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.


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.  

Is Theism the Only Way?

30 01 2008

The fascination with “finding a new way” to do Christianity or relate to God is really not something new. The following is an example of the sort of folly that is praised in many circles toady.  

  • “God can no longer be understood with credibility as a Being supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky and prepared to invade human history periodically to enforce the divine will. So most theological God talk is today meaningless unless a new way to speak of God is found…. 
  • God has become a shaky hypothesis without any real work to do. God no longer sends the weather, heals the sick, fights our wars, or protects us from peril. There is little need for an unemployed deity in our world and so this deity is increasingly ignored. Theism ultimately gives way to atheism…. 
  • But is theism the only way to understand God? I do not think so. Throughout western history a subterranean minority voice has always been part of Christianity which has never spoken of God in supernatural or theistic terms, as a superparent, or a divine Mr. Fix-it. That tradition is called mysticism…. 
  • This mystical understanding of God calls its adherents out of childishness into a radical new maturity. It manifests itself in a human willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions, to see ourselves as lives through which the power of the divine can enter and shape human history….” 

So… how would you answer someone whose great insight is that the scriptural understanding of God is inadequate?  

By the way, the quoted passages are from a nationally known and critically praised Christian leader.  

Lier, lier pants on fire.

28 12 2007

ishelying.jpg  …unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (Titus 1:15-16). KJV 

16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are despicable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.  NLT 

16They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ESV 

16Such people claim to know God, but their actions prove that they really don’t. They are disgusting. They won’t obey God, and they are too worthless to do anything good. CEV 

16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. NIV

 Who are these people and how are we supposed to identify them?

Could this be just a general “rant” that’s not intended to be applied to anyone in particular?

What do you think?  

Flywheel Recommendation

18 12 2007

flywheel.jpgI joyfully recommend this little movie (now out on DVD) about a used car salesman that repents of his godless ways and starts really living for the Lord.  

Yes, cinematically it is well below Hollywood standards. But it makes up for that lack by excelling in more important standards, Christian standards.  

The movie is an earlier project from the same church that made “Facing the Giants” (which I also enjoyed). 

The only criticism I have for both of these movies is that they teach that God grants prosperity and/or success to those who live for Him – the obvious, worldly type.

Francis Schaeffer Quote

18 12 2007

francisschaeffer.gifI am convinced that many men who preach the gospel and love the Lord are really misunderstood. People make a “profession,” but because they haven’t understood the message, they are not really saved. They feel a psychological need and they want psychological relief, but they don’t understand that the Christian message is not talking only about psychological relief (though it includes that) but is talking about true moral guilt in the presence of a holy God who exists. The real need is salvation from true moral guilt, not just relief from guilt feelings. And I am certain many men who make a profession go away still unsaved, having not heard one word of the real gospel because they have filtered the message through their own thought forms and their own intellectual framework in which the word “guilt” equals “guilt feelings.”

Francis Schaeffer

Death in the City (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press: 1969) 93

Stumbling Blocks

9 11 2007

untitled-2.jpgThe Christian is responsible to not be a stumbling block to others (Romans 14:13-23). This responsibility is irksome in many ways. One of the most annoying aspects of it is the requirement to take into consideration the various convictions of others and modify one’s behavior and words to accommodate them.  

                Paul used the example of food to illustrate the principle. His instruction amounts to this: if you know other believers will be offended and/or upset by your indulgence in certain foods then keep it between yourself and God. In other words, don’t eat those things in public and keep your mouth shut about the fact that you eat them at all. 

    20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God…” (Romans 14:20-22a ESV). 

  Now this presents a problem for some in terms of honesty. If, for example, one believes there is nothing wrong with drinking wine, why should he care who knows about it? Why should he have to adopt a “pose” for the sake of others?  This is just where the enemy will attack. “Why should you have to pretend for others?” Satan will whisper. “You coward!  Surely God wants you to stand up and boldly proclaim what you really think about all these things. Stop being bullied into silence!” 

Don’t fall for this ploy. God has clearly placed the greater responsibly on the spiritual welfare of others.   

Many who think they are being martyred for righteousness’ sake are really just reaping the fall-out of disobeying the mandate to not be a stumbling block.