The Wicked May Threaten, But Shall Not Prevail

Christianity, Quotes

From Psalm 37 (KJV)

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

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Growing in Christ

Christianity

Take a moment and think with me.

Look at all the popular trends in Christianity today. Focus on youth groups, attracting the unbelievers, community outreach, entertaining the children.

What’s missing? Growing the believers in their own relationship with Christ. It has been deemed as a personal subject, something that you have to work out on your own. This isn’t healthy. We should be learning and growing in Christ as He is proclaimed from the pulpit. If all you ever hear from the pulpit is “3 key principles for…” or “7 steps to a…”, then I would venture to say (and I know this sounds harsh) that you are not growing in that church.

If you are in a church where the pastor preaches the person and work of Christ instead of 5-step formulas he found in a self-help book that has a Christian twist, then you have a rare pastor. You are in one of the unusual churches in America. I happen to be blessed that I am in a church where the pastor faithfully brings us, from virtually everywhere in the Bible, the finished work of Christ. He points out how this or that demonstrates Christ’s love, or shows His holiness or faithfulness or graciousness, etc. Bringing with it a new dimension that you may not have seen. It gives you a reason to go home rejoicing in Christ.

The Fallen Human Nature

Christianity


As an aside, I didn’t get a chance to develop the idea of people being by nature wicked. I alluded to this concept in my post “What’s Wrong With Communism?.”

As human beings, we do things that we know aren’t right. How do we know our actions are wrong? Instinct? Maybe. But consider this: Maybe there is someone who made us, and it is He who establishes what is right and wrong. Then suppose he creates us in a way that reflects many of his own characteristics. meaning that there are similarities between us and Him. This would explain how we innately know how certain things are wrong.

This also explains why people are creative, as a whole. When the Creator made us, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that He also made everything else there is in the world. Not necessarily buildings, and cars, and such. But consider stars. We didn’t make those. Jupiter, Saturn, all the planets. Those couldn’t have been made by us. They would have had to have come from somewhere. A big bang? Maybe. But even in the case of a big bang, the original matter would have had to have come from somewhere. Where would that have come from? A Creator. But if there were a Creator, why would he only create a speck, only to have it blow up? Why not have the pleasure of creating everything individually? If He were to create everything individually, it would make sense that there are a lot of similarities between things in the world. This would explain why math works, and why there are universal constants. And if we were indeed made similar to the Creator, this again explains the creative juices that flow through the minds of men(for example, computers, cars, aeroplanes, and houses). All these things were somebody(s) creative genius.

Human Creativity, Independent thought, and Decision making. These are all reflections of the Creator of the universe.

This also explains why we as humans are able to think on our own, and make choices, seeing as the Creator would have had free choice and independent thought.

Now if all this were to indeed happen, then wouldn’t it make sense that the Creator would be able to tell us what to do and not to do? If you were to make something, and you put a lot of work into it, wouldn’t you have the authority to say what happens to it? Would you not get to say what it can and can’t do? For sure you would. Here is the marvel. The Creator only required obedience to one thing when he made the first man. Then the enemy of the Creator came to the man’s wife, and put in her mind the idea to disobey. When she did, she convinced the first man to do so as well. Thus, they both disobeyed. The Creator, who is just, changed human nature. This change affected every person then and to come. This includes us. Because our nature has been changed, all the characteristics of the Creator that we had to a degree, became marred and disfigured. Creativity became warped, judgement became confused, and relationships became hard to maintain. This transformation took place, and now every human being since, has this nature of disobeying. We can’t help it.

But the Creator didn’t stop with changing their nature; he made their lives harder on earth. This is completely understandable. If you were to make a clay pot, and it didn’t mold the right way, or it cracked, you would probably throw it away, or smash it and start over. In the same way, when we disobey the Creator, it is perfectly reasonable and just, to throw us away, or smash us and start over. But He is also very kind and merciful to us. See, he didn’t destroy us. We are still alive. And it is all because of the Creator. He decided to come down on earth, and to live life as a human. Only he did it without the disobedient nature. He lived His life on earth in the way that we were created to live it. Then he was killed, and when he had been killed, he was buried in a tomb. But he didn’t stay there. After three days, he arose out of the tomb, back to his original place.

Just like a broken clay pot, we deserve to be smashed and thrown away.

This next part blows me away every time I think about it. The Creator then takes that righteous life that he lived on earth, and gives it to His people. We deserve to die. Remember the clay pot from earlier? Just like that, we deserve to be smashed and thrown away. But when the Creator came and died, it was as if He threw himself away. Smashed himself. Thus, we no longer have to die. (We will die a physical death, but after we die here on earth, we will be with the Creator permanently)

The Creator gives us this, His righteous life, freely. We don’t need to get our lives in order, or do something grand in order to earn it. The Creator picks people out of the earth, in all their evilness and wrongdoing, and gives His own perfect obedience to them. He then takes these rescued people through the rest of their earthly life, and makes them more and more like himself, so that they can live life to the fullest, and in a way that obeys the Creator.

All of what I said above is true. The Creator is God.

If you want to know more about God, you can read the Bible. The Bible is the absolute best way to learn about God, and what He is like.

A Follow Up Response to "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" From Kevin Bywater

A Follow-up by Kevin Bywater

Christianity, Philosophy

A Follow Up Response to "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" From Kevin Bywater

The following is a follow-up response to yesterday’s post from Kevin Bywater.

“Good morning, everyone. Well, I had no inkling that my thoughts on the video would elicit such a response. Thank you all for your thoughts, pro and con. I’d like to write a bit of a follow up today to talk about what I like about the video.

• My first introduction to Jefferson Bethke was his mimicked response to the video commercial for Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins.” I found Bethke, and still find him, clever, talented, artistic, and insightful. I feel the same way about this recent video. There is much to commend.

• Problems aside, Bethke points viewers to Jesus, and this is of utmost importance. Without Jesus, we would be without a living hope, without embodied grace. I am filled with joy to know that Bethke is my brother in Christ.

• His emphasis upon grace is laudable. Indeed, none of us has grounds to lay claim to God’s grace due to our own righteousness. Apart from divine mercy, we face a desperate loss.

• When I describe his poetry as “low culture,” I do not mean that I dislike it. I don’t mind it, in the main. In fact, at times, I quite like it. But it is what it is.

• It is clear that a major motif throughout the video is the abhorrence of hypocrisy. I suppose that this is one reason why the video resonates so deeply with so many, and even with me. As I see it, hypocrisy is among the greatest of evils. Perhaps Jesus’s strongest words, words about hell, were spoken to and at and about hypocrites. To my mind, if we desire to have a Christian worldview, we must embody God’s affections and aversions, including the aversion to hypocrisy.

• It is possible that some criticisms of the video — some of my criticisms — arise not from Bethke’s perspective so much as the constraints of a 4-minute video. To a degree, it is unfair to criticize someone for not saying everything you would say if given the chance, or in a similar opportunity.

I’d also like to speak to what I deem a lack of clarity in the video, but also to themes that rightly deserve our attention.

• I don’t know anyone who believes that voting Republican makes you a Christian. Indeed, I think that the close identification of our convictions regarding Christ to any political party, administration, or regime is deeply problematic and vulnerable. Even so, Bethke’s slapping Christians who vote for Republicans is imbalanced and smacks of ideological confusion. It could suggest to many that he is seeking to influence people to vote for Democrats. That would be questionable on several grounds. So, my suggestion was that Bethke be more liberal in his attempts to disassociate Christian faith from political party.

• The emphasis upon grace is laudable. Divine forgiveness is fantastically edifying and should be sought after above all else. And it is by the embrace of our righteous Messiah that God’s forgiveness enfolds us and draws us into the enduring presence of God. What might be easier to miss is that Bethke also is calling people to repentance, to turn from their sin and to turn to Christ. He does this rather directly and also via his own personal narrative. But this could be missed since it is embedded within his rant against hypocrisy.

• I still believe that his dichotomizing Jesus and religion is fundamentally misleading. Given that the term is used in a positive sense in Scripture, we are beholden to use it in a positive sense. And to displace sin and install “religion” as that from which Jesus came to save is to misconstrue and muddle the gospel message. You see, many people are not involved in any organized religion. Many see themselves as not religious at all. Bethke’s message is vulnerable to the charge that it is irrelevant to these people, that Jesus is thus irrelevant to these people. And to assert that Jesus came to abolish religion is childish, absurd, and can only cultivate confusion. As a construal rather untethered to Scriptural descriptions of Jesus’s work, it is at best an abstraction — but it is an abstraction that misleads and muddles. In the end, it appears to me that Bethke hates hypocrisy and not religion, per se.

• I would encourage Bethke to make a follow up video — one just as well-written and well-produced — stating why and how much he loves the church (even ones with buildings) . . . and why you should too. After all, if Jesus loves the church as his bride, shouldn’t we seek to imitate our Lord?

Permit to to reiterate what I wrote above: I am thankful for Jefferson Bethke. I appreciate him and his work. I’m quite certain we’d get on just swimmingly if we were to meet. My critical comments from yesterday should be read not so much as condemnation but as a reaction (at times, perhaps a bit too strong of a reaction) to some confused elements in the video, to how some elements resonate with what I think is unhealthy in our culture, and to the very negative potential of some of the construals and caricatures and criticisms in the video.

But, hey man, I ain’t judgin’. 8^J”

-Kevin James Bywater

Video Critique of "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" By Kevin James Bywater

A Look at a Video: From Kevin Bywater

Christianity, Philosophy

Video Critique of "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" By Kevin James Bywater

The video “Why I Hate Religion, But I Love Jesus” has gotten a lot of shares around the web. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it, but I also recommend that you read this as well. Definitely worth the read.

The following is by Kevin Bywater:

“A few quick thoughts:

• It is getting significant airplay online right now. Lots of people love it, some appreciate it in part, others, like me, consider it to be a muddled mess of distorted truth coupled with sub-biblical piety wrapped in low-culture poetry.

• If the speaker wants to distinguish Jesus from political parties, then so be it. But he should have been more liberal. He only mentioned Republicans, and did so twice, and that very near the beginning. That is partisan and suggests that what follows is ideologically invested. If it isn’t, it is ideologically muddled.

• He derides the creation of nice churches and yet stands in front of a massive, beautiful, and likely very expensive, building. He implicitly promotes low culture and explicitly embodies it. It is as though God is not a God of generous beauty, of grand designs. It is as though we are not called to imitate God as bearers of his image.

• As for religion, true religion, James 1:27 tells what true religion is. But the video creates a false dichotomy between Jesus and religion, simply because the latter can be false. He assumes that religion is like manure and Jesus like ice cream. When you mix them, the manure never suffers. But the Scriptures present us with a much more mature understanding, one that sees true religion as glorifying God by caring for humans, which is the foundation of culture.

• His allusions to OT religion are superficially anti-Semitic. He appears to suppose that when people were religious in the OT, they always were wrong. But that implies that what God commanded in the past was religion and what he now provides is salvation from it. This is heterodox in its assumptions and conclusions. When God, through the prophets, critiqued his people, it was not for their practice of religion, per se; it was for their practice of false religion. It was their adoption of the ways of the nations that gave rise to the charge of whoredom. It was their adoption of what I term “the trinity of sins”: idolatry, immorality, and injustice. It was then, and only then, that the charge of “whore” was found on the lips of the prophets. Unfaithfulness breeds false religion. From faithfulness is true religion born.

• At 2.30 he notes that some called Jesus a drunkard and a glutton, and asserts that the accusers were “religious men.” True, but their religion was not what God had commanded. They were hypocrites. Their failure was in their hypocrisy, not in the religion to which they bore inauthentic relations.

• While we should care for the poor, the video confuses this calling, pits it implicitly against conservative churches and Christians who are Republicans. My suspicion is that the speaker has confused what so many in our day confuse. To clarify, taxation is not tithe, coercion is not charity, compulsion is not compassion. Far too many see government action as charitable. It is not. That virtue is not in it. That virtue lives in personal generosity. The IRS is not the enforcer of that virtue. Politicians neither distribute nor redistribute it.

• At 1:17 the speaker declares, “Now, I ain’t judgin’.” But this is precisely what he is doing. I don’t fault him for that. When our moral virtues and sensibilities are properly formed, judgment can be just and justified. Thus, if he is hitting at hypocrisy, so be it. God hates hypocrites too. (And much of the video could be put in this category of critique, though only if it is properly corrected.) But a hypocrite would be one who proclaims truth and does not live it out in true religion. A hypocrite divorces orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

• In short, the speaker has supposed that Jesus came to save us from religion. Rather, Jesus came to save us from the power of sin and the threat of divine wrath. But Jesus not only saves us from the power of sin, he invests us with the power of righteousness, namely, the Holy Spirit.

• Finally, while I haven’t space here to develop this thought, his closing text — Romans 4.5 — is lifted from the context in which it serves so well. If one reads Romans 3:27-4:12, one can see that the focus of Paul’s discussion is the place of circumcision, both in times past and in the new covenant. The question is whether God’s grace is only for the circumcised, that is, for Jews. Paul, the Jewish Christian, argues that righteousness is not contingent upon circumcision (which is, what Paul sees as the quintessential “work of the Law”) since Abraham was declared righteous prior to his circumcision. The moral drawn from Paul’s close reading of Abraham’s story is that circumcision is not the portal to righteousness with God. Elsewhere in Romans (ch. 2; and in Galatians 5), Paul argues that circumcision is neither the portal to being right with God nor the portal to ethical uprightness. The Holy Spirit is the one who energizes the latter; our trust and allegiance to the faithful Christ is the means of the former. Thus, when Paul writes of “work” or “works” in Romans 1-4 (and, arguably, elsewhere), he is aiming at actual demands of the Law that hypocrites supposed would make them right with God and would characterize them as righteous. The problem was that in the OT (as in the NT), when such practices are coupled with idolatry, immorality, and injustice, they are not exhibitions of faith but of fraud.

• I must leave off here. As I mentioned, the video is making the rounds. Many of my friends are praising it. And there is some in the video to praise. But on the whole, I find it to be a muddled mess of ideological, low-culture poetry, and rather impoverished theology.”

– Kevin James Bywater

See Kevin’s follow-up to this critique.

What have you got?

Christianity, Random Ramblings

I hope you’re really happy with your Black Friday purchases, because I’m going to make you feel guilty about having gone shopping.

Or not. We’ll see. (insert over-used internet slang and emoticon) lol 🙂

A couple things have been on my mind recently, and I wished to share them with you. So here they are, and in no particular order.

Enough with “Happy Holidays” by the way. We all know it’s politically correct, but we also know that you aren’t referring to anything else but Christmas. Let’s get real.

Holidays come around, usually once a year, and some get more attention than others. Lately I’ve been looking at the way that some of the recent ones have been recognized. Namely Halloween and Thanksgiving. Jobs, school, and mail delivery stop for Thanksgiving, often giving the employed and students the day(s) before and after a break from the normal duties. Halloween receives no such treatment. Work, learning, and the postal service continue with their normal routine. However, the stores seem to communicate a very different placement of importance. Halloween comes with much decoration, and great promotion. They have the decorations up the minute the kids are in school for the first time in the semester. Thanksgiving gets a totally different reception. They have a sale on turkey. That’s pretty much it. No decorations, nothing. Which is right?

Black Friday is over. The pinnacle of American consumerism. They make it sound as if you are going to lose money if you don’t buy whatever it is that’s on sale. Truth is, if you weren’t going to buy it anyway, you aren’t saving anything. If they were selling TVs for $100 instead of the regular $10,000, and you weren’t going to get one in the first place, then you are out $100 if you buy it. You have really saved nothing at all. It’s simple math folks. You don’t even need to go to grade school to understand it.

Now that Thanksgiving is past, everyone is already on to Christmas. But wait! Not so fast. I’ve still got school for another two weeks yet.

Christmas is one of those holidays that I enjoy less and less every year. I know, I now sound like a terrible person, a Scrooge even. Maybe even a Grinch. But I’m really not. Really the only reason I don’t like it, is the fact that every “artist” out there thinks that they have to make their own Christmas album, and then it get played at stores, and everywhere, and there are 45 different versions of jingle bells, and grandma got run over by a reindeer, and more songs that don’t deserve to get mentioned. Just because you make a hit pop album that sells like crazy doesn’t mean that you have the right to write/record/sell a Christmas song. Seriously.

Another reason I dislike the Christmas season, is because in America, it’s as if Thanksgiving is our excuse to be greedy for Christmas. People start asking for things, bigger and better than last year, trying to one-up each other.

Get real now folks. Christmas, Thanksgiving. They should mean more to us than Black Friday and Santa. Why do the days even exist? There is really only one reason for the two of them.

Here is the reason.

We have a merciful God.

Thoughts on the University

Christianity, Philosophy, Politics, Rants

A week into college, and already I’ve encountered relativism, environmentalism, and the dumbing down of curriculum all too common in today’s classroom. And it wasn’t accidental either.

In the words of one of the educators of today:

It [educational method used to re-educate Nazi youth following WWII] is also the one which was used by American schoolteachers who had read [John] Dewey and were concerned to get students to think ‘scientifically’ and ‘rationally’ about such matters as the origin of the species and sexual behavior (that is, to get the to read Darwin and Freud without disgust and incredulity). It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.

-Richard Rorty in “Rorty and His Critics,” page 21.

In other words, Mr. Rorty realizes just where today’s education came from, and that is the Nazis. Not a pretty sight. But it gets worse. Not only are they Fascistic, but if you disagree with them, or uphold moral values, you must be mentally ill.  In the words of another college professor:

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our Founding Fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well, by creating the international child of the future.

-Chester M. Pierce (Harvard)
in Jim Nelson Black
Freefall of the American University (2004), p. 87

Mentally ill if you obey your parents? Mentally ill if you obey the government? Mentally ill if you think that what the Founding Fathers believed would make a great nation was right? Are you serious? This can’t be right, but it is what he thinks of you if you have anything in you that is moral, obedient or religious.

And they want to change you to think like they do. But they don’t want you to know that they are doing it. They know that since they are the professors, and you are the students, that they can say things, and because you are just a student, and they are a professor, they obviously know way more than you do, and so you take what they say as truth, and slowly, you begin to believe what they are telling you. It is a constant battle, but it is a battle nonetheless.

The battle of ideas is the battle over the definitions of words.
-John Stonestreet

When words loose their meaning, people loose their lives. You have to fight for every word. Fight for meaning.
-Dr. Michael Bauman