Category Archives: Pop Christianity

Thoughts on Religious Freedom

Religious freedom is Under Attack

This is the rallying cry of conservative Christians in America. Religious freedom is the bedrock upon which our society is built. The Founding Fathers believed in the importance of religious freedom and the original Puritan settlers escaped the tyranny of England in the name of religious freedom. Because of this, the government cannot clamp down on religion and must promote religious freedom…

…Or so the story goes. In spite of it all, little incongruities seem the lurk just beneath the surface. There are things that, when really thought about, just don’t line up as nicely as we would want. Let’s do a bit of thinking.

Religious freedom is a moral good; at least, that’s what the average Christian conservative assumes. This is simply accepted without question or thought. But what exactly is this moral good we call religious freedom? Well, it would seem that religious freedom means exactly that. The individual has the right to believe whatever religion they feel is worthy of belief. In addition, the individual can take whatever bits and pieces they find palatable from any combination of religions or even refuse to believe in any religion. In order to preserve this right to religious freedom, the state cannot dictate to the people what religion they can or can’t convert to. In addition, people should be free to proselytize and attempt to convert others to their religion. There should be a free market, so to speak, when it comes to religion and each belief system should sink or swim based how it can attract adherents. So far, I don’t think any of this is blasphemous; these are simply the assumptions that lurk subconsciously within Americans.

Given the above description of religious freedom, let’s now look at this from a Christian perspective. The Christian believes that all religions other than Christianity are false. Other religions may contain grains of truth, but they all lead to damnation in the end. Yes, I know there are liberal Christians who dispute this, but we’ll ignore those heretics for now. I am, after all, talking to conservative Christians.Now, assuming Christianity is the only way to paradise and salvation, why wouldn’t you want your community and nation to endorse, support and establish Christianity as a state religion? Why not unite the Christianity and the state in this way in order to forbid the spreading and proselytizing of false religions?

The response I anticipate is that such a thing will lead to forced conversions. But it need not. We are merely talking about the legitimization of Christianity as the national religion and the clamping down on the proselytizing of false religions. Religions minorities will not be hunted down and killed; they will be left alone so long as they keep their religion private and refrain from any attempts to convert Christians. Defiance of such laws will lead to fines, imprisonment, exile and (in the most severe of cases) death. If you are a conservative Christian (not to mention an average American), then I’m sure I’ve horrified you with my suggestions. It would seem that my suggestions would destroy religious liberty and establish religious tyranny. Such a reaction, however, betrays your priorities.

Again, if Christianity is the only way to God and paradise, then why would you allow false religions to proselytize and potentially cause Christians to apostatize? “But what about liberty and freedom?” says the American Christian. Well, what about them? Isn’t the salvation of human souls far more important than nebulous principles like liberty and freedom? It seems to me that the significance of liberty and freedom pales in comparison to the eternal destiny of souls. Let me illustrate this for you in a simpler manner. Suppose you have your local church or parish. Now imagine that your pastor, priest or whatever allows believers of other religions to come in and attempt to convert the flock because religious freedom. Sound bizarre? Well why should the sentiment change when on a national scale?

The funny thing is that the god-hating atheist is more rational here. See, the god-hating atheist believes that all religions (especially Christianity) are false and destructive to humanity. If you believe such a thing, then it would be logical to do away with religion and clamp down on religious freedom. After all, why would you want such a destructive force running around, wrecking havoc in your nation?

 

As a Christian, you believe that apostasy will lead to damnation. So why would you allow the potential for apostasy into your community in the name of religious freedom? Are you not prioritizing religious freedom at the expense of human souls?

 


What is Faith?

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so” – Mark Twain

I remember completely butchering a lesson at a youth group meeting once. The teacher was talking about “having faith in God” and called me up to illustrate what he meant. He had me stand on a chair and told me to pretend that I was on the roof of a burning, 10-story building. He told me that I had to jump and to trust that he would catch me. I was a kid and completely misunderstood the lesson he was trying to teach. For some reason, I thought I was supposed to stand firm and not fall for his lies. So every time he told me to jump, I simply shook my head. The teacher kept trying to get me to jump to no avail and finally gave up saying that if I did jump it was supposed to illustrate what faith was as opposed to mere belief. I laugh about it now but the question remains. What exactly is faith and is it really different from mere belief?

Many of those who grew up Christian know or at least were taught that there is a huge difference between faith and belief. Belief is something of the mind; it is simply assenting to a certain fact. However, belief by itself doesn’t save you; it isn’t enough. Faith, on the other hand, is a lot more than that. Faith is active trust in something or someone. You may believe that the chair in front of you will support your weight; however, you aren’t placing your trust in the chair until you actually sit on it. I’m sure many reading this right now will be very familiar with this explanation of faith.

Those of you who listen to me rant will know that I am a huge fan of seeing how the ancients looked at the world and using that to interpret the Bible. You’ll also know how wary I am of imposing our modern, western mindset on an ancient document that was complied almost 2000 years ago. When I did a little research into the subject, what I found surprised me quite a bit. It seems that modern Christians HAVE been reading modern notions into the Bible when it comes to faith.

In the Handbook of Biblical Social Values, Bruce Malina writes that faith refers to:

the value of reliability… Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations; it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith, ‘belief’,’ ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refer to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotional rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment and solidarity.

Reading this for the first time was revolutionary. Faith is not so much belief/trust as it is a personal loyalty. This makes a lot of sense as in the ancient world, loyalty was of paramount importance. The ancients did not have indoor plumbing, power grids, the internet or other modern luxuries. As such, they had to work together to survive. This dependence on the group for survival elevated loyalty to a primary value. Self-reliance or “doing your own thing” was practically impossible and even looked down upon as it endangered the entire group. .

When the ancients spoke of faith, especially of faith in God, they were not talking about any sort of mental exercise much less mere belief in the existence of God. God’s existence was assumed and not a question they wrestled with. The question was whether one was loyal to God. I actually touched upon this in a previous post:

Biblical scholar Larry Hurtado writes that the issue for the ancient Israelities was who they worshiped and were loyal to, not strictly belief in the existence of one god. Peter Haymon states that the thing that mattered for the ancient Jew was that God be the sole object of worship, not the sole divine being in existence

You see the issue of loyalty come up multiple times in Jesus’ teachings. For example, Jesus states that:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Some will chafe when I say that this is clearly poetic hyperbole, but that’s the simple fact. Jesus isn’t telling his followers they have to hate their own families. Jesus was using hyperbole to make the point that he wanted his followers to be loyal to him above everything else. If the ancient world placed a huge emphasis on loyalty, i.e. faithfulness, then you would expect it to come up often in the Bible. We don’t see it as much because we substitute our modern notions into the word faith. But remember that faith is much more than any kind of trust or belief in the existence of God, it is a personal loyalty to God. In addition, faith presupposes belief in the existence of God, after all, you wouldn’t pledge your loyalty to someone you know doesn’t exist. In this way, we can see someone’s conversion to Christianity as a change in allegiance. No longer are they loyal to themselves, Allah or the teachings of Buddha.

Such a definition of faith is superior, in my opinion, because it emphasizes both action and a sense of duty to God that our modern definition lacks.


Blood Moons and Failed Prophets

The latest fad of end times prophecy is upon us. The prophet John Hagee has spoken. A series of four blood moons and a solar eclipse, omens of the end times, concludes at the end of this month. This portends that something BIG is about to happen. What is it? I have no idea, but rest assured, it is BIG.

John Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. His recent book on end times prophecy, Four Blood Moons, has become popular in American Christian circles. According to Hagee, 2014-2015 marks the appearance of a tetrad: a series of lunar eclipses and a solar eclipse that all fall on Jewish holidays. This sort of thing is rare and, in the past, has been accompanied by significant events in Jewish history. Hagee contends that these are signs from God that something BIG is going to happen soon, after all, “the heavens are God’s billboard“. Hagee is unclear what this event is other than the fact that it is a sign of the end times. Let’s take a look at his evidence.

First, Hagee claims that within the last 500 years, there have been 3  tetrads (remember that Hagee considers a tetrad to be a series of four lunar eclipses and a solar eclipse) that were all accompanied by “significant events in Jewish history”.

End Times Chart

These last three tetrads were signs of huge events in Jewish history; therefore, this next one is a sign will also be accompanied by a significant event in Jewish history. Hagee also depends heavily upon Joel 2:31 and claims this tetrad is also a sign of the coming Day of the Lord. However, Hagee is less clear about how the Day of the Lord and this next BIG event in Jewish history are connected.

What I find suspicious is that Hagee doesn’t mention that there have four more of these so-called tetrads throughout history. These occurred in 162-163 AD, 795-796 AD, 842-843 AD and 860-861 AD. The funny thing is that none of these dates correspond with any event considered significant in Jewish history. In fact, the Jews were living in relative peace during these dates. I wonder why Hagee doesn’t mention this, maybe because it blows his whole theory to smithereens?

Now let’s look and see if these events really do line up as neatly as Hagee makes them out to.

The 1493-1494 Tetrad

Hagee claims that this tetrad is tied to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the subsequent discovery of America, Israel’s future ally. I won’t deny that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain is a pretty big event. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, Hagee is off by about a year. The edict expelling the Jews from Spain was issued on March 31, 1492, a full year before the Tetrad began. This begs the question: if the lunar and solar eclipses are signs from God warning about future events, why did this one occur after the event in question? Furthermore, if God is in absolute control of the heavenly bodies, then you’d think that he’d get it right and not miss by a whole year.

A second thing to note is that Spain wasn’t the only place the Jews lived during this time. They lived all over Europe and the expulsion from Spain affected only some of the Jews living at the time. In fact, expulsions happened with some regularity. Jews were expelled from France in 1182 AD and again in 1306. They were expelled from Switzerland in 1622. They were also expelled from Brandenburg, Germany in 1510 AD. There are far more expulsions I could bring up, but this sort of thing can easily be looked up. My question is why God would provide signs for the Spanish expulsion but none of the others?

Finally, Hagee connects the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus to this series of lunar eclipses. America will eventually become Israel’s staunchest ally. However, what Hagee fails to mention is that Columbus never set foot on land that would eventually be called the United States. His journeys took him all around the Caribbean but not to the actual landmass that would eventually be the United States. A final consideration is that Columbus isn’t even the first European to discover the Americas. That honor belongs to the viking Leif Erikson who land in Newfoundland about 500 years before Columbus. If the discovery of the America’s is a huge event in Jewish history, then why wasn’t Leif Erickson’s landing at Newfoundland marked by a Tetrad?

The 1949-1950 Tetrad

Hagee claims that the significant event associated with this Tetrad is Israel’s independence and it’s war for independence. However, Hagage doesn’t mention that the Isreal declared independence on May 14, 1948. Furthermore, Israel’s War of Independence (or the Arab-Israeli War, whichever you prefer) began in 1948. A cease-fire was declared on March 10, 1949, a month before the first lunar eclipse was to occur. Again, I ask, if God wanted this tetrad to be a sign, why would it start a month after the event in question ended? You’d think God would do a much better job of lining up the eclipses with the events if this was really his intention.

The 1967-1968 Tetrad

According to Hagee, this Tetrad is tied to the Six-Day War between Israel and a coalition of Arab countries. Of all the events, this is the only one that Hagee can claim as evidence because the war actually did fall in between the beginning and end of the Tetrad. However, keep in mind that if God is really orchestrating these Tetrads to line up with events, he’s doing a pretty crappy job; only 1 out of 3 events actually fall in between the Tetrad. That’s a terrible success rate for God.

Other Considerations

There are many other points that undermine Hagee’s evidence. First, there have been many events that are arguably much greater and much more significant in Jewish history than the events Hagee provides. The most obvious one is the Holocaust. The genocide of around 6 million Jews was not accompanied by any sign in the heavens similar to Hagee’s Tetrad. The Russian pogroms that occurred in the early 20th century were not accompanied by any similar sign. Finally, the biggest event of all, the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple occurred in 70 AD. This was a cataclysmic event for the Jews, far greater than 9/11 was for Americans .

If Hagee is correct, then what does that say about God’s priorities when he will make signs for something like the Six-Day War but not the Holocaust or the destruction of the temple? You’d think significant events like these would also be accompanied by a series of lunar and solar eclipses in the manner that Hagee writes.

Another interesting point  is that if these eclipses were indeed signals to humanity and the Jews in particular, you’d think that God would make them visible. However, many of the eclipses Hagee notes were only visible over desolate wildernesses or oceans. See here also. Again, if God is in control of the heavenly bodies, again, then you’d think he would be able to make the eclipses visible to those he intends to signal.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really surprised. There have been many predictions like this just in the past 20-30 years. They all have one thing in common: they haven’t come true. John Hagee himself is a failure of a prophet if we look at his track record. The predictions he made in 1996, in his book Beginning of the End, failed to come true. In 1999, Hagee released another book, From Daniel to Doomsday, where he made more predictions. Y2K will cause problems all over the world and Saddam Hussein will invade Israel along with Russia. Well, here we are 15 years later and nothing of the sort has happened. Again in 2008, Hagee predicted that the financial crisis of that year would be a precursor to the rise of the Antichrist in his book, The Battle for Jerusalem . Again, seven years later, the world seems more fractured than ever with no “Antichrist” rising in power. A common thread runs through Hagee’s predictions, the thread of failure.

I find it depressing that, after all these failed predictions, Christians remain extremely gullible as they continue to shove money into this failure of a prophet’s pocket. Wake up people, and do a little research.

*If you want more detailed info, you can look up the book, Blood Moon Lunacy, or this Youtube documentary.


A Bunch of Babies

A while back, my wife posted the following on Facebook:

This is a good question, I admit.

This is actually a good question. With the surrounding culture screaming “FAT ACCEPTANCE“, it’s good to get some clarity on issue. Now I expected the question to get some pushback. What I was not prepared for was the passive-aggressiveness and anger that the question generated, especially from among other self-proclaimed Christian women. Here’s one exchange between a self-proclaimed Christian and my wife.

Exchange

I have to ask, when did Christianity become so flaccid, weak and whiny? Asking questions now makes you a bully because you are accusing a group of people? I especially like the by-the-numbers response that so many offended Christians make when confronted with sin. *whiny voice* You aren’t encouraging. You aren’t being loving. You aren’t uplifting and pulling along side other believers”. Seriously? What kind of Christianity is that. Just because your feelings were hurt doesn’t mean you were sinned against. Notice how this woman kept trying to reframe the conversation and, when my wife refused to concede the frame, responded with a weak “well you just don’t understand”. Indeed, I don’t understand what kind of Christian you claim to be.

The following woman responded a bit more firmly.

I couldn't have responded better

To the woman who responded, did you ever think that speaking the truth is itself an act of love? Obviously not, otherwise you wouldn’t have responded so ignorantly. Again we see another typical Christian response, “you should pray about what you said because… feelings”. Instead of responding in a rational manner, this woman attacks the other person’s spirituality. In addition, notice what the woman says toward the end, “I’m not going to even argue with what I find wrong… that’s less important to me”. In other words, she doesn’t have any argument and waves it away by claiming it’s “less important” to her.

Tragically there is no practical difference between these self-proclaimed Christian women and the modern Social Justice Warrior Whiner. It’s as if they swallowed whole the talking points of the surrounding culture. This does not bode well for mainstream, American Christianity.


On the Failure of the Modern Church

Apologetics is something that many Christians scoff at. Anytime you bring up apologetics, you can be sure someone will remind you that “you can’t argue someone into God’s kingdom.” Others look down on defending Christianity because it involves argumentation and that’s is a bad thing (nevermind the fact that arguing and making an argument are completely different things). Furthermore, I have been told that apologetics is useless because it detracts from Jesus and can’t save anyone. Spending a lot of time learning the ancient history, biblical culture, philosophy and metaphysics isn’t very “profitable”. All that matters is Jesus. Just get out there and preach to people. That’s what we should be doing. Spending lots of time learning about extra-biblical things is a waste of time. As well-meaning as they might be, Christians who believe this are wrong… very wrong.

There is one major reason why I spend a lot of time learning about church history, ancient culture and all that stuff. It isn’t to convert others, although I don’t doubt that it’s possible. The reason I do it is for young Christians growing in the church. Many Christian teens don’t have a deep grasp of Christianity. They don’t know exactly what they believe or why they believe. A recent study of conservative, Protestant churches revealed that

most religious teenagers’ opinions and views… are vague, limited, and often quite at variance with the actual teachings of their own religion… The church in general, and youth ministry in particular, has demonstrated… more interest in how our young people feel than how they think. … But where are Christian teenagers learning basic tenets of the Christian faith? And if they don’t understand those basic truths or doctrines … then how does that impact their long-term faith? I’m concerned that too much of our teaching is reduced to what can … be communicated by a worship band illuminated by stage lighting and well-placed candles.”

The author’s concerns are legitimate and the statistics seem to back him up. Some time ago, USA Today reported that about 70% of Christian youth leave the church:

Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research. And 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman writes that “many of the enthusiastic teens so common in North American churches are not growing up to be faithful young disciples of Christ.” So why are teens leaving the church? A recent Barna study had this to say:

Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%)

More than a third of young adults with Christian experience see the church as hostile to doubts. Let that sink in for a bit. Furthermore, the teens view the church as intellectually stagnant. Frank Turek, founder of the Cross Examined ministry writes that

many [youth] leave because they’ve come to doubt Christianity. In fact, intellectual skepticism is a major reason cited by those who have left… We can lay the blame for much of this on ourselves — that is, on the church. While there are notable exceptions, most American churches over-emphasize emotion and ignore the biblical commands to develop the mind (1 Pet 3:15, 2 Cor. 10:5). In other words, we’re doing a great job performing for our youth with skits, bands and videos, but a terrible job informing them with logic, truth, and a Christian worldview.

Read that again; a major reason teens leave when they graduate is due to intellectual skepticism. Christian teens are distracted with concerts, pizza parties, missions trips, and “fun” outings, but they are never really taught to think about Christianity, to think critically and to interact with other perspectives that exist. I’m not saying these other perspectives are correct. But when Christian teens are fattened on emotion and feelings, their faith cannot possibly endure when exposed to other beliefs and perspectives. Once they leave the comfortable environment of their home church and faced with real hardship and doubts, those emotions and feelings will be useless. Furthermore, we cannot shield people from other perspectives and beliefs. Hemant Mehta, also known as the friendly atheist writes that “Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can’t protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.” He is right and instead of preparing Christians for engaging with their surroundings, most churches try to shelter the teens and fill them up with feel-good music and emotion.

I remember taking a Bible class during my undergrad years. The professor had all sorts of interesting things to say. The Bible was written and rewritten over a long period of time. Various editors throughout history have revised passages of the Bible to make it say what they wanted it to say. The Gospels were not written by eye-witnesses; they were written years after Jesus and his disciples had lived and died. Furthermore, they weren’t the only gospels; we have the gospel of Thomas, of Judas of Philip, etc, and these gospels paint a very different picture of Jesus. This only scratches the surface of what I was taught in that class. Yet, the churches I grew up in never mentioned any of these issues. Luckily, I’m very curious and did my own research. I learned that this professor was wrong on a lot of issues long before taking the class. Yet, I am sure that someone without prior exposure to such beliefs would have begun to significantly doubt their faith. I’ve seen it happen many times.

What is the church doing about this? Here’s a snapshot. I remember going to an ex-girlfriend’s church once. It was huge and had a ton of teens. I come from a small church, so this shocked me. The teen program was packed, full of music, lights, cameras and a hip, cool youth pastor who encouraged teens to fall in love with Jesus. Many teens had their hands in the air and tears in their eyes; the passion was palpable. This didn’t last. After high school, most of these people stopped bothering with church or Christianity; many have completely renounced Christianity completely as far as I know.

This is the world we currently live in. A world where Christian teens will be exposed to all sorts of beliefs and views when they graduate and go away to college. Because of this, I spend a lot of time learning as much as I can about the honor/shame culture of the ancient world, the formation of the New Testament canon, different interpretations of Genesis and church history. I believe that Christian teens who are exposed to these views early on in a safe environment won’t be caught off guard when they see these views in college. They will be more willing to investigate for themselves without feeling like the church misled them.

I want those growing up in the Church to have a deep understanding of what they believe and why they believe it. Only then will these Christian teens grow up fully equipped to engage their culture instead of running away from it. I firmly believe that teens won’t be so quick to leave the church if they learned more about these sorts of issues instead of being injecting with increasing doses of emotion and being told to fall in love with Jesus.


The Christian Spell Book

I’ve noticed that many Christians view the Bible a certain way. In their eyes, the Bible contains all knowledge and is the only thing you will ever need. The Bible is nothing more than a crystal ball where you simply gaze into its pages and you’ll be empowered to do anything you want.  Many view the Bible along these lines, as a mystical spell book with the verses functioning as different magical spells. Depressed? Read this verse here, pray a bit and you should be all better now. Your spouse of 15 years filing for divorce? Here, read this and your problem will be solved. What’s that? You’re problem isn’t solved? Hmmm… you must have done something wrong. Too bad none of this is true.

Funny thing is that many Christians that hold to this view also tend to look down on other kinds of knowledge. These Christians tend to disregard or ignore the lessons of history, science, philosophy and psychology or see them as useless or even unchristian. I remember someone close to me who struggled with depression, partly due to a broken home. She went to get counseling at a church. When she came back and showed me the papers outlining the church’s plans to counsel her, I was in for a shock. Apparently the counselors from this church relied exclusively on biblical teaching, i.e. verses for their counseling. These counselors had no formal training in psychology, counseling or how to deal with children from broken homes, at least, none that I know about. After all, they only needed the Bible.

Later on, I asked this friend how counseling was going. She said her counselor did nothing except quote Bible verses and tell her to trust God more. That’s why she was depressed, because she wasn’t trusting God. Unsurprisingly this did not help my friend deal with the problems and hardships she was facing. In fact, it made her feel worse. She felt it was her fault this was happening because she didn’t trust God enough. She eventually stopped the counseling because it was a waste of time.

The counselor saw the Bible as the only thing needed to counsel this young woman with depression and broken home. We only need to change the scenario to see the futility of this kind of thinking. Imagine you had brain cancer. Who would you go to for help? Would you go see an atheist neurosurgeon who planned on operating on the tumor? Or a pastor well-educated in the Bible who planned on quoting verses and telling you to just trust God? This scenario should illustrate the foolishness of seeing the Bible as the only source of knowledge you will ever need. Yet this is what many Christians do when faced with the girl from a broken home, the teenage guy struggling with same-sex attraction or the husband with a divorcing wife. All this results from the improper view of the Bible as a crystal ball or magic spell book.

See, the Bible has one very specific purpose. That purpose is to reveal God. It doesn’t even try to prove that God exists; that is already assumed. This is something that many Christians seem to forget. Yes, there are other things included: some history, instructions on proper Christian behavior, etc. Sometimes reading the right passage at the right time might even be encouraging, but all that takes the backstage to the revelation of God.

There are so many things the Bible would be useless for. You wouldn’t use the Bible to file your taxes or design a skyscraper. Even if you were a full-time missionary. You would still need knowledge found outside the Bible. You would need to learn the language and culture of the people you were visiting. If you planned on opening a homeless shelter, you would need to learn about real estate transactions, property law, business management and more. There are many things the Bible is inadequate for.

Now, I know some people reading this will chafe at my last sentence and think I’m diminishing the importance of the Bible. I’m not. As I said before, the Bible is meant to reveal God to us. Knowledge of God forms the foundation of our lives. Others use science, patriotism, women, sex, money or any number of things for their foundation. Though the Bible will not give the knowledge you may need to practice law, medicine or economics; it does something far more fundamental. We gain a worldview with God at the center. This is so important, that we don’t even think about it. Without this foundation, our goals, the meaning of life, our purpose, our basis for morality all change or disappear completely. Despite the importance of this, we must remember that the Bible does not give us everything. You cannot simply quote bible verses and build a marriage out of it. You can’t practice law on bible verses alone.

Sometimes, I believe Christians use the Bible as an excuse to not get out there in the world and do something. I know a few people who go to Christian schools, then to Bible colleges with the hope of making their living in some kind of church ministry. There is nothing wrong with this. But if that’s what all Christians do, we end up closing ourselves from the world around us. We then act surprised when the surrounding culture changes in ways we didn’t think about.


Don’t fall in love with Jesus.

Corrected for errors.

Corrected for errors

Sometime ago, I started a conversation on Facebook. It began when I posted an article on my brother’s Facebook titled “Stop telling me to fall in love with Jesus“. It’s a good article; go on and read it if you get the chance. Anyway, this post started a debate of sorts. Now, I have no intention of continuing that debate; but I would like to express my thoughts as clearly as possible so nobody misunderstands why I don’t like the idea of “falling in love with Jesus”

Put in simple terms, the phrase “falling in love” has romantic implications. In the English language, to fall in love with with someone tends to involve romantic feelings, thoughts and attractions. This is simply how it is. Yes, it’s true that we use the phrase in other contexts as well like when someone says something like “I visited San Francisco and immediately fell in love with it”. We know the speaker doesn’t have romantic feelings for a city. However, when the object of falling in love is a person, the romantic implications are there. I even conducted an informal and unscientific survey to test this. I asked random people I knew what their thoughts are on the phrase “falling in love”. ALL of them mentioned something related to romance. I even googled the phrase and the vast majority of the results linked falling in love to romance and even sexual attraction. Now, you can disagree all you want with me, but you are wrong. I’m also not trying to be rude here, just blunt.

The problem revolves around the way the English language is used. Yes, you can love someone without any romance being involved. That is why we love our parents, our children and our siblings despite a complete lack (I hope) of any sort of romance or sexual attraction. However, I must stress that the phrase “to fall in love” with someone is not the same as simply loving someone. That is why we have no problem with a father saying he loves his daughter; however, we would be extremely worried and disgusted if a father said he is falling in love with his daughter. If you still don’t believe me, I challenged you to post publicly that you are falling in love or are currently in love with your son, daughter, mother or father. Observe the reactions and maybe you will see my point.

Alright, so we have established the meaning of “falling in love”, why would falling in love with Jesus be a problem? Well, quite frankly, it isn’t biblical. The Bible does not describe our relationship with Jesus in any way that would justify using the phrase “falling in love with Jesus”. Yes, the bible does describe a relationship between God, Jesus and Christians and yes, we are commanded to love Jesus. However, none of this implies any kind of romance, romantic love or sexual attraction. As a result, a phrase pregnant with romantic and maybe even sexual implications should not be used to describe this relationship.

The fact that these types of pictures always show a woman reveals who this sort of message is really marketed to...

The fact that these types of pictures always show a woman embracing Jesus reveals who this sort of message is really marketed to…

I will address one objection here; the argument that because the Bible uses the image marriage to describe the relationship between Jesus and the church it is talking about some kind of intimate, romantic and passionate relationship that Jesus wants to have with each Christian. (see for example, Revelation 19:7-9, Ephesians 5:25-27, 2 Corinthians 11:2). There are two big problems with this argument. First, this is a logical fallacy of division. Just because something is true for the whole doesn’t make it true for each individual part. For example, though the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, that doesn’t mean that I (someone who makes up a very small part of the United States) personally invaded Iraq. In the Bible, the individual believers as a whole make up the church and it is the church that is referred to as the bride of Jesus. Individual Christians themselves are NOT brides of Jesus. To apply a metaphor used to describe a whole to each part of the whole (each individual believer’s relationship) is to commit the logical fallacy of division.

The second problem is that even if the Bible actually taught that to marriage is an symbol of each individual’s relationship to Jesus, that still wouldn’t imply romance. After all, marriages in the ancient world were not characterized by romance. Here is what David DeSilva writes:

The purpose of marriage was chiefly provision for the future, both in terms of progeny and inheritance. It was not the result of a process of dating, falling in love, talking about compatibilities and the like. Rather, it was arranged by parents with a view to the future of their families. See p. 177 of Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture by David DeSilva

Therefore, even if the Bible uses the marriage relationship to describe our relationship with Jesus (I personally don’t think it does) this cannot imply any sort of romantic and passionate relationship. Rather, it would imply a relationship of provisioning and loyalty more than anything else. It is for these reasons, among others, that I strongly believe we should not use phrases like “falling in love” to describe the our relationship with Jesus