Study of Mark: Mark 2:1-12
Mark 2:1-12 ESV And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. (2) And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. (3) And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. (4) And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (5) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." (6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, (7) "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (8) And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? (9) Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? (10) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- (11) "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." (12) And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
People are still bringing the sick to see Jesus -- he's nothing more than a healer to many. I love the story of the paralytic whose friends brought him to see Jesus -- they knew that Jesus could help their friend, and they got him to Jesus however they could!
They got something rather unexpected. Instead of healing, Jesus forgave the man's sins. People were in shock. They knew
what Jesus was claiming, even then! It amazes me that people claim Jesus never said He was God -- right here, He is claiming a power that God alone has -- the power to forgive sins. He doesn't say "God has forgiven you". He doesn't say "Be good and you'll be OK". He actually, right then and there, forgives the man's sin. And then confronts the people around Him with their own thoughts!
Which is easier to say? Neither one is particularly difficult to pronounce, so that isn't Jesus' point. I can walk around all day and say to people "Your sins are forgiven", and it means nothing. I can still say it, though. Nobody will know I'm lying until they stand before God and He informs them that they were deceived. How do you show authority? How do you show people that you are
the One who can forgive sin? Jesus shows them. He has power over illness and disability.
He also shows us why
He did the healing miracles. It wasn't just to make people well -- I'm sure there were many people in Israel at that time who never received healing. He wasn't doing it because people aren't supposed to be sick, or that believers aren't supposed to be sick. He did it so that the people would know that He had the authority from God to forgive sins. It was a calling card, so to speak. To emphasize His point, He heals the paralytic, who walks out of the house praising God.
I've noticed that repeatedly, the people who Christ heals leave Him praising God. They knew Who had healed them. These Jews, who had never worshipped anyone but God, left praising the God who had healed them. Maybe they thought that Jesus was merely His instrument. That all changed that day in Capernaum. Jesus laid claim to the authority to forgive sins, and His ministry was never the same. People had to decide to follow Him NOT based on His healing, but based on who He said He was.
We have to make the same choice today. Do we simply follow Christ because we wnat to have the 'Get Out of Hell Free' card? Because Jesus is "the Good Guy"? Or do we follow Him because we believe His claims to be God. We accept Who He is, and we have faith in what He did for us, and trust only in that for our eternal salvation. Following a God that is simply a cosmic gumball machine
is not an option. That god is not the God of the Bible, or of Christianity. I'm not really sure that god is worth worshipping at all. Thankfully, my God is much more than that.
Christian Carnival Alert!!
Yeah, you. Sitting there eating Fritos and writing your blog. You want fame? You want fortune?
Then get a real job. You want people to read your blog? Then send it in!!!
This week, the Christian Carnival is hosted at Back of the Envelope
-- the first blog I read every day (and I'd say that even if my blogroll wasn't
in alphabetical order! Send an email to him at email@example.com
, including the following information:
Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the Post
Do that, and before you know it the blogosphere will be singing your praises .... well, they'll know who you are, anyway. Hey, it's a start! So get writing, and send it in!
MGM -- Do They Really Get It??
MGM has a new movie coming out called "Saved!"
. The movie is about a Christian teen (Jena Malone), attending a stereotypical Baptist high school, who becomes pregnant when she tries to "convert" her gay boyfriend by having sex with him. Of course, she instantly becomes an outcast at her school -- the "good kids" don't like her anymore since she's now a dirty, rotten sinner. The essential plot of the movie, as near aas I can tell, is that Christians aren't tolerant, they don't love sinners, and you'd better watch out or they're gonna get you.
In and of itself, I have no real issue with the movie. I've known Christians who treated pregnant classmates in just that way. I know far more, though, who treated everyone with compassion, just as Christ did. I am, of course, used to Hollywood trying to tweek Christians, and it seems that this movie just capitalizes on the current trend of Christian-bashing. I don't really expect anything more out of Hollywood -- that's why I can be pleasantly surprised with things like The Passion of the Christ
The problem I have is that MGM is apparantly hoping that Christians will like this movie
. I am a former marketing major. I have always enjoyed advertising and marketing -- and if I may brag for a minute, I was pretty good at it. I would love to meet the marketing idiots who saw this movie and said, "Hmmm. Christian kids beat down the poor pregnant girl. The whole high school is Baptist, and they're hypocrites. The conservative Christians should love
this one. Lets market it to them!". If I were in charge of production at MGM, I'd have an entirely new marketing department by the end of this week.
Reading some reviews
of the film, one thing becomes obvious -- the filmmakers don't know anything about the evangelical "subculture". The movie is lettered with stereotypes, right down to the preacher, who has an affair with one of the kid's parents. It would be nice if Hollywood would actually do their research when they make a movie about us, but I guess that's hoping a little too much.
I'm not sure how offensive the movie would be -- I have to agree that there are Christian kids who act just like the kids in the movie; uncaring, unsympathetic, comdemning, etc. Of course, that describes just about any group of teenagers that I've ever been associated with, Christian or not. And maybe, in the end, that will be the salvation of this movie's box office. It will give the non-Christian kids someone to point at and say "I may not be a Christian, but at least I'm not as bad as they are! Look at me -- I'm tolerant!".
And in the end, nothing changes. More people to look down their noses at Christians -- none of whom actually act anything like the people in the movie. Another stereotype, so that people don't have to be bothered to actually find out what other people are really like. Sounds like more of that tolerance stuff to me. The more tolerance I see, the more I realize that Christians have it down pretty well -- in fact, the Spanish Inquisition was probably more tolerant than anyone in the last hundred years.
Just What the Heck is a Fundamentalist, Realy, Anyway
I could have subtitled this "Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism part 100", and I promise that I'll get off this soapbox very soon. I found this
over at the Fundamentalist Forums, and thought I'd share. Be sure to read the whole thread -- and I'm going out looking for Jerry Sutton's book
i'm going off to bed now -- I'll have some more commentary on this later on Sunday.
Just a quick note
I don't know how much I'm going to write tonight. We're on the road again, and the Internet access is limited. Also, I'm finding out that the caps keys on this laptop stick, so I'm going to have to do some editing when I get home to the real computer.
I've also got a template redesign in the works -- I'll put a sample up somewhere so everyone can see it and comment on it when I get it finished. Possibly by Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how much I can do while my kids are taking finals next week. It will address some issues that people have brought to my attention, but that I haven't really known what to do about until now (I'm learning to use style sheets, so I can correct some of the messy HTML code I've written here).
Well, I'm off looking through my blogroll to see if something inspires me. If not -- more Mark study tomorrow -- we start Chapter 2!
Christians and Public Education
I've been hearing a lot about this article
lately, so I figured I'd throw my two cents out there for everyone to read. You can also go here
to read a running debate I've had with someone (I am phoenix, so you know). AND there's a good discussion of the topic here
First of all, there ARE Christians in public schools -- my wife and I both teach in a public school. In fact, my wife took a LOT of flack over her decision to not teach in a Christian school -- she views it as a mission field, and I know that this year she has had an impact on several students. Christians are fighting for the soul of American public education.
There are also always going to be Christian kids in public schools. Let's ignore the kids who just can't afford the tuition. What about the kids whose parents are not Christians? What are they going to do? These are questions that I'm not sure have been answered -- at least not anywhere I'm reading.
Should we simply abandon public education to the Enemy? That's what we're doing. We're throwing up our hands and saying "There's nothing more we can do". We are doing the same thing that the fundamentalists did in the 70s and 80s when they abandoned the Southern Baptist convention. It's taken almost 20 years for conservatives to win that fight. We don't have 20 years to reclaim public education.
I am all for Christian schools, and even home schooling -- for the right reasons. If the public schools in your area do a lousy job of preparing your kids for life after graduation, then it's your duty to put your kids somewhere else. But if you are concerned about the moral decay of public schools, think about trying to help solve the problem. If you shelter your kids from what is happening in public schools (and I teach in one -- I know what is happening in them), what is their reaction going to be when they have to function in the real world? Will they be able to deal with people who are ideologically opposed to them, when they have never faced that opposition before?
Who is going to train them? Parents. Like Jen says over at blogs4god -- if you have enough time to be able to commit to homeschooling, you have enough time to be involved in your child's public school education. Know the teachers, and make sure they know you. Find out where potential problems may lie. Work out solutions before the problems happen. Make sure your child knows WHY they believe the way they do -- not just what they believe. Make sure they understand what is being thrown at them in school, and why people believe the way they do. Let them know how to interact with people who oppose their beliefs -- so that they can have an impact on their classmates.
And remember that there are Christian teachers out there who are going to be there for your kids -- a support group, if you will. You might not even know who they are -- after all, Ezekiel didn't know there were 10,000 followers of God in the nation; he thought he was the only one.
Most Popular Translations
I'm doing this partly to promote my poll
(I REALLY want to find this out, and so far I only have 6 votes -- I KNOW there are more than six of you out there!!!)
Ellison Research did a study on what Bible versions were preferred
by various denominations. There are some surprising results -- including the fact that there are a LOT of new, modern translations that the ministers polled were not familiar with.
One of the nice things about e-Sword
is that you get a TON of different translations. I don't use them all -- I tend to stick with the MKJV, the KJV, and the ESV for English. But I have access to many of the newer translations, so I can at least evaluate them, and let people know the strengths and weaknesses of each. It was interesting to see that the ministers polled also were willing to recommend translations based off different text forms (Alexandrian vs. Byzantine, mainly).
Everyone has their favorites. I tend to favor more formal equivalent or literal translations over dynamic equivalent. But I'm not going to condemn people who disagree with me. I may criticise their choice of translations if I think that it's an especially weak one, but for the most part, I'm glad to see people reading God's Word -- whatever translation they choose.
Let's Hear It for the ...... ACLU??
It IS the American Civil Liberties Union. And in this case, an American's civil liberties were violated
. But since it was a Christian kid's rights, I guess a lot of people thought it wasn't going to matter to the ACLU (popularly referred to as the Atheists, Communists and Liberal's Union). Thankfully, they were wrong.
The ACLU seems to be trying to show that it is not a biased organization, in spite of a track record that would indicate just that. And I LIKE the fact that everyone is getting an education about what exactly is legal when it comes to religious speech.
I had kids tell me last year that they weren't allowed to read their Bibles for silent reading in class. I told them the teacher was wrong, and that if they wanted to read the Bible nobody could stop them. Turns out, the teacher hadn't said anything -- the kids assumed that they couldn't do it because of the whole "freedom from religion" nonsense. I think we need to make sure that teachers and students understand the idea that "free exercise" means just that -- we are free to exercise our religious beliefs, as long as they don't interfere with anyone else's. Kids pray every day in school -- I see kids asking the blessing at lunch tables every day. If the ACLU can help educate people, and let them know what they CAN and CANNOT do, then I say, "Welcome Aboard!"
What took you so long?
Today in Church History
(Actually, this is more like yesterday in Church History.)
May 11, 1816. New York. 28 different local Bible Societies gathered together to form an organization that would help them to work together more efficiently. May 11 marks the day that they voted to form the American Bible Society
. By years end, 41 different regional groups had joined it in it's effort to "encourage the wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures throughout the world". Interestingly, they were committed to distribute Bibles with no commentary or footnotes in them at all.
Since then, the Society has pushed to make sure that Bibles are available throughout the world -- a goal they have since been joined in by the Gideons. They have produced Bibles in thousands of foreign languages, and have been influential in the spread of the Gospel internationally.
Err America -- Liberal Talk Radio at it's best
My third all political post -- but this one DOES have some religious tie-ins, so it doesn't really count.
I just finished skimming this NY Daily News article
. I wish I could say I was shocked, or disappointed, or even surprised. I can't.
They don't like us. At all. And they aren't very good at differentiating between liberals and conservatives when it comes to Christians. I can't think of very many devout (or even semi-devout) Christians who wouldn't be offended by what was aired. I've said it before -- this must be that "tolerance" thing that I hear so much about. I can do that, too -- but I won't stoop to that level of ignorance.
I say let them have their radio station. Make sure it's broadcast all over the country. I want people to hear what these idiots actually have to say -- that's the best way to make sure that they are marginalized into obscurity. Which is exactly where they belong.
The Christian Carnival is up over at Spare Change
. I've never read Spare Change before, but that may have to change (no pun intended!) -- it's a great, well-written blog. There are some great entries over there -- including several from blogs on my blogroll! My article on Fundamentalists and Evangelicals from the 6th is up over there, so tell your friends (or your enemies, I'm not picky!), and head over there and read some great stuff from around the blogosphere!
Don't forget the POLL!!!!
Poll right here
!! It will be up until the 17th, so get in on it now!
The Fundamentals and Inerrancy
has a copy of chapter 21 of The Fundamentals
, which discusses the idea of inspiration, and defends the idea of verbal inspiration. A lot has been said
on this subject
already throughout the blogosphere
, so I decided it was time to add my two cents.
Does inspiration automatically lead to inerrancy? If we hold to the doctrine of inspiration, that is, that the Scriptures are inspired (literally theopneustos
, or God-breathed) by God, can we believe that these Scriptures contain mistakes? Many people point to apparent contradictions in Scripture as evidence that it is not inherently. Many more people have researched the contradictions and found that there are reasonable, logical explanations for them, and that inerrancy is not affected one bit by any of them.
I like the word theopneustos
-- 2 Timothy 3:16 is the only place it occurs in the Bible. The idea of something being breathed out by God is fascinating to me. How did it happen? Did God come down like He did on Sinai, and carve the words into stone? Did He prompt the writer, telling him what to include and what to leave out? Did He simply monitor what the author was writing, and nudge the writer in the correct direction? Or was it something different -- something that is so totally different from anything we can experience that we cannot really know how it was done until we see Jesus in Heaven?
Inerrancy, to me, is very important. If the Bible is not inerrant -- if it isn't free from error, trustworthy in all it's claims -- how can we use it as the final authority for our faith? To me, sola scriptura
relies on a Bible that is dependable, reliable, and free from error. If an error is possible, how can we be sure that e are following the part that is error-free? When we say that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God -- how do we know that that part
is one of the correct parts?
One of the things I am learning in reading on this subject (and I'm just getting started on it) is that when we interpret Biblical passages, we have to understand the genre
that they are written in. When quoting a Psalm, for example, we must remember that we are quoting poetry, and treat it accordingly. We must also remember that Hebrew poetry is different from American poetry, and we must take that into account, too. If God inspired the writers, didn't He also inspire the method, the genre, of writing? Otherwise, why do we have poetry, apocalyptic writing, history, prophecy, biography, and epistles? Why not just one long narrative? There is a reason
for each style of writing in the Bible, and we need to learn that reason. When we do that, we can understand why some numbers are different in different accounts of events, and why some figures of speech are used, etc.
I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and that it is free from errors -- unless that error is an error of interpretation. The fault is then ours, not God's.
I really have nothing to say ...
... about the beheading in Iraq.
I've tried to think of the words, and I can't. Jared over at Exultate Justi
, however, has found words. Good words. Words that need to be heard.
Go here and read.
You are Romans.
Which book of the Bible are you? brought to you by Quizilla
Thanks to The Great Separation
(which you need to read, if you don't already!) for this quiz.
Study of Mark: Mark 1:40-44
Mark 1:40-45 ESV
(40) And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."
(41) Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean."
(42) And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
(43) And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,
(44) and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them."
(45) But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Look at the faith of this leper! He knows
that Jesus can make him clean. He has heard of the miracles that Jesus has been doing, and he knows that the same can happen to him. On the other hand, we usually have faith that something isn't
going to happen. We follow a Saviour who defeated death -- we should expect Him to perform miracles. But we should expect them to be for His glory -- not ours.
Jesus touches the man. This doesn't seem like much to us, but to the people of Christ's time, it was a major deal. By touching the leper, Jesus made Himself ritually unclean, by the standards of the Pharisees. This is a great picture of what He did for us at Calvary -- "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)".
And still, Jesus doesn't want to draw attention to Himself because of the healing. He commands the man to tell nobody what happened, but to present himself to the priests, so that he could be declared clean. He doesn't want a horde of people following Him trying to see what new trick He's going to do -- He wants people to follow Him because they believe in His teachings, and know Him for who He is. He wants them to understand the mission of the Messiah.
As before, when the news gets out, Jesus doesn't capitalize on it. Instead, he goes out alone, to wait for the buzz to die down so that He can get on with the business that His Father has planned for Him.
We spend a lot of time trying to put on a show. We want people to notice us, to pay attention to us. We even write blogs thinking that people all over the world want to read what we have to say. We need to remember our mission -- to go into all the world, to preach the Gospel, to baptise, to disciple. Some of us are better at certain parts of that than others, but we all need to remember that it's not only the Great Commission. It is (if I can go all Star Trek nerdy on you for a minute) the Christian's Prime Directive. Our continuing mission. And we don't do it for our own glory -- we do it to give honor and glory to God, who has chosen to allow us
to take part in His plan.
That finishes up Chapter 1 of Mark. Next Monday, we go on to Chapter 2, and I'll start using bigger sections of Scripture than I have been so far. Otherwise, this study will take a LOOOONG time to finish.
Yes, I've been cruising the Net trying to find cool new things to do to my blog, and this poll is one of them!! The poll will be valid for one week -- you will only be able to respond one time in that week. I'm curious about this, and I hope I get a good response.
By the Way
I'm using FeedBurner now for syndication. If you want to keep track of the blog, and not have to actually surf here, you can point your news reader to this link
. If you have any problems, let me know -- I'm kinda new to this syndication thing.
Study of Mark: Mark 1:35-39
Mark 1:35-39 ESV
(35) And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
(36) And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,
(37) and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."
(38) And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."
(39) And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
In verse 35, Jesus is setting the example we are all to follow -- pray. Things are going GREAT for Him right now -- His popularity is increasing, He's making an impact on people, He's healing and casting out demons -- and He stops to pray.
Not like us. We don't pray until we hit a speed bump. People often wonder why bad things happen to Christians -- I think that many times, they happen because God wants us to talk to Him, and He knows the only time we'll pray is when something bad happens. I DON'T think that only good things happen to us when we're doing what God wants us to do -- the Bible teaches that Satan will be against us when we are doing what we're supposed to do -- but I DO think that we open ourselves up for more abuse, more bad things, when we don't pray.
The second thing I notice is Jesus' reaction to His popularity. Peter comes running to Him, saying "What are you DOING out here all alone?? Don't you realize there are people LOOKING for you? You are in demand!! We need to take advantage of this -- we can have this whole town behind us! Nothing could stop us!!".
Jesus looks up at him and says, "We're leaving. We've got more towns to preach in -- that's what I'm here for."
It would have been easy to just stay there. Jesus knew what was ahead; He knew what people were going to do to Him. He knew that the arguements with the Pharisees were coming. He knew that people would be calling for His death. He could have stuck around where people liked Him, and taken His time. But He didn't.
He knew God's timetable. He knew that the Father knew best. And maybe He knew that some of the people who were looking for him, who thought He was the best thing ever to happen to their town, were some of the people who would, in just three years, be calling for His death. He got back to business, no matter what.
How often are we content to stay where we are, rather than go where God wants us? I was pretty content three or four years ago -- decent job, decent benefits, teaching in a school district that was building new schools every day, so there was always a chance to get a better position, the works. Then God started telling me that I wasn't quite where He wanted me, and that I'd need to step out on faith and head off to school again. I didn't want to do it. I argued. He won. I start seminary this summer.
We like to have things our own way. We want God to work on our terms, rather than being willing to work on His. God's way isn't the easy way -- ask Christ. God's way isn't the popular way. But it IS the right way. We need to follow it.
What a DAY!!!!!! (AND the Schedule!)
We drove to Columbus last night, because my wife was judging the Ohio History Day Performance competition -- part of National History Day. So my daughter and I went Mothers Day shopping today while she was judging, then we took her out to dinner a day early (I'm cooking tomorrow -- don't yell at me! She's not doing ANY cooking on Mothers Day). So we JUST got home. I am exhausted, so I'll post more tomorrow.
Wanted to let everyone know that AS OF RIGHT NOW, the Mark Bible study is going to be updated on Mondays (though I plan on doing one tomorrow, since it's been a while), and the Today in Church History articles are going to be done on Wednesdays. I'm busiest those two days, so that will help me keep to my posting schedule -- I WANT to post something every day. So stay tuned!!
Moore or Less ....
Ok, a rare political blog with no religious under or overtones. But there's a really good reason for this:
I can't stand Michael Moore.
has a great take on Moore -- and corrects his errors in fact rather well. But you don't have to go there for the latest outrage.
has an outstanding article about Moore and Disney. In spite of his outrage over having Disney refuse to distribute his movie at the last moment (he told his supporters that he only learned of the plan on Monday), it turns out that he knew a year or more ago.
Maybe Al Franken's next book about liars should include Moore. Or maybe Moore should admit that his documentaries are very short on fact, and long on staged events designed to gain him sympathy.
(Thanks to Joyfulchristian
for the heads-up on this story).
Fundamentalists and Evangelicals
A LOT of pixels have given their lives in this discussion. My own post of April 28
(though I doubt too many of the others writing about this have read that one), multiple posts
at Back of the Envelope
this week, and a post at Doc Rampage
as well -- the discussion is getting interesting. All because of the Guardian, and their "fundagelical" article
As I said before, there are seven things that, if you believe in them, you are a fundamentalist. Pre-tribulational eschatology didn't make the list 100 years ago, and it doesn't make my list now. If it makes yours, you aren't defining fundamentalism in anything close to an historic manner. The way I see it, the people who coined the term fundamentalist should be the authority in defining what it actually is.
Inerrancy of Scripture does make that list. I haven't met very many evangelicals who deny the inerrancy of Scripture, although some confine that to the original autographs. The Second Coming (tm) of Christ does make the list, also, though no specifications exist about when He's coming back. As I mentioned, most of the people who wrote the book had disagreements about eschatlogy, as do many today.
Maybe the problem is my definition of evangelical. I'd define them in the context of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
and it's statements of faith
. If you prefer, you can look at the National Association of Evangelicals' statement
There are many areas where evangelicals and fundamentalists differ -- especially if you look at modern, rather than historic, fundamentalists. Modern fundamentalism had become a haven for legalism and anti-intellectualism. Modern fundamentalists typically hold very dogmatically to a rather rigid set of beliefs, and often pride themselves in who they have 'separated from' -- carrying the Biblical injunction to separate from heresey to degrees never envisioned in Scripture.
The differences between evangelicals and historic
fundamentalists are slight. The differences between modern
fundamentalists and evangelicals are huge, and getting bigger every day. As modern Fundamentalism has slipped into KJVOnlyism, second, third, and fourth degree separation, and other such doctrinal abberations, the gulf will grow even bigger. This is the reason I stopped calling myself a fundamentalist -- I don't like what the name has come to represent. I am
, and always will be, an historic fundamentalist.
AND an evangelical, too.
Another find in the Blogosphere
Most of you have probably already seen this
, since Instapundit
linked to it, but I figured I'd post a link here anyway, since it ties in to what I was talking about last week -- fundamentalists and evangelicals. I think Donald's definition of evangelical is probably a little bit wider than mine, and his definition of fundamentalist might be a little narrower, but he hits the nail firmly on the head. I guess it's the Southern Baptist thing -- we must think a little alike.
I haven't tried to post anything extensive today, simply because of modem problems here. I've tried to post on a few message boards that I read frequently, only to have my cable modem lose connection before I could post. It's working now (of course -- a tech is coming tomorrow afternoon), so I'm putting a few things up tonight, but the Mark study will have to wait until tomorrow.
I'm trying to set up a schedule for the Mark study and the Today in Church History postings, since a lot of people seem to really enjoy them. When I work something out, I will let you know. It may end up being TiCH on Mondays (golf league night), and Mark study on Wednesday (church night), but I WILL let everyone know when I figure anything out for sure.
Of course, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't stop by every day! You never know what I might rant about......
The Will of God
I was going to write something about God's will, what it is, and what it isn't, in response to a LOT of blogging about the subject -- especially of knowing God's will.
THEN I read Rebecca's article
, and I figured it would be a lot easier to just tell you go read that -- she's done an outstanding job with the whole issue. Maybe someday, I'll write one, but I think she's got the issue summed up well.
The Christian Carnival
is up over at Parablemania
. My first article about The Jesus Factor
is included, along with some outstanding entries from all over the blogosphere. Check it out!
Those Clever Lefties
The British paper, The Guardian, has coined a new term for us
-- fundagelicals. Fundagelism, it says, "oppose ... Gay marriage, abortion, gun control, taxes, the UN (and the currently top-rated candidate for anti-Christ, Kofi Annan), withdrawal from Iraq, Michael Moore, Janet Jackson's left breast". We believe in "Christian values and the future as foretold in the Book of Revelation".
Wow. I didn't realize that we were so simplistic. Never mind that there are, at last count, at LEAST six different interpretations of Revelation among American evangelical Christians, and that even Fundamentalists (in the historic sense of the word
) don't even totally agree. Never mind that to many who call themselves fundamentalist, the term 'evangelical' is an abomination, akin to calling an Ohio State supporter a Wolverine.
I'm always amused at the simplistic ways that outsiders try to categorize Christian beliefs. I guess if you can find one segment of the population and exaggerate their beliefs to the point of absurdity, you don't really have to deal with their opposition to you in any rational form at all. Funny, I always thought that was what Christians were accused of doing.
Today in Church History
Taking a Stand.
On this day in 1873, a Catholic priest known simply as Father Damien purposed in his heart that he would not take the easy way out -- he would, almost literally, enter hell to witness to the people there.
Father Damien was a missionary to Hawaii. I met some missionaries to Hawaii while in college; I expected lots of pictures of people on the beach, accounts of Christian luaus, the works. What I saw shamed me. Poverty, disease, things that the tourist board doesn't want people to know about. And above all, lost souls hungering for Christ.
Father Damien faced similar conditions in Hawaii, specifically in the leper colonies that he went to. Leperous men attacked young girls whose condition had not yet deteriorated. Living conditions that rival the worst third-world nation today, huts filled with filth -- this is what Father Damien faced as he began his ministry to the lepers.
He was given opportunities to give up and leave, but he refused. He managed to get fresh water to the settlement. He taught the people there how to farm, and helped set up many farms there. He helped build new houses, tearing down the hovels that were there.
He made a difference in the lives of people. He showed that he cared, and the people saw Christ in him. His evangelism efforts saw much fruit. The authorities on the island tried to get him to leave, even making up stories about him. He stayed, until he finally became one of the lepers that he was ministering to. He was dead four years after contracting the disease.
But his testimony lives on, an example for us to follow.
Spirituality and Real Life
One thing that The Jesus Factor
has done is prompt a discussion about spirituality, and how much impact it has, and should have, on daily life. Over at The Corpus Callosum
, there's been an ongoing discussion of the show -- I linked to one post there before.
, a response in part to mine, gave me a lot of food for thought, and I think that the main point of the discussion, or what the main point should be, was summed up in this quote:
Let's get back to the main point, that of the question: should spirituality strictly determine any aspect of a person's life? An important variant of this is the question: If the fundamental source of knowledge in a spiritual system is incomplete, or at least cannot be proven to be complete; if the translations are debatable; and if the ethical question at hand did not even exist when the source material was written, is it valid for a person to direct or judge the actions of another person, relying only on those ancient writings?
I'm not sure how debatable the translations of the Bible are -- we have existant texts that extend back into the third century AD, and external references to most of the Bible from patristic writings as well. Textual criticism, however, is an ongoing process (at least until we find those original autographs that everyone is dying to see), so I'm willing to concede part of the point. Most Christians believe that the Bible is reliable, and have really been given little reason to believe otherwise.
I do think, though, that even if the ethical question in particular was not in existance at the time of the text in question (whether the Bible or any other writing), there are guidelines that indicate "ethical behavior" contained in the text. To continue the stem cell illustration -- the Bible teaches that life has value. If someone believes that life begins at conception, they must logically believe that it is wrong to take that life. For them not to take this into account in a debate about harvesting stem cells would be inconsistant to their beliefs. The issue at hand in this case is when, exactly, does life begin. Here is where there is debate begins, and there are good Christians on both sides of the debate.
I would argue that it is not proper to do so. I would say that people are free to consider those writings, and perhaps even consider them to be the best source of inspiration on the subject at hand. But part of morality involves a careful consideration of all sources of information, prior to making an important decision. Different source of information can be given different relative weights, depending on the authority of the source. Taking only one source, such as one's spiritual belief, is to discard relevant information. That is not what morality is about. No matter what the book says, no matter what your spiritual leader says, if you have an important decision to make, it is up to you to gather the necessary information, process it thoughtfully, consult with others if you can, and make your own decision.
I agree with just about all of this. I always try to take all available resources into consideration when making a decision -- I'm especially careful about this when studying history, since all history is written from a biased perspective. And I wish more Christians were willing to study the issues and make therir own decisions, rather than parrot what is said to them on Sunday mornings. The bottom line has to be, though, that you accept the authority of the most reliable resource. In questions of ethics and morality, Christians will always turn to the Bible for this authority -- sometimes unconsciously.
Many times, I find myself wishing that President Bush would pay more attention to what the Bible actually teaches about some things. I grow tired of him justifying actions that are politically expedient by appealing to his faith. I sometimes wonder how convenient his faith was -- whether he is sincere, or simply using the Religious Right to gain and stay in office. I, and many other Christians, are uncomfortable with some of his expressions of faith -- many times, they seem out of place. As far as the "God wants me to be president" quote, I'd remind my fellow Christians on both sides of the political spectrum that the Bible teaches that all
of our leaders are ordained by God. So it's true -- if God didn't want him in office, he wouldn't be there.
Just remember, Bill Clinton was in office for 8 years. God put him
Check the Blogroll!!
I've added a few blogs to the Blogroll over on the right side of the page.
is an interesting blog. I don't always agree, but I always come away with something to think about, which is why I read it.
I've been reading Ian's Messy Desk
for a little while, and I've finally gotten around to putting it in my Blogroll. I like the Quote of the Day especially.
is another thought-provoking blog. Tim also shares my love of Christian music -- he has a lot of news and opinion over there!
The Gray Monk
gives me a bit of British perspective on many issues -- and I've found some awesome pictures over there!!
Check these out, and cruise through the rest of the 'roll, too! You won't be disappointed!
Frontline and The Jesus Factor
I have to start off by saying that I missed this one. I'm feeding off the reactions I have read elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I'm not really addressing the show -- I'm addressing what others have had to say.
The overwhelming opinion
seems to be that the President's religious beliefs shouldn't have anything to do with his political decisions, or anything outside his spiritual life. Personally, I find this rather amusing, and it shows a total lack of understanding about spirituality. True spirituality, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, or what, will
effect every part
of an adherant's life.
My Christianity is not a suit I put on Sunday morning, then take off when I interact with anyone else. It is more like my body, and the things I do every day are the clothing. You may see more of my bodyy when I wear some clothing than you do when I wear other clothing (a bathing suit vs. a ski outfit, for example), but the way my body looks has an impact on what the clothes look like -- my body would NOT look very good in Speedos, I promise you. In the same way, my faith may not always be the most obvious thing about me (more obvious in church, less obvious at a hockey game, for example), but it still influences what I do, and the way I act when I am doing different activities. It also influences the activities I do, and those I stay away from -- just like my body determines what I will wear or won't wear. I cannot stop being a Christian just because I am at work. If President Bush's faith is sincere, he cannot stop being a Christian simply because he is in public office.
I find the arguements that the President is trying to usher in the End of the World (tm) comical. I'm not sure of the Methodist Church's stand on eschatology, but from what I remember, it's NOT a pre-tribulational one. And a slight majority of evangelical Christians do NOT hold to the theology of the Left Behind
books, so to characterize all of us as radical nutcases who are trying to get Jesus to come faster is incredibly naive, and offensive. Anyone who has studied pre-trib eschatology knows that one of the key elements is that nobody knows when it's going to happen
. In ther words, we can't make it happen faster
. Nothing we do will change the day that Christ returns -- Christians are simply commanded to be ready. Besides, real pre-trib Christians don't believe that we'll be around for Armageddon, anyway, so Bush isn't trying to bring that
battle on. That happens when Christ returns physically to earth.
In short, the arguements that the President's policy in Iraq is fueled by his evangelical faith are incredibly misinformed, at best. They show an ignorance of Christian eschatology and the President's beliefs, and are highly offensive to most Christians, evangelical or not. If you disagree with President Bush, fine. There are better reasons to do that than by perpetuating the myth that he is in the pocket of the "Christian Right". Besides, many conservative Christians are pretty upset with him, as well
. (note -- I simply provide this link as a resource. I find myself in disagreement with a lot of what they have to say, and am honestly VERY concerned with several of the party's platform planks. I won't be voting Constitutional this election.)
I'm Still Here!!
Just a quick note to let everyone know I haven't vanished off the face of the earth!
Spent Friday and Saturday in Beckley, WV, playing golf and generally having fun. Didn't realize until too late that my Internet connection wouldn't work at the motel, so I didn't get anything posted. And NOW, I'm tired. So tomorrow afternoon/evening, I'll be posting. Promise.
BTW, if you ever make it to Beckley, you have to check out this course
. I had a blast, and didn't even play that well!!! Be sure and take your camera -- it's a beautiful course!
Study of Mark: Mark 1:29-34
Mark 1:29-34 ESV
(29) And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
(30) Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.
(31) And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
(32) That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
(33) And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
(34) And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Mark starts detailing Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the account of Christ healing Peter's mother-in-law. Partially because Mark is telling Peter's story of Christ, partly because it shows Christ's ministry starting close to home, the story is fascinating to me. As soon as Jesus heals her, she starts ministering to the disciples. She sees the work that God has for her, and does it gladly.
Our position is a lot like Peter's mother-in-law's position. We need healing -- healing that can only be provided by Christ. He comes to us, and heals us. What do we do then? Are we like the ten lepers, nine of whom never bothered giving thanks to the one who healed them? Or are we like Peter's mother-in-law, knowing what we are called to do, and doing it gladly? Or do we sit somewhere in between -- knowing what God wants us to do, and yet not quite ready to do it. Wanting to do something else. Like the ear saying "I want to be an eye. If I can't see, I'm not doing anything". God has something for each of us to do for His kingdom -- but we are responsible for doing it.
Christ has more trouble with demons in this passage. He casts them out, commanding them to be silent. He doesn't want people to hear about Him from demons -- that is the job He has for His followers. He also doesn't want there to be any question about the source of His power -- if demons are testifying to His true identity, there may be some confusion about who He realy is. And, as we will see later, there was.
As Christians, we need to make sure that we are the ones who are telling the world about Christ. Otherwise, we end up with the John Dominick Crossans and John Shelby Spongs telling people about a Christ that they aren't sure even existed, based on a Bible that is completely flawed and unreliable. We have Peter Jennings assembling a group of scholars who don't believe in the topic of their search. We have The Last Temptation of Christ
and other Hollywood blasphemies. The Church needs to speak out, and not worry that we will be mocked (as we have been for the reaction to The DaVinci Code
The Fundamentals and the Fundamentalists
OK, I'm going to dive into this one head first. There are a LOT of people who have no idea what it means to be an historic fundamentalist -- including a lot of fundamentalists. What passes for fundamentalism these days often has more in common with Pharisaical legalism than it does with orthodox Christianity. And the things that many conservative evangelicals believe are, in fact, the fundamentals of the faith.
So what ARE the fundamentals, anyway? Glad you asked. According to the people who wrote the book The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth
, which was written to combat the rise of liberal theology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the fundamentals are:
1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures
2. The Deity of Christ
3. The second coming of Jesus Christ
4. The virgin birth
5. The physical resurrection of the body
6. The substitutionary atonement
7. The total depravity of man - original sin
Belief in all of these is all it takes to consider yourself an historic fundamentalist. There are other beliefs, to be sure -- the list doesn't touch on the Calvinism/Arminian controversy, the pre/mid/post trib/mil controversy, and many others. In fact, the authors of The Fundamentals
held differing opinions on these issues. They recognized something that modern fundamentalists often do not -- that there is room for disagreement on some issues. That we don't have all the answers.
I believe all seven of these fundamentals. But because of other things I believe or don't believe, many people don't consider me a fundamentalist. I am Southern Baptist -- for many people, that disqualifies me right there. I read versions of the Bible other than the King James -- again, that would disqualify me in many circles. I am, however, an historic fundamentalist, by the very definition that the people who coined the term used.
Fundamentalist has become a term that describes a person who is so set in their opinions that they don't want to be confused by the facts. Anti-intellectualism is the stereotype of the typical fundamentalist. The stereotypical sermon is long on ranting and short on exegesis or exposition. This is the stereotype, not the reality.
The reallity is that there are historic fundamentalists all across the country who are intelligent and articulate. They are making a difference in our nation and our culture. But many of them don't call themselves fundamentalists, because of the perception. In fact, over on the Fundamentalist Forums
, we've come up with a new term that describes the more legalistic variety of fundamentalist -- IFBx. Independent Fundamental Baptist Extreme. It seems to fit rather well. Head over there if you'd like to learn a little more.
I'll post something serious later on tonight, after church, but I just read this
and HAD to share. I needed a good laugh today, and Bill over at Walloworld certainly delivered.
Today in Church History
April 27, 1667 -- Milton sells Paradise Lost
. The book sold for next to nothing (5 pounds up front, 5 more at publication, and 5 more for each new printing), and it took a four months to be published. When it was published, the press run was 1300 books.
I think about things like this when I dispair of ever getting published myself. Sheer determination often does well for an author. For a Christian writer, you can also keep in mind that God has a purpose for your work, and the important thing is to get the message out. Milton could have held out for more money -- he was a well-known writer. The message was important enough that he sold the work, and it has touched hearts for centuries since.
The Official Band of View from the Pew
. If you have never heard this band, you HAVE to go to their website and listen. This isn't just another CCM band playing watered-down lyrics to get noticed. This is a band who sings in-your-face, get off that pew and DO something lyrics. If you can listen to them and not be touched, maybe you're just "touched". . . in the head.
My new favorite song:
What If His People Prayed
What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more
What if the church, for heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God's promise
And stormed hell's rusty gates
What if His people prayed
And all who bare His name
Would humbly seek His face
And Turn from their own way
And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day
What if the life that we pursue
Came from a hunger for the truth
What if the family turned to Jesus
Stopped asking Oprah what to do
He said that they would hear
His promise has been made
He'll answer loud and clear
If only we would pray
If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray
If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray
Jesus Christ, Superstar?
The topic of merchandising Jesus has been making the rounds lately. The latest entry into the fray is this article
. The Evangelical Outpost
has discussed it (read the comments on this one especially, for some links to other discussions). I just saw my first "Jesus is my Homeboy" T-shirt today.
I think the most telling quote comes from the Journal News article:
Jesus Christ has become too big for church. He's stepping out as a pop culture superstar, a leading man on page and screen.
But he's being portrayed as a character actor, a parable-telling chameleon who has radically different messages in each starring role.
America seems to love them all, contradictions be darned.
In the film "The Passion of the Christ," which has grossed more than $360 million, he is the Jesus of traditionalist Roman Catholic Passion plays, beaten and bloodied as he endures the Stations of the Cross.
In "Glorious Appearing," the final book of the "Left Behind" series, which made its debut last month as the nation's best-selling novel, he is the Jesus of the fundamentalist rapture, riding from heaven on a white horse to vanquish the armies of the Antichrist.
In "The Da Vinci Code," a literary phenomenon that has sold some 7 million copies, Jesus doesn't appear at all. But readers learn that he was mortal, married, a dad and a feminist, and that the Catholic Church concocted his divinity.
Add to this the mixed messages from Peter Jennings' latest ABC special, the findings of the Jesus Seminar, and the proliferation of "Historic Jesus" books on the market, and we really do each have our own personal Jesus. And some of them bear little resemblance to the Christ of Christianity.
When we mass-market Jesus, we need to be careful that the real Jesus Christ is what is being sold, not a watered-down pop idol who wants everyone to get along. As Jesus Himself said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34 ESV). There was no misunderstanding in His mind -- He knew that the things He came to do were going to cause problems. People don't want to know that they are responsible to a powerful God for their actions. They don't want to know that God holds them accountable for what they do. And in denying that, they miss the fact that God has given us an out -- grace. He knows
we can't do it by ourselves. That's why He gave us His Son -- so that His righteousness could be imputed to us, so that He could make the sacrifice for us. Christ isn't a great example of how to live -- we can't live up to his example
You want to see people trying? Check out the legalists. Look at what many fundamentalist churches have become (more on fundamentalism later on -- maybe tomorrow). People all over the world are living with a list of rules to try and make themselves good enough. We can't do it
. The Pharisees in Christ's time tried to do it. They had 365 extra rules to live by, to make sure that they didn't break the Law. Jesus called them "whitened sepulchres" -- beautiful on the outside, great to look at externally, but full of death and corruption inside. What can make the difference? "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).
The grace of God is the answer. Christians need to proclaim it. The world needs to hear it. And it cannot be merchandised. It doesn't work very well on T-shirts or bumper-stickers. Wearing a WWJD bracelet doesn't get us grace. Going to the right church, or attending the right conferences, or reading the right books -- none of those will get us grace. Grace is a gift, given by God, to all who put their faith in Christ as Saviour.
Jesus isn't the newest pop idol. He's not my homie. He's my Saviour. Yes, he's my friend, but He's also my Lord. He went through one of the most brutal deaths imaginable, and yet He lives. Let's stop selling Him like he's a new fabric softener.
Study of Mark: Mark 1:21-28
Mark 1:21-28 ESV
(21) And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
(22) And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
(23) And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
(24) "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."
(25) But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
(26) And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.
(27) And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
(28) And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Mark starts right in on the teaching and preaching ministry of Christ. Note that Mark does not follow any chronological order -- he records events more in a thematic order. The ministry in Galilee is recorded first.
The first thing I noticed is that the people were all astounded by his authority. They were used to being taught by the scribes, whose teachings were largely based on the teachings of others. Their authority resided in their education. Jesus' authority was different. He relied on nobody (see verse 27 -- 'A new teaching with authority!').
The people weren't the only ones who noticed. Verses 23 and 24 tell us of a man who had an unclean spirit -- a demon. The demon knows exactly who Christ is. It knows why Christ is there, and it knows it's in trouble. Hoping to buy a pardon, it bears public witness to Christ's identity. Jesus doesn't want that kind of witness.
The demons of Hell know Jesus is the Christ. They oppose Him for that reason. This attempt by a demon to escape judgement shows that Christ knows the motivations behind everything that we do -- he knew the demon was being self-serving, hoping to avoid punishment. He rebuked the demon, and cast it out of the man.
This brought about more amazement and speculation about Christ's authority. The people in the synagogue knew of only two entities who had that kind of power over demons -- God and Satan. Christ had to be one of the two. Unfortunately, as we will see later, many people chose the wrong option, and attributed Chrits's miracles to the power of Satan, rather than God. People are always trying to find other sources for God's blessings on us, rather than giving praise to God. We need to be careful that we are not giving Satan credit for more than he is capable of accomplishing, and that we give God proper honor and glory.
OK, the title to this entry has been used over and over again. But it fits. This article in the NY Times
is one of the first I've read to express the sentement from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. Someone admits that if liberals expect Christians to be more tolerant, then they need to be more tolerant of us.
Tolerance has been notoriously one-sided. Every day is open season on conservative Christians, but we cannot open our mouths to protest anyone else. Understand, I don't believe that Christians are undergoing undue persecution, at least not in the US. We have far more rights than believers in, say, China, for example. However, we are often singled out and ridiculed for our beliefs -- and that isn't what my dictionary calls tolerance.
I don't even care if everyone likes what we're saying -- in fact, if they start liking it, I may have to change my opinions on some things. All I want is the same thing everyone wants -- I want to be able to state my opinions without being marginalized because of my religious background. I want to be able to vote for the candidate of my choice without hearing "You shouldn't take your religion into account when you vote -- that's imposing your morality on us all." I want everyone to stop imposing their morality (or lack thereof)on me. If you want me to acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me, then you had better show me how to do it.
Because as things stand now, if this thing I'm being shown is tolerance, we're doing it just as well as you are, sometimes better.
Christendom vs. Christianity
WARNING: This is REALLY long. I'm trying to figure out how to shorten my posts, with a link to click that gives you the full text, but I'm not that good yet. If I figure it out, I'm hoping that it will make the page look neater.
I wanted to address this issue because of some things that are usually said about Christianity. People bring up things like the Crusades, the Inquisitions, etc. as evidence that Christianity is a bad thing, or corrupt, and should be abandoned. It has always been my contention that Christianity is not responsible for these things -- Christendom, or the attempt to establish Christendom, is the cause. Christians are capable of doing bad things -- NOT because they are Christian, but because they are human.
What is Christendom? If we are going to contrast Christianity and Christendom, that is the first thing we need to clear up. The Catholic Encyclopedia
defines it this way:
In its wider sense this term is used to describe the part of the world which is inhabited by Christians, as Germany in the Middle Ages was the country inhabited by Germans. The word will be taken in this quantitative sense in the article RELIGIONS in comparing the extent of Christendom with that of Paganism or of Islam. But there is a narrower sense in which Christendom stands for a polity as well as a religion, for a nation as well as for a people. Christendom in this sense was an ideal which inspired and dignified many centuries of history and which has not yet altogether lost its power over the minds of men.
I think that, historically, the narrower definition is more correct. Christendom was an idea; the idea that government and religion should be the same thing, and that those to whom God has entrusted spiritual power should also be the final authority on matters of state. In other words, the very idea of Christendom is contrary to everything that Americans have been taught. And it hasn’t lost its power over the minds of men. Clearly, if you talk to many members of the Religious Right, they are striving for Christendom to take root right here in the United States.
To me, Christendom is characterized by forced conversions, inter-denominational fighting, political power-plays by church leaders, and heads of state trying to usurp the authority of the Church to cement their own positions. All you have to do is study the history of the Middle Ages to see this drama play out. If Rome didn’t like what your King was doing, they had the power of interdiction – they could deny you sacraments, effectively denying you access to the grace of God. The Pope supported insurgents in countries whose ruler opposed Rome and the Church, starting war in the process. The conflict between England and Spain was fueled in this way – Catholic Spain trying to put a Catholic ruler back on the throne in England, while Protestant England fought for its spiritual life. Of course, had Henry VIII not wanted a divorce, the Reformation might have taken a LOT longer to get to England. A big reason that Wycliffe’s attempt at reform in England didn’t work was that the political situation wasn’t right. The Spanish Inquisition was caused by this concept of Christendom. So were the Crusades (ALL of them, not just the ones against the Muslims). International disputes, fought in the name of Christianity, were the result of rulers striving for this ideal government. They failed to realize that man cannot bring the kingdom of God into existence – only God can do that.
A lot of people think that we in America can usher in the Kingdom of God by voting in good politicians (what an oxymoron THAT is). We forget that when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the first attempt at creating Christendom, one of the first things he did was force all his troops to convert. This isn’t an option now. The world is vastly different now than it was in the fourth century, or the seventeenth. And the United States, for all our posturing, was not created to be a Christian nation. It was founded on basic Christian ideas, but it was founded to give comfort, refuge, and representation to all. Our government is not designed to create a Church-State. We should not want it to.
Now that we have established a definition of Christendom, we can compare that to Christianity. Christianity is a faith system. It is the system of belief of those people who follow the commandments of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament, and who read and believe the things written by Christ’s apostles.
In the first chapter of Acts, we read a description of what Christ’s disciples asked Him, almost immediately after His resurrection. They wanted to know if NOW was the time to overthrow the Romans. After everything they had seen, and all He had taught them, they still had no clue. They didn’t grasp the fact that political power is secondary to spiritual victory. They only saw the immediate need. They wanted to establish Christendom.
Christ told them that that was in His Father’s hands. Then He told them what their job was – what our job is. “You will be my witnesses, to Jerusalem, and to Judea, and to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.” In the Gospels, the commission is more detailed. They were commanded to go, preach, teach, disciple, baptize – nowhere does it say govern. The power that was given at Pentecost is the power to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour. That is the power that we have to change the world. If we do our job, God will take care of the Kingdom.
The problem is, we’re trying to do God’s job, and expect Him to do our job. That’s not the way it works.
Happy Birthday, Bill Shakespeare!!
Born this day (we think) in 1564. One of the seminal playwrites in English history. Go read a play this weekend -- think I'll read Julius Caesar again.
Study of Mark: Mark 1:12-20
Mark 1:12-20 ESV
(12) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
(13) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
(14) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
(15) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(16) Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
(17) And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
(18) And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(19) And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
(20) And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Verses 12 and 13 contain all that Mark has to say about Christ's temptation in the wilderness. I'm not sure why Mark doesn't go into the detail Matthew does in Matt. 4 -- I'd speculate that it was because he had read Matthew and didn't want to repeat information, but that theory really doesn't hold water -- there are other things that Matthew and Mark treat almost identically. Mark mentions this early stage of Christ's ministry simply to set the stage -- he spends a lot more time talking about Jesus' actual ministry.
Verse 14 kicks off the opening stage of Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the calling of the disciples. Simon, Andrew, James, and John are the first four. Andrew (according to John 1:35-40) was a follower of John the Baptist, and was prepared for the coming of the Messiah.
Andrew is one of the more underrated disciples. We don't read much about him in the Bible, he wasn't one of the "big three" (Peter, James, and John). But we read in John 1 that after he met Christ, he ran to tell Simon (Peter) about Him. The very first evangelist -- and his convert became one of the leaders of the early Church.
James and John are interesting case. They are aparantly wealthy, because their father has servants to help on the boat. Not just fishermen -- these two owned their own business, and so were probably highly educated. That will come back to haunt them later on, when they start competing for the position of Christ's "right-hand man" when His kingdom is established.
The thing to notice is that all four of these men had important jobs that they were doing. They were responsible for feeding not only their families, but the families living around them. They provided food each day for the community. And when Christ called them, they dropped what they were doing to follow Him. How often do we put off doing what Christ wants us to do because we can't afford it, or we're too busy, or something like that. I've used those excuses before -- God has a way of making us unbusy when He needs us.
A Lite Post for now ...
I've been taking care of my daughter the past two days while my wife has been offf at a teaching conference. That's why the Mark study wasn't done last night, and may not be tonight (depends on when she gets home, it may be close to midnight Eastern time).
But just so you don't wonder where I went, I decided to hop on the bandwagon
and have my blog gender analyzed.
I've done this before, and I came out decidedly male (which my wife was happy about). This time:
Female Score: 410
Male Score: 1293
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!
I used the last Mark study that I did, and left out the Bible passages and the Albert Barnes quote.
In other news -- I'm working on a discussion of the differences between Christianity and Christendom. I'm finding out that people don't share my idea of what Christendom exactly is (or, rather, was). Might have that one up on Saturday, depending on the weather (sunny=lawnmower).
This is what happens ....
.... when Christians put political power ahead of the commandments of God. Christian political parties
may look like a great idea, but we forget one important thing -- not all Christians have the same political philosophies.
This is kind of a pet issue for me, and I've posted about this in the past. I like what I read here
-- I am a conservative, but first I am a Christian. When these views diverge -- which they will, and sooner than we would all like to admit -- I will still be a Christian. My Christianity defines my world view -- it is part of what makes me conservative.
Notice that I said part. There is a lot more that is involved in my political philosophy -- including the fact that I was raised in a conservative home, I went to Liberty University
during the end of the Reagan administration, my Dad worked for the Department of Defense, etc. What I see from the GOP anymore is a grudging acceptance of the Religious Right -- not a commitment. Christian conservatives are the biggest block the Republicans have, and they'll pander to us to get elected, but are quite willing to toss us by the side of the road until the next election.
What are our options? Vote conscience, not party. Don't expect the government to do the job that God has given the Church. Get out of the pew and put some action to those words. Live your faith. Read the book of James, and study it. Be salt. Make a difference, darnit!!!
Study of Mark: Mark 1:6-11
Mark 1:6-11 ESV
(6) Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(7) And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
(8) I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
(9) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
(10) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
(11) And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Today, we're reading about the baptism of Christ. We first see a continuation of John's description -- more emphasis on how poorly he was clothed, and how poorly he ate. The emphasis is on how God sustained John -- and how He will sustain us all, as well.
John is very popular at this time -- he is attracting crowds that the megachurches in the US can only dream of -- and NONE of these people are following John because its a status symbol. They follow him because he is authentic. Sometimes, we try too hard to get people to listen to us. We want them to hear the Gospel so badly that we'll do just about anything to get them there -- gimmick Sundays (how often did I sit through 'Wild West Sunday,' 'Pack a Pew Sunday,' etc. when I was growing up?), "seeker-friendly" services, contemporary worship, you name it. I am not saying these things are bad things. I am saying that if we really want people to pay attention to us, we need to show that we are real. Our faith needs to be a faith that is authentic. As I read
to my post (and others' posts as well) about truth claims and Christianity, one of the things I noticed was the characterization of Christians. Our faith says
that we should be a people of love, compassion. Our practice
often contradicts this.
I don't believe for even a half-second that Christians should be tolerant toward sin. All you have to do is read the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple to realize that He wasn't all that tolerant. He did
, however, love people. He went to Zaccheus in the tree. He went to the Samaritan woman at the well at a time when Jews wouldn't have anything to do with Samaritans. He went to people, and showed He cared, without sacrificing His message
. He never watered down His message, and doesn't expect us to, either. When we live our faith, and show that it's real, people are attracted. That is what John the Baptist did.
Even at the height of his popularity, John was pointing people to Jesus. Later on, many people thought that Jesus was competition for John -- that they were preaching a different message. John makes it clear that this isn't true. John makes it clear that Jesus' ministry is far superior to his and, as I mentioned yesterday, that Christ would increase, while John would have to decrease.
Why did Jesus go to John to be baptized?
Matthew 3:13-15 ESV
(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
(14) John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
(15) But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.
Albert Barnes has this to say about the phrase "fulfill all righteousness":
"There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase “all righteousness,” here, is the same as a righteous institution or appointment. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. He submitted to the ordinance of baptism, also, in order that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah."
This is NOT Jesus becoming God's Son, or becoming the Messiah. He was born both of those. This is God declaring to the world who Jesus was, and what role He came to fill.
Then the Heavens opened up -- literally. As Hyppolytus would later say, creation was reconciled with its Creator through the Redeemer. Christ made it possible for us to get into Heaven. The entire Trinity were there at this baptism -- the Father bearing witness, the Son receiving witness, and the Holy Spirit giving confirmation. This is the mark of the beginning of Christ's work on Earth, which ties directly to verse 1 -- the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Truth Claims and Christianity -- Are We Too Exclusive?
The opening salvo was fired on April 16
, on Al Mohler's blog. I try to read this one every so often, since I'm hoping to go to Southern for Seminary this year. The actual fuss started because of a book -- When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs
by Charles Kimball. Dr. Mohler took exception to a few of the things that Kimball asserted in his book, which indicated that Christianity was far too dogmatic in it's claims to absolute Truth, especially our claim that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, the only way to get to God and have any hope of Heaven.
was the first place I read about this, since I had missed Mohler's blog that day. He's got a good number of quotes from that blog, so I won't quote them again here. He also makes the point that the claim that Christ is the Messiah, the olny way to Heaven, is the very foundation of Christianity. Without that, what point is there? There are certainly other faiths that require less devotion, whose rules are less stringent, whose pathway is broader and smoother. If pluralism is true, if there are a multitude of pathways to God, then Christianity is the toughest road to get there.
took up the discussion. I love the candy bar analogy that he uses, and he brings up a great point -- the people who are saying "Be more inclusive, don't be so dogmatic" are in reality saying "Hey, you're wrong, we're right. Be more like us! Be more tolerant, and less inclusive -- just like us!". They are ignoring their own claims to absolute truth -- what they
believe is the Truth, and we should all follow them!
Everyone has blinders to their own beliefs. None of us recognize our shortcomings automatically; that is why debate is a good thing. Christianity's truth claims, our exclusive "ownership" of the one Way to Heaven, isn't a shortcoming -- it's our strength. As Paul says, without the ressurection of Christ, our preaching and our hope is in vain. Without the Truth that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light (not just A way, A truth, or A light), we are nothing more than a bunch of clanging cymbals. When we give up our Truth, when we back down, we lose. And when we stop proclaiming that Truth, unashamedly, everyone loses. Without the Truth of the Gospel, we are just another philosophy that is full of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" (one of my favorite Shakespearian quotes).
NOT sure I should be happy about this ......
Study of Mark -- Mark 1:1-5
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' " John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(Mark 1:1-6 ESV)
The first two verses point directly to the Old Testament. Mark illustrates the relationship between the Old and New Testament, which the church fathers were VERY interested in. Irenaeus especially used these verses to show that the OT God and the NT God were the same -- the prophets, after all, didn't foretell the coming of a new and improved deity. This conflicted with Marcion's teaching that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, angry God, but the God of the New Testament was a loving and merciful God of grace.
It is interesting that Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, when it's actually two prophecies in two books.
Malachi 3:1 is the prophecy of the messenger, while Isaiah 40:3 mentions the voice crying in the wilderness. I've heard a lot of different things about this -- that Malachi and Isaiah were on the same scroll, but the scrolls were referred to by the name of the major prophet, that many writers conflate (merge together) prophecies and only credit the major prophet. Of course, some manuscripts attribut the prophecy to "the Prophets", rather than to any specific one. There's a great treatment of this issue here
The thing I got the most out of this passage comes from the description of John. I wondered why he had to look this way, why he had to be a "voice crying in the wilderness". When the Jews saw someone looking like him, who ate very little, had poor clothing, and no "hometown" (he had lived in the wilderness for most of his life). He had no reputation, nobody knew who had taught him. Yet he spoke with the authority of someone who had been with God. They knew there was only one way that John could have survived living the way he did -- God was with him, supplying him with everything he needed. THAT is what gave John his credibility with the people.
I was fascinated at the way the church fathers dealt with John. They saw him as a type of the Law -- clad in filthy rags, just as our righteousness is as filthy rags, sustained by God, meant to point us all toward the Saviour. They pointed especially to John's statement that "He must increase, and I must decrease" to show not only Johns feeling about his ministry after Christ's appearing, but that the Law must diminish while Grace abounded. I think this view, more than any other, shows the true relationship between Grace and Law. The Law shows us how good we really need to be to merit heaven, and shows us that we cannot do it ourselves. That's when Grace comes in, and gives us a Way.
Study of Mark -- Introduction
The best way to introduce Mark is to take a look at an outline
. This shows the dating, the authorship, etc. I've found bible.org to be a great reference source, btw, so it would make a great bookmark.
I'm doing this study following closely the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures. I especially like the way the text is broken into pericopes, so I'm going to blog each day based on the pericope, or section of Scripture, that is next. The first section is Mark 1:1-5, so that will be in the next entry.
Just a quickie .....
. Read this
I couldn't have said it better myself. Probably the reason I'm not as political as other "Godbloggers" I read -- there's a higher call, and a more efficient way of changing society. I've said it before
, and I'll say it again (and again, and again ... :) ).
Buy My Record
First of all, a bonus point to anyone who can identify the band who recorded the song Buy My Record
I'm not sure what to think about this
. For those who don't want to register with the Dallas News, here's a synopsis: Christian kids are downloading Christian music illegally -- and some claim it's for witnessing purposes.
Let's not even mention the whole "Thou shalt not steal" issue, which should be obvious to all. If we want to encourage quality Christian music, these people have got to be paid. The system is flawed, I agree
. Until we have a better system, though, we need to make sure that Christian artists are encouraged to keep on doing Christian music. The temptation is too big for the better artists to head over to a mainstream label, get bigger distribution and better sales, and make more money. Justify it by "reaching a new audience with our message". Then, the message gets lost.
We support local churches with our offerings. We support Christian (and non-sectarian) charities with our donations. Why can't we support Christian artists with our money? Or better -- why don't we?
I hear criticism of the CCM/Christian rock industry all the time -- "they aren't as good, as professional, as secular artists". Know why? Because the artists can't afford to stay in the Christian industry. Even Carman, who has done his thing for years on love offerings and prayer, is having a hard time right now. We have to give these folks whatever support we can.
Of course, Christian labels need to stop following their mainstream counterparts and actually pay their artists a decent royalty on album sales. When I buy a $16 CD, I expect the artist to get more than $1-2 from it -- especially since we all know how much (little) CDs cost!
I have a suggestion for right now: IF you burn a Christian song (and this can work for mainstream music, too), find out the mailing address for the band. Send them a fan letter, and tell them you burned the song. Then put a dollar in the envelope for each song you burned. Still cheaper than a whole CD. And the artist is getting some support from the fans. Maybe they can even afford to stay in the "ministry".
Christian arts as a ministry? That's a whole different rant. Maybe next week.