Monthly Archives: November 2006

Truth in other faiths?

Last week, I wrote a post about a Hindu myth that taught a moral lesson compatible with Christian belief, namely, that self-sacrifice leads to moral reflection on the part of the persecutor. I then asked the question how is it possible that non-Christian religions can contain ideas compatible with Christianity? In the film “Holy Wars”, after clearly establishing a no-compromise approach regarding the identity of Jesus and the necessity for a decision to be made regarding Him, I make a point to say that we Christians, if we are to gain credibility in the modern world, we have to see that there is goodness in other people and in other faiths.

Lest anyone think that I have now become a pluralist (the idea that all religions are culturally conditioned and are therefore equally valid), I feel that I must make a case from Scripture that, although non-Christian religions are largely under the domain of darkness, truth and goodness can still be found in them.

There was a Christian who lived 2,000 years ago who would agree with what I just said. His name was, surprisingly, the Apostle Paul. How do I know that? If you read Acts 17:22-32 carefully, you will discover that, although Paul was addressing idol worshipping pagans, he didn’t write their religion off completely. Consider this startling statement: “Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.” Think about this for a moment. These were idol worship pagans who just happened to build an altar to an unknown god. Paul tells them that they were actually worshipping God without knowing it. That’s rather generous, don’t you think?

Consider also, that, in this passage, Paul quoted from a pagan philosopher who wrote in a preceding time,”For we are also His offspring.” In response, Paul says, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God….” Paul agreed with a pagan philosopher! This shows that Paul expected to find truth even among people outside the realm of Biblical revelation.

This should not surprise us. Paul also says in Acts 14:17 that God has not “left Himself without a witness.” Ecclesiastes says that “God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.” If Jesus really is, as the Apostle John says “the true light which lighteth every man coming into the world,” then we should expect every man to have some degree of light. The light, by the way, is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word who existed with the Father before time began.

I realize that what I have written brings up a lot of questions. I’ve barely scratched the surface in presenting the evidence to back up my case but, trust me, there is much more. The bottom line is this: non-Christian religions are a mixture of truth and error. Jesus Christ, the eternal God made flesh, is the final revelation that all men must come to know. It is our job as Christians to point men and women everywhere to the loving and gracious God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Seeking validation

I must confess that I have little to write about today,so I must reveal the secrets of the universe in three short statements.

1. My brother Paul says that math was created by the devil. After much theological reflection on this subject, both of us agree that if this is true then you, Toby, the math genius of the universe, need to seriously repent.

2. Please rent the movie Akeelah and the Bee. The movie teaches a valuable lesson about not being afraid to be great.

3. Please read my posts “Road Rage” and “Jesus and the rich young reprobate.” These are great posts and none of you have had the decency to call me an idiot for writing them. Shame on you!

Have a great day everyone.

Jesus and the rich young reprobate

I have a theory. It may sound ridiculous to some and elementary to others, but, hey, this is my blog and I am entitled to throw across whatever hair-brained idea that comes to my overactive mind -as long as I have readers who are gullible enough to believe that I have something intelligent to say.

So here goes.

My theory is that since the Bible says, “God is love”, then He must love everybody. (Perhaps I should have titled this post, “Deep thoughts with Aaron D. Taylor.” ) It’s a simple idea really, but let me elaborate. My theory further says that if God loves everybody, then He must want everybody to be saved. Not a bad extrapolation I might add,even if it wasn’t in the Bible. Let me take this thought one step further. If God wants everybody to be saved, that must mean that everybody includes people of all faiths and all walks of life. Notice that I did not say that everybody will be saved, just that God loves everybody and wants them to be saved. In other words, the only condition a living creature on planet earth must meet for God to love them and to want them to be in heaven with Him is to be an authentic human being (the technical term would be homo sapien).

Alas my simple mind has gotten the best of me-or so many of my evangelical Christian colleagues around the world would say. For don’t you know, oh simple one, that the fact that God is love doesn’t mean that He actually has to love everybody? Some would try to convince my simple mind that yes, God does love everybody, but only in a creaturely sense. In other words, God may love everone as His creation (a form of self-admiration I might add), but that doesn’t mean that He actually has a desire to pursue a relationship with everyone. In other words, oh simple-minded Aaron. God loves all people in a creaturely sense, but not in a relational sense. And don’t you know, oh simple one, that the fact that God wants everybody to be saved doesn’t mean that He actually intends to save as many people as possible. There are some that God has chosen to be reprobates-people that He loves as His creation but for whom He has no intention of pursuing a relationship with.

And then I open my Bible to the story of the rich, young ruler. A man who, if anyone would fit the description of a reprobate, it would be him. The man did not want to give up his bank account to follow Jesus. What a chump! And then I see that the Bible says that Jesus, “looking at him, loved him.”

You mean that Jesus loved the rich young reprobate?! Hmm….I wonder if that means that Jesus loved the fact that He created him, or that He actually loved him? Well, I guess we’ll never know.

Why should I be interested in God?

I would like to share an insight that I must admit does not come from my own ingenuity (which should come as a surprise to no one). I have my friend Rudy Tan, a British Christian, to thank for this one.

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don’t like me?

Let me repeate this one more time so that my Christians friends will not miss the point.

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don’t like me?

That was Rudy’s response when I asked him why so few young people in his country were interested in church. I was rather shocked when I walked around one day asking young people where I could find a particular church and most of them looked at me like they didn’t even know what a church was. According to Rudy, there is a huge generation gap between the older people and the younger people in British society. Young people are viewed as wild, rebellious, and destructive-not the kind of people that dignified church folks would like to have around in the Lord’s house.

I realize it may look like I am flip-flopping on this one, but I really do believe that churches should provide a way for young people to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them. The issue, though, is much deeper than the style of music and the way the preacher dresses. The issue is a matter of the heart.

Let me repeat one more time what unchurched people are telling us church going folks:

Why should I be interested in God when God is associated with people who don’t like me?

Now let me add a little of my own insight…(yes, it does happen from time to time)

How could I like someone without seeing good in them?

Road Rage

I’ve heard it said that character is who you are in private, not what you are in public. This sounds fairly reasonable to me, but, unfortunately I think I may have found a loophope. You see, the other day I did something privately that I would never do publicly. So, in order to redeem myself, I have decided to make my private failure a public one. As twisted as this logic may sound, I think there may be some truth to what I just said-but I digress.

Yesterday, after driving through a toll booth in Chicago, I did something that Christians should not do. I lost my temper. I pulled over to the side of the road and I slammed my fist against the steering wheel as hard as I could. After apologizing to my wife, I began to think about what made me so upset.

The incident that prompted my road rage was passing through a toll booth thinking that I could use a credit card (I have done that many times because usually the toll is around $3.00 in most places I go). First of all. I didn’t know there was going to be a toll booth. Secondly, I figured that I could use my card if there was a toll booth. Thirdly, I didn’t have any change and, unfortunately, in this case, the toll was only 80 cents.

The jerk behind the counter gave me no mercy. To him, I was a pennyless low-lifer mooching my way through life at other people’s expense-at least that was the impression I got during our 20 second encounter.

So why did I lose my temper? It wasn’t because of the huffy toll booth operator. It was myself that I was mad at. I was humiliated that I couldn’t scrape enough change for something so simple.

I ask that you, my readers, think about this incident for a moment. If I, a Christian, could lose my temper out of humiliation for not scraping together 80 cents to pay a toll booth operator, just imagine how millions of men and women around the world feel living in slums and barely surviving? Do you think they feel humiliated? Heck yes, they do. Even nature itself teaches that fathers have an instinct to want to provide for their families. I wonder how men who live in cardboard boxes feel when they are unable to provide a decent living for their wives and children?

Furthermore, how do you think the masses of people around the world feel when they watch films about life in America while they are barely able to put food on the table? Do you think that they might feel angry, humilitated, robbed, or dare I say…cheated? My point here is not to say that Americans are to blame for the world’s poverty. I am absolutely unqualified to make such judgments. My point is to take you into the minds and hearts of the world’s poor. I wonder if, in their minds, we are the toll booth operators of the world.

The problem with poverty is not its physical effects, but its emotional and spiritual effects. Poverty is the ultimate dehumanizer because it cuts to the heart of human self-worth. This is why it is all the more remarkable that Jesus uttered these four words that have changed human history “Blessed are the poor.” For Jesus, value comes not from one’s net worth or even the ability of one to provide for himself. For Jesus, value comes from being loved by God-something that all can claim-whether rich or poor.

There are some who are poor because of laziness, but there are multiplied others who are poor because of oppression. Still others are poor because of just plain bad luck. Yes. I said the word “luck”. Even the Bible says, “Time and chance happen to all.” If we Christians can learn to see the poor of this world through the eyes of Jesus, then the world would be a much better place.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s last Thanksgiving

This excerpt comes from e-sermons.

It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until we were at war, the Civil War
to be exact, that our Thanksgiving holiday was officially recognized by
Congress. It had started in the small Plymouth Colony in 1621 when the
English Pilgrims feasted with members of the Wampanoag (Wam·pa·no·ag)
Indians who brought gifts of food as a gesture of goodwill. The custom grew
in various colonies as a means of celebrating the harvest. In 1777, over 100
years later, the continental congress proclaimed a national day of
Thanksgiving after the American Revolution victory at the Battle of
Saratoga. But it was twelve years later that George Washington proclaimed
another national day of thanksgiving in honor of the ratification of the
Constitution and requested that the congress finally make it an annual
event. They declined and it would be another 100 years and the end of a
bloody civil war before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last
Thursday in November Thanksgiving. The year was 1865. It might surprise you
to learn that it took still another 40 years, the early 1900’s, before the
tradition really caught on. For you see Lincoln’s official Thanksgiving was
sanctioned in order to bolster the Union’s morale. Many Southerners saw the
new holiday as an attempt to impose Northern customs on their conquered
land.

Thanksgiving today is a mild-mannered holiday full of football, hot apple
pie, and family reunions. But that’s not a realistic historical picture of
Thanksgiving. It is more often born of adversity and difficult times. So
many of the greatest expressions of thanksgiving have occurred under
circumstances so debilitating one wonders why people give thanks. It would
seem the more reasonable response would be bitterness and ingratitude.

Paul writing from a prison cell and probably knowing that he would soon die
by the guillotine writes to the Philippians, “I give thanks to my Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor imprisoned in
1943 for his political and Christian opposition to the Nazi regime, was
executed two years later. On the day that the sentence was carried out he
conducted a service for the other prisoners. One of those prisoners, an
English officer who survived, wrote these words:

Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy
over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he
was alive… He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God
was real and always near… On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer
conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to
the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit
of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He
had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians
entered. They said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one
meaning for all prisoners–the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me
aside: “This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life.” The next
day he was hanged in Flossenburg.

Out of great suffering have come the greatest expressions of gratitude. And
so I suggest to you this morning, we have all the more reason to celebrate
Thanksgiving…

The rest of this sermon can be obtained by joining http://www.eSermons.com.
You may call 1-800-350-8339 to join.

If you have been waiting to join http://www.eSermons.com would you please do so now
and show your thanks for the multitude of resources we bring to you each
week.

Lessons from Kali?

Kali is the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. She is fierce, terrifying, and destroys all in her path. The other gods try in vain to end her rampage of destruction, but nothing seems to work. Is there anything that can cause one so bent on death and destruction to change their ways? According to the Hindu myth, yes there is. Kali has a husband named Shiva who decides that he is going to do something to get through to her. Here is the story as found in Wikipedia.


Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds or lokas began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon her husband she realized her mistake and bit her tongue in shame.

Let me tell you another myth. Darth Vader was an evil apprentice to an evil emperor. Though he used to be one of the good guys, his twisted heart caused him to roam the galaxies crushing all opposition to his evil ways. Is there any way to get through to a man so evil and corrupt? Yes, there is, according to George Lucas, the writer of Star Wars. Darth Vader had a son named Luke Skywalker who refused to believe that goodness was extinct in his father. Skywalker knew that the only way to provoke moral reflection in his father would be to voluntarily place himself under the power of his evil. When the emperor tortures Luke with his lightning bolts, Vader intervenes and his soul is set free.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. For we Christians also have a similar story. God creates man. Man does great evil. Man inflicts pain on God. Man reconsiders his ways. The difference is that the myth that we believe in really happened. Yes, the details are very different, but the truth is the same. Self-sacrifice leads to moral reflection.

But wait a second here! The myth of Kali is found in the religion of Hinduism, a religion that worships multiple gods-something forbidden in Scripture. And Star Wars? Every educated Christian knows that Star Wars is based off of Zen Buddhism. How is it possible that those who are blinded by the kingdom of darkness could have any degree of spiritual truth in their belief systems?

That, my friends, is a question that demands serious theological reflection. Mark my words. The question of how Christian revelation relates to those of other faiths is the chief question that theologians will have to tackle in the 21st century.

The scariest movie of the year

Anyone want to take a guess at what was voted the scariest movie of the year by Hollywood insiders? It was not the latest Freddy Krueger movie, nor was it the latest Halloween movie. It wasn’t some teenage slasher flick with some guy running around with a chainsaw. No. What was voted the scariest movie of the year was a feature length documentary called Jesus Camp, a film that follows three young children to a Pentecostal Christian summer camp.

You may be thinking to yourself “What??!! A Christian summer camp is more scary than Friday the 13??!!” If you don’t believe me, check out the reviews. If you are like me and you were raised in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, then you are certainly familiar with the yearly trip to the lake where you go swimming and horseback riding during the day and get filled with the Holy Spirit at night. I attended several of these as a kid and I think that I have turned out to be a normal rational human being….okay I realize that might be a bit debateable so you’ll have to humor me for a moment and pretend you agree.

So what is so scary about Jesus Camp to the outsider. Well, besides the fact that children are dressed up in military outfits symbolizing that they are warriors for God (which to an outsider who doesn’t have an inside perspective would see that as the same thing as some Wahabbi Islamic Koranic school teaching children the concepts of Jihad), the leader of the camp, Becky Fisher, is seen decrying the evils of evolution, the deception of global warming, and, of course, the incarnation of the devil himself-Harry Potter.

Here is the ironic part. I am sure that there are Christians rejoicing that the gospel was preached through this movie. The sad part about it is that the secular critics didn’t seem to get the memo that those involved wanted this to be a witnessing tool. While I appreciate the sincerity of the subjects of the film, I have to ask these basic questions.

1. Is denying evolution as a natural mechanism central to the gospel?
2. Since when did global warming become a central issue in the Christian faith?
3. Is J.K. Rowling really a Satanist seeking to poison the minds of innocent little children?

The last question I have to ask is the most important one. It demands careful attention. Since when did we evangelicals become more known for what we are against than what we are for?

Muslim attacks on Ethiopian Christians

ETHIOPIA – MUSLIMS ATTACK CHRISTIANS DURING FESTIVAL
from: World Evangelical Alliance – Religious Liberty Prayer List
– October 25, 2006

In early October Ethiopian and Somali Muslim fundamentalists
in Dembi, western Ethiopia, attacked Christians celebrating their
traditional Meskel (“cross”) festival which marks the beginning
of spring.

Dutch news agency Reformatorisch Dagblad reported 31 Christians
were killed, dozens were taken hostage, five churches and hundreds
of homes were burned, five other churches were seized and converted
to mosques, and some 3,000 Christians were displaced and are
now receiving emergency food aid through Samaritan’s Purse.

Please pray for God to protect Christians in the Horn of Africa
as religious (and regional) tensions grow. Somalia’s al-Qaeda-
linked Islamists have declared jihad against Ethiopia. Christians
in the Muslim-populated outer regions of Ethiopia are suffering
rising Muslim hostility.

Tree of Life discovered in London

Out of all the things that I saw last week in London, the most fascinating sight was not Big Ben, Parliament, Windsor Castle, or even Buckingham Palace. At the British Museum in the Africa section I saw something that moved me to tears, it was the Tree of Life. Out of the atrocities of the civil war in Mozambique came a Christian led movement to trade guns for tools. This was inspired by none other than a Christian Bishop. Take a look here at a picture of the Tree of Life and the story behind it. Don’t just take a passing glance at this link. Think about it for a few minutes and let the message move you. After you have looked at the link read this Scripture. If this does not convince you that a Christian Worldview has the power to bring peace to the world, I don’t know what will.

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