Archives For February 2010


Most, if not all, of this month I am going to post about Quakers in general and in particular focusing on what they call “Testimonies” and other foundational type things. But I also will be covering some of the things that I believe make Quakers Quakers. I have to start off this series in saying that I am relatively new to much of the Quaker beliefs so some of what I am about to discuss will probably not faithfully describe Quaker belief. Please forgive me for any errors I may make in to this particular journey. I certainly welcome you to correct me wherever I may be wrong. This series is still a work in progress so I can’t summarize it all just yet. Hang in there with me and we will discover it as we go.  Given my increasing infatuation with Quakers these posts may go on for some time.  

Quakers claim they have no doctrine or creed but in my mind their “testimonies” come awfully close . Particularly their beliefs in simplicity and in non-violence. But with this study I am finding that I have many other things in common with them. Let’s kick off the study now.

Some of the basic tenets among Quakers, who were founded about 1650 in England by George Fox, was that true spirituality cannot be found by following the religious leader of the day. His basic question was “How do we know what is of God?”. Quakers believe in the answer lies in the their experience of Christ’s direct revelation. There is no need for priest, pastors, or other such people to act as an intermediary. They believe that if you pray in silence and study the messages of the Bible they will understand the true nature of Jesus Christ. If I remember right George Fox spent several years among various religious scholars and none were able to answer his basic question. I am somewhat attuned to that as I have spent the last few years studying various Christian denominations and have yet to find any that I believe truly envelope Christ’s nature as I have come to understand it. Some are good at one thing and some are good at another.

Some of the basic areas of the Quaker beliefs that I am attuned with most of my life are in the areas of worship, simplicity, nonviolence, and service. I believe they have locked on to much of the true Christian nature in these areas. I will be spending several posts in these fundamental areas.

One thing Quakers are definitely not is Sola Scriptura or Sola Fida. That is they do not believe that the Bible is the end of Christian revelations or that you can be a Christian by faith alone. Many Quakers have a tendency to believe that most of today’s Christians treat the Bible as an idol in an of itself. They believe the Bible is a history book about God and Jesus Christ that was inspired by God but was not dictated by him. I think their general belief is that the messages of scripture are reliable and trustworthy for teaching an learning lessons from God. They don’t believe in the literal interpretation of every word. They say it is up to us to find that lesson and not get fixated on whether the story is true, myth, or simply a parable. They believe the Bible was written by fallible men and therefore it is not infallible in every aspect. This belief tends to bring out severe attacks of them in some Christian circles.

Next time I will start on the list of Quaker Testimonies as they have developed over the years.  
 

Advertisements

I have had people tell me about Christian websites and blogs that they visit frequently. Most often I try to give them a look to see what they are about. I do have a lengthening list of blogs that I frequent. The main priority for me when it comes to adding to this Christian blog list is the following:

  • The blog must be Christ centered
  • The blog must espouse “Christ crucified”; that is it must recognize our need for a savior but not be fixated on that as a sole reason for Christ coming into our worldly realm.
  • The blog must NOT be mean spirited or contain character attacks on people they disagree with
  • The blog must concentrate on the words of Jesus; all the words not just those that promote their current agenda.  

One thing I will definitely not tolerate on a so called “Christian” blog is political rants and raves. That has no place on a Christian website. They speak very badly of the Body of Christ and give its enemies unnecessary ammunition against it. I recently critiqued a blog for a Christian friend of mine who, like many so called Evangelicals, leans pretty far to the right in worldview politics. The issues I pointed out in the blog were character assassinations pure and simple.  They espoused to look into the “opponent’s” heart and say that he does not believe anything he says. To me that is as unchristian as you can get.  Jesus clearly said to not judge the heart of others.  Even though I disagreed with much of what President Bush did while he was in office I never dissed him by saying his feelings were phony!  I’m sure he believed that all he did was for the good of the country. This blogger had absolutely no qualms about personally attacking our current president and for that matter everyone in his political party.  

You can disagree on some policies without attacking a person’s character as this site does frequently.  Of course on the Democratic side the abortion issues trouble me but the almost total lack of care for being my brother’s keeper as is evident in the Republican party troubles me very much too. All this being said the one thing I didn’t want to discuss with the good Christian friend who recommended this site is radical right political views vs. bleeding heart do-gooder views.  Arguing for or against a particular political worldview can contaminate one’s feelings about a person’s Kingdom views and I didn’t want that to happen here.

To recap my thoughts, mean spirited character assassinations have absolutely no place on the Christian blog. If the blogger is not Christ centered in his words and comments he does more damage to the work of Christ than he could ever imagine. I pray that if I do something like that here that everyone of you put me in my place very very quickly.


 
 

Do I come to Jesus because I am a sinner or because he is Lord and has agape love for me? That question is central to me at this point in my life. Another way of saying this is should I cling to Jesus because of all the bad things I have done in my life or because Jesus, being Lord, has much to teach me about living and about love from this day forward.

I just don’t see much point in constantly harping about what a miserable person I am. That seems to be the central theme of the epistles of Paul and many Christian denominations today. Instead of constantly focusing on my sinfulness I choose to focus on the fact that Jesus loves me and that through Him I can do anything. That is if I have faith even the size of a mustard seed. I am not discounting the fact that I sin daily because I absolutely do. Nor am I disregarding the fact that I need Jesus to get to heaven. Indeed if Christ had not died for my sins I, like all other Christians would be doomed to hell. But to fixate on these things as the reason to come to Jesus is just not me. Jesus teaches us many things about living in the here and now, the most important being loving God and loving others. He told us not to worry about the past or the future but to stay in the here and now. Being fixated on past sins is not the here and now.  And totally concentrating on being in heaven after this life isn’t the here and now either. We are to focus on each and everyday and live it as Jesus taught us.

But there is one type of sin that I do think about often. This type of sin is generally called sin of omission. Some say that this type of sin is uniquely Catholic but I think not. Jesus gave us numerous lessons while he walked this earth and it is up to us to use them to follow through on his ministry by doing what he taught us to do. These basic thing  are to love God above everything else and to love our fellow men as we selfish people tend love ourselves. I, and all Christians, fall far short of even these two. Yes it is a sin if I have a fleeting adulterous thought during the week but in my mind it is much worse when I fail to be my brother’s keeper now and in the future. I have much more remorse for this sin than for an occasional unclean thought I might have. I want to bring back the words of the Apostle John in the following verses:  

1 John 2:3-6

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

If you don’t do what Jesus commands then you are a liar about knowing him. Those are powerful and condemning words for all of us. The love of Jesus for others depends on us showing it in our daily lives ourselves. When we fail to do that, or for that matter not even making an attempt to do it, then we are indeed miserable sinners.

THE central tenet of my life is that I love Jesus because he loves me. One of the very beneficial offshoots of that love is that he assures me a place in heaven. I will spend what is left of my life trying to do what he commands and in my modest way try to live as he showed me.  I will do this each and every day without be fixated by either my past or my future in heaven. All the glory be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A Look at Sin (Part 3).

February 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Ok, the last couple of posts we went through a very condensed history of God as related to sin. We stopped with Jesus telling us personally what sin is. That was I believe the last time God told us very directly just what sin is but of course he does tell us everyday in our hearts when we sin. But it was not the last time that people would try to give their own definitions. Those we will cover now.

Somewhere between six and seven hundred years after Christ’s resurrection the Catholic church, which was for the most part the only Christian church at the time, came up with a list called the Seven Deadly Sins. This list was also know as cardinal sins or capital vices. The neat graphics above shows that list. Of course you could say that these have a foundation in Jesus’ two commands. Maybe they thought that Jesus’ words were just too general and needed some explanations.

Ghandi who I talked about in a previous post https://redletterliving.net/2009/11/02/deadly-sins/ put out his list of Seven Deadly Social Sins. And then the Catholic Church adds to the list of lists again a few years ago called the Seven Social Sins. I discussed those at https://redletterliving.net/2009/11/05/seven-social-sins-the-catholic-version/ .

So there is no shortage of lists of sins. Everyone wants to tell us just what sin is and how bad we are at doing them. One thing that has been central to my life has been the philosophy of KISS. That is Keep It Simple Stupid. In that vain and my concentration on the words of Jesus I prefer His words as to what sin is. “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'”. (Matthew 22:37-38). Not following these commands is sin.
 

Now that I have pretty much said what I want to say about sin. Next time I will give you my personal testimony of what I think of sin.

A look at Sin (Part 2)

February 11, 2010 — Leave a comment


Let’s continue on with our journey on the history of sin.

Adam and Eve had offsprings who had offsprings who had offsprings… Just how that happened I don’t care to speculate. As the population increased they kept digging their hole deeper and deeper. Finally about 1600 years went by and God just decided to kill everyone but Noah and a handful of others and start again. But it seems that man’s genes, or whatever, were polluted by Adam and Eve and Noah’s descendents pretty much went down the same road as before. God sent personal messages to them several times during this period through middle men known as prophets. He basically told them that they were still ignoring what he wanted them to accomplish. They even killed many of the messengers he sent. Talk about total disrespect!

Now flash forward another 1,000 years or so to a guy named Moses. After getting the people of Israel freed from bondage in Egypt he was given a list of things that God expected his people to abide by. This list is known today as the Ten Commandments. God made it clear, some might say finally :), just what you are supposed to do. If you did anything against these commands then you sinned. Of course the Jewish people also made up their own list of sins over this time and it included things like what to eat, what to wear, and other such, some would say trivial things. But the list that Moses brought down from the mountain came directly from God himself and was certainly not trival. So, with this new list in hand God’s chosen people proceeded to pretty much ignore even the ones from God’s direct hands.  They locked them in a box and only took them out and looked at them on special occasions.

Ok, here comes another flash, this time about 1500 years or so. God finally got tired of sending messengers to his chosen people, they tended to kill all of them, and decided to come down to earth again himself to see if he could finally straighten them out. This time instead of coming as a burning bush he came down in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead of just rehashing the original ten commands he condensed them down to just two. “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'”. (Matthew 22:37-38).

So let’s wrap up the original questions. Just what is sin. Sin is not doing what God/Jesus commanded us to do. Are we doing a good job of even Jesus’ condensed list of commands? More on that the next time along with some other lists that have cropped up since Jesus.


Most of the Christian churches today spend quite a bit of time focusing on the fact that we are all miserable worthless sinners. But just what is sin? I will spend the next few posts on that topic. Of course the first thing that comes to mind for Christians and Jews when the topic of sin comes up is the ten commandments. These came from the Torah and the Jewish tradition. Other lists of sins have popped up from time to time throughout human history. Jesus even gave his version of the ten commandments. I will investigate these different lists to see what they have in common and how they are different.

To start off I am going to try and give you my very condensed version of the history of sin according to my view of Christian theology. I might entitle this series “A Complete Idiots Guide to Sin”. But since I am not trying to sell you a book on the topic this discussion will be measured in words , not pages. I know this is a big task but being an ignorant layman I will go there anyway 🙂 . What is the old saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. Well this fool is rushing in on this topic. So here goes.

In the beginning Adam and Eve did not trust God as to what was good for them. He gave them everything they needed but it seems they were just not satisfied with God’s choices. They wanted to know what “good” and “evil” were that God told them they didn’t need to know. Even at this very very early point in human history I guess man had a driving desire to become gods themselves. This fact was the core of the first sin. I am not going to try and put the blame on anyone here; I will just say against God’s desires they obtained this knowledge of good and evil. Once they had this knowledge it was impossible for them to go back to the way it was. This desire to be like God was deemed the “original sin”. As a result of this sin God became very angry and basically told them “you are on your own”. They had to leave God’s estate and start life elsewhere. You might say this was the first act of tough love. God never stopped loving his creation but since they went against his will they had to suffer the consequences. When they were forced out of God’s house they also had to give up a lot of perks. Life would never again be as easy as it was for them or for any of us descendents.

Next time we will continue our journey on the question of sin.

Have a Little Faith

February 4, 2010 — Leave a comment

 


 

 
 

Anyone who has even skimmed the Gospels knows that one of the major themes of Jesus’ words is love. Jesus tells us it is not enough to love your friends; you must even love your enemies. Wouldn’t it be nice if only we Christians and other God believing people took those words to heart.

I recently was directed by a friend to a blog post about a book about a book I have recently read entitled Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. The blog that had the post was from The Institute on Religion and Public Life which claims to be “an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society” (their words not mine). The blog is obviously well financed. It has a lot of flashy colors and streaming videos and multiple authors. This post was a somewhat vicious attack on Mr. Albom. Among other things they called him an idiot. I see this attack as totally out of place for the contents of the book. Especially since the attack is on a “religious” blog.

The book is about the author’s eight year relationship with a rabbi who asked Mr. Albom to give his eulogy when he dies. Since the author was no longer a practicing Jew and at best only a distant friend the request came as a somewhat surprise to him. The book also includes parallel stories about a Christian minister friend who was once a drug dealer.  

Is Mitch Albom a theologian who got it wrong? That seems to be the premise of the attack post.  Mitch Albom, as shown in bio on the back of the book, is an author and playwright who was relaying stories about people in his life. Were there errors in theology in the book?  I’m sure there were. Some minor errors were even apparent to me but that did not ameliorate his heartfelt contents in the book.  I think he was writing about some very emotional things for him and I congratulate him for that.  To call him an idiot among other put downs as the post did is totally out of place and very ungodly in my mind. 

I think these type of put down words goes toward the times we seem to be living in and religious people certainly don’t seem immune from it.  There seems to be only room for either friends or enemies, or black and white, and nothing in between.  Where is the love of the Lord in this attack?  Jesus says to love even our enemies; I do not see that attitude at all in this particular post.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It is very readable and well written. Is it theologically sound? No, not in all respects, but is it good reading with much emotional content and does not deserve the attack it was given by this supposedly religious blog.

 
 
 I don’t know how many times I have heard the words in the title of this post when it comes to the Bible. The pastor of my church even says them rather frequently. It also seems to be a major theme of some of the blogs I occasionally frequent. They seem to say that if you just read the original text it will be obvious that all the current English translations of the Bible have got it totally wrong! They typically take one word and say it does not mean xxxx but instead means something completely different.

I must admit that at this point in my life I don’t have much of a desire to take on the Aramaic or Greek languages. In my very limited knowledge in this area the best logical conclusion to these types arguments seem to be that there is a vast conspiracy among  biblical scholars throughout time to twist Jesus’ words into something that they do not say. It is hard to explain “these obvious differences” without a conspiracy theory. But, another explanation might be that the person using these blog title words has a need to show that he is somehow superior to others and especially all the myriad of scholars that have come before him. A final reasoning might be that the person just does not have the depth of knowledge in this area that those past biblical scholars had. That is something like a teenager believeing that he is much smarter than his parents.  I know I am at times guilty of going off half cocked but not in the language area; I claim total ignorance of that! I’m sure some of the many things I question I just haven’t studied enough. That is why I try to pose my concerns as questions and not answers.

Those of you to regularly read my blog know that I am definitely not a person who implicitly trusts others to tell me what the Bible says. I question many things others just take for granted. But, I just can’t buy into this logic that the Bible translators got it all wrong. There have been probably thousands of Biblical scholars in the last century who spent much of their lives pouring over the contents of the Bible. I do admit that many probably probably had a particular agenda going into their study but why hasn’t someone “fixed” all those errors and come out with a “real” Bible?

As you probably know I cling to the red letters in the Bible. No, I don’t believe that 100% of those words actually came out of Jesus’ mouth. I’m sure some of them the writers just got it wrong or maybe even added their own words, but hopefully that was a rare occurance.  I do trust that most of those red letters were accurately transcribed and were accurately translated from their original language into English for me. We don’t have any of the original texts of the Gospels so again I have to trust that the copies they used to make the present copies we have were, for the most part, faithfully done. To believe otherwise would result in havoc! Even worse than the slippery slope I mentioned a few posts ago 🙂