Friday, July 27, 2007

Christian Leadership and Certainty

Photo from

She happily walks to her car and gets in. She starts to drive. She turns down a road that looks inviting, and turns down another, then another. Eventually, she ends up in a remote area.

So she gets out her road map to figure out where she has ended up, and where she needs to go to get to her destination. But she is unable to determine where she is in relation to the map because she had been totally oblivious to the road signs. She had simply taken roads that pleased her. And besides, she really had no specific destination.

She sighs momentarily and proceeds to drive some more. It is now dark, and it even harder for her to find her way around. Then the car begins to sputter to a halt. She is out of gas. She hadn't pay any attention to the gas gauge.

It is only now that she really begins to panic, because she has no cell phone, no money, and no identification. She had left the house without thinking about anything but the car keys. She is thinking, "Now, what do I do?"

Whew! You are probably either feeling sorry for this woman, or you are wondering why she put herself in such a predicament. And what does this have to do with Christian leadership?

In our current Christian culture we are experiencing some paradigm shifts that are not good. In one respect, in every generation, it is legitimate to question commonly held beliefs about the Christian faith that are not foundational. Like the manner worship is conducted, the role of the church within the prevailing culture, or church government. There is always room to debate without dividing on these in-house issues.

But what happens when you question the very basis of faith and understanding? Such as the meaning of truth, the Bible's authority and truth-claims, or Jesus' divinity. These things under gird the true faith. (1 Timothy 1:8-20;; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1-3) To do so gives legitimacy to unbelief, as if unbelief and faith can coexist. They can not. In fact, unbelief is displeasing to God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Or what happens when every disagreement is seen as antithetical to the faith? Many say that doctrine isn't worth fighting over. It is better to "love" than to hate. Toleration is seen as the acceptance of someones' point of view as true for that person and leaving them be. But it is clear in Scripture that toleration is a means to an end, not the end. Rather than putting up with ideas that are false, we are to patiently and actively bring everyone to the knowledge of the truth as a supreme act of love. (1 Timothy 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:22-26; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Leviticus 19:17-18)

However, in recent days, even leaders in the church espouse the virtues of unbelief . (Though they would never call it that. Rather, they refer to this as being humble, by rejecting the attitude of certainty. They see themselves as being above judging other people. They also say each of us can only possess partial truth, or truth that we can relate to from our various perspectives. They deny that anybody can actually possess an overarching truth—which judges all other truth or cultural claims—including the apostles themselves.) They call into question whether anyone can know anything for sure. "Who really has the truth with a capital "T." And some have even said that they don't trust anyone who is sure about anything concerning the Christian faith.

The problem is that this is a false assertion. It is true that we do not possess all truth, but we can indeed possess truth, especially when it is revealed to us. And we also have the ability to understand reality and make judgments about it. The Bible makes it clear that we are given reasoning ability by God as well as adequate information (especially for the Christian; 1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Therefore, we are made responsible for choosing unbelief. (Romans 1:18-23; Acts 17:29-31)

The Bible itself even uses reason to convince us about the facts of reality. All you need to do is look at Jesus. He is constantly using logic to demonstrate aspects about God, His Kingdom, and expose our duplicity.(Matthew 12:1-14; 2 Timothy 3:16) We can ignore it and revel in our "mysteries," but God will still call us all to account.

But now certain leaders in the church want to appear as humble followers. So they espouse uncertainty as a greater achievement than defending the faith they say they believe in. This isn't faith, it is unbelief. (Hebrews 11:1-3) And many are following their ways. Like the woman in our example, who followed her own instinct, these men do not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not know where they are going, and they do not care. But what will they or their followers do when they reach their destination? Oh, that's right. They don't have a destination.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Remembering One Reason I Became a Christian

It was the summer of 1986 and I was sitting on my bed. I was contemplating my life. I remember almost everything about that day, from the weather—it was unseasonably pleasant and sunny—the time of day, the sights and the smells, and my roommate had just left to make it to some classes he was finishing up. I had just graduated and was contemplating my next moves.

I remember this time because it was so pivotal in my life. It served as a marker for when my thinking became more sober. It was at that moment when I was contemplating the utter meaninglessness of life that I had an epiphany.

It was around this time that Flo Hyman died. She was a phenomenal U.S. Volleyball champion and I was a big fan of hers. During a game in January 24, 1986 she suddenly collapsed and died on the spot during a volleyball game in Japan. I had already spent much of the previous year discussing the death of exercise maverick, Jim Fixx with my buddy and roomate—even laughing about the irony. And then this happened. It hit me in a strange way that year.

It intensified during that summer as I was seeking employment in my field. I suddenly realized the absurdity of life. Here I am working hard to get through school. And now I am out. I will now work hard to get a good-paying job, a home, and a car. Then I will have to pay taxes, and then die. What is the point of it all?

That is when I wondered about God. What if he is real? What if all that I heard about Jesus is true? Then what? If not, then what?

I was in despair at the prospects. Either way meant my death. The death of my dreams, greatest hopes, and what I thought were my possibilities. I knew I could never see life the same way again, whether there was a God or if there was no God. I discovered that life was meaningless without settling the matter. There is no direction, point, or conclusion. I am, and then I am not. Everything I ever done will be forgotten. Who pays attention and who knows my inner thoughts? Who really understands me? No one, unless there is a God.

If there is a God, I can't live like I used to anymore. I have to deal with the knowledge that not only life has an incredible purpose, but I am accountable to live for that purpose. I knew I must find out the truth. I could not sleep anymore.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Interesting History Lesson

I remember these Schoolhouse Rock musical cartoons. This one is does a decent job at explaining a little history about how our country came to be.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Shaq Attack

There's this new reality show on TV called Shaq's Big Challenge. I thought it would be pretty boring, but it really caught my attention. And I have to say that I really like it. It depicts six teenagers with serious weight problems. Shaquille O'Neal is helping them overcome their weight problems and taking it upon himself to deal with the national issue of childhood obesity throughout the series. It is quite an ambitious plan—aware that these are taped shows and Shaq has been doing this through the basketball season, which is now over.

What is so fascinating about this show is that it reveals some of the underlining issues that each of these kids have; like poor eating and exercise habits, bad self-perceptions, and a lack of vision by their parents. They now have to struggle to reverse these impediments. And what is also interesting is that almost all the kids (and parents) but one didn't take their need for change very seriously. Most played around while some parents coddled them. (I purposely don't mention the problem of public schools who do not make physical education mandatory, because that can't be controlled as much as one's self.)

I wonder if we take our spiritual lives in the same manner as these kids take their own health. We have grown too spiritually flabby in our country. We desire theology that doesn't get in the way of a good time and good friends. We often prefer the easy way to spiritual growth. It may be shallow, but everyone gets along. And myself included. I don't want to suffer. Suffering, denying myself, and doing hard work is no fun most of the time, even if the benefit is maturity, courage, and deeper understanding. Yes, I want to grow. But I want a pill, encouragement, a good book, or a spiritual experience. I don't want the cross.

But that may be what is required.