“I hear people testify about their search for the deeper Christian life, and it sounds as though they would like to be able to get it in pill form. It seems that it would have been much more convenient for them if God had arranged religion so they could take it like a pill with a glass of water.
They buy books, hoping to get their religion by prescription. But there isn’t any such thing.
There is a cross. There is a gallows. There is a man with bleeding stripes on His back. There is an apostle with no property, with a tradition of loneliness and weariness and rejection and glory- but there are no pills!”
“If we present, for the sake of argument, the theory of evolution in a most scientific formulation, we have to say something like this:
“At a certain moment of time the temperature of the Earth was such that it became most favorable for the aggregation of carbon atoms and oxygen with the nitrogen-hydrogen combination, and that from random occurrences of large clusters, molecules occurred which were most favorably structured for the coming about of life, and from that point it went on through vast stretches of time, until through processes of natural selection a being finally occurred which is capable of choosing love over hate and justice over injustice, of writing poetry like that of Dante, composing music like that of Mozart, and making drawings like those of Leonardo.”
Of course, such a view of cosmogenesis is crazy. And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking.”
Earlier I wrote about Martin Luther’s problem with the book of James. Luther wants justification to be by faith only. James disagrees with Luther. This led Luther to say the following:
“Therefore St James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it . . . The epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the Papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest…Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove . . . I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.”
I would like to make several points about this quote.
First, he says James has “nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” This is a common attack on James, probably from people copying Luther. James only mentions Jesus Christ twice. He makes no mention of resurrection, Gospel, the cross, or any other Gospely words.
The reason is not because James doesn’t know the Gospel or is somehow opposed to it (his half-brother was the Messiah, people!). The reason is because he’s writing to a group of people, Jewish Christians, who already think they are saved and yet are showing no signs of conversion. He is writing to defeat easy-believism. He wants people to know that even demons believe! Faith isn’t the whole story.
James is an epistle intended for an audience in our day as well. James is very practical. People don’t like practical; we like the theoretical. We’d rather theoretically believe we are saved than actually have to practically live as though we were. James knows our state today; it was the same state of religion in his day. There is nothing new under the sun.
Secondly, Luther says James gives us trouble because “the Papists embrace it alone.” Most of the push-back I’ve received about questioning justification by faith alone, has been phrased in fears of Catholicism. I have been accused of being Catholic and of dragging my church back into Catholicism. I find this ridiculous.
I am not Catholic. I feel creepy just going into Catholic type places. I am not telling anyone to become Catholic. I don’t want you to light candles, do holy water things, do hand motion kneeling things, baptize babies (which Luther did despite his “by faith alone” bluster), or any other man-made, humanly devised rituals that accomplish nothing but feelings.
Accusing people of becoming Catholic, or undoing the Reformation, for questioning the unbiblical idea of justification by faith alone is merely the modern day political response of your enemy politician being Hitler. I recommend some more thought on the issue rather than a flippant dismissal and fearmongering about being Catholic.
Here’s a little historical fact for you: James was not Catholic.
Third, Luther says “some Jew” saw Christian faith and said ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.” Notice what Luther did to James’ quote. Luther says James “urges works alone.” Did you get that? Did James ever say people were justified by works alone? No he did not.
The main problem with Luther’s theology appears to be a habit of putting “alone” in places where no one put “alone.”
This is where you know Luther is getting carried away. He’s just making stuff up now. He made up that Paul said we were justified by faith alone, which Paul never said. He made up that James said we were justified by works alone, which James never said.
Slightly rephrasing quotes is quite common in Christianity, and other areas as well. Get original quotes, not people’s quotations of quotes. Go to the source. James and Paul don’t say what Luther says they say. Read the Bible. Seriously. Read the Bible. Check what you hear with Scripture. Test the spirits.
Luther was right to question the Catholic Church, particularly on their idea that you need the Catholic Church, its priests, and systems to get right with God. You don’t. Kudos to Luther for sticking his neck out to fight that fight.
But Luther is just a guy and just as fallible as a pope, which amounts to a lot fallible. I am also fallible. Here’s some news: you are fallible too.
Our job is to read Scripture and help each other understand more and more of it. To assemble together to encourage one another to good works, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.
Right before Jesus Christ is betrayed and crucified, He tells His disciples that things are about to change.
During Christ’s ministry, the disciples did not need provision or protection; they had the Son of God.
But when the Son of God leaves, they are told to carry a purse and money and swords.
The disciples pipe up that they already have two swords with them.
Apparently, the Catholic Church has taken this episode as proof that Peter, representative of the Pope, has the authority over the two swords, which represent Church and State power.
Yes, this is ridiculous, but alas, that is the sort of application you’ll derive from the Bible if you read it allegorically.
In reading Ellicott’s Commentary, an excellent briefish commentary on the whole Bible, he had this to say about this Catholic interpretation. I think it is awesome.
The mystical interpretation which sees in the two swords the symbol of the spiritual and temporal authority committed to St. Peter, and to the Pope as his successor, stands on a level with that which finds the relations of the Church and the State foreshadowed in the “two great lights” of Genesis 1:16. Both are simply the dreams of a diseased fancy, and find their fit home at last in the limbo of vanities.
“The limbo of vanities” is sheer wordplay awesomeness.
Bravo, Mr. Ellicott, Bravo.
At our church’s Wednesday night group I have been going over Bible stories, and talking about Sunday School treatments of these stories in comparison to the Bible.
Most Sunday School tellings are not consistent with the Bible. Many details are left out and applications appear to be from left field.
This past week I came across the worst one so far. It boggles my mind.
The story was about Gideon. To refresh your memory: Gideon, who was afraid of the enemy Midianites, was hiding in a winepress threshing his wheat, was called by the angel of the Lord to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He wanted a sign. God gave him a sign. He was also told to destroy an altar to Baal, which he did at night, for fear of the townsfolk.
Gideon was then to go fight the Midianites. But first he asked for two more signs. Eventually he went with his shrunken army and defeated the Midianites.
The Sunday School lesson gave this application. Are you ready for this? Please sit down first. I assure you I am not making this up. This is real. Ready? Here goes:
Gideon felt very unsure most of the time about how God was going to follow through but God didn’t give up on him and reassured him that with His help he could do it. We might feel small, young, weak, insignificant but with God we can become something special, powerful, a mighty warrior! God can give us special powers if we trust him and do His will.
Apparently God granted me the super power of not having my head explode upon reading stupidity. I find no other reason why my head is intact.
Unbelievable. This is so wrong on so many levels. Telling kids they will have super powers will create all manner of weird ideas in their head. I’m Batman with Jesus! You know that’s how kids will hear that.
The thing I don’t get is what super power did Gideon have? He was a chicken throughout the whole thing. He never did anything super powerfully. That was, in fact, pretty much the point of the story. God did the delivering; there was no human super power visible at any point.
The real problem with such applications is that they disillusion kids. They will go home, try to obey God, and ask for a super power. No super power will come.
Will they doubt what their teacher told them? Will they rationally consider whether their teacher told them the truth?
Or will they doubt God? The Bible? The Church?
We bemoan the fact that so many kids walk away from the church as they get older. Is it any wonder? We’ve told them so many falsehoods, I’d walk away too.
Be careful what ideas you put in the minds of kids. They are listening, more than most adults. They will try it. If you promise super powers, they will get bummed when they don’t get one.
All this disillusionment will grow over the years, until they hit a point where their brain works, and they’ll rebel. They’ll call you on the lies. Unfortunately, most of them will leave God, the faith, and the church. The damage is done.
Be careful not to put words in God’s mouth. Be careful not to promise things that God will do that God never promised to do. Be careful that you understand a passage before attempting to teach it.
Christian persecution and genocide is worse now than it has ever been in history. Christians in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, and many other countries, are regularly imprisoned, tortured, beaten, raped, and martyred. Their churches are destroyed. Their houses burned. They meet and worship in secret, risking their lives in the process. They live every moment in constant danger.
About 215 million Christians face what is called “extreme persecution” for their faith. It’s estimated that around a million have been slaughtered since 2005. There is no way to know exactly how many. What we do know is that Christianity has been dramatically reduced in parts of the world where it had existed for nearly 2,000 years.
But what do we care?
There are other things to worry about here. Hollywood sex scandals. Twitter disputes. Whatever controversial thing Trump said this week. So on and so on. We — myself included — spend far more time, and spill far more ink, on these issues than we ever have on the coordinated genocide of our fellow believers in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Why?
I have come to believe that our disinterest stems not only from the general apathy that defines western society and the western church, but from moral cowardice. To face the plight of our brothers and sisters is to face ourselves. To see these Christians who would rather be shot dead in the desert than renounce their faith is to see our own faith as a shabby, pitiful, hollow imitation. To see Christians who would risk their very lives to go to church and preach the Gospel is to question why we will do neither of those things, even though we are perfectly free and able. We cannot confront these truths of ourselves, so we will not confront the truth of Christian persecution.
We have submitted to the forces of darkness. We have bent our knees in homage to Satan, and the enemies of the faith haven’t even fired a shot to induce our surrender. Satan does not beat us with a stick; he dangles a carrot. He lulls us to sleep. He distracts us. He tempts us. Kill us? Why would he do that? We are no threat to him. A Christian in Afghanistan is a threat. He must be destroyed. It’s the only way. But a lazy, soft, equivocating Christian in the West? There is no need to persecute him. He is not worthy of it. Just give him a television and the internet and let him damn himself.
And Satan laughs.
He does not want us to be jolted out of this stupor, and he has no doubt instructed his legions accordingly. The persecutors of the church in America have quite an easy job. For them, the strategy is clear: Put down the gun. Drop the machete. Don’t scare these people. Don’t make martyrs of them. Don’t give them any hint that there is a war going on and the fate of their souls lies in the balance. Let them be arrogant and self-assured. Let them push out any thought of their own mortality. Let them dismiss everything I’m saying right now as “pessimistic” and “negative.” Let them enjoy themselves. Let them have their spiritual indifference and let them dress it up as “positivity” and “hopefulness.” Let them have it all. Fluff their pillow for them, even. Turn on the TV and hand them the remote. Feed them. Pamper them. Pleasure them. Give them everything their hearts desire. Don’t appeal to their fear; appeal to their lust, their laziness, their gluttony, their vanity, their pride, their boredom.
And watch them drop like flies.
Read the whole article by clicking here.
“It is not well to be always understood. Our ways and habits should be those of strangers, citizens of a foreign country, whose language and laws, and customs are but poorly known here. Flesh and blood cannot appreciate them, and therefore it is not well with the saints of God when the world understands them.”
–J. G. Bellett
It does not bother me that the world does not understand or like Christian beliefs. It’s actually a point in Christianity’s favor!
I am more troubled by Christians being bothered that the world doesn’t like or understand their beliefs.
I can only imagine how ridiculous the world would think our beliefs were if they actually understood what it is we believe!
I’m more troubled by how many Christians have no idea what Christians believe. It stuns me how many Christians, who claim to be “saved by faith,” have not read the Bible, when the Bible says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
In what sense do you have faith if you have not heard the Word of God?
I am very little troubled by the world’s misunderstandings and non-liking of Christian belief. Let em howl.
But I am very concerned for many warm bodies in churches who have no idea why they are there or what is being talked about.
Worry less about the world’s ignorance and take care of your own.