Evolving Eschatology

When it comes to eschatology (the study of end times), my views have evolved over the years. I grew up as a Premillennialist (think Left Behind) but became an Amillennialist in my 30s. I now find the Amillennial/Partial-Preterist view most satisfactory. (Interestingly, it seems this is the view held by the Roman Catholic Church.)

So what exactly do all these big theological words mean?

Like Catholics—and many Protestant reformers such as Augustine, Luther, and Calvin—I’m an Amillennialist. This means I don’t believe the millennial period mentioned in Revelation is to be understood as a literal 1000 years. It also means I believe we are currently living in the millennial period. I believe this period began when Christ established his rule, i.e. when Rome converted to Christianity. (This appears to have been prophesied back in Isaiah 45.) And I believe this period will end when the last enemy—death—is destroyed, after which the Son will no longer reign so that YHWH “may be all in all” and all things will finally be renewed. (Many Amillennialists see the start of the millennium as 70AD, when Jerusalem was overthrown, but some say the millennial period began earlier at Pentecost, or at Christ’s ascension.)

I’m also a Partial Preterist. Preterism comes from the Latin preter, which means “past,” and describes a view which holds that most of the prophetic events of the Old and New Testament have already been fulfilled. Most Preterist are Partial Preterists; however, there are a small number of Full Preterists, who believe all of the prophetic events of the Old and New Testament have already been fulfilled.

I believe Jesus returned to judge Israel in 70 AD as he promised, and then he established his rule over the nations. I also believe that in the fullness of time, God will bring this world to an end, judge the dead “according to what they had done,” and anyone whose name is not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, the second death; however, God’s children will be resurrected and will live with God forever in the new heavens and earth.

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Perhaps the best-known Amillennial/Partial-Preterists are Hank Hanegraaff, N.T. Wright, and Scot McKnight.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century, and he remains influential today. His famous apologetic work Mere Christianity, which was adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, has sold millions of copies and been translated into numerous languages. Lewis quotations find themselves regularly in sermons across America in churches of nearly every denomination, but ironically, many of Lewis’s views differ sharply from mainstream American Evangelicalism.

For example, Lewis believed the Bible to be a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, and he believed the discerning follower of Christ could differentiate between the two. He warned against the worship of the Bible, stating “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him.”

Lewis believed in progressive revelation and felt the Pentateuch and other portions of the Old Testament contained a great deal of legend and myth; however, he was confident that the legend and myth pointed dimly to the truth and could teach important lessons just like the historical accounts.

In Is Theology Poetry? he wrote:

The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a named roman magistrate, and with whom the society that he founded is in a continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one hand and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other [he is talking of pagan religions]. It is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hangs in the clouds of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses, grows hard and in a sense small, as a historical event in first century Palestine. This gradual focussing goes on even inside the Christian tradition itself. The earliest stratum of the Old Testament contains many truths in a form which I take to be legendary, or even mythical — hanging in the clouds, but gradually the truth condenses, becomes more and more historical. From things like Noah’s ark or the sun standing still upon Ajalon, you come down to the court memoirs of King David. Finally you reach the new Testament and history reigns supreme, and the Truth is incarnate.

Lewis also believed that because of Jesus death on the cross, any person—past, present, or future—could live forever with God after death if they lived lives faithfully obedient to what they believed to be true. He believed God places a moral compass (conscience) within every person and upon their death judges them according to how well their deeds aligned with their God-given moral compass. He felt that salvation had more to do with faithful living than correct beliefs.

In The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’s children’s fantasy, Aslan, who represented Christ in the realm of Narnia, judges both the living and the dead following the defeat of the final enemies and the end of the Narnian world in The Last Battle. At that judgment, Emeth, a young Calormene officer who had lived a life devoted to Tash and fought against Aslan and his followers believing them to be enemies of the true God, is approached by Aslan:

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’ But I said, ‘Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’ He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.’ Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’ The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, ‘It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites—I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?’ I said, ‘Lord, though knowest how much I understand.’ But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’ ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what the truly seek.’
Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog—”

I love reading C.S. Lewis and many of his works have had quite a profound impact on my life. And while I disagree with some of his beliefs, I suspect he was closer to the truth in many areas than many (or most) in the church today.

R.C. Sproul & I

R.C. Sproul is a Reformed theologian, author, and pastor. I’m a Molinist ex-missionary and sometimes blogger. And although he’s more conservative than I am on most issues, there are several areas where we agree with each other.

For example, Sproul and I believe the spiritual gifts we read about in the New Testament are no longer active. In other words, he and I are Cessationists. We believe that God is actively involved in all things (Providence) but we do not believe God speaks to people today or reveals new truths. (We both acknowledge God could still perform miracles although neither of us expects them.)

And like Sproul, I agree with the end-times view known as Partial Preterism that says the prophecies of the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24 and Revelation were fulfilled in the first century with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70; however, we both agree that the end of Revelation speaks of a New Creation, which is yet to come, in which God’s chosen will live forever.

Where Sproul and I disagree is in our views of what will happen leading up to the end of this earth. Sproul is a Postmillennialist. He believes that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations prior to Judgment Day.

I’m far less optimistic. I’m an Amillennialist like Augustine, Calvin, and Luther, and like most Amillennialists, I believe the number of faithful followers will decrease over time as religions give way to secularism.

Another area of disagreement involves our view of biblical inspiration. Sproul believes in a form of inspiration that guaranteed inerrancy; I believe in a form of inspiration that led to infallibility. So while he would affirm the original manuscripts contained no errors, I would affirm the original manuscripts (and subsequent translations) will not fail to accomplish their purpose, which is to point people to Yahweh.

Although we obviously disagree in some areas, I believe R.C. Sproul is a wonderful theologian and I respect the way he goes where the truth leads him, especially when his convictions cause him to embrace views he knows are unpopular.

Bad Apologetics

One argument Christians often use to support their belief is the claim that all but one of Jesus’ disciples died as martyrs. And people don’t die for something they know to be a lie.
But is it true that all but one died the death of a martyr?

We don’t know.

We have good evidence that Peter and Paul died as martyrs and decent evidence that James, the brother of John, died as a martyr (Acts 12:1-2), but after that we simply have traditional legends from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. And some of these legends are quite fantastic.

Because there isn’t credible evidence to support this claim, it’s best not to use this argument as part of your apologetics arsenal.

Nevertheless, I agree with Sean McDowell that “the apostles were all willing to suffer and die for their belief that they had seen the risen Jesus. While we cannot demonstrate historically that they all died as martyrs, we know they willingly proclaimed the faith amidst persecution with full awareness of the potential cost of following a publicly crucified ‘criminal.’”

My View of Biblical Inspiration

The writer of 2 Timothy says “all scripture is inspired,” and the Greek word that is translated “inspired” literally means “God-breathed.” This word is only used once in the Bible.

Debates have raged for centuries over just what “inspired” entails. Some point out that when this was said, “all scripture” could not have included the New Testament since some of it had not yet been written and the letters that did exist were not yet collected into a canon. Others point out that “God breathed” isn’t the same as “God spoken.” And yet others point out that the word “inspired” isn’t defined in this context so we can’t be sure of the significance the writer was attaching to this word.

There are many theories of inspiration, but here are four that are quite well known:

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Bizarre Oath Taking In Genesis

Many Old Testament Bible scholars say oath taking in Genesis required the oath taker to hold the circumcised penis of the one to whom they were making the oath while they swore. (“Under the thigh” is believed to be a euphemism for genitals. Genesis 24:9, 47:29) This practice only appears in Genesis and by the time of Jesus we are told that Jews simply named a sacred object within the oath: “I swear by heaven..,” “I swear by Jerusalem…,” etc.

Later, we are told in the Talmud that certain oaths required one to hold the Scroll of the Torah in one’s hand while swearing. Swearing on a Bible appears to have come from this tradition.

There is debate about whether the oath taker held the circumcised penis or the testicles. Those who advocate for the testicles say the testicles were viewed as the most valuable asset a man possessed in the ancient world since they were the source of life that enabled a man to multiply his family. Nevertheless, I believe it more likely the circumcised penis was held since it was the earthly symbol of Yahweh’s favor.

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It’s not clear to me why the oath taker didn’t hold his own genitalia while swearing. Maybe it was to symbolize the trust that the party requiring the oath was placing in the one swearing the oath.

Where Is God?

In the New Testament, we are told that God is an invisible spirit (Colossians 1:15, John 4:24). It appears Yahweh exists as an unembodied infinite mind. He is an incorporeal, non-spatial spirit, which means he cannot accurately be described as here, there, or anywhere. He just is.

When we say “God is in heaven” or “God’s Spirit is in us,” what we mean is God is active here or there.

Some say that God is in all things (and all things are in God). This view is called Panentheism and is closely related to “process theism”—as we improve the world, we improve God. Another non-Judeo-Christian view called Pantheism states everything is God, that God is the universe.

I agree with William Lane Craig that “omnipresence should be understood in terms of God’s being immediately cognizant of and causally active at every point in space. He knows what is happening at every spatial location in the universe and He is causally operative at every such point, even if nothing more is going on there than quantum fluctuations in the vacuum of ’empty’ space.’”

So the question, “Where is God” cannot be answered because the question seeks to spatially locate a non-spatial being. Yahweh is not literally in your heart, in the air that you breathe, or in every drop of coffee that you drink, but he is in control of all things and always at work everywhere.

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For more on this topic, check out Is God’s Spirit literally “in” me?

Becoming Like Angels

I believe that when God resurrects us from the dead, we will become like angels (although we will not be angels). Jesus said those who are resurrected will not marry, and they will not die (Luke 20:35-36). Jesus, who was the first to experience this resurrection, appears to have been able to appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31, 36). He could enter locked rooms without opening the door—perhaps by traveling through solid substances or by teleporting (John 20:19), but he could also manifest himself in a physical body that looked and felt just like his pre-resurrected body and was even capable of eating (Luke 24:42-42). And it’s likely we will be able to appear in different forms (Mark 16:12) and travel through the air (Luke 24:51)!

Sounds like fun to me! :)

Good Christian Memes

Earlier, I posted a collection of some of the worst Christian memes I’ve seen floating around cyberspace (http://www.simmondsfam.com/blog/faith/2016/04/04/bad-christian-memes/). Well, here are some that I think are pretty good because they challenge the bad theology and folk religion that is so popular:


Oh, I never thought about that…

Christians are big on public prayer, but Christ…not so much.

:)

Down here in the Bible belt, I can guarantee that atheist shirt would not go over well…

Theology is flexible that way 😉

The Bible is flexible that way 😉

The magic prayer…sigh

Playin’ the God card. 😉
It’s not a religion. Because we say it’s not.

Bad Christian Memes

Here is a small collection of some of the worst Christian memes I’ve seen floating around cyberspace:


False statistics and bad logic. Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” are also banned in various countries…

You first need to establish that atheists do hate God. (If they’re true atheists, they don’t.) I know some hate religions because they see them as  oppressive and harmful.

For some reason God prefers to whisper and you have to listen really hard to hear him.

If someone tells you they can’t hear God’s whisper, make up a reason to explain why.

Fortune cookie Christianity!

If you told people for 2000 yrs a storm was coming soon and it never came, would you think it strange if they stopped preparing for it?

Caucasian Jesus trying to guilt-trip people into going to church…

Silly “facts” about the devil.

Cuz I’m sure heaven and church are the same.

Makes absolutely no sense but it sounds
spiritually profound :)

Christian manipulation and coercion at its worst!

Verses taken out of context to make Christian memes so Christians can avoid secular inspirational memes.

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For some good Christian memes, click here: http://www.simmondsfam.com/blog/faith/2016/04/04/good-christian-memes/

Who wrote the New Testament?

Many Bible scholars believe none of the books of the New Testament were written by Jesus’ 12 closest disciples.

It’s generally accepted that the gospel of Mark was the first of the four gospels (50–75 AD) and was written by John Mark and that Peter was his primary source of information.

Because it appears the writer of the gospel of Matthew borrowed heavily from the gospel of Mark, it is doubtful the author was Matthew the tax collector. (Matthew may also have borrowed from the gospel of Luke as well as other sources.)

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Why do we exist?

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog entitled “The Purpose of Life.”

As I reread it, I believe it is in some ways too individualistic and self-centered. So here is my second stab at the purpose of life, or why we exist:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

I think this is a pretty good summation of our purpose. But how do we glorify God? The gospel of John says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

So the next question should be “What type of fruit is God looking for?”

While Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians seems like an obvious place to go for the answer, I think we should instead go to Mark 12:30-31:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.

So love is the most important fruit, which not coincidentally is the first fruit Paul listed in his letter to the Galatians.

We glorify God primarily by loving. And our love for God is revealed in how we love our neighbor. “As we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

As we live lives characterized by love, God is glorified, we become better people, and those around us see what God’s new creation (inaugurated by Christ) looks like.

Who were the Nephilim?

The archaeological and DNA studies confirming modern human and Neanderthal interbreeding in the area of present-day Israel is fascinating. The more studies I read, the more I lean toward the view that the direct descendants of this inbreeding were what Moses referred to as Nephilim (the mighty men of renown) in Genesis.

Click on this link to view a short YouTube video on this subject: First Peoples: Neanderthals & Modern Humans Meet

Peace and Love along with Faith

I’ve posted over 6 years worth of thoughts on my website, and these thoughts reflect my spiritual journey.

If you go back to 2010, you’ll see that I immersed myself in Systematic Theology. I was reading the works of Wesley and Tozer while listening to Chuck Smith and Steve Gregg. I was determined to figure the Bible out. But instead of figuring it all out, the more I studied, the more questions I had. So I turned to apologetics, especially the works of William Lane Craig. This was helpful but still left many questions unanswered. Many puzzle pieces that just didn’t fit.

Eventually, my drive for answers led me to others who were on the same journey, just further along.

My horizons expanded when I came across scholars like Witherington, McKnight, and Olson and through them discovered Kierkegaard, Barth, and Moltmann.

I also discovered the New Perspective on Paul (NPP)–a historical reappraisal of Paul’s doctrine of justification that seeks to understand Paul’s writings from the viewpoint of a first-century Jew and shed the Lutheran and Reformed slant that came about as a reaction to Roman Catholicism. As I read Sanders, Dunn, Wright, and Garlington, I discovered solid exegesis that made sense of doctrinal pieces that never really fit.

Around the same time I discovered Blomberg, Gundry, and Licona, and I realized I wasn’t the only one who found conservative evangelicalism wanting.

Lately, I’ve been reading Hurtado, Enns, Flood, and Perriman, and as a result I feel that more pieces are falling into place.

All this to say, my views have changed over the years and I expect they will continue to change as I chase the truth. I no longer agree with all of my earlier posts but they depict my journey, and I hope my journey will in some small way help others on their journeys.

A New Way To Read The Bible?

Andrew Perriman, a theologian who blogs at P.OST: How To Tell The Biblical Story In A Way That Makes A Difference, believes a narrative-historical hermeneutic enables us to “recover the contingent historical perspective of the New Testament as it imagined its own future” so that we can get to the heart of New Testament theology.

Here is a very brief summary of how he sees the New Testament narrative:

1. The “Gospel” is not a universal theological message of personal salvation but must be understood as a message intimately connected to the historical circumstances in which it was given.
2. Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom was a message of judgment and salvation for Israel in the light of the pending crisis of 70AD.

(These first two points align with N.T. Wright’s view.)
3. The apostles’ gospel was a message to the nations that God had made Jesus King at his resurrection and would, through him, bring judgment and salvation to the Greek-Roman pagan world. This reached its climax in the establishment of Christendom and represented the victory of YHWH over the nations, which had for so long opposed YHWH and his people.
4. There is an ultimate day of judgment and salvation coming when the last enemies will be destroyed, the Son will no longer reign so that YHWH “may be all in all,” and all things will finally be renewed.
5. The church is now witnessing the collapse of Christendom, which is prompting the church to reevaluate how to be a faithful eschatological community of mission in a post-Christendom world.

Much of this is new to me but I find it fascinating and even quite compelling.

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More about Andrew Perriman: Andrew has an undergrad from Oxford and an Mphil and PhD from the London School of Theology. He teaches New Testament occasionally and is an extension studies tutor for St John’s Nottingham and London School of Theology’s MA in Aspects and Implications of Biblical Interpretation.

He has also written The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom, The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church, and Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective, among other books.

How to improve your wife…

The reformed speak often of male headship and female submission, and they say one of the husband’s main jobs is to make his wife Christ-like.

This rubs me the wrong way. It sounds chauvinistic and condescending, and I think it comes from a faulty interpretation of scripture.

Here’s an except from Jim & Sarah Sumner’s book, Just How Married Do You Want to Be?: Practicing Oneness in Marriage that addresses this issue:

To the well-intentioned reader who’s unacquainted with Greek syntax, it could very well appear that in Ephesians 5:23—“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” —Paul equates the husband’s headship with Christ’s divine power to save. But in fact, Paul did just the opposite. He articulated the difference between the husband and Christ. He qualified the analogy, explaining that the analogy breaks down. Preeminent scholar A.T. Robertson says that there is a “comparison” between the husband’s headship and Christ’s headship “but with a tremendous difference”—that Christ uniquely is Savior—“which Paul hastens to add.”

The apostle continues to speak of Christ alone in Ephesians 5:26-27:
“So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”

In first-century Jewish weddings, every bride would be given a cleansing bath, then arrayed in her bridal dress, and then brought to the bridegroom. Paul’s point is that Christ, the church’s groom, does the cleansing and presenting—unlike a traditional Jewish groom, who is uninvolved in the process. As Leon Morris puts it, “Paul is writing about a marriage that is unique, one in which all the preparation is done by Christ.

Christ prepares the church to meet him in glory. Husbands can’t do that for their wives because husbands themselves are being prepared by Christ for heaven. No husband has the power to sanctify himself—much less sanctify his wife—as if his headship made him holier than his wife. The husband is not called to be his wife’s “spiritual leader.” The term “spiritual leader” isn’t even found in Scripture. Yes, the husband is commanded to minister to his wife, but she is commanded to minister to him, too. Both, as believers, are expected to apply all the teachings in the Bible to their marriage.

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Note: I’m not denying the fact that marriage can contribute to the sanctification of both parties because I certainly believe it can.

The Dark Side of Spiritual Disciplines

Within Christianity, I believe spiritual disciplines are primarily a guilt-driven substitute for loving God and loving others.

We love an invisible God by loving the people we come into contact with (John 4:7-5:5). But loving people is tough! Loving others requires humility, sacrifice, service, and interaction. And we never know how our actions will be received: If I push myself to show love in practical ways, how much will I have to sacrifice (time, money, comfort, etc.)? Will others laugh at my attempts? Will others’ pride cause them to take offense? Will others try to take advantage of me?

My heart is beating faster and my hands are sweating just thinking about it!

I know!
I’ll love God in a different way!
I’ll just do lots of things to make myself a better Christian! I’ll read the Bible more and even memorize some verses! I’ll have a quiet time every morning and pray for at least 30 min. I’ll even fast a weekend a month!

Hmmm………….

Jesus said the two most important commandments were to love God and love others; he never said, “Love God and practice your spiritual disciplines.”

Down through history, thousands of Christians have withdrawn from the world–in monasteries and convents or to the comfort of their homes–to practice spiritual disciplines. But it’s those like Francis of Assisi, William Wilberforce, William Booth, and Mother Teresa that we recognize as exemplars of love.

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Note: I’m not saying spiritual disciplines are bad, but when they become a substitute for (or take precedence over) loving others, they are a stench in God’s nostrils.

Learning Christianese

If you’ve never attended a Christian church before, you may want to brush up on your Christianese before going. Here are some Christian words and phrases you should be familiar with:

  • Repent means to stop doing the things you are doing that you shouldn’t be doing.
  • Savior, Lord, God, Son of God, Son of man, Messiah, and Christ are common titles for Jesus.
  • The Word of God is another title for Jesus.
  • The word of God is another name for the Bible.
  • Sin describes actions (or thoughts) that disagree with God’s commands.
  • Placing your faith in Christ means to believe and obey the teachings of Jesus.
  • Be saved means to be spiritually adopted into God’s family by placing your faith in Christ and as a result rescued both from living a sinful life and from the penalty that will result from this.
  • Asking Jesus into one’s heart is believed by some to be a necessary step to be saved. (Some believe Jesus’ Spirit literally lives in people’s bodies; others understand this to be figurative language.)
  • Christian means a person who has been saved because they believe the teaching of Jesus and obey God’s commands.
  • Unbelievers are people who do not believe in the Christian God.
  • Pastor/priest/minister are titles for the person who teaches from the Bible.
  • Pray means talk to God.
  • Amen is a word we say to show agreement. If someone prays out loud, it can be said as soon as they finish praying (if you agree with their prayer); it is also said at the end of your own prayer (although I’m not sure why). In some churches, it is said to show agreement with something the pastor says when he is teaching.
  • In Jesus’ name is a phrase often said at the end of prayers right before ending with the word amen. Some believe their prayer has a better chance of being answered if they say this phrase at the end.
  • Be sanctified means to change over time so that our thoughts and actions agree with God’s commands, i.e. to become more like Jesus.
  • Trinity is the word Christians use to describe one God who is three persons. (How this can be is considered a great mystery.)
  • The gospels are the first 4 books of the New Testament (the second section of the Bible).
  • The gospel is the good news that God has made it possible for people to be saved.
  • I’m blessed means good things have happened to me.
  • Partake of the elements means eat the little wafer and drink the juice/wine that represent Jesus’ body and blood.
  • Communion is a solemn ceremony when Christians reflect on the death of Jesus as they partake of the elements.
  • Tithes and offerings means 10% of your weekly income (tithe) or some other amount (offering) that you will put in the offering plate (fancy dish) that is passed.
  • The flesh means our human desires that should be resisted, like sleeping with the neighbor’s husband or wife, etc.
  • Quiet time is time in one’s schedule for praying, reading the Bible, and meditating (thinking about God).
  • Resurrection is the belief that one’s body will be brought back to life when Jesus returns.
  • Baptism is a ceremony that uses water to represent a spiritual cleaning (forgiveness of sins) and a spiritual resurrection—because we are saved, we should live like a new and different person.
  • Fellowship means talking to other Christians.
  • Worship often means a time set aside for singing about and to God. (This word has broader meanings outside of the church service context.)
  • I feel led to… means I want to do something and I think my desire is from God.
  • I feel called to… means I really want to do something and I’m pretty sure my desire is from God.
  • Speaks to my heart means “really connects with me.”
  • Stepping out in faith means doing difficult things that you feel God would want you to do.
  • Agape means love.
  • Righteous is used to describe one who does what is right. (It is also used to describe the status of Christians before God.)
  • Covered in the blood/washed in the blood means forgiven of past sins and now viewed as righteous before God as a result of Jesus’ death.
  • Atonement refers to the means by which Jesus’ death made it possible for people to be saved.
  • Put on the armor means to use various spiritual tools, e.g. truth, righteousness, etc., to resist the temptations to sin.
  • Rapture is the Christian belief that when Jesus returns, all who are saved will go to meet him in the air. (Some believe the phrase “in the air” should be taken metaphorically.)
  • Grace is a very commonly used word, but it’s meaning is quite varied and hard to pin down. In the Bible it typically means “unmerited favor.”
  • Doctrine refers to what is taught in the Bible.
  • Denomination refers to a group of Christians who have separated themselves from other Christians because they disagree on certain doctrines.
  • Prayer warrior is a description for one who prays a lot.
  • Sinner’s Prayer is a simple prayer some Christians think unbelievers should pray in order to be saved.
  • Witness means to share the gospel with others.
  • Hearing from God can mean several things but it rarely means literally hearing God speak. This phrase usually means getting an idea, from various sources, and attributing that idea to God.
  • The Lord put it on my heart/the Lord impressed upon me means attributing an idea in one’s head to God.
  • Waiting on God/waiting on the Lord/Seeking the Lord’s face/waiting for God to open a door means refraining from making decisions, especially important ones, until hearing from God.
  • The Holy Spirit is nudging me means God is trying to get me to do something.
  • Brother/sister in Christ are ways Christians sometimes refer to other Christians.
  • Yahweh/Jehovah is the name of the Jewish/Christian God.
  • Hallelujah means “praise Yahweh.”
  • Speaking in tongues describes the ability (gift) some people claim to receive from God that allows them to speak a foreign language without learning it. (Some denominations do not believe this gift is available in modern times.)
  • The gift of prophesy is the ability (gift) some people claim to receive from God that allows them to receive messages from God, often about future events, and then pass them on to others. (Some denominations do not believe this gift is available in modern times.)
  • The gift of healing is the ability (gift) some people claim to receive from God that allows them to heal people of various sicknesses. (Some denominations do not believe this gift is available in modern times.)
  • Putting out a fleece means using a practical method to try to figure out what God would want you to do. For example, “If it rains tomorrow, I’ll take that as a sign that God wants me to do ________________.”
  • God has given me a word for you means I have a thought I think God put in my head to share with you.
  • Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible has no errors because God prevented all of the writers down through the ages from making any mistakes while they were writing. (This belief is common in conservative denominations.)
  • Mmmmmm is often uttered when someone is praying out loud to show that you are in agreement with the things they say.

Christianese often used during worship:

  • Lift your hands is a phrase used in many worship songs, and depending on the denomination, the people in the church may or may not actually lift their hands. It seems the purpose is to focus one’s thoughts on God who is often thought of as up in heaven. (Some also see it as a symbol of surrender or as a way to signify a willingness to accept God’s blessings.)
  • A clap offering is when everybody claps for God.
  • “Wrap you arms around me,” “I want to touch you,” “to feel the warmth of your embrace,” etc.” are phrases with sexual undertones you are likely to encounter in modern worship music. They are related to the biblical motif of Christians engaged to Jesus and waiting for him to return for the wedding. (You won’t hear this in more traditional denominations.)
  • Send your river/send your flood/ let your springs well up/come thou fount[ain]/Spirit rain down/etc. are all phrases that imagine God as water that gives us life.

Christianese you are more likely to run into outside of the church building:

  • Say a blessing means pray a prayer of thanks before a meal.
  • May this food nourish our bodies is a phrase regularly used when saying a blessing.
  • A fish symbol on a car is simply a symbol that was used in antiquity to secretly identify Christians and it became popular again in the 1970s.
  • Hedge of protection is something Christians often pray for. It is a spiritual force field.
  • Traveling mercies is something Christians sometimes pray for before traveling. It is a request for difficulty-free and disruption-free travels.
  • It’s a God thing means something good and unexpected just happened in my life.
  • Find an accountability partner means ask someone if they will regularly check up on you to see if your are living according to God’s commands.
  • God is sovereign is often used to mean the bad things that happen are caused or allowed by God so we must accept them, but it will all work out well in the end.

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Note: This language tutorial is written from an American Protestant perspective. My Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ probably have a somewhat different vocabulary.

Does God change his mind?

According to some Old Testament authors, God sometimes regrets his decisions and occasionally changes his mind. There are several examples in the Bible of this:

The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. [Genesis 6:6]

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘this is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. [Exodus 32:7-14]

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Is God’s Spirit literally “in” me?

When we say that God’s Spirit is in us, what do we mean?

Some think of God’s Spirit as a divine, invisible, vapor-like entity who lives under our skin, perhaps in our hearts or brains, or perhaps evenly dispersed throughout our bodies. But I believe scripture paints a very different picture.

Just as believers are said to be “in Christ” meaning “united with him,” God’s Spirit “in us” means that he is united with us because we are united with Christ.

In 1 Peter 2:4-5, we read, “Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God—you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

“The adding of ‘living stones’ in 1 Peter 2:5 is a given for growth, but that does not mean that each and every one of them is being conceived of as an individual ‘spiritual house.’ There are many stones, but only one holy House in which God dwells in the Spirit. “1

“Since it is the primary task of the Spirit to glorify Christ (John 16:14), and since Paul names Christ as the “head of the church” (Eph 5:23), the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit should be directed primarily toward causing the church to come under Jesus’s headship. Obviously this emphasis on the Spirit’s bringing the church under Jesus’s headship does not exclude the glory that Christ receives from the holiness of individuals, but the primary metaphor used to describe the relationship that Christ has with believers is as bride and Lamb (Eph 4:25–33; Rev 19:7–9). The holiness of individuals becomes a part of the marriage only as individuals are part of the church.”2

“Indeed,…[indwelling] must not be conceived of as the Godhead spatially possessing individual physical bodies. Such a conception flies in the face of the biblical data…”3

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1Zemek, Metaphorical Continuities: A Case for the Primacy of Corporate Indwelling, 31.
2Heide, System and Story: Narrative Critique and Construction in Theology, 183.
3Zemek, Metaphorical Continuities: A Case for the Primacy of Corporate Indwelling, 32.