Friday, October 28, 2016

We Always Live How We Worship; We Always Look Like Who We Worship

I was walking back to my car from a bonfire last night, when I saw a friend of mine talking with some others. I decided to speak with her before I left; when I approached her, I found that she had been on the verge of crying.

Without getting into details, my friend was going through a point where she felt like she was worthless, like she was useless. Thankfully, we were able to help her out with that situation by talking to and praying over her.

Truth be told, the situation angered me greatly. Not because of her at all; she is a great Christian who genuinely cares about the things of God. No, I was realizing, as we were talking, how we as the Church in the U.S. have so totally screwed up our generation even more greatly than I'd thought before.

Our generation has been trained to look at our emotional state as reality, rather than as our perception of reality. One of the ways the Church has pushed that is through...yes, through the way we worship.

"Oh, NO!" I can hear the cry. "Another article on how screwed up worship is!"

This isn't a knock on modern worship in general. I encountered this same problem, the problem I will be addressing, in worship using "boring old hymns". I fully believe that one can have correct worship with modern music and modern instruments. The style is not the problem.

 This isn't a rejection of the emotions in worship: emotions are necessary for worship.

The problem is that our focus has been too much on the emotions of worship...sometimes to the exclusion of just about everything else. The way we worship today is often primarily focused upon how we feel: from the soft lighting to the slow dancing to the acoustic guitar playing softly in the background during the altar call, the emotions of the people always seem to be foremost. And once again (I have to repeat this because I know people will miss it if I don't), the emotions AREN'T BAD. They aren't bad even in worship: in fact, to repeat, they are NECESSARY.

But while protein is necessary for a good diet, if all I ever do is drink protein shakes I in fact have an incredibly UNhealthy diet.

If we are to worship correctly, we need to understand that we need to worship fully. A worship experience that focuses only on one aspect of worship is unhealthy. Now, please pay attention to this part, because it's incredibly important: I firmly believe that worship that focuses primarily, if not exclusively, on the emotions trains us to view our emotions as reality rather than perceptions of reality.

Please read that again; I'll wait.

What happens in such worship services? I can speak personally, and have heard similarly from many other Christians. We come to church in the morning, and we gather together for worship. The emphasis, our primary way of connecting to God, is through the emotions. Because of this, we are teaching ourselves that the best way to know the Ultimate Reality, to connect to the Ultimate Reality, is through how we feel; certainly, we are learning that it's the best indicator. The music puts us in a great mood as we sing praises to God, and our emotions soar. This gives us such a great feeling; we know we are close to God because we feel close to God.

But...what happens when we feel...not close to God? What happens when depression kicks in? We've taught ourselves, through this form of worship (though, to be fair, there are many things in the modern culture teaching this lesson as well) that our reality is known by our emotions, because we don't go beyond an emotional connection to God, the Ultimate Reality. So what happens when our emotions tell us that we are beyond help? That we are useless? That we have no reason to live?

See the problem?

I don't want to claim that fixing the inherent problems in our worship will solve all problems. I do want to claim that, at the least, fixing this problem will help plug up the negative contributions to our culture. At best, it will help a lot of people cease from viewing their emotions as the reality. Yes, churches throughout the U.S. have the opposite problem: almost no emotion in worship. I will deal with that as well. However, the trend is the emphasis of worship, often to the exclusion of everything else.

What we need is a balanced form of worship.

This is a call for us to worship fully, with the entirety of our being.

First, what are the two Great Commandments? The ones on which hang all of the Law and the Prophets?

According to Mark 12:29-31, the two most important Commandments are, "‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I think that this is a good start. To love God is to worship God, and to worship God is to love God. Christ gave us four ways in which to worship the Father. Let's take a look at each one:


This list is reminding me of that Bob-awful show, Captain Planet.
If you don't know it...consider yourself lucky.
We've got this one down pat. We know how to involve emotion in our worship. I will give us some of the advantages of emotions in worship.

What emotions do is color our perception of reality. When we worship, we should expect to feel joy: worship is what we are created to do! Worship should make us passionate.

This requires us to be honest with how we feel, and responsible with how we let others know how we feel. Having a more vocal emotional outburst is not an indicator that one has "more emotions" any more than an arrogant know-it-all who won't shut up means that he has more knowledge than a quiet person. All it demonstrates is that we may or may not know how to handle such things.

Also remember that, while emotions reflect our perception of reality, they are not reality. I may feel like I am no longer the son of my mother after disappointing her: that in no way means I have stopped being her son.


We often conflate this with the heart, forming emotions and will into one thing. Our worship, both in and out of the service, is to be a committed one. Everyone wants to worship God when He's handing out free candy and cars. Not so easy when He's leading you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The most critical problem with a worship based on emotions is that, when we don't feel like worshipping God...we don't. The commitment to worship God, the will to worship God (which, by the way, comes from the Spirit ultimately), brings us to worship even when we don't feel like it. Rarely does one "feel" like doing homework (unless you're a weirdo; oh good grief, I'm kidding, calm down); I can attest, as senioritis is really kicking in with this last semester of my undergrad. However, commitment, the will to do your responsibilities, pushes you to finish your homework.

Of course, if it's all mindless commitment and no emotion...that is not only personally unhealthy, it is a horrible example to others. We need to be committed and passionate about our love for God.


We need to worship God with our minds. God gave us the ability to think, not only deeply but critically. If we are committed to God, and passionate about our commitment, good! But a mindless commitment, no matter how passionate, is not healthy; it's certainly not something that will attract others to Christ.

We need to be committed to an intellectual pursuit of God. We need to know about the God we claim to love. How horrible would it be if your significant other knew, well, almost nothing about you? Nothing about your background, your career, your desires, your accomplishments...and didn't care? We tend to call that infatuation, not love.

That means that we should know about theology. And no, I don't want to place a qualifier on that; I don't want to place a qualifier on any of these! I'm not going to state that, "Not everyone needs to know XYZ." I think that with all of these, we shouldn't settle for the lazy level. Go at each of these fully, including loving God with your intellect.

We also don't need to be arrogant in our knowledge. I've had to learn that, myself. Recall that an imbalance of these, like an imbalance in our diet, is not healthy for our Christian walk!

And by "imbalance", I don't mean that you can know "too much" about God, or "be too committed" to God or "be too passionate". Anything that appears to be "too much" of these things isn't actually too much, just focused incorrectly, probably always to the exclusion of one or more of others. It's only "too much" if it takes away from the other aspects of true love and worship. We can never love God too much; loving God in an imbalanced way is actually loving God less, because we are depriving God of one or more aspects of our lives and trying to compensate with another.


God has given each and every one of us talents to use for His Glory. If we are committed to Him, if we are passionate about our commitment, if we desire to know more about Him, then this will all lead to us finding out and using our talents for furthering the Kingdom of God.

Our worship should have real-world consequences, and for the good. Our love for God should be worked out in actions: in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, in telling others about the Faith. It all amounts to nothing if we don't have actions, as St. James states in his Epistle.

This connects the first Great Commandment with the second: that might be why it's the last on the list. We demonstrate our love for our neighbors by using our talents to further God's Kingdom. The two commandments are connected by the use, the action, of our love for God. We need this last one for a healthy balance.

It's All Connected

In fact, our worship is not worship unless we have a healthy balance of all four of these.

It isn't worship if we aren't committed.

It isn't worship if we aren't passionate.

It isn't worship if we are willingly ignorant.

And we don't have at least one of the other three if it doesn't result in using our God-given talents for His Kingdom. If we don't use our talents for God's Kingdom, we aren't following the second Commandment.

When we practice a balanced form of worship, we find that we are then slowly conformed more and more into the Image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why how we worship is so essential for our walk. Whether your service has incense or fog machines, whether your worship music puts people to sleep or keeps the neighbors up. whether you contribute to the Kingdom through 3rd world missions or youth lock-ins, a balanced worship makes you more and more like Christ.

I humbly submit that we as the Church need to get out of our comfort zones and pursue God fully in every aspect of our lives. We aren't called to half-ass our love for God. We are commanded to give nothing less than our all.

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

For the Wages of Sin is Death, Not Torture: Why I Hold to Annihilationism (Part 1: Philosophy)

The subject of hell has been one of the most hated beliefs by those who aren't a part of Christianity, and is not generally well-loved within Christian circles, either. Why? Well, obviously, the thought that a loving God would torture people for all eternity is...confusing, at best. It has been tempered throughout the centuries, of course: Dante had those in hell tormenting themselves with their own sins, philosophers like William Lang Craig hold to it as mere isolation from God, etc.

For me, the concept of God eternally torturing people was too much to swallow. I found myself holding two very contradictory beliefs: that God loved everyone, and that God wanted to torture some of those people for all eternity, or at least was willing to. It was proving too much to handle; I had to study this subject, as I could not continue to hold these two opposing views in my head. This led me to an understanding that allowed me to hold together both the justice and goodness of God: annihilationism.

I will be doing a multi-part series on what led me to annihilationism, or conditionalism: the belief that God destroys the wicked to where they no longer exist. It makes sense to me to start with the philosophy of it rather than exclusively the Scriptural support. The reason is that we always bring philosophy to the Scriptures; it's impossible to do otherwise. This way, we can understand the lens we will be using when we do search Scripture to understand how it is supported. Otherwise, an article starting off the series with a bunch of passages will look like nothing more than proof texting. I want to point out that these points will be revisited in the next article, to show why they are important to Scripture; as well, I will allude to various passages in Scripture in this article, though not elaborate much on them.

The Reasons for Punishment

First, it is important to understand WHY God has to punish the wicked. It makes little to no sense for God to keep wicked people alive for all eternity. Why? If sin and sinners are the problem, then why not actually get rid of them? If, as Scripture says, ALL of creation is going to be renewed and there will be no more sin, then how can it be that God will, somewhere in creation, still have a place wholly dedicated to sin and sinners? If God's desire is to rid creation of sin, then it makes sense to wholly rid creation of sin by utterly destroying said sinners to the point of no life whatsoever, not merely keeping them alive enough to continue in sin.

Generally, an informed Christian might argue that sin against an infinite God requires infinite punishment. I don't necessarily disagree with that, which leads me to my second point: the nature of the punishment is the question, not the duration.

The Nature of Punishment

Conditionalists generally hold to the understanding that our position IS one of eternal punishment. We see that the punishment is the destruction of the wicked, not torture/isolation. While torture or isolation may be involved, that's not the punishment itself. So we don't say that Bob the Mass Murderer is tortured for 100 years in hell, then after the punishment of his torture he is puffed out of existence. No, the idea is that, however long the "pain" part of it lasts, or how severe, or if there even is any, the punishment itself is the death, the destruction. That death, that destruction called "the second death" in Revelation, will be forever, unlike the first death (the death we all face in this life).

Imagine a man sentenced to die. He may be placed in a jail cell for a few years, but that is not, in and of itself, his punishment. His punishment is death. Contrast that with a man sentenced to life without parole: that punishment is NOT a punishment in which someone is killed. That punishment is one in which the isolation itself is the punishment. When the annihilationist repeatedly sees passages indicating that the punishment for sin is death or destruction, (s)he sees that the punishment is really the actual death/destruction, the ending of life.

The Goals of Punishment

This obviously ties in with the first point. What is God's desire in punishing these people? To rid the world of wickedness. Passages like Romans 11, Revelation 22, and others seem to indicate that the whole of creation will be restored to perfection. This would indicate that there will be no more sin. To argue that the sinners will be in another part of creation (hell was created by God, if God created everything in creation) doesn't work: that's still a part of creation that is imperfect and, well, literally full of sin. The annihilationist holds that the punishment, destruction, has a goal: rid the world of evil. The traditional view doesn't rid the world of evil, only concentrates it into one spot. That's not the same thing.

These three points helped me in voicing my problems with the traditional view of hell; with them, I went into looking at what the Scriptures said about the subject. In the next article we will revisit these three points, developing their strength by pointing to Scriptural evidence of them, and pointing to passages that seem to speak outright of annihilationism as the punishment for sin. Expect to see the second article within a few weeks. Until then, is a great resource for more information on annihilationism; specifically, this is one of the best podcasts in support of the topic. Hope you have a happy Halloween, and don't forget to be at Mass for All Saints Day!

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Two Reasons Why This is a Short Update! (The Second One Will AMAZE You!) (Totally NOT Clickbait)!

Hey, there! So, I want to apologize for not writing as many articles as I should be; this is my last semester for my undergraduate, and senioritis has REALLY been kicking in. Yay! I get to graduate in December! I'm so happy!

As well, some developments have been happening at my parish, and my priest and the parish committee have tasked me with some new responsibilities because of that. Those responsibilities have been taking priority; to make up some of the time, I had to cut back on hours at work. My blog has been suffering similarly.

I do have some big news, but I may share that in a full article rather than a simple update. For now, I'll post about two bits of info that may interest you:

First, a good friend of mine, Jordan, is helping me manage the Barely Protestant Facebook page; he's an awesome guy who's story is somewhat similar to mine: we both have found ourselves on the journey to a more liturgical tradition. His blog is Crossing the Phoenix, and it's pretty thoughtful; I learn quite a bit from it.

The second thing I want to update you all on is that my next ACTUAL article will be on the very touchy subject of Annihilationism, or Conditional Immortality. It's a tough one to write, because there is SO MUCH to say. I'm seriously considering discussing it over about three or four articles. In fact, expect that.

Anyways, hope you all are doing well. Oh! One last thing! A Christian from my area of Tennessee has a movie review channel on Youtube. The channel, "Say Goodnight Kevin", is pretty thought provoking and hilarious. I've become a supporter, and our first shout-out was this past month on his "Vanished: Left Behind--the Next Generation" (queue Picard) video. I really appreciate Kevin's commitment to holding high standards for Christian media; it's something we desperately need.

Okay, I guess that's it for now; I hope to have my next actual article up by the end of October. Peace!

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well!