Reflections on the New Pope
This week, the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the office of Pope, replacing the outgoing Benedict XVI. This, of course, greatly disappointed the liberal Protestants as well as the atheist community. It seems our liberal and atheist friends would like to see a progressive Pope; one who will do away with the restrictive Catholic doctrines that make the religion a dinosaur.
They would like a Pope that supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, will eliminate priestly celibacy, allow women in positions of power, and reverse Catholic doctrine on birth control. Someone who will sell the Vatican and feed the world.
But that isn’t going to happen, and the liberals and atheists need to make peace with that quickly.
This is the second papal election that I have seen in my lifetime. Unless Pope Francis becomes another John Paul II, it likely isn’t going to be the last one. The previous election that saw Cardinal Ratzinger promoted to Pope had the exact same groans issuing from the liberals and the atheists. I expect to hear the same groans next time as well.
Ed Stetzer had a lot of the same thoughts that I did, but as a research specialist for LifeWay he focused on demographics. What I’d like to focus on here is the theological implications of a papal conclave, and why (if the Catholics are right about what it entails) it will never produce a Pope that aligns with the world on those hot button issues. Read the rest of this entry
Randomness from Yahoo! Answers, part 1
I haven’t blogged in a while. A long while.
I don’t want people to think that I shut the blog down. Nope. I just had a baby, and have been working long hours on top of trying to have a family life. So my blogging life has been put on hold for the last month or so.
So today, with my free time and in honor of a person who has e-mailed me several times about Yahoo! Answers, I have decided to take on the top three results for the search phrase “Does God exist?”
First question, “How, or in what way does God exist?” asked by a user named Bolo Joe two years ago:
I think the question should no longer be “Does God exist?”, but instead “How, or in what way does God exist?” In my opinion, the discrepancy surrounding God has more to do with concepts and interpretations than the actual existence of God.
This is interesting, and I think worthy of a quick comment. It has been a tactic of atheists that have engaged me in dialogue to shift the goal posts in this fashion.
When I have them at a stalemate — they can no longer contend based on my sound objections that God’s existence is impossible — they shift the question from absolute existence to one of semantics.
This essentially means they lose the debate. Their original contention is that God does not exist, but once they stop contending that and start asking why to suppose my particular God over all of the others from mythology then they have conceded there is a God and are now just asking which.
So far, I agree with Mr. Joe. The question of which God is the key, for the actual existence of God is, in my mind, a foregone conclusion in favor of yes.
For example: Referring to God as “He” is a big problem. He is gender specific and references half of a whole, with the complement of course being “She”. Male and female should be viewed as positive and negative expressions of the living being as positive and negative charges are expressions of electricity.
This is where the semantics are coming into play.
“God” can refer to one of two things:
- The shared ontology of the three persons of the Holy Trinity
- The First Person, the Creator of Genesis and the Father of Christ in the Gospels
In using God to refer to (1), I would agree that “he” or “she” are meaningless concepts. However, in English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun that can refer to a living person. “It” is insulting, especially to God.
The essence shared by the persons of the Trinity is neither male nor female, but somehow both. This is suggested in Genesis when both genders are required, but for different roles in the marriage. The male-female marriage is therefore the divine institution given to us by God, and all others (polygamy, polyamory, homosexual) are perversions of it.
I doubt this seeker would realize he just stumbled into that position or endorse such a conclusion; the New Age-y people are typically liberal and thus in favor of gay marriage.
The male pronoun is used as convenience. Up until the flood of political correctness that has gripped America, “he” was always used as a generic pronoun when the sex was unknown, meaningless, or unable to be determined. It is only in the last 20 years or so that that has become a slight to women.
In using God in (2), the male pronoun is the preferred method of address, and not just because the Bible says so. But because of the way the Bible says:
- Jesus repeatedly calls the First Person of the Trinity “Father”
- Paul repeatedly uses marriage as a metaphor for salvation, and the church repeatedly takes the role of the woman (the “Bride of Christ”)
- Church leaders and elders are supposed to be male (the husband of one wife)
- After the Fall, the man was supposed to take the lead and the woman follow, subjecting her desires to the man
Given all of that, it is clear God sees himself in the male role of a complementarian view of gender relations. He is neither male nor female, for both are made in the image of God. But his role is male and therefore the mode of address should remain male.
I say this to illustrate that God can be neither a “He” nor “She” as these two individually are incomplete. That’s the beauty of a healthy relationship between a man and a woman, in which case God is revealed. From this idea comes the concept of Twin Flame soul mates.
Again, as I stated above, this is the strongest argument for heterosexual marriage being the divine institution and homosexual marriage being nothing more than a perversion of it.
All of the physical world, as we know it, is divided into these complementary halves: Up down, back front, light dark, good bad, etc… It is through experiencing these extremes that we find the balance to perceive the whole, or the essential design and this essential design is what I believe to be the expression of G.O.D. (The Grand Organizing Design). Comments…???
Well, I don’t see God as merely a Grand Organizing Design, but a person. I’m not sure how to complete any sort of analysis of this meandering question, so let’s just move forward with the next one tomorrow…
General Commentary on De-Conversions
You might think that this is going to be an article on Christians de-converting to atheism. No. I’ve interacted with those guys over the years I’ve been doing apologetics. I can actually sympathize with their position, and I can even allow for validity in some of their arguments.
One in particular that I hear again and again is that Christians don’t read the Bible for what it says; they cherry-pick whatever doctrine they want to believe and ignore the rest. That’s not true of every Christian, even though the ex-Christian turned critic of his former faith wants the reader of his blog (don’t they all have blogs?) to believe as much.
To bolster this claim, the ex-Christian typically points to the fact that there are many, many different denominations of Christianity. They usually put the number of denominations between 33,000 and 40,000, but it changes quite often. Thirty-three thousand was the prevailing number I heard when I founded this ministry in 2006. By 2009, 38,000 was the prevailing number. In late 2010, I heard 42,000 somewhere.
This number is grossly inflated and literally has no basis in reality. I’ve pointed to this article by James White as refutation (White revisited the issue here) and asked for some substantiation of that number from people who throw it to me. I have yet to receive any documentation proving that number. I’m sure I never will.
Leaving that aside, the next statement ex-Christians usually make is that, with all of these denominations, if you don’t like what doctrines your church has cherry-picked, then you can just go to the church down the road.
This is a horrible mentality, but often is the case with some Christians. Church-hopping is never the answer to a dispute. This is something Catholics have right on the money: the church is the central repository of doctrine; “a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The Christian should be in submission to his local church. He shouldn’t just hop to another church that suits his whims.
I can develop and defend this idea later. For now, let’s just take it as a given.
Recently, I have seen two examples of public figures church-hopping. When public figures do something, it lends respectability to the practice–however illegitimate the practice may be. Something like this just makes Christians look bad, or even hypocrital. Read the rest of this entry
Free Sermon Resources?
Today’s sermon was all about giving generously. At my church, “we don’t preach on tithing,” says my pastor. Today’s sermon was, in part, about tithing. But it went deeper than that.
A frequent argument I deal with from atheists and other detractors of Christianity is the ludicrous notion that Jesus wants Christians to give up all earthly possessions and live penniless. They aren’t approaching the text from the perspective of stewardship. All gifts come ultimately from God, and God wants us to wisely use these gifts for his glory. The ultimate summary is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
The idea is to judiciously use what we have for the good of the kingdom, not to sell everything and live in abject poverty. The trick is that the more we have, the greater the obstacle to true intimacy with God. Or as Jesus famously put it, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).
The Eye of the Needle was actually a place in those days. A camel could get through it, but it took a lot of effort and often wasn’t worth it. Jesus isn’t saying that is impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, just that it is going to take much more work than for a poor person. A rich person is expected to give more generously with both time and financial resources to further the cause of the kingdom. Obviously, a poor person doesn’t have as much to give and therefore as much won’t be required.
Bottom line: you can’t be sure of anything in this world except for God. So don’t put stock in material goods–moth and rust can eat and destroy them. Build up treasure in heaven, where nothing can get to it. Material wealth isn’t the same as true security, and we never really possess something we aren’t willing to give to God. Read the rest of this entry
Continuing Discussion With Doug Crews
I did a podcast a while back (part 1 | part 2) where I answered some tough questions for Christians proposed by Doug Crews. My comment policy has comments closed after 30 days, since I’m trying to spend time coming up with new material and normally after that time additional comments tend to rate higher on the ignorance scale than comments left in a more timely fashion.
However, Doug’s discussion is an exception to the rule. I can’t re-open comments on that thread without reopening comments across the board, so I’m going to open this new thread.
And so, the discussion continues: Read the rest of this entry
The Post that Makes Me Want to Ask Lofus, “Are You Stupid?”
Just read what I have to say before you start quoting 1 Peter 3:15 at me.
This post from Debunking Christianity may just be the height of John W. Loftus’s stupidity. In a short space, Loftus asks questions that just prove that he is not just ignorant, but willfully ignorant (and that’s the worst kind of ignorant). The crux of his argument:
Christians have faulted the so-called New Atheists with ignorance. They do the same thing with me. If only I knew this or that I would see the error of my way and believe again.
He closes appropriately, “Surely the theist cannot possibly demand that nonbelievers must know all that can be known before their rejection of religion is warranted.” No, we can’t ask for that, since we ourselves can’t know everything there is to know to accept our position as rational. But, that’s not really the focus. The focus here is the naivety and outright stupidity of the so-called rhetorical questions being asked. Let’s look at them:
How much philosophy should Richard Dawkins know to rationally reject religion?
He doesn’t need to know any philosophy to rationally reject religion, but if he’s going to write a book for the general populace using naturalism to debunk philosophical arguments of the existence of God, he ought to at least study his philosophy and learn what philosophers, both ancient and modern, have to say on the philosophical points he wishes to raise.
Had he done so, he would have known that “Who designed the Designer?” is a naive and silly question often asked by second graders who fail to distinguish between the heavenly and earthly realms. If God was a material entity, originating in a created plane of existence, then he would require a designer. However, he transcends the universe itself, existing outside of time and space, and therefore doesn’t require a cause the way a material entity or event does. Without the constrains of time, a cause-and-effect chain isn’t necessary to bring about a desired result or to create a being, event, or formation. God is, and always will be.
How much science should Christopher Hitchens know?
As above, to reject religion he doesn’t need to know. But, if he’s going to write a book that logically debunks religion with science, he ought to be familiar with his subject matter.
How much Bible should Daniel Dennett know?
Depends. If he’s going to write a book about the Bible, its history and construction, and contrast that with evolutionary development, then he ought to know quite a bit about the Bible.
How much theology should Sam Harris know?
If he’s going to argue the morality of Christian theology, he ought to have a basic grasp of it. He also ought to have a basic grasp of the cultural morality of the time in which the Bible was written. However, he doesn’t have even a 101-level grasp of any of those things and therefore shouldn’t argue it. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from writing three books on those exact topics.
How much should we know to rationally reject religion? How much? What if we know very little? What if all we know is that God did not save our child and she died from Leukemia?
Let’s say all you think you know is that God couldn’t save a child from leukemia. Before you conclude that religion is stupid, don’t you think that you should at least investigate what a learned theologian may have to say on that matter, instead of just going the completely emotional route?
Here’s John being extremely inconsistent again. Atheism is a reasoned conclusion, religion is being biased and defending what you prefer to be true. But if you reject God solely on the basis of your child’s untimely death from leukemia, that is taking your visceral, emotional reply to a tragedy and rather than applying your mind to the task of weighing evidence or considering arguments, you shut your heart down to any possibility of God because you’re mad at him.
Exactly like my three-year old when she doesn’t get her way.
What if a scientist rejects religion because s/he cannot adequately test supernatural hypotheses?
What if a historian rejects the claims of a religion because as a historian s/he must assume a natural explanation for the events in the past?
Are they culpable for doing so when this is all they know to do?
Yes, they are culpable.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom 1:20-25)
Everyone knows about God. Everyone can see God’s eternal nature and divine power. These folks are using their professions to hide what they know to be true under a thin cloak of pseudo-rationality. That’s willful rejection of God, gross idolatry, and a major sin.
When can it be said that a person can rationally reject a religion?
I don’t know the answer to that. But the rejections of religion that I’ve seen are emotional rejections of God because of anger directed at God, or disgust at the behavior of Christians. Not exactly rationally concluded atheism, is it?
I’ll let you know when I actually see a rational rejection of religion. I have yet to come across any.
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
Guest Post by Nate Reid
My brother-in-law, Nate, associate pastor and youth leader at my church, originally wrote this article for my short-lived e-zine. Many Christians, including Nate and I, don’t think that Christians should celebrate Halloween because of its association with the devil and other malevolent entities. Here is Nate’s original article, written in October of 2008 and originally part of this e-zine.
For the Christian today, our diverse American culture poses many real
challenges in determining what he or she should and should not partake in. There is such a blending of belief systems and melding of cultural practices that for those who try to follow closely to the teachings of Jesus Christ, it can be a daunting task riddled with humanly perceived “gray areas.”
In keeping with the season, I would like to address the Christian’s response to the celebration of Halloween. I do not want to go into an exhaustive background, but Halloween began with ancient Druid beliefs that this time of year the souls of the deceased could and sometimes did come back to pester and possess the bodies of the living. Therefore, many of the customs that are still performed today have roots in actual Druid ritual. Carving Jack ‘o’ Lanterns and dressing up in frightening costumes was an attempt to scare away evil spirits. Building giant bonfires (derived from “bone-fires”) was intended to do the same and also eradicate anyone who was believed to be possessed by an evil spirit. Furthermore, today the “holiday” is celebrated by neo-Pagans, Wiccans, and even Satanists as somewhat of a high holiday.
So, if this is the case, what is a Christian to do? What’s so terrible about dressing up as a princess or a pumpkin and going door to door begging for candy? What possible harm can come from carving a pumpkin or bobbing for apples? I would venture to say that these things in and of themselves are not wrong and definitely not the point. The bottom line is this: Halloween today in our culture, no matter how any individual celebrates it, glorifies death, evil, and fear. As a Christian, we know that Jesus came to overcome the power of death, defeat evil, and eliminate fear. Why then would a Christian partake in an event that, no matter what their celebration includes, glorifies the very things Christ came to abolish?
If you argue that our customs for Christmas celebration have pagan roots and therefore would be wrong to partake of according to my argument, then you are right on the first part at least. Many Christmas customs do indeed come directly from pagan practices—the lighting of a tree and the yule log, just to name two. However, I would argue that you are incorrect on the second part of your statement. What, today, does Christmas stand for? Does it not still mark the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ? You would be correct in noticing the need to eradicate the disgusting overemphasis of commercialism and the blatant substitution of the true meaning of Christmas with a certain “Santa Claus.”
Therefore, my analogy goes like this: Celebrating Halloween in the sense of celebrating the harvest and honoring the Saints that have gone before us would in theory be acceptable as a Christian, just as celebrating Christmas as the commemoration of the birth of Christ is acceptable. (The Catholic Church unsuccessfully tried to replace pagan meanings of Halloween, thus “All Hallow’s Eve,” which morphed into “Halloween” with “hallow” having the meaning of one who is hallowed or holy. Think, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name…”). Both celebrations go wrong when the pagan is celebrated over the Christian.
In the case of Halloween, glorifying death, evil, and fear is akin to placing the myth of Santa Claus in place of the real Jesus Christ while prioritizing the giving and receiving of gifts over glorifying the Giver of the Greatest Gift of all at Christmas time. I believe it is simply summed up in the following verse: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 The 5:19-22, ESV).
As a Christian we have the responsibility to ensure we are thinking through everything we do in general, and specifically in this case with celebrations to make sure we are glorifying God, holding to only that which is good, and keeping far away from anything that is associated with evil. I cannot personally get around the fact that Halloween glorifies death, evil, and fear. It should be obvious that this is the clear meaning behind this day.
Halloween movies more often than not feature brutal massacres, witchcraft as fun and acceptable, and glorification of the demonic side of the very real spiritual realm. The fiction that has been created about ghosts, zombies, and the like have their roots in reality and can only be demons as described in the Bible. There is a spiritual realm that features very good and very bad spirits.
We should not, especially as Christians, make light of this and consequently behave as if the evil is “cute” or “harmless” or anything else other than a terrible offense to God and contrary to everything He is.
We suffer from an epidemic of Christians that behave exactly the same, or at least nearly the same as their non-Christian counterparts without regard for taking a stand for what is pure and holy. We need to not be afraid of looking weird or irrelevant when we speak out against or abstain from celebrating overtly pagan and evil “holidays” such as Halloween. It is time we did as the writer in Hebrews describes when he writes: “…Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12:1, ESV).
I challenge every Christian who reads this article to examine the Word of God, pray specifically, and carefully consider what I present to you even if you initially disagree with my stance. I believe that any Christian absolutely must treat any and all matters of life, not exclusively the “hot button” issues like the celebration of Halloween, in this manner. We cannot afford to slog through life accepting or rejecting doctrine, lists of right and wrong, and in this case celebrations based on our culture at large, what someone we care
about or respect said, or whatever happens to fit our personal references.
There is absolute truth out there, and we all must strive to find it and understand it to the best of our imperfect human ability and live our lives accordingly. Ultimately, we will be held accountable for our actions and what we supported or fought against in the end.
I do not say all this to suggest that a true Christian cannot celebrate Halloween and still be “right with God.” There are godly men and women I know and respect and whose salvation I would not question who advocate at least portions of current American Halloween customs. I do not have a problem with disagreeing with them and personally choosing to abstain, but I only continue to respect their opinion if they have demonstrated that they are convinced that they are doing what is pure and holy to the best of their ability. I do, however, strongly infer that a true Christian will examine their hearts and motivations for celebrating it or not celebrating it and ensure that they have a solid set of reasoning and specific purpose for everything they do.
For Once, I Agree With Vjack
I normally bash what Vjack has to say, but in this case, I think it’s perfectly justified.
Christine O’Donnell, from everything that I’ve read about her, is making Christians in general look bad. She tried to argue that the phrase “separation of church and state” isn’t in the Constitution, so it’s not a valid concept.
The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What’s clear here is that the Founding Fathers didn’t want any one religion to be the religion in the United States, but I don’t think that they meant to clean all references to God and religion out of the government. They wanted the governing authorities to remain secular and not tied to a specific church or denomination. Different denominations within Christianity often have very different ideas of what constitutes the greater good. To remain free to serve the diverse religious beliefs within the new republic, the government would have to remain clear of heavy church influence.
Since many were religious refugees from the Anglican church, they wanted to respect the rights of other religious refugees to practice their own religion when they emigrated here.
The main problem with O’Donnell’s argument is one of consistency. I’m assuming (dangerous, I know) that she would believe in the Triune God, since she is a Roman Catholic. Well, by opponents of the Trinity, it has been repeatedly asserted that the word “Trinity” is found nowhere in the Bible. That’s one of the main arguments against the Trinity. Yet, the Trinity can be supported with numerous Scripture passages, even if they make no direct reference to “Trinity.”
So it is with separation of church and state. The phrase itself may not appear, but it can be deduced that this is the intent of the Founding Fathers. They didn’t want a single religion or denomination to dominate politics. To support a free exchange of ideas and to arrive at what is really the common good, denominational in-fighting has no place in government.
The Bible tells us to submit to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1; 1 Pet 2:13-17). Nowhere can I see that we are called to be the governing authorities. Rather, Peter tells us:
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Pet 2:15-17)
So, Christians should fine with separation of church and state. All the more reason to witness by our lives that have been changed for the better by Christ, for Christ. Live up to Christian values and morals, leading by example.
How to Make Your Christian Writing Anything But, part II
In my previous post, I took a peek at six of the twelve points that the Resurgence cites as ways to turn Christian writing into anti-Christian writing. Unfortunately, I’m guilty on some points. Let’s look at the final six.
Hell is real, but don’t let that concern you or your hearers and readers. It’s more important to have a good theology of evangelism than to actually tell others about Jesus, his cross, and his resurrection.
Actually, I think that it is more important to talk about the cross and the Resurrection than it is to mention hell. I don’t think that hell is really the best way to evangelize. It shouldn’t be avoided completely, but neither should it be over-stressed.
People just aren’t comfortable with a judging God. Most likely because people know, at the core, that they have sinned and are under condemnation. Instead of browbeating them with that, let’s focus on what God has done through Christ.
But we’d just be unkind if we didn’t talk about hell at all. People also need to understand the consequences of their choices.
Talk about technique a lot, because techniques are concrete. Miracles like regeneration, God turning haters into lovers, and the fruit of the Spirit are too abstract to be helpful.
Here we see Christianity capitulating to culture. Scientism seems to be creeping its way into the popular culture. People are believing the lie that they can only know what they can touch, taste, smell, or see.
Scientism is a philosophy, not a scientific conclusion. Since philosophies can’t be proven, only believed, scientism refutes itself. If you believe scientism, you’re already being inconsistent.
Everyone believes something on the basis of pragmatism alone, in the absence of empirical evidence. Everyone. Our minds are capable of knowing and understanding things in the abstract, without requiring evidence of their existence.
That means that speaking of love, hate, or the fruits of the Spirit are helpful. Speaking on technique is good, too, but sometimes it is necessary to speak of the abstract.
Guilt is a great motivator. Use it wisely.
I think we all know someone who falls into this category. I’ll move on.
In their sanctification, people should fake it till they make it. Tell them how.
Believing something on the basis of pragmatism is vital to constructing a coherent worldview. Obviously, you can’t see some of the abstractions that underlie your philosophies. If you hold to a theistic worldview, where the material plane is a battlefield for angels and demons influencing the minds and hearts of humans, you can’t see the immaterial beings nor can you see the deity, so pragmatism comes to the forefront in determining the rationality of your suppositions.
But pragmatism is not a good measure of the effectiveness of the gospel, nor is sanctification ever going to work if you fake it until you make it.
The New Testament consistently refers to the church as “the Bride of Christ.” In marriage, you are giving yourself wholly and completely to your spouse; that goes for husbands as well as wives. It is expected that you will put your bride first in all your considerations. Everything should change, and this is meant to be a permanent change.
So it should be in giving yourself to Christ. It should bring wholehearted change into your life. You won’t be the same person afterwords. The Bible declares the faithful a new creation. Just telling people to “fake it until you make it” doesn’t do justice to the gospel, and it trivializes Christ’s promises to make you whole.
Be condescending. Make sure your theology is un-gracious in content and tone.
Yeah, I know, this is my deepest sin in writing this blog. Anyone who wants to throw it in my face, go ahead. Search some past posts. I’m sure you can find plenty of examples of me being ungracious to commenters. But I’m going to really try to move past it, and give my apologetic answers with gentleness and reverence. No more sarcastic bite.
People really want Good Advice instead of Good News, so be a people-pleaser and only give lots of advice.
Yes, Joel Osteen, we are looking at you!
- Why Is Anyone Surprised That Icp Are Evangelical Christians? (metalsucks.net)
- Christ Centered (anointedplace.wordpress.com)
- Guest Article: Does Scientism Equal Faith: Combating Misconceptions (alexblog.com)
How to Make Your Christian Writing Anything But, part I
The folks over at the Resurgence have a great article on how to turn Christian writing into anti-Christian writing. They’ve itemized twelve errors, some of which I’ve fallen into. Let’s take a look at the first six.
Downplay the law of God and his grace. Tell people God is not that angry about cosmic treason, and grace isn’t that amazing.
It’s nice that they’ve started off with something that I, too, have railed against. It’s fairly common among skeptics (and far too many Christians!) to get really bent out shape when we mention God’s Law. Most of the resistance comes when we talk about punishment (hell is discussed later in this list). But the revulsion is inevitably there.
We can’t let that deter us.
It’s really important that our hearers understand both law and grace. The Law exists, and we ignore it at our peril. Both Paul and Peter charge us to act like we’re called by God to do great things! Simultaneously, we have to understand that the great things we’re called to do do not add anything to our salvation. We do them because they are the moral thing to do, and acting in accordance with our new, heavenly nature brings glory to God.
Don’t mention God the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Assume that people already know enough about them.
I’ve probably fallen into this trap. I tend to mention “God” without actually defining that concept in a particularly trinitarian fashion. God isn’t a nebulous concept, but a personal being with whom we can have a real, dynamic, give-and-take relationship with. I should mention the relationship of the divine Persons more often so that readers get a better grasp on who’s who in the Trinity.
“The Little Engine That Could” should be the foundation of your theology.
Another one that I’ve railed against: you can’t possibly read the Bible and come away with the understanding that you can do it on your own, if you only think positively! The Bible wants us to depend more on God, and less on ourselves.
This is Word-Faith theology, or Name-It-and-Claim-It. If you believe enough in yourself, anything is possible! Makes a great self-help book, but it isn’t biblical Christianity by any stretch of the imagination.
Remember that God is passive, so you better be really active… or else.
Orthodoxy (right belief) is very important. Orthopraxy (right practice) is also very important. But a balance must exist. Only Jesus can save you.
If you think that God saves only those who remain faithful to the end of their days under their own power and who do their own good works, you have Pelagianism: salvation by works.
This is related to the next error, which leans on orthodoxy to save you.
Remember, no other Christians get it right except for your tribe, of which you should be chief.
Yeah, I’ve done this. A lot. I resisted Calvinism at first because I thought that Calvinists were intellectual snubs. Then I realized the biblical truth of Calvinism, and became a passionate Calvinist–and an intellectual snub!
The rub of it is that I should consider myself a Christian first, and a Calvinist second (if at all). I was saved from the moment that I professed faith in Jesus for my salvation, and renounced the use of my own faculties to obtain God’s favor. I didn’t become “more saved” the day I read Chosen by God and realized the Sproul was conveying the absolute biblical truth.
A Christian relies only on Jesus for salvation, and seeks a cooperative sanctification by God in order to become like Christ. Nothing more, nothing less.
If a person believes that only the Calvinist is saved because he properly understands predestination as an unconditional choosing of God’s people by God for God, then you have gnosticism: salvation by secret knowledge.
All denominations (including we Calvinists) seem to lean to far one way or the other. Orthodoxy is important. So is orthopraxy. But they are designed to compliment each other, not to compete with each other. Striking a balance is important to the life of the Christian.
Only use Scripture as a proof-text—don’t actually teach it.
Now this is an error that I fall into quite often. I tend to propose most of my own philosophies on this blog, and back them up by using relevant Scripture passages. Never do I exegete a passage from the text.
I’ve been considering for a while doing just that. From time to time, maybe each Sunday, selecting a passage of text from Scripture and actually run through it verse-by-verse and expound on the deep, spiritual meanings of it. Kind of like a written sermon.
I could even “preach through” an entire book, section by section, each Sunday. That would help me understand it better, and it would definitely give my unbelieving readers a more through understanding of Scripture.
So far, it looks like I commit as many errors as I rail against. So I’m coming out nearly 50-50 after six. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the remaining six, and I’m hoping that I do better!