Posts Tagged 'Christianity'



More From Barna: Biblical Worldview

Yesterday I posted the stats about the surprising number of people in the United States who do not believe Satan is a “real force” (let alone a real “person”). Even among self-identified born again Christians, he is only believed to be real by less than half of them.

The same Barna survey  I quoted from also provides some explanation as to how and why this situation has come to be.

In the survey investigating Changes in Worldview Among Christians, the Barna Group identified 6 salient points of belief necessary for one to qualify as having  a “biblical worldview.” These were believing…

    • that absolute moral truth exists;
    • that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches;
    • that Satan is a real being or force;
    • that no one can earn their way into Heaven through good works;
    • that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;
    • and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview. The results?

Only 9% of American adults  were found to have a Biblical Worldview. Nine per cent of Americans!

Even more surprising, out of those who self-identified as “born again”  Christians,* only 19% were found to agree with all  six  of the points constituting the survey’s “Biblical Worldview”  listed above. That’s less than a quarter of those who call themselves “born again!”

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some (believers) will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…”  ~ I Ti 4:1

*For the survey, “born again Christians” were defined as “those who said they have made a personal to commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today and that they are certain that they will go to Heaven after they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior.”

I have to say, however, that I would not have qualified as born again in their survey since I take issue with the insertion of a making “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” having certain knowledge of eternal salvation, or confessing one’s sins for salvation.  

My definition of a born again Christian is anyone who has believed in the atoning work of Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross for eternal life. And that’s it.

Or, as Acts 16:31 puts it:  

 “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved…”

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Barna: Minority Believe Satan is Real

Yesterday I posted a bit about my thoughts regarding the depravity of man, and touched on some insights given by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book Satan, regarding the latter’s motivations and methods of operation, motivations which did not include trying to get men to commit gross sins like cannibalism and tortuous serial murders, but if anything would be trying to keep them from doing so. His primary goal is to take God’s place by acquiring the worship of God’s creatures, and proving that he can do just as good a job as God can. In fact, a better job.

In order to accomplish that, he has been willing, as Chafer pointed out, “to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality… an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell,” a metaphor, as it were, for “all that is cruel and vile.”

I have observed that he has had success in this area amongst the general run of people.  In fact, I noted in my post on What the Night Knows, this very fact was addressed by Koontz himself through the words of one of his characters. This character, a priest to whom the novel’s protagonist goes for help, informs us that the idea of demons and such is merely part of the silly superstitions of the past, that they do not exist, and that, in a world “of nuclear weapons, we don’t need Hell and demons, succubi and incubi and hungry vampires on the doorstep. We need food banks…thrift shops, homeless shelters and the courage to express our faith in social action.”

Indeed, we do live in the age of science where the immaterial and spiritual is supposedly not allowed to intrude on our rigorous scientific experiments. Only physical and material evidence will be accepted as proof of the True and the Real. Which in itself is clearly the handiwork of Satan. Because even if that view means he has to work in the shadows, disallowed as the powerful and brilliant creature that he is, it also means his nemesis — The One True God — is disallowed.

Thus I should not have been surprised by the results of a survey on worldview among Christians done by The Barna Group in 2009. Barna is  one of the leading research organizations investigating trends in Christianity and religion in the United States today, and their survey revealed that “just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force.” 

Okay, but that includes unbelievers, who have been blinded by the very creature they’re being asked about, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. But among born-again Christians it would be a different matter, right?

Sadly, no.

Despite much clear scriptural evidence for the existence of this greatest of all creatures to come from the hand of God, this one who rebelled against Him, and took at least a third of his fellow angels into rebellion with him,  less than half of self-identified “born-again Christians” believe he is real.

 A mere 40% of them.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  ~2 Co 4:3,4

We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.   ~I John 5;19

The World Is Not Christian

I owe this post to Becky Miller who, on her blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction, recently referenced a viewpoint put forth by another Christian blogger that she took issue with. I read her post with interest, and decided I also have issues with the referenced viewpoint. Quite a few issues, in fact.

The unnamed blogger’s contention? That “this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Ro 1).” Therefore, as Christian writers if we simply present “the world as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ.” And that without having to “include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world.”

To which I say … nonsense! The Scriptures say this world is anything but Christian. Yes, it was created by God in perfection, and though it became corrupted when Adam fell, it can still reveal God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature. But it is not a “Christian” world.

A “Christian” by standard definition is one who adheres to the Christian faith, core to which is the good news that anyone who believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, will be eternally saved. Those who do not believe are condemned already for one reason only — that they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

The world does not adhere to the Christian faith. Not by a long shot. Nor do the trees, rocks, mountains or houses. They may proclaim that there is a divine creator — God — but believing in God is not the same as being a Christian. Even the demons believe in God — and Christ! — in the sense of acknowledging their existence, but demons are most definitely not Christian. (James 2:19)

Though created in perfection, the world fell when Adam fell as I mentioned and is now said, not to be “redeemed,” but longing anxiously, enslaved to corruption, subjected to futility, and groaning as it waits for Christ’s return. (Romans 8:19-22)

Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And we as Christians are also said to be not of this world: our citizenship, our true home, is in heaven. (Phil 3:20)

Christ said that the world hated Him because He was not of the world, and if we are in Him and follow Him, the world will hate us, too. However, if we are of the world, which is not a good thing, then the world will love us. (John 15:18 -20)

We are told to love not the world and all that’s in it. As Christians. (1 John 2:15) If this world were intrinsically Christian, why would we be told not to love it?

In fact, the very next verse in 1 John 2 specifically says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. (It) is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Clearly the world and the one who does the will of God are not the same.

2 Pe 3:10, 11 tells us that the world and all that is in it will be utterly destroyed, and a new heaven and earth made… Why would it be destroyed if it were Christian and proclaimed Christ?

It wouldn’t be.

In fact, this world is ruled by the devil; its system of operation was created by the devil who, in 2 Co 4:4 is said to be the god of this world. Adam gave up rulership to Satan when he adopted Satan’s viewpoint (exalt self, oppose God, believe lies). We know this because when Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, he took Him to a high vantage point (not a literal mountain) and offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” Satan couldn’t have offered them if they weren’t his to offer.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us there is a system in the atmosphere (“heavenly places”) — which is, boiled down, talking and communication — that is devised and controlled by Satan, who has deceived the whole world. (Rev 12:9) He has schemes (2 Co 2:11) and seeks to devour Christians. (1 Pe 5:8) His system shoots flaming thought missiles at us (Eph 6:16).

This one who is the god of this world, ruler of this world, is a liar and has been one since the beginning. Not a Christian.

He disguises himself as an angel of light and has deceitful workers, false apostles, ministers of righteousness, that look good and right (2 Co 11). He has a false gospel, false righteousness, false doctrine, and a false communion.

The world is not only NOT Christian, it is anti-Christian and anti-Christ. The idea that as writers we can simply record in a truthful manner all the depravity and futility and evil machinations of sin and human good and evil, without one word of anything theological and by that “present Christ” is just wrong.

The world is a place of darkness and death and very, very bad news: ie, that all men are sinners, cut off from the life of God. As a Christian, to simply portray it as it is would be, in my view, an utter waste of time. We’re here to be a light in that darkness, and our light is not us, but the word of God that we carry within us. It’s a light that, yes, can be manifested in our behavior and lives, but inside it is very much thoughts, concepts, words. Jesus Himself is said to be the very Word of God. We are to offer words of good news. Which I’m pretty sure means you need to get some “theology” into a book (by which I mean distinctly Christian thoughts and concepts as taught in the Word of God) before you can call it “Christian”.

Coexist?

I’ve seen those COEXIST bumper stickers around for some time, and on occasion amused myself when stopped at traffic lights trying to figure out what all the symbols stood for. The only one I could never figure out was the E. But now I know, thanks to the poster below (via PowerLine):

Click to enlarge

Guilt is a Sin

Guilt, according to the American Heritage dictionary is

  1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
  2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

It’s a sin because it’s adding to the work of our Lord on the cross. If He took all the punishment for all our sins — and He did — then why would we feel we need to punish ourselves?

1 Jn 1:9 says, “If we confess, [name, cite] our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jeremiah 3:13 says, “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God…”

Acknowledging that you have sinned carries no merit. You’re just agreeing with God that what you’ve done/said/thought is a sin, and at that point He forgives you the sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. The cleansed vessel of the soul is then suitable to be filled or controlled by God the Holy Spirit and fellowship is restored.

Guilt — beating yourself up for what you’ve done — has no place in that. It’s human works, human effort to atone, to make sure you’ll never do it again… I struggle a lot with the guilt function so I’ve had ample opportunity to consider it in all its ramifications and it really is quite arrogant. After all the word of God says our hearts (the way we think and perceive the world and ourselves) are deceitful and desperately wicked, that from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our feet, there’s no soundness in us, that we are stubborn and willful and none of us in ourselves is good. Not even one. (Ro 3:10)

We were all born in sin, we still have the sin nature after salvation. We are going to sin. We are going to make mistakes. We’re stupid sheep, we are easily entangled in sin and deception… guilt assumes that we can do better. Guilt assumes that somehow our sin is an aberration, a shock, something we should very well be able to avoid. If only we’d work hard enough or hurt bad enough, then we won’t do it again. It’s the flesh’s mode of self-improvement, and like all else the flesh produces, God finds it disgusting.

Guilt is something that has motivated me almost all my life, something carried over from my first 21 years as an unbeliever.  I’ve talked about it on this blog before… that feeling that I must do X or something bad will happen. Usually the “something bad” is that “they” will think poorly of me. But who is they?

At first I had no idea, but gradually I realized it’s something in my own conscience. Not something based on the word of God, but on stuff I picked up as a child and internalized. It doesn’t matter if God says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, if my conscience says I should do or be a certain way, then that’s all that matters. If I fail to toe the line, then my conscience will punish me.

Because, apparently, Jesus didn’t do enough. Because, apparently God really didn’t mean it when He said there is nothing good in us, and that the only way to actually live the Christian way of life is the same way as we received it… by grace, through faith.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing (the Gospel) with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   ~ Galatians 3:1-3

The Adjustment Bureau

Last Friday we watched the new Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau, which I thought was going to be much more like Inception than it turned out to be.

Briefly, David Norris (Damon) is on track to become New York’s youngest senator, when he has a chance meeting with the woman of his dreams. As he seeks to find her again, he discovers the Adjustment Bureau, a behind the scenes organization of non-human operatives who keep track of everyone — making sure they all proceed in accordance with their “Chairman’s” plan.  Unfortunately for Norris, the Chairman’s plan doesn’t include him and the mystery woman ever getting together and the story is about how he fights that plan in going after her, essentially attempting to write his own destiny. Ultimately this is the “message” the film leaves us with: that we must fight for what we want to do, to achieve our own destiny in order to really be free.

At least… I think that’s what the message was.

At first it seems that this is a movie about destiny, about God’s plan for our lives, about how unseen agents are moving and shaping us along the tracks we’re supposed to follow. The AB guys have a book which they consult to keep them on track with respect to the actions their charges take — whether such actions are part of the plan or not. And there is that Chairman up there (at the top of a New York skyscraper apparently), who has many names, one of which is “God”.  There are special doors that lead into another world and back to ours, and the caseworkers have special powers that enable them to manipulate the environment of their charges, all of which could be taken for angelic ministers, shepherding us on our way.

Except of course… Jesus doesn’t figure into any of this. His name is only mentioned in the usual way it’s mentioned in Hollywood movies…as an expletive. And the Plan changes each time someone does something outside it, so that the agents are constantly playing catch up, trying to “clean up this mess,” and get things back on the track they’re supposed to be on. Not exactly the way God does things.

So, on the one hand, it’s cool that the film is going to cause some people to think about God and His plan, about free will, about their decisions, etc… But on the other, it’s annoying that they make God and his agents so inept. And weird because it when you get down to it, the movie’s set up and even resolution really implies we have no free will at all — only what the agents allow us to have. Like unwitting cattle we are moved about as they desire, oblivious to their manipulation. The exceptions are a few, stubborn, passionate individuals  (like Norris) who manage to break out of the track that has been laid for them and follow their own plan…

Ick.

We’ve spent the last month studying the Divine Decrees in Bible Class. Thinking about God’s awesome power. Reflecting on how He knew simultaneously all the plans there ever could be and all their courses, successions, outworkings in every detail. Every detail. He knows every decision every one of us has ever made and ever will, and every decision we would have made, had circumstances been different. And out of all of those options, He chose the best, the one that will provide our highest blessing and His glory. It buries the Keystone Cops stuff that’s put forth in The Adjustment Bureau.

Moreover, as I said, the real plan all hinges on Jesus: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He?”

God has shut all of us up in sin so He can have mercy on us all. And His mercy is the fact that He sent His son to die for the sins of every one of us, believers and unbelievers alike. All we have to do is choose to believe. Or to reject. In the end those who have rejected Christ, the only sin He couldn’t die for, will stand before the Great White Throne and give an account for why they rejected the work of Christ, and provide whatever they think they have to offer God that could possibly compare with what He’s done.

Of course none of that was in the movie.

Because really, the movie wasn’t about God, in my view.  Early on my take in watching it was that the Adjustment Bureau couldn’t be God’s organization — there was no grace, for one. No, I think it’s a great illustration of Satan’s organization.  The Adjustment Bureau is the kingdom of darkness, the rulers and principalities mentioned in Ephesians. The agents going about trying to make sure people don’t find out what God’s plan for their life is, and seeking to impose the plan their Chairman has written. Yes, they are presented in some cases as appealing, nice, trying to be helpful, etc,  even as they have no idea what they’re doing. One is guilt ridden for some of the things he’s had to do to Norris’s parents. And many of them even wonder if what they are doing is right.

But the strength of a counterfeit lies in its closeness of form to the thing it is counterfeiting. And Satan’s many systems always incorporate ministers of light, and deception and confusion.

I cannot imagine any of God’s elect angels  wondering if what they are doing is right. Or feeling guilty. Or going against His directive will. Or any of that.  The agents in the film spend much of the time blundering around. They threaten and intimidate and lie…

But God is not the author of confusion. God is not taken by surprise. He’s not up there going, “Oh no, Norris got off track! I didn’t foresee that! He must not kiss that woman or disaster will ensue! You guys get down there and clean that up!” He’s not up there going, “Oh, gee, I had a plan for you, David Norris, but I see now that your plan is far better than what I came up with and since you are sooo insistent… I’m going to give you what you want.

Paul was insistent. He was going to Jerusalem to see his people and never mind that God told him not to go three times in a row. He was going. So he went. And ended up imprisoned in Rome for years as discipline because of it. Granted, God used that to allow him to witness to the Praetorium Guardsmen he was chained to, and to write half the New Testament, but that only shows how God can take our messes and make blessing out of them, not that we have any business writing our own destinies.

TAW – Basic Principles

I continue to be amazed and excited by the way God is using the material in The Artist’s Way to stimulate thinking and encourage me in operating more freely in the creative part of my soul. The way He’s leading me through this, drawing my attention to parallels between what’s in the book and what’s in the Christian life, then providing confirmation, sometimes almost word for word in Bible class is really exciting.

Today (Sunday) I begin Week 2, which is called Recovering a Sense of Identity.   (Week 1 was Recovering a Sense of Safety).  Week 2 focuses on the things which will come in to attack and hinder the concepts taught and gains made in Week 1. One of the tasks for this week is to read through daily the “Basic Principles” that were listed on page 3.

One of the things I’ve been doing as I move through the course is to make it mine. When I first got the book, brand new from Amazon, I was reading it at the dining room table and drinking iced coffee. Barely had I started when I set the glass down wrong and it fell over, the entire contents flooding the book. After picking off the ice cubes, I mopped up the mess and spent a good amount of time sliding pieces of paper towel between all the pages. Yes. ALL the pages. There is not a single page untouched by coffee and some have a delightful, distressed look about them. At first I was dismayed and asked the Lord if this was some kind of sign. Was I not to read it after all? Instead, I got a laughing sort of thought: “Now it’s no longer ‘precious’ and you can feel free to write in it.”

Ahhh!  Very true. So I have done exactly that — underlined, highlighted, circled, starred, commented in the margins, crossed stuff out and replaced it with other stuff. Thus, I have amended the Basic Principles to my own liking, (You can find the original HERE) and I share them with you now:

Basic Principles

1. Creativity is a God-given part of the soul, bestowed for our blessing and benefit.

2. The Bible is full of songs, poetry, imagery. The book of Job was originally performed as a play. Jesus told stories in his teachings – the parables. Both David and Moses composed melodies and songs. David danced in the street as he worshiped the Lord. We are commanded to sing praises to the Lord, to “make” melodies. Angels sang for joy when God made the universe. God is the one who made flowers, birds, sunsets, the sea, clouds, mountains, lakes, trees.

3. God is the only one who creates out of nothing, but we echo His creative aspect in creating new things out of the materials He’s placed around and in us.

4. He has made each of us unique, with unique and specific creative gifts that come with the desire to use them. Sin, lies and distortions stop us.

5. He has a specific will and destiny for every person – for the unbeliever to be saved, for the believer, a specific journey or calling in which to glorify Him, a calling which no one else can fulfill.

6. He has given me creative gifts to be used for His glory and my blessing.

7. Part of using those gifts involves nurturing and encouraging them through filling the well with imagery and experience, and giving them time to be practiced.

8. Refusal to encourage my creativity and provide material for it to play with is a refusal to walk through the open door of operating in the gifts He’s given me.

9. When I open myself to exploring the creative part of my soul, I open myself to discovering and living in the full person God has made me to be, and to learning more about Him. He is the Great Creator and He is in me.

10. Functioning in and nurturing the creative side of my nature is as important as functioning in the logical, orderly side.

11. Why wouldn’t I want to open myself to His leading me into increasing creativity?

12. We must love ourselves before we can love others and in loving ourselves we must know who we are. As part of tending our own vineyard we nurture our creativity, for it is a vehicle by which we glorify Christ, as much through the process of living in it and enjoying it, as through whatever it produces.

13. Special word from Bible Class today (the day I typed this up for the first time): Some people who would never walk into a church or listen to a message will read one of my books. Or read my blog. And I am able to continue to witness to others through the art of card making.


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