Posts Tagged ‘theological traditions

15
Jun
17

A Flawed Historical Viewpoint.

The state of the western political world today:

 

  1. USA and Donald Trump (does any more need to be said?)
  2. Britain: Brexit, Theresa May and a hung Parliament.
  3. In Australia, partisan politics continues to cripple a government that often seems to have more policy disagreements within its own ranks than it has with the official opposition party.
  4. France: power to be in the hands of a new, untested, quickly cobbled together party based on the charisma of a young leader. Can such a party provide longstanding stable government?
  5. German elections in September… what surprises could that bring?

 

Some religious commentators are attributing the increasing instabilities in the “Western World” to a departure from our historical Judeo-Christian foundations; but I find their view of history is seriously flawed.

What kind of “Judeo-Christian” foundation was “Western democracy” ever built upon? Has there ever (REALLY) been an all-encompassing embracing of Jesus or His gospel?

 

Over over centuries there was a lot of religious superstition, theological rhetoric, and political USE of the Church as a tool of government.

And while there may have been individual pockets of society that at times have shown authentic devotion to God, has there ever been a GENUINE widespread, long-lasting commitment to Jesus and His Kingdom that could result in a claimed blessing of “the West” over past centuries – blessings that are now allegedly being forfeited?

 

If anything, it seems to me that during the period AFTER the claimed abandonment of Judeo-Christian ideals, the west experienced its most peaceful and prosperous period: that is post WWII.

Of course there were ongoing problems, but arguably, things had never previously been better for the average person in the west as the world got back to its feet after the death and destruction of the Second World War.

It’s mostly in the last decade or two (significantly post 9/11) that perceived threats have led to growing fear that blessings (our comforts, safety and wealth) will be forfeited due to a casting aside of Judeo-Christian” ideals. (Proffered evidence of this casting aside can date back a century or two. One case I’ve seen points way back to the French Revolution* as an example!).

Those fears of loss at the heart of the argument seem mostly founded on a fear of others – those “not of the west” . A fear that others coming into our nations will disrupt and compromise our “western values” – values that to a great part are not necessarily Kingdom values anyway.

 

Apart from the current issue of promoting a fear-based ideology, the fictionalising of history projects the cause of perceived problems onto society at large, putting the blame on “THEM” and THEIR (society’s) relationship to God; shifting the focus away from the personal and our own relationships with God and the unbelieving society we live among.

 

 

_________________

 

example here

 

___________________

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09
Jun
17

Radicalisation Environment part 2. (Westernism)

People often don’t want to hear of  things that might complicate the simplicity of the environment they’ve created around themselves, and they shelter behind walls of ideological insularity.

 

Insularity can blind us to the truth – to reality.

An insular environment can create its own “truth” – making sense of a chosen reality in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we took the time to look beyond the exclusion barriers we’ve erected. In a previous post something very like this kind of situation was termed a “radicalisation environment”, a term initially coined and applied to a situation among some young Muslim men.

 

In many ways “western” Christian experience has been built within an insular exclusion zone (its own type of “radicalisation environment), keeping other cultures at bay, even non-western Christians, and holding to a sense of “specialness”. We have viewed western society and culture as being particularly blessed by God; western comforts and prosperity being the outcome of a “Judeo-Christian” heritage. Effectively, blessings gained because of assumed historical national characteristics more than an ongoing personal connection to God.

I often wonder about the truth of those assumed “blessings”.

 

…others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

 

Modern Western Christianity has been relatively safe and mostly free from the kind of hardship we read about in other nations. Our experience of “Persecution” has mostly been no worse than verbal abuse, or being sidelined by general society. It rarely involves imprisonment, torture or murder as it does elsewhere in the world.

In the west Christian faith has been shaped to make it compatible with western values. When challenges to our perceived blessings arise, the blame is placed on a societal shifting from that Judeo-Christian heritage, and we lament the risk of losing those “blessings”.

 

Popular Western doctrines have their foundation in the kind of thinking that sees western comfort and prosperity as a God-given right. Doctrines like: a pre-tribulation rapture to remove the church from earth before bad things happen. Or prosperity doctrines that promise earthly riches and lives of comfort here and now.

 

Instead of Christianity changing western society, it has increasingly BEEN changed to become a westernised religion quite separated from its origins in the Middle East and increasingly distanced from the experience of non-western believers in places of hardship where reports of revival are increasingly common.

 

Sadly, Western Christians seem to identify much more closely with their secular nation’s interests and their unbelieving compatriots than they do with fellow believers from different countries and cultural backgrounds, and they seem to go to great lengths to protect those national interests, even when there is potential for those interests to be at odds with the Kingdom of God.  *

 

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

___________________

 

* see here:
https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-attitudes-displayed-not-necessarily-in-that-order/

Compare the message of the video with the message in the preceding quote from the other blog.

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.

26
May
17

A Few Thought About Recent Events

 

Yet another terrorist attack in the west, and who knows how many more outside of western interests where these things are not as rare or infrequent as they are closer to home? (At least one in Indonesia reported today 25th May)

And not unexpectedly, the murderer was a deranged Muslim extremist expecting to get fast-tracked to paradise. Imagine the disappointment on arriving at his eternal destination.

the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Rev 21)

I can see at least two of those labels are clearly relevant to that deluded young man (cowardly and murderer) and possibly more.

 

At these times debates always arise about the nature of Islam. There are inevitable contradictory contrasts presented, with some declaring Islam a religion of peace, others that it’s a religion of violence and hatred.
While arguments fly, with people taking one side or the other, equally valid arguments could probably be made for both views.

 

Firstly, most Muslims are probably no less peace loving, peace desiring than the majority of non-Muslims. They just want to get on with their lives, taking care of their families in safety and security. They are Muslims because they were born into a Muslim family and follow the rituals and practices they’ve been taught. There would be little difference between them and their attitudes and those of most western “Christians”, except the Muslim often has a much more developed daily awareness of their god than the majority of westerners (even church goers) and are often far more devoted to their beliefs than a great number of professing Christians. And remember, it is only in recent decades that the Muslims among us have become targets of suspicion. Previously they lived  among us with little cause for concern, and Christians need to resist  demonising the people no matter how we view the religion they’ve been brought up to follow.

 

Moving to the other side of the argument, we only have to look at those nations where Islam dominates and see how it affects their laws, their governments and the lives of their people. Those nations include some of the most openly brutal and intolerant in the world, often responding to perceived lawbreakers with violent punishments, and dealing harshly with those alleged to have been insulting to Islam. All of that is justified by appeal to Islamic teaching.
Those who insist on portraying Islam as violent need only to point to those nations, and also highlight those parts of the Koran that justify the harshness in those nations – the parts that teach intolerance for and retribution against “the infidel” (or non-Muslim) and the lawbreaker. And parts of the Koran can make that an easy argument to prosecute. It is to this view of Islam that the terrorists belong, seeking to bring down those outside of their particular religious view of the world.

 

However is pointing out Koranic violence the wisest argument for Christians to make, when it is equally easy to turn the accusatory finger to point the other way?
The Bible itself isn’t free of violence commanded by God. God given Law also demands lethal and violent punishment (some punishments the same as in the Koran, which partially draws on the older scriptural writings that preceded it).
It can be non-productive and unhelpful, to make arguments against Islam citing violent instruction in the Koran, that can equally be levelled against Christianity and Judaism through citing the old and New Testaments.

 

So is there any difference? Are Judaism and Christianity any less condemnable that Islam for having violence at their heart (as provable from the evidence of their holy writings)?

I say there is a difference.
The unfolding message of the Bible is different. There is an ongoing purposeful development throughout. The Bible presents a history of God’s relationship to mankind, showing where we came from, through to God’s ultimate purpose for us.
The Bible starts with God’s creation of the universe and the planet where we live, and how he populated it with an incredible variety of living things, culminating in man and woman.
It tells of how His perfect creation was tainted by the introduction of sin (rebellion) and continues with an unfolding account of God’s means of restoring the relationship between God and man that was lost through that initial rebellion.

 

The violent events recorded in scripture fall within the context of that developing history of fallen mankind struggling with a Holy God of perfect justice. A history that continues to unfold, heading towards a complete renewing of creation. In fact a totally new creation where only righteousness can dwell, a creation free of the hatred and violence that became the inevitable result of man’s rebellion against God.
It will be a new creation, a new heavens and earth populated only by those who have chosen to be willing followers of God through the gift given via His Son Jesus.

 

And that is the difference I see – that there’s an end purpose; GOD’s purpose, where the continuing cycle of men’s violence and other corrupt actions are stamped out, and God’s ways become man’s ways.

 

There’s a reason why we are told that the enemies we face aren’t flesh and blood. That we don’t wage war as the world does. And yet Christians often go against that instruction and put hope and trust in, and support, man’s violent military solutions to the evils of groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, and their blind foolish followers. Support that can take on a misplaced patriotic fervour. Support for military action often conducted against relatively small groups who have established themselves in poor, vulnerable and insecure nations, or nations MADE insecure by earlier military action. Military action that exacerbates the problem and supercharges the recruitment drive of the enemy “we” are intended to defeat, to the extent that it’s “our” purpose that is defeated and not the enemy “we’ve” been fighting.

 

And while they turn their military might against the nations unwillingly harbouring terrorists – our governments continue to align themselves with gulf state sheikdoms, particularly Saudi Arabia, home and supporter of extremist Islam; who have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars into exporting the extremists Islamist ideologies that we allegedly want to destroy.

And why is that the case?
Indian researcher Professor Brah-ma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi says:

“Money is the main reason why the United States in particular is unwilling to break its longstanding alliance with the gulf sheikdoms.”
(http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/saudi-arabia-responsible-for-worlds-terrorist-ideology/8553832 )

 

As the title of this article says, this post expresses a FEW thoughts about recent events.
There’s probably a lot more that could be said to add to the topics I’ve touched upon. Some of the subject matter is far more complex than many people like to think, and therefore I’m not sure whether I’ve clearly expressed some of the things I wanted to say. I just hope I’ve made enough sense to take a glimpse beyond the glib political and religious rhetoric we tend to be bombarded with through various mass media, so we can avoid the same feelings and expressions of hatred that we accuse others of harbouring.

08
May
17

Stephen Fry and “blasphemy”

I saw an article this morning: “Stephen Fry investigated by Irish police for alleged blasphemy” * and thought it appropriate to draw attention to two articles I posted in 2015 after Fry had made similar rants.

https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/self-aggrandising-foolishness-from-stephen-fry/

https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/the-calvinistic-athiests-attitude-to-god/

Personally I ‘m opposed to blasphemy laws. God is more than capable of facing the rants and ravings of wilfully ignorant fools.

 

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

 

_____________________________

* https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/may/07/stephen-fry-investigated-by-irish-police-for-alleged-blasphemy

01
Mar
17

Luck. Blessing. Desire for truth

In a discussion with a friend about the state of the world, he said how lucky we were to have Jesus in our lives. I agree totally, also realising how difficult it can be to express that sentiment without using problematic terms like “luck”.

It could be avoided by replacing it with “blessed”, but I’ve also come to see that word overused and misapplied, to the extent that it dilutes understanding of what GENUINE blessings are.

Previously I’ve commented on the way that in affluent societies, so many of the things we designate as “blessings” may very well be thorns and weeds that choke the fruitfulness of God’s word out of our lives (see Mark 4) Our idea of blessing may differ significantly from God’s.

The idea of “luck” suggests chance or even worse, chance combined with “predestination” – as if we were fortunate to have our names pulled out of God’s salvation lottery hat, a very simplistic view that far too many people (like Calvinists) believe (though they probably wouldn’t like the way I described that belief).

It seems clear that there ARE so many seemingly “lucky”, random aspects to salvation and our response to it, including:

1) The religious culture of where we are born and raised.

2) Our parents’ attitudes to that religious culture.

3) The non-parental influences we face as we grow up

4) Personal experience and how we respond to it.

5) The availability of the gospel.

6) Our “mood” if and when we hear the gospel.

7) The quality of teaching and encouragement we receive after responding to the gospel.

It seems like some people can be more advantaged than others, to the extent that it doesn’t seem fair for those who don’t have the advantage of free access to the gospel.

In the past I’ve come across people who ask about the fate of those in other countries where Christianity is suppressed or absent in some other way; where conditions like those mentioned above are rarely favourable. That scenario is raised in a way that questions the validity of the gospel, because surely there’s no justice in someone’s eternal fate being dependant on their response to a message they never hear.

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that the key is a person’s desire for truth and that God WILL get the gospel to ANYONE who has a genuine desire for truth wherever they are, no matter what obstacles there seems to be.

And maybe there’s another perspective to consider. Should we recognise the “disadvantage” of having too much access to the gospel where the gospel seems to be freely available to all?
In that latter scenario it can be too easy for compromised messages and diluted gospels that aren’t really THE gospel to be adopted.

But again I see it is all dependent on a person’s genuine desire for the truth. It is that desire, and the integrity of an individual’s search for truth that makes the difference and ultimately protects him/her from the risk of false religions of all kinds, including secular/political alternatives such as nationalism.

28
Jan
17

Déjà Vu: 1914 or 2017?

I’m reading A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte. It is one of several books I’ve read about WWI and its origins over the past couple of years. Some of what I’m reading about the spiritual conditions leading into (and through) the First World War seem disturbingly familiar. Some of the specifics may have changed, but the general spirit of those conditions is unmistakably in the world again today; disguised to a degree – but with a flimsy mask.

The alliance of church and state allowed the secular goals of government to get mixed up with the spiritual goals of Christianity.

Add to this the rise of the most potent political ideology of the hour: nationalism. The nation-state was replacing religion as a powerful source of meaning and identity in people’s lives…
…For devoted nationalists, their patriotic faith was equivalent to membership in an alternative church. For religious believers, nationalism offered a grandiose political outlet for their faith commitments. The result was the birth of Christian nationalism , the near sanctification of the modern state.

xa-hobbit-a-wardrobe-and-a-great-war_jpg_pagespeed_ic_-ws7jyhfp8




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