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 On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding.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


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.”

 

 


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.


Lack of “Child abuse” is why there is a trend to deny Hell. So spank your kids… for God

This may seem crazy at first, but let me explain. By “child abuse” in the title, I simply mean good, old-fashioned child rearing. You know, that crazy one that actually involved punishing bad behavior? Yeah, that. But how in the world would this play into people becoming unorthodox? Let’s take a look…

Psychologists and the like today tend to say that spanking a child is bad and can lead to them being abusive when they are older and mal-developed. I tend to disagree, but I’m no expert I guess. Apparently looking around at behavior exhibited by Gen Y that wasn’t reared what I call properly compared to that of the behavior of Gen X and prior isn’t enough to show these “experts” that they are wrong and that if anything it leads to children being defiant, stuck up SOBs. Yeah, I said it. 50 years ago, no kid would have ever dreamed of calling his mother an inappropriate name because he knew mom would slap him in the face, make him eat soap, and then wait til dad got home, and that was worse. Now, not only is it not uncommon, but I’m surprised if I go to the mall or grocery and I DON’T see it happen. But for some reason the parent takes it in stride and simply gives them a verbal warning, followed by more name calling and back talking from the child, and yet another verbal warning ensues. Effective, eh? Not really. Now that is just one example, and while I don’t have any hard and fast studies to quote here, I reckon that crime in the teen age group as well as behavior and grades in school have dropped as well, and while there may be more than one factor for these, I would bet quite a bit that how children are raised has affected this.

But where does orthodoxy and belief in Hell come in? How about right here. What the child ends up believing is that punishment is evil, and that a parent should never hit a child, and if they do, that’s abuse, and EVIL. What this leads to is the belief that God surely couldn’t punish people if He loves them, right? That’s evil and unloving, and God is supposed to be benevolent and all loving. So while the problem of evil doesn’t concern us quite as much, because this is within the Christian camp and they affirm God exists, and whereas in the problem of evil, we know evil exists and can’t simply deny that to get around the problem, here, we don’t have “evidence” of Hell. Teaching that punishment, that justice, is evil is ludicrous. Its almost as if we are taught that only the REALLY bad people deserve punishment. So murderers and rapists and terrorists, right? But the idea of justice isn’t just that great people get great things and horrendous people get horrendous things, but that decent people get decent things, not so great people get not so great things, etc. You get what you deserve, you reap what you show, you get out what you put in. And this is across the board, and not just for extremes. Otherwise the petty thief shouldn’t be punished because he’s not THAT bad.

This is the world infiltrating Christianity. Let me explain a bit more. In Christianity, a little sin is a big sin. One sin, and you are no longer perfect. It doesn’t matter whether you raped and murdered a child, or whether you disobeyed your parents when they asked you to help clean the dishes. They both separate you from God. That’s the nature of sin. This is not to say that the degree of sin is unimportant in the end, because I think it is since God is perfectly just. But just as a petty thief gets punished some, and a murderer gets punished more, hopefully in a somewhat proportional manner, I would think something along those lines would occur when it comes to sin as well, though I do not have the knowledge to say how it actually works, but I trust that it does. But either way, there is in fact punishment even for menial sins if they are not repented of. Its one and done in God’s eyes if you are outside of Christ. Christ is the only second chance.

And we can also play up emotions to make people think that Hell surely doesn’t exist. Rob Bell likes to do this, he asks if we really think God won’t win in the end, that He won’t get what He wants. Its easy to think that of course He will, He is God. But what Bell doesn’t tell you is that God doesn’t want sin now, or ever, and by giving us free will, He already has relinquished getting completely what He wants because He wants us to choose. And if I choose and God doesn’t, that argument fails.

Certainly nobody likes the idea of Hell and nobody wishes it upon another. But I don’t like that fire causes pain, or that gas costs $4 a gallon, or tests in school, or etc., but that doesn’t mean that that is not the case and that I am better off acting as if they are not the case, because all that would get me would be burned, in prison, and flunked. And in the case of Hell, its eternal, and not something I can possibly fix. Jesus/God said it was real, and that is enough for me. I don’t have to go there to believe in it. So by teaching kids that they should not be punished for bad behavior in the home, that they should not be punished in school, that things should be changed so that they can succeed, they start to think that that is how the world is. It isn’t. God doesn’t change for me. I change for Him. Hell isn’t designed for me and He doesn’t want me there, but I get to choose. If I don’t change, well…

Proper child rearing, therefore, not only leads to better behavior and more respect of others, it will lead to more orthodox beliefs in things like Hell and justice. So spank your kids… for God. It will do them good.


Great discussion: Check it out!

If you want to join in on a great discussion, and in turn make following the posts where we already have multiple topics even more convoluted and difficult to keep track of, check it out over at Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God-Dialogue with Michael (re: Heaven and Hell). The original post was here:A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom-Everyone Is Going to Heaven. So check it out and join this discussion.

These are both blogs by Mike Gantt, cool guy, has a great name(like me), and always gives a good discussion and thought provoking posts.


Trinity=Confusing, yet… astoundingly marvelous

The Trinitarian aspect of God has been thought about and discussed since the Early Church, and we still don’t have a very strong grasp on how it works. It’s something I have been thinking about and reading about lately, and this is where I am at now.

First, it follows from the ontological argument. This argument “proves” the greatest of all beings, so omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. But after some thinking and a sociology class, I came to the realization that the trinity would be a necessary attribute of the perfect being. And here is why: The most stable relationship is a three person relationship. This is common knowledge in the field of sociology. This perfect being must be self-sufficient, we all know that a truly lonely person is not very sufficient, is quite lonely, and many times unstable. So it makes perfect sense to see this perfect being as having three major separate, yet connected parts.

Second is on how we can understand the Trinity. Some mistakenly think that it works like the situation of a father with one sibling. He is a son of his parents, a father of his son, and a brother. Three identities, one person. But that is why it is wrong. Still ONE person. We need three. So with the help of C.S. Lewis and a few others, I have a different concept of it. Think of a triangle. Three individual sides, yet one shape. All connected to each other. We can even imagine somewhat the aspect of ourselves in regards to the trinity and why it is so difficult to comprehend. We can imagine ourselves in a one-dimensional world, whereas the triangle is obviously in a two dimensional world. We could try to grasp how this triangle looks, and prove it mathematically to be consistent on some level, but we could never come close to a full comprehension of it. That is the situation we find ourselves in now. God is so other, so infinite the out finite minds can’t comprehend Him, especially not in this life.

Third, how does the Trinity affect us? Well, it shows us that if we are not worshiping the Trinitarian God, we are not worshiping the right God. Which means a lot of people have it wrong. It is one of God’s major attributes that has a huge impact on His reality, and not just ours, so it is a very important doctrine to be preserved. It shows us that God truly IS love, as He demonstrates perfect love and perfect relationship.

Along these lines, I began to realize the answer the my sociology professor’s question to our class in regards to human relations. His question was that if a three person relationship is the best kind, should be practice polygamy? Some people sort of conceded the point, but I knew that that was going to be unstable because there are only two sexes, and the concept of the perfect relationship would be between three DIFFERENT types of persons, not just three different people. You would always end up with 1 male and 2 females or 2 males and 1 female, which are both lopsided in some manner. I brought this up and assumed, correctly, that God was this third person that would make our relationships better. But what I missed out on was how perfect this really was. Who better to have in your marriage than the creator of marriage, of humans, and the perfect lover? He would give the best possible advice, literally. He would be the perfect mediator. And the perfect friend. Not to mention, He is part of His own three person relationship that is perfectly stable, and we all know how we become more like those we are in relationships with. And who better to become more like than God?

In the end, I have been left with this feeling of awe, in how God has made things to work in harmony so perfectly. It’s almost as if He knew exactly what He was doing, almost… Obviously, I am still nowhere near fully understanding Him in this aspect, but I am trying. My way of trying to love Him with all of my mind.


Left on the Dock, how NOT to interpret the Bible

So most people know about the Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye. Even my dad was a big fan. It’s just disappointing that such a non-biblically backed idea, like the rapture, would become so popular and mainstream. There is so little biblical evidence for the rapture, and the “evidence” that is often used is based on taking things out of context and giving them a new interpretation(though I won’t go into that in this post, but hopefully another one soon),which is ALWAYS wrong.

This leads me into the topic of this post, reading the Bible.

I enjoy some of Greg Koukl’s work, and recently his essay on never reading a Bible verse. The title is catchy. It seems un-Christian-like. But he goes on to explain that both critics and proponents of certain views take verses by themselves, which leads to them being taken out of context, and getting wrong ideas. A new idea in the evangelical sphere is to read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to call up a personal interpretation for what you are reading. And this is where I am left on the dock. They have set sail into this dangerous, misguided style of interpretation that leads only to confusion and ruin, while I am left standing on the dock trying to tie up as many ships as I can, trying to keep people from making this grave mistake.

The authors of the Bible had a specific purpose for writing what they wrote. It is supposed to be personal, and affect your personally, but while the effect may be different from person to person, the meaning NEVER changes. There was an original intent, and it needs to be preserved. This destructive path that these ships are sailing towards is often liberalism. This is where doctrine becomes wishy-washy, loses the Christian essentials, and allows for personal interpretation of sacred texts. Now this is a fine line in a way. In no way do I espouse, nor should you, the idea that lay people should not be able to read the Bible and ponder on it themselves, for, when done correctly, this is extremely fruitful. This is the route that some have gone, saying that only priests or ministers or those who are “qualified” can interpret scripture. This leads to grave results as well, like people being prohibited from rational thought, and basically being brainwashed (how about some of them JW’s).

So what can we learn from this? Read a passage in its entirety. No one would start right in the middle of a page in the 10th chapter of a 30 chapter book and expect to have an idea about what is going on. And we should not approach the Bible in this manner either. If Jesus is talking in some end times language, what prompted this talk? Was there a question, or two, that he is answering? When Paul is speaking of the dead rising, why is he addressing this issue, since he is writing letters to a church, and he is addressing worries and issues that church has. How should a prophecy be interpreted? What is the context? Context is oh so important, and losing it causes everything else to become worthless.

I think that if Christians all approached the Bible in this manner, there would be far less disagreements, far less controversy, and a lot more love and encouragement in the Church. So the next time you see/hear someone taking a verse by itself, ask them how it is being used and what point it was meant to address, and you could have a very fruitful discussion on your hands.