Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pentecostalism is chaotic!

One of the things I found as a former Pentecostal believer in Christ, was that at times our services seemed chaotic. Everywhere you looked there were some speaking; or rather shouting in unknown tongues otherwise now known to me as gibberish. Others were being "slain" in the Spirit and passing out all over the place supposedly under the power of the Lord. Others were "dancing in the Spirit" looking like whirling dervishes, and finally we had others prophesying or shouting at the top of their lungs what they believed to be revelations from God.

 Note: These people are not dead, they have been touched by the Holy Ghost!

As I grew in maturity and biblical knowledge, no thanks to the church I attended, I began to feel a certain disdain for these behaviors. I saw in them many contradictions to the descriptions in the bible regarding the early church. One of the biggest problems was the church teaching that the baptism of the Spirit was followed by the ability to speak in tongues as confirmation to the event. As a result everyone in church wanted to speak in tongues. It was a highly sought after gift and ultimate goal of every believer.

Many detractors like to say that the kind of tongues spoken in Pentecostal or other charismatic congregations was nothing more than gibberish. They state that speaking in tongues was speaking in a known earthly language that was previously unknown to the speaker. They base this belief, although incorrect, on the description of the experience of Jesus followers on the day of Pentecost, when according to the tale tongues of fire fell upon them all and they spoke in foreign tongues miraculously in Acts 2:1-12.

3 and there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; residents of Rome-11 Jews and proselytes alike -- Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.' Acts 2:3-4,9-11 (NJB).

But in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 the apostle Paul admonishes the church about a very different gift of tongues and its misuse in the church. He first let's the church know that God is not a God of disorder but of peace, and then begins to speak of the virtues of being able to prophesy or translate what is being said in tongues. But it is interesting to note that he is not speaking of any earthly tongues but one that comes from ones spirit.

2 Those who speak in a tongue speak to God, but not to other people, because nobody understands them; they are speaking in the Spirit and the meaning is hidden.13 That is why anybody who speaks in a tongue must pray that he may be given the interpretation.14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit may be praying but my mind derives no fruit from it.15 What then? I shall pray with the spirit, but I shall pray with the mind as well: I shall sing praises with the spirit and I shall sing praises with the mind as well. 1 Corinthians 14:2, 12-15 (NJB).

According to Paul, there might be something to that gibberish after all. Although I don't believe in these things anymore I think that if you are going to teach the bible you should teach it correctly and in context. But that is not the point of this post. This is but one of the many issues in the charismatic churches that I find contrary to biblical teachings.

Charismatics in general do not rely so much on their knowledge or lack of knowledge of the scriptures. They rely primarily on emotions and good feelings; they are entirely sensory creatures. When I was a believer if I got a tingly sensation as I was reading the bible or making some statements about the "truth" of certain biblical beliefs I took it as a confirmation of the Spirit that I was speaking the truth or properly understanding what I was reading.

Anytime you are willing to let go of your mental faculties to seek out "spiritual benefits" you subject yourself to becoming deluded. You become completely dependent on your emotions and as we all know our emotions have a track record of being for the most part unreliable. I've known people personally who have gotten lost in this sea of delusion based on physical sensations to the point where they can no longer distinguish reality from the workings of an indoctrinated mind.

It is my conclusion that Pentecostalism or any other form of charismatic beliefs taken to the extreme, can lead to a mental imbalance in the adherent from which it would be very difficult to recover.The mind is a very powerful thing, but like all things that are abused it can be used for evil or for good. As the saying goes; 'knowledge is power,' the mind can help you in life to achieve your dreams or its misuse can lead you down a nightmarish path to destruction or outright complacent delusion.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The "end" was a long time ago!

For many who have taken the time to study and read the New Testament in context and in an honest manner this post will reveal nothing new. But to those that have been trapped in the delusion about the second coming of Christ in some unknown future it will speak volumes. One of my favorite biblical scholars is Bart Ehrman. In 2001 he published a book entitled 'Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.' In this book he argues that Jesus was preaching and expecting the end of the age during his lifetime which as we all know did not come to pass. For a more extensive and eloquent argument regarding this matter I highly recommend you get the book here.

Even before Bart Erhman published his book I had long held this belief myself through a thorough analysis and interpretation of the biblical texts alone, not relying on other textual documents for my final conclusion. In this post I will like to share some of those conclusions with you and hear what you may have to say about the matter as a whole. Note that I will be quoting heavily from scripture and I will be using the New Jerusalem Bible for those quotes.

I thought that the best way to go about this is to simply start from the gospels with the book of Matthew and work my way through from there. One of the things that I find humorous about Christianity is that they read the scriptures as if they were meant to be a message to all who read them no matter at what day and age they do so. For a general point of reference during biblical times a generation was considered to be about 40 years, keep this in mind when we read the texts I will be presenting.

In Matthew 10:23 Jesus sends out his disciples to preach to the house of Israel only, that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

23 If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. In truth I tell you, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes.  Matthew 10:23

This text all by itself is very revealing and when read and interpreted literally then its meaning is quite obvious. But before you even attempt to interpret this what is the first thing you must ask yourself? Actually there are two things you need to ask yourself and they are: Who was Jesus speaking to? and What was Jesus talking about? As is indicated in the chapter he was speaking to his 12 apostles directly on this occasion. And he was referring to his second coming where he was going to redeem the house of Israel. Jesus actually confirms this several times in the N.T. Matthew 15:24 is one of many examples of this. In fact he specifically instructs them to go to the lost house of Israel and to not go to the gentiles.

But the ending of this passage is in and of itself very interesting in that he tells his disciples that they will not even be done with their rounds before his return! Indicating to the disciples that he would return very very soon. How soon? The N.T. has several texts where he even reveals this in an ambiguous way. This was very clever because it leaves itself open to several interpretations as theists have demonstrated. Do you really think that during the time Jesus allegedly spoke these words that he was referring to future generations thousands of years removed from his time? Was this a long term prophecy that was to be fulfilled at some indeterminate time in the future? I don't think so! 

Speaking again to his disciples regarding the end of the age and his return Jesus allegedly spoke these words: 

34 In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away, all these things will have taken place.  Matthew 24:34

Who was he speaking to? Christian believers 2,000 plus years removed from his time? Is it possible that when Jesus said "this generation" that he actually meant 20 centuries later? I don't think so! Taking this verse literally it seems that Jesus was talking about something that was about to happen very soon and during the lifetime of his disciples. This same statement is reiterated in Mark 9:1 where Jesus is not only addressing his disciples but apparently a crowd that is listening to his sermon.

1 And he said to them, 'In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'  Mark 9:1

Some theists like to take this as something that had already been fulfilled during Jesus alleged transfiguration which was only witnessed by Peter, James, and his brother John. It refers to a time when Jesus walked up a mountain and there he shone with a great radiance and the prophet Elijah and Moses appeared with him. This in my opinion is a far cry from seeing Jesus descending on a cloud with great power and glory! Read Matthew 24 in context and tell me what you think. 

Others like to play the semantic game of you say potato I say patato lol. They insinuate that when Jesus said "this generation" he did not mean what he said the way we think he did. He was referring to the Jews as a people, or using the word generation in some other crazy way. But don't you think that the disciples would have been aware of this and made it known so that future believers would not be confused about this matter? 

Luke 9:27 reconfirms that Jesus meant that his return would be during the lifetimes of the apostles and his other followers when while he was addressing them on the issue he said:

27 'I tell you truly, there are some "standing here" who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.' Luke 9:27 (the emphasis is mine).

Upon reading this text it does not appear that he was referring to future generations. Especially, future generations 2,000 plus years removed from his time. Who was he addressing when he allegedly said these words? The disciples and others that were gathered there to hear him speak. 

Hebrews 9:26 supposedly written by the apostle Paul says:

26 or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. As it is, he has made his appearance once and for all, at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Hebrews 9:26

Here Paul was referring to Jesus crucifixion and death and basically explaining its significance in a spiritual sense. But in this text Paul also reveals that he was expecting the return of Christ to be very soon. He referred to his age as "the last age." There it is! 

Here is my theory regarding this matter. Jesus was a prophet whose sole mission was to recover the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When the prophecies of his return did not come to pass the writers of the gospels decided that this plan of salvation was to be extended to the gentiles. This is why Peter has that vision on the rooftop and is commissioned to preach the gospel to the gentiles. Christianity basically piggy backed off of ancient Hebrew promises and texts and made it their own after the death of Jesus. And thus was born a new religion. 

If you've made it this far I am sorry for the length of the post and I thank you for your patience. Once again I am grateful for all of my followers and detractors and I am very much interested in hearing what you all have to say regarding this matter.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Christianity explained for the not so bright

Christians would like the rest of us to believe that their doctrinal beliefs are so profound that it is impossible for the unbeliever to comprehend it! They constantly remind us that we can't see God's plan because we are looking with the "eyes of the flesh" and not with those of "the spirit." That spiritual matters can only be comprehended by the spirit and the guidance of the Holy Spirit itself to make these so called mysteries known (revealed) to us.

In this article I plan to layout the biblical deities plan of salvation in the simplest way possible; for dummies. In order to understand the biblical deities plan you must first put aside all the theological philosophizing and psycho-babble, and read the creation story literally so that in it you can see what it is trying to make known to you.

According to Genesis God created man with two purposes in mind: the first was to rule over the earth and the land and all living creatures in the land and the second was to have fellowship with him.

28 God blessed them, saying to them, 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.' Gensis 1:28

Chapter 2 tells the story a little differently but we will overlook that since it is not relevant to the purpose of this post. What is relevant is that in verses 16 and 17 God gave his second commandment to man, the first was to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.

16 Then Yahweh God gave the man this command, 'You are free to eat of all the trees in the garden.17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat; for, the day you eat of that, you are doomed to die.' Genesis 2:16-17

Of course Eve was not yet created yet but based on what she said during her conversation with the serpent it's pretty obvious that Adam must have passed on this commandment to her and she was quite aware of it. But as many Christians who actually take the time to read the bible know, Eve was tempted by the serpent (not the devil in disguise) and ate and later enticed her husband to eat of the forbidden fruit as well. You can read all about the fall in chapter three of Genesis.

According to what we know so far this fruit (not an apple) was some sort of magical fruit in that when you ate it two things would happen. Your eyes would be opened to the knowledge of good and evil and you would bring death into the world. Based on this tale God created man to live forever in peace and harmony enjoying life and to abide in God's presence. So this fruit somehow infected mankind with the curse of physical and spiritual death hence mankind's need for "salvation."

Man was banished from Eden as a means to prevent him from eating from the "tree of life" so that he could not obtain eternal life in his fallen state. So after God banishes man from the garden he has to come up with a plan to try and redeem mankind. We will overlook his attempt to eradicate mankind with the so called great flood.

Fast forward to when God liberates the Hebrews from their 400 years of slavery in Egypt and gives them a set of commandments. These dealt with atonement sacrifices for the sins of families, individuals, tribes, and the people as a whole. One of the stipulations regarding any sacrifice whether of animal or first fruits was that they had to be of the best quality and untarnished. The sacrifices for the remission of sins had to be animal sacrifices.

11 For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you for performing the rite of expiation on the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life. Leviticus 17:11
22 In fact, according to the Law, practically every purification takes place by means of blood; and if there is no shedding of blood, there is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

But somehow all of these animal sacrifices were not sufficient enough to completely cleanse you of your sin and therefore required constantly sacrificing to God for your offenses under the law. These blood sacrifices would simply cover up your sins or at best get God to overlook them but not to completely forgive them and redeem you from your sins. This is why many Christians refer to Christ as the ultimate sacrifice. In the N.T. it is even taught that all of those sacrifices were a type of the sacrifice that Christ was ultimately going to provide. When John the baptist first saw Jesus at the Jordan river where he had been baptizing he declared:

29 ... 'Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29

In Hebrews chapter nine the entire purpose of the sacrifice of Christ is explained in a very straight forward manner. The temple made of mans hands here on Earth were but a mirror image of the temple in heaven. In the O.T. the high priest represented the people in the temple and presented the sacrifices on their behalf. In the N.T. under the new covenant Jesus is the high priest who represents mankind before God. Not with the blood of animals but with his own as a sacrifice for the sins of all.

27 Since human beings die only once, after which comes judgement, Hebrews 9:27

According to Christianity you or I could not stand in judgement on our own merits that is why we are all saved by faith in Christ by the grace of God. There you have it! Christianity explained without the need for any enlightenment of the Holy Spirit by an atheist!

In the end this is nothing more than another Roman myth inspired by the O.T. Hebrew myths which in turn were mostly inspired by their neighbors the Babylonians, Canaanites, Egyptians, and others. All myths evolve and build upon one another as is clearly demonstrated to anyone who takes the time to study comparative religion. Hebrews chapter 9 contains a verse that proves that Jesus is not coming back but I will post about it some other time.

All biblical citations used here are from the New Jerusalem Bible translation.