Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Chapter One – Dividing

Previous chapter: Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Dividing

In order to truly dig deeper into Scripture and learn the doctrines that most of us were never taught by our pastors, one needs to first know how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” since without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of teachings the body of Christ is supposed to believe and follow. It’s extremely common for those within the Institutional Church to believe that certain things in Scripture which were meant only for specific people in specific times apply to everyone always, causing them to think they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them, and to try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). In order to do this “rightly,” it’s important to first understand that when you read the term “the word of truth” in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books in the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament) it isn’t just yet another synonym for Scripture, so this isn’t simply referring to dividing the Bible into the two sections that are commonly called the Old Testament and the New Testament (although dividing Scripture rightly will be a valid side effect of this practice since, while every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us). If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, it appears that it actually refers to the Evangel or Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means; the Greek word euaggelion [εὐαγγέλιον], which we translate as Evangel or Gospel in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the Apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to divide the Good News.

To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth can be divided into, two of which are known as the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. It’s important to note that Paul didn’t just say that Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the Circumcised while he himself was called to preach the Gospel to the Uncircumcised in this verse in his epistle to the Galatians (in fact, in the very next verse he then does talk about how Peter was an apostle of the Circumcision while he was an apostle to the Gentiles, which would be a redundant and unnecessary statement if he’d just finished saying the exact same thing in the previous verse), despite how some translations might render it (not seeming to grasp the difference between the genitive and dative cases in Greek; Circumcision and Uncircumcision are both in the genitive case here, so the possessive “of” is the correct translation, and “of” doesn’t mean “to” as some seem to think it does. If I were to serve the food of the Greeks and you were to serve the food of the Jews we’d both be serving different sorts of food [even though what both of us were providing would still be called food, and might very well have overlapping ingredients, we’d still end up with two different types of meals], whereas if I were to serve food to the Greeks and you were to serve food to the Jews we could very well be giving out the same food, so understanding that the word “of” means something very different from the word “to” is extremely important). Rather, these were two separate Gospels meant for two separate groups of people (even if anybody can technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed to follow — Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision — as long as they don’t try to combine the two of them [Paul says they shouldn’t switch between the two of them either, but rather stick with the one they’re called to]). So, the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples taught the first one specifically to Israel (Jesus, while heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision while He walked the Earth; despite making a couple exceptions and helping a couple of them [where the Bible makes clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts], His earthly ministry [aside from His death and resurrection, of course] was not directed towards the Gentiles, and His teachings were about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens as the later teachings of the celestial Jesus through the apostle Paul were), while Paul was singled out by the glorified Christ to teach the second one to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ), and it’s the second one that is meant for the body of Christ today (although it should be noted that Paul actually did preach the first one for a time as well, at the beginning of his ministry; it wasn’t until he later went to the nations that he began to teach the latter Gospel, along with its related mysteries or secrets). The rest of the Bible is important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that were written specifically to the body of Christ. As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions (and even the 13 Pauline epistles themselves can be said to have to be rightly divided in a sense, or at least a progression of revelation and sometimes even change of exhortation has to be recognized, since not everything in Paul’s earlier, pre-prison epistles was still necessarily relevant by the time he wrote his later, prison epistles, such as the “charismatic” spiritual gifts for example, which will be touched on a little later).

So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is occasionally shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of Grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given specifically to him), and how are we saved under it? Before answering that, it’s important to know what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin, by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by “following Jesus,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), and/or by being baptized in water, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the Gospel. If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet, relatively speaking (at least not under this Gospel; some people who call themselves Christians have very possibly unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however — God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself [although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case], and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were [and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are] saved by another Gospel). Rather, this Good News is simply that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead after three days. Very few Christians actually do, but if you truly believe in Christ’s death for our sins (those three little words make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe), His entombment, and His resurrection, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking; everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death and resurrection). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel other than that faith; no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin, doing good works, “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. And on that note, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water (nor are we baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though we are baptized by the Holy Spirit). Water baptism manifested Christ to Israel, and was actually connected to the law of Moses and the two covenants that God made with Israel, and those under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with the covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized into the body of Christ, and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism into the body rather than baptism in water or in the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was ready to begin on Earth (which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the Kingdom), and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to live in that kingdom when it finally arrives on Earth) one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular) and believe that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water, following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the tribulation, whichever comes first). While works never saved anyone, baptism, following Jesus’ commandments (which includes following the law of Moses, since it doesn’t pass away [although parts of it have been fulfilled and other parts have possibly been temporarily paused] for those under this Gospel until the new heavens and the new Earth begin after the Millennial Kingdom ends; don’t confuse the end of the Old Covenant — which, while being ready to vanish away, won’t actually fade away fully until the New Covenant begins in earnest around the beginning of the Millennium [while the New Covenant got its start, or was at least confirmed, by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant haven’t fully come into effect yet] — with the end of the Mosaic law, which happens at the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and Earth are destroyed), confessing sins, and enduring to the end still seem to be necessary to maintain salvation under this Gospel, but at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in order to be saved and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives on Earth (which is what salvation under this Gospel entails — it has nothing to do with going up to the kingdom of heaven from Earth in a spiritual state after one dies [or to do with the Kingdom spiritually residing within oneself while still alive; while there is a spiritual element to the Kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this book], and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on Earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected after the tribulation period). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins, His entombment, or His resurrection for justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of Grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that evangelists quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (and His death was even prophesied beforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them, He also didn’t explain it as being for our sins or as something they had to trust in to enter the impending Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him (the cross was Bad News for those who heard him rather than the Good News it is for the recipients of Paul’s message), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons either (just believing that Jesus died and was resurrected isn’t enough to actually be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; one has to also believe that His death was for our sins, and Peter didn’t preach that fact about His death in his Acts sermons). Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, this was very Bad News for his listeners too; not Good News for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than Bad News, and if it’s Bad News in those messages then it isn’t Good News/the Gospel in those messages, which means it’s a whole other Gospel from the one Paul preached, since in his Gospel the cross was only Good News for his audience. As an example of someone getting saved by believing a Gospel prior to Paul, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch (who was most likely Jewish himself [of the diaspora, like those who were visiting Jerusalem a few chapters earlier in Acts 2], based on the fact that no mention of his being a Gentile was made even though just two chapters later such a big deal is made of Peter talking to Gentiles) to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death for our sins at all, but was instead that he simply believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God. So faith, under the Gospel of the Circumcision, is in the identity of Jesus, while faith, under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus. Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of the New Covenant and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth).

As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is the exact same message as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding messages are actually saying the same thing), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different, and that it’s his teachings the body of Christ should be following.

Of course, anyone who believes that Paul was later preaching the exact same Gospel to the Uncircumcision that Peter was preaching (I say later because, in the time period recorded in the book of Acts, Paul was mostly still preaching the Gospel of the Circumcision) also has to explain how Paul could have possibly never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting them during the time he went by the name Saul. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he proclaimed to the nations from any humans, but rather learned it directly from Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and we know that he wasn’t told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the Good News he later preached to the Gentiles wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that he himself preached at the beginning of his ministry), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.

One possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some believe), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about). This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [or “secrets,” which is a better translation] of the dispensation of Grace and Conciliation and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said ecclesia was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history. The body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on Earth. That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God. Unlike the body of Christ, who will be out there working in the heavens (referring to outer space, out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials presumably reside [even if perhaps mostly in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence]), the Israel of God will remain here on Earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennial Kingdom, and will rule over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years. Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”) are among this group, if “being saved” means they’re no longer identified as Jewish and that they are going to rule far off in the heavens (which would be the case if they were brought into the body of Christ), how are they going to also be Jews (which they apparently no longer are since there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body) reigning on Earth? This confusion is easily cleared up as soon as one comes to realize the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, and how each of these two groups are saved (and what each of their salvations entail). Of course, it also helps to realize that Paul was the first to be saved under his Gospel and join the body of Christ (not to mention the first to preach his Gospel), so no Jewish believer prior to him could have been a member of Christ’s body yet anyway.

Another possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is most people aren’t aware that Paul used two distinct Greek words rather than one to refer to the Gospels that weren’t his being preached when he spoke of a “different” (heteros [ἕτερος]) Gospel and “another” (allos [ἄλλος]) Gospel in Galatians. “Heteros” basically means “other of a different sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” Gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone. Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today aren’t even proclaiming that one, but instead are the very people who are guilty of preaching the adulterated “different/heteros” Gospel that isn’t even “another/allos” legitimate Gospel at all like Peter’s was, bringing the curse Paul warned about upon themselves.

So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms [such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples] that is used by both but can mean something slightly different to each), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the renascence or regeneration (the period also known as the Kingdom of Heaven [or the Kingdom of the Heavens, which is a subset of the much larger Kingdom of God], the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago, while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision, is only meant for Israel). Basically, Churchianity needs to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israel and trying to give them to the body of Christ (and, likewise, stop trying to take the blessings given to the body of Christ and trying to apply them to the Israel of God).

Unfortunately, if one doesn’t come to understand the difference between the Gospels, they’ll assume that many commandments in the Bible are meant to be followed by believers in the body of Christ today that actually aren’t (while also conveniently ignoring certain parts that aren’t meant for them simply because they don’t like them rather than because they actually understand right dividing), they won’t understand which church they’re a part of (or when it actually began), and they can even come to completely misunderstand what the Gospel the body of Christ is saved by actually is, causing Christians to present a convoluted Gospel message to the world that doesn’t actually lead anyone to salvation. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the books commonly referred to as the Gospels you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.

The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of Grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom, whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole, does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them (although using a better translation also helps in other cases). So not only is this concept extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s so central to understanding what the Bible is saying that one can’t properly interpret much of Scripture at all without beginning from this perspective (even something like evangelism will be a confusing task for those who don’t understand that “the Great Commission” wasn’t meant for the body of Christ; instead, we have a greater commission, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began [including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore] just as Paul was), which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.

Next chapter: Judgement

Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Introduction

[I’ve made many updates to this book since I originally wrote it, so if you notice that the dates in some of the supporting links postdate the time it was written, that’s why. If you see any broken links or mistakes, please let me know so I can look into getting them fixed.]

Introduction

Every weekend (mostly on Sundays, although some prefer Saturdays), billions of followers of the Christian religion all around the world head over to a building to sing some songs, donate some money, and listen to a speech (and, in some cases, have a bite of bread and perhaps a sip of a grape-based beverage). What almost none of them are aware of is that the reason they do these things is not because Scripture tells them to, but rather because of tradition. In fact, nearly every doctrine and practice taught within Churchianity (as some of us call the Institutional Church and the religious/”orthodox” version of Christianity that most people are familiar with [as opposed to the religionless/”heretical” Christianity that I now believe the Scriptures teach is meant for the body of Christ]) is based on the traditions and creeds of man rather than the teachings of Scripture. Members of the body of Christ in the first century gathered as the ecclesia (or church) very differently from the way those in the Christian religion have been taught to, and their beliefs were quite different as well.

I’d always been taught by my religious leaders to interpret Scripture pretty literally (aside from the parts that were obviously figurative, such as the parables, of course), but I came to see that they weren’t really interpreting it quite as literally as they claimed to be themselves, at least not when it contradicted their traditions, and they certainly weren’t interpreting it particularly consistently. In fact, as I dug deeper and searched for an ecclesia that did, I learned that almost no pastor has taught the members of their congregations very much about what Scripture actually says at all. Instead, they were (even if unintentionally) preaching false doctrines based on pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says thanks to traditions they themselves had been taught by their denominations and leaders. Because of this, the members of these assemblies are missing out on some extremely important truths, and are instead taught ideas that are directly contrary to what Scripture really says. Thankfully, I was able to find teachers outside of the Institutional Church who did teach properly translated and interpreted Scripture (you’ll find some of them in the many supporting links, which I use in place of footnotes, that I include throughout this book). As you read on, you’ll discover many of these truths for yourself that I and many others like me learned when we began to interpret Scripture a lot more literally and consistently (particularly in its original languages) than those of the denominations we left behind ever did.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Chapter 1 – Dividing

Chapter 2 – Judgement

Chapter 3 – Predestination

Chapter 4 – Deception

Part 2: Practice

Chapter 5 – Morality

Chapter 6 – Politics

Chapter 7 – Church

Conclusion

 

Next chapter: Dividing

Profane Hypocricy

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

It’s said that Tony Campolo would often begin speeches with the previous quote, and it’s a great example of how certain people get offended by the wrong things.

People all over the world, even the western world, are being persecuted solely on the basis of who they happen to be sexually attracted to. Much of the time this persecution is perpetuated by those claiming to follow Christ. People in the US are going into debt because they had the gall to get sick or be injured and require medical care, and many of the people insisting this debt should continue to be forced upon them are also Christians. Children and adults alike are going hungry all over the world, even in America, while there’s more than enough food in the world to feed every single one of them. Many women, often while they’re still just children, are forced to be sex slaves, even here in the west. People are arrested and thrown into prison every day for the crime of ingesting (or even simply possessing) a plant that God created, while actually harmful drugs are allowed to be created by greedy companies and sold to us in order to make these rich men even richer. And politicians continue to create unjust and harmful laws all over the world, again, even here in the west; and what’s worse, a large majority of people often actually support these laws because they think their deity will bless them if these rules are created and obeyed.

Most of us have become desensitized to these tragic everyday realities. Honestly, most of us really just don’t care (if we cared we’d do something about it). Yet, while these horrible things don’t phase most Christians anymore, some still get terribly offended when they hear certain sounds or read specific combinations of letters. And, let’s be honest, that’s all swearing or profanity really is.

I’m not going to exegete all the passages in the Bible about language, though I will quickly point out that saying “oh my God” isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain since “God” isn’t even close to being the Lord’s name in Scripture (and the commandment isn’t talking about profanity either anyway; it’s basically referring to perjury after swearing not to while using the Lord’s name in your oath). Instead I’ll point out the hypocrisy, not to mention haughtiness, of having trouble with profanity.

All profanity means is “outside the temple,” ie., anything that isn’t sacred. I won’t get into the problems with the secular/sacred dualism most Christians hold to, but technically anything non-religious is “profane,” not just certain words. However, pretending for a moment that certain words are more profane than others, the idea that words can be bad in the first place quickly becomes comical when you begin to deconstruct the idea.

Let’s break it down. Is it the particular combination of letters, or the specific sound the word makes when spoken, that makes a word wrong to use? It’s obviously ridiculous to think so, otherwise the words “damn,” “hell,” and “ass” shouldn’t be read in the KJV Bible, or said in a homily, as they’d be just as inherently bad in Scripture or sermon as when spoken in everyday parlance.

Is it the meaning behind the word? If so, simply saying “sexual intercourse” (or “rats” or “ouch” any other number of euphemisms) would be just as bad as saying “fuck;” and “crap” or “faeces” would be just as bad as saying “shit.”

Is it the intent behind the words? For instance, is it okay to say fuck if you’re referring to sex, or just using it as a playful adjective, but wrong to use in anger against another person? I’m okay with this, but only as much as I am with the idea that we shouldn’t be saying anything with the intention of hurting another person (whether in anger or not), regardless of what words we’re using.

When it comes right down to it, getting offended by these “vulgar” words implies that you think you’re too good to hear everyday, common language, and that you probably need to be brought down a peg or two.

Honestly, the old childhood saying about sticks and stones is true, and words can only hurt you if you let them. But, if you really insist on being offended by certain words, how about choosing to be offended by those words intended to hurt people who don’t happen to share your particular values or preferences instead of words that simply add a bit of colour to everyday speech.

But I’ll make a compromise. Get offended by the many injustices and atrocities being committed not only around the world but even in your own backyard, and I mean offended enough to actually do something about it, and I’ll try to pretend you’re not a snob when you turn up your nose at everyday language. And I won’t even say the word uterus around you if that helps.

Bible Verses to Help in Your Fight Against Abortion

Have you ever wanted to come up with a good 1-2 punch from the Bible to help you win arguments about why God hates abortion? Well, now you can. Here are the only passages you need to know to turn your abortion loving friends against killing babies:

  • Exodus 20:13 – “Thou shalt not kill.”

Well, that isn’t going to work if we’re going to support the death penalty and war and cops carrying guns in the line of duty. Let’s see… Oh, I know. Other translations put it as, “You shall not murder.” That’s better. Hmm… Except that murder technically means “illegal killing,” and if abortion is legal then it can’t actually be labelled murder. Well, let’s find a better passage then.

  • Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Great! No, wait, all that really tells us is that God knew Jeremiah before he was born. Hmm… does this mean that we exist as spirit babies before we’re born? This is going to help Mormons defend some of their theology, but all it does for the rest of us is explain that God foreknew Jeremiah’s existence and planned for him to become a prophet beforehand, so we’d better keep this one under wraps if we don’t want to have to wear special undergarments. Anyway, it doesn’t tell us that God hates abortion like we know He does from the Bible, so we’d better find those passages telling us that He does.

  • Psalm 139:13-16 “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

I’m not sure what that says, let’s check the NIV. Oh, that’s just more of Jeremiah 1:5, explaining God’s foreknowledge and predestination. Since most of us want to keep believing in free will, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take that passage too literally anyway. Moving on…

  • Luke 1:39-42 “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

Yes! Babies in the womb can leap when the Holy Spirit inspires them to do so. Although, on second thought, what does that have to do with abortion? Drat, I thought I was onto something there. Well, let’s see what else I can find. Hmm… I’m out of passages. Well, at least we know that God loves children and would never do anything to harm them:

  • 2 Kings 2:22-24 “So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

Whoa, God sent bears to kill children for making fun of someone’s baldness? That’s scary. Maybe He only loves children while they’re still in the womb. It’s a good thing we’ve got all those passages explaining that He does, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: This post isn’t meant to support either the pro-abortion or anti-abortion positions. The only point is that the Bible can’t be used to defend the idea that God hates abortion or is pro-life. God does LOTS of killing and sanctioning of killing, even of children, according to the Bible, so it isn’t in your best interest to try to use it to fight abortion.

Also, if you believe in everlasting torment in hell and the age of accountability, you should be hoping that every pregnancy ends in abortion.

All Things Are Permitted

There’s a very simple bit of theology that the church in general doesn’t seem to have caught onto yet: According to the Bible, we can do whatever we want to do (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Does the Bible really tell us we’re free to sin? Yes, technically it does. We can do pretty much anything and we’re still covered by grace. In fact, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

However… just because we CAN do whatever we want doesn’t mean we SHOULD do whatever we want. While 1 Corinthians 6:12 does tell us that everything is permitted (or lawful, depending on your translation), it goes on to remind us that not everything is expedient or profitable. Remember, your actions are going to have consequences, both to you and to others.

And not only do we have to consider the possible negative consequences, there’s the fact that the more we give in to harmful desires, the more we can become enslaved to harmful habits. Since the whole point of Christianity is supposed to be freedom (it’s for freedom you’ve been set free, Paul says in his letter to the Galatians), being enslaved by harmful desires is no better than being enslaved to religion.

The bottom line is, don’t let any religious leader tell you you’re not allowed to do something, but it’s also a bad idea to let any habit or desire rule your life. And always consider what the consequences of your actions might be, not only to yourself, but to others as well.

That being said, not everything that we’ve been taught to believe is sinful or harmful by our religious leaders actually is sinful or harmful. I brought up one of these “sins” in my recent post on premarital sex. The problem is, there’s a lot of confusion, and even outright misinformation, about some of the things that we’ve been taught are wrong to do. This means we should each reevaluate our ideas of what some of the things we might personally need to avoid are, but we also need to keep in mind that some of the things which might be harmful or habit forming for me might not be the same for you, and vice versa.

However, there’s still one more factor to consider. Even if we know that an activity is completely harmless to us, some of our brothers and sisters won’t have the same understanding we do, which can lead them into harmful habits themselves if they don’t understand proper balance. Similarly, many of them (most of them, in all honestly) don’t have very strong faith in God’s grace, and publicly practicing certain activities they consider to be sinful can cause some of them to stumble at times, so abstinence, at least publicly, might be the advisable course of action in some situations (though less often than you might think. Helping someone remain “weak” in their faith isn’t necessarily doing either of you any favours). This, of course, brings up all sorts of other questions, but those will have to wait for another post.

Disclaimer: Just because something is covered by grace or is not against God’s law doesn’t mean it isn’t against one of man’s laws. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to break any of the laws of the land where they live, as unjust as certain laws may be.

Dialogue With an Evangelical: The Movie

Three years ago, I shared a little dialogue between myself and a random evangelical on the subjects of hell and Christian Universalism.

For the fun of it, I decided to make up a short video of that discussion using those talking bears I’ve been seeing around the web over the last few months.

It seems to have a couple unusual pauses in the dialogue for reasons I haven’t determined yet, but otherwise it seems to have come out well for my first attempt at a video.

Avoid Sexual Immorality

A few months ago I pointed out that not only can lust be a good thing according to the Bible, but that even Jesus lusted. I also claimed that the Bible actually says a lot less about premarital sex than we’ve been told it does. Here’s a quick explanation of why I said that.

If you grew up human, you probably know that those in the Christian religion normally condemn premarital sex (along with various other sexual practices that seem to make them squirm). They’ll usually tell you that this is because God also condemns it in the Bible. Of course, like nearly everything else, they generally haven’t actually studied whether or not Scripture really says what they think it says.

The primary reason that most Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English translation, in the New Testament you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it means sexual intercourse between unmarried partners. The problem is, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English.

The word translated as “fornication” in the Bible is the Greek word porneia (πορνεία). The thing is, this word does not literally translate as “premarital sex” the way the religious would like you to believe it does. In fact, it’s generally agreed that the most accurate translation of porneia is “illicit sexual activity” (or “illegal sexual activity”).

The most obvious question, of course, is what exactly constitutes “illicit sexual activity.” Of course, if one has been brought up with the presupposition that premarital sex is wrong then one will naturally assume that it falls into this category (hence the “fornication” translation in many Bibles). But one should never make assumptions when it comes to theology, even if it is the easiest route to take.

If we take the term “illicit sexual activity” literally, it means sexual activity that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid porneia either.

The truth is, the word porneia actually had multiple meanings, depending on how the word was being used. It spoke of sexual idolatry in some cases, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes who did so as a part of worshiping other gods. It could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example. There was also a spiritual meaning to the word, having nothing to do with physical sex at all. The thing to take away from all this is that we can’t simply take the word and force the meaning of premarital sex onto it, despite the fact that your pastor would probably prefer you did.

Now, I could go over each occurrence of the word porneia in the New Testament with you, but it would be better for you go over them for yourself. Here’s every occurrence of the word in the KJV where it’s translated “fornication.” What I want you to do is read each passage and replace the word “fornication” with the word porneia in your mind, and then think about whether premarital sex is what the passage is definitely talking about. I think you’ll find that, at least in most (if not all) cases, there’s little to no justification for making that assumption.

The Problem With the Origin of Evil

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to an excellent series on the topic of questioning God over the existence of suffering and evil. It’s been an interesting look at the question of why God allows evil and suffering in the world, as well as asking whether it’s okay to be upset with God over it.

The reason for this post isn’t to get into whether it’s okay, however, but rather it’s because I became very uncomfortable while listening to today’s sermon on the topic of the origin of evil. He asked all the right questions, and brought up the logical argument that if God is all powerful and all knowing then He must ultimately be responsible for its existence. He then decided that, since God couldn’t have created evil, it must originate in man’s free will. I had a couple problems with this, the first being the sudden assumption, seemingly out of nowhere, that God couldn’t possibly have been responsible for evil’s existence.

I know that it seems like a noble thing to try to take the blame away from God, but doing so also takes away from the godness of God (or perhaps we should say the sovereignty of God, to use a more theological term).

Trying to blame humanity’s free will also causes problems. I’ve written about this before, but human “free will” is a complete logical impossibility. We can make choices, but those choices are predetermined by our nurture and nature (both physical and spiritual). Sure, we have a will, but it’s anything but free. There’s no way around this that I’m aware of, and to simply wave our hands and say free will exists because we want it to doesn’t actually give us any answers or help us in any way.

Despite what I’m assuming is his desire to keep the blame for evil from falling on God, both logic and the Bible tell us that God is responsible. If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin (presuming the story in Genesis 3 actually literally happened) and still created them anyway, then He has to take the responsibility; there’s just no way around it. Considering the fact that free will doesn’t exist, there was no way that they weren’t going to eat the fruit. If God didn’t want evil to exist He never would have created the fruit or the talking snake.

In the end, though, God ultimately takes responsibility for evil anyway (at least He does if you believe the Bible). In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (for those who aren’t using a Bible with Strongs numbers, the word for “evil” there is the Hebrew word ra`, the same word used in the name of the tree Adam and Eve ate from, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”).

We also read, in Amos 3:6, “shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

And finally, simply put, “all things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

It might seem honourable to try to blame humanity for evil, but God Himself takes the credit so we might as well let Him have it.

Having said all that, I also want to point out that using the word “evil” can completely distract us from the real problem, which is suffering. As I’ve previously written about, evil doesn’t actually exist as an ontological “thing” (which, thankfully, the preacher does briefly acknowledge). Suffering, however, is very real, and most of it originates in what we call “acts of God” (the figure of speech we use just goes to show that we recognize, even if only on a subconscious level, that God is ultimately responsible for the suffering we experience in this life).

There’s more I could say on all that, but I’ll end off by pointing out one more common evangelical assumption he made in the sermon, the idea that Satan was once good but fell from grace at some point in the past due to pride. The truth is, there’s nothing in the Bible that actually comes out and says this. In fact the Bible actually says that the devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), which indicates he was probably never actually good. There are a couple passages that evangelicals tend to read into when trying to back up this Christian urban legend, but it’s not good exegesis in my humble opinion.

All that being said, nobody is perfect, and I still think this preacher is pretty good on a lot of other topics as well.

The Lusts of the Flesh

Is it wrong to lust after an attractive girl? Did Jesus ever lust? I’ve been meaning to write about the topics of lust and sex for a little while now, but a friend of mine beat me to it. So, before I get into the subject myself, I want you to first watch Martin Zender talk about it in his biweekly Crack O’Dawn Report:

It’s not just Jesus who lusted (seriously, watch the video), the Old Testament prophets did too (“desire” in that passage is the same Greek word translated “lust” in Matthew 5:28). Not only that, the Apostle Paul tells us that lust can even be a good thing at times (again, same Greek word being used for “desire”).

It all comes down to context. When Jesus compared lust to adultery, He was most likely referring to coveting a woman who already belonged to another man, not to simply finding a single girl sexually appealing (the same Greek word is also translated as “covet” in at least one passage).

The Christian religion might be primarily about sexual repression (okay, it is; there’s no “might be” about it, despite what people might say), but the Bible isn’t as against sexual desire as most Christians believe it is. It even says less about premarital sex than most people may think, but I’ll get into that in a future post.

Questioning Your Presuppositions

While truly questioning one’s theological presuppositions is rare among Christians, the real hallmark of a heretic is that he or she is willing to reject the ideas that conflict with reality, regardless of how orthodox said beliefs may happen to be and how much trouble he or she might get into for following the evidence no matter where it leads.

Growing up in the evangelical church, I was trained to believe all sorts of doctrines based on my denomination’s ideas of what the Bible says. We were taught that people who didn’t become Christians before they died would suffer forever in hell. We were taught that having sex is pretty much the worst thing that someone can do unless one met very specific requirements such as being married to the person you were sleeping with and being the opposite genders of each other. We were taught that drinking alcohol is wrong if it isn’t during communion. And we were taught that, every Sunday, people should gather in a building to sing and listen to a presentation by a pastor or elder and then give money to the people running the building.

What most rarely did, however, was ask why we should believe and do (or avoid) these things. If one of us did happen to wonder aloud about any of these doctrines, we were simply told that the Bible teaches these things and we were possibly shown a passage or two of Scripture that seemed, at least on first glance, to support these ideas. What we weren’t shown were any contextual reasons for interpreting the passages the way we were told we should, or given any proof that the English versions of the Bible we were using were translated accurately. And, perhaps most importantly, we were never told why we should consider the Bible to be inerrant, or even the basis of spiritual truth, in the first place.

Most people in the churches I grew up in were happy to take the doctrines they were taught for granted, trusting that their pastors and teachers must know what they’re talking about and believing that their leaders wouldn’t lie to them (even unknowingly). A few of us, however, weren’t content to simply accept “because the Bible says so” as gospel truth. We got right down to the foundations of our faith and questioned the validity of ideas like biblical inerrancy, and even if we accepted that there is truth in Scripture, we didn’t blindly trust that the translators were without bias or error in their English versions. And, after much investigation, we concluded that many of the doctrines we had been taught were actually being read into Scripture based on the presuppositions of our church leaders as opposed to legitimately being interpreted from Scripture without bias.

Of course, coming to theological and spiritual conclusions contrary to those that we’d been taught didn’t make us popular. Despite what you might hear, Christians don’t become heretics to win friends and influence people. Rather, we become heretics because we’re more interested in truth than in dogma. Because if truth is what you’re after, questioning your assumptions is not enough. You’ve got to actually be willing to accept that you might have been lied to and be able to handle the consequences that will inevitably arise when it becomes known that you’re not blindly following the leader anymore.

To those brave few who do make this uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding journey, I congratulate you and wish you godspeed on your travels. To the rest of you, I also wish you well and simply ask that you go easy on those who may not agree with you 100%.