CENTER: On self?

Unfortunately, the Liberal worldview is just one manifestation of our not being ‘grown-up’ about things (i.e., family, friends, foes, work, play, rest, etc.).  In other words, what’s wrong with Liberalism is wrong with all of us!  We need to grow-up and be comfortable doing so, especially when those around us act/think like children.

Let’s remember that all our efforts are in vain, unless Christ builds himself (likeness) in us, otherwise we’ll be found pretending to be grown-up.

AUDIO: Christ and Culture (debate)

Here’s the first in a series of debates on the relationship between Christ and Culture.  I’ve only listened to the first installment and it proved a worthy listen.  I’m going to assume the same could be said for the remainder.

Go here:  Christ and Culture: Introductory Remarks

Other files here:  Archive for the ‘Christ and Culture’ Category

GOSPEL: Moral Living or More on Him

Came across this quote a week ago or so:

“We do tend to reduce the Gospel to moral living and the American way of life. Even those of us in the church act as if God is powerless and we have to do everything for Him.  The early church knew a supernatural God who didn’t always do things the way they thought He ought to.  Maybe we should look to and rely more on Him and less on ourselves.”

ISLAM: Paganism Re-Worked

A glance at the origins of Islam:

[found here: http://bibleprobe.com/muhammad.htm]

WHO IS ALLAH?

The Black Meteor inside the Kaba


The stone has been attacked many times and is now composed of several pieces and fragments, bound together by a silver ligature.

When Muhammad was born in Mecca, each Arab tribe in Mecca had their own deity.  There was a large black meteor found in the desert which many Arabs believed was sent to them by astral deities.  This rock was placed in the southeast corner of the cube-shaped structure in Mecca.  The arabs knew this rock as the Ka’ba, which means stone.  The black rock’s diameter is about 12 inches.  It is reddish black in color, and has red and yellow particles.During this time before Islam this stone was part of the shrine to worship of a chief male god (among over 350 other gods) who was known as Hubal.  The black meteor stone was said to symbolize a nature god known as al-Hajar al-Aswad.  Hubal was an oracular deity whose statue — in human form and made of red carneol — stood in the Ka’ba until Muhammad destroyed it.  The Kaba is about 50 feet high, and the walls are about 40 feet long.  The facade contains the door, which starts at 7 feet off the ground, and faces N.E.. To enter the Kaba, a ladder must be used.  Also built in the eastern corner, is another stone called “lucky”.  This stone is only touched, not kissed.  Pagans called out the names of their pagan gods as they circled the Kaba the same as Muslims do today, calling out Allah’s name.  Early Meccan Pagans also ran between the nearby hills. Muhammad authorized Muslims to do that in the Quran, and Muhammad probably ran between the hills himself. So, even before Muhammad pagans were worshipping this black stone in the Kaba.  Are we surprised that although Muhammad  proclaimed only one God, he continued to participate in idol worship at this pagan shrine (Kaba); and Muslims still do idol worship there today?  The black stone of Ka’aba is nothing but a holdover within Islam, from pre-Islamic paganism.

There is evidence that black stones were commonly worshipped in the Arab world.  In 190 A.D. Clement of Alexandria mentioned that “the Arabs worship stone”.  He was alluding to the black stone of Dusares at Petra.  In the 2nd century, Maximus Tyrius wrote; “The Arabians pay homage to I know not what god, which they represent by a quadrangular stone”.  Maximus was speaking of the Kaaba (Ka’ba) that contains the Black Stone.

The Qurash (aka: Quraish) tribe which Muhammad belonged to was in charge of idol worship at the Ka’ba Shrine.  The chief god of Muhammad’s tribe was one of the three sister goddesses called al-Uzza, the youngest of the three daughters of the pre-Islamic Allah and the patron goddess of Mecca.  Her name means “the mighty one”.  The other two were named “al-Lat and “al-Manat”.  It was only by chance that a fortune teller counseled Muhammad’s grandfather against sacrificing Muhammad’s father to this al-Uzza pagan diety.  The head of these pagan, animalistic deities was “Al-llah”.  It is believed that “al-llah” in Muhammad’s time before Islam referred to a vague moon god and that Muhammad believed that al-Uzza was a daughter of this “al-llah”.

The Qurash tribe’s Allah corresponded to the god Bel, which is another name of the Assyrio-Babylonian gods En-lil and Marduk. It has the same meaning as Baal.  The Arabic today translates the word Allah as “God”.  Muhammad’s father’s name was Abd Allāh ibn ‘Abd al-Mullalib.  “Abd-Allah” means slave of Allah.   When Muhammad says there is only one god – Allah – now you have an idea what his background / thinking was; and who this Allah actually is.

ISLAM: More Than A Religion!

Among all the programs I’ve heard about Islam, this one by the folks at the White Horse Inn is probably at the very top:  Christianity Confronts Islam

Muslim scholar and former professor of Shari’ah law, Sam Solomon, helps answer questions like:

What is the meaning of Jihad?

Is Islam really a religion of peace?

What does the Koran say about terrorism?

There is little doubt in my mind that our (and our children’s) days will continue to be filled with conversation and (mis-) information about what Islam is and how/why it functions in the manner it does.  This program helps provide a sieve whereby we can begin to sift through the glut of so-called information thrown our way.

A sample of what’s discussed in this program:

  • God created only Muslims.
    1. All who don’t submit to Allah are ultimately those who are apostate, having broken away from Allah’s original design.
  • Christians and Jews are the worst of Allah’s creatures
  • Islam is not a mere Religion, but is a system containing ALL of the following dynamics:
    1. Socio-economic
    2. Socio-judicial
    3. Socio-legislative
    4. Socio-militaristic
    5. Socio-religious
    6. Socio-familial
    7. Etc. (it is a complete worldview; a culture-wide system; ALL is to be made holy…in EVERYTHING being brought into open/active submission to Allah!)
      1. ALL crime is sin
      2. ALL sin is crime
      3. Insubordinate (apostate) ones are enemies of Islam/The State
  • Muslims can lie (even under “oath”), and in this not only avoiding violating the way of Allah but actually enhances it.
    1. Particularly in cases involving non-Muslims (infidels)
    2. Shake hands with the infidel, you may; but be sure to wash before going to prayers.
  • The Koran is not to be subjected to any criticism whatsoever!!!
    1. Not a single teaching of the Koran is to be question.
      1. A child is not to ask: “Was Mohammad really a prophet of Allah?”
  • The Koran is to be treated with TOTAL reverence.
    1. There is to be no questioning of the historical veracity of the Koran.
    2. A good Muslim is to ignore the open contradictions of the Koran:
      1. I.e., “Mary is both:  Moses’ sister / Jesus’ mother!”
  • Blind “submission” is to be given to the Koran, without any hesitance whatsoever.
  • Hitler and the Nazis were greatly appreciated by Islam
    1. Nazis protected Muslims, providing safe havens for them in European countries.
    2. Nazis persecuted Jews and Christians, for which Islam is grateful.
  • Europeans (governments and churches) have come to embrace the role of Islam, both abroad and at home (in Europe).
    1. Liberal European Churches
      1. The Council of European Bishop’s Conferences
        1. Quote:  “Another important area of work is relations with Islam in Europe, carried on jointly with the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.”
      2. They accept Mohammad as a Prophet of the Old Testament and that Jesus was a Muslim.
        1. Quote from Issues in Christian-Muslim Relations: Ecumenical Considerations“The prophets, many of whom are the great figures of the Bible Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist and Jesus Son of the Virgin Mary – all brought essentially the same message. Ultimately, God sent Muhammad as His final Prophet, confirming and validating the messages of all earlier prophets and entrusting him with the Qur’an, the literal, complete, perfect revelation of God’s message and will. Consequently, Islam claims to be at one and the same time both universal and particular. Every child born into the world is by nature a “Muslim”, for Islam is held to be the primordial and natural religion. In the Qur’an, figures like Abraham, Jesus and his disciples, who lived before Muhammad, are called “Muslims”.”
      3. Just a glance at this book The European Union, Turkey and Islam will give one a flavor for what’s taking place.
    2. European Governments
      1. There is something of an Islamic Revolution taking place in Europe, to which books like this one attests: Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis
  • The so-called “War on Terror” fails to see the whole picture.
    1. “Jihad” is incarnate in the entire Muslim way, not merely in an “Insurgency”.
      1. The challenge that the West faces is that Jihad is often ‘faceless’, as it operates in the West.
  • The Koran espouses “terror”
    1. “The Jews and Christians say: ‘We are the children of God and His loved ones.’ Say: ‘Why then does He punish you for your sins?” (Surah 5:18)
    2. “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)
    3. “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.” (Surah 2:216)
    4. “Slay them wherever you find them…Idolatry is worse than carnage…Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme.” (Surah 2:190-)
    5. “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)
    6. “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)
  • The Koran denies Christ’s incarnation and crucifixion:
    1. “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)
    2. “The God will say: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you ever say to mankind ‘Worship me and my mother as gods besides God?’ ‘Glory to You, ‘he will answer, ‘how could I ever say that to which I have no right?” (Surah 5:114-)
    3. “Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)
    1. “Christ was not crucified (Surah 4:157) but those who believed He never died should ponder over this verse (i.e. 33 of Surat al-Maryam)”.

TRANSLATION: Relativizing the Gospel

Another good program over at the White Horse Inn, featuring William Willimon: Faulty Translations

Willimon sees “Christianity is kind of like a foreign language that one is not born with,” which sadly “many preachers today are attempting to “translate” …into familiar and comfortable terms that people are used to, but the result, he argues, is that things get “lost in translation.””

Willimon points out the following:

1)       The Gospel is not to be translated as Therapy.

2)       The Gospel is not another Commodity.

3)       The Gospel is not another Life-Style Choice.

4)      The Gospel is not something you are born with.

5)       The Gospel is not User-Friendly.

6)      The Gospel does not make sense to/in this World.

7)       The Gospel creates a different world, with a different focus (i.e., Cross-eyed).

8)      The Gospel creates a counter-culture.

9)      The Gospel can make Life a bit more difficult.

10)    The Gospel is not a word about Glory (God’s making all things glorious now).

11)     The Gospel is a word of Grace (God’s condescension to sinners).

Willimon suggests asking this one question:

“When listening to a sermon, would Christ need to be CRUCIFIED in order to make this sermon work?”

Meaning, if the sermon works without Christ’s birth/godly-life/death/burial/raising/reigning, then, the sermon is not Christian.  It may be informational and/or ethical, but to be fails to be CHRISTIAN (rooted in the New Covenant!) by not preaching Him (1Cor.1.23; 2 Cor.1.19; 2Cor.4.5; Col.1.28; 1Tim.3.16).

CIVIL: USA as Political Messiah

Richard Gamble on Civil Religion:

“America’s anointment as the world’s political messiah did not end when demobilized troops returned from Europe in 1919. It did not end with America’s opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, nor with America’s refusal to join the League of Nations. The cumulative product of generations of reflection, experience, and anticipation, the American identity reached too deep and far to have been uprooted in a moment of supposed renunciation. Transcending party politics and most ideological boundaries, nearly all of the language of universality and emancipation, of the “city on a hill” and the world’s rebirth, of light and dark, Messiah and Armageddon, reverberates down to the present moment. Like Woodrow Wilson before them, few modern presidents have been able to resist the allure of America’s global redemptive consciousness. In the 1940s, Franklin Roosevelt planned for a future refounded on four freedoms, freedoms that would prevail “everywhere in the world.” In the fourth of these universal freedoms, freedom from fear, he anticipated a day when “no nation will be in a position to commit and act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.”

“In countless speeches from the 1960s through the 1980s, moreover, Ronald Reagan reached back to the earliest metaphors of America’s divine destiny” to reaffirm the nation’s special calling as a “city on a hill.” Combining the Puritan errand with the Enlightenment dream of earthly regeneration, he also embraced Tom Pain’s longing to “begin the world over again.” And on September 11, 2002, George W. Bush, speaking with the colossus of the Statue of Liberty behind him, called America the “hope of all mankind” and appropriated the world of John 1:5 as if they described not just the Incarnation of Christ but the mission of the United States: “And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness will not overcome it.” To one degree or another and with varying motives and consequences, each of these men continued to speak of the United States as if it were the Salvator Mundi, following a pattern of thought that has endured for more than four centuries.”

[HT: DG Hart]

APOSTASY: Masquerading as Gospel

Essentially, anything that poses as the Gospel or its equivelent is simply unbelief.  The Gospel stands completely on its own and needs nothing but the cross/resurrection of Jesus Christ to substantiate it.  Only the Gospel is gospel…and everything else…is something other. 

Related thoughts:

“Any cultural or political agenda embellished with such authority is a manifestation of “works righteousness” and ipso facto an act of apostasy. This theological proposition, over and beyond all prudential moral judgments, “hits” in all directions of the ideological spectrum; it “hits” the center as much as the left or the right. “Different gospels” lurk all across the spectrum. No value or institutional system, past or present or future, is to be identified with the gospel. The mission of the church is not to legitimate any status quo or any putative alteration of the status quo. The “okay world” of bourgeois America stands under judgment, in the light of the gospel, as does every other human society. Democracy or capitalism or the particular family arrangements of middle-class culture are not to be identified with the Christian life, and neither is any alternative political, economic, or cultural system. The vocation of the church is to proclaim the gospel, not to defend the American way of life, not to “build socialism,” not even to “build a just society” – because, quite apart from the fact that we don’t really know what this is, all our notions of justice are fallible and finally marred by sin. The “works righteousness” in all these “different gospels” lies precisely in the insinuation that, if only we do this or refrain from doing that, we will be saved, “justified.” But, as Paul tells us, “by works of the law shall no one be justified.” [Berger, “Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy,” Erasmus Lecture, January 22, 1987]”

ME!: Narcissism

The folks over at the White Horse Inn have produced another worthwhile program: White Horse Inn : Narcissism Epidemic

Narcissism (self-focus) is discussed as being a root cause, psychologically speaking, of many troubles that our society faces, even those economical. 

Mike Horton converses with author and professor Jean Twenge about her latest book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.  Jean has some interesting insights, such as the principle of “inflation” and how it bears upon ‘self-image’ at both an individual and societal level (and everywhere in between). 

The conversation helps to bring into focus the role that Narcissism plays in things such as parenting, the media, Internet (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, etc), and easy credit. 

Though I disagree with some of the discussion about the “Greatest Generation” (that is, the Depression/WW2 generation), viewing it as something of a Golden Age (the Greater America), there’s no doubt that our day (generation) is faced with some very sobering consequences of our buying into the psychobabble of yesteryear. 

For another interesting and related WHI program, see: Boredom and Entertainment  with author Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment.

COUNSEL: Stop it!

Now here is some of the best the world has to offer in the way of COUNSEL…in a comedic way, of course.  Sadly, this is much of what so-called “Christian” counsel gravitates toward, in assuming that the believing-sinner (each of us) has only to appropriate the counsel (precept of God) in order to ‘make-it-all-happen’.  Sounds like something out of Palestine, oh, about 3400 years ago:

Newhartian Counsel

Kingdom: Left, Right, or Neither?

Lee Irons has commented on a work by Seyoon Kim, Christ and Caesar

 

1)   It is not the timing of the eschaton but the nature of the eschaton that conditions their [Paul and Luke’s] stance toward political issues. If the eschaton is going to bring about a radical change in the conditions of life such that the glory of the age to come totally transcends our present existence, then it matters little whether they viewed the eschaton as imminent (within their lifetime) or as far off in the future.

 

a.    The eschatological state, for the New Testament writers, is not continuous with the present state. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).

b.    The eschatological state will be characterized by a glorified creation and glorified bodies to inhabit that glorified creation. The glorified state is one of incorruption and immortality. It is not merely the eternal continuation of our present fleshly state.

c.    Thus, for the New Testament writers, political questions, tied as they are to the fleshly state of this passing age, are necessarily secondary in importance.

d.    Furthermore, as a part of the fleshly state, political arrangements are not capable of being transformed or taken up into the state of glory, whether in its “already” state (experienced proleptically by the indwelling of the living Christ through his Spirit) or its “not yet” form (the glorified creation/body).

 

2)   Second, I do not understand what Kim means by “the materialization of Christ’s Lordship” or “materializing the redemption of the Kingdom of God politically.” These sound like nice words, but what do they mean in practical terms?

 

a.    For those on the left it means increasing government funding for social welfare for the poor. Others on the left would say it means ending war in some sort of commitment to pacifism. Those on the right would say it means banning abortion, or having the constitution amended to exclude same-sex marriage, or reducing the size of government and government controls on the free market.

b.    A related problem is that, even if we were to agree on a specific agenda, how do these things relate to Christ’s Lordship or the redemption of the Kingdom of God? In other words, why should any of the above items, left or right, be viewed in such exalted spiritual terms, as the materialization of the reign of Christ?

c.    In my view, the above policies can be debated pro and con, and perhaps some are pragmatically better for society than others, but none are distinctively Christian, and certainly they should not be characterized as the political materialization of the kingdom of God.

Survey: “Bad?” Maybe not!

Here is an interesting article about the so-called spiritual decline in the USA.  Interesting how some folks think themselves less “spiritual” if they entirely abandon any and all so-called formal religion; while others are in hot pursuit of answers wherever they can find them, so long as their felt-needs are met.  And so the pendulum swings….

The findings in this article are not all that stunning actually, but appear to be further confirmation that, what once claimed to be at the religious helm in the USA was nothing more than an empty shell.  Folks are finally beginning to realize this sad truth; the mask is being pulled away from religion(s) that has long been just skin deep. 

Though there is reason to lament here (being that what was claiming Christ’s name, lacked Christ’s grace and truth), there is reason to rejoice.  The house is being cleansed.

Superficial religiosity, no matter how well meaning or busy, will always be found out.  Preaching everything but Christ crucified will wear out with using, no matter how “helpful and good” it initially appears.  In the end…it’s never worth its salt.

Find the article here:

USA TODAY: Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds

 

Inverse Relation: State Welfare & Religion

An interesting article by Mr. Wilcox: W. Bradford Wilcox: More Government, Less God.

Herein, Wilcox explains the following:

“A recent study of 33 countries around the world by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde [Gill & Lundsgaarde: State Welfare & Religion.pdf], political scientists at the University of Washington, indicates that there is an inverse relationship between state welfare spending and religiosity. Specifically, they found that countries with larger welfare states had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, had higher rates of citizens indicating no religious affiliation whatsoever, and their people took less comfort in religion in general. In their words, “Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals.”

“Gill and Lundsgaarde show, for instance, that Scandinavian societies such as Sweden and Denmark have some of the largest welfare states in the world as well as some of the lowest levels of religious attendance in the world. By contrast, countries with a history of limited government—from the United States to the Philippines—have markedly higher levels of religiosity. The link between religion and the welfare state remains robust even after Gill and Lundsgaarde control for socioeconomic factors such as urbanization, region, and literacy. The bottom line: as government grows, people’s reliance on God seems to diminish.

Christendom: Applauding The Fall Thereof

Excellent program by the folks at The White Horse Inn:  Losing Our Religion

The boys explain how it is that the notion of “Christendom” gave birth to Atheism/Modernism/Romanticism/Etc.  How, as Christians, we can be thankful that the unbelievers (i.e., Jefferson, etc) who helped founded this country saw fit to separate the two spheres, ecclesiastical and civil, which had the effect of preserving both alongside one another.

Gospel: Preached Intelligibly

David Gibson has helpfully explained:

“Indeed, the gospel message can “only be proclaimed through the mediation of a language normally employed by a broad socio-linguistic group for quite other purposes.”  This amounts to the simple claim that it is the doctrine of creation that requires the Bible to be translated into the languages of the world. It also demands that the preacher’s speech belong to the twenty-first century and not to the seventeenth.

Glory: Fading, World

Seeyon Kim has written:

“When Paul is expecting such individual and cosmic salvation from God, and very shortly at that, how interested would he be in changing the present “scheme of the world” that “is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31), in order to make life in it a little fuller during the short interim period (v. 29) before such total salvation?

Horton on Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today

Chris Anderson over at My Two Cents had the following to say regarding Mike Horton comments about Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today:

Chris said, “Commenting on the tendency for Christians to adjust our ministries so that they are more culture-friendly, Horton asks, “when will we learn what so many of our forebears knew from experience: that the success of the Christian gospel lies precisely in its offense.”

1. Our dissection of culture isn’t working.

“A host of recent studies confirms that the ecclesiastical ideology of ‘mission to postmodern culture’ works least among the people who are supposed to be the most impressed: the so-called Gen-Xers and younger. Even aside from the all-important challenge of biblical fidelity, not even the demographics support the hype that almost tyrannically controls contemporary approaches to mission and worship.”

2. Our dissection of culture isn’t biblical. We’ve made things far too complicated.

“What if, instead of adopting the division of history into modern and postmodern, we followed the New Testament distinction between ‘this present evil age’ and ‘the age to come,’ the reality of life ‘in the flesh’ versus ‘life in the Spirit’?…In this typology, ‘That is postmodern’ no longer becomes a get-out-of-jail-free card, a justification for all sorts of deviance from historic Christian norms in the name of evangelism, mission, and outreach to the postmodern culture.”

3. People haven’t changed–not in their basic nature and need. Listen to Horton:

“So which is it? Is postmodernism the big new thing or the same old thing? For mission, at least, it just does not matter.”

Voting and Politics by Piper

Despite Piper’s take on Palin’s involvement, etc (up to 2:40), I can appreciate much of what he has to say.  The shorter of the two videos says enough.  Oh, how easy it is to get caught up in temporal matters.  We do this each and every day.  No surprise then that this election distracts many of us…we tend to live that way!

Voting and Politics by Piper