Marketing the Gospel

I think part of the reason the Church isn’t spreading in America like in other places of the world is the lack of good marketing. The Church is in the business of saving people. That’s the product. As disciples, it is our job to sell that. It costs them nothing to buy it, but it costs everything. What I mean is this: It’s free. There is no monetary cost to being a Christian. Some will tell you that you have to tithe and what not, but your time is an offering as well. And that’s what I mean by it costs everything: it’s about giving up your life. No longer living for yourself and what you want to do, but living for God and what He wants for you.

I think we do a terrible job, as Christians, expressing this point. Too often we talk about being saved from Hell. But what about being saved in this world? I look at this recent Adrian Peterson situation with his two year old son being beaten and killed. No matter what his relationship was with the kid, the publicity is good because it highlights an issue with abuse. When I was first reading the story, it made me sick to my stomach. What can a two year old do to make an adult male so mad that he beats his head in? A kid that can’t defend himself at all. There is no answer. But this is just a minor glimpse at the evil present in this world. Christianity offers something no other belief system can offer: a hope that there is justice and reconciliation. Punishing the man that did this won’t bring the kid back. Yes, justice can be served in a sense, but it still doesn’t feel like it fixes the situation. Christianity says that God will fix it. Maybe not right now, but at the end, He will.

We need to do a better job of getting this point across. Being saved from Hell and God’s wrath isn’t what makes Christianity worth living for. Living for God and recognizing His power and Will and Sovereignty is. One of our ministers said something the other day that hit me: When you look at the Grand Canyon, a mountain range, a sunset, and recognize God’s glory and power and majesty and beauty, that’s great. But humans are the pinnacle of His creation. Those things are fantastic, but God values us so, so much more. We need to feel the same way about our fellow humans. And this means expressing to them the hope that Christianity offers here and now, not just in some distant future after death.

The thing is, this should be easy. With all of the evil and sin that are in this world, it shouldn’t be hard to open people’s eyes up to that fact and introduce them to the solution. But we don’t for some reason. I think part of the reason is that the Church doesn’t end up valuing its own expertise within it. You have business people who market stuff for a living. Why not use them? We don’t let people who can’t sing lead worship. So why would we let people who don’t know how to market be in charge of outreach? We utilize the expertise of a minister who went to Bible College, but not the guy with the MBA.


Tattoos vs. Taboos: Old School vs. New school

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Tattoos have been a hotly debated topic in recent years within the Church. Some say the Old Testament forbids them, as well as piercings, and argue that since our bodies are the temple of God and where he dwells, we must be pristine and not blemish our bodies. On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding. They may also say that tattoos and piercings are a way to decorate our bodies as the Temple was decorated by the Jews.

Here’s my thoughts on the issue: A) “tattoo” as translated from the OT is not the same thing we mean by “tattoo” today. A “tattoo” back then was what was left after Pagans cut their bodies in god worship, it was a scar. Not “tattooing” yourself meant making sure you looked different than the Pagans. The same goes for dietary laws and circumcision. It was about differentiation. Even if the “tattooing” definition was the same, the fact that Christ and Paul opened up salvation to the Gentiles meant the need for differentiation in the same way as in the OT was no longer needed. It may be useful for some to abstain, but it was not in and of itself a sin.

Point #2: I have a hard time believing that a tattoo of a cross or a Bible verse or praying hands displeases God. A) it’s a permanent reminder to you of your faith. B) it’s a visible display of your faith that others can see. And who knows, maybe it starts a conversation that leads to meaningful discussion!


Praying with a Purpose: Why We Suck at Praying

I have to be the first to admit that my prayer life is rather sucky to say the least. Not only do I not pray as much as I ought to, but I don’t pray as deeply as I ought to either. There are a lot of reasons why. I’m busy. I’m lazy. I’d rather do something else. But I think part of why I suck at praying is because most of the time, I think of it in an incorrect way. Maybe I’m not as bad as others, but I know I’m not very good either way. And I’d like to change that.

First of all, what is the point of prayer? That’s kind of a deep question, so we will answer it in a few different ways. First, what are some problems with how we, as a Church and as individuals, view and/or portray prayer? Second, what makes good prayer? And third, some helpful tips that have been shared with me that I will pass on.

First, prayer is often seen as our grocery list that we take to God. It often consists of asking for persons x, y, z to be healed from whatever ailment, physical, emotional, spiritual, that they are facing. Or maybe asking for help with things in our own lives. While these aren’t necessarily bad, who said that the purpose of this life was to be healthy all the time and happy? Not Jesus, that’s for sure. Prayer for many of us is a monologue. We speak prayer, as if it was a language, to no one in particular and act like we are talking to God. We don’t actually expect a response. Of course there’s much more that can be said, but these are some of the main issues.

Second, good prayer really is easier than what we see above. Honesty is essential. I mentioned earlier that sometimes I just don’t feel like praying for whatever reason. Guess what!? It’s ok to tell God that in a prayer. He would prefer you to be honest that to fake pray or not pray at all. Maybe we should pray about stuff we really care about, even if it seems mundane to others. Again, honesty is something that God values. As to the grocery list issue, think of things this way: When we pray for someone to be healed, our goal shouldn’t be merely that they feel better because we don’t want them to feel bad. Rather, the purpose of healing is to glorify God. Rather than praying for a healing, pray that in that situation, God’s glory can be manifested to it’s greatest potential. But make sure you honestly mean that. As I mentioned, prayer speak is a major issue in the Church. We lift up these lofty prayers with words we never use except in a prayer. Why? To sound better? Prayer is supposed to be a dialogue, a conversation, not a speech. Pray like you would speak to your dad, because God is your heavenly dad (have you ever called your dad “father”? Speak to him like a friend).

Here’s a little list of some tips I was given on things that can help your prayer life:
-Posture your prayer: Kneeling, prostrate, walking in a place of solitude.
-Give your prayer an address: If write a letter, you write “To (insert name here),” who are you praying to? Master, Lord, Dad, Father, God…
-Check yourself for honesty: Do you mean what you are saying or just trying to prayer speak? He knows.
-Take time to be still: “Be still and know that I am God.”
-Let your passion for God rise to the surface: If you are excited, God likes to know that, especially when it relates to him.
-Confess
-Speak your heart cry to God: Genuine spiritual need where you struggle
-Ask that the conversation continue: This is an eternal dialogue.


Does Christianity Teach Social Evolution or Something Else?

You may think I have skipped Pt. 2 of the first post of this series, but more must be said before jumping in with both feet to answer the question posed at the end of Pt. 1.

Following along in Wright’s book Surprised by Hope, we encounter the question about the future of the “cosmos: progress or despair?”

The first answer stems from Social Evolution. This has its basis in Western thought that developed during the Renaissance with both Christian and secular roots. As science was progressing incredibly quickly, wealth and industry spreading rapidly, these ideas began leaking into social thinking as well. It progressed even more rapidly with the rise of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, as this seemed to give scientific reinforcement that the evolution of the world was unstoppable and inevitable. Progress was simply how things were.

But in reality, this is a myth. There are massive holes in the theory. First, it can’t deal with evil in a number of ways. It can’t stop it. There is nothing philosophical or scientific that tells us that at some point, evil will be eradicated because of the evolution of the cosmos. Along these lines, despite what may or may not be true about biological evolution, there is certainly no such thing as cosmic evolution. In actuality, the universe is running straight toward demise, with an unavoidable heat death at best. Second, it social evolution doesn’t do anything to solve the problem of evil. Even if utopia came tomorrow, what do we make of all of the suffering and evils of today?

And some Christians have bought into this. Rob Bell, who reached his pinnacle of “fame” with his book Love Wins, is one of them. He believes that it is humanity’s mission to bring about the restoration of this world itself. As Wright will show, this is not at all Biblical. He has bought into this social charade that says we will bring about the change, not God. In fact, this line of thought has been so popularized, that we see it on bumper stickers: “Be the change you want in the world.”

So the answer must be despair? Thanks to Plato, the idea that this whole world is evil and the only redemption is to escape it has a place in this conversation as well. This view says that material things, particularly the body, is bad and to rid ourselves of it is to reach what we were meant to be. This is the spiritualization of culture. The idea that when you die, you go “up there” to be in a “better place.”

Again, many Christians have fallen prey to this myth as well. Another view with a basis outside of the Bible, and another view that leads to confusion. Hymns talk about this world “not being our home” and how we are “just passing through.” It is these people that get labeled as those that are “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” The purpose of Christianity becomes to go to heaven when you die.

So the answer is neither death and demise nor progress and redemption at our own hands. Rather, Christianity affirms “that what the creator God has done in Jesus Christ, and supremely in his resurrection, is what he intends to do for his whole world-meaninf, by world, the entire cosmos with all its history.”

 

 


What and Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? Pt. 1

This will be the first post in a series of post that attempts to answer the question in the title.

This is a question that has been on my mind recently, especially as I’m reading through Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Many people criticize Christians for being ‘Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” And, unfortunately, there tends to be some truth to it. We often have the tendency to talk about what happens after death, as if it is an escape from this life. And while there may even be some truth to that, as well, that is not the whole story.

Wright has helped me refine my understanding of what exactly the New Testament writers meant by “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God.” Instead of some future place of residence, as it is often depicted, it is something that we create and live out now.

When we analyzes the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven/God,” we must define our terms. A Kingdom is the area reigned over by a King. The “Heaven/God” aspect is more often simply associated with God. So the interpretation would be stated simply as “God’s reign.” When we “parse” this out in this way, the “Kingdom of Heaven/God” can hardly be said to be some future place, because that would be to deny God’s sovereignty over us now.

The answer to the question in the title isn’t that simple, however. A reigning king also has servants that abide in his will, and a people to reign over. He must have real power, not just a feigned power like many see the monarchy of England as having, since it is no longer the singular governing body. We must ask ourselves, then, is this the case, and how is it accomplished?


Can Newtonian Mechanics be Saved? I answer yes.

In a new paper that I just finished writing for my final philosophy undergraduate course, I took a long look at Newtonian conceptions of time and space, particularly what Newton called absolute time and absolute space, as well as the foundations underlying them. After reviewing a vast array of articles, books, reviews, and Newton’s own work, I think that given a few things, namely a Lorentzian interpretation of the Special Theory of Relativity, and God, one can coherently argue that absolute motion (which many believe Einstein to have disproved once and for all) is possible.

Though rather technical, I do believe this can be understood in great part without much knowledge of physics and the patience to look up a few key concepts.

http://gnosiskaisophia.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/newtonian-time-final-pdf.pdf


How Long Did God Take to Create?

I have been listening to a lot of debates recently between Christians on old earth vs. young earth creationists, and I wanted to get some thoughts out and hopefully some feedback as well.

Much of the debate seems to stem around the Hebrew word “Yom,” which has multiple meanings, one of them being a 24 hour day, another being an age or extended period of time. Each takes a different meaning of the word in Genesis and other places where creation is spoken of. I find that the argument favors the young earthers here: whenever the word “yom” is used in conjunction with a numeral(first day, second day, etc.) it means literal 24 hour day. Even more so when it is in context of evening and morning. One old earther tried to point out the oddity of the order here: evening to morning? Well, that was a failed argument, given that a Jewish day does indeed follow that order.

But on the other hand, the science is pretty much completely on the side of old earthers. The universe, by all appearance, is about 13.7 billion years old. The earth is much younger, s=but still much older than the 6-10 thousand years young earthers claim. There are so many problems that a young earther has to overcome in order for the view to even be scientifically possible, like the speed of light, carbon dating, etc. The speed of light being the important one. They either have to say that the speed of light has changed since creation began, or that it travels faster to earth than away from it. These are their only options to try to explain why the universe appears to be so vast in size, since we measure astronomical space in light years, which is where the age of the universe is derived from. But neither of the two options have any real weight.

So where do we go from here? Is the Bible wrong? Do we have to give up inerrancy?

My answer is simple: We go where we always go, to God. Here’s one of the fascinating things about how God works, He’s truly marvelous. Like when David writes his psalms, or Isaiah prophecies about Israel. They had their original intended purposes. But then Jesus comes, and all of the sudden, what they said in one context now is fulfilled in another. Clearly God changes the interpretation of the Bible through History. If there is no Jesus, these things still have meaning, just not the meaning they have for us. Think of Passover, animal sacrifice for atonement, they all made sense in the day, but make sense in a much different way today. What am I getting at?

If we look at Genesis and how “yom” is used, we would be write to interpret it as it was intended, which is most likely as a literal 24 hour day. But given what we know now, it seems to mean something different. In fact, now, there is a pattern. One debater that I heard, despite arguing that the intended meaning was to be age, made this point: God is still in rest in regards to Creation. We no longer see major works of creation. But herein lies the rub: We will one day again. There is going to be a New Creation, a time when God will stop resting, and create once again. I like this. But the Jews did not have this concept nearly as defined as we do now.

Some will argue that this is reading what we know back into Scripture… Indeed, it is. But guess what, Paul did too. And so did Mark. And Matthew. And Luke. And the early church fathers. And so do we. Again, the psalms that David wrote were not intended by David to be prophetic. But that’s certainly how we take them now. Isaiah, in many of his prophecies, did not intent to prophecy about Jesus, but rather Israel. Many of hos prophecies have dual fulfillments. Yet we do not say that this is unacceptable and deny that this is the correct interpretation of the words. In the same way, we can use this line of logic when we look at the Creation story. The author was ill-informed compared to how we are today when it came to time, days, creation, space, nature, etc. He was describing things as he could in his day(pun intended). But looking back, God had another intention, and God’s intentions always win out.

So here’s my conclusion: Young earthers are right. The word “yom” was probably intended to mean 24 hour day by the earthly author. The old earthers are right. The word “yom” today should be correctly read as age, because that is the way God, the heavenly author of the Bible, intended it. Unfortunately, some of the people on either side will bicker about this angrily, looking down upon the other side. Neither will want to change their stance, neither will want to admit defeat, even if that means coming to an agreement. Neither are completely wrong. Both are right in some sense. If only they could come together to realize that they need to combine what they are both right about, and admit that how they were going about things was wrong.

This debate will probably never end. But in my eyes its pointless. Either way, God created ex nihilo with a purpose. How, why, when is not a big deal. But if we want to make it a deal at all, it seems to me that since God gave us the ability to use science and reason, that we should use them, looking at the evidence openly(since it doesn’t matter either way), and coming to a conclusion. It seems that as Christians, sometimes we hold the Bible as a scientific textbook when it was not intended to be that. We want our science to match our interpretation, rather than the other way around.


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