Throwing the baby Jesus out with the bath water

tomb.jpgSadly, many people have been wounded by the church or Christians.  Some people may use this as a convenient excuse not to believe. 

However, the assertions that Jesus really lived, died and rose again are either true or not.  Whether people were wounded by the church or someone in it is ultimately irrelevant to their eternal salvation. 

The Bible warned that there would be false teachers so we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens.  Satan loves it when people reject Jesus, regardless of the reasons. 

We don’t want to be a party to unnecessarily alienating people from Jesus, so we should watch our words and actions closely. 

If you’ve been wounded by Christians, welcome to the club.  But don’t use that as an excuse not to investigate the claims of Christianity or to reject Jesus.  Eternity is a mighty long time.

Have you encountered this or known others who have?

Boston


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We vacationed in Boston for a few days while picking up our daughters from their respective ballet workshops.  We had been “empty-nesters” for five weeks, but we survived.

There are a few things to dislike about Boston:

  1. The traffic.  It made me miss Houston traffic.  And then there were the indecipherable Yahoo Maps directions – in one case, there were literally 17 steps to go 2.25 miles!
  2. The Celtics.  Boo!  (Go 80’s Lakers!)
  3. The politics.

But there were a lot of good things as well.  Great food.  The whale-watching trip was a highlight.  The architecture and all the old brick buildings.  The history.  The people were friendly.  And seeing the girls again was the best part! 

Irreconcilable beliefs

contradiction.jpgSome folks hold views that are not only wrong but irreconcilable as well.  The only consistent theme is that they are all in direct opposition to the Word of God.

Consider how some groups simultaneously try to hold two or more of these views:

  • Men and women aren’t different.
  • “Gender fluidity” means boys and girls as young as elementary school are told they can choose what gender they are.  Even though there isn’t a difference.  And their perceived gender can change.
  • Homosexuals and bisexuals are “born that way” and can’t be changed.
  • If you declare that you are now gay, then that means you were always gay.  But if you were gay and now declare yourself straight then you are still gay.   
  • It is mandatory that homosexuals be able to marry someone of the same sex.  A gay guy can’t just marry a female with more masculine characteristics, or a biological female who thinks she is really a man.
  • Sperm banks for Lesbians are important, because it is important for the women to experience pregnancy and have their own child.  But having a father around – or even knowing who he is – is completely irrelevant to the child. 
  • Homosexual orientation is driven by “nature,” so it is moral. 
  • Homosexual parenthood obviously defies “nature,” but it is moral as well.
  • It is irrelevant whether your parents are M/F, M/M, F/F, or even a set of two. 
  • HIV/AIDS is not a gay disease, and you are homophobic if you suggest it is.
  • If you don’t support more funding for HIV/AIDS you are homophobic.

Consider the net result of the typical gay adoption argument: Having a same-sex partner is paramount, but the sex of the parents is irrelevant.  How can that be?

Note: I am not saying we need to take kids away from gay couples.  I am not saying that the best of gay parenting is worse than the worst of traditional parenting.

I am saying that public policies should not encourage gay parenting and definitely shouldn’t force adoption agencies to provide children to gay couples.  Exceptions can make bad rules.  I am also saying that it is ridiculous to consider phrases such as traditional family to be offensive.

Once again, the culture is putting the desires of adults over the needs of children.  It is the same lie that was foundational to the easy divorce and abortion movements: Adults are vulnerable, children are not.

Lies.  Big, big lies.

Heretics ‘R Us

I dropped by The Reverend Chuck Currie’s blog to see what The Reverend Chuck Currie had to say.  Because, after all, The Reverend Chuck Currie is a reverend.  You can tell, because it says so in his blog title.

He is a leader in the United Church of Christ denomination, a group that is apparently not too keen on sound doctrine.  This guy just got ordained and he is continuing to preach heresies.

Oddly, his sermon on John 14:6 (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”) was on a single verse, and his key points were to claim that Jesus was not the only way to the Father, that other religions such as Islam should inform our view of the Gospel, and that the Bible is not accurate or reliable. I downloaded the sermon and quoted a few parts below.

Got that?  You are sitting in a United Church of Christ building ready to hear a lesson from the Word of God, only to have the “Reverend” tell you that the Bible is not the Word of God and that Jesus is not the only way to salvation.  You can trust what other religions teach you because God apparently revealed himself accurately in them, but He did not reveal himself properly in the Bible.  And this guy just graduated from a “Christian” seminary.  Check.

Here are some excerpts from his message:

Is John 14:16 (sic) the literal word of God or is it a human reflection that speaks to how the early Christian community understood their faith?

Biblical scholars in mainline seminaries agree that Jesus never spoke the words attributed to him in our reading from this morning.

Looks like someone went scholar-shopping and found just what he was looking for.  And don’t you love the patronizing bit about those deluded early Christians who gave their lives for the faith but were just imagining that Jesus really said those things?

The Gospel of John was written some 100 years after the death of Jesus and in no other writing is Jesus said to have made such exclusive claims about the faith.  So why after 100 many years have passed since the his death would someone remember things so differently – so starkly differently.

First, the dating for the Gospel of John is much earlier than 100 years after the death of Jesus.  Chuck has been corrected on this point but he ignores it.

He also ignores that there are 100 passages stating that Jesus is the only way.  He pretends that John 14:6 is the only Bible verse making this claim.  He has also determined that the gnostic Gospel of Thomas is more authoritative than the Gospel of John – even though the early church did not even hint at holding that view.

It might be better to read this passage as a statement of faith from the early Christian community, who believed with conviction that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life.  I share that conviction today.

No, he doesn’t.  If he really thought Jesus was the way then he wouldn’t stand in a pulpit and spread these lies.

But I’m not so arrogant to think that my own understanding of God surprasses all other understandings of God . . . Is it possible that God speaks through Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and the world’s other great religions?

Ah, there’s the passive-aggresive tolerance trick.  The reverend dogmatically states that Jesus is not the only way, that the Gospel of John was written 100 years after Jesus’ death and contains falsehoods, the Gospel of Thomas is authoritative, the Bible is not, etc.  But he’s not going to be arrogant like those who don’t hold those views!  How humble.

And no, God does not speak through other world religions.  They may contain some truths but that doesn’t mean they are from God.  If you took even 10% of the Bible seriously you would never make that claim.  Religious pluralism is intellectually bankrupt.

Let us resolve as members of the Christian faith to be open to hearing God speak through other voices, and as we preach the Gospel message let our hearts welcome new insights about God from other faithful traditions.

What kind of nonsense is that?   He says we are supposed to preach the Gospel, but we’re supposed to let other faithful traditions inform our views.  Huh?  What Gospel is that?  What is the standard of truth now that he has tossed out the Bible?  What do the Koran and the teachings of other false religions have to teach us about Jesus that the Bible does not?

I would encourage the reverend to meditate on this verse, except that he has probably eliminated from his slim-line Bible already:

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

I say with complete confidence that the gospel (small “g”) that The Reverend Chuck Currie preaches is radically different than the one the Apostle Paul was referring to.

“Reverends” like this mock the cross and the blood of the martyrs.  I am glad we live in a country where people have the freedom to preach whatever they like.  We even have a name for people who hold these views: Non-Christians.

More here.

Weekly roundup

Ten reasons we believe the Bible – Thorough but readable summary on why you can trust the Bible.

Rising illegitimacy rate tied to legalized abortion – counter-intuitive, but true.

A series of responses to “god is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens is an “evangelical atheist” who is a sharp-tongued, bright guy who nevertheless makes one logical fallacy after another.  He is such a good debater that most people don’t catch them.  Mark Roberts does a great job in dissecting the book.

Then there’s Richard Dawkins, who thinks “we have got to look very carefully at the rights of parents-and whether they should have the right to indoctrinate their children.”

60 Second Review – Can We Trust the Gospels? – This is a terrific book – written by a brilliant scholar yet very readable.  It will give you a quick and fresh look as to why we can have so much confidence in the Gospels.


Pro-life views in cinema – there appear to be more “life affirming,” if not explicitly pro-life, movies coming out.  It included a quote from a NY Times writer that “because studies show “nearly two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion,” these movies  “go out of their way to sidestep real life.”  Hmmmm . . . but 1/3 don’t end abortion – is that not real life?  And has the writer ever considered that just because something is in the majority that it isn’t ideal?

The Velvet Hammer had a great tip on BlogBackupOnline.  It is free and very easy to use.  You all do too much hard work on your posts to risk losing them.  Go back up now!  I’ll wait here.

The most dangerous idea in religion?

warning.gifThe Religion section of the Houston Chronicle had an article where five religious leaders answered the question, “What is the most dangerous idea in religion today?” 

Religion is one of the most potent forces in human affairs. It has inspired some of history’s most sublime moments, but also some of its most barbaric.

The Inquisition, bombings of abortion clinics, suicide bombings in Iraq – all have their roots in some form of religious ideology.

With that in mind, five leading thinkers from varying faiths were asked the same question: What is the most dangerous idea in religion today? Their comments were edited for brevity and clarity.

Violence in the name of God – Richard Land

“I would agree with Pope John Paul II, who said that there is a sacred sanctuary of the soul for each man and woman. No other human being has the right to coercively interfere with that sacred sanctuary of the soul. The most dangerous idea in religion is the idea that violent, coercive force is permissible in the name of God – any God.

“You see this with radical Islam. Notice that I said radical Islam, not Islam.

“More people will die if this idea spreads. It will help poison the well of debate and discussion about issues that people disagree on. It’s corrosive to public discourse to say if you disagree with me, I’m going to kill you. It erodes freedom of speech, assembly and worship.”

Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He was selected by Time Magazine in 2005 as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

I agree with this completely.  Coercion is a bad idea.  It is not a Biblical motif at all.  Look at the Book of Acts, which chronicles the early church.  The Gospel was spread through reason and evidence, not force.  Jesus was God himself in human form and He didn’t make anyone believe.

Follow our rules or else – Wayne Dyer

“Carl Jung (an author and psychiatrist) had a line. The paraphrase is this: The No. 1 problem with organized religion is that the purpose of organized religion is to prevent people from having a direct experience of God. Religion is organized around the principle that religion will provide the direct experience of God for you as long as you become a member, follow our rules and contribute to us financially.

“The most important thing human beings can recognize is that they are already connected to God, and to maintain that connection is not something you can turn over to another person or organization. One of the truths of the physical world is that you must be like what you came from. If you have an apple pie and you ask what the apple pie is like, it’s like (the apple) where it came from.”

Wayne Dyer is one of the most popular self-help speakers in the nation. He’s the best-selling author of 29 books and has been featured frequently on Public Broadcasting Service specials.

I don’t subscribe to Dyer’s beliefs at all, but I think he makes a valid point about a danger of organized religion.  Bad people are attracted to power, sex and money.  You need to use good discernment and have Biblical church discipline to keep things on track.

My religion is right – Rabbi Harold Kushner

“There’s a sense that in order for me to be right, everyone who disagrees with me is wrong. It makes religious interfaith cooperation more difficult. If I believe that, I have to believe that other people’s religions are worthless, invalid.

“You have to understand that religion is not about getting information about God. Religion is about community. The primary purpose is not to get us to heaven but to put us in touch with other people. I can have fierce loyalty to my family without denigrating other people’s family. I can have fierce loyalty to my own religion without denigrating other people’s religion. In the same way, my neighbor can say that my wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. I can take that as a statement of love, not fact.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner is one of the most famous Jewish thinkers in the nation. He is best known for his best-selling book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Anchor, $21).

Kushner is famous for the aforementioned book, but it was non-Biblical.  His premise was that evil exists, so God is either not good or He is good but not powerful enough to stop evil.  With theology like that I didn’t expect much from his comments. 

He makes the classic passive-aggressive tolerance claim: He thinks it is bad when people think they are right but doesn’t see the inconsistency that he obviously thinks he is right.

Converting others to your religion – Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im

“I wouldn’t believe in a religion if I didn’t believe it to be better than other religions. The notion of superiority and exclusivity is inherent to religious beliefs. It can be dangerous and not be dangerous.

This guy is a Muslim, but I completely agree with his first statement.  Good for him for being honest!

“The whole idea of missionary work is a very loaded and dangerous idea because it’s often presented as simply presenting beliefs for someone to accept or reject. It’s always embedded in power. Those who have the ability to proselytize to others are more powerful than others. They have the resources to establish schools, hospitals. Missionary work is not neutral. It is embedded in power. You don’t find Muslims coming to proselytize in the U.S. But you find Americans going to all sorts of Muslim countries.”

I take exception to his second set of statements, but perhaps he is the kind of guy you could actually have a dialogue with.  I’d like to ask him about the spread of Islam in prisons and such.

I am not familiar with missionary work done with a quid pro quo attitude – i.e., convert and we’ll help you.  It is usually people sharing the love of Christ in meeting physical needs with the hope of sharing the life-saving Gospel message with them. 

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im is an internationally recognized scholar of Islam and human rights. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University.

A tribal view of God – Deepak Chopra

“The most dangerous idea is my God is the only true God and my religion is the only true religion. It leads to quarrels, divisiveness, terrorism, prejudice, racism and bloodshed.

“All religious ideas are programmed into our consciousness at a very early age. We hold them to be true. It’s very difficult to step out of that condition even in the face of good intellectual reasoning because of emotional bondage to our condition. We bristle with emotions when our beliefs are threatened.

“We are at a very critical stage in our evolution. We’re beginning to become aware. We know a lot about nature. We have a pretty good idea about the beginning of the universe. We understand to a great extent the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. And yet for the vast majority of us, though we have cell phones and can make nuclear bombs, our psychological and spiritual evolution is frozen to a level that is very tribal.”

Deepak Chopra is chairman and co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif. He is a best-selling author and popular lecturer best known for integrating Western medicine with the natural healing traditions of the East.

He also makes the classic passive-aggressive tolerance claim: He thinks it is bad when people think they are right but doesn’t see the inconsistency that he obviously thinks he is right.

Many of us didn’t have religious notions put in our heads at an early age, or we rejected them if they were.  Yes, some people do that – especially in Muslim cultures.  I prefer to have a free and open society where people have the freedom to share their faith in the marketplace of ideas.

He adds some unsupported statements about how we’ve evolved to this state and such.

He ignores that Christians in particular have wrestled with tough questions for a couple thousand years.  The Bible contains these challenges as well – check out Psalms, Job and Ecclesiastes, among others.

What did Jesus think of the Old Testament?

jesus6.jpgJohn MacArthur mentioned several important things about what Jesus thought of the Old Testament in a recent sermon series.  Here are some of them plus my own comments.

For one thing, He thought He wrote it (and I believe him).  Christians have traditionally held these views:

  1. Jesus is God as He claimed to be.
  2. God inspired the Bible.
  3. Therefore, Jesus inspired the Bible.

Interestingly, the references Jesus made to the Old Testament were often the most controversial parts and/or those characters that some liberal theologians think were fictional – Satan, Noah, Jonah, Sodom.  When Jesus refers to them there isn’t even a hint that they weren’t real.

He didn’t appear to have any problem with the destruction of the world (except for Noah and his family) and He clearly taught that the majority of people will go to Hell.  So we should dispense with the false dichotomy of the vengeful Old Testament God and the kinder, gentler New Testament God right here.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

Jesus is the theme of Scripture, and He thought it spoke accurately of himself.

John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to tweak it or refine it.  Many passages refer to this, for example:

John 15:25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

On the road to Emmaus – aka “the world’s greatest Bible study” – Jesus explained it all and showed He they should have been able to see it.  He clearly thought the whole book was about him, so He was either correct or a raging egomaniac.

Luke 24:25-27 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Jesus quoted or referred to the Old Testament roughly 180 times – about 10% of everything recorded in the Gospels.  He thought the Old Testament was error free.  If there were errors and He knew about them, that would have been evil.  If there were errors and He didn’t know about them, then He wasn’t God.

 

Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Jesus used Scripture to counter Satan and was completely confident in it.

 

Luke 4:3-4 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’

Jesus also used Scripture to answer John the Baptist in Luke 7. 

A final thought: Some people put more weight on the “red letters,” i.e., what Jesus is directly quoted as saying.  But the whole Bible is his Word.  And He used many of the red letters to refer to and explain the black letters.