Sunday, September 30, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical; Defining the error


Assuming that evangelical orthodox Christianity is cult like and perhaps even cultic one must ask and answer the question why and how did it get to be this way? We have two thousand years of church history, and over that time for the most part, the church has exercised cult like control over people. All of this in view of Jesus words, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” and… “if the son shall set you free you shall be free indeed.” Surely there must be a disconnect between current evangelical, orthodox dogma and doctrine, and Jesus’ ministry, message and purpose. Surely when you view day to day life within current evangelical, orthodox Christianity you see little if any personal freedom from the group and yet, the scripture states that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Get all alone by yourself, look in the mirror and contemplate the idea of freedom and liberty and honestly ask yourself if you see a remote connection between those concepts and realities and your experience in evangelical, orthodox Christianity.  Notice I urged you to be honest. :)

So then, what is in place within evangelical, orthodox Christianity that makes the opposite of freedom the rule of thumb? The answer to this question calls for a list because it is not merely just one thing.
  1. The leaven of the Pharisees: Jesus warned his followers to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and he further explained that the leaven of the Pharisees was the doctrine of the Pharisees (Matt 16:6&12.) Think about it… He did not warn that it may happen, rather, the warning was because he knew it would happen, and sure enough, one of the main reasons for the bondage in evangelical, orthodox Christianity is the leaven of the Pharisees.
  2. From the inception of the church in the first century there have been concerted efforts to deceive people for control. 1John 2:27 warns that believers do not need to be taught by anyone but the Holy Spirit, the anointing which dwells within. The problem is that those who would deceive for control purposes have been around teaching and developing the doctrine which really forms the body of teaching which perpetuates the bondage and control…. again, the leaven of the Pharisees.
  3. Paul warned in the second letter to the Thessalonians that because they did not love the simple truth of the gospel that God would turn them over to a strong delusion so that they would believe what is false… In other words, because they loved the leaven of the Pharisees, God gave them over to this delusion.
  4. The leaven of the Pharisees includes their teaching about scripture and the law. It includes the lens that they use for interpretation. It develops the instrument that is used for control. It includes their erroneous view of righteousness. Paul says that they were unwilling to accept the righteousness of God and so they continued to develop their own righteousness based on the law. In so doing they would not and could not submit to the righteousness of God… Friend, that is the biggest source of the lack of freedom, not submitting to God’s righteousness and trying to establish self-righteousness. This is the source of the bondage and the control.
So then, what is the way forward toward freedom? How can one escape the cultic practices of control, judgment and self-righteousness? One must adopt a redemptive view of scripture. One must stop the constitutional legal reading of scripture. One must stop trying to establish his or her own righteousness by the law, and begin to submit to the righteousness of God by trusting Jesus 24/7. He alone is our righteousness and he alone gets the glory!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical 2; Twelve Steps to Recovery


As I stated in the last post, I am completely convinced that evangelical orthodoxy is really very cult-like. It has many of the characteristics of a cult and most people involved in it are brainwashed by the group. It has additional force because those who are in this situation are convinced that God is the one in charge. That could not be further from the truth. The truth is that humans, many times humans with a thirst for power are in charge. Even though many are sincere and actually believe that they are doing God a service it is no less sinister. It breaks my heart that there are so many individuals who love God and want to please at all cost; that are totally burned out, steeped in fear, and on a metaphorical treadmill striving endlessly to please, but always falling short of any real rest and assurance. It is to those individuals that I have dedicated my use of this blog.

Recovery is not easy because of how deeply ingrained the brain washing is within in their psyche. It will take a lot of effort to journey out of the cult mentality to the freedom that Jesus provides each and every one. Mostly, it will be a process of re-education… that is… learning afresh the great truths of the gospel. I really think that it is truly worth the effort and to this end I will present an overview of the twelve steps to true recovery. Over time I will present each one in greater depth.

Twelve steps to recovery from evangelical bondage:
  1. Recognize and admit that there is a problem. Admit that you are burned out and totally dissatisfied striving to please God when you know down deep in your heart that the reality is you are on a treadmill striving to please some human… it may be a pastor, a family member or a group… but it is sucking the life and love out of you, and at some level you know I am right.
  2. Begin to look at the scripture with fresh eyes. Realize that it is not a legal constitutional document that explains the way for you to escape eternal punishment and alienation from God, and begin to see it as the story of redemption… a story that assures and demonstrates God’s great love for you, and the lengths he is willing to go to prove that to you. In other words, see it as Jesus saw it and not like the Pharisees.
  3. Realize that the word of God is the gospel, and Jesus the living gospel, and that the scripture is the inspired words of God, God’s inspired story, but not in and of itself God’s Word.
  4. Understand and internalize that you cannot out sin grace no matter what.
  5. Begin to rid yourself of your shame and guilt… in other words, begin to forgive yourself, and realize that up until this point you have been your own worst enemy; your own worst critic.
  6. Reaffirm daily your belief in God’s unconditional love for you, and allow his unconditional love for you to foster an incredible love for him, realizing that he wants you to project that love to others in genuine ways.
  7. Realize beyond doubt that no matter what may come or be you are always in God’s presence. This is whether or not you feel it. It is not dependent on your feelings, but rather it is totally dependent on his promise. God is with you always.
  8. Understand that the Holy Spirit will only speak to you things that bring the fruit of the Spirit… that is… things that promote love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. If it does not produce the fruit of the Spirit it is NOT from the Spirit.
  9. Believe that Hebrews 10:25 does not mean that you should be in a church service each time the door is open, and further *you must believe* that the sole reason for assembly is to encourage one another in the gospel and tend to one another’s needs.
  10. Stop trying to please people… do not allow others to judge you in anything and quit trying to be someone else’s judge.
  11. When possible seek out others who have believed this way and fellowship with them for encouragement.
  12. Allow God’s love, demonstrated in Christ Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to produce in you a supernatural love for God that will begin to transform you into a being of love… and begin to pass love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness and self-control on to others.
As the weeks go on I will be developing a forum to allow these steps to be worked out. If you have questions or suggestions let me know. Feel free to contact me at paradigmshiftblogger@gmail.com



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical 1; Walking humbly with God


There are many kinds of addictions in our world; sex, alcohol, drugs, food… but, one of the most dangerous ones in my view is the addiction that evangelicals have with their religion. Let me just say that there is really a way that one can honor and love Jesus… can have a vibrant relationship with him… and not be a victim of religious addiction brought about in large part to control people and to get them to do things a certain way that end up benefiting a powerful few. I am beginning a series that will look at the flaws of this addiction, and will offer sound, reasonable, and even biblical ways to journey into recovery. I chose this one because of the insanity that surrounds the up-coming election.
Micah 6:8  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
So many people are hung up with holiness and obedience. They are continually striving to live up to the letter of the law. Why are Christians caught up in Old Covenant righteousness? What is the cause of striving? Why are they burned out spiritually, and locked in continual fear? All too often it is because they are frantically trying to establish their own righteousness from law obedience. Yet, even under the Old Covenant, as the prophet Micah so poignantly points out, Gods requirements are relatively simple… do justice, that is, act justly… love mercy, that is love the mercy that God has given, and love to be merciful… and walk humbly NOT PROUDLY, but humbly before God. Those words produce two feelings with me. First, God is not looking for perfection but an attitude… a working towards these things. And secondly, let humility reign in the heart… be just a little humble.

Do you see how far off the path the Christian right is? There is no room for doing justice… they are too busy making sure that multi-national corporations can have no stumbling blocks in greed... Do not worry about the poor receiving justice and mercy in the gate (in governing.) And most of all, do not be humble… rather be proud of your right stance, and condemn anyone who would dare to strive for justice, who would love mercy to the point of being merciful, and who would show humility in allowing others to have their points… being tolerant.

I think that it is because most of orthodox evangelical Christianity is brainwashed. They operate like a cult… they are a cult. There is a need for de-programing. It is time for an intervention of a grand magnitude. There needs to be a broad change of mind… repentance if you will allow the term. It is time to look for the source of the gross lack of mercy and the propagation of pride. it is easy to find… it is in the doctrine and dogma… that is, in the teaching. The dogma and teaching is informed by the hermeneutic; by the interpretive lens used for scripture interpretation. De-programing demands education. De-programing demands an open mind. De-programing demands using logic to develop logical conclusions. One of the main problems that perpetuates the brainwashing is fact that evangelical Christians are asked to check their intellect that the church house door.

Why did Jesus and his followers change the hermeneutic? Why did they redefine the phrase word of God from Torah to gospel? The obvious answer is to help overcome the brainwashing that had been perpetuated by the scribes and Pharisees. It was to return to a simple use of common sense; the kind of common sense that can see the simple meaning of Micah 6:8. Do justice… love mercy… walk humbly before God!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Inspired but not inerrant


What is so critically important about believing that the bible is inerrant? One of the last bastions of fear promotion in evangelical orthodoxy is the concept of biblical inerrancy. If one should voice the opinion that the bible is not inerrant it raises the fear of all those who worship the book. What does inerrant mean anyway? Let’s look for an answer.

Here is a quote from the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy
A SHORT STATEMENT
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
What parts of this statement are true and relevant and what parts are not true and totally unnecessary? Well, I do not have a problem with number one as long as it is viewed in a solely redemptive way. I believe that the scriptures are God breathed but only insofar as they make one wise for salvation. After all, that was exactly Paul’s point in 2Timothy 3:15-17. He did not mean to indorse the scriptural doctrine that you see posted above in the statement.

Number two is correct insofar as it relates to redemption. In fact, it is only infallible in its redemptive purpose. That purpose is to point one to Christ Jesus that they may find rest in the grace, love, and mercy of God. All of the four points are true in a solely redemptive way and number five is absolute nonsense. It is the source of all the fear surrounding the question of biblical authority.

If it is nonsense, and it is, why then is it so important to evangelical orthodoxy? The answer is that it is the foundation to the Reformation idea of sola scriptura. The problem is that at the beginning of the Reformation the reformers only meant the sola’s in a redemptive way… that is, salvation was key behind the sola scriptura premise. Over time, it has been expanded by theologians to say that the bible alone (sola scriptura) is the final authority for all faith and practice. This is nonsense. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the final authority for all faith and practice. I think that the indwelling Holy Spirit would work best in community of course. However, the Holy Spirit will never be the final authority in community until the absurd notion of biblical inerrancy as explained in the above statement is rethought and revised.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest


Mat 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
What did Jesus mean when he spoke these words? What was the labor, how are they heavy laden, and rest… rest from what? As far as I'm concerned, these words are not spoken nearly enough to encourage the saints of God. It seems to me, that here in the 21st century, 2000 years after Jesus gave this invitation, all too many of God's children continue in meaningless labor with heavy burdens too great to bear. And when I say this, I am speaking of those who are walking daily in the Christian life. Yes, people are still laboring too much, and excessively burdened. The reason in my view is that the gospel is not properly understood, nor taught in its purity.

I think back to a quote by the theologian D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. He said “that if preachers were not being accused of being too soft on sin, they were not preaching the gospel.” Unfortunately, it is hard to find preachers in this day and time that are being accused of being too soft on sin. In evangelical orthodoxy, one of the main focuses of all preaching is sin. So, how are the saints laboring, and what are they laboring against? Sin!… I would argue that they're not laboring successfully for the most part, but they are laboring to their psychological and spiritual detriment.

I think it's fair to say, that Jesus meant that they were laboring under a legal-constitutional reading and understanding of Scripture. Why do I say that you ask?... By his use of the word yoke. Notice what Peter said in acts 15; (Act 15:10)  “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” When Peter was speaking of the yoke that neither the father's nor the current generation was able to bear… He was speaking of the yoke brought on by the legal-constitutional reading of Scripture.

Think about it for a minute, when one looks at the Scripture as a legal constitutional document, it immediately takes on a burden of unbelievable proportions. James stated that if you break one of the commandments you have broken them all. This places a tremendous pressure and burden on the individual to comply with the legal letter of the law. To fulfill this in a legal constitutional way is impossible. I think we can rest assured that God never intended to have the law used in a legal constitutional way… In a way that would allow individuals to establish righteousness. That's why Paul told the Romans that the Jews, were trying to establish their own righteousness by a legal constitutional reading of Scripture and thereby overlooked the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God comes from faith in the grace and mercy of a loving father.

The New, "Politically Correct"

I think it was a right wing talk show host who originally coined the phrase "politically correct." It was a reaction to the left w...