My View Of The Bible— Part 2 .. What I believe (con’t)

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This post continues with my fundamental beliefs about the Bible. I have not come to these beliefs on a whim. They are the result of many years of thoughtful prayer and study. I am also not trying to prove anyone wrong. Everyone should come to God in their own way. So let’s get on with the final four areas of my view on the Bible.

Some words of the Bible have infinitely more significance to our lives than others— The words  through Jesus’ lips are the most important. Every other word is secondary at best. This is a major sticking point for some. It has to do with a concept that I have coined “the slippery slope”. I will get more into that on the next post. To say that there are no words in the Bible that are any more important than others seem nonsense to me.

The Bible might contain words inspired by God —  But is not THE Word of God… Many call the Bible the word of God but I personally along with other Christians agree with John’s opening in his gospel.  Jesus is the word of God, not a book assembled by man even if much of its writings might have been inspired by God.  To give a book that status is making an idol of it.  To put every word and circumstance mentioned in the biblical text in the literal grouping just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.  When Paul insisted that women were not to be over men in any circumstance he was speaking first century words. When he told people to be happy as slaves owned by others he was speaking first century words. These words were not intended for eternity. Yes, much of the Bible was written under the inspiration of God but it is at the same time a very human document.

The Bible contains stories passed down from one generation to another, allegories, parables and myths. To insist that all the words in the Bible are absolutely without error and are absolutely literally true as so many evangelicals do is beyond my understanding. I am convinced that even many of the writers of the books were not willing to put that status on all their own words. The Apostle Paul made it a point in one of his letters collected in the Bible that he was speaking of his own accord. I wish he had done that more frequently. Since I don’t put much study on the Old Testament I will not be discussing those books here. But even the New Testament of which much was written up to forty years after the fact certainly contained things that were remembered but not necessarily factual. In many places Jesus himself identified his stories as parables. I believe that the use a parables and allegories was a very common occurrence in many of the biblical writings whether the authors said they were or not.

Not all the inspired words from God are included in the Bible. I have done some studies of some of the text that was considered but finally excluded from the official bible when it was formulated by King Constantine’s council. The books of Thomas and Barnabas in particular I am convinced were also written a degree of inspiration from God. There are probably several others in that category. We Christians should consider all the writings of the time to see where we can deepen our understanding of God. I also believe that God continues to give inspired words through some of us Christians even today. All of us must constantly be listening for those inspirations in our daily lives. But it seems that “listening” is a difficult thing for many of us to do today. Moses in the Old Testament did not believe he was worthy to relay words from God but God used him as a mouthpiece all the same. So I believe that God’s continues to give simple men personal revelations from time to time.

 

My View Of The Bible ..

For the next three Sundays I want to bring over some slightly edited posts of things I discovered about the Bible while blogging at RedLetterLiving.net. These posts were from early 2014 but my feelings about the topic really haven’t changed all that much.

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about the Bible and my experiences with it over the last decade or so. Around 2003 I decided to take up a serious study of theology and in particularly those around the words of Jesus. I naively thought I could get some clear directions for my spiritual life if I just understood why the Bible seems to mean so many different things to so many people. What I have discovered over this period of time awakened me. I did not get the concrete answers I was looking for but I did glean some surprising discoveries.

It seems that as I have gotten older I am losing my sense of embarrassment about saying what I believe. I have grown to the point, and  I do mean grown, where I feel I can now openly discuss the personal insight I have come to understand. I simply no longer really care if it upsets some.  Maybe in the long run I am hoping that it does just that and as a result a few will see that truly following Jesus has nothing to do with their self-proclaimed “faith” in the Bible but instead it is about faith in him and doing what he told us to do.

Let’s face it the Bible is not a book that you can causally, or even seriously, pick up and glean some ready-made answers to life’s problems.  Especially in times of personal conflicts. In fact much of it (meaning the Old Testament) is quite boring and not understandable in today’s context. Yes, if I search hard enough I can find a verse, usually taken out of context, that might console me a particular situation but for every one of those found there is another which disturbs me. Psalms is a ready example of that. There are places where God’s love clearly shows through and then there are other places where is he supposedly commands genocide such as the 137th Psalm.

All of these conflicting stories and thoughts make some degree of sense when I see the Bible as more of a history book written by man rather than words dropped from heaven. Christianity like much of the world’s history is messy and the Bible if you  look at its contents objectively reflects that fact. That understanding is critical to finding its proper place in Christ’s church.

In a nutshell, following Jesus has nothing to do with idolizing the Bible itself. The purpose of the Bible it to point us to Jesus. It is to tell his story, nothing else.  When that task is done it becomes very secondary to our walk with Christ. Next time I will talk a little more about reading the Bible and what should be gleaned from that process.

Epilog September 2017:  I have discovered since this post that Biblical Inerrancy is pretty much a Protestant/Evangelical thing.  Catholics have been moving away from the concept for much of the last century.

The Sit Back And Wait Syndrome..

One of the major problems, that is besides their political leanings, is too many evangelical churches preach the “Sit Back and Wait Syndrome”. I know, as I did so myself, that it is too easy to just ignore your Church’s current beliefs in order to preserve your “country club membership”. Taking a stand against something often times means you’re asked to leave as you don’t believe the “right” things. That can be hard on your social life but do you really want to put that ahead of your spiritual life?

The “SBAW” syndrome goes something like this:

  • Everyone of us are dreadful sinners and there is nothing we can do about that. All we can do after we accept Christ as our savior and then hunker down against the big bad world and wait for the second coming.
  • Since we are nothing but miserable sinners God doesn’t expect anything from us. He has done it all so it doesn’t matter how we act or what we do.  But if we feel like it we could try to do some good deeds and he won’t mind too much. The only thing that really matters is that we hold strong to the beliefs we have been taught by our church and then sit back and wait…
  • Since God is absolutely in control, everything that happens  is his will. We don’t need to do anything in our communities. He will do it all.  Neither do we need to do anything to bring people to Christ. All we have to do is sit back and wait for him to bring them to us in his time, not ours.

You get the idea of the “SBAW” syndrome.  It justifies doing nothing within their communities or for that matter even making any changes in their personal lives. When they are confronted with those growing mega-churches they say they are only successful because they pander to sinners and tell them that God loves them anyway so they can just keep sinning.

canstockphoto36337890.jpgOf course I, and I’m sure many other followers of Jesus, take a very different track on our spirituality. We believe Jesus’ church to be about “being and doing” and not simply believing. We are to do everything we can to make the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  We believe that Christianity is supposed to be a very active thing and is definitely not a sit back and wait proposition. Jesus clearly taught us otherwise.

My fundamental difference with the “SBAW” crowd is that they almost exclusively focus on Jesus being their saviour Whereas I focus on him as my teacher of life.  That is I study his words to find out what he expects, or maybe even as the great commission says commands, of me in this life. To me that is unquestionably to be very active in my community to love others with the love of Jesus in my heart. He no way intends us to  just sit back and wait while bemoaning the big bad world out there…

To further my alternative view on following Jesus I would suggest   http://RedLetterChristians.org

God Whispers In Every Ear..

This is the fourth and final post of Philip Gulley’s book entitled If Grace is True. Universal Salvation is not something I intended to find during my extensive study into the words of Jesus but that is where I was led.

If Grace is trueI didn’t consider this for many years. I actually thought my experiences rare. I was one of the chosen. I was special. Now I know the truth. God whispers his love in every ear. He isn’t interested in declaring his love to a select few. He doesn’t limit his presence to Vatican City, to the halls of seminaries, to the offices of preachers, or to church altars. God doesn’t restrict his communication to the Bible. He doesn’t confine his presence to any single denomination or religion. God speaks to all people, even when they’re not inclined to listen.

Fortunately, God looks for the slightest yielding, the smallest opening, to make his love known. God doesn’t stand with his back turned until we ask for him. God doesn’t hide and expect us to seek him. God doesn’t keep his distance and await our call. God said, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’” (Isaiah 65:1). What God did for the children of Israel, God does for all. God stands at the door and knocks, and if we don’t answer, he looks for an open window.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 18-19). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The quote above is from the time that Philip Gulley first experienced God’s Grace. I too remember the specific time when I finally stubbornly admitted that I finally get it. I felt the Holy Spirit enter my soul. So you could say I was born again if that is your thing. God chose that particular moment and method to communicate with me maybe because my stubborn resistance was at a low point. It was a very emotional moment for me.   I felt like one of the chosen; one of the special ones. God found that smallest opening and made his love known to me. But what if it is really true that God does not choose among his children but has agape love for all of us and chooses us all?

I know there are places in the Bible that seem to say something contrary but if you really look at them with an eye toward universal salvation they also make sense in that venue.

  • What if we got this eternal damnation thing wrong?  After all it wasn’t really even formalized until the tenth century.
  • Are we wasting our time trying to get others to see Jesus when he already has a plan for revealing himself to each of us?  Could we be spending our time doing something that God has already worked out?
  • If grace is true then why isn’t it true for everyone?
  • Instead of trying to save souls maybe we should be teaching others about Jesus and how to follow his ways?
  • Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all concentrated on doing the work that Jesus told us to do?

These are the questions I have been asking myself lately.  God doesn’t turn his back to us until we ask for him. He doesn’t lay back waiting for us to call his name.  He patiently keeps coming to us until we set aside our stubbornness and pride and see him as he truly is. God loves us all; I will leave universal salvation up to him to make that happen. I know he can if he wants to and he told us he wants all of us to have his love.

Can it really be as simple as that? I have come to believe so…

The Teachings of Jesus Are Very Hard To Follow..

2017-08-03_08-43-22Almost ten years ago I started my first blog called RedLetterLiving. It was about living by the words of Jesus. I was concerned that even though Christianity was founded on the idea that Jesus was the Christ few current Christian denominations seemed to put much weight on his actual words.  Little did I know that this study would go on for six years before I had fully answered my initial questions to at least my own satisfaction.

I’m not sure when the organization Red Letter Christians was started but I think it was about that same timeframe. Two much more famous Christians than me whose names are Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo opened their website RedLetterChristians.  It, unlike my site has grown tremendously since that time. I celebrate their success.

Below are some words from that cite relating to our current condition of Christianity in America.

A candidate for president of the United States initiated his candidacy on a racist conspiracy theory designed to undermine the legitimacy of America’s first black president. He announced his presidential bid with a naked appeal to anti-Mexican xenophobia and promises of a wall along America’s southern border to keep them out. He fed the basest instincts of his base by threatening to imprison his opponent by dog-whistling white supremacy and by demonizing journalists in ways reminiscent of Hitler’s attack on the “Lugenpresse.” Donald Trump assumed office as he pursued it, with attacks on the weak and marginal…

We suspect that there’s a deeper motivation that seeks to deemphasize the words of Jesus. His call to discipleship demands activism on behalf of the weak, a life-ethic of action beyond mere intellectual assent to theological propositions. Many of our fellow Christians have failed to pay proper attention to the red letters of the Bible because the teachings of Jesus have proven to be very hard to follow...

Theologies that require mental assent but leave our ethics and our politics untouched have left Evangelicalism serving as the court religion for the Republican Party. Theologies heavy on Paul but detached from their roots in Jesus and the Hebrew scriptures have inoculated discipleship from the radical lifestyle prescribed by Jesus in those red letters.

Source: Red Letter Christians v. Donald Trump’s Evangelicals – Red Letter Christians 

I find it immensely refreshing that the folks at Red Letter Christians have the guts to call out other Christians on their tepid attention to the words of Jesus.  Many of the issue that the current Evangelicals support are at least to me, very antithetical when compared to the red letters.

  • The Red Letters tell us to be our brother’s keeper, while Evangelicals support wrenching the safety net out from under the poorest of the poor.
  • The Red Letters tell us to give the shirt off our backs to those in need while Evangelicals cling to their possessions (among them their tax dollars) in the stingiest of ways.
  • The Red Letters tell us to love our enemies when that seems to be the furthest thing on the mind of Evangelicals.

How could they have possibly drifted so far astray from the words of Jesus???

I totally agree with the quote above that too much Christian, especially Protestant, theology is weighted prominently towards the words of Paul almost to the exclusion of the red letters. I agree that sticking to the red letters is probably too hard for them to do. But that is just what Jesus, the founder of Christianity, told us to do. Why are so many ignoring that basic command and seem to be inventing their own rules for calling themselves Christians?

God’s Still On Holiday..

This is insane, and mainly because God patently hasn’t taken care of any of these things. Humans do these things and humans do stuff to mitigate or eradicate them. God’s still on holiday, where he has been for a few thousand years.

Source: Lazy and Incoherent Theology: God Will Take Care of It

I know that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters are evangelical Christians who believe that everything that happens, and especially his election, is God’s will.  When things happen that they don’t like or can’t reconcile with their beliefs then they fall back on  “God works in mysterious ways.” I also know that since the enlightened age there has been no documented evidence that God has intervened in the world in any supernatural way as he supposedly did regularly in the pre-Christian era.

Has God taken a holiday for the last few millennia as the author of the quote above suggests or is it possible most of the miracles and such recorded in ancient text really just myth passed down from one generation to another? I know I will be called a heretic just for thinking about this possibility but that is not the purpose of coming out with this statement. I do believe in a supreme force holding the universe together but I don’t believe it is anything resembling Homo sapiens. It is not a white haired old man in the clouds.  If I had to tag it as anything it would probably be more like the “Force” in Star Wars. It is a presence that started it all and maybe monitors it even now.

Now, getting to the point of this post and that is that we humans need to take responsibility for our actions both personal and corporate. We can’t put it off on God as if we had nothing to do with it. If we cause a problem we need to fix it. Global warming seems to the the biggest topic presently at hand in this category.  It is utter foolishness to sit back and wait for God to fix it for us.

We must be accountable for the problems we bring upon this world. I think that is what God wants us to do…

The Fullness of God’s Grace…..

This is part 3 of my review of the book entitled “If Grace Is True” by Philip Gulley.

It is indeed hard to comprehend the fullness of God’s grace. Man puts many obstacles in the way of understanding it and unfortunately as the below quote says the church which should be about removing obstacles seems instead seems intent on putting many of them in place. Many versions of church tell us that God can’t stand to look at us because we are just too sinful. They tell us that God sees us as no more than a piece of snot. Jesus didn’t say that…

I was certain if I could preach the perfect sermon the altar would fill with people overcome by God’s grace. Now I realize there are many hindrances to experiencing the fullness of God’s grace—confusion, fear, prejudice, ignorance, and pride, to name a few. The removal of these obstacles ought to be the primary purpose of the Church.

Unfortunately, the Church has often erected more barriers than we’ve removed. Too many have entered our doors, only to experience condemnation rather than welcome. We’ve acted less like Jesus and more like his opponents.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James. If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

They tell us that if we really want to be saved from God’s wrath then we must jump through all the hoops they put in front of us. If we dare to skip one or two or question why the hoop is there in the first place then we are told that we are not good enough to be with them. Our faith in what they demand is not strong enough.  Of course all these hoops and barriers are man-made; they are not from God.

When Martin Luther, a lowly monk, dared to question the practices of the church of his time the hammer came down hard. He was severely chastised and eventually kicked out.  One of the rules/hoops of those times mandated was that you must pay indulgences in order to get your departed loved ones into heaven.  Martin Luther said no to that hoop.  You might think that he would have learned a lesson from this but that was not to be the case.

Luther decided to put his own conditions on church membership. For you to belong to his church you had to believe that the only way God can communicate with you is through the man-made document of the fourth century. You had to believe that everything in that document compiled under the eyes of a Roman emperor is literally true (or at least according to Luther’s understanding of literally true) and without the possibility of any error. If you don’t jump through this hoop then you were not good enough to be a part of his newly formed church. When Luther limited God’s communications with us to only a 1200 year old document he put in place a condition that was perhaps more harmful than the one he rebelled against.

It appears that I am picking on one particular denomination of the 39,000 different versions of church around today. For this post that may be the case but in reality the only thing that is different between most of the rest are the hoops themselves.

Confusion, fear, prejudice, ignorance, and especially pride get in the way of experiencing God’s grace.  All of these conditions are man-made, especially the last one. The church should be about getting rid of these obstacles. That should be its primary purpose.  Sadly that is not yet the case….. and may never be…

This Is What You Are To Believe…

Being a deep thinker I often wonder where our biases and prejudices come from. 🙂 Are we born with them. Do they come from those around us or do we come up with them on our own? I kinda believe it is the middle one. If you grew up white in the South in the 1950s and 60s and most everyone around you were segregationists then it is very likely you also would become one.  If the people you look up to to learn about life think one way you are probably more than likely to think that way too.

Can the same thing be said about religious beliefs? Someone, usually your parents, tell you that this is what you are to believe about God and since you are nothing compared to him you better cling to these beliefs or you will spend an eternity in agony and suffering. No one wants that so we usually take on our parents beliefs as our own, at least for a while.

As a kid I was taught that only Catholics went to heaven to be with God as it was the only true religion.  But as I got older at about 10 years of age I started asking questions about God. “Why does he insist that we praise him in a language no one uses. Is that the only language God knows?” These type question were usually brushed off as  infantile ramblings but that didn’t keep me from asking questions.

Now that I am a fully grown adult, that is if I ever will be, I have come to form my own views of just who God is. Since the vast majority, if not all, religions start with someone’s view of what God is. Contrary to my Mormon friends I don’t believe that God handed out instruction manual for how to live on this earth.  Instead he sent the person of Jesus of Nazareth to spread the word of proper living. The problem with that was that hardly anyone actually listens to those words today.

Our Christian bible is primarily dominated by the words of Paul, otherwise known as Saul. Now don’t get me wrong, Paul had some good things to say but he never really heard anything directly from Jesus except maybe for those few words on the road. If you objectively read his words that fact becomes obvious. So, he went about making up his own rules for proper Christian living.

Some of them were necessary in order to keep this ragtag group together but they in general they still lacked the lessons from Jesus.  The four gospels make up for that to some degree but it is Paul who the evangelicals have latched on to.

In conclusion, most of our beliefs in the religious are taught to us by others. I think it is about time we started figuring out that stuff by ourselves.

God’s Wrath vs. God’s Grace…….

The following is part 2 of a  series of posts which will subsequently be compiled as an In-Depth report here on RJsCorner came from my other blog RedLetterLiving.net.

If Grace is true“How can you believe that God’s grace isn’t sufficient, that many of God’s children will languish in hell forever, that they’ll never be restored to their Father, that evil will claim victory in so many lives? How can you believe that?”

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

Some think the idea of universal salvation is a new thing but in reality it goes back to the founding fathers of the church. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa believed in the salvation of all people. But of course we know that the champions of God’s grace were often silenced by future theologians especially by those who followed King Constantine several hundred years later. Much like the old saying that “history is written by the victors”, much of Christian dogma was written by those who charged their opponents with heresy and got that claim to stick.

As I have mentioned before I am still wrestling with the idea of universal salvation. It is easy to show with pride how I am saved while so many are damned to hell for eternity.  Like the return of the prodigal son I don’t want to admit that some who have led totally broken lives will  somehow sit alongside me in God’s presence.

In the end I simply will not diminish God’s grace in order to sustain the belief of God’s wrath.  I want to finish the post with some final words from the book that took hold of me and shook me.

I insisted we were free to reject God’s grace. It never occurred to me that God might be free to reject our rejection.

Who is more powerful God or human will? I think I know the answer to that question….

Universal Salvation… If Grace Is True

Universal Salvation is not believed by many current Christian denominations but I became convinced to make it my worldview primarily by the book cited below. The following series of posts which will subsequently be compiled as an In-Depth report here on RJsCorner came from my other blog RedLetterLiving.net.

Gracae Book CoverI’ve never experienced a God of wrath. I’ve heard such a God preached. I’ve read of such a God. I’ve encountered wrathful people who claimed to be acting on God’s behalf. I’ve even allowed such sentiments to tarnish my view of God. Yet, in the midst of all these distortions, I never experienced a wrathful God.

The God I’ve experienced is the God of Jesus—a God of unlimited patience, infinite love, and eternal faithfulness. Jesus described a God who waits long through the night, with the light lit and the door open, confident his most defiant child will one day realize his love and turn toward home. Jesus revealed a God who loves the unlovable, touches the untouchable, and redeems those thought beyond redemption. He said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). My earliest experiences were with the love of Jesus.

I want to start off this mini-serious around the book by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland entitled If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person with a quote from the beginning pages. Being I buy most of my books from Amazon I can review a few pages to decide whether I want to purchase the book.  When I read these words I knew this was a book I wanted to learn more from.

I must admit that most of my church experiences have not aligned with the assumption that God will eventually reconcile all souls back to him. Especially from my Protestant years, I was taught  that I was to fear a wrathful God who would send me to an eternity of pain and suffering if I didn’t do what the church leaders told me to do. I was told to fear the power and wrath of God or risk eternal damnation. I was told that God only viewed me as worth no more than a piece of snot but he loved me anyway.

I was told that all the bad things that have happened in my life was probably just God getting back at me for things I had done in my life. It was his retribution for not being perfect. But even with all this rhetoric about a vengeful God I, like the quote above,  can’t say that I have ever really experienced a God of wrath.  I have encountered wrathful people inside and outside the churches I have attended over the years. They insisted on telling me week after week that people like us, that is those who made a declaration of faith in the beliefs they espoused and attended their particular version of church were saved from God’s wrath but just about everyone else would not make the cut.

When I dared to go off on my own and study the words of Jesus without those fearful words being chanted in my ears I discovered a different God. Now I will admit that there are some words attributed to Jesus that I can’t yet understand (I will have to do another series on that topic) but the vast majority that I do presently understand is about a God of love. One who has an agape, that is unconditional and infinite, love for me and all those he created.  With this new view of God I am beginning to align with Mr. Gulley’s notion that God will save every person.  How he is going to do that is not up to me and my petty understanding of him.  I just know that he is an all powerful God and if he loves us as the Bible proclaims then he will eventually bring us all back to his fold.

Religion Does More Harm Than Good..

It is interesting to see another country where the majority thinks religion does more harm than good, especially since this one is our neighbor. I’m not sure what the statistics in Europe are but I suspect that they are similar to Canada’s.

More than half of Canadians believe religion causes more harm than good, a new poll has found. The survey by Ipsos found the proportion of people who held the belief had increased in recent years, from 44 per cent in 2011 to 51 per cent this year. Less than a quarter of people, or 24 per cent, believed that religious people made better citizens, down eight points from 2011, Global News reported.

Source: Majority of Canadians think religion does more harm than good | The Independent

canstockphoto17505783I have been brave enough to openly hold this position for about a dozen years now but was kind of surprised that so many believe as I do.  Before you start flaming I want to explain my feelings.  It is not that we shouldn’t be praising God for everything he created but instead about the versions of religion that have sprung up over the centuries trying to do that.

If you are a history enthusiast it is hard not to come to the conclusion that religion does more harm than good.  We see so many wars started around one person’s view of God vs another’s.  By far the majority of religions believe that their vision of God is the only true one. That belief is the foundation for the Sunni vs Shiite, Protestant vs Catholic, Lutherans vs Baptists (I could go on and on..) and even inside the splits within a particular belief.  Personally I know that WELS Lutherans think that ELSA Lutherans are just plain ungodly.

I have come to believe in what I call the Woody Guthrie view of religions and that is that we are ALL just part of one big soul. We are all searching for God and far too many of us just refuse to believe that it is that simple…

We are all in this together

 

Sunday’s Religion In America Series..

ISOA Banner  My intention going into the new RJsCorner was that I would use Sunday to sometimes post about things religious. With that in mind I thought I would start a new series about the founding of the U.S. by people escaping religious persecution in other countries. I probably have a couple of dozen of these type communities I have visited over the years of traveling across this country. This post will start us off on this direction.

canstockphoto18444062.jpgThese posts will probably be more about our country’s history than religious beliefs. They will highlight communities throughout the country that were started by groups of people  with a particular set of beliefs that oftentimes differed from sect they originally belonged to. So, it is hard to categorize them in one particular category. They will often be “Reports” in my journey In Search of America.

When most people, especially those from outside looking in, see Christianity they think of one homogeneous community with one set of religious beliefs. In reality that could not be further from the truth.  There are over 35,000 different versions of Christianity and that number is increasing year after year. There always seems to be reason for one segment of a sect to separate from another. To many, like Martin Luther, latch onto one particular sentence of the Bible and disregard much of the rest.

Of course my personal bias will show through in these reports. How can that be otherwise?  So, I want to tell you a little about my beliefs here. I currently do not call myself a “religious” person but I am an avid follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  To me it just seems that most, if not all, of the current religious denominations almost ignore Jesus’ teachings and instead fixate on some words invented by someone long after his death.

Closing this post, this will be an interesting series for me and I hope you will learn a few things from it.  In Search of America is a broad topic indeed and this is an important segment…

A Changing God…A God Who Loves Us All

I am certainly one of those whose idea of God has changed drastically during my lifetime. I started out as a kid in a Catholic school in the 1950s who was taught that only Catholics would go to heaven. It is certainly not that God is changing but instead it is my idea 2017-03-22_09-32-03.pngof what God is. I have gone from the beliefs of “Only Catholics” to one of Universal Salvation. I deem this change as progress, others more fundamental (stuck in their ways) will say it is heresy.

Looking at the ages, the concept of God has changed radically. He started out as something to be feared, who demanded blood offerings to keep his wrath at bay. Jealous, wrathful, impetuous, incendiary would be good descriptions of God at that stage. He was feared for his almighty power. At least in some circles, these traditional concepts of God are being laid to rest in favor of a more benevolent being.

When Christianity burst upon the scene via Jesus Christ much of the wrathful God was replaced by a loving and caring God who told us to love each other as He loved us. He told us much of what we believed was wrong. He used the phrase “You have heard it said, but I say to you..” Sadly, his messages are being muted to one degree or another by different versions of Christianity still today. But there are some, like one of my favorite religious authors, Philp Gulley, who have come to the conclusion that if God truly loves us all and wants all of us to be with him in eternity then he will somehow make that happen. I am now one of that fold for I think not believing that possibility is to take power away from an omnipotent deity.

love-god-in-sand-1314534-640x480.jpgEspecially in our day, many struggle to find meaning and tranquillity through spirituality. That, not established religions is what is growing today. According to an article in Christianity Today, one-fourth of young adults said that they wanted a break from religion; another 26 percent said church members seemed judgemental and hypocritical of others; 20 percent didn’t feel connected, and 15 per cent felt downright unwelcome. When you finally grab hold of the idea that God will reconcile all of us to him, all of this judgemental and hypocrisy flys out the window. You no longer need to separate yourself from those around you. You have finally reconciled that all of us are children of God and are to be loved. All of us.

I am convinced that someday in the future the world will finally see the goodness of all people and be at peace. I realize that this is a pious dream that is very distant from the original concept of Deity but I dream it none the less.

 

When we Christians shun our responsibilities….

Jesus clearly told us to be our brother’s keeper but somewhere along the way we Christians unapologetically shunned that responsibility. During the first three centuries, Christians were very much their brother’s keeper. They often pooled their resources so that those neediest were taken care of. They not only cared for their own there is even documented evidence showing that they took care of those not even Christians.  But, of course, this is what Jesus did so they were just following his lead.

The vast majority of Christian congregations today spend about 95% of what they gather on themselves or their organization’s hierarchy leaving little for the kingdom of God work particularly in the brother’s keeper area.  When that happened the moral goodness, which I believe to be also a gift from God to all humanity, dictated that the kingdoms of the world take over that task. Some do a much better job of it than others. The government of Sudan seems to totally reject the “brother’s keeper” mentality.  Many thousands die daily of starvation and political genocide. Whereas, thank the Lord, the government of the United States has generally taken up this task in our absence, at least to a partial degree. Or at least one of our political parties carries that mantle.

Now I’m not saying that Christians do nothing in this area. Indeed some of the best humanitarian agencies in this area are Christian based. But, their total contributions is almost minuscule compared to the need. Having religious institutions take over all the care for the poor is beyond the realm of possibilities so I guess we must depend on our governments to do that for us. It is said that government instituted by God so I suppose you could say it is now their duty. To even suggest as some do that since we Christians won’t do it our governments should stay out of it also is a total affront to the teachings of Jesus. It is indeed a sad day that many Evangelical Christians seem to be saying that very thing today. Shame on us for shunning this compassionate responsibility!