CENTER: Of the Gospel?

The notion of Gospel-centered-ness can tend to be a mere abstraction, if we’re not careful.  Careful enough to grasp the Gospel’s center.

What is the Gospel’s center…focal point (person)?  You?  Me? Neighbor? Church? Culture?

How we answer this is critical, otherwise we end up with a gospel that centers on something other, which is another Gospel.  And if that ends up being the case, we end up with something other than Gospel-centered perspective on faith and life.

Friend, the Gospel is not about you and me.  Sorry, it’s true.  The Gospel is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh, in perfect righteousness, in a willful propitious death, having risen from the dead, and ascended unto the Throne of God.  This is THE Good News!

It’s a proclamation about one Person that’s made all the difference, for those who believe he’s done just that.  Otherwise, the so-called gospel we hold onto is about something/someone else, leaving us to ourselves to work things out for ourselves.

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GNOSTICISM: A Perennial Philosophy

An excellent lecture by Peter Jones: A Gnostic Gospel

As usual, Peter provides us an informed look at Gnosticism and its revival in our time.

A few notes from this lecture:

1)      Gnosticism:

  1. Dualism on the back of Monism
  2. A perennial philosophy
    1. Assuming a spirit behind everything
  3. Is the bridge for Paganism to enter into culture
  4. A parasite on the Church
    1. In “word” it pretends to be Christian
    2. In “spirit” it practices Paganism
  5. A “spiritual” view of existence
    1. A planetary vision
    2. Geo-logians propagate it
      1. Utilizing notions of “Mother Nature”
      2. Re-inventing humanity
  6. A “progressive spirituality”
    1. A worldwide scope; a cosmic view
    2. Not like the “New Age” which was particularly “self-centered”
    3. Two Tiers of Consciousness
      1. Myth (i.e., Theism, etc)
      2. Reality (i.e., Monism)
    4. Also described as “integral-spirituality”
  7. Manifests itself on two fronts:
    1. Inter-faith Mysticism
      1. A shared spiritual experience
      2. Uniformity of belief is not necessary
      3. Progressive-Christianity flows within this stream
      4. Intellect is not the medium, but Imagination is the way to mystery
      5. Experience is a higher authority than doctrine (i.e., Scripture, etc)
    2. Social Justice
  8. Pagan at its core
    1. A non-dualistic existence
      1. No Creator/creature distinction
      2. A non-binary world
    2. Seeking synthesis of everything through One-ism
      1. Syncretism: not in doctrine but experience
  9. Liberalism is always something of a form of Gnosticism, which seeks to sell social justice under the cloak of cheapened Christian jargon.

COUNTERFEIT: Gospels

A little something to ponder.  Another list (found here) that describes the typical ways we gravitate toward focusing elsewhere than upon Jesus Christ’s person and work:

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Oh, how subtle a shift it is from looking unto Jesus (worshipfully, etc) to embracing a counterfeit gospel.

CENTER: Of Gospel?

Recently came across the following list (go here); things that are NOT the center of the Gospel, yet are too often thought to be so.  I would add one more (perhaps its implied in the list): #56: The center is YOU!  Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon to find folks who think the Gospel’s center is themselves (a.k.a. ‘My personal testimony’, etc.).

A shift from the True Center to a false center is hazardous to the well-being of both the Church and Christian.  Whatever supplants Christ’s person and work from the center becomes a so-called Gospel.  The implications of this idolatrous orbit around something other than Christ can be far-reaching, again, in the life of both the Church and Christian, and seemingly impossible to set right particularly if things have long centered on someone or something other than Jesus (incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, and ascended).  Fact is, the Gospel alone contains the truth and power to dislodge false-centers.

1. The center is what you do for society

2. The center is accepting all people through love

3. The center is the transformation of society so that we will we all live in peace

4. The center is separating ourselves from the sinful world

5. The center is about pointing out the sins of society

6. The center is about not pointing out the sins of society

7. The center is about maintaining the biblical view of the nuclear family

8. The center is about the sanctity of life and abortion

9. The center is about gender issues

10.  The center is political, voting Republican or Democratic, or not voting at all

11.  The center is social justice

12.  The center is being a good person

13.  The center is your devotion and piety

14.  The center is obeying the 10 commandments, and obeying the moral law of God

15.  The center is helping the church grow numerically

16.  The center is finding out new ways to help the church grow numerically

17.  The center is finding out works in the business world and bring into the church

18.  The center is finding out your generation’s needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

19.  The center is finding out what your culture needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

20.  The center is getting people involved in the church

21.  The center is about worshipping God

22.  The center is about contextualizing worship to each generation and culture, often through music

23.  The center is in political involvement to transform the values of society

24.  The center is studying the Bible

25.  The center is studying the commandments in the Bible so that we can figure out what we need to do in every situation in life

26.  The center is a literal hermeneutic

27.  The center is giving good exegetically sound sermons that help people understand God

28.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that cause people to action

29.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that are not over judgmental in tone

30.  The center is giving sermons that give insight and understanding in ways never realized by the audience

31.  The center is giving sermons that warn people about the judgment of hell to come

32.  The center is getting a top-notch preacher at your church

33.  The center is how to write exegetically sound and convincing papers on the problem passages in the Bible

34.  The center is the nature of God as Creator

35.  The center is a biblical worldview

36.  The center is having faith so that God will bless you materially and physically in this life

37.  The center is faith in the general attributes of God

38.  The center is faith in a specific attribute of God, such as omnipotence, holiness, graciousness, or justice.  This would lead to the spoken center being the sovereignty of God, the majesty of God, the adoration of God, the compassion of God, the grace of God, or the identification of the sins of the world

39.  The center is “trust and obey,” without a specific understanding of what we are trusting in.  The trust is usually the attributes of God, and that his commandments are true

40.  The center is spiritual-mystical, finding God through prayer and fasting

41.  The center is finding out what God is saying to you

42.  The center is that you are loved by God. The center is a good self-image and self-worth.

43.  The center is some theological system of understanding

44.  The center is the kingdom program of God

45.  The center is understanding a certain eschatological hope, or view on the Millenium.

46.  The center is the power of the Holy Spirit

47.  The center is spiritual warfare

48.  The center is having faith so that miracles can be done in your life

49.  The center is understanding the distinction, or non-distinction between Israel and the Church

50.  The center is accepting pre-determinism

51.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to compassion, but detached from his work on the cross

52.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to grace, but is detached from the work on the cross

53.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to discipleship and commitment, but detached from his work on the cross and the results of the triumph in his resurrection.

54.  The center is faith in Jesus, but this Jesus is vague and non-specific

55.  The center is all of the above

Principle to Hold: The Gospel Center is Jesus’ person, work on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and his resurrected triumph over death. From that center we understand the fuller work of the triumphant Christ, from his perfect life to his enthronement and return.  Again, some of the above statements are blatantly wrong, others have a high degree of truth in them.  Most are good, but good is not the center of the Gospel. It should be the goal of the theological student to understand how the Gospel Center relates to the above statements.

TIM KELLER on IDOLS:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

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)”.

YOU (4): As Lord or Savior?

MORE OF MY CONVERSATION OVER ON FACEBOOK:

Hello, XXXXX!  Honestly, at some level, I appreciate all three things you mention, knowing that on a *superficial level* they might be the only options in our making some kind of *temporary fix.* But, they would be just that, temporary at best, leaving the ‘heart’ of the problem untouched.

With any good treatment of standard physical ailments there needs to be a good ‘diagnosis’ first before a sound ‘prognosis’ can be had.  Without identifying THE root cause…we just end up tracking down dead-end streets, only to find ourselves in an ongoing search for better answers, or just giving up in frustration.  Nor will things get any better by our being ‘led’ by *emotions* (how we “feel” about this or that), for oftentimes they actually impair our understanding of what’s really going on.  We depend then on the facts, moving hopefully from thinking well about the symptoms to grasping well a corresponding course of action.

Therefore, it is imperative that we get to *heart* of the problem!  Anything less won’t due.  Anything other is superficial.

In the course of our looking at this scenario (drunk-of-a-husband/nag-of-a-wife), I’ve made the observation that the *heart* of the problem is…one’s first-birth problem…an inborn-identity-crisis.  To attempt to “fix” this *heart* problem by placing band-aids (i.e., tough-love, “self-love”, boundaries, etc.) on the outside is nothing short of bad medicine.

Again, I agree, there comes times when one has to “step back” (a.k.a, tough-love/boundaries), but these are mere external measures.   What remains untouched is the *heart* problem; the root problem that bore all the bad fruit.  No medicine, no talk-therapy, no manipulation will make the internal fix.  Regardless of whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, money, work, leisure, etc. that is in the picture, all of it remains very much external.  All the so-called “abuse” is a mere symptom.

And, I agree, there is something to be said about so-called “self-destructing” or “self-loathing.”  They are real, yes.  However, I don’t believe they in themselves are the *heart* problem, but again, only another way of speaking of the symptoms.

It might help if we ask questions like: Why is this person in an apparent state of self-loathing?  Could it be that they are merely feeling “sorry” for themselves?  Could it be that they are so disappointed in themselves and others for this reason or that?  Could it be that they began with too high of an opinion (expectation) of themselves, that they deserve this or that, but things didn’t turn out the way they thought they must?!  Could it be that they simply can’t bear with reality (things not going “our” way)?  Couldn’t it be they want control (of themselves, others, circumstances, etc.), but sulk (seek to suppress reality) when they realize it just ain’t so?   Could it be they are fearful and/or prideful when faced with the “control” question…they aren’t ultimately in control?  Could it be they can’t live sober (face-to-face with reality) so they mask (protect!) who they really are?

Granted, all of our inner-trouble speaks of a need for a proper self-image, but our wrongly *identifying* THE problem only creates more problems; all of which are a response that DEMANDS that others see us as we want to see ourselves.  And yet, we are afraid to face the harsh reality that we ALL are but human, not all that different, and have a BIG problem.  Nothing is ultimately fixed; the game goes on and on.

In sum, it’s always an *identity-problem.*  We’re born with it.  We struggle with it.  We mask it.  We dress it up.  We dress it down.  But, it always remains the same inside, an *identity-crisis.*  Our jobs, our cars/houses, our marriages, our children, our bank accounts, our 401K’s, our parents, our friends, our hopes, our dreams, our talk-talk-talk, our experience(s), our education, our mere-religion, our country, our name, our so-called goodness, our looks, our stuff! are never THE  solution, nor are they THE problem.  Our-selves!  Ourselves, our inner-self, our soul, this is where the problem lies and where the solution must be applied.  Anything less is artificial, a mere masking of that inner reality of soul.

So as for this notion of “self-love”…I find it never to be a remedy but always a reality (natural), regardless of how distorted it becomes, we have by birth a distorted preoccupation with ourselves.

What’s ultimately needed then?  Love from Above (vertical)!  Not from within (internal) or without (horizontal).  This is the source of everyone’s identity-crisis.  We are born with broken hearts, suffering from a distorted self-love.  We need a transplant!  Not a pace-maker.  We can’t perform it, nor can our friends and family, but only One.