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The True Test of Faith post tells of two Christians who die. Then they find out there is no God, no heaven, no afterlife, no reward for good behavior. The first Christian is outraged. “What? You mean I could have spent my life partying? Boozing it up? Chasing women, loose and otherwise? Boy am I angry! All those fun things I could have been doing!”
The second Christian is a more thoughtful. He thinks of the path he’s taken, reading the Bible on a daily basis, and how that discipline led him to some unexpected breakthroughs. He thinks of all the other “testing adventures” he’s had, some he passed, some he failed.
And after all this thinking the second Christian said, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
That’s the kind of faith I’m trying to develop. (And trying to share…)
Of course I do believe in God, and in Jesus. And I believe that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9.)
I’m just saying, that’s the kind of faith I’m trying to develop.
Which led to this thought: You can’t develop that kind of faith if you’re “too conservative [a] Christian.” Or never want to go beyond [Bible] boot camp. That is, in the Army you first go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.” (See 2d Timothy 2:3, “Join with me … like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”)
Which means there is a time and place for learning the fundamentals:”
Just like Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals: “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…” But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private his whole time in service. (Although some few “soldiers of Christ” seem to enjoy having no personal responsibility…*)
Which is just where Bible literalists go astray. They never want to go “beyond the fundamentals,” despite what Jesus said in Luke 24:45. That’s where He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” They’d rather stay in their personal “Comfort Zone.”
On that note, see a Gospel post from 2014):
Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement. . . Do not suppose from this that your new career [as a Christian] is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move. True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock. It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.
(Quoting Underhill’s Practical Mysticism, Ariel Press, 1914, at page 177.)
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All of which is another way of saying that once you start reading the Bible on a daily basis – with an open mind – you’ll find an exciting “New World.” You’ll become like an old-time explorer whose main task – it seems – is to push past grim warnings and superstitions:
In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world. At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again… For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one. (E.A.)
That’s pretty much what this Blog is about. But another thing I’m trying to do is reach out to Nones, turned off by “negative Christians.” (See “Nones” on the Rise and The Growth Of The “Nones.” On the rise of “religiously unaffiliated.”) Nones overwhelmingly think “religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.” (“Demographers have given them this name because when asked to identify their religion, that’s their answer: ‘none.’“) As to why:
[T]he single most important reason for the rise of the unknowns [“Nones”] is that combination of the younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue. [E.A.]
So: money, rules, politics. Those seem to be why many turn away from American Christianity. (And a general perception that too many Christians are way too negative.) But Jesus was anything but negative. His goal was for you to grow and develop into all you can be.
My goal is to help you on that spiritual journey. (Which also helps me on my journey. See Learning by teaching – Wikipedia, citing Seneca the Younger and his Latin wisdom docendo discimus, “by teaching we are learning.” Not to mention James 5:20.) Or consider this comment:
I don’t have a problem with God. I have a problem with religion. I’ve chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith.
See 10 Questions for Sting. But here’s news flash: “If your religion makes you ‘certain,’you’re missing the point!”
That comment by Gordon Matthew (Sting) provides an example of some common perceptions today about Christianity. (See also on my way or the highway – Wiktionary.) Which leads to one ongoing theme or theory of this blog: The theme here is that people who read the Bible in a strict, narrow or “fundamental” way only cheat themselves.
Not only that, they’re also driving people away from The Faith in droves.
But there is an alternative. A way to read the Bible with common sense and that helps you to a richer, fuller, more productive life. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief and read with an open mind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Like the writers of the Bible not wanting your life to be just another stale rehash. They repeatedly said you should “sing a new song to the Lord.” And Isaiah wrote that thing about “eagle’s wings…”
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“Those who hope in the Lord … will soar on wings like eagles“
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The upper image is courtesy of tmrichmond3.net/2014/02/07/here-be-dragons, a blog with one sub-title, “Reflections of a Tamed Cynic.” The blog-bio notes: “I am the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon. I believe that faith should be able to sustain us, not oppress us.”
The opening, indented quotation is courtesy of Track 1, Disc 1, The Modern Scholar: Journeys of the Great Explorer’s: Columbus to Cook.
See Here be dragons – Wikipedia, on “dangerous or unexplored territories, in imitation of the medieval practice of putting dragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures in uncharted areas of maps.”
Re: “No personal responsibility…* The quote was edited for content.
And a note: This blog is a series of newspaper-style columns, and a column meets the following criteria: 1) it is a regular feature in a publication, 2) it is “personality-driven” by the author, and 3) it explicitly contains an opinion or point of view. See columnist – Wikipedia:
A columnist is someone who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Columns appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, including blogs.
So, the columns in this blog do contain a point of view. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine whether those columns are personality-driven.
Another note: I remember a column that George Will – at right – did years ago. As I recall, George said a columnist needs three seductive skills: “be pleasurable, be concise, and be gifted at changing the subject frequently.” That’s what I hope to do.
See also this, from the book Blogging For Dummies:
At its most basic level, a blog is a chronologically ordered ordered series of website updates, written and organized much like a traditional diary, right down to the informal style of writing that characterizes personal communication. (E.A.)
So this blog is a kind of diary, based on Bible readings set out by the Episcopal Church. And here’s another blog-definition from Soapbox:
For more on the idea that too many Christians are too negative, see On the Bible readings for August 3. Or Why are Christians so negative and judgemental? – RZIM Europe, Do Christians spend too much time being negative? – Christian, and 5 Negative Effects of Complaining for Christians. And this perception is a problem for all practicing Christians.
Re: James 5:20. I like to think of the “forgiveness of many sins” passage as the James 5:20 commission, in a quasi-commercial sense. As noted elsewhere in this blog, “I’ll take any break I can.” For another example, I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt, in keeping with Matthew 7:2, “the way that you judge others will be the way that you will be judged…”
As to singing a new song, see Gospel for May 18, citing Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.
The soaring-eagle image is courtesy of Isaiah Lift You Up On Eagle’s Wings – Image Results. And finally, as noted elsewhere, you can get a book version of collections of posts from this blog. See For a book version…