Tag Archives: sin

Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality…

There is an interesting debate which crops up from time to time amongst my fellow Christians.  It has to do with all three of the things mentioned in the title of this piece; Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality.

The Olympics in China have actually brought this back into my thoughts, as well as some discussion on a Christian message board.  The debate usually starts (just as one example of a larger phenomenon) something like this, “Is it ok for Christians to do yoga?”  There are many many different POVs on questions such as this…I have one too; it depends.

It’s going to be my standard answer right off the bat; what you do and don’t do is between you and God.  Remember, freedom in Christ, but freedom comes with a lot of responsibility.  But, to get more detailed, I would say it totally depends upon what form of yoga someone is talking about, who’s teaching it, is it aimed at spiritual matters, or merely physical?  Can you as an individual separate the spiritual aspect from the physical? etc…

One side of the issue is that yoga began as a Hindu practice, and some of the forms are indeed aimed at certain “gods.”  But the thing that gets me, is that for most Christians who are against yoga, they say that if the forms are changed slightly and accompanied by scripture (just as an example) then it is ok.  I understand this point of view, because that is exactly what the Roman church did with things like Christmas and Easter.

Take a pagan occurrence, practice, celebration, etc… and take it over, change it, Christianize it.  It is all a very interesting discussion, one which I’m not going to go into any any great depth here, I’m more just thinking out loud, so to speak.

How about meditation?  How about Tai Chi?  How about any martial arts?  I know you know what is coming from me at least; it depends.  What are you meditating on?  Are you chanting, or even repeating a vain “prayer?” Then no.  Are you simply calming you heart and meditating on God’s word…why not?  But, again, some people will be able to completely divorce the spiritual aspects of things like Tai Chi from the purely physical or mental.  The Holy Spirit is there to guide each one of us; some should stay completely away, and some can and will handle it.

If you are going to an instructor, or a dojo, or a studio; use your eyes and also talk to the instructor.  Is there a shrine?  Then stay away.  Do they force you to participate in the meditation exercises and you don’t really want to?  Don’t go back.  The Holy Spirit does guide us, and God gave us common sense…well, most of us, anyway.

It is a heart matter.  You know if you are offering up something to false “gods” or if you are simply trying to maintain your physical flexibility.  Now, of course, as in the rest of life, there are certain things that no Christian should “mess with” such as playing around with  an ouija board; there’s nothing to “separate” there folks, it isn’t a mere board (or bored) game…you are asking questions to whom exactly whilst “playing” with a ouija board?

So, I do think there are some “black and white” issues; should you light a “punk” and place it in front of a statue of Buddha because the rest of your family is Buddhist and wants you to because it is a part of “your culture.”  Probably not a good move.

Anything that the Bible explicitly touches upon and instructs us to avoid, we should.  If you are in doubt about something, stay away from it.  If you are feeling guilty about something, don’t do it again, or find an alternative.  Long discussion short; pray about it, read any pertinent scripture, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture?  Romans 14 speaks to issues such as these I believe.  We should indeed always keep our “witness” in mind as we either participate or refuse to participate in certain activities.  We should not help to cause a brother/sister to stumble in the exercise of our freedom (look over 1 Corinthians chapter 8).  As always, don’t trust my ideas on all of this, I’m a fallible human; dig into it on your own and pray about it…I would be interested in any thoughts on this subject if anyone cares to comment.

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Filed under Of Interest, Philosophy, Sacred Secular, Theology

We are not as we should be…

The human condition, the “old man” or “old nature,” original sin, the fall of man…some of these concepts are deep theological issues.  But, the underlying idea is one that most of us grasp fairly easily.

There is a line in a song by Switchfoot, Meant to Live, that captures the point:

We were meant to live for so much more

Have we lost ourselves?

We were meant to live for so much more…

Most of humanity sees that humans are indeed meant to be “more.”  Sure, every now and then we glimpse something either in ourselves, or in another human that “clicks,” where a human seems more…truly human…an act of selflessness, an act of physical near-perfection, someone in a state of peace, etc… but, even during these rare moments we don’t get to see within others, and are mostly even blind to our own inner workings.

I often ask my students a question just to get them thinking, or talking, that lets me get to know them a bit better (or lets them get to know themselves…). One light-hearted question I ask is, “If you could choose one super power what would it be?”  Every now and then I get someone who says, “I’d want to be able to read other people’s minds.”

But, would one really want to be able to do that?  We see people’s actions clear enough, but we often don’t actually glimpse someone’s true mind, heart, or soul; it’s even hard for us to “see” our true selves most of time.  The human mind is not often a pleasant place to peer into…

Every aspect of a human was and is affected by the fall; Adam and Eve’s slip from perfection, their sin paved the way for all kinds of troubles.  We are affected physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc…

First, our minds and wills were affected, Paul says it best, Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do

I don’t care what your religious persuasion, all humans go through this in their lives.  There are certain things that we know are the right things to do, yet we cannot make ourselves do them, for whatever reason.  Same thing on the other side of the coin; there are things we know that we should not do, and yet we persist.

Second, our hearts.  You take the most “innocent” acting amongst us, and they are just as capable of devising something “wrong” as anyone else, even if they don’t carry it out.  This is no surprise as none of us are righteous on our own.  Not one of us.  Our hearts comprise more than just our actions.  Genesis 8:21…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

There are some really “good” kids out there; well behaved, sweet, loving, etc… but if we adults are completely honest, we know that there is no perfect child, esp. when it comes to morality.  Lying is one thing that fascinates me, for example.  You work with a child to teach them language, and how to communicate, you work hard teaching them how to hold a spoon, etc… buy lying is amazing, you, as a parent, don’t even have to teach lying, it just happens.  There are those that even come right out and say that lying is a part of normal human development, and that is just one example.

Third, the physical aspect of humans was affected as well.  The evidence of this has impacted each and every one of us at some point.  We become sick, some humans are born with physical abnormalities, our DNA can get messed up, we grow old, we die.

CS Lewis once talked about evidence that we are more than our mortal bodies.  And I have, unfortunately, come to understand what he was referring to through many first hand examples.  When we look at a dead body, even children notice this, it isn’t as though we are looking at the person.  It does indeed look like an empty shell that the person inhabited.  “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body,” is one way that Lewis phrased it.  We are indeed immortal beings, and are often made uneasy by death, or, even dead human bodies.  But, as I was saying, even those of us that aren’t make uneasy can clearly observe the difference between a living body and a dead one; the soul has flown the coop.

Finally, our spiritual state was affected as well; how could it not be?  We had, in Adam and Eve, direct access to God; He walked with them, talked with them, formed them Himself.  There was no sin to mar the relationship.  We also know that every aspect of man affects the other aspects; they are all interconnected; the physical affects the mental, affects the emotions…the spiritual affects the emotions, affects the physical, etc…

I’ve met people that deny the fall…yet, they can clearly see and agree that we humans are not as we should be.  They appear to be in a state of denial about a “theological” issue, but are perfectly fine with it when rephrased in a more secular manner…yet more evidence for the fall of man?  Despite these things, and the clear evidence that we humans are presently flawed, there is indeed hope…hope in Christ that we humans can truly become more, as we were meant to be.  I’ll be touching upon ideas that go along with this in the near future.

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Filed under Apologetics, Philosophy, Theology

X-Files; Movie Review

I Want to Believe is the subtitle of the new X-files movie, and has several meanings within the story.  The first part of my review will be spoiler free, the second half will contain some spoilers, but I’ll let everyone know where the transition happens.

If you’ve never seen the X-files, I think you’ll be lost.  The movie was billed as a stand-alone story, but it doesn’t really work out that way.  I have a feeling that you won’t be as connected to the characters, and as emotionally invested if you haven’t followed the series.  I have read several reviews from non-fans who did like the movie, however.

If you are an X-files fan, I’ll tell you exactly what the movie is like; an extra long TV episode.  Admittedly it is a good storyline, it fits right in with the X-files universe as far as sub-plot episodes go.  And, unlike some recent movies, this one managed to really keep my interest, and made me want to stay with the movie to find out what happens next (unlike, say, Hellboy II).

This is a movie you can wait for until the DVD comes out if you wish, but I think fans of the show will enjoy it, as long as you don’t go in with really high expectations (again, it isn’t an X-Files main plot storyline).   If you’ve got the gas money, and money for tickets, and the time, it is a good mystery/suspense movie to go see.  For my Christian readers, and those that care about such things, the movie is rated PG-13; it had violence, “distrubing images,” sexual innuendo, and mild language.  I will say that some of the themes and plot devices may offend some Roman catholic believers.  The acting was well done, esp. by Billy Connolly.

Now, onto the part of the review that contains some SPOILERS.  The relationship between Mulder and Scully takes center stage in this movie; it shows us the depth of their relationship, and lets us see a turning point for both of them.  The themes covered in this movie are perfect for The Christian Scribbler; Can someone that has done something truly heinous make up for it in any way?  Can they be forgiven?  Does God hear their prayers?  What role should our faith play in our pursuits and relationships with others?  Are modern medical advancements morally acceptable, if so, where do we draw the line in testing and implimentation?  And it manages to contain just about every sin known to man; pedophilia, murder, fornication, pride, etc…

The movie quickly shows us what has become of Scully; she’s a doctor at a Catholic hospital, and yes, she still sports her ever present cross necklace.  As the story draws in our leads, Mulder and Scully, we find out that a kidnapping has occurred and someone has gotten visions of the brutal act; a former priest by the name of Father Joe…did I mention he is a pedophile?  Admittedly, he is a convicted pedophile, meaning he was caught and charged, and apparently released.  He knows it was wrong, and is seeking forgiveness, as well as joining a community of sex offenders who monitor each other; in the plot we are lead to believe this is so they will not slip since they hate each other as much as they hate themselves.  I have to say that some of the humor in the movie would make me mad, and ill, if I were a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest…

Anywho, “I want to believe” is a mantra taken up by several characters either directly or indirectly: Mulder wants “mystery” and intrigue back in his life, Scully wants to know if she can rely on God and stay connected with Mulder, as well as believe in the visions Father Joe is having; and Father Joe himself hopes and prays he can be forgiven, and that God still hears his prayers.  These themes are all connected by the main plot: it is an FBI agent that has gone missing, and no one can find her.  Due to some of the odd aspects of the case, mainly the fact that the former priest is helping to find clues through psychic visions, the FBI sends an agent to cajole Scully into cajoling Mulder to come back as a consultant on the case.

I have to say that I was surprised at some of the questions Chris Carter (the director) raises in the movie, and leaves the audience to ponder over.  As I said, for me, the one that really jumped out is God’s power of forgiveness and if everyone has access to that forgiveness through Christ.  I do believe everyone can be forgiven through Christ, and I think the movie, while not answering the question directly, hints at this while still showing that we still suffer the effects of our sins here on Earth.  Our sins will also change how others perceive us, which is completely understandable.

“Big” SPOILER: My favorite moment in the film is when Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) makes an appearance, and sums up my feelings in the film by pulling a gun and taking names…at that point, it is a relief to see that someone has enough brains to go into creepy places with a loaded weapon (why exactly did Scully and Mulder not have their guns as I believe West Virginia is a Conceal and Carry state?).

I believe I’ve managed to give a review without revealing the biggest plot line of “who did it.”  If you would like to leave a comment or ask a question, would you kindly indicate if it contains spoilers.

If I was to grade the movie…I think a B+ fits pretty well.  It was a solid Mulder/Scully story well acted.  If you don’t go into the movie with high expectations you should enjoy it well enough, but as I said earlier, you can easily wait until the DVD comes out.

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Filed under Of Interest, Reviews, Sacred Secular

Communion; Unworthily vs. unworthy…

I discussed the doctrine of transubstantiation in two parts which you can find here; pt. 1 & pt. 2.  I mentioned that I was going to comment on Paul’s injunction about taking communion unworthily, and that we are to examine ourselves.  Throughout different denominations, teachers have been misusing these verses to try to lay a guilt trip on people for their sin when partaking of the bread and wine; however, if one looks at the verses in question, things start becoming clear.  We are indeed to examine ourselves, and we are not to take unworthily, but what exactly does this mean?

1 Corinthians 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

I hold that the bread and wine are symbols (not “just” symbols or “mere” symbols, but symbols full of meaning, that serve several purposes), as taught by Christ and Paul (and even James indirectly). However, there is power in the act, or in the taking. Why do I say this? Because one can eat and drink temporary “damnation,” or rather rendered judgment (in the Greek; krima), or sickness on themselves, according to Paul. Eating and drinking without remembering Jesus and His sacrifice leads to this.

Of course, in Paul’s example, there were people eating and drinking the bread and wine after they were drunk, and/or they had come to have a full meal together, and did not set apart the bread and cup, but rather drank and ate hungrily without thinking on Christ. They weren’t taking it worthily…in other words they were partaking in an unworthy manner.

The Greek word used for “unworthily” is anaxious, which is an adverb describing the act (remember, adverbs describe verbs, not nouns), not the person.  Worthiness in this context is not about the person taking the communion, it is about how it is taken. We aren’t to examine ourselves before partaking, we are to remember Christ.  So, from scripture, we are not to examine ourselves, for worthiness, that takes our “eyes” off Christ, and puts them on ourselves. The only way to take unworthily is to take not remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and by so doing, we fail to remember Him and fail to show forth His sacrifice.  So to examine ourselves means to make sure we’re remembering Christ, that we aren’t just eating because we’re hungry (or drunk). None of us are worthy, as far as that goes, so there’s no examination necessary when it comes to our being unworthy.

Anyone who tries to get people to examine themselves for things like sin when partaking of the bread and wine are doing the very thing Paul warned against; taking our “eyes” and minds off of Christ, and neglecting to take in rememberance of Him.  Now, there is a responsibility on the part of the person taking the bread and wine to realize what it is symbolic of…this is why non-Christians should abstain from taking communion; they don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore would not be partaking in remembrance and faith in Him, nor to show forth His body, broken for us, and His blood shed for the remission of our sin.  Again, I look forward to going more in depth about how Passover fits in with communion, and remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us in a later post.

I owe much of this teaching and understanding to the late Dr. Gene “Doc” Scott…his teaching on this idea has helped to refocus believers hearts and minds onto Christ.  If a person’s sins were going to stop us from taking communion, none of us could partake.  Communion, or the taking of the bread and cup is one of the straightforward symbols and acts that Christ Himself instituted, and instructed us as believers to do.

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Filed under Communion, Theology

You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner…

It’s basic Christian theology, right?  That was my immediate thought, and the way I’ve always been taught, both by pastors, family, the Bible, and yes, the Holy Spirit.  Apparently, though, there are many of my fellow Christians out there that mouth these words yet never take them to heart, and quite frankly it’s driving me a bit insane.  I don’t know if this is because pastors, teachers, and preachers out there are not teaching this, or if it has become such a pat phrase that we just nod right on by it.  Honestly, how many of my fellow believers out there read the title “You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner,” and nod right along without really stopping to think what that means?

Two dialogues this week brought this to my attention, and it is actually one of the main reasons I started this blog when I did.  The first conversation occurred on a Christian forum that I am a member of, in a thread discussing the death penalty from a Christian perspective.  Here is a paraphrase of one of the comments that appeared in the thread, “Well, I would hope that if I did anything that deserved the death penalty, that they would catch me, and carry out the sentence.”  I hate to break it to you, but we have all done things that deserve the death penalty according to the highest law in the land; God’s own law.  Has anyone really studied the stoneable offenses in the Old Testament (OT)?  There is a pretty big list including adultery, murder, not honoring your parents, etc… they earned the death penalty.  “Well,” you say, “I’ve never killed anyone, I’ve never cheated on my spouse!”  Any self-respecting Christian should have a ready comeback to that idea, straight from Christ’s own teachings, here’s a hint, see Matthew Chapter 5.  Not enough?  Many of my fellow Christians who like to push works, and even condemn others while trying to avoid condemnation themselves love the book of James, so let’s see what James tells us: James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Well, now, that changes a few things, or at least it should.

The second discussion that brought this to my attention was an interview done with John Barrowman (of Torchwood fame, go Captain Jack!) on a BBC show that I watched via youtube.  One of the topics discussed was the fact that John is openly homosexual.  Also, he made mention on this show (and elsewhere in other interviews as well), that he believes in God, and was brought up in the church.  Now, this post isn’t to discuss homosexuality, but rather something more fundamental.  John made the point that it was wrong for Christians, (or “other” Christians, perhaps) to say to him that he is evil, bad, and wrong.  Not only that, but he then made the comment that he was a good man.  Two things came to mind the first was that I’m sure there’ve been some “lovely” Christians that have indeed spat on Homosexuals, called them names, and pronounced damnation on them, calling them evil, bad and wrong just because of their homosexuality, and that’s a true shame.  The second thing that came to mind, is “what theology has John, and all those condemning homosexuals for their sin without looking in a mirror been taught?”

The stance clearly presented in scripture, and by Jesus Himself, is that none of us are “good.”  None of us.  Yes, without Christ, John Barrowman is evil, bad, and wrong, and so am I, and so are you.  That’s the whole point. There is none good but God, our righteousness is as filthy rags, no there are none that doeth good… “Yup, yup, yup, you’re right, none good, yup!”  No! Don’t just agree with it, think about it.  We are all a bunch of sinners, who, according to scripture, if we break one law, we get charged with ’em all!  All of our hope, all of our faith rests solely on Christ; not on what sin we haven’t committed, because we’ve committed them all according to the word.  There’s not one mere human better than any other.

Is this post a hidden message against the death penalty, or one saying homosexual acts are fine?  By no means.  Is it a message that supports sinning so that grace may abound? I join Paul in saying, “God forbid!”  There is indeed right and wrong, and sin that we should actively try to avoid with the help and teaching of the scripture, and The Spirit.  I’m just hoping this will help even one person soak this idea in and really think about it; it is fundamental theology, and is meant to get everyone’s eyes firmly on Christ, because He is indeed the source of our only true Righteousness.  It is also meant to banish the foolish idea that any one of us is “better” or less deserving of death than any other human; our only means of escaping the death penalty in this life or the next is faith in Jesus Christ!

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