Monthly Archives: September 2012

There are a lot of bad sheperds and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christians who want to evangelize generally think it’s a simple matter of asking people “Have you heard about Jesus?” Frequently they have and the experience was horrifying.

A Cry For Justice

Many of our readers are not presently attending a local church, and we know why.  They have told us their stories of how they were rejected and further abused when they went to their church for help with an abusive spouse.  Here is the entire 34th chapter of Ezekiel.  I put it here as an encouragement to all of you who have been so sorely treated by the people who were supposed to protect you and lead you into green pastures beside still waters.  Read it and take hope!

Eze 34:1-31 The word of the LORD came to me: (2) “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? (3) You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter…

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Victims of all kinds of crime and violence hear much the same thing from “Christians” and I think this is a pretty good takedown.

A Cry For Justice

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, (27) and give no opportunity to the devil.

We had a discussion yesterday in our women’s study group about whether it is right or not for a Christian to ever be angry when they are sinned against.  That is to say, some people wondered if anger is ever appropriate when we ourselves are the victim.  Being angry when another person was victimized didn’t seem to be troublesome to anyone, but the idea of being angry when we personally are victimized seemed to be sinful in the thinking of some.  Someone said, “well, Jesus was angry when He drove the money changers out of the temple, so anger must not always be sinful.”  Someone else responded, “but we are not Jesus.”

Now, this much I do know.  If we tell abuse victims that…

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A Benediction for Cairo and Benghazi

“Hijo de trueno, caballero en carcel blanco, hijo de trueno, guianos y haznos vencer”

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Things That Are Said to be Christian, But Aren’t- Universalism and Antinomianism

Foseti questions Bruce Charlton’s linkage of Christianity and reaction. Jim weighs in.

The argument boils down to what is “really” Christianity. Charlton insists the current progressive cosmology is not Christian. Everybody else say since that’s what everybody thinks it is, it must be.

I think Charlton is right but since he doesn’t explain why, I will take a crack at it.

Christianity is concerned with the issue of who will be saved and how, that is what people God will admit to his presence and who will be condemned. Up until 1500, in the area of western Europe under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the answer was people who were members of the Church, did good, avoided evil, and received absolution. Since the Church had the sole discretion of granting absolution, it could also offer or withhold it based on various conditions. The most infamous were the indulgences, based on cash donations. Indulgences could be offered for other things like pilgrimages, but the request for cash is what rankled people the most.

Note that the Reformation is dated to the 95 Theses of Martin Luther. Other groups broke away from the Roman Catholic Church long before- the Cathars, the Waldensians, and the Hussites, and John Wycliffe. All these people were primarily concerned with issues of corruption and spiritual purity, which only a few really serious people care about. Receiving absolution however was necessary for church membership and social standing and avoiding Hell, so it was something most people cared about.

Christianity is not a simple and straightforward belief system. It balances a variety of things, but where that balance centers is a matter of constant debate. You can derive one idea from reading and emphasizing certain places, and another from reading and emphasizing other places. Christians are obligated to both do and believe certain things. Briefly Catholic and Orthodox Christians are doers and Protestant Christians are believers. Where the lines are drawn is a matter of theological dispute that only a small number of people really understand. Most real conflict among Christians has to do with authority, that is who you are going to listen to, and not theology.

Luther didn’t like the idea that one’s acceptance by God could be determined by what one did. He thought the Catholic clergy (of which he was a member) overemphasized “works” over “faith” and had corrupt reasons for doing so. His conclusion was that salvation was obtained by faith alone and not from works or sacraments administered by the Catholic Church. Every believer was a priest.

This led to an explosion of theology and new belief systems. The important thing for our discussion is that the question of “Who is acceptable to God? Who is good?” that had been more or less settled for around 1000 years, had been opened up again. Old answer- well-behaved members of the Catholic Church in good standing. New Lutheran answer- people who had faith in Jesus Christ. New Calvinist answer- people chosen by God solely at his discretion, evidence of which would be they are well-behaved members of a Calvinist church in good standing. (Not the other way around. This is really important.)

These answers didn’t satisfy everybody though. After all, you’re just exchanging one limited group for another. Didn’t God create all people? Must they not all then have some divine spark, some divine nature, even if at some moment they aren’t showing it? The Quakers came up with the doctrine of the Inner Light, and modern Quakers take this idea to mean all people are loved by God and will be saved. The Wikipedia article indicates there is some dispute over whether this is a true original Quaker teaching but it seems to me obvious that it must be, or it would be an experience of God no different from any other Christian experience. Quakers get and the Cathars got this “Divine Spark” from the opening of the Gospel of John; but the Gospel of John as a whole is more Calvinist than anything else. Jesus makes it clear in John chapter 10 that some people belong to him, and some don’t. That is the farthest thing from universalism.

In reality this is an idea of classical philosphy; it’s found in Plato and Marcus Aurelius. The classical philosophers believed each human being, no matter their apparent intelligence or social rank, had a “divine spark” in them from their creation by the gods. But they didn’t think this meant every person was loved in the same way by the gods.

Let’s say however that we have decided because God is love, he loves everybody, condemns no one and welcomes everyone. The idea that we need to behave has been discarded; we probably don’t even need to believe, because what is that anyway? Following any set of rules is surely superfulous. Since people are saved by God’s love, as expressed in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the laws set out in the Bible are no longer applicable, at least to Christians. This came quickly to be known as “antinomianism” and Luther strongly refuted it, but it is clearly and strongly implied in his theology. The apostle Paul writes in his letters that Christians are saved through a process of grace initiated by Christ, and not through their adherence to Old Testament law; he also repeatedly refutes that believers are free to do anything.

The idea that people behaving wrongly are not evil but simply misinformed and misguided again comes from classical philosophy. Both Marcus Aurelius and Boethius (the second a Christian) admonished against hating evildoers, on the basis that they were simply ignorant.

These disputes are the fodder for millions of pages of closely spaced, tightly woven arguments. What is clear though is that two ideas of modern, liberal society- that everyone is inherently good and has value and that behavior is not a matter of good or evil but simply correct education and guidance, come from disputing and questioning Christian beliefs but are not actually themselves Christian. Nonetheless, liberal Christian beliefs in general- Quakerism, Methodism, liberal Baptist, Presbyterian and Lutheran denominations, are all based on these ideas, whether they acknowledge them or not.

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I’ve got a lot of things I want to say about unconditional forgiveness and restorative justice, but this is much in the same vein.

A Cry For Justice

Acts 20:28-30 ESV (28)  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29)  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30)  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Years ago when I was a brand new sheriff’s deputy, I was assigned to guard a prisoner in a hospital.  In a fit, he had smashed his hand into a concrete wall at the jail and had to have surgery.  He later, in another tantrum,  pulled the surgical wiring out and the surgeon told him he was just going to have to live with a crippled hand!

While I was guarding him, we handcuffed him…

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