The theology of “Gross!”: What modern psychology can teach us about purity, disgust, love, and the gospel

gross_1Back in January, I posted a sermon I delivered on Ephesians chapter 2. I wrote:

In these verses, Paul makes the surprising claim that the law – God’s law, which was given to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai – created hostility between Jews and Gentiles and erected a wall, an insurmountable barrier, which had kept them apart. This is true. Because of their law, Jews were compelled to separate themselves from non-Jews. They had to avoid all physical contact. Jews could never have fellowship or eat with Gentiles, because Gentiles’ food and utensils and homes and bodies were defiled. For Jews, the mere thought of eating with Gentiles would have made them feel physically ill.

Neuropsychology has shown that most of the judgments that people make in regard to morality – deciding what behaviors are right or wrong – are not based on careful, rational thought. Rather, these decisions come from the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain that helps us to detect bad smells and warns us not to eat certain foods because they are unwholesome or contaminated. I learned about these findings through a fascinating book titled The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

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This is My Life

brianjohnkarcher copy“It feels like we are just floating in space.” That’s how one of my friends who left UBF ministry with me described how she felt after leaving. I can relate to this statement very well. At UBF we were tethered to the “mother ship”. But now we had to navigate our own path. We started making life decisions on our own, with no checking against our UBF shepherds for “God’s will”. Some of us made these decisions like this for the first time, even though we are all adults. How do you find peace and contentment when your faith community just collapsed in epic fashion? Where do you go when you cannot find a local church where you feel comfortable attending? How do you begin trusting people again after being betrayed by church leadership? What do we do now? Here is what I’ve been doing: writing books. The 300 pages of three books tell the story of my life. My life has indeed become an open book.

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From Certainty to Uncertainty

certaintyFor 34 years and counting of being in UBF, I’ve heard countless testimonies titled something like, “From a Samaritan Woman to a Mother of Prayer,” or “From a Gerasene Demoniac to a Good Shepherd like Jesus.” Well, my title is “From Certainty to Uncertainty.” This thought came to me after reading an excellent post that Joe just shared on Facebook: When Certainty Kills.

After becoming a Christian in 1980 I became certain and convinced by the work of the Holy Spirit that living for Jesus is the only worthwhile reason to live (Jn 10:10b; 20:31). Only by God’s mercy and grace, this is still as true for me today as it was when I experienced my mystical conversion in 1980.

But along with this glorious, mystical, loving, gracious, mysterious certainty of Christ, I realize that I also added “other certainties,” which were basically non-negotiable to me, such as: Continue reading →

How big is your binder?

bThree ring, white binders. Remember those? This week my son needed several three-ring binders for High School. Of course, as good and faithful ubfers in the past, we have plenty of those! Many years ago I had packed up all those three ring binders of bible study notes in a huge bin and stored them in our basement. I had thought of having a huge bonfire with them after resigning from ubf, but then I thought, no these are evidence! Who would ever believe I spent over 15,000 hours studying the bible if not for those binders? Well I don’t really care about such things anymore, so I emptied the binders and threw out some of those old notes this week. I even found a “Marriage Preparation” binder :) I took a brief glance through the notes and realized once again how severely shallow our “bible study” was for all those thousands of hours. The answers to the questions were just quotes of bible verses, repeats of SLee’s messages and unthoughtful remarks expressed as incomplete sentences.

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Forests Top 10 Movie Quotes

aThe past few articles had various references to movies. I am a big can on top 10 lists. So in that aim I decided to give you my top 10 movie quotes. These quotes have greatly influenced me in various ways. As a disclaimer, some of these clips might have some amount of violence or strong language.

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Toledo UBF Message – Just Obey

c1Now it’s time for another Toledo UBF message review. This one is a doozy.

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Suggestions for UBF Ethics Committee

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 8.39.09 PMI wanted to contact UBF Ethics committee but I could not easily find their contact information at If they are serious about making ethical reform they should make it easy to post suggestions for ethical reform in a way easily explained in the website via some form of contact listed on the website.  I wanted to suggest to the ethics committee two things.

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We have loved the light

sRecently, Ben shared his thoughts on Mark Driscoll being removed from Acts 29. As I read more and more articles and comments, I am more and more amazed at how similar the Driscoll/Mars Hill situation is compared to our faith community at UBF. One recent letter stood out to me, and so I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

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The Sacred Secular Divide

Sacred-Secular SplitI used to consider some activities as spiritual (sacred) and others as worldly (secular).

Spiritual. I thought that carrying out 1:1 Bible studies on the UIC campus was the single greatest Christian activity under heaven, and that it gave God ecstatic chills, goose bumps and enthusiastic high-fives among the Three Divine Persons of the Godhead! So for over two decades I averaged ten 1:1 Bible studies a week, while working full time and never missing any UBF evening meetings, which was usually 4-5 every week.

Worldly. Conversely, I thought that going home to visit my aged mother in Malaysia was selfish and family-centered, and that it displeased and grieved God. By visiting mom for even a week, I would not be on campus to focus on the most important task of making disciples among college students (Mt 28:19), which was unthinkable for me. Continue reading →

My Baptism Testimony

Nzma5pplEditorial note: Nianzu Ma is a graduate student at UIC (the University of Illinois at Chicago) studying for his Ph.D in computer science. He fellowships with many friends in UICCCF (Univision in Christ Chicago Chinese Fellowship) at UIC and attends West Loop Church. He shared this testimony before his baptism on Sat Aug 23, 2014 on a beach by Lake Shore Drive.

I. Pre­-Conversion

I think that every human being would seek God, if his conscience has not been seared as with a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2). God made us from one man. God made us to seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him because he is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being. We are God’s offspring  (Ac 17:26-28). I am a man who is a wretch (Rom 7:24). (I could write ten pages to describe in detail what a wretch I am, but I think it is better to keep it between me and God, because he knows my heart. But if someone is interested we could discuss it). Continue reading →