Posted tagged ‘law’

A Progression from Law to Relationship

July 28, 2018


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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Shadow of Things to Come

January 25, 2018

Photo by Beth Drendel

I’ve been reading through the Bible slowly from Genesis to revelation. This is something I have not done in many years. I have taken some sidetracks and rabbit hole excursions along the way, but I am still plodding forward.

It’s amazing that circumstances of life arise from time to time of which the particular passage I am reading comes to bear on those circumstances. This is the case in a poignant way in regard to a conversation I had with a very close friend recently.

We were talking about the Catholic Church and a very bad experience that someone very close to both of us had being raised by strict parents in a strict Catholic school setting. I was also raised Catholic, though my experience differed from his. I didn’t go to parochial school, and I didn’t experience the strictness of the Catholic Church like he did, though I certainly saw evidence of it.

In my friend’s case, the strictness and severity he experienced bordered on abuse. I don’t know the details, but his reactions to things religious suggests he might have some degree of PSTD as a result of his experiences.

I don’t mean to pick on the Catholic Church. I have seen the same “spirit” evident in other denominations as well. Certain Baptists and Pentecostals and people we might label “fundamentalists” or other labels have exhibited a similar spirit as the Catholics in the focus on do’s and don’ts and religious rituals practiced in front of foreboding audiences. The Westboro Baptist Church is a very extreme example of the legalism and dogmatism I am talking about.

In the context of this conversation and these thoughts, I read these words the very next day that were penned by Paul the Apostle about two millennia ago:

Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival our new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come,  but the substance is in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

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God’s Righteousness for My Righteousness

September 7, 2017

Photo by Tim Butterfield

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved for I bear them witness that they have a Zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:1-4)

Paul is speaking to the Romans of the Jews, but this message could apply to anyone who seeks to establish his own righteousness and does not submit to God’s righteousness. Paul had a particular authenticity to be able to say this about the Jews, because they were his people. He was one of them. He was not just Jewish, but trained as a Pharisee by the greatest of the contemporary teachers of the time and zealous for the Jewish law to the point of persecuting the followers of Christ (Phil. 3:6) – before he was confronted by the living, resurrected Jesus.

Paul knew something of the righteousness of his former life and of the righteousness of the Jews in his time. Their righteousness consisted of zealously keeping the law. The Pharisees, the protectors keepers of the law, were the people with whom Jesus had the harshest confrontations. He accused them of imposing impossible burdens on others, burdens that they, themselves, didn’t even keep. Primarily, though, they were attempting to establish their own righteousness in reference to the law.

Anyone who seeks to establish his own righteousness, by virtue of that fact, does not submit to God’s righteousness. (more…)

How Can God Judge Good People: the Problem

February 22, 2016

If good people do not believe in God, how can a good God send them to Hell? If God is good, as Christians claim, how can a good God judge good people? This is a perplexing question to many people.

Some of the difficulty comes from the question itself. The question assumes, as frankly most of us do, that goodness is the standard to “get into Heaven”. There certainly is good reason for that assumption. Christians are always talking about sin and morality. So, let’s take a deeper look at. Is that really what is going on?

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When Words Become Fact

October 17, 2013

Facts in Speech BubbleTo start this post, I need to begin by apologizing for focusing on politics. That is not the focus I want to have, but the current federal government “shutdown” dominates the news and, therefore, is hard to ignore.

For a little perspective, the government “shutdown” effects about 17% of the federal government operations. No, I did not take the time to fact check that statistic. (“Fact check” is the proper verb, isn’t it?) Please be my guest to correct me if you determine I am wrong. In fact, I have spent an enormous amount of my time trying to fact check many things that are being bandied about by the pundits, commentators, politicians and just about anyone who can post to Facebook. Fact checking in midst of the swirling and diametrically opposed assertions is difficult.

It does not seem to matter much anyway. I do not see anyone changing their minds when “facts” are tossed out that, if true, ought to make a reasonable person stand up and take notice. Maybe that is due to the fact that everyone makes statements that they assume are facts, without spending the time to vet (to use a cool poltical term) those assumptions; and, therefore, we all know that the “facts” tossed wildly about by our political opposites are only as realiable as the “facts” we our selves have carelessly stated. No one is to be believed.

It seems like most discussion is no more than hot air. I am not sure people even connect with each other any more. Maybe we never did.

Facts become words and words become facts, and it all becomes just another point of view.

Words do have meanings though, and the manipulation of words can have a real effect on the law, on health care and on real people. Take the recent article in Forbes published on September 29, 2013: “Why The Federal Government Wants To Redefine The Word ‘Cancer’” This article demonstrates how changing the definition of a word, can change the law, changing whether someone may be covered by health care insurance and whether someone gets treatment that might save a life. When “the government” can manipulate a word like “cancer” to change how a law applies, we should take notice.

When words have connections like that, we all reason to be concerned. In fact, maybe there is more to the debate than I skeptically thought.

Regardless of the veracity of the facts that are being leveraged by both sides of the political equation to fight the current battle over health care, government shutdowns, spending and debt ceilings, the truth of those assertions will eventually give way to words that are passed into law. Those words will become our reality, regardless of any other facts.

A View from a Different Angle: Journalism, Law, Children & the Internet

June 6, 2013

Thought


I just read an interview with an award winning photojournalist and journalism school professor who was laid off by the Chicago Sun-Times in the newspaper’s scramble to respond to the threat of Internet competition. The interview can be read at the Daily Dot. The situation and many of the statements made in the interview struck a chord with me that I will attempt to play out in a different direction below.

I am an attorney. Changes are occurring in the practice law like they are in the field of journalism and elsewhere as a result of the ubiquitous Internet. The layoff of all of the photographers at the Sun-Times exposes a deeper root growing out of the burgeoning success of the Internet that I want to explore. It has application to the practice of law, and it has application to our children and future generations. (more…)


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