The Advent King: A Christmas Rap

qrcodeYesterday at church, someone asked me if I'd lead our class in some Christmas carols in the coming weeks. So, today, I practiced a little by breaking out my guitar (and voice) for the first time in months (years actually). After singing a few Christmas carols, I got in a musical mood; I got an itch to write a song. So, I whipped up a hip hop beat, wrote out some lyrics, put them together and below is the recorded, finished product. It is an Advent rap, which of course, is meant to kick off the Advent season. If you're feeling generous this holiday season, you can pick up the app format by scanning the QR Code just to the left or by clicking HERE for the Android Market. Click HERE for my other Android apps.  Feel free to share it (but do not modify it without my consent). Check it out below. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!


3 Scholarly Cop-Outs In Biblical Studies

Within the field of New Testament studies, there are three appeals that researchers make that are just plain absurd.  These three appeals, in my opinion, need to be completely removed from the field.  This is because they are cop-outs; they are akin to simply pulling the scholarly wool over readers' eyes! (Keep in mind that this happens in other academic/scholarly realms too, not just biblical studies.  It also happens in churches, very frequently from pulpits on Sunday mornings as well.  Since I am part of the biblical studies guild, I shall offer my insider opinion on this sphere.)  I this brief post, I simply want to draw attention to them and say a few words about them; I am not going to belabor the point, however.

#1: "The majority of scholars believe" - It is probably the case that if you have ever read anything in NT studies,  you have come across this statement.  It is in such widespread use among scholars that it has almost become "THE" sort of default argument or proof.  For me, however, when I see a "scholar" using this cop-out, a red flag goes up in my mind.  The fact is, 99.9% of the time when someone uses this argument, they 1) Never cite this majority, either in name or in work.  2) They use it as a default for getting out of deep research.  3) They are not well-read enough in the topic that this is they must use this.  4) Related to the previous point, they remain only within their narrow circles so that they are unaware of many other views.  There are other reasons that I could name but you get the point!  The truth is, the "majority rules" opinion is hogwash.  Who cares if the majority holds a certain view?  So what!  That does not mean that you as a researcher are no longer responsible for proving the point in your own study!  So, I propose that we remove this statement from the realm of biblical scholarship; it is not helpful in the least and is nothing more than a weak-armed ploy that misleads readers.  Finally, it is a logical fallacy (argumentum ad populum) and on those grounds alone, it should be avoided (again, unless the "majority" is actually cited and engaged in a detailed manner).

#2: "The Burden of Proof" - Another popular argument within NT literature is that of the "burden of proof".  On many occasions, scholars disagree with one another.  However, it is not always the case that these scholars use research to bolster their defenses but rather, they attempt to shift the "burden of proof" to their opponent to either 1) Have their opponent attempt to disprove their (the opponent's) argument, or 2) Have their opponent further prove the argument they initially laid out.  Much of this simply results in speaking past one another.  The fact is, instead of an arguer pointing to their opponent suggesting that the burden of proof is with them, what they should do is further support their own claims with additional evidence.  Of course, this could go on forever and typically leads to nothing but ad types of arguments and reasoning.  This is yet another instance where, when I see it taking place, a red flag goes up.  The "burden of proof" argument really gets us nowhere because 1) It is rarely ever used correctly, and 2) It is rarely ever substantiated in any meaningful way.  This is why I avoid using it and would challenge other scholars to do the same.

#3: "Expert A says X, therefore we should agree with it" - To many, it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to list this as a problem because in fact, the whole guild seems to rest on "expert" opinions in some sense.  After all, don't academics make a living by arguing with one another and/or taking sides with one another?  As a researcher myself, it is necessary to engage the work of other scholars.  This is, indeed, what keeps the field going.  However, part of what I'm getting at is 1) When the appeal to an expert functions as a cover-up for doing one's own research in the primary sources, and 2) When the appeal to an expert simply assumes that the expert's opinions become so prominent that they cannot be questioned.  Before you reject this notion and contend that the field of NT studies is above it, stop and think about issues such as Q, the Disputed/Undisputed Paulines, etc.  It seems to me that the proper way to interact with scholarly research is to cite scholars' opinions and then substantiate or challenge those views with your own research.  This, of course, is not the same as citing their work as if it is the say-all-end-all.  And that, in large part is what I'm critiquing here!  We can, for example, say, "Expert A says X and I agree with it based on my findings, which are A, B, C, D, etc."  I would, once again, challenge scholars to avoid using the sort of logic being employed here.  It is typically just a cop-out!

Well, those are 3 problems that I see persisting within the guild.  I hope that this post can be something of a conversation-starter or even catalyst to my generation (and perhaps those before and even those coming after) to stop using these types of logic.  Our field can only be bettered by adopting such a stance.  Indeed, we only weaken the field and diminish the seriousness with which it is taken when we continue reproducing the sorts of fallacies/errors mentioned above.  
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The Problem With Bart Ehrman: SBL 2011

For me, this year's Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Francisco was one of the best I've ever been to.  While I had to attend a lot of meetings, I also got to sit in on a number of very interesting sections and hear some intriguing papers. Unfortunately, I did not have time to blog (or really even upload pictures for that matter), which was unfortunate. Regardless, there was one presentation that I would like to comment briefly on. I'm speaking here of Bart Ehrman's paper, which he gave on Friday night.

Ehrman sat on a panel with Dom Crossan, Amy-Jill Levine and N.T. Wright. The session was supposed to be on biblical scholarship within the last 200 years and the influence that certain exegetes have had on the guild/discipline. While Crossan veered somewhat off topic, ultimately, his paper was still relevant to the subject. Levine and Wright both gave excellent lectures. However, I cannot say the same for Mr. Ehrman. In so many words, I must say that I was completely underwhelmed with his presentation. Not only was he completely off topic, his paper was quite out-of-line.

I have posted the video of the complete session just below. Ehrman gives the second speech, which comes just after Crossan. It is 20-25 minutes in length if you care to watch it. However, if you do so, you may well just be wasting your time. In a nutshell, the thesis of Ehrman's paper was this: Until you publish a dissertation and 2-3 monographs, you are not a biblical expert and therefore, cannot speak to the wider public about biblical matters or issues.

From my vantage point, this is just absurd. By the way, I must say that the entire time I was listening to Ehrman's paper, I thought that he must have been, in a veiled way, addressing a certain person but I did not know who. I heard the next morning that this presentation was likely an attack against Nicholas Perrin, who has written a book critiquing Ehrman. My view is that if Ehrman had a bone to pick with Perrin, he should have done that elsewhere and stayed on the topic assigned. Either way, Ehrman's paper was incredibly weak in its thesis.

So, here's my beef with Ehrman's thesis: 1) The fact that Ehrman set himself up as A) The one who gets to define who is and isn't a "biblical expert" and B) His own criteria for deciding this, is very problematic. Since he is the one who gets to do this, of course, he is using himself as the measuring mark. He sets himself up as the "expert" who gets to speak to the wider public and uses his own resume to base his judgments on. Anyone with a brain can see the problem in this. It, in fact, flies in the face of A) Democracy within biblical studies, and B) The entire concept of peer-review. This brings me to my second point.

2) Within the world of biblical studies, it is NOT enough or even proper to judge a person's work based on a person's name. Those who publish should have their work reviewed on the basis of content. This is why, within the scholarly world, we have the process of peer-review anyway. This is also why we have editors and readers at publishing houses. With reputable publishing houses it is not as if just anything gets by. Ehrman, of course, knows this. Yet, he needed to belabor the point and so, he seemed to conveniently ignore it.

3) Ehrman's work to the wider public, which he uses as the standard for speaking to the wider publich and which he said takes a lot of skill and talent compose (of course he would say this right, because these are traits, which again, he himself believes he has!), has a ton of flaws in it. In fact, a great number of his books were questioned and challenged by scholars before ever going into print. However, he ignored those comments and published anyway. Essentially, he ignored the peer-review process. So, the question must be raised, how can this "expert" (by his own terms) who has written for the wider public and whose work has been so wrong and/or misleading at many points, pass as real, sound scholarship and expertise? By the opinions of many reputable scholars, much of Ehrman's work is dubious and not to be taken seriously. The contradiction in terms, then, is that his own work is incredibly flawed, yet he still submits it to the wider public!  Perhaps it is the fact that at HarperCollins, once you reach a certain threshold of sales, you receive an extra $100,000 check.  This seems like a fine enough reason to keep publishing the same type of work all the while ignoring what peers in the guild are suggesting!  

4) What about the whole notion of growth in thought and scholarship? Inevitably, every scholar will have theological changes over the course of their careers. Here's a scenario then: If a scholar writes an initial work to the wider public at age 30 and then publishes a decade later, at age 40, but has changed his/her mind within that time span, does that negate the "expertise" of his or her earlier work? Ehrman's criteria simply cannot account for this fact. Therefore, this is but another reason I cannot take it seriously.

5) In his paper, Ehrman did not really distinguish between the "wider public" or the "Barnes & Noble crowd" and those who are church-goers. The fact is, the Barnes & Noble crowd is NOT one and the same as the church crowd! Many scholars do not have as their target audience the B&N crowd but rather, those within the church. Therefore, Ehrman is misguided in this area; he needs to make that distinction. Just because he is writing for the B&N audience does not mean everyone else is. Perhaps this not only shows Ehrman's ideological biases but his out-of-touch state with the church. Of course, it is his right to not write for church-goers. But it is NOT his right to deem who is and who is not allowed to write for the church or the wider public, nor to unwittingly conflate the two. Again, this is another reason I think Ehrman's paper was completely unfounded and impossible to take seriously.

While I do think that Ehrman should be taken seriously on other matters, this paper he gave should not be taken with any amount of seriousness whatsoever. I was highly disappointed that I wasted 20 or so minutes of my life hearing such a weak presentation from someone who has received so much acclaim. Yet, I am glad I got to hear Levine and Wright and for that matter, Crossan. Ultimately, these are just a handful of thoughts I wanted to scribble down and share. In the end, even several of the editors of reputable publishing houses that I talked to also thought the speech was incredibly vain and empty. Having said all that, the video is below, if you'd like to watch. Yet, if you want to make the best use of your time, watch Crossan, Levine and Wright; you'll enjoy it!


NT Polyglot Receiving Praise

Only a couple of months ago, I and one of my mentors, Dr. Fred Long, published our first volume (of at least 5 volumes) in our Hexapla series.  You can see samples at www.NTPolyglot.com.  That first volume, our Polyglot on Luke-Acts has started receiving some great reviews.  You can read a review by Matthew Montonini HERE, by Dr. John Byron HERE and by Dr. Nijay Gupta HERE.  In all of the reviews, the common praise is that this series provides readers of the NT with a wonderful way of keeping up with their theological languages.  So, if you still haven't picked up your copy, I would highly encourage you to do so.  In fact, we have decided to keep the discount code open for just a little while longer, which gives you 20% off when you purchase the book HERE.  Here's the link to that code:  Polyglot Discount Code.  


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 13

As the title of this post points out, this is the 13thpost in my review of Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament.  At this point, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Runge’s.  Even so, life is catching up to me and the busyness is preventing me from being able to write on it as I wish I could.  I have several projects due both within and outside of my Ph.D. program, not to mention the fact of being a T.A., having 3 holidays right in a row to celebrate, and that I’m traveling to San Francisco for SBL (where I’m presenting a paper and presiding over a session) and Israel within the next 6 weeks.  I say all that to say that the 13thpart of my review is going to be necessarily basic and brief.  Basically, I’m going to do little commenting and critiquing and just give an example of each of the remaining portions of Part 3 of the grammar (Chapters 12-14).  As for the Part 4 of the grammar and its 4 remaining chapters, I will try to cover those in the near future, perhaps in a couple of posts bringing the review series to 15.  Anyway, I’m rambling on.  Here are the main thoughts of the last 3 chapters of Part 3, with little of my own commentary/ explanation to go along with them.

The “Circumstantial Frame”, which is also called a predicate participle or adverbial participle, is anartharous and functions “as the predicating verb in an independent clause” (243).  Basically, the main function of this frame is to draw attention to the verb that immediately follows by “backgrounding” the information.  “Anarthrous participial clauses that precede the nuclear [main] clause present information that is backgrounded.  This means that the information they convey is of secondary importance vis-à-vis that of the nuclear clause.  This claim does not hold for anarthrous pariticpial clauses that follow their nuclear clauses” (249).  There are 3 specific instances in which to look for this phenomenon, here are 3 examples, one each, that Runge gives (250ff):

If the subject of the participle is also the subject of the main clause, a nominative form typically is used.
Mt 28:17-29: 
17 καὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν.
18 καὶ προσελθὼν Ἰησοῦς ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς λέγων· ἐδόθη μοι πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ [τῆς] γῆς.
19 πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,
If the subject of the participle plays a nonsubject role in the main clause (i.e., in the dative, accusative, or genitive case), then the participle and its subject typically will agree in case with the other reference to the same participant in the main clause.
Mt 8:23:
Καὶ ἐμβάντι αὐτῷ εἰς τὸ πλοῖον ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

Lk 8:27a:
ἐξελθόντι δὲ αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ὑπήντησεν ἀνήρ τις ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἔχων δαιμόνια
If the subject of the participle is not involved at all in the main clause, a genitive form will be used for both the subject and the participle. This is generally called a “genitive absolute.”
Lk 4:40a, 42:
40a Δύνοντος δὲ τοῦ ἡλίου [TPἅπαντες ὅσοι εἶχον ἀσθενοῦντας νόσοις ποικίλαιςTP] ἤγαγον αὐτοὺς πρὸς αὐτόν·
42 Γενομένης δὲ ἡμέρας ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἔρημον τόπον· καὶ οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπεζήτουν αὐτὸν καὶ ἦλθον ἕως αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεῖχον αὐτὸν τοῦ μὴ πορεύεσθαι ἀπʼ αὐτῶν.

Having rounded out my review of Runge’s “frames” at this point I want to say a few brief words about the content of chapter 13, which is “Emphasis” and chapter 14, which is “Left Dislocation”.

Runge’s definition of emphasis is “taking what was already the most important part of a clause and placing it in a position of prominence in order to attract even more attention to it” (269).  What is very important here is the fact that emphasis is “drawing extra attention to what was already the most important information in a given context” (269).  This varies greatly from the traditional understanding of emphasis, which typically is just a any device that gives parts of a sentence more significance.  “The primary way that emphasis is communicated in Koiné Greek is through restructuring the information of the clause to place the focal information in a specially marked position” (272).  For Runge, then, emphasis is adding to what is already important!  Here’s an example he provides (Ro 1:16-17):

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον,

δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι.

17 δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· 

[TP δὲ δίκαιοςTP] ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel,

for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith to faith, just as it is written,

“But [TPthe one who is righteousTP] by faith will live.”

Finally, in chapter 14, Runge discusses what he refers to as Left-Dislocation, which appears in many grammars under terms like pendent nominative.  Basically, “left-dislocation constructions are reserved for topic-announcing or topic-shifting contexts” (289); they “serve to streamline the introduction of an entity into the discourse.  They have the effect of either announcing or shifting the topic of the clause that follows” (290).  With that in mind, according to Runge, there are two basic uses of left-dislocation in the GNT:

§    streamlining the introduction of a complex entity into one clause instead of two;
§    thematically highlighting the introduction of an entity because of its significance to the discourse.

Here are a couple of examples from the NT, where the left-dislocation is marked by the symbol [LDLD]:

Mt 18:6:
[LD Ὃς δʼ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ,LD] συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης.

“But [LDwhoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,LD] it would be better for him that a large millstone be hung around his neck and he be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Mt 12:32:
καὶ [LD ὃς ἐὰν εἴπῃ λόγον κατὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,LD] ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ·

[LD ὃς δʼ ἂν εἴπῃ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου,LD] οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ οὔτε ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι οὔτε ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι.

“And [LD whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man,LD] it will be forgiven him.

But [LD whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit,LD] it will not be forgiven him either in this age or in the coming one!”

Well, that does it for this overview of chapters 12-14.  Certainly, much much more could be said.  So, if you’re interested, head on over toLogos and pick up your copy of Runge’s work right now!  Then, check out the preceding posts in this series of reviews by clicking the links below:


My RBL Submission: Reel Revelations

I just received word that my recent submission to the Review of Biblical Literature has been published.  For those who are subscribed to RBL (if you'd like to be, it's free and you can sign-up HERE), a link to it will appear in your weekly email.  For those who are not subscribed or who might be interested in going ahead and reviewing it, you can click HERE.  The title of the book I reviewed is Reel Revelations: Apocalypse and Film, of which you can read the back matter of the book HERE.


Survivor & Christianity

Ever since season 2 of CBS's hit show Survivor, I've been locked-in as a viewer.  I started watching then because one of the teachers from my high school, KY Joe, was a contestant on the show.  It was fun knowing someone on the show and watching them compete.  That season, KY Joe brought a Bible with him and it was made known pretty soon that he was a Christian.  I remember how, once the season ended and he returned home, Christian organizations from everywhere were calling him up attempting to bring him in as a guest speaker.

Survivor, now in its 23rd season, has come a long way since then.  Even so, one of the constants of the show is that it almost always has Christians on it.  There is, I might say, always a spot for a "Token Christian" on Survivor.  A lot of people eat this up!  I'm speaking in particular of people who refer to themselves as Christians here.  Yet, as a Christian myself, I am coming to find it more and more annoying.  

This season has been very annoying to me.  We have seen the recurring use of Christianity to manipulate people's emotions and intellect; it is a sad thing.  Yet, the one thing that most gets on my nerves is the way in which some of the players on there who identify themselves as Christians, seem to get caught in moral dilemmas.  Let me speak to this issue for a moment.

Specifically, I'm thinking of the instances where it comes to tricking or deceiving someone, pulling a fast one on them or blindsiding them.  In many of the interviews, we find the Christian contestants appearing to be going through some sort of spiritual battle about whether or not it is a sin to do these things.  The fact is, however, that they knew going into this thing that the name of the game is "outwit, outplay, outlast".  So, there should be no moral dilemma for these folks.  Let me give an analogy.

As one who grew up playing sports, I thoroughly enjoy watching and participating in athletic games and competitions.  I played soccer from kindergarten all the way through college.  As a player, there were times when, to outwit my opponent, I had to trick or deceive them.  How did I do it?  Well, there were a number of ways.  Sometimes, I would use body movements or gestures to try to throw them off.  For example, I could fake like I was going to pass or dribble one way but then do something completely different.  

Or, I could use verbal cues.  I could call out to a teammate, making the opponent think that I was going to pass the ball to them; maybe these words would trick them.  I could use fancy footwork or speed variations as well.  In short, there were many ways to deceive or trick my opponent.  This is not true just for the game of soccer, it is true in football, basketball and virtually any other athletic match.  We do the same in chess, checkers, cards, etc.

The point is:  These are games and in them, we use deceit and trickery.  That is, in fact, the very nature of a game!  Survivor is no different!  It is a game!  Now, before you object and say, "But in Survivor there is more riding on the line" or "But in Survivor, you're dealing with people's emotions" remember that the same is true of sports.  In high school athletics there are scholarships riding on the line.  There are emotions that come with winning or losing a big game.  In college, there may be professional jobs on the line.  There are certainly emotions tied to this as well.

However, never once, in 10+ years of sports, was I accused of not being a faithful Christian because I tricked an opponent or deceived them so that I could win.  In fact, I was viewed, even at a Christian college, as a good player when I did this successfully.  And rightly so!  The point is:  For people who go on CBS's Survivor, it should not be a struggle to play the game.  In terms of morals, it is no different than any other sports match.

Just the same, Christians who are viewing the show should not think less of these Christians players when they make moves that involve trickery or deceit.  This is a game!  Yes, it involves real people and real emotions but so does every other sport!  Why is it that people can latch on to Tim Tebow who, every Sunday tricks his opponents, and then they praise him for it but then players on the game of Survivor are held to some different standard.

Finally, I actually lament the fact that so many Christians are on Survivor.  This season, which contains Coach (Benjamin) and Brandon (Russel's nephew), just makes Christianity look completely absurd, especially Brandon!  That guy has made the faith look like it is full of over-emotional, intellectually incapable people.  I resent that!  He needs to pull it together and get a grip, as do the others.  In the end, this is a game.  But hey, maybe that's all part of their ploy; maybe they're using religion to trick and deceive people.  Perhaps!  Religion is powerful in that way.  Yet, in the meantime, I'm not at all convinced that that's what's going on.  But hey, maybe they're just doing a good job at deceiving me!


The Jesus Many Want (Or Have Created)

This is the Jesus that many people across the world lust after. This is the Jesus who not only is okay with war but sanctions it as long as it is fought by someone who calls themselves a Christian. This is the Jesus that, if the real Jesus returned, would either not recognize or may find as his complete antithesis. This is the Jesus whose Sermon on the Mount (and he's on a Mount, because he has fought his way to the top, trampling everyone else below him) has become:

Blessed are the warmongers, for they shall inherit every oil rig.
Blessed are those strapped with guns and missiles, for they shall rule this earth.
Blessed are those who devastate nations, for they will be feared.
Blessed are those who have the biggest military, for God will most certainly be on their side then.
Blessed are those who train for war, for they will outlast the rest.
Blessed are those aggressive, for they will get to lord their power over others.
Blessed are those who fight in my name, for their acts will be overlooked.
Blessed are those who send their children into battle, they shall receive public honor.
Blessed are those who lay down their crosses for artillery, they shall attain might.
Blessed are those who hate their enemies, for they knew better than the real Jesus.
Blessed are those who sacralize violence, for they will be in the clear.
The list could go on...


You Might Not Be A Christian If...A Veteran's Day Thought

Imagine this scenario: You just meet someone for the first time. You proceed to introduce yourself and in passing, mention that you are a Christian. The person replies, "Oh, I'm a Christian, too." You say, "So, you believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the giver of salvation?" The person responds, "Well, that's what my pastor believes and that's what my parents believe, so, yeah, I guess so." Now, let me ask you: What would your impression of that person's faith be? Would you think that their faith was shallow? Would you question that the existence of their faith at all?

Let me give you another scenario: You are in a conversation with a person you've known for quite some time. You know that they attend church and that they wear clothing and jewelry that is religious in demeanor. You begin talking to them one day because they are wearing a t-shirt that says, "Jesus Saves" on it. You ask them: "What does the statement on your shirt mean?" They reply, "It means that Jesus will save you from your sins." You offer a response, "Do you really think that's true, that Jesus will save people from their sins?" They retort, "Of course I believe it is true." You ask, "Why?" The person replies, "Well, because that's what my parents taught me and that's what I've learned in church." What about this person, what would you think of their faith? Is it legitimate? Is it more grounded than the first person's? Did you notice that the person said nothing about the Bible or the fact that they've studied Jesus' life or that they've experienced Jesus' saving grace in their daily faith as they try to emulate him?

Now, let me give you one more scenario: You are checking your Facebook on Nov 11th (2011) and you see a bunch of friends, who claim to be Christians, saying this (an actual quote from one of my Facebook friends): "A sincere thank you to all the troops who served during war...without you I could not worship the God I love, thank you so much!" You pause and think for a second: "Is this person staking their whole faith on something other than what it should be staked on?" Then you think: "Okay, so, this person is suggesting that if they lived in a country where there was no U.S. military, they would not have faith and they would not worship? They will only worship when they are protected by bombs and guns and soldiers?" Furthermore, if they were in a foreign context where there wasn't a U.S. war machine, they would not be a Christian? Just as well, is this person suggesting that some mere human gave them the Gospel and gave them the right to believe and worship or that God gave them the Gospel and the right to worship and believe?

In all three of these scenarios, we see examples of someone whose faith and motives for worship are simply misplaced and misguided. Especially in the last scenario, which is relevant on this government sanctioned Veteran's Day, which pushes the wider public, including Christians, to back the government war machine known as the military, this is especially and particularly true. I would suggest that you might not be a Christian if you stake the claims of your faith on a soldier, military, government, bombs, etc. If you would not worship God in another place, a place perhaps where Christianity is illegal and you might be persecuted, you might well not be a Christian. You might be like those people in Mark's Gospel who once heard the Gospel but soon after the roots withered and the plant died.

So, the moral of the story: If you are one who calls yourself a Christian, examine what you really believe. If it is predicated on anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian; you are accepting another message, which is no Gospel at all. If you base your faith on a human being or a military machine, you are buying into something that is antithetical to the life, message and work of Jesus Christ. I know that looking deep at one's faith is hard, that's why I started with three scenarios about other people. But hopefully, in the end, you are examining your own faith and why it is what it is. Hopefully, it is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness and hopefully, it is not built on a military machine that promotes war and violence.  If you're okay with the results of the picture in the upper left-hand corner of this post, well, you might ask yourself whether you're a Christian or not.