Do you really know God?

Are you settled in your faith?

Is your version of Christianity comfortable?

If so, I think this is a problem!  I think that a person devoted to studying the bible will have more questions, not less!

We love to talk about God the healer and God the provider.  But what about the God of wrath, and the God of war? People who believe in replacement theology are happy to proclaim the promises of God that apply to us, but I’ve never heard one of them quote any of the judgments as applying to us.  Some Christians carry around little booklets listing all of the miracles of God that somehow have direct application to them.  But I’ve never seen a desk calendar that shows examples of unanswered prayers for each day.  What about the times Job, David, Paul, and even Jesus called out to God and his mind was unchanged?

Should these things shake our faith?  Does looking honestly at the whole bible make God any less God?

I think we like to believe that God had a personality change somewhere between Malachi and Matthew.  He must have seen some therapist, then decided it was time to be nicer to people

What does it do for you to look at an integrated view of God?  Can you reconcile all of these things?  If you have a happy, “God is on my side and will work miracles at my whim because he promised to” Christianity, life is going to smack you in the face one day and your faith will be shaken.

I’ll put it another way…
If your faith comes because God makes sense to you, your faith is in your understanding, not in God.

But if you have unanswered questions yet still believe, if you see the tension in the bible and do not run from it, then you are “working out your faith” as Paul describes.  This is true faith!  You have actual faith in God, not in some theology.

Mere Christianity vs. Ecumenism

I had a very interesting online discussion with a friend recently about ecumenism.  He referenced the term “mere Christianity” as being somehow related.  While I understand where he was coming from in common usage of the word, when most hear “Mere Christianity” they think of the book by C.S. Lewis.  What follows are some of my thoughts about what ecumenism is good and what is bad.

Have you read the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis? It is an excellent apologetic that I highly recommend. The book is not about ecumenism. It is about determining “what exactly is Christianity”?

Every church preaches Christ plus something else.
For Catholics, it is Christ plus transubstantiation.
For Pentecostals, it is Christ plus speaking in tongues.
For the early church is was Christ plus circumcision.
Some of these are right, and some are wrong – but none of them are necessary for salvation.

This was the purpose of the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15. Various beliefs existed, and there was division about what was required of believers. Lewis is doing the same thing that Paul and Peter did.

The same thing continues today. Very conservative denominations will say that Christians can’t go to dances or movies. Some even believe that a specific diet must be followed.

Mere Christianity is not about ecumenism, but about determining what the bible says is required. Mere Christianity as presented by C.S. Lewis is about finding what is common to the faith – the central belief. For instance, Methodists and Presbyterians will agree that Jesus was the son of God. Calvinists and Arminians will agree on the doctrine of the trinity. Baptists and Charismatics will agree that Jesus was fully God, and fully man. Catholics and Protestants will agree that there is one way to God, thru Jesus Christ.

Mormons will not agree to the tenets that Mere Christianity presents. Neither will Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, or New Agers.

It is correct that we should not accept the belief that “all paths lead to God”. But this is not the message of Mere Christianity. Give it a read – it’s a great book!

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Keep in mind that Lewis was an Irish-born brit who taught at Oxford 50-60 years ago. This is not a common man who speaks our lazy English! 🙂 According to Lewis, “mere Christianity” speaks of that part of Christianity which we have in common or that which is central to the faith. Note that I did not say something that humanity holds in common, or something that is universally agreed upon. I mean those principal beliefs which Christians agree are necessary and fundamental to the faith.

If you’d like to read it, you should. It’s actually a very short book. You an even read it online here!: http://bit.ly/MereChristianity

(…)

Ecumenism is a funny word. The haters will say it means making all belief systems equal. They say it puts all faiths on a level playing field, because all roads lead to God. This is a result of our politically correct culture which fears criticizing and places a greater value on hurt feelings that it does on the truth. While this definition of ecumenism is technically correct, it is not the common usage. I agree with much of his commentary in the clip, but I would not label this as ecumenism. I would call it postmodernism.

Ecumenism in its most common current usage is trying to come to a unity of belief, but within the Christian framework. That means looking at the essentials of Christianity, and setting aside our pet doctrines. I love my pet doctrines – believe me! But at what cost?

Do our theses on dispensationalism, replacement theology, or predestination really matter to the lost? I don’t think any sacrament has ever saved a soul.

So, would I set my preferences aside for this purpose? Absolutely. We are not to lay any obstacles in front of people. I see the Christian unity aspect of ecumenism as our attempt to lay ourselves aside for the sake of the gospel. In our church classes and blogs we can debate all the minutiae – and this is a good thing!

The Emergent Village should recede

I was just forwarded a review of Brian McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christianity”.  You can read it here.  If nothing else, it will save you from having to read the book.  McLaren and his “Emergent Village” have emerged too far.  They need to retract.

There is great value in studying the bible for ourselves.  Researching the accepted doctrines of the faith is invaluable.  Tracing the origins, both biblical and extra-biblical, is extremely helpful.  This is what builds the basis for a strong apologetic.  In fact, this is a biblical mandate.  2 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  Paul praised the Bereans for doing this. (Acts 17)  But if your studies lead you to challenge fundamental Christian tenets, you are not exploring your faith – you are establishing a new one!

The Emergent Village (McLaren, Bell, Pagitt, etc.) has added nothing to the understanding of Christianity except confusion. These guys are very wishy-washy on matters of theology and overly accepting of culture. When cornered on issues such as the trinity, homosexuality, the fall, the bible as inspired, etc., these guys simply refuse to answer. This is a problem!


In an effort to be accepting of everyone and not hurt feelings, they trample on centuries of Christian tradition. So accepting are they of the green movement that their broadcasts are sponsored by the Sierra Club. Leaders in the homosexual movement write the forewords to their books. It is one thing to be accepting of others, but if you are so politically correct that the enemies of Christianity see you as an icon, there is a serious problem.


When Time magazine asked McLaren his position on homosexuality he said, “You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there’s no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.” This is not an issue of homosexuality. The truth, in itself does not hurt people. The delivery of the truth can. Brian – maybe you are doing it wrong. Sometimes hearing the truth hurts. When light exposes darkness, it is jarring. Liight and darkness cannot coexist. Avoiding the question is not an answer.See More

Pagitt says that “what we [Christians] believe is not ‘timeless”. Theology will be ever-changing.” He has also said that “The idea that there is a necessary distinction of matter from spirit, or creation from creator, is being reconsidered.” Doug – this is called Paganism, not Christianity!

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell says if “Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time, we would essentially not lose any significant part of our faith because it is more about how we live.” Any faith that does not see the virgin birth as prophesied and also fulfilled is not a Christian one. Some more nuggets from V.E.: “Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for.” Where on earth did he get this notion? Bell also believes that the trinity is a human invention that did not surface until several hundred years A.D.

The spokesmen of the Emergent Village are trying to be accepting of people. I’ll give them credit for that – but that’s all. When we are presented with a difficult question, like McLaren’s example of homosexuality, there are 3 options. The first is to be hyper-liberal and accepting of everyone and everything. God is grace, so who are we to judge. Everything goes! This is the emergent position. The second is to be overly conservative and reply that they are living in sin and damned to hell. This helps no one! Sadly, this is the historical position of much of American Christianity. The third position is the most difficult one, but also the biblical one. To speak the truth in love. It is a very fine line to walk for sure! To speak the truth of God’s word without crushing someone can be very difficult, but it is what we are supposed to do. It takes time to build relationship and explain God’s grace, while at the same time expressing the holiness that God requires.

This is difficult, but it is the right thing to do. It would be much easier to follow the path of our fundamental roots and accept no one, or to drink McLaren’s Kool-Aid and accept everyone. Easier, yes. But very wrong.

Why the Name?

Good question. Glad you asked!

I was challenged recently about the tone I sometimes (always?) take in my posts. “Isn’t it a bit sarcastic?” My answer – yes!

My intention in all conversation, whether in person or online, is to accept everyone. However, I don’t believe that requires that I accept their ideas. I respect other people, but I see no basis that I should respect their beliefs. I welcome dialog and conflict. I’m probably kind of twisted that way. But I believe that foolish belief systems deserve to be mocked. I think the church is accepting of too many things. There are countless teachers “tickling ears” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) today, but I can’t recall any times that they have been called out by name in churches I have attended. It seems that the church is afraid of taking them on. I believe not only is it ok, but it is the responsibility of the church to take a stand on such things. Not just a non-descript “stand for Christ”, but also a stand against bad theology, heresy, and abuse of power. I believe that is a large part of the role of a shepherd.

The bible uses many tools to communicate. Not only parables, metaphors, and colloquialisms, but also satire, hyperbole, and even sarcasm. Jesus used all of these widely. Plain-old fact presentation is boring. It’s ok, and sometimes necessary, to rile people up! After all, how do you expose hypocrisy politely? How can you rebuke casually?

The tone I sometimes write in is not intended to recklessly offend. It is intended to get people’s attention. Shining light into dark places is abrupt and shocking. It sometimes takes a few minutes for our eyes to adjust.

Elijah suggested that Baal was asleep, or maybe on the toilet. Yikes! Probably ticked some people off!

Jesus called people “lost sheep”, a “den of thieves”, and a “brood of vipers”. Not endearing terms.

He accused us of having beams in of our eyes, and suggested that we often swallow camels while straining out gnats.

He told us not to give holy things to dogs, and proposed that we gouge our eyes out if necessary.

He was not always a polite speaker.

Most of us don’t heed the civil and well-mannered speed limit signs. It usually takes lights in our mirror to shock us out of our bad habits. We feel defensive when the cop taps on our window not because he is expressing himself improperly, but because he has identified a problem with our belief system. I think it is time that the church have a shock to its system.

I don’t have the spiritual gifts of diplomacy or ecumenism. I like to make people uncomfortable. Comfortable people don’t ask questions. Comfortable people don’t engage. Comfortable people don’t reevaluate themselves. They also don’t study the bible – that is, unless it is to review the verses they have already highlighted. I know this because I am uncomfortable. I have had to continually reassess and restudy things that I thought were settled. At least, I thought they were, back when I was comfortable. I have a feeling I am not alone.

Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword. He said he would divide us from friends and family. Not because he enjoys strife, but because he requires holiness.

I believe there are things worth getting a little riled up about, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to sit on the sidelines and watch them go by.

You cannot do all things

This phrase is up there among the most misquoted passages in scripture. It’s not a long one, so I’ll include the whole thing here:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

Almost every occasion I have heard this scripture invoked, it has been vs 13 all by itself. And most people like to quote a combo of KVJ and NIV and say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – probably because of the song based on the verse. The only trouble is – as stated, it is simply not true. You have to read scripture in context.

Paul is saying that his life has been very hard. He is also recalling the better times. And he is reminding himself that no matter how bad or good things are, he can make it through with God’s help.

This passage is about contentment, not victory.
It speaks about living life as it comes, not acquiring supernatural powers.
It is not invoking, it is confessing.
It is about endurance, not faith.
It is not a proclamation, it is an affirmation.
It is not speaking of spiritual warfare, but commitment.

Certainly there are verses about all these other topics – but this verse is not one of them.

Life is going to suck sometimes. Jesus even said so! But with his strength, we can carry on. We would do well to use this passage to remind ourselves of that – not to expect some miraculous change.

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