Archives For April 2011

It has been a while since I have done any “deep” posts so this post will start a series on how I view the Bible and how that might differ from some mainline denominations today.  The first two post are about how I personally view the Bible and other related Christian text. The third post is about how some of these belief are contrary to how others, mainly evangelicals, view the Bible. I will finish up with some of the things related to the Bible that I feel are the most misguided and in some ways harmful to bringing other to Jesus.

I apologize in advance for the length of some of these posts. I try to keep all my blog posts below five hundred words or so.  I have failed to do that in this series. Before I begin I want to again tell you that I am not trying to prove anyone wrong by this series. I am simply reiterating what I believe.  But, I do think I have a slight understanding of what Luther might have felt when he went against the Pope and the Catholic Church.  I am just one very small insignificant person who happens to disagree with some pretty big Christian denominations today.

One of the things I have heard frequently from the comments on this blog is that others are relieved to see that they are not the only ones to believe things about current day Christianity. I hope this round  of discussions helps some in that regard.

Getting started the statement that gets me in the most trouble with some current day Christian denominations is that I believe that the Bible was written by men for men.  I have frequently been verbally chastised for those words. Some seem to even believe that I am not a Christian if I believe these words!  But I think the reasoning behind these words have a very sound foundation backed up by the words of Jesus. So let’s start there.

  • By Men — The Bible was written by men. In other words the Bible is a human document and is therefore not 100% perfect. Some say that God controlled every word written by the various writers of the contained text.  They believe that the writers could not possibly have written even a single word that God did not want them to write. If that is the case then why didn’t God just write the book himself and drop it from heaven. Of course this is what the Mormons believe about the Book of Mormans.  I don’t know of a single Christian denomination, outside of them if you consider them Christians, that does not adamantly think that belief is a very false statement.  By the same logic I believe that to say that God controlled absolutely every thought of the writers means that he took over their bodies and minds to accomplish that feat. God gave man free will to do and think as they desire; to me that includes even the biblical authors. So the Bible was written by men.
  • For Men –– The Bible was written for men. I don’t understand why this statement is controversial in some Christian circles. The Bible was certainly not written for God. He does not need a reminder of who he is. Jesus did not bother to write a book while he was on this earth; he evidently didn’t think that was the best use of his time. Instead he chose to spend his time “showing” us how to live.  With maybe the exception of Paul’s letters it was almost 40 years before the authors who ended up in the Bible even started putting down their thoughts. Part of the reason for this was because most of them thought that Jesus was coming back within their lifetimes so a written record of his work was not necessary. When they realized that they had misunderstood the time-frame they penned their various very personal versions of what they believed Jesus intended to teach us. I certainly thank them for not waiting too long to do this. Matthew, John, and Peter (through Mark) were among the select humans that actually lived with Jesus during the three years of his ministry. Their personal and very human insights into the nature of Jesus is invaluable to us today these many centuries later.
  • Inspired by God — After the shock is worn off from the first two things I always add but much of it was inspired by God. I’m sure that much of what the writer penned was inspired by God. But again, much of it was also personal words and views of the writers.  They might have been very heartfelt words but they were their words.  God did not totally control  their thought and minds. Having a human aspect to the Bible is one of the things that make it so interesting. To see these very different human views of God helps us to gain insight that just one author might not be able to provide.
Next time I will finish up my personal beliefs about the Bible. I will also be relaying some of the discussions I have had with others who oppose my views.
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Where Have You Gone??

April 27, 2011 — 8 Comments

I have been getting more questions lately from some in our old church asking why we haven’t been there for such a long time. I got a very heartfelt note in the snail mail today from one of those friends.  She said that she really misses my wife and me on Sundays especially in the Bible classes. She mentioned that when I had a disagreement with the pastor on a biblical issue she and her husband tended to agree with me more than the pastor on that issue. She was wondering where we have gone and hoping that we would come back. It is nice to know that some from our old church still miss us six months later.

Since the pastor has evidently chosen not to reveal his actions that resulted in us leaving the congregation, this brings up a serious dilemma for me. I wish all the people there the best and that includes the pastor. Do I take a chance of causing disunity there by telling my friends the truth?  It is not my intent to cause dissent in any of the Body of Christ but I also would like them to know that my leaving was at least partially not of my own accord. I don’t harbor any ill will of the pastor who wanted to take away my membership privileges because of our disagreements on biblical interpretations. After all he was just taking a stand, albeit a strict one, on denominational issues. Since I publicly admitted I do not believe in a totally literal and inerrant Bible he felt strongly that I could no longer be one of his official flock. But, I am getting very uncomfortable avoiding telling some of them who ask why we no longer attend. What do I say?

As I have said many times before, it greatly saddens me to see us Christians split over such non-essential things. As long as we hold to the basic tenets of Christianity surely we can come to our own conclusions about some of the other things? Must we always toe the denominational line?

How do I answer my friend who sent the snail mail note today? I just don’t know right now.

The title question came to me from a fellow blogger of the Quaker persuasion. The premise around the question is at the end time will there be more people in heaven or hell? If you answer hell then it appears like satan wins. From an evangelical Christian perspective I’m sure the answer is satan will win.  By their very nature evangelicals believe that if you are not a Christian you are going to hell. This, like many things is a very black and white issue for them. Since it is widely known that the majority of people are not  Christian then that makes God an instant loser in the battle for humanity.

If you believe in universal salvation as I am tending to these days then you know that God is never a loser at anything.  I know Jesus said the words “No one gets to the Father except through me”, but I don’t see where he put a condition of membership on that statement. Did Jesus die for all our sins or just for those who end up calling themselves Christians?

Will Jesus welcome our Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish brothers when they come to the gates of heaven? I personally will not take that power away from him just because others cannot conceive of the possibility. If Jesus wants to allow someone into heaven it is certainly not up to me to tell him otherwise and I do kind of feel he has something up his sleeve in that area. 🙂

Remember being a Christian is all about Jesus Christ. Everything else is small stuff.

We Christians seem to like to take ownership of others actions.  If a missionary is killed in South American we say that proves that we are suffering and dying for Jesus Christ. Somehow or another that death gets attached to our individual selves as if we were the ones who died.

We just can’t live vicariously through other. We are each responsible for our own actions. The only exception to that is Christ being a redeeming sacrifice for all of us before God that is memorialized today.  As I have mentioned in the past I don’t really understand that idea but Jesus made it clear that that was one of the reasons he came to earth. I will take him at his word on that and mourn his crucifixion in my place and, of course, I will celebrate his resurrection on Sunday.

Just because some die in a foreign country trying to promote Christianity does not mean that we are likewise sacrificing for Christ.  We must all take up our individual crosses in the name of Jesus. There is certainly an enormous amount of work that needs to be done in this word in His name. He certainly gave us a multitude of possibilities and almost all of them revolve around being our brother’s keeper and loving even our enemies.  If you sit back and do nothing you are diluting what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Those are strong words but I feel that must be said.

God gave us free will while we are on this earth and part of that means we are responsible for our actions or inactions.

Why did God go to all the trouble to create the universe? By any standards that was a massive undertaking. I am one who believes in the day age interpretation of the Bible.  In the last century or so God has given us the scientific understanding to know that the creation of the universe took millions if not billions of years to complete. Why did he go through all that trouble?

One explanation for God creating the universe and an infinitely small corner of it called the Earth was that he intends it to be a proving ground for what kind of person we choose to be. We all start out on this earth in basically the same conditions; that is we come naked from our mother’s womb. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a caring family and someone who can give us a life that will allow us to live up to our full potential. Many unfortunately are also given a life of day-to-day desperation.  But it is up to each of us to decide via our actions just what type of human being we want to be.

One story in the Bible is that some of us become sheep and some of us become goats and in the end times Jesus will come back and separate us into those two categories. I don’t really understand the difference between sheep and goats; I kind of like them both but that is another story. 🙂  Anyway there are several other stories about how God will come in the end times for the “final” judgment.  How many of these stories are just allegory I don’t know but I know when I leave this earth, as all of us must, I will meet my Maker. When he judges me I am absolutely sure he will bring up the words of Jesus to compare what Jesus told me to do verses what I eventually did. Will that judgement make me a sheep or a goat? That seems to be totally up to me.  Will the judgment have an effect on whether I am with God or not from that time forward?  There are numerous places in the Bible where God seems to put conditions on that happening. There are also a few where St. Paul seems to say otherwise.  But in some ways it really doesn’t matter to me. I will spend my life studying Jesus’ words and trying to live my life by them. Whether that gets me in heaven or not is totally up to God; I will not spend much time fretting over that. I will spend the time I have on earth enjoying his creation and living my life by the words of Jesus. I do this because I must; I do this because he is my creator and told me what he expects of me and that is to be my brother’s keeper.

I spend a lot of time on this blog trying to convince you that Jesus intended us to help each other out. Especially those less fortunate than us. I have mentioned that I volunteer to do the cooking a couple of days a week at a soup kitchen. That is one way that I attempt to do what Jesus says. But I don’t think I have ever tried to give you any advice on other ways you can help with the homeless and financially challenged. I will attempt to fill that void, at least a little bit, via this post.

  • One of the least productive ways of doing this is by giving money to those who beg for it at local intersections.  It is widely known that almost half of the homelessness is complicated by drug addictions. When we give money directly to those unfortunate souls we are likely inadvertently supporting their drug habit instead of helping them with a hand up.
  • Instead of giving them money offer to take them to a local restaurant for  lunch or to a grocery story for food for their families. That way you know where the money you give is going.
  • Another very efficient way is to contribute to those agencies who support the less fortunate with a place to sleep or a hot meal. There are usually several of these types of places in even the smallest towns.  The one I support with both my time and money is Backstreet Missions in Bloomington Indiana. They support homeless men in one shelter and battered women with children in another. They also serve about four hundred meals a week to the less fortunate in the community.  There are literally thousands of these type agencies throughout the U.S. Most of them do this through no government or religious denominational support.
  • Another way to support “the least of these” is to support the concept of healthcare for all. Over half the bankruptcies in the U.S. are related to people drowning in medical expense debt. That condition is a major contributor to being homeless or very financially challenged. It greatly saddens me that many Christian denominations today that are aligned with radical right politics seem to be against the idea of healthcare for all. The very concept of being against universal healthcare seems very unChristian to me.
  • One of the ways that the children of the financially challenged break the strangle hold of poverty is through Pell Grants. These are annual scholarships given to kids whose families earn less than $25,000/year. Unfortunately, due to the Republican party’s insistence and President Obama’s signing off on it, the latest round of budget cuts just signed into law pretty much gutted these college scholarships. You can help the financially challenged by calling your congressperson and telling them to re-instate the Pell Grants.
In the coming weeks I will try to offer you additional ways that you can help the poor and homeless. If you have time many agencies can use your help. If you don’t have time (but we all have the same twenty-four hours a day 🙂 ) then you can help by contributing your money to their operations. The last few years has resulted in a dramatic increase in the needs in this area at the same time that donations are decreasing. Agencies who support Jesus’ work in this are really struggling to meet the needs.

Sundays???

April 17, 2011 — 2 Comments

Sundays continue to be a strange time for me. Up until last November I could always be found in a church pew on Sunday morning. At that time I was told by my church of eight years that my views of God no longer aligned with what their denomination expected of members. Instead of going through an inquisition I choose to separate my self from them.

But I must admit that the very restricted and almost solo message of that congregation became somewhat numbing. You can only say “Christ did it all so nothing is expected of us” so many ways.  After that you are just repeating the same mantra again and again. To me Christ’s message is so much fuller than that. Being a little gun-shy from this experience I have yet to think about joining another current day Christian sect.  There are a couple that are appealing but….

So, here I am on Sunday morning contemplating the words of Jesus Christ on my own. This could be a lonely time for me but I take heart of all the support I get from my like-minded friends in the blogosphere. I know I am not alone in putting the words of Jesus Christ front and center in my life. All the other words in the sacred texts are secondary at best. Jesus has much to teach me even now so I will continue to seek out his messages for how to live while I occupy a space on this earth.

Thanks to all of you out there and God bless you on this beautiful Sunday morning.

The Words We Choose….

April 15, 2011 — 1 Comment

It is strange how we choose different words from the Bible to latch on to.  Yvonne and I just returned from a two-week vacation through West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.  We visited some historical sites there and some mentioned the Appalachian Baptist who made the foundation of their faith handling poisonous snakes.  They centered their religious experiences on the Bible verse that goes “and they shall take up snakes and they will not be harmed” (or something like that).  The stories told of some who were bitten dozens of times and lived to tell about it. But there were also stories of those who were bitten and then died.  I guess to them that was an indication that their faith was not strong enough.

But in my mind this practice is not really that unusual. That is the practice of latching on to a particular verse, not the snake handling choice. 🙂 Many of the current day denominations give extra special meaning to their “favorite” verse.  The one that I am most familiar with are Lutherans. They latch onto the verse “your salvation is a gift from God… so that no one can boast”.  They take these words to mean that nothing is required of them to call themselves Christians except to “live by faith”. And to them living by faith means waiting for the next life. Nothing is required during this one.

I am not a person to latch on to one favorite verse and then leave the others orphaned. I believe that Jesus had numerous very strong messages through his ministry about living on this earth. It is too bad that many today seem to find it necessary to find one thing and almost  forget the rest. That is not what being a Christian means to me. Latching one to only once thing does make practicing their religion much easier but Jesus also made it clear that being his disciples was not intended to be an easy thing.