Tag Archives: Religion

My Catechism: Question 2

Wow. Only one question into this series and I’m already struggling. If you’ve read the previous post, you know that my response to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism doesn’t really lead into the second question the way the prescribed response does. What to do? It seems that I have two choices: a) rephrase the second question to dovetail with my response to the first one or b) do my best to answer the second question as it stands. I think I’ll try option “b”.

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A: God has spoken to humanity at different times, in different ways which have been recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, but the greatest communication of the mind and person of God came through the man Jesus of Nazareth whose life and teachings are recorded in the four gospels of the New Testament.

Hebrews 1:1-2
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The first question is about purpose; why are we here? The second question is about guidance; how do we know what to do? The short answer is revelation. God has revealed Himself to us and the Scriptures record specific revelations so that we may know who God is, who we are, who Jesus is and how to behave accordingly.

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AMTOG on Brian on Franklin

You know how you’re reading one of the blogs on your list and it leads you to some other blog or article and then it sets off a response that you want to blog about? Well, that’s happened to me.

From the Charlotte Observer by way of the Tall Skinny Kiwi comes this quote from and interview with Brian McLaren, famous Christian guy. (Brian seems a little worn out by being the poster-boy of the emergent church so I thought “famous Christian guy” would be a nice euphemism.)

Q. I’ve been surprised in this job about the antipathy I’ve heard from a lot of mostly conservative Christians toward Islam. Franklin Graham voiced their concerns when he said it was an evil religion, that Allah is not the God of the Bible. What do you say to people with that view?

I do think we really have to dialogue about this.

I believe that there is something like a form of racism going on right now among well-meaning, but misguided and misinformed evangelical Christians. It’s becoming acceptable to create stereotypes of Muslims that are inaccurate.

The problem is, Muslims are just like the rest of us. They’re like Christians in this regard. There are wonderful, kind-hearted Christians and there are mean-spirited Christians. There are sincere Christians who live with integrity. And there are hypocritical Christians who are just out for a buck. We’ll find that kind of diversity among every group of people.

One of the unfortunate things — and one of the messages I’d like to get through to my evangelical brothers and sisters — is that when we try to make peace, we’re not being unfaithful to Jesus Christ, we’re being faithful to Jesus Christ.

And when we try to practice Jesus’ teachings about loving our neighbor and even loving our enemy — when we practice those teachings toward our Muslim neighbors, we are not being unfaithful to Jesus Christ, we’re being faithful.

But when we create stereotypes of people and when we are ready to call a person an enemy and have nothing to do with them, at that point we are being unfaithful to Jesus Christ. This is one of my calls to evangelicals. And when I’m with Muslims, I try to provide a better example.

Brian is right. Christians, stop it! Whether you consider Muslims as enemies or not, Jesus is clear: love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Love your neighbor. These are non-negotiable. Stereotypes are damaging and we must rise above them.

That being said, let me remind the reader that I am living in a country that is over 95% Muslim and the religion informs the law. As an example, by law I am not allowed to eat or drink in public from sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan when Muslims are required to fast. I can be fined or even tossed in jail. It’s serious. So, as a Christian living in a Muslim world, I think I have something to say about Franklin Graham’s comments that Brian chose not to address specifically.

Allah is not the god of the Bible…at least not the New Testament. Islam is clear that Allah has “no partners” and that Jesus is not the son of Allah. The NT is clear that Jesus claimed YHWH as his father. Ignore the variation in proper nouns and let each statement stand. Allah has no son. Jesus says YHWH is his father. Let’s give Muslims and Christians the same respect and take them as “experts” of their own religions. They are not worshipping the same deity. Of course, anthropologists and world religion scholars might disagree but that’s because they are outsiders to both groups. When these two groups talk about their deities, there are some apparent similarities but they are just apparent. At the end of the day, the Muslim god has no son and the Christian god has Jesus. They’re not the same god.

As to Islam being and “evil religion”…perhaps. I’m not sure that there’s any way of knowing. Apply the same theory to the “prophet” Mohammed that C.S. Lewis applied to Jesus: he is either a liar (because he says things that are not true about God), a lunatic (because he made claims that mentally healthy people do not make) or he is Lord (because he is exactly who he claims to be). Granted, Mohammed can’t fall under the Lord category because that’s a contradiction of the religion he taught, but he can be “exactly who he claimed to be”, meaning a prophet of Allah bringing the word of Allah to the people. (I don’t know if Mohammed claimed to be “the seal of the prophets” but that is certainly the teaching of Islam.)

Was Mohammed a liar? When he claimed to have had visions of the angel Gabriel dictating the Qu’ran to him, was he simply making it up for some self-serving purpose? Was he afflicted in his mind and hallucinating? Was he receiving a genuine revelation? There’s no empirical way of affirming any answers to these question. If he was a liar, then we can say that the religion he taught was evil because it was intended to deceive and manipulate. If he was a lunatic, then I don’t think we can say it was evil in the same way that calculated deception and manipulation is evil. If he was exactly who he claimed to be we still couldn’t affirm that the religion is evil until we learned how the religion defined evil. One other possibility is that Mohammed did have a metaphysical experience with a spirit-being who was not divine but demonic. Again, impossible to prove empirically, but that would definitely make the religion he taught evil.

Whatever the case may be, nothing is changed. Christians must follow Jesus. Jesus loved his neighbor. He blessed and did not curse. He loved his enemies and prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers with his dying breath. Regardless of who Muslims pray to and the nature of their religion, Christians are to love them with the same kind of love that Jesus loved them, loved us all.

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The Hardest Thing to Believe

As you might have noticed, I’ve really enjoyed listening to Mark Driscoll as of late; particularly the series of lessons called “Religion Saves + 9 Other Misconceptions“.  In the series Mark addresses a set of questions put to him by the members of the Mars Hill community (and beyond?). By the time I post this, I will have heard lesson #6, but before I do I thought that I would tap out my own response to the question. 

01/27: #6 “Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What’s hardest for you to believe?”

The parts of Christianity that I still wrestle with are the ones that are transparent. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is not eschatology (end times), soteriology (nature of salvation) or any other hard to grasp “-ology”. Sure, we could hold forth on the various types of love signified by different Greek words and then try to identify exactly who my “neighbor” is, but in the end we would find that the statement stands as is. Love others  as I love myself. I wrestle with that…and I often lose. There are lots of other teachings that are equally plain like; “husbands love your wives as your own body“, “fathers, do not exasperate your children“, “give to him who asks of you“, “bless and do not curse“, “do not store up treasure on earth“, “be doers of the word and not hearers only” and the list goes on.

As trite as this may sound, the hardest teaching of Christianity for me to believe is that God loves me. When I first began to think about what I would write in this post, this thought didn’t occur to me. Originally, I thought that that the hardest thing for me to believe was that God is more interested in my conforming to the likeness of Jesus than my “sound doctrine”. Then I asked myself why I spent so much energy on “getting it right”, that is pursuing right-thinking and I realized; at a gut-level, I still think that God will love me (more? better?) if my theology is right/good/sound. In short, after more than 20 years of belonging to Jesus, there’s a place deeper than my intellect where I don’t believe that God loves me…really…”Just As I Am“. While I know that God loves me (and all of His creation), this truth has not so fully penetrated my heart that it keeps me from emphasizing “sacrifice” over “mercy”. 

Check back with me in another 20 years and maybe by then I will have finally gotten it.

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