muslim clerics critique christians
3/29/2006 12:41:00 AM
I was reading the news, and I came across an article about the man in Afghanistan that was arrested for being a Christian. Here are some excerprs from the article

On Monday, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting "Death to Christians!" marched through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to protest the court decision Sunday to dismiss the case. Several Muslim clerics threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die."

Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it," said senior Cleric Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. "The Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion."
As these clerics see it, the Christians are attacking Islam, not the other way around, yet Pat Robertson thinks the goal of Islam is world domination. Who's right? I don't think either of them are. I've said it at least three times over several posts that Christians critiqing Islam makes Christians just like Muslims who critique Christianity. Unless Christians stop, then it will be increasingly difficult to reach Mulsims with the Gospel of Christ.
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prayer: the only way (cont.)
3/26/2006 11:10:00 PM

I recently posted comments on some stuff concerning to verbal critiques of Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham of Islam. I was reading an article by John Piper concerning prayer and missions. I was really taken by this excerpt. Here is the text. I underlined some crucial thoughts in the piece.

But I Timothy 2:1 looks like it might conflict with this battlefield image of prayer. Paul says that He wants us to pray for kings and for all who are in high positions "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (v. 2). Now that sounds very domestic and civilian and peaceful.

But read on. The reason for praying this way is highly strategic. Verses 3 and 4 say, "This (praying for peace) is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God aims to save people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. But one of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into social and political and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention and time and energy and creativity from the real battle of the universe.

Satan's aim is that nobody is saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth. And one of his key strategies is to start battles in the world which draw our attention away from the real battle for the salvation of the lost and the perseverance of the saints. He knows that the real battle, as Paul says, is not against flesh and blood. So the more wars and conflicts he can start, the better, as far as he is concerned.

So when Paul tells us to pray for peace precisely because God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, he is not picturing prayer as a kind of harmless domestic intercom for increasing our civilian conveniences. He is picturing it as a strategic appeal to headquarters to ask that the enemy not be allowed to draw away any fire power onto decoy conflicts of flesh and blood.

While Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham are busy calling Islam satanic, Satan is winning a major victory by widening the gulf between Christians and Muslims through the embattlement of the two faiths. It seem that rather than critiquing Islam, we should be praying for those in leadership so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives. Piper's observation fits the context of 1 Timothy, because in Chapter 1, Paul is exhorting Timothy to keep on in spite of the false teachers and the dissention that they had stirred up.

What Satan wants more than anything is for us to be distracted from the purpose we have on earth. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that the real battle we are fighting isn't against powers of this world, but powers in the Spiritual world. Our battle isn't against Islam, but against Satan. If we view Islam as the enemy, then we are missing the real deceiver--Satan.

Pray for those in power, so we as Christians van live peaceful lives, so we can go about the real work we have, and that is proclaiming salvation, not lambasting Islam.

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prayer: the only way
3/25/2006 04:46:00 PM

I've been reading a book Focus: The Power of People Group Thinking, and in that book, they place a huge emphasis on prayer. So many times, I've viewed prayer as a lame excuse to not do work, or a way to fill a mission trip when there was nothing else to do. Rather than that, the first and foremost thing we should do as Christians is pray before ever considering going into the lost world. Prayer is one of the most practical things we can do as people of God. The book gives 9 reasons for prayer, and they are:

  1. God desires and requires intercepting prayer for the accomplishment of His saving purpose for peoples of the earth.
  2. Victory in the spiritual realm is primary, and it is won by prayer.
  3. Prayer has always under-girded and extended the missionary outreach of the church.
  4. Spiritual revivals wrought by prayer have had major impact on frontier missions.
  5. intercepting prayer enables God's children to possess their inheritance, the peoples of the earth.
  6. Effective mission strategies come from research immersed in prayer
  7. Prayer is supernatural way of multiplying and sending out Christian workers into frontier missions.
  8. Prayer opens closed doors for occupation by Christian presence
  9. aggressive praying or "spiritual warfare" praying breaks the control of powers of darkness over people groups, cities and nations.
On the topic of spiritual warfare, John Piper uses the analogy of the prayer being a "wartime walkie-talkie." In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, he says,

Probably the number one reason prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, your cannot know what pray is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as through the field command (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (go and bear fruit), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the General's headquarters, and said "Comrades, the General has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send air cover when you need it."

But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are at war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses and cabins and boats and cars, not to call in firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy but to ask for more comforts in the den.

It has become apparent to me that prayer is necessary and mandatory if we are going to accomplish the Great Commission. I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Additional Reading on Prayer and Missions:

Prayer: The Work of Missions

A Call to Advance God's Kingdom

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verbal terrorism
3/22/2006 04:01:00 AM

Pat Robertson remarked that the outpouring of rage elicited by cartoons:

...just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic, and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with...the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination.

Not to long after this, Franklin Graham said:

(Islam) is a very evil and wicked religion,...Do they want to indoctrinate me? Yes. I know about Islam. I don't need an education from Islam. If people think Islam is such a wonderful religion, just go to Saudi Arabia and make it your home. Just live there. If you think Islam is such a wonderful religion, I mean, go and live under the Taliban somewhere. I mean, you're free to do that.

Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians really do any sort of justice for the faith by making statements such as these. Two of the most prominent figures in American Christianity making stinging remarks against Islam seems to me that it does more damage than good. If I was a Muslim, and somebody made those remarks about my faith, I think I would take great offense against the person who said it and against the faith that he is a part of. I know of many Christians who get upset because somebody says their faith is wrong. What happened to the commandment, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)?"

One thing that I do like about Franklin Graham is that he cares for people's needs. He is the president of Samaritans Purse that delivers thousands of items to some of the most needy places in the world.

In an essay Graham wrote on Islam he says,

But Jesus also taught his followers to love others. It is this central teaching of Christianity that motivates my life and work, as a relief worker as well as a minister. While as Christians we disagree with Islamic teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus we will love all Muslims.

He says this of Muslim people:

I do not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith. I personally have many Muslim friends. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith--including Christianity.

Like any religion, taken to an extreme people can do some harmful things with it. As Christians, I'm not sure that we are doing anything different if we continue to use rhetoric like Pat Robertson and Graham though to critique Islam. Rather than that methodology, we could use show Muslims the truth of Christianity at a grassroots level through fulfilling the great commandments and great commission, as Graham does. We should also decry those who publicaly degrade Islam in the way that is being done on national television or in other media. Certainly, Muslims have to be confronted with the gospel sometime, but I don't think that this is ever going to happen on Dateline, 20/20, Good Morning America, or the O'Riley Factor. Loving people would defuse any accusations against Christians Muslims may have and allow them to see Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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a new look
3/22/2006 03:30:00 AM
It's barely been 2 weeks, and I'm already redesigning my blog...but anyways, here it is. Let me know what you think about the new design. I'm open to suggestions.
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emergent baptists
3/20/2006 11:38:00 PM
This is a great article. Check it out. The Spirit of "Emerging Baptists."
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doctrine for the rest of us: the bible
3/20/2006 01:17:00 AM

First and foremost, it is not my intention in writing this to explain the doctrine of the Bible. There are many that have gone on before me that that have done an incredible job developing theology for how we got the Bible and why it's authoritative. The focus of this blog is to focus on the practical implications of theology, so that is where I will spend most of my time. I will, however, give some general terms that you may encounter when reading about the Bible.

Inspiration -- How we got the Bible. This is the process by which the authors of the Bible received from God and put on paper that which they have received. I adhere to the "verbal plenary" view of inspiration, which in a nutshell means that God guided the writers in thought without overwhelming their personalities and writing styles.

Illumination -- How we understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit helps the believer understand the truth of the Bible as he or she reads it.

Interpretation -- How we take the truth and apply it. The fancy word for this is hermeneutics. My next post will be spent on how to interpret the Bible, because it one of the most practical things we can do as Christians. Generally speaking though, I follow the "grammatical-historical method", which is basically trying to understand what a passage meant to the original readers and then learning the truths that we can apply to out lives today. I will explain this method in greater lengths in the future.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is God-breathed (See Inspiration above)

Here the passage is assuming that Scripture is inspired, and doesn't go into a great depth about what that means

Is useful

This is the reason I chose to use 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Scripture is useful. In the passage, Paul is giving a charge to Timothy to "stick to his guns" so to speak. He knew that Timothy would undergo intense persecution for his beliefs and would have to deal with false teachers ("impostors") who will deceive people. Paul tells Timothy that because of this, he should faithfully stick to Scripture, as opposed to knew ideas and philosophies. Paul appeals to Scripture as opposed to other sources for authority is because scripture, unlike man, is infallible because it is God's word. If a man is the source of authority, then it is easy to be lead astray, and the man's teachings, not God's, become authoritative. Paul wanted Timothy to use Scripture to silence those who attempt to lead his flock astray. This is very thing that many historical figures have done. Luther wanted proof from Scripture that he was wrong about his 95 theses and other writings. Irenaeus used scripture to correct Gnosticism in the 2nd century. Scripture has always been the test of truth, and it still is today.

Pluralism (all paths lead to God) and its cousin relativism (what is truth to you may not be true for me) seem to be the predominant mode of thinking in the world today. Christianity is opposed to this because it makes absolute claims about God. We believe that Jesus is the only way to God. We also believe all that don't believe in Jesus will be eternally punished. In a relativistic, pluralistic world, such claims get rejected. But as Christians, we have to stay true to the Bible, because it is the truth that God reveals to us. However, staying true to the Bible doesn't give anyone a ticket to bash people. The Bible also calls for Christians to love their enemies. One thing that seriously upsets me is when people use Scripture as a tool to tear down people, rather than show them the truth in love. Certainly, people have to be confronted with their sins, but I do think that this can be done in a manner that is loving towards other people.

Teaching

The Greek word used here is "didaskalos." The word can also be translated "doctrine." This is pretty self-explanatory. A believer learns about God through Scripture, and can teach others about God through Scripture. This is an essential part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) where Jesus tells his disciples to make more disciples (students) by teaching them to obey what Jesus had commanded them.

Rebuking

The Greek word here is "elegmos" which is a strong word used in reference to correcting error. It is more powerful than the following word, correction. I think the implication is twofold: First, Scripture has apologetic value. Apologetics are defenses of Christianity, and have been written and used sense the New Testament times. Jesus when he was being tempted used Scripture as a defense against Satan. Scripture really is an "offensive defense" for Christianity. It does defend, but it also rebukes, or offends in a way. Second, Scripture convicts people of sin. This doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. If one opens Scripture, he or she won't have to look far to find how Scripture indeed convicts people of their sins.

Correcting

The Greek word used here is "epanorthosin" which means restoration. The difference here as opposed to rebuke seems to be that Scripture can be used to correct somebody who is already a believer. Rebuke is externally focused while correction is focused internally. Christians aren't perfect people, and need to be corrected from time to time. Scripture is the tool we used to do so.

Training in Righteousness

The Greek word used here is "paideia" and is generally used in references to raising children and teaching them how to live. Paul and John often spoke of new believers or their congregations as children. Timothy would have certainly had to teach his congregation (his children) on how to live according to God's principles, and these principles are found in the Bible. Scripture is useful for training new and old believers alike in righteousness (right living).

So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work

The conclusion on the matter is given in verse 17. It is uncertain whether this phrase is referring to all four uses of scripture or just the last, but I think it is certainly applicable to all four. The more one is taught, corrected, and trained, the better he or she is equipped for "every good work." Without Scripture, it seems that we would naturally do every bad work. Scripture helps us discern between what is good and what is bad, and be ready to do what is good.

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how do we...?
3/17/2006 12:37:00 PM
Semper Reformanda: more than a phrase

Many Southern Baptist churches will not abide theologically thick preaching, because every effort has been made to make the church more seeker-friendly -- to modernize the message and soften the sharpness of doctrine so as to make room for people who have never heard of the Apostles let alone the specific books of Galatians and Jude. This plan has resulted in even less response by today's teenagers and young adults because the seriousness of the themes of Scripture have been presented so obliquely by the church that modern young professionals and students find Nietzsche and Hegel much more appealing and thoughtful than Jesus. For many of them, the philosophers and political pundits seem more confident, knowledgeable, intelligent and interesting than the ministers of their local church. While the real world operates on concrete empirical principles, the church hides her message in fantasy code. Thus, all this sensitivity to the seeker has, in many ways, backfired.

The million dollar question is, "How do we modernize the message and not soften the sharpness of doctrine so as to make room for people who have never heard...?" I think this is the whole point of my blog. I am hoping that through expositions, thinking, and living (most important) I can some how answer this question.
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what do you think?
3/16/2006 03:44:00 PM
I posted many descriptions/defintions on what it means to be missional. What do you think it means?
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what does it mean to be missional
3/14/2006 05:07:00 PM
I've often asked myself what it means to be "missional." I went out the web, and began to read what others had to say, and compile some of their thoughts here. Any additional thoughts would be appreaciated.

Off the Ramp
A missional community is a group of Jesus' apprentices who so trust his brilliance and mastery of life, that they learn from him how to be like him for the sake of the world. Through this apprentice/master relationship, the community journeys together to become the fullness of God and thereby become a finite earthly expression of the infinite Tri-Community just as Jesus was in his earthly life. A missional community is about becoming by grace what Christ is by nature. As the community experiences this, wherever the community members live their daily lives, they are learning how to easily, naturally, and routinely embody, demonstrate and announce God's life and reign for the sake of the world around them.
Jesus Creed

'Missional,' if you recall, is a global term for what God is doing in this world and how the follower of Jesus is summoned to participate in that great redemptive work of God. And, if you go back to my posts on gospel, you will see that being missional is to participate in a holistic gospel.
missionalchurch.org

The greatest challenge facing churches today is to live missionally - to develop missionary sensitivities, vision, and practices for engaging in God's mission. The many efforts churches are making to "keep up" or "survive" are futile if this fundamental challenge is not addressed. This missional reorientation represents a profound learning curve for most churches and a strategic opportunity for church leaders.


St Mark's "Lion's Tale" -- Twelve Indicators of a Missional Church

1. The missional church faithfully proclaims the gospel.

2. The missional church is a community where growth in discipleship is expected of all.

3. The missional church is reading the Bible together to learn what it can learn nowhere else.

4. The missional church is consciously seeking to conform itself to Christ instead of to the principalities and powers of this world.

5. The missional church makes its "mission" a priority among its members and in its community.

6. The missional church is known for how Christians love and care for one another.

7. The missional church practices reconciliation and moves beyond homogeneity.

8. People in the missional church hold themselves accountable to one another in love.

9. The missional church practices radical hospitality.

10. Worship is at the heart of the missional church's celebration of God's presence and God's promised future.

11. The missional church makes an impact on the transformation of society and human relationships.

12. The missional church knows that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God.

Kim Hammond reflects on the characteristics of the Missional Church

For the last fifteen hundred years the church has been at the centre of society and involved with the state. Today in a postmodern era there is a new emerging church rising from the midst of a irrelevant, dated church. It is grassroots and rough. It is being lead by mainly young people and it crosses denomination and organization.

Its form is still shaping and its contexts are ever changing however there are some universal principles that seem to thread these churches together as missional communities. They embrace their culture with simple abandonment. They have smashed the walls of the church and the invisible barriers of the church to reach the world around them.

While at the same time living counter cultural lives that interact with ancient prayers and age-old disciplines. They are rediscovering liturgy, service and prayer as the fuel for the mission.
Larry Chouinard

(1) A missional church is externally focused.

(2) A missional church is culturally engaged without being absorbed.

(3) A missional church is incarnationally not institutionally driven.

(4) A missional church is about discipleship not church membership.

(5) A missional church is patterned after God's missionary purpose in the world.

(6) A missional church seeks to establish Kingdom outposts to retake territory under the control of the Evil One.

(7) A missionary church seeks to plant,grow, and multiply missionary communities.

(8) A missionary church trains and equips new leaders to enter territories under seige by Dark Forces. We learn in the context of mission not in the security of our comfort zone.

(9) A missional church highlights character, virtue, and compassionate deeds as the most effective witness to God's Kingdom.

(10) A missional church connects to Jesus through mission not doctrinal precision.

(11) A missional church adopts an organizational structure and internal forms based on mission not ecclesiastical traditions.

(12) A missional church sees itself as organic and not in static institutional forms.

(13) A missional church pursues relationships across generational, ethnic, economic and cultural lines of distinctions.

(14) A missional church seeks to partner with the community to "seek the shalom" of the community.

(15) A missional church assembles to seek God's presence and to be realigned with God's missionary purpose.

(16) A missionary church seeks to reawaken a movement ethos as together we engage our cultural context.

David Crowder Band, University Baptist Church


It means that we understand ourselves to be missionaries in today's culture. Missionaries are those whose lives are constituted by a mission: to know Him and make Him known - this is our purpose, our goal, and our end in life. An ongoing relationship with God should result in a lifestyle that is God-centered and seeks to incarnate Christ.
Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

The missional church avoids 'tribal' language, stylized prayer language, unnecessary evangelical pious 'jargon', and archaic language that seeks to set a 'spritual tone.'

The missional church avoids 'we-them' language, disdainful jokes that mock people of different politics and beliefs, and dismissive, disrespectful comments about those who differ with us

The missional church avoids sentimental, pompous, 'inspirational' talk . Instead we engage the culture with gentle, self-deprecating but joyful irony the gospel creates. Humility + joy = gospel irony and realism.

The missional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people are not present. If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.

In a 'missional' church, the laity needs theological education to 'think Christianly' about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know: a) what cultural practices are common grace and to be embraced, b) what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, c) what practices can be adapted/revised.
Wikipedia

Missional living is a commonality displayed in emergent churches. In its broadest form, it is the belief that all believers are active missionaries of Christ in their daily lives.

As the term has come to be closely associated with the emerging church movement, it has come to represent the belief that the Spirit of God is alive and active in the people of God, namely the church as a whole. This approach tends to emphasize the importance of the involvement of "laymembers" and "lay-leaders" in churches.
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katrina...6.5 months later
3/14/2006 12:28:00 PM
Billy Graham said:
"The hurricanes were not God's judgment...Sometimes, people are quick to blame God, but you know there is the devil...The Bible says he's the liar...He wants to destroy not only the Gulf coast, but your life...And he wants your soul,...Tonight, there's a battle taking place in this arena for your soul."
Repent America says,

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city...From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge."
I'm not sure that we can really know. Job in the Bible questioned God immensely over what was happening to him, yet he did not sin.
Naked I came from my mother's womb,and naked I will leave this life.The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.Praise the name of the Lord.Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God or anything (Job 1:21-22)
After all that happened to Job, and after Job had heard God's discourse, Job replies:

2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,things too wonderful for me to know.
4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;I will question you,and you shall answer me.'
5 My ears had heard of youbut now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myselfand repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42)
Note verse 3: Job spoke of things he didn't understand, and in verse 5, he had heard from God and seen God's sovreignty. He therefore "repented in dust and ashes."

James 1:12 says,
"Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him."
Why evil exists, why good things happen to bad people, and why the unjust go unpunished are all mysteries, and will remain a mysteries. But out of suffering though comes a "crown of life." I don't want to blame the devil or God for what happened to the Gulf Coast, but rather realize my place before God: His humble servant.

The question I am asking myself now six months after Katrina is "What am I going to do about it?" God require of me to act justly (help the disenfrachised), love mercy (through missional mercy), and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). By walking humbly, God will get the glory, not me. New Orleans and its people are ravaged. As a Christian, I think it is time that I put the Great Comission and the Great Commandment into action.
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doctrine for the rest of us: introducing God
3/12/2006 01:54:00 AM
Who is God? According to the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, God is:
  1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
  2. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
  3. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
  4. An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
  5. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
  6. A very handsome man.A powerful ruler or despot
This is a complicated question. I don't think that anyone can really define God based on our limited knowledge about him. Rather than trying to define God, I think it best that we describe him. There are basically two ways to describe God. The first is describing him based on his attributes. I describe people I know their attributes: the color hair, their age, their name, the kind of job they have, what kind of clothes they wear, what they read. These attributes are exclusive to that person. The same applies to God. I can describe God based on who he is apart from anyone or anything else. Likewise, I can describe God based on how he relates to me. I do the same for people I know. If a guy was born from the same mother I was born from, he describes him as my brother. That is an exclusive relationship that I have to him that nobody else can have. People can say that he is my brother, but that would fall into the first category I described as being an exclusive attribute to that person. Based on this paradigm, I will try to describe God.

One thing that we have to accept is that we can't fully understand God. He is infinite-not something you can place in a box, measure, or quantify. He can't be contained by anything, and this includes our minds. A finite being cannot understand an infinite one. Think of it like pitcher of water. The pitcher of water cannot contain the ocean, but just a small, infinitesimal part of it. So most of our understanding runs into a brick wall at some point. This usually when an attribute of God has to be reconciled with his infinity. It is here where I stop trying to understand that particular attribute. Admittedly, this will creates some paradoxes and tensions, but in contrast to that, we can rest in God's infinity too, and know that he is in control of everything.

God revealed in the Bible is the creator of all things. This means he made all things: the universe and everything in it. This also means that he wasn't created-in fact he is the beginning and the end of all things. This means that he always was, and always will be. I won't even begin to try and wrap my mind around this. God is also actively involved in his creation. He steps into space and time and changes things as he sees fit. He didn't just set tings in motion to where they will eventually wind down to oblivion. The ultimate manifestation of God being involved in his creation is in Jesus. Jesus is God in the form of a man. (We will discuss Jesus in a later post)
There is only one God too. Other gods to exist, but these gods are not real gods, and they can be more than just something that is fictional. Anything that we turn into an idol can be a "god" to us. The one true God is zealous for people to worship him, so he does not share his godhood with anyone else. Although God is one, he has three distinct persons: This again is admittedly hard to explain, as we are finite beings and God is infinite. If you take Infinity and divide it by 3, you still have infinity (Infinity / 3 = Infinity). Additively speaking Infinity + Infinity + Infinity = Infinity. The idea is that we can't wrap our minds around this idea, but we can't ignore it either. The Bible reveals that God is 3 persons, yet one. Many analogies have been used to describe God such as an egg (shell, yolk, white part) or water (ice, gas, liquid), but the reality is that analogies break down at some point. It is impossible to reconcile the Trinity

Like people have hair color, skin color, and personality traits, God too has traits. God can do all things, except things that violate his character like doing wrong. God knows all things. God is always everywhere. God is unchanging. God is in control of all things although we may not agree with what he does at all time. God is free of anyone or anything. He acts on his own accord. God is set apart, because he can do no wrong. God is just because he knows all the facts and is unbiased. Because he is just, he has to punish wrong. God is all loving. He selflessly gave himself up for people so they could be in a relationship with him. While this list is by no means definitive, I think it touches on all the attributes of God.

Also like people, we can describe God based on his relationships. His is the king of our lives, so he calls the shots in our lives. He is our father, so he disciplines us and teaches us what is right and wrong. He is our friend, so we can cry to him, and he will listen, and he will help us out in times of trouble. He will also rejoice with us when we have joy in our lives. He is our brother. This means we can talk to him like we would a brother, and he treats us like family. He is our savior. He rescues us from the ultimate destruction we deserve. He is whom we worship, because he is God.

God wants to be intimately involved in the lives of those who are willing to trust him. Therefore, all that God is, knows, and does works out for the good of those who love him.
Later, we will discuss the particular person of God (Father, Jesus, and the Spirit).

Next post: What about the Bible?
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an introduction
3/09/2006 11:54:00 AM
In every science there are two factors: facts and ideas; or, facts and the mind. Science is more than knowledge. Knowledge is the persuasion of what is true on adequate evidence. ...In every department the man of science is assumed to understand the laws by which the facts of experience are determined; so that he not only knows the past, but can predict the future...If, therefore, theology be a science, it must include something more than a mere knowledge of facts. It must embrace an exhibition of the internal relation of those facts, one to another, and each to all. It must be able to show that if one be admitted, others cannot be denied. (Hodge, C. Systematic Theology. Originally published 1872.)
Moral Theology
-- that phase of theology which is concerned with moral character and conduct.

Revealed Theology -- theology which is to be learned only from revelation.

Scholastic Theology -- theology as taught by the scholastics, or as prosecuted after their principles and methods.

Speculative Theology -- theology as founded upon, or influenced by, speculation or metaphysical philosophy.

Systematic Theology -- that branch of theology of which the aim is to reduce all revealed truth to a series of statements that together shall constitute an organized whole. --E. G. Robinson (Johnson's Cyc.)

Biblical Theology -- theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing himself to Man following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament.

Historical Theology -- that investigates the socio-historical and cultural mechanisms that give rise to theological ideas, systems, and statements.

Narrative Theology -- studying a narrative presentation of the faith rather than dogmatic development.

Dogmatic Theology -- studying theology (or dogma) as it developed in different church denominations

Theology itself implies an academic excercise that atempts to define in terms of rational thought (language and logic) the things of God. A formal defintion would be the "The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions." While studying things about God isn't a bad thing, left to itself it turns into God a sterile system of thought that really as no bearing on life. In my pursuit of understanding God, I have met a lot of people who want to talk about God and debate the particulars of God, but if you look at their lives, they do nothing other than that. God then is just a topic of philosophy that gets talked about under a shade tree, and that is where he stays. But there has to be something more than that to theology. We talk about how lives are transformed through hearing the words of God. We talk about how we should live our lives in accordance to God's will. We talk about that, and we talk about theology, but there never seems to be a connection between the two. This is where practical theology steps in.

Practical Theology -- theological reflection that is grounded in the life of the church, society, and the individual

Practical theology itself isn't a type of theology or a sub-discipline of theology, but it focuses in on taking taking theological truth and applying it to life. Practical theology isn't about disciplines or a discourses, but about reflections and applications. It's pragmatic in a sense.

So this starts my blog: practicalthe(ology).
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how to make your your life and the the world a better place.
3/01/2006 05:27:00 PM
Okay, so the tag line sounds like a gimmick-- a self help book subtitle or a spam email message trying to get you to buy some sort of miracle diet pill. The reality is though, that this isn't a gimmick, but something that is completely serious and real.

I cannot make any assumptions where you are from or what you have experienced. The only assumption that I can make is that you can read, and that implies you are a person. As a person, you are born and will some day die. In the interim, you live life, day in and day out, toiling to stay alive so you can live on.

You may enjoy this routine. Your life may be completely peachy, and you don't have any worries. You have everything you want, maybe even excess. You like what you do for a living, or maybe you don't have to make a living. You seem to have it altogether, and you don't have a care in the world. If this is you, then stop reading now. I envy you and you are the envy of everyone on the planet. But if this is not you, read on.

A reality of life is that it is hard. Even those of us who have it relatively easy still have it hard. I am an American, and with my eyes have seen people who toil the land 7 days a week to have something to eat. I go to the fridge, get something out, and nuke it. Compared to the farmer, I have it made. But I still have struggles, shortcomings, and problems and would be lying if I said I didn't.

To make matters worse, I mess up quite often. I will never do everything right all the time. I lie, cheat, steel, gossip, slander, ravage, exploit, lust, etc. etc. etc. All these things only entrench me further into the state of decay. To err is human. It's a universal problem to mess up -- even the best people.

Although life is hard and as people we are inherently screwed up, we keep on living. We toil day in and day out trying to hold on to life, when ultimately we end up in the grave. All we are doing by toiling is delaying the inevitable. It would seem logical to stop toiling and let the inevitable take its course, or even expedite the process. Yet we keep on.

The irony though is we toil even harder to make things better. We are always trying to make life easier through invention, or trying to better ourselves through education, or trying to accumulate more so we will seem more comfortable. We try and make wrong right. Maybe you don't try and do this, but rather you do just enough to get by. You do just enough today to get you through today, so you can do it again tomorrow. You think what happened in the past is the past and nothing can change it. Either way though, you still die, and you leave education, invention, and wealth -- any gain no matter how big or small behind never to see or hear from it again. It seems nothing we do makes the world a better place or stops death from running its course.

One of the wisest men to ever live in his old age said that such things are vanity. The writes his memoirs recounting how he tried wealth, wisdom, and women, all which left him empty. He said they were all vanity, like one chasing after the wind. The image of chasing the wind is such a wonderful analogy. You can't see the wind, nor can you hold it. You know it's there, but you can't capture it. You could spend your life chasing it, and it will continually evade you forever, leaving you empty handed.

Admittedly, this sounds incredibly pessimistic. But if somebody can show me were I am wrong on this, I would gladly recant, but I don't think that is possible. You may be asking then "If things are so bad and nothing we can do will make them better, then how can I possibly make my life and the world a better place?" I'm glad you asked.

If we as human being live in perpetual cycle of toil and decay, and there is nothing we can do to break that cycle, then it only seems logical that the only way to break the cycle is for something external to enter in and do so. This is exactly what happened 2000 years ago.

In order to break the cycle of death and decay, there has to be something that rectifies the wrong that has been done and outlive the decay in the process. This was accomplished in the life of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, he died a natural death just like every other human being. His body began to decay. He was put in a tomb where dead people are laid. Jesus however, did not stay dead. He died on a Friday, and the following Sunday, he resurrected from the dead. Because Jesus resurrected, he conquered death, thus breaking the cycle of death and decay. By now, you are probably thinking, this is all pretty fanciful stuff. I grant that it does, but there are few historians who deny that Jesus did rise from the dead. Because of the overwhelming evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, many historians cede that fact, but try and to reinterpret the significance of the event. However, the disciples--those closest to Jesus--understood what this meant. This single event revolutionized their lives, and made them zealous for his cause.

What made their lives to revolutionary was not that their friend had been raised back to life, but that because their friend had been raised back to life, they too would experience the same resurrection. This instilled in them hope, and they didn't fear death. In fact, most of them counted death as gain, because they knew that life didn't end at the grave. This is what Jesus meant when he said "eternal life". Life doesn't stop when your body physically dies, but goes on forever.

With full knowledge of this resurrection, these men and women went forth, telling others how they too could experience life. One by one, people experienced this new life. This local movement turned into an international phenomenon, and it continues even until today.

You are probably wondering how this all works. It's quite simple really. I stated earlier that it takes something external entering into the system to break the perpetual cycle of death and decay and that there is nothing you or I can do to stop it, because we are part of the cycle. Rather than trying to break the cycle ourselves, we let Jesus do it. This is done by letting him save you from death. You simply accept his offer, which is to believe that he can, and rest in that. You don't have to do anything, other than believe. Jesus takes care of the rest.

Because there is hope for something eternal, not temporal, there is something worth living for that is not vanity. The sage I mentioned earlier said that all was vain, except one thing, and that is to fear God. He writes his discourse, and concludes it with a statement, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Fearing God doesn't mean being afraid of God, but to heed to God, or in other words trust what he says is true. Jesus being God incarnate gave two commands on which all other commands rest: Love God and Love Others.

By doing the latter you can change your world. How we love others is broad, but there are two parts to it. One part you are probably familiar with, and that is service to fellow man. Most people would consider this part enough to change the world. But service to fellow man is temporal, and not lasting. It, like the all things, left to its self is vain. The second part is to tell them how they too can experience deliverance from death and decay through Jesus. Jesus offer is universal, and anyone who accepts it will live forever. One day they too will be resurrected into a new life without the trappings of this life. This is hope worth living for. If you continually share Jesus with people, then the world could be radically changed about you.

What this does not mean though is that this world is entirely bad. In fact, the same sage I mentioned before says that it is okay to enjoy what we do have here. If we work for a living, then we deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor. If we learn, we enjoy wisdom. If we lead, we should leave wisely. Jesus never intended for those he rescues from death and decay to check out the moment they accept his offer, but to continue until their lives here are spent, and while they are here to tell others how they to can be saved.

This doesn't answer all the questions in life, and something remain always remain unanswered. There are mysteries that men have been contemplating for eons, yet nobody seems to be able to solve them. Jesus didn't come here to answer our questions, but to provide us with hope. And a hope worth living for is worth not having all the answers.
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