The Day I Met Jesus and an Apostle…

And it wasn’t on the Damascus Road…

Easter weekend 2018 yielded two interesting encounters while on duty on the ambulance.

We were dispatched to an area grocery store to assist local police with a male subject. Once we were on scene we met a 34 year old man who was performing miracles — attempting to levitate cars and such. This man claimed to be Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

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The Lord became irate when we disputed the authenticity of his claim. Then he lashed out in anger.

We grabbed up the Lord and bound his arms and his legs. He screamed out in pain because we were “crucifying” him onto the stretcher. On arrival to the hospital, he was then chemically restrained with shots of Ativan and Geodon in the Emergency Department. He fell into an unconscious state. Later, when he awoke, he claimed that he had raised himself from the dead.

Meanwhile several hours later we were dispatched on an elderly female complaining of chest pains. When assessing her, she claimed that “the enemy” was trying to end her “mission” as a witness of Jesus Christ. When we had told her that we met the Lord earlier that night she became incredulous about the whole affair.

At the Emergency Department she was placed in the adjoining room and the two began to argue with one another. She told Jesus that he was filled with the spirit of Satan to which the Lord threatened to cast her into the pit of despair.

 

 

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The Immoral Commandments: A Series

This series will address the morality and themes contained in the ten commandments.

#10 Thou Shalt Not Covet

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” –Exodus 20:17

It should be readily apparent to all that the ten commandments are inherently immoral and would likely result in criminal charges if they were practiced in modern society. That does not stop Christians from trying to mount these commandments in courtrooms throughout the United States [1]. Don Wilton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina writes, “This Tenth Commandment also serves as a reminder that the previous nine commandments are not simply just a list of external acts that stand by themselves. God looks on the heart. He sees us, He knows us—and, praise God, He really loves us!” [2]. We’ll see about that one.

Thought Crimes

There is agreement to be had however. This commandment seeks to regulate thought. Forget for a moment that man naturally covets things. The desire for something is what drives society. We see our neighbor’s massive television and say in our hearts, “Oh! I want one of those!” You can apply this to just about every aspect of our lives. It drives man to innovate and work for what he wants. More importantly, however, regulating thought is one of the hallmarks of tyranny. Have you ever noticed that what God wants most is to deny us what comes naturally to us?

Property Rights

Looking deeper, God specifically forbids the coveting of your neighbor’s house, his wife, his slaves, livestock, or any other property belonging to him. An important theme is present here which is often ignored by the pious. God delineates property rights here. Most notably it is property belonging to a male. Not only are his livestock property, but his wife is property! His slaves are property! Not only is this not a facet of modern society, in a place where the meaning of words is crucial, is this really something we want displayed as a hallmark of our justice system? But as Pastor Wilton goes on to say, “refresh your vision—to be all you can be before God as He made you” [3].

It is ironic that the thought of coveting is the sin. One would think the actual sin would be to treat your wife as property or to permit the ownership of slaves. Does this not seem more important to you? The old as dirt rationalization is that times were different then. It seems that God, then, is not only bound by culture but is a byproduct of it. What a god!


Citations:
[1]. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/8-times-10-commandments-monument-had-its-day-court
[2]. https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/december-2013/thou-shalt-not-covet/
[3]. Ibid.

Church History: Why Only Four Gospels?

In 130 CE a man named Irenaeus was born in what is now modern Turkey and he did most of his work in what is now Lyon, France. It is said that he was a disciple of Polycarp who was a direct disciple of the Apostle John.

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Irenaeus is an important figure in ecclesiastical history. The early church was schismatic and had competing factions. These factions had their own ideas of Christ and his teachings. One of these factions was led by Marcion of Sinope, a declared heretic, who published his own list of what should be considered canonical scripture. Essentially he forced a response from the early church fathers and spurred the development of the canon found in the modern Bible.

four-gospel-writersMatthew, Mark, Luke, John

There are dozens of gospels, works which purport to describe the life and career of Jesus. Irenaeus was successful in denouncing the sects which used any gospel account other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and is directly responsible for their inclusion in the modern Bible. He states,

“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground 1 Timothy 3:15 of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh” [1].

Irenaeus uses strong language here. It is “not possible” to have more or less than four gospels. He goes on to reason that there can only be four gospels because the living creatures of the world are “quadriform” in the number of their extremities and because there were four covenants between God and man [2].

This line of thought might have been impressive to his contemporaries but it is not impressive today. Certainly there are not “four zones of the world” nor are there “four principle winds.” I can think of no reason why the number of extremities we have furnish any merit to an argument nor can I think of any reason to care about the number of covenants which exist in scripture. On that last point, for all we know, there exist more than four covenants between God and man. What if Irenaeus simply did not care for them?

A worldview established on reasoning which can at best be described as tenuous and dubious should be ample cause for a person to take a step back and say, “yea, this is probably bullshit.”

Citations:
[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8
[2] Ibid.

 

A Day in the Life #4: House Fire

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I get dispatched to structure fires on a somewhat regular basis. This particular fire was caused by an uncovered hot ash can someone had sat on their porch next to a bunch of dried logs. Two dogs were rescued from the house before it went up. This one was interesting due to the fire tornado that swept through the roof of the porch before it collapsed.

 

Hell: The Unquenchable Fire

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” – Mark 9:43

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When I was in seminary, I took a class called Hamartiology, which is the study of sin. Of all the classes I took, I tend to remember this one the best. It was here that I learned the depths of my own depravity and in no uncertain terms realized the fullness of my guilt before the cross. For the first time in my young life I truly knew fear, anxiety, and the fullness of the gospel.

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I recall countless hours spent in heartfelt prayer, tears in my eyes, begging for mercy lest I be cast into hell. It was a time when I could find no silence from my thoughts and no comfort in the counsel of my peers. I had killed a man [Jesus] and for no good reason. This class damaged me because it caused excessive anxiety and crippled me for a time.

Fast forward about 10 years later and I no longer feel burdened by sin. I am no longer convinced that I killed an innocent man. I no longer fear hell. In a way, this painful class helped free me from the bondage of an abusive religion.

Any psychologist will tell you that if you’re able to invoke fear in somebody, they are more easily coerced into believing or doing something which mitigates the fear whether or not it is right or true. How much easier was this to do in a time when no one understood how things like thunderstorms worked? Having been cemented back then, it is prevalent still today.

HeavenOrHellAww, hell. Guess I’ll choose heaven…

Abusive Relationships

The gospel is not predicated on love. The whole thing is predicated on the idea of eternal damnation. After all, what need is there of salvation if not for hell? What Christians want you to do is enter into an emotionally abusive relationship where you are continually brought low and humbled before a narcissistic sadist. Christians masochistically feel relief when they give in. Consider the cycle of domestic violence and then consider a Christian’s relationship with their god. The similitude is fascinating is it not?

If a Christian attempts to convince you that you’re going to burn in hell just remember that they are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Do not get drawn into it.

 

 

 

Jesus Was a Republican?A Christmas Commentary

The county Republican political party posted a clip from A Charlie Brown’s Christmas on Facebook. Specifically it was the scene where an exacerbated Charlie asks “Doesn’t anybody know what Christmas is all about!?” Linus steps forward, drops his blankie, and pronounces the biblical account of Jesus’ birth.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'” (Luke 2:8-14)

I am looking forward to the day that we finally put this myth to bed and lay it alongside the likes of Zeus and Thor. Until we’re willing to sheath the sword of Jesus (Matthew 10:34) and until we are no longer willing to embrace beliefs created in the infancy of civilization, our politics and our humanity will continue to suffer. This idea was promulgated by people who did not understand the world in which they lived. If that’s the case, I ask myself how can we expect it to create a better future by embracing it in our politics?

It’s either time to grow up or we remain like Linus, a fearful boy who sucks his thumb and carries around his blankie.

Reflections: Putting Away Childish Things

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Sometimes, late at night, I find myself sitting in the sanctuary of St. Martin of Tours. The church is dark and back lit by candles. There is a faint odor of incense hanging in the air. A stray parishioner may be found in the chapel praying the rosary. Sitting a few rows back from the altar, I usually take a few moments to contemplate my surroundings. To the right and left of the altar on which the priest consecrates the bread and wine lay the bones of two Roman martyrs who were executed for their faith under the rule of Emperor Diocletian. It is a serene and surreal place considering the bustling modern metropolis outside.

You cannot sit inside there and not think about the meaning of life and whether faith in God should have a role in it. What of these martyrs, so sure of their belief, that they would be put to death for it? Was Jesus really God and was he truly sacrificed on the cross, resurrected, and raised from the dead thereby conquering sin and death? Does the priest when, through the divine miracle of transubstantiation, transform bread and wine into body and blood? “Take this, all of you, this is my body which will be given up for you…” “Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant…”

I used to believe that the meaning of life was to worship God and to enjoy Him forever. Now I take the advice of the Apostle Paul seriously when he admonished his audience to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The late Christopher Hitchens is right to say, “The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species” [1]. We no longer live in the age of the aforementioned martyrs. The bread and wine do not actually transform into anything and remain actual bread and wine. The atmosphere of St. Martin’s is about right. To believe these things requires one to venture back to a time long before humanity was able to understand the basics of the universe and world they lived in. The faithful might not see it that way, but it is what they are doing by embracing Christianity. Despite this, I enjoy going there even if my presence is blasphemous.

Citations:

[1] Hitchens, Christopher. God is not great: how religion poisons everything. Atlantic Books, 2017.