Dangerous Patriotism

This week over at: http://lovegodwithallyourmind.wordpress.com/

jesus-flag1

Before I begin this post allow me to present a bit of a disclaimer: I love my country, I support the military, I wear camo, I have guns, and I even listen to country music. I say this to preface what I am about to write that may cause offence for some. It is not my goal or intent to be offensive rather; my aim is to cause you to think about the role religion plays in your life as a patriot. It is unfortunate that the timing of this post lines up perfectly with a patriotic holiday.
Tuesday is Veterans Day; a day in which our nation will celebrate our troops both past and present. This day has new found importance for me since my brother will soon be shipping off to Japan, as an Airman in the United States Air Force. Undoubtedly, churches across the country today made a special tribute to the troops. These tributes may have included testimonies, a formal procession, patriotic songs, and the obligatory “Pledge of Allegiance.” While the red-blooded American that I am wants to jump and shout “Git R Dun!” My Christian identity plays the trump card, and I am left in a difficult predicament: Do I shamelessly take part in the patriotic elements during a service that is supposed to be geared toward the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or do I stand in juxtaposition and prophetically declare the patriotic elements and symbols as idolatry?
I have struggled with this question for some time, and have recently been exposed to a large amount of discussion surrounding the concept of American Exceptionalism. The way I see it; the Church in America is walking a fine line between appreciation and idolatry of our country. Christianity is not synonymous with America; Christianity transcends national, ethnic, and cultural boarders. I have met Christians from Honduras, Canada, Scotland, Japan, China, Indonesia, Korea, Russia, Ukraine, and I am sure I missed some. My point is there seems to be a propensity for Americans, in the name of patriotism, to use God as the reason for America’s world-wide influence. If this is the case Honduras would not be a politically volatile country, Russia and Ukraine would be friends, and China would not have a state approved version of Christianity.
Understand, I believe it is not only permissible, but should be encouraged, to show thanks for the men and woman who fight for our country during a special church service, and here is why: without the sacrifices of the men and women of the armed forces I would not have the freedom to worship as my convictions lead me. Or, to play off the above paragraph; if the American armed forces do not fight for America she will become as volatile and unstable as a Latin American country, there will be violent disagreements with bordering neighbors, and eventually the likelihood of a state approved form of Christianity is almost certain.
To bring this discussion full-circle and address my earlier predicament; I thank the military for preserving for me, the religious liberty that was founded at the beginning of America. That is, the freedom to worship who I want, how I want (within reason), when I want, and where I want. I pay special attention to the risk of idolatry when it comes to overt patriotism, and I prophetically call it when I see it. As a Christian, I can certainly see some trends that make me a bit uneasy, but as an American I proudly say I love this country.

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Influence of Experience

This week over at http://lovegodwithallyourmind.wordpress.com/:
BlackWhite

I tend to be very black and white in the way I look at things; there seldom are any gray areas with me. As you can imagine, this can make communicating quite difficult at times. Instead of patience, compassion, and understanding I tend to be more immediate, matter-of-fact, and apathetic; this is greatly to my detriment, and I understand that. I look at facts, because facts do not lie. Facts are the building blocks of truth, right? Unfortunately, the answer to this question contains some gray areas…
In a recent conversation with my mother I made the statement, “emotions often distort reality.” Emotions can be synonymous with experiences in this case. For me, my experiences have caused me to look unsympathetically at others hardships. That is because I have experienced some times of great hardship in my life, and if I can figure it out so can you. Here is the catch; what might be hard times for me might be living in luxury for someone else. It is in this that I have come to understand truth can be relative at times. Reality can be contingent on experiences on occasion. The reality of “hardship” is contingent on one’s ability to address adversity, propensity to tackle problems head-on, socio-economic factors, ect… Because these variables are dependent on the individual and their situation, it is difficult to place a constant on what can be defined as a hardship.
While I still stand by my statement, I begrudgingly understand not everything has to be an absolute. This is where I acknowledge the influence of personal experiences. As it pertains to a worldview, ones experiences determine a lot. Consider my friend Ted. Ted was raised in a divorced home. His dad left his mother, and ran off with his secretary, when Ted was 11. Ted’s mom remarried a man who drank a lot and would become quite aggressive at times. When Ted was 17, his best friend was killed in a car crash. Ted is now in his late 20’s, he has a child who he never sees, and is five years into a 20 year prison term. Ted wants nothing to do with God. Let me be clear, Ted’s belief in God is not the issue; rather Ted does not want a relationship with a God who can allow all this bad to happen to him. For Ted, his experiences have convinced him that God does not love him, and in fact hates him. Ted’s worldview has clearly been shaped by his experience, and you and I are the same. We all have things in our life that dictate the way we look at things; experiences have profound influence on our lives.
Is Ted’s view towards God rational? Certainly not, but it is the direct outcome of his life experience. Just as no one can undo the harm that has been done to him in his life, but neither can anyone undo the poor choices he has made. While Ted’s belief towards God is irrational, it is still dictated by his life experiences. As much as I want to rationalize things into black and white categories for my friend, I cannot negate the influence of his experience. While facts are certainly objective, unless there is a way to standardize life experiences, we have to be satisfied with experiences being subjective.

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Plurality of Christianity

This week over at lovegodwithallyourmind.wordpress.com:
chickenhell

Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” This is a non-negotiable aspect of Christianity; in fact denial of this fundamental truth is disqualification for the faith, right? Sire mentions a plurality within a worldview, which got me thinking about some things. Is it bad for there to be plurality within a worldview, and what are some of the outcomes of such?
As a very conservative Christian, I am convinced by Scripture of several things: woman should not preach, speaking in tongues is only in order of there is an interpretation, divorce disqualifies for aspects of ministry, Jesus is God’s son and the only answer to sin, and there is a real hell created for Satan and his demons, but is also the punishment due those who refuse the gift of salvation. Within this list there are items that are open handed and closed handed issues. Open meaning, we can disagree but still maintain fellowship; closed meaning, this is a nonnegotiable requirement for fellowship. I can disagree, discuss, and debate on the outcome of divorce, speaking in tongues (along with other gifts), a woman’s role in the church, and Jesus died for the world or only the elect. These discussions, as long as being had in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17, can be profitable for further thought and meditation. These are good things, without some challenge on these things I may become stagnate in my ability to articulate these aspects of my faith. Things that are closed to debate are a literal hell and who will be there, the deity and ministry of Jesus, and requirements for salvation. These can be interesting to entertain differing aspects of these beliefs, but overt denial of these truths is without a doubt unacceptable.
Outside of my conservative evangelical paradigm there are other brothers and sisters in the faith that disagree with me on many things; these saints are Presbyterian, Methodist, Nazarene, and many others. The joy is, even though we may disagree on some of the open handed issues, we can still agree on the fundamentals of the faith, and in that we enjoy fellowship. Sadly, there are those outside the fold of evangelical Christianity that assert false views on Scriptural teachings. Peter (along with Jude) warns us about these false teachers and the heresy they profess. I am reminded of the emergent church, led by Rob Bell that denies a literal hell. I can recall with great clarity, a conversation I once had with a good friend about the Bible, he only believes the words of Jesus to be worth obeying; in that, he denies the plenary inspiration if the Bible. I have had discussions with people who believe all one has to do is be a good person to get into heaven, and that is all that is required for a Christian is to believe in God, yet this seems to go against what James says in chapter two of his epistle.
I was drawn to this discussion about plurality within a worldview because at the end of the day there are aspects of every worldview that are unknown; Sire calls these the subjective aspects. It is important for us to remember the word subjective is not evil. It is ok for there to be a reasonable amount of debate surrounding ones worldview. I believe it is in the challenging of what we believe that we are able to believe it with more confidence.

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Anthropology of a Worldview

This week over at http://lovegodwithallyourmind.wordpress.com/:

islamophobia

James Sire presents an interesting concept in chapter six; he mentions in passing, the effects of a worldview on a people group. He illustrates a Hindu family from India vs. that same family in America and presents the possibilities of many “rebellions” against the family’s cultural worldview. In my opinion, Sire left open-ended what would be a worthwhile to parse out in this chapter, that is the role of culture on ones worldview. The culture of a family, the culture of a country, and the culture of a religion all shape an individual’s worldview. Ultimately, why do you believe what you do? Are you thinking freely, or are you being molded by culture?
Let’s examine the culture of a family first; I was raised as a Christian, from the earliest memories I can only recall being a Christian, or at least having a Christian worldview. My mom’s side of the family is traditional Mennonite Brethren, and is very devout. In fact, if I go to a family get together, there will likely be 90 year old women who will still wear an apron and a bonnet, and men with the half beard. We begin every family meal by singing a doxology, and usually led in prayer by one of the uncles. This side of the family is very proper, they keep the top button done up all the time. On the other hand, my dad is the son of Christian & Missionary Alliance missionaries. My dad grew up on the mission field, and my grandparents continued to be full-time missionaries to South East Asia until about the year 2000, and still reflect much of the culture they lived in for some 40+ years. As you can see, from the beginning I was going to be influenced in the way of some evangelical faith system. For me, I grew up with a presupposed position of there being a God, and the God was the God of the Bible. This was never questioned by me as I formed my worldview. That is, until my early 20’s when in rebellion I began questioning the validity of this system. Through my questioning I became convinced I was always on the right track, and held firm to my conservative evangelical beliefs. I say this to demonstrate the role of the family’s culture has on an individual’s worldview.
Next, allow me to address the culture of a country (or nationality); the culture of a people group tends to dictate the worldview of that people group, this is a major thrust of anthropology. Examine much of Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia and you will find these areas dominated by worldviews that hold to Islamic leanings. A look at South East Asia will provide worldviews dominated by Buddhism, among other eastern mystical teachings. A glance at Russia and much of Europe will provide worldviews dominated by atheistic thought (naturalism). A look at the western world will show a worldview that can be argued is more evangelical (unfortunately a convincing argument can be made this is quickly changing). My point is a worldview is dictated by the geographical location and culture of that location.
Lastly, and as a conclusion to this progression, the culture of a religion; I just briefly presented two different cultural paradigms that form a worldview, that of the family and the country. In pointing these out I hope you will notice the progression this makes, the family is located in the country, and the country typically is a hub of a specific religion, therefore the countries predominate religion tends to be the religion of the family. This can have a profound impact on the people of each of these sub cultures. Take for example, a 19 Muslim female who lives in a traditional Muslim family who reside in New York City. This young lady has been brought up in the religious/family culture of Islam, and this has shaped her worldview for her 19 years of life, but she lives in America; the land of the free and the home of the brave. She begins to desire an education, she desires to live a life like the girls she sees riding the subway, and she desires a little freedom to ask questions about her religion. Sadly, all these things are fiercely forbidden, and are grounds for execution via Sharia Law in the Muslim countries; but in America these things will result in her being disowned and abandoned by her family.
So here is the question worth asking; what do you believe and why do you believe it? Are you dictated by any of the three sub-cultures I present? Have you actually sat down and processed your beliefs? Have you challenged them, scrutinized them, been open to others? Or, have you blindly walked behind those who went before you? From experience, it is in examining ones worldview that you can take ownership in it and in taking ownership in your worldview you can pave the way for others following you to do the same. The best part of this process for me is that I have become more convinced than ever before that my Christian worldview is the true worldview, and would challenge anyone to disprove me.

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The Mind of the Church

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Transformed-by-the-Renewing-of-Your-Mind

Is the church doing enough for the people in the pew’s week in and week out? Has the church relegated itself to preaching on Sundays and a Bible study on Wednesdays? Is there enough discipleship to help the members grow in every aspect of their Christian walk? Or, has the church failed in many aspects of its duty to train the Christian for the long race ahead of them? I will give the church the benefit of the doubt on this one, and say it has done its job, that is until recent years. I could present dates, stats, and theories; or I could simply have you examine your own church.

Does your church have a new believers/members class aimed at those new the faith and the church? These courses are designed to come alongside those who are less knowledgeable about their faith. Also, they help the common members know why the church they are members at believe what it believes. These classes have the potential to open a whole new dynamic to the individual, who never would have otherwise would have explored them.

Does your church teach basic Biblical evangelism methods? Is there a class that teaches your members how to effectively present the Gospel of Christ to a non-believer? These classes not only get the local church to engage in local outreach, they also provide an additional avenue of factual knowledge surrounding Scripture. These courses are enjoyable and easy to teach, and it gets a combination of young and old together to teach, learn, and encourage one another.

What do you do if someone says to you during an evangelistic encounter, “I don’t believe in God?” Has your church prepared you for that conversation? This conversation is one that is necessarily outside the Bible. Using a source that simply declares God to prove His existence is circular. This is where it is vital for every believer to have the intellectual capabilities to engage in a conversation of this philosophical genre. I do not mean to say that every believer must be a polished philosopher, but being able to articulate the philosophical foundation for the hope that is in you. Reader, have you the skills to engage a true skeptic?

I present these questions as a challenge to everyone who may read this; faith is necessary, but do not be so quick to dismiss the value of intellectual processing. It is good for you to engage your faith from an intellectual standpoint. It is good to regularly evaluate where you stand on the things of God. Walking through your faith blindly will get you to the end prize, but you will miss so much on your way to glory. You will miss the opportunity to be an effectual witness to skeptics, you will miss the joys of being able to articulate a confusing premise surrounding Christianity, and you can miss the opportunity to lead a lost loved one to salvation. Dear friends, and readers, the goal of the church is so much more than weekly preaching and potlucks. Oh yes, it is much greater than holiday socials and choir programs. The goal of the church is to be a beacon of light in a community that is in a lost world. The goal of the church should be to educate and equip members to go into the community and transform in from the inside. Every member should be charged as a missionary of the Gospel of Christ into the world weekly, and they should be adequately prepared to do so, until He returns. I end this by quoting Revelation 22:20 “AMEN!!! Come, Lord Jesus (emphasis added).”

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Tools of the Creator (Part Deux)

I just happened across a video this morning produced by Dr. W.L. Craig. Dr. Craig is a philosopher who specializes in theistic thought as well as cosmological argumentation for design by an intelligent creator. This six and a half minute video provides a good discussion of the precision with which the universe boasts of, and which I modestly addressed in my last entry. I hope you take a few minutes and let yourself be challenged to think things through a little bit. God gave you an intellect, use it to glorify, and glory in, Him.

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Tools of the Creator

The following is this weeks contribution to http://lovegodwithallyourmind.wordpress.com/:
scalpel1-1024x682
A scalpel is a medical tool consisting of a single razor sharp blade; which in the hands of an uneducated and untrained individual, can lead to anything but a positive outcome. When misused, this instrument that is intended to save lives can easily harm them, or even end them altogether. But when placed in the hands of an experienced surgeon, this potentially dangerous tool becomes an instrument of vitality. This utensil is capable of getting into the minutia of the human anatomy in order to remove cancer, alleviate pressure, and to aid the surgeon in exploring the various health concerns of a patient who is in need of life saving treatment.
It is necessary for this tool to be razor sharp, and nimble in the hands of the health professional. If a surgeon were to enter the O.R. and use a dirty butter knife, the level of precision would be less than that of my two year old trying to use a fork to eat supper with. The point; precision is necessary for life. In chapter eight Moreland addresses creation, more poignantly, design. In his conversation he presents the dichotomy between necessary and contingent (primary and secondary), as well as precision and chance. In this conversation he presents, if you will, a roulette style of thinking. That is, he presents the idea of playing the odds.
The idea of chance, as it pertains to design, is the counter argument for the one who maintains intelligent design for the origin of species (reference intended). Even more, the implementation of logical thinking is apparent. Is it plausible that everything you see right now is the product of chance? Yes it is. Unless you or I were there at the very beginning of the universe we have to admit to this being possible, however minute. The question then has to be; is it plausible the universe was established through the pleasing will of an all-powerful all-intelligent designer? By implementing the same line of reasoning one is obligated to agree with the chance that this is true. Once plausality is established the gambler can spin the wheel at the roulette table and play the odds of which case is more likely.
As we approach the game of odds we have to examine everything we have at our disposal, sadly this is not done nearly enough. Moreland presents the reader with just a few examples, although he mentions the 30 scientific discoveries the have recently come to the surface of scientific inquiry. The consequences that would abound of the force of gravity exceeded 9.86 m/s^2, what would happen if the earth was spinning slower or faster than it is, what would the fallout be if the earth was one foot closer to the sun, what if it was one foot further away? These examples do not even address the precise nature of this argument on the atomic level.
What does this mean? I contend that one is highly more likely to beat the house if they were to place their money on an intelligent designer. While acknowledging the plausibility of chance, it seems far more likely that the universe had its start in the will of a Creator. This Creator is the ONLY necessary being, and everything He created is contingent on Him. More specifically, the Creator is the ONLY primary cause, and the universe is the secondary cause. This is because down to the smallest implement in the universe it is evident that “chance” is very unlikely. This is why I rejoice with the Psalmist when he says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” Psalm 19:1. It is in creation that I find reason to place my faith in the Creator. AMEN.

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