Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christian Witness and Tebowing

i don't watch football, but i've certainly heard of Tim Tebow and what has become known as "Tebowing". This raises a couple of questions...

First, i'm all for people being open about their faith. i'm an Evangelical Christian (minus the politics). i believe witnessing is part of the faith. Of course, there are many different ways to witness.

So, on the one hand, i am fond of Tim Tebow. On another note, i think this whole "Tebowing" phenomena opens the discussion of witnessing vs. effective witnessing. The only person who hasn't been embarrassed by unabashed and obnoxious witnessing is the guy who is doing it.

i'm not sure that Tim Tebow has gone overboard. i truly don't know. i do know some team members have been complaining, but he has also become an encouragement to others.

i do believe that just shouting the name of Jesus isn't the way Jesus intended us to witness to his love and saving grace. i believe there are effective ways to witness as well as ineffective ways.

Then again, what may distance some can draw others. Where's the line? i'm not sure. But this video captures the tension humorously (well to me, while to others it may be off-putting :-)



This parody also unveils an embarrassing aspect of American Christianity, where Jesus has been co-opted into an "added blessing" upon frivolous past-times. Truly, i don't believe Jesus is concerned about who wins the game or the talent show.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Devil We Know

"There is a devil. He lies in our collective history at the intersection of violence and hubris. Charles Baudelaire was wrong. The devil's greatest trick is not to convince us that he does not exist. It is, instead, to convince us that he lives in our enemies, that he surrounds us, and that he must be destroyed, no matter the cost, no matter the collateral damage. What better tactic could be employed by a creature that lives off violence, that, in a fundamental way, is violence? The Devil is negation, and the negation of negation, but not in some purely abstract, philosophical sense. The devil is the negation and hatred of the Other, a sinister force working its will in our social order and then disappearing into the shadows."
-W. Scott Poole Satan in America: The Devil We Know

Sunday, November 27, 2011

History Repeats Itself

Supposed Christian politicians tell illegal immigrants to line up and get on the train. They want to deport them back to their poverty ridden countries. Why? Not simply because they are breaking the law.

Those who helped slaves escape on the underground railroad are applauded for their heroic efforts, even though they were breaking the law. Germans who helped Jews escape the round up are also considered heroes.



But German society considered Jews to be a bane to their social and economic culture. Jews became the scapegoat for Germany's problems. People despised the Jews, blaming them for the loss of jobs and societal deterioration.

Today Latinos are the scapegoat for American society. Truth be told, many Anglo-Americans would like to see nearly all Latinos deported, but they only have legal grounds to deport undocumented Latinos.

What conservative Christians are failing to do is ask the important question concerning the conditions we are sending these human beings back to. We don't care. It's not our problem.

Round em' up, stick yellow stars on em', and force them to board the train. We don't care where that train is going, so long as we don't see em' again.



Perhaps, like former Germany, one day we'll wake up to discover that it wasn't the Jewish Stars that were the problem...instead the problem was embedded deep within our own souls.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

God has left the Building; or "Jesus ain't your Mascot"

On this Thanksgiving Day there is uproar. The president left mention of God out of one of his radio addresses. In Afghanistan the troops are upset because a cross was taken off the military chapel, since it was against regulation.

People are upset that God isn't being allowed to continue as the American mascot. i'm beginning to wonder if we haven't misread the signs. Perhaps it's not America that is taking God out of it's political and military jargon...

Perhaps God has left the building (Ezek 10). Perhaps God is tired of being used as the American mascot. He's tired of people invoking His name to justify their personal and secular missions. He's tired of being used by politicians to get elected, and by governments to justify their violence.

Maybe God is behind it all. Maybe He's tired of being our mascot as we continue in our own broken reasoning, using our own broken means, while the whole time justifying it with His name and His symbols.

When Jeremiah told Judah that God would send the Babylonians to destroy the Temple, they jailed him as a traitor and false prophet. They could not imagine that God would ever allow Jerusalem or the Temple to be conquered. God was their mascot. They invoked His Name even as He sent Babylonian troops into the holy city and left not one stone of the temple upon the other. (2 Kings 25; Psalm 79:1)

Maybe God took the cross off the chapel wall at the mlitary base in Afghanistan. Maybe God desired that His name be left out of the presidents radio address for Thanksgiving Day. Maybe He's tired of being our mascot.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Civil War

Nothing inspires a man as much as something worth fighting for. What is it about our nature that lives for a fight? Is the fight against fighting only a continuation and variation of the same epidemic? If it is, i believe it is the only sane fight. Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called "sons of God".

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Peace is the Way


We don’t need to find a way that leads to peace; peace is the way.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Heresy

Popular religion is always heresy

Despair


Despair arises out of a love for life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ethnocentrism Debunked

As upside down and backwards as it may seem, many conservative Evangelicals hold to a form of ethnocentrism. Perhaps i should say, we hold to two forms of ethnocentrism. Practically we hold to a Eurocentric cultural model... but theologically we hold to a Jewish ethnocentrism. That is, we believe the Jews to be a 'preferred' race.

i consider this to be upside down and backwards because it asserts itself against New Testament teachings to the contrary, which emphasize the equal inclusion of all humanity and disavows Jewish superiority. Paul makes these claims over-and-over again. He emphatically proclaims that not all of Abraham's descendants are Israel, but rather the true Israel is made up of those who demonstrate genuine faith, whether Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.

i recently received a copy of"A Reader's Hebrew & Greek Bible". i'm loving it. It is the Bible in the original languages, but the less common words are defined at the bottom of each page. i can read through a chapter at a time in the original language without having to stop and flip through a giant lexicon each time i encounter an unfamiliar word.

i've really enjoyed reading the Hebrew text. There's just something incredibly ancient and sacred about the letter formation. Tonight, when i flipped to the Greek NT i was a bit disappointed not to experience the same sense of awe and sacredness. The language seems more common and familiar. Then it struck me...

i believe my theory and theology against a Jewish ethnocentrism is captured in the difference between these two texts. The ancient Hebrew text was written specifically to the Jews (hence the "Hebrew"). While the New Testament, which incorporates all people groups, embracing humanity as one, is written in Greek. The Greek was the common language of business and trade in the 1st century. It was much like English is today. People of many different countries had their own indigenous language, but would often be fairly fluent in Greek as a second language, since it was common for business and trade all over the known world.

i selfishly desired for the NT to be written, in what struck me as, a more sacred language (Hebrew). Yet the fact that the New Covenant is written in Greek is a theological statement in itself. It means that the New Covenant is intentionally seeking to embrace all of humanity, rather than preferring any one ethnic group over the other.

The New Covenant marks the end of ethnocentrism, and the fact that it is written in Greek underlines and exclaims this statement.

[Some believe Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, but there is little evidence for this. It should also be noted that for about 200 years prior to Christ the Jewish people primarily spoke Greek and the Hebrew Scriptures were most commonly read in the Greek translation of the Septuagint. Certainly much of the known world also spoke Greek as a primary language.]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gaddafi


Gaddafi was killed the other day. His convoy was struck by NATO forces. The Libyans attempted to sell the story that he had been fatally wounded during the attack. Video footage seems to tell a different story. He was alive and well when the opposition got hold of him. That's when we saw their form of due justice without trial.

Gaddafi's last words "Do you know right from wrong?" actually is a good question. Despite the irony of it coming out of Gaddafi's mouth, one has to wonder what kind of new form of
government begins with an execution without a trial.

Gaddafi's son, who was being held captive, also died in captivity, having been shot after capture.

Good job NATO, you've exchanged Satan for Lucifer and the whole world is applauding...again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Christian vs. Muslim Denial of the Cross: A Comparison


From "Who is My Enemy" by Lee C. Camp

Thus, we come to this ironic observation, that while the Muslim may deny the historical fact of the crucified Jesus, we 'Christians have often denied the ethical relevance of the crucified Jesus. When the Crusader marked with the cross cleaves the skull of the infidel, when the conquistador bears the "Good News" to the New World as he slaughters and kidnaps the natives, and when the American Christian dangles a cross from the end of the machine gun with which he kills Muslims, he denies the crucified Jesus too. ...
So, the Qur'anic refutation of a crucified Jesus may prompt offense on the part of the Christian. But that same Christian may simultaneously deny the "narrative logic" of the crucified Jesus by making war. In such a case, the Muslim at least is more honest, the Christian more duplicitous, with regard to the cross. That is to say, when the crucified Jesus becomes yet one more "doctrine" merely to be believed, stripped of its narrative force, stripped of its ethical otherworldly idea or transaction, as opposed to a historical encounter with the power of rebellion; when the cross becomes an emblem, or the Scriptures that testify to this Jesus become the morale booster to go off and kill the enemy whom Jesus commanded us to love; then the Christian has denied the crucified Jesus every bit as much as the Muslim has, but less honorably so.

-------

So perhaps, with regard to the crucified Messiah, we might best summarize this way:

The Muslim denies with his words,
because of what the Qur'an says;
the Christian denies with his deeds,
despite what the Bible says.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Parable: The King vs. The Lord of Lords


A king went out to conquer, amassing great wealth and power. There came to him a people who asserted that some other was king, whom they called "Lord of Lords." The king replied: you may freely worship this one you call "lord," you may freely build your buildings and write your books and seek your converts to this one you call" lord." But I shall rule the marketplace, and the army, and the public square. He shall be your personal "lord," while I am your public king. I shall make the laws, and you shall obey them. I shall tell you what enemies to kill, and you shall kill them. I shall give you a marketplace, and you shall seek to maximize your profits and keep all your profits, even at the expense of the poor, or the widow, or the stranger, and thence you shall pay taxes with which we shall wage war against all who threaten your freedom to worship your personal "lord."

And the people replied: we will gladly do as you say, O king. Indeed, we shall obey your laws. And we shall seek great profit and keep all for ourselves. And we will kill your enemies, for you, O king, have allowed us to pray to our personal lord in our houses of worship, in the privacy of our closets. Even more, O king, because you have allowed us to worship thus, we will denounce all those who do not exalt you, and we will proclaim that you have granted us the right to worship, and we shall profess that any who do not obey your laws or maximize profit or kill your enemies are no servants of the private Lord of Lords. We will hang your standard in our halls of worship, we will honor those who fight your wars, and we will celebrate those who heedlessly maximize profit. Oh, grant us such liberty as this, O king!

The king was pleased, and his new subjects served him well and were happy and satisfied.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Jesus Spectacles

I had the opportunity to hear Douglas Moo speak yesterday at GRTS' "Text and Culture" seminar. He is on the committee that produces and updates the NIV. He stressed that neither Zondervan nor Biblica has any control over how the committee interprets the Greek text and presents it in English version. He did lament the publishers control over certain features of presentation though, such as continuing the tradition of printing Jesus' words in Red (thanks to Zondervan for the complimentary NIV 2011).

During lunch i had the opportunity of sitting by Stanley Gundry, who is the executive vice pres. of Zondervan. He actually came to visit with John Frye, but sometimes the fly on the wall gets the opportunity to buzz around the head, and so that's the approach i took. i mentioned that i appreciated Zondervan sticking with the Red Letter Addition. He assured me it was not theological, but merely marketing demand. None-the-less, i presented a quick apologetic for my position, which went something like this...

On the road to Emmaus, a couple of disciples run into Jesus, only they don't know that it's him. They are lamenting that Jesus has been put to death. Then, incognito Jesus, explains the Scriptures (OT) to them and their eyes are opened and they recognize not only the Gospel predictions of the OT but also Jesus himself walking with them! The point is that they only understood the Scriptures properly through the teaching and perspective of Jesus.

Secondly, the book of Hebrews opens up by saying, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,..."

The implication being that clarity reaches it's zenith in Jesus' teachings and witness. The prophets were a shadow, but Jesus is the reality which casts the shadow. It is through the teachings and witness of Christ that we receive the clearest representation of God's nature and will.

Historically, the Protestant/Evangelical Church has viewed (interpreted) Scripture, including the Gospel, through the lenses of Paul. Metaphorically, it has been Paul's words printed in Red. i am suggesting that we ought to interpret the Bible through the perspective of Jesus' teachings instead. Some would agree that we ought not interpret the bible with a Pauline bias, but would argue that we ought not have a Christocentric bias either. Instead, they would suggest that we ought to view Scripture as a whole on equal terms. Therefore, Christ's words don't have precedence, but neither are they relegated under a Pauline perspective.

i respectively disagree. Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, i believe we can only properly understand the message of Scripture by first hearing Jesus' interpretation of it. All Scripture is God-breathed, but just as the prophets were a shadow of the Christ, so also even Paul is also a type of reflection of Christ. Therefore, i suggest a Christocentric reading of Scripture.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Guest Post: Thomas Merton

Simone Weil says clearly that the acceptance of war as an unavoidable fatality is the root of the power politician's ruthless and obsessive commitment to violence.

The typology of the Trojan war, "known to every educated man," illustrates this. The only one, Greek or Trojan, who had any interest in Helen was Paris. No one, Greek or Trojan, was fighting for Helen, but for the "real issue" which Helen symbolized. Unfortunately, there was no real issue at all for her to symbolize. both armies, in this war, motivated by symbols without content, which in the case of the Homeric, heroes took the form of gods and myths.

Instead of going to war because the gods have been arguing among themselves, we go because of "secret plots" and sinister combinations, because of political slogans elevated to the dignity of metaphysical absolutes: "our political universe is peopled with myths and monsters--we know nothing there but absolutes." We shed blood for high sounding words spelled out in capital letters. We seek to impart content to them by destroying other men who believe in enemy-words, also in capital letters.

But how can men really be brought to kill each other for what is objectively void? The nothingness of national, class or racial myth must receive an apparent substance, not from intelligible content but from the will to destroy and be destroyed. (We may observer here that the substance of idolatry is the willingness to give reality to metaphysical nothingness by sacrificing to it...).

Thomas Merton "Faith and Violence"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Will Willimon on 9/11

On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States.

The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Immigration & the Kingdom of God


The Kingdom of God is like this:

A landowner built a great wall around his property, which was impenetrable and unassailable. One day the King came to visit, lavishing incredible gifts upon all the townspeople, except the landowner, who discovered too late that the wall he built served only to keep himself out.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Guest Post: Kahlil Gibran


On Freedom

At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom, even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

Aye, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfillment.

And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Assault Weapons: An Assault Against the Community

The question i have is this: Why does my neighbor get to carry around a concealed weapon without my knowledge? What if i have reason to believe my neighbor is not a safe individual?

There are a lot of civilians that many of us have reason to believe may not be safe carrying a concealed weapon (i happen to know a person who i consider very emotionally unstable who carries a concealed weapon). Why do they get to decide whether i or someone else gets to live or die with the flick of a trigger? What qualifies them to make this decision? Yeah, they could kill me with a knife or baseball bat, but i'd rather take my chances against those kinds of odds. i can outrun most of my neighbors. i can't outrun a bullet.

How will my neighbor react under duress? Will their shaky hand send a bullet flying in the direction of one of my loved ones? Will they fail to release the safety and thereby become disarmed by the perpetrator who they were trying to stop? Will that perpetrator now have the means to hold one of my loved one's hostage, or worse, shoot them on site now that he/she is angered and wants to show they are in control?

There's a lot of things that can go wrong with a civilian carrying a concealed weapon. i don't know that individualism and personal rights should always trump what effects the community. Take smoking for instance. Many states are passing laws against smoking in public places. Why? Because of its potential to harm others. They can still smoke their cigarettes at home or in places where it won't be a potential harm to others. i believe these are good regulations. Why? Because we aren't 'islands unto ourselves'. We live in community. When one person's liberty has the potential to do serious harm to another's, then the community ought to have some voice in the matter. If the community wants stricter gun laws, then the community should have the right to ask for them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Assault Weapons: The Great Christian Contradiction (Part V)

Historically, the Church has always condemned individual acts of violence, even in self defense. It was not until after Constantine made Christianity an official religion of the Roman Empire, and St. Augustine later developed "Just War Theory", that the Church condoned violence in any form.

Just War Theory did not allow for individual Christians to use lethal force. Instead, it was a theory that relegated the authorization of lethal force under certain defensive circumstances to the governing authorities. So while the Church certainly went through a time where violent action was condoned, it did so as a governing authority and did not believe this was something left to individual determination.

Even Luther and Calvin refused to condone the individual right to use lethal force. For them, this right was only legitimate when used by governing authorities within very limited circumstances.

Only recently have Christians claimed the right to determine for themselves what justifies the use of violence, without regard to the principles of Just War theory. Now we have fulfilled the saying "And everyone did what was right in their own eyes."

It would be good for Christians to revisit the question of "what is the standard which i live by?" Rather than 'every man for himself' we ought to revisit the Scriptures, especially the teachings found in the New Covenant, and even Christian Tradition. We ought to examine when and where we determined that each person's own personal reasoning became the only standard of determining how we live. Is there a model in the NT for community living and decision making?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Assault Weapons: The Great Christian Contradiction (Part IV)

The final reason i will give against Evangelical support for civilian owned assault weapons has to do with discovering the weapons of faith.

Paul says "We wrestle not against flesh and blood..." In Ephesians he goes on to tell us what kind of weapons we are equipped with in the Faith. These are spiritual weapons, since we are called to fight a spiritual battle. Flesh and blood are not our enemies, nor are we to cling so dearly to this mortal life that we use the weapons of the world to protect us.

Our life and freedom are found in Christ, and Paul says that he is convinced that nothing on earth or any spiritual force can take this from us. Not because we can 'protect ourselves' with physical weapons, but because our life is secure in Christ. He is the Resurrection and the Life.

If this is the teaching we embrace, then it is difficult to see how we can justify the use of assault weapons. This is indeed a difficult teaching to live out, but Jesus never said it would be easy, without pain or persecution. In fact, we are to expect suffering, and therefore equip ourselves spiritually and mentally to endure it while walking in faithfulness to his teachings and remembering that our battle is not against flesh and blood.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Assault Weapons: The Great Christian Contradiction (Part III)

The third question i have in regard to Evangelical support for privately owned assault weapons is one of relationship.

There is a big push by Evangelicals for the right to protect ourselves from violent perpetrators. The problem i see with this is that it seems to foster an "us against them" mentality. i also sense that we are fighting an 'invisible enemy'.

The vast majority of us will not undergo a random, violent, life-threatening assault in our lifetime. Therefore, having assault weapons on hand is superfluous. Is the minimal outside threat worth the possibility that the handgun we keep for protection will become a tragic accident waiting to happen?

As Christians, where do we draw the line between faith and fear? In what way ought we to depend on God's providence rather than our own questionable solutions? How is this worldview of "us verses them" hindering our relationship with others? How is this effecting our biblical understanding of how we are to treat those who mistreat us in other ways? Are we making people out to be more evil and threatening than what they are and how does that effect our mission to proclaim the good news?

Are we allowing our over-active imagination to determine our response and keep us in the bondage of fear rather than the freedom of faith? If we do not fear because we've got 'protection', does our confidence in being able to protect ourselves foster an attitude that places us at odds with other human beings? Is our confidence in 'God' or 'ourselves'?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Assault Weapons: The Great Christian Contradiction (Part II)

A second contradiction i see with Evangelical support for the right to own assault weapons is one of faith.

The early Church underwent times of violent persecution, yet they did not consider using violence as a means of protection as an acceptable option. It ran contrary to their faith. Jesus, along with the writers of the New Testament, prepared the Church to endure persecution. Their response is to bless those who curse them, to pray for those who persecute them, and to not return evil for evil, but repay evil with good.

Since the Christian believes in the resurrection, that is the restoration of the body and eternal life, they are admonished "not to fear the one who can destroy the body." One of the Early Church Fathers said, "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church."

To separate Jesus and the cross is to deny the suffering of Christ, to which we are also called. Can we embrace the call to follow Jesus while rejecting the call to suffering and persecution?

Jesus said, "He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it." This is a very comprehensive expression, and i believe it incorporates the willingness to repay evil with good.

Tony Campolo once said, "I believe that when Jesus said to 'love your enemies, he probably meant we shouldn't kill them."

When did the Church declare that we are entitled to follow Jesus without being obligated to enter into his sufferings?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Anti-Fear


One of the reasons i'm passionate about renouncing violence is that i believe it is freeing for the Christian. To renounce violence and the right to 'protect ourselves' is to wholly trust in Christ. It is to believe in the promise of resurrection and embrace the truth that love covers a multitude of sins.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us not to return evil for evil. For Jesus and Paul there really is no such thing as choosing the 'lesser evil'. The call is to fully embrace the faith and the promise. To return good for evil. This is the ultimate act of faith and trust, and it enables the believer to overcome both the fear of death and completely cut ourselves off from alternatives to Christ.

No one knows if they are ready for such an incredible step of faith. Yet, a person who either knows or doubts themselves can place themselves in a position that leaves them little alternative, but embracing practices now that will leave little choice to deny Christ later.

One of these practices is to leave yourself no way out. No other alternative. No means by which to defend yourself. Which means the present you abandons the future you to no other way out. It means, embracing peace now in such a way that leaves you no alternative for the future. Therefore, if ever the time comes, your best and only option is the right one.

When Jesus offended the crowds by telling them, if you want to follow me you must eat my flesh and drink my blood, nearly everyone walked away. There were only a few left standing, and he asked, "Are you going to leave too?" They said, "Where else shall we go? You hold the words of eternal life".

Trouble is: We do like our options...

Assault Weapons: The Great Christian Contradiction (Part I)

Evangelicals, broadly speaking, seem to be in favor of our right to bear arms. Owning handguns might even be considered a badge of honor. One of the main reasons is that we believe we need protection against the government. We fear that if our guns are taken away then we are vulnerable to being controlled by a potentially hostile and overbearing government.

What i don't get, is that if this is such a threat or rational fear, then why is it that Evangelicals are also arguably the most pro-military group in America? We are very supportive of using the national budget to support the largest known government run military in world history. Yet it is this same government that we say we need to protect ourselves against. Still, i don't know of any other group that praises military service more than Evangelicals. When an Evangelical joins the service, they are typically praised as doing even greater service than someone who dedicates their life as a missionary.

How can we be anti-government and pro-military at the same time?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

True American Mosaic

Description

i was surprised to see this article as one of the featured stories of Fox News:

Census Shows Whites are in Minority Among New Births in U.S.

This is like music to my ears. i love the diversity in America. i believe it is looking more and more like the ethnic make-up of the Kingdom of God. (This comparison holds strictly to the ethnic diversity of America and not it's policies or ideology or ethics.)

The news that white's will become a minority group by mid-century is not new. The birth statistics though are real numbers that make this reality more of a reality. It's like we're witnessing the birth of a star, the rising of a new nation through peaceful means, or some spectacular and incredible event.

For some folks however, it is a different experience entirely. Here is how the introduction to this news story reads:

"WASHINGTON -- For the first time, minorities make up a majority of babies in the U.S., part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies." (Italics mine).


Did you notice that this is all one sentence with a very peculiar ending? The news that minorities are becoming a majority is deeply disturbing for some because it means that 'minority youths could reshape government policies." For those who only read the first paragraph or two of news stories (most of us), they want to make sure you don't miss this major implication!

What is the fear? The fear is that someone other than older, middle-to-upper-class whites, could be directing the future of America! While FOX does not say whether this is good or bad, the implication clearly points to 'danger'! Why? Because it's going to 'change' our nation and its 'founding principles'. This isn't said explicitly, but if you watch or read FOX regularly you know this is very disturbing to their viewers.

Older white guys have run this world ever since the rule of the Greeks & Romans. What will happen if the world's super power is run by a non-Anglo race?

i am truly astonished to be witnessing the current level of blatant racism i see in this second-millennium. It seems to me that we've returned to the 1950's & 60's with a default white supremacy mentality which is simply unquestioned and unnoticed by the ethnic (racial) majority. It is not considered 'racism' but 'common sense' and 'patriotism'. I fear the national flag itself is becoming a symbol of white elitism as it is paraded by those who want to retain the power and influence of the historically majority race and culture.

Yet, as the birth statistics reveal, nothing can stop this change. What the future of American government policies looks like is uncertain, but i pray we don't assume that the country is going to hell simply because whites aren't the majority. The undercurrent in white conservative thinking is that it is 'our ideals' that keep the world from falling off the edge into utter ethical obscurity. History, i believe, tells a different story.

Scripture tell us, that apart from God, the world is in a downward spiral. Yet we ought to be very careful when it comes to the implications of our own thinking. To believe that our culture is more godly or that which 'keeps' the world from utter evil, is an utter evil in itself. It is this type of thinking that has wreaked the most havoc upon the world.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ramble On

i've been enjoying this song a lot lately. i don't know why. i've heard it a thousand times before, somehow it seems new again. Enjoy!



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Don't Get Political Pastor!


The only time an evangelical finds politics distasteful is when the pastor is confronting politically motivated, unchristian thinking and behavior. That is, if the pastor questions a Christian's way of thinking concerning issues such as immigration, gun control, health care, taxes, Obama, or conservative talk show hosts, suddenly the evangelical parishioner finds a distaste for mixing religion and politics.

So long as evangelicals continue to listen to endless conservative talk show hosts who promote fear and hate, and politically charged media that sells itself as Christian, Pastor's will have to confront the forces which seek to distract Christians from the Great Commandments and the Great Commission.

Many evangelicals are primarily concerned with political issues as though these issues were a core part of their Christian faith. When Christians begin acting and thinking in unchristian ways, Christian leaders have a responsibility to point it out. When taxes, guns, military, immigration, and health care become the most talked about subjects in Christian homes and among Christian friends, then the issues need to be judged by a biblical perspective in light of the call of the Gospel upon the believer.

Does the Gospel want us to concern ourselves with being pro-gun, pro-military, anti-tax, anti-immigration, anti-health care (when funded by tax payers)?

These are the issues evangelicals are talking about today, and Christian leaders need to remind their parishioners of what the real focus and call of the Gospel is. If Christians get angry at a pastor for reminding them that Jesus probably isn't concerned about 'illegal aliens' or the size of our military, or our right to bare arms, or how much the government taxes us, or the injustice of the government using tax money to pay for someone else's health care, then we're probably confronting the right sins.

Speak the Language


The prophets often chastised Israel for their poor treatment of the alien and the sojourner. It is because Israel was an alien and sojourner both in Egypt and in their journey eastward, that they ought to treat the alien and sojourner among them in a helpful manner. Yet, since the alien and sojourner don't share the language or the heritage of the dominant ethnic group in the land, they are considered second class citizens.

In a recent sermon, i mentioned how we white evangelicals are still guilty of this second class treatment of the immigrant. We say things like "speak the language" to anyone who is speaking a foreign language. We don't know the people we criticize. They could be bilingual or a fairly new immigrant who is just learning the language. Most immigrants do eventually learn the language, according to the same process as German, Dutch, Irish, Polish, and Swedish immigrants did when they first came to America.

These two points should be considered. First, the English language is not native to America. Secondly, most citizens of other countries know multiple languages, so why should white Americans consider it below them to either speak or hear others speaking a second language?

Beyond this though is the challenge to white evangelical Christians. What does the preferred language of the immigrant in America have to do with the Gospel of Christ? Why would a Christian care what language someone chooses to speak in this country? Our job is to proclaim and present Christ, while the language a person chooses to speak is utterly irrelevant to Christ.

What is relevant to Christ is the elitist attitude of the white evangelical toward people who don't share their ethnicity. When confronted, white evangelicals try to downplay this accusation by appealing to the 'benefit' of speaking the dominant language, as though they were actually concerned for the sake of the immigrant. In truth they are intimidated by cultural change and identify more closely with secular nationalism than they do with the Kingdom of God. This is revealed in their statements concerning people whom they have no background information on. Is the person simply speaking to another person in a language they are more fluent in? Is the person relatively new to the country and only beginning to learn the language? The white evangelical doesn't care. They will spew out the elitist remark "Speak the language" and feel no need to ask such questions.

The only question that will be relevant to Christ is whether we tended to the material, relational, and spiritual needs of the alien and sojourner. The language the sojourner chooses to speak is not a Christian issue.

[as i write this i recognize the militant tone of the rebuke. i feel that i am forced to speak forcefully and unapologetically on these issues, otherwise i will be steam-rolled by a forceful and self-righteous counterargument. i wish i could speak passively or even congenially, but i sense the force of this way of thinking is only heard with the equal force of rebuke.]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Against Nationalism

Can a Christian be a national citizen in the general understanding of the term? No.

To begin with, we are called "citizens of heaven". That is, we have a citizenship that is not of this world, or to this worlds powers. Therefore, though we are born as 'citizens' of a certain nation, this is only according to secular labels that are forced upon us, and not part of our true identity in Christ.

Christ's kingdom is made up of people from 'every tribe, tongue and nation'. Jesus says that those who are truly his 'mother, and brothers and sisters' are those who 'do the will of my Father in heaven'. Therefore, our familiar identity is found in Christ and those who belong to him.

Our family is diverse and spreads over the whole world. It knows no boundaries or borders and it's identity is not found in national allegiance, but in our common commitment to Christ.

The Scripture clearly warns us both against the making of oaths and dual allegiances. In Matthew 5:34-37 we are told that what we commit to and what we reject is based on our commitment to Christ rather than an allegiance to man made ideologies (based on various superficial, circumstantial, or temporal commonalities). James 5:12 reaffirms this.

Matthew 6:24 teaches us to stand clear of dual allegiances when it says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." This verse finishes by stressing that one cannot serve both God and Mammon (name of a Greek god associated with wealth). While the context is warning against holding too closely to temporal comforts and pleasures, it certainly extends across the board. Therefore, one cannot pledge their allegiance to Christ and national interest simultaneously. One will always deviate from the other at some point, since their interests are not held in common. Since one seeks what is eternal and the other what is passing away. One seeks the common good and the other the good of a minority.

Therefore, those who serve Christ find their commonality and identity in Christ. The boundaries and borders are then found in Christ and not longitudinal and latitudinal lines. Therefore, our commonality cannot be both national and faith oriented. Faith is not bound by national identity.

Secondly, Christians cannot hold to a dual allegiance. To pledge allegiance to a temporal institution is to be at odds with the eternal institution of God. The two will often be founds at odds and operating according to contradictory principles. This is why a person cannot serve two masters. Not to mention that one cannot truly be sure that national interests are genuine and altruistic.

In conclusion, national allegiance often finds itself in opposition to allegiance to Christ, since it seeks its own good as the ultimate goal. Since the goals and ways of national interest are often at odds with the goals and ways of Christ, one cannot pledge allegiance to both without finding oneself divided and internally in contradiction to oneself.

The citizen of heaven ought to be considered an outstanding citizen wherever they find themselves. Yet this is not because of a spirit of national pride, but a spirit of love toward all people, motivated and directed by Christ. They become enemies of the state in-as-much as they refuse to stand with the state in their opposition to humanity. The state is constantly placing itself in the position of opposition against humanity by being 'against' others based on their temporal 'boundaries'.

And so, the citizen of heaven is a good citizen, but never a true citizen of national interest, since national interest regularly stands in contradiction to the interests of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Duck Rabbit


While in Hilton Head i picked up a milk stout called "Duck-Rabbit". i think i was drawn to it because of the cool rabbit on the box, and i chose to buy it because i had never tried a milk stout before.

Even though i realized that the brew was called "Duck Rabbit" i didn't notice the "duck" for some time. Only after finally realizing that the rabbit also looked like a duck, did i understand the name. And after i realized it wasn't only a rabbit, i didn't like the design as much.

The design is not unique to the beer, but comes from Wittgenstein's Duck Rabbit theory. The idea is that you will see whichever picture you are most familiar with. This was certainly the case with me. Given the name of this blog, you can see i have a partiality to rabbits.

Of course this type of picture is not new to us. We've seen many of these, not least of which is the young lady and the hag. Also, the theory that Wittgenstein sets forth is also fairly common sense, though we choose to overlook it as we look at the world, and especially as we interact with those who see things differently than us. Certainly all of our theories, philosophies, theologies, and world-views are shaped by various factors that influence our views, including all the conditions we've encountered on our unique life journeys.

Kierkegaard builds on Wittgenstein in that he helps us to apply this to our values. What we would like to think our values are aren't necessarily our real values. How do you 'see' what your values really are? One way to 'see' your values is that you will always act out of your true values and beliefs.

In Christianity we often 'profess' many lofty beliefs. Yet in as much as we fail to 'act' on those beliefs, namely loving others, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, patience, pursuing peace, encouraging others, loving our enemies, putting others first... we are able to see what is merely a 'profession of faith' and what parts of our 'faith' we actually believe and value .

[by the way...i don't recommend the "Duck-Rabbit" milk stout. As my sister-in-law describes it, "It tastes kinda like bacon". i didn't care for the after taste. i do however recommend another milk stout: Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout: excellent]

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pause

i must say that i am pretty impressed with the backlash at the initial response to bin Laden's death. Yes, there were the immediate victory chants posted on Facebook, but this was quickly counteracted by thoughtful people questioning whether 'celebration' was the right attitude of the Christian in the face of anyone's death, including their enemy.

It wasn't just one or two people who questioned the ethic of gloating and cheering death. This topic has been printed in various newspapers, online articles, and news programing within a day or two of the inappropriate behavior.

I am amazed because for the most part people seem to sense that their is validity to this criticism. Many Christians are in agreement, that while they are glad that bin Laden cannot personally threaten lives any longer, there is really no reason for celebration either. Not only because the problem will continue, but because the best possible outcome is to see our enemy transformed, not annihilated. Not to mention that since we are all worthy of death and hell, we ought to be careful about gloating over the idea that someone else has been sent there, which apparently over 60% of people surveyed feel certain Osama is there right now.

Are we finally waking up? i can't imagine anyone would have taken this constructive criticism seriously even ten years ago. Are we coming to a point where we finally realize that 'evil' is not something completely foreign to our own nature? Are we really starting to believe that it is better to seek the salvation of our enemy over his destruction?

i hope so.

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tectonic Evangelical Plates are Shifting and Causing a Quake


Ever sense the 'emergent' movement, there has been a shifting of plates causing a quake in the Evangelical Church. Current theological challenges are a result of this shift. Two areas being brought back under inspection are 'violence' and 'hell'.

A challenge has gone out to Christiandom at large, revisiting the widely embraced idea that Jesus and violence are compatible. The vast majority of Jesus' teachings show that injuring or killing your enemy is incompatible with loving your enemy. The defense that the critics give saying we ought to submit to our government and that Jesus came to 'bring not peace but a sword' are extremely liberal interpretations with little foundation. We are to submit to government, but not when it is contrary to the teachings of Christ. Also, when Jesus says he came not to bring peace, but a sword, he's not talking about a literal sword. He gives the example that many will be disowned by their loved one's for following him. The sword means that following Jesus' teachings is going to cause some to reject you.

The idea of hell is being revisited because people are questioning why so many have determined that an all loving God, who went to great lengths for humans to be forgiven, would damn so many to hell without an opportunity to do something as simple as confess and repent. The problem is two-fold: 1. It seems to overlook the great lengths God went to keep this from happening 2. The Bible doesn't actually teach this. It is fairly silent on the issue of what happens to those who die without really knowing the truth of what Christ did. So why promote a view that makes God look like the devil when the Bible is silent?

Those Protestants who are holding to "Tradition" and calling it "Scripture" are being questioned, and since they don't have firm ground, they have no authoritative basis to stop the discussion.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Heaven and Hell: Part 8

And now, against the Establishment...

Protestants defer to Tradition much more than they will admit. They cry"Sola Scriptura" but what they mean is "My interpretation of Scripture alone."

Take for instance the insistence that the Scriptures say a person is damned to hell if they don't embrace Christ in this lifetime. Now, they will make allowances for infants and mentally disabled persons, but not for those who never understood or even heard the Gospel. Not for those who were turned off by atrocity promoted in the name of Christianity.

Where is this teaching found in the Scriptures?

i agree, that the Scriptures say we must confess and repent. I also firmly agree that it is through what Christ has done and God's grace that any inherit eternal life. But where does it say that if a person, for ANY reason, is not able to make a reasonable decision for Christ in this life, then they are damned?

This is 'extra-biblical'. Indeed, there is the story of the rich man who did not get 'another' chance. He was as unjust as they come. He made his choice. This parable is not meant to depict every human being without exception. It is meant to depict what happens to those who knowingly reject justice and human decency, and thereby knowingly reject God's good intention for humanity, becoming so hardened they are beyond the possibility of redemption.

Also, the verse about how we are appointed "once to live and then face judgment" is also not a statement that a person who fails to understand or hear the Gospel is condemned to hell. When we go before a judge, i pray they will not convict us until they weigh all the evidence. Isn't it very possible that God will stand judge over a human being and determine that they were not able to make a decision because they had no information to base it on? Perhaps it's because they never heard the Gospel, or that they were radically misdirected.

When it says that God will judge us, it is not saying that the judgment, without a doubt, leads to hell. It means that he will make a determination.

No Evangelical has been able to show me a definitive teaching that says we will have full opportunity in this life to make a decision for or against Christ. It's just not in the Bible. So while it says we are called to make a decision, it does not guarantee that this life will give us the opportunity to do so. Nor can they show me where it definitively says that those who, for any reason aren't able to make a reasonable decision are shit-out-of-luck. "Sorry, you were born to Buddist parents and died of a fever at age 13! You were past the age of accountably so that just sucks!"

If God desires all to be saved, then it only makes sense that some who truly didn't have an opportunity to embrace the Gospel in this life, will be given a real opportunity somehow, someway, somewhere...before being condemned.

Is it definite? No. But is it just as possible, and probably more probable, than the unfounded conclusion that those who never have a chance to see or understand the Gospel in this life are automatically damned to hell? Yes! It is just as possible that a merciful God, who desires the salvation of all human beings made in his image (children?), would guarantee a genuine opportunity to embrace the Gospel. That is what he wants for humanity!

Is the teaching that 'those who never hear or truly see the Gospel, unfortunately go to hell' any more biblically founded? No! Absolutely not. But because Evangelicals have been teaching this for the last three hundred years, Tradition has been equated with Scripture. Shame on them!

Why not lean just as vigorously toward the genuine love of God for humanity and his true intent toward redemption?

Israel failed to be the redeemer, the light to the nations, as they were called to be. Their failure didn't mean the nations would be forever damned. Instead, God himself became human and lived among us. He did what Israel failed to do. He became the light and hope of redemption. God didn't leave humanity's destiny in the hands of a people who failed to be who they were called to be and do what they were called to do.

If Israel failed and God intervened, then isn't it just as biblically sound to say that where the Church fails, God will also intervene? He prefers to work through us, but he will not leave a single human soul to the whims of a lethargic and apathetic Church. Instead, he will judge the Church!

Evangelicals need to once again differentiate between Scripture and Tradition. Where the Scripture is silent, we are better to lean toward love and grace, because it is in these alone that we find hope.

For those who truly embrace unjust practices and have become unjust people, beyond hope of redemption, they will certainly experience the wrath of God. God detests those who have no heart or conscience and live at the expense of others. But for those who have the potential for redemption, he will split heaven and earth and give his own life.

That's Scriptural!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Heaven and Hell: Part 7

How do we end up in hell? Does God send us there? C.S. Lewis believes that people choose hell. In his book, "The Great Divorce" he depicts hell as that which is further and further separated from society. In essence, people move toward hell by moving away from taking part in society, and it is their preference.

If God desires that none should perish, but that all have everlasting life (2 Pet 3:9). If he truly does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer they turn toward what is right (Ezek 33:11). If he really loves the whole world enough to send his only Son to them (Jn 3:16)...then it seems like he would prefer that no one be sent to hell.

Of course the Scriptures make clear, time-after-time, that God doesn't always get what he wants. He wants humanity to follow his will and way, but time-and-again, they don't.

If we think of the Kingdom of God as a society, which by definition a 'kingdom' is a society, then it makes sense that rather than being 'sent' to hell, people are opting out of God's society. To be outside of God's society is hell, because hell is that 'place' where God and his society are not present.

People choose to separate themselves from God's society by refusing to embrace God's Way, which ultimately is the way of Love. Jesus sums up all the commandments with "Act in Love". We often fail to act in love, and hence the need for grace and forgiveness. Grace and forgiveness allow us to continue to move forward toward becoming what God has called us to be.

To reject moving forward toward becoming what God called us to be is essentially the 'opt-out' option. If it is a "Kingdom" He is bringing, then it is a "Kingdom" people he is preparing us to be. If we reject being a "Kingdom" people, then we ultimately reject the "Kingdom".

Does God 'send' us to hell? Well, if God is everywhere, but hell is that 'place' where God is not, then i suppose technically hell is not a place we can be 'sent' to. And if there is a sense in which the "Kingdom of God" is 'within us', then perhaps there is also a sense in which 'hell' is simply being absent from the 'Kingdom'. Therefore, hell is not a 'place' at all, but the 'absence' of place, and we choose to be there.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Heaven and Hell: Part 6

Why do some devious Christians hope some will have an opportunity to embrace Christ even after death, having not embraced him in this life?

Is it because we know there are many who have never heard the Gospel (i.e., infant deaths or Muslim upbringing) and feel they too need a fair chance? Well...in part. Here's another reason:

As recent headlines and world history books show; Christianity has not always been accurately portrayed by those who profess it. In addition to this, some have suffered such horrors that psychologically they are simply unable to reconcile a good God with an evil world.

Yeah, that boy who was repeatedly raped by the priest should grow up and be able to differentiate genuine Christianity from a malicious and perverted holy man...but what if his experience has overwhelmingly affected his ability to do so? What if the symbol of the cross has become his own personal nightmare?

Or what about that teenager who signed up for service in Vietnam, and after trying to match the head and body parts of his best friends with the rest of their dead bodies, was so overwhelmed by the atrocities he saw, that he simply can't believe in any form of ultimate goodness? Grace itself seems like something you read about in Mother Gooses' fairy tales.

What about that people group who embraced the people who came offering the 'good news', but later found themselves enslaved by them? Their land taken, their families torn apart, their lives devastated, and where their village once stood now stands a white chapel with a bell. Could any of this genuinely get in the way of them embracing the Gospel?

Let's not get all 'pie-in-the-sky' now and appeal to the power of the Holy Spirit which is able to help them look past all of this. Indeed, He is able, but He also works in-and-through us. He empowers believers to be 'witnesses' and when they testify to something other than the Gospel, while supposedly representing the Gospel, it undermines the work of the Holy Spirit. Is it possible for us to undermine the desires of God? I don't know...what does the Bible say about this? Why don't we start with Genesis chapter 3? God seems genuinely upset by his people's sin, and it seems to carry real consequences for the world at large.

Some Christians hope for the possibility that after death, those who truly did not have a real opportunity to embrace or reject the Gospel, will be afforded that opportunity. Not because we love to cause a commotion, but because we love the most broken of humanity and believe deeply in the justice and grace of God who understands us better than we understand ourselves and loves us more than we love ourselves.

Heaven and Hell: Part 5

Does hoping that some will have the opportunity to embrace Christ even after death lead to the logic that it's better not to evangelize those who haven't heard the Gospel? Well, it could...but here's why it shouldn't:

First, salvation in Christ is much more than simply 'going to heaven when i die'. Salvation is meant for the here-and-now. This life! Jesus says that he's come to give us life, and to give it to us more abundantly. In-other-words, eternal life starts now for those who believe (John 17:3). If we truly believe that following Christ in this life will lead to a meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling life in the present, then we will Evangelize people with the aim of bringing salvation to them for the here-and-now.

Secondly, accepting Christ is more than saying a prayer which acknowledges we are sinners. It is this acknowledgment, coupled by our embrace of Christ's grace and our desire to live according to his teachings. There are many who will accept Christ with their lips but deny him by their lives. Also, there will be many that reject Christ on another level entirely. Paul talks about this in Romans, where he says some will be condemned because they reject the light they do have.

In-other-words, it is possible to reject Christ's grace & teachings on a subconscious level and in an inadvertent way. This means that those who never hear or understand the Gospel by way of its proclamation, may still reject it on some other basis. Only God can determine whether a person has done this. But it certainly does mean that not hearing the Gospel proclaimed in definite terms doesn't lead to a 'get-out-of-jail free card'. There's something within the heart & soul of a person which only God is able to judge. For all people, the only definite hope for salvation comes through knowingly, and intentionally, embracing Christ here-and-now.

The New Testament directs believers to share their faith and tells them the only sure way of salvation is for people to embrace the good news of the Gospel in this life. Ultimately, i believe that the proclamation of the Gospel will never prove detrimental to those who hear. In fact, hearing it empowers us to believe and receive it. Yet, not hearing it is no guarantee that one hasn't rejected it in some other way.

So if we believe that the Gospel offers us salvation for this life, and that there is no assurance of salvation outside of embracing the Gospel in this life, then we ought to be compelled to bring the good news of the Gospel to all people now, wherever they may be.


Heaven and Hell: Part 4

Bell's unpublished book "Love Wins" has caused a stir and controversy among Evangelicals. It is thought that he believes everyone will ultimately be saved. Nobody knows if he actually says this, since the book isn't available yet, but even the possibility causes the sea to grow restless and the waves to become violent.

Why are Evangelicals so vehemently opposed to the idea that there is a possibility of grace after death for those who did not embrace Christ in this life? Here's my perspective:

i think historically, the idea of hell as punishment has been a very effective tool for evangelizing the lost. John Edwards is a good example of this, with his sermon "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God". It encourages people to the point of decision, and often leads to their embracing Christianity.

If we start suggesting that all will eventually be saved, or even that there is the possibility that some will have a chance to embrace Christ even after they die, then there is the danger that people will ignore the Gospel in this life. Therefore, as concerned Evangelicals, we don't want people landing in hell because we led them to believe that there will always be another chance.

Indeed, this is a real danger and one we should take seriously. Deciding to put Christ off for another day may ultimately be the same as deciding against him, and therefore no option after death! Therefore, don't even give a hint to the 'possibility' that some will be presented with the truth of the Gospel after they die, having not truly been presented it in this life. Why? Because of the dangers involved for those who may unduly apply it to themselves!

On the other hand, what about those of us who are wrestling with the revealed Grace of God and are truly concerned with those who genuinely didn't have enough exposure to the genuine teachings and example of Christ to be able to embrace grace? Don't we have to be able to talk about our theology concerning this population of humanity? Aren't we simply looking for an outcome that seems consistent with God's revelation of himself through Christ?

i understand both the hesitancy and the necessity of dealing with this topic. My solution is that we preach Christ as the only way, and now as the only time we can be sure of receiving salvation. At the same time i think we can be open to discussing the possibilities that only seem to make sense for those who will never have the opportunity to see the truth in this life. Even if we ultimately come to the ultimate conclusion that we simply don't know, but believe God will act out of his love and mercy, desiring the best outcome for every human being.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Heaven and Hell: Part 3

My first faith crisis occurred when i discovered what denominationalism was all about. i was a new Christian and was taking in a midweek service at a friends church. i had a church i regularly attended, but they didn't have midweek services.

One of the members of the congregation asked me why i didn't attend on Sundays. i told him it was because i attended 'such-and-such' a church. He told me that the church i attended was a cult and that i should leave it or end up in hell.

Yeah...

Needless to say, i was rather upset by this. The pastor of the church tried to console me, but in all actuality it appeared this is what this denomination believed. My friend told me he believed that my baptism in the "Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" was invalid. i needed to be baptized in Jesus' name. i was offended and said, "Do you mean that Jesus will send me to hell on the basis of a technicality?" He ultimately said 'yes'. Later i came to learn that this denomination was an anomaly and itself considered heretical by Trinitarians.

Is our salvation based on 'correct' understanding or intellectual prowess ? Do we have to get certain theological points right in order to be saved? If this is so, doesn't it amount to a type of 'works' salvation. Are those who are less intellectually apt doomed for eternity? Are those who think they understand, but don't quite have it just right, damned? What about those who just aren't mentally capable of comprehending complex theories?

Many Trinitarians have said that those who believe the way my friend's church does are going to hell. They don't get the concept of the Trinity! They believe that God exists in different modes at different times in history. So while they affirm the Father, Son & Holy Spirit, they believe that ultimately it is one God existing in different modes in different epochs. For them, believing in three personalities is polytheism and therefore idolatry. Since they don't get the Trinity, they are going to hell.

So they stand pointing at one another saying: "You're going to hell", "No, you are,.,," "No, you are...", "No, you are..." --to infinity.

So what is the basis of our salvation? Is it what Jesus did or is it our comprehension of what Jesus did? i'm leaning toward the former.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Heaven and Hell: Part 2


i've already established the argument that hell is separation. It is where those who refuse to live according to the nature of love and goodness are separated to, for the sake of protecting a good and just society. (this interpretation leaves room for the possibility that hell is annihilation, the cessation of life)

The next question is: Do only those who believe in Christ go to heaven?

In short: yes. But there's more to consider...

It is God's desire that all see the pure love and goodness of Christ and comprehend his teachings which are the salvation of humanity. Unfortunately, due to the radical inadequacy and even twisted mentality of the Church, many will never see Christ for who he truly is, or adequately understand his message. Each person must be able to make a decision based on accurate representation. i believe that each person can and will receive an opportunity to see Christ clearly and to decide from there. Some will do this consciously and others subconsciously. Some will do it in this life, and others at some other point and in some other way. (Christ descended to the dead and proclaimed the gospel to them according to the NT)

The Scriptures never say that our choice must be made in this life. It only warns us that if we knowingly reject the truth, then we've made a decision. Only God gets to determine who has knowingly rejected the truth.

The Church is meant to be a witness, but for many it has been a hindrance. Today, American Christianity (especially Evangelicalism) seems to be more aligned with a political party than it does with the revelation of the New Testament. God will hold this against Christians, but not against those who are turned off by it.

Often times people reject a false image of Christianity, not knowing the difference between misrepresentation and the actual story. They will certainly not be damned to hell because they rejected Tea Party politics, or some other gross distortion of the Gospel. Somehow, in some way, in this life or whenever God chooses, each person will see and understand the truth and make a decision for or against the revelation.

If this is true, then we have good reason to believe that there will be many more who enter into everlasting life than most Christians have traditionally believed. If accepting God's good invitation to join his good society is based on a genuine understanding and acceptance of that society, and not the gross misrepresentation of Christ by his 'devoted' followers, then there is reason to believe that many will choose what is good and right.


Heaven and Hell: Part 1


Today someone asked me the question: "Can someone lose their salvation?" Of course there are different theories on this, and in the end i land on the side of "yes". But don't judge me too harshly, i also believe in a God who is incredibly more gracious than we are. Who knows us better than we know ourselves, which means he understands the underlying reason for our deficiencies better than we do, and therefore has more compassion for us than we do for ourselves.

Here are my thoughts on heaven and hell. First, i believe, as Scripture says, that God does not desire that any perish, but that all have everlasting life.

What is heaven? Heaven is simply a term we use for a mode of existence in which humanity lives in harmony with God and one another. It is a society where people live justly toward one another, treating others as worth while. Treating others as better than themselves. There is no need for criminal justice in this society, because people choose to act justly toward one another.

What is hell? Hell is separation from God and all that he has created. This could take on different forms, but i doubt that it is a literal fire. Jesus describes it this way for two reasons. 1. Gehenna (hell) was a literal place. It was a trash heap outside of Jerusalem where people burned their garbage. Some criminals, who people felt didn't deserve a decent funeral, were executed and later tossed into the fires of the trash pit to get rid of their bodies. 2. This imagery came to be a metaphor for those who would be destroyed by God for their refusal to live according to the laws of goodness.

Hell, therefore, is not a place where God takes pleasure in severely torturing people for eternity. Instead, it is where people who refuse to live justly toward others are separated so that they can do no further harm to God's rescued society. A society based on selfless love and goodness. Hell is separation for the sake of protecting a good and just society.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Desperado


"Freedom...that's just some people talking..."

The people in Cairo are presently fighting for their "freedom". i disagree with the way some of them are going about it. Why do we so quickly resort to violence? We've had so many examples of successful, non-violent resistance in the last 60+ years. Gandhi, King, Tutu...

Of course there is always the philosophical question of whether freedom is but an illusion. Are our actions and choices predetermined by genetics and conditioning? From personal experience i can say, for the deluded person there is no difference between illusion and reality. Which begs the question, who determines what reality is?

i'm not trying to be deep. It seems obvious. We all see things in many different ways. Our own views make complete sense to ourselves and we often disdain the perspectives of those who see things differently. How can we be so sure of ourselves? Perhaps because we each live in different realities. Sure, there's overlap, but there's definitely deviation.

i remember reading something in a Shakespeare play that stood out. i don't know if i remember it properly but this is the essence of it:

"I could consider myself the king of infinite space, though bound in a nutshell, if it weren't for these dreams. Dreams themselves are ambition. And I consider ambition so light and airy a quality that it is but a shadow of a dream."

Indeed, freedom is a state of mind.

Which brings us back to our infamous Eagles quote: "Freedom, oh, freedom, well that's just some people talking."

It certainly seems elusive, but perhaps elusive is just an illusion.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Knowing vs Doing


"Let us imagine a pilot, and assume that he had passed every examination with distinction, but that he had not as yet been at sea. Imagine him in a storm; he knows everything he ought to do, but he has not known before how terror grips the seafarer when the stars are lost in the blackness of night; he has not know the sense of impotence that comes when the pilot sees the wheel in his hand become a plaything for the waves; he has not known how the blood rushes to the head when one tries to make calculations at such a moment; in short, he has had no conception of the change that takes place in the knower when he has to apply his knowledge."

Soren Kierkegaard, Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life, pp. 35-36


Isn't this the story of the Christian life! We read; we hear, we sing, we say...but then the test comes. The moment when we are not looking at the situation from the outside, but from within. Then we say, "I know i ought...but..."

It is easy to examine someone else's life and actions and to see how they do not line up with their professed beliefs. It is easy to imagine that we have or would. But when we are tested, the situation is always different. We often respond in doubt and act antithetical to our beliefs.