Quick reads for busy people

quick-reads

I’m all the time trying to make this website relevant and useful to christians looking to extend their understand and resolve difficult issues. (Whether I succeed is another matter!)

I recently became aware that some people, mostly younger, tend to find some of the pages a little long, perhaps in part because they are reading on a smart phone’s small screen. So I decided to take some of the important questions that I’ve covered in long pages, and summarise them in shorter pages that give an overview of the question and a link to a longer treatment.

I’ve called this new section Quick reads, and it is specially written and set out to be read quickly and easily on a smaller screen.

So far I’ve written three pages for the new section:

I hope to add several more pages over the next few weeks. If you have any thoughts about this – possible topics or ways to make it better – please let me know.

Photo Credit: barnimages.com Flickr via Compfight, modified by unkleE.

Another king?

Critical issues:
I think this post raises a crucially important matter for christians today.

king-tut

It was mob violence, but at least it didn’t lead to a lynching. Jason and a few friends, converts of the apostle Paul, were dragged before the city officials and angry accusations were made:

“These men [meaning Paul and company] …. are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)

The officials released them on a bond. But, of course, the charges were quite accurate. Jesus is the king.

But it seems many christians no longer believe this …..

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A wave of the Spirit we should be catching?

surfer

I came across a blog post today that summed up what I think has become a significant movement within christianity.

Learning from a “hippie heretic”

The post was This Nameless Movement of God on Chuck McKnight’s blog Hippie Heretic, and it was based on just one premise (taken from fellow blogger Brian Zahnd):

“God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We have not always known what God is like—but now we do.”

The unstated, but clear, corollary of this statement of belief is that if there is any portrayal of God that is less than the character of Jesus, then it must be a misunderstanding.

This leads Chuck to 5 statements he rejects.

1. God had to punish Jesus for our sins (penal substitutionary atonement)

Jesus’ death was about more than just punishment, so penal substitutionary atonement is an incomplete (Chuck would say “wrong”) understanding. I have discussed this further in Why did Jesus have to die?.

2. God will punish sinners forever in hell (eternal conscious torment)

Close study indicates this is not what Jesus taught – see Three views on hell and judgment. A more detailed study is at Hell, what does the Bible say?

3. God meticulously plans all events (theological determinism)

This is the view of some Calvinists, but instead of glorifying God as Reformed doctrine tries to do, it seems to diminish God.

4. God has ever sanctioned or participated in violence (just war theory)

Did God really command his Old Testament people to kill and annihilate? Did Jesus command us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek if attacked? How can these ideas be reconciled? Should we be pacifists and peace-makers today?

5. God’s inspiration of scripture entails a text that is free from human mistakes (inerrancy)

It doesn’t look like this is the case, and there are good reasons for believing it isn’t true (see In what way is the Bible a special book?). And rejecting this teaching doesn’t necessarily lead to anarchy and loss of faith – in fact it may increase faith.

Spirit or heresy?

Most of these are “hot button” issues, dearly loved by many christians.

But there seems to be a new wave of thinking that Chuck has summed up well in these 5 rejections.

(I think this new wave also includes the rediscovery of the Kingdom of God and of the importance of christians to be caring for the poor, the marginalised and the hurting as part of our living in the Kingdom.)

Forty years ago, I came to the conclusion that the church was entering a time of change that would prove as important as the reformation. Already we have seen charismatic gifts going mainstream, the breakdown of denominationalism, the growth of simple or house churches and an increased emphasis on social justice, community welfare and the environment.

I believe the matters Chuck has raised are a next step, and I see more and more people, good faithful christians, rejecting these teachings in favour of the picture of God given to us in Jesus.

I believe this is a new wave of the Holy Spirit, and I think it will lead to much contention, but eventually much good.

Watch and see.

And join in!

Photo: MorgueFile

Five ways inerrancy is killing christianity

handcuffs

I don’t believe the Bible is necessarily without error (i.e. inerrant). It doesn’t specifically claim to be, and I don’t think any of the arguments for inerrancy stand up to scrutiny.

But I’m not going to argue about that here.

Rather, I want to suggest ways that this doctrine, which I believe is not Biblical, is also doing great harm to christianity.

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How sermons are stifling christianity

Cartoon

Preaching is one of the mainstays of Protestant christianity (though not so important in Catholic and Orthodox churches). Bible colleges teach how to do it, websites tell us how important it is, and those considered good preachers can become celebrities.

Yet the words “sermon” and “preaching” have negative connotations to many people, jokes about sermons abound (did you know that if all the people who sleep through sermons were laid end to end, they’d be more comfortable?) and educationalists and psychologists tell us they are not very effective in teaching or changing people.

Recently several friends, strong and active christians who attend church regularly, made strong anti-sermon comments. It made me think again, that sermons are stifling christianity.

Here’s how.

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Myths, legends, history and truth

Chaos Monster and Sun God

In my last three posts (plus an earlier post) I have looked at ways that we may see that biological evolution points to God as the creator, perhaps in ways that many would find unexpected.

In all of these ways, I believe science shows that evolution alone is unlikely to lead to the outcomes we actually see, suggesting that God has used evolution to create something more than a smart animal.

So now I want to look at how we may best understand Genesis in the light of evolution.

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Three views on christianity and politics

Ballot box

The combination of religion and politics can be explosive. It is very easy to hold our political views with religious zeal, and I am not always an exception. And so we often think that God is on our side of politics. (Or else we think God stands in the middle between the two polarised views.)

I thought it might be interesting to take a bunch of much argued over political issues and see what Jesus, as God’s representative on earth, said about them, if he said anything at all. A sort of HWJV – How Would Jesus Vote?

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Three views on hell and judgment

reading-bible

So far I have looked at two doctrinal issues in this series – Three different views of the Bible and three different ways to read it and Three different views of social justice and the gospel – and each time I have concluded that the truth lies between the two more polarised views.

It probably won’t surprise you, then, to find that I think it is the same with the vexed subject of hell and judgment.

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