Category Archives: Doctrine

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 On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding.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!

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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?


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.


Definition of Science: What can be an explanation?

In listening to a podcast today, I was getting more and more frustrated. It was two Christians discussing the origin of life. One kept saying that intelligent design was a science stopper and that minds should not be an explanation for anything in science.

I find this to be ludicrous. If it is the case, because it is certainly at least possibly true, then your definition and limits of science are science stoppers themselves. How can you have such things that would potentially give you necessarily false answers. For if it could be true that there are agent causations(which there certainly appears to be and all other fields permit them, just not biology and physics), then you are operating on a concept that necessarily prevents you from finding the true explanation.

I don’t understand why this is so common, and why some of the smartest people in the world think this way. Agents cause things. We know this from experience. How can you then rule that out simply because it is “science” and not something else? If you are limiting yourself from particular explanations because they are “unscientific,” then you have a faulty concept of what science is, because science is suppose to study reality, and the things that take place in it and effect it. If there is a dimension of this that you leave out, you the are no longer doing honest and open science and are bound to have false answers.


Jesus was Human… So are we: Don’t forget that. He didn’t push His God button.

SO I will start off with two links to pages by N.T. Wright on Jesus self-identity and self-awareness that will shed some light on where I will go in this post.

Jesus’ Self-Understanding

JESUS AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD

And then I will post this link as well, which is another source for this post:

God Button: The Mind of Christ

I shall try to combine an analysis for the two together.

The first point is that we need to remember that Jesus was a HUMAN. So often we lose sight of this, and put Him in this “other” category so that a)we feel we can no longer relate to him, or b)so that we can rationalize why we mess up and sin and He didn’t. Both are dangerous, and both should be forbidden. Yes, Jesus was God, but His humanity was equally important. It had to be a human that lived a perfect life in order for our sins to be pardoned. It had to be someone who dealt with the same things we deal with, but win them all. It had to be a human so that we could relate in times of need, and turn to Him as a perfect example rather than an idealized concept of how things could be if we were God too.

The reason why I think that these three messages relate is because it all comes down to one thing: Jesus was human. It does not deny His God aspect of Himself, but it refines it. Jesus temptation, if anything, was probably greater than anything we face today. He was put in situations where pressing His “God-button”would have alleviated a lot of things, whether for Himself, or, perhaps more interestingly, for others. He easily could have taken Himself off the cross, in some ways proving His divine power. But in doing so, the necessary sacrifice would have been spoiled. he could have restored the city of Jerusalem to power, but knew His spiritual mission was far more important. How often do we live like this? I think one of the major problems in today’s world is that people think that preventing and fixing problems is what makes someone a good person. To a degree, it is. But there is so much more. Physical support is good, but nothing compared to spiritual support. How often do we focus on people’s physical needs above their spiritual needs?

This is not to say that we should not meet physical needs, but in doing so, there is supposed to be more to it than just that.

I think Jesus life shows how to handle this. He didn’t succumb to the worldly pressure to meet physical needs, but was more concerned with spiritual things.

Back to Jesus and how He saw Himself. It would make sense, that in being completely human, He would have His doubts and questions. We all do as humans, and it would be crazy to set Him apart and think that He didn’t as well. For me, this is a major comfort. He persevered through His doubts and held steadfast in the faith, even when He felt rejected. He may have been unsure of Himself even at times, as we all are, but trusted in the Father and the Spirit to work through Him and provide and win in the end. This is something we all need to learn. This dependency upon God. It is such a danger in setting Jesus apart too far away from us, and lose out on this hope that we can be like Him.

I think that fact that the name “Christian” means “little Christ” is so perfect. I mean, how often do we call ourselves that but not think about it? It has come to mean a follower of Jesus, a God-fearing person, but has lost it’s original meaning, which was to follow in His footsteps. In the name itself, it is assumed that we can be like Him. We can’t be God, but we can trust God and utilize the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ did, and in that sense be like Him. I think this is what we are called to do.

I think our issues have multiple origins. The fact that we put halos around His head in pictures, that we have portraits of Him hung up in some churches. We set Him up high, which is good, but too high to reach. That was the problem of the Old Testament. God was too big and impersonal to be reached and trusted in in the manner that He wanted. Which is why He sent His Son, and the Holy Spirit. They were to be the personal, reachable aspects of Himself. In setting them so far above us, we miss out on some of the greatest aspects of their existence. Our relation to them, both in the typical relationship status, but also in how we compare to Christ. He was human, we are human. If we miss out on this, we miss out on a giant reason for why God did things the way He did. It was more than about just saving us, it was about redeeming us, and helping us live the way we were meant to live. If we don’t think of it like this, we are rejecting our greatest ally and advocate in life, and making it that much harder on ourselves.

Jesus was a human. Jesus was God. We are human, and not God. But in His humanity, we can relate to Him much more closely than we often think. Don’t succumb to this pressure. Yes, He was perfect, but He was perfect to show you how it was to be done, and that it was possible. Don’t reject His example.


Where does God fit into my life?

This past week has been full of awesome thoughts in regards to faith and action and such. Our church has been going through the book of James, discussing a lot of the basic practical applications for a Christian. This past week reminded me of a great video I saw a few years back. The sermon was about submitting to God, while the video was about where God fit into our lives. But they were extremely related in their practice.

First, the sermon merely reflected what it meant to submit to God, which seems so obvious to us, yet so hard to actually do. The whole “Your will be done” idea, not my will. The video was something that merely popped into my head in the middle of the sermon that had a similar effect on me in remembrance as it did the first time. It’s a short animated clip of a boy who has the most awesome house ever, a mansion, with so many cool things inside. One day, he sees a giant ninja statue, and just has to have it, knowing that his house will always seem incomplete without it. He tries to get it in, but it just won’t fit. He can’t find a way to get it in. Instead of giving up his hopes of having it in his house, he decides that this statue is so important, that he will destroy his house and rebuild it around the statue. This is submission to God.

If it isn’t clear, which it didn’t stand out right away for me the first time, or at least not the huge impact it has had on me since, let me explain. God is the ninja statue, not in an idolic sense, but merely in an metaphorical sense. God doesn’t just fit neatly into our lives, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s a “nice” theory, to adapt a lifestyle that has God in it along with other things, since family and work and friends are important too, and they need attention and space as well. But in practice, it leads to a mere nominal Christianity, one that isn’t very Christian at all when you compare it to the “Christianity” that Jesus was asking of us. I put this in quotes because it’s not about the religion or the things that we do. In fact, this was part of the sermon that I thought fit so well into this. Doing the right things just simply isn’t enough.

This requires some more explanation as well. We were left with a question to ponder when it comes to making decisions, “Is this consistent with my call to be a disciple of Christ?” Everything goes through this filter that we say, do, etc. This is where the video comes back in. The tearing down of the house was the radical change that is required for a Christian in their lives. Everything changes. Rather than having some God in one’s life, their life should be built around God. Everything is for Him.

And then comes Steven Curtis Chapman, one of my favorite music artists. He recently released a song called “Do Everything.” The chorus goes like this:

Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

It’s this idea that we should go about every aspect of our lives for God. Eating in thanks, working in praise, doing homework for His glory, playing sports to honor Him, everything. You can’t be a Christian and do these things for yourself, and only go to church or pray for God. It’s a life for God, not a moment or part of your day for God.

So tear down your “nice” houses and rebuild around God. If you find this hard, pray for it. You can’t do it on your own. You need God’s help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

God doesn’t fit in my life, your life. We fit in Him.