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A little bit about me…(very open and informal)

May 23, 2012 2 comments

I think of myself as a somewhat odd sort of Christian, and I am definitely still a work in progress. I have always been somewhat rebellious at heart, and for much of my life, that showed in my lack of respect for my parents and for authority in general. Not that I got into huge trouble with the law or anything like that (I cared a little too much about myself for that), but I always questioned everything people told me. I still do, even when it comes to my solid church pastor, but especially when that person is hit-or-miss. This usually led to teachers not liking me at first, though some came around eventually.

I am also a strange Korean-American. Honestly, I feel neither Korean nor American, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a “my citizenship is in heaven” sort of way (though there is certainly that, especially when it comes to morals). My mother tried persistently to get me to be a friendly, respectful Asian boy, but I never quite mastered the art of bowing 90 degrees to elders and stuff like that. Maybe it was pride, but I think most of all, it was my intense hatred for fakeness. Unless there is some specific reason to refrain, I like being as real as possible—while avoiding rudeness if possible. This sometimes leads me to trouble, and I’m sure if I ever become a pastor or something, people are going to hate some of the things I say and flame me.

I also don’t feel fully American in that I don’t really care about the “American dream” of stability, white picket fences, and material things. I don’t care for small talk much at all, and while I am generally pretty adept in social situations, I could literally live in a cave by myself for years and be perfectly fine. I don’t mind being around people, especially my close friends, but I also don’t mind being alone for the most part. Of course, that has changed since I’ve gotten married and it’s difficult to imagine a life apart from my wife for any significant amount of time (short periods of time are OK haha)…but yea, that’s who I am naturally.

While no one is completely impervious to social pressures, I really think I am on the extreme of not caring what people think—unless maybe their opinion actually matters to me (and even then, it will give me pause and make me think, not necessarily drive me). I don’t go along with the crowd, but I also don’t try to go against it deliberately like some people who want to feel unique and different. You know the type: the ones who hate everything mainstream and look down on the rest of society for being sheep and blah blah blah.

One example would be where I was a youth group teacher years ago at a church retreat, and the guest speaker was telling the group to come up to the front if we would like to re-dedicate ourselves to Christ and pledge to study His word fervently from now on. To me, it sounded like a lot, and I honestly wasn’t in a good spiritual place at the time (and yes, not all teachers/leaders are, sadly), so I stayed seated. I prayed that the desire would grow in me, but I noticed that literally 99% of the group went up there—kids and teachers alike. The only stragglers were some of the newcomers and me. One of the kids who knew me was shocked and had a look of concern on his face. He later asked me, “Why didn’t you go up?” I answered, “Because I wasn’t honestly ready for that kind of commitment.” I would have followed up with, “Are you??” but I left it alone because he was young and idealistic.

Perhaps I may have hurt some people’s trust in me at that point, but I really can’t fake it. I’m told I need to smile more, but I’m thinking, “Isn’t smiling for when I’m actually happy about something in particular?” Sometimes, I actually think I’m smiling, but when I check the mirror, I still have the same “con man” face on. I have poor control over my facial muscles, apparently. You should have been there for the first couple of wedding photo sessions. It wasn’t pretty. (I eventually learned that in order to make a normal smiling face, I need to conjure up something completely different in my mind.) I really need to become more approachable to people.

I am also a natural procrastinator—though I’ve matured in this area a great deal (still need to improve more)—and have a hard time caring about what’s coming up in the future. This is why it’s so humorous to me when atheists accuse me of being a Christian for that warm assurance of eternal life when I die. Really, you think I’m already thinking about death? I’m not even thinking more than a week ahead at a time (except maybe financially). Death is the furthest thing on my mind. Even though nothing is certain, I just assume I have a long way to go. I actually know what it means to want to follow God regardless of heaven or hell, as hard as it is to believe.

It’s also funny to me when they say that Christians can’t think for themselves or they are pressured into it. If anything, if I feel pressured into something, I recoil and go the other way. I’ve thought a lot about spiritual matters, and I have no hesitation in tackling difficult issues or picking arguments with others or myself. (I do give up arguing when I see the other person is completely tuned out to reason, though.) Cognitive dissonance is something I do not avoid, even if I have to grow another gray hair in the process.

You really think I’m a Christian because it’s pleasant and comforting? Atheists are so “brave” to face the “truth”? There have been a few times where I came to a “logical” decision where I thought, “Wow, there really must not be a God!” The feeling I experienced in those times was not despair, but rather this distorted, wide-eyed, sick-happy sense of “I CAN LIVE HOWEVER I WANT??!” It was the “freedom” that atheists often refer to, but I know what it was deep down—even at the time, I knew. It wasn’t freedom, but rather it was the thrill of open rebellion. It was the selfish desire of mine to not be accountable to anyone or anything. Don’t tell me I’m a Christian because I’m fearful. Almost everything in life that is hard is right, and quite frankly, atheists are the ones taking the easy way out.

Well actually, atheism is a sort of “freedom” in the same way that a dog escaping from his loving owner’s house is freedom. He can wander the woods without a leash, eat all the worms and poop he wants, but in the end, it spells doom for him.

The thing is, whenever I would come to the conclusion that there might in fact be no God, my pesky logic would kick in. It would say, “Wait, wait, wait a second cowboy…what about this? And what about that?” Then, I would be forced to face reality again. My flirtation with atheism would be over, and truthfully, it wouldn’t necessarily feel all that great at the time.

This is the part where I could easily get prideful, but I promise I won’t. I’ve already made my peace with God about it. For some reason or another, I was born with a very logical brain (if it is fully engaged, that is…I can easily tune out with things I’m disinterested in). Even when my brain was completely crusty and rusty from inactivity for years, I scored very high on things like the LSAT, and I’ve always had  a knack for things like math. In law school, my problem was lack of interest, not an inability to argue. Logic is not always directly correlated with intelligence, in my opinion. I’ve met some mediocre academics, for instance, who are extremely sensible and just “make sense.” Then there are brilliant students who seem to miss even the obvious, like their minds are too busy in formulas and theorems rather than the real world. Many university professors are like this, actually, as their view naturally becomes very narrowly focused.

I’ve often bemoaned going to law school since I didn’t become a lawyer but still got saddled with the debt. But more and more I’m realizing that God had a purpose for even my detours. Among some other things, I’ve learned two very valuable truths: 1) It is possible to make convincing arguments for any side (though deep down inside, we can detect which is true if we are not too far gone); and 2) right and wrong are often decided on a hair’s breath of difference. Let me explain that latter point.

The way law school goes is that the case books are filled with cases, often paired up with other cases that are almost identical. Case A and Case B are pretty much 95% the same, but A will return a “guilty” verdict while B returns a “not guilty” verdict. It’s your job as a law student to figure out why—what were the subtle differences that changed the outcome?

It’s a lot like that in theology as well; atheism vs. theism. On the whole, people are very bad at seeing subtleties. A lot of times, they also just don’t want to; it’s willful blindness. Instead, they are caught up in catchy arguments, parroting them without seeing where their flaws are. Atheists are often more eloquent, so people hear them and think they “sound better.” Christian theologians may be saying what is more correct, but because they don’t present it with a sharp, biting wit, they sound inferior sometimes. We have to continually train ourselves to see through all that mess without getting caught up in emotion and distractions.

One curious thing I notice about myself as I grow in the faith is that I feel I am appearing dumber and dumber to the world. I can sense I have this seemingly vacant look to people, when really it’s a strong serenity and contentment that God has given me. I am seriously thankful for my life—my wife, family, friends, home, pets, and most of all, having my eyes fully opened. I say things with such excitement and eagerness sometimes—usually only when I’m talking about theology—that I bet even my friends think I’m a little cuckoo and simple-minded. I have to tone it down sometimes or else I’ll lose their interest in the dialogue. Honestly, I can’t blame atheists for thinking we’re dumber. When you develop this child-like faith and joy, it’s only natural to seem less intelligent than the cynical, mocking atheist scholar on YouTube. If you really want people to think you’re smart, be cynical.

I have questioned God and the Bible so many times, and every single time, I have been shown that God is 100% trustworthy. When that happens a few times (or in my case of extreme stubbornness, about 200), you start to develop a lot of trust. When people ask, “But why is that wrong?” or “How do we know it’s true?”, nowadays I honestly just want to blurt out, “Because God said so, and that should be enough!” But of course, that doesn’t work with other people, so I have to put on the mask of doubt and find some reasonable answers to share. Plus, it helps reinforce it in my own mind, just in case my faith wavers at some point in the future. Intellectual certainty is nice to have, even though it does take a backseat to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

I really don’t understand what the point of this post was, or why I felt led to write it, but hopefully it has a purpose. Let’s learn to see through the fog and develop sound thinking, Christians and skeptics alike!

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Satan, the Cleverest Being Ever Created—Part 2b: Tricking Christians (and “Christians”)

March 2, 2012 1 comment

[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]

Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.

Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”

This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.

On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.

So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.

Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.

But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.

Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.

The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.

A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?

The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉

On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.

Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.

How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)

Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.

Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines

Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.

You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”

One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.

Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.

And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.

But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?

Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.

Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.

Follow the Spirit’s Lead

There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.

God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”

Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.

Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!

Songs of the lukewarm church

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Thought this was kind of funny, but at the same time one of those “sad but true” things.

http://wayofthemaster.com/songofthelukewarm.shtml

This video is a parody of one of those TV CD offers…very well done:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoDi157qdGw

These are the anthems of the lukewarm. May we all continue to make an effort to NOT let these songs be true in our lives!

America’s do-it-yourself religion

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.christianpost.com/news/do-it-yourself-religion-56245/

This phenomenon is not surprising at all…it’s what we’ve been noticing all along, but here are a few relevant quotes (try not to gag):

Barna tells USA Today, “People say, ‘I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.’” Indeed, Barna says only seven percent of those he surveyed say they believe in seven essential Christian doctrines, as listed in the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith.

If you’re curious, here are the seven essential Christian doctrines according to this statement of faith:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, only seven percent of those surveyed believe in these essential doctrines. Seven! (And if you take the number who truly believe these things in their hearts and live it out—not just give intellectual assent—I’d imagine it’d be an even lower percentage.)

Anyway, on with the quotes:

This buffet-style religion isn’t confined to the church…[Nadine Epstein of the Jewish magazine Moment] adds, “You pick and choose the part of the religion that makes sense to you.”

But as Stan Guthrie warns:

“Jesus, unlike the religious action figures sold at Wal-Mart, is not infinitely bendable, able to assume whatever postmodern pose we give him.”

Seriously people, just write your own holy books. It doesn’t have to be original, just pick and choose the parts you like from each existing one and then add your own thoughts. Voila.

But please do us a favor and stop calling yourselves Christians.

Christians who judge others for lack of faith (when it comes to the physical)

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a quickie entry, but I thought this video was enlightening and funny:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9eaC-2quwA

It’s basically an answer to a question John Piper received.

A woman has been accused by other Christians for not relying on God enough because she takes antidepressants. I love how Piper addresses this issue by pointing out that God has “ordained” physical things to be useful and practical. God made the physical world, so why should we just ignore and denigrate it?

Heck, even as I’m reading the Old Testament, I’m constantly seeing the ways in which God chooses to solve problems via practical means, rather than just whipping up a miracle every time (though He sometimes does). God told Noah to build an ark; He didn’t just levitate Noah’s family above the flood waters. God told Joseph that Egypt should store up grains during their seven years of bountiful harvest in order to survive through the subsequent seven-year famine.

So yea, please don’t be judgmental toward other Christians or people in general for making use of modern medicine and technology. It’s not faithless to do so, and it all falls under God’s creation and domain anyway.

Objection to Christianity #4: Christians are hypocrites and have done incredible wrongs

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Logically speaking, the outward behavior of Christian people should be irrelevant to the truth of Jesus Christ. Even true believers who know the gospel are prone to fail once in a while. What matters is what the Bible actually teaches, which is far from what the world sees in Christians.

Still, this objection is still very real to a lot of people, so it deserves to be addressed.

*Taking off the robot hat.

As a human being, it’s easy to discredit a belief system or religion if you see its adherents acting in unflattering ways. It’s just a natural response. In fact, Jesus was well aware of this natural tendency of human beings and instructed Christians to be like salt or a light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16), meaning we’re supposed to set a good example and positively influence the world around us. Salt is meant to represent something that not only brings out full goodness (flavor), but also to preserve and keep things from rotting. We are to be holy and uphold morality in a world that naturally degenerates toward sin. A light, obviously, shines and counters the darkness, showing the right path.

Unfortunately, Christians seem to be failing in great measure (though to be fair, some succeed). Instead of drawing people toward Christ, many of us are turning off the world to the message. As Ghandi famously said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

So what exactly is the problem? Let’s start with the root of the problem…

Most “Christians” are not actually saved.

This part should come as no surprise to some people, especially considering my deluge of posts about this topic recently. Sadly, many modern churchgoers—especially in America—believe themselves to be Christian, but are really participating in just another religion. A true relationship with Christ and the changing power of the Holy Spirit cannot be found in them.

Some people estimate that perhaps only 5–10% of so-called Christians in America are actually true followers. This means that the vast majority of people are living by their own flesh, and therefore are just as likely as the rest of the world to succumb to temptations and fall to sin. The problem is, if an atheist person committed some morally questionable act, no one would flinch. But if a “Christian” does it, it sets off alarms and people cry “hypocrite!”

What is it exactly that we do that offends the secular world?

1. An average situation…

Imagine a scenario where a churchgoer is on a business trip with a few of his work buddies. Let’s call him Jim. His buddies decide one night, after a hard day of negotiations, to hit up the local strip club and down a few beers. What is the right response for Jim? Admittedly, he’s in a rough spot.

On the one hand, he could succumb to peer pressure and decide to go along. After all, he doesn’t want to offend them or come across as a Jesus freak, would he? But the problem is, he has just undermined the gospel and any possible platform he might have to share the message in the future. If a month from now, Jim is alone with one of his work friends and brings Jesus up, that friend might be thinking about Jim’s behavior that night at the strip club. His friends might think to themselves, “There’s no difference between Christians and us except we get to save our time and money on Sundays.”

On the other hand, if Jim declines the invitation, he might face added pressure. “Why not, come on man!” This is where he needs a lot of discernment and tact. Jim has to communicate that he doesn’t agree morally to such activities without coming across as pious or overly judgmental. This is an extremely hard line to walk, and most will fail miserably. (It’s probably a lose-lose anyway, practically speaking.) If he condemns the activity too hard, he adds to the stereotype that Christians are condescending and judgmental. If he’s too soft, he’s not standing up for his beliefs and is perhaps being ashamed of the gospel.

As 1 Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

This might mean that Jim will become less popular and that he won’t get invited to future events. They might label him as a party-pooper. So be it. At least he stood up for the truth without compromising and committing the sin of pride and condescension.

From that simple example, what I was trying to illustrate is that Christians either fail by going along with the world or by going against it with pride and spiritual piety.

2. Priests and pastors…

First off, I’ll share this rant by Christopher Hitchens, the militant anti-religious atheist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOamsF5r3TE.

I have to say, this is one of those rare times when I actually agree with a lot of what he says. The church has a lot to be sorry for, especially (historically) the Catholic church. Priests molesting young boys who are entrusted to their care and instruction is abominable. A history of anti-Semitism is not only abhorrent, but it’s strikingly UNbiblical and simple-minded. This kind of twisted behavior can only come about when we take something meant for good—the church—and turn it into a man-made institution, sullied by power grabbing and the substitution of earnest faith with rituals and rites. It’s no wonder so much has gone wrong over the past centuries.

But the Protestant church is not without blemish, either. You have pastors who are more interested in rubbing shoulders with the Washingtonian elite rather than being set apart from this world. There are people like Ted Haggard who embarrass the name of Christ by engaging in an active lifestyle of sexual sin and betrayal. Countless thieves, like Benny Hinn, use the name of God to fatten their wallets by deceiving the naive and trusting.

So what is going on?

It’s simple: they forgot—or never really knew—the Bible. They left the Holy Spirit out of their lives and they carried on alone, puffed up in their own pride and accomplishments (and congregation size).

Catholic priests mistakenly were taught that celibacy was holier than married life, and they chose a lifestyle that so precious few are actually called to. Think about it: Paul in the New Testament lived a celibate life, but he spent every waking minute preaching and arguing for God’s Word. When he wasn’t doing that, he was locked up in prisons and suffering. Do you think he had time to be a husband? Meanwhile, you have modern priests who interact with their parish members time to time and preach, but are left living a fairly comfortable life otherwise. With their weak flesh and idle time, it’s no wonder so many priests fall. Celibacy isn’t the way to go for most people.

Protestant pastors see their churches growing and they think, “Wow, I must be a good preacher!” They don’t spend every day in their Bibles, nor do they guard against the enemy. Pride or complacency (or straight-up being a fraud) opens the door and lets temptation come right in, besetting their lives with sin.

If only people would stay true to God’s word instead of their own insights and willpower. Man-made institutions and systems will always fail.

3. The bizarre and newsworthy…

You hear about it on the news all the time. The “Christian” mother who killed her kids because she thought God told her to (more like a demon). The “Christian” who opens fire on a Jewish crowd, thinking he’s fighting for some righteous cause (nevermind that Jesus was a Jew and that they are still God’s original chosen people).

Side note: Please stop calling Hitler a Christian and using him as an example. It’s ignorant and ridiculous. He was not a Christian, pure and simple. A person might call himself one for political purposes, but when your actions go against the Bible and you even plan on replacing scripture with your own book (Mein Kampf) in every classroom, that is not the work of a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It’s obvious as night and day.

Or how about the parents who beat their adopted children to death because they read from the Bible not to spare the rod? I guess they missed the part about being careful to discipline them. Perhaps they read Proverbs 23:13, which says: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” Common sense (and the countless other times in the Bible that refer to death as the opposite of salvation) would tell a normal person that the “he will not die” part refers to moral and spiritual death. By lovingly disciplining a child and correcting him, the parent is saving him from a future life of debauchery, corruption, and self-destruction. Heck, reading the very next verse should have made it obvious: “Punish them with the rod and save them from death.”

Again, this is just a result of bad biblical interpretation, twisting words to fit our own sinful agendas, or plain and utter stupidity. A wicked person can easily open up the Bible and find a way to justify his or her actions, but this blatant misuse doesn’t demean the actual word of God one bit.

So what can Christians do to fix this?

First, much of the criticism is justified, so we as a body of believers need to take responsibility and do better. Granted, we are judged more harshly than the rest of the world, that’s hard to deny. We could do the same things as a nonbeliever, but be impugned or labeled as a hypocrite for it. Is it a fair standard? Yes and no. Yes, because as true believers, we ARE supposed to be in a process of sanctification, so we simply cannot continue to live as the rest of the world. But no, it might not be completely fair because it’s still a process; none of us ever achieve perfection in our flesh.

Second, so-called “Christians” either need to give their lives over to God or stop calling themselves Christians. The word itself means “followers of Christ,” which entails actually following Christ’s way. They can attend church and call themselves seekers if they want, but they need to get it out of their heads that they’re set because of their false flu-shot salvation.

Third, we all need to bring the real Bible back to the church. Let’s ditch the man-made stuff that distracts from the true gospel—all the unbiblical rules, rites, rituals, and other things that supposedly make you holy. These things give people a false assurance and complacency that is dangerous in light of constant spiritual attack. If people were more biblical, they couldn’t possibly live their embarrassingly immoral lives and cast mud on the name of Jesus to the world.

Ultimately, the goal is not to be liked or to fit in. The Bible tells us straight up that the true gospel will probably bring hate upon us or persecution. But what we can’t do is undermine God’s glory by being poor representatives on earth. We can be hated for standing up for the truth, but we shouldn’t be hated for being hypocrites, thieves, and perverts.

1 Peter 2:11-12 tells us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Our good deeds might not make an impact now, and in fact, standing up for the truth may bring persecution upon us. But it will bring further glory to God in the end. May we let the Holy Spirit guide us always.

YouTube: “Poor Apologetics 4: You Were Never a Christian”

August 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I was about to write about the third objection to Christianity (regarding science) when I came across this video. I sort of felt compelled to go ahead and respond to it now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpVGNRV3h44&feature=relmfu

I’ve watched a few of his videos, actually, and while they’re difficult to get through since he babbles and misstates some of the arguments on the Christian end, he does bring up some good points. I don’t mean they’re good as in wholly valid, but I can see why others would stumble on these issues.

If I catch the gist of his video correctly, he’s basically saying that he is a former Christian and now he has been enlightened into atheism. Those poor Christian apologists then have to resort to telling him that he was never a Christian to begin with. Rather than acknowledge that he has genuine insight into the faith and can therefore rebut it, people will instead doubt the veracity of his past faith completely. Azsuperman01, the YouTuber, seems to imply that this is shallow, unfair, and cowardly.

Well, here’s what I think.

As someone who went the other way when I came to the fork in the road, I would agree that he was never saved to begin with. After all, the Bible makes it clear that if a person is genuinely saved, he turns his life over to the Holy Spirit and perseveres until the end.

I grew up in a Christian home, I experienced “revival” in my heart, and believed in my head that Jesus Christ was my savior. If anyone would have asked me if I was a true believer, I would have been sure in my heart that the answer was yes.

But Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB) warns: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

Looking back, I’d say that for most of my “Christian” life, my faith was a house built out of straw. It was a sham, and I was worshiping a false and convenient god who allowed me to live a lukewarm life for him. The god that I created in my head was more than glad and even honored to accept the morsels of worship that I would offer him in my busy, cluttered life. He would be overjoyed that I took time out of my Sunday mornings to acknowledge him for an hour or so.

But this was not the God of the Bible. Somewhere along the line, I wrestled with my doubts and fought with them openly and honestly. I reasoned, “It’s time to take an honest look at the truth. If God is real, then why shouldn’t he prevail as long as I’m not biased or trying to weigh the evidence unevenly?” Thankfully, I was right. God (the real one) proved genuine and true, and today the Holy Spirit convinces me daily that I am His.

My sympathies are with people like the maker of this video. I don’t question his honesty or integrity at all, but I do believe he was deceived like so many others out there. If I think about it, if the devil is as crafty and hyper-intelligent as we are told, what would be the best way to lead people straight to Hell? It wouldn’t be an obvious lie, like “evil is GOOD and hate is admirable!” Most of us would sniff that out in a second. Rather, it would be a false gospel that on the surface closely resembles the truth…but it falls short of literal redeeming qualities to save the souls of its adherents.

So no, I don’t think it’s a cop-out for people to tell him he was never truly a Christian to begin with, unless by “Christian” you simply mean a follower of the religion. But when I say “Christian,” I’m referring to someone who has a genuine relationship with Christ, not merely intellectual assent.

Let me also address a couple of specific lines he states in the video.

First, at 1:53, he states: “Once you become a Christian, you basically lose your free will because once you’re a Christian you no longer have the ability to change your mind. You can’t just say, ‘I no longer believe that.’ …and since Christians believe that free will is really important, I don’t think using an argument that completely eradicates your free will is really the best one to use.”

If we become truly saved, then do we in fact lose our free will? Depends on your definition. We still operate and function normally, choosing which paths to take. But of course, he’s probably referring to the aspect of faith; whether to believe or not. And in that sense, yes, we “lose” our free will. We lose our ability to fall away and be damned since we are adopted into God’s kingdom forever.

…and the problem with this is what exactly? Free will is a power or gift of ours to decide whether to choose God as our Lord and savior. I’m not just spouting Christian rhetoric here; we are choosing for God to become our LORD. That means that we are willingly submitting to him as our master, and we are becoming his slaves. We are acknowledging Him as the father, and we are the obedient children.

Elsewhere in the Bible, disciples are described as “bondservants.” This word has the sense of a slave who has completed his term with a master and is therefore allowed to go free. But some slaves—because of the harsh conditions outside in the world and/or because of the kindness of his master—would willfully choose to become bonded to that master even though he had no obligations. This is a good illustration of this relationship with God. We are giving up our freedom, in a sense, for the privilege of serving Him (and in return, being offered His love and protection).

Free will is important beforehand. But it’s not some kind of ultimate or eternal good.

Another point he brings up at the end of the video is this: “The problems in your religion don’t go away just because YOU don’t think I used to believe the same things you do, and experienced the same things you have.”

There are a lot of things I find funny about this statement. First, he assumes there are problems in our “religion.” If he means some of the people and institutions (basically anything human), then yes, I’d agree. But any perceived problems with doctrine need to be proved. As far as I know, I have yet to hear any problems with Christian doctrine that have not already been solved and addressed. It is his failure to find these solutions, and if he still has a problem with it, then it’s a personal opinion, not objective fact.

Second, he might have believed some of the same things that I do, that’s true. He may have even felt some of the same emotions. But so what? Does this somehow make him an authority? Are we to be fearful and approach apostate Christians with trembling and awe? Like I already mentioned, he didn’t experience the real Holy Spirit anyway, so comparisons are on the surface level only.

Excuse my rudeness, but to me, this evokes images of the skinny waterboy hanging out in the football locker room. Just because he was associated with the team at some point doesn’t empower him to call the plays or correct the real players’ technique. He’s free to express his football opinions, but no one has to care what he says. There may be times when he says one or two things that are correct—just as a nonbeliever can rightfully point out problems in the church—but the implication that he somehow has the inside scoop on all of us is absurd.

Personally, all these former “Christians” coming out and acting like they’re something special amuses me (and in some cases, I admit, annoys me). Changing your mind on something doesn’t bestow upon you magical gifts, nor does it elevate you in any way. There are countless believers today who were once atheists, so at best, it’s a wash. Personal testimony can be a powerful thing when there is a supernaturally changed life. But simply changing your mind by reading and learning some stuff isn’t really that compelling to me, sorry.