Category Archives: Theology

Christian Culture Eschatology Fun Theology

The History of Rap ture

Oh, there's a video game, too? This just got real.
Oh, there’s a video game, too? This just got real.

“Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything was left behind! These people are gone!”

-Hattie Durham in Left Behind

Apparently there’s this movie coming out this weekend about the end times from a “Christian” perspective. I know this because a lot of people are blogging about how Rapture teachings are not biblical. Rather than arguing about the bibliosity™ of rapture teaching (the kind of teaching found in books and movies like “Left Behind,” “A Thief in the Night,” and “Late Great Planet Earth”), I thought I’d just make a timeline that shows how we got to thinking like this.* Enjoy!

. . .

years 27-37 ad:  

A peasant, pedestrian, preacher, named Jesus, announces the Kingdom of God, is crucified and resurrected. Implications for the next life are established. (might as well start at the beginning.)

years 70-90ish:  

“The Revelation” is written, the coming of Christ and the end of evil, in an apocalyptic style.

year 100:

Everybody starts predicting the date when Jesus will come back, even though Jesus basically said, “don’t bother.”

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Christian Culture Church Leadership Inspiration Theology

How to Make Disciples and Why I Don’t Like the Sinners’ Prayer

     If converting people to Christianity was like buying shoes, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is like swiping the credit card and signing the receipt. It’s kind of the linchpin to a proselytizing session. The goal of all the selling, persuading, and smiling is to get the person that believes differently than you to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.” And like the credit card, the “Sinner’s Prayer” is an invention to make the transaction as simple as possible.

     I was trained as a teenager to proselytize my friends to my faith. I was trained to get into conversations, and the ultimate goal was to seal the deal by getting people to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

     My first encounter with the prayer was after a terrifying Christian play. I might have mentioned this before. I was 12 yrs old, and I attended a play consisting of something like 20 vignettes of people just before some sort of freak accident (like a brick wall falling on them). Each vignette then depicted the characters waking up in front of an angel with a book, and if they at some point in their life said the “Sinner’s Prayer” and really believed it, then the Hallelujah Chorus would play and they’d get to go to heaven. 

     However, the majority of the characters had not said this prayer, so Satan and his demons would slink from the wings to drag these poor souls, kicking and screaming, into a hell of cray paper and strobe lights. At the end of the play, some guy that I didn’t know and didn’t know me came out and told me that I needed to give my life to Jesus or I would go to hell, and then he led me and other scared children in the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Transaction complete, I even got a receipt.

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Devotional Thought Inspiration Theology

What If Adam and Eve Never Ate the Apple?

Think about guys...
Think about guys…

     For now, let’s not scrutinize the story. Let’s just accept it as it is. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate the fruit they were told not to, and a bunch of consequences issued forth: snakes lost their legs and became hated by people, women will have pain in child birth, the earth will be harsh and harder to farm, etc.

     But what if Adam and Eve never ate the apple? The story makes us imagine this “what if?” What if Adam and Eve lived on in blissful obedience? What if history marched on and no one disobeyed God? When I was kid, I used to imagine that world. I assumed it would be everyone in the Garden of Eden playing nude volleyball forever and ever. Makes sense.

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Science and Theology Theology What I'm Reading

Did the universe have a beginning???

      Even though I jokingly trashed science journals and scientists in my sermon this past Sunday, I usually spend about an hour a day watching videos and reading blogs about biology, physics, and other cool things that scientists are doing. Here’s a video by MintuePhysics, where Henry gives an beautiful and succinct description (and critique) of the Big Bang Theory. Take a look.

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Churches news Theology

Mark Driscoll’s Church Vandalized by Angry Queers

Someone using the name “Angry Queers” took responsibility via email for the rocks thrown through century old glass windows of a Portland Mars Hill Church. Now, I don’t like Mark Driscoll as much as the next awesome person, but “Angry Queers'” actions aren’t helping broken relationships between these disjoined communities. Thoughts?

Full Story here.

Justice Reformed vs Arminian Theology

Piper and Tornado Theology

Last Friday, according to the National Weather Service, at least 42 tornadoes ripped through ten states, affecting millions of lives, and in the end claiming 40. I can’t imagine the loss and pain that so many are suffering. I hate that we call these things an “act of God.” I think we mostly use that term to describe something that we could not avoid or turn back, but, unfortunately, there are some with incredible amounts of influence that take the term quite literally. Take this guy, John Piper. If you don’t know him, he’s one of the bigger voices that advocates a reformed/calvinistic world-view in which God completely and happily dictates every tragedy that befalls the earth. So, when tornadoes devastate lives, he has to come out and say that it was God’s will that those should suffer, and he did earlier today. Here’s an excerpt from his blog:

Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?
If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington, D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?
We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.
But why Maryville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?
God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us… (finish it here)

He goes on to give instances in Scripture where some were punished by God through unavoidable (kind of) acts. The lesson we are supposed to learn from Piper God is three-fold. (1) God will kill people in order to get the survivors to think the right way, (2) God will kill people in order to get more people to repent, and (3) God usually starts his judgement by killing his own people first.

This is all just weird, but I understand why Piper has to say it. Piper has agreed to this other proposition: Everything that has ever happened and will ever happen is God’s happy and desired action. He has to say God killed those people. He has to say God desired it.

I get why Piper has to hold on to these notions, but I don’t know why he has to throw them around now. Funerals are still being arranged, and he wants to tell America that the God revealed in Christ wanted to kill these loved ones? This is not the time to argue theology. This is the time to care for those who are hurting and weep with those who are weeping. This is a time to help rebuild and to give hope. This is a time to proclaim a kingdom where there is no more pain, hunger, tears, and death. We proclaim this kingdom best when we are instruments that heal pain, satisfy hunger, wipe away tears, and testify to the coming resurrection.

This is a time to heal, not a time to justify God’s actions.

While Piper comes from a tradition where God’s sovereignty cannot be questioned, I come from a tradition where God’s loved cannot be questioned. I’m learning more and more how these are related, but in times like these, there is no reason that I am forced to say God killed these people so that the rest of us would learn a lesson. The God I know is Emmanuel, God with us, who loves us so deeply that he would come and experience our pain, suffering, and death alongside of us. So, where is God in these tornadoes? God is caring for the dead, suffering with the victims, and strengthening relief workers.

There are many ways to help those in need. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is supported by United Methodists Churches, so that every dollar donated can go directly to assistance and recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

peace to your soul!†

-Ric