Thursday, April 26, 2012

Who Goes To Hell?

    • Gordon asks: 
      Does GOD send people to hell?? are we obligated to GOD?? A tree is just a tree. It didn't ask to be a tree, it just is.

      God appointed all humanity to rule over the earth. We have chosen to live in the ways of Satan's judgment and to be hateful and apathetic to the needy. So we deserve what we get.

      The repentant in Jesus, the merciful and suffering will be with the Lord for all eternity, living their second chance at life.

      The hypocritical, the destroyer of the innocent, and the "lawless" will spend eternity in hell. They deserve to be there, not because they are sinners, but because they are taking other people down with them.

      What about other people? Those who tried their best, but they continued to sin? What about those who sinned their whole lives but thought it was good? What about people who lived decent lives but didn't believe in God? We don't know. The Bible doesn't say. There is a hint in Matt 25 that says that the merciful to the poor who don't know God might get in anyway. There is also a possibility that some would just no longer exist. But in the end, we don't know.

      As far as what you were saying "God made us and we can't be blamed for how we are made." I think you misunderstood how God made us. He made us all to be powerful, almost god-like in our powers of decision making and control over our environment. God is sovereign, and in His power He has made US sovereign.

      This doesn't mean that we aren't weak. God knows we are desperately weak. We often do things that we shouldn't have done, and do things that we deeply regret. And what God asks most of us is to regret what our weakness has made us do, and to do all we can to repent of it. God doesn't ask us to change overnight, although that would be great. God doesn't ask us to change our nature.

      God does ask us to do a few things in our weakness, however:

      1. He asks us to regret. To weep and mourn over our sin.
      2. He asks us to reduce and eliminate harm to others. He will not excuse us if we hurt an innocent.
      3. He asks us to work on changing our lives so we don't sin. We may fail, but there is credit in the attempt.
      4. He asks us not to judge others, because we are sinners just as they are.

      In the end, we have to trust that God is just and loving and will give us not what we deserve, but what we and the universe needs.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Religion and Love

Here is a report by the NY Daily News about a divorced couple who can't agree about when to have their children baptized.  What is the logical choice?  Take it to court, of course!

The mother of the two young children baptized the kids without the father's consent, where it is assumed that she knew he would find the action unacceptable.  (She supports early baptism, while he affirms the anabaptist ideal of waiting until the children has full knowledge of what they are committing to).  So he takes her to court, and she will possibly be put in jail for this action because she violated the courts order that the religious upbringing of the children must be made with the knowledge (if not necessarily approval) of the father.

Legally, it makes some sense.  Under Jesus' law, this is insane.  Having a secular court arbitrate in religious decisions is crazy.  Heck, having a court arbitrate in personal matters is insane.

But the legal system has nothing to do with Jesus' standards of love.  Is it loving to put the mother of your children in jail because she disagrees with you about baptism?  Absolutely not.  Does it display love for the children to have their mother put in jail because of something they did?  What does that communicate to the children?  That they have driven their parents apart again.

This is why Jesus said in Matthew 12 that our laws and religious beliefs need to be subjected to mercy.  Every time we make a judgment, it should be put to the test of love: is it loving to force David and his men to go hungry because they weren't supposed to eat that bread?  Is it loving for the disciples to be judged for plucking grain in the field on the Sabbath?

Is it loving?  Does it show mercy?  If our religion can't abide by this principle, then throw the religion out, it's worthless.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Red Tent: A Review

You might think it strange for me to say, but I love the Bible.  I know, I'm a pastor, so I'm supposed to love the Bible, but I am surprised at how few pastors really appreciate the Bible.  Most Christian teachers scour the Bible for their own points of view, or review it quickly for their sermons, or for proof texts.  But I think the Bible is full of not only ancient wisdom, but of some of the best stories ever.  That's one of the main reasons the Bible survived at all, you know, because so many of the stories are unforgettable.  Not only are they memorable, along the lines of Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, they are short and easy to repeat.  You can just read them aloud in a completely different language and you can get a sense of their impact.

But there are some issues that are problematic with the Bible.  Not only those who claim more for the texts than the texts themselves allow, but also a matter of perspective.  There are only three stories that are told from a woman's point of view-- a spare book named Ruth, the story of Samuel's birth and a thinly told story of Jesus' resurrection.  All the rest of the Bible is told from a male point of view.  Yes, at times women are included, but more often than not, women are treated as possessions of men, with not even their names passed on.  There are certain heroes who are women: Sarah, Esther, Deborah, Abigail, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Tabitha.  But these stories are told from the wrong side of the ancient sexual veil, and their hearts aren't revealed, only actions.

Anita Diamant has written a book which breaks down that veil.  One of the most ugly, deeply disturbing stories of the Bible is found in Genesis, about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, taken by a local prince who was taken vengeance upon by her brothers Levi and Simeon.  But what was her perspective?  And what about the four wives of Jacob, how do they see their co-marriage, their children, their husband's sometimes strange actions?  Daimant does a marvelous job of taking the Bible text and reading between the lines to understand the woman's perspective.  She not only understands the ancient women, but also their pagan perspective, so their stories are not given through the Yahwist's perspective.  The novel is raw, emotional and strangely joyful for all the ugliness of the original stories.  

Even if you aren't a fan of the Bible, if you like historical fiction in any form, this is a keeper.  It is powerful and dramatic.  In a sense, it might be better without knowledge of the stories of Genesis, because they can impact you better.  5/5