English, Jesus and Mo explained

Pretending really hard

Creative Commons 3.0 from jesusandmo.net

The sad thing is that the cartoon has a point. There are lots of believers who mix up belief and knowledge, faith and facts. But actually faith does NOT mean pretending to know something you are as clueless about as others.

Faith in God has rather few to do with hard facts. God can be there if creation or evolution is true, that won’t hinder too much. And God can even be there without any afterlife. That’s not what it’s all about.

One thing I find rather strange is that atheists, who mostly claim to be sooo very much more based on science than believers, is that they tend to use the same bible hermeneutics as right wing believers, i.e. raw biblicism. The bible writes about creation in 7 days, science tells us about evolution. Religion must be wrong and religious people dumb. Religion tells us about people living to be 600 years old? Same thing.

The approach to the text is the same with those atheists and the biblicists they laugh about. Thus they come to similar conclusions: Biblicists mix up belief and knowledge, atheists do the same. And this although literary science would tell those oh so scientific thinking atheists that what they do is not scientific at all…

But how does this come, that people mix up belief and knowledge. It’s because we’ve forgotten how to read texts. That is: Older texts with a religious relevance like the bible.

If we take Shakespeare, we know that MacBeth is not supposed to be a historical record of Scottish history. And the Star Treck movies are not prophecies about the future (or another historical record).
Do you know Galaxy Quest? It’s a movie with Tim Allen. In the movie, Allen is actor of a Space series, he and his crew are travelling through the universe, fighting evil Aliens and all that. But it’s a show. Only that there are also real Aliens. And they get into trouble with another alien race. And they see that Space series and consider it to be historical records instead of just a show, because they don’t know this whole concept of shows (actually when they later find out about it only being a show, they consider it all lies).This illustrates a bit what’s happening with the bible. The Aliens didn’t pretend really hard that there was this hero space captain which was starred by Allen, he was there. But he wasn’t what it appeared to them, he wasn’t a space hero, he was a mediocre TV celebrity. It was just a misunderstanding.And what if the Aliens had known it was just a show. Would they have considered the whole space adventures of Allen nonexistent? No. Like we don’t consider the adventures of Kirk and Picard nonexistent, they are there, we can watch them. But they are not historic truth, they do not show knowledge about things that are going to happen or did happen once. But still they tell us about the authors and their days. Like when Kirk is always breaking rules to achieve his plans, we can know that in the culture that brought forth this TV show, breaking rules under certain conditions was acceptable or even heroic.These media are witnesses to what really (and historically) was. They tell us about the dreams and ideals of the people, or of their faith. That’s less in Star Trek, but more in the bible.Star Trek is true in so far, as Kirk (or Picard or Janeway) is really considered a hero and that our culture understands him so through the things he does in the show. Though none of these things actually happened. Still they are not just lies. They transport truth, but not historical truth.But that’s what biblicists and atheists seem to be after in anything. For them, Star Trek movies must appear to be either all lies or pretending really hard that people dream of travelling to the stars and live together peacefully (at least within mankind).So what I want to say? Think ! Think about what a certain text means, how it was meant to be read. You might come to the conclusion, that the creation texts in the bible are not about contradicting evolution, and that prophecy means not prediction of the future, but realising what’s really going on.Plus: Belief in God and Christ has foremost to do with the gospel and the salvation of humankind. Not about guessing or pretending about timely things. 😉

English, Theologie

By grace alone

I ran across an article by Gary where he addresses the question of whether you are saved through works or through faith.

He points out correctly that it is faith alone, which isn’t very surprising as he is lutheran, or should I say, protestant?

Because basically, I only knew about catholics being accused of teaching that you’d have to earn entrance to heaven through good works, and that without them you could have faith as much as you wanted, but wouldn’t be let in.

I doubt the catholics really teach that, I think it’s a bit more complicated,  I think there as something with synergism or so, but really that isn’t what I’m up to dealing with now.

There are other things to the article that made me wonder. One is the „born-again experience“ of Martin Luther and whether it was one or not. Let’s recall: Luther speaks of himself reading Romans and finding out about salvation by faith alone, through grace alone. Whether it is historic, what he later said or not, there must have been this one point when he understood something he didn’t before. We have something similar in Acts (9:18), when Paul started to believe:

And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales

I am not too sure what is meant with a born again experience, because here in Germany, there are not too many evangelicals, mainline protestantism is still strong. But I think that there was indeed a change in what Luther thought and understood. Now he didn’t get baptised as Paul, because actually, he had already been baptised as a child and you don’t double-baptise anybody.

And Luther was still a man of faith somehow. He cared very much for what God wanted, Luther wanted to please God perfectly, to be one of the „good guys“, as far as we know today not out of pride, but maybe rather fear of the scornful God. This experience in the tower set him free from that fear and gave him confidence. So I am not sure if you could not call this a born again experience. A new life without fear, which starts as ever life starts with a birth. But there seems to be more to the term „born-again experience“, at least for Gary.

I’ve read some of Garys articles recently, and he seems to be writing against some kind of doctrine he came from but has now left for lutheranism. He describes the opponent side as baptist, evangelical, reformed or calvinist on several occasions.

Now I have a rather reformed (calvinist) background (I am not Calvinist, but it’s within the tradition I come from, read here if you wanna know or just ask) and find Calvinists sometimes misrepresented, but I guess that’s becaue in the USA, calvinism is something different than in Europe. Here it’s one of the protestant confessions, the second next to lutheranism. In the USA it seems that „calvinist“ can also refer to Baptist churches, which sounds kinda weird to people like me, because the reformed (calvinist) christians here persecuted the (ana)baptist like the lutherans did (or the catholics). So I guess for European ears (at least mine) it sounds strange because here the two groups were opponents.

Anyhow I realise that baptists (and evangelicals generally, as far as I can see here in Germany) tend to have doctrines closer to the reformed church than to the lutheran church. I think their understanding of the eucharist is closer together than with lutherans, who are themselves closer to roman catholicism. Their difference lies in infant baptism I think, though this can differ for the USA…

Anyhow I see people who propagate these evangelical doctrines here in Germany (some comment on my blog) including a very stong idea about works.

As far as I understand, their idea is that you are saved by grace alone (they know about Luther having said that and they respect Luther to a certain degree) but then, this isn’t all. Because, I think, they are till in this fear-state I wrote about:

They claim to be saved by grace, but they also stress the good deeds very much, caring about the dos and don’ts quite a bit, sometimes it even looks like they are trying to keep up a facade just to appear being a true believer. Believing becomes a competition, with God you should not have any problems, be it personally, socially, according to health or finances. When things go wrong it is as well because of God testing you as it is because of the lack of faith, so people with severe problems are at times just being left alone by their congregation (who should be supportive as „true christians“) either becaue it’s God’s will that they suffer, or because their suffering is because of their lack of faith and „true christians“ should not have anything to o with unbelievers or both.

It is certainly not always so bad, because after all, poeple are human beings, able to love. But I’ve heard about such cases nonetheless.

It is because they don’t ambrace the saved by grace part of doctrine too much. Where being saved by grace was once the point of no more fear, so that Luther and Calvin could write about predestination that cannot be undone by human means, for those evangelical christians, it seems to have become a mere entrance ticket.

Where christians back then were tought to do good works to go to heaven (including giving money to the church) this wouldn’t suffice for evangelicals nowadays:

You have to first accept Christ as your personal saviour. This alone appears to be a work for me, because if you decide yourself, it’s not by grace, but by own will, and it’s not faith, but it’s thought. So once you are „in“ by your own thoughts though your own will, you can be accepted by God once you become really holy, at least holier than thou art now… 😉

If you do good works without accepting Christ as your saviour, you’re lost, even if you do better than any Christian ever did.

If you truely believe in God and Christ and all, but you don’t get holy enough, at least in the eyes of your congregation, they’ll still say you’re out. Because they think they know exactly what God wants you to do. Here, biblicism comes into the game, bt that’s another issue.

So to be saved in their eyes, you have to do both: Proclaim you accepted Christ as you saviour AND behave the way they think God wants you to behave, and make no mistakes, because the fires of hell are hot and painful for the sinner…

Much of what I’ve wrote might come across as a caricature, and yes, I might have exaggerated a bit, when it comes to the majority of evangelicals. But I am sure such congregations do exist, and I am sure that every congregation has one or more details of what I described. This doesn’t mean mainline protestantism has no wrongs, it has its own share. But in the central part, which effects salvation, both lutherans and (non-evangelical) Calvinists agree that it’s God who gives you faith and safes you by grace, through faith, which itself makes you do good works, but they won’t safe you. They are a consequence of faith, not the requirement. Or even shorter said:

Fear not, God loves you.

Commenting Media, English

Why I am not a biblicist

God is Love

This shows what happens when ou take the bible literally and not seriously. Bible being written by man doesn’t mean God had nothing to do with it. It means that it was written by men which lived in a certain time with certain fears and hopes and desires. I guess the writer of Revelation had quite his share of desire for revenche. In the beginning the good guys scream to the Lord for revenche, and later they’ll get it. Their offenders (remeber christians used to be brought to death for their faith back then) had to taste some of their own wine. This is not nice, though deeply human. And in the end all will be fine: Death will die and we all will be living in the heavenly Jerusalem.