A Progression from Law to Relationship

Posted July 28, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, eternal life, Law, Salvation

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A friend recently commented on an article I wrote about hypocrisy in which I referred to “God’s standard” without defining what that standard is. Of course, defining God’s standard of morality isn’t that easy. My friend made this point when he said:

“If you asked 100 self-proclaimed Christians, you will get 100 different answers. There are over 30,000 denominations of Christianity… all bible-based. The notion of a singular Christian ‘standard’ doesn’t really exist. Example… is killing ok?… I can find verses in the bible both for and against.”

He is right on a cursory level, though he overstates the proposition. The World Christian Encyclopedia puts the number of denominations at 33,000, of which there are “6 major ecclesiastico-cultural mega-blocs”.  I would venture to guess, however, that 100% of them hold that murder is wrong.

While we might have virtually universal agreement on some things, and “consensus” on other things (perhaps, killing in self-defense), nuances will generate different answers among those different denominations, and individual Christians as well. We don’t all agree on topics like killing in war, capital punishment, abortion, etc.

Some disagreements are doctrinal (infant baptism or adult baptism). Some of them are conduct related. (Is it ok for Christians to dance? drink alcohol? or smoke?) Should Christians tithe? What is the standard of tithing? Is homosexuality a sin? If I walk past a homeless man on the street begging for money and don’t give him anything, is that a sin?

Most Christians agree on the ten commandments, but disagreement grows from there. We may not agree on the details of “God’s standard”, but virtually all Christians would agree that God has a standard of morality, regardless of whether we agree on what it is.

Still, it’s a fair statement to say that we shouldn’t be so glib as to assume some universal set of rules to which all Christians ought to subscribe – at least a universal statement of rules that we confidently say is “the ” standard.

This got me thinking about morality from a Christian perspective, and it dawns on me that one of our failings is that we put too much emphasis on a set of standards that we can define. Yes, I think it is a failing, and I think Jesus would agree. Such a focus misses the point

According to a recent presentation by Ravi Zacharias, Moses gave us 613 laws. David summarized them in 15 laws. Isaiah reduced the summary to 11 laws. Jesus reduced everything in the Law and the Prophets down to just two principles. I haven’t researched these figures to confirm them, but the point is that there is a progression in the Scripture in respect to the law from an intricate set of very specific rules to summaries of the law that get simpler and simpler – culminating in just two principles.

I believe this progression from many, very specific laws to just two principles correlates to the progression God wants us to make from law to faith.

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When the Why Questions become Rhetorical

Posted July 26, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith, Materialism, Philosophy

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I am not sure that I am up to the task of writing what I want to write, but I’m going to attempt it anyway. These thoughts occurred to me as I was listening to Justin Brierley interviewed by David Smalley. Brierley hosts the British show, Unbelievable! on Premiere Christian Radio, while Smalley hosts the atheist counterpart, Dogma Debate.

Both men are cut from the same cloth in the sense that they usually host people with opposing views, and they do it in a refreshingly even-handed, civil manner, giving deference and respect to both “sides” and both individuals. They are shining examples of open, intellectual discourse. I much prefer the informal, civil discussion to the formality and contrary tone of a debate.

Much of their discussion focused on the “problem of evil”. If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does He allow bad things to happen to people? Either He isn’t all-good, or He isn’t all-powerful. This is the classic problem of evil. For David Smalley, the answer is either that “God doesn’t care, or God doesn’t exist”, and if God doesn’t care, then David Smalley concludes, “God isn’t worthy to be worshiped”.

Many very smart people, like Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, have run their faith aground on these rocky shores.

As the two men discussed their respective views, and as Smalley questioned Brierley (because Brierley was the guest of Smalley in this show), I listened with interest and some mild frustration and disappointment. To paraphrase (and very poorly, I’m afraid), Smalley repeatedly asked unanswerable questions, and Brierley repeatedly tried to answer them.

I don’t blame either man. This is the condition of our finite beings. How can we know what we don’t know? We have a lot of unanswerable questions and insufficient answers.

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The Imago Dei

Posted July 23, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Jesus

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When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment,” he said “the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul”. Ravi Zacharias notes that Jesus didn’t have to go any further. He had been asked what was the greatest commandment, and he answered the question, but he didn’t stop there. He offered a second greatest commandment, which is “to love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22:36-39)

Why did Jesus go further?

The significance of these two commandments that are the greatest of all, Ravi Zacharias says, is “that you and I are made in imago dei – the image of God. Moreover, this revolutionary idea, that we are created in the image of God, is unique to the Judeo-Christian worldview.

The point is further illustrated elsewhere in the same Chapter of Matthew in a confrontation between pupils of the Pharisees, who were sent to challenge Jesus by asking him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. They were trying to trap him with a question for which there was no good, politically correct, answer, but Jesus was not deterred by their ill will.

Rather, Jesus requested a coin. Someone produced a denarius (a Roman coin) for him. Ravi Zacharias describes the interchange that ensued this way.

“He held the coin out to [the man who gave it to him], and he said, ‘Whose image is on this?’ The man said, ‘Caesar.’ Jesus said, ‘Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and give to God that which belongs to God.’ The man should have had a follow up question, and the follow up question should have been, ‘What belongs to God?’ and Jesus would have said, ‘Whose image is on you?’”

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Christianity and Society’s Ills

Posted July 23, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Faith, History, Religion

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Heroes Square Budapest Hungary

A social media friend recently responded to a blog article I wrote, Are Christians Hypocrites, by asking whether I thought that “higher religious subscription correlated to fewer societal ills”. I think the answer is clearly, yes! (For a skeptic who agrees, see this dialogue on the podcast Unbelievable!) But I know what he was getting at. Intermixed with that “progress” in the Western world are deep grains of corruption and evil in which the Church was not only complicit, but intimately involved.

My friend is a skeptic and an atheist. He believes that the world is better off without religion. He is critical of Christianity, and let’s face it: “the Church” has created its share of societal ills!

People are often critical of Christians and Christianity with some basis in fact for its checkered past. Christians often view that history differently than non-Christians, but a candid person must admit that corruption in “the church” at different times in history is undeniable.

For skeptics, this vein of corruption running through the history of “the Church” spoils the whole thing, undermines the truth of Christianity and justifies their rejection of it and the God Christians profess. The fact that popular history focuses on that corruption, to the exclusion of all the good that Christianity has brought to the world, doesn’t negate the fact that such corruption exists.

When my friend posed his loaded question to me, I suspect that he sees a correlation between religion and societal ills, and I can’t deny it. But there is much more to the analysis. From my cursory perspective (I am no historical or ecclesiastical scholar), that corruption correlates strongly and directly with the “marriage” of church and state power. I think that Lord Acton was right: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When the church becomes intertwined with kings and kingdoms, the influences of power, wealth and all that goes with it colors the church. The church is inevitably corrupted by it.

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Are Christians Hypocrites?

Posted July 14, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Culture, Forgiveness, Gospel, Morality, redemption, Regeneration, Righteousness, Salvation

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The charge that Christians are hypocrites is an impediment for many people if you ask them about going to church or even becoming or considering themselves a Christian. According to Webster, a hypocrite is “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion” or “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings”. As a Christian, I take this charge seriously, and so I feel compelled to address it.

In this world of fake news, we seem to be on hyper alert to what is fake. If Christians claim to be virtuous or religious, but they act like everyone else, most people would consider them “fake”. If Christians have ascribed to certain standards of morality and conduct, but don’t live up to those standards themselves, most people would call them hypocrites.

As I survey the Christians that I know and have known in my life, I find myself having to concede that Christians are guilty as charged. In fact, I need look no further than myself to come to that conclusion. I fail in my life on a regular basis to live up the standards I believe in.

The answer is clear and obvious, Christians are hypocrites.

We are religious. It isn’t a pretense, for most of us. We try to be virtuous. That usually isn’t a pretense either, but we fail to live up to the standards we hold out. There can be no doubt of that.

Calling Christians hypocrites is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s that easy. You literally can’t miss. But, that isn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot. It’s only the beginning.

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When Your King is a Child

Posted July 13, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Current Events

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“And I will make boys their princes, and infants [caprice] shall rule over them.” (Isaiah 3:4)

In the 2nd chapter of Isaiah, it starts out with a futuristic vision. Isaiah 2 provides a picture of God and his law and order being exalted above all other things, with God settling disputes, people beating  swords into plow shares, learning from God, worshiping God , and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore”. (Is. 2:3-4)  This is an Utopian dream.

When I was young in the 1960’s, I remember “flower children” protesting the Vietnam war and urging the world to live in peace. This is the same dream. It seemed so pure and simple. All we need is love.

Except, the 1960’s was also a tumultuous and chaotic time.  Drugs, violence, and free sex were the order of the day. Young people were challenging and throwing off moral conventions and religious convictions. Unlike the Isaiah’s Utopian vision, the 1960’s dream was a secular one.

I have seen the consequences of that societal upheaval throughout my life. Drugs have taken an untold toll in lives lost and wasted. The opiate and heroin epidemic of our current times is partially a product of opening Pandora’s pillbox in the 1960’s.

Violence is as much or more a part of our world today than it was in the 1960’s. We don’t live in peace with each other. Wars continue to rage. Neighbors continue to fight with neighbors. More Americans are killed in the City of Chicago, alone, than in foreign wars. But that is only a drop in the bucket. Multiply all the other crime-ridden cities in the US. That doesn’t even begin to count what is happening in other parts of the world.

Free sex has also taken its toll. More children live in single family households today than ever before. The scourge of aids has taken God knows how many lives in the US and around the world. Pornography threatens to undo the fabric of our society, warping the minds and hearts of children at young ages, objectifying women and sex and feeding a ruthless and insatiable underworld industry that preys on vulnerable people in our communities.

In Isaiah 2:7-8, after describing the Utopian vision, the prophet comes back to reality. Jerusalem and greater Judah in Isaiah’s day were far from the utopia he envisioned. Isaiah’s description of the people in his time could be aptly applied to the people in the United States in this time:

“Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”

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Following Jesus on Immigration

Posted July 11, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Culture, Current Events, Gospel, immigration, Justice, Love

Tags: , , , ,


“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law is transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point he has become guilty of all of it…. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:8-10, 12-13)

The immigration issues in the United States are much on everyone’s mind, if for no other reason than Donald Trump and media are making a big to do about it. Most thinking and empathetic people, however, have watched with some angst as the treatment of families and children crossing the border has brought a moral crisis to our daily awareness.

What should we do with these illegal immigrants and asylum seekers? How should we be treating them and handling the situation? As the videos, photos, stories and reports stream in day after day, we can’t help but notice what is going on and to react to it. How does a Christian respond to the immigration issues that face our country?

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