Tag Archives: religion

Persecution…comes with the job?

“Being attacked either verbally or physically is part of being a true Christian in this world. It comes with the job.”

This is something I read this morning from a Facebook page called “The Christian Resistance”. And this is actually one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about social media: despite the differences of opinion, it enables me to dive into the text, to dive into my beliefs; it causes me to reevaluate my ‘position’ on a given topic and either move or affirm my understandings.

The full post says this:

Being attacked either verbally or physically is part of being a true Christian in this world. It comes with the job. If you preach sound doctrine and truth, you WILL be attacked and that is a guarantee. Don’t complain over it and don’t cry over it. When necessary/possible, counterattack and defend yourself, and no matter what give God glory and thanks because the marks of being a true Christian… the marks of belonging to God and not this world… ARE persecution in many various forms.

Several things in here got me thinking:

  • How should we define “sound doctrine and truth”?
  • Where is the mindset to “When possible, counterattack and defend yourself” affirmed through this sound doctrine and truth?
  • “…the marks of being a true Christian…the marks of belonging to God and not this world…ARE persecution in many various forms.” Is this true, and represented in scripture?

Here’s my contribution to the debate, take them for what you will: Continue reading Persecution…comes with the job?

On Hanegraaff and Orthodox Christianity: Or, a Church Service Worth Attending

Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man”, has recently converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and apparently this is causing quite a stir in the evangelical community.

On returning from a trip to China several years ago, Hanegraaff remarked, “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Since that time,” he added, “I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Lord’s Table.”

One of the recent articles I read on the subject was from Ed Stetzer. Writing on Christianity Today’s website, the focus of his article was on the possible reasons why the Orthodox liturgy is so appealing to evangelicals today. One of the things he says is,

The early church was indeed more focused on the Eucharist and was more liturgical in structure, nature, and expression. There are things we can learn from that today, but we have to also acknowledge that much of what we see was, indeed, cultural. As a missiologist, I’m not drawn into early Christian cultural forms and am concerned that some are equating them with eternal truth.
The evangelical bent towards Western individualism has opened the door to an ‘every Bible for itself’ mentality where, combined with the digital age, rogue armchair theologians can be equipped with major influence without proper ecclesiological accountability. It’s a bit of a “me version” world of Bible translation. Lacking a central definition and protection of truth can cause (and has caused) much of evangelicalism’s problems.
In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, that is not typically the case. In these church structures, there are tighter reigns on vetting truth and defining orthodox beliefs. Some see the Church organizationally as a means to preserve biblical truth from the changing tides of cultural waves.
The question I want to answer: Are we looking for the right things? Do we want to model with exactitude the cultural form of the early church? Is that the ultimate value?”

Personally, I’ve not been drawn toward the Orthodox faith, but I can see the appeal in a return to the “structure, nature, and expression” of the first century church (or the few centuries after). The difference as I see it though is that the cultural aspect of these early churches is exactly why they appeal to me; this is one of their ultimate values.

Yes, I believe that all scripture is “God breathed”, though I interpret that to mean God-inspired, not God-dictated.  What the Bible is is a library; a collection of sixty-six different books, historical narratives, poems, epistles, and so on, written by almost as many authors, all with specific backgrounds, with specific gifts and abilities, with a specific audiences in mind, all during specific points in time and history.

In other words, the Bible, to me, is entirely cultural. If we are truly “looking for the right things”, then we need to read the Bible through a lens of cultural and historical context: Who was speaking and what they were trying to say; who was listening and what they would have heard. These are fundamental keys to understanding this elusive Truth (big-T) that we all seem to be striving for in our rambling, stumbling walk with God.

As to whether or not we “want to model with exactitude the cultural form of the early church”, I am not sure. I wouldn’t be so quick to turn negative on the notion though, because gaining a proper historical and cultural perspective on scripture doesn’t automatically negate the relevance of the written gospel in 21st century America. On the contrary, it should give us a more detailed insight into what the writers of the early church were thinking, and the particular issues they were addressing. These issues, and the answers given by the likes of Paul, John, Moses, and Isaiah, give us a look at what the people of Israel struggled with, how they did (or didn’t) handle those issues, and what we can glean in application to our lives and times today.  Is the Book of Revelation an apocalyptic tome of end times destruction? Or, did John have a specific audience (or audiences), and specific issues in mind in addressing the seven churches scattered throughout the then-known world? Was it all of this? Was it neither? Wrestling with these types of questions is both the difficulty and the draw these sixty-six books hold for us today almost 2000 years removed from the last known penning of scripture.

This pursuit itself draws us into a kind of tension, wrestling both with our own interpretations as well as the contradictory interpretations of others. This is the very nature of the Bible, and is indeed, in my humble opinion, one of the key factors that convince me of the “God breathed” aspects of scripture. The Bible is supposed to have this tension. We’re supposed to lean into this tension. We’re supposed to wrestle with conflicting understanding, and yes, with conflicting scriptures. In this regard, the 1st century Jewish scholars excelled.

I think the most difficult hurdle that we, as Christians (with a wide blanket covering the over 40,000+ denominations within the U.S.), face when wrestling in this tension is this: We hate to be wrong! We need our truth box (small t), and we need everything we learn to fit inside of it, including our interpretation of Truth (big T).

Of course we certainly don’t want to be wrong. We don’t set out to be mistaken (which is admirable). But even when confronted with differing interpretations, understandings, or perspectives of the same scripture, we struggle within our stronghold of “belief” and, instead of inviting conversation and debate (which the first century church/synagogue was all about), we throw up all these walls around our little, prideful viewpoint, lobbing truth bombs (small t) onto an already incendiary minefield of dialogue, reducing the entire exchange to a shouting match of he-said-she-said, right/wrong, good/evil, nanananana-I-can’t-hear-you-anymore nonsense.

This is what the world sees.
In fact, this is ALL the world sees.

As Stetzer wrote, “People are trying to find the way back to the practices of the early church, and all claim to have the roadmap to get there…We do not see all that God is doing in the world, and we certainly don’t determine who is or isn’t a follower of Jesus.”

To me, that means if Hank Hanegraaff and his wife feel closer to Faith and Truth within the Eastern Orthodox religion, then who am I to say he is wrong? And yet, thousands are rushing to do just that.

Hanegraaff himself says, “People are posting this notion that somehow or other I’ve walked away from the faith and am no longer a Christian. Look, my views have been codified in 20 books, and my views have not changed.”

Churches, evangelicals, Christians…When it comes to wrestling with the differing views of others–within and outside of our own faith–we can do better.

We MUST do better.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples; by your love for one another.”

Jesus deserves better.
“I have come so that they should have life, and life to the full.”

And God certainly demands better.
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Stetzer challenges his readers this way: “I believe we need to go back to scripture for each and every generation of Christians and ask, ‘What would it look like to live out this timeless scriptural faith in this time and in this place?’”

Now there is a question worth contemplating.
In conversation.
With others.
Preferably of differing viewpoints.
You know, just for fun.
That would be a church service worth attending!
**Quotes are from the article “Hank Hanegraaff’s Switch to Eastern Orthodoxy, Why People Make Such Changes, and Four Ways Evangelicals Might Respond” by Ed Stetzer http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/april/how-should-we-respond-to-hank-hanegraaffs-switch-to-orthodo.html

Today’s a cookie day

Today’s a struggle, and I thought long and hard about whether or not to even put this post out here. Sometimes I write because I feel it’s something I want to say. Sometimes I write what I believe needs to be said. Then there are those times that I write just for myself.

It’s a cheap form of therapy and, even as I hit the “publish” button, I wonder if today isn’t one of those days.

Obviously, I decided to put it out there.

And I decided to air this not because I was searching for some sort of confirmation, or even some sort of sympathy or encouragement. Not really.

I did it because, when it comes down to it, I know I can’t be alone. I’m not the only one who feels, or has ever felt, this way.

This is a “me, too” post, because today’s a day I’m really struggling with faith.

Today is one of those days where I can understand those who feel that religion is just an opiate for the masses.

Today is one of those days where I can see that a belief in something beyond myself is a necessary part of existence for a species blessed (or cursed) with a higher consciousness; if we don’t believe in a “something more out there” what’s the point of our existence at all?

Today is a day that I see the argument of those who believe that faith and religion are panaceas for the poor, the marginalized, the “less than” of the world; those who’ve realized that they will possibly, probably, never make it in life, at least to the extent the world’s advertising would have us believe is possible; or, to the extent of those we choose to compare ourselves to, always coming up short because there is always someone on the other side of the someone we’re emulating.

Maybe it’s because the bootstraps we’re supposed to pick ourselves up by just aren’t long enough. Or we’re wearing the wrong boots altogether. The poor, the marginalized, the widows and orphans, we need our brass ring, too. Even if it’s something we have to wait for some fine day, when this life is o’er.

Today is a day I get all that.

And there’s one thing this kind of a funk makes me realize (maybe this is even where my hope is, at least for today): having a faith in something beyond ourselves is not an upward trajectory. It is not a slow climb up a long mountain. It is not even the constant unveiling of truth upon truth.

Sometimes—most times—faith is a roller coaster. Sometimes we’re at a peak. Sometimes we’re in a valley (and the transition can be swift). Sometimes there are twists and turns. Sometimes there are brief moments of respite.

Sometimes the goal is to reach the end, wide-eyed and winded, excited to find out what’s next.

And, sometimes it’s all we can do to reach the end without losing our cookies.

Today just happens to be a cookie day.

Jesus Freaks & Donald Trump | Commonweal Magazine

This is an interesting article from Julia Marley, one that made me go, “Hmmm…”  Definitely fodder for some interesting conversation. I’d love thoughts from some of my readers.

“I first started thinking about this martyr complex in 2013, when I read a story on a then-college student at the University of Arizona who called himself Brother Dean. His “ministry” consisted of standing on the sidewalks of campus and preaching about the evils of extramarital sex, feminism, and homosexuality—all in a highly inflammatory way. He once followed around a Take Back the Night demonstration carrying a sign that said, “You deserve rape.” Reflecting on his approach in an interview, he seemed aware of the social cost of his shocking language, but he managed to justify it by appealing to the Bible. “When I decided to start preaching, I decided that I was willing to give up everything,” Brother Dean said. “The preaching puts someone into a wilderness, a wilderness of aloneness. If you decide to do what the Bible says, you will be alone most of the time.” In using this language, he was invoking Christ’s martyred forerunner, John the Baptist—and in a way that doesn’t sound all that different from DC Talk. Brother Dean’s rationale demonstrates how Christians can interpret John 15:18–19 to justify offensiveness for its own sake. Jesus’ words made people so angry that he got himself killed. If Christians inspire a similar level of rage, they must be imitating Christ. I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.”  ~ Click on the link to read the entire article:

Source: Jesus Freaks & Donald Trump | Commonweal Magazine