More on Church

Someone asked me the other day if I can pick the direction the comments in a post are going to go in. I said I thought so. I’ve decided I was wrong. Sometimes I write things, particularly about Christianity, that seem pretty cut and dry, and objectively clear in the Bible, and I get interesting comments that criticise me for making a claim the commenter disagrees with…

That’s fine. I like being disagreed with, I don’t have a monopoly on truth. But the Bible does. Or it claims to, you can take or leave that. If you take it, there’s no room for being wishy washy. The Bible says we’re saved to be part of the family/kingdom of God. You can’t do that alone. It’s not a family of one.

I might be getting the Bible wrong, but if I’m standing on the verses of the Bible that talk about what I’m talking about, and you’re disagreeing with what I’m saying, without looking at what the Bible says, then be prepared for me not to take the disagreement particularly seriously.

Let me be clear what I’m not saying – going to church does not make you a Christian, but if you’re a Christian you’ll go to church. In fact, if you’re a Christian, you’re already part of the “universal church”, the family of God – and you should love your Christian brothers and sisters and want to be with them in church… if you don’t, then questions need to be asked.

There’s a murky area where there are some situations where church is not possible – people in hospital, in permanent care, and who, like the thief on the cross die before having a chance to go to church… but really… there aren’t a whole lot of excuses to not be treating Christianity like a family thing… which means being part of a family. Not going it alone. says something about this probably a little clearer…

“The Christian life was never meant to be lived solo, God has gifted each member of his church to serve one another, you can’t do that solo. It is near impossible to live a Christian life alone, it runs counter to everything God has done for us. However, some people can’t help but live alone. The thief on the cross could not join a church, he had no choice; but where we have a choice, we really should become a part of God’s church.

It’s like someone who gets married, but never moves in with their husband. It is true that you can be married without living together, and there may be extreme circumstances that you can think of where someone may get married and not live together (if someone is on their death bed for example). But a real marriage involves relationship. Becoming a Christian means being a part of God’s family. “

There’s an interesting and timely post on the matter at the internetmonk’s site about the old “Jesus – Yes, Church – No” mentality

I’d love to see what arguments people could put forward that actually work against the idea I’m putting forward that aren’t pie in the sky hypotheticals. I’m not suggesting that church saves you, but if you’re a Christian there’s just no way I can see how you could reject gathering with God’s people.

YouTube Twosday: Ricky Gervais on Christianity

Anyone who checked out the iMonk’s post on atheism may have seen this already… but this is the “new” new atheism. Not rabid, but friendly. Not insulting, but funny. Not arrogant, but “humble”, not scientific, but cultural…

How do you counter these arguments of religion as a positive form of social control that isn’t necessary for “enlightened” people?

I’d suggest it’s not like the Pyromaniac Centuri0n would have us do it… he suggests, in a series of posts, that we move away from apologetics, and just preach the gospel – both the iMonk and Frank Turk (Centuri0n) suggest the likes of William Lane Craig have the approach wrong – and we should either be cultural or biblical – not philosophical.

Me, being a pragmatist, I think we need to have a balance of all three. You can’t use the Bible on people who reject the fundamental premise of a book authored by God. Especially if they insist on deduction rather than induction. So you need to take the philosophical apologetic when arguing for the existence of God. And you can’t do any of this without getting the cultural element right – and I’d say one of the big issues there is the damage done to our reputation by nominal or apathetic Christians. So don’t be one of those.

New strategy for the new atheism

The iMonk puts forward a little insight into how the goalposts are moving when it comes to discourse with atheists. I tend to agree with his diagnosis of the problem.

Some great insights.

“One of my letters this week stated that a 17 year old raised in an evangelical family was now an avid atheist, with many of the hijinks of evangelicalism as evidence of manipulation and control. He couldn’t mean take off your shoes and spin your socks over your head while singing “Jesus mess me up?” Why would that bother anyone?”

“You see, evangelicals have made such outrageous assumptions and promises about happiness, healing, everything working out, knowing God, answered prayer, loving one another and so on that proving us to be liars isn’t even a real job. It’s just a matter of tuning in to an increasing number of voices who say “It’s OK to not believe. Give yourself a break. Stop tormenting yourself trying to believe. Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God.”

“Keller is still great. C.S.Lewis is still helpful. [William Lane] Craig is still impressive. But I’m not sure their arguments are on the right channel. Vast numbers of people aren’t asking for philosophy. They are asking what will let them live a life uncomplicated by lies, manipulation and constant calls to prefer ignorance to what seems obvious.

What we’ve said and written is fine. What we’ve lived in our homes, private lives, churches, workplaces and friendships has spoken louder.

We are the ones who appear to not believe in the God we say is real. We are the ones who seem to be forcing ourselves to believe with bigger shows, bigger celebrities and bigger methods of manipulation.”

Doubt fired

While introducing myself to the iMonk website I came across this great essay on doubt. Particularly Christian doubt. It’s helpful, I think.
A couple of quotes:

These doubts have made me respect my honest, unbelieving friends. To many of them, it isn’t so much the content of Christianity that is ridiculous. It’s the idea that Christians are so certain; so doubtless. They find it untenable that anyone could bury their own doubts so deep that you are as certain as Christians appear to be. Our television and radio preachers, our musicians and booksellers, the glowing testimonial at church, the zealous fanatic at the break table at work–they all say that Christians no longer have the doubts and questions of other people. Only certainties. And for many thoughtful unbelievers, that appears to be lying or delusion, and they would prefer to avoid both.

So do I. I profoundly dislike the unspoken requirement among Christians that we either bury all our doubts out in back of the church, or we restrict them to a list of specific religious questions that can be handled in polite conversations dispensing tidy, palatable answers. Mega-doubts. Nightmarish doubts. “I’m wasting my whole life” doubts are signs one may not be a Christian, and you’ve just made it to the prayer list.

My doubts exist alongside my appetite for God. I believe no one has put forward a more cogent and persuasive critique of theism than Sigmund Freud. Freud’s contention that human beings create a God in the sky out of their longings for a perfect father and their fear of death has the virtue of common sense and realism. As a Christian, I do not doubt that vast tracts of human religiosity can be explained by Freud’s analysis. Yet, Freud is wrong. The Biblical God is not wishful thinking, but the center of the spiritual “appetite” of human beings. Billions of human beings would prefer no God exist. Billions of human beings would like to make God in the image of Santa or Oprah. Yet, Christianity, Judaism (and even Islam) persistently put forward a God who is terrifying to who we are. A just, holy God of judgment. A God of heaven and hell. Not the God of the wishful thinkers, but the God who is a consuming fire.

And it is this God that we long to know. This God who repulses us and damns us. This God who demands the purity of thought and action. A God who demands that we love Him with all that we are and love our fellow persons as His creations. It is this God that we long to know in intimacy. It is this God we long to be accepted by, to trust and to praise. This God is the source of all the notions of beauty, truth and goodness that we find in this universe. C.S. Lewis said that appetite could not prove the existence of food, but I don’t think that speaks for the experience of the starving person.

Requiem for a theme

I’ve just finished reading through the condensed summary of this series by the Internet Monk on the death of the evangelical movement. It was printed/posted by the Christian Science Monitor (which has not much to do with science if you’ve never been there before). And then discussed by Justin Moffat and the Pyromaniacs.

“Theme” doesn’t really completely capture the nature of evangelicalism – it’s more a theological framework – but that didn’t rhyme with dream – which was essential for the title.

The original piece is interesting. The commentary too. Worth a read. Feel free to discuss here.

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