Archive for the 'Belief' Category

17
Nov
17

And the Gospel _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Will Be Preached…

Christians are very familiar with the term “the gospel”, and are aware of the need to share “the gospel”.

But what is our understanding of the term?

 

We think of it as “the good news” – but what is the news that is good?

 

I’ve been trying to think of some of the ideas I’ve come across during the decades since I first came into contact with “gospel” preaching Christians.
At various times I’ve accepted several of these ideas – or at least parts of them. Other’s I’ve heard but have never accepted.

 

To what extent have we REALLY tried to grasp what the Bible says about “the gospel”?
How was it preached by Jesus and the early church?
What was preached by Jesus and the early church that could be described as “the gospel”?

 

1) Receive Jesus and escape hell
2) Come to God, He has a wonderful plan for your life.
3) God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible
4) You are going to hell if you don’t accept Jesus
5) God wants to prosper you – turn to Him.
6) Join God’s mission to turn this world around.
7) God loves everyone so much He wants to be their friend.
8) Come to God as you are, God loves you anyway.
9) If God has chosen you as part of His elect – you’ll be saved.
10) Repeat this sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved.

 

There are probably many other examples, but those given above probably give a reasonable taste of the various messages that have been presented as “the gospel”. Some of those statements contain part of the truth, others are far from the truth, but I believe only one gets close to the real heart of the gospel. I’ll address that later.

 

From a personal level, I suppose my initial interest in the gospel message came about through a desire to avoid hell. At the time I thought I had nothing to worry about because I’d grown up with a belief in God and I thought that was enough to make me safe. Then somehow a school friend who’d recently become involved with a Pentecostal church managed to convince me of the need to ask Jesus into my life through the reciting of “the sinner’s prayer” – so a few of the phrases listed above played a part in my introduction to Christianity.

 

However, while those messages served a purpose, they didn’t exactly set me on a path to a strong Christian faith. They put ME at the centre, and I don’t recall myself ever considering that maybe God should be at the centre of the gospel. That the gospel was more about HIS intentions for the whole of His creation, than about keeping me as an individual out of hell.

 

If I now had to choose which one of the above statements best expresses’ the heart of the gospel, it would be the third: “God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible”. That’s the message John the Baptist preached in preparation for the introduction of Jesus, and that is the message Jesus preached from the beginning of His ministry: “the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

 
Jesus later spoke of the “gospel of the Kingdom” being preached in the whole world as a precursor of the end.

But the end of what?

The end of this world’s disconnection from, and its rejection of, the Kingdom of God; when “The kingdoms of the world […] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”.

The purpose of the gospel is to proclaim the good news of God’s coming Kingdom, and the fact that we (mankind) can be part of it. That the corruption, the hypocrisy and the injustices that pervade every aspect of the world’s Kingdoms will be brought to an end.

The gospel is the good news of the Kingdom; GOD’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

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26
Oct
17

How to Study the Bible

An excellent and essential follow-up to Jeff’s previous blog post. I strongly recommend that you go to the complete article on Jeff’s blog via the link at the end of the excerpt below.

According to the viewing stats, yesterday’s post has had 26 views and yet only 3 of those viewers actually clicked on the link to read the full article.

I wrote about similar topics in the following two articles:
Spirit, Scripture and Sholarship

and
Don’t Study the Bible

 

______________________________

anti-itch meditation

Here are some tips for studying the Bible on your own.

–Read the Bible a lot. Over and over. Cover to cover. Try at least once to read it as quickly as possible, like under a month.

–Question everything. Write down questions as you read it, then when you read it again, see how many more questions you get and how many old ones you can now answer. Don’t be afraid to question anything and everything.

–Ignore formal theology. Don’t read merely to find verses to back up or attack doctrines. Just read what it says. Otherwise you’ll miss half the message because your brain is arguing theology.

–Avoid dumb Bible study questions like, “what does this mean to me?” or “how can I apply this to my life today?” They tend to make the Bible all about you. One of the points of the Bible is that it’s about…

View original post 281 more words

25
Oct
17

Why Is Theology Confusing?

An excellent post on Jeff Weddle’s blog.

I think he really gets to the heart of most of the major doctrinal difficulties and disagreements affecting followers of Jesus.

anti-itch meditation

Biblical doctrine is much simpler than human theology.

Most confusing doctrines are confusing because they are someone’s idea of what the Bible says, not what the Bible says.

The problem is that biblical doctrine is straightforward. A little too abrupt and real. It tends to mess with life.

Theologians enter the picture to “clean up the mess” by telling you the Bible doesn’t mean what the Bible simply and clearly says.

The main job of a theologian is to impress you with their theological astuteness. In other words, they prove their doctrinal superiority by being confusing.

“You’re too stupid to understand, that’s why you need us smart theologians.” Is the attitude. We go along with them because they tell us why we don’t have to listen to all those parts we wish weren’t there, which suits our flesh fine.

You know you’re dealing with human theology when you are reading…

View original post 195 more words

08
Sep
17

Rainbow Connection: SSM and Religious Freedom

During Australia’s same sex marriage debate, one group (on the “NO” side) continues to claim that religious freedom will be put at risk should SSM be legalised. The other group (on the “YES” side) continue to insist such concerns are unfounded and are mere red herrings – that the only issue at stake is the happiness of people who want to marry their same sex partner.

But what is the reality?

 

I heard an interview* on ABC radio this morning that made it clear that any protection of religious freedom will ONLY be applied to religious institutions and not to Christian individuals.
Bringing out the now clichéd example of a cake maker refusing to supply a cake for a same sex wedding, it was made clear that they will be guilty of breaking anti-discrimination laws and will be subject to prosecution.

 

My own view of that is that it is the EVENT being “discriminated” against – not the people involved. I’m sure the cake maker would be willing to bake cakes for anyone as an individual – just not willing to bake a cake for an event that compromises their religious beliefs.
To take a step to the side – should a cake maker (religious or otherwise) be legally required to supply a cake promoting (legal) extreme right wing groups or other political views that challenge their conscience, or would their refusal be deemed prosecutable discrimination?

 

Apart from that hypothetical and now clichéd example, we have current cases to look at (not exclusively religious), such as the one described in this story:

A petition with more than 2000 signatures has likened doctors who oppose marriage equality to racists and accused them of contributing to “increased depression.”

The open letter accompanying the petition was written by Perth medical student Carolyn O’Neil and accused more than 400 doctors of adding to “increased depression, anxiety, self‐harm, and suicidal behaviours.”

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/37005078/doctors-opposing-marriage-equality-slam-petition-against-them/

 

This follows a situation that I mentioned in an earlier post, where a doctor was being subjected to a petition calling for her to be struck off the medical register.

A woman that appeared in the advertisement for the ‘no’ camp in the same-sex marriage debate is now at the centre of an online campaign to have her medical licence stripped.

The online petition has just over 6,000 signatures and calls for a “review of the registration of Dr Pansy Lai”.

Dr Lai, a GP in northern Sydney, appeared as one of three mothers in the Marriage Coalition advertisement that first aired at the end of last month.

She told The Australian she has been inundated with phone and social media threats since the ad was released and said she had reported one threat to police that she would be shot “this week”.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/36946222/online-petition-wants-dr-pansy-lai-from-sydney-deregistered/

 

In recent weeks I’ve kept an eye on several discussions in the media around the topic of same sex marriage and have found very strong anti-Christian attitudes being shown that don’t line up with the assurances that religious freedom won’t be reduced.
The problem with those assurances is what “religious freedom” actually means to those making them. The nature of that “freedom” is being defined by those who won’t be needing it – by the irreligious, the non-believer, and at times those who are actually hostile to all kinds of religious belief.

Those people have NO qualification for understanding the reasons why Christians (or adherents of other religious beliefs) might not agree with same sex marriage. To have that understanding they would need to recognise what it means to believe in a God who has revealed what HE requires of His creation – that it is GOD’s standards that count – not man’s ever changing whims.

Genuine Christians believe in a very REAL God and desire to commit their lives to Him and His ways – to them “religion” is not a mere interest, a hobby – an alternative to sport or any other past time. Their relationship to God is the most important part of their life: in fact it IS their life.

_______________________

* http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/same-sex-marriage-hate-speech-santow/8884594

19
Aug
17

Deja Vu and the SSM Issue.

As Australia continues on the slow road to (inevitably) legalising same sex marriage, there are continuing claims being made about bullying and abuse being directed at those supporting SSM.

That is despite the claim that 70% or so of the population are said to be in support of it. It is also despite the fact that the majority of the abusiveness and hateful commentary I’ve seen has been directed against “the religious”.

For examples see the comments after the article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/17/religious-freedom-is-an-important-right-once-same-sex-marriage-is-legal-it-must-be-protected

 

One of those comments even suggests that businesses owned by people objecting to SSM should have some kind of identification placed in their windows as a sign of their beliefs.

 

For some reason that suggestion seems scarily familiar.

 

19
Jul
17

Who is the White Evangelicals’ “Christ”?

Despite holding the presidency and having majorities in congress and the senate, the republicans (the white evangelicals’ party of choice) seem to have no ability to deliver anything workable on healthcare. Their only agreement seems to be on their desire to remove “Obamacare”.

During the Obama presidency, while far too many professing Christians were lapping up (and sharing) anti-Obama rhetoric no matter what its source and veracity; one of the complaints that I couldn’t understand was the passionate “Christian” hostility to the idea of affordable health care for all US citizens. Whether or not the so-called “Obamacare” could deliver that wasn’t even the issue. A lot of “Christian” opposition I saw was against the whole idea of making healthcare accessible to those unable to pay for it.

This morning I came across the following, making some interesting observations and claims:

…until recently, most [US] politicians [were] insisting that US healthcare was the best in the world. In reality, the World Health Organisation ranks it 38th, behind Colombia (22nd) and Saudi Arabia (26th) and just above Cuba. The No 1 cause of bankruptcy in the US? Medical debt. And with more than 250,000 deaths a year, medical errors are the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Obamacare has made things somewhat better, but there are still 27 million people without health insurance because they can’t afford it, and millions more who can’t afford the co-payment on prescriptions.

 

Rightwing Christian fundamentalism has had a devastating effect on women’s health. There’s little care for poor women or children once they’ve been born ; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 other industrialised nations are better than the US at keeping babies alive. Americans who say they are pro-life merely mean they are pro-birth. Republicans want to slash Medicaid – government help for those who cannot afford to pay – which pays for nearly half the births in the US.

 

full article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/14/attack-healthcare-policy-with-comedy-jonathan-lynn-yes-minister 

 

Considering the attitudes I’ve seen expressed by many professing Christians over many years, I have to wonder what kind of “Christ” do they think they are following?

Their “Christ” seems to be very different to the person I read about in scripture; their “Christ” seems more associated with partisan politics and political slogans and labels than in reaching out to the most needy people within society.

14
Jul
17

Son of God?

Son(s) of God)

(a brief overview)

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reportedly has the following inscription, expressing ONE of the tenets of Islam that distinguishes it from Christian belief:

“God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son”.

That statement is a clear attempt to distance Islam from Christianity, and it’s surely no coincidence that other inscriptions near to it focus on the persons of Jesus and His mother Mary.*

The identity of Jesus as the Son of God is central to the Christian faith and Jesus regularly identified God as His Father. That relationship was continually disputed by enemies throughout His life on earth.

The gospels give an account of how Satan challenged the Sonship of Jesus. The recorded temptations in the wilderness were centred on it, as he tried to tempt Jesus to prove He was the Son of God.

“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

“Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.”

Religious authorities were determined to kill Him because of His claim to be God’s Son, considering it to be blasphemy.

“We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

But many who heard his teaching and experienced His miracles readily recognised Him as Son of God.

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

When crucified He was mocked by the crowds because of the claim He was the Son of God.

“saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

“He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’

But not everyone mocked, even a Roman Centurion witnessing the crucifixion recognised Jesus as the Son of God.

So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said,

“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

After His resurrection His disciples recognised and preached that He was the Son of God.

Saul (Paul):

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy

John:

He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

And most significantly, God Himself confirmed the Sonship of Jesus.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

and

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

It is also important that the question of whether God could have a Son goes beyond His relationship to Jesus.

The Bible describes Adam as “son of God” within one of the lists of Jesus’s ancestors.

the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Scripture also refers to others who are considered as sons of God:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

There is also the promise that followers of Jesus are adopted as sons.

“you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

and

adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”

And that last quote (“according to the good pleasure of His will”) perhaps gives the most significant rebuttal to the claim that having a son would somehow reduce God’s “transcendent majesty”; as if God could be reduced in some way by the fact of being Father.

Does God Himself not have the right to make that choice? Is it not up to God Himself what He can or cannot do and what He can or cannot be?

For any man to say God cannot have a Son, that man is in fact limiting God, enforcing some kind of restriction on God’s own right to choose and act and BE according to the good pleasure of God’s own will.

That man is making himself the limiter of God.

_____________________

* Inscriptions
See “INSCRIPTIONS ON THE INNER OCTAGONAL ARCADE”




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