Archive for October 2012

Why is it so much easier to love God with our minds than it is to love him with our hearts and souls and our nieghbors as our selves?

October 20, 2012

Luke 10: 25-28

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.

Lately, I have been musing over the issue of pride in the Christian walk.  St Augustine, Jonathan Edwards and Reinhold Niebuhr all believed that original sin was pride and self interest.  In fact, if these men are correct and I believe they are, all sin can be boiled down to pride and self-interest.  I dare you to dissect a sin; any sin and you will find pride and self-interest at the root staring you in the face.  For the Christian, salvation and sanctification is about destroying pride and self-interest so that we can love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls and our neighbors as ourselves.  But because our pride and self-interest are so embedded in our DNA even when we try to do these things our pride rears its ugly head.

For instance, when we spend a lot of time studying the Bible, theology, church history and doctrine, as I do, pride can emerge.  We can become so concerned with having our theological I’s dotted and T’s crossed that it leads to pride when we think we have accomplished this.  There is nothing wrong with studying these things and doctrine is extremely important but if these exercises do not create a changed life we are missing the point of Christianity.  If we read our Bibles daily so that it makes our consciences feel good but it does not change us, we are missing the point of Christianity and justification by faith.  We are making Christianity about works.  Personally, I am a confessional Christian who believes the Westminster Confession of Faith is an accurate interpretation of the Bible and I believe it is valuable to know this creed, but if “knowing” this creed only feeds my mind, I am missing the point. Unfortunately, it seems so much easier to love God with all of our minds than it is to love him with all our hearts and souls and it seems way easier to love God with all of our minds than it is to love our neighbors as ourselves.   But why is that?

First, loving God with our minds does not cost us as much as loving God with all of our hearts or loving our neighbor’s as ourselves.  Loving God with our minds requires that we spend time learning about God.  It is a one-way conversation.  We soak up information.  We do not have to be personal with God. Second, knowledge puffs up and can create pride, which Paul well knew (1 Corinthians chapter 8:1-3).  And as I have already stated we are good with pride. Third, loving God with all of our hearts and souls means loving God at the seat of our beings which is far more radical than merely loving God with our minds intellectually.  To love God with all of our hearts and souls means getting personal with God and with our sinful condition. Fourth the reason we run from loving God with all of our hearts and souls is because it is messy.  It will lead us to reevaluate everything in our lives including how we care for our fellow man. It will cause a radical shift in our priorities.  In essence, it forces us to face our pride and self interest square in the face. Fifth, loving our neighbors as ourselves screams that we are not the center of the universe and that other people’s interests is more important than our own. That is another attack on our pride.

I fear that one reason orthodox Christianity in America is so unappealing to many is because we focus so much on our intellectual love of God that we fail to focus enough attention on loving him with all of our hearts and souls or our neighbors.  Don’t get me wrong I all for upholding orthodox doctrine, but that orthodox doctrine should spill out into the world.  If we proclaim to believe in the deity of Christ, how does that impact how we love God and our fellow man?  If we proclaim to believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ, how does that impact how we love God and our fellow man? If we believe in the Bible as the inerrant, infallible word of God, how does that impact how we love God and our fellow man?

Why Christians should support Malala Yousufzai and the fight for women’s equality in Pakistan

October 14, 2012

As we watch this story from Pakistan unfold it is alarming that in 2012 we are seeing women and teenage girls shot and abused because they want the right to have an education. My job has put me in contact with many Muslim women some of which are from Pakistan so I am particularly sensitive to this story.

 

I have been ruminating over why Christians should support Malala Yousufzai and the women of Pakistan.  The list of reasons could fill tomes but I would like to put forward just three. 

 

First, as Christians who are aware of our history, we know first hand what happens when a religion is controlled by zealots on the right or left in regards to women’s issues. For centuries, Christians in the name of religious purity used God’s word, the Bible to justify degrading and suppressing women’s rights. Then, starting around the 1960’s, feminists reacting to this oppression sought to rework readings of the Bible to defend ideas that went well beyond what is taught in the Bible.  Today many of the issues the church is fighting about concerning sexuality and gender stem from the oppression and then the reaction of feminists over the last fifty years.

 

Second, while zealots have controlled Christianity over the issue of women’s rights, Christianity has a history of fighting for women’s rights.   From the very beginning of the faith, Resurrection Day when Jesus Christ defeated death, God orchestrated it so that women would be the first witnesses of this miraculous event.  In a period when women were not even allowed to give testimony in courts, God chose women as the chief witnesses for the greatest event in the history of humanity.   Due to reaction of centuries of oppression many feminist scholars have castigated the New Testament for how women are depicted, but in reality the New Testament challenged Greco-Roman culture and its treatment of women.  Today, Christians should be challenging how cultures treat women based on God’s word and not enlightenment rationalism or ideas about libertarian free will.

 

Third, Christians spend millions of dollars each year sending missionaries to the Middle East and to other Islamic nations to live out the Great Commission and present the gospel. This is certainty biblical because the church was commanded to go to the nations and proclaim the gospel, but why not go one step further in presenting Christianity to Muslim nations.  Instead of just teaching people the gospel as means of getting “Saved” why not demonstrate to millions of Islamic women how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes how we live.  Why not demonstrate that God chose to demonstrate his love for women by having them witness the resurrection of his son because in the resurrection he was over turning the world system that degraded women and the poor.  In our world the poor and women are the most oppressed people groups on earth.  During the incarnation, God came as a poor person and defeated death and then had women witness this event to proclaim it to the world. If that does not say that God cares about the women and the poor I don’t know what does. The gospel is not just about getting saved but it is about God renewing his creation and ushering in the kingdom of God, a kingdom that brings down the oppressor, the prideful and haughty and elevates the poor, the righteous and those who seek justice.

Precious Puritans

October 2, 2012

Why we white heirs to the Puritans need to listen to this critique?

This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiQMYsKa8Sw  is creating a stir in the blogosphere and for good reason.  Propaganda raises some important questions and attacks a sacred cow for white evangelicals, he attacks our beloved Puritans. I have followed the discussion on the blogs and I really appreciate Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog entry on the Gospel Coalition web site http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2012/10/02/the-puritans-are-not-that-precious/.  I am not going to repeat his arguments you can read that for yourself, but I would like to enter into this discussion.

I must preface that I appreciate Puritan theology but I agree with Propaganda in this song. I think we white evangelicals have to take this hit dished out by Propaganda.  Our history of race relations is awful and we need to just own up to that.  I think we white evangelicals need to remember the line, “it must be nice not to have to ponder race.”  The reality is, we whites, in America do not have to consider race and we never have.  Before we run to defend our precious Puritans we must remember that they had the same privilege we have and they were blind to the sin of racism and in many ways American evangelicals still wrestle with this blindness.  Perhaps if we listen to Propaganda and are disconcerted we are really concerned about ourselves because we know that we suffer from the same blinders as our precious Puritans.

To better understand Propaganda we whites need to stop thinking like whites.  We need to try to put ourselves in the shoes of our black brothers.  We must attempt to hear the quotes of Puritans in our churches as they hear it.  When they hear Puritan after Puritan and abolitionists after abolitionist quoted in our churches they also hear the sound the whips and chains that many Puritans condoned.  What is so alarming is that we would be hard pressed to find ANY evangelical forefather that truly was not a racist on some level and that includes the abolitionists. I know some people will throw Samuel Hopkins at me and I agree he was a pioneer but he still had racist blinders.

I don’t think we need to throw the Puritans under the bus, but I do think we white evangelicals need to be mindful that our black brothers do not have the same church history story as we do. We need to be mindful when we hold up Jonathan Edwards or Samuel Hopkins that they could not see the sin of racism. We need to listen to this song and ponder its meaning and begin to reevaluate our heroes and reevaluate if we heirs of the Puritans have learned anything from our racist past.