Archive for the 'Belief' Category

06
Jun
17

The Radicalisation Environment

During the ongoing coverage of the weekend’s terror attack in London, I saw the end of an interview with Australian Labor Party politician, and “global counter-terrorism expert” Anne Aly, who, in 2015, was the “only Australian invited to the White House to speak at a countering-violent-extremism summit”.

 

A phrase she used caught my attention when she spoke of the conditions that led young Muslim men to turn to the kind of violent extremism displayed in the London attack and other terror events before it.

 

She spoke of a “radicalisation environment”, and from the short part of the interview I saw, I realised that the term could also be used to describe a very common kind of experience – where a community of likeminded people create an “environment” that reinforces particular views and a particular way of thinking. Contrary views are excluded, creating an echo-chamber of ideas where their adopted views are never seriously challenged.

In the “old” days – (my younger days) the term brainwashing was often used to describe a similar process, and it was conducted by groups that were often recognised as “cults” – which were comparatively benign in practice (relative to the Islamists of today), presenting no violent security threat to the community at large despite the personal and family costs that often resulted.

 

While the above mentioned “radicalisation environment” (or brainwashing) can create, reinforce and validate violent actions (as per the Islamists), that basic type of environment isn’t completely different to the experience of anyone who takes faith in God seriously. It is easy to isolate ourselves within groups of people of similar beliefs where the validity of those beliefs is not seriously challenged

The most significant difference is the nature of the God in whom we place our faith. How we think about God and what we believe about God will affect the way we act in response to Him. Simply stated; obedience to a violent god will produce violent followers and obedience to a loving God will produce loving followers.

 

A similar kind of “radicalisation environment” can be found in political groups, and partisan bias becomes so entrenched that the faults in one’s own “wing” of politics can become invisible, as can good aspects of the other political “wing”. Those within that “environment” can easily find themselves going with the flow, turning a blind eye to things they wouldn’t normally accept because it is part of the environment they entered and settled within. By identifying as “conservative” because the “conservative” wing of politics has certain views of morality that we see as scripturally endorsed, we can also be prone to aligning ourselves with some ideological stand points that under scrutiny contradict other parts of scripture.

 

Not only are religious and political thought affected by the insularity of “radicalisation environments”, the influence extends to embrace wider cultural norms; where our own culture is seen as the best, and others are seen as lacking, or aberrant in some way. In the past this has been displayed on the “mission field” where westernised cultural standards, such as dress codes and fashion styles were pressed upon communities as part of the “gospel” being presented.

But religion, politics and culture are never experienced in isolation from each other; and the wrong mix has the potential to become toxic, with national, cultural and political identities blending with religious identity. So our particular nation and culture, or our political views, (in our minds) become more favourable to God than other countries, cultures and political viewpoints. Our group is seen as His group. Our standards are seen as His standards. Our ways are seen as His ways.

 

That can give unwarranted justification to any group’s actions that in reality may be far outside of God’s agenda, and even contrary to it.

05
Mar
17

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation?

Christianity has been made into a very western-centric religion and yet how does that perception reflect statements like the following?

“For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.

What does something like that actually look like from a non-colonialist viewpoint, where those from other tribes, tongues and nations don’t have to become like us (in the west) to fit into God’s Kingdom?
Especially when many of those “other tribes and nations” seem to reflect lifestyles more closely in line with biblical standards than our westernised lifestyles.

And then should we consider some of those highly questionable things with which “Christians” in the west have become identified? How many of those things that we think of as normal or acceptable in Christian life are in reality a result of following western cultural norms?

28
Dec
16

Believing God?

I suspect the Lord tailors his teaching to our different capabilities of learning. But while the way we learn may be unique to each individual, the overall intent of the lesson will always be the same: an understanding that conforms to God’s nature and purposes that can be confirmed through a proper addressing of scripture.
But the intended outcome is never knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but deeper relationship with Him and others.

Throughout my Christian life I’ve learned a lot through experience, making a lot of mistakes and taking many wrong paths before stepping back to consider why things went so unexpectedly wrong.
Perhaps out of that, the most important thing the Lord has opened up to me is the need to test everything. What Paul wrote with regard to prophecy can be applied to all areas of revelation and learning: “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil”.
It’s very easy to be attracted by something “good” and then fall for something “evil” – IF we bypass the testing.

I think back around 30 years ago when I was hooked by word of faith teaching. The thing that caught my attention and drew me in was a LEGITIMATE understanding of faith.
A group of friends were bombarding me with arguments recommending the Copelands’ WOF teachings, and in the process (despite their arguments rather than because of them – and I wish I’d realised that at the time) I finally understood something about faith that took it out of the realm of wishful thinking and to a place of greater certainty.

I suddenly saw that Christian faith was simply believing God and His word even when sensory and intellectual evidence seemed to be “proving” something else.

That was the good and if I’d stopped there and studied the Word for myself I might have avoided the bad: a lot of false teaching that took me in a wrong direction. But instead of searching the scriptures for myself to develop my understanding, I searched the Copeland’s teachings and relied on the particular spin THEY placed on the “faith message”.

What I find disappointing now is that I could see that a large portion of their teaching was (at best) questionable, but I pushed my reservations aside.

I can now recognise that by taking that path I wasn’t really believing God and His word, (as per that revealed understanding of faith) I was “believing” what Copeland told me ABOUT God’s word, without actually checking it out for myself to see if he was addressing it correctly, according to its intended context.

I said above that Christian faith is simply believing God and His word. Yes it IS as simple as that. But what is not necessarily so simple is being sure that it is REALLY God and His Word that we are believing. It is extremely easy to pick up wrong ideas that create a distorted understanding of God, and that is where so much of WOF teaching is in error. Its view of God and his purposes are created out of selected parts of scripture, usually applied with no consideration for the intended context of those scripture portions.

It is essential that we develop an overview – an understanding of the broad scope of scripture, and not be satisfied with bits and pieces that seem to support what we want to believe.

07
Dec
16

Are You In The Market For Deception?

There are a lot of warnings in scripture about false teachers, false prophets and false Christ’s that would all be totally redundant if there wasn’t a need to alert people to the possibility of being turned from the truth to accept something contrary to the truth.

But not only are there warnings about deceivers, there are warnings about people who follow them. In Jeremiah a commentary on false prophets also turns an accusing finger upon those who welcome their messages: “My people love to have it so”; and Paul writes about people who collect teachers to appeal to their itching ears.

Without a “market” for deception, no deceiver would survive.

It seems today there is little difference between attitudes to theological ideas and the consumption of news. Does it really matter if the source is reliable as long as its message supports a desired stance?

Often it takes only a very cursory (honest) look into a teaching or news source to assess its truthfulness, but unless there is a genuine desire FOR the truth, it is easy to dismiss clear evidence if it contradicts what we WANT to believe.

Likewise it’s easy to ignore serious flaws in a teaching or news source if it’s PROMOTING what we want to believe.

It’s sad fact that many (even professing Christians) really have no love of the truth, preferring to mould a more appealing (to them) version of “reality” to live by.

05
Dec
16

The Post Truth Generation by Tricia Tillin

A very timely and insightful article from Tricia Tillin at:

https://bannerministries.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/the-post-truth-generation/

 

No matter the actual facts, people will believe what they want to, and TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT.

What better explanation of “post-truth” can we find?

The change in the world’s way of thinking, demonstrated by the Oxford Dictionary amongst others, is a reality that is and will impact us all. In particular, it opens the door to massive global deception on a scale never before experienced.

The phenomenon seems especially alive in Christian circles, perhaps because Christians are more likely to believe in the supernatural or apocalyptic predictions that non believers would dismiss out of hand.

30
Nov
16

All Things Work Towards God’s Agenda

The following is a slightly amended version of an email I recently sent to my American friend and brother, Steve.

* * *

 

I think one of my most important realisations came out of my reading into WWI:  that nothing happens in isolation from God’s purposes.

All of history has been working towards the future that God has planned. It’s not always clearly seen – but God works through man’s actions, even man’s evils, to bring about His purposes.

Unlike Calvinists I don’t believe God plans, causes or intends man’s evils to take place, but I believe He “deflects” or manoeuvres the outcomes of man’s evil actions into a direction that furthers His agenda and takes us towards His ultimate purpose: A new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells and all unrighteousness is excluded.

Nothing, whether it is history, politics, art, or any other aspect of human life has an importance or relevance separated from spirituality and God’s ultimate intention for His creation.

We can easily get caught up in the politics, the facts of history or mankind’s creativity, but if we make those things the central focus we miss the point.

And if I may make a statement that some will find controversial  – the same can be said of the bible, of prayer, and any other “spiritual” matter – if we make THEM the focus rather than God and our relationship with Him, we miss the point. Those things are just a necessary “means to an end” – and that “end” is God Himself.

___________________________________

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

22
Nov
16

Life Changing Experiences (part VI)

On reflection, what are some of the things experience has taught me!

 

1) My introduction to the Christian faith was evangelically orthodox, but not biblically sound, making the early years more difficult than necessary, creating unreasonable expectations that could never be fulfilled.
My first step to the Christian life came through reciting “the sinner’s prayer”, asking Jesus into my heart, a non-biblical practice that could give to some a false assurance of salvation. However, if done sincerely, it can become a first step to a greater, more legitimate discovery of discipleship.

A traveller doesn’t arrive in London by taking a flight to Tokyo but the desired destination can be reached later with amended directions and travel arrangements.

 

2) A Christian’s understanding of “spiritual” often isn’t very spiritual at all. Consider what motivated me to drop out of my first Personnel Management course, described in part iii of this series.

Also, for a short time after rediscovering my faith, I had regrets about my University study when I began to wish I’d gone to Bible College instead of spending three years studying writing and literature.

I gradually began to realise that those literary studies were far more beneficial than being taught what a particular church or theological group believed about the Bible. My university studies equipped me to understand the nature of communication, and how messages can be manipulated to create a desired outcome.

For someone who was very prone to assuming the unbiased integrity of people presenting a message (especially Christians), that was a very important lesson to learn. I’m now much more diligent about checking things out for myself instead of accepting things at face value. I also double check myself – am I REALLY remembering a part of scripture correctly and in accordance with its intended context? A lot of the time I find I’m not – and need to correct assumptions I’ve made.

Too often what we “remember” from scripture relates more to the context of teaching we’ve heard than its actual BIBLICAL context. At one time I had an impressive arsenal of memorised proof texts to back up my beliefs. Later I realised that MOST of them had been picked up from recorded sermons and my understanding was influenced by the context of the sermon instead of its intended context in scripture.

 

3) Inadequate, ill-considered or insincere teaching creates vulnerability that can lead someone to accept false teaching. If a teacher is careless with the content and method of teaching, their students will be equally careless.

Teachers need to take extreme care. James cautions that teachers will receive a stricter judgement and the gospels warn of the consequences of leading people astray.

However, false teachers don’t exist in isolation. They are sustained by willing followers. Paul writes of people who aren’t interested in sound doctrine who collect and surround themselves with teachers who say what they like to hear.

Regarding both teaching and being taught we need to be sure of our personal standing.

 

4) It is essential to test all things – accept nothing at face value, no matter what its source.

Even the bible can be used to support a variety of false beliefs, that’s why so many contradictory doctrines can have an alleged scriptural foundation. We will be held accountable for the things we believe and the things we pass on to others – so we need to be sure of their truth, as well as being sure of the truth and integrity of those who pass things onto us.

When the bible is used to support a  belief or teaching, is the bible actually saying and meaning what is being claimed?

 

5) Be honest.

Don’t bend the truth in thought word or deed.

Always act and speak with integrity.

Always think and reason with integrity.

 

Always demand integrity from your chosen teachers.




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