Archive for June, 2009

Back to the Creeds, Please!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Sprinkled throughout some of my earlier posts, you may detect a common thread: the dysfunctional Body of Christ (aka the Church).  I have had a long-running angst over how poorly the church (I am speaking of the totality of Christians alive today) functions. Here we are some 2000 years after Jesus, and what a mess we have made of things!

We have multiple protestant denominations, each with their own spin or emphasis. Even within a denomination, there are multiple factions that can’t agree on one thing or another.  Within many communities, there exists an association of pastors called the “ministerial alliance”, or some similar term.  The idea is for the churches to get together and figure out how to better serve their community.  It’s a great idea, focusing each congregation on certain ministries and cooperating on community-wide projects.  Problem is, several churches refuse to participate because the other churches are “wrong” in this doctrine or that.  AARRGGHHH!!!!

It’s no wonder Christians repel more folks than they draw in.

I have long said that there should be a short list of crucial elements to a true Christian faith. Each element is absolutely necessary to establishing a Christian faith. Those topics that are debatable are not crucial elements. The ones I’m talking about would destroy the core of the Christian gospel if not true.

Our early church fathers (I mean really early – as in 1st and 2nd century) established these elements to teach new Christians, and to correct false teachings. The Apostles Creed established the short list of crucial elements to the Christian faith. Each phrase is specifically written to counter a false teaching that undermined the truth of the gospel message. BTW, it is named not because the Apostles wrote it, but to summarize the key teaching points of the Apostles.

I wish all churches who can agree to the Apostles Creed would unite and organize into a true Body of Christ. Then learn to “agree to disagree” on the lesser points. Here are the essential elements all true Christians should agree on:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended in hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

A couple of notes concerning the somewhat archaic language: “hell” refers to the New Testament Greek word “Gehenna”, not “Sheol”.   “Quick” means living, not fast.  And “catholic” simply means “all-inclusive”, and should not be confused with “Roman Catholic”.

Wouldn’t the world be much better off if all the Christians united in ministry and service? The Creed would be a great rallying point for such a movement.

Haole Boy

What if God…

Friday, June 19th, 2009

…chose only to see the world through the eyes of people?  What would he see? Perhaps with all the vile, perverse, and degenerate people there are – perhaps that would be too depressing to Him. No wonder He wanted to wipe mankind off the face of the earth in the flood, and torch Sodom and Gomorrah.

No, rather, what if God chose only to see the world through the eyes of those who claim to believe in Him?  Would it really be all that different from the first point of view? Would He see acts of kindness, forbearance, and mercy?  Sure He would. But those might be few and far between, hard to cull from the more prevalent self-centered views we would tend to give Him.

If I were to explore the analogy of the church being the body of Christ, what types of folks would be the eyes, or ears, or feet of Christ?  I suppose those with great “vision” would likely be the eyes of the Lord. I did a search for the “eyes of the Lord” in the online NIV Bible.  The phrase occurs 88 times in the Bible, and in almost every instance, the context is about God seeing evil and righteousness. The Bible makes it clear that God is not looking at how successful we are in the business world, or how much money we make, or how good we look. No, the Bible overwhelmingly teaches that God is looking at our ACTIONS and ATTITUDES, and whether those are GOOD or EVIL.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I look out into the world around me, I tend to see THINGS. Yes, I see good and evil, but I prefer to turn away from looking at evil – avoiding it and those who do it. Yet neither do I go out of my way to see those in need, nor go out of my way to help the few that I see in need. Going through this mental exercise, I can see how God would not be overly pleased with me.  In fact, it points out the vast distance I must go in my attitudes to be righteous in His sight – and it also points out how great are His mercy and forgiveness.

I asked my Sunday School class – “When this world is finished and destroyed, and God brings about the ‘new heavens and the new earth’, what two things will survive from this world to the next?  In other words, what two things on this earth are eternal?”   The answer, of course, is: The Word of God, and human souls.  This fact alone should give us an unalterable focus to our lives. We should be investing our time, energies, and resources in that which is eternal.

When God looks through your eyes, does he see your righteous acts of kindness, forgiveness, and mercy, or does he see something else?  When His own eyes are upon you, will He see good or evil?  I fear the answers to those questions in my life.  And I pray that I will be able to better heed this lesson.

Something to think about…

Haole Boy.

The Church as a Repellant

Monday, June 15th, 2009

And I thought it was just me.

Turns out that many, if not most Americans have had similar feelings, some stronger than others – that the churches in America repel people away from the very message they are trying to convey.

Why is it that – – –

– statistics show that kids who are entertained in church during their formative years leave the church when they get out on their own?
– if the message is supposedly the “Good News”, then why do most Christians look as though they are perpetually mad?
– most Christians are so judgemental, when Jesus’ message was one of forgiveness and compassion?
– the “body of Christ” seems so dysfunctional?

Jesus did not use orchestras or praise and worship teams. He did not preach a feel-good message. Seems to me we are more about “show” and less about “go”. Florence Nightengale once replied to a reporter’s question, “You ask me why I do not write something….I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results.”  This is the problem with the church in America. We spend too much time on words, and not enough time on works.  There needs to be a balance, one that equally demonstrates Jesus in words and deeds.

Instead, we SAY we have the Good News, but don’t act like it.  We preach love, forgiveness, and compassion, but condemn any group that thinks or acts differently than we do.  EVEN within our own Christian community, every denomination thinks they have all the right answers and interpretations. We bad-mouth any denomination that thinks differently. Even within a single denomination, it is easier for one group to split off from their congregation to start a new church rather than to resolve the differences within the congregation.

It seems to me that the one person who most closely reflected Jesus’ teachings on this earth was Gandhi, a Hindu! Not that he got everything right, but his life was all about compassion and lifting the lowly up, giving them hope and improving their self-worth. He publicly and deliberately modeled his life after Jesus’ life. He rejected Jesus as messiah partly because of the way Christians treated him.

Though the church repels many of us – I am coming to realize that somehow, I must transcend the failings of the church, and focus on God as my ultimate authority. I must learn to separate God from the church that is supposed to represent Him.  I’m not there yet, but I am laboring down that path. I must tend to the words of that old hymn, “Keep your eyes upon Jesus”.


Dostoyevsky vs. Tolstoy

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

These two Christian Russian writers from the 19th century are lauded by some as among the greatest writers of all time. Their ability to see and communicate complex and intricate details sets their volumes above most writings, certainly above the writings of their day.  Though they were both Christian, neither started out that way.

Tolstoy came to Christianity through his study of one simple question: Why does pleasure exist? His obsessive research of every known religion and philosophy of his day resulted in his understanding that only Christianity gave a rationale reason for pleasure. Once he declared himself to be a Christian, he dove headlong into the scriptures, absorbing every word, every passage. He did so, however, at great peril to himself and his family, for he approached the Word as being absolute. That is to say, literal to a fault. His life was void of compassion, but extremely legalistic in his pursuit of perfection. His constant failures to attain the lofty standards in the Gospels eventually drove him to ruin.

Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, was imprisoned for being a member of an underground group opposing the tsar. After a mock execution, in which he was “pardoned” to a lesser penalty of 4 years hard labor in a Siberian prison, Dostoyevsky received a copy of the New Testament, and came to understand what grace meant, and wholly submersed himself in the grace God so freely gave. Though he had lived a life of debauchery and excessive gambling, in the end, he was at peace with himself, his enemies, and his God.

Tolstoy had come to fully understand the righteous demands of a holy God. He failed to see these demands as a way to understand the great gulf that lies between God’s holiness, and our inability to achieve that level of holiness. The lofty goals set by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount point us toward righteousness, but also point out that we must be dependant on the righteousness of Jesus to attain those goals. We, through our own efforts, are powerless to fully achieve those standards. But Jesus has already achieved them on our behalf and extended His righteousness to us through grace. This is the lesson Dostoyevsky had come to learn.

We can admire Tolstoy for his enthusiasm and dedication, and admire Dostoyevsky for his victory over a troubled past, and his capacity to receive God’s grace.

Haole Boy

Tough Questions

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Ever since becoming a Christian, I have held a degree of interest in apologetics, that is, giving a reason for why I believe what I believe. This topic can be a challenge in the face of strong naturalists who summarily dismiss the notion of God in the first place, and interpret all creation from a godless, physical perspective only. These are the ones who believe that time plus chance equals all there is.  I would like to propose for your thinking some questions these scientists and atheists ought to account for in their various theories concerning the existence and evolution of man.

1. Where does emotion come from?  If man is the result of natural processes evolving over millions of years, what physical, natural reason is there for emotions?  It seems we would all be completely logical, and there would be no physical requirement for us to have developed emotions. A few more specific examples of this question would be:

2. Where does pleasure come from? If all there is to life is need to survive, disease, and death, what purpose does pleasure fill? It seems that the natural world would demand a very pessimistic view of our existence. Yet pleasure exists, most certainly. K.G. Chesterton examined all the major religions and philosophies of the late 19th century, and became a Christian (a very devout one at that) solely on the basis that Christianity offered the only rationale answer to this one question, where does pleasure come from?

3. If our existence is totally natural, cause and effect, with no supernatural intervention, how is it that we can even conceive of something “greater than ourselves”? How can man envision a spiritual world, when we ourselves are the result of a spiritless process?

4. This third question leads directly to a fourth – where does imagination come from?  If evolution is a process predicated on necessity, what necessity led to imagination?

5. Where does our sense of “guilt” come from? How does an evolutionist explain the human conscience that governs our sense of right and wrong? Why do we feel murder and torture are wrong if we are ultimately governed by survival of the fittest? This is incongruent, and points to some obvious errors in evolutionary logic.

6. How does the evolutionist explain the hundreds of instances of “irreducible complexity” in the human body? This a term that describes a biological system comprised of many multiple parts, where if any one of those parts is missing, the entire system ceases to function. In other words, the complex system had to be built not step-wise, but as a whole. Darwin himself stated that if just one example of irreducible complexity in a biological system could be shown, then his entire theory of evolution falls apart.  There are literally hundreds of such examples in the human body, yet the proponents of evolution conveniently have ignored such evidence. The ability of our blood to clot; the transformation of light to electrical impulses; blood flow to a fetus and the change that occurs at the moment of birth are all examples of such complexity.  There are many more examples at the cellular level.

It is my contention the scientific world must “put up or shut up” on these issues.  They have been given carte blanche to spout their theories as if they are fact, ignoring the overwhelming and obvious indications of a greater intelligence of supernatural origin behind all that we know and see in this universe.

More on this later,  Haole Boy

My Hero: Philip Yancey

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

If you are a Christian, and you have not heard of Philip Yancey, then you need to get out of your shell and read a few of his books about the church, Christianity, and what it means to be a Christian.  This man has succinctly put into words my life experience with the church and my struggles with faith resulting from church induced problems and questions. (not that he wrote about ME, but his frustrations have mirrored my own.)

I attended a Department of Defense conference on Test and Evaluation this week. One of the speakers gave several examples illustrating this main point: You must learn to ask the RIGHT questions.  Concerning the church of today, Philip Yancey has learned that lesson well. He asks the most penetrating and revealing questions, to which the answers are embarrassingly obvious.

It seems to me he has absorbed a good deal of God’s wisdom, and is able to see clearly through the murky waters of religiosity. What’s more, he is a highly skilled and adroit writer, able to put into words that which the rest of us can only feel in our gut.

Google him. Look up his books on Amazon. Pick one up and read it. You won’t be sorry you did.

Haole Boy