Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is Yours the Gospel of the Born Again?

Technically, we could define gospel as the good news about Christ. Generally, that is what we focus upon as Evangelicals-- why not? Good News is in our name. I have begun to wonder if in doing so we have actually stripped the gospel of its power. We take it as a story, that if believed, results in a change of one's status before God from lost to found. We have pressed this line of theology hard since WWII, and it seems to me, we need to consider whether or not the fractured, frayed, weak condition of the Evangelical church is the result.

A noted internal study at Willow Creek a couple of years ago framed the issue quite well, for more than their own congregation, I think. Church-going Evangelicals look more and more indistinguishable from unchurced Harry and Mary everyday. Our approach to gospel isn't producing change in hearers lives. We have had, in fact, a fruitless season of harvest. I think we have entirely lost track of a simple verity: Jesus said we must be born again.

So then, what does it mean to be born again? Is it a Toyota moment? Not to many evangelicals would like the feeling of that! Is it just an idiomatic expression which refers to believing the story. If one believes, then our Cartesian soteriology assumes rebirth-- I believe, therefore I'm born again. We might not say it that way in our theological tomes, but I think that may be the practical reality of our approach to gospel. I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind, nor is it the picture the NT paints of the born again.

It seems to me that the born again should know they're born again, and that it should not be that hard for even the non-born again to perceive it. After all, there are effects on the mind and heart; there is an awakening of an intimate perception of the Father and the Son; there is the experience of change, akin to going from dry to wet when one jumps in a lake (not a very evangelistic image, I understand ;-) ). Jesus spoke of such in crystal clear terms in regard to Zaccheus, though wee man that he was.

It's hard for the promoters of that story, such as myself, to resign ourselves to waiting upon the Lord to do that secret Spiritual thing in the soul of people that truly makes them born again. We want to know right now whether or not the hearers of that story buy the story, and we want those folk to respond right now to the telling of it. The result has been an at first slow, but now precipitating decay into methodology that delivers assent to the story while downplaying the true nature of being born again. Is it any wonder the church looks so much like the world around her?

Friday, September 25, 2009

It Keeps Coming Up Turkey! (Updated Again!)

I have gone on record here, and many of you have read it, saying that Turkey will be the country of origin for the Antichrist. Read this (HT: Paul Grabill) chilling account of what has purportedly been going on behind the scenes between Turkey, Israel and the U.S. over the last 15 years. 

Now this bit of sad news hits the headlines. Even though it's been a long time since royalty had any impact or influence in Turkish affairs, I have to wonder whether things are not converging to a ripe moment for Turkey and the world. Could a new, populist leader arise out of nowhere and repeat the type and ultimately fulfill that which Daniel spoke so long ago?

And then, there's this. The Antichrist, according to my interpretation of scripture, will start out as a Muslim. That portion of the world (at least the Shia) are primed, looking forward to the imminent arrival of the Mahdi. All things taken together, my theory doesn't look so far fetched in the real world after all-- wouldn't you say?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Biblical Political Platform

Christians come in all stripes politically, and those that espouse a political position (as opposed to having no real position at all) tend to do so passionately. My only question about doing so is whether or not such views are truly informed by the word of God, or are they just the ideas of mankind? I've previously written about things in the political sphere that are unbiblical, but now I would like to offer some broad principles that are biblically informed and that effect virtually every political issue.
Every politician, every office holder, every public servant is a sinner. They won't always do what is right, they won't always act in other than their own interests, their judgment is able to be swayed by other than facts and circumstances, they are corruptible by privilege, power and lucre. In view of these realities, no biblically informed and Bible believing Christian should be for anything which expands governmental imposition on people. Such actions will always result either in bondage to or tyranny from the sinful, and should be opposed insomuch as a Christian has the freedom to do so.

Because those that govern are irretrievably sinners, government should be as small as possible, and as weak as possible in comparison to the citizen. Those serving in government should do so in as limited a fashion as is possible for the shortest period that makes sense given the learning curve. Most definitely, elected officials should not be able to raise their own salaries, perquisites or pensions while in office.

The Rich and Powerful Oppress the Poor and Weak
Combine the truth above with money and power and the result is the ability of the rich and powerful to use the system and to massage circumstances to their own benefit to the detriment of the weaker and poorer. The wealthy always find an excuse, like "the market," to shuffle the benefits of production to themselves, while those who labor to make the production possible get the shaft.

Unions, minimum wage laws, and the SEC have been mere bandaids for the problem. They have the appearance of addressing the issue, but leave the wealthy relatively untouched in their ability to make the system work for themselves, and actually end up working against increased productivity. Why not allow market mechanisms to determine base wages, but have every worker share in the profits produced by corporate ventures (not necessarily just incorporated ones) equally with executives and shareholders?

Human Life Is Precious
Since each human life has its own blood, it should be protected from the womb to the tomb. Abortion is murder, plain and simple. Each abortion kills a human being that left alone would live as long as God determined. Those that perform abortions are guilty of murder, and those that have them done are guilty of conspiring to murder. Assisted suicide could certainly be considered a conspiracy to murder as well.

Family Is More Fundamental than Government
The family, particularly parents, should not be interfered with nor infringed upon. If there is not actual, physically treatable abuse or neglect, no one has any right to tell anyone else how to run their household or raise their children. All decisions, from education to healthcare rests with parents, never with government.

Government Is to Do Good to Its Citizens
Citizens that do ill need to be treated appropriately, but citizens who do not, should never be put into worse situations, or be adversely effected by government action.

One could apply these principles and make a case for everything from publicly assured healthcare to environmental protection, from preventing the seizure of private property to banning professional lobbying. The issue to be balanced in doing so would be whether any stance or proposal would transgress any of these principles in its prescription to cure some ill.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is Holiness?

God said we must be perfect because he is perfect. In the midst of the Sermon of the Mount, such a statement can seem an onerous demand upon intrinsically imperfect creatures, but is that what it's intended to be? Granted, God is perfect, and if we're ever to get along with him, we'll have to be perfect too, but is this a demand as much as it is a statement of fact?

If God allowed imperfection to run amok in his universe(s) [that's for any of you string theorists out there ;-)] he wouldn't fit the definition of being perfect. Perhaps he could understand what is perfect, maybe even want what is perfect, but he, himself, would not be perfect because he would be unable to "make it so." Jesus spoke a verity on that mount, really a necessity: if it wasn't so, God wouldn't be God.

We, however, are not perfect nor can we be. There is one, alone, who is good, and it ain't us! But we must be, if we're ever to get along with God! We are part of the universe made by the perfect creator and it is a necessity that we be perfect in all that we are, or we'll have to be perfect not as we are. Right now, we can think, desire, choose, act, create, i.e. express the image of God (though marred and imperfect). In order to continue to do so, we'll have to come into accord, be perfectly aligned, and absolutely congruent with him who is perfect.

Hell, and by that I mean the Lake of Fire, is not the petty, vindictive, hissy fit of someone really big and strong. It is a logical necessity in view of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect God. If those made in his image will not choose perfectly, then they must be perfectly incapacitated from making any choice whatsoever. The undying worm and never ending flame of hell are meant to accomplish just such a purpose.

But we are not perfect, nor could we ever be. What's a person to do? We certainly don't want to burn in hell. We must become holy! There is one who is perfect, it is the essence of his holiness, and he is willing to share his Holy Spirit with those willing to put their trust in Christ. When he who is holy is abiding in those who can't be on their own, holiness becomes remarkably possible. When those folks are recreated at the Rapture, their holiness will be perfect.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When the Tension Snaps

Stretch a rubber band too far and it will snap. Maybe that's the explanation for the actions of the Arizona pastor in this article. In my last post, I said the the tension of living in two worlds can get the best of any of us, and that none of us would make it if not for the grace of God. Now, I know that grace is available to the fellow in question, but I don't think we could say he was making it by any stretch of the imagination. It kind of reminds me of the ka-fling of a noted figure a few years back.

Scriptures are clear about both our attitude toward governing authorities and the general tenor of our prayers concerning them. Wanting violence done to them, or sickness to come upon them, or desiring their death followed by burning hell is not in accord with the Word. Such sentiments cannot be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and can only be the result of the flesh, or even the Devil. This preacher, I can safely say, is not moving in the Spirit!

In his defense, I can understand his dismay with Barak Obama. The man is anything but a good president; in fact, he is destroying the country so fast and so thoroughly it makes my head spin. I can only hope that recent trends presage an awaking of Americans from the stupor induced by eight years of W's incoherent babbling and the repeated shots to head we took at the hands of his administration. We needed a change like a baby in a soiled diaper, but we're getting short-changed like the prince who woke up as a toad.

We don't have to like what the people in charge do, but we should always like to see them get saved. We don't have to kowtow to their formulations of policy, but we always have to give them the honor they are due. Feel the rubber band twisting in your gut? Let it go before it snaps, and your treatment of enemy here ends up making you an enemy in the hereafter.