Welcome to tomthinking.com Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 02:51 AM UTC

Preparing for Battle in the Immutable Future

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Recently I’ve been enjoying the book, Christianity on the Offense: Responding to the Spiritual Beliefs of Seekers, by Dan Story. It’s always good to learn something about the competition, so to speak, and I occasionally read such books to keep me up to date on worldview issues. The pages I read today, however, got me thinking not about the worldviews of today, but the worldviews of tomorrow—apropos to the change of calendar coming in just hours.
It’s interesting to me to trace how different worldviews like Naturalism, Modernism, Buddhism, and competing religions have all contributed to one another over the centuries. These worldviews often borrow points from one another, specifically the Western worldviews have been borrowing from the Eastern, thus becoming their worldview cousins.
Christianity is different in that when someone tries to integrate other religious philosophies into its framework it becomes something wholly different—something other than orthodox. As one example, we see a lot of this in Mongolia as many young Christians, not fully understanding the unique nature of Christianity, attempt to bring in some of the beliefs and practices of Buddhism and Animism in the name of preserving culture. This practice of syncretism ends up creating something other than a biblically-based Christian expression. It was also strongly condemned by Peter (II Peter 2:17-22) and Jesus (Revelation 2:12-29).

Why Do Mongolians View Corruption as Acceptable?

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I finally got around to reading the USAID’s report, Mongolia: Trends in Corruption Attitudes. Here are a few tidbits from the report:
  • 90 percent of the public reports that corruption is common
  • The higher the income the greater the reported inclination and incidence of bribe paying
  • Respondents claiming that some corruption is acceptable increased from 14.3 percent to 19.5 percent – almost one-fourth of the population.
  • Those who make more money have a greater inclination to pay bribes
  • Teachers, doctors, and civil administrators are the top three recipients of bribes, with bribes to teachers making up 39.3 percent of reported incidents
The USAID report helps put some concrete to what was already known – Mongolia is a society steeped in corruption. The report helps to shatter at least one myth about corruption, and also sets off a loud alarm about Mongolia’s future.

Father, Son, & Who?

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A Barna research report this week revealed that 58% of American Christians don’t believe the Holy Spirit exists. “Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is ‘a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.’”[1] Interestingly, the same survey revealed that about 60% of American Christians do not believe Satan exists.
I suppose you could argue that if you think Satan doesn’t exist then what do you need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit for? We can also argue that it doesn’t matter if you believe Satan exists or not. Without the Holy Spirit you are traveling up temptation’s raging river without a paddle—or a boat for that matter.
I’ve long thought that the problem many people have with understanding who the Holy Spirit is, and His role, can be boiled down to our description of Him. The Bible always describes God’s character in human terms we can understand from our already pre-existing relationships. Two examples: when we call God, “Father,” we can understand that because we associate the term, “Father,” with that which is already familiar. We know what a father is and what his role is. The same can be true when we call Jesus the, “Son of God.” We already have in our minds what a son is and what his relationship to his father is. These anthropomorphic descriptions of God’s nature, in part, aid our understanding of who God is.
But when we come to the descriptive term, “Holy Spirit,” we encounter a problem. It’s not like the term “Holy Spirit” is similar to “mother,” or “Father,” or “Son.” We have trouble wrapping our minds around how it works. We wonder exactly how the Spirit of God is related to God when we can’t picture him in anthropomorphic terms we already understand. The Holy Spirit is God, but He’s not the Father and He’s not the Son, and He’s not described with anthropomorphic terms. So how does that work exactly?

Spiritual But Not Religious. Hmmmm...

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Every once in a while a new movement comes along that seeks to capture the attention of people away from traditional faith commitments. My attention was grabbed by one so-called spiritual movement last week. Calling itself the “Spiritual But Not Religious” movement (SBNR), it portends to offer true spirituality instead of that stuffy, old time religion. What does SBNR offer?
According to the movement’s website, SBNR folk are those who avoid, “Guilt—A set of rules to follow.” SBNR people are those who “walk beyond all religious forms that bind our humanity.” Additionally, the movement claims that, “There is no longer such a strong need for a minister, church or sacred texts to put boundaries on an experience of wonder.” Or to put it more succinctly, “Spirituality is more concerned with experience than dogma.”
The movement is founded by a supposedly Christian pastor of the innocuously named church, “Christ Community Church.” The name seems to ring with “Christianity,” but the movement’s principles clearly defy the definitions in scripture of what is spiritual and what is not.

Living Daily in the Power of the Resurrection

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To continue with my theme from the last week’s series of blogs about the resurrection, there’s one more entry I’d like to post about what the resurrection does for us.
My most recent post was The Revolutionary Resurrection. In that post was a section called, “The Resurrection Reverses the Garden Curse.” I’d like to dig a little more deeply into that garden.
There are four things that Adam and Eve’s first sin brought to mankind that the resurrection of Jesus begins to reverse.
  • Fear
  • Death
  • Works
  • Slavery
Each of these four things didn’t exist prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, and each of these four things were dealt with by Jesus upon his bodily resurrection.

When The Bible Goes Missing, Where Is Christ?

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What happens to you when you read the scriptures or go through a Bible study? Many people take their time with the word in stride like it was any other function of their day. I do that sometimes. Some people avoid time in the word, not wanting to be confronted with some transformational truth they know they will be accountable to. I’ve done that more times than I want to admit.
I think one of the difficulties for many Christians when it comes to spending time in the scriptures is not that they don’t understand what they are reading, or don’t want to learn, it’s that the scriptures do more than unfold principles about Christian living. The scriptures unavoidably and unmistakably point us, in all things, to the person of Jesus Christ.
In my own spiritual journey I’m beginning to recognize a new development. As I go into the word or go through a study or book that emphasizes scripture strongly, I feel a compelling, absolute need to share it with others, write about it, teach it—specifically how it relates to the person of Jesus. I’ve felt such strong feelings before, but not approaching this level. Has that ever happened to you?
Recently I took some friends from the States on a visit to a large Mongolian church. We settled in for the service as the auditorium began filling up. We noticed how people entered the church with joy, even expectation. The worship was exuberant and thankful. When the pastor arose to speak I noticed he had his notes prepared and laid out before him. He spoke passionately and with conviction. He told Bible stories. I’d say that at least half of his message was stories from the Bible. It was impressive. I can’t think of a sermon I’ve ever heard in the States that had so many stories. But there was one thing missing.
The Bible.

You Can't Be Neutral About The Bible

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I stopped off at a local bookstore with my daughter yesterday and picked up two seasonally published magazines about the Bible. One was published by U.S. News and World Report. The other was published by the American Bible Society in partnership with Time. Reading one was maddening. Reading the other was insightful.
I’m not big on pop-culture presentations of Bible truth. But as it happens, every year as we approach the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection publications and news events bring special focus to the veracity and claims of Scripture. As each publisher brings to the magazine stand its own prejudices about the Bible one thing becomes clear.
You can’t be neutral about the Bible.
When it comes to the Bible you can either take it or leave it. You can love it or hate it. You can see it as ancient literature or divine revelation. You can be indifferent about its content or let its content move you. But there’s not a lot of room in between. Why does the Bible inspire such reactions of devotion or derision? Why is it so seemingly rare that someone approaches the Bible neutrally to allow it to speak on its own?

Where Is Buddhism's Mercy?

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I recently read an interesting quote about Buddhism’s impact on real world problems. Check this out. ”Christmas Humpreys, an influential Western Buddhist, admits…’It may be asked, what contribution Buddhism is making to world problems, national problems, social problems, appearing among every group of men. The answer is clear as it is perhaps unique. Comparatively speaking, none.”[1]
I’ve long wondered why Christianity seems to be able to so successfully generate an enormous number of mercy-oriented ministries, organizations, and movements that serve both man and beast. Why did Christianity produce so many educational institutions, hospitals, prison ministries, anti-poverty movements, and more while competing worldviews like Buddhism seem unable or unwilling to do so? It’s not that they don’t make the attempt, it’s that they are just so darn infrequent and invisible. If Buddhism was truly a mercy-oriented system, why hasn’t it generated such things at a level competitive with Christianity?

Certainty About What's Right

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I was thinking recently about an article I wrote about Buddhism and morality nearly two years ago. In that article, Void or Victory: The Higher Nature of Christianity Over Buddhism, I quoted the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions as saying,
“In Christianity absolute morality is the central theme, in Buddhism absolute morality is nonexistent.”
Today I ran across a quote from theologian John M. Frame that provided me with insight into why philosophies like Buddhism cannot offer anything concrete like moral standards that reflect things which are always right or always wrong. In an article for Free Inquiry magazine, Frame wrote,
“An absolute standard, one without exception, one that binds everybody, must be based on loyalty to a person great enough to deserve such respect. Only God meets that description” (Emphasis mine).[1]

The Attitude of SInful Man

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The execution of Saddam Hussein drove me back to the Bible. It was alarming to read the reaction of so many people to Saddam’s execution. Regardless of whether he was executed with “dignity,” or whether the men carrying out the deed were vengeful or politically contrary, none of it matters in the sense that in the end Saddam Hussein received the just penalty for his crimes. In fact, he technically received less than justice, which I explained in my commenterry, The Rightness of the Rope for Saddam Hussein.
Watching the reactions on the news, and reading through dozens of blogs from the Middle East to the Americas, you would think that Iraq had executed an innocent man. Of course most commentary was focused on the behavior of the hooded men, the political motivations and implications. But so what? So the masked-men were jerks and made Saddam’s last moments more bitter than he expected. In the words of Michelle Malkin, “Boo-freaking-hoo.” The behavior of Saddam’s hangmen doesn’t change the fundamental rightness of the penalty he received.