Category Archives: Faith

I’m Open To Other Views

People have this idea that I always think I’m right, that I am arrogant and don’t listen to other people’s perspectives. Well those people are dumb.

But seriously, I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded person. I am ready to hear and learn from other people. The problem is that THEY think they know everything and usually they don’t.

Take this conversation I had the other day. I was talking with a guy about Amillennialism and trying to explain it in small words because, as I explained to him, he didn’t know anything about eschatology because his pastors never wanted him to think. So he started to argue with me. He couldn’t help it. He had been indoctrinated, brainwashed if you will. I tried to be patient, but he kept asking all these questions that I couldn’t answer. They were the type of questions his pastor probably told him to ask even though he paused thoughtfully before asking them (I think that was part of his training as well, to make the trick questions seem more genuine). Well I was getting exhausted trying to explain these difficult concepts to someone so under the brain-control of some local pastor. Finally I had to shake him up; I had to get his head out of the haze, so I said “Listen buddy, if you don’t believe this is true, then you are blind to the truth.” That showed him. He shut right up … and he left before we could finish our conversation, but it was obviously because he knew I was right.

There was this other time when I was telling a friend how God had spoken to me about election. How he had laid it all out there for me and I finally understood it all for the first time. Do you know what my friend did? Tried to “discuss” the topic with me. As if there were anything left to discuss! When God tells you something you know it’s true. Why would people try to change your mind about it?

Then there was this other time. A buddy of mine was concerned that I may be a little too zealous about my feelings concerning how I interpret the Bible. He explained that he thought it may not make sense to say that when you read the Bible in faith you come to the same conclusions I have. I said I didn’t understand his concerns. He told me there were a lot of people who interpreted the Bible differently than I do who have come to different conclusions, but they seemed to have demonstrated great faith in their Christian walks. I told him they obviously didn’t. He asked me why I thought that, and I said that if they had REAL faith they would have come to the same conclusions I did. He asked me how I knew this. I said it was because I had real faith. He went silent. That’s what I thought!

See, the problem isn’t that I won’t listen to others. The problem is that they don’t have any good arguments to oppose mine. Is it wrong that my views are hole-proof? I don’t think so. Maybe if other people weren’t so blind and faithless, and would actually listen to God they would come to the truth as well, and maybe then I could learn something from them.

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Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor – book review

The following book review is copied from my reading blog, Reading in Southern Maine where I write brief thoughts on the books I am reading.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor
By Chuck Black

Synopsis: Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is book five of The Knights of Arrethtrae series. In this part of the series a young man, Quinlan, feels called to become a knight of the King and follow the Prince. He first trains with a skilled knight and later a Silent Warrior who teach him to fight and overcome his self doubt and fear. After his training is complete he returns to his hometown to fight the hidden Shadow Warriors. When the enemy leader, Lucius finds out that Sir Quinlan has returned he launches an all out attack on the city. The small band of knights under the leadership of Quinlan must lead the charge in the battle against Lucius’ Shadow Warriors.

My Opinion: So Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is an allegory and full of various Christian truths and life lessons. I think that Black does a mediocre job at presenting this allegory in an interesting and engaging way.

I would say that the good thing about the allegorical element is that many of the truths that he alludes to in the story are important, i.e. trust in the Prince and not ourselves, The King choosing the weak of the world, following the Prince requires complete surrender and a sacrifice of everything but is rewarded greatly when you one day cross the Great Sea, and many others.

The thing that I thought was sub par about the allegory was the totally transparent way that it was presented. Many times Black would almost quote the Bible verbatim through some character’s speech or he would add elements that really didn’t make sense in the story, but fed the allegory. He discusses how the King sent the Prince from across the Great Sea to bring the Kings people back to him and how they rejected him and he died “on a tree” (what does that even mean?) but the King brought him back to life using the Life Spice. Black tries to explain how this death and resurrection enabled the knights to follow the Prince, but it never really makes much sense. I felt like a lot of the more obvious “Christian” themes seemed overly forced into the story.

Aside from the failures in the allegory I thought the book was pretty good. I think that younger kids, probably boys in their tweens mostly, would really enjoy reading this book and would get a lot out of it. The battles are pretty engaging and exciting, and the characters are dynamic enough that you grow to like (or dislike) them. There is a little humor tossed into the mix to keep the dramatic elements from being too overwhelming for younger readers. It certainly isn’t C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but it is another series that could be worth picking up if you have a young avid reader.

FYI: the land Arrethtrae, where the story takes place, is a backward combination of the words Earth and Terra.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor at amazon.com

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


Losing A Generation: are we?

I came across a blog earlier today that had a couple posts explaining that the younger generations of Americans have become less and less interested in Christianity. The two posts he wrote on this topic each dealt with one of the reasons that he suspects for this shift. The two reasons he gave were parents having interfaith marriages and not going to church regularly.

While it is clear that there are not as many young people professing to be Christians as there were in the past, I wonder what this actually means. Does it mean that there are less Christians, or less professing Christians? If there are less Christians then we can start asking why that is, but I think that it may be inaccurate to make the leap from less professing Christians to less actual Christians.

For quite awhile Christianity held a strong hand on culture. People went to church, they said grace, they tried not to swear around the pastor. Was that good? I don’t know. It was what it was, but it certainly did not mean that those people had surrendered their lives to Christ. It may have meant that a lot more people had a false sense of security in their religious observations that made them confident that they were going to Heaven because mom and dad went to church and they were members of “First Baptist.”

It’s not that way anymore. Maybe this means that less people are Christians, maybe it just means that the traditions of earlier generations’ Christianity are no longer relevant. I can’t say what it means, but to think that there was a “good ol’ days” of Christianity seems a bit inaccurate. It is important to separate the actual beliefs from the cultural traditions.

To deal with the second part of this: why do young people not seem interested in Christianity, I can’t give some definitive answer, but I think it is a little more complex than interfaith parents and non-churchgoing parents. I had both. I believe. Christianity is about God touching your heart with the truth of the Gospel and you surrendering your life to that truth. It is not inherited from parents and if it is forced on kids by their parents it isn’t real. So maybe it has to do with the fact that the church is more tied up with the gospel of traditions than it is with reaching people with the gospel of Christ. Maybe it has something to do with fundamentalism, and the church running away and hiding in caves while the world moved on. Maybe it is because certain people believe and certain people don’t. It’s all speculation. All we can do is share the gospel of Christ with the people around us, young or old, and live out the love and truth of that Gospel in our relationships with those people. They may have interfaith parents, they may have never gone to church. I don’t see how that matters in the least.


Just Trying to Get By

When I read Scripture I see the passion of those who follow Christ. I see that their faith is crucial to their life. It is not the thing they need to “try” at, but the thing that gives them the strength to “try” at the rest of life. I see this same thing among many believers throughout history. This was one of the biggest things I noticed when I read through the Bonhoeffer biography I just finished, Bonhoeffer didn’t have to “try” to care about his faith. His faith is what enabled him to deal with everything else in life. You see this same thing in The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom saw Christ and her relationship with him as the thing that would enable her to act bravely in love for those in need, and endure the incredible hardships that she faced as a result of those activities.

When you gather on an average Sunday in an average church you will most likely hear a sermon encouraging you to care about your faith. It may be a sermon telling you to read your Bible more, or asking you why you don’t get as excited about Jesus as you do about football or telling you that if you really love Jesus you will have a spirit of giving or a million other things that I would label in the category of “trying to get by.” What I mean by that is that Christians today spend so much time just trying to care about what they believe that the faith itself is what becomes the struggle, not the answer to the struggles of life. Is this because we are so comfortable? I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but honestly I can’t say for sure why it is this way.

I am tired of constantly being encouraged to rededicate my life or recommit myself to following Christ. When we have to spend all our time trying to care about our supposed “beliefs” I wonder if we really believe them at all.

Of course we all struggle in many ways. I am no exception to that rule. I could even go so far as to say I personify that rule, but there is a fundamental difference between starting at your faith to help you overcome the struggles in your heart and life, and that faith being the very thing you struggle to care about.

What do you think? Am I overstating something that is nothing more than the normal struggle of Christians throughout history, or is there something very different about the way we approach our faith today, in the comforts of America, as opposed to those who have come before us, many of which faced severe persecution and struggled for their very survival?


Clarity

It has been brought to my attention that my last couple of posts on depression, This is Serious and Through: not Out, lacked clarity. I apologize for being unclear. I realize that those posts were somewhat rambling in nature and my actual position and views may not have come through in them. To correct that I would like to simply state what I believe about depression and the common approach Evangelical Christians take toward dealing with it.

  • I believe that depression can be caused by physical problems. By this I do not mean that physical problems are a catalyst for depression, as in a person losing their legs and struggling to deal with their new situation in life. I mean that depression can be the direct result of physical problems in the brain that effect the way a person thinks and feels. We know that things like B12 deficiency or severe head trauma can alter a person’s mood and personality. Although the details are unclear about what may be the physical cause for depression, it would not be a big leap to believe that there are physical causes. Many of the symptoms are largely universal and very particular. This fact lends itself to the conclusion that these people are suffering from the same physical problem, and not simply their own particular sadness rooted in their spiritual and emotional life.
  • I believe that depression can cause thoughts and feelings that directly contradict what that sufferer knows is true. Since I believe that depression can be physically rooted in the brain, I also believe that spiritual and intellectual understanding may not be able to remove the effects of depression. From what I have seen, depression can cause completely irrational thoughts and feelings that clearly contradict the person’s rational mind.
  • I believe that the interactions between the brain, mind, and spirit are extremely complex and that neither Christian counselors, pastors, nor psychologists and psychiatrists understand how these things effect each other. This results in either emphasizing the spirit and ignoring the brain (christian approach) or emphasizing the brain and ignoring the spirit (secular approach). Neither of these approaches demonstrate a balance based on an understanding that the brain and spirit are both involved in developing a person’s thoughts, feelings, and personality.
  • I believe that it is possible that a person may have to live their entire life with depression.  While this seems like a negative perspective, it deals with the real possibility that depression can be physically rooted and if whatever physical problem is causing the depression is not found and fixed then it is quite possible that it won’t simply go away on it’s own. This understanding can help people to better deal with depression because it neither creates false hope nor guilt for failing to overcome depression.
  • I believe that faith is crucial to learning to live with, and through, depression. Faith that God loves and is taking care of us is vitally important to fighting the mental battles of depression. While thoughts may be flooding in that tell a person that there is no hope, faith in God’s love may be the only thing that enables a person to keep going in spite of these uncontrollable thoughts and fears. Having someone to lean on through depression can make all the difference. Faith will enable the person to lean on God for strength through depression and there is no one better to lean on than God himself.
  • I believe that sin is not the cause of depression and faith is not the cure for depression. To tell people these things adds burdens to someone who is already quite burdened down. This false notion leads the depression sufferer to feel guilty, confused, defeated, and hopeless. While it may appear to be hopeful because it offers both a cause and a solution, the cause and solution are not real, and therefore when the “proper” steps are taken and the planned result does not actually occur the person feels much worse. This gets exponentially worse when the person is told that the reason the depression didn’t go away is because the sin was not dealt with or the faith was not mustered up. This destructive cycle can go on perpetually.

I hope that makes my understanding a little more clear. Hopefully it didn’t just muddy the water even more. Feel free to share your opinion of my views, tell me if I was unclear in explaining myself, or ask questions about what I have said.


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