Devil’s Advocate

I try to be an equal opportunity devil’s advocate. Let me know where I fail.

Reflections on religious studies.

To people who don’t want anyone to challenge their Christianity:

Having people ask questions should cause you to seek answers and thereby strengthen your faith. Are you not supposed to be always ready to give an answer as to why you believe (I Peter 3:15)? No reasonable person should expect you to have all the answers but when you keep seeking answers, you can live your life with what you do understand, accept the rest, and answer better next time.


To the Christians who do not want to try to convert others:

Are you not commanded to tell the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19-20)? Some Christians have created a bad taste in the mouths of the world by being aggressive, overbearing… domineering. Doesn’t Jesus’ example tell you to see others with love, compassion, and with the desire for them know the truth? If you or your message is not received, shut up and leave it alone (my paraphrase of Matthew 10:14). It is not your job to hound them. Maybe God will send them someone else.


To the atheist and the Satanist:

Where does your morality come from? The Satanist says, “and do no harm.” I have heard this phrase from Wiccans too. Why not harm anyone? If there is no higher power, why shouldn’t we just do whatever it takes to get what we want despite stepping on the backs of others to get it, other than the actions being illegal. I have heard atheists say that banding together for the common good was a survival mechanism. This banding together may have helped us fight against predators and to hunt food, but in the main, it helped us develop an us versus them mentality. It made us stronger to fight against other humans in competition for territory and food. If there is no higher power to fear, then the only thing to fear, (besides fear itself,) is other people. Might makes right. The same survival mechanism that brought us together was the catalyst for bigger wars.


Another general point:

Our worldview must make philosophical sense. For example, If I believe that Christianity is true, then Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and Taoism cannot be true. They cannot all be true. One truth for me and another truth for you is illogical and philosophically unsound. We would never accept this sort of reasoning in politics, business, or science. When we say that something is true for you but not for me, we are really saying something else.


Truth is not very important so it’s okay if people believe a falsehood.

This leads down some rocky roads because this worldview does not affect only religion; it bleeds over into what we expect of government, personal relationships, and other areas.


We don’t care enough about others to discourse on truth.

For those of us who profess Christianity, numbers two and three are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. We should care about all people, even those who mock us for our faith.


We aren’t sure in our own minds that what we believe is true.

When questions come up that we can’t answer, It’s time to study to show ourselves approved 2 Timothy 2:15.



Please respond. Do you disagree? Is my logic sound? Let me know. I’m asking for it.

The Lesson of Messiah

Lectionary Reading – Matthew 2:1-12

Down through the ages, people have loved to explore who the magi were, where they came from, what astronomical event became the Star of Bethlehem, how evil King Herod was, and how God protected Joseph, Mary, and her son from Herod. No one really knows about the star or the magi but I like to think the magi were Zoroastrian astrologers/astronomers from Persia because the Zoroastrians also believe in a messiah. I have read several ideas of what was going on in the skies around the time of Jesus’ birth and all I can say is that timing is crucial. But these discussions, while fun, do not speak to the hidden lesson.

Herod, arguably knew the teaching that a messiah would come, but when the magi appeared to him, he called the chief priest and scribes.

In my head, I hear the conversation going something like this.


Herod: Do you know where this Christ is supposed to be born?

Scribes and priests: Sure we know. Bethlehem in Judea. Micah wrote,

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherds my people Israel.


What did those CHIEF PRIESTS and scribes do then? Nothing. There was a general expectation of a messiah at that time. There was always an expectation of a messiah when the Jews were not their own self-governing nation and were being persecuted, but also, Daniel 9 spoke of 483 years, by the Jewish calendar, between the word to start rebuilding Jerusalem and when messiah would be cut off. Time was getting short. The people were expectant.

So when King Herod asked them about this, why were the religious leaders not interested? Why did they not pursue the matter or start searching for this child themselves? This is the first indication of the hearts and minds of the Jewish leadership. They were completely apathetic to coming of the messiah. They ignored Him. He did not affect them. They would not let Him affect them.

How many of us use Christmas but ignore the Christ? We use the Christmas season to talk about peace, joy, goodwill toward men. The idea of a child bringing peace to the earth has been a favorite theme for generations. We use the themes of the child, the angels and shepherds, and the wise men without understanding and thus without meaning.

The Messiah does not call us to use Him once a year for some feel-good time. He is not apathetic about our response to Him. He calls us to know Him to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, to understand our need for Him, 24/7/365. It is important to Him for us to know that we are a rebellious creation and that the Messiah is our vehicle to back to God. He will not let us ignore Him.


Note – I do not necessarily agree with everything on the Disciple of Christ website but they do give a detailed explanation on the Daniel prophecy. For more information, click here.

Courage Every Day

Lectionary Reading Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

I have never attended a church that used a lectionary to govern the weekly scripture reading and sermon but Rachel Held Evans invited everyone to blog once a week on one of the lectionary readings and I thought I would give it a try.

This week, it is the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into the slavery which eventually landed him in Egypt. According to verses 3 and 4, Joseph’s brothers hated him because their father loved him more than all the others. The famed varicolored tunic along with other things just added to their hatred. Joseph was the child of his old age and the son of his favorite wife. I would like to look at the two main characters in this reading, Joseph and Reuben.

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn and as such, should have inherited the responsibility as head of the family upon Jacob’s death. He should have been the one the other brothers looked to for leadership. Earlier in the book, we saw Simeon and Levi murder every male in a village, the other brothers coming behind to loot. Reuben did not provide any leadership there. Jacob was sorely displeased with his boys but they took little notice. Reuben had also slept with his father’s concubine as a sign of defiance of his father’s authority.

Apparently, Reuben’s conscience did engage when it came to the thought of killing one of his brothers though, one of his blood. Reuben suggested that they just toss him in a pit with no water and let him die of his own accord. Reuben secretly thought to come back later to rescue Joseph. Unfortunately for both Reuben and Joseph, Judah suggested they make some money from him and sell him as a slave. (This is the Judah that became the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.) Evidently, they did this while Reuben was not around because in verse 29, Reuben returned to the pit to retrieve Joseph and he was not there. What if Reuben had had the courage to say and do the right thing the first time against the prevailing hatred of the others? If he had said to his brothers, “No, this is wrong; we will not cause harm to our brother,” their father would have been saved many years of pain and heartache.

Please don’t say that if Reuben had prevented the deed, Joseph would not have been in place to take care of his family in Egypt. That serves to justify the actions of the brothers. God always wants us to do right in every situation. God’s providence and care are not dependent on our actions or inactions, right or wrong.

The first thing we learn about Joseph is that at the age of seventeen, he pastured flocks with his half-brothers, the sons of the concubines, and gave a bad report of them to their father. Later, Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers and the flocks, wearing his beautiful varicolored tunic. The verses not included in the reading tell of Joseph’s two dreams that his brothers, father, and mother would bow down to him. His father rebuked him for this but remembered the dream.

The entire story of Joseph gives us to believe that Joseph was a righteous follower of God, that he told these dreams in all innocence without any pride or pomposity. But how did these dreams, his coming out to check on his brothers, his very visual sign of his father’s favoritism, and his reporting on his brothers come across to them? Am I saying that their crime against him was his own doing or that he deserved it? No, I am not. All parents should be aware of the effects of favoritism and do everything in their power to prevent sibling animosity so Jacob bears some blame here. But, my main point is that we can say things or do things innocently without ever having a thought that the attitude that comes across is not the attitude we are feeling; but that attitude that comes across can be just as devastating as if it were real. I challenge you to ask your friends and family what attitudes you exude.

I pray that we all will have the courage to do right at the first opportunity because we may not always get that second chance to make it right and that we will have the courage to examine how we present ourselves to the world as Christians.