Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Critical Thinking and Faith

Is critical thinking in opposition to Christian faith and practice? -Wayne M

Critical thinking is a life skill, not a school one. We could learn it anywhere. I began my process of critical thinking in a poetry class and reading Francis Schaeffer as a high schooler. I teach my children critical thinking by questioning advertisements and by presenting them with straw men that I expect them to knock down. I teach critical thinking in my Bible studies by asking people to tell me what the text says, not their theology, no matter how orthodox it is.

If critical thinking is a value-- one that I affirm strongly, and, it seems most of us here do-- we must also remember that it is not a biblical requirment. If someone has a simple faith, we must let them have it.

But I hope for our children, that we expect more of them. In our society of pluralism, we need to look beyond the facade to what is really being said. We've got to be smarter than the people around us if we are going to perpetuate the gospel to the next century, let alone the next millenium.

I do think that God strongly disaproves of faith that isn't thought out.

First of all, He disaproves of faith that is misplaced. Not just misplaced in worshipping other gods, although in ancient society that wouldn't necessarily be a given. The logic would be-- "If we worship two gods we get the benefits of BOTH!" But also we could try to worship an image as an "assist" to worshipping God-- that's a no-no. Or we could make something unholy by our attempt to be respectful (like II Sam. 6). In other words, we can't have faith simply because it SEEMS faithful to do something. We have to do it according to the commands of God. Well, to do the commands of God, we have to examine the Scriptures to find out what they really say, like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11)

Also, we have to examine the logical consequences of our faith ahead of time. Jesus said that we have to "count the cost" (luke 14) before we follow Him to see if we can truly accept the conequences. And we have to logic our faith out in practice so that our entire lives are consistent with our faith-- our practice may look different than others (Romans 14-15), but it is still important to figure it out.

I think it is a mistake to say that biblical faith is a "leap" like Kierkegaard did. I rather like to think of it as baby steps that God leads us to, not just with our spirit, but with our mind as well. "Leaps of faith" are usually the precoursor to stupid decisions and even oppression that should never have been done in the name of Jesus.

-Posts found in MennoDiscuss under "The Big MennoDiscuss Education Poll"

Are Muslims the Enemy of Christians?

There are a number of points I want to make about the general assumption of Americans and others who see people being oppressed by the Muslims:

1. The Qur'an is usually overinterpreted by both terrorists and opponents to Muslims. If you read it carefully, in chronological order, it is the book of an OT prophet, affirming the oneness of God who was attacked by his enemies and later by those he felt to be his friends. The attacking he promotes is only opposed to polytheists only. The book goes out of its way a number of times speaking of the brotherhood between Muslims and "the people of the book", namely Jews and Christians. Muhummad ended up being rejected by the Jews, but still wanted to give them their spiritual place as brothers to Muslims. Yes, they enslaved whole peoples (which the Bible is strictly opposed to-- see the first couple chapters of Amos), and they destroyed other peoples, but they mostly saw these peoples as polytheists. The Christians in the lands they conquered they did not forcably convert, but allowed to live in their lands, as Christians.

2. The worst sin in the Muslim idea is that of "shirk"-- or giving any place to any created being beside God. This is why they are so opposed to Sonship language for Jesus, although they see him as one of the greatest prophets, the son of virgin Mary and most have a tradition of Jesus returning to rule the earth. They feel that their task as a people is to eradicate any form of polytheism and idolatry. To have a picture of God or of Muhammad, God's "greatest prophet" is a great sin because of the fear to worship the image instead of God alone.

3. There is too much power being given to fringe Muslim groups by their enemies. Bin Laden isn't just a Muslim fundamentalist, he is also a Marxist. Most Muslims are opposed to his ideals, especially that of considering any Muslim who works with the West a promoter of Satanic ideals, as well as his decades-old call to violent revolution. This is not to say that Muslims are peaceful-- they will make war when they need to defend themselves-- but they don't think that killing Muslims or initiating violence is the right way. Unfortunately, in seeing Muslims or the Qur'an as the great enemy of the Christian faith, we alienate those whom we should be giving the gospel to, and give credence to the revolutionary Muslims ideas.

4. Again, Muslims need to know the truth about Jesus. That is most important. What most Muslims and Christians do not know, though, is how much truth about Jesus that is in the Qu'ran itself. Beyond what I said above about Jesus in the Qur'an, the Qur'an also says that Jesus is the Word of God, the Messiah and that he died and rose again (in the original Arabic). This information is being used to evangelize Muslims throughout the world. One of the greatest church plant efforts in the Muslim world has been started on this premise, and thousands of Muslims are coming to Jesus-- not just in a revival meeting, but in connecting with other Muslims who now pray, "Allah is God and Jesus is his Messiah" five times a day. When we focus on the wrong issues-- painting all of Islam like a fringe group, labeling Muhammad or the Qu'ran as "evil", labeling Allah as a "moon god", highlighting the violence of some Muslims rather than the gracious hospitality and brotherhood of most Muslims-- then we lose the opportunity to truly give Muslims the truth of Jesus.

Is America A Christian Nation?

Is America A Christian Nation? -Kevin M.

The U.S. is not nor ever was a Christian nation. To have freedom of religion which the Consitution promises is to be able to worship a different god than the Christian one. It is the possibility of worshipping the god one wants to worship with an image of creation. It is the possibility of taking the Lord's name in vain, to speak falsehood in the name of a god.

This is why I find it amusing that justices and citizens try to promote the ten commandments as the law of the land when they are actually in direct opposition to the constitution.

The country was founded on a rebellion against proper authority, when the way of the cross is to submit and to allow God to undermine oppressive authorities.

This is not to say that the country didn't have Christian elements-- certainly it was influenced by Christianity. But on some very basic principles it stands against a Christian theocracy.

And for that I am profoundly glad. Honestly.

Because of the U.S. capitalistic view of religion, true followers of Jesus can stand in stark contrast to all other religions, including that of false Christianity. There is a greater opportunity to share the true gospel in this country that other "Christian" countries do not have. If everyone is a "christian" in a country, then no one needs to repent or to be saved. In our country, we have the freedom to have different ideas, to "convert" others and to share the true message of Jesus without worrying about whether it agrees with some leader's limited idea of what Jesus was saying.

And with the U.S. not being a Christian nation, it also can understand itself as an imperfect secular state, able to make mistakes and to apologize for them because the state's decisions is not the will of God in Christ.

At least, ideally, that's how it should be.

-Posted in MySpace, Christians for Social Action group