The End of Lincoln Christian University: Why it Matters

By C J Dull

On May 31, 2024 Lincoln Christian University will close its doors.  It will truly mark the end of an era for the Independent Christian Churches, however hackneyed and trite that may sound. The formative years of this group are often considered a titanic struggle between two contrasting personalities, Dean Walker on the left and R C Foster on the right. The former perfected the art of turning eccentricity into profundity, while the latter was clear to the point of being accusatory, turning the debate skills he learned at Harvard on the whole religious landscape.  Yet on an institutional level, the two major figures were Leonard Wymore of the North American Christian Convention and Earl Hargrove of Lincoln.  

The discussion below will focus more on the contribution of Lincoln, which is not quite as obvious as the North American. Yet it should be remembered that at the end of May the two most significant institutions of the Independent Christian Churches during its formative period will only be history—or more bluntly, dead. That can hardly fail to be significant or perhaps crucial or essential for the group as a whole. Some may infer that this is a good time to echo the concluding words of the Springfield Presbytery and sink into the larger Christian world, however defined, but it seems rather that stripping the romanticized emphasis on unity is preferable.  

Intriguingly, while Emmanuel and Lincoln proposed different emphases, they derive from a common source, the Kerschner Butler School of Religion. This “common source” did produce different approaches. Emmanuel maintained an interest in contacts with the restructured Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) while Lincoln was quick to dissociate itself from them. Hargrove was motivated to enter the ministry while a member of a Disciples congregation and did his theological work at Phillips Seminary–thus, the irony of his original motivation and its contrasting later policy. One area in which he did maintain his Disciple interests was his view of women in the pulpit. He seemed particularly impressed by their ability to keep congregations loyal and coherent during a difficult period. When Prof. Heine (alumnus and professor of Lincoln) published a seminal article on the subject in 1977, it was not a new emphasis. Female graduates of Lincoln often found active careers in the churches. Eleanor Daniel was probably the most prominent Independent during this period, having served as a seminary professor and/or dean at all three seminaries and having demonstrated that she was “the expert” on Christian Education. Again, the irony of a school—and its female members–working to preserve a constituency that was not particularly sympathetic to such participation.  

The rise of Lincoln to a position resembling hegemony seemed to owe a great deal to timing and environment. Most are not impressed when we speak of those coming from “small farms”.  It often betokens a kind of sparse, parochial, sometimes remote background, mitigated only by hard work. Those in eastern Tennessee may easily conjure up images of tax defiance and moonshine. “Small farms” in central Illinois are a different story. They are generally flat—hence all the jokes about being located in a cornfield—fertile and mechanized. The congregation in Assumption, IL, where Ben Merold became somewhat prominent, also included Leroy Trulock, a very large implement dealer. Agricultural entities may be various sizes, but they generally are quite sophisticated in their approach to the practice. Most state universities in this area have schools of agriculture that are well-funded and often have vast extension services, the local one being the U of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though an agricultural environment may not usually be associated with cosmopolitan awareness, in most such places the day begins with radio announcers giving the market and other reports often on a global scale. I recall quite distinctly giving a perfunctory greeting to a cousin who farmed and being rewarded with a lecture on the difficulty of competing with Brazilian soybeans. No doubt some remember those unbelievably impressive old consul radios able to reach almost anywhere in the world, which were a staple of many of our grandparents. It’s no wonder that their descendants found missions a congenial field. Lincoln, and regional Bible Colleges, had an immediate impact in missions, partly due to the agricultural environment, but also due to the fact the student body included many veterans of WWII.

The endorsements in Lincoln’s catalogue (and many others) by the American Legion as well as references to the GI Bill of Rights make it clear that many of the students were veterans of WW2 and Korea, and thus older and more disciplined—perhaps even more aggressive–than previously entering students. Such descriptions as more mature, more serious or solemn, and even more sophisticated may have been appropriate. Thus, we see the balancing of a specific regional area with a cosmopolitan emphasis—encouraged by the World Wars but already there, both of which impacted Lincoln and its influence on Independents.    

The conception that a Bible college can serve as a regional center for evangelism did not originate with Lincoln. Aside from historical examples (e.g., medieval western monasticism), probably the first example among the Independent Christian Churches was the formation of Pacific Bible Seminary, a Cincinnati clone, in 1928.  Alberta Bible College and Atlanta Christian College had similar missions before WW2. Yet, Lincoln—started after the war—demonstrated that the model was indeed productive. The one caveat is that Lincoln’s success was evangelism not in any simple or pure sense but largely by strengthening existing congregations. Especially in their early days, the faculty and many of the students were able to support themselves through supply preaching or even regular pastorates. 

Historically, then, the preference for Bible colleges came out of Lincoln, in the fifties. It appeared to have phenomenal success in rejuvenating congregations there (they regularly talk about 500 congregations within a hundred miles), and the model of a Bible college as a center of evangelism was born. The lack of interest in producing new liberal arts colleges was a combination of factors: (1) money—most of the supporting churches were rural and small; (2) public university education was strong and inexpensive in these states; and (3) liberal arts colleges (e.g., Eureka and Culver Stockton) had demonstrated both a susceptibility to critical views (which were not acceptable in this wave) and a declining ability to produce preachers. While Lincoln inspired the creation of Bible colleges as centers of evangelism, the staffing of them usually fell to other schools (e.g., Johnson, Minnesota, Cincinnati).

The other notable shift that was centered on Lincoln was the focus on theology. At a time when higher criticism was influencing churches and seminaries, all three of the seminaries of Independents opposed critical scholarship in the first generation. Emmanuel did the same as Butler and embraced it in the second generation. The other two in the second had degrees largely outside formal seminary areas, and often these disciplines are not particularly fond of NT scholarship, often considering it a kind of exotic scholasticism. During this period the preeminent discipline in our seminaries became theology, especially the work of Jack Cottrell at Cincinnati and James Strauss at Lincoln. With the closing of both Cincinnati and Lincoln, schools seem to be returning to an emphasis on basic biblical exegesis.

However, the lasting focus on preachers and preaching may be the result of Lincoln and other regional schools. The supply of preachers seems to have upgraded the position of the sermon. While preaching has always been important, often its most skillful practitioners had been certain professionals such as circuit riders or evangelists. In this period the sermon tends to take on a position as an essential part of the service, almost like a sacrament or ordinance that must be part of the service, even if it is delivered by one untrained in theology or church history. 

This focus on preaching, supported by Lincoln and regional schools, must be combined with two other key influential figures. It is difficult to understand the ministerial ethos among Christian Church preachers without understanding P. H. Welshimer. He took a congregation of 350 in 1903 and within 20 years had one of a couple thousand with an emphasis on the Sunday School, the simple Gospel and considerable sophistication in methodology. He was becoming prominent about the time a young man named Donald McGavran was graduated from Butler University, which gave Welshimer an honorary doctorate. The “church growth” McGavran later described in missionary terms he first saw personified in Welshimer.  McGavran took-up Welshimer’s emphasis on the priority of evangelism and “the simple gospel,” which has resulted in a kind of theological minimalism in the church growth movement and his successors in big churches. Ministers of large churches (even more so with the prevalence of business training) especially concentrate on adding members with a minimum of theology and a maximum of activity—ranging from familiar good works (e.g., Habitat for Humanity, prison work) to aerobics to parenting, debt-reduction or even pie-making workshops.

Thus, the key influences of Lincoln, have been the focus on preaching, on regional emphases and needs, practical ministries, church growth, and theology. With the closing of Lincoln, there is no question which, among these, will be its enduring legacy.[1]

Reflections on “The End of Lincoln Christian University: Why it Matters

By Paul Axton

C. J. Dull is one of the premiere historians and Greek scholars among “Independents”, so I asked him to reflect on the significance of the closing of Lincoln Christian University.

My tenure at Lincoln was only one year, and in that year, I studied almost exclusively with James Strauss. Though I could not always understand his precise point, Strauss’s charisma, breadth of reference, and enthusiasm worked a profound influence. His mode of doing theology inspired his students, like myself, to pursue higher degrees in theology. My work, in psychoanalytic theory and philosophy, may be unusually arcane but is one example of the directions inspired by Strauss. Though Strauss, like most all of his contemporaries, was limited by the paradigms of modernity, his legacy at Lincoln seems to have created space for those working in postmodern theology, philosophical theology, and historical theology. Strauss was a large personality and a dynamic speaker, with a wide presence and visibility in our churches, such that he made room for the subsequent outstanding theological faculty which gathered at Lincoln.

In the classroom, Strauss was famous for his various witticisms. When he would ask a question and receive no reply, he indicated we could ask any passing truck driver on Hwy 30 to answer. He referred to the slow infiltration of the “principalities and powers” into the Church as the frog in the kettle syndrome. The frog is happy to sit in the warm water and misses the fact that he is adjusting gradually to being boiled to death. Maybe evangelicalism as a whole, but certainly Independents, are now submerged in the boiling waters of pragmatism.

C J describes the cross purposes in Lincoln’s focus on preaching, church growth, practical ministries, and theology. Theology turns out to be the loser in a group geared toward church growth and pragmatics. It is not clear theological depth can survive among Independents. Lincoln was the key exception and now the primary exhibit, that this is the case. Sadly, any truck driver on Hwy 30 probably knows this.


[1] There are some interesting ways in which the regional schools have had something of an enduring effect.  One more salient aspect, but probably mostly under the radar, is the position of communion in the order of service.  Most older congregations continuously operative almost universally have preserved communion at the end.  Virtually everyone else has it just before the sermon.  Of course for years, if not decades, having a regular preacher was at best a luxury.  It was often the practice to have the song service and end with communion following.  If a preacher was available, his contribution was added after communion and became the de facto end.  The ready supply of preachers made available by the regional schools then systematized the position of communion in the center of the service so successfully that most members now cannot conceive of any other position.

Beyond Justification: Revelation, Love, and Salvation

Guest Blog by Jonathan DePue

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Paul Axton on his Forging Ploughshares Podcast about my forthcoming book, co-authored with Douglas Campbell, Beyond Justification: Liberating Paul’s Gospel (March 2024). Paul and I decided that it might be helpful for folks, or at least peak people’s interest in the book, if I wrote a summary of the book as a companion to the podcast episode–explaining some of the key moves that Douglas and I made throughout. 

But instead of simply jumping right in, I wanted to take some time to explain the rationale of the book more generally. I have been working with Douglas for just over a decade, having first met him when I matriculated at Duke Divinity School in 2013. And prior to that I was fortunate enough to have begun studying Paul and learning Koine Greek during undergrad from 2009 to 2013. There I was introduced to some of the best Pauline scholarship that rejected what I knew then as the “Lutheran” reading of Paul (a term coined by the famous Lutheran scholar and minister Krister Stendahl). I could sense that this dominant, so-called “Lutheran” reading was destructive (especially towards Jews), highly individualistic, and depicted a God that clashed fundamentally with the God of cosmic reconciliation revealed in Jesus Christ–a God who was irrevocably committed to his people, Israel. But I found the alternatives, especially from certain advocates of the New Perspective on Paul and of the Sonderweg (“two-ways of salvation”) approach, to be less than compelling.
 
Then, for the first time in 2013, I read The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (henceforth DoG). Everything started clicking into place.

I began to understand that the conventional construal of Paul that I knew as “Lutheran” had problems that were deeper, broader, and harder than most scholars had grasped. Douglas demonstrated that the issue was not just a bad reading that could be attributed to Luther or to the Reformation per se; it was that there was a whole prior construct at work informing the interpretation of Paul’s words, sentences, paragraphs, and key theological claims. Douglas dubbed this “justification theory” (henceforth JT). JT isn’t so much a reading that can be lifted directly out of the text (this in itself is an impossibility) but functions much like what Hans-Georg Gadamer called a Vorverständnisse or a “pre-understanding” which combines received expectations concerning what certain words and phrases mean in just under 10 percent of Paul’s texts. This prior construct then informs and controls how one interprets Paul’s justification data, and goes on to capture what Paul wrote everywhere else. It is, like theologian Willie James Jennings has put things, a “Christian imagination.” JT is just in the water. 

What, then, are we to do with the fact that Paul has been colonized by a harsh, retributive, and contractual prior construct–namely, JT–that prioritizes a particular reading of a minority data set and exerts influence out of all proportion onto the rest of what Paul wrote?

DoG offered what I think is the only successful solution to this problem if we want Paul to be a coherent thinker (and I think we should). With extraordinary historical-critical insight, linguistic mastery, philosophical rigor, and theological depth DoG was a force that Pauline scholars could not ignore—although they tended to misunderstand and misrepresent its arguments (see, well, pretty much all of the reviews of DoG that dropped shortly after its publication). To be fair, it was a difficult book that surpassed 1,000 pages in length and was perhaps rhetorically structured in such a way that immediately turned off those who committed to JT (whether they called it that or not) as if it were a theological golden calf. 

In 2018, nearly a decade after DoG’s publication, I felt it was well past time to repackage the arguments of the book by prefacing and then explaining them in a way that was a bit more rhetorically sensitive and accessible–not just for scholars of Paul, but for students, pastors, and lay people. These realizations coupled with my intense desire to share the decades of research that Douglas had done with as many people as I could was really the impetus for our book, Beyond Justification. And thankfully, I was able to persuade Douglas to co-author it with me. 

The book itself has taken on many iterations over the years, but Douglas and I eventually settled on a structure, argumentative flow, and tone that we believe will help readers grasp what Douglas has been trying to say about Paul and the gospel for years. 

Chapter one, “God’s truth,” kicks off the book with the correct theological starting point–the epistemological question concerning how we know the truth about God. We know God by attending to where he has chosen to reveal himself, namely, in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit. And Paul himself attests to this starting point centered on Jesus quite clearly. Paul’s experience with the risen Lord was quite dramatic and unique, so many other people in his churches probably did not experience revelation in the same way. And Paul knows this. His converts are able to be drawn into the dynamic of revelation as the divine Spirit of Christ searches the depths of God and further reveals the truth about God to them. And we too, wherever we are, are encountered by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ in just the same way–a truth mediated to us by Christ’s Spirit. We don’t find it; it comes to find us. The key thing is that the same process of revelation arrives under the control of the sovereign, self-revealing Lord of the universe and extends from Paul’s own experience, to his churches, and to us thousands of years later.

In God’s self-revelation, we now learn critical things about who this God is. In chapter two, “God’s Love,” we argue that Paul attests to a God of three persons; God is actually constituted by these persons–a divine family of relationships. And not just any sort of relationships but ones of love. God, therefore, is love. And we see this love most clearly in the event of God sending his beloved Son to die for a hostile humanity before they do anything in response. God’s love therefore must be unconditional, and he has always been this way even from before the foundation of the world. Indeed it is this loving divine communion that explains the creation of the cosmos. God elected to create a people to share in this divine communion, and he did this all out of his deep love for us. This is guaranteed by the free activity of God’s Spirit who draws humanity into fellowship with God in Christ forever. We are effectively adopted into God’s loving family to be holy, happy, and blameless–despite whatever tries to knock this divine plan off track. God will always rescue his creation because this is the sort of God revealed in Christ. This is the divine secret (Gk mystērion) that lay at the heart of the cosmos–a loving family that never lets go or gives up on its children.

So if this is what God is really like, how does God respond to attempts to interfere with God’s loving purposes for the cosmos in order to reestablish his divine plan? This is what we address in chapter three, “God’s salvation.” In the light of who God is, we need to know exactly what is messing things up. Paul says quite explicitly that the cosmos is enslaved to the powers of Sin, Death, and the Flesh–along with associated evil powers roaming about. Creation is in bondage with no way to set itself free. We are utterly incapacitated. God’s solution to this dismal plight can be summarized as a two-part story of descent and ascent.

First, God the Father sends his Son to enter into this enslaved cosmos and take on human flesh. Christ assumes all that is harming, damaging, and incarcerating us; he bears all of this as he journeys faithfully to the cross. He is executed, and Sin, Death, and the Flesh are terminated in his execution. Second, Christ is of course raised from the dead and enthroned on high where he is acclaimed as Lord in a transformed body not of flesh but of pneuma (spirit). Through Christ’s Spirit, we are grafted on to this journey of descent and ascent as we enter into the extinction of our current sinful condition. Christ died therefore we all have died. And in Christ, we are raised with him beyond this enslaved state and are set free to respond to God with a full and joyful obedience. Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection. We live out of this resurrected location now and await our final resurrection when we too will be given new spiritual bodies like Jesus. We are saved, then, as we participate in Christ’s faithful life, death, and resurrection. Indeed God’s plan for the cosmos is brought back on track through Jesus and the Spirit. This is Paul’s gospel–his Good News (Gk euangelion).

In part two of this blog post, I will continue summarizing the chapters of Beyond Justification, beginning with a certain construal of Paul, namely, JT, that appears to be doing something very different from the gospel that we have presented thus far.

The Error of Personal Salvation

This is a guest blog by David Rawls

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:19

When I was a freshman at the University of Arizona, I had someone from one of the campus ministries talk to me about Jesus.  They asked me the two famous Evangelism Explosion questions created by D. James Kennedy.[1]  The first question: “Do you know for sure that you will go to Heaven one day?” And the second is this: “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ what would you say?”  Of course as a young college student I had not given these questions much thought.  Through our discussion he shared with me that I was going to go to Hell if I did not give my life to Jesus.  He asked me if I wanted to go to Heaven.  How could I say no.  He went on to tell me that if I want to go to heaven all I had to do was pray a sinner’s prayer and I would be assured of heaven.  So on that day I said the sinner’s prayer and asked God into my heart.  Later that night I went to the local college bar and got drunk to celebrate the fact that I was going to go to heaven.  A few years later I actually took my faith a lot more seriously and prayed the prayer again but this time with the idea that I was going to follow Jesus.

I start with this story not because it is wrong to think about one’s eternal destiny but because what I was taught about the salvific work of Jesus was that it was simply about me getting saved.  I was told the gospel message and what Jesus did on the cross was about me personally going to Heaven when I died.  Even after many years of taking Jesus and the Bible seriously, enrolling in Bible College and graduate school, I still continued to hold this belief that the gospel message and salvation are focused on me.  I was not the only one who believed this. It is actually the most predominant idea within our culture. All one has to do to back up this idea that salvation is about personal heaven or hell is to go to any Christian organization and look at their belief statement.  Possibly one of the most influential ministries in America is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  Here is what they believe about salvation:

We believe that all men everywhere are lost and face the judgment of God,that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ results in regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore we believe that God will reward the righteous with eternal life in heaven, and that He will banish the unrighteous to everlasting punishment in hell.

The problem with this belief statement and others like it is that they only frame salvation in terms of one’s personal journey.  To be clear, Jesus’ work on the cross does affect me personally, but it’s effect is a part of a much greater issue.  Jesus did not simply come for me but he came to defeat the powers of darkness, to destroy all that was evil that held all of creation in bondage.  The apostle Paul would say in Romans 8:21 that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” Salvation, in the eyes of Paul was both apocalyptic and cosmic.  This idea is supported by Paul’s words to the Colossians when he reminds them that Jesus came to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven”(Colossians 1:19). New Testament professor at Baylor University Beverly Gaventa sums it up well when she says,

“in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has invaded the world as it is, thereby revealing the world’s utter distortion and foolishness, reclaiming the world, and inaugurating a battle that will doubtless culminate in the triumph of God over all God’s enemies (including the captors Sin and Death).”[2]

If we are to understand Gaventa and the narrative of the Bible we must talk about salvation in its cosmic impact.  In others words, we must use the language of Jesus when we are told that he came to reconcile all things.  If we don’t, we may mistake the problem for the solution or at the very least minimize the problem.  So what is the problem and how does cosmic salvation address it?

Years ago I was having problems with the power steering in my car.  I decided to pour some fluid into the vehicle to help with the problem.  It did not work.  The reason it did not work is because I poured the fluid into the container that said “brakes.”  Power steering fluid in the brake lines will never fix the power steering problem.  It actually will destroy your brake lines.  The idea of salvation only being personal is not only the wrong way to address salvation, it can be destructive in its application.  The apostle Paul pinpoints the problem in Romans 5:12 when he talks about the disease of sin and death.  He says that “therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” The problem that Paul points out is that sin and death is a disease that has spread through the whole World.  The problem is not simply that I have done something bad and I deserve to die but that death reigns in the World.  Paul Axton says “death is a corruption that infects all of life”[3]  The problem to be resolved is death.  Death that is, is not simply personal but cosmic.  It has infected every area of the cosmos.  Where many Christians err is in focusing primarily on sin as a personal problem that leads to death in Hell.  The answer to this personal problem is that Jesus must suffer on the cross.  This is known as contractual theology or penal substitution.  It is the idea that because God is holy that all those who sin must pay a payment or have a debt removed by God.  The only way this debt can be paid is through death.  The contractual theory goes on to say that God hates sin so much that he must pour his wrath upon us.  This is where Jesus comes in. The belief is, that since we would be condemned to hell for eternity if we had to pay this debt, God steps in and gives us Jesus who receives wrath from the Father on our behalf.  God takes our punishment so we might live.  Notice again that in this theory the main problem is personal sin.  Death is simply a secondary problem or a bump in the road to be overcome. Once sin is dealt with we can simply wait so we can go to heaven at some later point.  The focus is all on “me” and my sin. 

Hopefully you see the problem with this approach.  It does not deal with the problem of death infecting the whole World. It is all personal.  Nothing is said about how Jesus death and resurrection deal with reconciling all things in heaven and earth.  This approach is like pouring fluid in the wrong place.  We feel good about pouring the fluid (of personal salvation) but we miss the problem of the whole cosmos needing repair.  In Revelation 21 we get a beautiful picture of the New Heavens and Earth coming down to us.  This beautiful picture of what God is doing comes on the heels of Revelation 20 in which death and hades are no longer with us.  They have been destroyed.  The great enemy that has ravaged the World is gone.  We can join with the Apostle Paul in saying, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:54).

Death which held the cosmos in bondage has now been defeated by the work of salvation which has touched us personally but has brought salvation to the whole cosmos.  This type of salvation is not an escape from real world realties.  There is no going to heaven when you die but a renewal of this earth and a renewal of our own bodies.  Heaven comes to us in the one last cosmic and apocalyptic scene in the Bible. 


[1]  https://evangelismexplosion.org/two-important-questions/

[2] Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Our Mother Saint Paul (Louisville: John Knox, 2007), 80.  

[3] Class notes

Decoding Your Matrix: Are you ready for the Real?

This is a guest blog by Tyler Sims.

It is 2022 and an opportunity to start the year off with some puzzling questions.

Did you watch Matrix Resurrections? Watching the film created questions for me.  I am quite curious about my downloading, processing and uploading of this multifaceted existence.

What reality is being created around you? 

What do you see unfolding in the world? 

How  do you view God in relation to you? Is God here, there, within?

What is r/Reality?

Think for a moment. Feel into your answers. Sense the beat of your heart. The feeling of your gut. How you answer these questions– including their countless offspring –shapes your reality. You are the “processor” forming your reality.

Jesus was a subversive-peaceable agent undermining the regional matrix of His day. He helped people question their experience of Reality and realize the importance of subjective perception. The distinction is key. Subjective perception plays a crucial role in how a person creates their particular reality–lowercase r reality.

Much of Jesus’ work was helping people perceive through the matrix as in Matthew 6. 22: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

The experience of the external world, your reality of God, your reality of yourself is up to you. This creating of reality unfolds presently as you think, feel and sense the world around and within you.

How can this be? You might ask, “Am I omnipotent?” One thing is for sure your perception is potent. More potent, more powerful than you have been taught to understand. You have indwelling power in you to create your reality and influence Reality. 

Do you believe it? How does it feel to state, “someone else creates my reality.”? How does it feel to claim, “I create my reality.”?

It is the Matrix programs of various societal structures that teach you otherwise. The government, news media, technocracy and co-opted religious institutions regularly upload programming into your “operating system” and influence your processing. 

The message you hear is, “Reality is out of control. Be afraid. Exchange your freedom for the security of consolidated power.” In other words, “You do not create your reality. We-the powers that be-create reality.”

Thus, the Empire claims that only might creates reality. Meanwhile, religious bodies teach of creating reality as God’s business not man’s. Fittingly, the American Matrix uses Romans 13 as proof text for the blessed metaphysical union of the Empire and God’s people. Thus, placing individual and community based reality-creating out of reach. In regards to what’s perceived to be real,  the teeth have been removed from the lion so to speak.

Institutionalized church steps in and teaches God’s metaphysical powers and divine will are beyond and above human agency. God’s reality-creating Spirit is approached more as a gentle-lullabye to be conjured at one’s whim through worship songs and morning devotions. 

Again, ignoring the embodied power within a reconciled and awakened humanity. The more fully integrated people are seen in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul described them as both BEing the body of Christ and BEcoming the temple of the Spirit. How did creative power and responsibility feel to Ephesians? How did this creative empowerment change everything for the group of people at Ephesus?

Reality-creating empowerment is absolutely subversive to Matrix dogma. It is what got Jesus noticed by the Judeo-Roman matrix and crucified. He claimed to be One with God and He actively created the kingdom of God via communities. Jesus was not passive with his identity as Son of God and he encouraged fellow humans to accept the power of their divine connection to God. For example , in John 17:21 “that all of them may 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 sent Me . Jesus challenged the matrix by more than his words. He embodied reality-creating-power. Jesus felt it in his being. He claimed it.

Jesus was response-able and creative with his Power. How many people are responding with the embodied, felt empowerment of creating? Perhaps this is why the Earth is moaning in the 21st century waiting for the awakening of humans as reality-creating Children of God (Romans 8).

Instead of passively viewing matrix systems wield their power, creative agents respond. Wide eyed (Matthew 6:22) and reconciled humans are those who claim their Divine lineage of co-creating. Consider, Jesus’ blessing: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). They create realities of a peaceable world with every step.  How? Through BEing holistically united with God and embodying the movement of the Spirit. They see and feel what is Real. This is the sort of empowered exploration the matrix abhors.

How do you and I start feeling the reality-creating power of BEing within Spirit?

How powerful is it to take responsibility for creating your reality? How does it impact Reality?

This is exactly the power of individuals waking up to being embodied in God as a participant. 

Wake up to being descendants of  the Father/Creator.

Wake up to being constantly unified through the  Spirit . 

Wake up to being the flesh of God through the body of Christ. 

As a member of the Body of Christ, claim your power. “My business is my Father’s business.” Start creating reality. Connect your creative desire with the Spirit. Claim God’s power in your being. Do not be sheepish about your creative power. After all Jesus said, ““Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12”

Some might claim radical creating is idolatry–as Jesus often heard.

But what if idolatry is sitting passive and letting the Matrix-agents  proliferate illusion and inequality?

What if it is time to become an awakened agent of creating reality? 

Now, what r/Reality will you help create?

Centering Prayer: A Door into the Trinity and Beyond Self

This is a guest blog by David Rawls.

In this blog I will be presenting a method of praying which helps us to better access the Trinity in our prayer lives.  Whereas many approach the topic of Trinity and prayer from a theological position, I plan to avoid an exegesis of such terms. It is my hope to provide a rarely used tool called centering prayer, which I believe can help us enter into the Holy Trinity.  The Apostle Paul may have had in mind centering prayer when he wrote Romans 8:26-27: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Centering prayer by its very nature takes the focus off the one praying and seeks to focus on the Trinity.  Sarah Coakley believes this type of prayer, found in Romans 8, is a way in which a believer yields to the Spirit which then allows the Spirit to direct toward what is most important.  She says, “prayer at its deepest is God’s, not ours, and takes the pray-er beyond any normal human language or rationality of control.”[1]  Simply put praying in this manner is a way in which we listen and God talks.  Bruce Demarest further suggests that the goal is “to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God.”[2]

So, what is centering prayer?  Thomas Keating defines it as “a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.”[3] So what are the practical ways to foster this discipline?  Here are a few practical steps which come from Michael Frost’s book Surprise the World.

Eliminate Distractions

Frost suggests that listening to the Holy Spirit is not an easy task.  One must seek to eliminate anything which might be a distraction.  It is important to avoid things which might interfere with your contemplative time.  Sights, sounds, smells and even taste can become a hindrance to listening to the Holy Spirit.  The quieter the place where you will be praying the better to eventually hear the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 6:6 reminds us from Jesus’ prayer that one should go into their room or closet.  The idea is that one needs to remove distractions.  Frost suggests that finding a comfortable position is essential.  This of course will depend on a person’s preferences.  He also suggests that if you clasp your hands together so that they are not moving it will make you less aware of them while you listen.  Closing your eyes is also important as it helps keep light out and helps us focus simply on God.  Personally, I have been trying this method at intervals of 10 minutes but Frost suggests 20 minutes or more, as he believes something happens many times 10 to 15 minutes into your quiet time.

Let God In

It becomes important that as you start in contemplative prayer time that you do not begin by asking questions or telling the Holy Spirit what you want.  The goal is simply to enjoy God’s presence.  Rather than controlling the Holy Spirit you are wanting the Holy Spirit to control you.  Frost says that we will be tempted at times to want the Holy Spirit to get to the point or to reveal what he wants.  If Coakley is correct, we need to believe prayer is not ours as much as it is God’s.  It is up to God to speak and reveal to us.  It is our job to let God in and have the place for him to do it.  Frost would say, simply let God’s love lavish you.  Phil Fox Rose says when we go into centering prayer it is important to “resist no thought; retain no thought; react to no thought.”[4]  Our minds are usually busy.  To simply not have any thoughts can be discouraging.  Frost suggests that we can help our minds by possibly saying things like,  “Amen, Abba, grace, love, peace and even let go.”  Ultimately, in centering prayer we let thoughts happen.  Frost says that the more we practice this discipline the more our thoughts will slow down so that we might hear the Holy Spirit.

Follow God’s Promptings

When we begin to quiet ourselves we may start to hear promptings which God gives us.  These promptings can be missional in nature.  God may place on our minds a person we need to see or talk to or even revisit.  The Spirit may prompt us to help someone in need.  Is it possible that when the Apostle Paul received his Macedonian call he was using the centering method?  Certainly this fits Paul’s theology of Romans 8 where it seems the prayer life he promotes is focused more on listening rather than petitioning.  The prompting can also lead us to a sin for which we need to ask forgiveness, or changes we need to make in the form of repentance.  A God-prompting can also help in restoring relationships. Not every encounter will prompt us to do something.  It is likely that most promptings simply will be for us to experience God’s presence in our life.  In this manner, as we simply enjoy God, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit is groaning and interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:27).  This is by no means a secondary reaction but a way to be reminded and encouraged that God is alive and well and that we are loved by Him.  Frost says that this is a time when God can bring oxygen to the soul of the believer.

Centering prayer is a great tool for the believer to enter into the life of the Trinity and to be shaped by the Trinity.  Referring back to Romans 8, we find that this may be the way a believer can focus on the things of the Spirit and not on the flesh. Ultimately this is one of the themes of Romans 8.  This is the purpose of centering prayer.  It brings us directly into the Trinity.  We are no longer praying to a God “out there” but we enter into the very Godhead itself. Coakley describes it this way; “an act of cooperation with, and incorporation into, the still extending life of the incarnation.”  Centering prayer reminds us that as we pray to the Father, the Holy Spirit prays for us in words we don’t even know, to conform us into the likeness of Jesus.  This is our goal to be more like Jesus.


[1] Coakley, Sarah. God, Sexuality, and the Self (p. 115). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul, (Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1999), p. 133

[3] http://www.centeringprayer.com/

[4] Phil Fox Rose, “Meditations for Christians,” On the Way, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/philfoxrose/meditation-for-christians/


 

Alexander Campbell: A Prophet of Peace

This is a guest blog by David Rawls

In 1988 I was baptized in a little pond in Central Ohio.  Shortly after this event, I decided to go to a Bible College to be trained in the Bible so I could help young people who were struggling with life.  When I entered Bible College, I was introduced to a Christian movement that I had never heard of before.  It was called the “Restoration Movement.” This Movement was a result of 19th century reformers who saw how denominational churches in America had drifted away from God’s word and teaching.  The focus of the Movement was a return to the primitive New Testament church.  The Restoration Church had two major themes: biblical authority and the unity of all believers.  Men like Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, David Lipscomb, Racoon John Smith and others led this Movement.  By 1860 Restoration Churches had nearly 200,000 members.  These reformers emphasized such things as believer’s baptism by immersion, regular communion, and local church autonomy.  It was the teachings of these reformers which began to shape my life.

Meanwhile, over the last 10 years or so, I have come to the realization that Jesus taught a gospel that was focused on nonviolence or peace.  When we look to the gospels we see, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, that Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies and not to do harm to them.  For Jesus, this was not simply words but this is how he lived his life, even to the point of death.  Nonviolence was how the church, in its first 300 years, interpreted Jesus’ teaching.  It was only after the church was influenced by Constantine that there was a shift in thought concerning peace and violence.  In the last 10 years, in my pursuit to understand the peaceful gospel, I have been digging into the early church fathers and the works of Anabaptists.  Yet, it is only recently that I was shocked to find out that the early Restoration Movement leaders also taught nonviolence.  They believed that nonviolence was part of the primitive gospel of the New Testament. I was shocked, because I had taken classes both in undergrad and graduate school on the history and thought of the Restoration Movement. I don’t remember any discussion of Restoration leaders focus on nonviolence as part of the gospel.  Yet, leaders like Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone and David Lipscomb had a rich theology of nonviolence.  In this blog I want to look at some of Alexander Campbells arguments for a peaceful gospel.  I will be using Campbells “Address on War” as well as the work from historian Craig M. Watts, which will show that Campbell had a well-developed theology of nonviolence.

When it came to war, Campbell believed that Christians could not participate in war, as to do so would mean killing other Christians in other nations.  He believed that no nation was Christian except the church.  The church was the “one nation composed of all the Christian communities and individuals in the whole earth.”  For Campbell, this meant that Christians could not take up arms because they would be killing other Christians.  Campbell asked the question, “Can Christ’s Kingdom in one nation wage war against his kingdom or church in another nation?”  His answer was an emphatic, “No.”   War for the Christian was not an option.  His problem was not so much nation against nation as it was a theological problem of church against church.  Campbell had a high view of unity and the church could not have unity if Christians were killing other Christians. 

To understand Campbells gospel of peace, one must first understand his postmillennialism.  He believed that the best way to usher in God’s reign on Earth was for the church to recover the original gospel, which included the gospel of peace.  Craig Watts claims Campbell “had no intention of passively waiting for the millennium.” He believed that one had to enact, in the present, his understanding of the future millennium.  Campbell maintains that for man, “the principles of his government” are “to give them a taste of, and a taste for, heavenly things.” This meant that the Christian could not participate in war and violence because the millennium would be a time when the earthly powers would, according to Isaiah, “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and learn war no more.” This view had an evangelistic appeal to it as well, because people could get a picture of what the future would look like as they observed the church in the present.  This probably explains why Campbell thought unity was so essential. If the church could not be united, why would anyone want to be a part of it in some future state. If the church killed people now, why would people desire to be a part of a future death and dying. 

Much of evangelical Christianity is a hodge-podge of thought which tries to tie together a belief in God which separates itself from the ethics of Jesus.  Campbell, however, believed that faith and works go together.  He believed that the ethics of Jesus are not simply to be admired but are to be practiced.  Jesus pacifist ways were to be lived out by the church.  Campbell believed that Jesus was at war but his war was not waged like the wars of the World.  The World uses swords to subdue its enemy.  The World uses violence to beat people into submission.  Campbell, though, rejected this coercive method.  He said, “To conqueror an enemy is to convert him into a friend.”  As he explained, “All arms and modes of warfare are impotent, save the arms and munitions of everlasting love.” This is a courageous contrast to the view of Luther and Calvin, who believed violence was a tool of God.  Campbell would have none of this, believing that if one cannot support war by appeal to the life of Jesus, then the Christian has no business in being a part of or supporting any type of violence or warfare.  Christian ethics mattered to Alexander Campbell.

Campbell was a deep and systematic thinker.  If Christians could not go to war with Christians of other countries, if Christians were to live in such a way as to promote a heavenly new millennium which was free of violence, and if the ethics of Jesus did not promote violence, then the conclusion for Campbell was that Christians had no business in fighting at all.  Campbell sums this up in the idea that, “A Christian man can never of right be compelled to do that for the state, in defense of state rights, that which he cannot of right do for himself in defense of his personal rights.”  He goes on to say, “No Christian man is commanded to love or serve his neighbor, his king, or sovereign more than he loves or serves himself.”  In other words, if a Christian cannot go to war for himself, he also is forbidden to go to war for his country.  Many Christians have conceded that we are not commanded to go to war as individuals but have made the argument that we could go to war for our country for a good cause.  Campbell rejects this dualistic approach. If one cannot kill for a personal cause, then one cannot kill for the state, no matter how noble the cause.  For Campbell, this is a matter of witness for the Kingdom of Heaven.  The church must refrain from any violence.

When Jesus was being arrested in the garden, and Peter used his sword to cut off the ear of one of those seeking to arrest Jesus, he told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus famous line, “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword,” was the very line upon which the early church based its commitment to nonviolence.  Campbell also saw this as an important ground for his non-violence.  He would ask, “Have not all nations created by the sword finally fallen by it?”  Although Campbell would not necessarily appeal to the inherent pragmatism of nonviolence, it is a practical witness to the Kingdom of Heaven. Campbell’s observation was that in the moment nonviolence will not necessarily work but over the long haul of history violence has arrived at the same point: failure. Violence has never proven effective.  It certainly has momentary victories but all nations have failed or will fail at some point.  Jesus teaches us, according to Campbell, that ultimately victory will come by laying down the sword.  It will be the slain lamb that will win the day.  This is critical to understanding Campbell.

This is a brief overview of some of Campbell’s views on nonviolence and the way of peace.  Hopefully, the reader recognizes that within the 19th century Restoration Movement, the belief that restoring the ancient church of the New Testament required commitment to nonviolence.  For those, like myself, who presumed examples of peace must be sought outside of the Restoration Movement, the good news is that we no longer need look beyond our Movement.  Certainly, we can learn a lot from other tribes of Christians but we can also know that these reformers took the gospel of peace seriously.  It is now up to the spiritual descendants of Campbell to once again raise the banner of peace.  Nonviolence is not simply a secondary issue for the church but is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus.  It is time to make the Restoration Movement great again by lifting high the name of Jesus.  We do this by living out the peaceful ways of Jesus. 

“Vote for Tiberius?” Asked Jesus. “Never!”

This is a guest blog by Allan Stuart Contreras Ríos

“We use violence to get peace and wonder why it isn’t working. That’s like sleeping with a football team to try and be a virgin.”

– Tom MacDonald

Karla and I used to have a neighbor who was a drug dealer – Güero. Everybody around here knew this, although nobody talked about it, especially around him. One night, a few days after New Year’s, Karla and I were buying some tacos at a taco stand on the corner of the street we live on.

Right next to us was Güero buying tacos as well. Everybody felt nervous around him . . . but one learns how to try to ignore this and “act normal” around people like him. Suddenly his phone dinged. It was a text message. We do not know what it said, but we think we do because of what happened next. He got nervous. Yes, as nervous as we were around him. Who was he afraid of?

As fast as he could, he paid for his tacos in advance saying he would come back for them in a few minutes. He walked behind Karla, then behind me, then he turned around the corner. At the same time Karla started adding cilantro to her tacos and salsa to mine I heard gunshots. I looked to the left and there was a Jeep parked right next to me with two guys shooting Güero from the windows. It all happened in a matter of seconds. Güero was dead before he hit the ground.

Although this was a scary situation, it was also a relief for our neighborhood, the bad guy was dead. We could all feel better, safe . . . . until some people moved into Güero’s house.

It was a couple of years later, during the pandemic (July or August of 2020 I believe), that Karla and I woke up, went to the kitchen to make some breakfast, and saw that our house was surrounded by the military.

I opened the door and asked one of them, “Can I help you?”

He said, “Do you know your neighbors from that house?” and pointed toward Güero’s house.

“No.”

“Then you cannot help us.”

A few days later, we heard from other neighbors that somebody snitched on those who lived in Güero’s house, and the police found drugs, guns, and several mutilated bodies. It has been almost an entire year since then and we still have cops basically living on top of our roof to keep watching Güero’s house (they actually made a little grill on our roof and have several chairs).

Day and night, Güero’s house is surrounded by cops. And, because of that, mine too. All this to say, we know the violence of our world. We have experienced it firsthand. And although this worries us, of course, this type of violence is expected from those who do not know God. You know what is troublesome? Violence also happens from those who claim to know God.

When I was a student at CCCB I was a supply preacher. One Sunday I was sent to a small church to deliver a sermon. I got there 30 min. before the church service started, but there was no parking lot. I parked at the end of the road, right next to the church. I opened my Bible and went over my notes repeatedly (I used to get more nervous preaching in English than Spanish). Suddenly I heard a metal knocking on my window. As I looked through my window, I saw the barrel of a shotgun looking back at me. I raised my hands, and the angry guy holding his gun asked me to roll my window down, slowly. I did. He asked me what I was doing parking on his lawn. I explained why I was there and asked him to allow me to park somewhere else, my intention was not to disturb him, and to stay alive, of course. Thank God, he let me go.

A few minutes later, people started walking into the church’s building, I could not get out of my car and into the church fast enough. As I walked in and started greeting my Christian siblings, I started feeling peace again. I was able to breathe a little bit better. They probably could not tell, because of my skin color, but I am sure I was pale. Unfortunately, as soon as my heart calmed down, I saw the angry man walking into the church’s building with two kids, my heart stopped.

He was a church member. Not only was he a church member, but he was also one of the church’s leaders.

You might think that this is one isolated situation. Unfortunately, this is one of several times in which I feared for my life in a church. See the incongruency?

A. W. Tozer once said that “Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere.” For example, there is a tendency within churches in the Restoration Movement to ignore Church history. It is assumed that from Constantine until the rise of the Stone-Campbell Movement the Church compromised with the world. The Church rejected the Lamb to marry the Roman Emperor. Unfortunately, they fail to see that they have made the same compromise.

Many Christians fight over the “right” side of political disputes, or which amendments or rights need protecting. As Greg Boyd asks, “Where in the New Testament are we taught to rally around anyone other than King Jesus? Where do we find any hint of a suggestion in the New Testament that part of our job as followers of Jesus is to weigh in on the political disputes of the country we happen to live in? We certainly don’t find such a hint in the ministry of Jesus, whose example we’re repeatedly commanded to follow.”[1] When Jesus was tempted by Satan, one of the temptations had to do with political power. As Christians we are to aspire to overcoming, as Jesus did, the archetypical wilderness temptation of gaining political power.

Consider that nationalism teaches us to hate other people, even people that we have not met, and then it teaches us to feel pride in our hatred. At a Christian camp in the USA, we gathered to pledge allegiance to the American flag, and then to the “Christian” flag (which was a little below the Stars and Stripes). I did not pledge allegiance to the American flag for obvious Mexican reasons, and I did not pledge allegiance to the “Christian” flag because that was totally new to me. What was shocking was that some people were offended by my actions, or might I say inactions. But what was even more shocking was that they were offended, not by my not pledging allegiance to the “Christian” flag, but by my failure to swear allegiance to the American flag.

Tony Campolo repeats a story Philip Yancey told him concerning a friend during WWII. This friend was part of a special unit during the Battle of the Bulge that was sent out every morning to kill wounded German soldiers left on the battlefield the night before. One morning he came across a German soldier who was not wounded, he was only tired. His friend raised his gun at the German, and the German asked him to give him a moment to pray. Yancey’s friend lowered his gun and asked the German if he was a Christian, to which he replied “Yes.” “I am a Christian too,” responded Yancey’s friend.

They sat together under a tree. They prayed together. One of them had a Bible and they both shared Bible verses with each other. They showed each other their family pictures and prayed for each other’s families. After all this, Yancey’s friend stood up, looked at the German brother in Christ and said, “I guess I will see you again in Heaven one day,” and shot the man in the head.[2]

The devotion to a nation justifies acts of violence, even against Christian siblings: something Jesus would never condone. This justification comes in all shapes and sizes: crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, etc. The Church has been guilty of all of these horrors. This is not simply the problem of a portion of the church, as many Christian groups have fallen into Satan’s temptation of political power.

Gandhi said, “I don’t reject your Christ, I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The early disciples understood Jesus was the head of the Church, but over time “the institutional church seems to have been severed from its head, and as a result became one of the most violent religions in history.”[3] While many might point to this violence as grounds for rejecting Christianity, the violent history of the Church contradicts Jesus’ teaching. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The way of Jesus has not been tried and found unfruitful. It has been found difficult, and left untried.” In other words, the problem is not in what Jesus taught, the problem is many Christians are not doing what He said.

Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies” is without ambiguity – it cannot involve violence. It is impossible to murder the enemy you are supposed to love without disobeying Jesus or betraying his Kingdom. No war is a just war, it is just war.[4] To engage in violence means to reject the eschatological hope of the peaceable Kingdom – the New Creation in Christ.

It saddens me that many of my Christian brothers and sisters seem unaware of the basic teaching of Jesus. They stand by, like the unrepentant Paul at the stoning of Stephen, approving of various forms of violence.  Not only that, they join in the killing by joining the military. This is no surprise, as they are heeding a violent gospel preached with a national flag as backdrop. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in war so that peace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1). Of course not! Jesus Himself taught us differently when He said, “Put your gun back into its place; for all those who take up a gun shall perish by the gun.” (Matt. 26:52).[5] Can you imagine what the Church and its history would look like if those who claim to follow Christ actually lived like Him?

The story that sums up Jesus’ political dealings occurs when Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders and they asked Him, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” This is not only a political but a religious question, since Caesar considered himself a god. In other words, they are asking, “Should we pledge allegiance to the Roman god or not?” If Jesus said “Yes,” He would be a traitor to the Jews and God, and if He said “No,” He would get in trouble with Rome.

Jesus asked them for a denarius. “Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” He asked them. “Caesar,” they replied. Tiberius image, the Roman Emperor during Jesus’ crucifixion, was on the coin along with the inscription, “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus, High Priest.” (Perhaps they are in danger of falling into idolatry, since they are carrying Caesar’s image in their pockets.) “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Jesus said. Another way of saying this is “Give to Caesar what is made in the image of Caesar. Give to God what is made in God’s image.”

Many Christians live in the hypocrisy Jesus is exposing. To ask questions about how much violence we can use, which wars are justifiable, how much nationalism contradicts Christian belief, is to edge toward idolatry. It is as if the Jews were asking Jesus, “How much of this idolatrous metal can we carry around without breaking the Law?” As Greg Boyd says, “Since it all bears Caesar’s image, give it all back to him! The only important question we ought to be wrestling with is whether or not we are giving back to God all that bears his image—namely, our whole self.”[6]

Jesus did not compromise. He did not say, “Let’s vote for Tiberius and hope for the best. Let’s Make Israel Great Again.” Like the prophets of old (who were killed for their words), Jesus exposed idolatry without compromise. His life was a witness to God’s Kingdom and in direct opposition to worldly kingdoms – an opposition for which he was killed. As Christians, participating in the world’s violent ways, in any shape or form, is to conform to the world which killed him. It is to exchange our vocation as God’s image-bearers for the world’s image. It is to give to Caesar what is God’s.


[1] Giles, Keith,. Jesus Untangled (p. 13). Quoir. Kindle Edition.

[2] Tony Campolo – WWII Story: Christians vs. Christians? – YouTube

[3] Bruxy Cavey, The end of religion: encountering the subversive spirituality of Jesus (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2020).

[4] Roland H. Bainton; Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace. A Historical Survey and Critical Re-Evaluation. p. 222

[5] I am aware Paul and Jesus did not use these exact words, I am updating them to drive the point home. Nobody goes to war with swords anymore.

[6] Giles, Keith,. Jesus Untangled (p. 14). Quoir. Kindle Edition

Sorting Out Atonement Theories

This is a guest blog by Allan S. Contreras Ríos

“To land our ‘sins’ onto a dead first-century Jew is not just ridiculous; it’s disgusting. To suggest that some god projected our ‘sins’ onto that man is even worse: it’s a sort of cosmic child abuse, a nightmare fantasy that grows out of— or might actually lead to!— real human abuses in today’s world. We can do without that nonsense.” -N. T. Wright.

WHY DID JESUS DIE?” IT IS A QUESTION TO WHICH CHRISTIANS automatically answer, “For our sins.” Although it may be a satisfactory answer within Christian circles, this answer might alienate those seeking some semblance of coherence, particularly inasmuch as this entails an angry God sending his innocent Son to die for all who reject him which, frankly, does not make much sense.

Western theology has passed along the idea that God requires a sacrifice in order to forgive humanity’s sins. This becomes an interesting (ironic) doctrine when analyzed in light of the teachings of Jesus and within light of the counter-prophetic message that sacrifice is a human, and not a divine, innovation. Why would Jesus ask humankind to forgive others 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:21-22), when God cannot forgive humankind unless something or someone dies? If God really wants to forgive and restore humankind, why does He require a sacrifice? Jeremiah 7:22 says “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Either something is wrong with many of the traditional atonement theories or something is wrong with God (He is schizophrenic and/or sadistic). The major western theories all partake of the same basic errors, which I briefly describe below, before pointing toward what I take to be a more biblical understanding of why Christ died.

Contractual Theories

 In summary, contractual theories teach that humans are sinful (as in original sin/total depravity), everyone violates the Law (in which life resides), therefore they are damned. The Contract (Covenant) humanity and God had was not working, therefore God provides a way out in Christ, who satisfies God’s justice by taking humanity’s punishment on Himself, and imputing to them His righteousness through faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

There are several problems with the basic assumptions of the contractual approach, in that they contradict what the Bible teaches:

  1. Life is in the Law, contrary to what Romans 8:2 says (life is in the law of the Spirit in Christ).
  2. Those who killed Jesus acted according to God’s will.
  3. The ultimate purpose of the mission of Jesus is not to restore all things (Acts 3:21), but to die as a sacrifice.
  4. It assumes some satisfaction (of divine wrath) is required for forgiveness.
  5. Humankind has a debt to pay that requires human blood from a demanding God that rejected sacrifice in several verses in the Old Testament.
  6. God demands humankind to forgive their neighbor, but He cannot do that Himself without the death of someone.

These theories claim that justice needs to be done in order for forgiveness to be granted, but when justice is done, forgiveness is no longer necessary. So, why is there a need to forgive if justice was done in the death of Christ? The obvious answer is, Jesus’ death is not just, but far from it, an innocent man is killed to spare the truly evil guilty ones that, paradoxically, kill him according to God’s will. Justice is absent when violence is done, and violence is precisely what the cross represents: namely, human violence against its own Creator.

The theology of the early Church became corrupted through time due to the events surrounding the “conversion” of Constantine who merged Church and State and this may go a long way in explaining the multiplication of perverse theories of atonement. In addition, several atonement theories arose which were intended to illustrate the death and resurrection of Christ (at specific times in history),[1] and not necessarily to pose singular or dogmatic understandings, but which unfortunately ended up being codified into doctrine.

The theories can be sorted according to the problem Christ would solve, specifically within the various persons (Satan, Man, God) which contain the obstacle to salvation. The question arises as to the person and the nature of the obstacle?

 According to Ransom theory (developed by Origen, 185-254 AD), sinful man is controlled by Satan, therefore, the death of Christ is a payment to Satan to free the captives. Sometimes this ransom is illustrated as a hoax; in other words, Jesus ripped off Satan. Somehow Jesus ensures the escape of mankind from the hands of Satan, and then he scams Satan by escaping through the resurrection. The problem with this theory is immediately obvious, if God or Jesus owes something to Satan, is Satan more powerful than God?

The Man theory has multiple variations, but essentially holds that the death of Christ serves as a catalyst to inspire the reformation of society, that is, to bring about repentance and to halt rebellion against God. God could have forgiven without the cross, but He uses the cross to persuade humanity to repent. In this theory, salvation depends entirely on the human response, that is, on human repentance. The two main variations of this theory are:

The Moral Influence Theory. This theory (held by Abelard; 1033-1109) teaches that God wanted to forgive man, but the problem lay in how to convince man that he could be forgiven. On the cross Jesus demonstrates the love of God and His willingness to forgive. Man, turning to see the cross and the love of God it portrays, rekindles his love for Him, repents, and then God forgives him.

The Governmental Theory. This theory teaches that God is a ruler who uses Jesus as an example to impose fear on the hearts of sinners. This theory emphasizes the seriousness with which God regards His law, such that whoever breaks it suffers the wrath of God. As God demonstrates His wrath through the cross, He persuades humanity to respect God’s moral law.

The main problem with the Man Theory is the fluid (it seems to illustrate opposed notions in the two versions of the theory) and the non-essential purpose it assigns to Jesus’ sacrifice (any number of things might illustrate the love or moral seriousness of God). If anger falls on the one who breaks God’s law, what law did Jesus break? Wasn’t He innocent?  Was there not a simpler way to demonstrate His love than the murder of Jesus? If the crucifixion was not necessary, then why carry out such a plan?

In the God Theory it is taught that the death of Jesus removed the obstacle to forgiveness within the nature of God. God’s loving nature wants to forgive humanity, but His holiness does not allow it and demands that there be punishment. Therefore, before sins can be forgiven, God’s justice must be satisfied. The main variants of the theory are:

Divine Satisfaction. In this theory (held by Anselm;[2] 1093-1109 AD) sinful man must pay a debt to satisfy the honor due to God or suffer eternal punishment. But, since man constantly sins, it becomes impossible to pay a debt that continues to increase. Since Christ was sinless, He can and does pay the debt of all humanity.

Penal Substitution. This theory (held by Calvin; 1509-1564 AD) is a modification of divine satisfaction, with a shift in focus from satisfying honor to appeasing anger. Since man broke God’s law the exact penalty prescribed by the law must be paid. In order to save a few, the elect, God transfers His punishment to a substitute: Jesus. Christ takes upon Himself the divine anger and suffers the penalties and imputes His justice to the elect.

Divine satisfaction and penal substitution are focused on the exchange between the Father and the Son: an infinite offense against the infinite honor of God that required a divine exchange (between the Father and the Son) that basically leaves out finite humans. Instead of being rescued from sin, death, and the Devil (which was the primitive belief about the ministry of Christ), a change arises in which humanity is now being saved from the law, justice, and God.[3] Salvation means that God’s wrath is removed or His honor is reestablished through the death of Jesus.

In this perverse alternative to Christianity, instead of the disciple taking up his cross and following Jesus, Jesus dies in his place so that the disciple no longer has to die. Salvation is focused on the death of Christ: in Catholicism it is a continuing death and in Protestantism it is death mostly in isolation from His life. This is typically linked to the denial of the body as a means for the salvation of the soul. Instead of the Father and the Son being united to defeat evil, death, and the Devil, now it is the Son who suffers the wrath of God for humanity.

Instead of resurrection being the sign of a completed mission against evil, now resurrection is secondary to the penalty or substitution exacted on the cross. In this alternative Christianity, the State (the Roman Empire) is now part of the divine order, instead of being the servant of the prince of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). The death of Christ, instead of suspending, displacing, or rendering the law useless, requires Roman law and the Mosaic law. Law is integral to the logic of the governmental theory, divine satisfaction and penal substitution and the law, rather than being suspended or displaced, is left in place as the logic that required or justifies the death of Christ.

In short, there are a multiplicity of atonement theories, several of which do not focus on biblical exegesis. As mentioned above, the function of some was merely illustrative and they did not purport to be biblical. The theories are dense and complex, and each Christian has a responsibility to scrutinize the Bible and study these theories and hopefully leave behind those unworthy of the God found in Christ. No theory may be complete or perfect, and thank God, humanity will not be saved according to the correctness of their theories. Like Michael Hardin says (in Finding Our Way Home), “God forgives our theology… just like He forgives our sin.”[4]

What can be said, without a doubt, is that the image of a God who demands satisfaction for His honor or wrath is not the God of the Bible; it is a paganized notion. The larger problem with many of the atonement theories is that, as Richard Rohr puts it, “to turn Jesus into a Hero we ended up making the Father into a ‘Nero’.”[5] In other words, God becomes the first to persecute the Body of Christ.

The reality is that the cross is a confrontation, but not between the Father and the Son, but against the forces of evil that murdered Him. It is the overthrow of death, nationalism, ethnocentrism, racism, self-centeredness, machismo, feminism, and every form of evil that results in violence and death. It is not the “violence of God” that murders Jesus, it is the violence of human evil that murders Him.

Rightly understood, this accords with the classic understanding of Christus Victor, which Gustaf Aulén maintained was the understanding of the first church and to which he advocated a return. The Christus Victor paradigm understands the word of Christ in terms of His conflict with, and triumph over those elements of the kingdom of darkness that enslave humanity, that is, Satan and his demons, sin, death, and the curse of the Law. Though it may be a parallel to Ransom Theory, the theory need not be associated with the cruder elements of this understanding[6] and it also stresses Christ’s victory over sin and is thus centered to an equal degree in the idea of the resurrection.

In conclusion, to think that God is angry and wants to send everyone to hell is not biblical. The story the Bible tells is of God’s search for a relationship with His human creation, and this creation constantly turns away from Him, choosing to abandon the singular source of life. This is precisely what sin is, not just the breaking of moral codes, but idolatry and the distortion of human identity because of that idolatry. It is exchanging life for death. It is offering God death instead of sacrificial life. It is exchanging the covenant with God and making a covenant with death itself.

N. T. Wright describes (in his book The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion) the three-layered error in modern Christianity: we Platonized our eschatology (by substituting the promise of being a new creation for ‘souls going to heaven’), we moralized our anthropology (by substituting the biblical notion of human vocation for a qualifying test of moral performance) and we paganized our soteriology (by substituting the genuine Biblical notion of forgiveness with the idea that “God killed Jesus to calm His anger”).

Christianity, under the influence of Plato (and Platonist theologians), inevitably interprets God as a violent god, but perhaps people will distance themselves from that god and be drawn to the God of the Bible. The hope is that by moving away from the repulsive god of a failed atonement theory the true God will be sought, though, this is often not the case.


[1] The error of many of these atonement theories is locating themselves in a specific time and space other than the time and space in which Jesus died. That is, they try to explain the purpose of Jesus’ death according to the historical context that surrounds them. For example, Satisfaction theory repeats themes from its medieval context. Not that this is necessarily bad, because Jesus died for everyone in all times. But you cannot speak of His death and resurrection without placing them in their own context. Another example of this error is the one that N. T. Wright rightly points out, and that is, even, many of these atonement theories are not based on the Gospels, but on the letters.

[2] Augustine is the theologian who most influenced Western theology and that is why it is necessary to mention the following: Augustine, who had Neo-Platonic notions, leads theology to reinterpret human subjectivity and the functioning of truth. It fails to appreciate the embodied nature of truth, and unfortunately this infects the rest of theology with a dualistic tendency, thus fusing it with Greek philosophy. The interaction between soul and body becomes more Greek than Judeo/Christian. It begins the belief that the soul is eternal and is trapped in a human body. And it is Augustine who mystifies sin, opens the way to the atonement theory called “divine satisfaction” that is today’s standard imposed in most Western churches and that Anselm developed later.

Anselm completely absorbed the change that Constantine brought about and gives life to the Satisfaction theory. In this atonement theory, God is the object, and the human is the subject. This theory used Roman law as a metaphor (and, on behalf of Anselm, his intention was only to make an illustration). Unfortunately, his illustration became the only way to see the cross of Christ in Western theology.

“In ancient times, Christ was seen first and foremost as the conqueror of the devil and his powers. His work consisted above all in freeing humanity from the yoke of slavery to which it was subjected. And so, the worship of the ancient church was centered on the Resurrection. But in the Middle Ages, particularly in the ‘dark ages,’ the emphasis shifted, and Jesus came to be thought of primarily as the payment for human sins. His task was to appease the honor of an offended God. In worship, the emphasis fell on the Crucifixion rather than the Resurrection. And Jesus Christ, rather than the conqueror of the devil, became a victim of God. In Why God Became Man, Anselm clearly and precisely formulated what had become the common faith of his day [Justo L. González, History of Christianity: Volume 1, vol. 1 (Miami, FL: Editorial Unilit, 2003), 424-425.] Translated by me.”

[3] A violent atonement theory – a theory that uses violence to generate its meaning – will only serve to multiply and even justify violence in the world.

Calvin, one of the most influential theologians, is a good example of the violence that this blog criticizes. He agreed with the murder of heretics and blasphemers (who would determine who was a heretic? Him?), to the point that, according to A History of the Church by James North “Servetus was burned to death in Geneva by Calvin and his followers (p. 350).”

Although there is debate as to how much Calvin directly influenced the assassination of Servetus, and other assassinations (sometimes the number exceeds 58), there is no doubt that his theology justifies such acts and greatly influenced during the Protestant Reformation.

[4] Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin, eds., Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007), 64.

[5] Ibid, 208.

[6] Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD) illustrates the Devil as a fish, Jesús is the bait and hook, God is the fisherman. Augustine (354-430 AD) used an example similar to Gregory’s: a mousetrap. Jesus on the cross was the bait, a man without sin. Satan kills Jesus, but at the same time falls into the trap and is mortally wounded.

Theo-ecology: Western Wildfire’s Prophetic Cry

The following is a guest blog by Tyler Sims.

Smoke choke. Two words I never heard before. Two words I now know intimately, like a dial on the stove top turning up the heat.  “Smoke choke” seared in me a desire for theological action regarding creation care and climate change. 

The mega-wildfires of the West had sent their foreboding herald. In the sleepiest moments of night an ominous smoke crept over the entire West Coast and into communities of the Olympic Peninsula. Our town is situated near the northwestern-most point of the contiguous United States. We were caught unaware. 

Smoke Choke, September, 11, 2020:

Setting the fan on low I welcome the cool air from nearby Salish sea. My kids will sleep well tonight. 

The morning light peeps through our window’s edge. A burning courses down the length of my throat. Stinging tears perch on the creases of my eye lids.  There is a strange haze highlighted by a 7 A.M. burnt orange sun. Our home smells slightly of some odd aroma. It smells of sharp and sweet burnt plastic. My lungs constrict. Fumbling for my inhaler, I puff the stuff of pulmonary salvation. 

Seattle’s news update explains our air quality is now hazardous. Mega fires with their own weather system send their message: Hazardous. What does it mean? It means the air my daughter and son breathe is poison. Each breath could deliver poisonous microscopic particles deep into their lungs.

September 12, 2020

Seattle’s Komo news demonstrates making homemade filters out of box fans. One HEPA filter and copious amounts of duct tape forms the makeshift adaptation. It is too little, too late for our drafty home. Words of complaint fall from my lips, “My throat is still on fire.” The asthma attack tightens its vice. “Do you think the hotel will have clean air?” Andrea asks.

Driving away, the car mirror reflects a hazy image of the neighborhood. The radio blares the height of a smoke plume on top of Western Washington–6,0000 feet. A meteorologist explains, “It’s called an inversion– meaning the clean air is trapped above 6,000 ft of smoke.” 

At the hotel Sophia and Ty spill their toys over patterned carpet. There are no advertisements regarding Quality Inn’s air quality. A few breaths in and it’s clear; we escaped the poison air.

“Hazardous,” is the message of mega-fires from the chaparral mountains in California. “Poison” is the message from the evergreen mountains of Oregon. Beyond the flames, what does the message communicate?

It communicates the prophetic witness of fire. In ecology, or the study of Eden, fire is a renewing agent. It burns through the old and worn out stands of forest–a function often thwarted by mankind’s forest management. Pioneer species and other plants dominate recently burned areas. These pioneer plants–sometimes forming wildflower meadows–renew the soil. 

As time passes, newly conditioned soil begins transitioning to larger, more nutritious plants. Perhaps Jesus had this in mind when commenting, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49

Let’s lean into the interpretation of Jesus wanting fire for dramatic renewal. Consider the ecological function of forest fires coupled with the mind-boggling size of West Coast wildfires. What are the forests pleading? What is the earth asking? What is creation groaning?

The earth is asking for renewal. The forests are asking for a restart. Perhaps creation …

waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

-Romans 8:19-22

The initial devastating destruction of wildfires mirror society at large. Society is dependent upon a death-dealing transaction of negligent thinking translated into a fiery blaze of irresponsible human industry. For example, technology’s codependence on manufacturing promotes exploitive resource extraction which harms the earth and props up unsustainable carbon industry. 

It is a global societal pattern akin to the early and chaotic stages of a spreading fire. 

Wildfires also tell us that gluttonous earth consumption is hazardous and ignoring the earth is poisonous. Within the literal smoke the fate of creation and humanity become united.  The smoke is burnt particles of industry: cars, gasoline, non-renewable materials and pollutants. The smoke is also burnt homes, animals, plants and human life. Prophetic fire warns us and smoke compels us to change. 

Fire is a startling teacher and yet it heralds good news too. After the flames arrest our attention we can choose to start anew. We can choose a new relationship with creation by working with the ways of the earth (ecology), not against it. We can renew our relationship with God as cultivators instead of consumers. We can forge new relationships with each other as fellow cultivators, not destructive competitors. Yes, it’s hard work. But don’t worry; we have help.

“One who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Luke 3:16

Do-ology Challenge: Get some dirt in the game! Replace smart phone time with planting real trees via a conservation app.  https://www.forestapp.cc/

Lessons from Canada’s Poet: How Cohen’s Beauty Outlasts Fear

The following is a guest blog by Tyler Sims. 

Canadians are in an uproar. Much to their dismay, Trump used their beloved Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, twice over.  Leonard Cohen was a singer-songwriter and poet who died in 2016. I happen to be a huge fan of both his poetry and songwriting. He is a subversive figure who champions beauty. Trump is a divisive figure who champions fear. Cohen is an eloquent poet, Trump a brutish tweeter.

On Thursday evening of August 28th Trump’s campaign appropriated the lifegiving music of Cohen for the purposes of fear. The RNC used Cohen’s music to woo an audience and soften Trump’s rough image. The contradictory pairing of the venerated poet and Donald Trump calls for an examination of Cohen’s work. President Trump, his supporters and all of us would do well to learn from Canada’s muse.

The majority of Cohen’s songwriting is not explicitly subversive.[1] His honest beholding of beauty and pure expression of art, is itself, subversive to the powers.  He gently holds the beauty of humanity and of the created world while simultaneously witnessing the complexity of love’s suffering.

 Unlike the fast-paced consumption of modern media and politics, Cohen encourages somber yet pleasurable reflection. In the act of beholding beauty through poetry, our often-violent impulses for legal rights, guns, security and wealth dissolve. Marveling at beauty soothes us toward our more vulnerable selves. If society could simply be in awe of beauty, vulnerability might lead to compassion.

Imagery of Cohen’s “The Window” demonstrates the beautiful and vulnerable condition of humanity.

Now why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side?

And leave no word of discomfort
Or leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like the rose on its ladder of thorns

Oh chosen love, oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host, gentle this soul

The tension of beauty and pride, chosen love and frozen love, broken hearted and gentle soul evoke an exquisite tenderness for human suffering and love. Cohen is of Jewish descent and in several early writings he incorporated imagery of the suffering Jesus Christ. The first stanza brings to mind not only the spear in Christ’s side but also the spear in the side of the listener. For the spear “of the age” and the “powers that be” harm all of us in one way or another. 2020 is a stark reminder of how powerful entities harm people – black civilians, immigrant families, the poor. Cohen’s art touches the listener through beauty and inspires one to empathize with the wound in the side rather than extort it.

Works such as “The Window” cultivate empathy and reflection. Such practices are deeply needed in American culture. Cohen’s poetry stills the human heart and fixes our attention on beauty. His work calms fear and beckons our hearts toward peace. Like a mother gently rocking a baby to sleep, Cohen’s music woos listeners into a vulnerable surrender of beauty. The listener relaxes in a willing embrace. In contrast, Trump’s rhetoric to his base is like a parent exposing their child to a horror flick before bed time. Consequently, the child embraces the parent in white-knuckled fear.

One could say, “submission to beauty” is the power or spirit of Leonard Cohen. Evident in his poetry, written in “The Flame,” he submitted to beauty with raw vulnerability. This poetic spirit calls the listener, voluntarily, to bended knee before the sacred.[2] Conversely, Trump rhetoric orders people, often the marginalized, to bended knee via the smoke grenades of “law and order.”

During the convention Donald Trump and his political team, consciously or not, sought to harness and manipulate the spirit of Cohen – the power of submission to beauty – by using the song Hallelujah. Trump’s campaign emptied the meaning of Hallelujah by using it as a signifier or symbol for a faulty unity based on fear.[3]

The RNC used one of the most revered artistic songs of modern times, Hallelujah, and emptied it of its meaning by pulling on the spiritual strings of the conservative base. Consequently, a hollow Hallelujah becomes an empty signifier used for manipulation. The original song cues and signifies feelings of love. Unfortunately, the masses of the RNC mistakenly associate Hallelujah’s positive feelings with Trump’s spirit of fear.

The unparalleled beauty of Cohen’s melody disarms the hearts of listening Republicans and calls to the audience’s inner desire for beauty. Potentially, they opened their hearts with vulnerability and received not the healing of the artist, Leonard Cohen, but the poisonous lies of a con man, Donald Trump.

Cohen’s song Hallelujah typically ends with listeners awed into a profound solidarity and reflective silence. Cohen teaches we are all lonely and we all love. We are not alone in the exquisite pain and joys of love. Trump’s performance ends with raucous applause widening the chasm of division. Teaching not solidarity in existence but wealth in division.

Unfortunately, for fear filled power structures a paradox remains. Trump’s appropriation of the music, in effect, propagates Cohen’s message of beauty. Playing the song deposits its truth in the subconscious of listeners. Cohen’s expression of pervasive beauty is subversive to power structures by simply being in existence and Trump’s use of Hallelujah perpetuates Cohen’s
healing work.

His poetry is detached completely from consumerism, patriotism and other forms of power. To be in awe of Cohen’s art is to temporarily experience freedom from struggle while beholding beauty. Unwittingly, Trump’s campaign further propagated the humble yet eternal truth of Hallelujah. Unbeknownst to them, as Hallelujah wafted in sound waves to the ears of thousands of people, it carried sacred beauty and it’s unifying elements. However long it takes, no matter the loss, the disappointment, the suffering, beauty and love will out last.

The oppressed, the suffering and wide eyed cross bearers can find solace and enduring beauty in Hallelujah’s final lines:

I’ve told the truth
I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah [Praise Yaweh]



[1] Cohen, Leonard. The Flame. Old Ideas LLC, 2018 Although his song Democracy is an explicit example of subversion: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=cohens+song+onamerica&docid=607993096676966909&mid=4E E0A854F88A4B8CF3A74EE0A854F88A4B8CF3A7&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

[2] Paul Axton explains the coercive use of signifiers in his blog:Forsaking Chritian Ideology.
https://forgingploughshares.org/2020/08/27/forsaking-christian-ideology/

[3] Cohen, Leonard. The Flame. Old Ideas LLC, 2018