Archive for the ‘Postmodernism’ Category

Claims of Bible versus Claims of Secularism

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Several years ago, while traveling to New Zealand, my seat mate spent considerable time reminding me of all the bad things that have occurred in the name of religion. It was hard to sit there and say nothing, but I did for the most part. How does one answer such charges? I believe these thoughts taken from a sermon given in the 1800s by Frank Gunsaulus are a good beginning. Read the entire sermon at path2prayer.com

Bible versus Secularism

If ever anti-Christianity had a chance to show its beauty, it was when it was at its supreme strength, and when Christianity was a babe in the manger; and these are only suggestions of the hell it dug for man at Rome. You say that it was not what skepticism is at the present day, and I acknowledge that it is so. Why? Because nineteen centuries have rolled like waves of light between, and Christ has improved it in spite of itself. Never had the world so good a chance to see what almost absolute skepticism and unbelief could and would do for the liberty of the human soul as then. But when the thrones of Rome were occupied with men who held the same opinion of the Bible as he does to-day, what was the freedom of the race….

Shall we go forward with our Bible or backward without it? Infidelity has always forgotten that, so far as it has an eye for liberty and humanity, the Christianity not of sects but of the Bible has furnished it and trained it. The liberalism which puts its Bible aside will acknowledge that a Christless humanity culminated in Rome. Skepticism is often eloquent when it tries to show how much ‘’fragments of Roman art” had to do with the making of modern civilization. Now, as Rome marks the height to which humanity without a Bible ascended, it would seem that this would be just the point where free and untrammeled thought and the fullest intellectual liberty would be found. Right there, where a Christless race was supreme, ought to be the place where the liberty abounded which the religion of Christ is said to destroy.

Whose program for the production of intellectual and spiritual liberty can liberals accept? Hoarse is the cry: The Bible is to be cast out. We look and behold men who have these opinions sitting on the throne of the Caesars. Now, one would suppose the intellect of that whole realm would have fair play. There was no Bible there to fetter or to annoy. This ought to be the halcyon age for “the liberty of man, woman and child.” …

But what is the fact? Strangely enough, in that age, when nearly every monarch, or poet, or philosopher was a humorous skeptic and they had no Christian religion to “bind their hands,” in an age when nothing but this sort of infidelity was supreme, Seneca, to whom connoisseurs in ethics blandly turn when they grow weary of the strenuous Paul or the pensive John, Seneca, while he wrote a book on poverty, has a fortune of $15,000,000, with a house full of citrus tables made of veined wood brought from Mount Atlas. While he framed moral precepts which we are besought to substitute for the Sermon on the Mount, he was openly accused of constant and shameless iniquity, and was leading his distinguished and tender pupil, Nero, into those practices and preparing him for those atrocities which Seneca himself had upon his own soul while he wrote his book on clemency. At that hour the Bible Christianity offered to the world’s heart and aspiration, not a book, not a theorist of morals, but a man for the leadership of humanity, and, of that Man the literary and calm French skeptic says: “Jesus will never be surpassed.” In the age of Rome, when people were not burdened by churches or Bibles, Lucian says: “ If any one loves wealth and is dazed by gold; if any one measures happiness by purple and power; if any one brought up among flatterers and slaves has never had a conception of liberty, frankness and truth; if any one has wholly surrendered himself to pleasure, full tables, carousals, lewdness, sorcery, and deceit, let him go to Rome.” There was no Bible either to preach against it or to interfere with it. These things were the product then, as they are now, of infidelity. Whenever the world wishes a civilization so barbarous as that, the reviler of the Bible must create it, for they have the applause of evil and the goodwill of crime. In the age of Rome, when this skepticism was the creed of the State, Nero got tired of the goddess Astarte, and murdered his own brother, his wife, and his mother, and the senate was so affected with the same opinion that they heard his justification and proceeded to heap new honors upon him. He threw the preacher Paul into jail, but there Paul wrought out the impulse of Europe. In the age when the great Livy said that “neglect of gods” had come, Caligula let loose his imperial frenzy, and every stream of blood that could be sent toward the sea carried its red tide. In that age when, like later eloquent critics, Ennius said that he did not believe that the gods thought of human beings, “for if the gods concerned themselves about the human race the good would prosper and the bad suffer,” the courtesan was kept for pleasure and the wife for domestic slavery. In that happy age of unbelief, when Menander sung “the gods do not care for men,” “the homes were,” according to Juvenal, “broken up before the nuptial garland faded”; and according to Tertullian, “they married only to be divorced.” Friends exchanged wives; infanticide and other hellish crimes were common. This is what that spirit, in its purity, did for the home, when there was no Bible to read at its hearthstone and no New Testament to put into the hands of young lovers departing to make a new rooftree.

Labor will some day be too liberal to give up its Bible. In that age, when “God was dead”; in that age, when “the gods had abdicated”; they said, “the mechanic’s occupation is degrading. A workshop is incompatible with anything noble.” The curse of slavery had blotted the name of labor, and they agreed that “a purchased laborer is better than a hired one,” and thousands of prison-like dwellings rose to conceal the myriads of slaves. In that age Nero, who had the same opinion about God which the vaunting spirit which calls itself liberal has to-day, had a “golden house” as large as a city, with colonnades a mile long, and within it a statue of Nero 120 feet high. That is what the theory of infidelity did for labor and the working man when it was on the throne. Do you wonder that from that day to this the “carpenter’s son” of the Bible has been scoffed at by this infidelity?

In that age, when the theories of infidelity ruled, the gladiators made wet with their blood the great enclosure of the arena. The women and timid girls of Rome gave lightly the sign of death. The crowd shook the building with applause as the palpitating body was dragged by a hook into the death chamber, and slaves turned up the bloody soil and covered the blood-dabbled earth with sand that the awful amusement might go on. All this was allowed by infidelity in its purity, before it had been influenced by the Christian’s Bible into believing that such things are atrocious.

Oh, when I hear infidelity prate of the horrors of slavery and defend a Godless theory of the State, I remember that those who had it in its purity did not regard the slave as a man. When I read the story of slavery and hear an exponent of free thought say, “The doctrine that woman is a slave or serf of man-whether it comes from hell or heaven, from God or demon, from the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, or the very Sodom of perdition-is savagery pure and simple,” I say, “That is so, but just that was the ruling idea when infidelity was on the throne of Rome.” And only where the Bible has gone and triumphed has woman the privileges which are thus praised.

Read the rest of Gunsaulus’ sermon comparing the claims of Scripture with the claims of liberalism at path2prayer.com

Don’t Be Fooled!

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I have received communication from at least two individuals who sincerely wondered whether Oprah’s latest web seminar was Christian or not. It isn’t!!!!!!! It is New AGE to the core and reminds me of the things Irenaeus dealt with at time of the early church.

Though the Bible is occasionally referenced, Oprah’s New Earth is all about putting man at the center of the universe and self help. You may think you are getting help by what is shared, but true victory always comes from Jesus.

The following web link has an excellent study on the subject!

http://www.probe.org/cults-and-world-religions/oprahs-spirituality-exploring-a-new-earth.html

Learn more about following Jesus at path2prayer.com.

Living in a “Sola Scriptura” Bubble

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Abstract: We often assume that people share our confidence in the Scriptures and are open to our “proof” oriented methods of witnessing. The reality is quite different. The following essay discusses how Gnosticism entered into the church in the first couple of centuries and still impacts the world we find ourselves in, and suggests ways we might witness to individuals who no longer find authority in the Scriptures.

Living in a “Sola Scriptura” Bubble!

We Christians live in a “sola scriptura” bubble!

Wiki defines “sola scriptura” as “the assertion that the Bible as God’s written word is self-authenticating, clear (perspicuous) to the rational reader, its own interpreter (“Scripture interprets Scripture”), and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine”*

Now let me explain before you get upset with me.

We would like to believe that proving our beliefs from the Bible will bring witnessing success-of course with some finessing in reaching out and connecting to the people we are witnessing to, etc.. The truth is, many seekers no longer look for truth in the Bible in their quest for God. In fact, many don’t believe there is such a thing as objective truth. They are seeking God, but because they believe that God is transcendent-is beyond the grasp of the human mind-and ineffable-beyond being described in human language-they look for Him in ways that you and I would not be comfortable with, and are accordingly anything but convinced by our Bible “proof.” It doesn’t mean they won’t listen, but it won’t initially be on the basis of the Scriptures we hold so dear. Unfortunately we often forget this and assume that all, if not most, of the people we witness to will listen to our proofs from the Bible. Hence the “Sola Scriptura” bubble idea.

Paul came up against this very thing when he was witnessing to the people in Athens. He spoke to them of the “unknown” god they were worshipping (Acts 17:23). This “unknown” god was not only the result of their ignorance of the true god, but also the result of the transcendent ineffable underpinnings of their belief system-God couldn’t be understood, and if He were understood, human language would be inadequate to describe Him, which effectively negated anything Paul might have said-I think I hear the hiss of a serpent here.

I wish I could say this “unable to know” problem was confined to people OUTSIDE of Christendom, but it entered the church in the early centuries after Christ, when Gnosticism first appeared, took root and remained under various guises, and still continues to challenge us in our day, only in a postmodern, post-Christian way.

Gnosticism, as one person put it, is not based on factual, intellectual, or rational knowledge that one would find in the sciences, rather it is based on an experientially-based pursuit and knowledge of god, and proponents of the religion believed they had a secret knowledge of god, human beings and the universe that other people did not have.

Though the idea came out of what some term classical mysticism, it entered the church, or at least was seriously introduced, in the apologist era when Christians were being persecuted by the pagan Romans, and Christian “apologists” were attempting to bring respectability to the Christian faith and end the persecuting that was going on, by using Greek philosophical concepts that explained Christianity in more pagan-friendly terms. Eventually Christianity became respected, but that respectability came at a price: a more pagan version of Christianity.

Gnostics believed themselves to possess a special, higher spiritual knowledge and wisdom than was possessed and taught by the bishops and other church leaders of the second century. They believed God was wholly transcendent and spiritual and far removed from the fallen, material universe which He did not create (they actually thought the physical universe was created by an evil, demented lesser God). They also believed that matter, including the body, was an inherently limiting prison or evil drag on the good soul or spirit of the human person and that the spirit was essentially divine-a ‘spark of God’ dwelling in the tomb of the body.” Salvation meant achieving a special kind of knowledge not generally known or even available to ordinary Christians, including an awareness of the true heavenly origin of the spirit within, and the idea of an essential divine nature as an offshoot of God’s own being. They looked to Christ as an immaterial, spiritual messenger sent down from the unknown and unknowable God to rescue and bring home the stray sparks of his own being that had been trapped in material bodies. Finally, salvation came through self-knowledge (Roger Olson, Story of Christian Theology). Needless to say these constructs were far removed from those espoused by the church back then, and were accordingly resisted.

The early church, in the person of Irenaeus, mounted a three-fold attack on Gnosticism, by showing that it was absurd and full of contradictions, that it had no basis from Christ and the apostles, and that Gnostic understandings of Scripture were neither plausible nor possible, and eventually succeeded, though Gnostic ideas remained.

But Gnosticism is returning in our day, but often in a post-Christian context that is exceedingly challenging to overcome, similar to what Paul encountered in Athens.

Remember, Gnosticism is based on many ideas, including God’s transcendence-the idea that God is beyond our understanding and can only be understood on the basis of an internal self-authenticating experience.

Irenaeus overcame Gnosticism by showing the absurdity of the idea, the utter lack of connection with Christ and Scripture, and the lack of plausibility. He even went so far as to mockingly suggest his own Gnostic-like description of the cosmos, based on a being that was called a gourd, which was associated with a melon, and eventually had a cucumber at work as well. He partially succeeded because people still looked to Scripture as the ultimate authority.

Paul failed with the Athenians, and came away convicted that only his personal testimony of the power of Christ and the cross in his own life would work.

I believe Paul’s method is still the preferred way to begin witnessing to many people in our day. We not only live in a postmodern world, we live in what is increasingly also becoming a post-Christian world. But post-Christian IS NOT post-spiritual; in fact people are VERY spiritual in our day-there is a great and growing hunger for a spiritually-fulfilling experience. And, as many are looking to a personally authenticated experience to find a higher being, sharing our own experience with God, in loving and authentic ways, will be a witness they can understand, and which they can neither gainsay nor refuse.

Now, returning to the “sola scriptura bubble” idea, we assume that everyone looks to Scripture the way we do. Unfortunately that isn’t true. Yes, there are some, in fact many people, who still do, but there is a growing majority who have written off the authority of the Scriptures.

Is there a place for Scripture? Absolutely. There are still many people who look to Scripture and are willing to dialog on the basis of Scripture. Traditional methods can still work for these people. But these methods won’t work for everyone.

However, regardless of how our witnessing begins, in due course ALL witnessing must return to the Scriptures, for it is in the Scriptures that we are personally informed, personally maintained, personally instructed, and personally empowered to live for Jesus, to witness, and to succeed in our ongoing relationship with Jesus-it is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK IN ALL THE WORLD. Eventually we must bring the Scriptures to the forefront if our witness to postmoderns is to endure.

Let’s be careful, then, in not assuming that everyone accepts the Scriptures as their basis of authority when we reach out to them. Your testimony of how God has delivered you from depression, your testimony of how He brought you happiness, your testimony of how God has personally intervened in your life, your testimony of how He has answered your prayers, will be the most powerful, irrefutable testimony you can share. Later you can perhaps follow Irenaeus’ example in dismantling the tenets of Gnosticism, but do so gently, remembering they are as suspicious and incredulous of our beliefs as we are of theirs.

Find more essays on witnessing at path2prayer.com in the Christian Witnessing Works section.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura

Surviving the Postmodern Society

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

The bottom line in Christianity is living for Christ in whatever setting we find ourselves in. This is easier said than done and many a Christian wilts in the face of non-Christian opposition.

You know what I mean. The casual conversation at the bus stop turns into a referendum on all the reasons that Christians are simple minded and oblivious to the GREAT realities around them.

Lately, there are the ideas espoused by The Secret which supposedly taps into the wisdom of the ages. The book has certainly played well on television programs and in the marketplace, but does it offer any quantifiable evidence that a reasonable person could accept? Not that I am aware of!

Granted postmoderns have debunked the idea that everything can be proven and are increasingly seeking to understand life on the basis of their own experiences and feelings.

I don’t for a moment believe much of what is said. For example, many will suggest that whatever makes you feel good, is right for you. Good idea, until you help yourself to their laptop!

Please don’t think I am criticizing most postmoderns. I believe the current thinking is the outcome of looking to science to give complete answers without any God, and the realization that the answers given were inadequate. Sadly, the answers given in the current postmodern direction are also incomplete. But the people buying into these ideas are for the most part sincere, and thinking and living in the ways that have been suggested by people who supposedly know what they are talking about. Therefore no criticism is intended, only a desire to bring more information to the table, to raise questions, and to empower more Christians to confidently interface with their non-Christian–perhaps post-Christian is a better way of putting it, friends.

I am accordingly beginning to collect essays, or write, on the challenge of interfacing with postmodern society. Take it or leave it; hopefully there will be food for thought.

Here are samples of two things that are posted in the witnessing section of path2prayer.com:

Rick Wade: Confident Belief

This is the heart of postmodern thought, and it surrounds us today. We cannot know the truth about reality; we only know our own constructions of it. We can hope to convince others to join us in our beliefs, but there is no room for rational argumentation, because one’s views about the world are no better or worse than any others. As Stanley Grenz says, “all human interpretations-including the Christian worldview-are equally valid because all are equally invalid…. Read the rest of Confident Belief

Dan Augsburger: Comparing Philosophy and Christianity

Nietzche, though born of a pastor’s family-in fairness we must acknowledge his dad died when he was five I believe-decided God was dead and therefore we were on our own. He also had an aristocratic view towards life, and believed that a superman could take over and create the ideal conditions for the world. He hated Christianity, socialism and democracy, because all of them stood in the way of a certain class of super people having their own way. One of his students was Adolf Hitler, who followed what he wrote to its ultimate outcome, and brought on WWII and the holocaust. Nietzche had a mental breakdown at the end of his life. In his mind the strong are better than the weak (which included women, for him), and the strong should enjoy exploiting the weak for its own ends. He also thought morality was a hindrance to the development of new and better customs; that it made one stupid. Needless to say, a philosophy that willingly sacrifices millions of people, that sets up one group of people as a super race that can do whatever it needs to gain its own ends, is hardly a philosophy that I would want to buy in to. Read the rest of this letter…

As mentioned this is the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series of articles on witnessing in the marketplace.