The combination of three semesters’ time and many thousands of your dollars (via the post 9/11 GI Bill–thank you) every once in a while has resulted in some insight which is uncommon. I want to bring these to your attention as a “thank you.” Up for discussion in this post is “belief” vs. “will.”
This has been on my mind because I often ask fellow Americans, “What do you think about what’s going on with terrorism?” The response is often, “Well, we lack the will.”
The first time I heard that, I thought, “Hmm. That’s sounds about right. I don’t think I can argue with the fact that we have no national will.”
But then, forgive me, I was clicking around the news clips and stumbled upon an Imam preaching. Guess what he was dissecting? The need to have stronger “will.” Ruh-roh, Raggy! There is no way Islamic thought and Christian thought match up. And they don’t. Do you know how they diverge?
It has to do with the word “believe.” From the beginning, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, required “belief” from the Israelites. Then the NT writers pick up the word “believe.” But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? What did it mean to believe in YHWH?
Two analogies ought help us. What if I said, “The walls of the house believe the roof”? Or, “Through breastfeeding, the mother believes in her child.” Can you understand the meaning of the word “believe” in those usages? Good. Because those two uses begin to capture the sense of the word. The Christian believes in Jesus Christ, not meaning that we assent to his existence, but that we uphold Him as Lord of all creation.
The nuance here that is often overlooked is that in the case of the house, the roof stops being a roof without the support of the walls. And in the case of the nursing mother, the child stops being a child (dies) without the support of the mother. This begs the question, “What happens if no one believes in Christ Jesus?”
Well, put bluntly, that is the million dollar question.
The Christian, the man or woman who upholds Jesus Christ as their King, believes He is King of Kings regardless of what people believe. On the other hand, the non-believer believes if Christians recanted en masse, Jesus would fade from history, and also that there is no resurrection or eternal life. (This should not be news to anyone.)
What was news to me, and maybe to you, is that as I did a word-study on “will”, I discovered the only “will” mentioned in the Bible is God the Father’s will. And His good and perfect will is all-powerful. That is to say, while the Bible acknowledges that we have wills, from the beginning we are commanded to align our will to His will. Most poignantly Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. YOUR WILL be done…”
In other words, strengthening our will for our will’s sake is not biblical. To call for a strengthened will is not biblical. Calling for a strengthened will is too worldly, it is too human. It’s similar to suggesting that we all do some push-ups in order to not die. Most starkly, to call for strengthened will is what Islam’s preachers do. Sometimes we’re not stopping the advance of that evil book because we’re preaching bad theology. This is why sticking to the Word is so important. It’s confusing out there.
So I have repented. I have changed my ways. I don’t talk about will anymore. Instead, I call for belief in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Peter said to his hearers in Acts, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
The Apostle Peter’s words speak to us still, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
Belief in Jesus Christ is what saves us from our God’s wrath–not a strong will.
The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,
“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”
(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).
Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)
I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.
On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.
And I am confused these days.
See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.
By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.
There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.
I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”
Cars have neutral. People–not so much.
You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.
When I consider that I thought it both wise and beneficial to use my last post to explain how talking works, and when I further consider that I thought this at age 35 while in graduate school pursuing a so-called “masters” degree, I have to admit that I chuckle.
The other day H- pointed out that I’m in 18th grade. 18th grade and I finally understand talking. Nice.
Given that post’s unexpectedly pleasant reception, though, I figure I might as well keep sharing the results of all my schooling. On the docket today is one observation about education. Specifically, I’m intrigued by how, when discussing the recorded events of antiquity, we note that the assertions go like, “Aristotle was Plato’s student.” Less frequently they might say, “Aristotle went to the Academy.” And yet, even then, there is still some tacit agreement to add, “…where he studied under Plato.”
Today, however, we don’t talk like that. Over the millennia, we’ve changed the way we talk about education. We now assert some generalization like, “I went to college.” Or, “He studied recreation management.” Or, “She got her degree from KU.” On some level, these statements make clear and defensible claims; but on another level what they communicate is unclear and indefensible. This other level is the one I want to draw your attention to; this other level is the one that I believe the walls might talk about, if the walls could talk.
If the walls could talk, they might say, “Trust me, if there’s one fact I’m certain of, it is this: I have never taught you anything–nor will I ever be able to. I’m a wall.”
Put another way, I am half-way through 18th grade and I am happy to report that I have learned that walls do not talk.
Hereafter, then, if you announce that you ‘went to college’, then I’m going to ask who you studied under. If I don’t know your professors, I’m going to ask if you actually did. If you say you didn’t, then I’m going to ask how many more years of schooling you think it should take to learn to consider whether being educated by strangers in the name of “a better job” is wise.
I’m going to start asking these questions because after 18 years, it is clear that 18 years is entirely too much time spent learning what any six year old can understand.
But that’s just me. What about you? Do you understand?
I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.
This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.
That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.
Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.
Do you understand my words?
We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.
Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.
To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.
Welcome to Erff.
Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.
My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.
As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).
As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?
All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).
This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.
The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.
The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.
The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.
It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.
Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”
One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”
Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.
Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.
Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.
I want to both thank you for your prayers and apologize. I knew going in to the Qur’an that I was messing with evil, but still thought it was a necessary task. The last two posts about Anselm and fools and ontology are evidence of me losing touch a bit. In any case, I still defend last week’s analysis of Islam and my conclusions. Looking forward, my aim is to let the Holy Spirit (via personal convictions in accordance with the Triune God’s will as revealed in the Bible and feedback from other believers, including any of you) guide my thoughts as I try use my Triune God-given talents to persuade you to agree with me triply as to the pernicious nature of Allah (abstract god), that Allah has infected all of us already, and that Christians, through the power of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are the only people who can lead the charge of freeing those who submit to Allah. Thank you again for your prayers, and keep them coming. Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
1. Somebody once wrote (believed) that only the fool has said in his heart, “There is no Triune god.”
2. If we deny claim 1, we devalue whoever it was that wrote it (believed it) to an inhumane level.
3. A human being is more than flesh, a human being is capable of belief.
4. Therefore, (a) if we admit claim 1 above, we necessarily endow the human who wrote it with their humanity and we realize the Triune god lives.
5. Therefore, (b) the Triune god is worthy. We should glorify the Triune god.
This post is mostly a time capsule for me.
Over one year ago I wrote about something that happened over three years ago. I had been sitting in a philosophy course for fun and watched in awe as the professor wrote on the board in Greek. I had never seen such a feat. He used the same chalk and the same chalkboard, but wrote in an alphabet that was unlike any I had seen. And he didn’t even act like he was special.
As of today, I too can write with Greek characters.
Can you explain that? Seriously, can you make sense of this?
I never expected to learn Koine Greek after that day, three years ago. But as I signed up for classes in a manner that would most fully use the GI Bill I had earned, I randomly found myself in a Masters of Divinity program which includes learning the biblical languages of Koine Greek and Hebrew so that I can perform proper exegesis of the Holy Bible in its original languages. Fascinating.
I feel sheepish. I think I learned “sheepish” from Joseph Heller in Catch-22. Anyway, through an unexpected coordination of similar lessons in my Koine Greek class and my Christian Apologetics class, I was introduced to text criticism last week.
Text criticism is the term for analyzing all things written and copied by hand prior to the invention of the printing press–such as the New Testament. Have you ever heard or thought about this? It’s kind of fascinating if you take the time to dig into it a bit. The reason I feel sheepish after learning about text criticism is because I’m a sucker who fell for the theory that the recently discovered hidden gospels/epistles had something to contribute to (possibly were even able to refute) orthodox Christianity’s claims that God created the universe, Adam and Eve sinned, and Jesus Christ died on the cross and on the third day rose from the grave thereby offering forgiveness of sin, salvation, and eternal life to all comers.
Long story short, I have a friend at work that is a conspiracy theorist. I know, I know. Many of you think Christians are simply conspiracy theorists. But that’s not true. Here’s why. This man is in his 50s, is divorced, and he believes the Illuminati are running the world. He believes that they wrote the Bible and are interested in having the Christians and Muslims kill each other off, after which the Illuminati, themselves, will finally begin overt rule. He shows me websites and proudly reads off lists of unremarkable names as if he’s reading scripture from a pulpit. The other day after a song came on the radio, he began espousing how there is some psychological training facility in England which is funded by the Rockefellers (an Illuminati family) that trains bands to wage psychological warfare on America, bands like the Beatles. I pointed out to him that the wikipedia entry had a paragraph that began, “Conspiracy theorists believe…” about the facility. It had no effect. The reason I bring him up is to illustrate specifically what a conspiracy theorist is. He’s the definition of a conspiracy theorist. They are people who believe profoundly fascinating, yet ultimately baseless theories founded upon theoretical evidence, not empirical evidence.
What about Christianity? The recent archaeological discoveries of non-canonical “hidden” gospels/epistles seem to suggest/confirm the theories that orthodox Christianity is the product of plotting conspirators manipulating the historical record in order to advance their agendas.
Books such as the “gospel of Thomas” capture so much History Channel attention that even Christians themselves need be given some clear guidance about these books and their claims.
Specifically, there is a theory that argues that the church fathers adopted the New Testament canon for their own secret (or apparently not so secret) reasons. The trouble with this theory is that none of these recently discovered hidden gospels were even brought to the church father’s attention for consideration. Put inversely, the church fathers (early Christian leaders) did not consider the “gospel of Thomas” for inclusion in the 27 book New Testament Canon. We know this because we have empirical evidence of the their decisions, which books they did consider and reject, and their reasoning that led to their decisions.
Therefore, it is academically irresponsible and I’d go so far as to say unthinkable to discard the New Testament and its 5300 plus fragments/copies that are nearly perfect matches of each other on the basis of a few fragments of other writings. Does that make sense? It’s simple math. If you have 5300 pieces of evidence for one conspiracy, and 20 pieces of evidence for a competing conspiracy, and no evidence (leaving only a theory) of a conspiracy to ensure these numbers vary so greatly, then in order to favor the 20 pieces of evidence over the 5300 pieces, you must believe in a conspiracy theory, not a conspiracy based on empirical fact. Because the fact is there are no empirical facts that support the theory that early Christians, beginning with the apostles, manipulated the truth. Instead, there is only a plethora of empirical data that supports that early Christians, beginning with the eye-witnesses to Jesus Christ’s resurrection, believed a conspiracy–that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God.
So you have to decide. Do you want to believe/create theories about life on planet earth as conspiracy theorists do, or do you want to examine the empirical facts of recorded human history as conspiracy empiricists–Christians–do?
If you want any empirical books about my claims, comment below or email me.
When I was at the school house for my MH-53 Pavelow training, there was a moment when a young flight-engineer-in-training was lacking confidence and as such his performance was suffering. The instructor–knowing full well both that these moments are pivotal in men’s careers and that he has the responsibility to keep unsafe and unqualified aircrew out of the aircraft–broke down the situation simply. He told the young man, “Confidence is the direct result of knowledge. You need more knowledge. You need to study more.”
There is a fairly low-flying film called The Legend of 1900. It is a story about a virtuoso pianist who was born on and never leaves a ship that crosses the Atlantic Ocean back and forth repeatedly. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a passenger tells the virtuoso about a time when he looked out at the sea from land and heard the sea say, “Life. Life is immense.”
A friend asked if I could explain why Christians are having a hard time being brave enough to tell others that they are Christians. By my thinking there are a few reasons. First, it is very possible that some Christians are honestly unsure if they are Christians. The result being that they aren’t ready to broadcast their beliefs because they know they can’t defend them–and we all know that they will be asked to defend them. Second, some Christians know that they’re Christians without a doubt. But their life circumstances have led to them also not being confident or in the mood to defend their beliefs. Add to this that a result of unbelief is the belief that Christians are fools. The Apostle Paul mentions this. Naturally, nobody wants to be called a fool and then appear to be one when they can’t defend why they are not foolish at all. Third, Christianity is immense. It is practiced the world over and with great diversity outside of a few central tenets. I have grown up in the religion since kindergarten at a private christian school and even I didn’t learn this until last semester during a master’s program. I’m well-read for a lay-person, if that. I’m comfortable in public as a Christian because it takes about two topics for the average person to concede that their diet consists of hours of daily television brainwashing and mine doesn’t. When I talk to a Christian with a healthy diet of television, I become uncomfortable and I’ve seen that consequently make them uncomfortable. I’m sure the same is true for when they realize that their brainwashed-by-television self isn’t much different than the non-christian brainwashed-by-television self that questions their beliefs.
In my apologetics class the other day I asked if the professor had any evidence of certain settings being more favorable to winning converts. (He didn’t.) But then my mind started racing. There we were, about 30ish students and the professor. We’re all academically strong individuals. And we’re motivated. Additionally, we know that manipulation and real-deal cults that brainwash folks into membership exist. Yet we wouldn’t employ those tactics to increase membership–far from it. All we’re asking for non-believers to do is consider it–simply consider it. For example, during my undergraduate program the value of being able to argue from both sides of an issue was instilled in me. There are very few non-believers who are able to even defend Christianity for the sake of argument. The reason they should want to is simply Pascal’s wager. What exactly is lost for test-driving Christianity? Friends? They aren’t your friends if they’d un-friend you for believing–and visa-versa. Family? Money? There are plenty of wealthy believers. Time? What? Independence? Enslavement to sin?
Christian confidence, just like any other confidence, begins and ends with knowledge. It always has and always will.
My daughter’s school, and many others in town it seems, just formally celebrated completing 100 days of school as if America is a third-world country that is excited to finally have formal education. When I picked her up she had a sticker on that said, “I have completed 100 Days of School!” With such an upside-down public education system, it’s surprising that there are any Christians left in America.