Monday, March 31, 2008

March Blogger Awards

Just like in February, I count 49 BBC blogs as having been updated in the month of March. Statistically, for The Matthew Never Knew, March was the best blogging month since September with over 2,400 unique visits and over 4,500 hits. Wednesday I will be deleting more BBC blogs that haven't been updated in over a year. Here are the nominations for best posts of March:

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Top 10 UR Verses

Here are the verses I find most often used by those who believe in Universal Reconciliation (the belief that eventually everyone will 'make heaven'

1. God is love (1 John 4:8)
They argue that a God who IS love could never allow for 'eternal torment'

2. God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3b-4)
They argue that God ultimately gets what He wants

3. 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. (Col 1:19-20)
They argue that all means all

4. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
See above

5. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32)
See above

6. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Whole means whole

7. That we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:10)
All means all

8. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)
Direct correspondance. All humans are sinners via Adam, so all humans are saved via Jesus

9. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
How could God be considered 'greater' if only a few find the gate?

10. Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God (Romans 14:11)
Every means every

How would you respond to their usage of these verses?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

PC: The Sermon

Chapter 4: The Sermon
Viola points out that 'the sermon' is central to protestant worship services, but has no root in Scripture. It's not that Jesus and the Apostles didn't preach, it's that "there is a world of difference b/w the Spirit-inspired preaching and teaching described in the Bible and the contemporary sermon." In short, Viola rejects the Greco-Roman based contemporary sermon (routine, regulated, passive, prepared) in favor of biblical preaching (sporadic, informal, participative, spontaneous).

I have no problem with Viola's quest to make sermons more participative. But I do feel compelled to question many of Viola's premises in this chapter. First, he claims that many of the 'early church fathers' were recent pagan converts AND that this tainted their remarks. His argument seems to be that we can't take the writings of the early church as representative of the thinking of the early church. Well, there is certainly some truth to this premise, but it is also very convenient for Viola. It allows him to dismiss what evidence we have of the early church and fill the void with his 'house church' mindset. Second, I disagree with Viola's seeming assumption that a prepared sermon and a Spirit-led sermon are in contrast. Can't the Holy Spirit help us prepare and cultivate a message? Third, Viola continues his previous pattern of equating EXTRA-Biblical practices with UN-Biblical passages, except in this case the practice actually is quite Biblical! He ends with what I think is the most ridiculous question so far in the book: "How can a man preach a sermon on being faithful to the Word of God while he is preaching a sermon?" I reply, 'Quite easily!'


Friday, March 28, 2008


Yesterday I was looking around for the cheapest way to travel to Washington DC. I stumbled upon and was very impressed. Megabus has just added Buffalo as a 'stop' and that opens up a whole region of cheap vacations for me. Here's an example: I can go from Buffalo to NYC to DC to NYC and back to Buffalo. How much would this cost to do this June? $33.50! I think that's a great price. Megabus can take me to Toronto, NYC, Boston, Philly, DC, Atlantic City & Baltimore. Some of the tickets are as little as $1. The buses have internet access and movies. I am pretty sure I will be using Megabus this summer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PC: Order of Worship

Chapter 3: The Order of Worship
In this chapter, Viola traces the history of the order of worship from the Catholic mass through the Reformer's and Revivalists. He points out that an 'order OF worship' has no biblical basis and is not the same thing as order IN worship. He does a much better job in this chapter, in my opinion, of actually making an argument that the 'order of worship' often interferes with the headship of Jesus Christ in Christian gatherings. Essentially, "Protestant liturgy cripples the body of Christ. It turns it into one huge tongue (the pastor) and many little ears (the congregation)."

His points are that the 'order of worship'
1) Represses participation/silencing members
2) Strangles the headship of Jesus Christ
3) Makes gatherings boring and predictable
4) Encourages passivity and 'weekend worship'

Reaction: This was my favorite chapter so far. I agreed with most of what Viola was saying. I've long attempted to make our church gatherings less formal and more participatory. But, to be honest, I've largely succeeded in this despite Viola's claims that such is basically impossible within the institutional church.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Idol #10

Unfortunately, in my area the cable messed up for 2 singers: David A. & Carlie Smithson. So I have only briefly heard their performances. But from what I heard, it was no contest: David Cook is the new favorite to win this competition. I really like his voice and he seems like the most natural performer. After David, I really like Brooke White. She sounds so pretty and seems very genuine. To me, there is a big drop off after those 2. Jason Castro is very good in my opinion, but his song choice, lately, has been poor. I was surprised he was in the bottom three. Michael Johns and Carlie Smithson are in the next tier. They have potential, but aren't consistent. David Archuleta is starting to bug me. I don't think he'll sell many CD's. He's got a great voice, but it's not a pop-style and I find a lot of his stuff boring. I think Chikeze, Ramiele, Syesha & Kristie are quite a few steps below the rest. Chikeze was fun, but it was his time to go. Kristie is the worst singer, but at least she knows how to appeal to her base of voters. Even still, she should go next. Then Ramiele. Then Syesha.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PC: Church Building

I'll continue my review of the Viola/Barna book "Pagan Christianity" with a discussion of chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 1 is really an introduction to the book. Viola continues his overstatements by declaring that 'almost everything that is done in our contemporary churches has no basis in the Bible.' A major disagreement I seem to have with Viola is that he seems to equate the EXTRA-Biblical category with the UN-Biblical category. I also found it humorous that in a book complaining of pagan influence over the church, Viola begins by raving about the 'Socratic Method.' I like the Socratic method too, but then again, I'm not the one saying the church shouldn't have ANY influence from the world.

Chapter 2: The Church Building
In general, I agree with Viola's theology in this section. We don't GO to church, we ARE the church. I agree that too many churches spend too much time and money on buildings. I appreciated his account of the history of how congregations went from homes to holy cathedrals. But this is where Viola's EXTRA-Biblical ='s UN-Biblical equation gets goofy. He argues without an argument that the early Christians consciously decided not to build buildings and says that even though they did renovate homes into larger rooms used for services, "remodeled houses... cannot rightfully be called church buildings." Haha! Why not?

He makes a lot of statements that just leave me scratching my head. For instance, "The Christian building demonstrates that the church, whether she wanted it or not, had entered into a close alliance with pagan culture." What does he mean by alliance? Obviously he intends it negatively, but how is deciding to build a building a show of alliance with evil? Another example would be, "The message of the steeple is one that contradicts the message of the New Testament." Hmm. Well that sort of depends on what symbolism you're reading into the steeple. Viola was comparing it to Babel. I don't think of a steeple in that way at all. My point is that even if the original motivation for something was wrong, I am not bound by the author's intent.

But I agreed with a lot of what he said too. I'd prefer less distinction b/w the clergy and laity too. I'd rather teach right in front of people than behind a big pulpit. I wish churches were less 'performance' oriented. I agree that too many Christians don't understand that we (not the church building) replace the Old Testament temple.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pagan Christianity

Over the next few weeks I will occasionally post about a book I began reading tonight by Frank Viola & George Barna entitled "Pagan Christianity" which explores the roots of our church practices. Tonight I will just give some thoughts on the introductions of the book:

Viola's introduction begins by comparing the modern day institutional churches with the 1st century Pharisees (who added to Scripture) and Sadducees (who took away from Scripture). In other words, Viola wrote this book b/c he feels the bulk of Christianity follows extra-biblical traditions and/or ignores necessary practices of the 1st century church. He describes those who are leaving this man-led church as 'daring souls' who have taken a step of faith in the right direction.

Barna's introduction claims that millions are leaving the institutional church in an effort to return to a purer form of Christianity. He says the bulk of the church, today, relies on 'marketing strategies to perform the same activities in different ways and places.' He says, in fact, that 'most' of what churches do has 'no precedent' in Scripture. It was the era's of Constantine, Reformation & Revivalism that introduced 'pagan' practices into the church.

Reaction: I like the bold stance of both writers. I don't like to read stuff by people who don't feel passionately about what they are writing. That being said, I question one of the major premises behind the book. Both authors paint a picture that multitudes are leaving the institutional church for a purer form of Christianity AND that this is a great step of faith. First, I doubt millions are leaving for THAT reason. Second, I am not convinced leaving is as great a step of faith as staying and being a change agent. I think both authors are guilty of some overstatement in their introductions. That being said, I'm very interested in finishing the book and have, so far, found it stimulating to the mind.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bad Theories

Disputed Fact: "THE TOMB WAS EMPTY"

Theory #1 Near Death – Jesus only fainted on the cross
BUT Roman Soldiers knew how to kill people
BUT that is medically impossible
BUT that wouldn’t have inspired a movement

Theory #2 Wrong Tomb – The Women went to the wrong one
BUT that mistake would have been quickly fixed
BUT that doesn’t account for the appearances

Theory #3 Stolen Body – The Disciples Stole the Body
BUT the tomb was guarded
BUT that doesn’t account for the appearances
BUT why would they die for a lie?

Theory #4 Switcharoo – It wasn’t Jesus who died
BUT this theory is ridiculous
BUT that tomb wouldn’t have been empty


Theory #5 Twin Brother – They actually saw someone else
BUT this theory is ridiculous
BUT this theory doesn’t account for the empty tomb

Theory #6 Mass Hallucination – They only ‘thought’ they saw Him
BUT hallucinations come 1 person at a time
BUT the disciples didn’t have the right mind-set to be duped
BUT this theory doesn’t account for the empty tomb

Theory #7 Spiritual Resurrection – Jesus didn’t raise bodily
BUT this theory is based on a false worldview
BUT this doesn’t fit with the physical nature of the appearances

Theory #8 Mass Conspiracy – They Made the whole thing up
BUT how much did they have to gain?
BUT how did they involve so many unlikely people?
BUT why die for a lie?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Flaws

My Top 5 Known Flaws
1. Sometimes I can't stop joking around
2. I'm stubborn over strange things
3. I don't make a lasting 1st impression
4. I'm too anti-confrontational in person
5. I don't often try new things

Also, feel free to say your 5 flaws

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Idol #11

This was one of the worst weeks of Idol in history. I didn't really love any of the performances and I disagreed with the judges on a number of occasions. David A. sounded great, but I find most of his stuff fairly boring. One of my least favorite contestants, Ramiele, was probably my favorite this week. Chekeze was very good again in my opinion. Syesha sounded swell. Brooke, Jason C, Carlie & David C all kept themselves safe. Amanda, Kristy & Michael all subjected themselves to the question of elimination. I'd have to say those 3 and Ramiele are in trouble. I'm rooting for Brooke, Jason & David C.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wesleyans in Bible?

Were there any Wesleyans in the Bible?
Be Creative? I'll start.

1. Michal (David's Wife)
David...danced before the LORD with all his might...Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. (2 Sam 6:14-16)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Finding Hell

When evangelicals think of hell, they think of eternal torment. They also think there are multitudes of passages that convey this doctrine. But I think even a sweeping look at the potentially relevant texts will reveal that we no far less about the nature of hell that we may presume.

1. Sheol
The word 'hell' does not appear in the Old Testament. Sure, the KJV & NKJV use the word 'hell' to translate the Hebrew word 'sheol,' but sheol certainly didn't communicate a place of torment. Sheol is used 65 times in the OT and simply means 'the grave' or 'underground' or figuratively 'death.' In fact, with a couple of dramatized exceptions, Sheol is simply an inactive common grave for all the OT dead. We have no evidence of eternal torment in the Old Testament.

2. Hades
Hades is simply the Greek translation of the word Sheol. It is used 11 times in the NT and speaks, again, of death and the grave (though some translations translate it as 'hell'). But there is 1 key exception and that is the story of the Rich man and Lazarus. Here, we find consciousness for both the wicked & the righteous (not to mention the fact that they can see each other. Does this story give us new and accurate details regarding the afterlife? Or didn't Jesus intend for us to focus on the details? It seems to me that if it weren't for this 1 short story, the shape of the discussion would be a lot different.

3. Gehenna
This was the garbage dump for Jerusalem. It was the Valley of Hinnom of the Old Testament. The word is used 12 times in the NT and is often translated as 'hell.' But was it used to describe a place of eternal torment or a place of annihilation? Was Jesus simply predicting that His contemporary Jerusalem would suffer the same sort of slaughter for Rome as they had previously from Babylon?

Personally, I am not convinced that anything in the above can be used as a solid case for eternal torment. In fact, I wouldn't be able to use any of the above to build a case for torment at all with the possible exception of the rich man in Hades. So what verses are left? Where do we find our evidence for eternal torment? I submit that the evidence depends on the interpretation of a mere handful of verses which use phrases like 'eternal fire, 'weeping and gnashing of teeth,' and/or 'without rest.' But when we recognize that such passages were referencing OT judgments, even these verses fail to make a clear cut case for unending torment.

We're left with some verses from Revelation about the Beast, False Prophet & Satan being tormented forever. Apocalyptic literature, of course, is hardly the place to take verses literally and form doctrines out of them. It is worth noting, however, that death and Hades are thrown into the 'Lake of Fire' on Judgment Day. In my opinion, this 'Lake of Fire' is the only thing that parallels, to a satisfactory degree, our evangelical concept of 'hell.'

What verses do you think are the best evidence for eternal torment? There are certainly some which can be used in making a case.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Monster Trucks!

Saturday evening we went to the Monster Truck show. I have never been to such a thing before, so I'm glad I went. I liked the lil kids race and the dirt bikes a lot. Katie gave up trying to take action shots of the vehicles so she ended up taking pictures of the jumbotron (to me, that is 'fake' photography). All in all, it was a very good time!

Friday, March 14, 2008


On Tuesday Katie & I were heading to our small group when I suggested that we take an alternate route. Moments after we passed my alternative left turn, we hit a patch of slushy stuff and slid for many yards before doing a 180 and ending up stuck in a combination of snow and mud. It was only yesterday that I remembered my odd suggestion of going to group via long-cut. Was this a premonition? Was my unconscious attempting to keep us safe? Katie refutes this possibility by claiming that I say weird things all the time, but I'm starting to think everyone should start meditating on my every word.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


My Governor has resigned due do the discovery of his involvement in a prostitution ring. The response to this has been interesting, especially among republican minded Christians. Some, it seems, are quite delighted that their democrat enemy has fallen. Others take the 'there, but for the grace of God go I' approach. A great passage was brought up in prayer meeting last night. Proverbs 24:17 says: "Do no gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." I think events like this our a clear cut way for us to identify our allegiance. If we are primarily republicans, we rejoice that Spitzer fell. If we're primarily Christians, we are saddened by the human condition.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Idol #12

Who should get voted off? Who will get voted off? I'm really enjoying this season of American Idol. Here are my rankings for this week: Chekeze blew me away. I didn't think he was that talented an entertainer. I gave him 25 out of 30 possible points. Brook, David & Carlie received 23 points on my score sheet. I really like Brooke as a person and as a performer. I hope David makes it into the final 4 or 5, at least. Carlie is a great singer and does well every week. I gave 22 points to Jason & Amanda. Jason has one of my favorite voices on the show. Amanda always does her thing at a high level, but it's not my sort of thing. Syesha & Michael both get 21 points. I thought both underperformed, especially Michael who I'm hoping steps it up big time in coming weeks. 19 points for David Hernandez. The judges were right about him. He overdid his song. I'm tired of him. 18 points for Kristie, David A. & Ramiele. Kristie's song seemed high on some kind of drug. David was way off. Ramiele was, as the judges said, extremely boring.

Of those bottom 4, only David A. is safe (based on his 'favorite' status). I'd guess that David Hernandez, Kristie Leigh Cook & Ramiele Mulaby are all in danger of getting voted off. My guess is that Ramiele will be idol #12.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

5 Most Visited

What 5 sites do I visit the most?

1. The Matthew Never Knew
My own blog is my home-page. That's right, I'm really self-centered!
2. The Buffalo Range
A message board with Bills, Sabres, Political & Religious discussion
3. Bible Forums
A Christian message board
4. Yahoo Sports
To check scores, stats, news & my fantasy teams
5. BibleGateway
I type and click faster than I turn pages

What are your top 5?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Sermon

What Makes You a Christian?

~most americans say they're christians
~constantine & the 'nominal christian'

1) Is it admitting God exists?
2) Is it coming from a Christian family?
3) Is it reading your bible?
4) Is it attending church?
5) Is it praying a prayer to avoid hell?
6) Is it praying a prayer to gain heaven?

No, what makes you a Christian is...

Following Christ

*Pretty simple sermon, bolder tone

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Matthew's Posts for Friday & Saturday
have been canceled due to the snow storm

Thursday, March 06, 2008

American Idol

Guys: Obviously David Archuleta is safe. The strong 2nd tier includes Jason Castro, Michael Johns & David Cook. The rest are in jeopardy. David Hernandez sounds good, but he's got off the show issues. Chekeze has been getting better, but isn't anything to get excited about. Danny Noreaga is super annoying. Luke Minard has a nice girly voice, but I don't think he's very popular. I'll predict Luke & Chekeze will get sent home.

Girls: This side is way more open to competition. I think Brooke & Carly are very safe. I suppose I'd put Amanda & Syeshe in the 2nd tier for now. Kristie Leigh is safe. I think Asia, Ramielle & Kady are in trouble. I'll predict that Asia & Kady will be sent home.

Early Prediction of final 6 in order:
David A. Jason C. Carly, Brooke, Michael, David C.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sweet Sermon!

KJV-Onlyism & Proof-Texting merge
To form 1 Hilarious Sermon Conclusion!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How We Get Our Spirits

How do we obtain our spirits (sometimes referred to as our souls)? This was our final discussion question on Sunday night. Here are the three leading theories...

Option 1 Pre-existence View: spirits/souls are eternal. Multitudes of spirits are up in some holding area awaiting bodies to be placed into. Option 2 Traducianist View: spirit/souls are passed on by reproduction in some way or another. Mankind, then, is naturally endowed with an immaterial nature in addition to their material nature. Option 3 Creationist View: each human spirit/soul is specially created by God. In this view there is some debate as to when, exactly, God places the specially created spirit into the person.

What do you think?

Monday, March 03, 2008

What You're Made Of

What are you made of? That's another question we discussed last night. I described 4 prominent views which you will find briefly described below:

Option 1 The Materialist View says we are just made of material stuff. Flesh is all there is. We don't have a soul and/or a spirit. Option 2 is the Monist View which was held by many ancient Hebrews. By primary biblical usage, the word 'soul' is synonymous with a breathing being. We don't 'have' souls, we 'are' souls. Souls have various 'aspects' (material and immaterial). Option 3 is the Dichotomist View which was held by many ancient Greeks. This view says people are made 2 distinct 'parts' (flesh & spirit/soul). Option 4 is the Trichotomist View which says that man is made up of 3 parts (flesh & soul & spirit). It distinguishes b/w soul & spirit based on a couple of NT verses.

Which View Seems Right to You?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Eternal Eve?

Were it not for The Fall, would Adam & Eve have lived forever? This was one of a number of discussions we had tonight to start our series "Eternal Questions" in which we will discuss the soul, the intermediate state, hell & heaven. Over the next few days I'll pose some questions on this blog and provide some options to pick from. Feel free to comment:

Option 1... NO Death is part of life. Even without the Fall, Adam & Eve would have passed away eventually to make room for their progeny. They lived on, in a sense, through their children. It's possible, also, that their disembodied spirits would have lived on Option 2a... MAYBE Their immortality was based on the condition of eating, just once, from the Tree of Life. But they never got to it! Option 2b... MAYBE Their immortality was based on the condition of eating, habitually, from the Tree of Life. But they were banned from doing so! Option 3... YES Eternal life is built into man. Without The Fall, they would have lived forever whether they had eaten from the Tree of Life or not. But since The Fall, death has been the rule.

Which view is closest to yours?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Matt Stats

I've crunched the numbers for February

Miles Driven: 1,246

Money Spent: $1,422
--Car Insurance: $563
--Giving: $240
--Food: $187
--Gas: $180
--Entertainment: $165
--Books: $52
--Household Items: $35

Movies Watched (7)
--Amazing Grace
--Opportunity Knocks
--Order, The
--Back to the Future II
--McHale's Navy

Sleep (209 hours)
--7.2 per night
--2:25 average fall asleep time