Why I Don’t Believe “Believe” Means what You Believe it Means

People all the times be saying, “Faith means believing in things which ain’t so.” Or sometimes, “Faith means believing things without, or sometimes in the teeth of evidence.” And from these quotes, we can learn that some people, despite having been born and raised in the Christian West, have NO IDEA what the Bible says or what the church has taught for 2,000 years. I personally think 2,000 years would be enough time for everyone to find the time to see what the Bible says before they go off writing books about it, but apparently I am being presumptuous. Thus to help you, my friends, I will show you what the Bible says:uncle sam copy Read more of this post

Once Upon a Time in Israel…

As I have said before, there is a remarkable difference between what people say about the Bible and what the Bible actually says.  Because of that, the story I am about to tell you may sound a little shocking. It will especially sound shocking if you have been getting most of your theology from the comments on YouTube. Read more of this post

The Gospel According to Internet Atheists (Episode I- The Virgin Jewess)

The story we call the Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, told in a book known as “The Bible.” If you’ve been living out from under a rock, you have heard this book referenced in all kinds of different media- from TV and movies to popular magazines and maybe even- if your denomination is particularly conservative- in church. It was not long ago that all churches used to talk about the Bible, but as of late they’ve been distracted by things like the Oprah Book Club, or any device whose name has a lower case “i” in front of its name.
church-opening-gif2

Many people have made a good deal of noise (And let’s face it- money) by claiming to tell the TRUE history of the Bible, and by “TRUE” they mean “COMPLETELY different from story the church tells.” In short, the Church says, “The Bible is actual history and is true.” The alternate version says, “Liar, liar, religious pants on fire!” The debate has been violent, hateful, and has torn apart families, friendships and nations. And that’s just the comments on FaceBook.  Of course, I do not mean to imply that the people becoming rich by spreading these alternative histories are merely money grubbing scum bags. What I do mean to point out is, they have been getting rich, and so I figure I should give it a try. Also, they may be scum bags. I won’t rule that out just yet. Read more of this post

The Gay Debate: Chapter Two- Building Bridges

Welcome back to a Gay debate about Gay marriage. When I last left you, I had spelled out the need for objective moral values in order to take EITHER side in this debate. Now I intend to take a minute to explain how much we all have in common. If your mind is easily blown, you may need a helmet- or a mind diaper.

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Give me a G! (The Amazing Gospel!)

Your Rent a Friend is listening to Come Away by Jesus Culture

He is sick of being on antibiotics, but his job brings him in contact with middle school kids.

OK, let’s see here: We’ve taken Pascal’s wager, met an elephant, we’ve thought (And therefore we are), we’ve had dinner with Hitler, and seen how nature and the universe at large prove the existence of God. Whew! I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve hiked all across the existential map. Or at least the Metaphysical Map. I wonder how Dora the Explorer does it every day? That kid must be slamming cappuccino like there’s no tomorrow. I’ll bet that backpack of hers contains nothing but RedBull.

Now that we’ve seen why it makes sense to believe in God, the next logical question is “WHICH God?” The Hindus alone have 330 million of them (Which gives you a possible 900,000 holidays per DAY. The Hindu greeting card industry should be the wealthiest and most powerful in the universe!) Why should we take Pascal’s God along with his wager? I think the path we’ve already trod can tell us part of that already. Take the Kalam Cosmological argument for instance. It showed us how the universe is finite- meaning it doesn’t have an eternal past. So, right away we can discount those faiths that require an infinite past, like Mormonism. Also, the creator of the universe is non-material. That counts out the Flying Spaghetti Monster (AKA Bruce). I think it also counts out Mormonism again. Those guys don’t get a lot of breaks.

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God Part II (In a Nutshell)

Though it has nothing to do with my topic, I wish to start with an example of how marriage really can be an amazing partnership. My wife and I, working together for mutual triumph, recently achieved a 500 note streak on Guitar Hero. 500 notes!
I know, right? I was so psyched! I think it is an excellent start to our seventh year of marriage, and I thank God for her.
Speaking of God (For aside from being your Rent A Friend, I am the Transition King), this is part two of my explanation of the nature of God.

The reasons the Biblical God is my foundation for the Metaphysical journey are several:

First, I am a Christian and I know Him. He’s real. It would be profoundly stupid for me to start with some other god, none of which I believe to be real, when I am trying to map out the nature of truth. Also, with almost all other religions, their god (Or gods or godess or what have you) is not the eternal, self existent creator of all from nothing.  This means you have to start a step before them with the pre-existing universe, whatever it was, and then go back to find out who or what made THAT and what proto-universe They lived in… and frankly, it gets me dizzy trying to figure out where, if ever, the process might end. So, we’re gonna Occam’s Razor all of that and assume that we only need one God and one universe. Otherwise we’ll need a padded cell and a lifetime supply of Aspirin.
There is much that can, has, and will be said about God/Jesus, but for right now my purpose is to prepare you for the Metaphysical journey, and it starts with God.
Thus I present here the relevant nature of God in a nutshell and the ways in which He is surprisingly different from other gods:

1. God is ETERNAL. He exists outside of time (Which he created) but can act inside of time. He had no beginning and will never end.
The god of Mormonism, for instance, lacks this divine aspect. Its idea of “God” is that any man can become god of their own world by being Super-Mormon. Thus, our god was once a man, born on another planet under another god, and he earned his way up to his present status as the man-with-the-biggest-desk. The god he once lived under was once himself a man who earned his way up the corporate ladder under a still different god, and so on. Despite the built in stairway-to-heaven structure, it is still considered rude to refer to Mormonism as a “Pyramid Scheme,” so don’t do that. Of course the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians had a fun bunch of comic book hero gods and goddesses, almost all of which came into being by being born, or built, purchased on e-bay, or in one case, popping out of Zeus’s head like some giant zit. Of the 330 millions gods of Hinduism (No, seriously, 330 million! Imagine the endless potential for holidays!) only one is actually eternal- The Brahman. The rest are forms or facets of that one which emerged from him at some point. Also, some would argue that the Brahman is more of an impersonal force than a god per say, but that’s another semantic blog for another semantic day.

Despite the name, the Brahman is NOT a comic book super hero. If you can figure out what the superpowers of The Brah-Man would be, let me know. Maybe we can start a new comic book. Bollywood would be itching to make the movie! Or would condemn us as blasphemous heretics! I’m really not sure which!

2. God is ALL POWERFUL. He can do anything that can be done.
This obviously wasn’t the case for most of the old school gods. They were always getting tricked, fooled, manipulated, or coerced. Sometimes they would get stuck under a rock, or injured or killed in personal vendettas and gangland warfare, like our modern Gangsta Rappers. I’m guessing the reason all those old religions died out was the invention of baseball and daytime television. Let’s be honest, between Soaps and Sports, you have everything the “Zeus & Co. Players” could come up with.
A good example of how the Biblical God is different than other gods is just the fact that most of your popular religions have a particular god or goddess for everything. Thor can do thunder, lightning and maybe even light showers coming from the northwest, with strong gusts up to 35 miles per hour, but can he do ferrying the to the underworld? No. For that you need Anubis or Charon. And they can’t do a thing for crops. You need some corn god for that one, like Osiris. And can the corn god do apple trees too? Probably not. The Union would never allow that kind of thing even if he had the time. This is probably how the Hindus got 330 million gods in the first place.
Jesus can do 330 million things by himself, so one God is plenty.

3. He is the CREATOR of all space, time, matter, energy, etc. He created it out of nothing.
There is NO creation account like the one in the Bible except, oddly,  the Big Bang Theory. God made EVERYTHING from NOTHING some finite time ago. All other creation stories have some pre-existing world with water and plants and a sky and probably a Radio Shack and a tanning salon. The Big Bang Theory agrees that the universe popped into existence from nothing, nowhere, and nowhen a finite time ago, but it rejects the idea of a creator and says the universe is un-caused; it sort of made itself, like a rabbit pulling itself out of a hat without a hat. Or a rabbit. This would be an amazing magic trick (without a magician) and well worth the price of admission. No one would argue that it is not infinitely unlikely to happen, but, as it has been said “it only had to happen once.” Some of you think I’m making this up, but sadly I am not. I’ll explain it all some other time.

4. God is ALL KNOWING. He knows all that is, was, or will be, and all that would be were things different. And because he is out of time, he doesn’t need to remember stuff or predict it, he sees it all in an eternal NOW.
Again, all of your other religions have stories where various gods trick each other or where humans fool their gods or pull one over on them. It wasn’t so much a religion as a cartoon with some of these guys. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but when your god has the same problems running the world that Elmer Fudd does bagging a rabbit, you seriously need to rethink whether he’s worthy of worship.

5. God is PERSONAL. Unlike The FORCE (TM Lucasfilms Ltd) He has thoughts, feelings, preferences, characteristics, and a will. While Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn did imply once that the Force ™ also has a will, he may have been speaking metaphorically and certainly does not represent the Jedi Temple, The Council, nor the majority of Jedi doctrine.

6. God’s main motivation/Character trait is LOVE. While he is righteous and just, he loves us with a really BIG love and therefore made a way for sin to be punished (satisfying his righteous justice) and yet adopt us into his family.
There is much left to say, but let me have the Bible sum it up for me:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Nutshell in a nutshell: God is Big, Unique, and wonderful- and He Loves You!

OK, there is your foundation for the metaphysical map to everything. Whew! Covers a LOT of ground. Now that I have this done, I need to go play some more Guitar Hero. Maybe you should go do the same. I can’t say there is a direct correlation between my excellent marriage and my good Guitar Hero score, but it is worth trying.
Just in case.

rentafriend2000@hotmail.com

The Start of the Metaphysical Journey

HAPPY NEW YEAR/DECADE!!!! New Decade update for my readers: Just before Christmas, I scored a 300 note streak on Guitar Hero on medium. Yup, you can bet THAT went on my resume almost immediately. Who rocks? THIS guy!

For Christmas my beautiful wife got me an old-school View Master and 3 disks of Hawaii so I can take a tropical vacation whenever I want. I just put on the sound machine set to “ocean” and I am THERE. I got her the complete set of New Kids on the Block trading cards from the 1980’s and a Cabbage Patch lunch box. I am the king of romance.

To start the new year, I have decided that, as your Rent A Friend, it is my obligation to walk you through the often murky waters of Philosophy and Metaphysics. The best way to walk through anything, as I learned at the zoo a few days ago, is with a map. Otherwise you wind up standing at the Tiger cage saying, “Where is that Polar Bear?” and looking like a real tool. So I am going to draw you a metaphysical map of everything.

The very start of the metaphysical journey is God. Everyone has an opinion about God. There’s the atheist who says “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God!” yet when asked for proof, they tend to argue that they don’t need to prove it. They just KNOW. It’s we silly Theists that need to prove that he’s there in the first place. Then when you give them Intelligent Design sciences, historical/legal proofs, logical philosophy and manuscript evidence for the Bible that outweighs all of antiquity combined, they tell you it’s all just propaganda. There’s no pleasing some people.

Then there are the agnostics. The thing that confuses me most about this group is the apathy. There is no religion anywhere that says, “God is real, but it really doesn’t matter. If he wants you to believe in him, he’ll stop by your house and give you a toaster oven or tote bag for signing up, so don’t worry about it too much.” In my mind, every agnostic should be SCRAMBLING for data, evidence, and comparison charts. They admit that God MIGHT be real. Which means heaven and hell MIGHT be real. Which means they MIGHT be able to, in some fashion, attain salvation and heaven eternal, OR they might be damning themselves and simply be too lazy to find out for sure. This is the way I am about my personal health, but for me, there is a certain somewhere in the future, weather I’m in good shape now or not. There are no ETERAL ramifications for my apathy. The stakes, I could argue, are a touch higher for the agnostics.

There are a hundred different religions in the world, most of which claim an exclusive hold on the true nature of God (Or Gods or goddess or whatever they are selling), and a few of which who come right out front and say, “We don’t know. He or she or they might be out there. And you’re welcome to believe. But we can’t say one way or another. We imagine that, one day, we’ll all find out or we’ll stop caring. We’re not sure about that either.” And again I am AMAZED that a church with THAT doctrine gets people to show up every week. I’m guessing that those churches must have an unusually high population of insomniacs. Sunday mornings they say to themselves, “Well, I don’t know about all of this spiritual business, but I’m already up. I might as well do SOMETHING between now and lunch.”

In America we have the very popular Oprah Winfrey philosophy of religion which says, “There CAN’T be only one way.” In short, everyone wins. No matter what you think, you’re right. I’d like to see Oprah sit down with a Muslim and an Atheist and explain it to them; “Look, for you there is an Allah watching you, judging you on your merit according to the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. You’ll face judgment day and the reward of your good and evil throughout your life. For you, on the other hand, I guess Allah will stay out of your way and after you die he’ll just turn out the lights and stay real quiet until you stop paying attention. Nobody’s wrong here.” I just don’t see an agreement on the panel that day.

When it comes to the question of WHY all religions can’t be true, Oprah actually serves as my best argument. She started this weird internet cult with a guy names Ekhart Tole, where they were trying to make a religion that said “ALL religions are the same, so buy my book.” During the cult-class, she asked him what happens when you die, and he said he did not know. This of course was the best time to draw a blank, because no matter what answer he picked, someone would be right and someone would be wrong.
The atheist says oblivion. We cease to exist.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims say heaven or hell.
Mormons say only heaven, but different layers of heaven (Like a big birthday cake), unless you were REALLY good, in which case you get to be a god and run your own planet. This, to me, explains the popularity of Mormonism.
Hindus and Buddhists say reincarnation. You come back as another biological life form. You can hope for “rich and powerful,” but you might get “goat.”
Shinto say you wander the earth as a shadowy ghost figure, occasionally stopping by your family’s kids to see how they’re doing and if they left you some tea or a snack.
And in the Robin Williams/Cuba Gooding Jr. film What Dreams May Come, you get heaven, unless you choose hell, and God still fails to show up wherever you go, and if you get bored with heaven, you can reincarnate and take another shot at it just for kicks.

In short, there is NO WAY everyone can be right. You can’t go to eternal heaven, oblivion, and reincarnate all at the same time. Oh, you can TRY, but you’ll fail. And I think we all know that even if you did succeed, it would ruin your credit rating and your insurance wouldn’t cover ANY of it.

I myself am a Christian, and so I will be defining God according to His personal self-revelation as recorded in the Bible. Eventually I will explain why this makes the most sense in all ways Theological, Logical, Metaphysical, Historical, Scientific, and Personal, but first I need to draw a Metaphysical map so you don’t get lost.

The very start of the metaphysical journey is God. Now, if it were possible to sum up God in a single paragraph, the Bible wouldn’t need to be so long, so this will be an overview. Feel free to ask questions. Most of these ideas are easy to find in Genesis, Psalms, the end of Job, the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and especially in the book of Romans where Paul gets deep with it all.
1. God is ETERNAL. He exists outside of time (Which he created) but can act inside of time. As Jesus Christ he existed inside of time like a normal man, but he was arguably smarter and more talented than the rest of us.
2. God is ALL POWERFUL. He can do anything that can be done (Which means, no, he can’t make a square circle, so don’t ask. It’s a silly question anyway).
3. He is the creator of all space, time, matter, energy, etc. He created it out of nothing. Modern science calls this The Big Bang, only when asked where all the matter, energy, time and space came from, they just shrug their shoulders and hope that “nowhere” is an acceptable answer.
4. God is ALL KNOWING. He knows all that is, was, or will be, and all that would be were things different. And because he is out of time, he doesn’t need to remember stuff or predict it, he sees it in an eternal NOW.
5. God is PERSONAL. Unlike the FORCE (TM Lucasfilms Ltd) he has thoughts, feelings, preferences, characteristics, and a will (Though Qui-Gon Jinn did imply once that the Force ™ also has a will, he may have been speaking metaphorically and certainly does not represent the majority of Jedi doctrine).
6. God made us to have a personal RELATIONSHIP with him. We exist for a purpose- to know and love God and to be known and loved by him.
7. Sin separated us from God, and sin CANNOT be removed with Good Works. (This is the idea that separates Christianity/Biblical Judaism from every other religion and philosophy that has ever existed)
8. Jesus (God incarnate) lived a perfect life and then was crucified and died as the payment for our sins. He was the final and perfect sacrifice that paid for all of our sins, giving us the ability to be made right with God.
9. Salvation is through Jesus, and all you have to do is accept it. Then, God will adopt you into his family and he will be your heavenly father forever.
10. God’s main motivation/Character trait is LOVE. While he is righteous and just, he loves us and therefore made a way for sin to be punished (satisfying his righteous justice) and yet save us to be adopted into his family.
11. I’ll explain the Trinity some other time. There is no way to make short work of that I promise you. Let’s sum it up with “God is more complicated than most.” It’s one of the reasons he is so fascinating.

OK, next time I’ll explain how this view of God is different in every way than the gods of other religions/Oprah. In the mean time, I’m gonna go try Guitar Hero on Hard and see how long I last.

Happy New Year from your Rent A Friend!

rentafriend2000@hotmail.com

Church Rats (Or- A Thousand Self-Righteous Christians)

One of my friends recently wrote on their on-line blog style that they had gone to a concert and found them self surrounded by “a thousand self-righteous Christians.” Right away I had several thoughts:
“A Thousand Self-Righteous Christians” would be a TERRIBLE name for a band. Ten-Thousand Maniacs had a nice ring to it. “A Thousand Self-Righteous Christians”- not so much.
I thought it surprisingly impressive that this person could, simply by being among them, determine not only their alleged faith, but the fact that they were all self-righteous as well. I wondered if they had been wearing colors to indicate this, like some weird variation on a street gang.
“White shirts with sweater vests are the Baptists, Green shirts are the Lutherans, the neon tie-dye are the Charismatics, and the Navy-Blue polo with khaki pants are the self-righteous Christians. Man, there must be a thousand of them in here.”

I wondered, if it was apparent that they were self-righteous, what made my friend think they really were Christians? Anyone who thinks they have attained Righteousness because of themselves is not a Christian. Christians can’t be SELF-Righteous. They MUST be CHRIST –righteous. The whole point of the Gospel/Bible is that no one can attain righteousness in themselves. Trying to get rid of sin with good works is like trying to get rid of cancer with regular shampooing. You’ll look clean and die anyway.

The problem is, we have no culturally accepted term for these Church-going, arrogant, loveless, religious Dooftacs. Since, like Oprah, they call themselves “Christians,” those who don’t know any better assume it must be so. We let me tell you, I can call myself an athlete because I own gym shoes and know how to work a treadmill, but that still doesn’t make me one. I doubt I’m in good enough shape to watch an entire Olympic event on TV, let alone justify self-application of that term. As they used to say in the 1980’s, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car.” That was considered brilliantly witty among the northern Baptists, and it makes a valid point.

A Christian is one who has fallen to his knees, empty-handed and humbly before the Mercy of God to save them from their own sins through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. A Christian is a Christian because they have accepted the free, undeserved, merciful gift of Salvation. As the Bible puts it in the book of Galatians; “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
You can try and play the “The Bible is open to Personal Interpretation” game, but anyone with half a brain can see that it says the same thing that Ephesians Chapter 2 says: “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” You’ll find that, if you actually READ the Bible, it’s pretty clear. Sometimes it beats a point to death just to make sure you understand it. This is one of those points.

The apostle Paul refers to the religious nimrods who need a beating as Religious Dogs. This was before the household puppy gave the term “Dog” the nobility it enjoys today. Because of our modern love of dogs, we need a new term for the Dooftacs who unjustly use the name “Christian” for themselves. Perhaps we should try to add Church RAT to the lexicon? Rats steal and poop and spread disease, so I think it works.

Church Rats are one of two things:
1. A practical atheist who enjoys religion. These are the people who don’t REALLY believe in God, but think that, were God really there, He would be pretty impressed with them. They pretend to believe in God so they can justify showing off. “LOOK AT ME!” they seem to say. “Behold my righteousness! I am Holy as God is Holy, and so I shall condemn anyone who is different than me in ANY WAY!” Jesus used to thrown down with these dudes a lot. He did his best trash talking and name calling when trouncing these rats. In fact He called them Hypocrites.
Be encouraged.
These are any of your hate groups- godhatesfags.com, the KKK, Jessie Jackson. Even Hitler gave a shot at embracing the name of Christian to gain popular support for an idea that, I am hoping, any moron can see was unbiblical. If you can’t see how a Jewish teacher saying “Love your neighbor” differs from “Kill all the Jews” then you need to get a cat-scan and stop doing drugs right now. I’m not kidding. It might already be too late.

2. Someone who has forgotten how very much they have been forgiven. This is the man who owes his king a HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS! And, unable to pay, begs for mercy. His King, being merciful, forgives his whole debt. So far, so good. But then this Rat goes home to tell his wife the good news, and on the way runs into a guy who owes him $3.47 and demands it paid back. That dude can’t come up with the $3.47, so the recently forgiven debtor beats him real good, and throws him into debtors’ prison.
Jesus tells this story in Matthew 18, and concludes with a warning for these rats. “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

To conclude, don’t assume someone is a Christian just because they call themselves one or have the Navy-blue polo with khakis look. Let them prove it with their lives. Look into Jesus, and judge Christianity by Christ. Judge Jesus by getting to know Jesus, and don’t let the Rats get in your way. You do that, and I promise I’ll keep recycling even though Al Gore is a dink and Greenpeace is a bunch of jerks. There’s no reason we can’t come together over this, learn to see eye to eye, and be friends. Someday we will be sitting together, watching A Thousand Self-Righteous Christians open for Foo Fighters, and making fun of the Baptists for wearing sweater vests and refusing to dance.
I have a dream.

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