“Irrevocable” by Max King

The Apostle Paul has fallen on hard times in some sections of the academy and the churches, and for good reason. His apparent attitudes towards women, same-sex relationships and hierarchy are just a few areas where he has been judged and found wanting by contemporary readers.

As a recovering fundamentalist, however, I found in Paul’s writings a lot of profound and edifying truth. In particular, Romans helped me learn self-acceptance and I slowly withdrew from fundamentalism. When the offer of a free copy of Max R. King’s Irrevocable, a book on Romans, came to me from Speakeasy, I barely hesitated.

The title Irrevocable is from Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  This is a key piece to the puzzle King explores, that God’s gifts and calling cannot be revoked, not by anyone, not at any time. For Max King this is a categorical statement, “close quote” but it is nowhere near “end of discussion.”

The first half of the book’s subtitle, Paul’s radical vision in Romans 9-11, is certainly accurate. These chapters do contain a “radical vision”, so radical that much of Christendom, per the last phrase of the subtitle, and why Christianity can’t handle it.

I will provide a thumbnail sketch of the book’s special contribution to theology, but first I will highlight a few things to put the book in perspective.

Max R. King is a full preterist. Most preterists are partial preterists, that is, they believe that some or much of what is called Biblical prophecy has already occurred. All preterists are specifically not dispensationalists. For partial preterists, some things are usually in the future, like the Millenium, but always yet to come are the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment. As a full preterist, King believes that all these things occurred prior to 70 CE. Thus, in the preterist debate, King is not orthodox. He is outside the camp. To conservative Christians, Full Preterism is heresy because, according to Full Preterists, there is not another Advent nor another Final Judgment. King has been debating preterism and dispensational theology for roughly four decades. He was originally ordained in the Churches of Christ.

King is also a universalist, believing that everyone is saved. He correctly cites  Paul in this regard, “For God has bound all people over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32). King affirms universalism clearly and unapologetically (33, 73, 95, 96, 97, 182), and also uses the label “comprehensive grace” (p. 127, 145, 148).

The special contribution of Irrevocable seems to be King’s understanding of “Paul’s eschatological now time”. Where dispensationalists and others see distant futuristic prophecy, King sees something else. “Paul is speaking of events that were occurring in his present time…which we maintain is Paul’s eschatological now time.” King refers to “Paul’s temporally conditioned eschatology” (p. 15), “Paul’s now time” (p. 175), “Paul’s pervasive, imminent eschatology” (p. 11) and “the eschatological setting of Paul’s time, ministry and writing” (p. 92). King says the apostle discusses “the very heart of Israel’s unbelief in Paul’s time” (p. 62, italics added)

King lists six verses to illustrate this eschatological now time, five from Romans and one from II Corinthians: Romans 3:21; 8:18; 11:5; 13:11-12; and II Corinthians 6:2.

  • But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  • So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
  • And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now.
  • The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

While King acknowledges Biblical inerrancy at one point, he also says, “While Paul’s eschatology cannot be aligned strictly with Christ’s, it nevertheless led the way to the goal that was central to Christ’s eschatology, namely, the coming of the kingdom of God in power in their generation” (p. 13).

King describes his own key tasks as follows:

Every interpreter of Romans is confronted with the task of reconciling that which appears to be mutually exclusive, namely, justification by faith (chapters 1-8) and the salvation of all Israel, which . . . consists of believing and unbelieving Israelites (chapters 9-11).

King thus describes his task, reconciling or explaining a paradox. I am undoubtedly oversimplifying, but his thesis seems to boil down to this: “Salvation by faith” and “the salvation of all Israel” are a paradox, but they compatibly coexistent in “eschatological now time” in Paul’s mind, but it doesn’t matter now. Paul is dead. That particular paradox was for then.

If that sounds extreme, I think it nevertheless distills the takeaway from Irrevocable. Max R. King joins the ranks of Harold Camping in the announcement in the following paragraph.

It should not be surprising that attempts to retain the particularistic institution of church are failing. It is impossible to continue re-forming ‘church.’ It was never intended to be anything other than an eschatological trans-formational action. Its role and function has (sic) been fulfilled. It stands as a first century model of faith, pointing toward God and away from the self, especially itself. (p. 182)

King doesn’t come out and say, “The church is dead,” but he comes pretty close. I was reminded of the early Marxist promise of the withering away of the state. I’m sure that smarter primates than me have discussed whether Marx’s predicted withering was intended to be taken serious.

King made one statement which had me shaking my head–at first. “This ‘truing up’ of theology and practice is long overdue, putting God and his world of humanity in proper perspective today” (p. 15). At first I thought he was claiming a bit too much credit. I thought of how, in America, the early Unitarians and Universalists were more rooted in careful Bible exegesis than most present-day fundamentalist Christians.

Far from overstatement, King’s “‘truing up’ of theology and practice” are in fact long overdue. This truing up occurs continually, many times before, but in our eschatological now time that truing up of theology and practice needs to happen again, and is long overdue.

Let me put this a couple of ways. In the Christian world there has been an “eternal procession” of spiritual primates emerging from logo-centric, dogmatic certainties in order to experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. In this historical moment, Emergent Church may be the attitude and movement most adaptable to a brave new world, and Max R. King’s full-preterist comprehensive grace easily works as the movement’s Enneagram 6 anchor.

In plainer English, a small segment of every generation in Christendom finds the received truths to be inadequate for its needs. That segment of the population perpetually leaves behind old doctrinal formulas in search of paradigms that have more utility for them and the threats they face. Right now the Emergent Church approach is, by design, flexible enough to embrace virtually any scenario in our immediate future.

Avoiding the problems of a bad conscience by means of sufficient discourse, the version of Pauline Christianity expressed by Max R. King achieves three things. First, he joins the chorus celebrating the death of an older iteration of the Body of Christ. He refuses to issue further updates or otherwise support the software.  Second, he tackles one of Christendom’s main New Testament books, the book of Romans, and in scholarly fashion argues for an eschatology that places all futuristic prophecy where it belongs, in the past. King’s discourse addresses an issue which has been dead a long time, OT and NT promises of salvation for the Jews.

If you are a serious student of the Bible, enjoy a good old-fashioned academic presentation, reject the idea that only “true Christians” have a secure eternal destiny, but harbor suspicions that maybe the Bible actually teaches such doctrinal exclusivism, and you are still uncomfortable with the idea of contradictions in the Bible, then Max R. King’s book Irrevocable may be for you.

__________________________________________________

IRREVOCABLE:

Paul’s radical vision in Romans 9-11, and why Christianity can’t handle it 

By Max R. King

Available on Amazon

_________________________________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homo Sapiens | Leave a comment

Cover Design: I’d Like Your Opinion

I’m choosing a typeface for the cover, and I’d like your input on some options. You can see I prefer serif fonts, but I’ve included one san serif. Some of the fonts are very similar, of course, but there are some textural differences.

I know, what’s inside is more important than what’s outside. I’ve been working on the content for years. But something has to go on the cover, right?

So–A, B, C, D, or E?

Any other comments?

 

Two Men in One Bed Two Women Grinding
A
TMOB TWG
B
TMOB TWG 3
C
TMOB TWG 5
D
TMOB TWG 6
E
Posted in Book | 13 Comments

New Book: “Two Men in One Bed: The Galilee Incident”

A A Galilee Incident Cover

Something happened to Jesus’ earliest followers that we’re beginning to put together. In the ultimate scheme of things, what happened involved very few. But these free spirits and the rule enforcers lived at a pivotal moment in history. Their experiences, actions and motives ripple around us to this day.

The evidence for the incident has been in plain sight for centuries, but we often haven’t recognized it. Some people have seen it, but weren’t able to fit it into their systems. They denied it, explained it away, and we live with and repeat these empty explanations to this day.

In this book, you will read standard historical sources, both familiar and unfamiliar. Josephus, the Talmud, and the New Testament–each voice makes a unique contribution. And the self-interest that motivated each voice still energizes us, shaping the debate to this day.

Two Men in One Bed: The Galilee Incident, by Ronald Goetz.

Available in October, 2018.

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“When Does It Stop?” When It Stops.

This powerful piece is worth reading. I rarely re-post other people’s stuff, but this is worth reading.

Wrestling With God

Today on Facebook, a friend of my uncle’s asked him, in all (apparent) seriousness:

“So what, a statue comes down, that person was a racist, they don’t deserve to be memorialized. But what next? A town is named after the same guy, do we change the name? Does it matter?

“Jefferson owned slaves, do we tear down the memorial? Rename the capital of Missouri? Void the Declaration of Independence?

“It sounds absurd I know but isn’t it the same thing? And if it’s different, what makes it that way?”

I’ve heard this before. The “Well, but where does it stop?” slippery-slope argument, which is a bullshit argument if ever I heard one. So I asked him if he had any friends who were Jews. He allowed as how he did. I should note that I give credit for the analogy I used to Kayla M. Cooley (you can find her…

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Posted in Devotional | 2 Comments

“Is it a Sin or Not?”

A reader sent me the following response to the post titled, “Clobber Passage: I Corinthians 6:9–All Blade, No Handle.”

“I get the positive point pushed of not judging because we all sin but I’m confused, my assumption was that the stance of the writer is that homosexuality is not a sin but the homosexually aspect in that passage was not addressed in a way as to defend homosexuality, so has the writer changed their view on it? Does the writer believe homosexuality is sin according to that scripture or not?”

First I thanked him for his reply, then continued.

“Let me direct your attention back to one of the Scriptures I quoted. ‘Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others.’

“If your question concerns your own action, and not the actions of others, then I assume you are dealing with your own same-sex attractions. Right now I am evaluating my own actions. I just remarried, after 3-1/2 years of being a widower. I’m learning what a second marriage means, what it means to love someone so new to me in so many ways. I am trying to figure out how important my writing is, its importance to others, and its importance to me.

“So I’m evaluating my own actions, as Paul recommended. Loving my new wife, loving my adult children, loving my bride’s family and her circle of acquaintances, these are all taking up my energy and attention.

“If you are dealing with same-sex attractions, or same-sex activity, and are asking me if I believe that the Scriptures condemn your same-sex concerns as sin, let me answer you this way. You already know you don’t measure up to the images of perfection described in the Bible. You may successfully hide this embarrassment from your friends and acquaintances, even from yourself, and that’s normal. I have one big question. Does your personal embarrassment prevent you from loving the people around you? Does it interfere with your ability to do right by your family and friends and colleagues? If you are able to love the people around you, then you have succeeded spiritually. Your imperfections and stumblings may not be great and wonderful, but if you are still able to love people, able to edify and encourage people, then you are fulfilling the Royal Law of Love.

“Would achieving the kind of perfection you aim at, would the time and energy you would have to devote to that endeavor interfere with your ability to love your family, friends, and colleagues? Putting your own ‘perfection’ ahead of their need for love, thoughtfulness and compassion would be a greater sin. But that’s just my opinion. You need to evaluate your own actions. The person who needs the glass of water you’re holding doesn’t care if you just made an extra trip to the refrigerator.”

Posted in Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Bible | Leave a comment

Trump Flag

 

Today is Monday, August 28, 2017. The scheduled end of the Trump presidency is 3 years and 4 months away. A lot can happen in that time, and few things can be predicted..

For example, Joe Arpaio was recently pardoned for federal civil rights violations, and in short order the militarization of your local police force was authorized. This occurred in just one four-day period.

I am reminded of the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

Flags have many uses. Use is what you do with them. Flags are a tool of free expression. Flags can symbolize loyalty.  They can symbolize resistance.

Nothing can be predicted. It is wise to prepare yourself for any eventuality.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Trump-Flag-2017-3×5-ft-Flag-Pole-Ready-/182610147223

Posted in Abomination, Arrogance, Devotional, Dominionism, Homophobia, Liberal Devotion, Prophetic Religion | Leave a comment

Perfect Bible? Perfect Jesus? How about John’s Perfect Love?

A Reader named David made this comment recently.

Wrong again, Rob.  God never said “Jesus alone is the perfect” in I Cor 13.  This is a modern addition/perversion of His word.  The original Greek says “that which is the perfect thing’.  The original Greek uses the NEUTER gender; when it referred to Jesus, it used the masculine gender.  The Bible alone – not Jesus – is “the perfect thing”.

I briefly postponed writing about David’s comment or publishing it. Let me share some of the things I thought about writing in response.

My first impulse was not to argue, but to wish him well with his beliefs. I know he’s probably a sincere believer, and that even if many of his beliefs are mistaken, he is still capable of loving people and receiving adequate guidance. Right beliefs, even if we knew what they were, are unable to guarantee a good life. Arguing tends to harden people in their error.

I thought about making an abbreviated list of all the inexplicable, faulty, and truly weird stuff in the Bible, but my heart isn’t in that approach. Why? I don’t think “attacking” the Bible is generally helpful. An old friend of mine was once told that enlightenment can be found in any religion, that searching for the “right religion” was not the path.

I know that one by one all my orthodox beliefs were shaken and removed. Similar, but not identical, to what some people call the Dark Night of the Soul. But I stopped trying to convert people a very long time ago. If what I have doesn’t make me happy, then why would I want to talk someone out of what little they have, with high degrees of uncertainty and suffering to put in its place?

That’s not to say I haven’t had a few things to “push” on this blog, even an axe to grind. When people use the Bible as a club, teaching dysfunctional things in ignorance, I have resisted that. But I have always narrowed my focus, looking at one thing at a time. I have kept my arguments as narrowly focused as possible. (Did I mention that in every post I have kept a narrow focus?)

David makes an argument about I Corinthians 13, and what that “perfect” thing is, after the arrival of which all the impermanent things will be done away. He argues, like my fundamentalist, dispensational Baptist teachers did, that all forms of supernatural gifts ceased with the closing of the canon.

I finished with that debate, for myself, during my first year in Bible college. That debate is over forty years old for me, and not worth rehashing. Too many faulty premises and assumptions to pick over. Plus, the sojourn out of fundamentalism (or any deceptive system) takes a long time for most people.

Right now, there are two things true about David. First, many of his needs can potentially be met in his present fellowship, no matter where he is. His needs for affiliation and companionship might be met there. His legitimate needs for recognition and status are perhaps being met. His present church may be giving him the intellectual stimulation and personal significance that every person needs. In other words, he may be happy. God bless him.

Second, there are wonderful spiritual resources in the Bible he reverences. There is just about all you would ever need for authentic spirituality and true justice in the pages of the Bible. David can read Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, Luke, Romans and the Corinthian letters and get the massive spiritual blessing that is available.

If you’re interested in the objections that David voiced, I’ll let you read I Corinthians 13 on your own if you’re so inclined. Pay attention to the phrase “face to face,” and the whole status of prophecies and knowledge.

If the day comes when David actually needs to leave his current place, if his fellowship or church should become an actual deterrent to his growth, there are plenty of examples of people in the Bible who had to say good-bye to what they knew, and move on.  You can probably list any names from the Bible you can remember, and find examples of Bible-approved people leaving a comfortable life and walking away into the unknown.

So I wish David godspeed and blessings. The Bible says he has everything necessary for godliness in Christ Jesus, that he has all spiritual blessings in Christ. He may disagree with me about many things, but so?  Nothing depends on the degree of his agreement with me.

Unless of course he starts hurting people. But I know for a fact that simply teaching something with which I disagree is not, in and of itself, damaging or hurtful.

Posted in Bible, Devotional | 3 Comments

“Boil it All Down” and You may be Disappointed

Carl Jung probably didn’t actually write this.

Thinking and judging are connected, but it is not a strictly causal relationship. There are some very bright people for whom judging a situation or a person is the go-to response. On the other hand, there are some equally bright people for whom judging is difficult, for whom additional information is more than just a personal preference. Some personalities come down heavy on the J scale, they automatically Judge before they Sense, and, unlike some others, do not hesitate, feeling they need additional information.

As individuals and as a population, we encounter situations where quick action is not merely a matter of rhetoric, but is actually necessary. Some people deliberately place themselves in these dangerous or demanding settings.  Some professions that can require quick supervisorial decision-making include public school teaching, law enforcement, politics, manufacturing and assembly, etc. Anyone who works with people needs, among other skills, the ability to Judge a situation. This is true, despite the vilification of the word “judgmental.”

Situations where quick action is necessary, this is when J’s (people able to judge and evaluate easily) are good to have around.  But, as all my friends who are low on the J scale will immediately say, our mistakes often come from acting without thinking, from Judging without Sensing.

Judging and Sensing are indeed modifiable, distinct traits, and individuals have an assortment of preferred behavioral styles. I grew up believing that education, socialization and nurture were central. For some years I have found what some people rhetorically dismiss as “biological determinism” fruitful and enlightening. (Briefly, biological determinism is not identical with genetically determined diversity.) Genetic diversity is one key to understanding human conflict.

What I call being “hard-wired” is also called a “default mode.” This default mode is what some people call “instinct.” But our so-called “default modes” need a Venn Diagram. Some are learned, the result of socialization, school, family, television, and the like. Others are hard-wired instinct. But, like everything else, the strength of any particular instinct is measureable on a Bell Curve.

Most people are located in the large middle of a Bell Curve. A few people are hyper aggressive, a few are hyper passive. A few people are hyper maternal, a few are not maternal at all. A few people are hoarders, a few carry all their possessions in a knap sack.

People are generally not hard-wired in an absolute sense, but there are a few people at the opposite ends of the Bell Curve who are totally Unable to think and reflect, as there are a small number of people totally Unable to decide and act.

For some people thinking and reflecting is very difficult. For some people deciding and acting is very difficult. Unless strongly S people and strongly J people discover compatible situations that require either lots of reflection or lots of action, they are likely to feel misunderstood and unappreciated.

In Biology this problem is often discussed under the heading of “Nature vs. Nurture.” In Philosophy it is the core of the “Fate vs. Choice” controversy. In Theology it is discussed under “Predestination vs. Free Will.” It is, I believe, a universal theme because of genetic diversity. Some theologians repeat this inside joke, “I was predestined to be an Arminian.”

One of my favorite quotes reflects this difficulty. “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I believe John Dewey actually did write this.

He makes it sound so simple. But it is not simple at all, unless you are favored by the gods of fortune and luck. I have mixed feelings about the caprice of the cold-hearted gods.

As I reread this post, and revise it, I realize once again that I am not a J but an S, that I am driven to sense, to analyze, to look at things from a variety of angles, Everything is subject to qualification, nothing can be once-and-for-all labeled, safe, with further discussion unnecessary. Rhetoric always, always, always enters in.  Rhetoric in the sense of discussion and persuasion. I read this post and ask myself, so what? Are you talking out both sides of your mouth? Can your thesis be disproven, or is it meaningless?

In a nut shell, division and conflict have been a life-long concern for me. That concern inevitably lead me to consider the roots of conflict, differences between individuals and between groups, and to issues of genetic diversity.  I know enough to know that not everyone is just like me, but also that I am not utterly unique. I write with the humble and arrogant hope that things that have puzzled me puzzle at least a few others as well.

My academic training is whispering in my ear. “You haven’t proven anything. All you’ve done is parade your ignorance. This is nothing but self-contradicting, meaningless drivel.”  I must tell you that they’ve been debating this in philosophy, theology, and biology for centuries. There’s a clue in there somewhere!

So I thank God for people who really can make decisions without enough time and without all the facts, I know there are situations that demand that ability.

And I thank God for people like me, too.

But I still look at our president and shake my head. Sometimes I think, “So sad,” and other times, well . . . I am not devoid of Judgment by any means.

P.S. One blogger suggests that the  “Thinking Judging” quote in the featured image probably did not originate with Carl Jung, that it’s too judgmental.
Posted in Arrogance, Diversity, Humility, Personality | 1 Comment

“Why Should I Let You Into Heaven?”

(Reposted from 2011 under a new title by Ron Goetz)

My sister was born with brain damage. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The doctors waited 24 hours before deciding to perform an emergency C-section. This was fifty-two years ago, before he great advances in fetal monitoring and he massive upsurge in emergency C-sections.

I was four years old when Jill was born. Holding her in my lap when my parents brought her home from the hospital is a vivid memory. “Be careful, Ronnie. Hold her gently.”

“They called me Bitarded!”

Jill was a happy little girl.  My most vivid memory of her early years is of how she loved to sing. She didn’t start talking until she was about four, but she was singing her little heart out way before that.  I remember several times hearing her singing in the bathroom. There she’d be, sitting naked in the bathroom sink with the cold water running, singing away with joy.

School changed much of that. You know what they say about how cruel children can be. For more years than I can remember I would come home from school and Jill would tell me how bad the children had been to her, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“They chased me and called me names.” “They pushed me against the fence and hit me.” “They called me bitarded!”

Every day after school for four or five years, I listened to her, weeping for a half-hour to an hour about how mean the kids had been to her that day.

These conversations continued even when I came home from Bible college for the holidays. Jill immediately corralled me for at least the first hour of my visit to talk about all her problems.

Theology, Ideology — Deady Combat

I did my undergrad work at Simpson College, the denominational school of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (A.W. Tozer country). I dove into the theological debates that are so typical of earnest young Christians: supernatural spiritual gifts, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, and eschatology.  In my classes I learned about the different ways Christians interpreted the Bible, and about the theological debates we’ve had throughout our history.  The church was truly a diverse community, at least intellectually!

Illiterate Peasants in Hell — Accidents of Geography

The upshot of all this? In my courses I learned that Christians had disagreed over the Bible and theology from the very beginning, argued over it, and even killed over it. Somehow I knew that illiterate peasants born in Italy, England, Russia, and Saxony weren’t going to hell because their Pope, King, Patriarch, or Prince believed some “erroneous” doctrine or another. God doesn’t send people to hell because of where they happened to be born. During the Reformation Protestants killed Catholics, Catholics killed Protestants, and they all killed Anabaptists.

And I learned from Jill that the biblical and theological debates that were so interesting to me were not of ultimate value. They weren’t that important, no matter how fascinating they seemed to me, no matter how many books I’d collected on the subject. Jill had been baptized, believed in the Lord, she’d even received the gift of tongues. She loved to sing worship songs that she’d written herself. But theology? Bible interpretation. No, not even.

So, before I was barely into my 20’s I had reached a kind of doctrinal relativism, a deprivileging of theology and biblical absolutism. There are a lot of ways to describe it, I suppose.  Our faith, our relationship with God, had to be simple enough for someone like my sister.

The “If-you-died-tonight-do you know if-you’d-go-to-heaven?” Evangelistic Strategy

In high school I was brought up on the following theological evangelistic strategy: “If you died tonight, do you know if you would go to heaven?  If you appeared at the judgment seat and Christ asked you, ‘Why should I let you enter my kingdom?’ what would you say?”

Later on I learned that I didn’t need a made-up, unbiblical scenario for the judgment. A biblical scenario already existed in Matthew 25, and in Jesus’ version we don’t have to give a reason why we should be let into heaven. Jesus already knows who he’s letting in, his ultimate criteria for acceptability are clear, and there is no doctrinal exam involved.

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Those who are acceptable to the Judge don’t even know they’re acceptable, or why.

Posted in Devotional | 7 Comments

What Would You Do With One of These?

Be honest, and be civil. What would you do with one of these?

Flag 9

Spotted in the U.S. in May 2017.

OMG! Just in time for Independence Day!

Posted in Dominionism | 10 Comments