Category Archives: Christianity

“Bible Study on Wisdom”

I love snail mail and as well as writing to pen pals all over the world, I participate in my swaps via Swap-Bot. Generally most of these swaps are to move around Friendship Books, swap out my craft stash, and write the occasional themed letter, but every once in awhile there’s a swap that gives me a chance to be a bit of an activist. This is one of those.

The swap coordinator gave us 10 questions to use to delve into the Bible on the topic of Wisdom. Here’s my answers that will go to my partner:

Bible Study on Wisdom

  1. What is the wisdom from above like? (James 3:17)

Since I prefer to study the Bible using 2 versions, I have the KJV and NIV open in Bible Gateway. As usual, the words used differ in each translation. The KJV describes wisdom from above as: “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” while the NIV says it is: “first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

I’m not an English major, so for me the differences are slightly nit-picky, but they are still noticeable. I react differently to the idea that wisdom from God should be without hypocrisy than I do to the idea that wisdom from God is sincere. In humanity, there are plenty of very sincere people who are complete hypocrites and don’t make for very good advisors.

As a definition of what wisdom is, this does a poor job. It’s much too open-ended and non-specific.

2. What is the wise of heart called? (Prov. 16:21)

Huh. KJV: Prudent. NIV: Discerning. Merriam-Webster has similar definitions for these words, however, I read prudent as being cautious about decisions, whereas discerning is being very discriminating about understanding. I find the second half of this passage, in both translations, to be the more interesting. The KJV says “and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” while NIV: “and gracious words promote instruction”.

For me, “increaseth learning” feels like an internal discussion (it’s the wise person who keeps learning) while “promote instruction” is an external action (it’s the wise person who teaches others). This, of course, makes the use of “prudent” and “discerning” important because I feel that the prudent person is very introspective about what they know whereas the discerning person is comfortable enough in their wisdom that they feel that they can teach others what they know.

3. Who is it that gives wisdom? (Prov. 2:6)

God. There is no disagreement here in translations (except for some -eths)! But, to whom does God give wisdom? Solomon below implies that it’s only those who directly ask for it, but this doesn’t happen often in reality. Most people only get called wise once they’ve garnered a lot of experience and learning, though there are many young people who are “wise beyond their years”, though I’d argue that this is because they spent their childhood learning about the world while their peers played.

4. Why did King Solomon ask for wisdom from God? (1 Kings 3:5-9)

Because he felt young and unprepared to be king…

5. What is the wisdom of this world from God’s perspective? (1 Corinthians 3:19-20)

Foolish…

But, this is an overly simplistic description! And one that is increasingly used by some religious people to dismiss realities of the known world! I mean, there are some people who honestly believe that the Earth is only about 6000 years old because that’s the number calculated from the Bible and these people think that scientists have pretty much made up the idea that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old! In 2017, these “Young Earth Creationists” are the ones who look  incredibly foolish for their willfull ignorance of science!

6. What does Prov. 11:30 tell us about evangelism?

Well, these translations are completely different. KJV says that the evangelist who is saving souls gets to call themselves wise whereas the NIV says that the evangelist is wise and will saves lives. This ends up being functionally opposites, though in both cases the label of “wise” is handed out a bit like candy.

7. What does Prov. 13:20 say about our companions?

Having wise companions leads to being wise whereas foolish companions harms the individual. However, without a definition of wisdom, the overall effect is the obscure idea that you should hang out with the “right” sort of Christian and everyone else is going to Hell.

8. What is the virtuous woman’s speech like in Prov. 31:26?

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (KJV) vs. “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (NIV) “Faithful instruction” is of course very different from “the law of kindness”.

9. Why should we listen to advice? (Prov. 19:20)

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” (KJV) vs. “Listen to advice and accept discipline,  and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” (NIV) It’s interesting that Merriam-Webster has “obsolete” next to the definition of discipline where it means “instruction” (I was under the impression that the NIV was supposed to modernize the language of the Bible).

Of course, for me, it is more important to be able to identify good advice than to understand that one should get advice.

10. Why is it foolish to boast about tomorrow? (Prov. 27:1 & James 3:13-17)

Do not boast about tomorrow,  for you do not know what a day may bring.” (NIV) Of course, this is actually a good example of sound advice :-).

I’m glad that We’ve gone back to James 3 because I’d skimmed it before answering Question #1 and feel like this Bible Study would have gone better had we started here:

“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (NIV)

This finally seems to answer the very practical question of what wisdom is and how the average person can recognize a wise person…sort of. It does involve “using the word within the definition” (“you can recognize the wise because they act with wisdom”), which means that everyone can define wisdom by their own standards.

But, I do like that it specifically calls out anyone claiming to be wise who secretly harbor envious and selfish ambition! For me, this gives me Biblical based reasoning for why a Clergy member should be scorned when they live in a mansion and otherwise live a life of wealth. I feel that a vow of poverty is the most important thing a Clergyperson does because it shows that they aren’t in it for the money. The Clergy make their living as a salary derived from collections from the faithful who would obviously prefer that their donations go towards the needy and not a Lexus for the Clergy!

Of course, “wise” people (illustrated by  this passage) can earn such vast wealth, but clearly, what matters most is what they do with it and profit sharing plays a large part in illustrating their humbleness (sharing wealth rather than hoarding it for themselves).

———————————————–END—————————————–

Obviously, I’m not a Christian. I’m a Deist. This is also my first Bible Study and I’m more curious about how this ranks as such a thing.

I feel like the specific questions asked are supposed to guide a person to a specific conclusion. Is this normal? I just found it annoying! I mean, I was expecting an in depth discovery of what the Bible means by having wisdom (meaning that there would be a lot of questions dealing specifically with definitions) and instead the questions led me down a trail of the obvious (of course God is the source of wisdom! This is a Christian Bible Study!). I could have answered half of these questions without opening a Bible!

As for analysis, you can see from my short answers, there didn’t seem to be much room for analysis outside of an overarching question of “what is the point of this question?”.

I’ve heard many Christians complain that non-Christians will all too often attack the Bible using choice picked verses that are “taken out of context”, but this entire Bible Study feel like nothing but verse mining. It felt like the author had searched for the word wisdom in a searchable Bible and picked the passages that sounded most relevant without thought about the overarching idea. If nothing else, I wish that there had been bigger sections called out for analysis!

On a related note, this felt a lot like the assignments I most hated in school. “Fill in the blank with the missing word taken directly out of the passage highlighted.” Honestly, I don’t think that the people of this Bible Study are actually supposed to think about anything but the simple answers to simple questions. If otherwise were true, the questions would have been better.

I think that a proper Bible Study should deal with only one section (as big or as small as necessary) while drawing upon any other relevant passages as necessary. They should not, for any reason, require lots of jumps around to look at single solitary verses.

By the way, you’ll notice that I happily utilized two different versions of the Bible for this study (to give me something to analyse). I’m curious as to what will potentially happen if people involved in this swap receive a Study that uses a Bible that isn’t their own version (since version seems to be very important to many people). Will it force some people out of their comfort zone?

Our “Christian” Wedding

So, you already know that we consider our wedding to have been non-conformist. My husband and I are Deists, not Christian. But while writing a review of The Pilgrim’s Progress, I realized that there are a lot of Idols and Symbols associated with a modern wedding that aren’t what I consider Christian.

I really feel like my husband and I had nearly the most “Christian” version of a wedding–there were no frills, no Idols, nothing but us in front of the very few people who matter most to us. We actually planned it, rather than a quick elopement, so it was done with purpose in a place that felt special, but wasn’t ornamented to make us seem any more special than anyone else.

The only thing we “splurged” on was our clothes, because I wanted to be pretty on my wedding day and I wanted him to be drop dead gorgeous (because we’re not the type of people who dress up, ever). However, the actual amount of time and money spent on our clothes was relatively little. My dress took about an hour to order online. Three quarters of that was debating if I really wanted the dress that immediately caught my eye in comparison to the rest that were available. It is black and white hounds-tooth patterned and doesn’t conform with any Idolized Ideal of a wedding dress (a tradition started by Queen Victoria and isn’t in the Bible, so far as I know). The rest of that hour was getting my husband to measure me.*

My husband’s clothes took a bit longer because we had to go to multiple stores, but the overall look was relatively cheap: Jeans and a gray button-down. New boots, which he needed anyway (and we did this trick again for his son’s wedding: they looked fine under his tuxedo). The most expensive item was his suit-coat, which we got new, but could have come from a thrift store if we really wanted to search it out, though he’s a big guy, so our choices were limited. But time is money and getting his suit coat new also got us a great relationship with that particular Philip Michael’s store in Chesapeake Square Mall, who helped us out when we needed to measure my husband for that tuxedo.

If being a good Christian means being austere (and really, I don’t think you can be both filthy rich and a good Christian), I think a big, audacious wedding ends up being more a status symbol than a sacrament. A few choice items, picked for their importance to the couple are wonderful, but more for the sake of filling up the space, well, maybe you shouldn’t be getting married in such an empty room!

We didn’t have a registry for gifts. Honestly, I find this entire idea a bit nauseating. I’ve seen the movie My Fake Fiancé where two broke people pretend to get married for the gifts, but really, as a person, I hate any time someone wants me to tell them what to give me as a gift! My least favorite part of Christmas is the gift exchange because I hate the idea of gifts being an expectation instead of a surprise. Ideally, I’d only give gifts when I feel inspired to give gifts and it seems stupid to literally hold onto items that you know someone will love because of the unspoken obligation to have something for them to open at Christmas. Seriously, I’ve started working on my Christmas presents for this year and I will have to store them for the next 8 months. Is there any wonder why people wait until the last minute to buy and wrap their gifts–that’s where all the incentive is.

When we invited everyone to our reception in May, I specifically told everyone not to bring a gift, but to bring a dish to share (it was potluck). Honestly, I loved packing up all the leftovers to fill our fridge! That was the best gift we could have asked for because I won’t be tripping over random stuff for the next 20 years. Okay, I will be, but it’s all stuff my husband had from before we married.

We didn’t have a cake either on our wedding night or at our reception. Wedding cake is yet another unnecessary Idol/Symbol/Tradition. While I’m amazed by the amount of work that can go into a gorgeous wedding cake, at the end of the day it will either be eaten or thrown away. It is food. I think everyone should take a moment when they buy their cake (and their flowers) and decide if they are getting it because it’s something that means a lot to their relationship or because it will make a good statement piece.

I guess there’s a fine line between a bride getting her vision and the audaciousness of a $50,000 wedding. And I guess that if you can afford it, you should get what you want. But, I think it’s important to keep your priorities in check with everything you do. I actually do have a really big problem with the divorce rate being 50% and while I’m libertarian enough to say that folks are more than allowed to do whatever the hell they want, I think society would be better off with better marriages, not more of them!

Oh. One final note is necessary. It’s actually really easy to identify when you’ve crossed the line from getting the wedding of your dreams and the wedding meant to please everyone–you’ve felt even the smallest twinge of regret over at least one choice. If you feel overwhelmed, you’ve definitely crossed this line! Yes, things can (and do) go wrong, but if you feel unable to run with whatever life throws at you, STOP. You need to reevaluate the situation. There is no need to rush into anything and I can tell you from personal experience working in a print shop, RUSH means that someone, somewhere screwed up (and because of that, more things will go wrong). There is no such thing as a job marked RUSH where everything was done right from the beginning.

*By the way, while my husband is a good sport about measuring me, keep in mind that husbands will shrink you an inch around the waist, where it’s easy for you to inadvertently suck in your stomach when he pulls the tape too tight.

Lives Worth Saving

 “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling –

“I’d like to appeal to all our listeners to emulate their example, perhaps by casting a protective charm over any Muggle dwellings in your street. Many lives could be saved if such simple measures are taken.” 

“And what would you say, Royal, to those who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be ‘Wizards first’?” asked Lee. 

“I’d say that it’s one short step from ‘Wizards first’ to ‘Purebloods first,’ and then to ‘Death Eaters,’” replied Kingsley. “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.””

Start reading this book for free: http://amzn.to/2eZqrBu

$1,000,000 Bible Tract

As I opened a letter today to reply to one of my pen pals, a Bible Tract fell out. It wasn’t a surprise given who this pen pal is, but as I browsed the Tract, I couldn’t help but giggle.

The Tract in question is one of those “$1,000,000 Question” ones; it looks like a $1,000,000 bill (U.S. Currency), with the pitch on the back. This one has Thomas Jefferson on the face, which immediately struck me as odd because when he was running for president of the US, his opponents people (because it was the “people” who did the campaigning, not the candidate back then) labeled him an atheist.

Thomas Jefferson wasn’t an atheist, but he’s certainly not the first president (or other founding father) I’d associate with an Evangelical Bible Tract! I mean, this is the man who literally cut apart a Bible (possibly 2 or 3 because I think he included the Greek and Latin (and Wikipedia hints at the French as well) translations) to create the “Jefferson Bible” which reorders the story of Jesus into chronological order (combining Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John into one continuous story) while removing all the supernatural events. This was his way of making sense of Christianity.

So, reading the back of this tract made my head explode because it includes “Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death”, but Jefferson ended his Bible with the tomb stone being rolled closed, which means that he rejected the resurrection of Jesus, a key tenant of traditional Christianity!

But, I think that LivingWaters.com has received complaints about this particular Tract because it’s not amongst the 65 Tracts that are currently up for sale (this post was written on 11/6/2016). I found this out when I went to find a link to the Tract and see what it’s “billed” as. It looks like they’ve replaced Jefferson with Benjamin Franklin (who apparently wrote a letter now titled: Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress).

I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve missed the point of these particular Tracts. Maybe we’re supposed to reject the front part ($1,000,000 and the “stately Statesman”) and instead focus on the message on the back…I guess I need to ask this pen pal for clarification.

Amish guy speaking:

 “Murder, Plainly Read: An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery” by Isabella Alan –

““Everyone in my old district disliked the old bishop in some way or another. He was a hard man. To him, life was meant to be about work and suffering. There was no joy in his heart. He believed the more you worked and the more miserable you were, the closer you were to Gott. It was something I could never believe. If Gott loves us so much, how could he want us to suffer?”

 I blew on a spoonful of stew. “Even still, it must have been hard to leave.” 

He was quiet for a moment. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He smiled at his wife. “But I have never regretted my decision. I know this is the path that Gott wanted for me.””

Yes, this is fiction, but the idea is true for most conservative religions: one person trying to pick the path of another by proclaiming that “it’s what God wants”. A prominent example that routinely pisses me off is the idea that women belong in the home while men are the sole income earner. The abuse that tends to come out of this “ideal” is appalling.

Start reading this book for free: http://amzn.to/2etAQIj

Why I think Trump is popular

I think Trim doesn’t get his popularity from what he says, but for what people hear.

When Trump speaks, he really doesn’t say much. He often repeats short statements and clichés.He’s often very vague, rarely giving details or examples of evidence. And for too many people in the population this seems to be acceptable for a potential president. Why?

I think that everyone interested in politics secretly has their own plan for how best to run the country and for Trump supporters, his vague statements give everyone the freedom to insert whatever they want as his meaning. Essentially they are hearing what they want to hear because he’s not saying anything.

I think it’s interesting that the Bible does the same thing. Most of the passages I’ve read of the Bible says, essentially, “and then this happened” without any details of HOW it happened. This allows readers to insert magic as the cause, call it a miracle, and base their belief of everything on it. Isn’t it equally easy to insert a “normal” reason for how the “miracle” occurred? Think Jesus feeding a thousand people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fishes. The Bible doesnt say HOW but most Christians insert a miracle rather than some normal occurrence (like maybe everyone denied to imbibe, thus all were fed, even if they didn’t eat–it happens at awkward parties). 

When there are no details, any explanation will work. And this is scary when we consider the future that is at stake.

War on Christianity?

If you only listened to Conservative media outlets, you’d be certain that the government in the US is doing everything it can to expel Christianity from our borders.

So, please explain to me how, in that worldview, a Bojangles in Portsmouth, VA can get away with playing nothing but Christian rock(?) music in their restaurant.

Exactly.

I eat at this particular Bojangles about once a month between September and May because of bowling (since I work and bowl so near each other it is impractical for me to drive all the way home for dinner).

Anyway. I have already told you that I’m a Deist rather than a Christian. I don’t really have an issue with their music choice as being Christian. But to be honest, I think Christian music sucks.

Musically, that is.

The content is fine for the genre. The lyrics themselves aren’t always awful.

But something seems to happen whenever Christians decide to make pop music religious. The singers sound incredibly whiny! I guess it’s the forced “worshipfulness” that does it, like in order to sound reverent, they have to sound a certain way that just nauseates me. Forced strikes me as being a very appropriate word to describe what annoys me about this genre; maybe even more appropriate than whiny.

The easiest way for me to describe it is the beginning lyrics of Hoobastank’s The Reason:

I swear I can identify a Christian rock(?) song even when I can’t understand the lyrics, just by the way the lyrics are sung.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a deep love for some types of religious songs. The traditional gospels songs like “Amazing Grace” and the somber hymns like “Oh Come Emmanuel”. I will listen to Gregorian Chants at work. But Christian rock? No thank you.

I do wonder if there are any Christian rock songs that aren’t forced and whiny. Is it possible to take the same lyrics (which I don’t think are necessarily the problem) and put it towards better musicality? I welcome y’all to share whatever you figure out on this topic!