Category Archives: Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say, Episode 4

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“Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?’

“So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God. Who are the ones that are going?’

“And Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.’

“Then he said to them, ‘The Lord had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desired.’ And Moses and Aaron said, ‘Cool, dude. That totally works for us, because the kids haven’t reached the age of accountability yet, so we don’t let them feast.'” (Exodus 10:7-11, NKJV*)

As I listened to almost the whole Pentateuch over the last few days while recovering from a nasty cold, I was struck by the fact that of all the many factors that might keep a person from participating fully in the life of the covenant community–certain categories of parentage or ethnicity, certain physical injury or illness, various bodily fluids, proximity to death, and gross abhominations that warranted not only liturgical exclusion but death–there is never the slightest mention of intellectual or mental capacity. Little children are not excluded. The elderly with dementia are not excluded. No one with developmental disabilities is excluded. Surely no one thinks that limited or diminished mental capacity was unknown to ancient people, so if it was never mentioned in regard to liturgical participation in a context where liturgical participation was highly regulated, it must be because it was a totally irrelevant factor.

So those who exclude anyone from full participation in the life of the church, including full welcome to the baptismal font and the Lord’s table, because of mental incapacity are inventing categories of exclusion that never crossed God’s mind even in Israel’s infancy when all sorts of “house rules” were in place that are no longer in force. The appalling arrogance!

I will concede that for most who follow the man-made traditions of intellectual pharisaism, it is largely a matter of ignorance rather than arrogance. And, fortunately, God is more gracious to the ignorant than the ignorant are to the ignorant. But really, the church needs to repent of these Talmudish accretions to biblical teaching.

*NKJV=New Krazy Joke Version

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Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say — Episode 3

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“For the shame of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age….” –Titus 2:11-12, TEV*

This post from Nancy Wilson and the exchange in the comments got me working on shooing away regretful thoughts. I’ve been practicing this pattern of praying about my sins:

1. I’m sorry.
2. Please forgive me and help me do better.
3. Thank You for Your forgiveness.

That third item is the new part. Previously my prayer would run something like this:

1. I’m sorry.
2. Please forgive me and help me do better.
3. Lather, rinse, repeat ad infinitum.

Shame over sin is a good thing when it drives us to repentance. It is a lousy thing when it denies forgiveness.

And here’s the big insight I’ve gotten in the past couple of days: Shame that denies forgiveness is powerless to help us resist the next temptation. Why do we give in to temptation in the first place? Because we deny the goodness of God; we think that the sin will make us happier than He can or will or wants to make us. Shame may seem pious — what, we ask, could be wrong with being really, really sorry for our sins for as long as possible? — but when it prevents us from experiencing forgiveness, it feeds more sin. In shoving aside forgiveness, we miss one of the most important reminders of God’s goodness, and so disarm ourselves for the next battle against temptation.

Grace, on the other hand, is a potent weapon. When a temptation comes with its message of “God is not good to you, so do or think or say this wicked thing in order to do good to yourself,” we can reply, “Um…DUH!…He just forgave me for doing or thinking or saying some other wicked thing, so I happen to know that He really is good to me, and I am grateful for that, so I’ll choose His way of doing or thinking or saying things this time around.”

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*TEV=Tragically Erroneous Version

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say — Episode 2

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Dear Church,

The Bible doesn’t speak of a gift of singleness, but of a gift of celibacy. And being single doesn’t mean you have the gift of celibacy any more than being in Latin class means you have the gift of tongues.

There is no gift of singleness except in the same sense that there’s a gift of poverty or a gift of illness. The difference is this: If you are ill, you will get prayed for, usually by name, every Sunday in church, and the request will be for healing. If you are poor, you will get prayed for, usually in a general way, every Sunday in church, and the request will be for financial provision. If you are single, you might get prayed for once in a blue moon in church, always in a general way, and the request will be for you to put up and shut up…oh, I mean, for you to be pure and content.

Please think better and do better than this.

Sincerely in Christ,

Your unmarried brothers and sisters

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say — Episode 1

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“So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘You haven’t gone through the eight-week membership class.’ And he answered and said, ‘Dang. Oh, well. Maybe next time I’m back in town.'” (Acts 8:34-37, NEV*)

Dear churches of Jesus Christ,

If you want to offer classes as a service to newcomers who are interested in learning more about your congregation, knock yourselves out. But requiring such classes, whether for 30-second-old converts or for professing Christians of 30 years who are transferring their membership in good standing from another congregation, is ridiculous and unbiblical. The early church was adding to its numbers daily, not quarterly on a specially designated new member Sunday. Why do you want to make it so blasted difficult?

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*NEV=Non-Existent Version