Welcome to tomthinking.com Thursday, July 19 2018 @ 07:25 PM UTC

Heresy: The Fight For Truth

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A few years ago when I was working to re-establish the ministry of Eagle TV in Mongolia, I spent some time looking at the ministry of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts.
While we often think of Paul as a great orator for the fundamental doctrines of the faith, in fact most of the speeches given by Paul as recorded in the book of Acts revolved around or touched on a single topic.
Heresy.

Truth + Love = Unity

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 For several weeks I’ve been thinking through the issue of Christian unity. In Mongolian culture the idea of unity is very important. In fact it may be the single most important value. I see this at virtually all levels, from politics to general society, and even in the Christian church. Most analysts consider that for a society to be healthy it must be unified around a set of principles or a history that defines what that unity looks like. Most importantly, unity is seen as agreement on important issues – especially controversial ones.
However, the idea of Christian unity as presented in the Bible is different from the secular unity that is often promoted in culture and politics. This is true not just in Mongolia but also worldwide. Most secular unity is achieved by reaching agreement on common ideas. Those who are not in agreement on those ideas not unified, or perhaps even viewed as divisive. Examples include business partnerships or political platforms. For some nations, such as those of the Islamic world, a common religious heritage is the driving force of perceived unity. For many in Mongolia, especially during this year’s 800th anniversary of the Great Mongolian State, unity often revolves around a history – Chinggis Khan, and the unity of the Mongolian tribes into one nation. These are all examples of a secular-focused unity.

The Wussification of Christianity

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I’m borrowing the headline for today’s entry from comedian Brad Stine who blames much of American Christianity’s lack of attraction for men on the “Wussification of America.” His Sunday rant on FOX News reminded me of a passage in Romans that my wife and I read in our morning devotions.
In our modern, democratic, “sensitive” age we have crafted a church that for many people emphasizes love, acceptance, grace, mercy, and the more “friendly” aspects of the Bible and Jesus’ character. We talk a great deal about receiving Jesus as our Savior but don’t usually emphasize what he saved us from or another all-important aspect of Christ’s identity.
Sovereignty.
In “modern” Christianity we want to be sensitive to perceptions of those outside the church. We take our cue from the Apostle Paul who instructed us to be “all things” to all men (I Corinthians 9:22) and to maintain a good reputation with those outside the church (I Timothy 3:7), and not to give offense, unnecessarily. Yet there is another side to Christianity that in our day of modern sensibilities we often overlook. It is the side that emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus Christ above all else. It is the side that emphatically and unquestionably stands for truth, righteousness, and authority. It is the side that sometimes in the midst of over-sensibilities must stand up and say without reservation that there is only one God, and one truth, and one authority that is over and above all others.
When beginning his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul began with a greeting that if written today by a missionary or pastor might seem foolish and even dangerous considering whom he was writing too.

The Will of God

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What is the will of God for your life? Just that question alone can open up a Pandora’s Box of trouble. Religions are filled with the idea of man serving a deity according to that deity’s will. The mainline Muslim believes in Allah’s will to destroy the unbeliever in Islam. Some Christian movements teach it is God’s will that His servants have no material want or be materially successful. Even the non-religious may subscribe to a kind of destiny, where impersonal fate prescribes a role in life, instead of a knowable Creator.
I once knew a woman who claimed that God told her during her first pregnancy that she would have a boy. It was God’s will. Delivery time came and she had a boy. During her second pregnancy she said God told her she would have girl. Delivery time came and she had another boy. She felt quite foolish, as her assumptions about God’s will lead her to say some silly things. It made her look bad, but not as bad as some take the will of God.
Famed American TV preacher Oral Roberts once taught it was God’s will for him to raise $8 million from his TV audience. He claimed that if the money didn’t come in that God would kill him. Oral said some pretty stupid things that made not only himself and his organization look bad, it made a lot of people look at the Church of Jesus Christ and perceive it as mythological foolishness.
Many Christians have given up their homes, livelihoods, even their liberties and lives believing that God has spoken to them about a direction their lives should take. They say things like, “It is God’s will for me to _________.” You fill in the blank. Many go on to do noble works—missionaries, pastors, mercy ministries, and so on. Others seem to stumble along, even making strange pronouncements about what God’s will is for them or their associates.

Buddhism & Christianity: Fear vs. Passion

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I spoke at a brunch yesterday at Valley View Baptist Church in Snowflake, Arizona, at the morning service at First Southern in St. John’s, and the evening service at First Baptist in Overgaard. In addition to talking about the work of Eagle TV in Mongolia I taught on the subject of how Animism and Buddhism has influenced Mongolian culture, and the incredible openness of most Mongolians to discuss spiritual things. The Americans I speak with are fascinated by discussions about Mongolia and its Buddhist foundations. It comes as a great surprise for many to learn, through practical illustrations, how Animism and Buddhism have crafted the basic value system of Mongolia, which is very different from the value systems that most Americans subscribe too. In all of my talks I draw out the two most important differences between Buddhism, Islam (also in Mongolia), and Christianity—suffering and love.
  • Buddhism fears suffering,
  • Islam causes suffering,
  • Christianity redeems [through] suffering

Christ & Culture or Culture & Christ?

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It was with disappointment that I read this article from Thaindian News: Indianised Version of the Bible Hit Among Christians.
The new Catholic translation of the Bible, which apparently went on sale in India this month, has sold like hotcakes, with 15,000 grabbed up in just 10 days. Those are big numbers.
It’s also a big problem.
Apparently the new translation draws “references to other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.” This means that the terms from these religions are used in the Bible’s text to explain Christianity. Actually, this is not an unusual concept. The same is done in Mongolia with one of two Bible translations called, in English, The Blue Bible. While the translation is popular here, for many it is also controversial.
But back to India…
According to one Indian believer, who is apparently a fan of the new translation, the translators “Have also drawn the Indian mythology into it. It’s not only based on [the] Biblelike you know foreign standards” (emphasis mine).

Hindsight & Foresight

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Now that I’m back into full swing in the office I want to provide some perspective about the effects of the Mongolian riots.
During the four day Sate of Emergency I read many comments from Mongolians, and even had a few discussions on the issue: Is Mongolia’s Democracy Dead?
In short, not by a long shot.
You may have read blogs or comments online that the MPRP (that handily won last week’s election) was intending to use the State of Emergency to take control of the country or reduce freedoms, democracy, the press, and so on. One person I talked with asked if this was a prelude to a declaration of martial law.
From where I sit, these kinds of verbal machinations are—and I want to be diplomatic when I say this—a great big fat load of fantasy crap. Mongolia’s democracy is not dead. I don’t see any telltale signs that the MPRP is going to seize power, restrict freedoms, or declare martial law. Nor do I think they want to. Claims such as this are just, just, just…crap. That’s about as diplomatic as I can be.
The MPRP may not be the favorite party of a lot of people, but I don’t think we can look at their activities of the last four years and credibly say they intend to return Mongolia to the days of communism or forced one-party rule. A smattering of my reasoning…

Ground Under the Wheels of Propaganda

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I just completed a four-hour postmortem of the election/riot coverage with our senior staff. We spent a great deal of time going over details of election day coverage, and of course the riots that followed. As with all postmortems after a broadcast, we assessed our strengths and weakness, and how to make improvements. In the past, each time we've covered a major event like this, the nature of how the rest of the media covers them also changes. This is not meant as a boast. It's simply a statement of fact that the rest of the Mongolian media know—from the Gulf War coverage, to live viewer calls, to the presidential election, to the riots, virtually all other media here recognizes the leadership role of Eagle TV when it comes to setting new standards and taking risks.
In fact, this week I will be presenting awards and bonuses to the Eagle TV news and technical staff who, at the risk of their own lives, took extraordinary steps to provide live coverage of the riots.

Counting the Cost of Journalism

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I’m between flights, sitting in a Mexican cafe in San Francisco with a little extra time to catch up on the aftermath of the riots back home in Mongolia. I long to get back home quickly.
Here's the latest, this time gathered from a variety of sites and minor info funneled back to me from our staff. Parliament is in a closed door session discussing the election and riots. Justice Minister Munhk-Orgil and Foreign Minister Oyun conducted a briefing for Ambassadors and made statements to the media. All is apparently quiet on the day after as tanks and large numbers of police made their rounds through the center portion of the city to guarantee calm. A small group of new protesters did gather downtown, but apparently in regret for what happened during the riots.
The MPRP HQ is all but destroyed. The Culture Palace, home to many Mongolian art treasures, was gutted by fire and many of its works looted. 
5 people are dead. 108 police officers were injured. Nineteen have serious injuries. 221 protesters were injured, with 19 hospitalized. Security around embassies has been beefed up and foreign citizens have been warned to either remain home during the State of Emergency or restrict their movements.
Staff from State TV and Eagle TV were assaulted and injured by the rioters. Equipment was broken or destroyed. And for the purposes of this blog, this is where I want to make a comment.

Mongolia Election Violence

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UPDATE (12:12AM ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA): PRESIDENT ENKHBAYAR HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND ORDERED THE SHUT DOWN OF ALL MEDIA EXCEPT STATE TV FOR FOUR DAYS.
EARLIER: I haven't gotten much sleep since the station began phoning me reports that protests over Mongolia's election results have turned violent. The MPRP HQ is under attack. Police have fired into the crowd. Protesters have become violent. There is bloodshed. Ambulances are on their way to address the injured. The MPRP building is on fire. Protesters are becoming more violent and blocking the access of emergency vehicles to the building and even pelting the fire engine with rocks. Army troops have been called to the scene. Eagle journalists estimate there could be as many as 20,000 protesters involved. If so, this would be the largest anti-government protest since Mongolia's peaceful democratic revolution.
While watching the events online through Skype, one our employees exclaimed, "I've never seen such a thing in Mongolia before! This is so scary!"
Eagle is broadcasting the events live, but apparently no other stations are reporting the events live. State TV did for a while, but for reasons unknown to me they have ceased. Though we did receive a report that their microwave equipment was damaged in the protest.
We are scrambling extra resources to cover the events. Associated Press is resourcing Eagle TV video for international coverage.
We have received some minor pressure to stop the broadcasts, but are continuing.