Wednesday, May 26, 2010

God, Sex and Country Music

In recent weeks two of my favourite female singers have separately "come out" revealing that they are lesbians.

Jennifer Knapp was previously marketed as a Christian singer, but it seems her latest album will be marketed differently.

A little more recently country singer Chely Wright has also revealed her homosexuality in her autobiography released early in May. My review of her book can be found here:

Book review of Like Me by Chely Wright

I specifically wanted to write a response to Chely Wright's book because of her constant references to God and her relationship with Him.
Her confession has caused me to consider Christian attitudes to those who are homosexual.
It is easy to condemn homosexuals with scripture as a weapon – and become extremists like the “God hates fags” brigade who wouldn’t recognise God if He hit them over the head with their own bigotry.
Or it would also be easy to be accepting and forgiving, promoting a God of unconditional love who will forgive everything because sin doesn’t really matter that much to Him.

I can’t see that either of these approaches is acceptable.
But what do I make of Chely Wright’s situation in which she claimed to have asked God daily to be delivered of her homosexuality? In that case is it her fault for being how she is? Or is it God’s for not answering her prayer?

Or possibly, maybe, the prayer was unanswered because she was praying to the wrong God – a God of man’s creation. A God based on man’s tradition and cultural conditioning instead of the One true God who hates all sin but mercifully provided mankind a way of deliverance from sin and its penalty – a way that is conditional.

Indoctrinating for heaven or hell?

Some challenging thoughts are expressed here:

Have we allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated by the world around us, its standards and expectations?
Or have we really shaped our thinking and expectations according to the word of Jesus and scripture?

Monday, May 24, 2010

review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Here is a link to a review I have written on one of my other blogs.
Cormac McCarthy's book The Road received a lot of praise from literary critics and has recently been made into a film.

Without Christ there is certainly no reason for hope in this world.

Review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Christians Don't Lie! (part 2)

During my study of “strange phenomena” I continually saw how people maintained belief in some of these things no matter how flimsy the evidence was.
Clearly the desire to believe could overcome almost any obstacle – even confessions of hoaxing were dismissed. Objective truth really didn’t matter. Reality was what someone wanted to believe.

This experience made me increasingly aware of how Christians can also fall into the same trap and their faith becomes more subjective, based on experience and desire instead of on a solid and sure foundation. Even when the reality created out of experience and desire contradicts the claimed foundation of their professed faith, experience and desire are given priority. Excuses are made by applying select portions of scripture in a way that is clearly not appropriate to their context. Verses are used in isolation to mean what is most useful to the one quoting them.

One area that I see regularly stretching the truth is teaching on the last days. A key warning sign regarding this teaching is when the bible has little part to play in the teaching. Yes a verse or two may be quoted – but usually the quotes are taken out of context to support a point already made by the preacher, rather than starting with scripture to see what IT could mean as a stand alone revelation. If it were possible to consider the quote WITHOUT the expectation already created by the speaker we would probably never come to the conclusion he has led us to draw.

So many of the preachers on this topic start with a current political situation and then support it with a few bible verses. Recently I heard a talk about Europe that promotes popular conclusions about the European community being set up as a revived Roman Empire from which antichrist will arise.It was very interesting and very convincing.

The speaker mentioned one of the symbols of this revived Empire – the image of a woman riding a beast, an image straight from the book of Revelation.Unfortunately, being an audio source I wasn’t able to see the visual evidence that the speaker was presenting to his audience and I had to check it later through an internet search.
The results of that search are part for the reason for writing this article.

I found plenty of examples of this “woman riding the beast” and yes, on seeing this evidence the speaker’s claims are quite convincing…UNTIL we turn to scripture itself. Scripture DOES describe a woman riding a beast – but do the European images match the scriptural description?
The European images refer to Europa riding a bull (an image from Greek mythology), a common enough animal with one head and two horns. The beast being ridden in Revelation has SEVEN heads and TEN horns. Surely this is quite a significant difference.

This particular speaker is not the only one to link the Europa image to the Revelation reference. In my search for photos I found that some of them were provided by sites devoted to “end time prophecy”. While Europe does make use of an image of a woman riding a beast, linking this with the description in Revelation is a clear case of misusing scripture. I would even go as far as saying it is an ABUSE of scripture.

A few years ago I bought a DVD from a visiting speaker at a local church. The DVD was about “The End Times”, and I was interested to see what the speaker had to say on the topic. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that there was little (actually I don’t recall ANYTHING) that addressed scripture. The speaker concentrated on some allegations he had read about Mikhail Gorbachev that supposedly had something to do with end time’s prophecy.

And I can’t claim innocence in this matter. In the late 1980s, exposure of the “New Age Movement” was becoming popular with many Christian communicators. Several books were released and I collected a few recordings of preachers speaking on the dangers of the New Age. I became extremely interested and when I had the opportunity to preach at my local church, I made this the subject of my sermon. It made a fascinating study and the congregation were very interested in what I had to say – but in reality, what relevance did it all have? At the most it gave a highly speculative view of the end times that had a very tenuous connection to what is revealed in bible prophecy. Even saying there was a tenuous connection is being far too complimentary – in reality there was NO real connection at all between scripture and the content of my talk. The same can be said of the majority of popular “End Time” teaching that I’ve come across.

There is a very well known quote attributed to Benjamin D’Israeli and popularised by Mark Twain:

“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics”

I would add another that Christians should be wary of: “Speculation” dressed up as Biblical truth.

Christians Don't Lie! (part 1)

Many years ago I met a former school friend in the street. He had strong socialist leanings and admired the Cuban leader Fidel Castro Being a Christian I brought up the issue of the Communist persecution of believers. My friend expressed doubt about the truth of persecution and I responded by asking why the Christians experiencing persecution under Communist regimes should lie. They were Christians and lying was contrary to their faith.

Now in THAT case I have no doubt at all that my reference to Christians telling the truth was valid. Christians were (and ARE) being persecuted under various political and religious based regimes. However, I later learned that not all “Christian” claims are trustworthy and the truth is not guaranteed from all sources professing to be Christian.

In my younger years I was extremely naïve, perhaps even gullible. I gave people the benefit of the doubt and trusted that the majority of people (especially Christians) were basically truthful. I easily believed what I was being told.
When I read or heard of fantastic experiences I didn’t doubt that the stories were true.

From early childhood I had a fascination with UFOs and read as much as I could find on the subject – but NEVER did I think that any of the stories may have been made up. This attitude remained with me after becoming a Christian – and if possible I had more reason to trust what I was told by other Christians. The truth was important to Christians, lying was strictly forbidden so why would any Christian disobey God by lying?

Even today I probably don’t realise how vulnerable this outlook made me. Whenever I read or heard Christian testimony I believed it without question. Why would a Christian lie?

In the church I attended I heard about a congregation member rising a foot off the floor during worship. I heard about angelic singing in a friend’s home. I heard the story of a group of ministers saved from a certain head-on collision when their car was instantly transported past the on-coming vehicle.
Why shouldn’t I have believed these stories – they were told by people I knew, about people I knew, and those people were Christians and Christians don’t lie.

There were also books giving amazing testimonies of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of Christians. There were books of people literally set free from Satan’s power – being turned from practising witchcraft to having faith in Jesus, books that showed the reality of “both sides” of supernatural reality.

And I believed it all.
Why would Christians lie?

I’m not sure now when the cracks started to form; when I started to see that Christians are not always as truthful as they should be, and not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a genuine follower of Jesus.

I have written elsewhere about my “crisis of faith” that started in the late 1980s and lasted around 15 years. Maybe it was during this time that my eyes were opened. I had maintained my interest in UFOs and other strange phenomena and read widely on these subjects, and for the first time I started to come across some sceptical voices from those who had an interest in these subjects but also questioned the validity of many of the claims being made.

In my reading I was particularly interested in stories that had a “Christian” element and through this I became aware of investigation into stories I’d lapped up years before. Mike Warnke was a Christian with amazing testimonies. He was an excellent communicator using humour to reach people with the gospel. He did this through personal accounts of his involvement with the occult (published in his book “The Satan Seller”) and also through experiences in the Vietnam war.
His experiences in the occult did a lot to convince me of the reality of the powers of darkness. Some of his experiences could have been from a horror novel – but they were true. He was a Christian and Christians don’t lie.

BUT - I started to read claims that he HAD lied, that his stories were all false. And these claims were not from some antichristian group, they were being made by a Christian magazine. Now I had a dilemma. Who should I believe? Two separate Christian sources were contradicting each other over an issue of truth. They couldn’t BOTH be telling the truth – but surely Christians don’t lie.

I use that case as merely one example. Since then I’ve had reason to doubt many claims made by Christians and I have come to see that “Christians” are not always the most trustworthy sources of information. The situation is made worse by the same kind of gullibility that I displayed and people pass these stories on to others without giving due consideration for their reliability. We’ve all heard of urban myths – those stories with no basis in fact that become “true” through constant retelling. I’m sure that a lot of favourite Christian stories are the same.

How many have heard of the prayer meeting where armed soldiers barge in threatening to kill all Christians. And when the fearful have departed the soldiers put down their guns and ask to hear the gospel from those who REALLY put their trust in God. Is that story really true? Maybe – but it would be more credible if various facts (location and identity of the soldiers) remained consistent.

Re. Allegations against Mike Warnke.
Go to link re. "tribunal hearing"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Romans 9 - 11

Links to David Pawson sermons on Romans 9-11

Romans 9

Romans 10

Romans 11

Parts of Romans 9-11 have been adopted by various theological groups to support their chosen doctrines. But what is the context of ALL of these chapters and what is Paul REALLY addressing.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Sin, Judgement and National Idolatry

Today, on another blog I came across an article with the title “Why do So Many Bad Things Keep Happening to the U.S?” Comments on the blog then go into the reasons why this is the case – mostly suggesting it is due to America’s disobedience to God.

I wasn’t sure of how to respond to the question in a polite way. Is the writer ignorant of the rest of the world? When did a single “bad thing” in America result in the loss of tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousand of lives as has often happened elsewhere?

Compared with many areas of the world America has barely suffered in any way. Nothing worse is happening in America than anywhere else.if anything America is getting off lightly compared to most of the world.

One of the common mistakes made when people raise issues like this it that they confuse America with Israel and apply what God said to Israel to the USA. America is not God’s chosen nation and the blessings/cursings applicable to Israel were NOT directed towards America.To see God’s word to America, or any other nation, we need search the scriptures for God’s word to the nations.

When scripture mentions “the nations” then America is included as ONE of those nations.
If people are concerned about America’s sinfulness before God, I suggest that one of the worst sins of the American people is NATIONAL IDOLATRY.