Saturday, June 27, 2009

Changing the law, Doesnt change the heart

As many of you know, Iowa (the state in which I live) made gay marriage legal fairly recently. Many (particularly Christians) have been outraged and furious, holding up signs and protesting. Many commenting to me jokingly about it, expecting me to be on their side I suppose, and then are infuriated to find that I really am not.

First off, I dont personally condone homosexuality, nor do I think that the Bible does. Yet on the same note, I dont elevate it to this terrible atrocity that most Christians seem to do. I dont see it as any greater a "sin", than premarital sex, lust, lying, or gossip (None of which, by the way, do many Christians hold signs up about or try to make laws banning them). If it is truly not Gods will to practice homosexuality, than I dont think God loves the person in that any less, than He loves the one who has premarital sex, lusts, lies, gossips or all the above.The same can be said about abortion, which I most definitely do not agree with.

So we try and implicate these laws, and protest, assuming that by doing so...we will create a safe, "Christianese" country for us and our families. And thats understandable, I think it is important to vote and stand up for the things we believe especially as Christians.

But I cant help but ask, what changing the laws of our country will do to change the hearts of those I disagree with? We can bar people from doing all sorts of things, and we do on many occasions. Our laws try to prevent us from things like murder, stealing, cheating, and running red lights. Yet even when the threat of punishment is successful in preventing an individual from doing such things (or more likely, from getting caught), is that person really any different? Do their views on right and wrong, good and bad, necessarily change at all?

Even if gay marriage were to have been kept illegal in Iowa, it wouldnt stop anyone from practicing homosexuality or still feeling that gay marriage was their right. The same with abortion, if it were illegal, nothing would stop anyone from feeling it was okay or worse yet, find ways to abort babies outside of medical direction. Just because something is illegal, doesnt make someone think that it is wrong. Just because someone is prevented from doing something bad does not automatically turn the person's intentions good. This is common sense.

Beyond all that, Im not sure it is my right to try and make other people live by my moral convictions. Part of the reason the United States was founded was to break from the oppression of religion, and worship, believe and live as one chooses. It doesnt mean I have to personally agree, or support someones life choices...but it doesnt matter if I agree. I hope people will make Godly choices, but they have to find the motivation to do that themselves (which ultimately comes from the conviction God gives us). I or no one else can force that on them...

I guess I just find it hard to believe that God is as concerned with the laws of America, as most fundamentalist Christians seem to be. This is maybe why politics fail to interest me more often than not. Afterall, Jesus was certainly not a political activist, and no where in the gospels do we see Jesus rallying any political overthrows of Caesar. In fact he said "render to Caesar, what is Caesar's". Jesus was however, all about changing the hearts around him, helping people reunite in relationship with the Father and His will. Jesus knew that the religious and political laws could never change anyone, yet he loved us, died for us and gave us his spirit to live within our hearts.

I truly believe we as Christians, should be more concerned about loving people and showing them the God we serve, rather than trying to impart laws for our own self-centered, self-concerned motives...and then claim that "its what God wants". I think what God wants is people to turn to him in his appointed times, not for America to have the most Bible based laws. Therefore, I think our part as followers of Christ should be to be a light to our fellow humanity and country men. In which they can see the life and love of God emitting from us and will too want to be apart of what God has for them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two kinds of salvation

Two blogs ago I talked about how we are not so much "saved" from a place called Hell, but rather our separation from God. This is going to be sort of the follow up to that blog, so if you havent read it yet, read that first. This week I will be taking about salvation in its two different forms, and hopefully, I will do it without confusing you or myself, haha:

Salvation in Christianity is most popularly viewed as the act of accepting Jesus into ones heart and asking His forgiveness. That by saying the sinners prayer, Jesus comes to "live" in your heart and you get saved from the devil poking you with his red pitchfork.

This view treats salvation (or reconciliation to God) like a freely given coupon, in that if you fail to cash it in by an unknown expiration date...the blood shed for you is no longer any good to redeem you and thus you get to go to Hell for all time. In this view Gods attitude is,
I did my part, now do yours, or I will cease to help you

Salvation (in this view) is thus not entirely dependent on God's love and Calvary, but is equally co-dependent on mans will to repent and live the correct lifestyle. Our works and attitudes ultimately affect Gods so called "unchanging" ways and attitude towards us, and makes him out to be no different than any other temporary, selfish human being. Even so, we talk a lot about how Christ came to free us from doing works to get Gods favor and forgiveness...yet this view clearly states that Christ really only gave us new works in order to merit Gods affection.

But is this really how God set up salvation to be? Lets look at Romans 5:18-19
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

There are many things we can say about this passage. But I think the most notable, is the fact that it relates the human condemnation through Adam(which none of us chose to be born into), in direct proportion to justification through Christ. Therefore, if the condemnation Adam brought on human kind didn't take our acceptance to take effect, then why would the justification of Christ need our acceptance to take effect? According to this passage, Adams curse on the human race is in effect from the day one is born, so by the same logic, Christs justification takes effect from the day we are born, to counteract that curse. All this to say, it doesn't take ones accepting Jesus, in order for one to be justified by Jesus. We are all justified by the blood, whether we "accept" it or not. Beyond that, because of Christ, it is impossible for a human to offend God by sinning.

The Greek word for sin is "hamartia" (to offend) or sometimes the Bible uses "hamartano" (to miss the mark). knowing that, the following passage reads thusly:
1 John 2:1-2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not [miss the mark]. But if anyone does [miss the mark], we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our [offense], and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

We all miss the mark in life, for even the most devout Christian will still sin. But God cannot be offended by our wicked deeds any longer...Christ paid and saved us from the offense. This dismisses the popular notion that God somehow has "no choice", but to cast unrepentant sinners into an eternal abyss, because his holy purity is somehow offended by the stench of our sins. It is literally impossible to offend God, because of Christ. I call this Type A salvation, or automatic salvation, because everyone is justified and clean of offense automatically via the Cross.

Now you might say, what about Romans 10:9?
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Using this verse, you might argue that surely one has to confess and believe to be saved, right? Well, I think its important to note here that when the bible talks about being saved or salvation, it doesnt necessarily have anything to do with the common churched idea of eternal deliverance. In Romans 10:9 the word used for saved is "Sozo", which literally means to heal or preserve (think back to the other blog where I said Christ came more to save us from earthly things than eternal ones). So this passage is not talking about justification, so much as its talking about sanctification. Everyone is already justified, or made right with God. But not everyone is sanctified, or made holy in relationship with God. Sanctification requires Gods revelation to us of His truth in order to progressively release us from earthly woes, and thus unite with God in fellowship

In other words, to be justified by God through type A salvation, no you dont have to confess or believe anything. But to benefit from type B salvation, yes, you must confess and believe in order for THAT to take effect in your life.
(sounds like Im talking about diseases, doesnt it? Type A and Type B and all lol). Think of it this way,

Suppose you have a rich uncle who dies and leaves a 100,000 dollars JUST for you in a bank account, and the only one who knows about it is your dad. Now in order to benefit from this large stack of moola, you would first have to know that it exist. But you would not have to know about it, for the money to merely exist in your name or for it to gain interest. It is yours and legally, nothing can change that. However, your father might not tell you that it is there until you are old enough to spend it wisely and fully appreciate the gift for what it is.

I realize theres a few flaws with my analogy, but I think it illustrates my point adequately. Type A salvation is a done deal, it was completed and put into effect the moment Jesus said on the cross,
It is finished.
However, type B is not persay done, because it is not an event. It is a process that may never actually cease to progress the human soul. Type B salvation starts when one is awakened in their conscious to the fullness of Christ (when GOD chooses to reveal), leading that person to take up their own cross and follow Him. When a person accepts Christ, they are re-birthed in their mind and heart to what God has done for them and will continue to do in their life. This is what I think Jesus truly meant by one being "born again"(John 3:6-8)

Ive brought up the following verses before,1 Timothy 4:9-10 it says,
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

When one confesses and believes in Christ, they can truly live in the peace and knowledge of ones reconciliation to God and thus fully experience a relationship with God. This is what I think is meant here by saying especially those who believe. God is the savior of all men, whether they acknowledge it or not. But He has a special relationship and "salvation" from self, for those that do believe. We are all justified, but not all sanctified.

We are all bought by the blood, but we are not all yet washed by it.

Salvation is not like a coupon that expires, or milk that goes sour. It is imperishable. It is in one way, already complete. Yet in another way, requires Gods unveiling of our hearts and mind to the truth in order to obtain the life that He has waiting for us.

I realize I got pretty heavy in this blog, I even had to double check some passages and words to make sure I knew what I was talking about (lol). But if nothing else hopefully you understand this idea of salvation a little more clearly.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What if I'm wrong?: A problem of perspectives

I had planned to continue the salvation discussion this week, but instead I think I'll address this matter. I've been asked various questions as of late but most of them boiling down to,

What if you're wrong and eternal torment is true?

There are various aspects in the answer to this, and I would be lying if I said this wasn't an uncomfortable question. But I think the first thing to say about that, is that I cannot base my beliefs on "what if's". By that same logic, just about anything could be true or untrue. For example one could say,
  • What if God does not exist?
  • What if Christianity isn't true, and Islam is?
  • What if life is really a complex computer program, and humanity is unknowingly enslaved by octopus-like robots?
  • What if there's tiny green aliens that live inside my body, where they have nightly disco parties?(that could explain my difficulties in sleeping, lol)
Questioning things, as I've said before, can be very healthy. And I wouldn't be where I am today had I not done that. But spending time living in constant fear of what I don't know and not making a conclusion simply because I cant PROVE anything, seems to be a ridiculous way to live life. It makes much more sense to me to base my beliefs off of the evidence I have been given...rather than that which I have not.

The next thing is, is that the perspective I hold now (that God loves all and will save all), has had a positive impact on my own life in numerous ways. One being that I feel closer to God and feel free to love him, without some ever passing fear that hes angry at me and is going to incinerate my loved ones. More over than that, I think if ones perspective is that,
God eventually gives up on most people and will torture them forever, if they don't accept the right beliefs
...then your attitude towards people will likely be as short-lived and conditional. No matter how much and how long you want to "save the masses from brimstone" it always wears on you to a point that you just sort of shrug your shoulders and fall back into a state of apathy, that can only be (momentarily) cured by a preacher's terror tactics. Hence most of Christian culture today seems surprisingly unconcerned by the overall destiny of mankind, that is supposedly marching their merry way into the devils human cauldron.
I know this firsthand, because such perspective is what brought about the breakdown in my own faith. But if your perspective is like mine, that,
God never gives up on people and loves them unconditionally no matter their beliefs
then your attitude towards fellow humanity will be of the same, ever-loving, persevering vein.

Now if eternal torment is true like orthodox Christianity says, which perspective is likely to "win" more souls to God? Which perspective on God would an unbeliever most likely want to serve and love? The one that is planning to damn you forever if you dont jump through all the religious hoops, or the one who loves you no matter what and wants to transform your life for the better? I would say the later, and that would probably explain the reason why I can talk to people about God and spirituality that before, would not be willing to hear me out. All too often, I hear other Christians say,
Well everyone on earth has heard about Christianity!!!! They have no excuse!

Yeah, they've most all heard the "turn and burn" self-righteous, judgmental, homo-phobic Christianity, that has committed tons of atrocities supposedly in the name of Christ. Very few people have really heard of Christ and the perspective that God loves everyone where they're at unconditionally. And that's the perspective that will draw more people to Him if anything.

Lastly, I really like what Bishop Carlton Pearson said in his book The Gospel of Inclusion, on this very matter,
I'd rather be wrong for overestimating the love of God, than underestimating it. I'd rather err on the goodness, greatness, and graciousness of God than the opposite.

As simple as this statement is, I couldn't agree more. It makes more sense in my mind to believe that God is much more compassionate and understanding than the kindest "Mother Theresa", than to believe he is more sadistic and merciless than the cruelest "Hitler". Ive thought about it several times, and I don't believe I could even go back to worshiping God from the perspective I once held. I have thought about it and examined it far too closely, for it to not make my stomach churn and make me feel depressed...hence what started this spiritual journey to begin with.

The god(yeah I'm not even going to capitalize it) of orthodox Christianity is one that wouldn't even be worth serving, if that were indeed his nature. As dangerous as it might be to say...I honestly would have no interest in worshiping a god so obsessed with his own cosmic ego, that he'd gamble the eternal destinies of mankind and torture billions of unfortunates for all eternity. I would have no interest in worshiping a god that allowed the world to be entrenched in sin and destruction, only to redeem a few undeserving souls...all in the name of so-called "justice". Such a god I could only fear and be terrified of. Such a god I could not love with all of my heart, soul and mind as the Bible commands. And I think if every Christian were deeply honest with themselves, they would come to a similar conclusion.

We have no real way of proving one way or the other, but I believe the Bible provides us with much evidence of Gods unfailing love...much of which I have been trying to share here. And I believe that is why God put me on this journey and has let my heart leap to the most astounding plateau of my faith I have yet experienced. I don't believe God would drop this in front of me only to raise false hopes and to coax me into some false sense of love for Him. Because He is not really cruel, and is far more loving and just than most give Him credit for. And when you put all of the Bible into transcendent, divine perception, I believe it is ever so clear and wonderful. That is the God I serve, that is the God I trust.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Saved" from what?

Last summer, I remember one sunday at church we had a missionary who gave a sermon on "evangelizing to the world". I dont remember much about the message, but one story he told still comes to my mind frequently.

With very distraught eyes, he told the story of him and another missionary coming across a baby at the foot of these mountains, in india I think it was. And the other missionary looked at the baby with tears in his eyes and said,
You know, it would be better if we killed this baby right now so it could go to heaven...than to let it grow up in this culture with the likelihood being that it would grow up and reject God, and go to Hell forever.

The rest of the sermon is blank to me now, but Ill never forget the look of horror and desperation on the missionary's face all throughout it, the tears that never left his eyes and the deafening silence from us that were listening.
Soon enough though, everyone was back in the halls...laughing, smiling and scarfing down sprinkled donuts, while the unsaved world was supposedly "going up in flames". And I remember going home that day, and thinking to myself,
Could that really be the great hope we Christians are hanging on to?

It certainly must be hard for anyone to come to grips with this doctrine that God has seemingly placed more responsibility on Christians to save mankind, than He has placed on that of Christ himself. Such would seem quite absurd, but I find its what most of us Christians actually believe.
And Ive come to find that maybe the problem is, is that no one really understands what it is that Jesus came to save us from in the first place.

In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam that the day he eats of the tree of knowledge, he shall die. Take note God does not say "you shall surely be thrown in an everlasting pit of flames and screaming" as the consequence of sin. He simply says that Adam will die. While Adam did not literally drop dead in the garden the day he ate of the apple(in fact he supposedly lived about 900 years), he and Eve did die another way that very day; they died in spirit. In a similar way, I contend we have all died in spiritual awareness and connection with God because of our sin. It has little to nothing to do with us being doomed to a fiery abyss in the ground.

This makes massive sense when we look at what Jesus said he came to do. In Luke 4:18, he says,
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed

I find it interesting that in His first public address, Jesus speaks of freeing us from a much more earthly state of being, than an eternal one. If Christs sole mission was to save us from an eternal Hell, why the focus on temporary things? Why even waste time talking about and healing the temporary ills of this world, when we need to be snatched out of the gaping jaws of eternal damnation? Maybe it is because eternal damnation was never in the balance to begin with. Maybe it is because Christ came to liberate humanity not so much from Hell, but from the Hell of life caused by our spiritual death in sin.

In 1 John 3:8 it says,
The Son of God appeared for the purpose of undoing the work of the Devil

If the devils work was tempting humankind into a state of spiritual death, than that is what Christ came to save us from...not this pagan conception we call "Hell". Our souls and our planet are subliminally broken and out of proportion because of our flawed nature, but Christ came simply to heal and lead us in a Godly process. So that step by step, every human lost from God could have an awareness of the Father and His love for us.

I have more to say, as this is a very complicated subject. But I think this is a good place to stop for now and hopefully hear some comments.