A Muslim protecting Christian doctrine; Unknowingly!

Read here

nj-easter-egg-huntI said it once and I will say it again! Those who devise non bibilically prescribed customs and feasts to the Christian faith are the ones who are “doing the work of the devil” reducing Christianity into a “fairy tale” with Santa Claus, Eastern Bunny and, of course, egg hunts, and certainly a few other childish parties.

Oh, of course these are such innocent things that they will hardly affect anyone, or any child’s forming faith, right? Wrong! You talk to your children about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, along with teaching them about Jesus, then you expect that they will grow up and filter off the childish things and realize that none of these characters are real and for some miraculous reason, you hope that they will keep Jesus as a “truthful” character… What a hope!

Before you say it, as an avowed Calvinist I shouldn’t worry because after all God will preserve his own. It is right there in the “P” of T.U.L.I.P, or, “perseverance, (also preservation) of the saints, right? Wrong again! Yes, God will preserve His own but that doesn’t relieve you of your parent responsibility in raising your child in the most pure form of Christian faith!

Oh, I am all in favor of enjoying our liberty in Christ and I am all against legalism in any subtle or conspicuous form it rears its ugly head (and legalism’s head is in the rear), so, I am not talking about turning your child into an outcast, devoid of contact with society, and not participating in some “innocent” play, although such an “innocence” is debatable. What I am talking about is this militant stance in defending these types of activities not prescribed in the Bible as if they were somehow to be revered as something directly from heaven’s throne room! And how some do that? Answer: by calling anyone who opposes to such celebration a “anti-Christian” waging a “war on Christianity”, especially if one is not a Christian.

I said it before and I will say it again: God has used anyone to speak for Him, including a donkey, and God will also use those who are currently the enemies of His Gospel if that is what it takes to remove the attention from a stupid egg hunt that, in my view, a Church should not be promoting, and make the Church really turn their attention to what we are celebrating that day, that is, if we indeed celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. When a Muslim is outraged because of something that he was told is a Christian thing, read that outrage as perhaps God speaking through a donkey preventing us from turning the Gospel into a fairy tale sort of nursery rhyme, devoid of its meaningful and sacred and eternal meaning, and the ever changing power that it has been through the ages. Think about it!

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Christianity: A form of therapy or a radical alternative? – A response

I wanted to briefly respond to Edmund Standing’s excellent post: Christianity: A form of therapy or a radical alternative?

Let me begin with this quote:

Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.

R. D. Lang

This quotation, for me, hits at the heart of the premise underlying Edmund’s post. Our society’s focus on individualism, consumerism and self, is so alien to our deep needs of community, it is no wonder that maladies of the mind and spirit prevail giving rise to a ‘therapy’ culture.

Edmund makes this interesting point:

Despite what the therapy industry might tell us, true mental illness is still a relatively rare phenomenon, but what we have seen grow exponentially is the widespread sense of being deeply uneasy, hollow, and anxious. Such a feeling in a medical-centred culture is generally nowadays classified as being a manifestation of one or other nervous disorder or depression, and a dubious combination of medication and psychobabble are seen to be its ‘cure’, but perhaps we need to look at such disorders and ‘depression’ (often a very slippery and ill-defined concept) as evidence that the human spirit is crying out under the pressures of living in what is an increasingly unhealthy and unnatural environment.

I agree there is a tendency to over pathologise in our Western culture and a prime example of this can be seen in the war being fought over the new DSM-5 diagnostic manual, within which the removal of the ‘bereavement exclusion’ from the diagnosis of depression will mean that someone could be diagnosed as depressed even if they’ve just lost a loved one.

This to me is an example of pathologising a normal reactive psychological response.

I also adhere to the unpopular stance that “true mental illness is still a relatively rare phenomenon” despite the “one in four” meme.

To me, much of what is spoken of as mental illness nowadays is an entirely rational response to a crappy world.

This is not to denigrate severe and chronic mental illness which debilitates so many and the enormous benefits of therapy to this community.

The irony of the ‘therapy’ culture is that it is entirely understandable. Therapy may be the only environment within which a person can talk, knowing everything said will be held in the strictest confidence. Also, therapy tends to be non-judgmental. There can be a feeling of being ‘connected’ with ‘another’.

Of course, the therapeutic environment is entirely contrived and paid for, but in an increasingly individualistic and lonely society, who can blame folk for turning to therapy.

It also strikes me that another consequence of the loss of community and increasing individualism is the issue of identity; or more specifically, the loss of identity. We used to frame ourselves in terms of our community, but what happens when we lose our community?

Where else can folk in our modern society turn for these provisions?

Which brings me back to Edmund’s post:

One of the greatest losses of modernity has been the decline of community spirit and the sense of being united around common practices. Where once the church and the pub provided the two key venues in which communities could come together, many churches across the land are gradually emptying and pub closures now take place on a weekly basis, as cheap supermarket alcohol leads people out of the old communal space and into drinking at home, often alone. Biblical Christianity offers a way to combine all of this – the experience of community, shared worship, and shared eating and drinking. This Christianity points us to a God of relationships, not a God of the isolated self.

[…..]

The answer lies not in a culture of therapy, but rather in the rediscovery of the radically relational and communal lifestyle of Jesus and his early followers.

This is by no means a ‘quick fix’ solution and is not something that can happen overnight. It constitutes a significant challenge to the Church to once again return to its roots, to strip away the institutionalisation that has sapped the life out of Christianity’s early core, and perhaps calls for a renewed consideration of what it actually means to be a part of the Church. Most importantly, it constitutes a call to re-think the ‘personal salvation’ theology promoted by much of modern Christianity and to consider the possibility that the call of Jesus is not a call simply to the individual, but rather a call to a wholeness that can only come through community.

I have to agree with this.

I believe the rise of sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses thrive off the sense of community they create. They have tapped into something that has been sadly lost in the mainstream denominations. That feeling of ‘belonging’ and ‘community’ and ‘brotherhood’ are heavily emphasised within these organisations. Their ‘identity’ is wrapped up in their affiliation with the group and they do look out for one another.

I’m not one who wishes to live in a another’s pocket; however, there is much to be learned from such groups.

Church can be too often that thing we do on Sunday, complete with our best masks, and we are in danger of standing aloof from one another.

We as Christians need to relearn communal living as this is the real attraction of Christianity.

Edmund made this comment:

…..and an age in which the concept of ‘friendship’ increasingly means nothing more than having a list of people connected to you on a social networking website.

I suspect more and more of us are seeking and receiving our ‘community’ online; I know this is very true for the mentally ill community and perhaps so for Christians also.

Is this a good thing or bad? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

I often read that we should seek our identity in Christ, but more and more, I realise the impossibility of this without the community of his people.

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replacement theology or something..

So, recently in NZ a well known (supposedly) replacement theologian, Stephen Sizer came and spoke at Laidlaw College (http://www.laidlaw.ac.nz). The video of the event is available here:

http://www.laidlaw.ac.nz/latest-news/israel-and-the-last-days-what-does-the-bible-say-video-now-available

 

Now, I havent seen the videos nor do I know (or really care) what Sizer actually says, but what I do care about is the response that people have to it. Some people have an immediate and panicy response to whether Israel is destined to inherit certain thing they believe the bible says they are meant to, such as the land they currently inhabit.

Couple of things, one is, these “promises” to Israel are promises to ALL believers, and they were meant to be revealed to us through the nation of Israel. Well, I have got bad news for you, the bible says that Israel did NOT fulfil their part of the bargin, to be a light to the world, for example, Acts 13:

13:46 Both Paul andBarnabas replied courageously, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consideryourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. 13:47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed  you to be a light  for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 

Israel was NEVER meant to be the sole inheritor of the promises of God, all humanity is. Israel is the method in history by whom God reveals his nature and his requirements, and now, it is Christians who are responsible to be a “light to the gentiles” – gentiles meaning those whom are not in the family of God – believers. Therefore the whole premise for “the bible says the land is Israel’s therefore they must have it for the end times prophecies to be fulfilled” is totally and utterly incorrect.

Whether Israel is entitled to live in the land they were given in the 40’s is a totally political, legal thing, and not a theological/escatalogical one. EVEN IF… they were given the land because of a faulty theological premise, it is still a political thing, and people should not be upset at all about the fact that the nation of Israel is “replaced” with ‘those whom believe”. The promises of God are, and have only ever been for those who believe.

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What do you pray and how do you pray?

Every Christian I know believes that prayer is important. In one way or another, we all pray. I believe that even non Christians pray in times of hardship or heartache. The term, ‘Oh God!’ I believe is a heart cry to the almighty for help, even if it does seem blasphemous at the time.

I like to often write my prayers. It helps me to think about what I am praying, why I am praying and how I am praying. It helps me to think about my expectations and lifestyle, others and it helps me to draw closer to the God whom I love. This is my mornings devotion.

Father God, you have set me free from the power of sin. I ask that you help me to walk in your truth. Help me to live as I should in the power of your spirit. You have called me to a life of love. Help me to truly love in thought, word and deed.

Help me to be a listener, open my ears so that I may hear. Help me to see, so that I many not ignore. Help me to act, so that I may not pass by those in need. Help me to be aware of those who need to be heard, who need to be seen and those who need to be helped.

I ask that you help me to replicate your ways towards me. For you never stop listening. You never stop watching over me and you never pass me by.

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The Passionate Intellect – Personal Thoughts

This is the third and final installment of my review of The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind by Alister McGrath from IVP-Academic.  You can read the author info here and find an overview of the contents here.  Thanks again to IVP-Academic for sending a copy.

Let’s start with the good – McGrath makes very important points about apologetics throughout the book. This is assessment comes from a person (i.e. me) who, though once enthralled by apologetics, has developed a serious disdain for the field, especially at the popular level. I’m sure others have made similar points to McGrath elsewhere, but I have simply stopped reading apologetics books, in general. I find the tone of most “debates” an utter turn off.

I think the most important point he makes is that an inability to explain one aspect, or even several aspects, of your worldview doesn’t necessarily invalidate the whole thing. Interestingly, he communicates this point most strikingly by quoting Charles Darwin as saying:

A crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered; but, to the best of my judgement, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to my theory (p. 137).

That is a profoundly helpful statement. Immediately preceding this, McGrath discusses this point, namely the inability to adequately explain a particular aspect of one’s worldview, in relation to the Christian’s struggle to explain the issue of pain and suffering in the world.  I like McGrath’s approach to apologetics; it gives a person room to breathe. Rather than looking for “linchpin” arguments he encourages us to look at matters more holistically. Thus, with regard to pain and suffering in the world, it is not that we may find any one particular explanation completely satisfying. However, when we take several explanations together, we might still find a theistic worldview convincing, even though we still may consider anomalies.

In addition, the book contains some very helpful articles on science and religious faith, in particular. The first part of the book contained some helpful thoughts concerning theology, in general, but I didn’t really find those chapters as stimulating as those in the second part of the book (see the post overviewing the contents). I particularly enjoyed the chapter entitled “Does Religion Poison Everything?” He ends with this bit of invective, which I do think is appropriate considering the approach to “apologetics” taken by many of the new atheists “The belief that religion poisons everything is simply childish.”

As I think I’ve made clear, I like a great deal about this book. Yet I will offer two points of critique.  First, the book was not really what I expected from a book entitled The Passionate Intellect.  As I hinted in the previous post, the book had more of a feel of Collected Essays of Alister McGrath: 2008-2010, or something to that effect.  With that said, if you like Alister McGrath, you will like this book. I like reading about science and religion, but this is not really my intellectual passion.

Second, I thought the book was a little too dispassionate to be titled The Passionate Intellect. I guess this is not really a knock. Everyone might display passion differently. Only, I was expecting something a little more along the lines of David Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading, where he describes reading as rebellion against all of the other things that vie for our attention. The tone of The Passionate Intellect just didn’t communicate passion to me.

With that said, I do think the book is worth reading. It’s a fairly short, easy read. And, for those who like Alister McGrath, I think you will enjoy it.  For those, like me, who are unfamiliar with McGrath, it is a good introduction. Only, recognize that the title may set up expectations that do not coincide with what you experience reading the book.

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