Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Old Testament and Saints

As Christians, do we need to read the old testament? Christ is the fulfillment of the old testament. (yes?) Jesus has told us everything we need to know about life and we are to live. (yes?) So, why not just read and study the new testament? -Gordon

The main reason we study the old testament is because we cannot understand the New Testament without it. Yes, it is sufficient to read the words of Jesus-- but we read the rest of the NT so we can gain greater understanding of Jesus. We read the OT for the same reason. Do you think you could understand what Jesus is saying about divorce unless you had read Genesis 2 to see what the context of Jesus' quote was? The NT never describes who Adam was, who Moses was, why the Children of Israel were in the wilderness, why David was a big deal, let alone describing such words as "messiah" "son of God" or "sexual immorality". The OT is the sourcebook of the NT. So we must study the OT to have at least a working knowledge of it, so we can understand the NT. Now, Job is never mentioned in the NT, yet his story greatly resonates with Jesus' theology of suffering. Ecclesiastes is never mentioned nor quoted yet the Preacher's philosophy is deeply connected to Jesus' view of this world.

Another reason is because the OT is the sourcebook for the church. The Chronicals of Narnia is fun, but it just isn't as realistic or gritty as the OT, which talks about people struggling to follow God. No one could have written a better book that helps one appreciate the difficulties and complexities of living for God-- both struggles and joys.

For the same reason, I think we need to read biographies of saints. We need a lot of stories to live. If we don't have stories, we don't understand life. It is a shame that we surround ourselves with secular stories of secular heroes from Arnold S to Jack on 24 to Harry Potter (although there is a religious side to that one) to whatever and yet we have a deep culture of story which helps us know how to live in Jesus through trial and victory. And I don't mean the modern rags to riches stories. The real ones, like the recent movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce. And we should read about Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, Anthony of Egypt, Archbishop Tutu. And have you even heard of Peter Waldo, Cathrine of Sienna, St. Sebastian, Amy Carmichael, George Muller? If not, it is a shame. We should all read about the great cloud of witnesses who have passed on before, to keep their memoires alive, and to be like them.

Heaven and Hell

Okay, we can take these three questions together:

What do we know biblically about heaven and hell? What happens when a soul goes to hell? What happens when a soul goes to heaven? -Gordon

This is a HUGE subject. Randy Alcorn wrote a book called "Heaven", just working with the texts on that topic. An excellent book, BTW, I recommend it for the most part. But lets see if we can summarize, here.

First of all, there are a number of things that could be described as "heaven".
1. The spirit world where God rules, angels, Satan and demons live.
2. A limbo place that Jesus calls "Abraham's bosom" for souls accepted by God.
3. Under the altar, in Revelation 6, where dead souls cry out to God.
4. The kingdom of God, which many call "the millenium", where Jesus reigns on earth with his saints.
5. The eternal kingdom (which, depending on interpretation, might be the same as the kingdom) where God's people live at peace with God for eternity on a re-created earth.

When a person dies in the Lord, they are in a limbo state. They can communicate to heaven and make events happen. They are also aware of earth and all the troubles there. But they have not acheved their salvation yet. They are in comfort, Jesus says, but true comfort as a human is having one's spirit and soul embodied. This will not happen until the kingdom, when the dead in Christ will be risen from the dead, embodied and then ruling with Christ over the whole population on earth.
But the best utopia happens when God himself lives on earth and there is no more sea, but pleanty of water and food. This is found in Revelation 21-22.

Hell: Hell is problematic. Many people, including George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis' mentor, believed that hell would be emptied, eventually, because of God's love for humanity. Jesus, however, is pretty clear that hell is a real place and it is just no fun. Some believe that Jesus' language about hell is metaphorical (although I note they don't say this about heaven). But this is the minimum one MUST say about hell:
a. It was originally created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25)
b. It is an exile from God ("they will be cast outside")
c. It is a place of regret and shame ("weeping")
d. It is painful ("fire" "agony" "gnashing of teeth")

Now, who goes to hell? This is a question you didn't ask, and you should have. Those who don't believe in Jesus don't necessariy go to hell, like all the revivalists say. Jesus was pretty specific about who will go to hell:
1) Satan and his angels (or "messengers", possibly those who cause people to stumble)
2) Those who oppress the poor (Matthew 25)
3) Those who claim to be of God, but are hypocrites (Matthew 13)
4) Those who cause others to fall away from God (Matthew 13)
5) The "lawless"-- those who have God's command, but ignore it (Matthew 13)
We have a pretty vague comment in Revelation about all the dead being risen and judged according to their deeds. What deeds? It's not mentiond, but I know that oppression or help of the poor is one of them. But note that belief in Jesus isn't the most important thing on the final day-- acting like Jesus is.

So what happens to the soul or body in hell? We're not sure. Punishment after death takes a number of forms:
Not being buried (Jezebel)
Having one's descendents killed (Ahab)
Having a bad reputation for all eternity
Having your body on display as an evil person (Isaiah 66)
Being resurrected in an incorruptable body which is thrown into fire (False prophet and beast) Wow, that's bad.
But this kind of hell, I suspect, is reserved for those whom Jesus describes-- the committers of the Big Four, which are mostly Christians, by the way. So my guess? Most inhabitents of hell are hypocritical Christians.

The Big Four

Is there a heirarchy for sin? Is any one sin worse than any other sin?

We talked about this on the phone. Some sins are certainly worse than others, but if we were to come up with a "top ten" list of sins, that might be a little tough because the way the Bible describes "worse" sins are different in each case.

Hardening of one's heart: So, we have blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12, Mark 4). That's a biggie, because it says that we won't be forgiven it, with the implication being, even if we don't repent. The sin itself is claiming that a clear manifestation of God's mercy and power-- such as casting out demons-- is not from God, but evil. The real sin is plainly seeing God's work and finding any excuse to deny it because of disliking the truth behind it. Really, this sin is then very similar to the sin described in Hebrew 6, which also say that there is no way to repent from: To have received of God's grace, His Spirit, His church, His power etc, from Jesus and then denying Jesus despite obtaining all the blessings. This could be summarized as "hardening of one's heart" sins. Denying God in the face of evidence and mercy. I think that this is the same sin mentioned in Luke 10 when Capernum and other cities will be punished worse than Sodom because Sodom never got the opporunity to see such works of God as the cities that Jesus and the apostles ministered in. Today, irrational atheists, ex-Christians who attack Jesus, and Charismatic bashers could fall under this category

Oppressing the poor: This is a biggie because even the angels, the nations and the godless get judged for this. The whole of judgment day may be based on this issue. Sodom was destroyed on this issue. Any of the people of God who forget to pay fair wages or to give their excess to the needy will be destroyed personally by God (Psalm 82, Matthew 25, Ezekiel 16, Exodus 22:22-23; James 5:1-5; Luke 16) Note that no where in the Bible do unbelievers get judged for worshiping the wrong god-- only believers do. But everyone-- people of God, gentiles, ungodly nations, the "gods" in heaven-- get judged by God for oppressing the poor. It may not seem like it sometimes, but just wait a bit and you will see each person, each nation, each spirit who attempts to destroy or steal from the needy, especially the innocent will be completely demoralized and torn apart personally by God (Psalm 73; Psalm 37). So this is significant because of the frequency of its mentioned, it's thoroughness because of context, and God's personal action. If one repents, one can obtain forgiveness from God, but it is difficult to repent if you have a lot of possessions, Jesus says (Mark 10). Today, pretty much anyone in the upper and middle class in the West fits into this, with the exception of the few that actively participate in assiting the poor.

3. Causing others to sin-- This is major because Jesus says it carries such an extreme penalty. I think it is related to oppressing the poor, actually. Jesus and Paul says that it is those who are weak brothers who would be easy to cause to fall away from the faith. And these who fall are in trouble, but those who cause them to fall, Jesus says, "You see this two ton millstone? Just imagine it chained around your neck. Then someone takes you to the middle of the roaring ocean and drops you into the deepest part of the sea. Still alive. Well if you cause a brother to fall away from the faith, your punishment will be worse than that." Ouch. That's mark 9 and Matthew 18. Paul's take on this is Romans 14-15. To cause someone to "stumble" means to cause them to fall from the faith, either through causing them to disbelieve in God or by causing them to sin to such a degee that they feel they can't come to God. So hypocritical Christians would be on this list, as well as drug dealers and just about anyone who says, "Go ahead, just once can't hurt you.

4. Hypocrisy-- This is pretty much the last of the "big four" for really nasty sins. Jesus targets this one in a big way. Hypocrisy was a Greek word used for actors. So it is people who play a part, but it isn't their reality. Jesus uses it for people who claim to love God, but doesn't produce the works of God. And he distinguishes "insignificant" acts for God, like tithing, from doing justice and mercy for others, which are significant matters. Annais and Saphira were also hypocrites because they were lying to the church and to God Himself that they had done some good deed when, in reality, they did not You can read the scoop on hypocrisy in Matthew 23 and Acts 5. The big deal about hypocrisy is, like hardness of heart, one doesn't often repent of it. Mostly because we lie to ourselves as much as we lie to others.

Other sins that are pretty much a problem unless we repent are these:
Rejection of God, rebellion against authorities, rejection of God's people, hostility, arrogance, grabbing for position or honor, idolatry, greed, drunkenness/drug abuse, orgies, sexual immorality, adultery, unfaithfulness, hatred, gossip.

Monday, December 24, 2007


A response to atheists who are constantly mocking and giving anti-Christian messages on a Christian forum:

Atheism is the position that there is no such thing as a God or god or spirit world. It is materialism.

Some atheists are so because they feel that they have been betrayed by God's people in some way. I appreciate that because many who claim to represent God have done evil things and it is normal for folks to blame God for that, although it is not God's fault, but the evil human

Agnosticism I also respect because why put faith in something one has not personally experienced? These are the Missorians among us, who must experience to believe. They are intellectually honest, for the most part, and, I hope, if they have an experience of the spirit world they will pursue it.

But atheism as an intelletual pursuit is foolish and empty. It is the assurance that something or someone is not there, despite billions of witnesses to the contrary. Can you imagine a conversation with someone along these lines:

George: I was talking to Mike the other day...
Sue: You know I don't believe in Mike.
George: But Mike is my friend!
Sue: Have you seen Mike?
George: No, but I talk to him on the phone...
Sue: And this "Mike" tells you what to do?
George: Well, yes, he's very wise and my life is better for listening to him.
Sue: But Mike doesn't exist, so he can't be very wise and you must be delluded.

The thing is, Sue doesn't actually have any evidence that Mike doesn't exist, she is taking that position as a matter of faith. She hasn't seen Mike, hasn't heard Mike, has no experience of Mike whatsoever, therefore there IS no Mike. She denies the experience of her friend, George, because although he makes sense in some other ways, he insists upon something that she has never experienced.

Look, if you want to say that Christians aren't looking at all the evidence, fine, show us. But if you are taking a leap of faith that there is no God without any evidence that he doesn't exist-- and how can you prove the NON-existence of anything?-- then that takes more faith than I've got.

Jesus Politics

I think the point about Jesus being politically active is very, very important. I have only been studying Theology for 2 hours a week over the last 3 months (half Feminist, half Liberation), and am far from a devout Christian, but the paradoxes just seem so profound to me. I cannot understand the Catholic Church's reaction to Guttierez' hermeneutics. They seem set on seeing Jesus merely as a figure of salvation, and nothing more. They base so much of their values and theology on the scriptures, yet see oppression, poverty and vast inequalities as justifiable because, it would seem, of the spiritual justice of the afterlife. Surely any type of contextualisation would allign Jesus politically with some kind of socialism and revolutionary order? If you agree (at least to some extent), what makes the larger Churches ignore it? -Jacob

Well, I think it has to do with how Jesus does politics, which is really different than how anyone thinks we should do politics today. Just to clarify, I am going to be speaking of the canonical Jesus, here, without historic analysis of the text, but resting on the background of the culture of Jesus' day.

First of all, Jesus' politics were what we would call today "church politics". He wasn't interested in confronting the Romans or gentiles at all, whether violently or non-violently, resistance or non-resistance. He just left them alone. He focused only on the political goings-on of the Jewish peoples. He dealt with the Pharisees in Galilee, where that group held a lot of power, and with the priests, Sanhedrin and Sadducees in Jerusalem, where those groups had power. But he never confronted or tried to reform the Romans in any way. He knew that it was God's people that needed to change, not the world.

Then, Jesus himself spoke of moral reform, but worked to replace the Jewish political system. He established a new Sanhedrin by his 12 apostles, and worked to reform Israel by chosing those who were repenting from their sins to be called the "true" Israel through baptism (which was probably just what John the Baptist was doing).

Lastly, Jesus stated that he was completely dependent on God's effort to make this political change. Although he made a clear protest to Temple practices (which was high priestly work, btw), he claimed that it was God that would destroy the temple and not his disciples. The priests thought he was planning on having his disciples destroy the temple (probably the real reason they had him killed), but we have a pretty well attested statment which says in the passive that the temple will be destroyed. In the first century Jewish culture, the passive is used to speak of God.

So what I conclude from this is that Jesus saw a worldwide change being effected from within the people of God, and that the intial work would be eschatalogical and apocalyptic and he was preparing for it by establishing a community of shalom, developed from the outcast which would be ready to take over once God has done his work.

The modern church, therefore, sees politics out of their realm. But they forget about how they maintain the status quo themselves and how they could change the world from within their own ranks. If the church changes, the world would have to change. But since the church is too concerned with having the world's goods and power and good reputation, they will never enact the internal political changes that Jesus' ethic demands of it.

Steve K

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Corinthians 13


Over the phone, we went over the love chapter. If, 'believe all things,' means to give some one the benefit of the doubt; what about the rest? Would you please expound on 1 Cor. 13. 4-7?

thank you for your time,


Wow. Some instant exegesis, eh?

First of all, I want to point out that the list in the love chapter is pretty close to the list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit IS love and love, when properly defined, is all of these things-- joy, peace, patience, etc.

Secondly, note that the context of both passages is community living, not solitary. Love is supposed to be the expression of the church, the action of the person toward the group, not something one feels within oneself.

Thirdly, both passages are dealing with conflict in the church. Galatians is dealing with doctrinal disputes and I Corinthians 12-14 is dealing with disputes regarding worship.

One last thing about the context is that Paul is correcting each church's misunderstanding of the manifestation of the Spirit. The church at Galatia assumes that one's doctrine or relation to the law is the true manifestation of the Spirit. The church at Corinth assumes that displaying great signs and miracles from God is the true manifestation of the Spirit. Paul says "no" to both of them, saying that the true manifestation of the Spirit is loving relation to one's brothers and sisters.

Okay, now let's do a verse-by-verse.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

In this section, Paul is basically saying that all of our religious activity, all of our zeal and devotion to God, is pointless without love of others. Everything we think is important in our Christian life is shit unless we care for others. 'Nuf said about that.

In the next section, it is assumed that Paul is defining love. Well, not really, because Jesus really defined it. Agape love is acting for the benefit of the other, no matter who they are, no matter what they've done to you. That's the definition we need to remember as we explore Paul's explanaton. He is really describing what love looks like in the context of others, especially the church.

Love is patient
The term "patience" is better translated "long suffering" as in the KJV. It means we are sticking with it no matter what difficulties arise. In the context, this doesn't mean patience in general-- it means patience with those around us. As they give us problems and difficulties and irritate us and enact sins and complain about stupid stuff-- in all that, we are still to act for their benefit. Nothing they do should change our attitude of trying to figure out how we can best do good to them.

Love is kind
The opposite of "kind" is "harsh" or a negative impact. Thus, we are to act in a benefitial way, and in gentleness.

Love is not jealous
We shouldn't look at the people around us as competitors, who are getting the things that we deserve. We should be looking at people as our allies, our mutual supporters, so a benefit to our brother or sister is a benefit to ourselves, even if not directly.

Love is not arrogant
The term is "puff up" or pride. But it is not pride in the Greek sense, hubris. It is rather the act of making ourselves significant-- one of the great sins of the Bible. We shouldn't be looking at others as an opportunity to make ourselves more important, nor should we put others less important so we can look better in comparison.

Love does not act unbecomingly
This is translated a lot of ways It really means to act in a way that is embarassing or shameful to those around one. This doesn't mean saying an uncomfortable truth, but basically acting as one acts when one is drunk. To act without regard to social norms, to act indecently, not caring how others feel about it.

It does not seek its own
This can mean one of two things in the context-- either seeing other people as just resource to get what one wants instead of people who have their own needs and concerns. Or it could mean insisting upon one's own way to the detriment of other people's way of thinking-- being demanding.

Is not provoked
When we act in love, we do not get instanly upset or angry at others, reacting harshly toward them. A good translation of this is, "It is not irritable".

Does not take account an injury
The term for "account" means to give it words, as in to write it down. It basically means, "doesn't hold a grudge".

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth
The term "rejoice" is often used to mean "have a party over". In this context, it means to be happy for another. So, in love, we grieve when someone else commits a sin or wrong. But when someone confesses their sin, admitting their wrong, we do get happy about that.

Bears all things
This also has two possible meanings. It could mean the opposite of "being provoked," putting up with people's irritating habits and sins. Or it could mean to take on other people's problems. When someone has a need, it is no longer their problem alone, but we take it on as our own.

Believes all things
As we said in our conversation, it does not mean that we believe every load of crap anyone gives us. But it does mean that we give them the benefit of the doubt.

Hopes all things
When we love, we don't assume that a person is destined to hell, nor that the worst will happen in their lives. Rather, we hope for the best, for repentance, for deliverance.

Endures all things
The term "endure" in a positive sense means to "hold one's ground". Not just to put up with people, but to stick with them, to not give up on them, to be faithful.

Love never fails.
This should literally be translated, "Love never falls," and it fits with the last two statments. Frankly, we don't give up on people. We remain faithful, hopeful, acting for thier benefit no matter what. Looking at what Paul says in the next statement, it also means that acts of love continue on past judgment, past regime changes, past changes of cultures, past changes of mores. Acting in the benefit of others is always a positive act, no matter what context you live in.

But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Paul is saying that the things that the Corinthians are focusing on-- miracles and prophecies and tongues are only significant in the time frame they are living in. Eventually, when Jesus returns, their significance will be little. When we have God before us, what need do we have of prophecy with its guessing game? And tongues will be unecessary, because we will be able to speak to God and hear from God clearly. So these things are just temporary, insignificant in the long view. Focusing on miracles is a sign of our immaturity as humans. Only when we hear God clearly can we do away with them, but that clarity is significant.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Of everything we do religiously, the only three things that endure past Jesus' coming is our faith, our hope and our love. Our faith, meaning our devoton to God and Jesus, because that is the basis of everything we will do in the future. Our hope, because that's what Jesus' coming is. When He comes, then our hope is realized and all of our actions based on that coming reality will be realized. But the greatest of the three is love. Why? Because according to Jesus' word, that is how we will be judged and rewarded. Not on our devotion to Jesus, not on our hope that He is returning-- but based on our acting in benevolence to those around us. If we fail to do this, then we will be sent to hell. If we succeed in meeting people's needs, at our own inconvenience, then we will obtain life with Him. (Matthew 25:31-46). So love is most important of the qualities we need to succeed in the future.

Alright. I think that's enough. And it's more than you askd for. At least I've got a good back up sermon if I need it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Discussion on "What is a Christian?"

The other label that I have had a problem with for a long time, however, is “Christian”. Mostly because the concept of Christian is so far from the Christ-follower the label was intended to be. Now, Christianity is Constantinianism and a Christian is a political label as well as a theological one.

I had a librarian last year treat me suspiciously because a friend of mine told her I was a pastor, and you know what, I understand why. Because the term “Christian” so often is equated with hypocrite that I don’t like using the term. In Bangladesh, the term Christian is a cultural term, not a religious one, so the Muslim converts there call themselves Isa followers (Isa being the Koranic name for Jesus). I’m with them. I am a Jesus follower. I am held accountable by the Mennonite church, but if I am anything less than a follower of Jesus– whether Mennonite or Liberal or whatever– then I don’t deserve to have his name applied to me.

Steve K

But can’t the term be redeemed? I notice a tendency of some to retreat from the terms because they aren’t comfortable with the way the term brands them, rather than being empowered to change the perception of the term itself.

Moreover, what are you implying by saying you are a “Christ-follower” instead of a Christian? That Christians don’t follow Christ?

I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I’ve done some inner city ministry, and we consistently identified ourselves as “followers of Jesus,” not as Christians. The cultural assumptions that are tied to the term “Christian” can immediately close some doors, but I don’t think the word is beyond redemption.

I strongly believe that our obedience and love for each other are capable of overwhelming any prejudice against “Christians” in the minds of those we encounter. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples…” I tend to focus on interpersonal relationships much more than impersonal “societies” and “cultures,” though.

In our inner city work, once people got to know us and they got over the fact that we were “church people,” we were able to build some genuinely constructive relationships. I think ultimately the terms don’t matter, so long as we are indeed following Christ and letting people know that we are following him. This is what should unify us, not necessarily the label that we use.


Most Christians don’t follow Christ. They talk about Christ without being Christlike, wear crosses without carrying them, attack their enemies instead of loving them, build up kingdoms instead of seeking God’s.

Of course, not all Christians are like this. But do we really want to label ourselves with something that most people connect in a word association test with “hypocrite”?
Steve K

I disagree with the statement that most Christians don’t follow Christ. I don’t think any of us do. The standard we’re supposed to measure ourselves against is much higher than just not killing our enemies; we’re supposed to love them as well. Jesus says that even insulting someone is as bad as killing them.

Our biggest enemy lies not outside of ourselves, but in our own hearts. We are all murderers. If we aren’t willing to recognize that every one of us is a hypocrite in one way or another, we’re not being honest with ourselves.

Much as I’d like to dissociate myself with people like Dobson and Robertson, they’re my brothers in Christ, and I’m supposed to love them and work towards unity with them. If we can’t love our brothers who we can see, how can we say that we love God, who we can’t see? Instead of trying so hard to associate ourselves with the right group (whoever they are), we should be focusing on doing our best to obey Christ and love others. The rest of it will take care of itself.

I think you’re on to something here. I often feel like we’re good at loving our enemies far away, but when it comes to loving folks like Dobson and Robertson, we’re not so good. Like it or not, those are exactly the folks Jesus was telling us we’ve got to love. That doesn’t mean not challenging them or disagreeing with them, but it does mean that those actions should be grounded in the same compassion we have for our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

As far as hypocrisy goes, I think we’re all guilty of it in different ways. There are a whole lot worse things to be associated with then hypocrisy (which isn’t to say Christianity hasn’t managed to be associated with those too). Hypocrisy at least implies that we have a goal and are falling short. If we’re going to see transformation in the church its going to be when we consistently, lovingly call ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ to a higher standard. But to do that, we also need to identify the common ground we share. Which is what excited me about Zack’s post in the first place. For the first time in a long time, it helped me identify some common ground with Christians with whom I usually only see our difference.

The difference between Dobson and terrorists or the guy who calls me an idiot for speaking the gospel is that Dobson supposedly “knows” the truth. He is a Christian leader who is denying the gospel.

The difference (I hope!) between us who screw up and we know we screw up and that is that we repent. We screw up and then we realize our fault and we try to make it right. What Jesus is opposed is the hypocrisy of those who take their clear sin and make it a part of their theology.

There are a couple ways this could be done– in Dobson’s way, by saying that Jesus WANTS us to bomb terrorists (after all, GWB prays, right?). Or, we could say, “God forgives everything, so we can’t judge anyone, not even ourselves.”

The New Testament strongly disagrees. It says numberous times that we will be judged for everything we do and say, except for that which we repent of. Jesus condemned the Pharisees in very harsh (even insulting!) terms in Matt 23. Paul said that we do not have the right to judge those outside the church, but inside the church, we’ve got to straighten it out. (I Corinthians 5)

Nevertheless, we DO need to love our enemies. And if our enemies are in the church, and they need to repent, then the most loving thing to do is to gently, kindly, tell them to repent and to get right with Jesus.

We can’t just pick and choose which morality we are going to correct in others. We need to let Jesus do that. He commanded us to love our enemies, so we need to pray for the church leaders who are leading their followers gleefully into evil practice. And we cannot compromise.

Anyway, I call Christians really not followers of Jesus, not because they fail. Like you said, we all fail. They aren’t followers of Christ because they deny what Jesus said, because they’d rather listen to their theology than Jesus. “If anyone denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father in heaven.” matthew 10:33

Steve K

I’d be interested to know how exactly you think Dobson and crew are denying the Gospel. The Gospel isn’t a list of social goals that we should be trying to achieve; it’s Christ and him crucified. We can disagree about what implications that has on our social actions, but I don’t think those are necessities of the Christian faith. I think Dobson is very misguided, but God is the one who judges his heart, not me.

I agree that we need to lovingly call the Church to repentance when it strays, and I think that we are certainly capable of judging those within the Church. This is exactly my point, though. By drawing lines with our labels that exclude these people, we remove any possibility of doing just that. If they’re no longer within the Body, we have no jurisdiction and they have no reason to listen to us.

This is so important to me because I grew up on military bases and have bucketloads of respect for the faith of Christians who are just-war theorists, even as I strongly affirm that I believe that they are wrong. As a “convert” to pacifism, I want to make sure that we don’t burn any bridges between Anabaptists and the rest of the Church. If we say that they are misguided, we allow for conversation and possibly conversion, but if we call into question their commitment to Christ, we immediately kill the possibility of dialogue.

Two responses:
First, I think we have a difference of opinion about what a “Christian” is. There could be two definitions– a cultural one in which anyone who gives intellectual assent to Jesus is “Christian”. And there is the biblical definition which is that anyone who ACTS like Jesus is their Lord is a “Christian”. To have Jesus as one’s Lord is not just to believe, but to obey and act like Jesus. Thus, those who talk about Jesus but don’t do what he says (like “Love your enemy” and “sell your possessions and give to the poor”) are only Christians in name, no matter how much they proclaim Christ crucified. This is in accord with what Jesus says in Matthew 7 (as well as other places)– “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father will enter.”

Secondly, I think you do have a point there as far as communicating with those who are “Christian” but do not obey or act like Jesus. If we completely alienate ourselves from them, then we can no longer communicate the full gospel. This is what evangelism is. Finding a way to acceptably communicate the full gospel to people who don’t know it or who refuse to listen to it. So I do not want to show animosity against “Christians”, but I do want to have a lifestyle and a speech in which I am displaying Jesus, but in a way I can be heard.

I hope I am doing that, though I stumble often.

Steve K

Economic Systems

The more I read about capitalism, the more its moral argument fails.

First, it has never been proven that the selfishness of the individual could ever become the good of society as a whole. The only good that has ever been created has been through accident or through self-sacrifice.

Second, Adam Smith, before he wrote the Wealth of Nations, wrote a preliminary essay on what he calls "sympathy", by which he meant empathy. His notion of capitalism depended on empathy-- the seller and employer understanding the needs of the buyer and the employee and desiring to meet it. However, our capitalistic system rather has the seller creating a need rather than meeting one. And the employer is taking advantage of the employee's desperation rather than considering their needs.

The capitalistic experiement was not to create wealth for a few, but wealth for all. Thus, the capitalistic experiment has failed.

Communism is a centrally run system where, again, the top fails to empathize with the lower classes. Thus, it topples.

Part of the problem with both systems is the natural tendancy of people to consider their privilaged status as "natural" or "normal". The corallary to that position is that other's poverty status is also "natural" or "normal".

This is why the position of Jesus and Paul is that social justice is founded on a tranformation of the mind. We have to be a bit more than human to create justice. We have to be willing to see ourselves as more than just who we are right now in order to sacrifice what we have in order to obtain benefits which we cannot see.

This is the Christian basis of social justice. Self-sacrifice to those who are not privilaged on the basis of obtaining unseen benefits. Yep, it requires faith. But that's what the church is about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Women in Church Leadership

I am no longer living in Chicago. I woke up one morning and found myself down by the train station. Well long story short, I am now in Canada eating a brisket. (JUST KIDDING). Seriously, Biblicaly, What is the role of women in the church? And how do we relate it to our current culture?

As you know, this is an extremely controversial question. Some strong "biblicists" stand firmly by keeping women out of leadership in the church, while other "compassion and justice" folks insist that Paul's comments on women in leadership are antiquated and so we should ignore them and just look at the more positive statments about women, such as "there is no male or female in Christ."

Both of these notions I find to be looking at only part of the Biblical story.

For one, in the New Testament, there are women in all the leadership positions of the church, including a disciple of Jesus (Luke 10), the leader of a congregation (I Corinthians 16 and II John), deacon (I Timothy 3) and apostle (Romans 16). And there are women teaching men (Acts 16). And it is interesting that Paul was involved in many of these instances. So does Paul contradict himself? Even if we were talking about just a normal joe, I don't think that Paul would say and do one thing and then say the opposite. And if it is divine Scripture, I find that less likely.

There are two passages that give the basis of understanding that Paul is opposed to women in leadership roles, despite the evidence in the NT that he held the opposite view: I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2. Let's examine both of them.

I Corinthians 14:29-38

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

In the context, Paul is speaking about order in prophecy, and how to be both spiritual and polite in the speaking of prophecy. First of all, someone is in charge-- the one who is seated, for everyone stood except for the teacher-- over the group of prophets and they had to listen to that one. And everyone takes their turn.
Then Paul seems to say that women could not prophesy, or "not speak". In the context, he might only be talking about prophecy, but if so, that is strange since it seems that he said that women could prophecy if their heads were covered in chapter 11 (which I think he did not say, but that's for another day, but at least he was accepting women prophets speaking in the church). So, again, is Paul contradicting himself? And why is he reacting so strongly after this statement to... what? He is giving a command and then immediately rebuking the Corinthians? Why?

Well, the broader context, from Chapter 7, Paul has been responding to the Corinthians about "that which you wrote." In other words, he received a letter from the Corinthians to which he is responding. This explains the many changes of subject he does in the letter. And it also explains many of the seeming "contradictions" in the text. Why? Because he is quoting from the letter he received from the Corinthians. This is why, in chapter 7, it is quoted "A husband shall not touch a wife" and then Paul contradicts it immediately. Because he was quoting a Corinthian position and then refuting it. Later on, in chapter 8, he quotes that "idols are nothing," and then in chapter 10 he says that "idols are demons." He is not contradicting himself, but the Corinthians.

Even so, here in this passage, he is speaking about orderliness in prophecy and how the lesser prophets need to pay attention to authority ("he who is sitting") and then he quotes a prophecy that was given to the Corinthians "Women are to keep silent in the churches..." etc. Paul recognizes this as the opposite practice of the rest of the churches, which he already spoke about in I Cor 11:19, that they can't have a standard practice or command that isn't accepted by all the other churches. Here, a prophet in Corinth is saying, "All women IN ALL THE CHURCHES must remain silent." Paul is responding by saying, "Who do you think you are? Are you the primary apostle that can tell all the churches what to do?" Then he says, "Instead, pay attention to what I'm telling you-- and I'm telling you to listen to the authorities in your church, do what they say and SHUT UP!"

So rather than Paul saying "women should be silent" Paul is actually saying, "Prophets who say that women should be silent should shut up themselves."

Then we've got the ever popular I Timothy 2

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

First of all, I want to firmly agree that this was probably written by Paul and not some misogynist years after Paul. But I want us to understand clearly what Paul is saying here. First of all, he is not speaking to men and to women, but rather to husbands and to wives. This passage is a brief version of a "household text" of which we have many examples in Scripture, such as Ephesians 6, where instruction is given to different parts of a household. Husbands are commanded to go to the synagouge and pray with other husbands. This is specifically given to husbands because they are the head of the household and it is a part of their responsibility as the authority of the house.

Wives, however, have their own work to do. First, they aren't to be distracted by fleshly things such as beauty and cosmetics. This doesn't mean ANY braiding of hair, but the common practice of spending half of one's day caring for hair and beautifying oneself. The work they are to to is twofold-- first of all, submissiveness, and secondly childbearing. Who is the wife to be submissive to? Why, her husband, of course, as Paul says in I Corinthians 11. Women are not to submit to ALL men. Rather, wives are to submit to their husbands.

Thus, Paul is not speaking of church leadership here, but household leadership. Can women be leaders in the church? Yes, because there the kingdom standards apply instead of the standards of the world. But even there, wives should be submissive to their husbands, even as children should submit to their parents if they are living with them. So a wife should not think to teach her husband, but it is fine if she can teach other men. If men want to see in this passage all women submit to them, it is just a part of some patriartic fantasy. Let's face it, women often know better than us. And if any man is worth anything, they will ask women-- especially their wives-- to teach them.

And what about childbearing? I think its shorthand for the raising of children, even as it is in Genesis 3, where it says that women will bear children in pain. It is hard labor, raising children, especially the younger ones and, let's face it, it is almost always the mothers who do that job, even in todays "balanced" society. And note, Paul doesnt say that women will just be saved through the raising of children. Rather, he says that the raising of children will be enough to save them if they do it with gentleness and faith. In other words, whatever work God gives us, let's do it with Christlikeness. That is what will save us, not a specific work by itself.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Welcoming the Homeless Into Your Home

Good Morning Steve,
My name is Devan and I met you at the Mennonite Church USA conference this past July; I attended your lecture on gods and theology in the ancient world, and I sat with you at Willard Swartley's lecture on peace and justice. I had a chance to talk with you a little bit about your ministry and church for those experiencing homelessness. I was very intrigued and wanted to hear more but, alas, I was only in San Jose for 2 days.

I have, for a few months, been considering doing a similar ministry. Generally, my neighborhood doesn't have many chronically homelessness folks residing in or around it given that it is far from most of the human service agencies. Nonetheless, my neighborhood is known for gang violence, is one of the poorest in the city of Buffalo (with a 30% poverty rate, most of which is concentrated in blocks surrounding my home), and has a lot of youth who are steps away from serious incarceration or death. Many of them are in and out of homelessnesses from month to month. A ministry down the street from me (it's a thrift store) offers job training and steady pay to teenagers in the neighborhood - even if they leave for two weeks and come back needing more money - and some of the folks who work there have increasingly been asking me to get involved by mentoring those youth. I know that, eventually, this will mean making my home a place for them to come and feel welcome and get some food and have a chance to have someone listen.

I thought perhaps you would have some insight about how to safely open my home in that way. How did you do it? What are the anticipated challenges? Even if folks are coming into your home like that, there are still boundaries set I assume? What are they and how did you communicate to the folks you were welcoming how to respect those boundaries? Has anyone stolen things from you? How have you responded to this? I know this is a lot to ask, I appreciate any insight you are willing to give.
Shalom, Devan

That's great that you're thinking about such a needy and challenging ministry. I am actually sitting here thinking, "How WOULD you start a ministry like that?" The way we started was so "easy" and God-driven, it just started itself. But if you are really open and friendly to the kids, then you should go far.

And, yep, we've had stuff stolen from our place. One time we had a checkbook stolen, and we ended up losing a thousand dollars-- which, as you know, we couldn't afford. The lesson we learned from that is: Don't tempt people by having stuff out that is easy to steal. But we never pressed charges against anyone. Heck, we didn't know who stole the checkbook, anyway, and we wouldn't want to even file a police report because we don't want to be the cause of someone being sent to a place where they could learn worse things than on the street.

There was another guy who stole from us. He was a kleptomaniac, actually-- actually diagnosed. As soon as he stole something, he felt guilty and then would give it away. I just asked him to apologize to whomever he stole from and then he was welcomed back. He did. Another who stole from a church that we were meeting at didn't and I haven't seen him since. It's hard to draw that line, but there is a basic rule of the street-- you don't shit in your garden. Meaning, you don't do something bad to someone who is helping you. So, when the street ethic is the same as the biblical ethic, I try to support that.

Keep your eyes open and listen carefully. Thats the main thing. Assume that you don't know anything about anybody when you meet them and you will learn something surprizing and new. For most folks on the street-- unless they are deeply involved in a gang-- they are isolated and feel out on a limb. So be open about yourself. Most folks on the street can read somone who is being falsely sincere. And other folks will think that a person is being insincere when they aren't. Just be yourself as much as you can, share your opinions if you think they agree with them.

Try to build trust. Trust is earned, not given. And you are asking folks to come into your place, which is a foreign world to them. Welcome them, but don't overwhelm them. Treat them as you would an immigrant from another country. Be careful about their concerns and try to ask them about what their needs might be. They probably won't ask you for anything, so be generous.

Give whatever things of substance you can, but try to avoid giving money. If folks have addiction issues, then even if they have the best intentions and are sincere, they will use the money on their addiction. If you give clothes or blankets or anything, make sure the tags are off and there's no reciept, so they can't just return them and use the money for something that won't help them.

Now, do you have kids? I do, and that offers another level of challenges, but I won't get into it unless you have some. Actually, is there anyone living with you at all?

Ummm. I'm sure there's pleanty more I could say. But perhaps you were thinking of stuff that was more pratical. Have you got any questions? If I know, I'd be glad to answer, or at least give a thoughtul opinion about that of which I am clueless.

May God grant you peace and fullness in this ministry.

Steve K

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bonhoeffer and Ideologies

Have you read,'The Cost Of Discipeship'? Wow! So, what are your thoughts?

Yes, I have read it. The Cost of Discipleship is great, for a book. But Bonhoffer went against the very principles he stated in that book when he worked to get Hitler assassinated. He chose to live against those principles. So it just goes to show that head knowledge only goes so far.
I have really appreciated the first part of his book, Ethics, and many people have praised his book "Life Together," although I didn't think it was as good as the other two.

Why is it great for a book? I am interested in what you really think. Are we as christians supossed to faithfull to our idolagies, no matter what? Gordon

We are not supposed to be faithful to ideologies. We are supposed to be faithful to Jesus. Bonhoeffer wrote this book, the cost of discipleship, as his best, most accurate expression of what it means to follow Jesus. He wrote it specifically against the church that ended up following Hitler and his regime.

Bonhoeffer knew that we were meant to follow Jesus, not the state, not ideologies, but the Lord. This is why he wrote the book. To inform us of what Jesus demanded-- not the church, not the state, but Jesus alone.

So when Bonhoeffer stood against the principles he wrote in this book, he was standing against his own best understanding of what Jesus demanded. He knew that Jesus wanted us to love our enemies, and that Jesus wanted us to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. Bonhoeffer decided that he would compromise what Jesus demanded that he do for the sake of his country. Since he could not find a way to love his enemy and love his country, he determined to hate his enemy, Hitler. He did this with good intentions, but the good intentions took him away from Jesus.

In this, then, he ended up in an insideous way, agreeing with Hitler. Bonhoeffer and Hitler had different ideas who their enemy was, but they both agreed that the way to deal with enemies is to destroy them ourselves. They both disagreed with Jesus in this area. And yet, in a way, Bonhoeffer was the worst of the two. Hitler did what he did in ignorance of Jesus, not having commited himself to him. Bonhoeffer counted the cost, made the determination to follow Jesus, and then, when the crisis hit, he determined to love his country more than Jesus.

"He who takes up the plow and turns back is not worthy to follow Me."

"Remember Lot's wife."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Real Church

What is it that we get from church that we cannot get from (1) a small group (fellowship), (2) a good Bible Study (being taught/equipped) and (3) serving (living it) in our communities? All are forms of worship to the Lord, 2/3 is being a part of the body of believers and the other 1/3 is doing what the Lord asked us to do…Go! This question has been on my mind as of late. In two different seasons of my life I have sensed the Lord calling me OUT of churches just as I have sensed He was leading me to them. There have been huge gaps though, in between the exiting church and finding a new one. What are those gaps?? It just dawned on me that I should ask the Lord. But I would love your insight
-Paula Reece

As far as what you were talking about your church. The problem, I think, it considing the "Sunday service" group as "THE church" and all other groups as something other than "real" church. But the Bible says that the "real" church we need to be involved in is a fellowshipping body. Fellowship or koinonia in Greek doesn't mean just talking or encouraging, but meeting each other's physical needs, keeping each other accountable, as well as sharing songs, Scriptures and what we've learned from the Lord and prayer requests and encouraging to keeping on with the Lord. So what I ask is, where IS the "real" church? In a meeting where everyone is observing, but not talking to each other? Or in a small group where we are sharing our needs and burdens and joys and hopes in the Lord? I believe that often a Bible study or accountability group is actually more of a real church than a Sunday meeting. So when Hebrews says, "Do not forsake the gathering together", I think it means one's accountability group, not a big Sunday service.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where's the Persecution?

Some have asked, "Why aren't we persecuted like we were in the past?"

Persecution is rampant throughout the world-- especially in Muslim countries, China and other places. And persecution should not be limited to martyrdoms-- Jesus described persecution as any type of neglect or act of hatred done due to being connected to Him (luke 6).

Is there persecution in the West? Certainly. There is a university near my house where a professor used to (don't know if he still does) target Christians in his class and holds them up to ridicule throughout the semester. Persecution happens, just like it happens to Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists.

I guess the real question is, "Why aren't I being persecuted?" I think the biblical answer to that is that persecution is related to evangelism. Matthew 10 specifically connects persecution following evangelism, as done as Jesus said. Even so, the more one is involved in evangelism, the more one is persecuted. The more you tell the truth-- even in a gentle, culturally sensisitve way-- the more you will be persecuted.

Why are they being more persecuted in other countries? Because they clearly see what we do not see in our nations-- our belief in Jesus is the antithesis of the moral values and hopes and economic goals of the society we live in. The more we live differently than the world-- like the Amish-- the more we will be ridiculed. So let's be different and tell others how we are different. Then we will be persecuted. For sure.

Are Women Intimidating?

To talk to the other sex is a cross-cultural experience, like talking to someone from another country. We can be attracted to the other person, but we know that they are fundamentally different. I think that this is what God intended all along. For us to understand what it means to love beyond ourselves, we must be attracted to those who are foundationaly unlike ourselves. Sexual attraction and falling in love is the basis for us to understand The Other, the Stranger.

So how does one understand the other sex? By open communication, by talking about the differences, by really listening. My wife and I understood each other much more by reading the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. This is not because the book understands people so well-- in fact, he's somewhat off the target with women-- but because we read it together and used it as a basis to understand each other's experience. From that time we understood how we needed to communicate our own perspective, and how different our thinking was than our partner's. So we've been working on it ever since.

There are many differences between Diane and I in general, and some of them are related to differences in our sex, and some not:

-I tend to think categorically, while she thinks holistically. This means easy retrieval of information for me, but she can make unique connections.

-She uses talking as purging, as a way to process, while I think of talking as just communication. This is why many women (and men) keep talking when it seems there is nothing they are saying, because they are actually thinking aloud. Many men (and women) keep silent until they've finished their processing.

-Women are not more "emotional" than men, they just express it more openly in close relationships.

And like any cultural differences, women and men have different social mores and ethics. This is why many women find men to be "disgusting" or "horrible", because they were taught different ethics by their peers. We tend to learn what is right and wrong as much from our peers as from our parents or authority figures. And since, in our early years, our peers are segregated sexually, then there is a "female" culture and a "male" culture.

The different kinds of thinking come from how we develop differently. Men, during puberty, receive an acid bath in their brain, which severes some of the connections between the sides of the brain. I suspect this is why most men are categorical thinkers and most women holistic.

Christian Cops?

Can a christian (some one who is actively seeking Christ, and wants to please him) be a Cop (Constable On Patrol)? If so, what does a christian cop look like. How would he maintain his Christ likeness, while on duty?

Of course a Christian can be a police officer. Many cops are. It is difficult to be faithful in that occupation, as many secular occupations, but it is possible.

One of the difficulties is that cops are enforcing a different law than the Law of Christ. Sometimes-- although rarely-- you have to punish people who were only doing what they were doing because they were loving their neighbor. You often have to punish people for disobeying a law apart from Christ's law (such as ticketing a person for not wearing a seat belt).

Another issue is that the way officers are trained to enforce is different than Jesus'. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, and to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the other. Cops are trained to protect themselves at the cost of the "bad guys". For this reason there are unjust police shootings. These unjust shootings are not so much the fault of the cops as their training. They are trained to attack people who run away from them or who act violently in any way. As Christians, we are taught (although not trained) to accept violence in order not to harm others, or to protect others. Jesus' way of approaching "bad guys" is radically different than enforcement agencies.

But I know that cops can be both faithful Christians and good cops. Actually, I think that a faithful Christian-- who is willing to sacrifice himself for others, who is gentle with everyone, who assists the poor as well as the middle class, who tries to understand the other instead of making an enemy out of them-- makes a better cop than others.I also think that police officers are different than the army. The purpose of the army is to kill and destroy. The purpose of cops is to preserve. I don't think that a faithful Christian can really be a part of a system whose goal is to kill the enemy-- which is just the opposite of Jesus' command. But a faithful Christian can be a part of a preservation system, although they would have to act with a different attitude than is the norm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What Does It Mean To Love God?


What does it mean to truly, Love God? I fear God (though not completely). I have been walking on and off with God for twenty years, and I have never seriously thought about this. How do I love God, with my whole heart, and mind and stregth?


It has taken me a long time to reply to this, I'm not sure why.

Biblically, to love God is emotional, but the emotional is only the tip of the iceburg. It is like a marriage-- yes there is intimacy there, but that is only a surface expression for deep communication, trust and support. To be emotional for God is the surface reaction to a deep life in God, which includes:

1. Fear of GodThis is the recognition of who God is, that He is all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, and ultimately has our fate in His hands, whether for good or for bad.

2. Association with God
This is being connected with God in all our lives, understanding our lives to be a reflection of the presence of God.

3. Devotion to God
This is our basic faith in God, willing to connect to God, honor Him and worship Him only, no matter what the cost.

4. Submission to God
This is our willingness to listen to and obey God in every way.

5. Gratefulness to God
We recognize and remember all that God has done for us and we thank Him for His love and action for us.

6. Emotionally attached to God
Based on all the above, we see God as our lover, our intimate, our closest friend, our support when we are in crisis, the healer of our soul, the one we cry to and surrender to.

To say that this love is done with "all your heart, soul, mind, strength" is to say that every part of our existence is oriented to this love of God. We surrender our actions, our thoughts, our emotions, our intellect and our will to God. This love isn't just to be a once-a-week experience, or even a daily one. God is to be our focus at all times, in all places, in all situations.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Worship and War

Hey Steve,

How are you? I am doing well. God is good. At jpusa, Thursday nights, I am part a group called, Discipleship Ministries. At this group we basically sit around in a circle to pray and sing worship songs. Its a very cool seen and I look forward to it. The leaders, of D.M. have ask every one on the group to come with other ideas for worship that we can all do together. For example, a prayer walk. So, my question to you is, what would do with 50 people, who wanted to worship the God of the universe(within a two hour time frame)?

Okay, now for a more serious question, what is the Christians stance on on war and violence? Is it okay to protect some one else? We may have gone over this before(i am not sure).


I'm doing okay, but really busy now. Please pray for me that I truly worship God and not just get caught up in busy-ness.

What would I do with 50 people? First of all, I would teach them to recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4-5) and the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) daily.

But that's not really answering your question. I guess, if it was just a one-time thing, I would do a Taize thing-- repetative, worshipful singing leading to silent prayer. For instance, I would teach the song, "speak to me" by Rebecca St. James, sing that for five minutes and then encourage people to listen to the Lord for another ten minutes. For people who are not used to listening to the Lord ten or fifteen minutes is the outermost limit.

As far as war and violence, I'll give you the short answer:
Jesus said, "Love your enemies" He also opposed love and destroying another (so you can't destroy a person and say, "But I loved them in my heart as I was torturing them for my country").

Does this mean you can't protect others? Of course you can. The problem is thinking that destroying another is the only, or even close to the best way of protecting.

Let's look at the war in Iraq. It was started to protect the West against terrorists and against Sadaam's "weapons". Not only was it later discovered that Sadaam wasn't supporting terrorists, nor did he have the weapons we feared, but it is now a rallying cry for Muslims around the world-- another example of the oppression of the West. Thus, violence is shown again to be a bad answer to a bad problem.

This is the same in the personal example. Are you really protecting your family by attacking an attacker in your home? All you are probably doing is killing yourself. But even that is okay, if you do not destroy your enemy. You can keep your enemy at bay, restrain him, even put him unconcious and still love him, even as you can spank your children and love them. So the problem isn't violence (even surgery is violence!), but the intent. Are you intending to destroy-- no matter what the reason-- or are you intending to help. And your actions will demonstrate that.

War is always an attempt to destroy, to kill. No Christian should participate in it. We should participate in prayer, and call God to our defense, Who will do a much better job at defending us than George Bush's strategy could ever do.

Is Trinitarianism Essential?


What can you tell me of the history of the doctrine of the trinity? When did the word, trinity, first became part of our vocabulary (christianeese, that is)? Did the early church fathers teach on it? Can it be supported biblically?

Thank you for your time.


Ah, Gordon, you open up such cans of worms.

Let's go through it in chronological order.

There are hints in the OT as to the plurality of God, but it is unclear as to whether it is speaking of different persons who are God, or there are a multiple of powerful spirit beings ('gods') that Yahweh is always the head of. I personally believe in the second one. This would explain that the word for "god" is plural, why the "angel of Yahweh" speaks directly as God (because he is a full representative of Yahweh), and the "we" language in the early chapters of Genesis.

In the NT, there are a couple passages that clearly and without qualification call Jesus "God", especially in the book of John. When it says "the Word was God", and "there was nothing made that was not made by him" it seems as clear as possible. The problem I have is that in the first century Moses was also called "god" by many people. So the statement "Moses was God" would be marginally uncontroversial in the first century. But it wouldn't mean that Moses is of the same being as Yahweh. It would mean that he is a powerful spirit being.In the NT, the following is clear about Jesus:
a. Jesus existed before he was born of a virgin.
b. Jesus originally came from heaven-- i.e. was a spirit being.
c. Jesus participated in the creation of the universe.
d. Jesus shares in the power of Yahweh
e. Jesus is submitted completely to the Father's will
f. Jesus shares in the worship and titles of Yahweh

In the NT, the Spirit is given importance in practical matters, but the metaphysical properties of the Spirit just aren't discussed. In Acts 5, the Spirit is mentioned as God, but it isn't clear as to whether he is acting as a full representative or a sharer in the nature of God. The "clearest" Trinitarian text is Matthew 28, which has us being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But all that is mentioned is the names, not the relationship between them.

After the NT was finished, there was much speculation as to the nature of the Son and the Spirit, especially at the time of Constantine. Greek philosophy, especially Platonism was significant in the Roman Empire at the time (around the early 4th century), and all theology was being relegated to a postscript of Plato. Plato changed everything. Because of him, most people think of the "spirit" as ethreal, instead of an alternative physical; because of him and Aristotle, they think of God in philosophical terms-- omnipresent, the "prime mover", etc-- instead of a person. And the most interesting philosophical problem in Christian theology is the divine nature of Jesus-- a subject which the NT ignored.

Origin and Tertullian paved the way, but it was Arius and Athenatius (sp?) that created the famous debate that would create many heresies and kill many people. Arius was a teacher in a theology school in Alexandria, and he taught that Jesus was "god" in the sense of any of the other pagan gods. That he was a powerful spiritual being, that he was significant in the creation of the world and that he was the full representative of Yahweh, the king of all gods. But, he said, Jesus was NOT of the same nature as Yahweh-- that this isn't what the NT means when it says "god". Arius' bishop was named Alexander and he strongly disagreed. Alexander said that Jesus was fully God and had all the divine characteristics. So he told Arius to stop teaching his heresy. Arius refused.

Because of Arius' refusal to obey his bishop, it became a world argument. Churches all over the world discussed the theological argument and Arius' rebellion. It was said that every butcher and bread maker on the streets were hotly arguing the nature of the Son. Athenatius became the prime charismatic theologian on the other side, and promoted Trinitarianism-- that Jesus had exactly the same nature as the Father, but they were different persons, using language that was created by Tertullian. And so the debate became even hotter, because Athenatius was a popular fiery preacher.

This is where Constantine comes in. He was a believer in paganism that used his army to unite the Roman Empire, and did so by melding his worship of the Sun with Christianity. He changed the Christian worship to the first day of the week ('Sun' day) so the sun worshippers and Christians would worship on the same day. He also promoted a symbol-- called the "Chi Rho", which was a symbol that would both represent Christ and the Rising Sun. In Rome, they promoted Christmas on the same day as an important Sun holiday-- "The Day of the Ascending Sun", on the winter solstice.

Christian unity was a great interest of Constantine, because he wanted to unify the Roman Empire and fully a third of his empire was Christian. So when he saw this debate tearing apart Christian unity, he had to do something about it. So he arranged for the bishops to call a synod about the issue and he arranged for himself to be the moderator of the synod. So it was held in Nyssia, which was only a short distance from where he lived in Constantinople. The debate was as political as well as theological, and dealt with the rebellion of Arius as well as the theology that he promoted.

In the end, Arius was disciplined, not because of his theology, but because of his refusal to obey his bishop. And there is a famous creed that came out of this debate, called the Nyssian Creed.We need to remember that the creed was supposed to unite the dividing church, not take sides. So almost all of the language we would be in agreement with all the theology of Athenatius and of Arius, except one word "esse", which means "essence". Arius would agree that Jesus is by nature divine and that he created the world, but he would disagree that the Son was of the same basic essence or nature of the Father. But this is what the creed stated. The creed was acclaimed by most of the bishops, although many people of the Arian camp disagreed.

This debate did not by any means end with the creed. Depending on which theology was on top, either Arius or Athenatius were exiled at various times over the next 40 years. There were wars fought over this debate.

But I want to make it clear-- the nature of Jesus is not clearly taught in the NT. One can either be Trinitarian or Arian and still hold to the text. I don't believe that one can be Unitarian, since they deny the pre-existence of Jesus, but there is a well respected Bible scholar who came to that conclusion from the text, although I do not find his arguments persuasive. But to demand that one cannot be saved unless we have a Trinitarian understanding of the text is not biblical. Rather, we need to look at this debate as Romans 14 and 15 would have us do-- let us not judge the other party, but hold to our own convictions without destroying the other brother.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What Is Modesty?

What is the biblical standard for modesty? Where do we draw the line in our culture (any culture)? -Gordon

The fact is that there IS no biblical standard, as far as how high can you make hemlines, etc. In some cultures, it is modest for everyone to be topless. In some cultures it is modest only if everyone is covered from their neck to their feet.

There are some principles I think are significant:
a. Modesty means that we don't spend a lot of time or money on our looks. We want to save time and money for the work of the Lord, building up the kingdom, doing good works. (Matt. 6:33; I Timothy 2:9-10)

b. Modesty means that you are not going to dress in such a way to sexually stimulate the opposite sex. That doesn't mean you can't look attractive-- in I cor 14, Paul says that long hair is a woman's "glory"-- the honor she receives from her beauty. This shouldn't, Paul argues, be covered. But to stir up sexuality in another person is to lead them into sin-- and Jesus had some pretty strong language for those who cause others to stumble (Matt 18)

Drugs and the Bible

The bible, condemns the everyday use of any kind of drugs, potions, or spells, as well as poisoning or witchcraft. It's called pharmakeia in the original text and can be found in Galatians 5:19-21. So, as followers of Christ, should we not take prescription drugs? -Gordon

The word "pharmekeia" is one of the best examples of a thing called "root fallacy" in linguistics. It is the assumption that because a word means something later in it's history that we should import that meaning to an earlier period. It is certainly true that the term "pharmekeia" is the root of our word "pharmecuticals" today as well as "pharmacy". It is also true that when the word was used in the Bible that it meant "sorcery" and that some sorcerers used drugs at that time.

But this does not mean that modern drug use is necessarily sorcery. In between ancient sorcery and modern legal drug use was a time of experimentation with chemicals that is now known as alchemy, which came from ancient sorcery, but was really early chemistry. The difference between ancient "pharekeia" and modern legal drugs are many:
a. There is no worship of other gods
b. There is no attempt to control spirits
c. The drugs today are used to improve humanity's lot, not control them (love potions, curses, etc)

In fact, Paul commanded Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach". Wine was the most common medicine in ancient times, and is actually a human-made chemical. Does this mean that all drugs, even all legal drugs, are positive? No, of course not. We need to make a determination as to whether the drugs will make us more or less righteous, more or less obedient to the Lord. If they make us more righteous, more obedient, then I might say that we should take these drugs. If they make us less righteous, less obedient, then we should NOT take these drugs, no matter what other benefit they give to us.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Is Baptism Important?

How important is being baptized? Is it just a symbolic jester of a persons new life in Christ, or is there more to it? I overheard some say that we are baptized so that our sins are washed away. The word does say, that we are to 'repent and be baptized'. Also, who can baptize? Can any born again believer baptize someone? Or, does it have to be someone official (a priest or a pastor)? -Gordon

In order to understand baptism, we have to understand its history.

John the Baptist was the first to baptize, and we can understand much about why he baptized if we look at his message and where he was baptizing. His message was that God was coming soon and was going to destroy most of Israel because they were sinful and unrepentant. In kingdom lingo, that means that God was establishing his kingdom on earth, but most of Judea-- most Jews-- weren't citizens and so they couldn't go in. So John established a "baptism of repentance"-- a baptism which was a statement that the person was repenting of their sins and trying to make it right with God so they could be a part-- be a citizen-- of God's kingdom.

But why did John baptize at the Jordan? It was to remind those being baptized of another "baptism"-- the crossing of the Jordan river, and it's predecessor, the crossing of the Red Sea. Baptism, ultimately, is a re-enactment of the crossing of those two bodies of water, as indicated in I Corinthians 10:2. The crossing of a body of water by God's hand was the indication to the people that they were entering God's kingdom by His power, His grace.

There is one other important symbol in baptism-- the water itself. It isn't just a pool or a sprinkling, but it is a body of water with a spirit-- a spirit that might choose to attack you or kill you, as the ancient Hebrews thought of seas or wide rivers-- they were dangerous gods of death. So to cross the Red Sea, to cross the Jordan, or to cross the flood waters, as Noah did (see I Peter 3:20-21) is to die to your old self, your old life, your old society, and to be a part of God's kingdom exclusively, never to return.

So what is baptism? It is a display of your commitment, the sign of your citizenship in the kingdom of God through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the same as new citizens of the U.S. raising their right hands and making a pledge to the U.S. Can one become a citizen of the U.S. without raising their hands and pledging? Maybe, but everyone does it. It is the way it is done. So is baptism necessary for salvation? Well, let's just say that the NT doesn't say anything about "praying to Jesus as your savior", but it does talk about baptism. Anyone who becomes a citizen of God's kingdom repents and is baptized.

So who can baptize? Really, anyone who is already a citizen. Jesus commanded his disciples-- all of them-- to baptize (Matthew 28:19-20). But who can be baptized? Those who are ready to declare that Jesus is their king and Lord, that they commit themselves to him for all of their lives, that they will obey him in all that they know and that they will commit themselves to God's people. If they declare this pledge, they are ready to be baptized.

Does baptism have to be done? Well, the first ancient manual to talk about this says that it should be done in a river or stream, but if it can't be done that way, water should be poured. Sprinkling didn't start until babies were baptized, of which the Bible says less than nothing-- baptism is for those ready to commit to the pledge. Immersion is good, but it is really based on a misunderstanding of the word "baptidzo", which means "to completely soak". Pouring is good enough, as long as the person really gets good and wet. I don't recommend sprinkling.

In Anawim, the mode of baptism is to step in a tub of water, representing the river of death, and pouring the water over them, representing the Holy Spirit. We do this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then they step out of the water on the other side, representing the new life they are in. At that point, we lay hands on and pray for the new believer and cast out any Satanic spirits.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Universal Morality?

I think that, just like "happy", "funny" and "boring", the words "good" and "evil" have no meaning outside the mind of a human subject. -Unterkind

Yet these words do have meaning to my wife and my friends when we use them to each other. We are in agreement to the meaning because the meanings are in community, not just personal.

It seems to me that all concepts of "good" and "evil" have to do with the community that one is a part of -- even religious points of view have this. There is no "good" or "evil" that an individual has not in relation to other beings. Some subjects might have only to do with ourselves-- masturbation, use of drugs, suicide-- but ultimatly the arguments either for or against each issue, no matter how "personal" they are will have to do with our relations to others-- e.g. maturbation in relation to adultery, drug use in relation to careless harm of others, suicide in relation to how we grieve others.

If we did not live in community, there would BE no good or evil. If we didn't have species and a human society and nature then there would be no reason for good or evil. But the fact is, there is, and so every human being has to deal with it.

And good and evil-- whether religious or otherwise-- is never universal, but are basic principles of not doing harm within a context. The concept "do not kill" is an excellent example. For most people, that principle has many exceptions. We kill microscopic organisms every time we breathe, thus we kill and think nothing of it. Most of us eat meat and most of us feel that it is okay to kill another human if they are attacking us. A few of us feel that killing innocent people in war is okay as long as the objective is worth it. On the other hand, there are vegetarians who do not want to kill any animal. There are some who belong to religious communities who are commanded by God not to kill another human being, no matter what the cause. Others, in their communities, hold to opposing any killing of an innocent. Others, such as the jainists, attempt to stop any killing of any life, so much so that they wear masks so as to not accidently swallow an insect. The basic concept of limitation of harming another life is always there, but the application of this principle is based on the community.

We get confused nowadays about morality because we are at a conflux of all societies-- and thus, all moralities-- in a way that humanity has never been before. It seems so individual when every person you approach has a different point of view on morality. But this is just the conflict that comes in any cross-cultural situation. The cross-cultural is becoming a part of our life now as we are no longer one society, but many, all joined together, forced to understand each other and to believe new things in our new context.

Ultimately, the war in Iraq-- and all modern wars-- are culture wars, morality wars. Survival will not be the strongest, but will be the moral point of view that will be most inclusive, the least harming to others. This is why both the American and the jihadist points of view will be torn down, eventually. An old morality will succeed, that will allow both Muslims and Americans to live in peace together, that does not require killing another for disagreeing with them will be more successful than the points of view that causes our current wars.

Now, those of you who are Christians reading this blog might be saying, "Is Steve a situational ethicist? How can that be Christian?" No, I do not believe in situational ethics. I believe that we are all a part of a society, and that our morality should reflect the society we are a part of. If you are a Muslim, then you have a very strict morality to live by: hospitality, care for fellow Muslims, commitment in marriage, no alcohol, etc. If the edges of Muslim morality is wearing down, it is because of the influence of other societies that are trying to join it (For instance, Osama Bin Ladin is actually a mix between Islam and Marxism, in complete defiance to orthodox Islam). If one is a strict "American" then there is a moral point of view one holds, including patriotism and a certain amount of pluralism.

If you are a Christian, then the society you are supposed to belong to is the kingdom of God-- the kingdom of Jesus. This is different than the kingdom of Moses (ruled by the Law) or the kingdom of David or the kingdom of the ancient Hebrew priests. Jesus determines our morality, our "good" and "evil". In that we sin against Him, we are showing that we are still creatures of this world, of our societies that we have not fully renounced.

It is Jesus' morality, however, that is most successful and will ultimately win over the world. "Love your enemies" -- do good to everyone, no matter what they do to you
"Forgive the repentant"-- always welcome to your group those who repent of their sin
"Love God"-- The community of God always does what is right before God, worshipping and honoring Him
"Love your neighbor"-- the community of God always supports those in the community, not allowing them to come to harm

And more. Jesus will win, perhaps only when he returns, but His is the morality that will succeed.

Steve K

Disciplining Children

I caused a controversy in the staunchly conservative Anabaptist Seeker's yahoo email group by suggesting that striking children is not an appropriate form of discipline for believers in nonviolence, and I was quoted Proverbs which counsels not sparing the rod.I countered that that was an Old Testament scripture that was no more binding on Christians than Jewish dietary laws, and was told that since Proverbs is wisdom literature and not the law it is eternally authoritative, like the New Testament. Anyone have any thoughts on this? I feel certain that beating up children is not the appropraite way for pacifists to treat their children. -Jerry C

It seems to me that this is a place where the "non-violence" label as a virtue gets us in trouble. If non-violence is a Jesus-promoted virtue (which I deny) then certainly spanking would be wrong. But so would surgery, an inherently violent, and often life-threatening action.
I agree that pulling verses out of Proverbs willy-nilly is a bad idea, especially when it speaks of punishment. After all, it also says that the rod is appropriate for "fools" (e.g. Prov. 26:3). I can just see "corporal punishment advocates for Jesus" going down the street, hitting the developmentally disabled with a stick in "literal fulfillment" of this verse....

However, in the NT it does command fathers to "bring up children in the discipline and righteousness of the Lord." And such discipline that fathers give, as referred to in Hebrews 12 is "scourging". Obviously, this is symbolic, but I think that we can take Heb 12 to be a type of the discipline parents should give children.

First of all, if a child does something evil, they should be taught what is good. Secondly, if they continue to do that evil, they should be punished and it should be unpleasant. Thirdly, they should be assured that even if it doesn't feel like it, the discipline is done out of love for the child, not because of anger or a lack of control on the part of the parent.

I have had to apologize to my children for punishing them out of anger, and so doing it inappropriately. There are occasions, however rare, that I do spank my children-- never to harm them, but to communicate to them the seriousness of the offense. I communicate my desire to love them and I always restore relationship as soon as they are ready.

If a parent choses not to spank their child, I think that's great to have those ideals. But what I find is most significant for disciplining my children is to have a variety of diciplining techniques (time outs, lecturing, warning, light pat on the wrist, spanking, etc) so the measure of discipline can equal the action done. One punishment for every action communicates that every wrong we do is equal, no matter what our intent or knowledge or how much it harms another.

Steve K.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

How to Avoid the Same Sin

Someone asked me a question the other day, "how do I avoid repeated sin?" I want to answer this in an addiction context. Most repeated sin is addition of one sort or another. It could just be a thinking disorder (I feel bad, therefore I need this sin), but more than likely it is a compulsion to perform an act that we think we cannot help.

So how do we avoid our addictions?

1. Recognize that giving in to this sin displays a sense that our needs are not being met.
This sense could be true, or might not be. But sin never fulfills our need-- it only covers it up and then we have a worse problem to deal with. But this doesn't mean that the need isn't real. We probably have a lack that we are not dealing with, but our bodies are re-directing us to another source that doesn't really meet the need. Our bodies are stupid, we should be smarter than them. So we should analyze ourselves-- what is wrong, what is lacking, how can we fulfill these needs in a godly way?

2. Recognize that giving in to this sin, we are allowing our sense of need be more important than God or others
To give in to repeated sin is simply one thing-- selfishness. Even though we are told how much our sin hurts others and our relationship with God, we do it anyway. This is the ultimate selfish act-- we are only focusing on ourselves instead of what we should be focusing on-- the God who loves us and gives us our very life and the people around us we are supposed to be serving.

3. Giving into the sin is a result of a thought disorder
Thinking that the sin will fulfill our needs is a disorder in our thinking that ultimately destroys us. How do we reform our mind? How can we transform our thinking, which we seem to have so little control over? There are many ways, but here's a few:
a. Read the word daily, especially the gospels and the psalms.
b. BEFORE you read the word, do some exercise. This "stirs up" your brain neurons, and allows new thinking to take place.
c. Meditate on your life and what God wants of you. Don't allow yourself to complain or have any selfish thoughts! Focus on God's plan and God's will. Journal it, if you can, so you can read it later.
d. Pray for God's deliverance and Spirit daily, without exception.
e. Throw yourself so much into God's plan for your life that you don't have room to think about your misery.

4. Remember at all times-- God didn't make us Christians in this age to have our needs met, but to suffer!
Jesus told us to rejoice in the suffering and persecution we experience for Him, because it is an indication of our salvation. We've got to stop the pity parties we allow ourselves to have and recognize that if our needs aren't being met by doing God's will, then we must be doing something RIGHT! The more we allow ourselves to sacrifice for the sake of others and our own humility, the more God will reward us in the end. So let's not look for the "quick out" of our troubles. Let's be glad we have the troubles we experience.

Divisions and the Spirit

If the Spirit is not divided against itself, then why are there so many denominations? -Gordon

A denomination does not mean a division in the Spirit. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement once about how to deal with fallen recruits and so had to begin different ministries. Does that mean that the Spirit was divided? No, it meant that the Spirit wanted to work differently with each of them. Paul was going to the "front lines" in a severe ministry, and weak believers just couldn't do that ministry. It would have been wrong for Paul to compromise his ministry for the sake of someone who wasn't ready to participate in it. But should Barnabas have listened to Paul? No, his task in the Spirit is to bring up the weak and encourage them. Because of Barnabas, John Mark became the strong disciple he turned into. Different ministries were necessary at that point.

Even so, the denominations. God allowed the divisions so that the church might be strong in different areas. If it weren't for the minority Pentecostal movement, there would not have been the powerful move of the Spirit over the last hundred years. If it weren't for Luther, there wouldn't have been such an emphasis on the Bible for the last four hundred years. If it weren't for the Mennonites and Moravians, there wouldn't have been Protestant Christian communities. God established these divisions to allow the Spirit more movement to work.

Of course, sometimes divisions turn ugly and there is backbiting, gossiping and every other kind of terrible disunity. God did not cause that, but people's self-centeredness and narrow-mindedness did. Disagreements need to be guided by Galatians 5-- not of the works of the flesh, but of the fruit of the Spirit. Only then will division and denominations agree to go in different ways, but still remain unified in the Spirit.

Can We Lose Our Salvation?

Can we lose our salvation?
This one is easy-- the Bible says you can.
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." Hebrews 6:4-6

For if we continue sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Hebrews 10:26-31

Hebrews 6 describes a Christian-- one who has tasted of the heavenly gift and has shared in the Holy Spirit-- and then falls away (which means no longer believes) then they cannot be turned back to repentance again.
Hebrews 10 talks about a believer who refuses to repent from their sin and the terrible punishment they will receive.

Theologically, this is also easy to understand. The basic requirement for receiving salvation is faith, right? Then if you no longer have faith, even if you once did, then you no longer have the salvation. Jesus uses a number of descriptions of those who refuse to obey Him or who refuse to believe in him and they will be burned in fire, cast out of the kingdom. This isn't just a temporary punishment, but his descriptions of eternal hell. You can look it up-- John 15:6; Matthew 7:21-27; John 3:36.

The reasons many say that there is no possibility of losing one salvation is twofold:
a. Theologically, people misunderstand the idea of predestination. Paul speaks of a church being predestined before God. But Paul is speaking of a group of people, not each one individually. It was predestined-- prophesied, in fact-- that the Gentiles would be saved. It was predestined that people of every nation would enter as citizens of God's kingdom. But Paul never said to Timothy, "You are predestined, nothing you say or do will send you to hell." Predestination is the salvation of a remnant, not of an individual.

b. Biblically, people misunderstand the passages of assurance. For instance, Romans 8, where Paul says, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ." But Paul was not speaking of our refusal to accept that love, to accept the salvation He is offering us. He was speaking of angelic powers-- demons-- and sufferings that people would claim that we do not have God's salvation if we suffer like that. Well, Paul says that sufferings or demonic forces cannot put a block between us and God. That is true. But if we refuse God's gift of obedience, His gift of the Holy Spirit, then He will not force us to accept salvation, even if we wanted it earlier in our lives.

Again, the argument against loss of salvation is picking up certain Scriptures, misunderstanding them, and ignoring others.