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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Red letter christians?

red-letter-christians

We are visiting family in the US right now, and the recent Presidential election is on everyone’s minds here.

Reports are coming in that apparent white supremacists have been attacking, verbally or physically, people who belong to minorities such as blacks, Muslims and Latinos. Right wing christians are expressing relief that Hilary Clinton, who they vehemently oppose because she is seen to be pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, pro political correctness, anti freedom of religion, and dishonest, didn’t get elected.

Meanwhile the people I have moved amongst have the opposite reaction. Shocked by Donald Trump’s victory, critical of his many obvious flaws and failures, concerned for the safety and wellbeing of people from minorities, including women, and feeling let down by the right wing christians overwhelmingly voting for Trump.

The nation is divided, and so is the christian church, though Trump appears to have the majority in each case. How should christians who fear the worst react?

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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

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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But me, I’m still on the road

Walking away

“All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road”

Bob Dylan: Tangled up in blue

In my previous post (I don’t know what they’re doing with their lives), I observed that many teens and young adults seem to drop out of faith after they leave school, or become less active and engaged sometime after they marry.

I’d now like to suggest a few reasons and remedies.

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“I don’t know what they’re doing with their lives”

Crowd

“All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road”

Bob Dylan: Tangled up in blue

I’ve been attending our very middle class church for more than 13 years now, and in that time we’ve seen so many people come and go.

What are they doing with their lives? Are they still on the Way?

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Signs of hope

Grass growing in a crack in the footpath

Do you ever lose hope, perhaps just for a moment?

There are plenty of things we may feel hopeless about – ourselves or our circumstances, the world, politics. One of the things I often lose hope about is the church – it just seems to be drifting, a long way from the teachings of Jesus, yet also a long way from connecting with the people around us. Keith Green once called it “asleep in the light”.

Yet there are many signs of hope. People caring for their fellow human beings and thus showing in practical ways the love God puts in our hearts, and calling those outside the kingdom to receive God’s grace and forgiveness and join us in making the world a better place.

Here are seven brief glimpses of hope.

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Three views on our acceptance with God

North Haven

North Haven on the NSW mid-north coast, from the top of Big Brother mountain. The reason for showing this photo will become apparent in the post. Photo (c) John Naylor and Google.

Christians hold three different views on who gains acceptance with God. I have looked at what the Bible says in detail at Can only christians be saved?, but here I want to think about some other aspects of the question.

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