Discipleship – Vampire Christianity

 Vampire Christianity?

This is not at all in sequence with my previous posts. However, I had to get this out while it was fresh on my mind.

I live in the Bible Belt. As a matter of fact, I live in the Bible Belt Buckle. There’s a church on every corner, and it seems that most people profess at least a cultural connection to Christianity. They are a member of one church or another, whether or not they’ve attended in the last twenty years. They are still at least somewhat concerned with conservative Christian values. They generally place a strong value on family and have a good work ethic. Sure, we definitely have our share of agnostics and atheists (personally, I don’t believe they exist), but predominantly, most people around me are in some way connected to the church, whether they have strong convictions in any particular biblical value, or have even picked up a Bible in their lifetime. I call this Cultural Christianity.

Cultural Christians are so, because their “brand” of Christianity has been passed down to them from generations past. They may have never darkened the door of a church but to be baptized, nor opened their Bible longer than to inscribe the names of their children in the genealogical section beneath the cover. However, they call themselves a Baptist or a Methodist, and feel that they have a connection to an organism far greater than themselves. They are “Christian” more by association, than by faith or a living experience with the Living Redeemer. They are “members.”

While at first glance this seems quite innocuous, it reveals a deeper issue that lies beneath the surface. Quoting A. W. Tozer’s argument against Christians accepting Christ as Savior without accepting him as Lord, Dallas Willard makes a very interesting comment that helps to shock us into the perspective of our spiritual reality. First, he affirms Tozer’s statement that “salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures.” He then goes on to say,

“This ‘heresy’ has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a ‘vampire Christian.’ One in effect says to Jesus, ‘I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.'” 1

Ouch! A vampire Christian? Yes – that hurts. But truth is often revealed in pain, because it breaks us out of our personal utopia and forces us to confront reality. I know that no one in their right mind would consciously say these words. However, Willard has uttered here the subconscious thoughts of all Cultural Christians. He has exposed the heart of those who would invoke the blood of the Messiah in order to wash away their sinful past, but continue to walk in stride with a life in which the Risen Lord has no place. Paul tells us that if we have life in the Spirit, then our daily walk (life) should also be “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). If we are walking on our own path, rather than following in the dust of our Master, it should give us pause. Are we a “vampire Christian”? Have we insulted the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29)? Has our Cultural Christianity lulled us into a spiritual coma from which we cannot awaken? The gift of grace through the blood of the Risen Messiah is entirely free. Yet it cost Jesus his very life. Shouldn’t we at the very least give ours back to him, rather than merely feeding off of his blood?

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV)

  1. Willard, Dallas, (2006). The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship. HarperOne, p.256.

Lead Codices Followup

photo of lead codices

Today, I came across a followup on Yahoo! News regarding the 70 credit card sized lead codices which were found in Jordan and thought to be of Christian origin. Many are quick to call this discovery equivalent (or even superior) to the Dead Sea Scrolls. While the jury is still out on just how important (and more importantly how authentic) these codices are to the archaeological and religious world, they are garnering an extremely high interest.

I happened to look at my Google Analytics report for today, and my site visits looked like  a parabola. As of 5:00pm today my blog had received over ten (10) times my normal visits, 90% of which hit my site because they were looking for information on the lead codices. My highest entry page was my post on the lead codices, which raised the question as to whether they were Kabbalistic in origin as some have reported, or Christian as most seem to be favoring.

early christian codices2

Anyway, back to the followup. According to this article, the codices seem to find an affinity with first century Christianity. It states,

Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was “dumbstruck” at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city,” Davies explained. “There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.

Quite a description. But is it too good to be true? Only time will tell. I would love to hear your thoughts…

Further Reading

Yahoo! News

Day of Fire frontman Josh Brown now Messianic

Day of Fire album

Anyone who has known me any length of time knows both my passion for music, and my eclectic tastes. I may be listening to classical music one day, hard rock (Christian, of course) the next, and chassidic the day after. I first heard about Day of Fire from one of my employees back around 2003. I was immediately gripped by their driving guitars, haunting melodies and raw vocal delivery. Although front man, Josh Brown, sung for the Lord back then, he has a different melody today. Here is a little background on the band before I expound:

The Alternative-Rock act Day Of Fire got its start in 2002 when vocalist Josh Brown, ex-frontman of Full Devil Jacket, returned to the music scene. Brown has gone into rehab after severe bouts with drug abuse; he began writing songs again with guitarist + songwriter Gregg Hionis and the pair began playing in their hometown of Jackson, Tennessee USA, enlisting the help of guitarist Phil X, Chris Chaney, bass player from Jane’s Addiction and drummer Gary Novak.

The band’s self-titled debut album was finally released in late 2004 on Essential Records; the 11-track set broke into the top 30 of the U.S. Christian Albums chart and the single “Fade Away” reached the #27 position on The Mainstream Rock Tracks.

Following the recruitment of guitarist Joe Pangallo, his brother Chris Pangallo on bass and drummer Zach Simms, Brown and Hionis recorded and released Day Of Fire’s sophomore effort, “Cut & Move”, in mid-2006; they supported the record on the road with bands like Pillar and Decyfer Down and the CD eventually peaked at #14 on the Top Christian chart. The two albums sold more than 150,000 copies combined.

Day Of Fire (band shot)

Today, Josh Brown is playing music to a different beat. After playing a show with Third Day and Toby Mac in 2004, he met up with an old friend who began to share with him some concepts of Torah with him. Over the next six years, he began re-reading the Bible and wrestling with some of the Torah thoughts presented to him that night after the concert. He came to a conclusion that as a believer, he should be keeping the Sabbath and God’s commandments, stating:

“I don’t keep the Sabbath and the commandments of God because I have to do these things to accept the mercy of God and what Yeshua did on the cross. But I do these things because I love the God that wrote these commandments. That’s why I do them. Because I love Him and I want to know Him more. And I realize the only way I am going to know Him more is by doing what He has prescribed in the Bible for me to do. And as I do them more, I get to know Him more, because He really is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

In 2010, Josh Brown spent eight days living in his sukkah and celebrating his first Succot (Feast of Tabernacles) where he also performed his first Messianic concert.

Want to know the whole story? You can listen to the interview here.

Special thanks to Messianic Directory for this info.

Pagan Influences in Christianity & Judaism

Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic
Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic

Many people have disparaged Judaism as being filled with paganism, particularly orthodox Judaism’s rabbinic leadership. Some even claim that it is satanic at the root (G-d forbid). Many people have had similar remarks about Christianity, especially when they discover Messianic Judaism and discover all that Christianity has forgotten over the last two thousand years in relationship to it Jewish origins. Everything is then questioned, and its origins suspect. For instance: What is the origin of the Christmas tree? Was it originally an asheroth pole? What about the Easter bunny, and the name “Easter” itself? Are they connected to Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility? Was the star of David originally a magical symbol used by the pagans? Questions such as these continue to pound away at both Judaism and Christianity.

Biblical Archaeology Review recently published an article examining pagan symbols in Jewish worship, specifically looking at the various synagogues unearthed in Israel which portray zodiac symbolism in their floor mosaics. The most famous is the Beth Alpha synagogue, which sports a very large floor mosaic (28×14 meters, roughly 90×30 feet) whose central panel shows the complete zodiac. It is described as follows:

Figures of four women were at the four corners, with inscriptions (in Hebrew) identifying each as a season of the year. Inside the square was a wheel, 3.12 meters in diameter, with a smaller circle (1.2 m) in its center. The wheel was divided into 12 panels, each with a figure and a name identifying it as a sign of the zodiac. And in the center, a man was pictured driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot) through the moon and stars. Rays of the sun were coming out of his head; it was clear that he was Helios, god of the sun.1

This article continues to describe in detail several such synagogues found in Israel with this type of imagery. Although there is still some mystery surrounding the use of these symbols (particularly in a house specifically designed for study & worship), I feel the author’s explanation of them plausible.

This brings a lot of questions to mind (for which I do not have the answers). When and how were pagan symbols introduced into Judaism and Christianity? What do we “accept” and what do we “reject”? Where do we draw the line? How far is too far? Are there such things as coincidence? What are the “majors” and what are the “minors” in all of this? If others believers continue to unknowingly incorporate pagan symbolism in their sincere worship, what is our responsibility? These are a lot of difficult questions. Fortunately, someone has done a lot of homework on the subject.

What About Paganism?

First Fruits of Zion has recently published a 4-disc audio teaching on this very subject. It’s called “What About Paganism?” Toby Janicki tackles this subject and brings in a ton of information relating to both Christian and Jewish practice which may or may not be pagan in origin and gives suggestions as to our response. This is a good starting point to get some honest discussion on the table in regard to this topic, rather than living on our assumptions. It is based on historical evidences and the teachings of Yeshua. When we abide in the teachings of our Master, Yeshua, we will “know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

  1. From the BAR article.