Friday, January 28, 2011

All Men Will Hate You Because Of Me

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

I’m sure you’ve heard pastors quote this passage numerous times. I know I certainly have. In fact, I’ve heard a couple of Christians suggest that if you don’t have enemies, then you’re doing something wrong. But what does Jesus mean when He says the world will hate us Christians because of Him?

The answer you are most likely to hear is it’s because the message of the Gospel goes against the pluralistic message of the world. The world says, “All paths lead to the same destination,” but the Bible says, “there is no other name under heaven [other than Jesus] given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The world also says, “Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody,” but the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Certainly that’s why Jesus said the world will hate us, right?

Well, I think that’s part of the reason, but not the whole reason.

If we look at Matthew chapter 10 in its entirety, we see that Jesus gives the twelve disciples that warning before sending them out to spread the message of the Kingdom of God throughout Israel. And while that message does include repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-47), there’s also a social/political nature to the Gospel, which is:

1). Jesus is Lord, not Casar (or any other worldly emperor)
2). “Seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)
3). The meek will inherit the earth, and the peacemakers will be called children of God (Matthew 5:5,9)
4). People “will beat their swords into plowshares . . . and will not train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

Now if that’s not a threatening message for the powers of this world, I don’t know what is!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Resist the Green Dragon!!!

My friend Peter over at Emerging Christian recently posted this video of a DVD series produced by an ultra-conservative Christian group about resisting radical environmentalism, otherwise known as "The Green Dragon."

I don't know where to start!

1. I thought "green dragon" was what my friends used to call weed back in high school.

2. One of the so-called "experts" they interview is Bryan Fischer, a notorious ultra-right-winged fundamentalist who claims that:

* Muslims should be banned from the U.S. Army.

* The U.S. Military has become "feminized."

* Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell is lead to "mandatory cross-dressing."

I would go on, but I think you get the picture.

3. Who exactly do they consider to be "radical environmentalists?" Do they mean eco-terrorists who often resort to violence, like the Animal Liberation Front? Or do they mean peaceful activists who challenge the way we consume and use the planet, like Wendell Berry? Something tells me this group is lumping both Berry and the eco-terrorists together.

If you want a good biblical argument for environmentalism, I suggest you read Jonathan Merritt's Green Like God, which cuts through the political rhetoric and goes straight to the Bible.

As for this DVD series, well let's say these guys must have been smoking some of that green dragon when they thought of this!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Painting Calvinists With Broad Strokes

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a tendency to stereotype people. I take a group of people, pick out three of four loonies out of the bunch, and claim that those loonies represent that entire group of people. Past stereotyped groups include Republicans, Southern Baptists, feminists, jocks, potheads, country music fans, and Pentecostals. The latest group I find myself stereotyping is the Calvinists.

Last year when all the papers said it was hip to be Reformed, I naturally wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I read everything I could about Calvinism. I listened to Mark Driscoll’s sermons, read John Piper’s Desiring God blog, and even re-read Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” While I never considered myself a Calvinist (I could never get into the whole Limited Atonement thing), I was fascinated and influenced by the Reformed tradition. Calvinism reminded me that God is bigger than my brokenness.

And then something went wrong. The more I listened to Driscoll, Paul Washer, and Charles Spurgeon (not his actual voice, though, but people quoting him), the more I felt guilty. There was so much talk about sin and damnation and total depravity that I wondered, “What happened to ‘saved by grace?’ Are my sins really forgiven? Because this sounds like I’m still guilty!” It all sounded like the bully god I tried to run away from in high school. After a while I became disillusioned with Calvinism, and thought that Calvinists were just all about fire and brimstone.

(For clarification, I’m NOT saying that we stop talking about sin in order for people to feel comfortable, like Joel Osteen. I’m just saying that when you’re constantly told that you should have been on that cross--no matter how true it may be--you start feeling like crap.)

Then last night while I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about all the different church traditions I’ve experienced when I thought about the Presbyterian Church Amy attends. As I thought about my experiences attending worship with my fiance Amy, I suddenly realized that out of all the times I’ve been to that church, I’ve never once left the church feeling guilty. Yes, they preach about sin, Hell, and judgment--but that’s not the primary focus. The message all boils down to the grace, beauty, and majesty of God. Then I realized maybe I was wrong.

For a guy who’s always talking about getting rid of the “us vs. them” mentality, I sure thrive on conflict. Hopefully some day I’ll learn to stop seeing people as either “for me” or “against me,” and remember that everyone is in the same boat no matter what their theological position is.

(For the record, though, those Pentecostals are still weird.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Borg and Biblical Literalism

I'm currently reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. At first I wasn't sure what to make it of, having recently been disappointed by his novel Putting Away Childish Things. But this book is a hundred times better than I expected. In fact, it brings up a good question: should the Bible be interpreted literally?

According to Borg, contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is mostly a human product; mankind wrote it in response to real experiences with God. However, that doesn't mean the Bible does not hold any spiritual significance. On the contrary, the Bible is a sacrament as much as the bread and wine. God uses the Bible to communicate with us.

So then how should we read the Bible? According to Borg, it should be read through a historical-metaphorical lens. The Biblical writers often used memories and metaphors to explain their experiences with God. For example, while God may not have literally parted the Red Sea, Borg believes that that passage shows how God liberates His people from oppression.

Since I wasn't there when the Bible was being written, I can't say how much of it was written by God and how much by man. But I will say this: I do believe we shouldn't stress out about whether or not certain events in the Bible really happened or not. Instead, I think the number one thing we should ask ourselves is, "What is this telling me about God?" For example, we all know about the endless creationism vs. evolution debate. There are those who swear up and down that God created heaven and earth less than 10,000 years ago and in six twenty-four hour periods just like it says in Genesis. Others say that the creation account in Genesis should be taken metaphorically. Me, since I wasn't there when the world began, I can't say who is wrong and who is right. Instead, I focus on the message of the first three chapters of Genesis: how God made the world, and how mankind rebelled against Him.

What do you think? Should the Bible be interpreted literally? Does it really matter?