Tag Archives: Social Gospel

A new way or and old way to read the Bible…

This entire post is based off of Robert Webbers writing in Ancient-Future Worship, and all quotes are taken from that book, except where otherwise stated.

A new way to read the Scriptures… or maybe the original way…?

Robert Webber challenges his reader to read the Scriptures as he says; the way the Apostles and early church read them.

Now, if you’re like me, and you have been taught how to read your Bible in the past 50 years or more, then you have taught to read the Bible literary historical grammatical approach. This way is not opposed to what Webber says, but its focus is misplaced.

As a foundation Webber says we must read the Bible and see Jesus as the focal point. I’d think most of us would agree, but do we really do that?

It easier when one reads the NT, because the authors make Jesus the center of everything for us. But when reading the OT one must make the effort to see Jesus in all things. There is a fine line in what he is saying here between allegorical reading and reading Jesus as the focal point.

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures.

“The apostolic way of reading and preaching the Scriptures is to see Jesus Christ as the subject of the entire Bible, the subject of all of history.”

“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Luke 24:27

“The narrative of the whole Scriptures is about Jesus Christ. We find him everywhere and in everything…

While the early church fathers are Christ-centered in their reading of the Scriptures, they do not neglect the Father and the Spirit. The life of the Son is in the communal life of the Father and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son to redeem, to rescue the world from the clutches of the evil one. The Spirit is the one who breathes life into the world and gives life to all the events and persons who prefigure Christ. He is present in all the events of the Old Testament, as well as the ministry and work of Jesus. He is now present in the Church and in God’s people providing us with a conscious and intentional life of Christ to all who live in his name. When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the new life in Christ. In this way we are brought up in the life of God’s community where we fellowship in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

So the fathers of the church, while Chistocentric in their reading and preaching of the Scriptures, were also Trinitarian.”


“We must read and preach the Bible as true.”

This is not to say…

“Read it as if it were true.” That would be to read it mythologicaly.

“Read it and make it true.” That would be to read it to prove it.

“Read it for truths.” That kind of reading usually looks for principles to make life more successful.

How we do read the Bible as true?

1. Read the bible with an Ancient mind-set.

“The Fathers [Church Fathers & writers of Scriptures] did not see life as split between the sacred and the secular. For them everything is sacred.”

(This is the same proposition Rob Bell makes in his Everything is Spiritual DVD teaching.)

2. Read the Bible relationally

God is described through stories of relationship; illustrations of how He relates and acts toward man, not volumes of systematic facts (like this book).

“The Hebrew mind does not describe God intellectually in the abstract as though God is an object to be studied. Instead he is always pictured as the God who enters into relationship with his creatures…The New Testament images of God and church continue with this same emphasis on relationship. The church is the ‘body of Christ,’ the ‘bride of Christ,’ the ‘community,’ the ‘household of faith,’ the fellowship in faith.’”

3. Read the Bible in context, understanding its language.

The Scriptures are composed of many different genres of literature, such as law, historical narratives, letters, worship manuals, hymns, and both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. And at least one third of the Bible could be categorized as poetry,

“The ancient language was also one of paradox… So the narrative always has both a divine side and a human side. God chooses, calls, elects. God lives among the people speaking, chastising, directing. But the people live in the presence of God, who is among them. They respond and relate to God. They sometimes ignore God or outright disobey God and chase after gods of their own making. But God is always there.

Western thought—especially Enlightenment thinking—does not like paradox. Rational language cannot see how opposites are two sides of the same reality. So some want to read the Bible from the divine side emphasizing divine predestination and divine foreknowledge, but others approach the Bible emphasizing the human side of freedom and choice. In the Hebrew mind both are real and valid.”

Robert Webber would actually label this section, “read the Bible as metaphor.” He agues we come to Scriptures with our western mind seeking everything to have a literal meaning, when the ancient language was more of one that evoked a feeling.

4. Read the Bible so it reads us and speaks to our world today.

“It has the power to read us and the world because the text discloses the waywardness of the human heart. We should not read the accounts of the Human rebellion against God as a study of ‘some other person’ or of ‘that particular culture.’ Instead those accounts, while rooted in a particular history, reach across time to say, ‘you are there; that’s a description of your life, of your sin and rebellion, of your journey away from God, of your world’s rebellion… It is an interactive story of God and humanity. It reveals truth about God, but also it reveals truths about persons, societies, cultures, and civilizations.

The Bible also reads us because Jesus, who is our Redeemer, is also the model for our true living.”

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The Three points of the Gospel: Manger, Cross, Crown

I debated with my self about posting this video for several reasons. First of all it’s long (about 50 min), and secondly I try to be original in what I post. However, Tim Keller is amazing, everything I’ve heard from this guy continues to amaze me.

In this particular message that was a part of the Dwell Conference from 2008 in New York City, Keller address the question, “What is the Gospel?” His message is titled “Dwelling in the Gospel,” and it really gets into the vastness of the Gospel message.

You can link to the video here…

http://theresurgence.com/Keller_Dwelling-in-the-Gospel-video

Summary of Tim Keller’s Message:
He highlights the tension scholars have discuses for years, in that the Bible presents several different Gospels, yet claims there is only one. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) present the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. John’s Gospel presents the Gospel of Eternal Life. And the Pauline Epistles present the Gospel of Justification.

Furthermore, Paul would argue that there is only one gospel in Galatians chapter one, but then in Galatians 2 he mentions his gospel is for the Gentiles and Peters in for the Jews… SO THERE IS ONE GOSPEL… BUT THEY ARE MANY?

Tim Keller addresses this question by concluding there is one Gospel, but that it has three main points; the Incarnation, the Cross, and the New Creation.

And if I categorized them correctly from his message it looks something like this table below…

table 2

Keller then goes on to say that how we present the Gospel depends much on our audience. Paul did not always present the gospel the same. In fact as Keller speculates that Paul made great distinction in his presentation between the Gentile and the Jew (the morally cognitive, and the morally relative).

Moreover, it would defeat power of the Gospel to address each of these every time, or to assume that “one size fits all.”
This video to me settles much of my uneasiness I’ve had about the gospel of personal conversion verses the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which I addressed in my earlier posting, “The Presentation of the Gospel: An inspiring look at the news of the Kingdom of God. Part 1 & Part 2

I liked Keller question to the crowd to examine the “tension between people pushing an individual conversion agenda verses a corporate community agenda.”

There needs to balance… I agree. I was raised under the personal conversion classical evangelical 4-point gospel presentation, and I since then I have swung over to the “corporate community justice” gospel. But churches, our people, and our communities are in need of the full gospel if they are to be reached with maximum impact.

One last thing to mention… I enjoyed his comment (which he learned from his professor) that “the essence of the cross is substitution,” because as he said, in every instance and theory Jesus is doing the action on our behalf, whether liberating, or ransoming, or restoring, or reconciling, or saving, or justifying… we cannot do it on our own.

My hope now is that you will, or that you already have, watched this message from Tim Keller.

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The Richness of Atonement Theories

As a Disclaimer this post is long. But well worth the read if you interesting in Atonement theology.

This had been an area of theology that I have spent considerable time investigating.  Atonement theology is at the core of Christian Theology, and depending how you view the work of Christ on the Cross will be reflected in all the other aspect of both the practical and impractical side of theology.

atonement

Atonement Theology

The Importance of Integrated Theology.
Theology is an integrated area of study, and it works to our disadvantage by compartmentalizing its many different facets. To study atonement without the understanding of its relationship to the rest of theology would be detrimental to its significance. The atonement would be meaningless without the depravity of man; it would be powerless to display the love of God without the incarnation, and it would be hopeless without the promise of a resurrection.

The Importance of Identification in Atonement Theories.

Yet atonement theology remains one of the most vital areas of study in Christian theology. And the fact that the church has not ratified a single view of the atonement speaks to the imperative value of identification between the sacrifice and the sinner. As one commentator writes, “The use of animal sacrifice relied heavily on the idea of identification between the sinner and the animal.1” The gravity of the human need is vast, and no single theory can bridge the gap. Therefore, each individual has the opportunity to identify with Christ in a different way. To some Christ is their liberator, to others the reconciler, or purifier, and yet still to others, their ransom, victor, or vicarious substitution.
Furthermore, this concept of identification is also what helps defend unlimited atonement against both limited and universalism. The debate between these three views is one of the classic controversies over atonement. Because if Christ died for all, why are some still judged for their sin? Shouldn’t all be saved? And to defend this idea a limited view of the atonement arose that states, Christ only died for those who would be saved. However, the concept of sacrificial identification settles this dispute. It is not simply enough that a sacrifice was given, but the sinner also had to identify with that which was being sacrificed.

The Importance of the Atonement and its Many Faces.

Traditionally there are five main possible views of the atonement; ransom to Satan, recapitulation, example/moral influence, governmental, concluding with the prominent view of modern atonement theology satisfaction/penal substitution. Yet by limiting the atonement to Penal Substitution, one is left with an incomplete humanity. The human need is greater than the provision of Penal Substitution. So to understand the atonement one must re-examine the doctrine of depravity.
Dwight Pentecost describes the depravity of man saying that, “men have slipped past the point of no return. They have gone over the cataract of sin, and have been swept into the state of sin. They are slaves of a sin-nature. They are producing the fruits of sin. They are spiritually dead; they are under judgment; they are under Satan’s power. That is what it means to be depraved. Man is not as bad as he can be, but man is as bad off as he can be. He is lost.2” This is a rather comprehensive definition. Although when discussing the work of the atonement one must not forget about the falls destructive effects on creation, and the provision which was also included in the atonement. This is why the atonement is the culminating theological event that not only reshaped history, but also redefines salvation theology. As Martin Hengel writes, “No human death has influenced and shaped the world of late antiquity, and indeed the history of mankind as a whole down to the present day, more than that of the Galilean craftsman and itinerant preacher who was crucified before the gates of Jerusalem in AD 30 as a rebel and messianic pretender.3”

Therefore this paper will defend six different atonement views. The six views are Sacrifice, Justification by Grace, Penal Substitution, Liberation from Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers, the Renewal of Creation, and the Wondrous Love of God 4.
Each of these six different atonement theories were developed under unique circumstances, and those circumstances are reflected by the need that each theory addresses. Walter Rauschenbusch expresses this very idea as he writes, “It is important to note that every theory of the atonement necessarily used terms and analogies taken from the social life of that age. And that the spirit and problems of contemporary life are always silent factors in the construction of theory.5”

This is also why atonement theories circulate over time, rising and falling in popularity. The different atonement theories concentrate on a specific set of spiritual needs and their adherents identify with a particular atonement narrative as it relates most closely with their life. “Theories connect the story of Jesus with the believers in a new time and place. By identifying the needs of their context, the authors portray the saving power of Jesus in ways that draw a new generation into the believing community.6”

Another way of viewing all of these six different theories as a part of one larger united theology is by defining them by their object 7. The objects of the different atonement views are the law, sin & powers, creation, or mankind. It’s like four witnesses who testified about the same car accident. Each testimony is true but different. Likewise, the different atonement theologies are valid and correct, but different in their aim, and scope. This is possible because they have, as their foundation, the narrative theology of the Gospels, and the contextualized Epistles of the New Testament. This is why there is not one single view, but a melding of different views because each time it was written to address a different group of people, experiencing a different set of circumstances. In fact, Paul is the earliest pioneer of reshaping the purpose of the atonement to tackle the needs of his audience.  In Romans and Galatians he speaks of the atonement as Justification for both the Jews and the Gentiles. And later, in Corinthians he uses the atonement to address the needs of reconciliation within the body of Christ.
Moreover, upholding these six theories is not a defense of religious tolerance or an invitation for religious syncretism. Instead it is allowing the rich multitude of Scriptures, doctrine, and Christian traditions to bless the understanding of Christ’s work that was accomplished on the cross.

Sacrificial Atonement.
The Sacrificial View of Atonement draws heavily upon Old Testament imagery and law. The two primary sacrificial treaties that are related to the death of Christ, are Passover and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement). It is interesting to note that these two sacrifices accomplished strikingly different results.  The Passover was done in remembrance of the 10th plague of Egypt, in which the angel of the Lord would pass over and spare the households that were covered by the blood of a lamb. On the other hand, Yom Kippur was instituted as the purification sacrifice for the tabernacle and the people. A lamb’s blood was sprinkled to symbolize the washing and cleansing of sins.
The New Testament authors fuse the imagery of the Passover lamb and the Atonement lamb. Jesus as the Atonement lamb is proclaimed by John the baptizer, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!”  Yet, the imagery of the Passover lamb is self-attributed by Jesus.  During the last supper Jesus initiates a new ordinance as he replaces the blood and flesh of the Passover lamb for His blood and body. This theme is even expressed in Paul’s writings as he labels Jesus the Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7.

Justification by Grace Atonement.
The Justification by Grace View of atonement (and the following view, Penal Substitution), both make light use of Biblical imagery and extensive use of the legal language of justification 8. The basic outline of the Justification by Grace Theory is that sin is a violation of covenant law, which results in the separation of man and God, and heralds the judgment of God upon man. It is impossible for man to ever bridge this gap of separation, or to make peace with God. So God, in his love, sent his son to die on the cross, so that by faith (and not by works) man could be justified before God, united and spared from wrath.

Penal Substitution Atonement.
Penal Substitutionary atonement parallels this basic legal outline. The major differences being (as its title makes reference), the focus is on the divine requirements of the law. The penal law required that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).” Death was required from all men as their punishment for transgressing the law of God (Romans 6:23). However, God in his love not wanting to be eternal separated from man, provided his son as the vicarious substitution for all of mankind.  Therefore in his death men are released from the payment of sin because Jesus paid for it on the cross.
Wayne Grudem defend that the Penal Substitutionary view is the heart of the atonement. For he writes “there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for, “ adding, “Before the atonement could have an effect on our subjective conscious, it first hand an effect on God and his relationship to the sinner. 9” Paul Enns also labels this theory the “emphasis of the New Testament, 10” and the fulfillment of the Isaiah 53:5 prophecy that states, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”

Liberation Atonement.
However, turning the page one discovers the Liberation of Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers Theory of atonement. It is said that “the New Testament overflows with references to two aspects of the saving work of Christ: forgiveness of sins and liberation. 11” The Liberation view gained ground in the wake of World War I and II, and with the rise of liberal, neo-orthodoxy, and social gospel theologies.  Men like Walter Rauschenbusch argue against a cosmic or divine accounting and transference of sins to the cross of Christ. Instead he writes, “he [Jesus] did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins. 12” Moreover, men like John Howard Yoder write, “The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt or a nagging in-law, it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society. 13”

Liberation Theology operates under the general assumption adopted from Immanuel Kant, “that we have it within our powers to reform ourselves. 14” Yet, it should be noted that power within stems from the theological assertion that we have been liberated by Christ to live for him. And unlike the previous theories which divide and bicker over the nature of justification verses sanctification, liberation atonement expresses that salvation occurs by the incarnation of the Word of God, and sanctification, or the ability to live out God’s will, was provided in the liberating work of the cross. The Liberation view of atonement stresses the call to social action as well as personal reform. Unlike justification and Penal Substitution advocates who might have a tendency to become comfortable resting on justification by grace through faith, liberation advocates actively seek to be a force that emancipates man from evil powers.

Renewal of Creation Atonement.
The Renewal of Creation view of atonement may sound like it was created just in time for earth day, but its roots branch back to the Fourth Century, to a theologian named Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. Contrasting the four previous views of atonement, the Renewal of Creation Theory takes a completely new and different approach to viewing God’s work through Christ on the cross.  The outline of this theory is that through Jesus all things were created but in the fall all had been lost, even the knowledge of God. However because of the love of God and the divine purpose of creation, God sent Jesus into the world to “renew creation” in his life, “restore life in the face of death,” forgive sins and “restore the true knowledge of God. 15”

Wondrous Love Atonement.
The Wondrous Love view of atonement affirms that the primary reason for Jesus’ life and death, and in fact all of God’s interactions with mankind, has been to demonstrate the love of God. 1 John 4:16b-17 supports the concept that love is the fundamental characteristic of God, saying, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” And although, “some of the legal concepts of the atonement have obscured the love of God in the death of Christ. 16 ” Love still remains as one of the chief expressions of God throughout the different atonement theories. It is the common thread that intertwines all the atonement views together.
The outline of the Wondrous Love Theory of atonement is that God’s reason for creating the world was love, and the relationship between God and man is regulated by the love of God and it’s result: obedience. This unity in love that was present in the original relationship of mankind and God was corrupted by the sins of pride and self-centeredness.  Therefore, in the incarnation God came to demonstrate his love and obedience, which were completed in atonement. In the resurrection, God vindicates Jesus and “makes him Lord, thereby establishing a new community of Love for the sake of the world’s redemption. 17”  The basic principle of this atonement view, and the very reason for its universality, is that as God demonstrates his love, man will respond by loving God.

The Importance of Love in the Atonement: the Thread that Binds.
Today evangelicals pronouncement of the gospel is, “Jesus loves you and died for your sins.” Theologically many would affirm that the significance of this phrase is the forgiveness of sins. Yet, what stirs the heart and creates the change in people’s lives is the response to the love of God.  1 John 4:19 decrees “We love because he first loved us.” Not only did God take on the likeness of a man, dwell as a servant among his creation for 33 years, but he also submitted his life to death in the ultimate revelation of humility and love. This is one of the strongest attracting forces of the cross. The symbol of God dying for mankind (in every atonement theory) has an irresistible moral influence of the heart of man. Skeptics accuse the Old Testament to depict a God of Wrath and the New Testament a God of Love. And their criticism is not completely unmerited. The epicenter of the New Testament is the life and death of Christ, which is the greatest revelation of God’s love in all of history. Theologians want to see a systematic God that displays all of his attributes in equal proportion throughout all of his actions. Yet, God does not do this. Instead he tends to highlight only one of his many characteristics at any given time in history. And the atonement without a doubt is the demonstration of God’s love.

Footnotes

  1. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power: Theories of Atonemnt and Forms of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishng Company, 2005). Pg 21.
  2. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Gand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965). Pg 16.
  3. Martin Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1981). Pg 1.
  4. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 11.
  5. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).
  6. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 7.
  7. J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001). Pg 70.
  8. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 56
  9. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999). Pg 254
  10. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989). Pg 232.
  11. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 123.
  12. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock). Pg 247.
  13. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Willaim B. Eerdmas Publishing Company, 1972). Pg 132.
  14. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 124.
  15. Ibid. 170, 171.
  16. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel. Pg 272.
  17. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 290.

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Letting Go & Letting God be God.

the image of God

“We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained.”

-A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

What a sad commentary on humanity. How short even our thoughts are from God. God in the mind of many, as Tozer said, is a collage of religious images; skinny unscathed Jesus on the Cross; gentle Jesus snuggle close to lambs; God stretching out his finger to Adam but not quite touching. Experiences and people we know taint the image of God. We see God like we see our Father, or Mother, Pastor, or influencing figures. However, the worst seems to be Tozer’s last assertion that becomes a culmination of all the sublime ideas we have entertained. This is as if to say, God is a great as we can imagine. How tragic! A God whose glory and majesty power and grandeur can be housed in the mind of a man. God is none of these things. God is Holy other. He is separate and far from the thoughts of man. He is bigger than we can imagine and more intimate than we grasp. He is more than our sublime ideas, and possible less.

God is love, but not as man imagines love. Because for God love is who he is, not what he does or how he acts. God does not love like man loves. Every action God does is love. For man it is hard to except judgment and discipline as love. But for God all of these actions are seen as the same, they are simply God in action. God’s actions cannot be classified as love or wrath, judgment, or grace. All of these action spill from the same well, the spirit of God, who is love.

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The Power of Nonviolence

micah 4 3 color2

He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Micah 4:3

I have not written much about nonviolence on this blog. It is a position I have acquired after much theological, moral, ethical questioning a few years back. However, Recently I have been thinking about it again, and taking about it with others. So this is an overflow of some of those thoughts and conversations.

A nonviolent response that allows for possibility for self-sacrifice robs violent offenders of their power. The kingdom of this world’s greatest threat and manipulation of power is the illusion that they can take your life or make it miserable. However, in truth God is the giver and taker of life. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).  Furthermore, as believers we have a greater hope, a hope of resurrection. As Paul understood he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(Philippians 1:21). Believers do not have to fight to save this life, nor should they.  To us, this life becomes in a sense worthless as a bargaining chip. We should enter into nonviolent action ready to sacrifice our life if needed to, and in doing so we remove from the enemy their greatest power over us. In nonviolent humble self-sacrificing love believers conquer and stand victorious over the enemy. When we do not respond with violence to violence we rise above our enemies, and when we do not allow their threats to move us from this position we walk in the likeness of our lord Jesus Christ.

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Justice or Charity?

justice-or-charity

Both justice and charity are mentioned in the Bible as qualities of both God and the faithful. Yet, it seems to me charity has somehow been subtitled for justice. People think they are supporting justice when all they are is being charitable. For example giving toys to needed Children during the Holidays is nice, its charitable, but its not justice. Those Children will still have to return to their families who are broken, possibly abusive, and most likely unable to provide adequately for them. Giving a sandwich or a few dollars to the homeless person standing on the corner is great and should be commended, however its still not justice. That sandwich only met the most temporal of his needs, and did not change his life, soul, or the cold park bench or overpass which he calls home.

Hear me correctly, I’m not speaking ill of charity. I know how hard it is to motivate people to be charitable, to bring in toys for children, or roll down their windows to give to the homeless. But justice is what is needed the most. Justice will help fight to root of the problem, greed, pride, and selfishness.Justice will help move a homeless person off the street permanently, by providing education and counseling. Justice will help end poverty, and war. The Kingdom of God is concerned about justice, as well as charity. But Charity without justice is like pouring water into a bucket without first plugging the hole in the bottom.

The Torah (the first five book of the Old Testament) imposed an obligation to maintain a society in which justice reigned. Maintaining societal Law was seen as maintaining Spiritual Law. You could not consider yourself spiritual if you did not carry out justice in your community. And when justice was not being maintained the prophets that their altars and places of worship would soon come crumbling down and they would be inhibited from worshiping God. Social Laws and Spiritual Laws go hand in hand. To live out justice is to take action against the evils of this world, but it is also to live out love, grace, and mercy. To live out justice is not only to stomp out the negative, but to live out the positive.

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Religion: Christian.

religion

The Church as been obsessed with the concept that “Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.” And although I understand the theological understanding of that phrase I still see it as bad bumper sticker theology. I think the widespread acceptance of this theology highlights a growing problem in the church. Namely, the growing inward focus rather than an outward focus. The modern Church is completely absorbed with the individual rather than the community.

Religion is not an entire bad thing. In fact I will argue it is a good thing. Religion is not something believers should run from or shrink away from. Instead it should be embraced in its true form. James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” So if religion is doing its job correctly it is a positive force on society and culture.

However, I can see why many modern believers have shrunk away from the idea of being a part of an organized religion. Because the Christian religion has failed to impact society and culture in a positive way by caring for the orphan, the widow and the poor… not to mention keeping oneself unpolluted from the evils of this world. Religion often looks like the pollutant not the filter. So many followers of Jesus detach from “religion” in the expression that they just have a relationship, and thus breaking the continuity between faith and action in many cases.

I understand that I am speaking here in broad generalities. I know the church in many local circumstances has taken great responsibility to tend to the orphan and widow, poor and oppressed. However, this is not what the church is known for to most.

I am both both proud and ashamed to be apart of the Christian religion. I am first proud because true Christianity is founded on the scriptures that triumph the advocacy of the poor and oppressed. Within a true Christian community the least of these are protected and defended against the wicked and the greedy. Yet, at the same time I am also ashamed to be a Christian because for so long Christians have failed to live out the full power and words or our savior Jesus Christ. In fact it has been so long since the Christian Community has lived out the redeeming principles of the Kingdom of God that it looks to most as if Christianity could and never will be effective or worth while. Religion because of its followers has been labeled ineffective, and even a force of evil rather than good, just look at the atrocity of the crusades.

As true followers of Jesus we need to take back the religion founded on the words of our savior. We have the ability to show the world what true religion looks like and put that thirst back in our society for Christianity. As Christians we need to get more focus of serving people and ministering to the marginalized in our society instead of building building or announcing church programs. We need to find our roots… Christians were the outcasts, and still are in some places in world, yet here in America we act the were high-society, and nobody wants us around.

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