The Solution to the Problem

16 03 2010

I really like the way the Contemporary English Version handles verses 3 and 4 in the book of Jude:

“My dear friends, I really wanted to write you about God’s saving power at work in our lives. But instead, I must write and ask you to defend the faith that God has once for all given to his people.  Some godless people have sneaked in among us and are saying, ‘God treats us much better than we deserve, and so it is all right to be immoral.’ They even deny that we must obey Jesus Christ as our only Master and Lord. But long ago the Scriptures warned that these godless people were doomed.”

My Christian background is of the King James Version tradition. Not the King James Only type, but more of the King James First camp. However, over the last several years I’ve become more appreciative of other translations of the scripture. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the King James Bible, but that old King James English can blunt the impact of some very clear statements God has given us.

Take this passage in Jude; it is so simple and strong. We can’t always do the things we might want to do (like write about God’s saving power at work in us) when something more vital needs to be addressed. What could be more vital than God’s saving power? Jude is convinced that at least one thing is: the defense of the faith.

Jude is not speaking of faith in the sense of that living, individual and/or community experience of God in one’s personal life. No, he is talking about “the faith” as that body of truths and teachings which form the foundation and essence of Christianity. He is talking about defending what we know as Christian doctrine.

It was under attack then as it is now. It was important then as it is now. It was defended then as it must be now. Doctrine is not the problem; it is the solution to the problem.


Blame it on the Church

12 03 2010

And it is happening again, just like it did twenty something years ago. Once again the new generation has found the way to fix church. Back then I felt something was not right, just as I do today. Last time I tried to tell others what was off, but the new way seemed to be working so very few wanted to hear. I’ve come to realize that if individuals don’t see it for themselves there is really nothing I can do. It is all in God’s plan.

Anyway, the new way is working, again.

Blaise Pascal Quote

6 09 2008

O mankind, it is in vain that you seek within yourself the cure for your own miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourself that you will discover either truth or goodness. The philosophers made these promises, but they have failed to keep them. For they do not know what your true good is, nor what is your true state. How could they provide cures for ills they did not even recognize or diagnose? For your chief maladies are pride, which cuts you off from God; sensuality, which keeps you earth-bound; and all they have done is to keep at least one of these maladies forstered. If they have given you God for your object, it is only to pander to your pride. They have made you think that you are like Him and resemble God by your nature. And those who saw the vanity of such pretension have cast you down into that other abyss, by making you believe that your nature is like that of the beasts of the field, and have led you to seek your good in lust, which is the lot of the animals. – Blaise Pascal, The Mind On Fire, p. 113.  

Reliable Evidence

26 08 2008

          Most people think the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is faith. The Christian has faith and the non-Christian does not. In one way this is true but in another it is not.

          Some think of faith as a mental twilight zone that allows Christians to accept things that non-Christians could not possibly accept for lack of reliable evidence. In other words, they think that faith is an irrational leap in the dark.

          The idea that believing by faith is the opposite of believing by evidence is mistaken. Christian faith is based on evidence. It rests upon the evidence of the Old Testament and the New Testament, the historical record of Jesus and the Apostles, the witness of the saints down through the ages, fulfilled prophecy, every transformed Christian life, and even rationality.

          Creation itself is a powerful reason for faith in God. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The cause of the universe must transcend and be independent of the universe. The cause of the universe also has to be something big enough and powerful enough to actually cause the universe. That something is God.

          The complexity of creation is also a reason for faith in God. The more we discover about our planet and its place in the universe the more we see the incredibly complex fine-tuning of an all-wise designer.

          Even outrage over injustice is a reason for faith in God. Non-believers often say that if God existed He would not allow such awful injustice in the world. But wait, injustice means some moral standard has been violated. Yet without God there is no absolute standard of right or wrong and if there is no standard there can be no way to determine what is or is not just. So without God there is no such thing as injustice. Yet injustice is real. We all know it because we were created by a moral God.   

Only If You Are Black?

21 03 2008

Should pastors in black churches be held to the same standards society expects from other pastors when it comes to political and social commentary? 

Apparently ABC news doesn’t think so. In fact they report that fiery words promoting Black Nationalism (like those spoken by Rev. Jeremiah Wright) are nothing unusual… in black churches  

The news article goes on to say that, “Historically, the church also served as virtually the only safe space in which blacks could openly discuss their persecution in the United States, and ministers preaching to a largely illiterate audience found that dramatically delivered sermons drew in the crowds and kept the collection plate full.” 

(Surely ABC doesn’t mean that black preachers ought to be able to use crude and graphic language because it’s the only way to get their message across to a still illiterate audience?)  

Noel L. Erskine, a professor of theology at Emory University, is also quoted as saying “The church was the one institution black people always owned, a refuge where we where empowered to speak our minds.”

So what do you think, should pastors in black churches be held to the same standards as their white counter parts?

Obama’s Theology?

18 03 2008

How much do you know about the Black Liberation Theology of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and presidential candidate Barack Obama?  

Barack Obama’s religious convictions continue to be the focus in this year’s political race. The brash preaching of long time friend and pastor Jeremiah Wright is described by the majority of people as both anti-American and un-Christian. Listen to his statements and decide for yourself. 

The real question is whether what he preaches is consistent with the teachings of Black Liberation Theology Sadly, it seems that Reverend Wright’s words are perfectly consistent with the writings of James Cone and modern Black Liberation Theology

  James Cone grew up in Arkansas during the bitter years of segregation. He saw white Christians mistreat black people in ways that were horribly incompatible with Christianity. He heard white Christians preach love and compassion but saw only hatred and racism in their conduct. Ultimately, Cone decided that white churches and white theologians had all failed to rightly understand, teach, and practice true Christianity. Rejecting the “white” interpretations of scripture Cone developed a new “black theology” that focused on black empowerment.  

James Cone writes in his book, Black Theology and Black Power:       

 “A moral or theological appeal based on a white definition of morality or theology will serve as a detriment to our attainment of black freedom. The only option we blacks have is to fight in every way possible, so that we can create a definition of freedom based on our own history and culture. We must not expect white people to give us freedom. Freedom is not a gift, but a responsibility, and thus must be taken against the will of those who hold us in bondage.”

 It is no secret that Trinity United Church of Christ (Obama’s home church for 20 years) believes and promotes Black Liberation Theology.  In fact, Jason Byassee, of The Christian Century Magazine, wrote the following about Cone and Trinity church in May, 2007:

“There is no denying, however, that a strand of radical black political theology influences Trinity [UCC]. James Cone, the pioneer of black liberation theology, is a much-admired figure at Trinity. Cone told me that when he’s asked where his theology is institutionally embodied, he always mentions Trinity. Cone’s groundbreaking 1969 book Black Theology and Black Power announced: “The time has come for white America to be silent and listen to black people. . . . All white men are responsible for white oppression. . . . Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man ‘the devil.’. . . Any advice from whites to blacks on how to deal with white oppression is automatically under suspicion as a clever device to further enslavement.” Contending that the structures of a still-racist society need to be dismantled, Cone is impatient with claims that the race situation in America has improved. In a 2004 essay he wrote, “Black suffering is getting worse, not better. . . . White supremacy is so clever and evasive that we can hardly name it. It claims not to exist, even though black people are dying daily from its poison” (in Living Stones in the Household of God).”

It’s difficult to predict how exposure to twenty years of Black Liberation Theology might affect one’s world view. Perhaps Michelle Obama gave us a hint back in February when she said that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of America.  

A Place of Quiet Rest

2 02 2008

The world can be a pretty rough place. It is especially difficult for those who live to serve Jesus and glorify God.

One of the words used in the Bible to describe the difficulties of life is “tribulation.” In fact, Jesus plainly tells us that in the world we (His followers) will experience tribulation (John 16:33). So, it is no surprise when we do.

 The amazing thing is that He also tells us to “be of good cheer” in that very same verse.

That perplexing combination of joy in times of trouble is found throughout the Scriptures. It is part of our heritage. We are to face the trials of life with confidence and peace. We are to be “overcomers” of adversity and thankful in all situations (1 Thess. 5:18).

That’s not natural. Some would say it is impossible. One thing is sure; it is not something produced by programs, fellowships, or activities. We live in a time when those things are abundant.

Nevertheless, there is a place of quiet rest deep in the heart of God. It is a secret spiritual refuge for those who seek it.