Rick Warren on Hannity & Colmes

31 01 2007

The video is of rather poor quality, but I like how Warren represents both himself and the faith.

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God, Violence, and Genocide

27 01 2007

They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I do not like it when God sends death and destruction upon humanity, but it does not cause a crisis of faith for me. I do believe that since God is our creator, He has the inherent right to destroy us. However, I do have a problem with those Scriptures where God calls for the destruction of entire groups of people at the hands of other people, usually Jews. This does create a crisis of faith for me because all manner of religous fanatics from Eric Rudolf to Osama Bin Laden use the Bible and the Q’uran to justify violence in the name of God. This lends credence to the argument from my atheist friends that religion is the greatest cause of evil in the world. This is the kind of argument that people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have been making. And let me state at the outset that Messers Harris & Dawkins are not the enemy, violent religious extremists who kill in the name of God are. They give all theists everywhere a bad name.

Let me state first that though I am a Bible-believing Christian, I do not accept those parts of the Bible that have God commanding people to kill for Him. Call me selective in my application of Scripture, but I do believe that if the Hebrew Bible was perfect and complete, that there would be no need for Jesus and the New Testament.

Second, in a pluralistic world, believers of whatever stripe are going to have to be comfortable with people disagreeing with what they believe. Moreover, many people are going to be very disrespectful and irreverent towads every permutation of religious faith, including your own. And the more you try to ram your faith down other people’s throats by using politics or violence, the more people are going to disrespect you and your faith.

I think that the way forward for Christian believers in navigating the problem of religious violence against non-believers is to follow Paul’s admonition: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”1Corinthians 5:12. Further, I also think that the way we influence those who think differently than we do is not through the ballot box, with bullets or diatribes, but rather, being the kind of community that speaks cogently to the larger culture, not by what we say but how we live.

What if we had churches that became demonstration projects for the truth of the Gospel? Imagine, multi-ethnic congregration that are racially reconciled and build homes for the homeless, and care for widows and orphans. I suspect that if we had a bunch of churches like this, that even Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins would be impressed.





Life is Hard

5 01 2007

Things have been crazy, my pay has been significantly decreased since November by InterVarsity (I have to raise my own support). Plus, we had a pipe burst the night before last, and water was everywhere. We had to shell out over $800 to get it fixed, and then the plumber told us that our drain pipe is broken and that is another $800 fix. On the very next day (yesterday) I was asked to resign from my new job selling Honda’s at a local dealership. I don’t know if we will have enough money to pay our mortgage and the van note this month and the months to come. And I don’t have a clue what to do. Life is hard and it is certainly not a board game. And we just got the board game for our three girls for Christmas. It is their favorite game. We just played it during our family time together a few days ago. They love this game, I hate it, because it only reminds me how difficult life is and all of the mistakes that I have made.

The funny thing is that I specifically heard God say that this year, 2007, would be a year of blessing for us as a family. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not some kind of prosperity, name-it-and-claim-it, preacher. But I do believe that God is going to bless us both spiritually and materially this year. Yet I also believe that life is going to continue to be difficult and hard. I guess it is supposed to be that way. I just saw “The Pursuit of Happyness” with my wife. The main protagonist of the movie, Chris Gardner said near the beginning of the movie that the framers of the Constitution were on to something when they put in the preamble of the Constitution something about the “pursuit of happiness”. Chris made the salient point that happiness is never a destination, but a pursuit, a striving towards some kind of ineffable goal.

I think that Chris is on to something here. I don’t think we ever arrive at a total place of bliss, at least not in this life. But I do believe that we can experience joy right now. Joy is not the absense of difficulty or pain. It is actually a choice to choose to be joyful inspite of how hard life is. This means that ultimately, you have to have faith in order to experience deep and utter joy.

So yes, life is hard. I am having a really tough time right now, but I still have faith, hope, love, and yes…joy.





Andrew Sullivan

24 10 2006

Andrew Sullivan, author of, The Conservative Soul and senior editor of The New Republic is speaking at Oberlin College tonight at 8 pm. I have been reading Andrew’s editorials in TNR and elsewhere since the early ’90s. I like him, but I have been pretty upset with him and the other neocons out there for creating the apologetic that swept us into the war on Iraq. He is now back into my good graces since I heard him give a very sincere mea culpa during an interview with Brian Lamb on CSpan’s Booknotes for supporting the war at its onset and clearly admitting that he was wrong.

What is interesting about Andrew is that he holds within himself opposing principles, ideals, and values. He is a practicing homosexual, but he is also a very devout pro-life Catholic who takes the teachings of Jesus seriously. And he is a diehard supply-side conservative, but he supported Kerry in the last presidential election (he could not vote because he is not a citizen of the U.S.).

I have always saw Andrew as a sort of best friend that I never met because in many ways I hold the similar opposing views within myself too. I am a Bible thumping, Jesus-is-the-only-way Christian, but I strongly believe in pluralism and I am against prayer in public schools. Along with Andrew, I am against abortion after the first trimester, and I agree with him that we have to allow it during the first trimester. I feel this way because only people of faith like me and Andrew see a zygote and a blastula as being fully human.

Ultimately, what I like about Andrew is the humility in which he holds his beliefs. He does not feel comfortable pushing his beliefs on others. This is why I like the guy. He is a great conversationalist because he has a lot of ideas, but more importantly he is willing to listen to ideas of others, even those ideas that he do not agree with his own.





Risky Conversation Starters on Coffee Cups

3 10 2006

Check this blog entry out at Reformissionary:

It   looks like some conservative groups are getting all itchy now that Starbucks has started their “The Way I See It” cup quotes.  Baptist Press has run a story today on it.

What’s the issue?  Well, it seems that Starbucks is pushing the homosexual agenda because cup #43 gives a racy quote on homosexuality.  As I read this BP article, I noticed my grande skim 3 pump mocha was being carefully and providentially cradled in cup #43 which reads…

My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long.  I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone.  Don’t make that mistake yourself.  Life’s too damn short.

– Armistead Maupin, author

Of course BP inserts the word [expletive] for “damn” and blacks it out on their pic of the cup, but their larger concern is what the cup teaches.  But, is the cup and quote meant to teach?  Or simply open doors of conversation?  From the Starbucks website on this campaign…

Starbucks has long been dedicated to creating a unique “third place” between home and work. We also draw on the centuries-old tradition of the coffeehouse as a place to gather, share ideas, and enjoy delicious beverages. We see this program as an extension of the coffeehouse culture – a way to promote open, respectful conversation among a wide variety of individuals.

And they mean wide variety.  Sure this quote is racy from one perspective, but they also entertain quotes from staunch conservatives like Michael Medved and Jonah Goldberg.  So if Starbucks “blatantly pushes the homosexual agenda” on cup #43, what are they pushing on the cups with flame-throwing right wingers?  A conservative agenda?

Given: We will all read from cups that we disagree with.  That’s a sure thing.  That’s the point, really, to start conversations not push agendas.  And conversations are best started by racy ideas, not bland ones.  By the way, on the cups and on the Starbucks website it even says the quotes don’t necessarily reflect the view of Starbucks.

Christians are too good at missing the point, and I’m afraid that’s what’s happening here.

Don’t we look fearful?  We look like we are afraid of the open discussion of ideas.  These quotes are meant to be conversational, and coffee shops are perfect places to list racy quotes worthy of discussion.  We believe that in the world of ideas the redemption Story stands supreme as the best and most beautiful explanation of reality and truth.  We shouldn’t fear other ideas out there.

One person quoted in the BP article says,

It’s not enough not to go to Starbucks anymore.  You really need to visit your neighborhood Starbucks and ask to see the manager and just say, ‘You know, I’ve gone here a lot and I would love to go here but I have to tell you your company’s promotion of something that is against my values prevents me from having coffee here anymore, and I’ve found alternatives … You make a great product, but you deserve to know why people aren’t buying your product anymore.’

How about instead we enter the conversations of our culture knowing that our Story makes sense of the world like no one else’s story or quote.  I think Starbucks has a great idea, and Christians should be thankful for the opportunity to join more discussions on huge and even ultimate issues.





Dealing with Genocide and Terrorism in the Bible

2 10 2006

What has been troubling me in the last few years since 911, is how groups like Al Qaeda use the Bible and the Quran to justify their violent acts. It is easy to say that this is just a Muslim problem, but that is not true, because there are numerous Old Testament scriptures that have God actually commanding the ethnic cleansing of entire groups of people, like the Canaanites for example. Because of this, I can understand why agnostics and atheists are more fearful of people like myself who are very passionate about their faith and believe the Bible to be completely true. This is a deep and fundamental issue for all people of faith in my opinion, and we have to address it head on. So in the near future, I will be doing a series of posts that will deal with the problem of religious violence and how to address it biblically and theologically.





Contra Benedict II: The Scriptural Basis for Multi-Culturalism & Pluralism

23 09 2006

For those of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of this series, you wait is over (yes, I am a legend in my own mind). First, I want to again make it clear that I deplore those who want to kill the Pope because of a quotation he made from a 14th century emperor critiquing Islam for converting people through the point of a sword. This is madness. God does not need a defender, and it is a sin of the highest order to kill another human being who is made in God’s image. Only God has the right to take life. We demonstrate the veracity of our faith by loving others sacrificially, not by killing those we consider to be infidels. Violent religious extremists of whatever stripe hurt the cause of religion for everyone.

That said, let us move on to the biblical basis for multi-culturalism & plurality. If you listen to the Pope, he would like to make you believe that the postmodern moment that we swim in is just a fad and a phase. That once we get past it, we need to return to the modernistic methods of rationality and reason to prove our faith is reasonable, rational, and true. And that we need to get back to the specific brand of Platonic/Cartesian understandings of rationalism to do this right.

I say this is wrong, and it is wrong on biblical grounds. First, as I said before, God can, and has spoken to each and every culture and social system known to humankind. God is not in a box. We see in Genesis 11 that God is the creator of culture. Yes, he wants unity (more on this later) but at the expense of diversity. God is too big for to squeeze in to just one culture or ethnic group. He wants to be known and glorified in each and every ethnic group.

Second, both the letters to the Romans and Galatians demonstrate to us that you don’t have to become a Jew to become a Christian, but we are all sons of Abraham (including women) no matter where we come from. I think that it would be fair to say that if you don’t have to become a Jew to be a Christian, then you don’t have to become Greek to become a Christian. Nor do you have to become white to get close to God, and so on.

Third, according to 1Corinthians 9:19-23: “19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel…”

It is clear to me from this passage that it is dangerous for the Gospel to be soley be tied to any particular culture. Yes, Christianity is a Western religion, but it is an Eastern one too. The Gospel is for all, it is not only for the West. Truth be told, I am sure that those in the East “get” aspects of the Gospel that those in the West don’t.

Jesus did not come to save only Greeks and Jews, He came to save the world, and to redeem each and every human culture and society that is out there. His image is borne by every person who has ever lived, and hence, He is present in every culture there ever has been or ever will be.

Fourth, it is not human reason that leads men to God, but God Himself. Listen to Paul again in 1Corinthians 2:

1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

And in the first chapter of the same epistle:

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Again, it is clear from me in these passages that the wisdom of humanity is not what brings us to God, but rather, it is God Himself who demonstrates His reality to us. It is not reason or rationalism that wins the day, but revelation, and that is something that only God can do.

Finally, as I said, God wants unity, but not uniformity. Genesis 11 demonstrates that God is the creator of diverse human cultures. Culture is not a dirty word to God. God is not against diversity, He is all for it, and He is the initiator of it. But at the same time, God’s ultimate plan is for all these human cultures to eventually form into another God-ordained culture that we see in Revelations 7, a vast human throng made up of peple of every ethnicity, hue and tongue, praising God in a new song with a new rhythm, in a new style, that is shaped by all the different songs and cultures and personalities that are standing before God’s throne.

This is the point of Pentecost in Acts 2. The diverse languages that were created the day the tower of Babel was tossed down by God, has now turned into a new language that all can understand. God has created unity out of diversity, and through it all, a new humanity.