About Atonement..

One of the current foundations of the Christianity is the atonement. Generally that is thought to be Jesus taking the wrath of God for us with his substitutional crucifixion in order to appease God wrath toward man’s sinfulness.  I, like many others I’m sure, thought that atonement was a foundational issue with Jesus and the early church.  In reality it was post-Constantine theologians who gave us the doctrine of original sin and the blood atonement, the belief that Jesus came to earth solely for the purpose of dying for our sins, was a doctrine not fully developed in the church until the tenth century.  It was almost upsetting to me to learn this fact since so many of my inherited beliefs hinged on it.

We all like to think that the things we are told to believe about Jesus  were actually established by him.  In reality the idea of atonement was not settled until centuries after his death. Yes, Jesus mentioned here and there about dying for us but I don’t now believe it was ever a central theme. Even the concept of man’s innate sinfulness is still a matter for disagreements.  Are we born bad and must be saved, as some assert, or are we born good, as others maintain, but have forgotten where we came from, where we are going, and to whom we belong? Was the death of Jesus on the cross necessary for the salvation of the world or was he here for other, or maybe additional. purposes?

Many think that if we disregard sacrificial atonement then we must throw Christianity out the window as Jesus’ death meant nothing.  To those the idea of universal salvation is pure heresy. But to others, like Philip Gulley it meant no such thing.  They believe that while it was unnecessary for God to come in the form of Jesus to kill himself, Jesus’ time on earth was to among other things to teach us how to live and how to love. While that purpose is very encompassing he also physically conquered death by his resurrection. That is no small thing!

Sacrificial atonement is something that I have always had trouble understanding. Why would God need to take on another form and kill himself to satisfy is own wrath?  Robin Meyers in his book entitled “The Underground Church” stated:

It is no coincidence that it took as long for the idea of the blood atonement to be fully formed as it took for Christians artists to begin to show us an image of the corpse of Jesus hanging on a cross.

No dead Jesus for a thousand years. This is not to say that the suffering of Jesus is unimportant; indeed it bears witness to the depth of his capacity to Love

It is not widely acknowledged in many Christian churches just how unresolved the issue of atonement is. It continues to be widely discussed even today.

The Bible As A History Book..

I think I have let it be known that I view the Bible as a history book of the early period of Christianity. As such maybe it needs to be updated from time to time? New chapters need to be written and old ones modified to more accurately reflect information found.

The Bible was put together about 400 years after the death of Jesus. It was primarily assembled under the oversight of a Roman Emperor who intended to use it as a guide for his kingdom. It contained several of the ancient documents found at the time but by no means all of them. Some of the ancient documents just didn’t seem to align with what the emperor wanted. There was and continues to be today questions about the authorship of many of the established documents. It is now generally accepted that many of the people given credit for the authorship of the various documents didn’t really write them but instead they were written by the people who were inspired by those early Christians. Anyone who cares to look at the bible with critical analysis techniques sees these inconsistencies.  There is nothing wrong with that as they, as with any human endeavour, are not perfect.

There are some who seem to believe that after the Bible was assembled God no longer had anything to say to us.  My Quaker friends totally reject this idea and so do I. God teaches me new things on a daily basis it seems. The Bible was only the beginning of that wisdom transfer.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting if every four hundred year a biblical council such as the one in fifth century were to have been convened to add additional documents and maybe correct some things in previous versions? I guess in a way that is what Roman Catholics say is the Pope’s job.  He keeps God’s word relevant for the times. I personally doubt that this can be accomplished via a single human being. even with a massive hierarchy.

The biggest change to the church came from the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago.  Since that time we have gone from a handful of Christian organizations to literally tens of thousands.  Every time a church body has any serious conflict their answer it is to split into another version of Christianity and then claim they are the only ones who have it right. Another major problem I perceive with the  Protestant variety is that they tend to fixate on rules set down by Paul instead of the stories and lessons of Jesus.  Let’s just face it head on, the church Jesus founded morphed into something that even he would not recognize. But that is another post…

 

Science Is Not The Enemy Of The Church..

Being an engineer I consider myself a scientist and I can tell you first-hand that I felt very much attacked whenever I brought up science in my weekly bible classes. In that church the word “scientist” and “liberal” seemed to have an equally negative bias and I was both! I could never understand why so many were threatened when I asked questions based on scientific knowledge. If I did that it seemed I was immediately labeled a heretic. I found out my feeling were by no means unique. Here are some words about that from a book called Saving Jesus From The Church by Robin Meyers.

2017-10-23_15-37-24.pngIt is not the case that faith is more pure when it is uninformed or when it turns away from critical thinking and sound reasoning as threats to the life of the spirit. Science is not the enemy of faith, but rather its handmaiden. More threatening to the future of faith is the fear of what can be known as well as the search to know more. In fact, the ongoing suspicion that scientific discoveries or rigorous biblical scholarship will undermine faith is a tacit admission that faith is threatened by knowledge, because it is ultimately constructed on weak or faulty assumptions and, like the proverbial house of cards, needs to be “protected” from collapsing.

I am a strong believer that scientific knowledge is a gift from God. He gives it to us as we are ready to receive it. The Gnome project is an example. Many in the church today see science as an enemy of religion. One of the main reasons for that it is a threat to those who want to take the Bible literally and claim that the earth is a mere six thousand years old.  They maintain this position by counting back from Jesus to Adam and Eve. They believe that every generation has been accounted for in the Bible. When they see the overwhelming evidence that the earth is at least millions of years old they counter with “well, that is just God trying to trick us”. Why would God even bother to do that?

One book that I admire in this area is by Francis Collins entitled: The Language of God. It provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity . Here are some of the words about this book on Amazon.  I highly recommend it to anyone willing to possibly admit that science is not the enemy of faith.One of the great divides in the church could be overcome if we got one thing straight: the truth of which Jesus speaks is wisdom incarnate, not intellectual assent to cogent arguments made on behalf of God. …

It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God’s creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.

Religiously Powerful…

Jesus had some very stinging words about the religiously powerful of his day. The Gospel of Mark 7 is one of those places.  Let’s study some of those words.

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

In these verses Jesus was addressing the Pharisees from Jerusalem. These guys, being from Jerusalem were not some radical sect that was divorced from the mainstream Judaism, they were likely the leader of the leaders of the mainstream church. I’m sure they were totally shocked to have this carpenter’s son rebuke them so harshly. With that in mind it is not to surprising that they then went on to plan for his execution. They had, I am sure, the belief that they were the spokesman for God, not this lowly peasant.

Jesus told them that they were hypocrites, as the humble and poor people who were surrounding him to listen to his messages knew more about God than they did. Jesus told them that their religion was more about human rules than about learning lessons from God.  Can you imagine the hate they must have had for Jesus after these strong words?

The religion of Jesus’ day had devolved into traditions that had little to do with God but instead were implemented to keep the religious hierarchy of the day in power. It was more about their rules than God’s. He told them that they do many things against the true teaching of God.

I’m sure there are many in today’s churches who consider themselves the leader of the leaders as the Pharisees did. I am also sure that Jesus would say many of  the same things against them as he did two thousand years ago. Many religions have devolved into organizations of human traditions and dogma.

The current emergent movement within the church body is attempting to force the original messages of Jesus back to front-and-center in today’s church. If they are successful maybe someday the light of Jesus and his true words will again be a shining beacon for the world to look upon.

Having No Religion or Faith..

Britain is becoming an increasingly faithless society, according to a new survey that has found 53% of Britons now describe themselves as having no religion.

The proportion is the highest ever, up from 48% in 2015 and 31% in 1983 when the British Social Attitudes survey was begun by the independent National Centre for Social Research.

The trend is evident across all age groups but is particularly marked among young people, with 71% of 18-to 24-year-olds surveyed in 2016 saying they had no religion, up from 62% percent the previous year.

The majority of older people still have some faith, with only four in ten of those aged 65 to 74 describing themselves as having no religion, and only 27% of those aged 75 and over.

Source: More than half of Britons have no religion – survey

From what I remember the US has similar  but lower numbers and also trends significantly downward but not yet to the extent of Britons. I wonder how much of this decline here is associated with politics? Evangelicals are now known more as an ultra right political group than a religious one.  That fact alone does serious, and maybe deadly, harm to religion.

On another thought, there are just so many things that educated people today see to enforce their belief that religion does more harm than good in our societies. They look at all the wars in the world today and see that religion is the source for almost all of them.

Too many versions of religions demand a blind faith.  That is, you are supposed to take whatever they say is true no matter was current day facts prove. That alone will eventually cause the demise of most forms of religion in the world. God gave us intellect and a questioning attitude for a reason.

When we as a world community finally come to see that we are all praying to the same God we may be able to eventually salvage what’s left of religion from the dust heaps of time.  These are pretty harsh words but I think they need to be said.

I proudly say I am a follower of Jesus Christ and his messages to us but I am currently not religious. This statement causes confusion in many but once I explain this dichotomy they understand what I am saying.

My View Of The Bible – Part 6 Closing Thoughts…

This six part Sunday series was about looking at the Bible as a human document. That is, it was written and assembled by humans with different life experiences, viewpoints, and passions.  Much of their thoughts and words were believed to come from divine inspiration. Many believed they were writing what God wanted them to write. When I study the Bible I try to understand the reasons why some of the writers might have penned what they did.  Of course, I am also a human who has my own life experiences and passions, part of which surely shaped by what I have previously studied. What I have said in this series is of my own understanding. But, what I have studied also very likely comes through in some cases so if I failed to give some credit during these and other posts I apologize. It is not intentional.

When we view the Bible as a document written by humans who were to one degree or another inspired by God it takes on a unique shape and understanding.  Those who insist that the Bible was, more or less, dropped down from heaven by God himself deprive themselves of this valuable insight.  Understanding the background and circumstances of the writers helps us to gain a better feel for the meanings behind their words. Every word in the Bible was not intended to be taken literally for all the ages. Much of what was written must be looked at with first century eyes and then sometimes applied to twenty-first century circumstances.

I will finish this series how I began it by saying again that I am not a trained theologian; I am just a simple guy who has studied the Bible and other related documents and come to some personal understanding about them. One thing I avoid in my posts, and I think I did a pretty good job here, is “theologian speak”. There seems to be a complex multisyllabic word to tag almost all studies of the bible. Although I am familiar with some of them I try to avoid them whenever possible.

I hope this round of posts had at least a small amount of value for some of you. I want you to come away from this series with the understanding that not all Christians see the Bible the same way…

My View Of The Bible — Part 5 Summing It Up..

This is the fifth post on this series about the Bible. If it is not obvious by now I want you to understand that I put my Christianity on Jesus Christ not on a book about him. I will try to keep this brief as it is really a wrap-up of the past posts.

About the Literalists:

  • Panic – In some cases I see almost total panic in people when I say not all the words in the bible are literally true. This belief is so ingrained in the foundations of their faith they cannot imagine it could not be true.
  • Irrational – Some say if you doubt any words in the Bible are not literally true than you must doubt all of them and therefore the Bible would be worthless! Nonsense..Living with that sort of belief makes life itself totally unlivable. There is nothing in this life that man has touched that is 100% accurate. This is like saying that I must throw out everything I know about George Washington, and I have read a lot about him, because someone wrongly wrote that he chopped down a cherry tree.
  • Acceptance? – Eventually the literal and absolutely true belief will be totally disproved even to the current day doubters. What will happen to those who tied their Christianity on that belief? Will they lose their faith? I just pray that when that day comes they will realize that Jesus should have been their total focus all along not a book about him.  What would happen to me if the Bible proved to be totally inerrant as they claim? I would be very surprised but it would not cause me to take my eyes off Jesus as the absolute center of my faith.
About the Bible:
  • At Jesus’ Feet – To be able to read stories from those who actually sat at Jesus’ feet is just so valuable in our walk with Christ. It helps us to understand why he came  to earth and became one of us! He did that to teach us how to live and how to love the God of the New Testament.
  • A Brother’s Narrative – There is one person who wrote part of the biblical text that most likely spent almost his entire life with Jesus and that was his brother (or maybe cousin depending on which theologian you might follow). It saddens me that James did not provide us more info about Jesus’ earlier years. But, then again maybe he did and it was not uncovered during the search or canonic documents. If not,  I guess he chose to concentrate on just what he thought was the most important of his brother’s messages. To hear James say that faith and works are one and the same and that faith without works is a dead faith is good enough for me.
  • About the Founders – To be able to read all the stories in the book of Acts about the first few years of Christianity is very enlightening. It certainly helps us to understand how Christianity got started and how some of its beliefs were formed primarily by the Apostle Pau. But, all of those things that occurred during these early years were not necessarily meant to apply to future Christians. Some are just for lessons learned and taught at the time of the writing and should be understood as such.
  • Early Conflicts – To see how Paul dealt with some many of the problems in the early church is interesting.  But again we cannot assume that all the solutions he proposed apply to all circumstances today. One size does not fit all.
Just give them Jesus:
  • Keep your eyes totally focused on the lessons of Jesus. Everything else is simply a distraction.
  • To tell others about Jesus and how he lived his life.  That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell other about Jesus and how he taught us to live.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell others about Jesus and what he commanded us to do.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Use the Bible stories as lessons in these matters and don’t become fixated on the words themselves.  When you do that you may end up treating words as idols and that is definitely not what Jesus intended.

Never take your eyes off Jesus.

My View Of The Bible — Part 4 .. Misguided Beliefs?

This, the fourth post on the Bible centers around where I see some others may have gone astray in regards to their beliefs surrounding  the Bible.

  • Some have replaced the Holy Spirit with the book called the Bible... They put so much power in the Bible and so little in the Holy Spirit. Compared to the others in Trinity studies there is very little in-depth theological study about the Holy Spirit. The main exception to that might be  the Society of Friends otherwise known as Quakers. They treat the Holy Spirit as a very equal member of God’s team. Jesus had very clear words about just what the Holy Spirit was going to do for us after he left this earth. Many Christian denominations today seem to downplay our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • The Bible is about God; it is not a replacement for God...The Bible is a valuable document in trying to understand the nature of God but it was never meant to replace God. This idea goes back to a recent post with the question of why Jesus did not write a book? Jesus did not write a book because if he did then we lowly human beings would end up having a relationship with the book instead of with God. God intends each of us to have a personal relationship with him. I believe that sometimes the Bible actually gets in the way of that relationship.
  • Every word in the Bible are Jesus’ words… This is just simply something that I can’t conceive. With my study of just how the Bible was assembled in the late fourth century by a council directed by King Constantine it is very clear that there is a very human element in the creation of this book. To say that every word written by the Apostle Paul came directly from Jesus is to deny some of the very words of the Bible itself. Paul states in some of his epistles that some words were simply his opinion and were not necessarily inspired by God.   I personally take some of the words of Paul to simply be that of a crankety old bachelor putting out his personal opinion. There is certainly nothing wrong with that since his letters were written to human beings with particular problems that Paul addressed. Yes, they are important to the history of the church but they are not from God’s lips.
  • Everything in the Bible is literally and absolutely true… This belief causes some to deny other aspects of God’s revelations. We can learn nothing in this world unless God allows us to learn it. And this includes scientific things like carbon dating and geological strata and yes, even global warming. Much of scientific discovery today adds weight behind one interpretation of the Bible in opposition to another interpretation. There is nothing wrong with that.
  • The “Slippery Slope” is one of the most misguided beliefs… This belief goes like this.  If you can’t believe absolutely every word in the Bible then you must throw it all out as unbelievable. In other words if you can doubt anything then you will eventually fall down a slippery slope where everything is doubted. I have gone round after round with some on this topic with some fellow Christians. But, as the saying goes “you can’t reason someone out of a position that they never reasoned themselves into”.

My View Of The Bible –Part 3.. Other Views

Now that I have told you what I believe about the Bible I will go over a short list of things that are somewhat widely accepted by some twenty-first century Christian denominations but of which I basically disagree. Most of these topic titles are  from texts of discussions I have had with Christians. I put them in a special category here because they were so deeply felt by others.

All the words in the Bible are the words of Jesus (ie.  every word and punctuation mark comes from God). This title came from a person fairly high in the LCMS Lutheran organization. He used this statement to refute my belief that some of the Bible writing were not meant to be taken literally. To me instead of enhancing the rest of the Bible I think he was really degrading the actual words of Jesus.

Nothing is required of Man to be called a disciple of Jesus– Those who oppose this concept call this statement “Cheap Grace”. Anyone who has read even a few of my postings here know that this is one of the very sore points for me. To the ones who believe this I often come back with the statement that if that is true then we should eliminate the New Testament entirely and simple jump from Jesus’ birth directly to his death and resurrection. If Jesus did not expect anything from us “poor miserable sinners” then why did he continue to teach his apostles and us through them lessons about living on this earth? To take any responsibility of our existing on the earth away from us is almost to say that God creating the universe was unnecessary. At the very least it is to say that Jesus wasted his breath during his three year ministry as nothing he said makes any difference.  Those are fighting words to me 🙂

One verse negates other verses.. For people who say they are literalist when it comes to the Bible to then latch onto one verse and seemingly forget others is a mystery to me? Most of the logic for “nothing is required” comes from one sentence in the letter of Paul to the congregation of Ephesus.  That verse Ephesians 2:8 is as follows: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”.  These words from Paul, who never sat at Jesus’ feet nor seemed to understand much of his teachings, when taken alone seem to be a powerful  reinforcement of the belief that nothing is required of us. But if they are put in the context of many many of Jesus’ messages they take on a different meaning. And then there is James, the brother of Jesus, who makes it very clear that, from his brother he was taught that faith without works is a dead faith. When I look at all the words of Jesus I cannot negate them simply because of this uttered sentence in one of Paul’s many letters to a troubled congregation.

My interpretation of the Bible is the only correct one…. In my opinion this is one of the most damaging aspects of biblical beliefs.  Some are absolutely convinced that they alone know the true heart of God and anyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong!! An example of this are those who believe in the 24 hour version of Genesis go on to disrespect those who believe in the day age version. To some extent I am personally a victim of this practice but that is another story. When we continuously divide ourselves over personal interpretations we do a great disservice to God!

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?