Tag Archives: Theology

what is truth?

what is truth?

is truth knowable?

at what point is one satisfied that they have arrived at it?

do we start with falsehood and whittle away until only truth is left?

do we start with truth and add our own beliefs to it, diluting it?

do we do both?

are we capable of holding conflicting beliefs?

do we ever act NOT according to our actual beliefs?

it seems to me that that which is true would be true no matter what i think about it — or even if i think about it at all.

if my beliefs line up with what actually is, then so much the better for me.

i also think, somewhat, that people’s actual beliefs can be inferred from their behavior, though i think socialization comes to play, and limits/enhances somethings, so that we are coerced into doing that which we would not otherwise do — allowing belief that the consequences of not doing x would be worse than following what we really believe about y.

iow: a behavior do show our true beliefs, but one’s true beliefs and behaviors are to complex to for another to really infer much out of it.

what is justice?

at what point do we say we, or any being, has acted “justly” ?

there is lots of chatter on this board — and particularly when my new favorite pet subject (hell’s lack of existence) comes up — about god’s justice.

but what do we mean by that?

at what point is justice fulfilled?

when i was a child (i remember this story clearly, though i was only abotu four), i thought a fishbowl full of candy at a store was inviting me to take one, free.

my mother did not see me take the candy, and when we were on the way out of the store and she asked where i got it, she made me go back in, apologize, she paid for it, AND i had to spit it out.

what was the point of my mother’s exercise?


i submit it was restoration and learning.

were her actions just?

now when god acts in response to our selfness, what are his goals?

where does god’s love (and god IS love, don’t forget) come into play?

love is the core of god’s being — all his other attributes must stem from that core.

god’s justice must be loving.

god’s mercy must be loving.

even god’s hatred must be loving. indeed jesus taught us to love our enemies. was that just pretty words, or did he mean it?

so, then, with all this in mind:

what is justice?

is there some cosmic scale that must be fulfilled for each and every infraction, each and ever wrong?

did god find himself conscious in an existence where he simply can not cope unless such a system is perfectly in balance, and thus had to create a universe that allowed that balance to be maintained?

is that the point of justice?

to keep track of wrongs, and punish them so that the balance can be OK?

isn’t, like my mom’s actions, the point of god’s justice restoration, reconciliation?

wonderful podcast: mclaren interviewed about hell

this interview with brian mclaren fits in SO much with how i’ve come to view hell:

So, but one of the questions I could raise that might be helpful for you and other people thinking about this, is to say, what is the problem with sin? What’s so bad about sin? Now, I can just imagine some people quoting—See, McLaren doesn’t think sin is a problem. I take sin really, seriously. But here’s the problem, If I were to make this sort of analogy or parable. When I had little children, if one of my little children—Let’s say my son Brett, was beating up on his little brother, Trevor. Now, Trevor is bigger. But back then—What was the problem? Was the problem that I don’t want my younger son to get hurt and I don’t want my older son to be a bully. I want my older son to be a good person. I want my younger son to be a good person. I want them to have a great relationship. Then the problem of sin is what it does to my family and what it does to my boys, you know. That’s the problem with sin.

But what we’ve created is, the problem of sin is that I am so angry at my son Brett for beating up his younger brother, I’m going to kill him. So now the problem we’ve got to solve is how to keep me from killing my son.

learn more

i highly recommend taking a half hour and listening to it.

really, do it.

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“good” news

news is always in the eye of the beholder.

when a bible sits there, holding information about the gospel, the gospel that it contains information about lays dormant.

perhaps in some sense we can say that’s the actual gospel, but it is a useless one.

the news jesus taught only begins to be useful when someone learns of it and starts to put it into practice.

when someone sets their life on a path of discipleship to him, with the goal of becoming like him.

when a person does this, the actual gospel is manifest.

the “fake gospel” most people have accepted or rejected differs depending upon which “side” of church it has come from.

the evangelical right’s gospel has been more or less: “if you die today, do you know you will go to heaven?”

it has been primarily concerned about the afterlife, and talks about “heaven” as a goal.

this is something jesus never did.

now, there is much talk of discipleship in these groups, but not the kind of discipleship that jesus would recognize.

rather, they are after head knowledge. they wish to ensure their students “believe the right things” about big words like sanctification, justification and atonement.

they are in the business of “sin management” — making sure people don’t “do wrong”, so that they can “get into heaven”.

the left side, the mainline churches and more liberal denominations, have turned the gospel into a social action message. that if we all work together, we cure society’s ills by taking care of the poor better.

personal growth is all but ignored in favor of being part of the team that “cares”. little attention is paid to how individuals actually do things, as efforts are focused around building institutions that make lots of noise about doing good.

they are in the business of “society management”.

the gospel jesus taught was: “come, follow me, for the kingdom of heaven is available today.”

he taught us to live well — to live in such a manor that we obtain peace with god and with each other.

the side effects of that kind of living is salvation and a better society.

they are not goals in and of themselves.

to fully expound on this would require 400 pages, so i’ll leave off there.

hopefully some of what i have in mind has been communicated.

it is a mystery

about one-third of the planet’s current population live in areas that have historical ties to the religion associate with jesus christ — and yet so very few people actually study and follow his teachings.

here in indiana, where i live, you’re hard pressed to find someone, anyone, who doesn’t believe in god in some capacity or another, and its is even tough to find someone who does not claim to be a christian.

but the way they behave proves out that they don’t really believe in him, or the power of his teachings.

we humans always act in accordance with what we really believe to be true about the universe.

this is what jesus meant when he spoke of a “good tree can not have bad fruit and a bad tree can not have good fruit”.

just because people claim to have opinions on things does not mean they actually believe those opinions to be Truth.

christians are taught, in the text held as god’s very word, that condemnation of others should never be part of our lives.

we are never to condemn, simply.

some of us who claim christ as lord DO, and it grieves him, and me, but none of us ought to.

and we are to never feel condemned, since we know that there is One Who Is True and who loves us, no matter what others who do not know us, say.

some of us forget this, too — and get very offended when opposing views are brought up.

again, god is grieved by this behaviour, too.

that’s one of the things about claiming to follow a god who asks for no less than perfect — we simply can not live up to that.

but, that is also what is so beautiful about jesus’ teachings: he shows that god is loving, and accepts us as we are — faults and all.

now, i am old enough, and been online long enough to know that none of us are going to change anyone’s mind here who doesn’t believe god exists.

be that as it may.

i hope my post has been able to show you a more accurate portrayal of how we who follow christ see the world — as opposed the the view imposed on us by movies, tv and popular culture in general.

we believe things far more mysterious than hollywood can imagine, and greater than you could believe.

there were both explicit and implicit conditions on being “accepted” by god.

god desires to accept us, but respects our opinion in these matters.

to those who have no desire to have anything to do with him, he respectfully backs off and waits, and hopes.

this is, of course, rather than simply coercing with a fire and light show so irresistible you’d have no real say in the matter.

the former, imo, is the better way to run the universe, if one is stuck with the job.

your job, should you choose to accept it

remember, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

i can’t stress enough: love, love, love, love, love, love, love,
love, love, love, love, love,
love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love,
love, love, love, love,
love, love, love, love, love,
love, love,

it is the holy spirit’s job to convict — it is your job to love and shine god’s love through that love.

“once saved, always saved” ?

let us supposed we have 2 people: billy and franklin

(i just pulled those names out of thin air )

i’ll give away the ending of this story first:

franklin goes to heaven, and billy goes to hell.

now, let us also suppose that billy and franklin are twin brothers: born within minutes of one another.

both are raised by the same christian parents, and go to the same bible-teaching congregation, where spiritual growth is encouraged, and the spirit’s work is evident by the fruit the congregation produces: caring for the poor in their neighborhood and other charitable acts.

both boys are looked up to all through high school and college, and marry christian women, who love them very much.

both young men turned out to church leaders — gifted by god in leading others to the lord, and in teaching them the deeper meanings of life in the kingdom.

when they are 43 years old, however, billy’s wife was raped, murdered, and left to die — by a supposed “preacher”, who was caught, arrested, and set to go to court.

well, billy did not take this well. (would you? would i?)

billy took it out on the preacher.

he was so angry that he murdered the man even before he’d had a chance to go to trial.

billy, still angry, but in shock at his own brutality, turned himself into the authorities, and went to prison for 30 years.

(the manner in which billy inflicted his revenge upon the man was based upon the man’s treatment of billy’s wife. the jury, though they understood where such anger came from, had no choice but to convict, and the minimum sentence was 30 years, no parole.)

while in prison, billy himself was mistreated — sometimes very badly, and he grew more and more angry at god for his lot in life until he lashed out at god, and disavowed his very existence.

he finished almost his entire sentence angry at god, and in trouble with the prison authorities, addicted to drugs and eventually murdering 3 of his cellmates over the years.

three years before he was to have originally gotten out of prison, billy was murdered in his cell while he slept, and went to hell.

his brother, franklin, died in a car accident that very minute — and went to heaven.

— the end —

looking back on their lives, we can see clearly that during their teens and twenties, both would have been sure they were going to heaven, and the way they conducted their lives seemed to point that way.

both claimed christ as lord, and had fruit, apparently.

some would say that if billy had died that night with his wife he would have gone to heaven.

but from the perspective of eternity, where hindsight truly is 20/20, we can see that it was never to be so:

who can deny that from the beginning of time, god knew the sad story of billy’s life?

who can deny that god knew he would end up angry, disavowing his existence, a murderer who died by the very violence he bred?

was god “fooled” by billy during his 20’s ?

when billy fell away, was god caught by surprise?

did god think, “oh, wow! billy don’t do it! ooooh, no! — now you’re not going to heaven after all! someone erase his name from the book of life!”

the idea is absurd.

no, it is clear: there was always a 100% chance, since god knew what would happen, that billy was going to hell.

so then: was he ever “saved” ?

was he ever a “christian” ?

so many times i’ve heard people talk about, “if you died right now, do you know where you’d go?”

well, in his 20s billy would have said “yes, i’d go to heaven”

would he be right?

would he be wrong?

can he not know?

if he could be wrong, can you?

i think the bible is vague on this for the same reason jesus didn’t give “rules for living”:

human beings have a way of taking rules and twisting them to their own sinful desires and weak psychological needs.

we always are looking for the easy “what can i get away with?”

when what god desires from us is, “what more can i give? how much more can i love?”

the verses josiah posted are a wonderful example: the bible seems to teach both, and yet not both — at the same time.

and still, somehow, millions of us find wisdom in christ’s words, and in the letters his followers wrote in the decades after his resurrection.

this is because they are deeper than “rules”.

on “course joking”

where’s the line?

what defines “course joking” ?

is it simply using a (gasp!) curse-word?

is it lewdness?

is it always only in the ear of the beholder?

are there simply some things a christian should never say, under any circumstances?

(and if so, can you tell us without sinning???)

is what you ought not to joke about, or say, variable depending on whom you’re with? (and, yes, we know you’re always with god, that’s a given)

are there “levels” of course joking, with some stuff being okay for sally, but for jenny that would be a sin?

another point often brought up — by the more conservative among us, usually — is something along these lines:

“…but, if christians are not even supposed to give even the slightest impression of sinning…”

to which i resopnd: but jesus was accused of being a drunkard — surely those who did so got the impression he was a sinner?

also, this brings up a related point:

there is a verse that the KJV is very widely quoted, even by people who use the NIV or other translations normally:

1 Thess 5:22 (KJV) — “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

this verse is often misused to say that everything a christian does should never be able to be confused with something evil, by anyone.

but, as with a lot of things, the king james 600 year old verbiage is getting in the way of what god was really saying:

most other translations say something more like:

ESV: Abstain from every form of evil.

anyway, back to course joking: when is what you say simply wrong?

the idea of what’s “obscene” has changed a BUNCH in the past 30 years.

(anyone in here seen the movie grease lately? — its filthy! filled with offensive language — that was perfectly acceptable in its day. and i bet that if the producers of that film saw what we put on tv during primetime, they’d flip thier lids, with the ammount of skin we show)

i don’t believe simply “offending someone” can be the gauge, as i have heard some contend.

this is because of what i read in John 6

The Words of Eternal Life

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life…”

perhaps that’s a different “meaning” of the word offend than is often meant — but, there it is: clearly simply “if it offends, it’s wrong” won’t do as a test of what is or is not coarse joking.

in any case, our words can offend without being coarse joking — and coarse joking can be coarse joking, i think, w/o offending anyone in the room.

i think this just goes to point out, as i sit here and think about it, how wise jesus’ teachings are.

he really didn’t come with laws, as it’d be so easy to simply follow a list of laws and think we’re OK in god’s eyes (read: pharisees).

instead, he came with advice on real heart-change. changes in heart that result in sensitivity to the spirit, the fruit of which ends up being that things such as coarse joking naturally disappear from our behavior.

(or something along those lines)

i think that does NOT end the question, however:

since it was implied in my question that jesus does, in fact, hear everything anyway.

if we didn’t think god hears all we do, the question would be rather moot, even.

so, as it is, the question of “would you say it in front of jesus” is really just re-phrasing the question, in a way.

additionally, we get into the same problem of “…something jesus wouldn’t want to hear…” that we do with “what others don’t want to hear”.

who “decides” what jesus wants to hear and not hear from us?

that, really, was the point of my asking.

where do we end up drawing the line?

how do we end up drawing said line?

i submit that the lines we draw have little to do with jesus, the scripture, or leadings from the spirit so much as they have to do with the culture we’re brought up and live in.

a look at matthew 5:39-40

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

jesus, throughout these chapters, is giving illustrations, not rules.

he is presenting illustrations of how a person with a “kingdom heart” will likely respond in certain situations.

i’ll preface by saying, though, that in this one (turn the other cheek), there is no admonition to ever *ever* turn someone else’s cheek.

to idly stand by and allow another of god’s children to come to harm through inaction is sin, be they your family, or someone you don’t know.

now, when it comes to turning your own cheek:

remember, jesus is talking here about how a person living in the kingdom of god goes about life. he’s talking about people who have turned away from anger, contempt and lust.

he’s talking about people who are truly always more interested in their brother’s welfare than their own.

he means, quite literally, to actually present your other cheek to an attacker, whether they are attacking with words or with physical blows.

he’s referring to remaining vulnerable, open and not responding to evil with evil, in an attempt to win your adversary to the kingdom.

what harm can come to you?

if your adversary is intent upon killing you, you are already living in the eternal kingdom!

more likely, though, if you practice turning the other cheek, anyone who may have a gripe with you will never get to the point of wishing to actually strike you, because all along you’ve been looking out for *his* best interests, in loving him into the kingdom the way jesus would.

responding to his verbal blows with grace and love will likely diffuse the situation so that it won’t become physical.

and even if it does: this universe you inhabit is perfectly safe, because your father in heaven is looking out for you.

even if god allows your adversary to harm your body, praise god! you have loved and grown in the kingdom, and one day will understand all this.

thinking on the virgin mary

Matthew 1:18-25 from the CEV:

This is how Jesus Christ was born.

A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David’s family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God’s Holy Spirit.

Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding.

While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, “A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord’s angel had told him to do. But they did not sleep together before her baby was born. Then Joseph named him Jesus.

there seems to be two “hows” to answer here.

how # 1) its a miracle.

god simply impregnated a virgin, plain and simple. lots of people seem to think this is hugely important, and that one of the reasons jesus could live a sinless life was because he didn’t have a human father. i see no support for that in the bible.

how # 2) the mechanics

did he plant a sperm in there?

did he plant many sperms in there? (and did he choose which one won the race?)

was one of her eggs even used?

or, did god plant an entire embryo?

what i’m interested in is joeseph’s character: man, that dood waited months, and months, after he got married?