Pierced From Within

[From the Conversation at Spring Lake on “Easter Sunday” 2017]

An Indestructible Life

When the primitive church moved the “gathering day” to Sunday it was out of the understanding and celebration of the Day of Resurrection – the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, the celebration of the empty tomb was every Sunday. The early church taught that a true understanding of the Resurrection was vital to authentic Christianity, for it is the basis for life as a Christian, and as the Church.

Not only that, but the early church lived out of Resurrection Life, daily. They did not simply live in remembrance of the resurrection, but their lives were powered by Resurrection Life. Remembrance defines an historical event that occurred somewhere back in the misty recesses of time. Resurrection Life empowers a living definition, spoken by the living Christ, of what it means to be a Christian and the Church, today. If the Church simply remembers the historical resurrection event then it loses touch with the present power of Resurrection Life.

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ left the tomb empty by the power of an Indestructible Life. That Indestructible Life, likewise, resurrected humanity in the form of the Church; in the Form of the Crucifixion (the Cruciform). The power of the empty tomb is the power at the center of the life of the Church today. If Christ is resurrected, then Christ is alive. We don’t simply reminisce about resurrection; we live according to its power in Resurrection Life.

Followers as Witnesses, according to the Life of Christ

In the gospel accounts the disciples experienced the Life of Christ. In his first letter, Peter is recorded as saying that the Historical Christ was “benefacting;” that is, “giving gifts and mercy as would a ruler to his subjects.” He said that God preached peace to Israel through Jesus Christ. Peter describes himself (and certain others – i.e., the disciples) as “witnesses” of all Jesus had done, including His hanging from a tree, His resurrection on the third day, and his command to tell others about the good News. In Acts, Peter mentions (speaking from the Jewish Scriptures) that all who believe receive forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus (10:34-43). Where Peter sees followers as “witnesses” to the life of Christ, Paul, on the other hand, calls us “expressions” of His death.

Form of Expression, according to the Cross of Christ

Obviously, for Paul, the life of Christ is an historical fact; but, for Paul, the life of a follower of Christ begins at the Cross of Christ. In his letter to the Romans (6:3-5) he states that anyone identifying with Christ through baptism (the “Christian” identity) has been baptized into His death – the Baptism of Death. The Cross of Christ is the point where we abandon our fallen identity and embrace our new identity in Christ. This identity, however, necessitates a death like His; which death then brings a resurrection in the same power as His. Not because we are a certain few; not because we magically become Jews; but because we have buried, and then died with Christ (don’t miss the burial then death).

In his letter to the Colossians (2:11-14) Paul explains that believers are pierced from within. The “circumcision of Christ” is the killing of the flesh on His cross. As we are crucified with Christ, not in a literal sense for Paul, neither is this spiritual jargon, but in a mystical/organic union with Christ has our flesh, too, been nailed to the cross. As we mystically experience the death of our “natural/religious selves” on the killing cross, God, through the faithfulness of Christ, gives us life from the dead. The fact of forgiveness of sins is effectual for us, not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in the Resurrection Life of Christ in His “form” – the Church.

Resurrection Life – Life for Living the Now, But Not Yet

According to Chapter 3 of Colossians (1-4) this resurrection is not just an eschatological (last things; end times) event, but also a fact of life for the community, today. It is by the resurrection of Christ that we believe we will be resurrected as well (1Corinthians 15), and it is by this future resurrection that we experience Resurrection Life, now/today, as the Community of Christ (Now, but Not Yet). Today, we don’t “remember” the Life of Christ, and attempt to follow him in our natural/religious selves (Eph. 2:3-7), but we experience the Killing Power of the Cross and live in Resurrection Life (Eph. 2:8-10).

Writing to the Philippians (3:10-11) Paul gives us the clearest definition of what it means to express Christ. To “witness” of Christ is to speak of the things He has done, but to “express” Christ is to experientially know Him; to experience the power of His Resurrection Life, being willing participants in His suffering (Col. 1:24) by becoming like Him in His death (the death of the natural/religious self), and finally attaining to the future Resurrection of the Dead, now/today.

This is no self-help ideology. Nor is it a kind of self-denial in the name of Christ. But this is an experiencing of the Resurrection Life, right now/today! This Resurrection Life in the present is the equipping of the church as the full expression of Christ in creation. This Resurrection Life is a guarantee of the future Great Resurrection of the body, entire. And it is the reason for the raising from the dead of Jesus Christ, bodily, to Resurrection Life.

“America” Defined, Again

Independence Day 2016… A challenge to think (again) on “America.”

Reap The Vision

This time of year many conversations revolve around politics. I do not use my public platforms to argue my political views (of which I am very opinionated) and I do not wish to do so, here, either. However, we do need to establish a fundamental fact concerning our political views. The fact is that this is America. And while we are free to think as we please (precisely because this is America), we are not, logically, free to make up our own definitions of “America.”

“America” is an ideology of how the United States is to function. The name “United States ‘of America’” makes this point obvious. The dilemma is concerning the definition of “America.” There are two main ideologies (with second order ideologies for each) that have their own definition of “America.” Thus, the discussion should be definitional and, therefore, logical.

“America” is an ideology, of which the Constitution…

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Shifting Superstition and Concrete Reality

Religion as Superstition

“Religion” (or being “religious”) is counterfeit to faith and is a human-made version of the Faith (or Faithfulness) of Christ which enlivens a religion-less faith (that faith that is without a set culture, an accepted norm, a perverted “sameness.”). In the Scriptures, the word “religious” is scarcely used (Acts 17:22 and James 1:26). In both accounts the word is used in a negative context. The word “religion” is used a few more times (Acts 25:19; 26:5; Col. 2:23; James 1:26-27). At best the term is used neutrally, and in Paul’s use it is exclusively used as a counterfeit to the established form of worship by God. There are many allusions to this “religious religion” in Paul’s letters. Nearly all of Paul’s adversaries were adherents to a religion that was but a ghostly form of true faith (2Tim. 3:5). This is the so-called “gospel” of “another” Christ (Gal. 1:6-9) and the “Jesus” of “another gospel” (2Cor. 11:4). Paul clearly explains that this counterfeit is not really another gospel, but a perversion of the true Good News. At its root, the Greek word for both “religion” and “religious” speaks of superstitions; not in the sense of black cats and walking under ladders, but in a ceremonial, sacramental, ritualistic sense that replaces (rather than enhances) the unadulterated Faith of Christ. Paul plainly states that “his gospel” was the Good News that did not come from the religious norm of the times (Gal. 1:11). His Good News was for “the Gentiles” – the un-churched, today (Gal. 2:2, 7). Faith is not of “superstitions,” strict rituals, temporal signs, or ceremonial pomp and pleasantry. Faith is the faithfulness of Christ in Christ; the sheer logic of the Resurrection life of Christ, alone; concrete reality over sacramental shadows; the total and complete lack of hypocrisy.

The Argument: Killed By Death

In Luke chapter 11 Jesus is railing against the religious leaders for not only refusing to enter into knowledge themselves, but also for refusing to let the people they’re supposed to be leading to enter therein (VS 52). In his letter to the Romans (chapter 2), Paul argues the same point and then concludes, “The name of God is slandered because of you” (VS 24), which is a loose translation of the account where God through Isaiah is making the same argument (Is. 52:5). The argument is that, as a rule, we are not expressing a loving faith of Good News, but a conquering religion of fear. Though we speak of love and tolerance, our religion thrives on people’s ignorance, making us all slaves of fear – the enslavement of the human mind, making us blind (and dumb). There is no healing or wholeness in religion, but only a feeding on the taste of pain in an attempt to satisfy our sick appetites. Jesus is now sorrow made flesh; the church, shallow – simpletons starved for a dream that is not its own – just another brand of misery. The argument herewith: Religion is what killed Christ (Matt. 27:20). Faith is for what He died (Rom. 3:25).

Rest in the Concrete Reality

It was not religion that empowered Jesus to go to the cross. Neither was it religion that equipped Him to hang, nailed with the sins of humanity. Nor was it religion that raised Him from the dead. It certainly is not religion in which He presently lives in resurrection power. And, likewise, it is not religion that equips humanity with that resurrection power. It was/is, the Faith of Christ – a personal relationship lived-out in community that is concretized in who God says God is. The Faith of Christ carried Christ to the killing Cross, then, raised Christ from the endless grave and, now, empowers Christ to forever live in the reality of the Resurrection Life. And that Resurrection Life is made available to all humanity through the Faithfulness of Christ.

Agent of Change: The Faith(fulness) OF, not in, Christ 

Religion is humanity’s counterfeit attempt to duplicate Faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). All religion has the same origin and, contrary to popular belief, the same outcome. Humanity was made with an inert desire to walk with God. Having fallen out of relationship with God, humanity’s desire now results in religious intentions, which are driven by a religious nature (Romans 1). Let it be a lesson to humanity that faith cannot be an outward indoctrination, but that it must necessarily be an inward transformation. Such an inward transformation is only probable in the Resurrection Life of Christ; made possible by the Faithfulness of Christ. Faith in Christ is nice, but the Faith of Christ is powerful. Faith in Christ is based on humanity and its frailty, while the Faith of Christ is based on divinity and its reality. The Faith of Christ was the agent of change, those many years ago, when Jesus came to free humanity from its religion (and its results). And the Faith of Christ is still the agent of change, today, when the church decides to be free from its human religion (and its results).

Community: Unity in Common

Oneness and sameness are not synonymous.

Reap The Vision

To be “common” is to be of frequent occurrence; the normative, the usual, simply normal. Two or more people can hold a thing “in common,” making it general commodity. We’ve heard of “common knowledge,” describing something that the majority should generally know. We hear a lot about so-called “common sense,” which isn’t very common and doesn’t make much sense anymore. A group of people could have a “common belief;” a shared belief system that gives identity to and is very important for the group of individuals that hold it. The idea of “common” also expands into mathematics, speech, grammar, anatomy, and law, etc. but the meaning doesn’t drift far from the original intent.

“Unity” is a state of being one; oneness. To speak of “unity” infers combined parts; two or more parts have come (or were put) together to form one whole. Often the ideology of “unity” (oneness) takes on…

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Toleration of the Intolerable

It seems that I must bring this one back around…

Reap The Vision

Tolerance is insisted upon only by the intolerable. If I do not tolerate your insistence of my tolerance, will you self-impose your toleration and tolerate the fact that I do not? We cry “tolerance,” not because we want everyone to be free, but because we want everyone enslaved. If this were not true, then, there would be no reason to cry “tolerance.” I don’t have to tolerate your opinion and you can’t force my toleration of it and, at the same time, call it “tolerance.” Forced tolerance is, in fact, the intolerance of the forceful.

The ideology of tolerance, in religion, presupposes superiority and, therefore, inferiority. What I mean is this idea that Christianity must be tolerant is based on faulty premises. In fact, the very basis of the argument is self-contradicting. The attempt to lift one religion over the other has less to do with God and more to do with the corrupted…

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A Challenge to Christian Vanity

The Qualifier

I am not interested in challenging social conventions – whether or not there are “adult words” or whether the prohibition against “cussing” is a valid moral/ethical code or not. I am only interested in whether or not we are thinking. I wish to challenge our religion; our religious defense mechanisms. My desire is to challenge our deaf, dumb and blind traditions; those that are not given a second’s thought but are simply (and ignorantly) regurgitated as fact/truth statements.

Convenient Ignorance

Haven’t we conveniently found a way around the injunction against “using the Lord’s name in vain” when we simply make it about words? Even when we use lyrical rhyming words and/or synonyms are we not still speaking contrary to the spirit of the injunction? Our issue, truly, is not the words but the condition of our hearts and minds. Isn’t it telling that we actually think we can fool God by choice words or the words we choose not? I mean, if the mind and the heart are in it, do the words used change the severity and/or the intent of the injunction? No, it is not God that is the fool.

Reduced to Words, Then

Since we want to make this about words: First, when the precept was given (Exodus 20:7), using the name of God combined with a “cuss” word would have been unheard of, and absurd. The two word combination considered, traditionally, as “using the Lord’s name in vain” would be completely unintelligible to the Hebrews, for, there are no words for the vulgarity of Western languages in ancient Israel. It would have been (literally) impossible to declare God’s damning of anyone or anything by using this particular compound word.

Secondly, we are going to have to define “the Lord’s name,” and the word “vain.” By “name” are we saying “God?” That is not the name of the Hebrew/Christian God, but a title, according to the Scriptures. Most of the religions of the world have gods, and the Hebrew word does not differentiate between the Jewish/Christian God and any other god. To draw the distinction, the Hebrew/Christian God declares the name, “YHWH” (translated “Lord” in many Bibles), and “elohym” (which is actually the plural of “god”) as a title, in the text. Obviously, it goes without saying that God’s name is not Lord but YHWH. “Lord” was the word used, rather than writing the name (“YHWH”), by the various scribes for fear of “using the Lord’s name in vain.” Incidentally, the Greek word for G/god (theos), used throughout the New Testament, is a term that refers to “a generic deity.” In Arabic, the same word is “Allah” (do with that what you have to…).

Now, what is the definition of the word “vain?” Dictionary.com defines vain as, “conceited; futile,” and to do something “in vain” is to attempt to do it “without effect.” Thesaurus.com defines vain as, “egotistical; useless” and “failing to achieve a goal.” Even more revealing is the word “vain” as used in Exodus 20:7 – which, in the Hebrew, is the word saw, meaning, “deceit, lie, or falsehood.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary explains it thusly: “God used the word to indicate that He punished Judah in vain [to no avail]. The word is used by the psalmist to state that all activities such as laboring, guarding, rising early, staying up late, and toiling for food were useless without God’s assistance (Ps. 127:1-2). In the Ten Commandments, the word is used to describe what is prohibited (Deut. 5:20). The word is used in Proverbs to indicate that which the author desires to be kept away from him; in this case, falsehood and lies (Pro. 30:8). Idols were declared worthless with the usage of the noun in Jeremiah (Jer. 18:15). These idols were those that led the people of God to forget Him.” (Emphasis mine)

Christian Vanity; the Alter Christ, Our Alter Ego

So, how does one in the New Testament era (from Pentecost to the present), then, go about using “the name of the Lord in vain?” By definition, it is to take the name of Jesus Christ – that is, to claim to be a “Christian” – and then not live out of the faithfulness of Christ. It is to claim to be a Christian and then to live in and out of simple human religion, and deny the faithfulness of Christ as life for living. It is easily defined as “failing to achieve the goal” of the name Christian. It is to claim the transformation of the Cross of Christ only to live out of the old depraved nature that was crucified – counterfeiting faith with contrary religious practices – Denying the Resurrection Life of Christ to simply live a lifestyle of a counterfeit culture of corruption (i.e., the Church Culture). “Christianos” (Christian), according to both uses of the word in the Greek New Testament, is a derivative of the name “Christos” (Christ). It speaks of one who is owned by the Resurrected Christ and, therefore, expresses his worldview.

Transformative Words: The Transformation of the Mind

Plainly: Am I to understand that, thousands of years ago when God sent the Decalogue down with Moses from Mt Sinai – when God carved the Ten Commandments as the pillars of life for Israel – it was insisted upon that one of these ten foundational precepts was that no one could string together the words god and damn? Really?!

It is far too easy to make of this (and many other things in the Scriptures) something we can simply obtain, and obtain by simple restraint. Oh, how we can pat ourselves on the back for not stringing two words together, though. Isn’t God so proud of us for not combining a “name” (a title, really) with another word and cuss someone/thing?! My argument is that, “using the Lord’s name in vain” – as it is found in the Scriptures and in its logical implication – is far more challenging than a selection of words. It now becomes about transformed natures. Now it becomes about internal workings, rather than external words. And it is now a thinking faith and not a senseless religious tradition. It now refers to the faithfulness of Christ in action, rather than the frailty of humanity in words.

On Homosexuality

I think that the Church, as a rule, is having the wrong conversations (and making the wrong arguments) on homosexuality and (so-called) “same sex marriage.” Concerning the latter, we must attempt (at least) to understand the “same sex” aspect before we can voice an opinion on the “marriage” aspect of the phrase and phenomenon – for the notion carries with it two distinct conversations. Concerning the former, the Church has a sense that it is correct in its view and uses the Scriptures as evidence of the fact. Therefore, let’s examine the texts void of dogma – principles accepted as truth statements of an ideology or belief system – and platitudes – discourse of clichés that are disconnected from reality and originality. Unless, of course, we are simply standing on church tradition and the interpretations of those who think they know best (and/or better), in which case we have no need for a discussion on the matter.

Proselytizing to the Law Codes

The first major text used by the Church comes out of Leviticus (20:13). Now, I must begin by stating that, if one is utilizing the Jewish Scriptures to base one’s argument then, logically, that one is bound by the same Jewish Scriptures. In other words, if you are going to hold another accountable to the Mosaic Law, then you must also adhere to the same laws. Men, you must adhere to all the male codes, and women, to all the female codes (and, ladies, seeing that the Mosaic Law assumes a Patriarchal system, just ask a man what you are supposed to do and who you’re supposed to be). Incidentally, when and where was the last time you offered your prescribed sacred sacrifices? Or stoned your neighbor for stealing your goat? This is “reductio ad absurdum” – reduced to absurdity – on purpose, in the hopes of making a point. If one insists on adherence to the Jewish Law Codes then that one has converted to Judaism (in name only) and has abandoned Christianity. But I digress…

The Levitical text reads, literally, “a man (iysh) who has sexual intercourse with a male (zakar)…” While “man” is a noun, “male” is a verb, it speaks of a male sacrifice. Many of the surrounding cultures had sex – as a form of worship of a certain deity or deities – with the human or animal sacrifice (Hammurabi, Middle Assyrian, and Hittite Law Codes of the era also contained sexual rules). Thus, the prohibition, here, is against contrary forms of worship. God’s Law Codes function to identify Israel as a called out and different people, and to preserve Israel’s distinct identity.

Why was Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed?

Other Jewish (or Old Testament) texts used are the narrative concerning the (so-called) destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Basically, the argument is that God destroyed these two cities because of their homosexual tendencies (never mind the fact that Lot offers his daughter to be raped and abused by the hording men!). But these same Scriptures offer another and competing interpretation of the events: Sodom (and her sister cities) didn’t help the poor and the needy; she prostituted herself, instead, to contrary worldviews and counterfeit gods. So God set precedent with her (Ez. 16:49-50). Nowhere does Ezekiel state that the city was destroyed because of homosexuality.

Exchange of Function: Recalling History

Interestingly, none of the Gospel accounts record Jesus addressing the matter of homosexuality. The first New Testament allusion to the subject is found in Romans (1:26-27): “…women exchanged the natural function for that which is against nature…” Whatever ‘the natural function’ and ‘that which is against nature’ means, it does not speak of homosexuality in Greek or in context. Understanding Pauline Theology, it speaks of an exchange of worldviews in one’s actions and deeds. “Likewise, men abandoned the natural function of women and enflamed their lusts toward one another.” This speaks of contrary worldviews, the perversion of creation. At the time of the writing of this letter, the slave-trade and the stealing of young boys for the purpose of sex was an epidemic in the Greco-Roman world. Also at this time, the Emperor of Rome, Nero, shocked the empire by announcing his marriage to a young Roman boy. Paul is not issuing a prohibition but is recalling history – this is what humans (as a whole) have done, and this is what God did because of what humanity had done.

Male Temple Prostitution

The last two references in the New Testament are found in the Corinthian Correspondence and the First Letter to Timothy. “Don’t you know that those without God’s own right-standing with God-self will not have a place in God’s worldview? Don’t be fooled… not effeminate nor homosexuals…” (1Cor. 6:9). And “The law is not made for those with God’s own right-standing with God-self, but for… homosexuals…” (1Tim. 1:10). In the former text, the word “effeminate” means, soft; it speaks of a male with female attributes, specifically a male temple prostitute. In both texts, the word translated, “homosexual,” is the Greek word arsenokoitais, and it speaks of self-abuse. First, as in the Mosaic Code account, don’t (conveniently) miss the others mentioned in both texts, and simply lift out of context the English translation of “homosexuals.” Secondly, both texts speak of temple prostitution and, therefore, refer to contrary forms of worship. All three New Testament accounts speak not to a lifestyle choice, but to the prohibition against the taking from others, rather than giving. They speak to the “perversion” of God’s worldview into a contrary worldview; the sacrifice of the spirit for the flesh, which is thoroughly a Pauline concept and principle (connoted by the qualifier “God’s own right-standing with God-self”).

Logic Will Never Fail You

Allow me to make a few observations:

  • If there is a general prohibition against homosexuality particularly, with the punishment being God’s abandonment and the exclusion of entrance to the Kingdom of God especially, then all other rules in the Law Codes, and the subsequent punishments, likewise, apply to all humanity.
  • But if that is true, then the Theology of the Cross is lost and the definition and application of “Forgiveness” is meaningless and of no use to God or humanity.
  • And if God does have a prohibition against homosexuality, but forgives all other transgressions against the Law Codes, then all logic falls to the ground; there is no consistency to God’s thought process and God is subject to change God’s mind at any time, including God’s present worldview – which defies the notion of “God’ by definition.

Science is speaking to the discussion.

Recent studies concerning fetal development during the three trimesters of pregnancy are adding to the conversation. In the first trimester sexual organs are developed – usually either male or female (“usually” because, rarely, neither organ or both organs are developed in the same fetus). But it is not until the third trimester that the brain is developed enough to release a dominate chemical of either testosterone or estrogen. If, for example, a male organ develops in the first trimester, but the brain releases more of the estrogen chemical, or a female organ with the chemical testosterone, then a crisis of identity becomes inevitable. The argument that “God made me gay” is without sound theology, but to say that “I was born this way” is, therefore, reasonable.

Politics is (negatively) speaking to the discussion.

There is what can only be described as, “an agenda,” that is using the homosexual culture/counter-culture to forward its own worldview. It is destructive and cares only for those who adhere to its language. For example, the notion of “Gay Rights” does not speak to the conversation in a positive sense, but only serves to take from all others in the discussion. In politically correct fashion, it desires to silence all opinions to the contrary, changing the dialogue to a monologue. Homosexuals (and other cultures/counter-cultures) are being used and, ironically, abused by this agenda. The resulting aftermath will be thoroughly catastrophic for humans generally and homosexuals particularly. I think, after reflecting on many conversations, that most Christians take exception to the agenda, but mistakenly assign blame to the culture/counterculture itself.

Theology can speak to the discussion.

The church must enter the discussion, however. We must have a voice in the conversation. We cannot stick our (proverbial) fingers in our ears and go on with the interpretations as we’ve always known them, as if they’re somehow authoritative. Fear is yet another “agenda.” To be afraid of information and/or contrary arguments to our own is ignoring (and is ignorant of) the reality of the Community that we claim. God’s worldview is not about “right or wrong,” “good and bad.” God’s worldview is over against all contrary worldviews. The primary article of God’s worldview – the work of Christ on His cross and the resulting Resurrection Life – is not concerning specific ”sins,” but “Sin” in general. Sin (hamartia, in the Greek) is “to miss God’s intended mark for humanity and, subsequently, to move the mark of God’s intension for humanity.” Sins (plural) are as a result of the Sin of a contrary worldview. Like everything else, the Cruciform speaks to our contrary worldviews because the Cross of Christ and the Resurrection Life have spoken to our missing of the mark. If it is the flesh, then the Cruciform will kill it. This is the language I wish to add to the conversation.