Good news? What good news?

Disciples

Here’s what we know so far:

  1. There is no evidence the disciples were martyred.

  2. There is no evidence the disciples were martyred simply for believing that someone they knew had returned from the dead. In the age in which they lived such a claim wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. The gospel accounts themselves record instances of resurrections other than Jesus’ and of miraculous manifestations of the dead. This was how people thought.

  3. There is no evidence that believing a dead man was alive again was a capital offence. Really, who could possibly care? Even Paul did not suggest that, as Saul, he liked to persecute early believers because of this belief.

  4. The gospel preached by Jesus and his disciples was completely different from that promoted by Paul. Their good news was about the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, when the Romans would be overthrown and every injustice made right (Luke 13.30). And while they may not have made it public, Jesus and his friends believed they would be the judges and rulers of this new system.

  5. This ‘good news’ existed long before Jesus died and long before Paul came along to change its nature entirely (Matt 10.23).

  6. Matthew and Luke, while including resurrection stories inspired by ‘visions’ like Paul’s, preserve, as does Mark, Jesus’ apocalyptic teaching. His promise of the coming Kingdom and his private teaching that he and his disciples would rule the new age together remain a significant part of the synoptic gospels.

  7. Jesus was executed for his seditious views (Mark 15.2, 9 & 32; John 19.19-20)

  8. It is likely, if they were martyred at all, that the disciples were killed for the same reason.

There are further indications in the New Testament that the original ‘good news’ had nothing to do with a mystical salvation plan and that the disciples clung to this original message – they’d heard it from Jesus himself, after all – even as other interpretations began to supersede it. We’ll look at these indications next time.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

franklinA guest post by Andrew Calibre.

So there’s this smart-arse who thinks he’ll catch Jesus out by asking him a tricky question like, is it true microbes cause illnesses? Or, is Ken Ham right that the universe is only six thousand year old? But he bottles it, maybe ’cause he knows JC won’t have a clue what he’s talking about, and asks him an easy one instead – simple stuff about Jewish rules or something. “What is the greatest commandment?” is the best he can come up with (Matthew 26.32-40).

Jesus takes his chance and says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Predictable or what, even if he does make a big mistake: whoever heard of ‘the mind’ having anything to do with religion! Still, JC can’t resist elaborating on it. “This is the first and greatest commandment,” he says, as if everybody round him doesn’t know that already when it’s in their old magic book (Deuteronomy 6.5). He’s on a roll now and on he goes: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Clearly a cock-up, but there’s no stopping him: “The whole bloody religion” – he’s talking about the Jewish stuff, not the Christian fantasy that he knows nothing about on account of it not being invented yet – “is about these two things, nothing more,” he says.

Christ! How could he have got it so wrong? Love your neighbour as yourself! Whoever heard such crap? I know, a nice idea, but I ask you. Everybody knows that being religious, being a Christian, is about believing the right stuff (having the right doctrine, I think it’s called), trashing other Christians who believe the wrong stuff, and dumping on everybody else, specially if they’re sinners (and they’re all sinners), foreigners, LGBTI or transgender. Now that’s real Christianity. I know it is, because that’s how Christians do it, and they’re the ones who should know.

Apart from Jesus, nobody thinks loving others like you love yourself is a good idea. Even he wasn’t very good at it (Matthew 15.22-28 etc). What ‘your neighbour’ is for, is pointing out how sinful/lost/degenerate they are, how they’ve f**ked up their lives, how God’s going to punish them for all eternity for not being the same as you and how they’re just about single-handedly bringing about the end of the world on account of being so perverted/evil/foreign.

That’s how you love your neighbour! You can’t even claim to be loving them properly unless you’re telling them about Jesus, over and over again, and, in the process, denigrating, dismissing and damning them to hell over and over again. This is what truly loving your neighbour is about! I know because Christians say so endlessly: ‘you’re only really loving others if you’re telling them what shite they are and how they need Jeeesus to wipe it all away.’ So, okay, this isn’t exactly how you love yourself, but what’s that got to do with it?

If only Jesus had listened to his mouthpieces today. They know far more than he did about what’s important.

And love it isn’t.

 

 

 

 

God’s Election

church4

As we saw in the previous post, the Bible tells us that God chose his ‘Elect’* before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1.4-6). Which begs the questions –

1: On what basis did God select the favoured few untold eons before they were born? Did he decide by looking at their dress sense, as Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22.1-14 suggests? I guess it must be, given the Bible is the ‘literal’ word of God.

Or did God assess ahead of time just how righteous his Chosen would turn out to be? In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says righteousness is the yard stick (though naturally Christians don’t believe him because Paul says something different).

Or did God decide in advance – Paul says he ‘foreknew’ – who would repent and turn to Jesus, free-will be damned? Maybe, but then Jesus suggests that not everyone who does even this will make it into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 22.1-14).

What a bummer! Looks like God’s decision is/was purely abitrary. You make it, or not, on the whim of a capricious monster.

2: What’s the point of evangelism? If God chose who was going to have eternal life/enter the Kingdom/live in Heaven before the creation of the world, then there can be absolutely no need for anyone to tell anyone else about Jesus, sin and salvation. Why? Because it makes no difference; God’s Chosen will remain his Chosen, as they were long before they were born, and he’ll be sure to rescue them once they die. Those who haven’t been pre-selected will stay lost and will go to Hell whether or not they’ve heard or responded to the gospel.

‘But how will the unsaved Chosen hear the message if we don’t tell them?’ ask our zealous evangelical friends, still not getting the point. Jesus, lads! The Chosen don’t need to hear the gospel: God – has – already – chosen – them. They will go to Heaven, live in the Kingdom or whatever, regardless of your efforts. You and your evangelism are superfluous.

3: How can you be sure, if you’re a Christian, that you’re of the ‘Elect’ and so destined for Eternal Life? Yes, you’ve chosen Jesus – but has he chosen you? How can you know? Your own sense of righteousness, your faith, self-sacrifice and adherence to sound doctrine (whatever that is) are no guide to whether or not you’ve made the grade. Only God knows that, and he’s not telling.

Not yet, anyway, so you’d best make sure you’re buried in your very best clothes, just in case.

* Jesus is made to call the chosen few ‘the Elect’ in Matt 24.22, 24 & 31; Mark 13.20, 22 & 27 and Luke 18.7.

Recent Encounters of the Religious Kind

1. The kindly street preacher

preacher4

A bad-tempered looking man is standing next to a sign that announces that ‘Evolution is a Lie’ and ‘Jesus is Lord’. He – the grumpy man, not Jesus – is giving out some sort of glossy card. I do my best to sidestep him but he approaches and gives me one. It is entitled God Commands: 4 Things That God Commands, at least half of which is redundant. I notice that a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses have set up stall next to him (or perhaps he set up next to them).

‘So,’ I ask, ‘who’s right? You or them?’

They,’ he growls, ‘are of the devil.’

What a problem Christianity has. Islam too: so many damn different versions, all of which lay claim to being the one and only Truth. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reports that there are now 45,000 different churches, denominations, sects and cults within Christianity, every one of them insisting that they – and they alone – represent God’s Truth, only they have got it right. There are as many Christian web-sites out there slagging off other Christians – Apostate! Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing! Doing the devil’s work! False teachers! – as there are sites ‘reaching out’ to the ‘lost’.

What’s more, every one of them knows they alone have the Truth because the Bible itself says so. They quote from it to prove how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. Which just goes to show what a damnable, scurrilous load of tosh the Bible really is. If God is not, as it says in 1 Corinthians 14.33, the author of confusion then he can’t have had anything to do with it.

Of course we know he didn’t; it’s human through and through, every mean-spirited, self-righteous verse of it.

Are You A Good Person?

Bleach

My old mate Dale McAlpine has been missing from the streets of my home town recently. Perhaps he’s saving himself for Pride when he can ‘coincidentally’ turn up with his fellow street-preachers and try to ruin the celebration. He hasn’t updated his blog for two years either. I’m really quite worried about him. Perhaps he’s realised the error of his ways and has abandoned all that Salvation clap-trap has taken up a more rational approach to life. I do hope so. Or perhaps he’s just given up trying to reach people for Jesus; maybe the folk where I live are so reprobate even the mighty Dale Jesus can’t reach them. I’d like to think so.

Dale, like other joyless evangelists, is fond of asking those he’s haranguing, ‘are you a good person?‘ It’s a loaded question, of course, because no matter how you answer it, the street preacher is able to use it to direct the ‘conversation’ (in which he has a megaphone and you don’t) around to Jesus. If you say ‘yes, I am a pretty good person’, the evangelist will then ask you if you’ve ever told lie or stolen something; if the answer is ‘yes’, he will then pronounce you ‘Not A Good Person’ and point out how, as a result, you are in need of Jesus. Easier to answer ‘No,’ in the first place, ‘I’m not a good person’ and get it over with quickly, leading, as this does, more directly to the saving power of Jesus. He alone, apparently can save you from not being good, stop you stealing the paper clips and save you from sin. Because, as everyone knows, accepting Jesus into your life automatically makes you a good person. (It doesn’t? Okay, but we’ll leave that for another time.)

Of course it might be the case that you really are a mass-murderer, child-molester or fraudster, and this may indeed disqualify you from being ‘a good person.’ But most of us are not; we’re just ordinary folk living ordinary lives with the characteristics, flaws and foibles that result from being raised by other ordinary folks with flaws and foibles of their own. If, on the other hand, you really are a bad person, it’s hardly likely you’re going to tell Dale and his pals about it in the middle of a public street.

However you regard yourself, it’s far better not to answer the likes of Dale at all; what right have they to know whether you regard yourself as a good person or not? What right have they to expect you to declare it publicly? Why should you respond to an agenda set entirely by them? None at all. Just shake the dirt from your Nikes and walk away.

If, however, you do feel inclined to engage with the religiously disturbed, you could try telling them you are neither a good person nor a bad one, because that is what most of us are; complex individuals who really can’t be delineated in such a nonsensically simplistic way. Only the religious seek to define human psychology with the false dichotomies of good and evil, right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous. Responding that you are neither good nor bad, while quite possibly both at the same time, is much too complicated for them. They will judge you a smart arse unworthy of God’s Grace and pretty quickly move on to a fresh victim.

Sweet and sour, nasty and nice

or, whatever happened to Luke 18.11-14?

prayer2Why is it when people are emotionally blackmailed into becoming followers of Jesus, does their conversion make them sweet and sour, nasty and nice at the same time? The sweet and nice parts are what their new experience does for them. They get a new start of sorts, are introduced to like-minded friends in the church and become compelled to share their new joy with everyone else, whether they want to hear it or not, about how much they’ve changed because of Jesus. It’s nice for them. Deluded too, but if it makes them happy then why not?

This is why not. What they don’t tell you, not at first anyway, is how sour and nasty they have also become; how they must now defend God’s standards, because, as everyone knows, the omnipotent God of all creation is incapable of defending them himself. Being born again and morphing into ‘a new creation’ involves, without exception, becoming judgemental of others, condemnatory, inflammatory, bigoted and spiteful.

You think not? Then you haven’t heard what these same Christians think about abortion and women who have them. Homosexuality and those who are gay. Transgenderism and those born in the wrong body. Science and those who value evidence. Atheism and those of us who see through believers’ sad delusion.

Christians don’t, as some of them profess, hate the sin but love the sinner. They despise those who have philosophies different from them, those who live differently from them, those who are different from them.

A recent BBC poll asked if the world wouldn’t be more peaceful without religion. Here’s the results as of 14th July 2016:

Poll

I don’t know how many people this represents nor where they’re from – the site doesn’t say – but it would seem that most of us would think we would be better off without religion. It’s long past time we were able to be; religion has nothing to offer. It’s time we stopped giving it special treatment because some of it is sweet and nice. Its sour, nasty aspects are just as much a part of it, inseparable from whatever positives its adherents say it has. I’ll be looking soon at how we might push back against religion’s pervasive and poisonous influence in society.

Effective Preachin’ (Part Two)

Sheep

Reverend M. T. Vessal of the Church of The Raised Up here again, with the second part of my guide to Effective Preachin’. In case you missed it, repent! (The first part’s here.)

Now we’re really gonna get going, praise the Lord! The tools you’re gonna need for your talk proper are:

Lots of anecdotes (make up ’em up if you don’t know any true ones), specially ones about life- and-death situations. Stories about encounters with people on planes always go down well, as there’s always the chance the plane will too, and accounts of foolish follk who hear the gospel and ignore it, only to die in a terrible accident soon after.

Cod-psychology. That’s the stuff about God-shaped holes, how only Christ can forgive sin and meet all our needs, even though he doesn’t and never said he would. You can add something in here slagging off atheists and anyone else you disagree with.

Conviction. This is crucial. Sound as if you mean whatever it is you’re spouting. Sound as if you really know what the Bible says. Make it sound like it’s relevant and meaningful, even though it isn’t.

Modulation, otherwise known as shouting and dropping your voice. Shout when the argument is weak (and they’re all weak – you’re making this stuff up, remember)) and drop your voice almost to a whisper so that people know you’re being really, really sincere.

Drama. Pace up and down, like ‘Bishop’ T. D. Jakes, and mop your brow a lot. Wave your arms about, like Joseph Prince and show you really mean it. Maybe you could use props, like Beth Moore does, though you run the risk then of diverting the attention away from yourself. Better is to demonstrate what a cool guy you are, even if you’re not a guy, by sitting on the edge of the altar steps or, if you’re in a really cool church like Steve Furtrick’s, the Stage. This shows the congregation/audience just how cool you are.

Whipped up emotion. This is optional but if you lay it on thick about what Jesus has done for the spiritually inferior, how their sin caused those nails to be driven in, then you’re on to a winner. Aim for some arm waving from ’em, babbling in jibberish speaking in tongues and maybe even some crying. Don’t forget to tell ’em that whatever they’re feeling is the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Definitely nothing to do with your manipulating their already fragile emotions. No sir. This here frenzy is divinely inspired.

Finally, get to the challenge bit of your sermon/talk/self-promotion. This can involve an appeal for money. Correction: this will involve an appeal for money. The God who supplies everything doesn’t supply money so you’ll need to lay a guilt trip on your fans/congregation to provide you with the cash to maintain your lavish lifestyle continue the Lord’s work. But it’s not only about money; remember to pressurise/inspire the congregation/audience/fans to go out and harrass their neighbours so maybe they and their wallets will come to church next week. As the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few’!

Above all, though, let everyone leave feeling that they’ve had a good time. Like kettles, they should have had a real great Outpouring and feel well and truly Blessed. Leave ’em feeling ready for more, same time, same place next Sunday.