Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Progressive Christianity

This should go without saying, but Christians shouldn't feel ashamed of casting a liberal vote. In fact, I'm pretty confident that Jesus Christ would have been a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party (if not a supporter of Socialism). Here's why.

First and foremost, the Bible makes it clear that we should take care of the poor, widows, and yes--- the sick. Yes, universal health care would probably be at the top of the Divine Healer's priorities if he was a politician. In fact, Christ's miracles involved feeding the masses, healing the sick at no cost to them, and promoting the interests of those within his society who had no voice.

I used to feel ashamed of my political beliefs until it became clear to me that the so-called "progressive agenda" is more in line with what God would expect from a society that any alternative I've seen.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Tony Jones hits the nail on the head...

It's almost as if he's been reading my diary.
Quote: "I think it's a way to live as an intellectually honest person." -Tony Jones

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rob Bell: "Dust of Your Rabbi..." Good Stuff...

I watched this online, and was blown away. Visit Youtube to view the five-part teaching in its entirety...

In this video, Rob Bell drives home the beautiful message of how Christ, the good teacher, chooses those whom others might deem "unworthy" of service. This teaching is packed with historical references about the ministry of Christ, which is the stuff I absolutely love... Phenomenal. Read more...

Why I lean toward Universalism…

I often say that I’m a Christian Agnostic with Universalist leanings. Many would say that these things are somehow opposed… I don’t agree. I think a bit of agnosticism is healthy… it fuels the questions of our faith that help us to better understand God and Christ…

I do, however, have to say that I never dreamed of a day when I would flirt with Universalism… “Everyone saved?” I would balk… “Not possible.” But as the years have gone on, I’m realizing that there are a few things about our faith that can only be explained through a Universalist lens. Such as...

1. What happens to the billions of people who have never, or will never, hear the Gospel? Some say that this is explained in Romans 1:18-21 where it says that “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God." (NLT)

More simply stated, there are people who believe that those who haven’t heard of Christ should automatically understand the Christian God by viewing nature… Variations of this belief assert that the non-evangelized will be considered righteous by discovering that there is a God and trying to live holy with that revelation in mind. Without Christ, however, these folks would still be under the law and would, therefore, be sent to hell for transgressing the law, unless they keep it perfectly. Of course, this is a faulty argument because no man or woman can keep the Mosaic law perfectly, which ultimately means that those who have never heard the Gospel and don’t experience a divine revelation of Christ on their own will be lost according to this theology.

This is problematic for three reasons: (a) it suggests that Christ isn’t really needed for salvation after all… (b) it places people under the law again, which is an impossible laundry list of rules to keep, and (c) it requires people who have never been exposed to our God to miraculously come to a revelation of him, without discussing what happens to those who don’t.

2. Why would an intelligent God make his “path” so confusing? We tell people that they must accept Jesus in order to be saved… but then the question becomes, which Gospel is the one that actually saves? Is it (a) the mainline evangelical gospel that requires a sinner’s prayer only, (b) the Jesus-only non-Pentecostal gospel that requires baptism in Jesus’ name and repentance, (c) the Jesus-only Pentecostal way that requires baptism in Jesus’ name, speaking in tongues, and “holy” living, or (d) a Catholic faith experience involving works and forgiveness by their saints / clergy system?

As you can tell, new believers are faced with quite a conundrum. “Which way is the way?” And more importantly, “Will I be tossed into a pit of fire for inadvertently choosing the wrong one?” There are oodles of Gospels, and they can all be supported by Christian scripture. For this reason, biblical scholars spend years unraveling the various paths to salvation found in Christendom. Is it realistic to expect every human being to embark on this kind of spiritual journey? Before you say, “Yes,” ask yourself: Is it realistic to expect those with limited resources and limited literacy to all find “the only way?” More importantly, has God really made it this hard? Would a God who “desires that no one would perish” make it this confusing? Could it be that he has made it easier than we really believe?

3. There are some very convincing arguments out there about the meaning of “eternity,” “hell,” and “perish.” For instance, there is a ministry called Tentmaker that says the concept of “hell” would have been foreign to Jesus and his followers. Likewise, the word “perish,” when translated properly, describes the concept of being lost… as in “not yet found by Christ,” but not a state of eternal damnation. I used to openly reject such thoughts, but their claims seem pretty solid when those words are reviewed in context.

So with these three arguments in mind, I often wonder if Christ’s work on the cross could have been designed to reconcile all men, as the Universalists teach. This makes more sense than it does to believe that God would penalize people for what they don’t know, don’t understand, or simply cannot stretch their imaginations far enough to believe. And that’s why I lean toward Universalism… Not a Universalist (yet)… But I have seriously considered joining the fold.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wow... Just wow...

Despite the questions I have about my faith, I can still say that falling in love with Jesus is the best thing I've ever done.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

My spiritual manifesto

It occurred to me this weekend that it's often hard for me to explain what it is I actually believe. I hope this blog entry will clear up any confusion that may exist concerning my personal "statement of faith" as it exists today. Please note, my beliefs can be fluid as I tend to read quite a bit and may adjust my beliefs to reflect the new information I gather.

I can remember a day when I was afraid to explore the possibility that God might exist outside the traditional Judeo-Christian construct. As a Bible-thumping believer, I said things like: "God said it and that settles it," because I didn't want to consider the likelihood that we, meaning my church, my pastor, my tradition, my experiences, or my beliefs might be wrong.

As the years go on and I continue to witness tragedy, death, war, civil unrest, poverty, confusion, religious tension, and injustice in our world, I wonder why- if God is omnipotent- doesn't he just reach down and fix all of this.

The thought that God would simply allow his precious creations to suffer somehow seems morbid. That's why I believe there is a God, but not in the way that we've known or understood him in the Western world. I believe in God the love force, the life force, the peace force, the provision force, the keeper and dissiminator of Wisdom, the ultimate spiritual example of what humans can be at when we're at our best. God is an infinite and eternal being who communicates with humanity and intervenes in mysterious ways. He is the person with whom I commune when I choose to pray, and he hears me.

I believe that like Christ, we have a responsibility to help others hope in goodness, search for peace, and find unity wherever we can. We should embody the love force, life force, peace force, and justice that is wholly and truly God, even though we don't fully understand him.

I refer to myself as agnostic because there are so many things that I don't believe I'll ever know. For instance, I don't know the true nature of Christ. Frankly, no one does. I would like to believe that he was born of a virgin, was crucified and resurrected, was God, and will return, but I'm not totally convinced any more. The similar, yet competing contemporary legends of his day (such as Mithras and Buddha) lead me to believe that the Christ story may not be totally authentic. I also believe that much of what is recorded about him in the Bible could be mythological as it was recorded 40 to 90 years after his life by people who didn't know him personally.

At the moment, I believe it's more likely that Christ was a mystic, a teacher, a wise holy man, a revolutionary, and a man who challenged tradition in his day. I believe that he transcended humanity to tap into divine power in ways that often manifested through signs and wonders. I believe he impacted people and gave them hope. He was as Godlike as any human could be.

Finally, I believe the Bible is the story of how humans have tried to commune with God. The Bible is a collection of "why" tales, but not "how" tales. It has examples of why we have felt separated from God and how we handled it. It has stories of redemption, hope, and profound pain. It shows that humans have had tribal ideas about God since the beginning of time. It contains allegories about why we are the way we are. It shouldn't be viewed as the only written testament to the character of God or the life of Christ.

I am a Christian in the sense that I follow Christ's teachings, his example, and his mystic nature. I am agnostic in the sense that there's plenty I don't know about God, divinity, and Christ. I read the Bible and follow it to the extent that it offers many perspectives of God to which I can relate. I handle it carefully, knowing that there are verses in there that don't necessarily apply to our modern era. I accept that there are things about God, Christ, and life that I'll never know.

So this is my "statement of faith." It's all I can believe at the moment, and I am quite comfortable in this place.