Tag Archives: religion

Christianity is Not a White Western Religion

I read this article at “Red Letter Christians” with the title by the same name as this post. You can read that article here.  Is it me or does anyone else essentially read this:

A.  White Western religion = White Christianity bad.

B.  Black religion =good.

There really is no reason given as to why this assumption is there and I’m sure that is not the point of the article.  However, it is a main staple of Red Letter Christians throughout their writings.  Here are a few negatives about white religion that are sited in the article.

“But through my activity in church, I felt that people were trying to mold me into this Western white culture – even in the Black church.”

 “But there was still this tension between Western culture, biblical culture, and my culture as a person of African descent.”  “Western culture” should be interpreted as white culture.

“This made me see my reality in the Gospel much more so than the average evangelical. I listened to Focus on the Family and Charles Stanley, but I struggled to integrate their form of Christianity into my everyday life.  These guys are considered, conservative white male Christian religion.  Nothing is ever stated as to how much of what we see in black churches is really not authentically African either.  And what were some of the aspects that you could integrate?  Seems like absolutely nothing of value can come from such Christians?

“If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.”

“It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.”

“But as more Greeks and Romans converted, and Christianity became the religion of the empire, it got watered down and separated from its Hebrew roots. Greeks and Romans were white.  Definitely not black.

“Either we will have a Christianity that is Western or we will have a Christianity based on the truth of the Bible”

“When you separate it from its roots, the whitewashed Western, and often American, version hurts everyone, including white people.”

Now for the positive statements of black religion.

“I also always loved to read and learn about Black history. I read Malcolm X and Dr. King…”

“At Penn State, I took an African American religious studies class where we read God of the Oppressed by James Cone. I reread it again that summer. I began to see the Bible in my reality.”  Apparently, black literature by certain black authors is cool.  In fact, so cool, that it was read over again.

“I’m the founder of Prophetic Whirlwind, an organization that provides Bible study materials and educates via social media, lectures, and workshops on the African roots of the Christian and Jewish faiths. This is a huge passion of mine.”  I guess that’s a positive thing?  That Christianity and Jewish faiths are rooted in African roots?  Well, when you compare it or contrast it next to white religion.

“Until 1869, Israel was connected to Egypt – connected to all of Africa. It was only when the Suez Canal was completed that Israel became separated from Africa. Even until the early 1900s, Israel was referred to as NE Africa.”

“The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.”  This is important and it’s positive because, well, you don’t see this in white Christianity or White Western culture with it’s high individualism right?  Listen, there can be blind-spots in any culture. Why not talk about Asian societies with their culture of shame for example.  Simon Chan talks about this in his book, “Spiritual Theology.”

“It’s even more powerful to understand the cultural roots of our Biblical mothers and fathers. Mark was the Father of the Gospel in Africa. The Last Supper and Pentecost took place at his mother’s house, and she was an African Jewish woman from Cyrene. They were refugees. Do immigrants know this today? Do Black sisters and brothers know this today? This is incredibly empowering if we know these stories.”  Here we see an almost complete contrast to western religion.  This is one HELLUVA positive statement.  This is not all that bad, as making the Bible relevant to someone is a good thing.

“Then there was a large reverse exodus from Israel back to Egypt in Biblical times. The two landmasses were connected, they looked the same, and had similar climates. When Mark and his mother needed to leave Israel, they went to North Africa. It was a place a lot of Jews went. Thomas Oden is a researcher from Eastern University, and his research opened my eyes. Mark was born in Africa, and died in Africa. St. Augustine was African, his mother Monica was African, and when she died, she told St. Augustine to carry her bones back to Africa.”  So Africa is the jam man.  Interestingly, when you get down to it, the continent of Africa is not uniform either and so one might want to ask what group is she is referring to as being so closely biblical?  That is, which group represents Christianity the closest?

“This is significant as Biblical prophecy states that when these tribes begin to come back to the Torah, the Messiah will return. Many researchers, especially from the Jewish faith, travel around the world, like Indiana Jones traveling for the lost ark, looking for these tribes. And research shows that many of these tribes are in Africa.”  Hmmm…it may be significant for Onleilove to talk about what the researchers are saying about those tribes but she also used the word, “many” (“many of those tribes”) which is to say that some of those tribes weren’t of African descent?

Interestingly, there was a statement that is most revealing in this article.  Onleilove says:

The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.

It’s important to understand that the Bible is a multi-cultural book. My work is about reconciling Jesus to his culture – his Hebrew culture. If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.

It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.

If it is the case that black Christians and Christians in general need to return back to their Hebrew faith then why talk about all the positives of black religion as if it is not in need of redemption.  Here.  I’ll say it like this.  Richard Mouw one time spoke about the arts being in need of redemption.  He was referring to the pop cultural art (low brow), yes, but he was also referring to what is sometimes referred to as “high brow” art.  One gets the feeling, when reading Onleilove’s article contrasting white western Christianity and black religion that it is white religion that is in the real need of redemption.  Referring back to Simon Chan’s book, even black religion would be in need of redemption because as with all societies, there is a separation between “doctrine” from “the living God”–orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

 

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Edward Feser on Christian, Muslims and the Reference of God

Here is an excellent post by Edward Feser that is both logical and without the ad hominem regarding the issue of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God as brought to our attention via Wheaton College’s Dr. Hawkins statements you can read here.

This should give us pause with regard to both Wheaton and the laity (“conservative Christians”, Mirsolav Volf’s term) concern over controversial statements. I would submit that even if Wheaton could not go along with what Feser says, then it would be within their ecclesiastical right to maintain it’s suspension and or possible firing.


Religion and Politics: Human Beings Are Religious To The Core

Part of a conversation I’m having with a friend on Facebook. This is my response to my friend based on this article

“There are evangelical groups like Gary DeMars’ American Vision and Pat Robertson’s CBN University or 700 Club which are more truly theocratic in the sense that they seek to impose certain OT laws onto modern day 21st century. Greg Bahnsen was into this type of theocracy. But there is a huge difference between that sort of “fundamentalism” and a kind that seeks to influence politics via persuasion and a working out of the Christian ethics and convictions. You would be sorely wrong to conflate the two. The Christian Left does this though. Think about it. There are all kinds of churches that don’t believe that, say, a “woman’s place is in the kitchen.” I don’t even think the Catholic Church would say this (though she may say, that woman can’t do it all (working toward career goals and taking care of the family. Are they really that far off base from reality?). That is based on an outworking of their Christian convictions. And I find that most left leaning folk want to say that you can’t “impose your religious convictions” but they attempt to do it all the time.

Here’s the thing. In this article, Obama believes in “freedom to worship” not in “freedom of religion.” That’s the part I most agree with. “Freedom of religion” is the belief that religion is not confined to within the walls of a church. On that basis, it has a particular (albeit religious) understanding of humans beings. We are all very religious at our core. Religious such that extends far beyond themselves. Outward, NOT simply internal. Christian ethics realizes this, say, when you look at the “fruit of the Spirit.” The “fruit of the Spirit” is not entirely directed inward but necessarily directed towards others.

It seems to me that you would not disagree with this if the hot button issue was something that you agreed with. If I based my anti-slavery position on the Bible? No problem. Anti-child sex trafficking? No problem. Base it on the Bible. Lines painted in the middle of the road? Cool! Base it on your religious convictions. Same sex marriage? Hey wait! You can’t base it on the Bible! Abortion? No way! Our culture is such that basically, everything is OK to have a religious conviction over (because it concerns not “harming” others) but when it comes to areas of sexuality, well, no, you can’t show your religious convictions outside of your church, that is consent. It’s pathetic if you ask me.”


Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion

I want to put up a video that I just concluded watching. As far as I’m concerned you can see some troubling issues going on with regard to government and religion–specifically, how government is doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it’s supposed to be doing in protecting the free exercise of religion beyond the four walls of a church or the privacy of your home. Religion just doesn’t work well when it is confined by another religiously based ideology that pretends to be neutral but is anything but.

In this video, Theis’ talks about the issues in the context of religious charities. Religion as defined by the government according to Theis is:

1. Churches and close affiliates.
2. Hire people of it’s own religion.
3. Religious organization must serve members of it’s own religion.
4. The main purpose of the religious institution must be to inculcate religious values.

Later on Theis says: “Jesus himself couldn’t pass muster. That’s because of who and HOW he helped.” This would stand Christ’s admonition to serve your neighbour from the parable of the good Samaritan on it’s head. Think about it.

Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof: The Affordable Care Act And Other Threats To Institutional Religion


Greg Boyd’s, Myth of a Christian Nation Pt. 5

Page 14 of Myth:

“…the governments of the world seek to establish, protect, and advance their ideals and agendas. It’s in the fallen nature of all those governments to want to “win.” By contrast, the kingdom Jesus established and modeled with his life, death, and resurrection doesn’t seek to “win” by any criteria the world would use.”

This is a part of the problem of Boyd’s analysis of politics. Again, it’s that, “Jesus’ kingdom is pure” vs. the “worldly” system. Now we are talking about how that translates into the Church’s life. Would keeping the Church out of politics on all levels mean that the Church would be spotless? What would a “kingdom of Jesus is pure” look like translated in a Church not involved in politics? Has that EVER happened? Does Boyd believe that if we follow what he is saying that the Church will be spotless? Besides this, why does Boyd draw such a sharp line? On page 19 under the heading of “God and the kingdom of the world” Boyd says,

“The ’power over’ that all versions of the kingdom of the world exercise is NOT ALTOGETHER BAD.”

This just seems like convoluted thinking here. Either “power over” is inherently evil or it isn’t even if it is used for good.

Either way, a few things need to be said about this.

  1. Boyd confuses “power over” with simply having power. THAT power can be used for good or evil. And this is something that I find missing in most if not all discussions by those on the left and especially those within the Anabaptist tradition. Under a sphere sovereignty position, it is God and then everything else. It is God and then underneath God is government and the rest of civil society. God grants or DISTRIBUTES to all of these some power, some authority. So when God grants power to government it isn’t simply to “power over” others ie., the rest of creation in a negative sense. That power or authority is good. And it is given so that creation can fulfill it’s creational/cultural mandate.
  2. Because it is God and then everything else, this means that no other entity in civil society, including government, should act in an omni-competent manner. That is reserved only for God. That is to say, that the government is not this or that and this or that is not government. Which is to say, for example, that government is not a parent and its children are not the rest of civil society. Government is not a university, a hospital, a business, a bank, etc. It doesn’t play those roles. That’s not it’s job. And a hospital, for example is not a government or a police agency or a bank, etc. However, there are ways that government can expedite or impede human flourishing or expedite or impede all of these entities God-given rights and responsibilities. Which is to say…
  3. That government’s God-given responsibility is to act JUDICIALLY with regard to all the other areas of civil society. That is, if government is under God then it is not to act LIKE God–omni-competently–but is to be subservient to God and what God wills.

Either way, the line doesn’t need to be drawn so sharply–it seems like a false dichotomy is made as not only pertaining to my three points above, but as I said yesterday, with my example of the library system. Government power doesn’t necessarily have to be “power over” but can, in legitimate ways, UNDER GIRD and SERVE AND MINISTER to the other areas of society.

Boyd is for government serving but for him it is serving with the sword. Government is to punish evil, ie., punishing a crime. But it is so much more than that. Government can serve in a judicial manner by ensuring that one sphere of authority doesn’t take over the responsibilities of another sphere of authority.  If it can do this, then it is ABLE to serve in “power UNDER” modes of operation (Boyd Pg 15).


Greg Boyd’s, Myth of a Christian Nation Pt 3

Yes, STILL in the Intro

So we are still in the intro of Greg Boyd’s book, “Myth of a Christian Nation.”

This is what Boyd says on page 11-12 of “Myth”:

“For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, “taking America back for God,” voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

I will argue that this perspective is misguided, that fusing together the kingdom of God with this or any other version of the kingdom of the world is idolatrous and that this fusion is having serious negative consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I do NOT argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. While people whose faith has been politicized may well interpret me along these lines, I assure you that this is not what I’m saying. The issue is far more fundament than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I hope to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God.”

Two issues need to be raised here. The first one has to do with “legislating morality” and the second one has to do with sphere sovereignty.

On the one hand, the issues above are noble. That is, Christians seek to make the world into what they think is a better place just as many people involved in the political process tend to do.  I’m sure Boyd wouldn’t have problems with some laws that should be passed against certain things he considers evil. On the other hand, again, these Christians are committing what Skillen calls a “general moralism.”   One of the first questions that one needs to ask, whether they are on the right or left is, “Why should government get involved on this issue?”  “Should government make laws against every possible evil?”   “What is PROPERLY POLITICAL?” 

Now there are some things government has absolutely no business being involved in (some of which aren’t even evil to begin with) and it doesn’t take much thought to see this. Paul Marshall in God and the Constitution:  Christianity and American Politics says:

“There are areas where we definitely should try to impose our morality or legislate our views and there are areas where we should not.  There are many, different types and levels of morality and conduct:  some are appropriate for politics and some are not;  some are matters of personal taste, while others are mattters of life and death, and therefore politically central.  We shouldn’t try to tell people what they should put on their pizza.  It’s a matter of taste, and , unless someone is about to die of food allergies, people should be free to make up their own minds about what they want for lunch.” 

In the areas that are evil,  from a Christian perspective, it seems we have to co-exist alongside those evils (though this may mean fighting those evils in other ways or by other means) .  The idea here is from the parable of the man who sowed good seed in his field but someone who was his enemy had come along and planted weeds, Matt 13:28-30.  Jesus says that both should grow together.  Again, Paul Marshall states:

“If as the parable says, God is patient even with those who do evil, so much more should we also strive to live alongside others in political peace.

In fact, Jesus went far beyond describing God’s patient acceptance of certain kinds of evil.  He said that God not only allows people to live in disobedience, but also still actively cares and provides for them even as they do so.”

Though these are the first fundamental questions to ask, they still do not address how they are related to the question of a differeniated creation.  The question of what is properly political is not only to ask what  the proper role of government is or what government’s proper jurisdiction is but it is to also ask what are the proper roles (and responsibilities) of other areas of civil society ie., families, churches, police, unions, hospitals, schools, etc, etc, etc.  Again as Paul Marshall says,

“This chapter has stressed that the fact that someone may be doing something bad is not itself grounds for government action.  Individual, families, churches, unions, and businesses have their own rights and responsibility and need to have the political freedom to exercise that responsibility….the mere fact that greed and lust, and waste and pornography, are evil is not in and of itself any grounds for any government action. 

In this particular sense we should agree that is is not the task of government to enforce morality.  The government’s task is not to compel everything that is right or moral, but to enforce the particular morality that we call justice–which lies at the core of genuine poltical morality.  Governments must respect the proper independence of others—respect independent human callings human responsibilities, human rights. Human rights are one way of referring to an area of human decision and responsibility properly beyond the authority and power of governments.”

 

Essentially, when Marshall speaks about the “independent human callings and responsibilities” he is saying that different spheres of authority, ie., mothers, fathers, teachers, police officers, doctors, families, banks, unions, schools, etc, what we call “civil society” have particular callings and responsibilities from God. That is, as a result, they have a right(s) to carry out these callings and responsibilities–callings and responsibilities given by God via the nature of what they are. Government’s job is to not to go beyond it’s “authority and power” to carry out these callings or responsibilities for that would be government acting in an omnicompetent manner. It would be going beyond IT’S God given calling and responsibility. In other words, government should not take over the role of the other spheres. This is not to say that the spheres never overlap. But it is to say that each sphere should not be CONFUSED with another sphere.

Sphere sovereignty, as a tradition, plays no role in the thought pattern of Boyd throughout this book and that is unfortunate as that seems to be a more balanced understanding of faith and politics than what is offered to us in Myth.


Pascal on the Human Situation Pt.2

Pascal on the Human the Situation
In order to look at some of the theological reasons as to why God would allow discrepencies and difficulties in the first place Pascal, takes a look at the human composition.  Human’s possessed two polar opposites.  On the one hand they possessed a “supreme dignity” while on the other hand they, “inevitably made themselves ignoble.”  They were “capable of supreme good” while “helplessly prone toward evil.”  So human beings live in “anti-thesis.”   What this means is that humans have a choice as to which way they are going to choose.  And this is where revelation comes in.  Revelation addresses humans as they stand in a “perpetual moment of decision.”  In this way, the gravity of the situation needs to be realized.
 
Pascal on the Value of the Obscurities of Revelation
So how do obscurities in revelation help us?  Well Pascal gives us three reasons.
  1. Faith involves both mind and heart.  But the heart is more crucial and determinitive than the mind.  The mind cannot give certainty that the heart longs for.  Besides this, faith is a love relationship and not a “logical relationship with various premises and a conclusion.”   Also, religious propositions are never indisbutable.  Thus, their conclusions will be probable and tentative.  Now, this doesn’t mean that faith is against reason, but rather that there are “reasons of the heart” that the rational mind cannot know.  And so, as people stand in that “perpetual moment of decision” the clarities and obscurities will stir their heart.  Pascal even goes so far as to say that even if we had perfect clarity, which in turn “would help the mind”  it would “harm the will.”  In other words, according to Pascal, we would attempt to ground our relationship with God on a merely rational basis.  The problem with a rational basis for relationship with God is that one does not have to work at it existentially.  We would allow a heartfelt relationship to degenerate into a merely cognitive or head relationship.  This is one reason why God is obscure.  The decision to follow and to sustain such a relationship is more challenging for the heart than for the mind.  Basically, there is enough clarity for those who DESIRE such a relationship, but enough obscurity to make it so that the mind doesn’t become the predominant factor thus, making belief through a heart-felt sustained relationship possible.
  2. This relationship of the heart must be able to see itself as totally grouned in God.  In other words, the obscurities are there so one may see their existence as total dependent on God which is an act of humility–that this gift of salvation is solely God’s doing and not ours.  That is, God desires for there to be a heart-felt relationship and one cannot claim, even through intellectual superiority, their ability to approach God.  That is, they would approach God and claim “intellectual achievement.”
  3. The last and final reason there are obscurities is because God intends to blind the “reproabate.”  That is, the reprobate who choose not to see God’s light are condemned by the light and blinded by the obscurities insofar as they use these obscurities as an excuse not to believe.  That is, there is enough obscurity to manifest evil hearts which refuse to believe but enough light to condemn them in their unbelief.  For Pascal, the mind was wholly determined by the will.  Which is to say that the mind follows and attempts to justify the decision of the will.   The difference then between the elect and the reprobate is not that the elect think more cogently but in what their regenerate wills allow them to think about openly.  The regenerate consider the obscurities in light of the truth that they love.  Not the other way around.  The reprobate, on the other hand, doesn’t love and seek God’s truth but wants to avoid it such that their minds, prejudiced by their wills, seek to avoid it.  In other words, the obscurities are there to ensure that those who love it and seek it will be able to recognize it.  Revelation will be rational enough so that those who love God and truth will not be irrational for doing so and those who do not will to do so will be judged for doing so. 

I hope to finish this tomorrow with what the implications are for an evangelical view on the Bible.