Excusable disobedience

How many times have you heard a Christian say, “Well, I really shouldn’t, but…” We often say this about dessert. I’ve been thinking about a former church, whose members sometimes said this about dessert. Even though they never said it about the Bible, when I look back, I get the sense that if we just couldn’t manage to obey the Bible right now, that would have been okay in our church. Really, if we felt we wanted to do something, nothing could have constrained us. We said we wanted to obey God in everything, and prided ourselves in that. But we could leave our wives if we felt the Spirit prompting us. A few of us did.

Porn creep

Wikipedia says that porn creep is about sexually explicit content entering American pop culture. It was outrageous forty years ago, but we must not complain about it now, because we might sound prudish.

It reminds me of the common arguments for why society should allow anything that was banned until now, such as homosexuals or women in combat. The common argument is not that our society would be better and happier if we didn’t ban it. The common argument is that it’s been going on for a long time. For example, historians will tell you that some women and some homosexuals have served in early American battles. Pornography has been around for thousands of years, holding an important place in many dead civilizations.

By that reasoning, everything will creep. Everything will become acceptable, given enough time.

I don’t accept that reasoning. Time can’t turn wrong into right.

Defenseless Christians

Anabaptist is a name invented by the enemies of the Anabaptists. One of the names they used for themselves was “defenseless Christians.”

One of my goals is to be a defenseless Christian. All of society and most of the church spends much of its time defending itself. When we’re attacked, that’s our natural response. But I want God to be my only defense.

Unfortunately, I spend much of my time defending myself as well. But, I mean, I probably have to. What if God doesn’t come through for me? When I really need him. he might turn out to be sick or busy. Or maybe not.

Stoking the star-maker machinery behind the popular behind

We look down on entertainers and promoters who have sold their souls for success. But the forces they yielded to are pressing on our souls too.

American institutions such as the free enterprise system and representative democracy were not established by people who trusted other people. They were founded by people who didn’t. That’s the point. People will not naturally seek what’s best for society. They will naturally seek what’s best for them.
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Spreading the gospel of Jesus and American pharmaceuticals

Though American Christians may not believe that our culture is inspired, we often act like it. Some missionaries have actually helped reduce belief in the supernatural by teaching their Western worldview in contradiction to the Biblical worldview: “You don’t need to pray much about that, because we can give you a pill.”

I like what one village chieftain said when a Westerner explained that disease was not caused by evil spirits, but by germs that enter the body. He smiled and replied, “Okay, then what makes the germs enter the body?”

On a related note, some Bible teachers explain the Levitical test for an unfaithful wife by theorizing that a guilty person might be more likely to get sick.

In a real sense, the villagers had it right even before the missionaries arrived. Sickness is caused by spirits.

Sin will keep you from this book.

It’s a mistake to think that people choose their beliefs because of reason or revelation. Most people choose their beliefs for their own comfort.

B.F. Skinner remembers that his grandmother taught him about hell by showing him the glowing coals in the stove. He didn’t want to believe in a God like that, so he didn’t.

Mel White, who used to ghost-write for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, is now a pro-homosexual activist. But according to his memoirs, the first step to his new career was not a renewed study of the Bible. It was his first sexual experience with a man, condoned by a Christian counselor. After that, somehow his beliefs seemed to change.

Other “Fundamentalists Anonymous”-type memoirs have a similar plot. Girl gets saved, girl joins evangelistic ministry, girl loses virginity, girl loses her faith. It was no crisis of faith, but a crisis of conscience. And faith lost.

John Bunyan wrote that the tempter often spoke to him, ‘”What, will you preach this? This condemns yourself; of this your own soul is guilty; wherefore preach not of this at all, or if you do, yet so mince it as to make way for your own escape; lest, instead of awakening others, you lay that guilt upon your own soul that you will never get from under.” But, I thank the Lord, I have been kept from consenting to these so horrid suggestions, and have rather, as Samson, bowed myself with all my might to condemn sin and transgression wherever I found it; yea, though therein also I did bring guilt upon my own conscience. Let me die, thought I, with the Philistines, Judg. 16: 30, rather than deal corruptly with the blessed word of God.’

There is no god but God

Missionaries to Muslims (few though they be) sometimes argue over whether “Allah” is different from God. However…

  • “Allah” comes from the same Semitic root words as “elohim,” “El Elyon,” and “El Shaddai.”
  • Even before Muhammed came along, Arabic Christians (and they were not few) called God “Allah. They still do. I’ve heard them do it myself.
  • The Qu’ran says, “We believe in what has been sent down to us and in that which was sent down to you; our God and your God is One; and we are submitted to him”. Surah 29.46
  • To Muslims, “Allah” means the Creator of the universe. There is only one of those.

The problem is that Muslims talk about God in ways that we disagree with. But so do other Christians.

Sung’s Razor

Let’s call him Titus Sung. When I met him, he was a young student who had already spent a year in prison in his native China because of his Christian witness. Yet his face showed peace and joy that is rare among American Christians.

I’ve thought much about Titus’s background. Why was his faith stronger and more effective than almost anybody I’ve ever met in church? Did he attend a better Bible college? Had he seen better Christian videos? Listened to more anointed cassettes? Owned better worship CDs? Attended more conferences? Sat under a more gifted singles minister?

It caused me to formulate a principle I’ll call “Sung’s Razor,” a subset of Occam’s Razor.

Means of sanctification should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

That is, if the Chinese Church doesn’t need it to be like Jesus, why do you need it? If it doesn’t make the Chinese Church more like Jesus, is it possible that it doesn’t make us more like Jesus?

As William of Occam is supposed to have said, “It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less.”

Endless youth group

The typical American youth ministry of the baby boom generation resembled an animal feeder (or maybe an animal trap). It was attractive as long as the bait didn’t run out. It was assumed that youth wouldn’t follow God without bribery, and even then, that they wouldn’t follow God very far. In a youth-obsessed, youth-glorifying society, the youth ministry was a holding tank for large children, with the vague hope that they would grow up someday, probably, inexplicably. But not now.

The lesson of recent history, however, have shown that baby boomers do not necessarily grow up. They may become politicians or even parents, but that doesn’t mean they become disciples. After being taught to live for themselves, to give God his fair share, and to keep the rest, they continue to follow the teachings of their youth. The church has become an endless youth group.

Fly? Me? Who says I can fly?

Instead of showing the earthbound world that, through God, they can fly, the Church prefers to show that the world that the Church, like the world, can walk.

And so that’s as far as we ever get. The Church proves that it’s like the world. The world nods, yawns, and believes us. But the world doesn’t believe God. The Church doesn’t ever show them God.