Interview: Ian J. Keeney, director of The Meaning & former Satanist, Atheist/Christian relations & “The War on Religion” (Part 1 of 2)

*Can atheists & Christians have civil discussions?  Is there some middle ground they can agree on?*

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**My interview with Ian J. Keeney, director of the documentary The Meaning, where we discuss his film, how he became a Christian, and atheist/Christian relations **

A review on IMDb describes The Meaning as “a comprehensive study into the lives of people of various belief systems. The pacing of the film runs smoothly, considering the enormity of this project.  Name the last time you saw a film that had this much jam-packed into an hour and forty-five minutes.  In your travels, you come across motorcycle gangs turned “Holy Rollers”, surfers for Christ, rappers in the ‘hood talking about Jesus, university professors who believe God created Evolution, crazed Disney World naysayers, transgendered women, Catholic monks, animal rights activists, and former self-proclaimed “Vegan Satanists”—I mean, my God, Ian out did Geraldo on this one!”

 (Watch The Meaning trailer here.)

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The first time I learned of Ian J. Keeney it was memorable.  It was baptism day at our church, and several people I’ve never seen before were setting up professional movie cameras.  Was a celebrity getting baptized at our small, unassuming church?  Then Ian, who I had never met, stood up to be baptized, and while giving his testimony he tells the whole church that he used to be a “Satanist.”  Later, I would find out Ian worked in the film/TV industry and the people with the cameras were his friends.  I would also find out later that a Satanist isn’t the same as a Satan-worshipper.  Satanist was  a title some atheists who are extremely hostile towards Christianity give themselves.  Ian immediately went on my list of people I’d like to know.

Ian is the one person I know that can truly be labeled a Renaissance Man.  He writes movies, novels, poetry, and music.  Not only that, but he shoots and edits his own films, he records his own music, and he performs his poetry and music live.  You would think someone with this much creativity would be bursting with emotion and exuberance at all times, but Ian is laid-back and reserved – a guy anyone can sit down and have a decent talk with.  Even if the discussion goes into deep waters, Ian’s friendly demeanor and humor never waivers.

The following interview discusses his documentary The Meaning, Christian/atheist issues, and how he went from a Satanist to a Christian.

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Steve: Tell us about your documentary, The Meaning.  What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

Ian: The Meaning is a film about the so-called “War on Religion” in the United States (or even, the world) and what that means for Christians and atheists particularly. What I hope to accomplish with this film is to open some hearts and minds for Christians and atheists to meet in the middle and discuss their concerns, rather than resorting to quips on billboards and bumper stickers.

Steve: It’s great that you worked with people of varying beliefs (and unbeliefs) about God on The Meaning.  It seems the project was a success, but was there any butting of heads on any aspect of the film?

Ian: There was not one time we ever clashed on set. Some of the most interesting conversations happened once the cameras stopped rolling. The whole tone of the movie is to be open, share ideas and never come to the conversation thinking, “I have to make this person believe my point of view.” When people are open to sharing ideas in a non-threatening manner without an agenda, there’s really no reason why there should be any butting of heads. It’s when the Christian starts trying to “sell” Jesus or the atheist tries to belittle your belief, that’s when things get ugly.

Steve: Did you purposely have atheists help make The Meaning to keep yourself honest — so you couldn’t be accused of editing the film in Christianity’s favor? 

Ian: I would not have made this movie if I were not able to include people of varying beliefs because one of my main concerns is that this is never viewed as a film with an agenda slanted toward atheism or Christianity. It’s simply a platform for sharing ideas – something I don’t think Christians and atheists do often enough. If I’m saying atheists and Christians should be more open to discussions with each other for understanding, how could I say that if I didn’t invite others along for this discussion and give them an equal voice?

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Steve: I know one of the big things you want to do is promote an open, honest dialogue between Christians and nonbelievers.  We both agree that people can disagree on “big” topics, but still remain friends and have discussions about things they disagree on without hard feelings and putting down each other.  But why do you think this is so hard for people to do?

Ian: I think there are several factors to this. For one, I think it’s human nature for people to always want to be right. It’s so hard for someone to admit that they’re wrong. Secondly, I believe there are a lot of misinformed people out there on both sides of the conversation just regurgitating something someone heard from someone else who heard something on TV. It’s important before we take a stance on anything that we have our facts straight and know the sources of those facts. Family Guy is not a reliable source.

There is also a conundrum with the fact that the Bible says to go in all the world and preach the gospel. The problem with that is, a lot of people don’t want to hear the gospel. Imagine you’re sitting peacefully at home having your coffee and cereal watching Joel Osteen on TV when there comes a knock on your door. It’s an atheist. He has a booklet and pamphlets to tell you why there is no God. Jesus is a lie and you need to just let it go. You’d probably be irritated by this unannounced guest just as much as most atheists would feel when someone comes like a door-to-door salesman but instead of selling vacuum cleaners, he’s selling Jesus. I think it’s important to try to put ourselves in each others shoes. We can’t communicate with someone we don’t understand.

Steve: Good points.  I’d just like to add no one should watch Joel Osteen.  I’m saying that in a joking manner, but I’m serious.

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Steve: Talk a little about The Meaning’s Facebook page and the interactions on there.

Ian: We have a Facebook page for the movie and I use that as a way to keep this conversation going. I want this to be more than just a movie. If I’m trying to open a dialogue between Christians and atheists, I can’t just show a movie in a dark quiet theater and then say, “Thanks for coming. Now go home.” Whenever possible, we interact with our audience personally after the film and hold a Q&A. I don’t want it to stop there. You can continue to interact with us through Facebook and others who are there to discuss what’s going on in the world today. I try to keep things light and humorous sometimes too because I find value in laughter. These topics can be difficult enough, so a little comic relief is needed.

Steve: I’ve had some really great discussions on the Facebook page with people on both sides of the fence of belief and recommend people visit it.  Unfortunately, the disconnected nature of the internet — the lack of personal, face-to-face connection — sometimes makes people defensive and even rude, and I know this is what you don’t want to promote, Ian. 

This may sound funny, but I would recommend people to jump into conversations on your Facebook page because it’s a great way to discipline ourselves in interacting with people of differing views.  It’s a great way to practice having an honest conversation and not a debate where you’re just trying to one-up the other guy.  It’s a great place to practice being fair-minded and to practice disagreeing with someone with grace and patience, especially if the other person does get rude.  If nothing else, since it takes place in “internet-time,” it teaches you not to respond immediately with your gut or emotion.  If someone writes something you disagree with and you feel yourself getting heated, don’t write back right away.  Take some time to calm down and think clearly, and then think out a rational, fair response.  If you care about the subject, it’s a challenge not to get emotionally involved — trust me — but it’s a great exercise in self-discipline. 

Tell us about your radio show/podcast.

 Ian: The radio show is an extension of The Meaning as well (BlogTalkRadio.com/DiscoverTheMeaning). We have several episodes up now and we have more scheduled for release very soon. On the show I talk with people in depth. You get a half hour long interview with all types of different people from theologians to atheists, musicians to poets.

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NEXT: (PART 2) We’ll get into DEEP waters with Ian J. Keeney about how he went from a Satanist to a Christian, about atheist/Christian issues, and more about his documentary The Meaning.)

IN THE MEANTIME:

For info on the upcoming showings of The Meaning, including one in Paterson, NJ click here.  

Making an independent film and getting it in front of audiences takes a lot of $$$.  Find out about The Meaning‘s fundraising campaign by clicking here.

To contact Ian J. Keeney or to learn more, click one of the following: The Meaning’s Facebook page, Ian’s Facebook page, The Meaning’s official site, Ian J. Keeney’s official site.

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Atheist Church. Seriously. (Part 3) Dear Nothing, Thanks For Something.

* Do people have an innate sense of thankfulness?  Can we be thankful to nothing?*

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(This continues my response to an article titled “Church without God – by Design” about the Humanist Community at Harvard University, an “atheist church.”  Read Part 1Part 2, and Part 2.5)

(If this is your first time reading something here, please first read a short explanation about the purpose of this blog.)

Perhaps the most ironic part from the article “Church without God – by Design” is the section about a Sunday morning song performed at the Humanist Community written and performed by Shelley Segal from her recording “An Atheist Album.”  Segal sings a song named “Gratitude” (but not the Beastie Boys song of the same name) in which she sings the following lyrics:

I don’t believe in a great power to say thank you to.  But that won’t take away from my gratitude.”

Go ahead and accuse me of being overly nitpicky, and I realize this is only one line of the entire song, but in order to show gratitude there has to be someone to receive that gratitude.  Someone may play with the wording and say she isn’t showing gratitude, but she only has gratitude, yet that changes nothing.  To have gratitude also clearly implies a recipient.  So, Segal says she has gratitude.  But to whom?

Once when I was young, I was in a wooded park outside Philadelphia, and I came too close to the edge of a long drop overlooking a river and I slipped on some loose stones.  I fell on my back and started sliding towards the edge.  Luckily, I had the good sense to flatten out, and I stopped.  I stood up, looked at how close I’d come to going over that edge and falling hundreds of feet.  You bet I was thankful.  But to whom?

Gratitude is a personal feeling, but it implies someone receives those feelings, which also implies that same someone has  first done something to bring about those feelings.  It’s similar with remorse.  I can’t say I’m sorry to no one, nor can I feel sorry for no reason.  Likewise, I can’t feel love without a recipient, nor can I feel loved without reason.

Witness this conversation:

Me: “I’m in love.”

You: “With whom?”

Me: “No one.”

You: “Huh?”

Me: “I feel loved.”

You: “By whom?”

Me: “No one.”

You: “I’m leaving.”

A similar conversation about gratitude would be equally absurd:

Me: “I’m thankful for this beautiful day.”

You: “Thankful to whom?”

Me: “No one.”

You: “Uh…”

Me: “I feel grateful for my good health.”

You: “Grateful to whom?”

Me: “No one.”

You: “I’m not talking to you anymore.”

You thank someone.  You are grateful towards someone.  You receive gratitude from someone because you did something to warrant that response.

I suppose we could argue that a person can be thankful towards nonliving objects in some fashion, but I would disagree there too.  I could say I’m thankful my clunker car started on a cold morning, but when you get down to it, it’s the creators of my car — the engineers, the people on the assembly line — or the mechanics who keep it running smoothly — to whom I’m thankful, not the car itself.

I once heard a woman who was into some New Age thought thank the universe for a narrowly avoided car accident.  When I was an atheist, this would’ve seemed sillier to me than thanking God since at least a person thanking God is thanking something they believe is a someone – a someone that has some sort of mind.  The universe, on the other hand, is a vast, primarily empty thing.  And what did the mindless universe do to deserve thanks?  Moreover, can you imagine how goofy we’d sound if we started thanking all nonliving things that assist us?  “Thank you, bookshelf, for holding my books.”  “Thank you, computer, for diligently saving all my Word documents.  You have my utmost gratitude.”

So, no, I don’t think we can show true gratitude to nonliving things, but even if I agree that we can, Segal is not even grateful to the universe.  She is grateful to nothing.  And nothing is nothing.  The dictionary on my laptop defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.  How can you show appreciation and return kindness to nothing?  And how can nothing show you kindness in the first place?

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Perhaps the next time an secular humanist finds him- or herself wanting to thank someone for something even though there’s really no one to thank (according to their atheist worldview), perhaps relieved would serve as a better word.  I was relieved my car started.  I was relieved I didn’t fall off that cliff.  I’m relieved I have good health and not bad health.  Shelley Segal can sing:

I don’t believe in a great power to say thank you to.  But that won’t take away from my relief.”

But wait.  Relief from what?  Maybe Segal should just say she feels lucky.  But, then again, believing in luck is silly.

Clearly, what I’m writing here isn’t as weighty as the other issues I’ve addressed in this series, and, really, it’s just me being an overly-analytical English teacher and pointing out the problem with the language in Segal’s lyrics with (what I hope comes across as) some tongue-in-cheek, good-natured humor.  But perhaps there is a higher message we can get from this.  Does our innate sense of gratitude — even when there’s no appropriate human to give that gratitude to — point us to some higher truth?

NEXT:  Atheist Church. Seriously.  (Part 4) Atheism’s Favorite Myth

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Of Christian Rap & Reality Shows (Part 2 of 2) Wealth, Prosperity Gospel & Preachers of LA

*Does Jesus want everyone to be stinking rich?  What’s scripture have to say about wealth?*

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(This continues my response to the TV reality show “Preachers of LA” and a look at the “prosperity gospel.”  Read Part 1 here.)

So, how does Reverend Clarence McClendon of the Preachers of LA justify his lavish lifestyle?  He says, “The Bible says that ‘I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health.  Even as your soul prospers.’  I believe that.”

Like all false teachers and cult leaders, Rev. McClendon quotes a little-known verse to support his view.  Now, little-known verses are still scripture, but if someone quotes a verse you’re not familiar with and it doesn’t jive with what you know other scripture clearly teaches, what do you do?  All you have to do is find the verse and read it in context.

This is an essential rule of thumb for everyone: when someone quotes scripture — no matter who it is doing the quoting — go read it in context.  People try to get scripture to say all sorts of things it doesn’t by taking it out of context.

When I first heard Rev. McClendon say this, I thought he was referring to John 10:10 when Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” but when I looked the verse up I found it was in the very short letter by John towards the end of the New Testament called 3 John.

The verse Rev. McClendon quotes is in the opening greeting of the letter in 3 John:

“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.  Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.  For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.”

So, John writes this line quoted by Rev. McClendon not in a long theological argument, but as a greeting.  Nowhere does John explain that growing in the faith will guarantee growth in material wealth or health, not in the rest of this letter or elsewhere in the New Testament.  John is praying for Gaius’s well-being and hoping the best for him, like any friend would do.  A greeting said between friends, even if it appears in scripture, is not the basis for a theology apart from the rest of the Gospel.

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Further, let’s look at the verse I originally thought Rev. McClendon was referring to in John 10:10.  Will this support his view?  Yet again, we have an issue when we look at the verse in context.  Nowhere does Jesus equate abundant life to material wealth.  If fact, there may be good reason for Rev. McClendon not to refer to John 10 because it appears right in the midst of Jesus’ parable about the good shepherd:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.  I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:10-15).

Would the prosperity preachers lay down their life for their flock?  Or are they just thieves and hired hands?

Since we’re looking at scripture, let’s look at some verses that do have clear implications concerning wealth — verses that would be difficult to misinterpret even if they were taken out of context.

1 Timothy 6:6-10: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

So, godliness is gain; we should find contentment in having our basic needs for food and shelter met; and chasing after material gain leads to destruction.

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Luke 9:57-58: “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man [Jesus] has nowhere to lay His head.””

It certainly sounds like Jesus is saying he doesn’t have wealth, maybe not even a home, and that those who follow him shouldn’t expect more than this either.

And if those weren’t clear enough, look at this one:

Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Hard to misinterpret that one, isn’t it?

When thinking of the prosperity preachers, I can’t help but think of the interaction between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19.  The rich young man claims to have followed all the commandments flawlessly and he wants to know what more he needs to do, so Jesus tells him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  The young rich man “went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”  This didn’t surprise Jesus.  He knew where this young man’s heart truly lied.

How would the prosperity preachers react if Jesus asked them to do the same thing?  Would they choose their wealth or Jesus?

After the young rich man walks away, Jesus says his famous line, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus’ message here is so important that he emphasizes it not only by starting it with his “Truly I say to you” introductory phrase, but he repeats it twice!  Fortunately for the rich, Jesus concludes this teaching: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  So, as I said earlier in the first post, money isn’t inherently evil, but Jesus and the New Testament writers undoubtedly spend a lot of time explaining how easily money can lead us astray.

This is particularly important to all of us living in the United States or other wealthy countries.  We are the rich!  Having clean, running water in our homes alone makes us richer than most of the world.  Being surrounded by stores providing an endless supply of food and entertainment makes us wealthier than most of the world.  Owning a car or TV or computer or a closet full of clothes, no matter how “outdated,” makes us richer than the majority of the world’s population.

Finally, the prosperity gospel preachers (and all of us) should consider with serious foreboding what Jesus says in Matthew 7 concerning false prophets “who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  On the day of final judgment, Jesus says:

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

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Of Christian Rap & Reality Shows (Part 1 of 2) False Teachers & False Gospels

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It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago when I first heard the phrase the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”  From what I could gather, it sounded like there were some preachers, grown from the Pentecostal tradition, out there proclaiming that if you’re a good Christian, God will bless you with good health and plenty of money.  I didn’t find this surprising.  I remember the rise and fall of several TV evangelists in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, and these “prosperity gospel” preachers were just the new school of that same tradition of celebrity pastor con men.

Earlier this year, Christian hip hop artist Shai Linne released his album “Lyrical Theology, Pt. 1: Theology” (which I highly recommend) and caught a lot of people’s attention with his song “Fal$e Teacher$,” which criticizes the prosperity gospel.  Not only does Shai Linne show how a catchy song with blunt lyrics backed by tight biblical theology can be powerful, but he also names twelve celebrity preachers, proclaiming them all to be false teachers, including Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Joyce Meyer.  Even respected evangelical preacher and author John Piper praised Shai Linne in a tweet for his stance.

(Listen to “Fal$e Teacher$” here and read the lyrics* and watch Shai Linne’s explanation of the song here.) ShaiLinne_album

(*Or see the lyrics at the bottom of this post)

Then, came the trailer for an upcoming TV reality show on Oxygen, The Preachers of LA.  As soon as I saw the trailer, Shai Linne’s “Fal$e Teacher$” burst into my head.  But when I sat down to watch the premier episode this past week, I tried to keep an open mind.  Not knowing anything about them, it’s hard to criticize all of the pastors on the Preachers of LA based a single hour-long show.  One or two of them might actually be legit and not as filthy rich as the rap-like slow-motion and shiny cars make them appear.

(Watch The Preachers of LA trailer here.)

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I didn’t want to immediately dismiss these pastors as false teachers of the prosperity gospel.  Running a “mega-church” or driving a nice car doesn’t automatically make a pastor corrupt.  Many pastors write books, travel to speaking arrangements, and are involved in ethical businesses that may or may not have anything to do with their ministry, and if they work hard for their money and earn it honestly, what’s the issue?

Of course, this could move us into a discussion on Christian giving and sacrificial living, but I’ll say one more thing and leave this issue here for now: There’s nothing wrong with a pastor having money gained through honest means, but whenever we see a pastor with a lot of money – especially if he flaunts it – it should be a billboard-sized warning sign something could be amiss.

Another issue with watching Preachers of LA is an issue I have with all “reality” TV in general.  I know people who have worked on “reality” TV shows, so I know just how staged many of these shows are.  It’s really hard for me to watch a “reality” show and not feel like I’m being manipulated.  Further, it’s not hard to edit scenes and dialogue out of context to make characters appear to be saying or doing something that’s not reality at all.  I even read about editors bleeping words that weren’t even curse words in episodes of Duck Dynasty to make it appear as if the characters, who are Christians, were using foul language.  In the industry, these sort of shows are sometimes called “docu-dramas” because they have the feeling of “reality,” and there may be a lot of truth behind the characters, but the situations and conflicts are completely fabricated.

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So perhaps this idea of a “docu-drama” about some prosperity gospel preachers is fitting because their preaching, like the show, is reality with just enough fiction mixed in to consider it phony.  Like docu-drama, the prosperity gospel preachers are giving a lot of truth about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but they are mixing in enough of a lie to make it heresy.  This is how false teachers operate, and in fact, how cults operate.  It’s rare to find a cult that doesn’t have a lot of truth molded into their lies.  Shai Linne addresses this in his song when he raps, “And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type because some of their statements are right – that only proves that Satan comes as an angel of light.”

Kate Bowler, an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School and author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” has a different take on the prosperity gospel in her editorial “Believers in Bling: Behold the Prosperity ‘Preachers of LA’” on CNN.com and portrays it quite positively.  She writes, “As my own research shows, millions of American Christians have turned to the prosperity gospel to help them understand God as deeply invested in their everyday lives.  They want a God who cares about their health, their mortgage payments and their ability to afford a better life.”

I don’t think you’ll find any Christian pastor who would disagree that God wants to be (and should be) involved in all aspects of our lives and wants what’s best for us, but this is not the only message the prosperity gospel preachers are spreading.  Even Bowler writes, “These pastors’ Midas touch provides endless sermon illustrations designed to tantalize audiences: If only you believe what I believe, you can have what I have, too.”

Bowler appears to think this message is legitimate Christianity, but this is exactly the whole issue with the prosperity gospel!  Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to bless us with material wealth, great health, or a life free of hardships if we follow him.  In fact, Jesus says quite the opposite.  In Matthew 16:24-26, he tells his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me… For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Elsewhere, Jesus tells his followers that they will be persecuted.  Paul, Peter, and most of the other apostles met early deaths by following Jesus.  What would Paul and Peter think of the prosperity gospel?  Where’s their wealth and good health?

Even if 95% of what the prosperity gospel preachers are saying is true, that still leaves 5% as false.  And anything added to or taken away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the true Gospel of Jesus Christ at all.

Perhaps someone should remind these prosperity preachers of what Paul said in Galatians 1:6-9:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

You don’t get much clearer than that.  Paul, the church’s greatest missionary and writer of much of the New Testament, tells his audience if he, the other apostles, or even an angel from heaven tells them something different than the Gospel of Christ, he, the apostles, and the angel are cursed by God!

NEXT: Part 2:  What does Scripture have to say about the prosperity gospel?

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(Take a moment to listen to some insightful thoughts from John Piper about the prosperity gospel here and here.) 

 

 

 

 

 

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**LYRICS**  Shai Linne  “FAL$E TEACHER$”

One two one two, Yo!
Special dedication to my brothers and sisters on the great continent of Africa
To Saints in Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe.
Don’t be deceived by what America is sending y’all man, yeh?

Let me begin, while there is still ink left in my pen,
I am set to contend for Truth you can bet will offend,
Deception within the church man, who’s letting them in?
We talked about this years ago, let’s address it again. (Yeh)
And I ain’t really trying to start beef, but some who claim to be part of his sheep got some sharp teeth.(they’re wolves)

You cast at me when you criticize them when you criticize them, but Jesus told us: Matthew 7:16, we can recognize them!
And God forbid that for the love of some fans, I keep quiet and watch them die with their blood on my hands!
(so…)There’s nothing left for me to do except to speak to you in the spirit of Jude 3 and 2 Peter 2
And I know that some would label me a Pharisee, because today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy:
“How dare they be specific and drop some clarity on the popularity of the gospel of Prosperity”

Turn off TBN that channel is overrated. The Pastor’s speak bogus statements, financially motivated. It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme. Visualize Heretics christianizing the American dream.
It’s foul and deceitful, they’re lying to people, teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of a needle!
Ungodly and wicked, ask yourself how can they not be convicted treating Jesus like a lottery ticket.
And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type because some of their statements are right,
they’re only proof that Satan comes as an angel of light.
This teaching can’t be believed without a cost, the lie is you can achieve a crown without a cross
And I hear it all the time when they speak on the block
Even unbelievers are shocked how they’re fleecing the flock
It should be obvious then, yet I’ll explain why it’s Sin, peep the Bible it’s in 1 Timothy 6:9-10
It talks about how the desire for riches has left many souls on fire and stitches mired in ditches
Tell me, who would teach you to pursue as a goal the very thing that the Bible said will ruin your soul! (huh?)

Yet they’re encouraging the love of money,
to make it worse, they’ve exported this garbage into other countries!
My heart breaks even now as I am rhyming. Do you wanna know what all false teachers have in common?(what?)
It’s called self(ism) the fastest growing religion; they just dress it up and call it “Christian”.
Don’t be deceived by this funny biz, if you come to Jesus for money, then he’s not your God, money is!

Jesus is not a means to an end, the Gospel is He came to redeem us from sin, and that is the message forever I’ll yell!
If you’re living your best life now you’re heading for hell!

(Talk to them)
Joel Osteen – false teacher!
(Let them know)
Creflo Dollar is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Benny Hinn is a false teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
(Talk to them)
TD Jakes is a false teacher!
(Tell the Truth)
Joyce Meyer is a false teacher!
(Let them know)
Paula White is a false teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!
(Keep going)
Fred Price is a false teacher!
(Tell the Truth)
Kenneth Copland is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Robert Tilton is a false teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
(Talk to them)
Eddie Long is a false teacher!
(Let them know)
Juanita Bynum is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Paul Crouch is a false teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

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Atheist Church. Seriously. (Part 2.5) Atheists have Morals! (And So Do the Rest of Us)

**In response to a few reactions to my last post: “Atheist Church.  Seriously. (Part 2) Random, Meaningless Morals”**

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I knew when I started this blog, I’d be writing things people disagree with, and I’m okay with that.  I adamantly believe people can (and should) respectfully disagree with ideas or beliefs without slandering, causing hostility, or passing judgment on people.  After all, if you claim that you see eye-to-eye with every view your friends hold, you either don’t know your friends very well or you don’t have any friends!

But the one thing I do not want to do with this blog is offend people.

(If you haven’t already, please read a short explanation about the purpose of this blog.)

Though I wrote that “stereotyping all atheists as immoral is wrong” and “one does not have to be a Christian to have [an] innate sense of morality” some people still found my article “Atheist Church.  Seriously. (Part 2) Random, Meaningless Morals” offensive and thought I was arguing that atheists can’t have morals.

I never said such a thing.

To be clear, I believe everyone has morals.  In my previous post, I attempted to show that everyone has an innate sense of morality, which I believe points towards a higher law, which in turn points towards a higher law-giver (aka God).  Since God created us all, we all have this innate sense of morality, whether we believe in God or not.

If we are just the product of random, mindless, naturalistic forces, then how can this innate sense of morals be explained?  Meaning and morals can’t come from meaninglessness.  If we only exist to pass on our genes, then all our motivations would be selfish.

But everyone (including atheists) do things that aren’t selfish.

Since people who don’t believe in God have this innate sense to be moral and to care for others, (even to care for those who don’t carry their genes) I believe this points towards the higher law of God.

Further, there ARE actual atheistic, naturalist philosophers who argue that morals don’t exist.  I know so many good people who are Christians, non-Christians, and atheists, I’m saying that what these atheistic, naturalist philosophers believe can’t be true.  Universal morals exist, and naturalism can’t explain this.

We all have morals, value, and meaning, and the only satisfying explanation for this, I believe, is the God described in the Bible.

 

I’ve enjoyed the interactions I’ve had so far about my  posts, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts and continue the discussion below in the comments section…

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Atheist Church. Seriously. (Part 2) Random, Meaningless Morals

*Can life be the product of random, mindless forces & still have meaning?  Can (or should) atheists have morals?  Are we just advanced computers dancing to our DNA?  What’s a “humanist” anyway?*

(This continues my response to an article titled “Church without God – by Design” about the Humanist Community at Harvard University, an “atheist church.”)

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At the Humanist Community, as we’re told in the article, each service has a message.  On the day the writer attended, “Chaplain” Epstein spoke on compassion.  We’re also told acceptance is a regular subject matter.  So, what’s going on here?  What’s up with all this love and peace stuff, and what’s a “humanist” anyway?

The term “humanist” is becoming a popular term for self-identification among atheists for a number of reasons.  First, they want to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes often associated with atheists.  Often, atheists are stereotyped as depraved and narcissistic.  More recently, many atheists also want to distance themselves from the so-called New Atheist movement – spearheaded by writers like Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, and, everyone’s favorite atheist, Richard Dawkins – known for angry, aggressive, and bigoted verbal assaults on all things religious.

Additionally, many atheists don’t like the label “atheist” because it defines them by their unbelief.  Since God doesn’t exist – according to their view – why should they be labeled for not believing in a non-existent thing?  To them, it’s no more absurd than being labeled an aunicornist (for not believing in unicorns) or an asasquatchist (for not believing in sasquatch).

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As I pointed out in Part 1 of my “Atheist Church” series, all groups with shared beliefs have those in their group who are more intolerant or more tolerant to those outside their group, whether religious or not, and atheists are no exception.  Unlike the New Atheist movement, humanists want to be the peacemakers and bridge-builders of the atheist community – a kinder, gentler atheism.

So, humanists don’t believe in God (but don’t want to be defined by this), and they want everyone to know they highly value compassion, kindness, and morality.  And, like much with the Humanist Community, it’s hard to criticize and not come off as a bully.  Yet, we must be honest: if one takes atheism to its logical conclusion, things like compassion, acceptance, and morality are meaningless.

I’ve often come across arguments from atheists that go something like this:

Christians say atheists are immoral because we don’t believe in God.  It’s disturbing that Christians need the wrath of God hanging over their heads to behave.  Christians are only moral because they fear God.  I am moral without God.

I thought the same way when I was an atheist.  But atheism taken to its logical conclusion eliminates meaning and morality.  Yes, there are hypocrites who call themselves Christians and behave morally solely because of the fear of God, and there are those who mistakenly believe Christianity is only about behaving yourself so you’re not sent to hell.  But Christianity understood correctly and taken to its logical conclusion leads to meaning, compassion, and worth.

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This idea was explored in an online discussion I had primarily with an atheist who I later learned preferred to be called a “secular humanist.”  The discussion began when a mutual friend, a Christian, posted a comment on Facebook asking his Christian friends to refrain from stereotyping all atheists as immoral.  When I joined the dialogue, the post had received many responses from both theists and atheists.

In response to some of the comments, I explained that the good news of Jesus Christ was not “Be good or you’re going to hell” or even “Be good and you’ll go to heaven.”  I explained that this was a major misunderstanding about Christianity.  Where we spend eternity has to do with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins and whether we accept that gift or not.  No one earns his or her way into God’s presence.  I also posted that I agreed that stereotyping all atheists as immoral is wrong, but I finished with the following comment:

“…I was once an atheist (with morals), but I will say atheists do have the challenge of explaining why they have these morals and how they fit into their worldview.  For example, if we are only physical creatures, and passing on our genes is the motivation of our existence, then rape could be considered an acceptable way of doing this, and I know of no one who believes rape is moral.  I’m no philosopher, so maybe there’s a big hole in that idea that I’m missing, so I’m interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts.”

I immediately received pushback, but I didn’t feel like my point was being understood, so I reiterated that I agreed that atheists could be just as moral as anyone else, but that atheists can’t explain why they have morals.  The secular humanist said that doing good is its own reward; it gives you a good feeling inside.  Interestingly, he also brought up that humans have an innate sense of morality.

I wrote in reply:

“…I appreciate your comments.  Someone can’t argue someone else into being a Christian (esp on Facebook), so I’m not trying to do that… Still, I don’t think my “why?” questions are being addressed.  Why does doing “good” things make you feel good?  By what standard are they “good”?  You said we have an innate sense of good & bad, but why do we have it?  I’m not asking these questions, hoping you will suddenly answer “God!”  I really want to know, so I can understand your view of the world.”

The idea of being moral to make the world a better place for your children and grandchildren was brought up.  I thought this was the strongest point in the secular humanist’s favor.

I replied:

“…But the question still remains: “Why?” Again, if we’re just physical creatures whose only motivation is to pass on our genes, then isn’t the best thing I can do for my kids is make sure they have a lot of sex?  If it’s all about genes, why do firefighters risk their lives to help perfect strangers?  Why are people willing to die for their friends?  Why care if a species goes extinct or a bus of children (none of your own, of course) die in a horrible traffic accident?”

Much of the pushback were the same arguments already addressed, so I wrote:

“For much of this discussion I feel like we’re stating the same thing, which is that we have an innate sense of morality.  We both agree on that.  We also agree that one does not have to be a Christian to have this innate sense of morality.  Further, you admit that you do not know where this innate sense of morality comes from.

“Following this innate morality and not knowing why is illogical.  Why do we call a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his platoon heroic?  Really, when you get down to it, it’s illogical; did the dead soldier benefit from his act?  It’s especially illogical if he has no idea why he did it.  Just like gun rights advocates point to the Constitution as a higher law, many philosophers believe our innate sense of morality points to a higher law, and if there is a higher law, there must be a higher authority.  The Bible confirms that ALL people have this moral law in their hearts*, and this moral law points towards God.

“…I’ll just say this and leave it here for now: When I was an atheist, I considered myself moral, similar to yourself, but I found when I applied the naturalistic philosophy to my life, it did make me less moral, especially in the sense of making me much more self-centered.  Yet, this revolted some innate sense in me.  Life makes much more sense with God, and since I’ve become a Christian, Jesus Christ has made me a better man.”

(*Romans 2:14-15: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law [of God] do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”)

This post is not about my debate, but about humanists at the “atheist church” preaching compassion and acceptance as moral truths.  But if life is just the product of random chance, as atheists believe, then morals are illusions.  Meaning and morals can’t come from blind, directionless, mindless forces.

If we are simply at the mercy of the physical, then all our beliefs and feelings are just chemicals firing off in our brains.  Freewill is an illusion.  We live only by impulse and reaction, not decision.  Thus, the love I feel and have vowed for my wife is an illusion.  At worst, my “love” towards her is wholly selfish for what I receive from the relationship.  At best, my “love” makes me want to treat her well and make the world a better place so my genes have a better chance of spreading.  But this is still not love.  Unconditional love, meaning, and morals cannot come from life if life was created by random chance and if we’re just flesh robots and advanced computers.

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Richard Dawkins, everyone’s favorite atheist, wrote, “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”  But Dawkins also famously wrote, “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. … DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music.”  So, which is it?  Life has meaning or life is meaningless?  You can’t have it both ways.

So, where I would much rather have some humanists over on a summer night for some beers and board games than the super-villain-like Dawkins, I still have to say the same thing to my secular humanist friends: You can’t have it both ways.

NEXT:  Atheist Church.  Seriously. (Part 3) Dear Nothing, Thanks For Something.

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