Let My People Think

Archive for the ‘Just Thinking’ Category

Atonement – the deeper meaning behind the Christian Easter holiday

Atonement Salvador DaliGenerally speaking, there are about 8 or so atonement theories out there, with variants. To me, it’s easier to divide them into two groups.

One group of atonement theories postulate that the problems primarily stem from personal dimension of people (who are fundamentally perverse), and of God (who is fundamentally angry about people.) What Jesus did was more or less redirect the focal point of God’s anger to himself, thus getting us off the hook. The main idea is that of legal transaction.

The other group of atonement theories postulates that the problems to be solved are of systemic nature. They lie with both with human psyche individually (egotism) and socially (systemic oppression and scapegoating). There is also a cosmic dimension to the problem statement (decay and death). What Jesus did is he absorbed the individual, the social, and the cosmic sin (and therefore death), triumphed over them, and created a mechanism of being able to tap into the power to overcome all those.

I would submit to you that the second group of atonement theories has much more coherence and explanatory power. Also, the 2nd group is the one that leads you to living like a responsible, fully empowered representative of God in every area of life. It’s the only one that can underwrite consistently replicable results, and not just occasional haphazard “victories”.
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The way of the Jedi and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

jediI really like the Jedi. To me, they are a very good representation of what I want to mature into with God. Put Jesus Christ and his power in place of Jedi’s concept of force, and we have here a great metaphor for a holistic teaching that captivates the heart, uses the mind, works with great power, guides you on the path of righteousness, preserves you in your holiness, and keeps you away from pride, greed, lust, and just about any other sin.

Here are the reasons why they way of the Jedi captures my heart:

  • They are persons of honor. They don’t have a moral code that they adhere to in a slovenly fashion. They have an honor code that they are trained to follow as a matter of heart conviction, no matter the cost.
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Extreme sovereignty of God: a theological scourge of Christian worldview

Jesus doing facepalmYou cannot simultaneously state two things:

1) that God personally causes (directly or though one’s agency) and approves (or wills) everything that happens in the world, including all the evil,

2) and that God is love.

The two are in irreconcilable conflict, and no amount of religious sophistry and verbal calisthenics can make this equation balance out.

The reason that the hyper-sovereignty view of God at the expense of God being love appeals to so many is that humans lust after power and control after their fellow human beings. That’s part of the fallen human nature. Vulnerability is perceived as a general liability, and about the only place one can afford to be legitimately vulnerable in a modern increasingly secular world is on a tear-stained recliner in the psychoanalyst’s office.

One well-known evangelical preacher said this not too long ago:

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”

Wow. Really? Mr. Preacher must have forgotten that Jesus WAS beaten up, hung stark naked on a blood and faeces-stained wooden pole in front of his own heart-broken Jewish mother, in a culture where revealing as much as one’s knees while running was considered shameful for a male. If that’s not utterly vulnerable, I don’t know what is.
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For God so loved the world (a poem)

For God so loved the worldThe kind of love which stands above division, judgment, and offense is usually fairly difficult to cultivate and practice. When it becomes our heart culture, however, it has a very real potential to open people up to what we have to say. Then we can usher those we thus love into the very presence of Jesus, so that he can do through us for them what no educational or correctional institution can. But we can get to that point only when we begin with unconditional love and acceptance on the most fundamental human level, before anything else can be offered.

Am I there? Not quite yet, but I know that I am on my way there. I also experientially know that place of judgmentalism and misplaced pride which is the polar opposite of agape-love. That’s a place to which I have absolutely no intention of ever regressing to.

We love playing it safe and talking in generalities. But what if we allow ourselves to get more specific with more general statements such as “God so loved the world”? What would that look like? The poem below attempts to unpack that Scriptural verse within the context of years 2016-2017.
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A rabbi, an imam, and a priest get into an elevator (a personal story)

Left Wing Right Wing Same BirdA few days ago I had a conversation with a young lady, a daughter of our family’s friends. She wanted to stop by to get a couple of pics and a short story for her school project. My wife and I decided to make it a dinner occasion at our place. That young lady is a follower of Jesus. She is also passionately political, and you could peg her fairly solidly on the left side of the political spectrum. (If you want to use that cumbersome and unflavorful measuring stick on a human being, that is. If you try to ever use it on me, by the way – I guarantee you will make a mistake every time you do, regardless of whether you try to place me right, left, or even center. That measuring stick simply doesn’t know what to do with people like me.)

I remember a time when she stopped by a church event where I happened to be a year ago. She and her similarly-minded sister were surrounded by a small group of older piously indignant evangelicals. The two of them pretty much had to endure an hour-and-a-half-long “straightening out” session from the group. They valiantly defended themselves. I wasn’t part of that strange circus, but I was close enough to hear what was going on. In the year that followed, I’ve rarely seen those two young ladies come back to church. (If I were them, I wouldn’t have come back after that, either.)

I do take interest in politics. But I have grown wise enough over the years to discuss my political views mostly in private conversations with even-keeled people who have learned to think for themselves. I could never compress my mind on complex issues into tweet-size slogans anyway, which is what a lot of people seem to prefer these days.
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Conversion into Christ – a life-changing experience

christ-in-meTrue “conversion” is not the same as joining a church, believing certain things to be true or false, and having strong opinions on political affiliations, sexuality, and reproduction. If those things are the totality of one’s religious experience, that’s much more indicative of tribal indoctrination than of any kind of meaningful “conversion”. No offense – I am just plainly saying what many of us are too afraid to say or even think outloud. I am not trying to convince any of you, that’s simply what I’ve come to.

You see, that kind of “Sunday morning all-smiles Christianity” does not excite or interest me much anymore. My firm belief is that when one is willing to “take the red pill” and think beyond these culturally acceptable labels and descriptions which don’t even begin to penetrate the reality, and see beyond these shallow categories into which we try to pigeonhole God and his Kingdom, there’s a much deeper and much more meaningful experience that can be entered into. And that’s what I am after.
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How to be a champion for God

NFL Superbowl 2017 LI Tom Brady New England PartiotsAfter the recent Superbowl victory by Tom Brady and the team, many of us are fired up. The football season is over, the New England Patriots rest on their well-deserved laurels, and many of us feel like we now have to wait till September to get any sense of sportsmanship and championship in our lives. But do we really have to wait? Not at all.

You see, we all want to be champions in life, but the question is not just of your passion or enthusiasm. The question is – what training program are you following? Are we only doing weekly bicep curls with our black leather thumb-index Bibles, cheering on who we perceive to be real athletes, while reading about the strong and the mighty in the news or on Facebook feeds, being content with attending third-rate programs with the kind of “training” that makes you fall asleep every time you show up? Holding hands in circles and singing kumbaya gets us only so far. We have been taught for too long to be passive spectators by tradition, which has a notoriously poor track record in training real champions.

We don’t need any more preachers with three-piece suits and silk ties (or jeans and a hip T-shirt, as the case may be) to sermonize us for an hour at a time in exchange for a monetary donation. Thank God for the good ones among them, but we have enough of them already. What we need more than ever are coaches who can roll up their sleeves, get down in the dirt with us, and show us the real moves, the ones that really work. We need them huddling with us in the locker room, showing us who we really are, showing us that we are “more than conquerors in Christ Jesus”, and doing all that in a real believable way. Week in and week out, up to and including eventual championship nights.
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