Posted in authors, Books, Deconstruction, Hard Questions, Theology

What is the Bible All About?

Last year I just finished my Masters in Christian Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, which is one of the more prestigious Evangelical seminaries in the country. I learned in seminary how to interpret, study and reflect on the bible systematically. I love theology (literally the study of God) and more specifically studying the Bible. Coming out of the Reformed Tradition (Calvinistic), one of Martin Luther’s five solas is sola scriptura or scripture alone. This doctrine is all about the authority of scripture. Those of you who are reading this would be tracking with and say, he probably believes the Bible is inerrant (without error), and infallible. I believe the Bible is inspired (God-breathed), yet with error.

Rachel Held Evans writes:

While Christians believe the Bible to be uniquely revelatory and authoritative to the faith, we have no reason to think its many authors were exempt from the mistakes, edits, rewrites, and dry spells of everyday creative work. Nor should we, as readers, expect every encounter with the text to leave us happily awestruck and enlightened. (Inspired, page 18)

I love the genres found in the scriptures, the grand story of redemption found in the Bible, and most of the time God speaks to me through his written Word (the Logos or the Bible). Unfortunately, many of us grew up reading the Bible as a manufacturers manual for life, proof texting when it comes to defending God, and only reaf it and interpreted it through the lens of our given theology (Wesleyan Arminianism, Calvinism, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, Kingdom Theology, or skeptical).

Yet, my experience with the Vineyard movement has always taught me that the Bible is a conduit to Jesus. In addition, the Holy Trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible, but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. According to Brian Zahnd:

What the Bible does infallibly is point us to Jesus. The Bible itself is not a perfect picture of God, but it does point us to the One who is. This is what orthodox Christianity has always said. (Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God – 14)

Jesus even said that:

John 5:39-40 CSB
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me. [40] But you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.

See, the scriptures whether the Hebrew Old Testament or the New Testament testify or bear witness about Jesus and to Jesus. In other words the scriptures are a means or vehicle to take us to Jesus.

This is also true from the introduction in the book of Hebrews. For it says:

Hebrews 1:1-2 CSB
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. [2] In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.

Zahnd continues:

When we speak of the Word of God, Christians should think of Jesus first and the Bible second. It’s Jesus who is the true Word of God, not the Bible. (Zahnd, page 49-50)

Unfortunately, for many of us who go through deconstruction, the bible begins to unravel because it is full of contradictions, and for a religious text, it is messy. It is full of messed up, broken people who lie, cheat, kill, and have multiple affairs all in God’s name.

In addition, we as moderns or post moderns study the Bible with our own twenty-first century lenses of science and history. We do not read it in context or as a first century apostle would study the scriptures.

According to Rachel Held Evans in her new book Inspired (which is about the bible) writes:

the problem is that over time we’ve been conditioned to deny our instincts about what kinds of stories we’re reading when those stories are found in the Bible. We’ve been instructed to reject any trace of poetry, myth, hyperbole, or symbolism even when those literary forms are virtually shouting at us from the page via talking snakes and enchanted trees. Speaking to ancient people using their own language, literary structures, and cosmological assumptions would be beneath God, it is said, for only our modern categories of science and history can convey the truth in any meaningful way. (Evans, Inspired, page 30).

In his book, The Bible Told Me So, Peter Enns also writes:

Many Christians have been taught that the Bible is Truth downloaded from heaven, God’s rulebook, a heavenly instructional manual—follow the directions and out pops a true believer; deviate from the script and God will come crashing down on you with full force. If anyone challenges this view, the faithful are taught to “defend the Bible” against these anti-God attacks. Problem solved. (Enns – The Bible Tells Me So, page 3)

Enns goes on and says that for those Christians who take the Bible seriously as the Word of God, can be challenged even to a breaking point (Enns, page 7).

That happened with Rachel, and it can take someone down the slippery slope of the dark night of the soul. Sometimes, the Bible can be hindrance to our faith and relationship with God because it provides more questions than answers, and is full of messy contradictions like on some pages portray God as a loving Father,and then on other pages portray God as a distant harsh taskmaster that requires sacrifice and genocide.

The answer to still keeping a high regard for the bible is too change how we read and study the Bible. First we need to read it as literature within different literary genres like history, origin stories, biography, letters and correspondence, prophesy, poetry, etc (which Rachel explains in her new book, Inspired). Secondly, we need to read it through the lens of Christ and the Cross. Greg Boyd calls this the Cruciform Hermeneutic. He defines it as:

While I continue to affirm that the whole Bible is inspired by God, I’m now persuaded that the Bible itself instructs us to base our mental representation of God solely on Jesus Christ. we should interpret the OT through the lens of the cross instead of restricting ourselves to the authors’ originally intended meaning. (Cross Vision, page 66)

To conclude, my goal this summer is to read Boyd’s montrosity of the Cruciform Hermeneutic two volume set called Crucifixion of the Warrior God, which explains the Cruciform Hermeneutic and tries to explain how to interpret difficult violent passages of the Old Testament, and finish Rachel Held Evans book, Inspired and Peter Enns book, The Bible Tells Me So which explains in layman’s terms how to read the Bible as literature. I also am looking forward to reading Keith Giles new book which releases July 4, 2018 called Jesus Unbound which is also about the Bible.

The Bible may not be inerrant, or infallible, yet it is inspired God-breathed by the writers who wrote the sacred texts to help us with our walk with God.

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Posted in authors, current events, Family, relationships

Current Events – Immigrant Situation – Love vs. Fear, Nationalism vs. Universalism

Habakkuk 1:3 CSB
Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.

Leviticus 19:33-34 CSB
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. [34] You will regard the alien who resides with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

2 Chronicles 6:32-33 CSB
Even for the foreigner who is not of your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your strong hand and outstretched arm: when he comes and prays toward this temple, [33] may you hear in heaven in your dwelling place, and do all the foreigner asks you. Then all the peoples of the earth will know your name, to fear you as your people Israel do and know that this temple I have built bears your name.

Where I used to live, there was a family from El Salvador that lived next to us. Lily’s best friends were from a foreign nation and we’re probably here illegally. Brian and Jasmine’s parents could not speak English, yet they could, and their dads mechanic business was all cash based. Yet we treated each other with dignity and respect. Not with fear and suspicion.

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order ending the border practices of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Southern US border. All of this came about as Americans became aware from journalists, social media, their churches of the unjust, violent practices which our government was doing when Attorney General, Jeff Sessions used Romans 13:1 to justify US zero tolerance policy against illegal immigration.

First, Attorney General Sessions took scripture out of context misapplying Romans 13 to justify the Trump Administration’s policy of tearing families apart at the US border looking for asylum in America.

Second, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles encourage the church to practice hospitality towards the orphan, widow, and the foreigner among them.

Here some scriptures that support hospitality to the foreigner among us:

Isaiah 56:6 CSB
As for the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to become his servants- all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to my covenant-

Matthew 25:35-36,38 CSB
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; [36] I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’ [38] When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you?

Ephesians 2:19 CSB
So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,

3 John 1:5-6 CSB
Dear friend, you are acting faithfully in whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers. [6] They have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God,

Religion and Politics

As Christians, it is difficult to separate our politics from our religion. It is plastered all over social media. I believe it is because many of us who claim Jesus as Lord long for God’s justice to come quickly since we see how messed up this world is. John Eldredge says that we ache for is redemption; what our heart cries out for is restoration. (Kindle Loc. 271). I agree with him, our hearts ache for God to make all things right. We desire not just God’s Kingdom to be experienced in the future when we die, but right now, here on Earth.

According to NT Wright he writes these things about justice:

God’s justice is a saving, healing, restorative justice, because the God to whom justice belongs is the Creator God who has yet to complete his original plan for creation and whose justice is designed not simply to restore balance to a world out of kilter but to bring to glorious completion and fruition the creation, teeming with life and possibility, that he made in the first place. (Wright, pages 64-65)

I think where conflict comes into play is when some Christians due to believing in a wrathful God and have lived a life of fear, they tend to value safety and security as a core need over significance and acceptance. Thus, you have believers that put a high level value on law and order. For them giving up rights and liberties for security is okay.

Those of us that see God as love and desire intimacy and union with God, value acceptance over significance and safety. Liberty and freedom and the equality of all nationalities and people groups is the highest form of love for those of us that are more mystical when it comes to our walk with God.

Nationalism and Christianity

Keith Giles writes:

For anyone who hopes to follow Jesus, there is no room to be a Christian and a nationalist at the same time. Not only does our nationalism divide our loyalties, but it actually dilutes our devotion to the teachings of Jesus and elevates the State and the interests of our nation above the kingdom of Christ. (Keith Giles)

When I think about how nationalism affects my walk with God, I think of the story of Jonah in the Old Testament where God gives him a message to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Nineveh (near modern day Mosul in Iraq) was the capital of Assyria. Assyrians were the most hated nation because of their fear tactics and oppressive means to build their Empire. They were also the sworn enemy of Israel. So when Jonah got the message he defiantly disobeyed God and hired a ship to take him to Spain (the farthest place away from Nineveh). God put him in the belly of a whale to bring him to a place where he can be humble enough to obey and give the message of repentance to the Ninevites. When Jonah gave the message they actually repented and God showed them mercy. Jonah was angry at God because he wanted vengeance since the Assyrians committed so many atrocities against Israel and her allies.

So what does Jonah have to do with immigration? It is all about nationalism and how nationalism blended with Christianity is not Christianity, but an evil form of idolatry.

According to Keith Giles:

Nationalism denies the transcendent nature of God’s Kingdom. It ignores the fact that there is one universal Body of Christ that includes those from every tongue, tribe, and nation. It twists us into tools of the State and drowns out the voice of Jesus that seeks to remind us that everyone we meet is our neighbor, made in the image of God, and is therefore worthy of love, grace, and mercy. (Jesus Untangled, Kindle location 310)

Conclusion

Again, as one would have put the passage in context about being subject to governmental authority which the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13, the beginning in chapter 12 was about loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving our enemies, and in the middle of chapter 13 is about loving our neighbor as ourselves. Back when Paul wrote his epistle to the Roman Church there wasn’t any chapter and verse breaks in the letter.

Romans 13:8-10 CSB
Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. [9] The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

In this week’s meditation on what justice is, Father Richard Rohr writes:

The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” “

I think this is exactly what happened when President Trump reversed and repented of it’s policy of separating immigrant families at the border which was cruel and inhumane.

Posted in authors, Deconstruction, God's Nature, Hard Questions, Heresy and Heretics, Sermons

Monday Sermon Recap – Vineyard Church of Delaware County – JT Meyer

Introduction

Yesterday, I took my daughter to VCDC because that is where some her friends go to church, it is about two minutes from our house, my friend Mike challenged me to get back involved in the institutional church, and my friend JT was preaching.

The other thing is that he knows a thing or two about deconstruction. He has always challenged me as I go through my dark night of the soul at some point I need to come up for air and reconstruct to a deeper more intimate relationship with God and have a more vivid authentic picture of Jesus.

Anyway, the church has been preaching through the minor prophets of the Old Testament and JT preached on Habakkuk.

Habakkuk

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah and wrote his prophetic book around 600 to 610 BC. One of the major themes of the book of Habakkuk was waiting for the Lord’s justice. According to the Bible justice isn’t vindictive, but it is when God will make all things right. Yet, as our world is crashing around us figuratively and literally, it is easy to fall into despair. Dealing with tragedy and how it can lead to doubt, was one of the themes that JT discussed. Here is his main points:

1). Habakkuk was brutully honest with God;

2). Despite feeling hopeless, Habakkuk puts his faith and trust in God;

3). God used tragedy and exile to prepare the way of Jesus.

First, Habakkuk was brutully honest with God. JT reminded everyone it is perfectly okay to have doubts whether they are theological, or personal. God can take our doubts and our anger that we project onto him. Habakkuk cries out that he has to tolerate injustice and violence that is so prevelant in Judah. We could be seeing injustice

Habakkuk 1:2-4 CSB
How long, LORD, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? [3] Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. [4] This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.

He may not answer why things happen they way they do, but he may answer how he may bring restoration. For example in Habakkuk 1:5-6

Habakkuk 1:5-6 CSB
Look at the nations and observe- be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. [6] Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories not its own.

God was going to use a horrendous, proud and arrogant people group to begin to bring about his justice.

Second, Habakkuk never gave up in trusting God through his deconstruction (dark night of the soul). Even though his life sucked, and God would use an enemy nation to bring about his justice; his strength was in the Lord.

Habakkuk 3:18-19 CSB
yet I will celebrate in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! [19] The LORD my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights! For the choir director: on stringed instruments.

Lastly, God paved the way in exile to bring about his Messiah. The people repented of idolatry in Babylon and were filled with hope that God would do something new. The Apostle Paul quoted Habakkuk when he said “the righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11), and Luke writes how Paul in one of his sermons quoted Habakkuk to prove Jesus messiahship and his resurrection in Acts 13:41 which says:

Acts 13:39-41 CSB
Everyone who believes is justified through him from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. [40] So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you: [41] Look, you scoffers, marvel and vanish away, because I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe, even if someone were to explain it to you.”

How does Habakkuk relate to Deconstruction?

I do believe that God can be found before, during, and after someone goes through deconstruction. I do believe that as our faith grows, evolves, and matures over time, it will draw us closer to a more intimate relationship with God. For me it was realizing that God loves me as his son deeply, and abiding in that love can bring transformation. This was true for my social media friends Jamal (a fellow Buckeye) who is a life coach, and Stacie who wrote a book called the Resting Traveller. For my friend Dan, after he deconstructed it was self-actualization through Japanese Buddhism where he reconstructed to. For others, it was a child coming out as transgender or homosexual that put them on the path of deconstruction. The reality of their home life didn’t line up with the sexual ethics that was taught to them in the institutionalized church.

However, all of us are weary of the institutionalized church and how the gospel of exclusion and fear has dominated its ecclesiology. Also, right wing politics has been prevelant in the institutionalized church regardless of the denomination.

This was true for Christian Ethicist David Gushee (co-author of Kingdom Ethics) when his sister came out as a lesbian. When he came out supporting same-sex marriage, he was immediately black-balled by the Evangelical academic institutions where he used to teach at (Union Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), and labelled a heretic. In his book, Changing Our Minds, he writes:

Since Katey’s decision to come out, she has been much healthier and happier, though until joining my own Decatur church last year she struggled to find accepting Christian communities. I love my sister. Her coming out, and my conservative family’s transformative experience of relating to her, have been transformative for me. (Katey not only permitted but also asked me to tell you about her story.) (Kindle location 1783)

He goes on and writes:

“A church that offers hospitable welcome to gay people, lesbians and sexual others as grateful recipients of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ is in fact a church faithful to the Gospel and what it means to be the Church.” (Kindle Location 476)

He goes on and discusses other means by which sexual ethics is played out in an inclusive church community (that is for another blog post), and the pastoral implications for embracing an all inclusive community.

Again this post is not about gay-inclusion into the institutionalized church, but for many who have gone through deconstruction, it was their own struggle with gender or same-sex attraction, and/or having a family member come out which triggered the deconstruction process.

For my friend JT who preached it was a friend who died of a brain aneurysm, and his brother’s struggle with opioid addiction which triggered his deconstruction. The hope that God had something for him on the other side kept him from falling into deep despair, two loving parents that modelled God’s love for him, and the prophesy that he will be a Pastor gave him hope to cling to Jesus when his world seemed like it was falling apart. As David Gushee says so elequently in his book Still Christian, about following Jesus out of Evangelicalism:

I still believe in Jesus. Indeed, I believe in him more than ever. I need him more than ever. Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus. And that’s okay. I still believe in the prophetic religion of Jesus and of those before him and those after him who also shared it—a religion of justice, love, and compassion, a powerful source of good in this broken world. (Gushee, Still Christian, page 150)

I am with David, all I need is Jesus, now more than ever.

Posted in American Church, Buddhist-Christian, Deconstruction, Eastern Orthodoxy, Hard Questions, Heresy and Heretics, Theology, Universalism

Deconstruction is Lonely

man on edge of a doc

It has been lonely since I have been deconstructing. My marriage to my wife started me on the process because she is post-Christian. I do agree with Kathy Keller that it is difficult for two devout people from different faiths to walk together on the same path when it comes dogma and beliefs in a marriage. But, I disagree with her when it comes to spirituality and orthopraxy or the application of what people believe. I think that one can find a lot in common with other walks of faith. I know for me I found freedom in three doctrines of Eastern Orthodoxy of theosis, kenosis, and apokatastasis. For example, according to an applied Buddhist, there are many similarities between Buddhism and Christianity:

On the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus states many concepts that would agree with many Buddhist traditions:

Be humble
Be compassionate (a possible translation of sympathy through mourning)
Live simply (a possible translation of meek)
Be ethical (a possible translation of righteous)
Be merciful
Be pure of heart
Be a peacemaker
Do not live in fear to do what is right
Be an example to others (“the light of the world”)
Do not murder (the Buddhist First Precept)
Do not commit adultery (The Buddhist Third Precept)
Sin is not only found in action but in intention (the Buddhist concept of volitional action creating karma)
Keep your promises (The Buddhist Fourth Precept)
Turn the other cheek (The Buddhist concept of compassion or karuna)
Do charity because it is in your heart to do so (the concept of dana)
Do not judge ( The Buddhist concept of the three poisons: hatred, greed and delusion)
Always be seeking and questioning ( “seek and you will find .. “)
Beware of false prophets and judge them by the fruit they bare (the sutta of the Kalamas)

Where division comes in is with human ego. We want people to be just like us. See things the way we see things and do what we do. That is where tension comes into play. Our ego gets in the way of accepting the differences in other people.

Again, it is lonely in the deconstruction process. As I have become post-evangelical, I am threat to those that are Evangelical because I am so outspoken. I do believe in the basic tenants of Evangelicalism like most American Evangelicals such as God is revealed to humanity is found in the bible (Biblicism), that it is important to have a life changing event where Jesus Christ becomes our Lord and Savior (Conversionism), God’s love was fully demonstrated on the cross when Jesus was murdered for my sins and the sins of humanity (Cruciformism), and that I need to be a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Activism). Yet the areas that I reject from American Evangelicalism is the prevalent racism that is prominent in most white congregations, the emphasis of sexual purity as a means of salvation or demonstration of our walk with God, and that a true Christian is one that votes for Republicans. Also, I believe in an inclusive Gospel where gender, race and ethnicity, and social status has no bearing on the Gospel.

Yet at the same time, I am just as broken as the next person desiring people to see things how I see things, such as wanting Christians to see that there could be a possibility for Christian Universalism (Apokatastasis), and that it may not be relevant if someone accepts Christ on this plane or not. I can get angry when people don’t understand or plain just don’t care what my opinions are.

When it comes to Christian Universalism, we all will go through the lake of fire on the other side to burn off impurities as we are prepared for the wedding feast of the lamb (Rev. 22:17), and everyone will be burned into the Godhead as we go through the ages to come. The only thing that remains in us is God’s nature so that we all are part of the Godhead where everyone will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). In many Christian circles, this would be heretical. Yet according to most Calvinists most American Christians are heretical anyway since most do not believe in total depravity and that we can come to God on our own terms (Semi-Pelagianism), and many others who are complementarian Calvinists subject the son to the Father to show that women are subject to men which is a rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity (God is one essence but distinct three persons).  Who determines if we are a heretic?  Many would consider Father Richard Rohr a heretic because of his radical mysticism, yet he is Catholic through and through for his high regard for the Catholic Mass.

Going back to my marriage, my wife and I are one (Gen. 2:24-25), and she is my life partner. She deconstructed 20 years ago away from a strict fundamentalist type of Christianity. It was freeing for her to think for herself and be free from guilt from the form of Christianity she was raised with. There is a tension between being an independent person and interdependent upon your spouse. That is true for all marriages, even marriages within the same faith. So much of my leaving organized Christianity came from what people would say that we are unequally yoked. Again that goes back to American Evangelicals desiring uniformity over unity. God speaks to people differently.  To me this can be a form of cosmic codependency where my identity is based upon others approval for me.

Social media has helped in my deconstruction knowing that there are other people scattered across the world that have been through what I am going through, yet doesn’t replace genuine community and face-to-face time.  Again, deconstruction is lonely.  At least at my new church there are people that I can resonate with that are present.

My friend Mike encourages me to continue to walk with God and seek a church where I can worship God at, take communion and observe people coming to Christ and being baptized in the faith, and a place where I can have genuine community. My wife would follow her path, I would follow mine. She is actually fine with this. She feared that I would resent her for my deconstruction. That isn’t true, she just pointed out the flaws in the type of American Evangelicalism that is being played out in the news recently. God doesn’t need her to point out what is flawed and where we as a church need to repent.

There is an Eastern Orthodox church in town, I may check that church out, or go back to the Vineyard where I am comfortable at. Who knows where the road may lead…..

asphalt blue sky clouds countryside
Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

 

Posted in authors, God's Nature, Podcasts, relationships, Theology

Give us a King! – Jonathan Martin – Son of a Preacher Man Podcast

sloan-coat-of-arms-family-crest

Yesterday I wrote about God’s love and how God’s love can transform lives.  One of the objections that most evangelicals make or those that come from holiness/separateness traditions is “what about individual sin and those that are unrepentant?  How does God’s love discipline and bring a sinner to repentance?

Jonathan Martin addressed this in his last podcast entitled “Give us a King!”.  The text is found below from which Jonathan preached from 1 Samuel 8 where the people demanded a King to rule over them (1 Samuel 8:5-6; 19-20).  It was an odd text for Jonathan to preach from, but he was following the Lectionary as the text to preach.  Here are some of the points that he made:

  1. Since God is love and God has tremendous love for his creation, God is committed to human freedom and human will (1 Sam. 8:22);
  2. A human King was against God’s will, and the people rejected God as King (1 Samuel 8:7);
  3. Fear drives humans to chase things outside of God’s will to meet deep needs of the heart such as security and safety, significance and value, and acceptance and belonging (1 Sam 8:5);
  4. There are consequences for our choices whether good or bad (1 Sam 8:10-17);
  5. God gives us over to our choices as form of discipline – passive form of wrath (1 Sam 8:7; 10-17; cf. Rom. 1:18-32)
  6. God chooses to interrupt the natural consequences of our actions with grace
  7. According to God’s Nature being love he will always do what’s best for his creation (Jonah 4:1-2);
  8. God’s desire is to save and rescue us from ourselves and our Ego

Since God is love, how he handles sin is by withdrawing his love and protective grace from us and give us over to the consequences of our choices.  This would be called Karma.  Greg Boyd calls this “Aikido” Discipline.  In his book Cross Vision, he writes:

If people become so solidified in their rejection of God that his mercy is enabling their sin, God has no choice but to withdraw his restraining hand and, though it grieves him, to all people to suffer his wrath..  God’s heart is grieved whenever he decides he must withdraw and turn people over to suffer the consequences of their decisions.”  (Boyd, page 141)

Boyd_Speaking

This why the Apostle Paul writes in Romans, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:23).  Boyd continues:

The revelation of God in crucified Christ should be enough to convince us that God experiences intense grief whenever he must judge people.  For the cross reveals a God whose love for people is inconceivably greater than the finite and fallen love we have for ourselves and our loved ones. (Boyd page 143).

The above is clearly demonstrated when Jesus shared the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) where a son demands his inheritance and squanders it in a foreign land.  As there is a famine in the land and loses everything, he hires himself to work as a person who feeds pigs.  For Israelites this is the lowest of the low.  How could someone live with pigs who were not kosher?  Anyway, after coming to his senses, he realizes that life was better when living under his father’s roof.  He decides to return to his father.  He made plan to fully confess how he sinned against his father as her returns to his father’s home, his father sees him a way off and runs after him, his father threw his arms around him, hugged and kissed him.  This was uncalled for in Israelite culture for a head of a household to run towards his offspring.  Yet, this parable illustrates God’s “Divine Aikido” justice.  The consequences of the son’s actions brought him to a place of repentance.  This story also illustrates God’s character and love.

Jonathan referring to Jonah and the city of Nineveh, Jonah got angry at God because he knew God will show mercy to the Ninevites if they repented.  Jonah says to God in his anger, “I knew you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster” (Jonah 4:2).  Jonah has no compassion whatsoever for Israel’s enemies.  God confronts Jonah with his anger.  God caused a plant to grow to give Jonah shade, then it wither and die at night.  God said to him about the plant:

“You care about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow.  It appeared in a night and perished in a night.  But may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred and twenty-thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as their animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11).

Sometimes our Ego gets in the way of seeing how God is working in other people’s lives like Jonah.  Our pride wants judgment for others rather than grace and mercy.  God’s heart grieves for all peoples not just his chosen.  He wants all people to come to repentance and not perish (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Unfortunately, our Ego keeps people from receiving Jesus as messiah.

To answer Evangelicals and fundamentalists questions about individual sin, God’s love does require sin to be dealt with.  Ultimately, God through the eternal son, had to die on the cross to bring mercy to all of mankind (John 3:16-17).  A loving father always disciplines his sons and daughters to bring a harvest of righteousness (Hebrew 12:10-11).

Hearing testimonies of those people who wasted their life prior to getting help in a 12 step program are like the prodigal; they suffer the consequences of their actions (Karma/wrath) brings them to a place of brokenness where they can turn to God.  This is what Jesus means by “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:3).  Like Nineveh, these people do not face judgment but are given grace.  God’s justice is not retributive, but restorative like we see in the prodigal son story, and like so many testimonies we hear in AA, OA, and other 12 step programs.  Judging people like Jonah will do no good to us or to those whom we are trying to share the gospel.

 

 

Posted in authors, Christian Ethics, Deconstruction, God's Nature, Hard Questions, spiritual formation, Theology

God is Love – Misfit Faith by Jason J. Stellman – From Misfit Faith Podcast and Drunk Ex-Pastors Podcast

Misfit faith

God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.[fn] So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love[fn] because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.[fn] 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. From <https://www.blueletterbible.org/csb/1jo/4/1/p1/s_1163001>

This past year, I got married for the second time, and part of the above passage out of 1 John was read at my wedding.

In 2017, I graduated from a top level evangelical seminary in Chicago land area, but I had no idea what God was going to do in my life as I learned what true love is, and my faith was going to become undone (deconstructed).  It reminds me of a song by the Violet Burning, “Undone” from their album Strength:

I wanna know if it would be alright
To be with you tonight
I am undone

Wait, don’t go
Don’t let my heart turn to stone
Fear, it has no home
When you are near

Cause I need you now
More than then
I need you to let your rain
Down on me
Let it fall
All around me

Yet through my wife’s faith, and through our relationship, I am having a paradigm shift when it comes to my relationship with God.   This statement has revolutionized my faith:

God is love

God’s essence and the energy that comprises who God is what Deepak Chopra calls the “God Particle” which according to Eastern Mystics says resides within all of creation is love.

I have been a Christian since my teenage years and have struggled with walking with God (sanctification).  I understood what Jesus did and why I am saved, but that grace that justifies also sanctifies.  I had known that in my head, but haven’t really experienced it in my heart.  I still struggled with the same besetting sin that I struggled with prior to coming to Christ, with no outside fruit for the world to see of an inner transformation.  I have been to conferences on finding my “true self” with Mario Bergner, Clay McLean, and other disciples of Leanne Payne; Holy Spirit and spiritual warfare conferences, went on an Emmaus Walk with the United Methodists, but to quote St. Bono:  “I still haven’t found what I am looking for….

What I have been looking for all my life, is a God who loves me as a parent would love their children.  Love casts out fear.  So much of my Christianity that I practiced was fear based, and my identity wasn’t as a child of God, but was with my besetting sin.  So much of my identity was wrapped up in my sin and brokenness, not God’s love for me, or when my ego would drive my faith, my religiosity and theology was critical, judgmental, and all consuming to “be right” for righteousness sake.  According to Jason J. Stellman, “being so accustomed to negative self-identity can leave a massive void when we run out of people to wage doctrinal jihad against.” (Stellman – Misfit Faith – page 112).

This past year, I have resonated more with God’s love than I ever had in the past.  In the past I  viewed God as a harsh judge with Jesus as my advocate who stood in my behalf and took my punishment for me so that I can be free from judgment.  I feared judgment.  Also, the love that I was shown by my parents was incomplete and conditional at best, yet that was the same love that was shown to them by my grandparents.

I related to my peers at home and work through fear.  Trying to win others approval both at church, work and at home.  This was more enslaving even though I was trying to be free.  My identity was wrapped up in my performance and what other thought of me, not my identity as a child of God.

Jason J. Stellman writes:

The very nature of God as a loving Father is all the rationale we need for believing that the gospel is a tale more broadly redeeming and lovingly unifying that can be imagined by the minds of even earth’s most tenderhearted storytellers.  Yeah, yeah, I know:  All this hippie “kumbaya” stuff is so well, weak.  But so what?  The bloodthirsty cage-fighter Jesus of American fundamentalism has done enough damage.  Plus he’s almost as much of a prick as those who invented him.  (Stellman 163-164)

Even when my heart condemns me, God’s love is greater than my heart. (1 John 3:20)

St. Bono sings… “You never knew love, until you crossed the line of grace”.

According to Jonathan Martin, God is not bound by the same guidelines, rules, and natural law like we are.  God’s grace interrupts natural law.  Karma says, what comes around goes around.  Grace is interruptive.  Even though based upon my sins, I deserve death, God still shows his love for me as my heavenly Father by bringing his Kingdom daily into my life.

bono-grace-karma.jpg

Again, according to St. Bono:

You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.  From <https://www.publicchristianity.org/grace-karma-and-bono/>

Karma is we reap what we sow.  If that was the case, I would be judged and face a certain death both physically and spiritually (Rom. 6:23).  Certain religions teach that we live multiple lives so that we eventually can become one with God in the ages to come.  Yet, Jesus came to earth as the ultimate human (first born from the dead), to reveal we are all sons and daughters of the King.  He was the perfect representation of heaven and earth meeting together as one (Col. 1:15)  Yet God’s grace interrupts and Jesus bore my sin, defeated death on the cross (Col. 2:15), and through the gift of the Spirit (Gal. 4:4-7), I am my father’s child.  That is something to celebrate.

Posted in authors, Books, Family, relationships, Theology

The Furious Longing of God – The Late Brennan Manning

One of my favorite authors is the late Brennan Manning. I like him because he is real and authentic. Real about his brokenness and issues, yet in the midst of his moodiness, irribility, and complex issues he carries, his identity is firmly rooted in the union of Jesus Christ manifested in what he calls the furious love of God.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a quote from his daughter that “love is everything”. I agree, love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). When I was talking to a friend from work yesterday, our discussion turned to identity, or “who are we”. He and I both agreed that our identity is not in our heritage, gender, sexual attraction, our careers, our sin and brokenness, but our Union to Christ. Our lives are hidden in Jesus. During the upper room discourse, Jesus writes:

John 15:9 CSB
“As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.

This verse is also echoed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians:

Ephesians 3:17-19 CSB
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, [18] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, [19] and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I think this is what Brennan is saying in his book, Furious Longing of God:

When one of England’s finest writers, G. K. Chesterton, spoke of “the furious love of God,” he was referencing the enormous vitality and strength of the God of Jesus seeking union with us. (Brennan Manning, Furious Longing of God, page 23)

He goes on and writes

Words such as union, fusion, and symbiosis hint at the ineffable oneness with Jesus that the apostle Paul experienced: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). No human word is even remotely adequate to convey the mysterious and furious longing of Jesus for you and me to live in His smile and hang on His words. But union comes close, very close; it is a word pregnant with a reality that surpasses understanding, the only reality worth yearning for with love and patience, the only reality before which we should stay very quiet. (Brennan Manning, pages 64-65)

I didn’t understand God’s love on a heart level until my daughter Lily was born. I knew God loved me in my head, but not in my heart. To me love was conditional. I was shown love if I did the right thing, got good grades, a job promotion, or lost weight. The more I arrived to try to earn God’s love, I would fall back into my sin and brokenness. I would become despondent and sometimes would fall into despair. Yet, through all of this God never gave up on me.

When I saw Lily being born, and cut her ambilical cord, the lightbulb went on, and the Spirit spoke to me and said, the love you have for your daughter, is the same love I have for you. I love you period. You can’t earn, buy, or win my love.

Just like Father Brennan, I believe that God’s love and learning to receive and live in that Furious Love is what brings authentic transformation and change. This love is what shines in us and through us. It is non-judgmental, holy, other worldly, and connects all life to the great Divine (The I am).

Father Brennan continues:

God is sheer Being-in-Love and there was never a time when God was not love. The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is the originating Lover, the Son who is the full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit who is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love, drawing the created universe into itself. (Brennan Manning, page 37)