Saturday, March 21, 2015
Friday, March 20, 2015
Today, we are reminded that, even as we live in the world among sinful people so that they might experience God's truth and love through us, we are not to join in sinful activity or become advocates of actions that displease God. When we leave the saltshaker to enhance and preserve this world, we must remain salty.Amen!
leading salt saltiness
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.”It caused me to reflect on the fact of how little I hear the Proverbs thrown around in church and how often I ought to. These little nuggets of wisdom, if not ignored altogether, are treated little different than Poor Richards Almanac - quaint, perhaps even "truthy," but hardly life changing.
This fact is, I think, reflective of the state of what passes for the gospel these days. It is wonderful to hear, and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy and safe, but it does not challenge us. That is in turn reflective of our greater culture. No longer do we challenge. Challenges are for special people that we watch on TV.
And yet, what is the Christian Life if not a challenge? We seek to imitate Christ whose life was nothing but a challenge. He had to tolerate idiot disciples and being put to death by evil. That is the life we are called to.
I can think of no better challenge to start with than to read the Proverbs and attempt to make them real. They require no advanced degree to understand; they are too plain spoken for that.
Read them, live them.
Christian Life Proverbs challenges
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Religion and Society
For all these reasons, I agree with the writer James Martin when he says that "spirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community". But then Martin is a Jesuit, and so of course he wants those wishy-washy spiritual believers to sign up to his organised faith.Interesting approach, is it not? Here's what I think - he has made the second best approach. The traditional approach is best, but if that is going to fail you, you ought still consider religion as a necessary social device.
Whereas my biggest problem with SBNR is the opposite. It's that it often retains the mumbo-jumbo, aspects of religion. People have rejected the shelf with the ready-made religious beliefs, and gone straight around the corner to the pick'n'mix shop to buy a more or less random set of beliefs which are, if anything, even more incredible. Many people who are spiritual but not religious reject the organisation but hang on to the supernatural bit. But I don't want to be required to have faith in a supreme being or miracles or reincarnation, or any entity for which there is no scientific evidence.
So, that makes me a humanist then? Not at all. Because don't we have four options?
This last choice works best for me.
- We can be religious and spiritual - which is the traditional faith approach
- We can be spiritual but not religious - which is the new age pick and mix approach
- We can be humanist - which is neither religious nor spiritual
- Or, perhaps, we can be religious but not spiritual
The word "religion" is thought to derive from Latin "religare", to bind or connect. I think that sense of a connection is the key point. Religion offers a bond between individuals and it helps them form a connection to the wider universe. The great French sociologist Emile Durkheim differentiated between belief, which was private, and religion, which was social.
Now here's what I really know - the church, deeply, deeply flawed though it is, is a place where God works. God works even if we are there for purely social reasons. (Provided, of course,the church has not gone so far off the rails that God has left the building.) Sometimes, perhaps even ofttimes, being religious leads to being spiritual.
This dear friends is why the social erosion of church matters so much. Yes, we can build a truly secular society if we desire, ugly though it may be. But we will have to work so much harder at building new Christians.
Some might remark hat they will be better Christians having had to pass through a refining fire of adversity. Hogwash. There is enough adversity in any situation to refine one's faith. No, all a secular society really means is that people will grab for different errant crap when they choose to do so.
It is silly as a Christian to welcome adversity. Even Christ in Gethsemane wished for it not to be so. If we can avoid, should we not?
Just something to think about as the nominally Christian society of America fades, but might still be resurrected.
faith religion society
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Why not become Anglican? some have asked since I laid out a case for “Reformational Catholicism” at the forum on the future of Protestantism at Biola University last month. Anglicans, they tell me, already have what I want. Others wonder why I stay in a “sectarian” Presbyterian denomination. Others ask, Why not drop the “Reformational” and become just “Catholic”?That goes a long way towards describing a lot of my issues, but to it, I would add one more - POLITY.
Thanks to all, but no thanks. I’ll stay put, as long as they’ll have me. I have pragmatic reasons for staying put. If I were to move into a new ecclesiastical world, I’d have to pick my way through a new, bewildering landscape, pocked with unknown landmines. I’d have to figure out all over again who my friends are, and my enemies. Even pragmatic reasons aren’t entirely pragmatic. As James Buchanan put it, the status quo isn’t decisive, but it does have ethical weight.
My main reason for staying put is theological. God is alive, and that means he surprises, and that means he frustrates the silly projections of creatures who can’t see past the horizon. Jesus will unite his church. He asked his Father to make his disciples one, and the Father won’t give his Son a stone when he asks for one loaf. But the united church won’t look like any of the products presently on the market. God is an entrepreneur who is in the business of creating new markets.
I have additional reasons for staying contentedly on the Wittenberg/Geneva side of the Tiber and to the West of Constantinople. For all my profound admiration for Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and for all the vibrant renewal in those churches, I continue to have standard, biblically grounded Protestant objections to Purgatory, to Marian doctrines, the Papacy, and icons, as well as lingering puzzlement about ambiguities concerning justification and the role of tradition. Though both are crucial to the future of Christianity, neither Roman Catholicism nor Orthodoxy is the Church of the future.
There are churches that align with the Presbyterians theologically (although it could readily be said that Presbyterians no longer have a theological core, I am looking at this from an historical perspective) and navigating a new church is not really that hard, but what is truly unique about Presbyterians s their form of government. It is, I believe, God inspired. It has been horribly abused, but that is not the fault of the system it is the fault of those of us operating it. Properly executed it balances the perversions that come from one person being able to declare God's will (something the Catholics and Pentecostals share) against the chaos and cultural ineffectiveness of serious congregationalism or whatever the hell it is Baptists do.
My only concern is that Presbyterians have become so bad at doing this stuff that it may get lost forever.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Judgement and Justification
We so badly want to appease everyone, that many Evangelical Christians mistake Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” to mean accommodate sin so as not to offend. Well-intentioned or not, I fear Evangelicals have confused being non-judgmental with justification and affirmation.I could not agree more. And what really bothers me about this trend is how it cheapens grace. Without and understanding of sin, what need is there for grace and at that point Christianity simply becomes a banner for "Feed the Poor."
Mind you, I’m not just talking about hot button issues like same-sex marriage or even abortion. In far too many churches that I have visited, simply words like “Hell,” “sin,” and “transformation” are avoided because they invoke negative connotations with the Gospel.
Hear me loud and clear: I am not endorsing mean-spirited criticisms, insults, and discrimination within the Church. Christ was clear on judgment. But he was also clear on righteously rebuking and turning away from sinfulness. (See John 8:3-11)
Talking this week with a local pastor, I was introduced to the stark reality of socially accepted Jesus. Nathan Knight is the pastor of Restoration Church, a relatively new church plant in a Northwest neighborhood of Washington D.C. Pastor Knight said that contemporary urban culture “loves gentle Jesus. They love traditional nice good teacher Jesus. They love tolerant Jesus. They don’t love judgmental Jesus.”
The church is here to fix the world, really and truly, but the great news of the Gospel of Christ is that the process starts by fixing us. Yet we act as if there is nothing wrong with us, it's just the world that needs fixing.
Don't know about you, but I need fixing.
gospel grace judgement