What's The "Biggest" Word In The Bible According To This Word Cloud?

Below is a word cloud of the most frequent words in the Bible.



These word clouds are a simple way of helping one get more familiar with the common words throughout a particular book and can provide a big picture view.  That in turn can help one when trying to mirror-read. Word frequency my indicate how prominent a false teaching was. Be sure to read my post on keywords and themes for mirror-reading.  Below is a word cloud for Ephesians.



You can see the word clouds for each book of the Bible at 66clouds.com

Mirror-Reading With An Embedded Mirror

In some cases, the false teaching that the Biblical author is responding to is in the text itself.  For example, there are a few instances in Romans where some conclude that Paul is using a rhetorical device to talk as if he's one of the false teachers, which he then responds to in order to correct that view:

  • Romans 1:18-32 e.g. "and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another"
  • Romans 7 e.g. "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
  • Romans 3 e.g. as dialogue "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?  Much in every way."

It is beyond the scope of this post to determine whether that is actually the case or not, but if it is the case in each of the above instances, I would consider them to be "embedded mirrors".  In other words, Paul is stating the false teachings that he then responds to.

There may also be a similar device in Ecclesiastes.  The "Teacher" may be giving the false teaching, who is then briefly corrected by the narrator at the end of the book.  I don't think this is the case however, as I explain in my mirror-reading of Ecclesiastes here.

An example in narrative form is the Book of Job.  Job, Elihu, Job's three friends and God deliver to the reader dialogues between the false teachings and the true teachings.

Sinful Nature Or Theological Teaching?

When Paul writes about behavioral issues in the Church, is it because of their sinful nature or because their theology was wrong?

Behavioral vs Doctrinal and how they support each other when mirror-reading

Many New Testament epistles have a section where doctrinal issues addressed, and then later in the epistle, behavioral issues are addressed.  We can use this to validate mirror-reading.  In other words, if we mirror-read and discover the false teaching that Paul was responding to, we can then extrapolate that out to what types of behavior that false teaching would produce.  If we find that behavior as one of the behaviors that Paul discusses in the latter part of the epistle, then we can take that as validation of our mirror-reading of the false teaching.

This could have theological implications.  For example, when Paul, in Ephesians says "Children, obey your parents", are we to take it that Paul has nothing better to address than to remind the Church of a common ethic?   Or was there perhaps a false teaching that gave those children (who could be adult children) a reason to disobey their parents?  This could have an impact on what we use to support the idea of a "sinful nature".  If you're curious of my theological views of "the flesh", check out this episode of the RE2 Podcast.

How To Mirror-Read Different Genres In The Bible

Mirror-reading is primarily discussed in regards to the epistles of the Bible, but mirror-reading can be applied to other genres in the Bible as well.

Mirror Read The Bible


This is the genre most people feel comfortable mirror-reading (if they feel comfortable mirror-reading at all!). For example, if Paul says "Don't do this", then the false teachers may have been saying "Do this". 

However, not everything that Paul (or other NT writers) say should be taken in such polarized fashion.  It is helpful to categorize what Paul says as opposite/different, same or unique.  The example above would qualify as opposite/different.  "Same" would be instances where Paul quotes the false teachers or when he mentions a point of agreement but then qualifies that agreement.  "Unique" would be words that Paul wrote that have no similarity to what the false teachers were saying.  However, it's important to remember that regardless of which category it is, all of the categories can be used to correct what the false teachers were saying.  Watch my video about these categories.

Check out this page and click on an epistle to see how I mirror-read it.


I prefer to think of the Wisdom literature as "Teachings".  They are similar to epistles in that if the "teaching says this" then the "false teaching says this".  I've only mirror-read Ecclesiastes thus far, so I'm curious if the other wisdom literature is the same.  You can check out my mirror-reading of Ecclesiastes here.

Historical Narratives

For the purposes of mirror-reading, it's not really necessary to believe that the events in the historical narratives actually took place.  The important thing to understand is that the events in the story take place in a historical setting.  

The books of the Bible are not just recorded history but a response to a situation.  They may be about past events, but they addressed events that were current with the original readers.

I've listed two ways to mirror-read historical narratives below:

1. Corrective of Past

Narratives can be used to correct historical accounts or repair the reputations of historical characters.  I've listed a few examples below:

1&2 Samuel

The author of 1st and 2nd Samuel tries to repair the reputation of David and to clarify events of the past in order to diffuse hostilities between the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin.  Read here.


The author explains events of the past to show why there was a famine and addresses fears that God was no longer with them.  Read here.


Yes, not a book of the Bible (usually) but still a good example.  The author tries to repair the reputation of Enoch.  Read here.

2. Analogy

Narratives can also be analogous to the situation of the original readers. I prefer to refer to them as corrective parallels. Some might says that's just a parable, but the term parable often implies a work of fiction, and we don't really need to make that determination in order to mirror-read. It is often said that reading Paul's letters is like hearing half of a phone conversation.  Parallel narratives are like hearing half of an analogy. e.g. "The Story of Jonah is like..."  Parallels are not allegories in that they draw on similarities but not symbolism.


Not all of Matthew is analogous but some of what Jesus says is.  Specifically, when he mentions "Every kingdom divided against itself", it's analogous to the situation in the Church at that time.  Watch the video here.


Prophecy uses future events to address current (to the original readers) issues.


Nahum foretells the destruction of Nineveh to encourage Jews to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Read here.


Habakkuk foretells the invasion of the Babylonians to show that God is in control.  However, there is a secondary meaning to Habakkuk in that it may be using some parts of the prophecy as a parallel.  Read here.


Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Robert cropped from original

The False Teachers Weren't Stupid

Hindsight is 20/20, and we don't realize how reasonable the Biblical arguments were that the false teachers made were at that time.

Old Testament Scriptures and New Testament Prophecies.

The false teachers used the Old Testament Scriptures to support their false teachings.  There are plenty of OT verses that talk about how Israel was God's chosen, and how they were the light of the world. If that was God's plan, then who can change it?  I write about the "cornerstone" written about in Isaiah, how the false teachers used it and how Paul responds to it in Titus.  I also write about the use of Scripture in Isaiah that the false teachers used to pronounce God's wrath on the Gentiles.  Paul responds to it in 1 Thessalonians.

This should make us think differently when Paul quotes Old Testament passages.  Is he simply quoting them to support his case, or is he quoting them in order to correct the interpretation of them by the false teachers.  Check out the video below where I discuss further.

The false teachers also used prophecies spoken by true prophets in the Church at that time.  I write about how Paul corrects their interpretations of those prophecies in Ephesians.

If you think the false teachers were just bumbling idiots then you don't understand what their false teachings were, which may have an impact on how you understand the correct teachings of the Bible.  Mirror-Reading can help with that.  The false teachers were trying to integrate Christ into their existing religious paradigms and their false teachings were the result of their attempts. 

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Quinn Dombrowski cropped from original

Doug Wilson: Tolerant Or Intolerant?

Doug Wilson

An elephant that brings his own china shop with him, Doug Wilson seems to create controversy effortlessly.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Yes, I know the typical china shop metaphor calls for a bull, but when I think of a bull, I think of one that's angry, snorting and exerting force while bucking and kicking and whose sole purpose is destruction.  I think that is not in-line with Doug Wilson's calm demeanor.  I picture him instead as an elephant walking through the china shop nonchalantly, knocking over things simply as a byproduct of the path that he's on.  However, he can be provocative at times (as you'll see below).  I sometimes wonder if Doug said something in a forest and no one was there to hear, would they still be offended?

Doug pastors at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He's written several books, and he writes online at a blog with one of the cleverest titles ever: Blog and Mablog. I first discovered Doug by watching a documentary called "Collision".  It documents a series of debates between Doug and the late Christopher Hitchens.  Here is the trailer:

Doug is a presuppositionalist, which I'm not a fan of, but atheists don't seem to encounter it much, so it is fun to watch them grapple with it for the first time.  Hitchens, however, seemed to enjoy the new challenge that it presented, since it is different from what he had typically encountered.  After Hitchens died, Doug released this gracious but pointed video:

Doug ran into some controversy when he and some others spoke on Federal Vision at a conference.  It wasn't intended, or expected for that matter, to stir up any hostilities, but the aftermath of the conference resulted in a few denominations branding Federal Vision as a heresy.  Here is Doug discussing what Federal Vision is:

He also has been pegged as a racist by some because of some of the things he's written. Doug would dispute that claim, and he and Thabiti Anyabwile engage in a discussion regarding his book "Black and Tan" that clarify some of his views.

Doug has also been vocal on his stance regarding homosexuality.  His lecture at University of Indiana caused quite a stir.  The students were less than charitable:

I was impressed with his patience with the crowd. You can watch the entire lecture and Q&A here:

Although he's thought of as intolerant by many, he appears to be a tolerator of the intolerant while still holding to his beliefs.  However, Doug, at times, does stoke the fire as the inflammatory picture below shows:

He certainly won't make any fast friends in the LGBQT community with pics like that.  Not that he's trying to.

There is another documentary that stars Doug, and it highlights some of the controversy surrounding his lecture at IU.  Here is the trailer:

He is also a cessasionist but always engages charismatics in a gracious way.  Here he is with Mark Driscoll talking about spiritual gifts:

He also debated Adrian Warnock shortly after Macarthur's Strange Fire conference.  At times, I felt he and Adrian were simply debating semantics, and Doug might be closer to being a charismatic than he thinks.

Doug was also interviewed on Rethinking Hell and gives one of the best defenses of the traditional view that I've heard:

Doug is also a preterist, and you may find the following video interesting, where he, Piper, Hamilton and Storms discuss eschatology:

I'm sorry if I didn't mention your favorite offensive thing that Doug has said.  I'm sure there will be more before I can hit the "save and publish" button for this post.

Doug Wilson and Mirror-Reading

I listened to this sermon of his on Ephesians 1. There was virtually no mirror-reading.  He does give some historical background to Ephesus, but when it came to reconstructing the situation and the false teachings that Paul was responding to, there was nothing.  He instead approaches Ephesians primarily as a theology book instead of as a letter.

However, I also listened to his sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 and was pleased to find some mirror-reading going on.  He even talks about how 1 Corinthians is like hearing half of a phone conversation.  If only he would say that of every book in the Bible.  He describes the divisions that were taking place in the Church of Corinth at the time: Legal business disputes, social group status, food issues, idolatry accommodations, sexual relationship issues, spiritual gifts and the Lord's supper.  He also touches on the Jew/Gentile dispute, and talks about how the Gentiles said that they had baptism and the Lord's supper.  Doug shows how Paul responded by pointing to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Questions For Doug Wilson

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Doug below. I welcome a response from Doug, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Doug? Do you agree with his views? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?


People Believe What They Want To Believe About The Bible

I've recently encountered a number of tweets that deal with a similar idea.  I don't know what motivated each tweet, but the fact that they have a common theme is interesting.  Here are the tweets:

From Trevin's post:

How do you make a moral decision?

How do you determine if something is right or wrong?

Many of us think of morality as something we discover after rational and reflective consideration. You hear both sides of an argument, you consider reasons that may justify your action, and then you pronounce judgment.

But Jonathan Haidt says we’re getting it backwards. In reality, you judge first, and only then do you justify.

Have you ever had someone explain a Bible verse, and you know intuitively that their explanation was wrong, even though you couldn't articulate why?  It's because it's messing with one of your paradigms.  We can't always articulate our paradigms, but we know them subconsciously.  Your intuition may be right but only if your paradigm is right.  None of us has all of the answers to everything, but we all have some sort of structure made of paradigms.  It's like a picture made of mosaic tile.  The pieces that fit, we add, if they don't, we discard accordingly.  Some pieces we feel forced to fit into it, and so we jam it in wherever we can with mental gymnastics, but if that doesn't work, we're forced to change one of our paradigms. 

I recently posted on whether we recreate Biblical characters in our own image.  One of the reasons that I like mirror-reading is that it takes the focus off of my own paradigms and, in an indirect way, attempts to reconstruct the paradigms of author, the false teachers and the original readers.  One may not embrace or even realize the theological implications from the insights gained from mirror-reading, but I know some of my own paradigms have shifted because of mirror-reading, and I can't help but think that it makes me a little more objective when studying the Scriptures.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: [like caramel!] cropped from original

Jeffrey Kranz: Slicing And Dicing Biblical Data

Jeffrey Kranz

Looking for infographs, overviews and fun facts of the Bible?  Jeffrey Kranz offers some fantastic resources!

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Jeffrey runs a website called The Overview Bible Project.  He and his wife, Laura, put together some pretty great stuff.  By his own admission, not much of it is new information, but he does a great job of taking information in the Bible and reorganizing it so that it's easier to understand or gives additional insight.  For someone who's favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes, his website is fun, upbeat and educational.

Logos Bible Software

Jeffrey used to work at Logos Bible Software and still seems to have ties.  Here's an article on Logos 5 and how he uses it.  It's a bit dated now but still good.

He's also interviewed in the video below about James being the bossiest book in the Bible (Jeffrey, keep the beard, it works for you! Logos, that is some choppy video editing!)


Jeffrey puts together some nice infographics.  Here's one on Romans:

You can view all of them here.  One suggestion for Jeffrey would be to have all of them listed on one page, so I don't have to keep hitting "Older Posts".

Content Genius

Jeffrey is also an online content genius and runs a website called Gradlime where you can learn all sorts of things about how to be successful on the internets.  I've enjoyed everything I've read on there so far, although, sometimes, he makes me feel like my website is never good enough...and that my posts aren't long enough.  Oh well, I'm getting better everyday!

Jeffrey Kranz And Mirror-Reading

The thing that really drew me to The Overview Bible Project was, well, the overviews of the books of the Bible.  Jeffrey goes through each book of the Bible and summarizes them in an easy to understand way. Be sure to check them out here.

1 Corinthians

Jeffrey does engage in mirror-reading (well, everybody does).  In his overview of 1 Corinthians, he does a pretty good job of setting up what the situation was in Corinth.  For example:

 The Corinthians were fighting each other, with one faction claiming Paul as their leader while others claimed the eloquent Apollos, the original apostle Peter (Cephas), or the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (1 Co 1:12). Paul reprimands them for their immaturity (1 Co 3:3), and points to God as the one who deserves glory, not His servants (1 Co 3:5–7).


However, in his overview of Ephesians, there isn't really much of a set up of the situation in Ephesus.  Instead, he uses theological categories to summarize the book:

  • Grace. We’re saved by God’s grace—His favor which we could not deserve (Eph 2:8–9). Paul encourages the church to deal graciously with one another in turn (Eph 4:25–32).
  • Peace. We naturally deserved God’s wrath (Eph 2:3), but He has adopted us through Jesus (Eph 1:5). Furthermore, he has united the Jews and non-Jews in His Son, establishing peace between all parties (Eph 2:14). Now, the church is to preserve peace and unity with one another (Eph 4:3).
  • Love. God showed His love through Jesus (Eph 2:4), and Paul commends the Ephesians for the way they love one another (Eph 1:15). He prays that they be rooted in love (Eph 3:17) and encourages them to continue walking in love (Eph 5:2).

This treats Paul's letter as a theology book instead of a letter that responded to a certain situation.  I'd rather see a list of false teachings that Paul was writing to correct.  Yes, theology can be derived from what Paul wrote, but I think we loose something if we don't understand the situation in Ephesus first.

Questions For Jeffrey Kranz

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Jeffrey below. I welcome a response from Jeffrey, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Jeffery? Do you find his overviews helpful? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?


Do We Recreate Biblical Characters In Our Own Image?

I was reading an interview with Peter Enns over at The Pangea Blog.  They talk about his book on Ecclesiastes.  Peter says:

"The main character of the book, called Qohelet, has some pretty harsh things to say about life as an Israelite. He is not simply skeptical. He is undone. He is in faith-crisis mode, and he pulls no punches letting us know it. His big beef is with God. Qohelet is angry with him."

That says a lot about what was going on inside Qohelet.  I'm not saying Peter is wrong (although I do have a different take on Ecclesiastes).  I think we can infer that type of thing from the text.  It just seems that some people (not necessarily Peter) are cautious when it comes to mirror-reading but have no problem reconstructing the psyche of someone.  I've heard many sermons where the preacher talks about how David felt this way, Abraham thought this, or Paul was this type of person.  They'll even talk about how God felt and what He thought even when it's not explicit in the text.  So, although they are leery of reconstructing the specific events that mirror-reading can bring to light, they embrace reconstructing the persons, personalities and psychologies of Biblical authors and characters.

I also recently listened to a debate between Reza Aslan and Anthony Le Donne on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierely. Aslan attempts to reconstruct the person of Jesus, although he excludes much of the New Testament text about Jesus.  

When we do this type of thing I wonder if we are driven by creating the characters in our own image.  It seems like Peter Enns has had his own crisis of faith and so Qohelet is also similar.  Aslan has a history of desiring political change, and so Jesus is a political revolutionary.  Are Enns and Aslan drawn to those characters because that's who they truly were, or are they reading their own personalities into the characters? To be sure, they offer evidence for their views, but I can't help but think that who they are colors their view.  They are also concerned with the original readers but stick with the broad historical context instead of the more specific situational context that mirror-reading can provide.  It is, of course, impossible to be completely objective, but I find it all thought provoking.

One of the reasons that I like mirror-reading is because it takes the focus off of trying to fit one's own situation or own theology into the text and focuses on the original reader's situation.  And yet, I wonder if my own personality is coloring my own conclusions. 

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Hernán Piñera cropped from original

Tim Mackie: Telling The Grand Story Of The Bible With Awesome Videos

Showing how each book of the Bible is designed and how they fit into the overall Biblical narrative, Tim Mackie and his team animate the Bible.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Tim pastors at Door of Hope Church in Portland. He has his PhD in Semitic Languages and Biblical Studies.  He's also a professor at Western Seminary. You can check out his website here.

I first discovered Tim when I ran across his "Bible in Five" series of videos.  They consist of Tim and a transparent dry eraser board as he explains each book of the Bible.  Check out the video below as he tackles Matthew:

Tim has begun the process of upgrading those videos by teaming up with Jonathan Collins and starting "The Bible Project".  From a quality production point of view, these videos are brilliant!  The New Testament videos are of the animated white board variety (more of a parchment board than white board).  Here's one on Hebrews:

The Old Testament videos are even more animated with some sound effects thrown in.  Here is the video on Numbers:

Tim Mackie And Mirror-Reading

Tim does mirror-read in his video on 1st Corinthians.  He even catagorizes in terms of the problems and Paul's response.  My only complaint is that he doesn't touch on the reason for the problems:  What were the false teachings that caused the Corinthians to think it was okay to do the things they were doing.  You can check out the video below.

Besides 1st Corinthians, Tim doesn't do much mirror-reading.  He does set up some basic background info at the beginning of the videos for the epistles.  However, when it comes to the narrative books there is virtually no mirror-reading.  I believe narratives can be mirror-read.  I do some mirror-reading with the Pentateuch in this episode on my RE2 podcast.

Questions For Tim Mackie

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Tim below. I welcome a response from Tim, whether as a guest post or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Tim? Do you enjoy his videos? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?


Theological Implications Of Mirror-Reading

It's impossible to be completely neutral when it comes to theology, but I attempt, on this site, to be as theologically neutral as possible.  Mirror-reading focuses on the text and is more about exegesis than theology.  Certainly theology can be derived from mirror-reading, but I hope that by focusing on the text, I'll avoid unnecessary conflict or alienation of those who hold particular theological views.  I realize that this may be naive or even disillusion.  It may draw sub-par web traffic. Regardless, I'll do what I can to stick to mirror-reading without peddling theological views.

However, one of my frustrations is that sometimes I'll share a mirror-reading insight with someone, they'll agree with it and then will turn around and espouse a theological view that contradicts it.  I've been encouraged by others to share the theological implications of my mirror-readings, simply because they want to know, but for now, I'm go to try to avoid it.

Another reason why I don't like to draw theological lines in the sand with mirror-reading is because I can only draw a conclusion from the parts of Scripture that I feel I've mirror-read thoroughly.  I may conclude that one verse does not support a theological view, but what about the half-dozen other verses that support it?  I haven't mirror-read all of those yet, and so I'm reluctantly to take a hard stand on minor issues.  

If you really must know some of my theological views, you can check out some of my views on the RE2 podcast.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: mckinney75402 cropped from original

When His Ways Are Not Higher Than Your Ways

When you don't understand part of the Bible, it may be a "mystery" but not for the reasons that you think.

A Mystery That Glorifies God Or A Lack Of Knowledge?

Don't be so quick to write off a Bible passage just because it's meaning is not clear.  I've seen many people come across a difficult verse and say, "God is just so mysterious, isn't He?"  Well, He is mysterious in many ways, but to chalk up a verse to mystery just because you don't understand it, cheats you of a deeper understanding, and perpetuates the idea that God put something in the Bible just to mess with our heads.

I get it.  When I first started reading the Bible as a serious student, I came across a couple of chapters in Daniel that I had no idea what they meant.  Daniel's use of metaphorical language made no sense to me, but a quick look down at the study notes in my Bible shed light on the matter, and I understood how events in history related to what Daniel said.  When I read about how women shouldn't have short hair in 1st Corinthians, I had no understanding of the cultural meaning of women with short hair during that time.  I said to God, "God! How was I supposed to know what that meant?  If I didn't have these Bible study notes, I would be clueless".  

At the time, I thought the Bible was a clear manual on how to live my life: Do this, Don't do this.  Sure, some of the books of the Bible were in narrative form, but I thought the "rules" would be clear in a Sunday School lesson kind of way.  However, the truth is that the Bible is a library of books, including different genres, and not all of it can be readily understood.  The examples I gave in Daniel and 1st Corinthians may even seem like obvious cases that needed further information, but in every verse that confuses us, we must ask ourselves "Is this a God designed mystery, or do I just not understand it?"  Don't assume that it's a Theo-esotaric passage that only God can understand and that baffle the rest of us. It's certainly possible but don't use it as an easy out.

3 Reasons Why You Might Not Understand The Bible.

1. Your hermeneutic is wrong

Your whole a approach to the Bible, the way you interpret it (your hermeneutic) may be wrong.  Are you trying to read your own theology into the Bible?  Are you trying to allegorize it?  Or are you trying to understand how the original readers would have understood it?  To learn more about the different ways of interpreting the Bible, be sure to check out this post.

2. You don't know the context.

You may not understand the Bible because you are missing information about it.  Youneed to know the context.  There are different types of contexts such as historical context, cultural context and literary context.  The examples I give above in Daniel and 1st Corinthians are good examples of why it's important to know the historical context.  

3. You only have half of the conversation

There is also situational context. The Biblical authors were responding to a particular situation when they wrote their texts.  If you don't know what those situations were, you won't get a full understanding of what the text means.  The problem is that the authors don't always tell us what the situations were that they were responding to.  However, we can use a technique called mirror-reading to reconstruct what that situation was.  If you don't know how to mirror-read, be sure to check out this post.


Austin Fischer: Cresting A New Wave of Arminianism?

Austin Fischer

In what could be a growing movement away from Calvinism, Austin Fischer leads the way.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Austin is a Teaching Pastor at Vista Community Church in Belton/Temple, Texas and blogs over at Purple Theology.  A cross between Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson, his southern charm makes him pretty much instantly likable.  His book, "Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism", chronicles his journey and his reasons for leaving Calvinism.  The title is also a play off of Collin Hansen's book "Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists".

Fischer vs Piper

Not surprisingly, John Piper is not too happy about it.  John feels his and Jonathan Edward's views are misrepresented:

Austin then responds to Piper in a blog post in a "Dear John" open letter. He feels Piper misrepresents him. From the post:

I sat and watched the meticulous picture of God that Edwards and Piper painted. I loved so many of the strokes and colors. They finished painting, stepped back and said, “What a masterpiece! The manifold excellencies of the glory of God, displayed in the doctrines of grace.” I stepped back and said, “I really want to see that!…but I’m afraid I see a black hole instead.”

Austin offers a solid, simple and gracious response, although I wish he would have interacted with the Biblical text (by mirror-reading them, of course!) that John mentions. 

A Cold And Morally Ambiguous God?

Jonathan Merritt interviewed Austin:

All doctrines of hell are difficult, but the Calvinist doctrine presented me with a God so (seemingly) cold and morally ambiguous that I despaired of how I could know and relate to such a God. If the God who could die for sinners could also create sinners in order to damn them, then the universe was an incoherent place ruled by an enigmatic deity of arbitrary, raw power. It is certainly within God’s rights to do such a thing, but if it’s within God’s heart then we’re all in big trouble. That was my conclusion at least.

Most Calvinists I know would say that it doesn't matter what Austin "feels" or "thinks", it's only what the Bible says that counts.  That's not to say Austin doesn't have Biblical arguments, but I think most Calvinists would see Austin's foundational motivation to be moving in the direction of something like Josh Tongol's "love hermeneutic".

The Debates

Be sure to check out this debate that Austin participates in with Brian Zahnd, Daniel Montgomery and Timothy P. Jones:

Austin also debates James White on "Unbelievable?".  James is a formidable debater, and I would have no desire to debate him, but I think Austin holds his own.

Arminianism Waking Up?

Recently, Austin tweeted this:

I think it's interesting too, and I also think this is right on. From the article:

Calvinism and Arminianism waxes and wanes.

Arminianism is the default perspective of the Christian church.
When Calvinism waxes, it takes a while for Arminianism to respond.

In the mid 1980s, a Westminister Theological Journal lamented the waning of Calvinism. The article title played off the title of the folk song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Its title was “Where Have All the Tulips Gone?” At that time, it seemed that J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul were the only Calvinists around, and a few minor players.

In the mid 1990s we saw a resurgence of Calvinism. It has taken about 10 years for Arminians to wake up. It’s a pendulum swing, I think.

The success of Austin's book could be a reflection of an overdue Arminian response.

Austin Fischer And Mirror-Reading

I listened to two sermons by Austin.  One on 1 John 4:1-2 and the other entitled "Jonah: Week 3".  You can listen to them here.

1 John 4:1-2

Austin does do some mirror-reading when he recreates some of the original situation when he talks about "those who have gone out from us".  He talks about how "Christ had come in the flesh", but mirror-reading would ask, why would someone say he didn't come in the flesh? Were there theological reasons for them to think that?  Are there reasons hinted at elsewhere in the text? 

Austin mentions that there are pages and pages of debate on what "in the flesh" means?  I haven't seen them.  I thought "in the flesh" simply meant that Christ came in human form, as opposed to spirit form.  I won't elaborate here but you can read this post at my abandoned Ephesians website.

To be fair Austin does recognize "in the flesh" to be referring to the incarnation, but he also makes a comparison of our typical view of a 6'6" blue-eyed, barrel-chested Christ and the 5'3" middle easterner that He actually was, and then refers to the barrel-chested Christ view as being antichrist .  However, even if you believe in the barrel-chested Christ view, you still could believe He came in the flesh and is therefore, not antichrist.  To define antichrist the way Austin does really gets away from what antichrist meant to the original readers, because they certainly wouldn't have thought of him as a blue-eyed Christ.  


Austin does a fine job summarizing Jonah and making points about how everyone is special to God, and how we should extend grace to others.  However, he does not mirror-read Jonah.  That's not surprising since most people don't mirror-read narratives, but I maintain that narratives can be mirror-read and Jonah is no exception. 

Instead of asking why did Jonah do such and such, we should be asking why did the author of Jonah write such and such to the original readers.  In other words, what was the situation that the author of Jonah was responding to, and how did the story of Jonah relate to it?  Unfortunately, my own mirror-reading of Jonah crashed and burned, but the principle of mirror-reading still holds.

Questions For Austin Fischer

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Austin below. I welcome a response from Austin, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Austin? Do you side with Calvinism or Arminianism or something else? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?



Titus And The "Biblical" Case That God's A Liar

False teachers were telling the early Church that the gentiles couldn't be God's people.  He had declared that He was against them. If God were to include the gentiles in the Church now, then God would be a liar...and they had the Scriptures to prove it.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings, and although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading Titus Gives Us A Greater Understanding

One of the Biblical text that the false teachers used to "prove" that God would not accept the gentiles was Isaiah 28:16:

Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation... "

The context there is that God had declared to the leadership in Jerusalem at that time, that they should repent, or else God would destroy the city and exile them. The leadership in Jerusalem responded by trying to make alliances to avoid God’s judgment. However, God says that His word, what He has declared, is like a cornerstone and cannot be avoided.

The false teachers said that there was no salvation for the Gentiles on earth and God had declared it in the Scriptures. If He changed his mind now, that would make Him a liar.  Here's another verse in Isaiah that show that once God made up His mind, there was no turning it back.

Isaiah 14:26-27
This is the plan that is determined for the whole earth. This is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For Yahweh of Armies has planned, and who can stop it? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?

Since God had said that He would destroy the Gentile nations, He cannot change his mind and save them now.

How Paul Proved That God Was Not A Liar

When Paul writes Titus, he addresses the "Lying God" issue:

Titus 1:1-2
 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

Paul alludes to the "cornerstone" in Isaiah to make the same point in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:20
being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;

The New Testament makes clear that the inclusion of the Gentiles was the plan from the very beginning and that God did not change His mind, thereby making Him not a liar.

Ephesians 1:4 (see also 1 Peter 1:20, John 17:24, and Revelation 13:8)
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

Paul states later in Titus that God's grace is for all people...including the Gentiles:

Titus 2:11
 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Titus?  Was Paul trying prove that God was not a liar for the inclusion of the Gentiles?  What other situations do you think Titus was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Cleaver cropped from original

Brandan Robertson: From Fundamentalist to Progressive to ?

Exploring theological views and engaging others on LGBT issues, Brandan Robertson forges ahead on his own spiritual journey.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

I first heard of Brandan when I was doing research for my RE2 podcast and came across some of his videos.  At the time, he was attending Moody Bible Institute.  For a full description of Brandan, go here.  I'll just give you the short version.  Bradan is a progressive Christian who considers himself an evangelical regardless of what others might think.  He writes for a number of different online publications, and he's been featured on a number of different shows.  He's a part of a number of different organizations, with perhaps most of his exposure coming from his work with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.  He's an outspoken voice on LBGT issues.


After becoming a Christian, Brandon started out as the fundamentalist variety while being a part of an independent baptist church.  I too, grew up in an independent baptist church, so I can appreciate his journey out of that type of Christianity.  The photo is from his fundy days

His fundamentalist ways started to tone down while at Moody.  He interviewed a number of different Christian leaders while hosting a radio show at Moody.  Here's a video of him interviewing David Platt:

With exposure to other Christian thinkers, he started to rethink a lot of doctrines, not surprisingly, Penal Substitution was one of them:


Brandon eventually moved to a Progressive Christianity.  He also now identifies as queer - someone who's sexuality is "fluid".  He landed a contract to write a book called "Nomad" but then lost it because of his stance on LBGT issues.  The resulting publicity that resulted from the controversy was probably a blessing in disguise.  TIME.com picked up on the story and published a piece on it.  You can read Brandan's thoughts on the ordeal here and here.

Here's a very well done video featuring Brandan:

After starting Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, there was a backlash from the conservative side of Evangelicalism.  Brandon responds:

Our mission is straightforward: Evangelicals for Marriage Equality exists to cultivate a new conversation on the issue of civil marriage equality, so that evangelicals understand that it's possible to be a faithful Christian and a supporter of same-sex marriage. It is because of our commitment to follow Jesus that we feel compelled to speak out for the equal treatment under the law for all people, whether or not they share our convictions.
What we didn't do in our statement is argue in favor changing the sacramental definition of marriage in the Church. So it's curious that some of our fiercest critics attributed that viewpoint to us.


 Another criticism comes from Dr. Albert Mohler, the distinguished President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He argued in his morning podcast that there is no distinction between "the church's moral understanding of homosexuality" and "the government's recognition of marriage". (Walker makes a similar point in his op-ed, describing the man-woman relationship as "the basic social unit of civilization.")
 But this attempt to brand the Christian definition of marriage as the prevailing definition used by the federal government is problematic. Marriage as recognized by the government represents a set of benefits and privileges that it makes little sense to offer to some couples but not others. Hospital visitation rights, for instance, or funeral planning -- these are benefits that share no particular gender or orientation distinction. The same could be said for tax treatment by the IRS.

You can read the whole thing here.

In the video below, Brandan takes on Kevin Boling and Evan Lenow.  Again, Brandan is arguing for legal same-sex marriage and is not pushing a theological argument. Both sides of the debate were frustrated by the talking past each other and talking in circles.  Brandan gets a little hot under the collar but keeps his composure.  Each side is coming from a different paradigm, so communication is understandably difficult. The debate occurred before the SCOTUS decision, so some of what I write below should be taken in the past tense.

Brandan promotes the idea that marriage defined by the government should be theologically neutral.  However, Boling and Lenow don't see morality and legality as mutually exclusive.  The government's decision is going to be conducive to someone's morality, why not the Christian's?  

Brandan balks at the idea that we should Christianize the nation.  He thinks its not Christ-like, nor are Christians consistent when arguing that they should.  If they were, they would seek to make drunkenness, adultery and lying illegal.

Brandan maintains that the government is not in the sacrament business.  But they kind of are.  Most Christians consider marriage to be a sacrament, the government regulates marriages, ergo, the government is in the sacrament business.  Therefore, Christians feel like they need to push for their definition of marriage. Telling a conservative Christian that the government can take a theologically neutral stance on marriage is like saying the government could take a theologically neutral stance on baptism or the Lord's supper.  It does not compute.  If the government were to give benefits to those who were baptized or took the Lord's supper, then we would have the same issue with those sacraments.  Therein lies the crux of the matter.  What we need is a "third way" when dealing with marriage and the government.  If government wasn't involved in marriage, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. Actually, Brandan would prefer that the government not be involved in marriage at all, but they are, so he's seeking to change change it's definition of it - to what he feels is a theological neutral one.

Our founding fathers set up this nation so that each citizen is a sovereign.  We should think of America as an alliance of over 350 million itty bitty kingdoms, and the purpose of the government is to protect the persons and property of those kingdoms, nothing more.  Going back to Brandan's point about drunkenness, adultery and lying: The government does take a stance on those issues when is comes to protecting the persons and property of others.  Those in power always want a democracy mob rule, but those not in power always want the minority protecting republic.  If most conservative Christians were honest, they would want to Christianize the nation, but since the SCOTUS decision they are finally starting to see the wisdom of getting the government out of the marriage business.   It cuts both ways though, Progressive Christians want to Christianize the nation as well when is comes to helping the poor and access to free health-care.  You will love your neighbor whether you want to or not.

I believe before any discussion of the morality or legality of same-sex marriage can be had, a discussion needs to be had on the morality of whether each citizen can be a sovereign individual.  Sadly, I think most Americans would say that there can't be and will continually try to enforce their values onto others.  I recently listened to the "Should you impose your values on others?" episode on this podcast. On my RE2 podcast, we discussed Al Mohler's difficulties with libertarian ideas.  Also, Ben Lewis has a nice article on the Kim Davis fiasco over at The Great Fiction.

Boling and Lenow try to get to Brandan's rational basis for his government definition of marriage, but they usually frame it in terms of polygamy or incest.  This puts Brandan on the defensive, and he sees it as a straw-man and/or slippery slope argument.  Boling and Lenow's point though, is not whether polygamy or incest would happen, but rather if they could be justified by using Brandan's rational framework.  Brandan would say that it would not, but we don't get many details as to why.

Brandan gives aspects of his rational framework, but Boling and Lenow don't really pick up on it or pursue it.  Incestuous marriages are "unhealthy" because of the genetic effects on offspring. But what if they don't have kid's, does that make it okay? Bestiality is "obviously" wrong.  Well, it wasn't that long ago that homosexuality was "obviously" wrong.  What's the basis? Brandan also argues that we should change the definition of marriage because the current definition harms people and causes them pain.  Is the government expected to stop all harm and pain that can be experienced? My point is not to disagree with Brandan necessarily, but I would have liked to have seen his rational framework explored a bit more.  His hermeneutical approach to the Bible may give us additional insight.

Duo Experiencia Et Communitas

Both experience and community (if my Latin is right) is what Brandon promotes in understanding the Bible.  He is correct in noting that Protestants tend to get nervous whenever someone speaks of experience as their basis for understanding truth.  TGC recently released a video on Sola Experiencia.  But Brandan sees the Scriptures as evolving.  He says the Old Testament view of God is not the same as the New Testament, and there are other differences as well.  Brandan looks to experience instead of the propositional statements of the Bible, but he calls for the tempering of ones experience with community.  One may feel God is telling them one thing, and another person feels God is telling them another, but it is within community that things like that can be sorted out.  I'd like to hear some real world examples of that.  Also, what if God is telling one community one thing and another community another thing.  How do you sort that out? You can listen to Brandon talk about his thoughts on the Bible here.

Here's another debate on homosexuality, although it's not much of a debate.  Brandan is much more focused here and stays tight on his talking points.  He's reluctant to engage Dr. Michael Brown in debate, and I can't say that I blame him after watching Dr. Brown steamroll Matthew Vines (word of advice: don't using the Socratic method when debating Dr. Brown)


Brandan has been criticized for calling himself an Evangelical but he defends the designation repeatedly

But no one get’s to decided who is in and who is out based on theology or politics. Instead, evangelical is an ethos. A style of Christianity. Any theological system or political affiliation can fit within its borders. Because being an evangelical is less about a theology or worldview and more about how we chose to live those things out.

You can read the whole thing here.

What's next?

In a recent article regarding The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, I felt Brandan's anger saturated his writing.  Nothing major, it was subtle, in the subtext, but still, he is usually so gracious, even with those he disagrees with.  Read for yourself.  My thoughts were confirmed in a recent tweet:

Brandon responded to the ACBC conference by launching the Imago Dei Summit.  You can check it out here.

Brandan appears to be a big fan of Rob Bell.  He's has numerous videos of his interviews with him.  This seems to have exposed to him to Oprah, and he seems to have an affinity for her work.  I also noticed some tweets about Deepak Chopra on Brandan's twitter.  I wonder if he will start to move away from Christianity and embrace more of a spiritual or New Thought way of thinking (kind of like Joshua Tongol).  His Project Awaken site seems to be moving in that direction.  If not, then I'll be interested in seeing how he integrates it with his Christianity. His theological views over that past few years have been, well, fluid.  Not that having changing views is bad, we all grow and evolve (hopefully), but Brandan hasn't shown any signs of settling into a theological framework anytime soon. I'm curious to see what's next for him, and how far he'll taking the boundaries of being an evangelical.

Brandan Robertson And Mirror-Reading

Brandan's not really one to do detailed exegesis in his speaking or writing.  There are a few verses that I might encourage him to mirror-read: I think work can be done to have a better understanding of the situational context of Romans 1 and not just the historical context.  I think mirror-reading Genesis would show that it has less to do with same-sex marriage than most think. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter to Brandan what those verses really mean, and they could be jettisoned if his experience and community allowed it. However, I'd rather have him jettison a verse after mirror-reading it and having a full understanding rather than doing so because of a misunderstanding of the text.

Questions For Brandan Robertson

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Brandan below. I welcome a response from Brandan, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Do you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Brandan? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?

Why Is John Different Than The Rest Of The Gospels?

You can see the similarities shared among the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke below:

On the other hand, only about 8% of the gospel of John parallels the other Gospels.  While the laity tend to favor John, scholars often give it a hard time for being so different.

I recently watched this video over at the Huffington Post with Peter Kreeft, Philip Jenkins, Peter Lillback and Reza Aslan.  Aslan is one of the scholars that sees John as being different because the story of Jesus evolved, and the author was crafting the story to support the theological views of the time.

Mirror-reading takes a different approach.  The Gospel narratives are not simply a recording of events but a response to the situations the authors were facing at the time.  It's not like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John sat down one day and said, "I think I'll write down all the things I know or believe about Jesus."  They all should be viewed as half of a conversation.  The Gospel of John was simply responding to a different set of circumstances than the other Gospels were.  That shouldn't necessitate that we view John with suspicion, or that his narrative is any less credible.   You can watch my video on mirror-reading narratives, or check out any of the narratives on the Books of the Bible page.

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alecmconroy cropped from original

Matt Whitman: Serving Up The Bible In Savory 10 Minute Bites

Matt Whitman

Both fun and educational, Matt Whitman creates some super great YouTube videos that everyone should check out.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

Matt Whitman pastors at Lander Evangelical Free Church (who's website could use some freshening up).  Beyond his pastoral duties, he develops a number of different videos on the Ten Minute Bible Hour, including 10 minute(ish) videos that tackle chunks of Scripture. He does a great job of keeping them interesting and engaging. He posts his videos and writes over at Theology Mix. Matt also has a great sense of humor and it definitely shows in his creative endeavors.  Check out his hilarious Christmas card:

Below is a video of Matt explaining what exactly the Ten Minute Bible Hour is and what he hopes to achieve:

I'm really glad that Matt has decided to focus on "what the text says, what the author whas going for and how the original audience would have received it."  I think mirror-reading would greatly assist Matt in achieving that desire (more on that later).

I caught a glimpse of Matt's character on twitter a while back when he tweeted this:

That, my friends, is a classy move.  Unless it was his plan all along, in which case, it would be devilishly clever, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that perhaps, one day, he'll follow me back on twitter again.

Who's the Main Character of the Bible?

Although I completely agree that the Bible is not a story where I am (or you are) the main character, I think it may be misleading to call the Bible a story.  I may be nitpicking here, but the Bible is a library of different genres. Some of them aren’t stories at all.  Some of them are narratives, but the purpose of the narratives is not to tell a good story.  If you read a narrative in the Bible and expect it to be like a story in a movie, you’ll be disappointed, and it will likely inhibit your understanding.  Have you ever watched a movie that uses the Bible as a script?  They’re incredibly boring. Robert McKee's "Story" explains many of the different aspects of a story: a protagonist that has an object of desire, forces of antagonism, character development, climax, resolution.  Many of these aspects are lacking in the Biblical narratives.   That’s because they weren’t written to be good stories. They were written as a response to a specific situation, and their main purpose was to correct false teachings. We are missing half of the “real story” that’s behind the books of the Bible, but we can reconstruct the other half through mirror-reading the narratives.

I’m not saying that Matt necessarily disagrees with all of that, but I just wanted to clarify.  I should also mention that I agree that all of the books of the Bible are part of an overarching narrative throughout history, it’s just that all the books themselves should not be considered "stories", because they just don't live up to our modern concept of what a story is.

Mirror-Reading And Matt Whitman

Matt is working his way through the Book of Acts.  Below is a playlist of his videos on Acts:

Matt does a great job on trying to focus on what the text would have meant to the original reader.  He uses historical context to bring insight to the text.  However, with mirror-reading, one can gain the “situational context” needed to bring even further understanding.  Matt gets into that a little bit by explaining the author’s motivation: Some amazing things happened before and after Christ, and people wanted to know if it was true.  What were the circumstances? Who were the witnesses?  The original reader wanted the whole story.  However, the original reader already had half of the story, leaving us with only half of the story.  Again, mirror-reading attempts to reconstruct the other half.  

Matt calls the Book of Acts a “theology book” at one point.  That’s dangerously close to calling it a theological dissertation, and calling it that assumes that we have all the data.  For reasons already explained, we do not have all the data.  It does, of course, have theological themes within it, but I think calling it a theology book can skew one's approach to the Bible.

I like Matt’s approach when the Bible talks about Jesus eating and that he was actually resurrected in bodily form.  I usually hear something like, “Hey, Jesus is my kind of guy! He’s always eating!”.  Although amusing, that explanation misses the point of the text and Matt does a good job of bringing that to light.

Other places are lacking though.  As much as I appreciate his libertarian views when it comes to explaining why early Church members sold all their possessions, there was no exploration as to why that was an issue to the original readers.  Luke is not just being descriptive in his writing, but corrective.  What was happening in the church of the original reader that needed to be corrected by Luke’s story about selling all possessions?  

Another place that could have explored mirror-reading more is the story of the death of Ananias and his wife.  Again, Luke is corrective, not just descriptive.  What was Luke trying to correct by telling the story of Ananias?

Unfortunately, I haven’t mirror-read Acts, so I don’t have all the answers.  However, Matt my find this post of some interest.

I also want to mention that Matt does a good job of finding parallels between Luke and Acts.  So much so that it got me thinking if they were part of a chiasmus.  This one may be of interest:

A Galilee, Luke 4:14-9:50
     B Journey to Jerusalem (through Samaria and Judea), Luke 9:51-19:40
           C Jerusalem, Luke 19:41-24:49
              D Ascension, Luke 24:50-51
              D' Ascension, Acts 1:1-11
           C' Jerusalem, Acts 1:12-8:1a
     B' Judea and Samaria, Acts 8:1b-11:18
A' To the end of the earth, Acts 11:19-28:31

There are others that are also proposed in this Word Doc.

Questions For Matt Whitman

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Matt below. I welcome a response from Matt, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Did you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Matt? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an “interesting voice”?


Everybody Mirror-Reads

There are those that say that we should avoid mirror-reading the Bible, but the truth is, virtually everybody does it to some extent.

People Mirror-Read Because It Works

@@Not everyone is aware that they mirror-read when they read the Bible@@.  Most people don't know what mirror-reading is (hopefully this website can help change that!), but they naturally and subconsciously mirror-read.  Granted, they don't mirror-read as often as they should, but almost everyone mirror-reads certain passages that "obviously" should be mirror-read.  

3 Bible Passages That Most People Mirror-Read

The Gentile/Jew Conflict in Romans

Paul goes on at great length to reconcile the Jew and the Gentiles in the Roman church.  Large chunks of his epistle are devoted to tackling the false teachings that were driving a wedge between the two ethnic groups.  He not only appears to be trying to integrate the Gentiles with the Jews, but also the Jews with the Gentiles. He discusses the Law, circumcision and Abraham and uses Old Testament Scriptures, metaphor and logical arguments, all in an effort to show that Jew and Gentile are the same in Christ:

Romans 10:12
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

The False Teachers in Galatia

Galatians is one of the most polemic books in the Bible, and for this reason, is often the subject of discussion when it comes to mirror-reading.  Paul makes remarks in his letter to the Galatians that directly discuss the false teachers in that church. He has harsh words for those false teachers in Galatia:

Galatians 5:12
I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

Divisions in Corinth

Paul states explicitly in the first chapter of 1st Corinthians, that there were divisions in the Church based on who they followed (e.g. Paul, Apollos, Jesus), but we can also piece together other types of divisions that had occurred based on what he says about the Lord's supper, spiritual gifts, and food sacrificed to idols.  He employs the word "one" throughout the letter as a way of countering the divisions.

1 Corinthians 12:12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

What do you think?

The passages above are areas that most people feel comfortable mirror-reading, but I think we can mirror-read much more, in greater detail, for greater understanding.  With a better methodology of mirror-reading, we can limit the risk of wild speculations.  It is the purpose of this site to explore and develop such a methodology.  What do you think?  What other areas of the Bible are you comfortable mirror-reading?


Joshua Tongol: Not Afraid To Question Religious Beliefs

Joshua Tongol

Continuously questioning deeply held doctrines and tipping over sacred cows, Joshua Tongol challenges himself and others.

This is part of a series which I'm calling "Interesting Voices".  You can see the whole series here.  They run the spectrum from conservative to progressive, little known to well known.  They may or may not already be familiar with mirror-reading. I may or may not agree with them theologically, but regardless, I think they are interesting voices speaking to the Christian community today.  The purpose of the series is to both raise awareness of mirror-reading and to introduce you to these voices.

I first heard of Joshua while he was at Biola University.  He was the vanguard of a movement of healing and revival on the campus there at the time.  Since I had recently attended Biola and had also recently discovered the Charismatic side of Christianity, I had an immediate affinity for Joshua. 

Some may be uncomfortably with his in inclusion in my "Interesting Voices" series because of how far he's drifted from evangelical or even orthodox Christianity.  If he is a Christian, he would define it differently than most.  In fact, that's one of the points of frustration for those that seek to debate Joshua.  His paradigms are so different than most, one needs to define almost every theological term when talking with him and then you may even have to define the terms that define the those terms!  I may not agree with Joshua theological, but I decided to include him in this series because I think his journey is interesting, and because I'm not afraid of those who aren't afraid to ask questions.  I hope you aren't afraid either.

I've embedded quite a few videos below, which I don't normally do, but since much of what Joshua does is video based, I thought it would be appropriate to include a selection of videos and let Joshua speak for himself.

After graduating from Biola University and Talbot School of Theology, Joshua moved to the Philippines to be a missionary.   He has gained a following from his work in the Philippines and from his numerous videos and sermon jams.  You can watch him speak about his background below, but I'll just say that he's shifted from Pentecostal, to a cessationist/apologist, to a charismatic Christian, to radical grace, to law of attraction, to, well, I'm not sure where exactly he's at now.  He may not be either. And so his journey continues.  The videos below chronicle some of that journey.


Here is one of his first videos and he speaks about how he was healed from back pain as well as GERD:

You can also watch Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4. His story was also featured on 700 Club Asia.

After he experienced healing, Joshua had a passion for others to be healed.  Here's one of the first videos that records one of those healings:

Check out this other leg growing out

Another healing that happened during an encounter at the mall:

Radical Grace

Joshua eventually embraced what is sometimes referred to as the radical grace movement.  Here's a sermon jam where Joshua talks about radical grace:

Some of his other messages on radical grace include:

Superabounding Grace Sermon Jam
The Grace Revelation Sermon Jam
The "Dangerous" Grace Message

Questioning Doctrines

Joshua went on to question other doctrines.  Penal substitutionary atonement is often one of the first to be questioned.  That is also the case with Joshua:

Next, Biblical inerrancy begins to falter for him:

Recently, Joshua interviewed Peter Enns on "Why Defending the Bible Does More Harm Than Good":

Ultimately, radical grace isn't enough for him and he becomes a universalist

His first book "So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion" is the culmination of much of the questioning that he had been experiencing. Below is a chapter from the book:

Love Hermeneutic

Much of his theology is driven by what I call his "love hermeneutic".  Joshua determines what is right and wrong by whether it is loving or not.  And we know intuitively whether something is loving.

New Thought

Although he still embraces healing, he began to question the dynamics of it.

Eventually, he embraces New Thought and/or Law of Attraction.  This is something that I feel the Church as not really grappled with relative to it's growing popularity.  Joshua attempts to integrate it with his Christianity.  

Here are some video of Joshua talking about New Thought ideas:

How to Use Thoughts, Words, and Feelings to Create the Life You Want
The Power of THOUGHT & The Secret Laws of The Universe!

This marks a major shift in the ministry of Joshua as we see him move away from a Christ based message to a New Thought based message.  He soon produces his 2nd book "The Secret to Awesomeness"

Questioning Christianity

Recently, Joshua has really begun questioning Christianity altogether.

On his podcast, The Flipside, He's had some atheist or borderline atheist guests on recently:

Joshua Tongol and Mirror-Reading

It's difficult to pin Joshua down on a Bible verse.  If there is a verse in the Old Testament that doesn't support his position, then he'll say it's not valid because it's in the Old Testament, and we're no longer under the Old Covenant.  If there is a verse in one of the epistles that doesn't support his position, then it's not valid because we really should listen to only the words of Jesus (e.g. Red Letter Christianity).  If there is a verse that Jesus speaks that doesn't support his position, then it's not valid because Jesus spoke it before the New Covenant.  But ultimately, because of his "love hermenutic", he can invalidate a Bible verse simply because he intuitively knows it's wrong.

There's only one point that I'll tackle in regards to mirror-reading.  As mentioned above, Joshua excludes some words of Jesus from being relevant to us because spoke them before the New Covenant.  However, the Gospels are not just a historical record of the life of Jesus.  They were crafted to address issues in the Church AFTER the New Covenant was established.  If some words of Jesus were not relevant because he spoke them while the Old Covenant was in place, then why did the Gospel authors write to the Church about it?  If they wrote about it, it must have been relevant.  If you haven't already, be sure to check out my video on mirror-reading narratives.  It's one thing to disagree with a Bible verse, it's another to disagree with it because of a misunderstanding of why the Gospels were written. (Edit: My comments regarding Joshua's approach to the Bible are based on what he has previously articulated and do not represent his current views)

Questions For Joshua Tongol

I’ve listed a couple of open questions to Joshua below. I welcome a response from Joshua, whether as a guest post, a response on his own blog or simply in the comments below.

1. What are your thoughts on mirror-reading?
2. Do you want to respond to anything that I've written above?

Questions For My Readers

What do you think of Joshua? Do you agree with his take on things? Who else do you think is an "interesting voice"?





Haggai: Was The Temple Proof That God Was No Longer With Them?

Things hadn't gone well for the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile and had begun rebuilding the Temple.  They began to wonder if God was no longer with them, but Haggai let's them know the real reasons why rebuilding the Temple had been such a struggle.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book Of Haggai Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Temple stood partially built, but enthusiasm began to wane as obstacles arose.  Perhaps God was no longer with them.  They had, after all, broken His covenant before the exile, and a new covenant had not been formed.  Perhaps He was no longer their God. If He was still their God, wouldn't He make the new Temple more glorious than the 1st?  It didn't appear that way.  Also, when they had returned to the land to rebuild the Temple, a famine had come upon them.  Surely that was not a good sign.  Maybe they should worship some of the pagan fertility gods.

Even if they did rebuild the Temple, it would be vulnerable to attack, since the walls of Jerusalem had yet to be rebuilt.  No sense filling it with gold and silver if it would just get looted by surrounding enemies.  Could they really trust a God that wasn't able to defeat the Babylonian army anyway?  Perhaps He wasn't the strong war God that they were looking for.  

3 Ways That Haggai Showed How God Was Still with Them

Haggai responds to all of the criticisms that were being leveled against God and His Temple.  First, he reassures them that God was still there God.  His covenant with them still stood even though they had broken it.

Haggai 1:13
Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”
Haggai 2:4
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,
Haggai 2:5
according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

Second, Haggai let's them know the real reason why there had been a famine.  It was not because they had moved back into the land, but that they had delayed rebuilding the Temple. 

Haggai 1:9-10
You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.

Haggai points out that the famine ended as soon as they started to rebuild it.

Haggai 2:19 (see also 2:15 and 2:18)
Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

Finally Haggai addresses the issue of whether God was strong when it came to military matters:

Haggai 2:22
and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.

Haggai also refers to God as "Lord of hosts" (see 1:9, 2:4, 2:8, 2:9, 2:11, and 2:18) which is another way of saying "Lord of armies". There would also be no need to fear any looting of the gold and silver that might be in the Temple as God lays claim to it.

Haggai 2:8
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.

He also reassured them that He was with them by saying that the new Temple would be glorious, even more so than the first one:

Haggai 2:9
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Haggai?  Was Haggai trying to reassure the Jews in this way?  What other situations do you think Haggai was responding to?