Posted tagged ‘Religion’

Ritual, Spirit and Truth

April 15, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 23471738 Copyright: ChiccoDodiFC

I was raised Catholic. I say that often. Not that it is a bad thing. It’s just my experience. During my time in the Catholic church, through my childhood and early adulthood, I had no connection with God. I can’t lay the blame for that at the feet of the Catholic Church. That was just where I was.

When I became a Believer, when I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, my life changed. I also began to see the Catholic Church in a different light. I was never into the ritual and observance, which is a major component of the Catholic Church. Not that other denominations and religions don’t have central religious rituals. All religions have ritual observances and traditions.

Those ritual observances and traditions are not, in themselves, bad, but they can create a facade that hides emptiness, darkness and sin. They can create an appearance of piety with no spiritual reality behind them. They can be more superstitious than spiritual, like stroking a rabbits foot for good fortune. In these and other ways, ritual observances can become a substitute for relationship with God.

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Spirit and Truth vs. Self-Made Religion

January 28, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 91001324 Copyright: carlosyudica

In a previous blog article, I talked about the shadow of things to come. Paul says that following rules and observing religious ritual is just a shadow of things to come. Later in the same chapter in Colossians, Paul explains in more detail what he is getting at. When we are focused only on the do’s and the don’ts and on observing religious rituals, we are focused on the wrong things.

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle,  Do not taste,  Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

Paul isn’t advocating that followers of Christ abandon self-discipline and self-control and do whatever they like. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2) But, following Jesus doesn’t mean stepping up religious observances and following rules and regulations more closely. The focus on rules and rituals entirely misses the point.

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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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Rejecting the Right God

October 5, 2017

Depositphotos mage ID: 46970151 Copyright: JanMika

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God. They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right one.

Not all gods are created equal. The Christian concept of God is not on a par with Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to say the very least.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods and, therefore, have spent no time studying or considering them. The ignorance is more willful then due to any lack in ability to understand.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

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Religious Pluralism Sounds Nice, but Is It True?

January 8, 2017

One expression of pluralism is the idea that all truth claims are equally valid. (Pluralism doesn’t necessarily require this.) So does that include the truth claim that all truth claims are not equally valid? Think about it. This expression of pluralism that is quite popular today is already in trouble right from the start.

Religious pluralism is “the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence”.

Religious pluralism sounds nice, and the motives for wanting to believe in religious pluralism are largely nobles ones. The idea of religious pluralism is born out of a desire for unity, respect for others and harmony, but does it hold water?

That we want religious pluralism to be true doesn’t mean it is true. We would like for gravity not to be “true”, especially while climbing a ladder, but wishing it so does not make it so.

My thoughts today are spurred on by a presentation by Vince Vitale on religious pluralism. You might want to listen to what he has to say about it before or after considering my thoughts.[i] He addresses several bad assumptions and several good desires that lead to pluralism. I only address two of the three assumptions here.

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The Jesus We Meet in the Gospels

September 13, 2016

I didn’t want to read the NY Times article, What Religion Would Jesus Belong To, by Nicholas Kristof.[1] As I suspected, when I read it, the article was devoid of a deep understanding of Christianity, and Christianity is lumped together with the other religions of the world. I don’t know the depth of the author’s understanding of Christianity, but it didn’t show in the article (though he claims a conservative Christian background).

The problem is that the article makes a good point, and I shouldn’t be so reluctant to admit it.

American churches don’t reflect “the Jesus we met in the Gospels”. Never mind that the author’s proof is another NY Times article complaining of the Christians of the Republican Party.[2] The author seems to equate Jesus with the current moral landscape, as if Jesus would condone it, rather than the modern church; but the modern church doesn’t reflect the Jesus we meet in the Gospels either. (more…)

An “Other” View of Christianity

January 10, 2016
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

I began my college career with a World Religions class that exposed me to the major world religions. My professor boasted a Christian upbringing and background, but he was more of a universalist than a Christian in his theology and philosophy. The class focused more on the religions other than Christianity than Christianity, partly, I suppose, because most people sitting in a World Religion class in a small liberal arts college in Iowa already were acclimated to Christianity.

Western Civilization was another class I took. Western civilization, not surprisingly, dominates and colors most of the history of American thought since the United States is predominantly an extension of Greek, Roman and western European philosophy and ideology. My Jewish religion professor put that in context for me one day in a class on the Old Testament when he asserted that Judaism has roots in Eastern religion and civilization. (I was a thesis away from being a religion major.)

I will not repeat the context or expand on the details of that proposition. I have forgotten most of the details anyway. The take away I want to chew on with this piece is that we make assumptions about religion and the world based on how we have been acculturated and “indoctrinated” by our culture. Listening to the perspectives of “others” provides us valuable, different perpectives, even on the things with which we are familiar (like Christianity).

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