Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Whole Meaning of ‘Holiness’

Here is a great post by Paul Ellis, on the meaning of the word ‘holiness’, a term so abused in its misunderstood state that it can be said to be responsible for untold damage inflicted on believers by those who simply don’t know what it means – but think they do! Veteran believers will know exactly what I’m talking about 🙂


One of the reasons why we don’t walk in the freedom that the gospel brings, is that we have changed the meaning of words. We have made beautiful words ugly and turned truth into lies. We tell ourselves that we are doing what the Bible says, but since we have redefined words in the Bible, we are fooling ourselves.

For instance, we’ll tell ourselves that repentance means turning from sin. (It doesn’t.) Or that confession means reviewing my mistakes. (Wrong again.) So we review our mistakes and turn from sin until we’re blue in the face and then wonder why nothing’s changed.

Holiness is another word that comes to us mangled by the machinery of religion. We’ve heard that holiness means avoiding sin or being set apart, but that’s not what holiness is. It’s not that those definitions are entirely wrong; they are just not quite right. Like defining light as the absence of darkness or wealth as the absence of poverty, we have missed the essence of the thing.

Holiness means wholeness. To say “God is holy” is to refer to the wholeness, fullness, beauty, and abundant life that overflows within the Godhead.

God lacks nothing. He is unbroken, undamaged, unfallen, completely complete and entire within himself. He is the indivisible One, wholly self-sufficient, and the picture of perfection. When the angels sing “Holy is the Lord,” they are not admiring him for his rule-keeping or sin avoidance. They are marveling at the transcendent totality of his perfection.

To worship God in the beauty of his holiness is to be awestruck by the infinite sweep and scale of his sublimity. It is to become lost in the limitless landscape of his loveliness.

Holiness is not one aspect of God’s character; it is the whole package in glorious unity. It is the adjective that precedes all other attributes. Hence, the love of God is a holy love; it is the whole and unrestrained love of the Trinity spilling over into the hearts of humanity.

Similarly, his righteousness is a holy righteousness; it is the habit of right action that flows from One who is in such harmony with himself that he is incapable of acting any other way.

And his joy is a holy joy; it is the pure and unshadowed delight that accompanies every expression of his love and goodness.

Holiness is hard for us to comprehend because we have never seen its like. We are more familiar with our needs than his fullness, our brokenness than his wholeness. When the writer of Hebrews said, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” he was not making a threat but describing a fact (Heb. 12:14). And when the New Testament writers exhort us to “be holy,” they are calling us to live out our true Christ-borne identity.

This does not come naturally. Our experience in a sick and broken world has not equipped us to relate to One who is healthy and whole. We don’t even speak the same language. Our native tongue is the language of lack and longing, but Jesus speaks the language of abundant life.

“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” said the Holy One (Matt. 5:48). The word for perfect means complete or full grown. It means whole. Jesus was saying, “Be whole as your Father in heaven is whole.”

He was calling us to the life that is his.


Here is the link to the original article

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Understanding the Parable of The Sheep and the Goats

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Lee O'Hare's mini-series on Hell

Here is the fourth and final part of the mini-series of video talks by Lee O’Hare, where he addresses the foundational issues underpinning the standard Evangelical doctrine of Hell.

In this talk, Lee addresses the other main pillar/weapon in the arsenal of the Fundagelical proof-texter: the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

With this Scripture, unsurprisingly, the Fundies have no problem accepting that this is a parable (unlike in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus) because it suits their purposes and they can instead twist the parable. No-one really believes that sheep will go to Heaven whereas goats will go to Hell 😉 . But because parables are stories with an indirect meaning that must be inferred by the reader, naturally this provides Fundagelicals with the opportunity to twist it how they want, which they do freely and shamelessly. In mitigation, many of them are just parroting what they have been taught…I know this because I used to do it too, just like that. But I never used the phrase ‘Pieces of Eight!’.

But in this talk, Lee explains the background to this parable and explores several avenues as to its interpretation.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts giving you videos to watch, these talks do represent a fair amount of investment in terms of time; each talk is about an hour long. But if you can at all make the time to listen to these excellent videos, it will be time well spent, I assure you.

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The Daymark

I’ve been sharing a lot of teaching debunking the doctrines of ‘Hell-fire’ recently, so I thought I’d intersperse all that dark stuff with something of a more tangible beauty. I mean, working against bad and harmful theology is a good thing, but sometimes it gets a bit too much; unfortunately, it’s unavoidable that sometimes we need to focus on the bad stuff in order to trash it.

So I thought we’d come up for some air for a little while. It won’t hurt if the last instalment in Lee’s series of talks waits until next time 🙂

I am extremely fortunate to live in what is probably the most beautiful part of England. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Yorkshire Dales, of course, having been raised within just a few miles of the edge of the National Park. I love the Lake District; Wasdale Head being one of my favourite places on Earth.

But South Devon, where I live, is an amazing place of breathtaking beauty; a place which does bear some similarities to other, more remote, parts of the country. It’s a place where rural and urban are mixed in a delightful manner, but to cap it all we have the sea close by too. Devon is not as remote as, say, Pembrokeshire or Cornwall, but it does have the advantages of any peninsular environment in that the roads are not as busy as they are in other parts of the country (because they don’t really lead anywhere else apart from further into the peninsula!), and it’s generally not industrialised. Out on a peninsula, we tend to find that we get forgotten by central Government, which is not always a bad thing.

One area near where I live is called the ‘South Hams‘, and it is classified as an AONB or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And nowhere is this more the case than in the area around Dartmouth and Kingswear, a kind of ‘peninsula within a peninsula’. Flying over this beautiful landscape is always a delight, of course, but I do like to get out into the area on foot too as often as possible.

Being very much an early morning person, last week I went out before dawn to an area near Dartmouth called Froward Point, where also is found the Brownstone battery, a wartime coastal defence site. This is a remote National Trust property very close to Coleton Fishacre, where I used to volunteer for the Trust, playing their beautiful Bluthner Grand piano for a couple of hours every other Saturday. The music filled the place with the Presence of God – I used to play a lot of worship music – although no doubt many of the visitors would not have realised what that sparkle in the air actually was! 🙂

Near Froward Point is a structure known as the Daymark, or Day Marker. It’s a tall stone tower which was built in 1864 as a prominent and easily-recognisable landmark to help sailors find the mouth of the River Dart estuary from seaward.

The Daymark walk is one of my favourite early morning walks because when you stop the car engine and get out, it is completely silent out there. If it’s before dawn, even the birds are reasonably quiet, but it is of course easier to filter out their sound even if they are going at it.

I got there not long before sunrise on a crisp, frosty winter morning, with very few clouds in the sky, and those that there were were over the sea to the east/southeast where the dawn light was growing.

As I continued along the track towards the Daymark,  I realised that because I could see the actual horizon – there is a panoramic sea view from here from Start Point all the way round to the tops of the hills of East Devon just poking out of the sea across Lyme Bay on a clear day (excellent evidence for the Globe Earth as decried by the Flattards*) –  then I would actually be able to see the Sun come up out of the sea. Having reached the Daymark footpath, then – the Daymark is off to one side of the main track – I watched and waited.

The field that the Daymark was built in was today full of sheep. All standing around minding their own business but still keeping a wary eye on me, the interloper in their silent world.

And suddenly, there it was: the first sliver of the Sun was visible. Just like that. One second it was just horizon; the next there was this impossibly bright fragment of gold sitting there on the sea, and getting larger by the second. And I was looking straight at it as it magicked into view. It felt like there should have been a fanfare of trumpets or something to acknowledge the miracle, but, no, the silence was just as profound as ever.

Trillions of tons of superheated hydrogen and helium climb suddenly and miraculously above the horizon, just like it’s done on every day before, and so of course the sheep aren’t bothered. Well, I was lost in the sheer wonder of it all. I think it’s simply fantastic.

After standing there watching until the Sun was showing its complete disc, I set off back to the car park with bright spots before my eyes 🙂 But there was one more wonder. Like I said, the Froward Point area has panoramic sea views, but there is equally a wonderful view inland over the beautiful South Hams. In this instance, the sunlight angle was of course so low that shadows were cast in the valleys from my angle with the Sun behind me…

…and yet lighting the tops of the hills of Dartmoor with that unique golden dawn light (it’s a different colour entirely from that seen at sunset). Only the evening before, I had seen the Dartmoor hills from 7,000ft up, in my aeroplane, but this time lit by the westering, setting Sun and throwing the moors into sharp relief. The contrasts of colour, location and view were sharp and unique.

So, there we are. A stunning set of pictures taken in a beautiful area, in which I am so privileged to live. Despite being Yorkshire born and bred, and I love Yorkshire dearly, I am sorry to say that I would not move back. Not when I live in a place like this!

Hope the photos blessed you 🙂


*A ‘Flattard’ is a definitely derogatory term for someone who believes in a Flat Earth, and who tells everyone about it whether they want to hear or not. The term was of course pirated by these people, who are incapable of any original thought beyond making up new excuses for their pet beliefs, and used as the basis of their attempt at the derogatory term of ‘Globetards’, used by them to describe the vast majority of civilization who believe in a globe Earth.

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Lazarus and Rich Man

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Lee O'Hare's mini-series on Hell

This is the third part of the mini-series of video talks by Lee O’Hare, where he addresses the foundational issues underpinning the standard Evangelical doctrine of Hell.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is one of the main two pillars holding up the structure of the Hell doctrine. Although it’s a parable, and as such should not of course be taken literally, so keen are the Fundagelical apologists to keep this story in their arsenal of proof-texts about Hell that they even deny that it is a parable. And this despite it beginning with Jesus’s standard parable introduction; kind of like His ‘Once upon a time’, and despite it being a story told to the Pharisees; ‘The Bible clearly says…’ (lol) that Jesus only spoke clearly to His Disciples (Matt 13:10ff); to everyone else He spoke only in parables (Matt 13:34-35). In other words, so strongly do they want to believe in the Hell doctrine that they will even go to these, almost dishonest, lengths to protect what they choose to want to believe. It’s sad and it’s desperate.

But this talk is a real eye-opener, and Lee finishes his tale with a flourish that will gladden any heart with the ears to hear. But probably not those who have hardened their hearts in wanting to believe this nasty doctrine come-what-may.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts giving you videos to watch, these talks do represent a fair amount of investment in terms of time; each talk is about an hour long. But if you can at all make the time to listen to these excellent videos, it will be time well spent, I assure you.

Over to Lee:

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Jesus and Gehenna

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Lee O'Hare's mini-series on Hell

This is the second part of the mini-series of video talks by Lee O’Hare, where he addresses the foundational issues underpinning the standard Evangelical doctrine of Hell.

In this instalment, Lee looks at the use of the word ‘Gehenna’ in Bible translations (especially the King James Bible; you know, the one that Jesus used 😉 ) where the word Gehenna has been incorrectly translated as ‘Hell’. This is a fascinating talk which will bring much clarity on this subject:

On the subject of Gehenna, as Lee says, it’s a real place that you can go and visit today if you’d like to. Here’s a picture of it. I don’t know about you but I think it looks pretty hellish. Not.

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What About Hell?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Lee O'Hare's mini-series on Hell

Recently, I published a series of talks by Dr. Don Keathley on the doctrine of Hell and why it is such a faulty concept. As my readers will know, I do not believe in the concept of a postmortem Hell of fiery everlasting punishment (known as ‘eternal conscious torment’ or ECT) for those who fail to meet the requirements of whatever religious group is touting the Hell idea. And there are many such groups, each with a different set of requirements for what they believe will ‘save’ a person from this unimaginably nightmarish fate – which, to me, just speaks volumes about the fallacy of the whole thing.

And then there’s the whole fallacy preached by various people who say that Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven. There is a word for this kind of lying tripe, but this is a polite blog so I won’t share it 🙂 I’ve written on this subject twice before, here and here.

I have been listening to another, shorter, series of teachings by the brilliant Lee O’Hare, where he too debunks the entire ECT doctrine, piece by piece, and concept by concept. In particular, he tackles in a thorough and scholarly manner the two main parables taught by Jesus which those who believe in ECT (also known as ‘Infernalists’) use as the main supporting pillars of their doctrine.

But these two talks come later in the series. In this first part, ‘What about Hell?’, Lee examines the doctrine itself and describes the history and origins of the concept. Now, that might sound boring but, let me tell you, it’s a real eye-opener and well worth listening to. In this video, Lee also sets the scene for the remaining three talks in the series.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts giving you videos to watch, these talks do represent a fair amount of investment in terms of time; each talk is about an hour long. But if you can at all make the time to listen to these excellent videos, they will transform your life. Maybe listen to them, episode by episode, over a few nights of long soaks in a hot bath. That’s what I do 😀 They have certainly helped me, because they have confirmed once more that I am not the only person in the faith that is thinking along these exact same lines!

Without more ado, over to Lee:

 


For more links to articles on the debunking of the Hell doctrine, visit my Hell Resource Page.

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Why Young People are Leaving the Church

Young people are leaving the organised Church at an alarming rate. Well, it’s alarming to those who want to keep them ‘in’, anyway.

Here’s what my friend Phil Drysdale has to say on the issue:


The issue isn’t that Christian leaders don’t know why young people are leaving the church. No, young people are telling us very clearly why.

It’s that these types of answers require too much of a change for the average leader to be able to deal with.

My three big takeaways from this are:

1) Many young people today aren’t looking for certainty half as much as they are looking for a place to explore their doubts safely.

2) Many young people don’t see getting people out of the world and into the church as a primary goal. They care about loving the world and want to see Christians go out into it and make it a better place, without an agenda.

3) Many young people aren’t scared of the world or facts, they are happy to reinterpret their faith and its texts in light of newly discovered truth. A church that is unable to do so will lose them quickly.


I fully agree with all this. I have some comments too, as you might imagine.

You see, this sort of thing always attracts the inevitable responses from hardline, rigid and unbending* leaders who hold the ‘word of god’ ** above everything else, insisting that it’s not the ‘word’ that needs to change, but the ‘world’.

‘Oh well, it’s not us that say it, but it’s the Bible’.

‘This is what god says, not us. We can’t change what god says just because we don’t like it’

‘Don’t blame me, it’s the Bible wot sez it. I can’t change what the Bible says. ‘

‘The Bible has a timeless message; it’s not our fault that the times are changing away from its message. It’s the world that is going the wrong way’.

‘I’m not going to sugarcoat what the Bible says just because that would make me/it more popular’

‘It’s not about making the Bible more acceptable; it’s about telling people the hard truth’

And so on ad nauseam.

Maybe they should do a little thinking as to just why people no longer think the Bible is relevant…it’s not the Bible that’s at fault; it’s the attitudes of the people who brandish it. Who wants to be like one of these dull, grey, boring, joyless people?*** Evangelical Christianity is the worst advert for God there is, particularly when combined with the (mainly Old Testament-based) doctrines they espouse. And let’s face it, many of them are nasty about it; they are judgemental and condemning and almost gleeful about the idea of seeing those with whom they don’t agree burning in ‘hell’. And that comes out in their lives and in their interpersonal attitudes. Again, who wants to be like that? Jesus maybe should have said, “They shall know you are My disciples in that you judge one another”. Not.

Of course, I appreciate that not all Christians are like that. But the ones that get the publicity are indeed like that, and they are a terrible advert for Jesus. Again, “You shall be My bad witnesses throughut Judea and Samaria and into the whole world”. Not.

Instead, God continues His work in the hearts and lives of ordinary people all around the world, while Evangelicalism continues to pray for a future ‘great awakening’ which is already happening all around them and they can’t see it. It’s like Moses not being allowed into the Promised Land. Served him right, though, he was a prat.

Sadly, I have no pity for these people. Their own insecurities, and their unbending attitudes in response to those insecurities, render them unable to merge effectively into the very society they are trying to influence. ‘Hard truth’ can never be called ‘Good News’. But I am grateful for what their prayer has brought to birth – the new revival of Grace that is quietly and unobtrusively sweeping the world.

Shame they can’t see it.


*Rigid and unbending; hence, the header picture of a rigid steel joist (RSJ) 😉

**Lower-case use of initial letters intentional.

***Obviously I know that not all Christians are like this. But my rant, as always, is against those who are like this 😀

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Pretzels

Another compilation of ‘bite-sized’, interesting ideas and thoughts for your delectation:

 

“[This idea] is … the sort of idiocy that only the religious could come up with”
– Chris Daniels

“Was Jesus’ mission 100% successful? It’s either yes or no. There’s no “Yes, but…” answer. Think it through”
– Cindy DeGroot

“You cannot convince someone to return to where they’ve been when where they are is better”.
– Derrick Day

“Your belongingness to God is simply not determined by family of origin or economic status or friend groups. It is not determined by religiosity, moral purity or political category. Your belongingness is determined by the still, small voice that calls you by name. And I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: nothing else gets to tell you who you are. ”
– Nadia Bolz-Weber

“If sin is defined as missing the bullseye on a target (Greek word hamartia) then grace is the guy who comes along and throws the whole target in the dumpster”.
– Don Keathley

“When people tell me that I’m “walking on thin ice with God”. I have to remind them that the ice underneath my feet is miles upon miles thick with Grace. Religion will have you believe that the ice (grace) is only a few millimetres thick, when in reality it’s infinite. Because even in the presence of sin, grace abounds even more. The ice is at it’s thickest when you are at your very worst”.
– Ben David

“From a Mother’s heart, I invite you to be you—I hereby give you permission! You get to move into who you are with no regrets. You get to enjoy life as the person you know yourself to be because who you are is fabulous! Who you are is amazing! And you get to embrace the you you keep changing into, because isn’t that cool that we get to keep growing more into our best us?!”
– Susan Cottrell

“[A] sufficiently thorough conditioning can make an otherwise sound mind perceive even the most ostentatiously absurd proposition to be the very epitome of rational good sense.”
— David Bentley Hart, ‘That All Shall Be Saved’ p.18

“The full acceptance of Grace means an end to struggling to please God, an end to worrying about your sinfulness, an end to having to explain yourself to others; it means total freedom to live life in all its fulness and in all the riches that God purposed for you in Christ. Everything that is in Christ is yours because you are in Him, and Grace enables you to avail yourself of Christ’s riches fully and freely like no legalism can ever accomplish”.
– Me

“If your Pastor told you today in church that your identity is sinner, separated from God, headed to hell, unclean, unrighteous, and you left church feeling worse than when you went, then you need to find a new place where you can learn your authentic and true identity is image and likeness of God, totally loved and fully included in the family of the Father”.
– Don Keathley

“Some people prefer the bad news over the good, and will do all they can to negate whatever good news you try to give them, This is my definition of ‘hell’ ”
– Me

“God loves us unconditionally. When we actually start to realise that, we begin to realise that God loves the person that just pissed me off unconditionally as well. And when we start to see that, we either let go of our anger, or our egos burn with unrepentance. Some might misidentify that as wrath because they would rather scapegoat God than let go of their selfishness and pride. Some biblical authors also had this problem, compounding our own blame shifting”
– Russell Croft

“Emmanuel…

God With Us

not

God Only At Church”
– Dave Griffiths

“At the moment, I see doctrine as only being essential for those who do not feel secure in the love of God. Doctrine is a way of setting up a feeling of security; it is setting up (at best) a belief framework, or (at worst) our own mental limitations on what God can/can’t do; either way I think it’s restrictive and even potentially stunting of our growth. Far better to do as you say, Wendy*, and just swim in the ocean. Ironically, that’s what the Fundie song ‘Oceans’ is about, but they are blind to the profundity of it”.
– Me


*’Wendy’ being Wendy Francisco; my quote here was in response to one of her posts.

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