Individualism and the Prosperity Gospel

ImagePhotos of this nature are maddening.

This is, of course, excepting my presence in reading my facebook newsfeed, which is exceedingly more maddening. I am just a slave for slogans and the ilk.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s largely correct, as far as I can tell or what meaning I can infer from it: God is our healer through providential care and grace. We can put our faith on Him to bring us through this world, nothing can extend or shorten our allotted time on this earth. Admittedly, I’m not sure what “heart doctor” means exactly–perhaps they mean cardiologist. Moreover, when they refer to “energy booster”, I assume they aren’t referring to chugging down Red Bull energy drinks and mistaking angels for people with “wings”.

God is our portion, He fills our cup overflowing. But if that is all the post is about, it’s entirely incomplete–I would argue it’s blasphemously incomplete.

The problem of the post is not itself, but the underlying motivations of the post.

The intention behind the post is what is lacking as it is brazenly existential.

It assigns most of our hope on the current alleviation of suffering and none on the reward of faithfulness. Read more of this post

The Antithesis of The Centrality of War And Violence In Culture

I had to bite my tongue in class when the topic of war came up.

I find that my views on war and violence are often quite controversial. I suspect that it is because they are controversial, that people are not always willing to hear them. Furthermore, people seem to not like opinions which span more than one sentence. They like black and white views on life–I am a Democrat, I am a Calvinist, I am a Cessationalist, I am a capitalist etc. More often than not, people don’t have the patience or time to hear a full exposition of how my view of war has been formed and evolved through time to arrive at what I believe in this. With this in mind, I think with any opinion there is a time to voice them, and there is a time to be silent. I also think there are clear opinions on war, that are reflected in our society.

It is unfortunate, because I would argue that the evolution in the history of someone’s thought is immeasurably more interesting than the final opinion that one finally arrives at. John Piper in Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian talks about how his initial views on race were shaped and influenced by growing up in a conservative culture in the South. As he grew up, he began to realize and change how he saw the world in a profound manner.

The Status Quo   Read more of this post

Comprehending Short Term Missions

In many things, I have learnt not to be too caustic towards other people. I often adopt this tone when I really dislike something–under the guise of sarcasm, I make very disparaging remarks, and the lines between where I’m being serious and joking blur. Unfortunately people get offended easily, especially when something as sacred as the modern pilgrimage to overseas countries, is questioned. It is certainly something that is important as being born again for many Christians today.

A lot time has to be spent at the beginning of any conversation exerting that I was generalising. I wasn’t talking about all missions trips, and I wasn’t judging any specific one. It was a general trend that I’ve been assessing and thinking about, not any specific trip I was thinking about.

Read more of this post

The Decline of the Church of England

The past royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton brought the attention back to the Westminster Abbey in which they were married.

The building, in fact has a grand history behind it, and has by no means a sorry history. The church having been born “through the influences of St Alban, St Illtud, St Ninian, St Patrick and, later, St Augustine, St Aidan and St Cuthbert” These are not the weakest of Christians in the history of Christianity. Beginning as a humble church in 604AD built on an island on the River Thames, the building was refounded in 960AD. The church was supposed to have been miraculously consecrated by St Peter from his grave, this is something that the Pope pointed out in his address to the Abbey last September.

The architectural context of the Abbey is important, situated within the spiritual heart of London – the Parliamentary buildings were built close to this building, signifying the comparative importance of religion over politics. I am not going to comment whether this rings true today, but the building began as a beacon of light in those days, the shining diamond of the Church of England. But now, it seems to only be used as a meaningless beacon for no truth at all. That one day, royalty would get married inside, yet on Sunday and whatever day, they would struggle to be full of people singing hymns to God again. The statistics are dire, in only 3% of England attending the church of which is the established church of the country. Furthermore, this statistic is a once a monthly membership, which is hardly dedication.

“When a church forfeits its doctrinal convictions and then embraces ambiguity and tolerates heresy, it undermines its own credibility and embraces its own destruction.” Read more of this post

Poverty or Riches: Deconstruction of the American Dream

I wonder if it is a possibility that anyone is worse off than us now.
Dare I compare our sorry plight to the “children in Africa”? My references to the “children of Africa” are not out of pettiness, but, of which I will refer to frequently in this post is a reference to anyone who is financially poorer than me. But is financial need not one of many of life’s problems of which we have to solve?

In many ways we are different: I live on a different continent. I live in a country that is comfortably defined as First World, compared to their Third World developing countries. I am receiving a college education, while they are likely to have never attended elementary school. Yet, in some ways we are similar, like how I have spent the past hour sorting through a carton of feijoas searching and eating the rotten ones, they likely do this daily and have been for everyday of their lives. Yet at the same time, we are essentially different because at the same time I was typing an essay on the role of the B.N.Z building in the development of New Zealand architectural history on a laptop with sticky fingers.

Here is the fundamental difference between these: they have no incline of the American Dream. 

They don’t seek to become successful in this world. It is a total paradigm change when you are transformed from hunter-gatherer to business man. The disappearance of the worry of surviving through to the next day, turn to seeking to create something of yourself. Almost at once, it seems that anything in the world is able to be accomplished and within our reach. We know that only a few reach the top of this pyramid, but somehow we think we are one of those. There is something really emotive about helping the children in Africa on television, but I wonder if it is all worth it. Smiling constantly while we are glued to our television screens, I wonder who the poor ones are. I wonder if the children in Africa are ever seeking fame and riches when they are suffering to feed their families. But no, their entire mindset is built around surviving, and if sponsorship money would survive them to the next day easier then perhaps that is worthy to them.
There is a moment in 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy takes his baseball team that he is coaching into his office at 30 Rockfeller Place. Tracy Morgan as part of his community service for one of his crimes is assigned to coaching this team, but Jack soons takes over.

Katy Perry: Growing Up In Sheltered Christianity

Sometimes I want to whack parents as much as their children.

Not to excuse the human responsibility, each person has a responsibility to conduct themselves in such a manner, no matter what their upbringing. Saying you were born a homosexual, give justification to act on those impulses, just as all of us were born sinners from the mother’s womb. That being said, the platform of homosexuality being genetic is arguable as well. Nevertheless, the point is the nurture has a important function in how we turn out in this world. There are a multitude of people that I wish had the joys of God-fearing parents, or at least pair of parents that cared for them in their distress – and in the absence of this, their hearts are broken and in need of repair.

Katy Perry recently talked out about her upbringing in the June issue of Vanity Fair.

Growing up in a strict evangelical family with many constricting ideals – among other things, the only book she was allowed to read was the Bible, and listening to secular music was a no-no. Even the term, “Dirt Devil” referring to vacuum cleaners was banned in her household. To me, her parents sound like hypochondriacs, that she would catch the “devil” disease of some sort. I’m not arguing for a parenting that is totally ecumenical and open to all things, but I am arguing for a sound parenting ideal that doesn’t encroach on understanding.

“I didn’t have a childhood,”

Perry said in the interview. Now, she’s somewhat a far fling from that strictness, embracing all kinds of interesting things, to put it lightly. For one whose hit single is called, “I Kissed A Girl”, the apple has fallen very far from the tree indeed. In many ways, I see Katy Perry as a personification of many teens growing up in Christian homes today and losing their faith later when they see the world, giving the confused a voice. Growing up without doubts and challenges leads to lethargic Christianity, I found this the case for me personally. Without constant troubles and suffering, I would not be the same person I am today. I have said many times before that suffering removes the false faith we have in ourselves and brings out the faith in Christ. For this reason, it pains me when pushing people to youth group meetings is all the form of Christianity evident within a household. The hypocrisy begins to show. But don’t doubt my admiration for the dedication and faithfulness in bringing up children in the Lord, but the ambitions are somewhat misdirected.

In the book of Deuteronomy, the LORD speaking through Moses says:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (English Standard Version)

Notice the order that the Scriptures go from primarily the Scriptures within the parents hearts first, then a holistic embodiment of the Word in life. I truly do not believe that Christianity is summed up by laws and rules, rather law and rules sum up what is good and true Christianity. God commanded the Israelites to write His Mosiac Law as “a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:8-9 (English Standard Version)

Now those verses come straight after that God has said that His words shall be within their hearts, but God puts a physical manifestation to these words in place.  But especially when God says that His words shall be a frontlet between the Israelite’s eyes, a headband of sorts – Moses, I believe, is referring more to the way we see the world tempered by God’s perspective and His victory. Perhaps, the Israelites took what God said about writing the Laws on their heads a bit too literally when they attached these boards onto their heads as a means to applying these words, they would only be useful to people looking at them. Similarly, law within context have only an exterior effect on our hearts to convince us that we are deserving of salvation, but only true love of the law would bring internal change because the Holy Spirit can awaken such liberty in our hearts.

So, that is what my humble word on parenting is – Christianity is not tabulated within a bunch of oppressive laws. That is what the Israelites did, and they faltered and petered off into legalism as evidenced by the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Lasting conversion lives within the confines of understanding, that is, understanding what the law point to, give us a meaning to the law and we can joy in taking up our crosses following Christ. On the outside of the Perry household, I can understand why the parents would have instituted those rules in their household, but I don’t understand why Katy Perry called it strict, unless she did not understand.

In many ways, Christianity is not laws, it is Jesus. Laws are useless if they are not pointing to Jesus, and Jesus is useless if we do not follow his laws. It is a mutual relationship between religion and relationship, I don’t believe they are incompatible and none can exist without the other.

Joel Osteen on Homosexuality

I must say, I am almost disrespectfully amused by Joel Osteen. Interviewed on CNN (watch it here) by the new anchor Piers Morgan, he was asked the thorny question with a simple answer:

“Is homosexuality a sin?”

“Yes, I’ve always believed it. The Scripture shows that it’s a sin.”

“I say it’s wrong because that’s what the Scripture says,” Osteen stated, the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church located in Houston Texas. Thereafter he went on explaining that he can’t pick and choose parts of the Bible which you like, and discard the parts which do not suit him. He also added that he’s not “one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people….I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.” Of which, I’m not so hot about, but yeah, I don’t see how you can avoid judging them. Obviously, a statement of that magnitude and startling clarity attracted a multitude of chatter among Christians.

The most surprising of reactions was probably Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. He said, quoting:

“As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful,” Torre argued. “Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

I’m not sure if he’s aware of the passage in Romans 5 which says:

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (v.7-8)

The passage clearly precludes knowledge of sin, and makes it paramount to salvation. While a good person might be worth dying for, giving a reason. A disability to reason was God’s reason to save us from our sins. Being altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition. Lost in our ways and no visible way open for our recovery. Completely depraved and deplorable and desperately in need of a Saviour. Therefore, we are the ones, of which, salvation is due to most. If God so much didn’t acknowledge out sinful state, how could he have begun to thought that we needed love, in the form of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?

The biggest hurdle I believe for homosexuals todays is either the demonization, or the deregulation of homosexuality (two different extremes) to the point where it is a entire identity. This is the disunity, where people become less than human, they are homosexual or heterosexual, and segregated accordingly. I kind of understand where Torre is coming from, there is a place for relationships and it is paramount for preaching the gospel. But the diminution of homosexuality as a sin is dishonest and the Gospel is essential changing our identity of how we see the world. While we were still homosexuals, thieves, murderers, haters of our brothers, we were brought to the feast of which we paid nothing, and actually owed an unpayable debt to the King of the table. How can one be justified then reconciled to God, if he has nothing to have justified from?

The reality is, it’s got nothing to do with homosexuals. If true love is demonstrated through Jesus dying on the cross, how can anyone know love without knowing how much they do not deserve it? If anything, Rev Torre is attempting to dumb down the love of God, a cheap grace as you would have it. For one, I find myself agreeing with Joel Osteen more and more in his statement. I challenge him now to justify his health-wealth Gospel according to the Bible…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5v.6)