Friday, September 25, 2009

Is the Bible Worth Studying?

A visitor reading my comment on a blog, replied back with a very derogatory remark about the fruitlessness of studying the Bible. I couldn't help myself and wrote a pretty long reply. I think it was rather inspired, so here it is:

I appreciate you putting this discussion in context. It did not occur to me, when I wrote my previous comment, that you would be of the opinion that the Bible has NEGATIVE (or detrimental) value. We tend to judge a group or an idea by observing the behavior of a small sampling of those who belong to it. I can develop a very negative view of gays, simply from their reaction to the passing of Prop. 8, in California. Likewise, I can use similar techniques to pass judgement on blacks, Muslims, truck drivers, etc….

I freely admit that there are very many obnoxious, rude, and overzealous people, who call themselves Christian, who very sorely misrepresent the teachings of the Bible, especially the New Testament. You said that Christianity today is nothing like the one that your grandparents professed. Could it be that the parents who you say drove your friend to suicide did not follow the Bible as well as your grandparents? Is a speed limit sign bad, if there are people who don’t obey it?

If I call myself a boxer and put on the whole gear (so that I also look like one), does that MAKE me a boxer? If you didn’t know anything at all about boxing, you might actually believe me to be one. But as soon as you see the REAL thing, especially one that proceeds to pummel me to the consistency of oatmeal, you would know who’s the real boxer and who’s the impostor. So you need a reference, by which to judge.

I came to a crossroads, when I was in college, and decided to go to the source for the answer: the Bible. I did not know whether there was ANY truth to be found in it, but realized that the only way was to read it for myself. I didn’t read ALL of it, at the time; not by a longshot. I started in the Book of John (4th book of the New Testament), but by the time I was half-way through, I was convinced and surrendered to Jesus. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, but I do have that peace that you were talking about.

I don’t know the exact situation with your friend (and even you may not know all the reasons that drove him to take his own life), but I’ll tell you this: nagging and harrassment are the provinces of men, not Jesus. My dad is NOT a Christian, and yet he nags me about everything under the sun (including my beliefs). I know he didn’t get that from the Bible. The Bible actually teaches that if you see your brother sin, you are to approach him about it, in a humble way, up to three times. If after the third time, he does not want to change, drop it. Nowhere is it even implied that you are to harrass, nag, or hurt him. Dropping it doesn’t mean that you’re now OK with his problem, but the wisdom here is that you can only make things worse with your nagging.

We (especially as parents) tend to take it upon ourselves to “fix” the people around us. This is not restricted to Christians. EVERYBODY does this. And everybody has a belief system that they want to impose on others. You said that Christian groups want to influence public opinion and won’t let people enjoy their lives in peace. This is true of ALL activist groups (it’s in their definition). I invite you to name ONE activist group that does NOT try to impose its views on the population. Groups like the ACLU, ACORN, and GLADD want to change laws that restrict my freedom, while promoting views that I strongly disagree with. We’re in the middle of a war of worldviews.

I should add here that there is a fairly large subset of Christians who believe that we should totally stay out of politics and public policy.

Your assertion that every human life is sacred is so very true and can lead us down all sorts of fascinating paths, but that’s beside the point.

I was trying to answer the fundamental question: Is there intrinsic value in the Bible? If we can say that there is even ONE work of fiction that is worth studying (and there are plenty that are analyzed to death in literature classes), then the world’s all-time number one bestseller should be counted, EVEN AS A PURE WORK OF FICTION. But archaeology has independently validated many of the historical and cultural references found in the Bible, so I conclude that those aspects also add to its value and merit.

As a source of moral guidance, its value rests on a slippery slope, unless we accept that its author is our creator: God. As a spiritual guide, it falls flat on its face, without God’s authority behind it.
So I conclude that while the Bible HAS value that make it worthy of in-depth study and analysis, its value in the context talked about here (spiritual and moral) is entire reliant on one assertion, which I would phrase as follows: The Bible is an accurate representation of God’s will for us. You can debunk this assertion in two major ways: (1) prove there is no God, or (2) prove that God’s will for us is significantly different from what the Bible portrays.

It's often hard to talk to unbelievers who are so against Christianity. This particular person was very angry at his friend's parents, who professed to be Christians, and whom he claimed drove his gay friend to suicide. He never responded, but I hope the Lord opens his heart.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Congratulations, Laura!

Well, I rolled a simple, six-sided die, to determine which commenter gets the free CD, and the lot fell on LAURA!!!! Muchos congrats!!! Thank you all for your continued support, and be sure to stop and visit my new blog, as well!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Absolutes? Absolutely!

Before I get into what the above picture has to do with anything even remotely Biblical, I wanted to share the excitement of this special day with you! Today is not only my parents' 35th wedding anniversary, but it's also this blog's first anniversary, in its current name and format! To celebrate, I'm doing two things, all at once! And no, neither of them involves walking or chewing gum!

1) I am having my very first "bloggy giveaway"! Leaving me a comment will automatically enter you in the drawing. No, more comments won't increase your chances of winning, but don't let that discourage you. Next weekend, I will draw a name at random, and that winner will receive a Christian music CD! Now, exactly which CD... that's open for discussion. :)

2) I am launching a new sister blog, called Lift Up the Standard. It will be of a more activist and political nature than Jesus Is Wonderful, and hopefully it will spark some good conversations, with a wider audience. Please check it out!

So, back to the Star Wars picture...

The climax of Episode III is arguably the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who has just turned to the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader (sans the breathing mask). As Padme lies unconscious, choked by an enraged Anakin, Obi-Wan tries in vain to convince the young man that he's on the wrong path. Anakin responds, "If you're not with me, then you are my enemy." Obi-Wan answers, "Only the Sith deal in absolutes." Some see this as a pot-shot at conservative Christians, who dare defy the concept that morality is only relative (never mind that the wise Jedi's bold statement is itself a contradiction). And yes, they might have something there, especially given George Lucas' liberal leanings. But there are a couple very interesting places where Jesus talks about who's with Him or against Him. Let's go exploring....

"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49,50, and similarly in Mark 9:38-40).

Now that's interesting, because you would think that besides the people who are gung-ho for Jesus and the ones who openly ridicule His followers, there are many in-between, who haven't made up their minds or are simply of a "live and let live" mindset. But Jesus doesn't seem to share that view (in fact, He promised in Revelation to spew such people out of His mouth). In this verse, He appears to see anyone who doesn't actually oppose Him as an ally.

Okayyyy... now, here's where it gets even more interesting:

"He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (Luke 11:23, and also Matt. 12:30).

This is kind of the flip-side of Jesus' previous quote and was almost exactly what Anakin said. Anyone who is not following Jesus is leading people away from Him. Now why would that be?

In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

This is the ultimate in absolute statements and one that gets a lot of Christians in hot water with the secular progressives. It essentially asserts that there is only one way to God, and that all other religions are false. So, anyone who believes otherwise is, by word or deed, contradicting Jesus and leading others away from Him.

So what about the guy in Luke 9 (not Skywalker!) and Mark 9, who was casting out demons in Jesus' name, even though he was not traveling with Jesus? Well, he was pointing folks to Jesus, the Savior of the world, and that's exactly what Jesus would have us all do. :)