Thinking about life, faith and the world.

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

About That Little Supreme Court Case…

keep-calm-and-love-on-15475“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

As the Supreme Court deliberates a potentially momentous decision on gay marriage, I’ve said about all I have to say right here. Agree or disagree, but don’t fear.

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Of Popes and Progress

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

“I the Lord do not change.” – Malachi 3:6 (NIV)

My interest in the election of Pope Francis lies somewhere between the rapt attention of the pilgrims at St. Peter’s, and the bemused detachment of an observer who doesn’t know a catechism from a cassock. As an ex-Catholic, I feel no duty to obey the leader of a denomination I left more than 25 years ago. Yet I wish Francis well, and I can’t help but feel the direction of the Catholic church has some place in the greater story God is writing, perhaps to conclude in my or my children’s lifetime.

Almost as interesting have been the reactions of rank-and-file Catholics to the events of the past month. Not that all Catholics think this way, but a couple of on-the-street sound bites from one local newscast gave a remarkable, condensed summary of how people in our age think about religion. The reporter asked a man and a woman what they hoped to see from the new Pope. The man said he hoped for “reform,” which he defined as “loosening up the rules a little.” The woman offered that the church needed to “move with the times.”

The man’s response reflected the common view of religion as a set of man-made rules with a supernatural overlay to keep the superstitious rubes in line. He and the woman also showed what so many people want – a religion that doesn’t change them, but changes for them. Nothing in their responses suggested a dynamic relationship with a living but unchanging God.

Clearly, I have my differences with the Catholic church, or I wouldn’t have left it. But I won’t, as some do, call it a cult or suggest that Catholics can’t have authentic, saving faith. And there are things I very much respect. One is the way the church reflects the unchanging nature of God. It will not and should not change its teachings simply because a world that doesn’t follow God has moved on. If a teaching changes, it should be to align with eternal truth where there has been error. This principle seems lost on that man and woman on the street, and countless millions more like them.

If changing with the times means simply speaking to the world as it is – yes, the church needs to do that. But it’s a matter of applying timeless principles to the times, not changing the principles to fit the times. The transformations wrought by history leave the church with issues to address that were inconceivable in the first century. But God isn’t surprised by any of it, and if we seek Him through prayer and His Word, He will point the way for us without changing who He is. Unfortunately, some churches have tried to redraw the picture of God to please their members. Congregants whose churches hold the line look at the churches that waver, and they naturally want some of that.

As for people equating religion with rules, the Catholic church (and others) bears some responsibility for that perception. At least in my experience, an enduring weakness of the Catholic church has been a failure to point its members to a one-on-one relationship with God. Instead there are liturgies, hoops to jump through and mediators of the believer’s standing with the Lord. But before non-Catholics start feeling all superior, think of the dos and don’ts that have piled up in many Protestant denominations.

Whatever banner they fly, churches have done much to distort the world’s understanding of who God is and how He wants to relate to us. Here’s hoping Pope Francis can do for Catholics what needs to be done for millions of churchgoers in every denomination.

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Stealing it Back – An Addendum

Spy007au bungee jumping off the Zambezi Bridge...

“…for we walk by faith, not by sight…” – 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB)

Something felt incomplete about my last post. I left out the flip side. I wrote about stealing back reason from the unbelieving, but this blog is also about stealing back belief from the unreasoning. If the doubters have stolen the mantle of reason, part of the blame lies with believers who have been content, if not eager, to give it away.

This is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of faith. In some minds, the words “blind” and “faith” have become inseparable. For the believer in Jesus Christ, those words should never go together. Our faith, our hope, is not an optimist’s wish. It’s a certainty, with a measure of trust in what we cannot see, but also a good deal of sight. Not that we walk by sight; to actually step out in our choice to believe takes faith, because we don’t have the full picture. But we come to that faith – or we should – on the basis of something more than a story we have heard.

I won’t go into the evidence here, but it’s plentiful, from the archaeological support for the Bible, to the miracles many have seen, to the cosmological questions that exhaust the capacity of science to answer. The evidence can’t bring you all the way to faith, but it can make the leap a bit more like rock-hopping than bungee jumping.

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Stealing It Back

English: Birthday candle, Downpatrick, County ...

“This song, Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” – Bono

With these words, U2 launched into a blistering, live rendition of “Helter Skelter,” preserved on the 1988 double album “Rattle and Hum.”

In the year I’ve been writing this blog, I have tried to do my small part in stealing the song of reason back from the playlist of the skeptics, the doubters and unbelievers in God. It’s one of their favorites. You may not know, for example, about the United Coalition of Reason, but you may have seen their hand in the atheist Christmas billboards of recent years. (“This season, celebrate REASON.”)

But that word is also at the heart of 1 Peter 3:15, from which I drew this blog’s name: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I embrace reason in articulating not only the simple “because” of belief, but the place of logic and rational thinking in faith. I chose the name reverently, but it’s also a little inside joke, a gentle poke at those who follow reason to a godless conclusion.

With God’s help, I have tried here to state clearly the reason for my hope. I would like to continue.

To the little band of followers I have picked up: Thank you for your visits, your likes, your comments and your encouragement. I haven’t played the blogging game quite the way I should, paying too little attention to my fellow bloggers and their fine work. I hope but can’t promise to do better in the future. My glacial publishing pace – 21 posts in 12 months – attests that this is not my day job.

If you’re relatively new here, I encourage you to go through the archives to get a flavor of where this journey started and where it’s led so far. At the bottom are links to some key posts. However long you’ve been following, I welcome your comments and ideas; ultimately, they will help me to feed this hungry creature I’ve brought into the world.

If you think more people can benefit from anything you find here, please spread the word. As I’ve told a few of my friends, I’m lousy and uncomfortable at self-promotion. But if God is working through this, I don’t want to aw-shucks my way into permanent obscurity.

With that, I’ll wrap up reason4thehope‘s first birthday post. Here is a selection of oldies if you need help getting up to speed:

What’s in This Name?

Where There’s a Will

Premature Judgment – Part 1

When Heaven Folds Its Hands

Yielding the Floor

Should This Be a Thing?

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