Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Beware of dead guys

The living dead are all around us infecting the brains of their unsuspecting victims... But I am not talking about zombies here but rather about those who have passed away while their ideas, philosophies, recordings and writings continue to influence us today. To state the obvious upfront, some people in their lifetimes influenced society in a very positive way while others did not. To know the difference is of the utmost importance; especially when we delve into the world of theology. So our focus here in this post is on the people who may have infected us with some bad doctrine.

This post was prompted by a discussion I was having with a friend a while back who is deeply concerned about false teaching in the church today as we all should be. There is no shortage of voices and opinions out there seducing us with sugar coated poo cakes. The church is weak, confused and being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine that blows past its creaky, wooden doors. Things were no different in the early church either as we read in letter after letter how Paul, John and the rest of the Beatles (just making sure that you are paying attention) addressed false teachers and exhorted other believers to hold firm to the true gospel and to the traditions that were once delivered unto the saints. So yes, just like back then, while there is an abundance of bad teaching out there today I think that there are also a lot of voices sounding the alarm bells as well which is a good thing.

But what about the dead guys? Very few people out there today seem to be discerning when it comes to things that were established in mainstream Christianity 100 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago or 1700 years ago…We can spot the modern wolf a mile away because his words are contrary to what has already been established in our minds. But it is far more difficult to spot the wolf that infiltrated the church years before we were born and by the time we started listening to preachers on a Sunday these ‘new ideas’ were already being taught as tried, tested and accepted old truths. Men like Augustine and Calvin both contributed greatly in certain areas doctrinally but they both strayed from Jesus and the apostle’s teachings in places as well. When something has been accepted as fact for centuries or even millennia it can be incredibly difficult to look at it objectionably again. Who knows how often we end up reading things into scripture that it never intended to say or endorse?

This is why it is important to read about the men, especially the theologians, who have shaped the church for the past 2000 years and this is why it is important to try to read the bible without imposing any preconceived ideas that we have (which is close to impossible unless you grew up in a cave) onto the text. As for me, I admit that I see dimly as through a dirty glass and my understanding is just as likely as anyone's to have being influenced by the world that has shaped me up to this point. So what is the solution then? Seeing as you will certainly read and hear things from a certain preconceived perspective, I have decided that if I am going to be wearing lenses it will be those of the rabbi who once died but was raised again. I will ask “does this glorify God or someone else?”, “Does this point to Christ or man?”, “Does this lead to life in Him or to death?” or “Does this make God look more like man or like Jesus?”

Beware of dead guys, unless they are pointing you to the Risen one; chances are they may be out to feast on your brain.

*The image at the top of this article was taken from http://www.comicvine.com/forums/rpg-9/zombie-vineverse-665344/

Saturday, 18 October 2014

There is no such thing as a Christian Fundamentalist

As recently as six years ago I was a self proclaimed phundamentalist (spelt with a ‘ph’ because there is no fun in fundamentalism). It was my way of trying to set myself apart from the wishy washy Christianity portrayed on TV and in all the bestselling books. I saw myself as someone who was more serious about his faith and did not endorse their self centered messages. I later came to loath the fundamentalist tag as well though as it boxed me in with the loveless and proud folk who were labeled under the same banner (although to be honest a fair bit of that had rubbed off on me as well). Nowadays; I no longer believe that there is such a thing as a Christian fundamentalist. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a fundamentalist is “A form of religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, which upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture”.

I think what we have in certain Christian circles today would be more accurately described as “Modern Pharisaism”. They have a certain set of beliefs and practices that one must adhere to in order to be accepted; but these beliefs and practices are highly selective and do not seem to apply to all of scripture. To provide you with some examples, let me share a few things that, should they not be taken literally, would hardly raise an eyebrow amongst the fundamentalist groups I know of.

 Two things I require of you…Remove falsehood and lies from me; give me neither poverty nor riches-Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny you and say, “who is the Lord?”. Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of the Lord. – Proverbs 30:7-9

The one who has two garments should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. – Luke 3:11

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is more profitable for you for one part of your body to perish than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.- Matthew 5:29

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? - 1 Corinthians 6:7

These are all powerful verses. But those signs of love, sacrifice and character do not seem to be as important to fundamentalism as say ones intellectual position on the age of the earth, or what translation of the bible one uses or what one believes about the end times (To be nice to fundies they do emphasize self discipline and holiness a lot as well). Here is another one from Matthew worth mentioning too as I don’t feel it holds much weight in fundamentalist circles.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”. – Matthew 5:44

Most fundamentalists cannot even love or speak well of other believers when they are in disagreement let alone bless their enemies.

In the end; I think that fundamentalism (and I am talking about those people under the label and not the mythical creatures that actually do interpret all of scripture literally) is about trying to preserve a certain view of scripture because their faith is built on a specific interpretation of the bible rather than on the person of Christ. Obviously creeds, doctrines, intelligent reasoning and preserving the truth are important and I am in no way suggesting here that they are not vital to ones faith and walk.We should all pursue truth and wisdom but build those things on Christ who is the foundation in whom those things are found. Otherwise, if we take the fundamentalist position, we find ourselves forced to defend and hold onto our preconceived ideas regardless of how nonsensical they are because when they are challenged it feels as though Christ himself is being attacked.

I think Paul nailed it in Galatians 6 when  Eugene Peterson paraphrased his words regarding ‘Christian Pharisees’ as “They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s sufferings and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves do not keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws that they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

Don't be a fundie. Be a Christ follower.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A Non violent solution in a violent situation.

Someone recorded and posted this video of a guy verbally abusing a woman before kicking out at her. Watch how a mysterious stranger comes to her aid and non-violently puts an immediate end to the situation.
I am not sure if his method will always work this well but it may come in handy if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Church Beyond Imagination

A brother and friend of mine has written a great book on the Ekklesia and I am happy to be able to share it with all of you. I met him about 5 years back, not long after I had started out on a similar journey to the one that he had been on for a number of years already. His experience with house churches proved extremely helpful to our fledgling group as well as other home fellowships that had started up in South Africa. Please feel free to download the PDF "A Church Beyond Imagination" by clicking on the image at the top right of this page.

If you enjoy it, I would love to hear from you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Against all Odds

I love autobiographies. I still read a lot more books about theology but autobiographies are kind of where the rubber meets the road and you get to see what faith and a transformed life look like in the real world. The book which prompted this post is about a guy called Joe Tarasuk and his journey from cocaine addict and seller to being under the influence of a cult leader to serving jail time and finally to finding freedom in Christ. It is a fascinating look into a dark world that not many people have experienced (or am I just naive?). Joe recalls his journey from bondage to freedom but also that of his wife’s struggles with her own addictions. It is easy to recognize the dangers of hard drugs but there are addictions that are not as obvious but can be just as dangerous to us. Ordinary people can get addicted to things like alcohol and sex or as is the case in this book, pain medication. The consequences of abusing these kinds of things can be just as destructive as hard drugs even though they are all legal.

What makes this story inspiring is the sheer honesty Joe shares with his readers. Rarely is the Christian life portrayed as a journey of learning to crawl before one can walk and learning to walk before you can run. It also gives hope that anyone can still turn their life around. If a guy with a reading disability who once found himself in a rubber room who struggled with a cocaine addiction and was facing a very lengthy prison sentence can find freedom then anyone can. I am not really a fan of most of the pastors or books that get mentioned (the ones who I knew about anyway) in this story but in a sense I appreciated the fact that my spiritual family is bigger than the group of people who think like I do in every way and that God works outside of that.

All money raised from the sales of Against all Odds goes toward the CrossRoads Freedom Center which is a ministry started by Joe and his wife that helps people who are going through similar struggles to what he went through. You can check out the book over here.