Sunday, January 31, 2016

Following Christ is Not Belonging to a Religion called Christianity

Those who know me are acutely aware that religion, including the Christian variety, is not my thing.
My Brisbane neighbours who eventually discovered I was a church pastor would often claim they were not religious in the hope they could avoid any discussion about God or of a spiritual nature.
They were then surprised when I admitted that I was not religious either (but enjoyed a great relationship with God).

It may also surprise many people to know that Jesus did not come to earth to establish a religion.
In fact, he didn't even mention the words religion, Christian or Christianity.

When you look at the original meaning of the word religion, it is easy to see why Jesus avoided it.
Religion comes from the Latin and means to tie, to bind, to obligate or to fasten.
The word conveys a sense of duty, living according to a set of rules and restrictions.
The highly restricted, performance-based life of a monk illustrates religious life in the extreme, but most people committed to a religion of any variety are dominated by the need to perform and to please in order to 'make it' or 'be accepted.'

Jesus came for something entirely different, indeed the opposite. 
He came to set us free from religion, to reconcile us to God without the need to perform - nothing to do with religion or religious performance at all.

Religion is mankind striving after God.
Jesus did the opposite - He brought God to mankind, and ultimately will bring all mankind to God.

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
[ John 12 : 32  NIV ]

Religion is the outward performance of ceremony, conduct and service motivated by a sense of duty.
Jesus gives life that produces inner joy and peace and service motivated by a relationship of love.

Following Christ is the outworking of that life that brings us to God and Godliness.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What is Science?

This used to be a simple question to answer.
In my much younger days of scientific and mathematical research and practice, theories were hypotheses (informed guesses drawn from the observation of multiple examples) that could be verified or falsified by experimentation.
Further, a theory had to be capable of producing practical, duplicate examples and of predicting future events.

Indeed, a scientific theory could only be considered a statement about reality if it followed these principles of scientific theory.
As human beings on planet Earth, we are most commonly aware of gravity, now considered a universally established and accepted law, because of our confidence in its ability to withstand all challenges to its ability to describe reality.

Science that follows these principles could be called by numerous descriptors - operational, experimental, observational, structural sciences.
We will call them the "exact sciences" here.
Indeed, it has become imperative to use such a term now that the science space has been invaded by philosophy (or religion, if I were brave enough to use that descriptor).

These historical-interpretative theories, like creation, evolution and significant components of cosmology, speculate about the origin of the universe and its inhabitants.
They might use the currently observable (but not original) data around us, but can hardly produce duplicate origin examples or be subject to a verifiable/falsification process.
Origin events only happen once (do not have multiple examples) and, since observers were not available at the exact time of their happening, contemporary scientists have no examples (original or duplicate) to experiment on, to be verified or to be falsified.

These philosophical theories have hijacked the "science" descriptor, possibly because it is scientists who usually tout them, or because a relationship to the exact sciences has been attributed to them.
We shall discuss this relationship possibility in a future post.

To these historical-interpretative sciences, if they must be called science at all, we will give the name "origin sciences", as they do not follow the principles of science theory as do the "exact sciences".
Three origin sciences are staunchly defended belief systems about what happened in the unobservable past and will be discussed on this blog over the course of the year.
But for now, just a brief introductory description of each ...

Evolution is a philosophical doctrine based on matter and materialistic principles driven by mutation and selection.
To many it has become a basic, universal principle that is taken for granted: to others it is seen as imaginative speculation.

Creation is a biblical doctrine based on the existence of a Creator, the God of the Bible, who was present at the origin events and whose creative activities cannot be explained by natural laws.
To many it is a basic principle that is taken for granted: to others it is seen as an unenlightened view based on the assumption that the Bible is the literal Word of God.

Theistic Evolution is a doctrine based on a marriage of evolution and creation - God used evolution as a means of creating.
To many it is a means of accommodating science and the Bible: to others it describes a marriage of incompatibles, a random process lacking in purpose and design with a deliberate, planned process of intelligent design and purpose.

We shall discuss and evaluate their competing claims as possible explanations of the unobservable past in future posts.

So, to answer our lead question, science has become a mix of exact and origin studies, those that follow the traditional principles of scientific theory and those that are belief systems that have scientific connections.

As usual, your critical review is invited and will be most welcome.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Share the Gospel if All will Eventually be Saved?

This a question that pops up from time to time mainly from Christians who have a determination that unbelievers should pay some eternal price for their waywardness or rebellion, even though they don't have to themselves.
I was brought up to think this way also, but I now see how this position undermines the sovereignty of God and dilutes the work of Christ on the cross.

On page 20 of "The Really Good News About God", I mentioned that my motivation for sharing the good news had increased since discovering that all would eventually be reconciled to God.
So what are my reasons?

Firstly, I earnestly desire my friends enjoy the same relationship with God that I have.
The Christian life is so rich and empowering that it is worth having, even if there was nothing beyond life on this planet to look forward to.

Secondly, God has chosen me, as someone who already has been given faith, an early believer, for a purpose.
God's plan is to save all, and he uses early believers as one of his means of achieving his goal.
Not everyone will have a "Saul on the road to Damascus experience" or a "Thomas in the locked house experience".
Most people come to faith on this planet as the good news is shared with them by others.

When the good news is made known ...

But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?
And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, "How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!"
[ Romans 10 : 14 - 15  GNB ]
faith is given ...
So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.
[ Roman 10 : 17  GNB ]
and people move from darkness to light.
He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
[ Col 1 : 13 - 14  GNB ]
Paul also declares that it is we who have been given this task of passing on the good news of reconciliation.
All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.
Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends!
[ 2 Cor 5 : 18 - 20  GNB ]
This is the way God has planned for his ambitious, gracious, reconciliation project to be implemented on planet earth.

Thirdly, it is so satisfying, so exhilarating, to be sharing the good news with friends and see them receive faith to believe and appreciate what God has done for them through Jesus.
Seeing God touch people's lives through little me is so joyous and humbling.

The ministry of reconciliation is an awesome privilege God has given us.

Let's not allow our discovery of God's end result deflect us from the purpose of our early calling. Indeed let's be further stimulated by it.

Blessings, Barry