Saturday, October 31, 2009
There are, of course, variations of these two themes. Not every postmodern welcomes every religion on the planet as equally good, nor does every atheist think religion ought to be forgotten. Some atheists are quiet open to religion continuing as long as it doesn’t cross any lines into their freedom to non-belief.
Even within Christian circles these ideals aforementioned are close to many a heart. Some professing Christianity aren’t so sure it is alright to believe Jesus is the only way and think it more progressive for Him to be their way and keep all doctrine loose enough to never exclude falsehood from truth.
However, whatever the philosophical affiliation most believe that truth ought to have no boundaries. Certainty carries an arrogant connotation. Asserting a truth with conviction makes people uncomfortable. Even in politics there is a grass roots call for bi-partisanship. Asserting something as the right way is taboo for many ways can be thought up and no one should exclude anyone, or so the thinking goes.
The problem is there are foundational logical issues with the idea of perpetual uncertainty or the acceptance of all ideas. America is a melting pot of ideas designed for iron to sharpen iron to keep the debate open by holding fast to your convictions and making sure the other perspectives are recognized and considered. Truth comes in all packages, but when it is true it also necessarily excludes what is not true.
Truth is simply that which really is. And that which is not is false. We seem to have lost sight of these simple logical truths. A claim to knowledge of what is should not be shunned, but tested. A claim of something being false is based on something else being true. Both claims need testing, but it is okay to draw conclusions.
“Dogma--an evil word,” commented a blogger recently. Is that true? Dogma means “An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.” Sounds like an “authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion considered to be absolutely true.” The commentator said he preferred “theory.” Then it has to be his uncertain theory that dogma is evil, anything else would be dogma.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone so I’m not going to provide the link to the comment I recently read. It just aptly illustrated my point. The point is that no one can get away from dogmatic statements, even those who protest dogma, and that’s okay. We can firmly hold different ideas about the world and still all love each other unless one of our ideas about the world doesn’t allow for such love. I would need to watch my back if I were to befriend a terrorist or someone of that nature.
To anyone who says it is impossible to be certain about truth. I would retort, are you certain? The thing is the necessity of an open mind is to seek the truth and close it around truth and open it to more truth. It’s a process of learning. If it remains open all the time the person is always a seeker and never a finder. Why should anyone seek what cannot be found?
Granted there are many things we will only ever know in part, but we can know a part, or a shadow of the real. But there are other things that we can know and people do know. The problems of doctrine and dogma are not problems of truth claims, but making what is only a part the whole.
You may have heard the story of the three blind men touching an elephant and being asked what the object is. One who has the tail says it is a piece of rope. Another touching the leg thinks it is a trunk of a tree, and so one. Each only experiencing a part of the whole and each firmly believing they know the whole from the part.
Knowing something as true isn’t arrogance, but steps along a journey of truth. Anything can be used in a harmful manner, but that doesn’t make the thing bad. A person can use a firearm in a crime, but that doesn’t mean all guns are bad (though some think so). A person can start a forest fire with a match, but we don’t need to remove all matches from the country. Doctrine, dogma, certainty, knowledge, truth claims, all these are tools of our lives and they can be used in a way that gives life or they can be used in a way that brings bondage.
The problem isn’t the tool it is the heart of the one wielding it. And that heart that wields it wrongly is in each and every one of us and it is that condition of the heart that needs repair and not the tool that needs to be dispensed with. Each of us, whether religious or secular, will bear it in error at times, let us all practice caution and bear truth, as best we know it, ensconced in real love.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
What we truly believe is what we live. Our beliefs and values are deeper in our being than just our intellect. They reach the core of who we are and why we do the things we do.
Believing a series of facts in ones mind does nothing for the person if those beliefs haven’t reached into the core of a person. This is why it is written in Scripture that if I say I love God, but hate my brother, I am a liar. Because the reality of what I truly believe is what I truly live. If I live out hate, I don’t know the love of God. The love of God is something that changes the core of our self and when that has been changed it will be expressed outwardly.
If I say I trust God with my money, and I freak out when I encounter a financial obstacle, I don’t really believe He will carry me through and my purported beliefs are shown to be false.
This is why it is written that faith without works is dead. Not because we need to muster up good works to be accepted by God, but because our faith has already made us the righteousness of God, and if our faith is true our actions will be a true reflection of that inner reality. If there is no change on the inside, there will be no change on the outside.
Now, this change on the outside is a process for a person changed on the inside has been born again. Just as a child needs to learn to adapt to his environment, so does a new creation in Christ need to go through a process of living from a new reality. The Bible uses the analogy of being on milk or solid foods to depict the maturity of a new believer progressing from a diet of milk to a truth of solid food.
Belief, then, is not something that is only facts in ones mind that one has to believe despite evidence to the contrary. Belief is something that your whole being identifies as reality and lives accordingly. If “belief” is only a system of facts mentally ascribed to, then most people would be living in contradiction to what is only believed in the mind.
(to be continued)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
However, upon opening the door, stepping out into my yard, feeling the breezy 63 degree weather and the slight over cast of the sky I have now experienced the truth of the information given on the television. A new dynamic has taken place, I haven’t just a series of truth statements in my head, but my body has experienced them. I may not be able to tell its 63 degrees if the meteorologist hadn’t provided that information, but I could experience what 63 degrees feels like. I would then be experiencing the truth of 63 degrees on a cloudy day.
I recently went to see the movie Surrogates. In this movie all the people on the planet experience life through a robot. A person will purchase a very technologically advanced robot that looks like a perfect person with perfect agility and performance of all life’s work and pleasures. They will lay back in their chair or bed and hook up to a virtual system and live life without ever moving from their chair while their surrogate lives out their dreams each day. The idea was that no one would get hurt, if the surrogate got damaged sky diving a new unit would be purchased and the person would have experienced the virtual thrill of sky diving without ever leaving their bedroom.
Something goes terribly wrong and life as humanity knows it is shaken. I will leave out the details so as not to ruin the movie. At one point, however, as people emerge from their homes into sunlight they wake up from virtual reality. They experience touch and sound and feelings in the real world rather than through their virtual subconscious. Experience of reality occurs again as a novel thing and a man touching his wife’s cheek softly with his hand is so much more glorious than any of the greatest dreams lived out through a surrogate.
There is something innate to humanity that we have to experience life. Virtual experience is not good enough. We need to experience reality. We need not only to read books about adventures; we want to go on our own adventure. We need not only read about exciting places to visit, we want to go there. We don’t only want to decide on a spouse by reading a bunch of facts about who they are, we want to experience who they are and fall in love and enjoy life together.
The question is, then, why do we forget this when it comes to matters of God? Why is God only a potential fact that matters not either way? Why is He relegated to what we believe in our minds, but not understood as someone, if real, to be experienced in the depths of our person? It would be such a waste of time if all conversion or salvation was about was changing someone’s mind to believe a different set of facts about life as if that’s all there was to it. Some people have only experienced Christianity as a social club of people who believe a set of doctrines about life and try to live by them. Such Christianity is understandably found wanting and dismal. Such a reality would have nothing to offer anyone.
However, what if, it’s not just a series of facts akin to a meteorologist telling someone the weather report? What if it can be experienced like stepping outside your door and feeling the cold air of a coming blizzard or the warmth of a summer day. What if God isn’t looking for people to adhere to certain facts, but to know Him, experience His love and have a home in Him? What if our knowledge of Him grows not only in learning about Him, but in first hand experience? What if there is something amazing about life that is still left to experience that is greater than anything the natural world can offer a person?
Anytime I speak of the existence of God or the reality of Christianity, I am not talking only about a set of ideas that one needs to intellectually ascribe to and all their hearts desire will be satisfied. No, I am talking about ideas that lead to experiencing the reality of the glory of God. I am very much concerned about the reality of things, and the truthfulness of things, and if I hadn’t experienced God I wouldn’t be telling you it was possible. But I have experienced Him, I have seen His mighty works, I have felt the life that flows from Him into me and I have shared that love with others and seen them transformed. I come not with opinions, but with truth, truth I have experienced with awe and wonder as my soul leaps at the joy of His reality.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Many who believe there is a heaven believe that it is a place of continual praise along side the angels before the throne of God. This place of heaven is to be the place of ultimate satisfaction and joy where no more tears, pain, or evil exists. However, in all reality, whose heart leaps at the idea of having an infinitely long church party before the Lord even if it is in such a place?
I love and adore the Lord and yet I have never gotten too overwhelmingly overjoyed at the thought of eternity in the heaven I typically hear described. For many years, I figured I simply would be satisfied because I would be before the Lord and what more could I want out of life than to be physically with Him with no division between us. I trusted that it was true that such an existence would be of the utmost glory and satisfaction beyond my wildest dreams.
I knew that all the good things of earth were a mere shadow of the glory of heaven and if the shadow could be so wonderful then the actual would be fantastical in comparison. Notwithstanding, I have come to realize that there is more to the story than I once thought.
God created mankind to live on earth and gave earth to man to have dominion and cultivate it. Man was designed to live in relationship with God on the earth ruling over all creation. (Genesis 1:26-29) So when man sinned and subjected the creation to the death and darkness of sin redemption was required to pay the debt of sin. So when this redemption is procured in Christ, it makes no sense for suddenly the lot of man is to die and go to heaven. Christ has been given the inheritance of all of creation and we are heirs with Christ to that creation. Why then would we not gain that inheritance, but gain life in heaven instead?
I think the following is more accurate: Life in heaven is available upon a person’s life merging with God’s through Jesus. We instantly have available to us a heavenly reality. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 6 that we are to pray for His Kingdom to come to earth and that the will of God in heaven will be made manifest upon the earth. God’s created earth was paradise and while paradise was lost it can be regained. God’s plan is far more expansive than having a bunch of people have a heavenly party with Him for eternity in heaven. His plan is for man to regain his rightful place to cultivate without laborious pain or effort the earth to be paradise once again.
Heaven is still a real place one can go and some I believe will live in heaven. Others will live upon the new earth and still others might come and go between the realms. I’m not sure of this, but I think it could be possible.
The last book of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, magnificently captures this idea of a restored earth in his fictional story. The children find at last that Narnia was a shadow of an even greater reality and that even greater reality looked very much like Narnia, but only the good parts the most wonderful parts. This Narnia was purged of anything that could tarnish it and perfect goodness reigned free. Narnia came into alignment with the greater reality of heaven, so to speak. Such is God’s plan for this earth. It will one day become new and in line with the glory of heaven as it was always designed to be thus.
This will happen not by God waving His hand and making all the evil go away, but by man working in tandem with God by making manifest His truth in this world. The good news of the Gospel isn’t relegated to save and disciple people, but also for the discipling of nations. Just to clarify, I am not talking about politicizing the Gospel.
Each of us in this world have particular dreams and talents that we were born to live and those do not expire, they are useful for eternity. We each have a role to play and a plan that is uniquely ours that when used in tandem with God’s righteousness and in the context of community all things are possible. Just imagine an entire community of billions of people each empowered to do what they were born for free of entanglements of sin and the laborious pains of working for money. Each person would be working together as a harmonious body—each needing each other and each loving to work as a team full of the righteousness of God. I fully believe that such a world is not only possible, but will be made actual in the future.
This will be the fulfillment of our greatest dreams and desires as we live out what we were born for to the fullest measure and enjoy the company of others doing the same thing all the while experiencing the fullness of relationship with God all truly being in one accord.
When we hold to the theology that life is all about going to heaven when we die, we are very likely to abandon our job upon the earth. We are also very unlikely to realize and experience all that is available to us now for eternal life is Christ and we have the fullness of the Godhead living in us now. We don’t have to wait to experience the reality of heaven; we can start living that now. Many don’t because of our ignorance of its availability. Christianity is often seen as fire insurance and of no earthly value. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I wish I had known years ago what I have learned in the last 5 years, but it is so exciting to come to the knowledge that eternal life is here now and isn’t relegated to a future existence.
Learning how to live out that eternal reality is a moment to moment journey in Christ where we stay close to Him and learn from Him how to bring forth His truth in our lives. It is all about manifesting that internal truth to the external reality. We are all living in different stages of that process and we learn from each other and from Him how to live this life. While the Gospel is a simple truth, there is a vast creative expanse of knowledge and experience to explore in the
Monday, October 5, 2009
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Thursday, October 1, 2009
The Bible has several levels of revelation and requires several levels of acquiring that revelation. There is the straightforward reading of the text that anyone can read as reading any other history or literature book. One can interpret things in context of the whole and in the context of the culture in which it was written. Furthermore, one can study it in its original language of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The principals therein can be helpful to a person even when only learning about them in this manner.
However, no matter how far one studies in this manner there will be a vital missing element to understanding the fullness of Scripture. The Bible says that there are things that are spiritually discerned and the man without the Spirit cannot discern them. It is like it is muddled to that person and makes little sense. There is a deeper revelation that is not contradictory to the surface exploration of the text that can only come from having the Spirit of God. For His Spirit witnesses with our spirit and reveals truth that is locked away and only revealed through that relationship with Jesus.
Why is this? It is because if it were even possible for us to know the truth fully without God’s aid it would not be good for us to have such knowledge apart from His life flowing through us. The Scriptures are to point us to Him and when we are connected to Him the Scriptures take on a whole new dynamic previously not available to the man without the Spirit. Even without the Spirit the Scriptures are sufficient to point to the truth of needing Christ, but once that truth is taken hold of and that relationship begins, deeper revelation begins to be made available. This deeper revelation is more than ethereal; it is more than intellectual for a third dimension opens up of experience. Once one experiences the truth through the person of Truth, Jesus, the truth of Scripture can be experienced in a whole new reality. The mystery begins to be unveiled and the seeker steps into more and more truth the more they seek it out for it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of Kings to search it out. We are those
The path of truth doesn’t stop with finding God; it starts afresh with finding God. It’s like opening the wardrobe to another world complete with beautiful and fascinating things to explore. In the fantastical movie InkHeart, a few people have the special ability to read a book and bring what they read to life so that they are not just reading words on a page and imagining the story for the story is coming alive as they read. When a person reads the Scriptures without the presence of God breathing the life into them, it is like watching a 3D movie without the glasses. One can still see and hear the movie, but something is missing, something is cloaked until one watches through the 3D lenses. We need to see with Jesus so that we can experience greater depths of truth.
Jesus told the religious leaders in his day that they search the Scriptures, because they think in them is life, but the real life was Him whom the Scriptures are about, and not the Scriptures themselves. They only point to Him and reveal Him further once He is connected with the reader. Even the Scriptures can be used to bring bondage and harm to people, if they are used without the life giving true revelation that comes from relationship with Jesus. When we use them solely with human reasoning apart from Jesus we enter dangerous grounds of harming people and stealing their life and only giving them empty religion and life-less doctrines. This is why a person, Jesus, is eternal life and not a belief in proper doctrines. Life is tangible and requires tangible experience to gain it, and does not rest upon intangible doctrines of the mind, for God looks not on the mind, but on the heart. The aim is our heart to be intertwined with His so that all the life that is He is also apart of us for He is where our hope rest secure.