gather away from the judging eyes of the Heathen?

Back to Communion and, yes I believe the phrase ‘do this in remembrance of me’ means the cross and resurrection, but if Jesus was a man (God) of action then that alone goes against the rest of His teaching. It seems completely out of place for Him to give a reflective command. What I have come to believe is that Jesus was asking the Apostles to remember was how He lived and what He said, culminating in His actions over Easter. In that light Communion is not a time of reflection, but a call to action that ties in better with the Great Commission.

I always took Communion like this: the bread was a chance to look back and ask for forgiveness for my failings (I see Christ’s death as the end of the old way of life/the Law) and then in taking the ‘wine’ I look forward and ask God to help me do better and guide me etc (the blood being a new covenant). I still think that’s a good way of doing it, but in thinking about this I am challenged to cast aside this ME-centric Communion and see Communion as a challenge; if I’m partaking in the death and resurrection of Jesus (and reaping the benefits of it) then I should be partaking in the rest of His life’s work too.

Jesus is a God of verbs, a God of action; a God who calls us to have no home here on Earth; no excuses as to why we can’t go with Him yet. If we want to be His disciples then we need more verbs in our faith. It’s time to put our hands to the plough, no looking back.

Peace

‘Dangerous’

(As ever these musings are my own and don’t necessarily reflect BT nor Beanyman’s beliefs)

Agree? Disagree? Have your own thoughts? Let’s start a conversation in the comments. Woo.


Apprentices Not Students



Salutations,

Let me start with a confession, I am an idiot. Thankfully for me, Christianity, or at least Jesus’ teachings, allow for that by putting God (and not me) in charge. The reason I am an idiot is because a lot of what I say in these posts and on the podcast has taken me a long time to grasp. It’s especially heinous in my case as I have had lots of experiences from which I could have/should have learned it. Why didn’t I, even when it was spelled out? Because I didn’t live it.

And the reason for me saying this is that I don’t want you to think I am preaching from my high tower, but rather from a place the same as anyone else. I don’t want you to think I am having a go at you, accusing you from my more enlightened throne. This is particularly pertinent when talking about discipleship and the themes in this post because I am not talking from experience. I have been terrible with both discipleship and evangelism, in fact, I still am.

So with that in mind, on with my rant post.

So, in the podcast we talked about the difference between evangelism and discipleship, but discipleship we (should) know leads to evangelism. Jesus sent out his disciples (12 or 72) like lambs among wolves. The two chapters here are Matthew 10 and Luke 10 (the Matt story is also told in Luke 9) and they hold some interesting points for us before I get to what I actually want to talk about.

Firstly in Luke Jesus sends the 72 to all the places He would go. Now surely there’s an implication for us as disciples. That we go ahead of Jesus, though not in His place. That it is our job to ready people’s hearts and minds for when Jesus comes. It is not for us to do the converting, Jesus will take care of that, we just let people know He’s on his way.

Secondly, in verse 9 of Luke Jesus commands them to heal the sick and in Matthew v.8 he says: ‘Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils‘  with both commands being abutted with the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Sooo, as disciples we’re supposed to be doing stuff (we won’t get into a discussion about whether miracles have ended or not, but please feel free in the comments). Jesus didn’t tell them to just go and preach the good news, he told them to show the kingdom and then point it out.

Thirdly, MAGIC! Protestants are a pretty dour bunch compared to Catholics when it comes to the supernatural and we tend to look upon anything miraculous with suspicion, you don’t see a lot of protestant exorcisms (and it’s an argument for not seeing miracles in protestant churches). This all means we tend to overlook the more magical (for want of a better word) mentions in the Bible. One of the most obvious is the power of names. It’s mentioned a lot in the Bible, such as praying in the name of Jesus and just the idea that we would know God’s name (or not know it) is important. And I use those two examples as they are beyond the reasoning that knowing someone’s name holds a psychological importance or position of power over them.

Here the magic is in the disciples ‘peace’. Both versions of the story contain a line about letting your peace rest on finding a worthy/peaceful house and if not, letting your peace return to you. You see, though the phrase ‘Peace to this house’ was a fairly standard greeting what we’re seeing here is more than words. The peace Jesus was talking about was an actual thing that the disciples were giving to the house, an actual state of blessing rather than idle talk. In fact the construction of the sentence about letting your peace return to you seems to suggest that the peace you offered (i.e. a blessing) will befall upon you. This is awesome, we should all be offering this willy-nilly in order to get all the blessings! (Though I’m thinking trying to game God is a bad idea all round). But it’s important because again it brings up this idea that there is supernatural power in what we say and do that, I think, is ignored in the modern church.

It makes sense though that if we’re disciples of Jesus, who is God, then the things He teaches us would have the same power as He did on Earth. I’ve never thought of that before, but it makes sense that if someone teaches you a sport, you will have the same (though not as good) skills as them in it.

Well that went on for longer than I thought. So what was the point? Ahh, yes, in the podcast I was quite enamoured by the idea that when two ox were yoked together, though one was learning how to do it, it was still ploughing the field. Discipleship is an active task, though we may still be learning, we should also be doing. This story in both Luke and Matthew is in the middle of Jesus’ teaching, in Luke Jesus doesn’t even teach the Lord’s prayer until the next chapter; in fact we know that they wouldn’t be fully ready to spread the Gospel until after the Ascension. Despite this, as we saw in point 2 above, Jesus sends them out to show the Kingdom of Heaven. And that was my point when thinking about these verses, that discipleship is an active role, not a passive one where we learn. I think we tend to see discipleship as a student role, going to church and learning from the pastor.

Consumer Church. That’s what’s been on my mind and it’s why I say I’m an idiot, because for all of my life I have been consuming. And it’s not really my fault because I think church is set up for us to consume. Think about it, there isn’t really an active part in church other than singing and even then we are led in what we sing and how; I would even say that worship through song is a consuming activity for many, my chance to worship, to feel good expressing my praise. But overall, I think church is designed to be consumed because it doesn’t really lead us to action and the simple reason for that is because we don’t want it to. There are many people who, if pushed every week to do something, would find another church. Think about what is preached on most Sundays, it’s about your salvation and how you should continue to live and a reminder to be thankful for it; either that or a lesson from one of Paul’s letters on how to do church better. And we do need those things, we do need a chance to recharge and be reminded, don’t get me wrong, but part of the reason pastors preach on those things is because that’s what the congregation wants. Jesus’ message has been watered down to keep bums in pews.

Here’s a little test, have you ever considered say the men’s or women’s ministry in your church and thought ‘I’m not going to go to that this time because the topic doesn’t interest me’? If you have, or perhaps complained about the music choices or any similar such thing, then maybe you’re consuming church.

I say this because it’s not about us and what we want, it’s about ministry. These activities are not there for us to consume, but for us to participate. And let me say it again, I haven’t been doing that up until I realised all of this very recently, so I’m not having a go at you. I am socially awkward so try and avoid human interaction wherever possible, but that’s ME, about ME, and discipleship isn’t about ME, but about Jesus. Discipleship isn’t a classroom, it’s an apprenticeship.

Peace

‘Dangerous’

(This post does not necessarily reflect the thoughts or position of BT nor Beanyman)

Agree? Leave a comment of encouragement. Disagree? Leave a comment and start a discussion.


Persecution (or a lack thereof)



Salutations,

With the release of Episode 2 I want to look at a part of discipleship that isn’t often covered and ask a difficult question (wait, aren’t all questions difficult? At least to the asker? I mean, if the answer was obvious to you, you wouldn’t ask in the first place, would you? Hmm).

While researching for a future episode on heresy it got me thinking that maybe a reason we generally don’t know a lot about our religion is because we don’t have to; we’re rarely, if ever, called to defend it. Going back to an earlier post, Jeff From Work is unlikely to tell you that he’ll only become a Christian if you can answer his question about how verses on Hell contradict themselves.

My pastor in a recent sermon warned that being in a comfortable, happy place as a Christian is the most dangerous place for our faith (I can send you the link to the sermon if want that explained) and actually, the fact that we don’t suffer any persecution is weird and probably not good.

Let me explain…

The New Testament talks a fair bit about persecution with Jesus saying “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15 v18) and the writer of 2 Timothy says: “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (3 verse 12). So, erm, why aren’t we?

Now I realise some people will say that we are from New Atheists and the like, but they don’t attack us as people, but the idea of religion as a whole. No, what I mean is the people in our workplace or on our street.

Of course no one wants to attract persecution and for us to be social pariahs would make it impossible to ever share the Good News of Jesus, but consider why Christians get persecuted. Generally it’s because we are challenging the status quo, not going along with the crowd. The issue comes when people know what they’re doing is, to some extent, morally wrong and are not happy for that to be noted. If we’re all cheating then it’s OK, but if one person doesn’t, then we feel guilt (which we don’t want to) and we dislike that person for making us feel guilty and for, perhaps, stopping us doing that which we wanted.

1 Peter 4 says: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” (verses 3 – 4)

So here’s that difficult question, does a lack of persecution mean we’re doing it wrong? Perhaps. Maybe we’re hiding our light under a bushel (seriously, whatever that is, like a small bush? No, that would be a bushette) and we’re not exposing the sins around us, but maybe there is something worse at play…

What if no one cares?

There could be three reasons here,

  1. Christianity has become something of a joke. We’re often characterised by our far-right brethren and the creationists/young-earthers. Now I’m not saying that they are wrong, rather that through the eyes of scientists and such minded people, the idea of the Bible being right over science is laughable. I could bang on about why science doesn’t disprove God and how your average Joe doesn’t understand science (comment if you want a post on it), but the fact is that those average Joe’s find it easier to caricature a man in the sky with a white beard in the current scientific climate.
  2. We pick our battles poorly. Either that we pick battles that don’t really concern us or don’t pick them at all. I have, for most of my life, fallen into the second category. I’ve lived and let live and in believing we have to be ‘in the world’ I’ve been a bit too much ‘of the world’. We’ll come back to this in ‘Bullet Point 3 – Army of Darkness’, so for here let’s look at picking battles that don’t concern us.

In my lifetime there have been three major flashpoints where Christians have been in the news (long enough for it to define us to others) for fighting against something that goes against our moral code. they are, heavy metal being satanic (including ‘backmasking’); protesting (and sometimes bombing) abortion clinics and gay marriage. One thing I don’t see on the news is Christians fighting against the free and easy access to porn on the Internet and yet it is being shown to be destructive and addictive. All of these examples will take us against the zeitgeist and lead to persecution, but only the last one has the goal of stopping something harmful, something that we can point to factually making the world a worse place. The former three only deal with our Christian morality and don’t (as far as I can see) come under our mission from Jesus to make disciples.

3. Finally, and perhaps the most pervasive and insidious, is the liberalisation of the Christian message. The Bible has a see-saw with Loving God on one side and Wrathful God on the other and there is a tendency to shift most of the weight to the loving side. I mean, it doesn’t make sense that a loving God would want to punish, nay torture, people, does it? It’s also not so appealing to the non-Christians that we are trying to fill our churches, so we don’t concentrate on the ‘bad’ stuff. We also have a habit of showing Christianity at work through social justice. Which is great, I’m not saying that it isn’t, but when it becomes front and centre then we become wishy-washy. It’s helpful and it’s tame and it has nothing to do with God and eternity. We’re just do-gooders and that’s not offensive to anyone (except full-on James Bond villains). We live in a society where morals are subjective and the church seems to be trying to roll with that by not seeming too objective (at least not until we’ve got our claws into you), by playing down wrath and Hell and playing up the idea that it’s all OK as long as we’re saved through Christ. By trying to get bums on seats or playing to society, Jesus’ message has become watered down, inoffensive and therefore ineffective.

Let’s look at Jesus as He was two things:

  1. Straight down the line. Everything we preach comes from Him and He was clear that if you weren’t aboard the Disciple Ship then you were going to be in serious need of a dentist from all that gnashing. And though He was incredibly divisive and challenging He was still wildly popular and obviously a fun and charming guy (EDIT: all powerful deity) to be around. He wasn’t a sour puss and I think that comes from the fact that everything He did came from love and was expressed with love.
  2. He was persecuted for His preaching. It was offensive, as the light is offensive to the darkness. His very presence showed up the evils of the religious leaders and they killed Him for it.

If we’re truly disciples of Jesus then maybe we should expect persecution, not because we’re persecuting, but because our lives, our reaching for goodness, shows up the darkness in others that they wish to hide.

Peace

‘Dangerous’

(The thoughts in this post are the authors only and do not necessarily represent those of BT or Beanyman.)

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to call me bad names? Start a conversation in the comments and together we can grow further.


Why We Shouldn’t Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner



Salutations,

Told you I’d write this, didn’t I? Oh, unless you’re reading this before the post about being Too Levit to Quit (and you would as it’ll be above that one) in which case I have yet to tell you that I’m going to write about this, but will in the future…

The phrase ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ is a way of saying that we are not judging people by a lifestyle that we consider sinful. When we pronounce X or Y sinful we’re not saying we don’t like you. OK, that sounds alright, doesn’t it? That we’re able to stick to two key principles, not liking sin, loving other. And it’s Biblical, isn’t it?

Well, kinda, and that’s the problem. What we get in the Bible is the commandment to ‘love your neighbour’, but can you spot which bit that leaves out? Yup, no mention of hating our neighbour’s sin.

And I don’t think the Bible teaches it. You see, the phrase is always used in a situation of of dealing with a person (often with people whose sin is a part of their personality) and where Jesus just commands us to love, the tacking on of the ‘hate the sin’ part is simply an addition of judgement.It’s almost an excuse for our continued judgement on others rather than an unconditional love.

Now the Bible does teach two things that are similar:

  1. God hates sin. In a lot of defences for this phrase we are pointed to verses about how God hates sin and that somehow shows that we hate sin. But it’s not the same, God hates sin because it separates us from Himself and leads to our ultimate destruction, for us to try and take such a stance is to try and elevate ourselves into His realm. Just because you agree with your boss’s motivational speech does not give you the right to go espousing and enforcing it around the office.
  2. The Bible teaches us to hate sin for ourselves personally. In fact ‘hate’ isn’t the right word because what the Bible is teaching us is to avoid sin. To hate it as something we want to avoid, in the same way we might say we hate dog poo in the park. We’ll take this further because, well, it’s a Christian/poo analogy, how can we ignore it? We don’t hate the dog poo on someone else’s shoe, we feel bad for them and point it out, nor do we link the two in any way. It’s not their fault they stepped in poo/live-in-a-fallen-world.

Actually, when it comes to other people’s sins we are told to NOT judge them for it. It strikes me in writing the above poo analogy that, in the same way no one wants to step in poo, no one actually wants to sin. Either one is a Christian and doesn’t want to sin or they are not a Christian (or religious) and therefore don’t consider certain acts as sinful, but rather just, well, normal. That’s why as soon as a person becomes a Christian (i.e. realises that God does exist) they try to stop sinning. The only ‘person’ who has ever known God to exist and willfully sin is Satan.

So I think it’s time to retire this man-made commandment and stick to the one Jesus gave us, just to love our neighbours and from there perhaps we can point out that their sin is ruining their shoes and making them smell…

Peace

‘Dangerous’ Walker

(all thoughts are my own and do not necessarily represent those of BT or Beanyman)

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to call me bad names? Start a conversation in the comments and together we can grow further.


What it really means to be Too Levit to Quit



Salutations,

The title of our first podcast is a reference (for anyone not young and hip in the 90s) to the MC Hammer song ‘2 Legit 2 Quit’ which in itself means that someone is too legitimate (real) to stop in the face of detractors. Being too legit to quit is being the real thing and so, yes, our title is a pun. And yes, we’ve shot ourselves in the collective foot trying to keep coming up with pun based titles.

It’s made me think though about what it actually means to be too Levit to quit. If being too Levit to quit is a real thing, can we push it to mean being a real Christian? We could get tee shirts and everything…

Now we need to address the elephant in the room, the verses in Leviticus 18 and 20 about homosexuality. In fact the reason I chose this topic to begin with was because of the defense against these verses. Basically it goes that when a Christian brings up one of these verses, the defense is that Christians don’t follow those laws, yet we select that one to still hold true. And yet what I found in research and recording was that we actually do follow a lot, especially in chapter 18 which is all about not sexing family.

So here was my challenge, I’d always considered that being homosexual was OK because we were simply to love and not judge and because we didn’t follow the OT laws, but realising that I DID follow most of the Levitical laws I had to ask myself whether I should view homosexuality as an ‘abomination’?

How we view these laws was covered in podcast and I’m not here to kick up arguments on homosexuality (though it’s what all the cool kids are doing), rather I want to look at another issue, that of simplification. You see the conclusion I came to was that I could see homosexuality as something wrong and still hold my earlier view towards homosexuals rather than hold a view that seems to say ‘this is wrong therefore we are OK to treat them this or that way’ (if you want my full thought process on the issue you can email unspokenchurch@gmail.com). The point is that we seem to need to hold one view or the other, we need to streamline Christianity so that it works rather than finding ways to bind dichotomies together.

And I’m not talking about ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’, in fact when I’m finished here I might write a post as to why that phrase should be bound in chains of darkness.

Let’s take a cheap shot at Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs, if you prefer), how do we reconcile that book with the Church’s traditional view on sex? I mean we’re a bit more liberal these days, but for years any enjoyment of sex was deeply frowned upon. So what did they do? Perhaps ignore it or try to crowbar in an allegory about Jesus and the Church (though this author doesn’t think Jesus would be talking about the Church’s breasts). Let’s take another cheap shot and go with Genesis 1 and dinosaurs or actually pretty much anywhere when we argue for the literalness of the Bible (and that’s not saying that the Bible isn’t literal, just that we encounter some issues that need to be reconciled, especially in the OT).

How about Philippians 3 verse 8 where Paul uses the word ‘skubala’ that appears to have universal recognition as a cuss word translated in common vernacular as ‘shit’ (I’ll wait while you look up the verse to find out what it says in your Bible. Back again, cool). Sometimes I hear people talk about how the OT is full of sex and violence when denigrating it, trying to show how the OT opposes our claims of peace and love. And yes, I think we try in church to overlook such things, but actually it’s great. It’s authentic, the Bible doesn’t shy away from things such as sex, death, violence or crass language (check out 1 Kings 12 verse 20) and yet we do. We, somewhere along the line, have decided on prurience and then translated the Bible to fit that.

So what does it mean to be too Levit to quit? It means to be Biblically real, taking in all the parts that seem to contradict or not make sense and adding them into our religion. Not whitewashing over the difficult parts of the Bible in order to make our religion work for us nor sanitising it for our tastes.

Right, I’ll go get those tee shirts printed up, how many shall I put you down for?

Peace

‘Dangerous’ Walker

(as ever these words are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of BT or Beanyman)

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to call me bad names? Start a conversation in the comments and together we can grow further.


Why You Need to Rethink Your Christianity…



…According to Me. From my personal experience. Really it was just a clickbaity title. Sorry. I’m ashamed (though apparently not enough to change it).

Salutations,

Heaven and hell, two places that you probably had a good idea about even before you became a Christian and, of course, the pop-cultural representation of them is dramatically off. Despite that, in my experience, they don’t get preached on much, in fact I will go out on a limb and say that one of the reasons maybe that we have let pop-culture do it for us. They’re so ubiquitous we don’t need to explain it, right? Except for the aforementioned being dramatically wrong thing.

When it comes to Hell there is the added reason that it’s rather off-putting. How’re we going to get people to become Christians/join our church with such nasty threats. Indeed in this culture of subjectivism the idea of some kind of deserved punishment is considered unfair, I mean why does God get to decide what’s right or wrong? That’s my job! This leads to a point I wasn’t going to cover and that is a tendency to think we convert people rather than Jesus; we try and cater our message to be more appealing, forgetting that Jesus will work in people’s hearts whether we mention the whole burning in Hell thing or not, so probably best to be honest. Jesus didn’t shy away from the fact.

But I digress.

The first time I considered that all was not as it seemed was a consideration of Heaven and Hell. In the case of Hell it was the whole outer darkness and burning fires. How do you have the two together? In fact, so ensconced in pop culture, I’d never noted that the Bible also described Hell as being a place of darkness (and an abyss). The only description that Hell seems to have in all its versions is the gnashing of teeth (which I find so disturbingly descriptive of true anguish).  Does it even exist yet? It’s described as a place for Satan (who is currently on Earth) post-Armageddon. Could it be then that the idea of Hell as we generally hold it is wrong? And I don’t mean in the pop cultural place where Satan lives, but in how we as Christians think of it (though those two may be interchangeable).

Well, what about Heaven then? The first time I questioned that was because of a verse I had heard many, many times and (as I think we do with a lot of our religion) accepted without question. That verse was Revelation 21 verse 1, where John sees a new heaven and a new Earth. Wait, what? Why a new Earth? Aren’t we all going to live in Heaven? That’s what I was taught. In fact we still talk about it in church, that Heaven awaits us and when people die we talk about them going to Heaven, but apparently we’re not going to Heaven, but a new, perfect Earth.

Allow me to digress once again:

Some other things about Heaven that I realise must be true: it’s big. I always think of it as kinda small, like one massive auditorium where God sits on His throne, but in research for a novel I found there were millions of angels (Revelation 5 v11 talks of ten thousand times ten thousand), plus there is war in Heaven so it must be big enough to fit all those angels plus space for battlefields. Perhaps It’s more like Earth then, and if so does it have different geography as Earth does (I also imagine it all in white)? It must do, right? Plains and mountains and such.

Secondly, Heaven can’t be perfect. If it was then Satan could not have sinned and there would not be war. The fact that pride grew in Satan’s ‘heart’ and that at another time angels lusted after human women shows that the free will to sin exists in Heaven.

So where is all of this going? Well, if these two basic understandings (to me) of Heaven and Hell were not really true, what else wasn’t? What else did we preach and learn in church wasn’t strictly true? And if we weren’t teaching the true picture (and let’s face it, when you are preaching to such a mixed bag as a church congregation, you need to keep it simple) then maybe we weren’t getting the complete and true picture of who God is and what it means to follow Him.

Think Psalms, the OG songbook. We often quote it in church as a form of praise, but actually stick your finger on a random verse and you’re just as likely to find a verse about destroying David’s enemies. That’s the real theme for a lot of what David wrote. How about Daniel? Ever heard a sermon from beyond chapter 6 (the den of lions)? I don’t think I have and yet half of the book is about Armageddon.

I have to wonder if the reason Christianity is growing outside of the West is because they don’t have the traditions, all Chinese Christians have is the Bible and they base their faith and their understanding of God and Heaven and Hell and everything on that, whereas in the West we have let church traditions and the definitions of our denominations dictate which parts of the Bible we use; we’ve let popular culture and tradition sculpt our understandings.

In the words of Walter Donovan, “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.”

‘Dangerous’ Walker

(All thoughts are my own and don’t represent BT or Beanyman)