Archive for the ‘beliefs’ Tag

I am A Christian!   3 comments

Hello, my name is Lela and I’m a Christian.

That is a connotation-laden word “Christian”. You might think you know something about me because you read the label I have placed on myself, but in saying “I am a Christian”, I am saying something as fundamental as “I am a woman” or “I am an Alaskan”.

Being a Christian is not something I am only on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. It’s not something I store up in my heart like secret bread to be supped in secret. It is who I am 24-7, at home, at work, in the grocery store, while driving on the highways, reading a book, and casting my vote. I can no more segregate my Christianity from the other aspects of my life as you can segregate your gender. It is all that I am and it affects everything that I do.

I know there are plenty of people in modern society who would prefer that I keep silence on this subject. They consider my living my faith out loud to be a violation of their rights. We’ll get to why I think that’s a modern religious fallacy and a violation of individual rights … later.

For now, I want you to understand what I mean when I use the word “Christian”.

The word “Christian” means different things to different people. When my parents were growing up, secular Americans broadly understood it to mean anyone who wasn’t another religion, like Jewish or Buddhist. Saying “I’m a Christian” was considered by most to be similar to saying “I’m an American.” Indeed, most of the world assumed you were a Christian if you hailed from America.

Recent polls have found that 92% of Americans believe in “God” while 83% of Americans call themselves “Christian”. The polls just basically ask people to self-identify. A friend forwarded an essay a while back that explains a certain group accepts as Christian any individual or group who devoutly, thoughtfully, seriously, and prayerfully regards themselves as Christians, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, conservative, mainline and liberal Protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses and thousands of other sects that identify themselves as Christians, including those who do not identify themselves with any particular religious group. You are a Christian if you say you are a Christian.

As a civil libertarian, I uphold anyone’s right to believe what they want to believe and to call themselves what they want to call themselves. I have only two sticking points.

1)      It really complicates our conversations when definition of the word “Christian” is constantly up for grabs

2)      I’m not sure that God agrees with most people’s definition of “Christian”.

My acceptance of your right to hold an divergent opinion does not imply agreement. You can hold divergent views about reality and still be my friend. That does not mean I have to agree with you. I base my faith on the Bible, so I want to know what the Bible says about what makes a Christian.

In determining the definition of Christian, it’s important to recognize that the Bible only mentions the word Christian three times.

  • “And, in Antioch the disciples were first called “Christians”” (Acts 11:26)
  • “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
  • “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1Peter 4:16)

The name “Christian” was given to believers by others outside of their group. Prior to the use in Antioch, Christians called themselves a variety of different names – disciples, believers, brethren, saints, the elect, etc. The direct translation of the word “Christian” is “those belonging to the Christ party” and it was not meant kindly. It was a term of contempt. Over time, believers adopted the derogatory term as a positive designation, but in the New Testament there is a sense of suffering and reproach attached to the term.

According to a dictionary, a Christian is “

  1. One who professes belief in Jesus Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teaching of Jesus.
  2. One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.”

I take away a number of things from both the use of the term in history and the dictionary definition.

Christianity is not accidental. You are not “born” as a Christian and you are not a Christian because your parents were. Christianity is not like being Irish. You choose to be a Christian, to step out from your family of birth and your culture to do something that is different from what you were physically born into.

Christians are distinctive. The non-Christians around Antioch knew who they were. They didn’t necessarily like them. The Bible doesn’t record why or why not, but when has the world ever liked groups that chose to be different?

 

Big Bang Theory   4 comments

One of our early inquiries was the Big Bang Theory, which we returned to in recent years.

The Big Bang theory proposes that the universe started from a singularity – a dense wad of matter that for reasons not yet known suddenly exploded outward in an immense pulse of energy and light. Scientic consensus has pretty much decided that is how the universe we currently live in started.

Of course nobody was there at the time to observe the actual event, so this theory cannot be proven by scientific means. We can evaluate the evidence and say that is probably what happened, but honest scientists admit they could be misinterpreting the evidence or that new evidence could be found that would disprove the theory. Sadly, few scientists today are willing to question scientific consensus, but their lack of open-minded inquiry does not make the theory incorrect.

In fact, I think the Big Bang theory is a reasonable non-believers’ description of how God created the universe.

Genesis 1 says “In the beginning, God …” It goes on to say He spoke light into darkness, formed the stars, the sun and the planets. It synopizes Creation in a few sentences, saying it took six periods of time for God to reach the culmination of His Creation – mankind. I say “period of time” because what is a day to an eternal being when there was no sun to calculate a time period?

Robert Zastrow, founder of the Godard Space Institute (an agnostic) wrote in his book “God and the Astronomers”:

The details differ, but the essential elements of the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same. This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence of an abrupt beginning because we have had until recently such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. At this moment it seems science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance,; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he Is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.”

We have two different views of the same evidence. Atheists, who hold a hard line position that there is nothing that exists that they cannot analyze under the rules of science, say the Big Band theory can only be explained by other theories that sound like faith – multiverses, for example. To the Christian, the science arrived at where we had been for centuries. For the honest and maybe agnostic scientist, it’s curious, but not frightening that theologians were essentially right a long time before science got there.

So far, nothing I’ve learned from science has rattled my faith that God is behind it all. I’ve read some great books that really challenged my faith, but I’ve come to realize that the presuppositions of the researcher can affect the outcome of their science and that sometimes it takes centuries before those outcomes are challenged and shown to be wrong.

Science is very good at observing evidence and I appreciate honest scientists who do this so well. It’s when scientists try to torture the evidence to fit their worldview rather than let the evidence speak for itself where I have a problem with scientists.

Posted June 2, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Christians, You are Invited to Join the Discussion   Leave a comment

I started a dialogue about when Christian beliefs run up against civil laws. The non-Christians who have joined me basically say get with their latest social contract and comply, violate your beliefs and all will be well.

I’d love to hear from some Christians. When do your beliefs take precedence over the laws of men and when would you be willing to go against society to obey God?

Posted May 25, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Merely Mugged   3 comments

Christians in the 1st century, non-Catholics throughout the Middle Ages, Christians in the Middle East, China, and Myanmar ….

Just examples of Christians who were/are murdered and muzzled simply because they believe that Jesus Christ exists and He is the Answer for what ails the world.

By contrast, Americans are merely mugged. We face social embarrassment and some political hurdles for our beliefs, but nobody is trying to kill us … yet. The Chinese Christians say that American Christianity would be much more vital if we actually faced persecution. Maybe if we risked death or imprisonment for our beliefs, we’d understand the difference between a compelling cause for Christ where we must make a stand and a mere inconvenience where we might want to consider our witness before we get on our high horses.

On the other hand, in a nation founded on natural rights and liberty, all citizens must be eternally vigilant to secure those rights not just for ourselves, but for our fellow citizens.

How do Christians walk that line in a society where religious liberty is threatened with suppression, but not actively persecuted? Should we?

If Hobby Lobby et al are told to tow the ObamaCare line and pay for abortifacients … should they fall in line or is it time for civil disobedience from Christians?

 

When we’re merely mugged and not murdered, what should our response be, Christians?

 

Balancing Act   4 comments

Every day, Christians are called to be citizens of heaven rather than of earth. We may live in the United States or Russia or South Africa or China, but we are in this world and not of it. The apostle Paul understood that. The gospel didn’t come just for the Jews. Jesus died for everyone who will accept God’s grace by faith. And that brought Paul and his fellow 1st century Christians into conflict with the government authorities. By their very existence as a people, they were in violation of the civil authority of the government.

So why did Paul write what we designate now as Romans 13? Because he knew, better than most, that Christians were going to be murdered, muzzled or mugged by the world around us. Our every day lives will always be in conflict with the societal standards around us. We should probably think something is wrong with our Christian walk if we are NOT in conflict with the world around us because Jesus warned us in John 4 that we will have grief for no other reason than that we believe in Him.

So if we’re already in conflict with the world simply for believing in Jesus, why not also be in conflict with the government that opposes our beliefs? Why would Paul write Romans 13 if we were already in conflict by believing what we believe?

The first human born on this planet killed the second human born on this planet because he perceived his brother’s existence was somehow defrauding him of his “due”. Many centuries later, God used the writer of Hebrews to commend the murdered brother for his faith. This ought to tell us something about ourselves. We are bent, fallen, given to having our feelings hurt by imagined slights and to inflate minor slights into major conflicts.

Paul wrote Romans 13 because he knew this about human nature. He recognized that Christianity would always be in conflict with the world because the world is in conflict with God, but he also recognized that we could spend our energy railing at injustice rather than ministering on God’s behalf. We can become known as the people who resist the government rather than the people who walk in Christ’s way and that can and will diminish the gospel of Jesus Christ. By damaging our own witness through political activity rather than through godly works, we become salt that is good for nothing but to melt ice.

Which brings us to the question …

Should Christians ever be civilly disobedient?

Christianity is Transcendent   2 comments

I am a Christian where ever I am standing. Christianity is transcendent. It is greater than my racial makeup, greater than my nationality, greater than my family and greater than the law of whatever country I am living in.

Can I get an amen?

 

Some Through the Jail   Leave a comment

Peter preached in the streets of Jerusalem and thousands came to Christ. The authorities had hoped that murdering Jesus in a very public way would stop the gospel, but clearly they hadn’t cowed the believers. Now they were preaching in the temple.

The temple authorities told Peter and John to stop preaching in the temple in Acts 4. Peter and John answered in a quote of the Hebrew Three. “We must obey God rather than you, so we will not stop preaching.” They then violated the order by doing exactly as God commanded. They spent time in jail for it.

Christians rightfully celebrate the stand of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego in Daniel 3 and Peter and John’s defiance in Acts 4. Clearly they were obeying God and clearly God rewarded their civil disobedience with miracles.

What does that tell us?

That there is a place for civil disobedience in the Christian life, but we still can’t ignore Romans 13. It is part of the Bible too. The Christian life is not velvet and satin. To truly live as Christ commands us, we have to make some hard choices, choices that require thought and that might cause conflict both with the world around us and also be our churches and even our own guts.

Christians must stand up for the truth as believers in the Truth, Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we must avoid the temptation to become hypersensitive to every affront to our scruples. I hate some of the things my taxes are used to fund, but not paying my taxes is probably not the best choice of protest. It may well be a violation for the 1st amendment for the local police to force me to move my abortion protest across the street from the abortion “clinic”, but is it appropriate for me to provoke an arrest by ignoring the mandated buffer zone?

Where do we draw the line?

Do you know?

Persecution is Coming   Leave a comment

I know folks who refuse to get driver’s licenses because they consider it an illegal government requirement. I don’t disagree with them, but I choose my battles. If I am going to jail, I want to do it for upholding the Bible, not for refusing to get a driver’s license. You usually only get one chance to make a strong statement and I’m not willing to make mine over a card in my wallet.

That does not mean I feel compelled to obey every government rule. I live in Alaska, after all, which is compassed about by federal rules to the point where it’s almost impossible to do anything without violating one. Four felonies a day, they say.

Classic liberalism in Western nations is being beaten to death by paternalists, cultural relativists, sensitivity codes, and decadence-normalizers who seek to cow the faithful into silent acquiescence if not outright acceptance of sin.

Certainly, Christians in the western world do not face persecution in the same way that the early Christians did. The believers in China and Muslim countries would laugh at what we regularly complain about. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.

Pastors in Europe, Canada and Australia have had to fight lengthy and expensive legal battles over the right to preach from the Bible and a retreat center in New Jersey has lost its tax-exempt status for excluding same-sex couples from wedding ceremonies on its grounds. The Affordable Care Act has placed Christian businesses in the position of paying for abortifacients, pending a Supreme Court decision. Yes, I think the Roberts Court is going to rule that they must provide abortifacients as contraception. That’s the world we live in today. Clearly a time of Christian persecution is coming for Americans and that means a time when some of us will have to choose between obeying the government or obeying God.

This raises the question of when it is appropriate to take a stand, and when it is better to simply retire from the field. I have a suggestion about that for Christian churches and marriage. But, first, we’re going to look at some Biblical examples of believer civil disobedience.

Ultimate Allegiance   1 comment

My allegiance belongs ultimately to Christ, not to the state, not to my fellow humans, not to those whose political philosophies I like. I am a fallen human being, prone to find loopholes in God’s law in order to do what I like and sometimes I run across the writings of others who stir my heart strings, but I don’t belong to myself. I belong to my God who ransomed my soul.

There’s no arguing that there are times when Christians must disobey government authorities in order to uphold the principles of God. I think of abolitionists who violated the Fugitive Slave Act, the ten Boom family as they hid Jews in defiance of the Nazis, Martin Luther King Jr. as he organized boycotts and protest marches in make civil rights for all Americans a possibility.

All of these have something in common. We view what they did from a place of sympathy and they won, so clearly “God was on their side”. I don’t see those examples offering spiritual guidance to us in future because every circumstance is different.

We are moving into an era in our nation when Christians are painted as obstructionist hate-mongers whose “intolerant” views should not be tolerated. I am among the half million believers who have signed the 2009 Manhattan Declaration which says, in part,

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

The words of this Declaration ring with civil disobedience over issues of Biblical import. Should the government decide it has an abiding interest in forcing Christians to disobey Biblical principles in order to comply with government edicts, it is possible and increasingly probable that pastors and those who support them may face jail time or fines that they should refuse to pay.

 

Two Roads Diverge   Leave a comment

Christian ethicists have debated long and hard whether it is ever legitimate for believers to defy the state. Usually, their argument against such action is based on Romans 13:1-7, which seems to encourage submission to the ruling authorities under all circumstances. Yet, Paul wrote that advice from prison, where he was being held for disobeying the authorities.

If anyone knew that the state could become evil, it was Paul who before he was a Christian had been given authority by the Temple officials to arrest Christians for the simple act of believing that Jesus Christ was God. Paul clearly did not follow his own instruction when it came to the government commanding him to do something contrary to God’s will. In practice, he appears to have followed the example of Peter and John in Acts 4:1-22:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v 19-20).

Christians are never given license to sin and we are not permitted to abandon the dictates of God in order to obey the orders of other human beings. Peter and John could have preserved their freedom and safety by obeying the Temple rulers, but they chose to obey the Great Commission instead (see Matthew 28:18-20).

In order to be faithful to God, they had to disobey the civil authorities. The trick here is knowing when we are obeying God or our fallen nature.

Posted April 14, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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