Tag Archives: faith

Are You Sure About That?

galileo

There was recently a televised debate on the subject of evolution versus creationism. Bill Nye, representing evolution, and Ken Ham, representing creationism, were asked what would change their mind on the topic. Their answers were strikingly different.

The scientist’s answer: Evidence. The theologian’s answer: Nothing.

What an amazing difference in attitudes! “I’m willing to change my viewpoint if there is sufficient reason” versus “My mind is made up and I’m not changing it for anything!”

I’m not going to debate evolution versus creation here. My personal thinking is that God created everything and it’s been evolving ever since. But I wouldn’t try to argue against either side or any blend of the two.

But what really gets my goat is when people take perfectly good faith and ruin it by refusing to further consider a question. To remain viable, faith MUST be tempered by doubt. Faith untempered by doubt descends into the realm of dogma.

If there’s one thing that’s constant in this world, it’s change. Good faith is flexible enough to absorb the impact of change. If the impact is large enough to permanently alter the faith, that’s okay too. That’s called spiritual growth.

Bad faith, on the other hand, lacks flexibility. It seeks to shield people from change by hiding them behind rigid doctrine. It’s like being encased in protective concrete. NOTHING is getting through that concrete, right? But when that huge impact of change comes along, the concrete shatters, and the people are left naked and defenseless.

Our spiritual journey is just that: a journey. If we think we’ve arrived, we haven’t. We’ve simply settled for where we are. If we think we’ve found all there is to find, we haven’t. We’ve simply given up looking. If we think we have all the answers, we’re only fooling ourselves. It’s just possible that we could be wrong.

Never give up on what else God has to show us. Never believe that what we understand is all there is to understand. Never stop asking, “What if?”

And may we always keep a child-like sense of wonder and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Empty Churches ft. Pope Francis

stmarks

No, this isn’t a new hip-hop song, despite the catchy title. This is about why so many churches are withering away. But if anyone wants to use that for their band name, I expect royalties. 🙂

Anyone who bothers to look around can see the churches in America aren’t anywhere near as full as they used to be. We are becoming increasingly secular. We kick religion to the curb, either explicitly denying it, or simply ignoring it until it goes away. There are a great many theories on why this is the case. Some cite more access to entertainment. Stores are open 24/7 these days. Kids sports schedule games for Sunday now, creating scheduling conflicts with regular church attendance. There are a gazillion external reasons not to attend church.

But I think the main reason people gave up on Christianity is the Christians themselves. Too many of us have adopted a “my way or the highway” approach. “I can show you right *HERE* that God said it, and if you don’t believe it, you’re going to HELL!” Where is love in that approach? Where is the Jesus who reaches out to sinners, inviting them to walk with him? Where is the acknowledgement that *gasp* WE COULD BE MISTAKEN?

Pope Francis addressed this recently. Here is a short excerpt:

“When a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith. He is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought. For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge. The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people.’
But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new.”

The full article, with video, can be found here: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/21/pope-francis-describes-ideological-christians-as-a-serious-illness-within-the-church/

What can we do to correct this issue? First, we must learn to see others as our brothers and sisters, no matter their theology or lack of it. Rich, poor, black, white, Republican, Democrat. We must get away from the “us and them” thinking that has created so many of our problems. Second, we need to pray for a spirit of humility rather than arrogance. It isn’t about us anyway. It’s about God. When we reflect His love, rather than our demands, we lift him up for all to see. Third, we have to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us. We have the Bible, yes, but we need God to interpret it for us rather than man. In this way we will realize that yes, we have been wrong on some things, and we can quit turning away true seekers by insistence that our ways are absolute.

Labels, Labels Everywhere

puppy_with_steak

“He’s a liberal.”

“She’s gay.”

“He’s gifted.”

“She’s a Republican.”

“They’re freeloaders.”

“You’re a slut.”

“She’s a Christian.”

“He’s an addict.”

Labels. We use them all the time. Sometimes they are positive, sometimes negative. But what’s in a label? What do labels do?

In general, labels are used to help us categorize things. If a steak is labeled USDA Grade A Choice, we have a high degree of confidence that the meat is top quality. If a movie star is labeled as “a train wreck” we’re pretty sure there are some serious issues. We don’t have to see the steak or the movie star to make these assumptions. We base our expectations on our interpretations of the labels.

But as useful as labels are, they can also be detrimental to a well-rounded understanding of the object being labeled. How big is the steak? What kind of steak is it? Is there a lot of fat on it? How much does it cost? Is it still fresh? If we look only at the label, we miss a lot of information we may find useful.

So maybe we put a second label on things. “Bone-in porterhouse” might give us more information. “6.99/lb.” provides still more information. But all the labels in the world won’t tell us how good that steak is. We only know when we take a big honkin’ bite of beef. Experience is the true test.

Now think about the labels we use on other people. “She’s a Christian.” How do you evaluate that label? If our past experience with Christians has been positive, we likely assume that she’s a good person. If our past experience has been negative, we may see the very same label and come to the conclusion that she’s a self-righteous bigot. In either case, we have ascribed a quality to the person that may or may not be warranted.

So just like we did with the steak, we add more labels to the person to minimize confusion. “She’s a liberal Christian.” So she’s either a progressive or an oxymoron, depending on your point of view. Once again, adding more labels is a failed attempt to explain just who she is. If you really want to know who she is, get to know her. See for yourself.

What happens when we attempt to label God? Savior. Great Physician. Lord. Prince of Peace. Mighty God. King of Kings. All of these are labels. Each one has its own meaning and its own connotations. Each label is an attempt to describe some facet of God. We may as well attempt to rope the wind. How can we describe the ineffable majesty that is God? How can we convey His greatness?

Moses once asked God for his preferred label. “Who shall I say sent me?” he asked. God’s answer may seem cryptic until we realize that it completely avoids the limitations that labels place on our understanding. “Tell him I AM THAT I AM sent you.” I AM. The very essence of identity, unclouded by labels.

God invites us to know him. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” the scriptures tell us. Forget the labels, and just reach out to I AM. He’ll leave the Light on for you.

Twelve Panes

12 panes

Writing.com posted this photo on Facebook today with the following instructions: “The first chapter of your newest story starts here at this window. How does it start?” Of course, my mind went to grace. Once you begin seeing grace and ridding yourself of the old law-based mindset, you see grace everywhere and in everything. Even a window. I’ll likely never write a new story beginning with this paragraph, but I do think I could find a place for it in a current work in progress. Here it is:

“Twelve panes,” the pastor reflected, gazing sightlessly at the well-manicured grounds below his window. “Twelve panes make up the whole of the view. How like Jesus’ disciples is this window! Each pane yields a view slightly different from its neighbor. This one speaks of only sky, while its neighbor knows only leaves and grass. And yet each one contributes to the whole in beautiful harmony.” Could it really be that simple?

Hello world!

Hi folks! Welcome to the new blog of an old geezer with some seriously warped ideas!

Around half of my writing is related to faith and religion (the Grace part of the title) and the other half is just whatever is sticking in my craw at the time (the And Stuff part). I’m hoping to inspire you, make you think, make you mad, and make you my friend. Drop in any time. The coffee’s always on!