For those of you asking, yes, I did post a slighly edited version of “Five Things Christians Need To Stop Doing” at “AboveTopSecret.com”
For those of you asking, yes, I did post a slighly edited version of “Five Things Christians Need To Stop Doing” at “AboveTopSecret.com”
Short answer: no. He either doesn’t exist, or else he doesn’t allow you to prove Him.
Why wouldn’t He allow it? Doesn’t He want people to accept Him?
It’s easy to accept something that’s obvious. What merit would there be in that? But something that requires a surrender of your ego, and your wisdom, and your self-will… ah, now that is something.
Christ may be likened to a secret prince, who went searching for a woman to be his bride, and kept his identity and wealth hidden, so as to test the sincerity of the woman’s love.
Having said that, here are some things I was thinking about the other day:
Do these ideas prove that God exists? Of course not. To prove something would require testable data, unbiased observation and repeatable experiments logically leading to a conclusion. Of course, when some atheist says, “God is a myth, religion is bullshit, it’s a fairy tale and you are an idiot if you think otherwise,” he has not proven this statement either. He has provided no conclusive data. He is simply responding emotionally to something about religion he doesn’t like (hypocrisy, morality,) or something he doesn’t understand (some misheard, misspoken or misunderstood doctrine.)
Is this argument likely to convince atheists to accept the idea of God? Let me see…it’s about as likely as Rick Warren casting a demon out of someone or Joel Osteen throwing someone out of his church for sexual sin. In other words, no.
If you ask a Christian, they would say, “the Bible.” The Bible is God’s word, period, end of story. But what if it is something not found in the Bible but that agrees with God’s word? Could we quote pagan philosophers? “Oh sure, you’d say, maybe for a sermon point or two.” It’s not like the Bible ever quotes pagan philosophers to illustrate truths, right?
Except that it totally does.
Paul quotes Epimenidis in Acts 17:28 and from Aratus in Acts 17:29 (both of whom are pagan prophets writing about Zeus) Jude quotes from the Apocryphal book of Enoch in Jude 15 and Paul quotes Cretan prophets in Titus 1:12-13.
I believe that God knows all, and everything that is true comes from Him-whether it is mentioned in the Bible or not.
What about oral tradition?
What we call the New Testament is a series of letters and memoirs recounting the oral teachings of Christ and his disciples. It is no different than a teaching or a practice started by Christ or his disciples and simply passed down by word of mouth through the ages. But, somehow, we get all weird about that. Like, if it’s in the Book, it’s true, but if it got started by the disciples at the time of the Book and didn’t get written down for a couple of hundred more years, it doesn’t count.
“But,” you say, “they could have changed it!” They could have changed the written accounts too, but few Christians think that. There were plenty of alternate Gospels and letters supposedly from disciples circulating out there, which is one of the reasons Christians got together and voted on which books should go in the Bible.
In most parts of the world, for most of human history, oral tradition is how religious ideas were passed down. Even the Bible admits that oral teaching is superior to the written word. 2nd Thess. 2:15 puts oral tradition on par with Paul’s letters, and 2 John 12 shows that the disciples preferred face-to-face teaching over the written word.
I’m interested in finding out what the traditions of the early Church were. What did the “fathers” of the church, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine teach?
When I read the book of Revelation, I am awestruck. The descriptions of Heaven are stunning-it is a richly decorated place, with an altar and incense-it is a temple, a building which aids the worshiper in reverence and worship of God. This is what I think of when I go into a cathedral. When I enter a modern Evangelical church, I’m not even sure I’m in the house of God. There is no altar, no cross, and no finery. It might as well be an auditorium to hear a business or academic lecture. There is nothing there to offend someone who might wander in off the street. People show up in their jeans; sometimes coffee is served. Does this prepare us to fall on our faces before the majesty of God, as we will one day? Do we imagine that Heaven consists of us sitting around drinking coffee with Jesus?
Of course, this informality has been done to combat “idolatry.” The best and most beautiful explanation of the use of imagery in worship that I have heard is the comparison to a man or a woman who carries pictures of their kids and spouse in their wallet or purse. No one believes that the person loves those pictures instead of their family; the images are simply a reminder. In the same way, no one actually “worships” a crucifix or the stained glass windows. Maybe its time to get some statues in the churches, or an altar or other holy place, to help create a proper feeling of reverence in our worship. Perhaps we’ve become a little too casual with Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved…” All Christians know this as the opening for Ephesians 2:8-10, the most oft-cited verses regarding the link between good works, grace and salvation.
It’s helpful to begin by understanding what exactly “grace” is. Grace is usually defined as “God’s unearned love and favor towards man.” Grace comes from the Greek word charis, which means “gift.” From it we get the word “charisma,” which refers to an almost magical power to charm. So grace is the power from God to DO something.
While it is true that grace is a gift, we must remember that a gift must not only be received, but also kept and used. If it is refused, given back, abandoned, etc. it no longer serves its purpose. There are those who think that they can receive the gift of salvation and then behave as they wish, for they believe they are not saved by effort or “works.”
From Scripture, we learn that Christians don’t and can’t sin. (1 John 3:9-10, Romans 6:2.) It is clear, from observing most Christians that they do sin. So, if we believe the Bible, there can only be two explanations:
Christians do sin, but it “doesn’t count.” It is immediately forgiven and forgotten by God.
When a Christian sins he or she is no longer a Christian-until he or she repents.
Now, if the first one is true, then we can be sure that several things are also true: that a Christian cannot do something to bring judgment upon himself, that he cannot be punished for sins, and most importantly, he cannot lose his salvation. If the second is true, then Christians spend a certain amount of time vacillating back and forth between a state of being saved and a state of not being saved, and it is vitally important to seek God and know that one is in the state of being saved-a state of grace.
Once again, we must turn to the Scriptures. We see God’s judgment falling against Christians who disrespected the body of Christ during Communion, (1 Corinthians 11:23-32) and against Christians who lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11.) Surely these things could not happen to a person whose sins “don’t count.”
The Bible also talks about the loss of salvation in several places. (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-27) These verses would make no sense if “once saved always saved” were true. So what we are left with is the second option-that our souls are constantly in flux. It is imperative, then, that we continually ask God to prod our consciences and bring us awareness of our sins so that we can repent at once. Paul himself said “I am the worst of sinners.’ (1st Timothy 1:16.) Not that he used to be the worst, but that he still sinned in a manner as grievous as any other.
Some people think they can sin as Christians and still go to Heaven, but the Bible makes it clear in that this is not the case (John 15:1-6) Also see 1 Corinthians 6:9, Ephesians 5:5, Gal 5:19 for lists of sins that will keep people out of Heaven. It does not say “except for Christians who do these things.” 1 John 5:16-17 reminds us that there is a difference between sins that end in death and regular sin. From this, the Catholic Church gets the doctrine of mortal (deadly) and venial sin. The Bible instructs that Christians should pray about non-deadly sins, and God will forgive them, but we are not to pray for another believer regarding mortal sin-the implication is that this sin cannot be erased except through repentance. If all of our sins were instantly forgiven, these verses would make no sense.
Rick Warren is the author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” a best-selling Christian book. He took a turn to the dark side when he appeared on with Fox’s Sean Hannity on December 3, 2008 and weighed in on politics. (Footnotes mine.)
HANNITY: Can you talk to rogue dictators? Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust (1), wants to wipe Israel off the map (2), is seeking nuclear weapons.(3)
HANNITY: I think we need to take him out.
HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil or something righteous?
WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. (4) It has to just be stopped. And I believe…
HANNITY: By force?
WARREN: Well, if necessary. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government.The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. (5) Not good-doers. Evildoers.
HANNITY: I’m just gotten, thanks to my wife, who you know, you know, been reading the Old Testament. Because as a good Catholic growing up, I studied more the New Testament.
WARREN: Just ignored that part.
HANNITY: I ignored the Old Testament. But what about King David? What about the — all the battles, all the conflict, you know, going back – – you know, Abraham — Adam and Eve and their children, going forward? (6)
WARREN: The point is, there are some things worth dying for. There’s no doubt about that. And I would die for my family. I would die for my freedom. I would die for this country.
HANNITY: If somebody broke into your house, you would be justified to kill them?
WARREN: I would be justified to protect my family. Absolutely. (7)
HANNITY: And if it took killing them?
HANNITY: But it’s not murder at that point?
WARREN: No. Murder is not self-defense.
1-So we assassinate people for having crazy theories now?
2- Ahmadinejad actually never said this.
But a spokesperson for the Israeli PM in 2009 did say that we should “Think Amalek” in regards to a nuclear Iran. God told the Israelite to kill every single Amalekite, even the women and children.
3-Is actually not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction
5-So, the Nazi and Communists governments were put there by God to punish evildoers?
6–Hey, are we still under Old Testament principles? Because I want 700 wives and 300 concubines, just like Solomon.
7-You know, just like Jesus did.
When I was a younger man, I used to carry a large, wheeled cross on my shoulder and pester people about God. Really. You’d be surprised how unpopular this made me with everyone. One of the things I used to open with was, “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?” Once I had their attention, I’d ask them, “If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?” It never failed to provoke an interesting discussion. There’s not much to do in our town, and there was even less in 1989, so I ended up with a lot of people listening to me.
I have to admit now that I don’t know the answer to my own question. Specifically, I’m not sure where people go when they die. I used to think that, like the thief on the cross next to Immanuel who repented, any believer would be granted access to Paradise the same day.
So, I don’t know what to do with passages like this:
John 5 :28 Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice,
29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.
Two things stick out to me here;
1.) How do people in their tombs hear anything? Their ears are rotted away. Is it their souls that hear it? What have their souls been doing all this time? Just lying there? Sleeping?
2.) The good go to life, but the bad go to “judgment.” What is judgment? Death, or Hell? The opposite of Life is Death. But, if they are already dead, why resurrect them just to kill them?
Another thing that always bothered me-where did righteous people go before Jesus came? The Mormons teach that there is a holding area called “spirit prison.” None of the Christian churches I ever attended ever discussed this issue, but the Mormon doctrine is actually backed up by the Christian Bible- 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6.
No one ever explained to me what “Abraham’s bosom” is, either. Immanuel tells a parable in Luke 16 about Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus was poor and died and went to Abraham’s bosom, but the rich man went to Hell. (I don’t know if this is the same Lazarus that he resurrected in John 11, but that would kind of suck, wouldn’t it? You die, you go to Abraham’s bosom, and then Jesus brings you back to life and you have to live on Earth again.) Interestingly, the only thing required of Lazarus to enter said bosom was to be poor. And the rich man didn’t immediately burn up in Hell-he was being tortured there, and was self-aware enough to remember his life and hold a conversation.
That brings up the question of eternal torment. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is death.”
The wages of sin is death. Not hell, but death. “Wages” implies some type of standardized exchange of services and payment. I work, I get paid. I sin, I(eventually) die. It seems to revolve around a fairly just and equal rate of exchange. But Christians will (reluctantly) tell you that the payment for sin is eternal punishment. After having just established that God views sin and death as some type of business arrangement that is predicated upon ideas of fairness and justice that makes sense to us, He then proceeds to exact the ultimate penalty of eternal torture for 75 years of sin.
Theologians have attempted to remedy this in all sorts of ways, but none of them make any sense. To begin with, they can’t even explain why it says the wages of sin is death, not hell. They will try to say that “death” means separation from God, but I have yet to encounter any proof of this. Why would the Bible not make it clear by saying, “Hell,” instead of coming up with an arcane meaning for a word with a completely different connotation? Adam and Eve were promised death for disobedience, not an eternal roasting. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. Soul death seems pretty final.
Jude 1:7 “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Not much point in a fire being eternal if it doesn’t have something to burn. Unless it serves as a warning to those living in Heaven not to rebel, as Lucifer once did.
Malachi 1:4 “Edom may say, ‘Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins. But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.” In some versions, “always” is translated “eternally.”
Mark 9:47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.” I don’t know what my “worm” is, but I’m quite sure I don’t want it salted with fire. It sounds painful.
So we don’t go to Heaven right away, and whether or not there is a Hell is confusing. What’s behind door number three?