Reflections

Link: Scapegoating Good and Evil

<a href=”https://open.spotify.com/episode/2YcG8KQKzQngSA5TKq6Xt1?si=8nTrQQjdS_SS6XrUj1AV0w”Link to “James Alison – Scapegoat: How Civilisation Harms and How the Cross Heals (N184)””

Mindblowing explaination on the reasoning behind the conflict between the ‘Life and Death’ dynmic against the ‘Good and Evil’ dynamic in Genesis, and how the Cross solves that confusion.

My understanding of this is that love is the pursuit of life (the goal of all monotheistic religions), and that this fulfils the knowledge of good and evil, represented by the two trees in the garden of eden.

If a society pursues the knowledge of good and evil, which is also the law that results from our innate ability to imitate one another, then the innocent are inevitably scapegoated to fulfil it and achieve societal peace. The wrath of God is pointed at the wrath of mankind against their innocent scapegoats, so that the cross satisfies the wrath of God, by satisfying the wrath of mankind, and thereby making it impossible for scapegoats to be seen as inherently evil.

This frees mankind to live free from the fear of being the persecuted scapegoat in society and to pursue life as a new creation, freed from that law, to live life of love; and, in doing so, fulfil the law, making them righteous in the sight of God.

Since it is life, and not arbitrary goodness, that sanctifies, then only by valuing life over goodness, through faith, in agreement with the grace of his cross, is a person sanctified, and not from good works.

The cross changes the frame from, “blame the person responsible and sort him out” to “work inclusively with everyone to make things better”

Not that no one is responsible, the law (knowlege of good an evil) shows to what degree each person is responsible, but that placing blame is not relevant to a world where none are guiltless before God, and all are facing the threat of death. And that is the good new of Jesus Christ, a new way of living, where the knowledge of good and evil is replaced with the pursuit of life through personal and voluntary sacrifice.

Ashes to Ashes

So it’s Ash Wednesday, one of my morbidly favourite Christian festivals of all. So, I thought I’d write something short on fasting. (Yes, I know my blogposts are never short, but let me lie to myself.)

“Moreover, do not let your fasting be with the hypocrites. For they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but you fast on the fourth and preparation day.” – The Didache

So I really couldn’t find out much about this verse, Google has failed me, and it seems strangley random to fast on specifically a Wednesday and Friday. So my theory is that Jesus was actually crucified on a Wednesday, so early Christians fasted to joing him in suffering, and since Friday is the day before his Resurrection, on Saturday night, they fasted to prepare themselves for victory. It really does shed light on what fasting is and how it teaches us to live differently. We fast to join God in his suffering, to suffer with him, and we fast to mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for when he moves through his chosen people. This is essentially what prayer is too, we are always either praying out of empathy and sympathy for someone’s sufferings, or to prepare ourselves for God to change things up. You can see why the two go together. We remember how God feels, we remember how the poor feel, and we remember the immense strength in both, which can totally blow us away.

Traditionally, in the Medieval era, Christians fasted what is now called the Black Fast, here are the only rules:

  • No more than one meal per day is permitted
  • Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden
  • The meal was not allowed until after sunset
  • Alcohol is forbidden
  • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

Yea, enjoy! As a student that snacked a ridiculous amount, this isn’t easy for me too. We have a lot of weird hipster fasts in our modern Christianity. I think the most familiar one of all would be the Daniel fast. Just a quick response on why that one is flat out made up: Prophet Daniel only ate vegetables because the Babylonian king served unclean meats like pork and prawns. If modern Christians really wanted to fast like Prophet Daniel, they would just eat Kosher. Real and historical fasting is a whole different game. It is the kind of commitment that changes a person for life… every year.

Lent is a season of repentance, we are called to encourage each other to get out lives together. We are made of dust and to dust we shall return, everything inbetween matters. I’ve heard many Christians talk about how “You shouldn’t focus on sin, because you are not that powerful that your sins can really matter”. Well, let me introduce you to the butterfly effect: a butterfly flaps its wings and the wind gains speed until it becomes a tornado on the other side of the planet. Do one evil thing and it spawns another more powerful evil thing. Give someone an annoyed look, they feel invalidated, they vent their insecurity on three other people, two of those three gets paranoid for the rest of the day, and lashes out at a total of 5 people… keep going and you’ll realise you have, by the smallest of sins, have irreparable changed the world for the worse. The hope and victory is not that God is powerful and that you are not, because you are actually immensely powerful in ways you do not see; it is that your sin is strong, but true redemption is stronger. God has been here before the earth began, and he will be here with us when the earth has long been destroyed; we don’t see how we are hurting the world, and therefore cannot stop, but God knows all things, and if given the chance, he will reveal it to us, so we can stop serving death, with our knowledge of good and evil, and serve life instead. When he does, you will then do things that irreparably change the world for good.

God’s power on earth is that it only takes one person to redeem his people forever; no one but Christ could do that. Redemption is a reversal of the butterfly effect of sin, it is one good deed that spawns another and another, until it has changed the world, no small good deed is unimportant. We have this idea in Christianity that evil comes from the sin nature of our own hearts, not from desire, like the Buddhists believe, or from temptation, like the Muslimin believe. How God changes the world is by first changing us, one by one. That is why one person standing in the gap is enough, that is how one man’s death of a Roman Cross changed the Roman Empire from the inside out, a man who never did anything to permanantly change the world for the worse. Lent is when you open up yourself to be used by God, you deny yourself to focus on the needs of both God and others and meditate on the power of God and his image on you.

Lent is THE time to take your life back from sin. It is the time to grow into the hero you were made to be, to walk in Christ’s footsteps and join him in the victory of the Resurrection. Every good thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to everlasting life; every bad thing you do, think or feel moves the world one step closer to eternal damnation and death. Choose carefully.

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Link: Early Christianity

Link to “What if Rome Never Existed? Part II: The Fate of Christendom” by AlternateHistoryHub

Link to “#104: Tertullian’s Defense” by Christian History Institute

Apostle Paul and Pastorship

Link to “Tom Wright – The Reconstruction of Paul (N181)” by Nomad Podcast

I think this is a must watch, on understand Paul as a Pastor or Leader of the early Church family, struggling with protecting and maintaining the new communities and relationships formed around the cross, and not just as like a dude with some ideas.

John Chrysostom

Homily #58 on the Gospel of John, by St John Chrysostom. Get a taste of what preaching was like in the 300s. It’s really worthwhile to read the whole thing.

Link to “Homily LVIII.” on John ix. 17, 18 by St John Chrysostom

“For if one should come in here regularly, even though he read not at home, if he attends to what is said here, one year even is sufficient to make him well versed in them; because we do not to-day read one kind of Scriptures, and tomorrow another, but always and continually the same. Still such is the wretched disposition of the many, that after so much reading, they do not even know the names of the Books, and are not ashamed nor tremble at entering so carelessly into a place where they may hear God’s word.”

“Gold, if thou shalt have spent, thou mayest get again; but if thou lose time, thou shalt hardly recover that. Little is dealt out to us in this present life; if therefore we employ it not as we ought, what shall we say when we depart “there”? “

Link to “WISDOM OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON RAISING CHILDREN” by Saint Paul Cathedral, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

Link: Love Will Always Win

Spotify Link to ‘Love Will Always Win’ by Pastor Travis Greene

Link to “Richard Beck – Why We Don’t Love Like Jesus” (N150) episode of Nomad Podcast

To add on to this:
The redeemer is both judge and saviour, because in order to redeem you must first judge that a person is in need and intend to save him from it. Maybe a better way to think of “hate the sin, love the sinner” should be “hate the sin, because it hurts my brother”. We dramatise our ideals, with an exclusive cast and elaborate rituals to preserve our message through generations, but should use those ideals we practice in rituals and apply it to everyday life, giving the broken hope in the here and now.

Link to “Dealig with Emotions in Addiction” by The Edge

Galatians 6:
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

Flow: Spotless Mind

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d”
– Alexander Pope,

I don’t know how much I can write about this, cos my thoughts today are really desperately shallow. Those of you reading this may already know who I am, my past, my flaws, my shame. I was not the same person you thought you met, the person you decided to be friends with. That is going to change how you treat me, and in turn, change the way I treat you.

Is it wrong that in all initial meetings, our excitement flares, and in all long friendships, it dies down? I used to tell my girlfriend that I didn’t love her for who she was, but who she could become. She never liked that, she always wanted to be loved for who she was. That was the problem, I knew everything about her, and I knew that who she was can never be fully loved. I knew how disturbingly dysfunctional she could be, from her actions to her motivations, and I could never love a person like that.

Same is true for myself, I know my own story, from my actions to my motivations, and how unlovable I am too. We have a saying in Christianity, that when God looks at us, he sees the perfection of His Son. That’s how I treat the people around me too. I don’t care who they are now, to me I see that you’re my perfect friend, not because of who you are, but because of what you could be. I treat you like you’re my perfect friend, maybe it doesn’t always feel like it, I may not do it perfectly, but that’s how I aim my actions.

My girlfriend never could be fully honest with anyone. Trust was something she didn’t allow herself. To be honest, I’m now really tempted to give up on trust too. It’s bad enough we suffer in life, but to know that we mostly bring it upon ourselves and deserve every last bit of it, is as close to hell as we can feel on this side of the grave. We are not remotely good, and yet when God reads the image on me, it says ‘Son’ and not ‘Sinner’, he sees who I could be, not who I am now. When I see my friends, I see ‘friends’, not traitors who abandoned me when I needed them most. Jesus himself called Judas his ‘friend’ at His betrayal.

I think to myself, that it is better that I live in the now, feel the suffering as it comes, grab at cheap pleasure as it passes, just for the comfort it brings. My eyes drop from the horizon to the dirt I stand on, and the feet that stand on it. I see the people around me, and again I see traitors and people of no goodwill.

Trust. Something so real, yet so ugly to the self deluded and deceptive, an attribute that makes me ugly to the passerby. So much so that I’ve come to hate its covering too. Even now, I don’t write with the usual confidence of a well thought out model of ideas, just the free flow of thoughts as they come, in emotional flux. Incoherent, raw, ugly. I always thought that even when I’d come to know someone so well, the image of Christ on them would still make me stay. To an extent, that is true, but then why now do I also think of their predatory treacherousness beneath that hopeful potential? Why the deep and bleeding paranoia?

Maybe it’s not disappointment that kills love, but fear. Maybe I’ve come to see the image of my abusers, all rising from the past to manifest in that one friend I doubt at that particular moment in time. Maybe. Maybe it’s fear indeed. The shadows don’t fade away, even under sunlight, they just stick closer to people. Darkness doesn’t leave the human heart.

For the joy that is before him, Christ endures the cross; for the cross that is before him, Satan endures our joy. Now I see more and more of the cross behind the joy of those who leave me behind, and more and more I forget the joy behind my own Golgotha. I am not that strong; I wish I was. How can we change the world when we can’t change ourselves, how can we bring unbelievers to our community, if we can’t even bring other Christians to it either? The hypocrisy of a crossless joy, the easy way out, that most people flaunt; the “if you were living right, you wouldn’t have to suffer”. It’s the weight of all that slowly crushing my heart back towards a merciless judgement of the weak and oppressed, cos why aren’t they living more right too? Didn’t I have to suffer too?

Easy to love, when sin is hidden, but love is crushing when it does battle with sin. “Love your enemies” is the furthest from our Christian community today; the fear, the paranoia, the unfocused rage. All a weak imitation of the love that consumes like fire. A love where the image of perfection burns the stain of sin from the ratchet and broken.

Maybe the best friendships don’t stay excited in naive spotless bliss, but die down, not in apathy, but in a carefully constructed peace, a walled garden so to speak.

What is a Christian?

This one is more of in reaction to my family members, all Roman Catholic, who constantly talk about how they don’t like Christians and would never go to a Christian church… because they are Catholic.


Part 1: We Are Christian!

So… I want to be Christian and I want to learn how, what does that make me?
Catechumen.”
Okay, too fast. I like your Jesus, but I’m not sure if I want to be Christian… and that would make me?
“An Inquirer.”
Well, that was fast.
“Yep, we have a word for everything.”
So… am I Christian?
“Lol. Not really.”

So these two are examples of terms that are relatively inconsequential, but it does demonstrate the clear distinction between different people who interact with the Christian religion in one way or another. It gets more important when you start to label people in other branches or denominations, sometimes even people in your own congregation that you think don’t live up to the mark. So to avoid unnecessary condemnation of people that may not look like us, while still holding to a high standard of righteous holiness, let’s go through a few of those terms.

The most basic distinction you have to make, in this case, is between a Christian and everyone else. To start of, those who have no relationship to the Christian religion, who never did, do not and do not intend to have one are, quite straightforwardly, called Non-Christian. We could call them Antichrist, but that’s a little harsh for our modern day language.

So how does one become a Christian? That one is slightly less straightforward, but not impossible to define. Christianity is an orthodoxical universalising religion, meaning that you do not need to be from a specific ethnic group or have specific practices to be a practitioner of the religion, you just need to have the right beliefs. So, basically, you need a formal declaration of faith.

So the next logical question is: Faith in what or who? That’s where it gets more complicated. While the simplistic answer would be “Faith in JESUS”, but that is, in practice, a lot more difficult to define. There have been many views, throughout History, on who Jesus was/is. Some say a great teacher, some say a prophet, some we say he is God. However, you might notice that the those views overlap; for example: the greatest teacher can only be God, and God can be primarily a teacher. So in all their wisdom, the sages of old have decided that the declaration of faith we proclaim should not be in abstract words, but in action. Some denominations will have this be practical, for example, the Quakers, so that to be Christian is to live like a Christian (whatever that means), but most have this be dramatic; yes, I’m talking about Baptism.

I’m not going to go into what Baptism is, but I.E. sufficed to say, that it is a dramatic expression that encapsulates the most fundamental Christian beliefs. To me, these fundamental beliefs, which we call the Gospel are the the doctrines of Original/Ancestral Sin and Atonement. The first is the belief that mankind is somehow wired to want to Sin on our own, which quite simply just means ‘actions that eventually make things die’; the second is that we have to exchange our human sin for the human Righteousness of God, in order to achieve Life. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Christian life is ‘Sacrifice’, and to sacrifice in the right way; so that whatever all of that means, is encapsulated in Baptism.

For the last term in this part of the article, we also need to answer the question of: So can a person be made from Christian to Non-Christian? Answer: Yes. They are called Apostates; this is when a person formally denies their Christian faith. Yea, it’s really straightforward. Well, what if a person doesn’t deny their Christian faith, but don’t seem to be Christian? Then what?


Part 2: Are You Really Christian?

I’m Protestant, I swear, but this picture really caught my eye and probably explais why my family is really really anti-Protestant. Lol.

Okay, so this is the main course of this article. We are going to have to first go through what Christian Orthodoxy is; and I don’t mean the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox Churches, though that is part of it. A long long time ago, in a continent far far away (cos I live in Singapore, deal with it), the early Christian community wrote up a list of what they believe, in Latin, Credo, in English, The Creed; specifically, the Niceno-Constantinoplean Creed. Let’s have a look:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

This is the standard of Christian Orthodoxy, and all of the four main branches of Christianity adhere to it: Roman Catholicism (*including ‘Nestorianism‘), Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy; with the exception of the Oneness Pentecostals, but I will get to that later. All Christians who do not adhere to the Creed, with the same exception, are called Heretics, at least by the main branches of Christianity, others might prefer the term Heterodox Christians, because just like the word ‘Antichrist’, ‘Heretic’ comes off a little too harsh; though it is still the technically common term used by Christian scholars of religion. These include Nontrinitarian Christians such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness and Unitarians, as well as Esoteric Christians, such as the Gnostic Church. We tend to throw around the term ‘Heretic’ a bit too much, and that would confusingly label other Orthodox Christians with these groups. Just no.

(Okay, so quick explanation on Oneness Pentecostals. You might have heard the term ‘Nicene Creed’ used for the Creed I pasted up there, but I called it the ‘Niceno-Constantinoplean Creed’, because the original Nicene Creed is not the one that I have there. Long story short, after the Council of Nicea, the Bishops at the Council of Constantinople decided to 加盐加醋 edit it to more clearly reflect the doctrine of the Trinity. The Oneness Pentecostals are the only denomination of Protestants that do not stand with the doctrine of the Trinity, holding to the original Nicene Creed instead. They still believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but believe that they are different modes of the one God named Jesus. However, they also hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which makes them fully Protestant. So to be very exact, to most other Protestants, they are heretics but not schismatics. I’ll explain what that word means in the next Part.)


Part 3: Alright What Kind of Christian Are You?

Alright, then how about other Orthodox Christians from different branches. For example, as a Protestant, how do I think of my Roman Catholic family members, and how should my Roman Catholic family members think of me? Well, believe it or not, there is a word for that too, Schismatic. While all Orthodox Christians draw doctrine from Tradition, Scripture and Reason (or Magisterium), we disagree on which of these is the rule of faith to measure our doctrine.

Essentially, this is a matter of Formal Principle, the same kind that you would already be familiar with in everyday life; these are the rules you use to decide what to do and how to think. Very briefly, to use a very Singapore army analogy: Tradition is what we call the ‘By Left Method’ or ‘Unofficial SOP’, no one knows how to describe it, everyone knows what it is and, all in all, it just works… most of the time; Scripture is like our ‘Record Books’ and ‘Logs’, that are relevant incidents and occurrences, codified in writing, that everyone has access to… but not everyone can fully understand; Reason, of which the highest form is the Magisterium, is our ‘SOP’ and ‘Routine Orders’, it’s decisive, straightforward and no-nonsense… unless your leaders happen to be really bad. So, as you can see, each has its perks and, quite reasonably, different Christian communities might pick either one of those as their primary rule of faith, which then forms their basis for Christian Unity. You can even see this concept of unity in the word ‘schismatic’ itself.

The earliest group to define itself was the Oriental Orthodox, who, by rejecting the Council of Chalcedon, prioritised Tradition that permeates their autocephalous regional churches, followed by the Great Schism, in which the Eastern Orthodox defined themselves on prioritising the Magisterium in their infallible Ecumenical Councils between autocephalous regional Churches. Then in the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants defined themselves on prioritising infallible Scripture throughout their national and free churches, and in the Counter Reformation, the Roman Catholics defined themselves on prioritising the Magisterium in their office of the Holy See, which holds infallibe authority over all its particular churches.

My point is to be careful of how you label other Orthodox Christians from different branches. They are not Apostate, because they still hold faith in Christ and his Atoning Cross and they are not Heretical, because they believe in the same Creed that you do, and all long for ‘One holy catholic and apostolic Church’ to manifest itself in its full potential. To narrow it down to Schism on the basis of Formal Principle, allows us to actually deal with the problem. Like I said, we all want the worldwide and eternal Church to manifest its oneness, that is to say unity, its holiness, that is to say its unique identity, and its catholic nature, that is to say obvious universality, relevant to all mankind; and that starts with every single one of us dealing with the fact that Formal Principle has been the root source of disunity on an institutional level.

To me, the solution is to be both together but separate; we should emphasise our common Christian and Orthodox identity, but also not interfere with each of our approaches to Christian Unity. To me, if the Roman Catholics are right, then the Pope, who holds the office of the Holy See, will succeed in bringing the Church together, if the Protestants are right, then Scripture will succeed at that instead, same for the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. Either way, it was Our Lord who himself said, “…that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21); a command that the Church, in every branch, has struggled to obey by doubling down on their chosen Formal Principle. We need to get back to that focus on unity, on every level, from family, to friends, to the Christian community at large. We need to respect the validity of other Christians’ conventions and hold fast to our own, all for the purposes of unity. Can we please try to do that? I’m sick and tired… and heartbroken over the sheer nastiness of Christian behaviour towards — EACH OTHER. How do we bring the Gospel to a dying world if we kill each other with words, heck, sometimes with sticks and stones.

I’m not looking for a fluffy, liberal, tolerating blindness that looks pasts differences to “focus on love”, as if ignoring someone’s core identity and beliefs is loving in any way. No! I’m looking for respect and validation, a sustainable way to harmony in the Christian community. How else can we love?

We live in a broken world, why break ourselves before it can even get to us?