God created Hell

My knee jerk reaction to what would happen if God didn’t exist is that there would be no meaning. But notice: if I were to pick up a book written in gibberish, I could say it had no meaning only because I know what a book is supposed to say and how it’s supposed to be structured. In other words, no meaning pre-supposes meaning.

Hell can only exist because heaven exists. I do not mean that heaven can only exist because a hell does: moldy bread can exist only because bread exists but bread’s existence is independent of mold.

So to imagine a reality without God is worse than no meaning, it is no meaning to even be able to say no meaning. Hell is away from God but yet God still exists. Hell is a mercy to have been created because the no-God-alternative is even worse.

And no, meaning cannot come from within. It sounds good, and so does this bridge I made up and is worth what I say it is, not what you are willing to pay for it. And even then, I am not the bridge itself assigning its own value. So the counterexample is its own counterexample.

The things that are changing and the things that are staying the same

I think I will keep the contents of the about page the same but at the same time, put an update it and clarify here. I think in a way this blog has always been about being Christian. In the past, I think that was limited to talking about the Bible and theology and while I still talk about that, (in fact, I may find that I will end up talking more about it), I think I will start talking about other things in my life and why I think they are important not just for it’s own sake but as a put together life as I’m finding myself sometimes at a loss to explain things to people even immediately in front of me and wish for something to point people to, it makes sense that it’s probably worth saying to an audience as things are likely not clear there either. On the other hand, I don’t think it will turn into a lifestyle design or a reviews or a soap box though it will always have elements of that.

I guess this is a long way of saying that this blog has always been about being Christian and that will not change, my understanding of what it means to be Christian and live an examined life that holds up to my (limited) scrunity is worth writing about to the edification of others because I see nothing else like it around though there isn’t a shortage of blogs. Stay tuned.

But he perceived that our greatest need was loneliness: misery, despair, our anguish tearing apart everything around us and tearing ourselves apart, thrashing desperately apart from our deepest need which has become our greatest fear. And in response God became a man and stepping into the fetid cage of our existence, caked in blood and sweat and panic, did the last thing that we could still hear and understand: suffer; suffer as one of us. Suffer and be killed the one time he let himself be vulnerable and yet man could do naught to his will that man be redeemed; for the ultimate end of God’s image is not death but life and this world will one day be good because there is only one God and evil but a bruised ankle.

A Modest Guide to Prayer

Dear ZoeBios,

First, a disclaimer and a comfort before you start to explore the wondrous, colorful world of spilling your heart out to God: if one is not been condemned of having heretical beliefs, one is incapable of speaking nonsense.

Your prayers are a reflection of your beliefs and opinions. Therefore they, as all your opinions are, sacred and above reproach and critique. No reasonable person other than yourself may declare them to be open to discussion unless you so deem. The immunity goes both ways. Because of this, you are free to attend any Christian gathering that does not resemble anything like the heretics of the insincere Roman Catholics or things like that.

It is good to explore all expressions of Sincere Christianity. However, one must also exercise due caution in making sure that the integrity of the faith is maintained by the sincerity of the worshipers. Loud music, hands held high, loud singing, clapping and eyes closed are all good and perfect things to this worthy end. If there is an alter call or hand-raising-while-heads-are-down at the end, so much the better. Is it good to make sure that you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart and truly meant it. One can never be too sure.

Once you have found a church service doing some new and interesting things that are of the Sincere Faith, you may adopt them with whole-heartedness. Some common methods of prayer that you may encounter are the following. Keep in mind that this cannot be a complete list because people all over are using their sacred opinion to come up with true worshipful prayer all the time. In fact, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy to know that we can sing Hillsong wherever we go and be understood? Our unity really pleases Him, also known more commonly by You.

Prayer walking is a common type of prayer. To prayer walk, you pick a path, either alone or with a partner and you pray whatever comes to your mind. The purpose of this exercise is to free your mind from the constraints of thinking about what you say and pray as you feel led. A variation of this involves many people loudly doing this so that you can hardly hear what you are saying, much less than critique your neighbor. Prayer walking is sometimes accompanied by asking to pray for people that you happen to meet, the purposes of this might be to seed the atmosphere with human-prayer in order to command God to send a Spirit-led revival. We need to make sure God is not shortchanging us on his promises. He likes to be asked.

More sedate forms also include finding performing the time-honored tradition of stumbling across the will of God as one opens the Bible to a random place with eyes closed and a prayer on the lips or heart and praying that promise or simply the words that appeal to you over and over. Saying it will make it so. Call it and claim it.

Along the vein of freeing your mind is surrendering your heart and opening yourself up to the universe, helpfully encapsulated by a dimly-lit room full of other sincere worshipers doing as described above as they feel led in singing, dancing and just generally being buzzed.

This is all The Spirit has led me to write, I’m off to find some inspirational photos to go with this really good new song I heard on the local Christian radio station.


Memory makes something a part of you

If you’re a Christian, quick, what’s the Apostle’s Creed?

This brief creed, shorter than most pop songs, is the ancient creed held by all Christians, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant. Yet I’m willing to be that nearly all protestants that I know will need to look it up to know what it says. How can you claim to hold to Catholic and Apostolic (language of an important Nicene Creed) from centuries past and to come if you know not what it says?

Finally, memorization allows for constant meditation in obedience to Psalm 1. meditation forms you and you can only meditate on what you have memorized. And you have only memorized what you do constantly. Take a good look at what you sing all the time, what you listen to all the time, what you read all the time, who you talk to all the time, who you hang out with all the time. This forms the person you will become; do you like what you see? Does this line up with your stated goals, priorities or desires?

You only have today in your hands to change, only this hour. Tomorrow is not promised to you. Shalom be with you.

‘I believe that Jesus died for my sins’

Life happens. I’ve thought of nothing else but moving and parents visiting since Thursday till Monday and I’m still winding down. I apologize for the late post; moving on.

Saying (only) that Christ ‘died for my sins’ is true but not complete. Additionally, it also allows for this idea of a thinking Salvation as ‘free gift’ but then ‘you have to do stuff now [so not really a free gift or “cheap grace” unnecessary guilt trip] ‘ when you ‘get really serious…and mean it’. This sort of belly-button gazing is not only really unhelpful, it’s just not orthodox: its current wide-spread form is from the Second Great Awakening. The ‘Sinner’s prayer’, even prayed in earnestness, has no intrinsic talisman-ic power to grant salvation.

So how are we saved?

Simply, put, we’re saved because we’re in Christ. The story of the 2 lost sons is really talking about inheritance and both wanting God’s things but not God. By way of telling us about a bad elder brother, Jesus is pointing to himself, a good elder brother, who is coming to bring back the lost younger brother who squandered his inheritance and brings the younger son back at the cost of his own inheritance. If it helps, we’re ‘subleasing under Christ’s inheritance’. Being saved is really more than about being saved from Hell, it’s about freed from the slavery of sin to be made fully human, made in the image of God for his purposes, to do what we were meant to be (which is what freedom is). Being saved isn’t about being given a million dollar check to cancel our debt, it’s about being brought not just to zero balance from debt but into positive balance, into life, bring brought to eat at our Lord’s table, having a future, having an inheritance. In more formal theology terms, we’re saved because we’re sons of God, adoption, because we’re true sons of Abraham, true inheritors of the covenant given to him, being grafted into the nation of Israel. We’re saved because we’ve been chosen to be YHWH’s people, hence the blog name. (I hereby in this manner publicly announce leaving my previous position by ignorance of Dispensationalism.)

It’s really better to talk about Christ dying to himself and then being raised again. And if we are Christ’s we too must die to ourselves in order for us to be raised again. The Bible seems to be saying that, though this seems to be strange, this is the actual deeper underlying reality of the only way to live. This is the meaning of ‘whoever loses his life shall find it and whoever seeks to save his life will lose it.’ Christ had to have risen again for us to have new life now and to hope for the fulfillment of that to come. What I advocate for is for both a remembrance of Christ’s death and his glorious resurrection. This must be reflected in the hymns that we choose to sing in services, in our language and in our thinking. Like many other things in Christian thought, this is something of an antimony: our depravity and God’s justice, God’s justice and his supremacy, works and faith: the gospel requires that we hold many things to be both true at the same time and neither as a subset of the other. (This kind of unique complex-simple structure is for me an indication of truth but that for another time, I’ll leave the terms opaque and undefined for now.)

I will speak later how all of this is actually already encoded into the Apostle’s creed soon. Until next time, blessings from the Lord our God.

Edit: L. shared this with me and having read it, I pass it onto you: it’s about a similar topic that mentions this and balances this discussion well.

What you become what you do repeatedly

For the first twenty-five years of my life, I wanted freedom. For the next twenty-five years, I wanted order. For the next twenty-five years, I realized that order is freedom.

Winston Churchill

What is done all the time is more influential than large gestures done infrequently. Everyone gravitates to some set of actions or some set of rules governing actions that happens all the time. Enter a room, flip a light switch. Don’t believe me? Cut out the fusebox or lose power for a night and see what happens. This has happened to me before.

Patterns are everywhere and they in fact give life, they enable creativity, not stifle it. Imagine if you had to think about breathing or ponder if you really meant to take a breath or if you did so ‘for the right reasons’. You wouldn’t be able to do a single other thing. Or imagine if the sun rose whenever it wanted to. The state of being tired would become chaotic or meaningless and in fact, we classify someone who isn’t tired when he ought to be and tired when he ought to be to have a sleeping disorder. Day is day and night is night, this is essential to plant growth and for our rest. Clean is clean and dirty is dirty, work is work and sabbath is sabbath. These things give life and not just survival but life in abundance. So ends my argument for liturgical worship: everyone has patterns, patterns mold so be transparent and intentional about it. It, in fact, lets you be creative and ‘authentic’ as it teaches the affections when they are stubborn.

So if patterns become who you are, you have a say in the person you become by being conscious about the habits and patterns you nurture. This is important not only in your bodily health but your spiritual health.

This principle also has application in the question of entertainment. I’ll say that without proof for now and defend that point later.

Poll: How good are you at being bad?

I made up a theory while talking to D. (I’m at my smartest interacting with people) about how comfortable one feels about sharing their imperfections with another.

My theory is that everyone has a ‘sinner number’ (see below) and they feel ok being themselves around people they think have sinner numbers equal to or greater and not around people they think have sinner numbers lower than. Since no one really knows someone else’s sinner number without being told, everyone plays this guessing game and postures towards some middle number. I think that a lack of information about ourselves and others contributes to this atmosphere of faking amongst the people that are supposed to be the most honest about themselves.

The sad thing is that many of us come to Christ because we are sinners, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to prove that we are not!

Credit: Henry Cloud, Changes that Heal

So this is my little experiment. Humor me. My hope is to infuse our conversations with a little more honesty.

God is not our ‘first priority’

God is not our first priority.

No, really, he’s not. If ‘God’ can be put as a numbered item or even items on the list, that means there are other things that aren’t of ‘God’. And that’s simply not true, God made everything and all that therein is. Therefore, God is not ‘#1’ but he is indeed the entire list. There is not ‘our spiritual lives’ and ‘the rest of our lives’ any more than one can separate faith and works. In fact, the idea of some things being spiritual and other things being secular is more Gnostic heresy in origin than it is Christian.

This means that one’s very vocation, as well as other parts of your life that seem too small to matter, is part of their Christian duty. It is a good thing for there to be Christian lawyers: who else to help the church determine the finer points of how to be good christian citizens regarding say copyright law? We the church are not just the clergy nor are they supposed to do everything. C.S. Lewis has more to say about this in Mere Christianity, the chapter titled ‘Social Morality’.

There, I said it: we the church need Christian lawyers. Let the flaming begin.

For a different treatment of the same thesis—and, admittedly, where this idea first came to me—see Lue-Yee Tsang’s article ‘First Priority?’ in To An Unknown God, reposted on their website.

‘Too small to Matter’

There is the idea that small acts of obedience, honesty, and so on are ‘too small to matter: surely God wants us to worry about bigger things, right? After all, one only has so much attention for everything. Sounds good, but not Biblical. In the parable of the 10 talents, the reader is asked how he may be trusted with heavenly eternal riches if he squanders temporary earthly ones.

J. K. Rowling aptly described a similar sentiment: the choice between ‘what is right and what is easy’, which is a more accurate assessment of the sinful—not human—condition than the expected question, ‘what is right and what is wrong’. Important things rarely seem to pose themselves as momentous decisions.

So, an unexamined life in things big and small is one that is not lived faithfully. This forms this blog’s founding premise. Good begets good. The small battles are stepping stones towards either God’s image or corruption (see C.S. Lewis’ Charity, Christian Behavior).

Edit: at around the same time, the very esteemed blog Art of Manliness posted a complementary blog post starting a series about why little things matter for our integrity. It’s more comprehensive, takes a different angle and it’s worth a look.

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.

Winston Churchill