Archives For November 2009

Plan “B”?

November 30, 2009 — Leave a comment

This is going to be one of those difficult and probably controversial posts. Is Jesus Plan “B” whereas Adam was Plan “A” that failed? In other words did God really plan on Adam being the benevolent seed of mankind and when that didn’t happen he changed gears and  came Himself (via Jesus) to do the job of fixing things?

This concept has some pretty serious contentions among some Christians today. Some believe that nothing can happen that God did not previously ordain in that he had absolutely everything decided from creation to the end times  even before he started his work. If that is the premise then the above is utter nonsense to them! They believe that God, for whatever reason, planned for Adam to disobey and therefore set the path for Jesus to come a few thousands years later.  Some believe that God puts things in play and then steps back to let man’s free will have a go at it. This view is more in line with this supposition.

I am more aligned to the later I guess.  Part of what convinced me was the book by Greg Boyd entitled God of the Possible. Before you close your mind entirely about this topic I would hope you would look at the arguments in his book. They are very scripturally based and at least convincing to me.  There are several places in the Bible where God obviously changed his mind. If you are one of those who believe in literal and total inerrancy in the Bible please  think twice before you discount this possibility?

As a side note, I will be doing some extensive posts on this topic early in the new year. I just wanted to bring up the topic now to get you (and me) thinking more about it.  There are a lot of bible verses that support this view that God leaves some things open to possibilities while maybe closing some others.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2009 — 2 Comments

Today is Thanksgiving so I thought I would again share with you a prayer that I have been using the last few years. It is definitely for today but can really be used almost any day of the year. The author of the prayer is Samuel F. Pugh. He died just before Christmas 2007 at the age of 103. He spent more that 70 years of his life in Christian ministry. He was also a renowned poet and author. Let us all be truly thankful for everything we have and also aware that there are those among us who need our help and prayers. Happy Thanksgiving, RJ  

 A Thanksgiving Prayer (Samuel F. Pugh)

 Oh, God, when I have food help me to remember the hungry;

 When I have work, help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless;

 When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer;

 And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency and bestir my compassion.

 Make me concerned enough to help, by word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted.

 Amen

This is a quick post to tell you about a very interesting discussion happening on one of the blogs I frequent  ( Kingdom People by Trevin Wax).   The URL below is a very good post and comments about the basic differences between Evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church. I take heart that two people with opposing views can discuss these types of issues without name calling. This seems rare now days. Thanks Trevin for starting this conversation.

http://trevinwax.com/2009/11/24/evangelicals-catholics-on-holy-ground-4-questions-for-chris-castaldo/#comments

One year ago I brought up the Red Letter Living blog. To be honest I did it primarily to put down my thoughts on the many books and topics I have been studying the last few years. I just needed a place to think things through and put them to print. To that end this blog has been very beneficial to me on a personal level and has strengthened by faith in the words of Christ.

Amazingly as the posts accumulated so did the readership. I am humbled that there are Christians out there that think I have anything worth reading. But, I believe that the things I struggle with in my walk with Christ are not that different from many of you. I have always admitted that I am not in lock step with any particular church denomination although I am a faithful member of one of them.

I am going to try here to list some things that I have learned from writing blog in the last year.

  • I learned that I have much in common with many Christians out there.
  • I have made several friends through blog contacts.
  • I  learned that most people are open to different views of Christianity but some absolutely are NOT.
  • I have learned that the Christian population is much more diverse than I originally thought.
  • I have learned that putting my words to paper (so to speak) forces me to study each topic more than I might have otherwise.
  • Through blog conversations I have discovered several new and inspiring Christian authors and theologians.
  • I have learned that my views of some aspects of Christianity are not as unique as I thought they were. (It is nice to know that I am not a weirdo and others are thinking the same things you are 🙂 )
  • I have learned that we Christians have divided ourselves for some pretty trivial reasons.
  • I have grown even more anguished about the unity of believers.
  • I find that the more I study the words of Christ the more I want to know.

Thanks to everyone who frequents this blog. It has been a wonderful and challenging year. Thanks for your friendships and constructive criticisms.  Let us all be open to new things that bring people to Christ. Change does not mean we have to give up our dogma or doctrine so please don’t feel threatened by it.

 

I have been reading several new theologians lately and it suddenly struck me that none of them are female! Or for that matter I don’t think I have ever read anything by a female theologian?  So as usual I did some digging and discovered that among the theologians who are espoused to have made significant contributions to the field no females made the list until the mid 20th century. That is to say that the first nineteen centuries were without much female influence. Anyone interested in the source of this info visit <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_theologians#20th_century> .  Given the fact that women were not even allow to vote in the U.S. or much of the world until about the middle of the 1900s I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I truly believe that men and women each have unique perspectives on much of life so to be without female input has robbed the Christianity and the church of a valuable insight.

 Of course as expected in some sects there are no female theologians; some there are more but almost never more than five or ten percent. But, thank the Lord, that seems to be changing. For example the Presbyterian theological seminary now has 35% female attendance. This has mushroomed greatly in the past decade. Hopefully some of them will come into prominence in the coming decades.  Of course one of the major  hindrances is the prevention of women from the ministry in my Christian sects.  I know there are words in the Bible about how women cannot be over men and those sort of things. But, to me I wonder if that was not more of a historical context than a forever dictate? As Phyllis Tickle in her book review a few posts ago pointed out we Protestants seem almost fixated on the words of St. Paul and the he is primary source for much of this dogma. Of course during his time it was almost, but not completely, unheard of for women to be considered anything but property. 

I have to admit that I have not done as much studying on this topic as I would have liked to. So, if there is anyone out that can show me the female influence on modern Christianity I would welcome your comments.

Finding our niche…..

November 16, 2009 — 3 Comments

We seem to constantly fragment ourselves in order to make us unique. We are not satisfied with just being one of many in a common boiling pot. We have to think of ourselves as someone like no one else.  My father’s generation was not like we are. Many, if not most of them, took pride in the fact that America was a fabulous “melting pot” where Italians, Irish, Spanish, etc people came to the United States and became “American” (no dashes were included for them). Now we have to add several dashes due to our ancestry. We can’t just be an American. We have to be a African-Native-Mexican American or whatever the case may be. In my case I am a British-Scottish-Native- American. Several other dashes should probably be included as I’m pretty sure I am a mutt as these things go 🙂 .  I don’t know if that this is a good or not. It is nice to celebrate the different heritages and cultures of our ancestors. But when that keeps us from recognizing our common bonds it can be terribly detrimental. I think part of the fracturing we seen to be facing as nation today is a result of this need to be unique or at least see others, many of who we perceive as enemies, as different from us. The most damaging thing is the hate and disdain for others that some in these groups seem to have.

 I also think this is one of the reasons we have over 35,000 different versions of Christianity in the world today. We have to make our religious journey as personalized as possible. I know I fall into this feeling oftentimes myself. I want to believe that my version of Christ is the “true” one and everyone else just has it wrong to one degree or another. I just can’t seem to fall into lock steps with any of the existing versions.

I don’t know if there is anything we can do to change this trend or even if it would be beneficial to change it. But it just seems wrong to me that we have fractured ourselves to such a degree. We seem to almost be at a personal level of an “us vs. them” mentality in that it is now probably a “me vs. them”. In the U.S. that things always seem to swing from one extreme to another. One of the miraculous things is that we have, at least in the past, the uncanny ability to swing back toward the center rather than go over the edge. Lord help that be the case with this also. Maybe one day Christian groups will start integrating with each other instead of splitting.  But I imagine this is wishful thinking on my part.

The Words of Jesus

November 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

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I found an interesting book a while back by Phyllis Tickle entitled “The Words of Jesus”. Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor at Publishers Weekly and is author of more than two dozen book about Christianity. In this book she attempts to take the red letters found in the Gospel accounts and separate them from the surrounding text. She does this, among other things, in order to find “parallels in the accounts.  The book does a pretty good job of separating Jesus’ words into five categories: Public Teachings, Private Instructions, Healing Dialog, Intimate Conversations, and Post Resurrection Encounters.

Looking at the red letter in each of these categories was helpful in understanding some of the words. My reasons for doing so in the blog are pretty much aligned with her’s. Since she does a much more eloquent job of explaining this I will use her words here:

–The Words of Jesus by Phyllis Tickle pp 53-54–

What I am suggesting here—and with some trepidation—is that the time may have come in popular Christian conversation for us to speak of the differences in authority between the words of Jesus and those of even His most inspired followers. All of Christian Scripture depends from the Gospels, and whatever comes after must be received through them and in terms of them. We Protestants in particular, with our historic preoccupation with Pauline theology, would do well to remind ourselves of that obvious truth several times a day.

It is the correct and proper business of followers to try to discern the meaning of God’s words. Jesus Himself teaches the holiness of that endeavor. It is not, however, correct and proper business for followers to discern the meaning of God’s words only or equally through the discernment of other followers, even inspired ones, who have preceded them in the process. Better always first to honor and do discernment on the words spoken by God, and thereafter to inhabit—even add to-the historic lines of descent that discernment has subsequently taken.

The New Testament, like the Tanakh, is a living thing, not a static one. Its words are the basis for an going but divinely directed revelation. Jesus Himself makes that clear. “I still have many things to say to you but  you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but will speak whatever He hears…. I have told these things to you in metaphors. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly of the Father”  or “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Comforter and Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”.

The beating heart of that revelation, as any biblical actualist will tell you, is in the Gospels, not in the epistles or the history or the prophecy. It is the Gospels we must enter first if we are even to try to understand all that has come after them, and continues to come, even to the end of the Age. Amen.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a more diverse understanding of Jesus’ word and the circumstances around when they were spoken.

Christ and whose Culture?

November 9, 2009 — 1 Comment

I recently read an article in the June issue of Sojourners magazine ( http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0906&article=christ-and-i-whose-i-culture ) about Christ and Culture. It was related to past evangelism focused on stripping native culture in order to bring Christ to an aboriginal people. In my mind this has always seemed wrong and I can’t understand how it could not have seemed so to those doing it then. I just don’t understand why there was no voiced dissent about it. But maybe there was and it is just not well known. But then again in those days Christians bought into the worldview that Indians and Negroes were less than human.

Imagine if we were doing the same thing today and were witnessing to a modern day American. What if we told them that they must give up everything they now deem normal and go back to living as Middle Easterners did in Jesus’ time.  Give up your suits and designer dresses for a sack cloth robe and sandals.  Give up your modern homes with granite countertops and oak floor for a dirt floored 10 x 10 shack.  And of course you would have to from this day forth quit speaking in English and instead learn Aramaic as Jesus spoke. I don’t think we would have many takers to our invitation to follow Christ.  But, this was what was actually done to the original people who inhabited North America. They were totally stripped of their native American identity! At least that is what they tried to do. I am one eighth Native American so I am somewhat sensitive about this issue I guess. But shouldn’t we all be.

Shame on us for doing that. Thank heavens as the above Sojourners article show we are, for the most part,  not doing that any more.

Recently the Catholic church, and in particular Pope Benedict, came out with their own list of what they consider the seven social sins of the current times. It is interesting to see how this list is different from Gandhi’s of my last post.

The seven social sins are:

  • 1. “Bioethical’ violations such as birth control
  • 2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
  • 3. Drug abuse
  • 4. Polluting the environment
  • 5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
  • 6. Excessive wealth
  • 7. Creating poverty

Pope Benedict has spoken out on several social issues throughout his three-year papacy. He encouraged Catholics to abstain from a  referendum on easing restrictive laws on fertility treatments. Of course the Catholic church, unlike almost all Protestant churches, does not believe in birth control as they see that as hampering creation by God.  It is interesting to see the diversity of topics covered by this list. I’m sure that most of the items can find some references in the bible to back them up. One of the things I admire about the Catholic leadership through at least my life, they are not afraid to take on some difficult topics where they see them going against God’s word. I sometimes often wish Protestants were as bold.

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I know the above is not from a Christian person but it is certainly Christian in nature and principle. I found it under a pile on my desk. I wish it had remained on top but that was not the case. Anyway, it will now reside in a reserved section of my bulletin board above my desk. Of course this is a play off of “The Seven Deadly Sins” that played out in the Christian church in the middle ages.  Here is what Wikipedia says about that:

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices which has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin. It consists of “Lust“, “Gluttony“, “Greed“, “Sloth“, “Wrath”, “Envy“, and “Pride“.

Most of us know that Martin Luther King patterned his civil rights movement  based on Gandhi’s non-violence protests. His list was at the foundation of that protest.

Gandhi was born a Hindu and practised it all his life, deriving most of his principles from Hinduism. As a common Hindu, he believed all religions to be equal, and rejected all efforts to convert him to a different faith. He was an avid theologian and read extensively about all major religions.  With so much of history about different religions going to war with each other over their personal view of God it is kind of refreshing to find a religion that is not like that.  I guess I will need to put the study of Hinduism on my post seeds list too 🙂 . I remember watching the movie (Gandhi)  about him that came out about 25 years ago. It was very inspiring and helped shape much of my initial beliefs about nonviolence. Gandhi was indeed a very inspiring person.

Let’s always remember that other religions may have insights into God that Christianity doesn’t.  We should learn what we can from them. Next time I am going to show you a list that the Catholic church recently released related to their, or at least Pope Benedict’s, list of social sins in the 21st century.