Friday, April 30, 2010

Chunky Bible or Smooth?

Remember when I wrote about all those specialty Bibles, like the Green Bible, the Patriot's Bible, and the Anime Bible? Well, the fine folks at Zondervan are coming out with . . . the Chunky Bible!!

Wait, here's the best part:

Chunky mini includes 96 tear-out cards. Each of these little chunks is a perforated removable note – chunks of wisdom, hope, and love – meant to pass along as encouragement for evangelistic messaging in a non-threatening way. These notes are perfect for friends, family, co-workers, or for leaving with a tip at a restaurant for someone you don’t even know!

The lighthearted quotes are coupled with relevant Scripture verses and chunks of wisdom for everyday life with quotes by well-known people from John Ortberg, Mother Thersa, Dolly Parton, and Mark Twain.

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb … I also know I’m not blonde.” – Dolly Parton

“Always do what is right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain

Wait, hold up here! I thought the Bible was the Word of God, not a collection of cute inspirational quotes. Besides, Mark Twain was irreligious (brilliant writer, though).

Me, I try to keep my faith simple, so I just give me the Bible as it is, without any cute little gimmicks. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The One About Immigration

I am interrupting my series on the boring ancient Christian documents (link) to write about something a little bit more important than the past: the future.

A few weeks ago, a man came into the library where I work and asked a simple question; he said, “how does someone become a citizen?” I wish I could have answered the way someone would have answered my Canadian ancestors, and said, “Simply cross the line and prosper well—welcome to the land of dreams and prosperity!” That America closed its border a long time ago.

The person who wanted to become a citizen was illegal—a common story in California. She had been in the country with her husband (also here illegally) for over ten years, and had children who had been born in this country; her youngest son barely spoke a word of Spanish, and is as American as they come. So what is the answer to her question? It’s easy—pack up and move back to her country (Mexico), because you cannot become a citizen of the United States if you are here illegally. Her youngest son would be able to sponsor her in about six years also.

Why am I writing this? If you hadn’t heard by now, Arizona’s governor has passed new legislation to make anyone in Arizona who is in the states illegally, a criminal—which means prison time, a fine, and a one way ticket back to Mexico. It also means my wife, a born and raised United States citizen, can be questioned on suspicion of being in the United States illegally because she looks Mexican—most states call that racial profiling of the worst kind, but Arizona believes that questioning American citizens is not only socially responsible, but their right.

So back to the family above—if they lived in Arizona, they would be charged as criminals, fined, and returned to Mexico. And their ten year old, who is American and barely speaks Spanish?

Why are they doing this? Because they are criminals! Because they broke the law and now they must pay! Because they are wasting American tax dollars! And because they are a bunch of arrogant, racist, white dicks who don’t want dirty Mexicans contaminating their land.

Here’s one fact people don’t talk about. It is a documented fact that immigrants actually do not hurt the economics of America—in many respects they help it. America loves taxing, so don’t think for a second that just because you are here illegally you don’t pay taxes—the federal government has absolutely no problem collecting money from these so-called criminals. You want to know how badly immigrants hurt the economics of this country? Read this article.

The fact is if you are a wealthy Mexican, you’ll have no problem getting into this country; if you are a smart Mexican and the country can benefit from your brain, you’ll have no problem getting into this country. The problem is those two types of Mexicans. The ones who make good Americans are the one who come here with the dreams of a better life—who want nothing more to contribute to the diversity that makes this country so great—the ones who will be happy with living as middle-class citizens. And those are exactly the ones who don’t stand a chance of ever getting here the legal way.

Does it make you a criminal to want a better life for your children? Arizona thinks it does. And if you think it does then why don’t you get yourself out too? It’s easy to forget that Americans forcefully planted themselves on this soil, and continued to illegally revolt against the English government to steal this country away from the king (who had stole it from the Indians). But I guess you have some justifiable excuse for why that was okay. The fact is people shouldn’t be here illegally—in ideal world the government would grow a pair and figure out how to make it possible for our neighbors South of us to immigrate to this country—and how to make it possible to grant citizenship to the ones who are already here.

What does this have to do with Christianity? Arizona citizens are largely in favor of this bill, and there’s bound to be just a few Christians in that state. If any of you are reading this post, then consider what your state is doing. These people aren’t criminals! You don’t need a green card to be American—you just need a dream of something greater. Don’t fear them—embrace them! If you want to protest the fact that they are here illegally, then give them a chance to become legal. Consider the fact that they are here illegally because they don’t have any other options—they are not stealing from your state! They are contributing to it. Are there people who cheat the system? Of course! But there’s American’s who cheat the system too. There are always going to be cheaters, but deporting them won’t stop that.

Social responsibility isn’t a naughty word; it’s a Christian word—it means as Christians we are supposed to care for everyone—American or non. It means if there’s someone who wants to come to this country and dream, then we should help them build—not put up barriers to stop them.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians get upset because we don’t want prayer in schools or the Ten Commandments in courthouse. I get upset when I see Christians turning their back on people who want nothing more than freedom.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Settle Down, Hyper-Calvinist!

I'm not a Calvinist, but the so-called New Calvinism movement fascinates me. I love learning about different theologies because it helps me gain a better understanding of God. So I've been browsing the Christian blogosphere for blogs centered on Reformed theology. Some of them are great, like Remissioned, but then there are others that are a little too . . . hardcore for me. These Reformed blogs seem to stress Total Depravity a lot more than Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. Don't get me wrong, I definitely believe we have all sinned, and that we are saved by God's grace alone. But some of these Reformed bloggers write about depravity and sin in a way that makes the Gospel sound like this:

For God so hated the world that He savagely butchered His only begotten Son (only for the elect, of course) that whosoever comes crawling on his knees and grovels pathetically at God's feet will not burn for eternity in Hell (although he should), but just maybe find himself in Heaven when he dies.

Boy, doesn't that sound like fun!

Now please don't get the wrong idea and think that I'm suggesting all Calvinists are like this. Far from it; I have Presbyterian friends who are very gracious. The kind of Calvinists I am referring to in the above quote are considered "hyper-Calvinists." Hyper-Calvinists tend to stress that their version of Calvinism--and Christianity in general--is the only way, period. For the Hyper-Calvinist, if your theology isn't totally aligned with those five points of Calvinism, you're not a true Christian. I never understood that, because from what I remember at the end it all boils down to believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He died for our sins.

Hyper-Calvinists are also notorious for discouraging evangelism. The way they see it, since God has already chosen who's going to Heaven and who's going to Hell, why bother telling people about Jesus? But according to Wikipedia, John Calvin actually said God offers His grace to both the elect and non-elect:

"And again, has not our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed men’s souls: true it is that the effect of his death comes not to the whole world: Nevertheless for as much as it is not in us too discern between the righteous and the sinners that go to destruction, but that Jesus Christ has suffered his death and passion as well for them as for us: therefore it behooves us to labour to bring every man to salvation that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ made be available to them." (John Calvin, Sermons on Job, Sermon 116 31: 29-32., p., 548, emphasis mine)

So here's my short little message to Hyper-Calvinists: chillax, dude!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Death Day Mark Twain

100 years ago yesterday (sorry, I'm late), the late great, Mark Twain, died. He was 74 and very sad--read his biography and you will know why. In honor of his, below is an faux interview with Twain; originally it was written for the Wittenburg Door, but it was ultimately rejected after much debate for reason I quite can't remember--it had something to do with some members of the editorial board not believing it was relevant to today. Almost everything Twain says in this interview comes from things he said in books, essays, or other interviews. Enjoy...

Douglas:           You’ve certainly kept quiet for quite sometime. For you, I’m sure that’s not an easy thing to do. Some people have even gone as far as saying you’re dead. What do you say to those reports?

Twain:              The reports of my death has been greatly exaggerated

Douglas:           What have you been up to these days?

Twain:              I gave up writing after the death of my mentor, Samuel Clemens. Not only was he my mentor he was my muse. I’ve done a lot of reflecting since then.

Douglas:           Clemens certainly faced a lot of tragedy in his life. Much has been said recently of the darker years after the death of his wife. Did he give you any insight as to how he coped?
Twain:              Clemens was a deeply private man even to those close, though, I must add, not as private as myself, but he did tell me once that, ‘Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.

On his deathbed, Clemens wrote, Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all—the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.’ That letter is the closest even I myself got to him.

Douglas:           And do you think he made it up to heaven?

Twain:              If he did it wasn’t by his own doing. Heaven or hell, he will think it is hell, because in the good place you progress, progress—study, study, all the time—and if this isn’t hell for Clemens, I don’t know what is.

Douglas:           Where would you prefer?

Twain:              Heaven for climate, hell for society.

Douglas:           Do you think man is as evil as you often wrote?

Twain:              I believe any man who pursues good will only be left lonesome.

Douglas:           Then there is no point in having morals?

Twain:              Morals are a good thing that man should never be without. This is why it is better to have bad morals than none at all.

Douglas:           How does man live with only bad morals?

Twain:              He’s done a pretty good job so far. No people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it is a immutable law that all revolutions that want to succeed, must begin in blood, whatever may answer afterward. If history teaches, it teaches that.

Douglas:           Do you think law can put order in lives?

Twain:              (sarcastically) We have an insanity plea that would have saved Cain.

Douglas:           So there’s no hope?

Twain:              Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity to me that Noah didn’t miss the boat.

Douglas:           But he did make the boat.

Twain:              Which is proof that early civilization could not have been in America, as many of my Mormon friends believe.

Douglas:           How’s that?

Twain:              Because an American inspector would have come along and examined the Ark, and he would have made all sorts of objections to codes it neglected. In the end the inspector would not have permitted it to sail.

Douglas:           Ministers are always quoting some half-witted thing you have to say about religion. Here’s your chance to explain to the world what you really believe. What do you think about religion?

Twain:              I think if you know a man’s nationality you can come within a split hair of guessing the complexion of his religion.

Douglas:           Well you’re an American. More specifically you’re known as an American from the South. Would that mean you’re a Baptist?

Twain:              (laughing) Baptist?! Those people have the reasoning faculty, but no one uses it in religious matters.

Douglas:           No on the Baptist, then?

Twain:              A definite no. Although I noticed an interesting thing while attending service at a Baptist church—few sinners are saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.

Douglas:           Interesting. Would you consider yourself a Christian?

Twain:              No.

Douglas:           You’re being difficult.

Twain:              Forgive me.
Douglas:           Do you believe there is a God or for that matter a god?

Twain:              Let’s just say God and I have strained relations.

Douglas:           Now we’re getting somewhere! You admit God exists?

Twain:              The being that to me is the real God is the One who created this majestic universe and rules it. He is the only originator, the only originator of thoughts; thoughts suggested from within, not from without…He is the only creator. He is the perfect artisan, the perfect artist.

Douglas:           What reason do you give for this?

Twain:              We don’t need reason, where we feel, we just feel.

Douglas:           Do you think a man who does good works for others will get into heaven because of what he did and not what he believes?

Twain:              No. I believe Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, we would stay out and our dog would go in.

Douglas:           You have received a lot harassment from people for your believes in the past. Would you do anything differently if you lived your life over?

Twain:              No. I learned in my older years that a man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.

Douglas:           When did you know there was problem with how you believe and how the church believes?

Twain:              I don’t remember exactly when, but it’s like many things—you know whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. So I suppose I just paused at some point in my life and reflected.

Douglas:           Do you recall what it was that you discovered when you reflected?

Twain:              Mainly I discovered that man is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.


Douglas:           Did you dabble in other faiths?

Twain:              I was in India and considered Hinduism. I discovered, however, that while it was a good and gentle religion, it is also inconvenient.

Douglas:           Were there ever people in your life, who made you consider that you were wrong?


Twain:              Whenever I meet an honest man, I wonder. Honesty is the best of all the lost arts. When a merely honest man appears he is a comet—his fame is eternal—he needs no genius and no talent—mere honesty—Luther and Christ were each examples of this.

Douglas:           Then you talked to the dishonest Christian standing beside the honest man and realized you were right all along?

Twain:              Exactly. Human beings, it seems to me, are poor invention. If they are the noblest works of God where is the ignoblest?

Douglas:           Good question!

Twain:              I remember one man—a Christian man I should add, who had caused thousands of people to lose vast amounts of money—told me, ‘Before I die I intend to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I want to climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud.’ I told him, ‘I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay right at home in America and keep them?’

Douglas:           Speaking of hypocrisy, you’re mouth has gotten you into a lot of trouble in the past.

Twain:              Well, I believe we should swear while we may—in heaven it will not be allowed.

Douglas:           Care to share a favorite swear word of yours?

Twain:              Quadrilateral, astronomical, incandescent son-of-a-bitch.

Douglas:           During your peak as a writer a lot of intellects were subscribing to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Did you ever consider this as a possible theory?

Twain:              I always believed that theory should have been vacated for a newer truer one. The theory should not be based on the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals—it should be based on the Descent of Man from the Higher Animal. I believe that our Heavenly Father invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey.

Douglas:           Does it surprise you that people, even today, try to have Huck Finn banned in schools and libraries?

Twain:              Not at all, and I’m happy that the efforts are still made. I wrote that book exclusively for adults, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean, sweet breath again this side of the grave.

Douglas:           Did the Bible make sense to you that young?

Twain:              There were parts that didn’t make sense—still don’t. But it ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Douglas:           Do you think the Bible is true?

Twain:              It is full of interesting things. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousands lies.

Douglas:           What do you think about Christ?

Twain:              From what I understand he wasn’t a tidy fellow—kept his hair long, didn’t dress nice, and hung out with a pretty reckless crowd.

Douglas:           Is that a bad thing?

Twain:              I suppose in many respects he had the same untidy nature of myself. And I think it’s okay to be careless in your dress, as long as you keep a tidy soul.

Douglas:           Aside from his dress, what do you think about Christ?

Twain:              I think if Christ were here now, there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.

Douglas:           I suppose then, my next question has already been answered, but for the sake of further conversation, what do you think about Christianity?

Twain:              I think the church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little by way of example.

Douglas:           So with a little reformation would Christianity be okay?

Twain:              I don’t believe it would be any better—no. I think when we reform in one direction, we go overboard in another.

Douglas:           Is there anything good that comes out religion?

Twain:              Well these so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive…but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetics in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve.

Douglas:           There’s been a lot of fuse lately over separation of church and state. Do you have any views on that?

Twain:              I find it mighty curious that God was left out of the Constitution but was furnished a front seat on the coins of the country. In God We Trust. I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true.


Douglas:           How can this change? How can this country care again about the inscription on the coin?

Twain:              Bring back the missionaries from abroad, and have them come home and convert these Christians!

Douglas:           Forgive me for stealing the title from one of your books, but what was life on the Mississippi like when you were young?

Twain:              We were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful. When it was fair we did wander a little from the fold.

Douglas:           I imagine the circumstance were hard, growing up without a father for much of your life?

Twain:              Quite contrary. It is circumstances that make man, not man circumstances.

Douglas:           Do you have any advice to leave us with?

Twain:              There are three things which I consider excellent advice. First, don’t smoke—to excess. Second, don’t drink—to excess. Third, don’t marry—to excess.

Douglas:           Wise words, from a wise man.

Twain:              Thank you. I can live for two months on a good compliment. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

A People's History of Christianity: The New Testament Apocrypha (Part One)

I'm going to start a new sporadic series called "A People's History of Christianity," which, as I hope you know, is just a cheap ripoff of Howard Zinn's great book. I don't know how often I'll run it, but what I want to do is present some ideas about Christianity not found in the Bible; there are hundreds of early church writings that reveal a great deal about the churches formation and who early Christians were. Often it was with good reason that this stuff wasn't in the Bible, but that doesn't make it any less valuable.

For the next three weeks, I will be writing about the New Testament Apocrypha; I'm not in anyway trying to say the stuff found in these works were true (though some probably were), I'm merely showing what many people believed.

Today's post will be about the infancy Of Christ; next week the Gospels; and finally the third one will be on the apocalypse. If it bores you, then week four I'll post something a little lighter. If you want to read more about any of these writings, I highly recommend checking out "The Other Bible" by Willis Barnstone

The Infancy Of Christ

Looking strictly at the New Testament there is little known about the early life of Christ; it is with good reason that this is so, because it is Christ’s ministry that is the fundamental focus of Christianity, but it is still important to see Christ before his ministry.  One of the earliest doctrinal issues of the early church concerned the divinity of Christ—was he entirely human, entirely divine, or both?  The most Orthodox view throughout the ages has been that he is both; this being so, one can easily begin to see why it is so important to see a human side of Christ.

In the Gospels there are some passages that show Jesus was part human, such as John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” but these passages can be forgotten when the passages that surround it show a Christ who heals the sick, cast out demons, and walks on water; even the parables, so rich in theme and imagery, are too beautifully spoken to come only from any man.  Contrary to these images, the apocryphal Infancy Gospels shows a Jesus that was also human; each richly tells the stories of what happened before the ministry of Christ.

The best way to define a Christ that is both human and divine is to say the divine side comes from God, and the human side would come from Mary.  Going with this view, it is understandable why The Infancy Gospel of James would have been, and still is, important to Christians, because it tells the history of Mary.  Regardless of whether or not it’s true, it shows a question many early Christians would have obviously been asking, “If Jesus was both man and God could he have come from any person or would that person have to be pure—even free, like Christ, of original sin?”

The NT gospels say Mary was a virgin, but the infancy gospels go further than this—they say what kind of person she was.  James, while not directly saying it, could be interpreted as saying Mary’s mother Anna was also a virgin; the infancy gospel also says Mary could walk at a mere six months, and that when she was only three angels tended to her.  All this shows the author’s view that the mother of Jesus would have to be more than the average human.

The introductory notes to The Infancy Gospel Of Pseudo-Matthew explain that the text is a poetic version of the James infancy gospel; this may be so, but a more important similarity to note between the two is that they each draw from the Old Testament. The James account of Mary’s birth seems to be a modern day retelling, or a parallel, of the Genesis account of Sarah and Abraham.  In Pseudo-Matthew the author combines what seems myth with Old Testament prophecy when the author writes:

And behold, suddenly, many dragons came out of the cave.  When the boys saw them in front of them they shouted with great fear.  Then Jesus got down from his mother’s lap, and stood on his feet before the dragons.  They, however, worshipped him, and, while they worshipped, they backed away.  Then what was said through the prophet David was fulfilled: ‘You dragons of the earth, praise the Lord, you dragons and all creatures of the abyss.’

The authors of Pseudo-Matthew and James were likely gentiles not accustomed to Jewish beliefs, but these two infancy gospels show that early Christians were familiar with the Old Testament.

Of all the infancy gospels Thomas best shows the human side of Christ.  Of all the infancy gospels Thomas also is the text most frequently condemned an anti-Christian, and indeed downright nasty.  While perhaps inaccurate, even heretical, Thomas shows its interpretation to an answer of a question church fathers were asking.  James and Pseudo-Matthew both ask how human the mother of Christ has to be—Thomas asks how human Jesus had to be.  If it is to be said Jesus was part, human then the next question is what does that mean?  Does that mean Jesus can sin, make errors, even use his miraculous powers for bad purposes?  Thomas proposes that Jesus could and did do these things as a child, and likely did not become fully perfect until after his baptism.

One of the most amazing features of Thomas is the literary structure that shows fully the character development of the Jesus the author presents.  Jesus, in Thomas, begins as a bratty little kid who abuses his powers.  He does not yet understand who or what he is, and becomes self-centered.  As Jesus matures in the story he begins to build a compassion for others.  By the end of the story, while he still does not seem to know who he is, Jesus is using the powers for others, and not himself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How to Speak Christianese

Let's face it, we Christians have a funny way of talking. "Love offerings?" "Anointing?" "Praying in the spirit?" Even I don't know what we're saying some times!

Hopefully this will help:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sermons That Matter

Today is a light post to make up for some of the heavier ones in recent weeks; it's a collection of sermon signs--some funny, some disturbing, some I'd really like to know what the pastor was thinking. My favorite is the Methodist church that wants to help kill you! Enjoy...

Friday, April 9, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity

If you regularly read my personal blog, you'll know that for the past few weeks I've been discussing Brian McLaren's new book A New Kind of Christianity. I finally finished the book (hey, I'm a slow reader!), and here are my final thoughts.

In the book, McLaren proposed ten questions that are transforming the Christian faith:

1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
2. How should the Bible be understood?
3. Is God violent?
4. Who is Jesus and why is He important?
5. What is the Gospel?
6. What do we do about the Church?
7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10. How can we translate our quest into action?

For McLaren, the problem isn't with God or the Bible; the problem is how mankind has interpreted the Bible, specifically the overarching story line of Scripture. He explains that our conventional way of viewing the Bible's story narrative (Creation-->Fall-->Condemnation-->Salvation-->Heaven or Hell) is more of a "Greco-Roman narrative" based on the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle than what the Bible actually says. According to McLaren, the biblical narrative has three dimensions that present in both the Old Testament and the Gospels: creation, liberation, and the peaceful kingdom. From here he goes on to explain how the Kingdom of God is more than just going to Heaven when we die, that the Bible should be read as a portable library rather than a constitution, and that we need to do a better job showing Christ's grace to others.

(There's a lot more to the book than just the simple synopsis I offer above, but I try to keep my summaries short so bear with me.)

McLaren is at his best when he writes about the Kingdom of God, which, as he explains, is Jesus' primary message. As I mentioned earlier, the Kingdom of God does not just mean Heaven; it's a new way of living here on Earth, reconciled with God and each other, and using our gifts to love and serve one another. And the more I read the Bible, the more I see that Jesus not only gives us life after death, but also life before death. The Bible says we are "buried with [Jesus] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4, emphasis mine)

McLaren's also right about the need to love our neighbors better. I've seen way too many Christians with this "us vs. them" mentality, where they view gays, Muslims, and liberals not as fellow sinners, but as "the enemy" is a never-ending war. The way I see it, technically we're all in the same boat. We're all sinners. We're all broken people who need grace. And I think if we remember this, we can do a better job showing God's grace to others.

The one thing I'm not sure about is the "Greco-Roman narrative" concept. When I read the Bible, I see both this "Greco-Roman narrative" and McLaren's three-dimensional narrative both happening at the same time. Yes, the themes of creation, liberation, and the peaceful kingdom often occur throughout the Scriptures. However, the Bible says Adam brought death and condemnation to all mankind (Romans 5:12), which, if I'm interpreting correctly, points to the Greco-Roman narrative concept of The Fall. Also, Jesus Himself mentions a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" several times in the Gospels.

Overall I give A New Kind of Christianity 3.5 out of 5. While McLaren is right on about the need to have a better interpretation of the Scriptures, some of his concepts are confusing to me.

(And before any accuses me, I am not a Brian basher. I still consider myself a fan of McLaren's work, and I admire him for talking about things a lot of Christians are afraid to talk about. I recently had the chance to interviewed him last week for my podcast, and he's a really nice guy.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Six Pack of Prayer

Ah, yes. Nothing cleanses the sins of alcoholism like the strong ale of Prayer. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Disproving God While Cringing at Easter

When I turned on my computer yesterday, I did the thing I always do--I went straight to Google News to see what was going on with the world. It was interesting to see how many papers waited until Easter to talk about scientific studies that have been going on for months. One was about a new theory trying to disprove people who have a near death experience and "see the light at the end of the tunnel"; and believe that it is heaven --according to their study there's a chemical in your brain that makes this happen. Another article was about CERN project and the quest to find the so called "God particle."

It seems yesterday was a special holiday for non-believers too; it's the day to celebrate the accomplishments of science, and how soon we will at last be able to disprove God.

If you want to get scientific about it, there's nothing that is going to prove the existence of God. The only thing that proves God is faith.

There may very well be a chemical in your brain that disproves people who have near death experiences see heaven or that there is a "God particle." None of that matters, however, because science can never disprove faith.

And faith is was made millions of people around the world gather to celebrate that thing called Easter.

I have seen a lot of Easter talk thrown around in recent days, for obvious reasons. Easter brings out the best in Christians--it gives them something celebrate and look forward to. It's a special day, no doubt.

But every time I hear the Easter talk thrown around, I can't help but be just a little insulted. How many people do you know that got raised from the dead? I know of only one. So why do we only take one day to celebrate this fact.

What gives with all this Jesus Christ raised today stuff? As a matter of fact, he didn't raise today! It happened around this time, sure. Why pick one day to tell all your friends and family that you believe a miraculous thing happened? Seems newsworthy enough to make sure everyone knows at every possible moment.

And if we're being honest, the most important Sunday isn't Easter at all. It's next Sunday. Because, for Christianity's sake, what's more important than Jesus raising from the dead is what happened after he rose from the dead--it's what people did with that news.

It's easy to go to church on Easter Sunday all dressed up and with a little extra joy in your step. But what happens next week? You just heard the best news of all Christianity--that Christianity didn't end at the cross, rather it continued because of it. Now what?

Friday, April 2, 2010

He Has Risen . . . And He Brought Cars!

Good Friday is upon us again. Today is a somber day to reflect on Jesus' atoning sacrifice for our sins on the Cross, and then on Sunday we will celebrate His resurrection from the dead. It will be a time of singing, celebrating, and . . . free cars?

Bay Area Fellowship Church in Corpus Christi, Texas will be celebrating Easter this year by giving away over $2 million in prizes. The prizes (all donated or sponsored by members of the church) will include 16 cars, 15 flat-screen televisions, and several furniture sets. Pastor Bill Cornelius says it's "an opportunity to share Christ with people who may never go to a church for any reason."

Maybe it's just me, but isn't the Resurrection is enough of a blessing? Sure, I'd love a new flat-screen TV (since mine's older than dirt), but when I'm the House of the Lord praising Jesus for conquering the grave, a new TV is the last thing on my mind.

(Okay, that's not entirely true. Sometimes when I'm supposed to be focusing on sermon, I'm thinking about where Amy and I should eat after church. But that's another story.)

I understand Pastor Bill's desire to reach out to the community, and I'm all for that. But if your Easter celebration looks more like a game show, won't people be confused about what the Gospel is about? Is the Gospel about God giving us everything we want, or God humbling Himself as a human to pay the price for our sins?

Just asking.

Anyway, have a happy and blessed Easter . . . even if you don't get a free car.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends Teabag for Jesus

Sadly, though it is April 1st, that image is real!