Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve – the best day of the year – since tommorrow holds many surprises in those gifts.

I love this time of year. I get to give – and I realized…I love to give. I like to see the joy of someone getting something they always wanted…even if it is just material goods. I also like opening presents on Christmas morning – must be the kid in me – but it’s super fantastic and nothing compares to that moment of ripping off the wrapping to see what you were given (and waited for as you stared at those gifts).

So I want to say Merry Christmas to everyone out there and I hope they can all enjoy this season with their loved one’s in a meaningful way. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry…for we have much to be thankful for. Let the spirit of the season fill your hearts and love those around you – cherish those moments. This Christmas season only happens once…I say enjoy it to the fullest!

4 Years of Blogging – The Beginning Revisited

I wrote this in December 7, 2005…first blog post ever on this site…enjoy!

“Now I know in Christian circles religion is a ‘curse’ word but nonetheless that’s what you are a part of if you adhere to a denomination or a dogma that interprets the word of God by some dudes interpretation. My question is are we losing our religion?

I mean, losing our grip on what the fundamentals are of that religion and what was the original story. Has dogma and doctrine actually sucked away the relevance of the words of Christ or have they just re-interpreted them? I am asking are we getting the truth anymore or just the story as Martin Luther or a John Calvin saw it? Remarkably, they lived in different times than us and very possibly their interpretations may be a little out-dated or irrelevant.

I question some of the things the church is doing these days and how they may have very possibly lost their way, in some sense of that word. I find the church not meeting people’s basic needs and the church is crawling with backsliders…makes us feel good if we stay doesn’t it. If there is that much backsliding…is the church dealing with the issues of the day or just what they have in their 4 walls?

Recently, I read the words of Jesus again (the book of Matthew) and found it quite refreshing and strikingly different then what I see in church structures…myself being in the ‘backslidden’ state. The hiearchy within in the church is based on a business structure, not a church structure. Actually, I find the church running more like a capitalist business then a spiritual entity. We have boards that people sit on (elders), money that flows through the church for programming, and a structure where we produce the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s’. I find the reasons I left church in the first place being backed by solid evidence now.

People that say I am wrong I think have to look at the state of the church they are in and check if this is going on. Are they more capitalist? nationalist? or christian? Are we losing the truth of the gospels by becoming too structured? Are our interpretations of God’s word falling in line with society’s views on money, power structures, ethics, and politics? I personally see it happening on a daily basis and find it rather discharming.

I think we need to re-read those gospels and see them from a lens that isn’t tainted by structure, dogma, or doctrine….read those words for what they are. If you think a certain church has attained perfection in interpretation then you are sadly mistaken. I will get deeper on the matter but this post will suffice for now.”

To Faith Or Not To Faith…

***Taken from ‘the Christ Examined’ Post

“[speaking of “transformation”] This is one of the greatnesses of faith — the purpose and meaning it provides” (Society)

Actually this is in direct regards to ‘faith’ as something that gives a person ‘drive’ and ‘purpose’. It is related to transformation (obviously) and is perhaps even the motivation for change.

I ask why can’t we keep it raw, keep it human, not color it with MY faith!” (Sabio)

We can and if you look real carefully and weigh out the majority of what I do say – I keep it as humanly realistic as possible…kind of forgoing most of the religious ‘God jargon’ that usually comes along with Christianity (ie: the Holy Spirit said; God said…etc). I realize I speak for me, not for God, and not for the church. I seek a very humanistic faith – based in experience and how this effects me now…I am not going to worry so much about ‘what happens there and then’.

However, for me to deny my faith played a role in my change from teen to adult would be (for me) a complete denial of the reality I lived. I am just not into denial – no matter how that rubs someone else or if my faith reasoning sounds ‘weak’. Maybe it is ‘weak’? But no one said one’s reality has to make sense to everyone else.

It is funny how willing you are to look past all the stupid politics, violence and the rest of religions while praising its “greatness”.” (Sabio)

I am not looking past anything. I praised ‘faith’ – which includes my muslim friend who has found the purpose he needs to change from Islam (Qu’ran). Politics is not like faith – I only merely point out it’s limitations when used like a religious system (doesn’t work).

There is no such thing as “Faith”” (Sabio)

Faith is such a part of the human experience I wouldn’t know where to even start with answering this statement…excpet to say the opposite ‘there is such a thing as (having/using) faith’.

Christians often claim their faith is not a religion. That is the most arrogant, self-centered thing I ever hear religious people say” (Sabio)

I am not saying faith is not part of religion – I am aware of this and am not seeking to deny that (even if I do not attend a church and likely never will). But I am part of the living conundrum of this problem…seeking God but not really seeking the institution that claims to hold God. So how can I say I am religious when I don’t belong to a prescribed set of traditions and beliefs of a church? But I do think I practice my faith nonetheless…in the community of humanity.

This is why there is some stark differences between having faith in God and being religious…it depends on how we define religion? If religion is just having faith in God – I am religious and proud of it. If religion is the system of church that defines the faith of Christians – then I am definitely not religious and proud of it.

Again, you don’t need religion to do that, you don’t need faith or whatever you are calling your trip.” (Sabio)

But you do need support to do that – and support that can be counted on to help you in that time of ‘opening yourself to the world and exposing your own wekanesses’. That’s a tough thing to do and most people don’t risk that kind of thing…it’s too much damn work. However, in churches they expect this of their parishoners – and I really was no different in going through that process. This process of transformation happened in a place that not only respects us in dealing with the worst of our character – but also stand beside you while you do it.

Now that may not take faith – but show me another system even trying to do that – and takes us at our most vulnerable?

That is fine, but why then turn around and give the credit to ‘faith’ because people without faith do this as well. Keep it HUMAN !” (Sabio)

Because I am telling my story of being a human in the sea of humanity – and it includes having/using faith…to deny that is to deny humanity one of it’s greatest acheivements…humility.

I am not sure what you have against faith per se – except to say ‘without it we can all do the same things’…I question that to some degree – but it seems honest enough.

I find faith gives an advantage to some that previously did not exist (in direction/guidance/purpose/meaning/etc)…that category includes me…and tomorrow it might include a gang member, the next day it may include a homeless person, after that it might include someone who tried to take their own life, and then it might find someone who lost everything he had in a recession, and then maybe a pregnant teen.

Word to the wise, humanity is great and all – but humanity is also not an even playing field in experience…some make a name while some die nameless. Now although it makes sense to you to forget about ‘faith’ because your now well on your way to contentness, maybe even have all that you wanted in life (and I am with you – so am I – I am middle class and living good). But faith always keeps me grounded – in that – the focus is on the poor, needy, broken, and hurt…which was where I sprang up from as a teen.

Seperation End-Game

All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;” (Matthew 25:32)

This is a topic I rarely talk about but I mine as well address aspects of it.

Historically, the idea behind the great judgment is God judges the entire earth based on their deeds in this life (after a resurrection). This parable from Matthew 25 seems to also hint strongly it is about one’s actions, not one’s beliefs, that the judgment will based on. I tend to think that is ‘fair’. We can all answer for the way we treated other people…we can’t really put too much stock into what we think is ‘true’ (beliefs about God).

 This idea does seem to say some will make it (as sheep) and some will not make it (as goats). What is the difference between the sheep and a goat? In this parable (allegory) – it seems to be just used as a way to define the difference in categories – like a sheep is not a goat and vice versa. On further inspection it looks like it only means one group followed the actions that lead to life and the others did not.  

The reason I think their is merit to this idea, in faith, is that in the end we all must answer for our lives – why we did what we did – and if there is a God – He will at least keep us honest (even if we don’t have to be now).  It also keeps us honest now – in a world not so ‘fair’. It puts the choices we make solely on our shoulders (our responsibility) – and no else is to blame for your direction (as any good counsellor will point out about dealing with life’s issues). 

It’s just a topic of discussion more or less – we cannot say one way or another how this all looks and what happens in that court-room. We are given some direction and teaching on it that functions more for the personal reader. It’s a parable of which we judge ourselves against the story and not the story against others (we are the instruments of comparison alone). Which seems to be the way scripture is intended to be used.

And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Matt 21:44)

Soft Core Horror

I have been watching quite a few end-time Christian movies lately (like the last 2 months)…4 in all. 2 were from the Left Behind series, one was called ‘Decieved’, and another one that seemed to be something Jack Van Impe put together? They had some ‘B’ actors even like Kirk Cameron, Gary Busey, Judd Nelson, and Louis Gossett Jr. Why is this of any importance?

(a) They’re funny

(b) They created a new genre

I notice they function out of a new genre – soft core horror. It’s like a horror movie that tames down on the blood, guts, killing, and general fear imposed on the audience. It’s ‘soft core horror’ or ‘horror lite’.

We still have all the great stuff of a horror – some blood, some violence, killing, demons, animosity, scary noises, etc – with really bad movie lines and a questionable screenplay….just like how soft core porn functions compared to real movies (very cheap and a bad imitation).

I am entertained by the cheezy story lines and weak acting in the movie – it is really fitting in all honesty – that someone would take Revelation themes and develop them into crappy sci-fi/horror films that show how science fiction most of this interpretation is. And when you see it on the screen – you also see how cheezy beliving any of that is.

The Christ…Examined

It’s hard for people to imagine that Barrie Wilson might be into something when he mentions Paul – and at least the Gentile writers – may have developed a new idea for the messiah called the ‘Christ’. However, if one looks closely at the scripture in the NT it becomes fairly obvious there was a paradigm shift that happened around the word ‘Christ’; which originally was about the ‘messiah’.

I am going to examine a few of those verses from through-out the gospels and letters.

Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:20)

After Peter confirms who he thinks Jesus is Jesus demands they tell no one he is ‘the Christ’. Here we see this is a title – a type of position – and not a name. It is obviously in direct relation to the messianic ideals from within Judaism – and in Matthew 22:42 they in turn relate it to the Davidic kingdom. From the start of Matthew’s gospel even this seems to be related to that lineage. In Matthew 11:2-5 Jesus advises John the Baptists people to let them know what it is they are seeing – a few things are mentioned (one of them being the ‘good news is preached’) – linking Jesus to Tankah prophets and their sayings. This messiah idea has a link back into history – based on the messianic beliefs held in Judaism and nowhere else.

Luke 23:2 probably pins it the best “And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”” (a title)

This changes over time – from even gospel to gospel – but most noticeably in the letters to the Gentile communities (and John).

Acts 4:10 “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.”

This is where we begin to see some of the shift from historical person (Jesus of Nazarene) to meta-physical person (Jesus Christ). It is beginning to seem the name Christ is becoming an almost type of ‘last name’ (or is this a translation problem of people much later – when last names were used – making Christ into a name).

Romans 1:1 “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God

Romans 1:6 “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ

From pretty much this point on in the NT – and amongst almost every letter – Jesus and Christ are linked together as a ‘name’. Now although one can still find the reference that it is linked to historical ideas of the ‘messiah’ it becomes less clear if one just read these letters.

And here is the problem – the correct way to likely translate this everytime is Jesus the Christ (which means messiah – which further means anointed one – which further falls back to a kingship role). With that name change we find a shift in the paradigm of what ‘Christ’ comes to also mean.

The messiah role becomes rather expanded to include a whole hoarde of new ideas under this Christology. Jesus becomes meta-physical in nature (understandable – even the gospels mention this – but the letters only focus is this). Jesus becomes God’s equal (divinity). Jesus takes on new propitiation roles in sacrifice (some in Paul – mainly in Hebrews). Jesus takes on a new title called ‘Lord’ (how we translate that is in question – but most people use it as some divine clause – likely it can also been seen as some king leader). Jesus also has a 2nd coming.

In essence it’s a huge addition to the term ‘messiah’ that started in Judaism. By the time this term finds it’s use in Gentile communities it’s becomes a new terminology – with so much added dimension to it. It makes sense it would lose it’s historical uses from Judaism – since Gentiles needed to find the meaning in it also. Most people in Christendom have no clue about the historical meaning of the messiah.

Most people don’t know this but Rabbi Maimonides (Rambam) in the 12th Century as one of his ’13 principles of faith’. What did he mean by that term ‘messiah’? Anyone interested in learning more about the ‘jewish messiah’ can read the wiki article included and see some of the differences that have evolved in Christendom from this term to the more historical use of this term in Judaism.

Mainly – food for thought.

Motivations…We All Have Them.

To summarize, Conze calls us to be aware of four major streams that enter into anyone’s doctrines:

Propositions
Motivations
Arguments
Context
” (Sabio Lantz – Conze on Doctrine)

I have been doing some blogging for some 4 years or so and we always mention someone’s bias in their rationale. They will propose something about a subject – then develop their argument. We often don’t look underneath the barebones of what is being written to what someone is really saying…or why they are saying it.

(1) The Proposition: This includes someone’s motivation for what they are saying…it includes their bias (part of motivation most likely). What I want to get at in this new year (and from now on) – is why someone is saying proposition A and what the underlying causes for that are (their motivation behind it).

(2) The Argument: We find within blogging circles we will argue with someone and then find out we are not using the same definitions in the conversation…we need some context – whether from the pages of scripture we are using or historical or even definitive – but we need something to anchor us together in the dialogue.

I am really fascinated by motivation to be perfectly honest. My fascination is peaked by two extreme groups I have run into in the past 4 years – Conservative Christians and Hard-core Atheists…both sides usually refuse to give up any ground – even if their propositions seem ludicrous. That being said, I am a fan.

My quest is not how someone can stick to a point like it’s a pole up their…but why they stick to that point so strongly? What’s at stake exactly? What do they think is at stake? What battle are they exactly fighting? And for whom? And for what? I want to find out what is important to people and why – namely in these 2 camps…but also in all of us.

The core reason I am obsessed with this is because I have been condemned by Christians 14 times in 4 years – I need to know why they feel this need to do so (hardcore athiests treat me about the same). I can read their propositions and arguments – and to some degree there is semblance of sense being made – but sometimes I need to know why they go there so quickly. They rush judge and jury to arrive at their conclusions…I wonder what is at the heart of their beliefs that is in danger?

Denominational Unity?

Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:12)

Division – an age old church problem – even in Paul’s day they were splitting over who followed who and what they taught. There seemed to be certain church mentors people preferred and wanted to be recognized as part of their strand of thinking. This had become so confusing in the early Gentile church people even began saying the ‘Christ’ was one of the people they followed – alongside Paul, Apollo’s, and Peter.

The reason I raise this passage is because it reveals a problem with the church from it’s earliest arrival on the national scene – church division. This trend continued after this with the branding of heretics in the early centuries (until Nicea), then the Great Schism (Orthodox and Catholics split), and then comes the Reformation (Protestants leave Catholicism), and with Protestantism comes ‘mass division’ – so much so I make a rough estimate the church splits every-time someone has a new revelation (38,000+ denoms worldwide – quite a high number but you get the gist).

Questions are – is it possible for this generation of people to promote unity vs. division? Is it possible we can overlook our doctrinal differences in light of the obvious…we all kind of base everything on the bible regardless of the differences we invent?

Ambiguity and Life’s Rules

Comments originally aired on Luke’s ‘Am I Wry? No!‘ (For Luke who doesn’t get enough credit for some of the great stuff he writes)

If the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business

Can someone please, and I am begging now, please tell the church this? lol

“I’m frustrated that more and more people i meet are lamenting “why did this happen to me? I’m a believer!”” (Luke)

I have been thinking about this for a few days actually – and was going to blog on it – but that blog will start here.

Humans don’t like ambiguity. And I mean this in the way of ‘vagueness or uncertainty of meaning’ (online dictionary). We humans want defintions for everything – purpose to be set out when we begin the endeavors we end up in…we desire some certainty, promise, guarantee.

Life is not so kind to oblige.

In an ideal world that functioned by rules and mores for every situation – we’d be loved by parents and siblings, treated kind by everyone, accepted as we are not for what we can do, would never get ill, would avoid any accident or tragedy, marry and have a great home-life, have a great and meaningful job, retire and live out our dreams (write a book, make a movie, lead a movement, etc), pass on our wisdom to the youth, and then pass away into eternal life in heaven.

I don’t know about you – I am holding out hope for heaven yet. LOL!

Life offers us challenges and ambigious situations where we are tested to the very core of our being – some make it – some will not. Humans are idealists though – and should never suffer any ill fated thing…and I agree with them…doesn’t make it reality though. Doesn’t make God any less real in my opinion either. Just makes human life what we though it was (once we grew up) – a challenge.

I grew up in some very dark places and around some very dark people. If anything, I should rail against a God that allowed this stuff to happen to me and scores of others in my community – since God must be to blame. But that’s a cop-out of the Nth degree (there is no end to that excuse being used – in every and all situations that suck for us).

Word to the wise – life ain’t easy and ambiguity is part of the equation. No one ever promised life was going to be easy – not even the bible (and if anyone wnats to debate on that – I am game!).

I also read Sabio’s stuff about what the bible says to the people in the hospital – and how you seem to be reading it according to the interpretation of Luke. I’d say he’s a tad off.

I’ll address one simple easy point – about asking. It is true the NT does address this concern and in that whatever you ask ‘believe the Father will give you’. I think that is fine – however – we need to define one simple thing…what can be asked for and what can’t be asked for?

Now although that definition don’t exist – James sheds some light on it in his letter ‘ask for wisdom’. Why would James go there – to the intangible? It seems these might be the kinds of ideas God looks into?

Also we have the idea of God’s will versus us asking? Now although we cannot know God’s will in any specific situation – we might be slightly surprised by it and we should not rule anything out.

In the end, life happens – and I don’t think getting here was chance (read up on a sperm’s journey)…we need to accept reality and the sooner we do – the more life we have to face it in an honest and kind way.

Addendum: I will say this though – life is about as easy to control as relationships…and that’s the bible in a nutshell.

Propitiation – Does It Make Sense?

Penal substitutionary atonement refers to the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.”

I had a chance to look over the relevant scriptures to this doctrine – not surprisingly – none of them actually come out of the Torah (law).

Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

Isaiah 53:12b “Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.”

Roman 3:25 “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed

II Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

Galatians 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE

Hebrews 10:1-4 “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins

The idea sounds groovy – because we all hate justice and would hate to have to answer for our own stupid decisions in life. It’s rather ideal a theory like this exists to help calm what we usually refuse to deal with – our personal guilt for hurting others. So God made someone to be guilt for us – well ‘sin’ as how they put it.

Isaiah 53 is prophetic – no doubts – but to build a theory about this person becoming a sacrificial ‘lamb’ to God (on behalf of all of humanity) to fulfill a law that doesn’t exist – is really quite the stretch (theologically). It’s not even clear from Isaiah 53 this is not more symbolic language than literal when dealing with ‘iniquity falling on him’. It’s the kind of imagery that lends itself to a leader standing up for the people – and ‘going down with the ship’ per se.

By the time we reach the NT letters (all written by Paul – or some other later persona from Hebrews) – the theory of propitiation appears.

The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God” (Theopedia – propitiation)

A few theories arise about this idea – was the appeasing about sin or righteousness? It seems either way you look at this – God is very mad. Not only is He demanding absolute perfection to the law – but he also condemns those who cannot live up to it…with no mercy. Online dictionaries define wrath as ‘Forceful, often vindictive anger’. This is not the kind of God you really want to be dealing with.

Enter Jesus. This is where it all gets kind of strange.

On one side we have a wrathful God (Father) and on the other hand a loving messiah (also the Son of God – or God). Anyone who ever discusses the issue of atonement will see this dualistic set-up – God’s wrath appeased by God’s Son (both God somehow – yet they display oddly different emotions on the same subject).

Early Christianity picked up on this problem – because it is one – and had to continually re-define the meaning to atonement. Even up until the Reformation this was still being defined. Today, it is also being re-defined. Why? Because this idea makes little to no sense and creates as much theological issues as it seeks to answer.  

I don’t know if their was a propitiation for our sins – seems pretty irresponsible that we would not bare our own guilt and make things right with the people we wronged (bearing our own responsibility for our actions). Also seems to re-write how justice works and overly allows choice (good or bad) to have no consequence.

 My biggest qualm with this idea is – where did Jesus teach this?