Every few episodes in our current podcast series is a quick compilation of Ask Anything Monday questions. I answer these rapid fire, covering a range of ideas and topics sent in by you! In this episode, we talk about:
- dating for experience versus dating for marriage
- friendships with non Christians
- why charismatics are accused of being New Age
- the origins of Mennonite churches
And several more!
Phylicia: Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. If you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.
Welcome back, you guys. Today, we’re doing something a little bit different. I’m recording this before our vacation, and I thought instead of doing a standard one topic episode, like, we’ve done so far in this Ask Anything Theology series, I’m going to do some rapid-fire answers to your Ask Anything Monday questions. I have my Instagram app open here on my phone, and I am reading your questions and will be answering as many as I can get to in about 30 minutes. This will be by no means a longform answer to any of these topics, so maybe I’ll eventually do a whole episode on each of these questions, but for this episode, we’re just going to move really fast through some of the questions you guys submitted a week ago on Ask anything Monday. I’m just going to jump right in here.
Samantha asked, “Have you ever read The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser? Thoughts, if so.” Yes, I have read The Unseen Realm. Josh, actually read it with me. I’m going to be doing a full review on the blog, but here are my initial thoughts. I think this is an amazing book if you are a seasoned believer who knows the fundamentals of Christian theology, and is very stable in your walk with the Lord, has a strong personal relationship with the Lord. If you are a new believer, though, if you don’t know the fundamentals of Christian theology, or you’re new to Christianity as a whole, I would not recommend reading it, because it introduces too many fringe concepts in Christianity that would be a distraction from what you need to focus on right now. If you are a seasoned Christian, who’s ready to dive into the nature of the supernatural in Scripture and understand a little bit more of the problem of evil, I think it’s an excellent read. He does have a more layperson form of the book. It’s called Supernatural, but I honestly think The Unseen Realm itself would be the better option to read.
Morgan asks, “I want to hear more about not buying clothes this year. What have you learned so far?” So, obviously, this is not a theology question. I have decided not to buy clothes for the year 2021. I love to shop. Now, there’s some other questions about me not buying retail, which is true. I do not buy many things retail. I almost exclusively shop secondhand and pretty much always have. I just know what brands to look for, what quality to look for. I wait for it and find it. I absolutely love the hunt. It’s amazing. But for the year 2021, I decided to take a break from shopping, because I just noticed that it was something that I did when I was stressed or when I wanted a break. Even though I was spending like 7 bucks or 15 bucks or even 40 bucks to get a great deal on all this stuff. In the end, I just felt like it was pointing to a heart issue that needed to be dealt with. My friend, Lisa Whittle, had talked with me about this where she too was a secondhand shopper who noticed that her shopping was a heart issue, and she took a year off of clothes shopping.
So, I inspired by her, I decided to do that this year, and it definitely has exposed that I turn to scrolling through shopping emails or hopping on Poshmark when I want to relax but knowing that I cannot buy has been a good thing for my heart, I think. So, good experience.
Kate asks, “How is reading fiction helpful and worth my time? I enjoy it, but I feel like it’s dessert of reading.” I definitely think that fiction is the dessert of reading. I think that it’s healthy to have a really strong mix of nonfiction and fiction. If you’re reading mostly fiction, I think you definitely need to be integrating some theological reading in there, to grow in your faith, to grow in your understanding to challenge yourself. Especially if the fiction you’re reading is romantic in nature, I really encourage breaking that up because there’s a lot of studies out there about the impact of taking in that kind of information on a regular basis. I think varying what you’re reading is good, but I also think fiction can be really healthy for cultivating empathy and understanding story and engaging with the current culture and their perception of reality. Once again, I think this is something if you are pretty strong in your faith, that it can be helpful to read modern fiction to get a read on the culture’s view of the world. That, in turn helps you engage with it theologically, and think about, “Okay, how does my Christianity intersect with the themes in this book?”
That said, and I’ve talked about this before, if you struggle with sexual sin or addiction, I think you have to be very discerning with what you’re reading. Honestly, even if you have a different kind of trauma background with violence, or something like that, we need to be discerning with what we’re reading, just like with what we’re watching, is what I’m reading healthy? Is it putting good things in my mind? Or, is it causing me to be anxious, like reading a lot of crime novels or listening to true crime podcasts? This is just something to be walking with the Holy Spirit, and what does he want me to read? What does he want me to consume? That will look very different person to person, but I think overall, fiction can really help us cultivate empathy, and think through how our Christianity interacts with things that the world believes.
Okay, here’s the next question. “Is it okay to be friends with non-Christians?” I would hope you would be friends with non-Christians. If you are not friends with non-Christians, you need to find some non-Christians to be friends with because Christians are meant to be in the world. We are not of the world, but we are meant to engage with the world, to know people who don’t believe like we believe, to know their worldview and their lives and to engage with those lives and care about them as people. So, absolutely, we should be friends with non-Christians. Now, would I go to a non-Christian for parenting advice on my children? Probably not. Just because our worldviews are very different, and how I want to raise my children is going to be very different from them, that’s not something that I would necessarily seek their advice on. But maybe I would seek their advice on something with money or ask them about their favorite recipes, things like that. There’s an intimacy level Christian to Christian, that is going to be a little different than it is Christian to non-Christian. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be close friends with somebody who’s not a believer, or who believes very differently than you. I think that’s a healthy way to live your life, to be in community with people who believe very differently. Jesus was, and so we should be too.
Here’s a question, and if you listen to the Easter episode last week, you’re probably like, “Whoa, I was wondering about this.” Marielle says, “What are the pros and cons of observing a biblical feast? And why is it a hype now?” First, I want to be careful with the word ‘biblical feast,’ because this is the term that’s being used. It makes it sound like if it’s biblical, then we should be doing it, because we’re Christians, we should be doing it. I want to approach this topic with gentleness, of course, and respect for those who are observing the Jewish feasts, because that’s what they are. They are Jewish feasts.
But I want to speak from my experience. I’ve been in a Messianic Jewish community for two years now, almost. I have learned so much, it’s been so helpful, but I’m also friends with people who are involved in Jewish-Palestinian relations, Christian-Zionist circles, and engaging in the conversation with non-Christian Jews on a regular basis. From my experience, talking with non-Christian Jews or non-Messianic Jews, in their deep hurt, and even offense at Christians celebrating Jewish holidays, Josh and I have decided that it is a better witness for us to not observe these holidays, in order to respect and honor the Jewish people and their holidays. Because while Christianity did come in a sense, out of Judaism, it is something distinct, it is distinct from Judaism, and that cannot be ignored. When you know church history, and you look at the very beginning and how Christianity and Judaism quickly began to diverge, and why Christianity ended up having separate holidays to celebrate Jesus and His birth and His Resurrection, you quickly understand that while these holidays have very deep, significant meaning for a Christian to read the Christian doctrine into a Jewish holiday that is still being celebrated as a Jewish holiday, that is a Jewish holiday is deeply offensive to the Jews.
Now, for Messianic Jews, it’s exciting and wonderful because they do believe that Jesus is the Messiah. For them, it’s natural to want to invite the Gentiles into the celebration. I think that I’m not telling a Messianic Jewish person what to do. If we were Jewish, I think things would be different and we would gladly join someone who is Jewish at their Passover. But we will not observe those holidays because we are not ethnically Jewish. We are not Jewish in religion, we are Christians. So, we observe the Christian liturgical holidays. As far as pros and cons, I would say, the pros of this movement have been to show us the Jewish heritage that should have been honored by the church, but there’s a difference between celebration and honor, and appropriation. I think that a lot of Christians would do well to actually pause before jumping on that training, and actually research this.
For instance, there was a post going around Passover, very recent, where a Christian had celebrated a Passover and posted on Instagram, that they made a hollow cross. They made a cross out of hollow bread, which if I’m not mistaken, hollow bread has yeast. Passover, one of the distinctives of it as you remove all of the yeast from your home. This in itself is not even an appropriate celebration of Passover, because you’re not celebrating it correctly, and you’re bringing in these overt Christian images. This is very offensive to many Jewish people. To be a Christian witness to the Jewish people in our lives, I think we need to be very careful in how we go about talking about the Jewish festivals and feasts, and how we go about celebrating them if that’s something that we choose to do. I understand that some of you may be very offended by this if you are celebrating these, but I would just encourage you to talk to Jewish people who are not Messianic and ask them how they feel about this and pray about it and think it through. Also, I recommend really studying church history because there is a reinterpretation of church history happening, in which it said that the church holidays aren’t actually Christian, they aren’t actually biblical, and that’s just not true. I don’t have time to get into that today, but the Easter episode talks a little bit about that. So, you can go back and listen to that if you want more.
Allie asks, “Why are so many charismatic worship practices often accused of being New Age?” There’s a couple factors here and I would recommend listening to the Cessation Versus Continuation episode that talks about the spiritual gifts, because I think it will help explain a little bit of why this is happening. Most of the people, actually I would say all of the people who talk about charismatic worship practices, such as prophecy, tongues or even more expressive worship are continuationist. I’m not talking about like extremist examples, like rolling on the floor or “Slain in the Spirit” or, “Holy Laughter,” I’m not talking about those. That’s more of an extreme corner of the continuationists that doesn’t represent the whole.
The people who accuse charismatics of being New Age are almost universally cessationist. They do not believe that the spiritual gifts are for today. This is an example of how theological bias affects someone’s conclusions. It’s totally fine to hold to the cessationist view, it can be argued biblically. However, you have to recognize that your bias as a cessationist is affecting your view of the charismatic worship practices. If you view it through a continuationist lens, you can find biblical basis for expressive worship, for tongues, for prophecy. There’s tons of it. Tons of biblical foundation – I am a continuationist, obviously I lean that direction, but I’ve been there and back again on this topic. I really pressed into studying cessation in college and after college having seen continuationist charismatic culture abused (it can be very abused, I think we’ve seen it done many times. Such as with the Holy laughter, things like that.)
Is it New Age? Not all of it, no. The idea that meditation or seeking the Holy Spirit to lead us to pray for someone or even to lead us to pray for healing or to prophesy (prophecy is not adding revelation on to the Canon of Scripture. It is simply for the building of the church, according to Paul, New Testament prophecy.) These things are not New Age.
The New Age almost universally is a copy, and I would say an adulteration of the Christian spiritual practices such as silence and meditation and prayer and contemplation and things like that. The New Age twists those and where are they directed? They’re directed at demonic forces, they’re directed at in an idolatrous fashion. What are the original biblical spiritual practices directed at? They’re directed at the Trinity. That’s the point. Spiritual practices pretty much across every religion are going to look very similar, but the others are an adulteration of the original goal, which is to worship Christ. Couple elements to remember then. Theological bias, cessation versus continuation, and then also to remember that these spiritual practices can be adulterated, but it does not mean that when someone is practicing spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer and meditation and silence and stillness and things like that in their personal life, that they are automatically New Age. More on this in my episode with Mike Winger.
Okay, Mrs. Jarsirsi asks, “Narrow way: faithful remnant fundamentalists use this to support their denomination, but Christian world is very large and diverse. Is this a misinterpretation of passages?” For those who are like, “What’s a fundamentalist?”: This would be a person who tends to confuse freedom issues, like what we wear, what music we listened to, however we send our kids to school, things like that, with orthodox doctrines. If you don’t have a certain structure in your home, your marriage, for instance, or a certain view on gender roles, then you are a heretic. That’s an elevation of third- and second-tier doctrines to first-tier doctrines. If you don’t know what those are, go listen to the Discernment episode of the podcast or join one of my discernment webinars where I talk about the tiers of secondary and third tier doctrine versus first tier. Fundamentalists tends to confuse these things.
So when you say – when you disagree, or when you say, “Hey, Scripture doesn’t actually say you have to homeschool your kids.” Or, “Scripture does not actually say that modesty only looks this way.” They will sometimes respond by saying that they’re “persecuted”. They’re being “persecuted for the gospel, persecuted for the truth”. The confusion here is that they’re elevating a third-tier doctrine to a core doctrine, a gospel doctrine, and then saying, they’re being persecuted for the gospel. That’s not persecution for the gospel. It’s persecution for your personal conviction. It’s actually not even persecution. It’s just disagreement. It’s important as believers to know the difference between genuine persecution and simple disagreement or dissent, which is why knowing the difference between the core, essential doctrines of the faith and freedom issues is so important. If you’re looking for the next discernment webinar, I announce those on Instagram and in my newsletter, so if you’re not in my newsletter, you can sign up here.
Naomi asks, “Date for experience versus date to marry.” Both. You can’t date to marry without dating for experience. That’s what I believe. I used to hold to the courtship model in my teens. I held to that model, and I thought it was the only way, if I went on a date, I was only going out with people who I could see myself marrying. Problem is you can’t always know if it’s someone you could see yourself marrying until you go on the date. If you only wait, wait, wait till you see somebody and you’re like, “Oh, that’s the kind of person I want to marry,” well, then you either have to ask them out, which purity culture has taught us women can’t do, or you have to hope they ask you out. By then, there’s so much weight and so much heaviness on this date, it can get way too serious, way too fast, and then everybody’s heart is broken. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dating for experience. Dating to get to know somebody, just dating for fun, just because you like somebody or you thought they’re interesting, maybe even going on one date, or going on multiple dates with different people in the same week or month. You’re not committing to marry someone just because you went on a date.
Yes, date for experience, and then maybe you’ll marry them, maybe you won’t. Once you get to a certain point dating for experience, you’ll probably have to have a talk, define the relationship and then from there on, it’s going to be more serious, it’s going to be more intentional. But starting out, there’s no reason for you to put so much weight on something when you’re just getting to know them. I do want to add the addendum though, that if you keep strong boundaries, physically, from the beginning, it will really help you to have a clear mind in making those decisions. Personally, I did not kiss the guys I dated, at least not until I was serious with them. I think that’s probably a good guideline, just so that your head is clear, as you’re deciding whether this is somebody you want to be more serious with.
Sam asks, “How to understand God in the Old Testament killing sinful Israelites, but not current day Christians?” You have to remember that when God dwelled with Israel, he was dwelling, his presence was literally with Israel in the temple. That’s a heavy concentration of God’s glory and presence. Even though we have the Holy Spirit residing with us today, dwelling our “temples” and guiding our behavior, guiding our choices, leading us closer to Christ and becoming the image of Christ, we have not seen the Shekinah Glory of God, the way Israel saw it descending on the temple in a cloud. There is a difference there. We’re going to see that when Christ returns, we’re going to see that and see God face to face.
There was a difference between God dwelling with Israel in this crazy, wild glory that’s in the temple and us today. That time, that season of when he was dwelling with Israel in that manner meant that as a theocracy, the rules were different. There was a level of holiness required that was not different from today in the sense that we’re still required to be holy as He is holy, and Christ sanctifies us as we walk with Him, but it looked different than it did and does now. With God’s Shekinah Glory dwelling in that temple, there was almost a different kind of responsibility on the Israelites to be the city on the hill, and different rules. Plus, it was a different culture and a different age. God worked within that culture and age to teach them holiness, to teach them boundaries, to teach them what it was that they were to obey. For more on this, I would recommend a commentary on the passages you’re having questions, if it’s Exodus, Deuteronomy, things like that. Get a commentary, read about it. Read online about it, because there are scholars who have discussed this at length to explain the difference between then and now.
Jenny asks, “What does it mean to not judge? Shouldn’t we be able to say what is wrong?” Yes, we are to determine what was wrong and to say what was wrong. When Jesus in Matthew 7 says that we are not to judge. What He is saying is we’re not to judge hypocritically, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, He continually points back to the heart of the law, and says, “If you’re going to live like this, then don’t be acting like this. Don’t be double minded, don’t have a double standard, don’t be a hypocrite.” In Matthew 7, where He’s talking about judgment, He’s not saying that we don’t determine what is right and what is wrong, because He teaches that later on in the New Testament, but He is saying, practice what you preach.
Next question is, “Do you think Christians should engage in politics or stay out of it?” I think that by being theological, by understanding what we believe and why we believe it, we will inherently be political, because our theology will inform our politics. How that looks per person will probably differ. Some people will believe that their theology and their view of Christ and who He is and what He’s done means that they should be influencing the world through the government. Others will believe that they need to influence the world as individuals and the government needs to stay out of it. That’s going to lead to two different political approaches based on even an orthodox theology where you will come at these topics from the same standpoint of an orthodox theology, but how you believe that interacts with your country, or your state, and what that looks on a legislative level will be different.
So yes, to be theological, is to be political to varying degrees. I do you think you should care about what’s going on in your country, care about what happens and have a voice as long as you can use it. I think it’s an amazing freedom to be able to speak up and have a say or whatever, to whatever degree it is in your nation that you can have a say. The problem comes when we elevate politics to the level of our Christian theology, when we start to build our view of God, or use God to further our political agenda, or claim that our nation is God’s anointed nation is if it’s a new Israel. No, that’s not biblical. But we do know that, to believe in Christ, to live out Christ’s mission in this world will probably influence how we vote and what we care about and what we choose to do with our vote. Yes, your theology will impact your politics, but your politics should never rule over your theology.
Next question from Ashley says, “Where do Mennonite, not Amish, fall on the theological spectrum?” Mennonite and Amish are actually descended from the same denominational source. They are both anabaptist as our brethren churches, anabaptists in theology. An anabaptist simply means re-baptizer. This happened after the Reformation. When Luther Calvin– rather Luther and Zwingli broke from the Catholic Church very quickly, the church began to splinter into different approaches to the doctrine of salvation, baptism, etc. They pretty much all held to the same tenets of salvation. Salvation by faith and grace, Sola Scriptura, or the five Solas, etc. But they differ on how baptism should be practiced. The anabaptists were practicing rebaptism. They would rebaptize someone who had been baptized as an infant, and they were persecuted for this. In fact, the anabaptists are one of the most persecuted groups following the Reformation, not just by the Catholic Church, but by Luther and Zwingli themselves. They were persecuted terribly and even had to flee.
Eventually, the Mennonite and Amish broke from each other. You had these varying degrees of views on how they should live as far as their church structure and what they’re allowed to wear and what constituted holiness, essentially. As of today, the Mennonite Church is the most splintered church, so they have the most diversity as far as denominations. They’ve become so wildly diverse, so many different churches with so many different views. They have the most splintering that has happened among the Mennonites. But Mennonite, Amish and brethren all go back to the same anabaptist route.
Next question is, “How did you start writing your blog, and how old were you?” I was 16 when I started my blog, which is 14 years ago, and I was writing it just for fun. I put poems on it. At first, I was a poet at the beginning. I won a couple national contests, actually. Over time, I started just kind of writing my devotional thoughts and my walk with God, and what I was learning. I even put coffee reviews on there. It was just really whatever I wanted. It was just fun. Then as I started my religion degree, I started writing more theological content and what does this mean? What does it mean to be a Christian? Why do I believe what I believe? What’s the background behind these things? At that point, I started to gain a small following. This is very early in the blogging world. I would guess this would be around 2009, 2010, 2011. Then, from about 2012 to 2017, is when we saw a lot more growth with the people who followed me.
I started my business in 2017, launched my first eBook, and then today, almost four years later, this is where we are. We are Every Woman a Theologian, we have a core following of about 20,000, on Instagram about 80,000, but not all of those people engage or watch my stories. We have the podcast, Facebook, Instagram, email, newsletter, eBooks, shop, all of that. Now, Every Woman a Theologian is Josh and my full-time job between the shop and the blog, and I feel so blessed with what God did with it. Definitely was not my plan, but His all along.
Last question is, “How do I fall in love with Jesus? I read the Bible sometimes, but I don’t feel passion.” First of all, good for you to be opening your Bible. That is a great start. I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing that. Keep doing it because that is your foundation, but I would encourage you also, don’t wait to feel like you love the Lord. The Lord loves you. As you press into understanding that and truly embracing the truth of it, you will begin to feel a love back. Trying to drum it up or basing your view of God only on feelings is a recipe for disappointment. I have plenty of days where I don’t feel like coming to meet Him or I don’t feel like praying, but I do it anyway, because this is a relationship, and I know him well enough to know he will always receive me, He will always be there for me. Think of it as a relationship. We don’t always feel in love with the person that we’re partnered with. We don’t always feel like we love our friends, but we still spend time with them and think of them and stay in contact with them because it’s a relationship. The same goes with the Lord. You get to walk every single day with Him.
I think about this constantly that so often, my prayer life isn’t something where I sit down and I pray for 15-30 minutes a day. I might do 5 or 10 minutes during my quiet time but most of my conversations with the Lord are throughout the day, just praying as things are laid on my heart, telling Him about a frustration when I’m feeling overwhelmed or angry, just going to Him first with it. Cultivate that kind of a relationship with Him and over time, the emotions catch up. The emotions are a response to the existence of a relationship. Cultivate the relationship, the passion comes later.
All right, you guys, I hope this was a fun episode. I’ll try to do these maybe every four or five episodes as we do the deep dives. Then, we’ll come back and do a quick response to your questions. I just want you to know that I greatly appreciate hearing from you on Instagram, on Facebook, in my Facebook community, Every Woman a Theologian. It is wonderful to get to know you and what you’re trying to learn so I can cultivate the resources that can help equip you to become a theologian yourself. So, so grateful for you and for the opportunity to walk this road towards the heart of God, hand in hand with you.