Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Religion: What's It All About?

I read an interesting definition of religion that I believe captures the true sense of the word. In a book I've been reading the author said that religion was whatever we value as most important.

I know that for most people they see religion as a set of things we do to worship a supreme being or idea, or a system of cultural beliefs and practices. But, it leaves out an important emotional element. That element is devotion. And devotion is the central element that makes religion … well … religion.

For instance, cultural practices may not be a person's religion. In fact, many cultures have subcultures that reject the mainstream in all practicality. However, people who are devoted in following a cultural practice do so for reasons beyond the culture itself. They believe in pleasing their parents, fitting in, that it is true, or believe that it defines their identity. In any case, their religion is their belief that they need to maintain their cultural practices. That it is most important to do so for whatever reasons.

For others, their religion can be their self-reliance. They can't depend on any god for their well-being. Rather it is up to themselves. Their abilities are what's important in this life. Some folks believe that popularity as the ultimate concern. After all, you can't get anywhere in life if you are unpopular or nobody likes you. Still others may view experiences as most important. Our purpose for being alive is to experience all that life has to offer.

What is real?

But few understand that whatever they choose to devote themselves to they are making a statement about reality. They are saying by their choice of religion that what they believe is true and it has ultimate value. And fewer still consciously consider whether they've chosen wisely.

In John 6, Jesus challenged his disciples. And even though Jesus performed convincing proofs, many disciples left him. They couldn't see that Jesus was the ultimate concern. They couldn't conceive that Jesus knew what should be of ultimate concern for us. They couldn't see how Jesus was the ultimate solution.
"Maybe, perhaps, Jesus was part of the solution, or a means to an end. But the bottom-line issue of life? Nah."
But Peter understood something. When we look at all the religious options out there, which one truly promises eternal life? Which one really gives us the assurance that Jesus preaches about? Which one has the ring of truth, and demonstrated plausibility that the Gospel has? None really. I mean, "to whom shall we go?"

Friday, November 07, 2008

How to Compare Ideas With Reality

In the last post I stated that decisions needed to be made from a biblical perspective. We need to take statements and ideas and compare with what the Bible says. Here's my suggestion for how to do that with any ideas:

First, you must know what you believe through a biblical lens. What does the Bible say about the Past, the Present, and the Future?

The Past.

Answer these questions to form a biblical perspective on our origins and purpose. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What's our purpose for existence?

The Present.

You know, what we believe about our origins and purpose will influence what we believe about our present. What's wrong with the world? What's the solution? How do we know the solution is the right solutions? In other words, does the solution fulfill our purpose for being? And does the solution lead us to our ultimate destiny?

The Future.

Our ultimate destiny is intertwined with our purpose for being. If we have no purpose, our future has little meaning except for the desire to survive. So, what is our destiny? Is death the end, or just the beginning? Will this world go on forever, or is there an end? Are we to create our future, or is it out of our hands?

The Christian worldview.

These questions are not easy questions. And especially concerning our purpose and future, some Christians may even disagree a bit. But the overarching theme is clear. We are created with a purpose in mind. God created us for his good pleasure, and he plans to glorify himself through us. Mankind has rebelled against his Creator, and sought to establish his own purpose. This is called "sin." Since God is a holy God, he must judge sin. And the ultimate consequence is the ultimate death of eternal separation from God.

But, God truly loves mankind too much to allow this to happen. So, his plan, before the creation of the world even began, was to save some people for himself — to be with him for eternity. He decided to take on that punishment we are rightfully due, and allow those, who so desire, to come to him to be saved. He did this as God the Son in human flesh, sent from God the Father. His followers are granted eternal life, God the Holy Spirit to be with and in them, and are given a mission to make fellow followers.

Unfortunately, not everyone will choose life. There will be some who will continue to follow their own way. But, this world will not last long in its present form. God will renew all things, and those appointed for eternal life will be preserved forever. And, sadly, those who had rejected him will be cast into the lake of burning sulfur, or rather, suffer an excruciating separation from God forever. This will be accomplished when Jesus comes back to raise all the dead, and commence the final judgment upon all of mankind.

How do ideas stack up against the Christian worldview?

After sorting through your honest assessment of the biblical worldview, you must seriously believe it. This sounds like a redundant step, because, after all, you read the Bible because you believe it, right? Not necessarily. Does your life conform to what you say you believe. Do you make decisions — even if it doesn't seem advantageous — from a biblical perspective? Do you even consider the biblical perspective of reality, or do you live what you believe to be a more "practical" lifestyle? Only you can answer these questions.

If you decide to believe reality is adequately explained through the Bible, the last step is to compare ideas. All ideas fit in one or more of the three big worldview questions.
  1. Where do we come from? (Our Past)
  2. What's wrong with the world? And what's the solution? (Our Present)
  3. And where are we headed? (Our Future).
Compare the ideas to what the Bible says is true, and you can quickly discern whether the ideas have any merit, or if the ideas are true. Watch for the subtle slight of hand, where ideas sound true, but don't work in reality. For instance, it is true that we should care for the poor. But it isn't true that government should do the caring for us, or that money is the answer to sin. (Though government has a responsibility to protect the innocent, and to promote their care.)

This is only a guide, and it obviously takes more thought. But always seek wisdom. Fear God. Honor his Word. And it will go well with you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Vote for Wisdom

The election is thankfully over. And in it's wake, we have witnessed an unprecedented event in our American history. Specifically, the election of a black man as U.S. president — arguably the most powerful man in the world. Also — and more important to me — the public display of a black man with a stable family and marriage. And, last, a black man and president who has captured the attention of the whole world. These are truly historic times.

But, what troubles me are the reasons people voted for him. I heard on the radio yesterday morning that in some exit polling it was revealed that people voted for him because they really wanted a black man to win, they wanted a change, they felt a sense of hope, and (I am not kidding) they felt he would help them not have to worry about paying off their mortgage or filling up their gas tank. Fascinating!

My wife asked me yesterday how I would arrive at a decision — whether for a U.S. president or for a state initiative. I responded that I would employ the same principles to voting that I would in comparing any statements about reality. I would ask the question, "How does this compare with what the Bible says is true?" In other words, come at it from a biblical worldview perspective.

Next time, I will explain how I go about doing that.