Tag Archives: Doctrine

Tattoos vs. Taboos: Old School vs. New school

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Tattoos have been a hotly debated topic in recent years within the Church. Some say the Old Testament forbids them, as well as piercings, and argue that since our bodies are the temple of God and where he dwells, we must be pristine and not blemish our bodies. On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding. They may also say that tattoos and piercings are a way to decorate our bodies as the Temple was decorated by the Jews.

Here’s my thoughts on the issue: A) “tattoo” as translated from the OT is not the same thing we mean by “tattoo” today. A “tattoo” back then was what was left after Pagans cut their bodies in god worship, it was a scar. Not “tattooing” yourself meant making sure you looked different than the Pagans. The same goes for dietary laws and circumcision. It was about differentiation. Even if the “tattooing” definition was the same, the fact that Christ and Paul opened up salvation to the Gentiles meant the need for differentiation in the same way as in the OT was no longer needed. It may be useful for some to abstain, but it was not in and of itself a sin.

Point #2: I have a hard time believing that a tattoo of a cross or a Bible verse or praying hands displeases God. A) it’s a permanent reminder to you of your faith. B) it’s a visible display of your faith that others can see. And who knows, maybe it starts a conversation that leads to meaningful discussion!

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True(thful) to Myself

One of the popular sayings in today’s world is that one needs to be “true to himself.” What this means, no one truly knows. In fact, I have never heard of a positive definition of it, only negative ones. Sometimes its seems to mean that if we do something that we feel guilty about, we weren’t true to ourselves. Sometimes it simply means that if we are struggling with something, like alcoholism or drug addiction, marital problems,… that we are not being true to ourselves and that that is the cause of our troubles, and if we were true to ourselves, then this would have prevented or will fix the problems.

This seems fine and dandy to some degree. It may mean not lying, not being self-deceptive, accepting our faults and mistakes, etc. But there are a huge problems with it even within secular society, and even more in Christian culture. In a secular worldview, while one may accept their faults, being true to ourselves means merely accepting them at times, and may discourage us from trying to improve upon them. From this, angry people stay angry, selfish people stay selfish, etc. And not only that, but they justify their behavior by saying that it is just the way they are, implying that they have to be that way if they are to be “true to themselves.” So it can give people reasons to not improve themselves and be better people, and may even increase some faults as they become more “true to themselves.”

On a Christian worldview, this becomes an even bigger issue. That is because true human nature is sinful, and we should certainly not be “true to sin.” Paul calls us to crucify ourselves and be alive in Christ, no longer living for ourselves but living for Christ, not only this, but that Christ live in us(Galatians 2). He also says that we should be dead to sin and alive in Christ(Romans 6). So the message here seems to be saying that we should not be true to ourselves at all, but rather, allow Christ to live in us, that is, be true to Christ. This seems very contrary to the message that society is giving us, so when Christians adopt it, they are making very dangerous assertions that can be extremely harmful to themselves and other Christians. We end up with a similar result as the secular world, where people justify sin/bad behavior by saying its who we are, whereas for a Christian, that is the whole point! We are bad people by our nature and need to get out of it!

There is a song out there by MercyMe that says it quite well:

Well if I come across a little bit distant
It’s just because I am
Things just seem to feel a little bit different
You understand
Believe it or not but life is not apparently
About me anyways
But I have met the One who really is worthy
So let me say

So long, self
Well, it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else
So long, self
There’s just no room for two
So you are gonna have to move
So long, self
Don’t take this wrong but you are wrong for me, farewell
Oh well, goodbye, don’t cry
So long, self

Stop right there because I know what you’re thinking
But no we can’t be friends
And even though I know your heart is breaking
This has to end
And come to think of it the blame for all of this
Simply falls on me
For wanting something more in life than all of this
Can’t you see

It is only when we recognize that this self needs to be gotten rid of and that we should not associate with it at all that we become Christlike and Godly, and our relationship with The One, God, grows by leaps and bounds when we do so. But if we cling to any part of ourselves, God cannot do all that He wants with you. And when we are “true to ourselves,” this leaves no room for God at all and we live in sin and separation from God.

So Christians, please discard this idea entirely from your life and beliefs. For everybody else, you too. While you may not believe in God, surely improvement should be preferred to stagnation, and justification of bad behavior should be frowned upon, that is exactly what we get when following this doctrine to its core. Yourself is not a “higher power,” so don’t act like it. You can’t submit to yourself, for submitting to yourself is the same thing as living for yourself and requires nothing different than if you did not think in such a manner but just lived according to your whims.

Rather than being true to ourselves, let us be truthful to ourselves, and recognize that this is a stupid idea and that it is a terrible way to live and that this world would be even worse if we all lived in such a manner.


Hell, what is this place? Heaven, does everyone go?

There are multiple words that get translated as “hell” in the Bible. Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna in the New. Sheol does not have any clear meaning as the Hell as we know it today, but more like the Greek Hades, which was where all went where they died. Hades and Tartarus seem to be used in similar ways, but we get the idea that there is a divide somewhere in it, such as the story of Lazarus and the rich man, where the rich man is in torment and asks for a Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and touch his tongue, but Lazarus cannot due to the great chasm between them. This is commonly seen not as Hell proper, however. Rather, there is usually a distinction made between where the dead go when they die and the Heaven and Hell that come about after the Final Judgment and mass resurrection of all people. Gehenna seems the most strict of the terms. It seems to get its roots from the valley of Hinnon, which was outside the city of Jerusalem and was often on fire due to the garbage and waste that was there. Moloch and child sacrifice, and evil in general was associated both directly and indirectly with it. But the use of the word in the NT seems to have a more symbolic and figurative meaning than referencing the actual place, so a simple translation does not seem to fit.

So Hell proper seems mostly to come from a select few passages in the Bible where Gehenna is used, or where eternal damnation is mentioned, and then a few instances in Revelation, though I will not mention those here due to the nature of the book that is so hard to interpret. The main “proof texts” for Hell as eternal punishment are Matt. 25:41, Matt. 25:46, Jude 7, which actually don’t even have the word Hell in them, but merely speak of eternal torment or punishment. In Matt. 3:12, Matt. 5:22, Matt. 18:8-9, Gehenna is used in conjunction with sin and the punishment for that sin, so in conjunction with the other passages mentioned, the doctrine of Hell is established.

So what does that mean about Heaven? Well, we clearly see that in Hades in the Lazarus and the rich man story, that there is a divide between the righteous and the unrighteous. [On a side note here, the doctrine of imputed righteousness(often associated with Reformed Theology and Protestantism) or infused righteousness(often associated with Catholic Theology) has to be mentioned, since Christians do not claim to be righteous of their own accord, but that as forgiven people, are given the righteousness of Christ.] And if there is a divide in Hades between the righteous and unrighteous, and we combine this with the idea that some will receive eternal torment, it would make sense to say that these people will be the unrighteous. The other option would be to say that there is some sort of purgatory, or that Hell is like purgatory, insofar as Hell would be finite according to the punishment fit for one’s sins. While this may be the more likable idea, since then all would be saved and this seems more just than eternal punishment, it seems impossible to me to get this out of the Bible, especially given that we know that some will in fact be punished in an eternal manner with “the devil and his angels.” To me, this seems impossible to get around. I will concede that some passages are ambiguous about Heaven and who gets there, but these passages hat talk of eternal punishment are impossible to coincide with the idea that everyone could get into heaven, because if that were the case, then surely this would not have been said in the first place.

Laying out some of the alternatives for Hell:

Annihilationism: God destroys the souls of the wicked so they do not have to suffer eternal torment in Hell. To me, this sounds a lot like euthanasia. The purpose of this idea is that God prevents eternal suffering by taking one out of existence entirely. But is that really a better option? It seems that if one is abhorrent, the other would be as well.

Universalism: There are basically two types of universalism. Contingent and necessary. Necessary is more problematic in that it says that it is impossible for anybody to go to Hell, which would seem to fly in the face of a just God, and it also implies that no matter what one does in their life on earth, it has no affect on their afterlife.

Contingent universalism seems to be the nicest view. That while it is possible for some to go to Hell, none in fact do. The problem here seems minor, but ends up with the same problem that it was trying to solve, mainly, that God would not send anyone to Hell due to His goodness. What the universalist wants to say is that God can’t send people to Hell, that He won’t has no affect on His ability to, and it is His ability to that they have to object to.

Second chance: Many views here, but the main point is that while some go to Hell it is finite. Problem here: the passages listed earlier mention eternal Hell, and this is not compatible with that.

For some interesting comments regarding Hell and Heaven and the problems with annihilationism and universalism check out http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heaven-hell/#1.1

The objective or goal here is to have an internally consistent doctrine of Heaven, Hell, and God. In my opinion, the traditional view that Hell is eternal, some people will go there, Heaven is eternal and Good, but both only come about after the Final Judgment and mass resurrection of both good and bad, and that before then, we all go to Hades but that the righteous are with God in a good realm, while the wicked are separated in some manner from the righteous. I would go as far as saying that for an infinitely good God, that in order to maintain that attribute, He cannot be in the presence of any sin or unrighteousness, which is why forgiveness and imputed/infused righteousness is necessary for salvation and entrance into heaven. And those only come about after repentance and wanting to be forgiven. It is not that forgiveness apart from wanting to be forgiven is like rape by any means, but rather that it is a two way street, the main aspect being repentance and recognition that we are sinful and need to be better, and the sincere effort to improve and try to be good. This would allow for some non-Christians who recognize that they fall short of being perfect, yet strive anyways, and honestly seek truth to get a pass. Now, not being God, I do not say who fits in this category and who doesn’t. If someone is agnostic or atheistic and is 100% honest and pure in his seeking, then they may get in since God can see into out hearts and our thoughts. I do believe more certainly that this allows minimally for those who have never encountered the Gospel to begin with to get in if they fit into this category.


Trinity=Confusing, yet… astoundingly marvelous

The Trinitarian aspect of God has been thought about and discussed since the Early Church, and we still don’t have a very strong grasp on how it works. It’s something I have been thinking about and reading about lately, and this is where I am at now.

First, it follows from the ontological argument. This argument “proves” the greatest of all beings, so omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. But after some thinking and a sociology class, I came to the realization that the trinity would be a necessary attribute of the perfect being. And here is why: The most stable relationship is a three person relationship. This is common knowledge in the field of sociology. This perfect being must be self-sufficient, we all know that a truly lonely person is not very sufficient, is quite lonely, and many times unstable. So it makes perfect sense to see this perfect being as having three major separate, yet connected parts.

Second is on how we can understand the Trinity. Some mistakenly think that it works like the situation of a father with one sibling. He is a son of his parents, a father of his son, and a brother. Three identities, one person. But that is why it is wrong. Still ONE person. We need three. So with the help of C.S. Lewis and a few others, I have a different concept of it. Think of a triangle. Three individual sides, yet one shape. All connected to each other. We can even imagine somewhat the aspect of ourselves in regards to the trinity and why it is so difficult to comprehend. We can imagine ourselves in a one-dimensional world, whereas the triangle is obviously in a two dimensional world. We could try to grasp how this triangle looks, and prove it mathematically to be consistent on some level, but we could never come close to a full comprehension of it. That is the situation we find ourselves in now. God is so other, so infinite the out finite minds can’t comprehend Him, especially not in this life.

Third, how does the Trinity affect us? Well, it shows us that if we are not worshiping the Trinitarian God, we are not worshiping the right God. Which means a lot of people have it wrong. It is one of God’s major attributes that has a huge impact on His reality, and not just ours, so it is a very important doctrine to be preserved. It shows us that God truly IS love, as He demonstrates perfect love and perfect relationship.

Along these lines, I began to realize the answer the my sociology professor’s question to our class in regards to human relations. His question was that if a three person relationship is the best kind, should be practice polygamy? Some people sort of conceded the point, but I knew that that was going to be unstable because there are only two sexes, and the concept of the perfect relationship would be between three DIFFERENT types of persons, not just three different people. You would always end up with 1 male and 2 females or 2 males and 1 female, which are both lopsided in some manner. I brought this up and assumed, correctly, that God was this third person that would make our relationships better. But what I missed out on was how perfect this really was. Who better to have in your marriage than the creator of marriage, of humans, and the perfect lover? He would give the best possible advice, literally. He would be the perfect mediator. And the perfect friend. Not to mention, He is part of His own three person relationship that is perfectly stable, and we all know how we become more like those we are in relationships with. And who better to become more like than God?

In the end, I have been left with this feeling of awe, in how God has made things to work in harmony so perfectly. It’s almost as if He knew exactly what He was doing, almost… Obviously, I am still nowhere near fully understanding Him in this aspect, but I am trying. My way of trying to love Him with all of my mind.


Left on the Dock, how NOT to interpret the Bible

So most people know about the Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye. Even my dad was a big fan. It’s just disappointing that such a non-biblically backed idea, like the rapture, would become so popular and mainstream. There is so little biblical evidence for the rapture, and the “evidence” that is often used is based on taking things out of context and giving them a new interpretation(though I won’t go into that in this post, but hopefully another one soon),which is ALWAYS wrong.

This leads me into the topic of this post, reading the Bible.

I enjoy some of Greg Koukl’s work, and recently his essay on never reading a Bible verse. The title is catchy. It seems un-Christian-like. But he goes on to explain that both critics and proponents of certain views take verses by themselves, which leads to them being taken out of context, and getting wrong ideas. A new idea in the evangelical sphere is to read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to call up a personal interpretation for what you are reading. And this is where I am left on the dock. They have set sail into this dangerous, misguided style of interpretation that leads only to confusion and ruin, while I am left standing on the dock trying to tie up as many ships as I can, trying to keep people from making this grave mistake.

The authors of the Bible had a specific purpose for writing what they wrote. It is supposed to be personal, and affect your personally, but while the effect may be different from person to person, the meaning NEVER changes. There was an original intent, and it needs to be preserved. This destructive path that these ships are sailing towards is often liberalism. This is where doctrine becomes wishy-washy, loses the Christian essentials, and allows for personal interpretation of sacred texts. Now this is a fine line in a way. In no way do I espouse, nor should you, the idea that lay people should not be able to read the Bible and ponder on it themselves, for, when done correctly, this is extremely fruitful. This is the route that some have gone, saying that only priests or ministers or those who are “qualified” can interpret scripture. This leads to grave results as well, like people being prohibited from rational thought, and basically being brainwashed (how about some of them JW’s).

So what can we learn from this? Read a passage in its entirety. No one would start right in the middle of a page in the 10th chapter of a 30 chapter book and expect to have an idea about what is going on. And we should not approach the Bible in this manner either. If Jesus is talking in some end times language, what prompted this talk? Was there a question, or two, that he is answering? When Paul is speaking of the dead rising, why is he addressing this issue, since he is writing letters to a church, and he is addressing worries and issues that church has. How should a prophecy be interpreted? What is the context? Context is oh so important, and losing it causes everything else to become worthless.

I think that if Christians all approached the Bible in this manner, there would be far less disagreements, far less controversy, and a lot more love and encouragement in the Church. So the next time you see/hear someone taking a verse by itself, ask them how it is being used and what point it was meant to address, and you could have a very fruitful discussion on your hands.


What will the end of the world look like?

No clue,
But this is an overview of some of the main views that Christians hold to the Second Coming and associated events. I am sympathetic towards amillennialism since it seems like some of what the Olivet Discourse speaks of seems to have happened, like the temple’s destruction, major wars, etc. But I don’t like how that view really ignores the place of the nation of Israel, which seems to play a prominent role somehow according to Paul in Romans 11. Having said that, maybe some sort of historic premillennial, with no rapture, but the “millennium” not necessarily a literal 1000 years. Though I am not sure what happens at the end of this period, other than the Final Judgment. I have no clue when the New Heaven and New Jerusalem begin (whether Christians are taken before the millennium to this place, or if they are simply in some “holding” area until this period ends). So I am definitely open to anything, that can be supported biblically at least.

So here it is in the Papers and other Documents page.