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Love and Judgment

Christians seem, by and large, to expect a ‘second coming’, and a ‘day of judgment’ - in which, apparently, vengeance against God’s enemies will be enacted and everyone who hasn’t repented will get their just desserts - this forms the ‘stick’ of what I might describe as the ‘popular gospel’; the carrot being, of course, the forgiveness for sins, and subsequent acceptance of the believer into ‘heaven’.

And yet, I wonder. If Jesus came to show us what God is really like - as he said himself:

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves…” John 14:9-11

then it’s hard to find much evidence in the gospels for Jesus predicting that God is angry and that therefore he’s going to return with ‘fire and sword’.

Can God’s Will be Thwarted?

Many Evangelical Christians describe themselves as ‘bible-believing Christians’ - as if other Christians aren’t. And yet, some also have an annoying habit of ignoring those bits of the bible which don’t ‘fit’ their chosen narrative, or which are otherwise ‘awkward’ (though, to be fair, I think we all do that - the bible is an awfully long and complex collection of writings).

For instance, a favourite evangelical verse is Romans 3:23:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

which is frequently used when trying to convert people, to convince them that they’re sinners on the way to hell. But the second part of the antithetical couplet, in verse 24, is all too frequently forgotten about or ignored, because it doesn’t seem to fit that ‘neat and tidy’ narrative:

and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Some English translations have two ‘alls’ in this couplet, and some biblical scholars have been known to argue that each ‘all’ refers to a different group of people. But in the Greek version there is just one ‘all’ (Greek πάντες - pantes - meaning all or everyone). Therefore what it says, essentially, is that everyone has both sinned and been justified by Christ. It is plain and simple, and, if we’re truly being honest, there is no getting away from it, or denying it: to do otherwise is to do violence to the biblical text. It’s by no means the only place where such things are said - there are a large number, once you start to see them (and I may get around to exploring a few more in the future)… But they don’t fit the ‘narrative’ the church (particularly the evangelical church) likes to teach, so they tend to be ignored.

Coming Out: This Is Me (Part 2)

In a way, this sort of follows on from my previous two posts… In that I am about to begin to reveal that I am in some way ‘other’ - and I hope that, if your first reaction might otherwise be to react with anger and condemnation, that you will first read this post, and that you will also remember Jesus’ words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

This post has its origins right back at the beginning of my Christian ‘journey’. I had become, it appeared, a fully ‘signed up’ charismatic evangelical Christian, believing all the ‘right’ things, saying all the right things and gradually learning all the ‘right answers’ to the permitted questions… Generally not being guilty of ‘rocking the boat’.

Coming Out: This Is Me (Part 1)

Now, the title probably had you worried, didn’t it? Go on, admit it!!

But this isn’t that sort of ‘coming out’. This is a theological ‘coming out’, rather than a statement about my sexuality: last time I checked I was still heterosexual! This post more or less follows on from my previous post - particularly in that I’d like you to bear in mind what I said there as you read this.

I haven’t posted much to this blog for a few years. That’s largely because my views on God, the gospel, and the church, have been changing; at first a little, then quite radically. In 2016 I experienced what I can only describe as an outpouring of God’s love - an epiphany - it was incredible - like nothing I’d ever experienced before. And it went on, and on, for months. Considered alongside things which had happened earlier on my faith journey, it seemed to leave me no choice but to begin to examine, forensically, what I had been taught by the church - which appeared, in some ways, to contradict what I had been experiencing, and the things which I felt God was saying to me now - chiefly through scripture.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021