Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Where is Our Confidence and Focus?

January 17, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 15807997 Copyright: Kuzmafoto

Paul, the man Jesus “recruited” face to face after His death and resurrection to be the apostle to the Gentiles, was concerned about the purity and integrity of that Gospel. He had every reason to be proud of his accomplishments and heritage as a Jewish Pharisee, a scholar and leader of the highest order, but counted them all rubbish for the sake of the Gospel. Paul did not boast in his accomplishments; he boasted in Christ.

At the same time, Paul was keenly concerned with bad influences creeping in to the little pockets of believers that Paul oversaw and nurtured. We see this concern in most of his letters, including the letter to the Philippians, which I have been reading the last couple of days. Paul says in Philippians 3:2-7:

“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by [in] the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

This got me wondering: Who might Paul be talking about today?

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Of Kings, the Gospel and Political Expediency

January 16, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 55708003 Copyright: prometeus

Over the weekend, I posted a simple message on Facebook: presidents don’t say things like that. I am referring to the “sh*thole nations” statement of course. That simple post spawn hundreds of comments, and many of the comments were from Christians defending Trump, or at least not denouncing what Trump might have said.

It is possible that Durbin mischaracterized what Trump said. It’s highly likely that Durban was motivated by his dislike of Trump and political purposes when he reported what he claimed Trump said. It’s possible Trump didn’t say those words, at least not exactly as they were reported. It doesn’t matter.

It’s one thing question the veracity of Durbin’s report, but it’s another thing to defend or overlook what was claimed to have been said.

I find the continued, unquestioning and undiscerning support for the president, no matter what he says or does, by the Christian community to be disturbing. Are we following Christ? Or are we following a political party? I can’t tell.

Some of the things that have been said include the following: 1) yeah but look at the good that he is doing; or 2) he’s not perfect, he’s a flawed human being;  or 3) other presidents have said much worse, and all presidents have said things in private meetings that they would not say in public. I am only repeating the most common statements. Let’s look at these things from a Gospel perspective.

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Donald Trump, Fruit and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

January 15, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 107970678 Copyright: docrob

Paul wrote to the believers in Phillipi:

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in the spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith.” (Philippians 1:27)

Paul’s earnest instruction to them was that their “manner of life” (conduct) be worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. The Greek word translated “manner” means, among other things, “recognized as fitting”.[1] Paul is talking about what we see in people, the outside appearances. In essence, Paul is saying let your conduct and the way people perceive you match the fruit of the spirit that is working within you.

The fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….”[2] Jesus warned about false prophets, adding that we would know them by their fruits.[3] Jesus said the world would know us by our love[4], which is the greatest of the fruits of the Spirit.[5]

In this context, how do we, as Christians, respond to the things that Donald Trump says and does? Why do we defend him? Why have we tied our destiny to him? Are we making a mistake?

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Distinctions Make All the Difference

December 22, 2017

Photo courtesy of Tyler Drendel

Ravi Zacharias has spoken to orthodox theological scholars of Islam and orthodox theological scholars of Christianity around the world. He speaks from experience when he says that those orthodox scholars who know the sacred texts do not say that the God of the Quran and the God of the Bible are the same deity. Pluralism is a positive and important cultural value, and we can value pluralism without sacrificing distinctions or truth.

We don’t embrace the beliefs of “Flat-earthers” in the name of pluralism. They are free to believe what they want to believe, but we shouldn’t let the flat earth position affect how we do science or how we view the world because of pluralism. An appreciation and respect for different cultures and ways of viewing and living in the world should not dictate an embrace of positions that are inherently contradictory with each other or compel us to abandon reason or truth.

In the clamor and noise of the connected world in which we live, we are tempted to minimize or ignore differences. We often only see a rudimentary and distorted view of things, and we are apt, therefore, to come to incomplete and inaccurate conclusions without a nuanced understanding of those things. We might be tempted to think that all major world religions are fundamentally geared in the same direction, being merely different approaches to the same end. We might be tempted to think that Christianity is a very politically orientated and conservative, western worldview that is arbitrarily exclusive and, therefore, elitist.

Ravi Zacharias grew up Hindu in a world in which Buddhism, Islam, and other religions were more prevalent than Christianity. His background lends some credibility to his observation that no religion offers redemption like Christianity does. Other world religions offer a way of attainment that must be earned. Christianity is unique in this respect in its view of God and our relation to God, and Christianity is uniquely accessible to all people in all places to the same extent.

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Integrity and Authenticity in Belief

December 8, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 13127659 Copyright: creatista

I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller lately. Today I listened to an old interview in which he said something that got me thinking. He asserted that, for many or most people, whether they are religious or secular often depends on their social influences. I suppose this would mean parents and family as well as peers. Richard Dawkins, the famously vocal atheist has said similar things: what religion we are depends to a large extent on the society in which we grew up.

Keller supported his thesis with anecdotal evidence from his own experience. He says, for him, he was religious initially because he wanted to gain the favor of people closes to him. What does that say about the power of social interactions? What does it say about our beliefs? If Richard Dawkins and Keller are right, how authentic are anyone’s beliefs?

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An Inkling of Transcendence: Lewis and Tolkien

October 8, 2017

Despoitphotos Image ID: 121201272 Copyright: chrisdorney

“[His] father had taught him to absorb doubt and disbelief into his beliefs.”

This statement from the book, Inklings, by Humphrey Carpenter, is spoken of Charles Williams, who was a regular participant in the informal discussion group, the Inklings, formed by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien at the University of Oxford, England. The group met at various times in Lewis’s classroom and a local pub from the late 1930’s to 1949. Charles Williams was an early member of the group and continued as a regular until his death in 1945. Williams grew up “a devout churchman” but was encouraged by his father “to appreciate the force of atheistic rationalism and to admire such men as Voltaire and Tom Paine”.

Lewis, of course, was an atheist when he arrived and began teaching at Oxford. His journey from materialism to agnosticism to Christian theism is chronicled in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. Tolkien was already a Christian when Lewis joined him as a professor at Oxford, and Tolkien influenced Lewis in his transition to Christianity. Williams came along later. These men were attracted to each other as much by their love of language, literature and poetry as their faith, though their views on literature and faith often diverged sharply.

These three men, and others who joined them, were powerhouses of thought and creativity. CS Lewis, of course, wrote many books from fiction to philosophy. JRR Tolkien wrote, perhaps, the greatest mythological series of the 20th century in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Charles Williams, though lesser known, was a prolific writer, literary critic, publisher and student of English literature who could recite hundreds of passages from sheer memory.

They influenced each other, despite their very distinct differences, and their collective influence has been felt by generations from their day to ours. They were Christian men, believing very authentically in the Bible as scripture, but they were also fierce academics who held their faith up to the rigors of intellectual exercise.

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Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

July 7, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 102795786 Copyright: monkeybusiness

This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.

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