Friday, October 16, 2009

Stating the obvious (or what should be)...Christianity, Religious Pluralists, & Intolerance

In the USAToday, opinion columnist Tom Krattenmaker has an interesting piece called, "And I Like To Thank God Almighty." Seems he's a bit miffed about evangelical Christians [insert "join the club" here]. Oh, he has praise for many of them and the way they comport themselves. But there's that little problem with Christianity that they preach that he doesn't like.
"If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong."
Of course, Krattenmaker thinks this is perfectly unacceptable in our pluralistic society--you might even say it is the unforgivable sin of religious pluralism.

But what he and other folks who hold similar views can't seem to get is their own bigotry, defined of course as an intolerance towards other's beliefs and opinions. What makes this sort of bigotry especially deceptive is that it masquerades as being open-minded, tolerant, self-evident. He laments that evangelical Christians have "little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us," all the while SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS the fact that he has little appreciation for the beliefs of evangelical Christians. Ahem, physician, heal thyself.

Let's hit the ball back into their court by restating his central assertion this way:
"If their (Krattenmaker & other so-called religious pluralists) take on God and truth and life is the only right one--which their [pluralistic] creed boldly states--everyone else is wrong."
But being blinded by his own zeal, Krattenmaker can't see is that when they say, "There can't be one religious truth, and Christians--quoting Jesus--are wrong [John 14:6]," that itself is a religious belief and an arrogantly smug claim to knowledge. IOW, Krottenmaker are saying that they perceive more of reality than all the religions of the world, and so they can make the audacious claim that they know more of ultimate reality than, say, Christians, Jews, or Muslims."

And make no mistake about it, Krattenmaker believes so strongly in rightness of his viewpoint that he is zealously preaching it from the nation-wide pulpit of The USA Today. He's evangelizing trying to win converts to his own narrow and arrogant viewpoints. Or to put it the way we like to in the West, he's shoving his views down everyone else's throats.

It's better if we'd all get off our high horse and just admit that we all are exclusivists. We all believe that our views are correct. The better question is to ask, "How shall we then live?" "How do we get along?" Which worldview / philosophy / religion provides resources for dealing with those who are different?

As for me, I'm sticking with the resources provided by Jesus who prayed for, welcomed, and laid down his life for his enemies. Anybody got a trump for that one?

Related Posts:
*A Conversation About Christianity & Exclusivity

*Check out Penn's thoughts on the subject (& he's an atheist & no friend of Christianity!):
"I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Through thick & thin....

Psalm 16:8, "I have set the Lord always before me...."

The faithful Christian,
"...whether he abound in wealth or be pinched with poverty
whether he be of high or low degree in this world
ought continually to have his faith
and hope surely built and grounded upon Christ
and to have his heart and mind
fast fixed and settled upon him,
and to follow him through thick and thin,
through fire and water,
through wars and peace,
through hunger and cold,
through friends and foes,
through a thousand perils and dangers,
through the surges and waves of envy,
mailice, hatred, evil speeches, railing sentences,
contempt of the world, flesh, and devil,
and even in death itself,
be it never so bitter, cruel, and tyrannical,
yet never to lose sight and view of Christ,
nevert to give over faith, hope, and trust in him

~ Robert Cawdray, cited in Spurgeon's Treasury of David

Monday, October 12, 2009

Joshua Harris: Hold That Thought, God. Need to Check My Email

Filed under: "Note to Self"
Joshua Harris: "I think a lot of us we could rephrase the words of Proverbs 24:33-34 about the sluggard and say, "A little web surfing, a little Facebook, a little folding of the hands around the smart phone and spiritual poverty will come upon you like a robber."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stranger Know Thyself

In his book, Lost in the Cosmos, the late Walker Percy asks,
"Why is it that of all the billions and billions of strange objects in the Cosmos--novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes--you are beyond doubt the strangest?"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Flickr Favorites: Ballooning over Yangshou

Book Review: Liberal Fascism

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great read of intellectual history. Defining fascism as essentially "a religion of the state", Jonah Goldberg traces core liberal ("progressive") commitments as well as those of liberals-masquerading-as-conservatives. In the process, he traces the thread that runs through the politics of Hitler & Mussolini, Woodrow Wilson, FDR & the New Deal, Kennedy, Johnson, as well as George W. Bush ("when somebody hurts, the gov't has got to move" & his 'compassionate conservatism'), Pat Buchanan, Hillary, and everybody's favorite, Obama.

Most people react emotionally to such a claim b/c fascism is usually associated with Hitler & Mussolini & their atrocities, but what is forgotten is the praise given to these leaders by the West before their atrocities. "Before the war, fascism was widely viewed as a progressive social movement...". Faciscm is a totalitarian political religion, and the mood at the beginning of the 20th Century was for social engineering, complete in some instances with eugenics, racial profiling, 'family planning,' moving beyond Christianity, etc. For example, the title of the book comes from HG Wells, who told the Young Liberals at Oxford in a 1932 speech that progressives must become 'liberal fascists' and 'enlightened Nazis.' It's hard to imagine anyone saying that after the war.

My view, all governments tend toward totalitarianism unless something prevents it from going there. In the absence trust in God, folks will trust in the nanny state for cradle to grave love & care & security. In other words, totalitarianism, or a holistic approach where nothing falls outside the realm of regulation--from what you eat to what you say to what you believe. In America, it takes the form of a 'smiley-face' fascism. As Goldberg contends,
"If there is ever a fascist takeover in America, it will come not in the form of storm troopers kicking down doors but with lawyers and social workers saying, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help.""
And again,
" America, where hostility to big gov't is central to the national character, the case for statism must be made in terms of 'pragmatism' and decency. In other words, our fascism must be nice and for your own good."
Goldberg closes with a quote from CS Lewis:
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
Overall, a good read & well documented. I learned much that I never even remotely learned in the university. In fact, when you read this book, everything going on in today's politics at the federal level becomes crystal clear.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Discipleship: Bridge or Dead-end

"Discipleship must always be discipleship-in-movement-to-the-world. The disciple who will not lay down life for the world and for the Gospel of reconciliation is not worthy of being a follower of Jesus Christ."
"Far too often mission is relegated to one of those 'wishful thinking' categories that we hope to get to some day in our ministry. The newer third-world churches are supposedly not ready to engage in mission on their own until they reach a certain level of maturity...Meanwhile the North American and European congregations often relegate 'mission' to the leftover category, with the internal necessities of congregation and membership receiving higher priority. Mission calls us to radical reexamination. If mission is part of the essence of the Church's nature as the body of Christ and the people of God, then it ought to be at the top of the list."
And I love this quote of Johannes Blauw's in The Missionary Nature of the Church...
"There is no other Church than the Church sent into the world, and there is no other mission than that of the Church of Christ."
And again,
"If one wants to maintain a specific theological meaning of the term mission as 'foreign mission,' its significance is, in my opinion, that it keeps calling the Church to think over its essential nature as a community sent forth into the world. Seen in that light missionary work is not just one of its activities, but the criterion for all its activities.... It is exactly by going outside itself that the Church is itself and comes to itself."

"Collision" : Atheism vs. Christianity

I'm really looking forward to this documentary being released later this month. The new bad boy of atheism, Christopher Hitchens, & Doug Wilson, began writing about the topic, "Is Chrisianity good for the world?" Then they took their conversation to the streets. Both are capable evangelists for their religion.
COLLISION carves a new path in documentary film-making as it pits leading atheist, political journalist and bestselling author Christopher Hitchens against fellow author, satirist and evangelical theologian Douglas Wilson, as they go on the road to exchange blows over the question: "Is Christianity Good for the World?". The two contrarians laugh, confide and argue, in public and in private, as they journey through three cities. And the film captures it all. The result is a magnetic conflict, a character-driven narrative that sparkles cinematically with a perfect match of arresting personalities and intellectual rivalry. COLLISION is directed by prolific independent filmmaker Darren Doane (Van Morrison: To Be Born Again, The Battle For L.A., Godmoney).


In May 2007, leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist Douglas Wilson began to argue the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” in a series of written exchanges published in Christianity Today. The rowdy literary bout piqued the interest of filmmaker Darren Doane, who sought out Hitchens and Wilson to pitch the idea of making a film around the debate.

In Fall 2008, Doane and crew accompanied Hitchens and Wilson on an east coast tour to promote the book compiled from their written debate titled creatively enough, Is Christianity Good for the World?. “I loved the idea of putting one of the beltway’s most respected public intellectuals together with an ultra-conservative pastor from Idaho that looks like a lumberjack”, says Doane. “You couldn’t write two characters more contrary. What’s more real than a fight between two guys who are on complete opposite sides of the fence on the most divisive issue in the world? We were ready to make a movie about two intellectual warriors at the top of their game going one-on-one. I knew it would make an amazing film.”

In Christopher Hitchens, Doane found a celebrated prophet of atheism. Loud. Funny. Angry. Smart. Quick. An intimidating intellectual Goliath. Well-known for bullying and mocking believers into doubt and doubters into outright unbelief. In Douglas Wilson, Doane found the man who could provide a perfect intellectual, philosophical, and cinematic counterpoint to Hitchens' position and style. A trained philosopher and and deft debater. Big, bearded, and jolly. A pastor, a contrarian, a humorist--an unintimidated outsider, impossible to bully, capable of calling Hitchens a puritan (over a beer).

It was a collision of lives.

What Doane didn’t expect was how much Hitchens and Wilson would have in common and the respectful bond the new friend/foes would build through the course of the book tour. “These guys ended up at the bar laughing, joking, drinking. There were so many things that they had in common”, according to Doane. “Opinions on history and politics. Literature and poetry. They agreed on so many things. Except on the existence of God.”

Should make for some good viewing and discussion.

For more info, check out the website here.

Brought in to be sent out...

I'm reflecting on this quote and the best way to get God's people to buy in to their calling to be God's missionary people:
"The Church is not an exclusive club of privilege, neither is it a place to rest from our labors. We have been brought in so that we may gather others into this Kingdom of Grace."

Chapter 4 of this book includes a discussion of "The Essence of the Local Church in Historical Perspective," and speaks about the traditional reformational marks of the church (word, sacrament, & doctrine) and casts those in light of a missional reading of the four attributes of the church (one, holy, catholic, & apostolic). Then concludes with these thoughts...
"What is the Church? It is the unifying [one], santifying [holy], reconciling [catholic], and proclaiming [apostolic] activity of Jesus Christ in the world. Mission cannot be something separate from or added to the essence of the Church. The essential nature of the local congregation is, in and of itself, mission, or else the congregation is not really a Church."
"Notice that this description is a far cry from saying that 'everything the church does is mission.' What the church does internally with no intention of impacting the world outside of itself is not mission. But when a local congregation understands that it is, by its nature, a constellation of missional activities, and it intentionally lives its life as a missionary body, then it begins to emerge toward becoming the authentic Church of Jesus Christ."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why are some things bad and some things good?

I'm enjoying a re-read of Tim Keller's excellent book, The Reason for God.
"People still have strong moral convictions, but unlike people in other times and places, they don't have any visible basis for why they find some things to be evil and other things good."
It seems I have this conversation over and over again (& btw, it's a conversation I enjoy having), but why do people who say they do not believe in God continue to make moral judgments and evaluations? It is inevitable that they do, but I want to know the basis for why they make these statements.
"If there is no God, then all moral statements are arbitrary, all moral valuations are subjective and internal, and there can be no external moral standard by which a person's feelings and values are judged."
The most anyone can say is, "To me, murder, rape, racism, bigotry, etc., is wrong, but they may be right for you. My personal opinion has nothing to do with you so please ignore me."
"If a premise ("There is no God") leads to a conclusion you know isn't true ("Napalming babies is culturally relative") then why not change the premise?"
As Dostoevsky said through a character in The Brothers Karamazov, "If God does not exist, then all things are permissible."

Problem is, even though people want to say this, they can't live that way. Even Bertrand Russell, the great existentialist who said that there is no such thing as right or wrong, couldn't live by that creed b/c he objected to the World War on moral grounds.

So again, why not change the premise?