Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burning Questions: Do only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven? Or can non-Christians be saved? Part 1

This is another in our series of questions people ask, and its a doozy. We talked about this on Sunday and again on Wednesday. I'll try and break this up, because I know most people don't like reading long blog posts.

Here's the thing. In our culture, where most Americans take a "buffet" approach to religion; one of the most reprehensible traits is to be "closed minded" or "exclusive". By responding "no" to the question of "non-Christians going to heaven" most folks would react as if you had just used a racial slur.

If you watched the inauguration speech, you know that our country has changed/is changing, its different than most generations have always viewed it. President Obama referred to our "patchwork" society of many different races and faiths. I think this is cool, so don't hear me saying its not. At the school where my wife works they had a "passport night" where different families with different heritages set up booths about their country and the kids go around visiting the different booths- eating the food, making a craft, checking out the traditional garb, and getting their "passport" stamped. It was incredible. There was a ton of people there and from all over the world...all going to this school in suburban St. Louis MISSOURI. Missouri, a bastion of anglo-culture (you may know my stance on Branson being the white-people's Mecca) can be an extremely diverse place if you start to really look around.

Anyways, my point is that in our society to be seen as "exclusive" is one of the worst ways to be viewed. That's what makes this question so rough. "Are you going to be so arrogant as to claim that Christianity has a monopoly on truth?" So we champion diversity in our American ethos, but how else does that play out existentially? Is exclusivity really a hateful thing? I would argue that it is not, and in fact can be a very loving thing.

Our most important relationships are all exclusive. Thats what makes marriage so special. You are saying "I am not concerned with what else is out there, I choose you." Another way of putting that might be, "Sarah, you have a monopoly on my love, attention, and care." It's not up for grabs. In this sense, love is exclusive; because love is particular.

When Sarah and I were looking at dogs, we went to the mall (mistake I know, kind of sad, and definitely overpriced). Did you know that a lot of these mall pet stores have like, replacement policies? In other words, if your puppy gets sick and dies within 30 days don't worry, they'll replace it for free! Oh ya, try that one with your 10 year old: "Here Tommy, Scooter the puppy you've loved for a month died, but look, here's a new one thats just as good!" No man, its not just having a puppy that the kid loves, he loved that particular puppy that he named Scooter.

SO, idea of the day: exclusivity is not universally synonymous with hate/evil/wrong/bad.

Pot calling the kettle black, after the pot injected the kettle with performance inhancing drugs

Just read this story about Mark McGwire's brother; who's trying to get a book published about Mark's steroid use. Jay McGwire, the attempting author is estranged from Mark and says this:
My bringing the truth to surface about Mark is out of love. I want Mark to live in truth to see the light, to come to repentance so he can live in freedom -- which is the only way to live.
What a crock. Homeboy just wants to make a buck, and nobody's biting.

What is the deal with all these "whistleblowers"? Jose Conseco, Brian McNamme, Kirk Rodomski, and now Jay McGwire. These dudes come off like they think what they're doing is noble; but they are implicit in the whole process! How are you going to try and put these guys in a negative light for using steroids when YOU WERE THE ONE WHO PUT THE NEEDLE IN? Where were your principals then?
So lame.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Bernard

I'll try not to be the guy who always talks about his dog...But I couldn't resist:

Friday, January 16, 2009

He shall be called... Bernard

Picking him up tomorrow at 1!!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flip the Script

Here is an article I saw on today.

A man expressed displeasure at Buddha statues at the KC zoo.

Now, this man is a Christian and said that the statues were "infuriating to God". But consider what he said: “We can’t have a cross or a nativity scene on public property,” said Engle of Overland Park, who complained to a zoo employee. “It is phenomenal to me that the zoo would put up Buddha statues.”

In my estimation, Buddha statues are like the sign of the cross. When they sell them at Urban Outfitters, you can pretty much say their original intents have been thrown out the cultural window. The zoo was going for an "Asian theme around the Tiger Trail" so they put up Buddha statues.

Here's my questions:
Where's the ACLU on this one? What if that would have been the 10 commandments instead of the Buddha? How would we view this article if the objecting man wasn't a Christian?

Frankly, I couldn't care less if the 10 commandments were on display at any courthouse in America. But I do find it fascinating the way these things differ in how they are treated and how much attention they get.

(un-related side note. I hear a lot of people say the phrase "I could care less". But I don't think thats right, because you're saying that there is some amount of caring. I think the proper idiom is "I couldn't care less" because you're saying there no way you could care any less.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interesting Video

Penn is very candid here.

Its funny, I've heard Christians say some of the same things Penn does here. I've even got into some feisty discussions around this same topic; the whole "if you knew someone was about to get hit by a truck" thing; or "if you someone had a disease and you had the cure" deal. More on this later...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quick Update

Congratulations to Christmas Vacation, voted best Christmas movie ever by readers of this blog. Not gonna lie, I voted for it more than once.

I do want to say I have really tried hard to refrain from too much iPhone discussion here on the blog. However, this must be shared:

If you use iPhone and Google Calendar, it will wirelessly sync events from Google Calendar to your phone AND VICE VERSA! FOR FREE!

I'm geekin out over here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Burning Questions: Why doesn't God make his existence more blatant and obvious?

My church is doing a sermon series based on feedback we received to the question "If you could ask God anything, what would it be?" We don't think its novel or original, but it is meaningful for the next couple weeks to respond specifically to the questions people have.

Tonight at Roots, our alternative service I am giving a message and hosting a discussion to the same question. Check out this link before reading. I know its long, and I know I may be re-hashing dusty material for some. But maybe not. Either way, here is what I have to say:

Tonight and for the next couple weeks we’re going to be looking at “Burning Questions”. We surveyed our congregation and asked them: “If you could ask God anything, what would it be?” Tonight’s topic is one of those questions: “God, why don’t you reveal yourself to us in more blatant and obvious ways?”

Before we really jump in, I want to say that this we should not feel dirty or guilty for asking and investigating this question. I think as people, especially as modern people, we really love the security of “facts”. We’ve been raised with science class, which has shown us that hypothesis can be tested and proved. We have calculators on our cell phones that have exponentially more computing power than the devices that guided the first manned missions to the moon. We have GPS devices to guide us on our route, even tracking our speed and predicting our arrival time. Have you ever encountered road construction while being guided by a GPS? Did you freak out? Has one of these devices ever lead you the wrong way? Watch this…

Michael Scott robotically followed the GPS into the lake. He then decries technology altogether, no longer putting his trust in the cold hard calculations of machines. I think in addressing this question, we’ll have to do a bit of the same with some of the things we’re so used to guiding us. One of the things we need to do is recognize our dependence on “proof”.

Belief in God necessitates a suspension in empiricism; empiricism meaning that which is demonstrable, or “provable”. We cannot prove God’s existence by some formula or miracle equation. This frustrates many faithful people and also gives others plenty of reason to be dismissive of God altogether. However, if there is no God, if there is no higher order in the universe, why should anything make sense? So whereas we must suspend our requiring of facts to “prove” the existence of God, perhaps our inner desire for order and our ability to reason in and of themselves make a case for the existence of God. I offer this quote from C.S. Lewis: “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”

We must then adjust our concepts of how God would make himself “blatant and obvious”. Let us consider the words of Paul in his letter to the church in Rome:

“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

What inside us even causes us to wonder if God exists? Could this urge inside be God revealing himself “blatantly and obviously”? Often people will say things like; if God is so good, why does he allow even in the world? My response is, how do you decide what is evil? Let me again offer the words of my boy, C.S. Lewis: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

God’s eternal power and his divine nature, being clearly seen and understand from what has been made. Hhhmmm. Well, that would include us, if we are part of God’s creation- what has been made. But what would we know of God’s eternal power and his divine nature? Some feel it between their toes on a beach when the tide is coming in. Others might find it in a sunset, especially one seen from a mountain summit. Some might feel moved through art or music. If you’re a parent, I’ve bet you’ve felt it when you first held your child. Can’t we as people experience love and beauty? Perhaps our innate knowledge of love and what is beautiful is God making himself “blatant and obvious”.

Perhaps it’s the pit in your stomach when you see someone begging on the street. Do you feel a wave of sadness and compassion when you see reports of violence and famine overseas? Do you get angry when you hear about corporate greed that abuses and takes advantage of people? On a more personal level, what about that feeling you have when you know your loved ones are making poor choices. Or that pesky little thing we refer to as our conscience. I believe inside we do have “an idea of a straight line” as Lewis puts it. Our inherent sense of right and wrong, of empathy, of justice. I believe these are just a few of the invisible qualities that Paul speaks of, and what he says is true. They are clearly seen by what has been made, us. Another way to say clearly seen, is “made blatant and obvious”.

We can like Michael Scott following his GPS. We can try to prove God in a scientific sense, a “blatant and obvious” sense to a culture obsessed with data and proof. His intuition should have told him not to go straight into a lake. My intuition tells me that the most important things in life are not provable. Here’s a pen, paper, and a calculator. Who can prove to me that they love their husband, wife, children, or friends? Who can make it “blatant and obvious”?

We should not expect God to conform to our enlightenment-shaped, modern, scientific sense of what is “blatant and obvious”. Nor should we think that we can “prove” God’s existence to someone who is skeptical through mere argumentation. To me, these invisible qualities of God are made visible through relation rather than simply information. In other words, the way God is seen on this planet is through his creation. I don’t think its just a pretty sunrise, I think its through his people. Jesus told his disciples that all men would know they were his disciples if they loved one another. Does Jesus say: “they will know you are my disciple when you have all the answers to combat the theory of evolution”? No. What about “they will know you are my disciples when you hand then a small business card with an acronym on it”? No. What about “they will know you are my disciples when you browbeat them into submission with your clever hypothetical arguments”? No. So I can give this little sermon, walk out the door and be a huge jerk. What good does that do? Jesus’ followers are charged with making God’s invisible qualities known. That is the Christian response to the question of the existence of God- making God’s invisible qualities known; in word and action.

I believe if you truly survey your life that you can find God in ways that will calm the storms of doubt. Maybe you’re sitting here thinking that you don’t see a lot of love, beauty, or justice in your life. You still desire them, and God desires those for his people. Michael Scott was allowing the wrong things to guide him, in the same way, we can be asking the wrong questions. So tonight perhaps our appeal to God should not be: “Why don’t you show yourself in more blatant and obvious ways” but rather, “God, will you help me see your eternal power and divine nature? God, will you help me to make your invisible qualities seen clearly in this hazy world?”


Why You're Not Happy

Yahoo ran this article yesterday, it's title being used for this blog post as well.

Its funny, my boy Adam and I had this discussion over the holidays.

Maybe we're not happy because we are pursuing the wrong things to make us happy?

In other words, happiness is attainable, but you have to change the ends of happiness and the means to attain that.

"He who seeks to lose his life for my sake will find it."