Category Archives: Religion

Paul and Civil Obedience in Romans 13:1-7 | Bible.org

I’m sticking this here to read later.

Introduction A Commentary on Romans 13 Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17: A Brief Comparison Selected Bibliography Introduction The Purpose of the Study We live in a generation in which public opinion of those in political leadership is probably at an all time low.

Source: Paul and Civil Obedience in Romans 13:1-7 | Bible.org

Stumbling Blocks

I get frustrated from watching the news fairly often these days. Most of my frustration comes from people taking event A and using it to promote their policy agenda on issues Y and Z when event A only tangentially approaches issue Y, slightly grazes issue Z but smacks right into the heart of issue B.

My frustration is my own problem, though. As much as I look at the issue being unrelated to the actual problem the issues are still issues for these people and I have to be careful that my annoyance and frustration with the way agendas get pushed don’t cause me to be a stumbling block to resolution of those issues.

For example, Dylann Roof walks into a Bible Study in Charleston’s historic Emmanuel AME Church and kills nine people with his gun. This sets off a huge protest about the Confederate battle emblem flying on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol. A Confederate battle flag did not cause Roof to become a racist or put murder in his heart. Pulling down the Confederate flag will not reduce racism in America one bit and, on the surface, that bothers me. Energy is being expelled and political capital is being spent in a way that will not solve the problem of our young people becoming racists with hate in their hearts.

However, that flag needs to come down for many other very good reasons so I need to be careful in venting my frustrations that I don’t become a stumbling block. The Apostle Paul talked about this:

1 Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.[a]4 So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But for us,

There is one God, the Father,
    by whom all things were created,
    and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    through whom all things were created,
    and through whom we live.

However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer[b] for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers[c] by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ.13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

Source: 1 Corinthians 8 – Food Sacrificed to Idols – New Living Translation – Bible Gateway

Voicing my frustration over misplaced cause and effect could become a stumbling block for some who might take me as saying that the Confederate flag is acceptable to display. It isn’t. People say it is heritage, not hate but even if you want to call it heritage it is a heritage of hate and racism.

I’m saying that as a son of the South, born and raised in Tennessee and living the last thirteen years in Georgia.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my heritage, just not the part that includes the Confederate States of America. While the Southern States may have been well within their rights to secede from the Union their reasons for doing so was to perpetuate slavery and that was wrong.

So while I can see the historical context that the Confederate flag is being flown, while I understand the organizations like the Sons of Confederate Soldiers simply want to remember their ancestors I won’t be a stumbling block by arguing for the historical context by which the flag on the South Carolina Capitol grounds is being flown.

We need to heal much, much more than we need to stand on technicalities.

The Final Judgment 

In response to a statement that I made that from a Christian perspective all of us, every single human, was in need of salvation a friend of mine asked if from a Christian perspective I thought that he, an atheist, was condemned to eternal damnation just because he didn’t believe in Jesus. My response to him might be considered a cop out because I replied that from a Christian perspective I was not to judge the condition of another person’s soul. So let me go a little deeper.

From a Christian perspective I am to follow the teachings of Jesus and I am to take his parables to heart. Jesus had this parable about who is and who isn’t condemned to eternal damnation.

31 “But when the Son of Man[a] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[b] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

Source: Matthew 25:31-46 – The Final Judgment – “But when the – Bible Gateway

Go ahead and follow the link if you aren’t familiar with this passage. Jesus goes on to explain who are the sheep and who are the goats. When taken in totality the requirements Jesus gave on entering the Kingdom of God are not exactly as exclusive as a lot of Christians might think.

The Pope Calls Europe a Sterile Old Crone

There are so many ways to spin this stuff. What the Pope actually said was:

“In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant,” the pope, an Argentine, told the Parliament, where speeches usually trade in platitudes or mind-numbing technicalities.

via At European Parliament, Pope Bluntly Critiques a Continent’s Malaise – NYTimes.com.

Unfortunately there are many who call for the U.S. to be more like Europe.

[Poll] Classism In Religion, Does It Affect You?

I got into a discussion with my dear friend, tom. He is bothered by classism in religion while I don’t see it as a problem. He was raised Catholic, I was raised Protestant. I got to wondering if that was the difference. Please take a moment to answer my poll question.

Do you believe the Clergy is closer to God than the Laity?
Do you believe the Clergy has moral authority over the Laity?

Atheist are a diverse group; just like the rest of us.

The Raw Story has an article on a study done about atheism. The first thing I found interesting is that the study was conducted at my home town university, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The second thing I found interesting is that my friend, tom kunesh, was not one of the authors of the study.

The gist of the study is that there isn’t just one type of atheist. The study easily  identified six distinct types of non-believers: Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA), Activist Atheist/Agnostics (AAA), Seeker Agnostics (SA), Antitheists, Non-theists and Ritual Atheist/Agnostics (RAA). I’ll let you read the article to understand how these classifications differentiate from each other. In fact, I urge you to read the article because I think its important to understand that these same types of division exist within the community of believers and within each community of believers.

Dan pointed out an article by a Christian woman stating that “Christians aren’t called to have amazing sex.” This article is also interesting in its treatment of abstinence but more interesting to me is his comment:

I don’t know where the problem lies, but my reaction to that article was one of “this is consistent with many interpretations of Christian theology and philosophy, although many of those wouldn’t explicitly point out that connection, and I’ve no idea if that’s a majority or not”.

I have, over the years, come to think that confirmation bias was the source of much of my earlier anti-religious fervor, and that the perils and flaws of religion are largely the perils and flaws of humanity, but I do think that the saner branches of modern Christianity could be doing a better job of presenting a positive view of the religion.

The problem is that it isn’t just the atheists who have been pigeon-holed. I think we all are. Atheist, Hindu, Protestant Christian, Catholic Christian, New Age, Pagan…. all of us are expected to believe the same thing. The problem is that while we may all have our pigeon-holed religious, or nonreligious, beliefs we also all have our own personal spiritual beliefs that is who we each are.

With some of us our spiritual beliefs and our religious beliefs are closely in tune but with others those two types of beliefs are violently conflicting and there is a range with others from sort of in tune to mildly conflicting. And it is in this conflict or lack of conflict that we see the types of religious personalities found in study of atheists that I first referenced.

The saner of us will recognize that we have to be true to our own spiritual beliefs and adapt our religious beliefs to them.

 

Is Nothing Sacred?

It’s interesting how times have changed. Growing up I always heard the Russians referred to as “those un-Godly Soviets” mostly due to their view that nothing, not even religion, should be above the state. The Russian Orthodox Church then was openly persecuted by the state with all sorts of restrictions placed on it. Now that the Soviets are gone and its back to being called Russia the tide has turned.

The pro-Kremlin United Russia party proposed a law introducing jail terms for offending religious feelings after a protest against Putin’s increasingly close ties with the Church by punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

via UPDATE 2-Russian patriarch says religion law must not go too far | Reuters.

Patriarch Krill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church thinks that protection of the Church from offensive speech is okay as long as it doesn’t go to far and prevent people from stating their beliefs. That’s kind of like telling someone to tell you what they think of you but don’t do it in a way that hurts your feelings.

So, tell me, should the law protect us from being offended by religious opinion?

“Queen” James Bible?

Okay, I have questions about the treatment of homosexuality in the Bible and how it actually relates to a loving, committed gay relationship but I’m not quite ready for a “gay Bible” nor do I think there is actually a need for one.

Gay glory: First gay-friendly ‘Queen’ James Bible released — RT.

URL: http://rt.com/art-and-culture/news/gay-queen-bible-released-401/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=t.co

The danger of calling behavior ‘biblical’

My friend, Scott, pointed out this article to me and I was taken back by it. Rachel Held Evans has written an article that succinctly says what I’ve been trying to say for years about the Bible and how it is read and what people do with phrases they read in the Bible.

The problem is this is not what the Bible was meant to be. We talk about taking a Biblical approach to life but, while the Bible offers great advice on living, it isn’t meant to be taken as a literal example of day to day living.

Most often used lately has been talk of Biblical marriage but what is an example of a Biblical marriage? Abraham married his sister and then took on a second wife when Sara was thought to be barren. Saul, David and Solomon had many wives and concubines.

Ms Evens hits the nail on the head when she addresses this in the article.

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.

via My Take: The danger of calling behavior ‘biblical’ – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

URL: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/?hpt=hp_c1

What many of us don’t understand is that the Bible is a document on Grace and on how God can accomplish His works through Man no matter how imperfect the man is.

We also try to mix the Old Testament with the New Testament, Histories with Books of Law, laws that were meant to make separate and distinct a people led by God, Books of Prophecy, Poetry and Drama. We have people complaining about our picking and choosing which sections we live by and which sections we ignore, and rightly so in some instances, but as Ms Evens points out

The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others.

See, the Bible is an old document that was written by many authors over a couple of thousand years. This is not a book written by God but, rather, a book written by men who were inspired by God. Read the stories and contemplate how each one speaks to you at the moment.

Does Christian Thought Remain Constant?

In his 1980 book The Right to Life, the TV Evangelist, Jerry Falwell, declared,  “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.” With this book and his strong TV presence Falwell and his “Moral Majority” became a major political power.

Let’s back up twelve years earlier and we find a different take on what the Word of God  was considered being:

In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

from My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

Remember, Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 so this is the thought process leading up to that decision. While the Catholic Church was holding to the belief that life began at conception that was not a generally held belief among the Protestants, even among Jerry Falwell’s own denomination.

And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.

My point is that Christian thought is not a constant. If you ask five Christians a question on morality you could get five different answers. What is generally accepted today isn’t what was generally accepted in the past.

I’m not saying here that God isn’t a constant, I’m saying that Man isn’t a constant. What we read into the inspired Word of God isn’t constant. I can trust God’s word to be inerrant. I can’t always trust Man’s understanding of God’s Word to be inerrant and that includes my own.

Thanks for pointing out this article, Dan.

URL: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/30/my-take-when-evangelicals-were-pro-choice/

Islam and Apostasy

It looks like a Christian preacher who was raised as a Muslim is about to be executed in Iran for apostasy. Apostasy in this case is being raised a Muslim and changing religions as an adult. Death seems awfully harsh for someone believing something different than they were raised so I looked around a bit to see if the Koran actually supported that stance. This is a link on the subject that I need to save to look over later.

Turn the Other Cheek

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[b] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:38-42

How many of you have wondered about the meaning of this passage? What exactly is Jesus trying to get across? Is this a call for pacifism? Non-violence? I don’t necessarily think so. I’m no Biblical scholar but I do like to study my Bible and what I get out of this passage is a message of focus.

How much time have you wasted in your life plotting revenge for a wrong? I know I’ve spent much more time than I should have trying to figure out what to do about someone that has done me wrong. Instead of thinking about revenge I could have been using that time to plan how to make someone’s life better. That’s time wasted that I’ll never get back because in the long run revenge will not better me or mankind and it won’t really get back at the evil doer.

That’s where that “Do not resist and evil person” part comes in. Jesus wasn’t telling the people to commit evil, he was telling them to not waste their time fighting an oppressor over the minor stuff if it was going to get in their way of doing God’s work.

So where am I going with this? Back in my home town a high school has been told they can’t have prayer with the team before a sporting event. This is due to separation of Church and State and all. A lot of Church going Christians are up in arms over this and are ready to do something about it. I suggest what they do about it is to read Matthew 5:38-42 and think about how this might have some bearing on their reaction to the prayer ban.

God and Abraham

For the last few months I’ve been working in Chattanooga and living with my brother through the week. Last night I bailed out of my Wednesday night bike ride and rode down to Chattanooga’s river front to take part in the Riverbend Festival.

At one of the entrances there was a street preacher that I listened to for a few minutes while trying to figure out what to do with my bike. I know the man was preaching out of love but I found his idea of Christianity was pretty much 180° from mine. He seems to be of the opinion that God has always been exclusive, revealing Himself only to Abraham and his progeny before the current era and only through Jesus to those of us in the current era.

While I fully consider myself a Christian and I am fully in agreement that salvation is through Christ I don’t agree with him that God is an exclusive God. I believe that God has been revealing Himself to all that listen regardless of where one was born or through what religion one seeks God.

I also believe that when Jesus said “Believe in me and you will be saved” He was telling us that salvation was achieved through accepting that we are forgiven and looking to God for how to live our lives.

To me this street preacher was telling me that unless I followed him (not God, but him) that I was doomed to hell. I don’t think that’s right. I also don’t think that I can truly listen to what God has to say to me if I am concerned about what that street preacher thinks of what I believe.

To me God is very personal. So much so that for me to get an understanding of what God wants from me I have to relate to Him in a way that probably only really makes sense to me. I can talk theology all day long but with God being so personal I don’t know that my theological understandings can have any meaning at all to any one else.

What I do know is that Jesus tells us we are known by our fruits and that one tree can’t bear the fruits of a different kind of tree. So if I see a kind, compassionate, nonjudgmental person who is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and comforting the sick I think I’m looking at a follower of Christ whether that person is a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Pagan.

God didn’t just speak to Abraham, he spoke to everyone; just as he does now.