Posts tagged opinion

3 Things I Wish We Christians Did Online

One author/blogger’s thoughts on how Christians speak to one another online:

Loving Your Enemies in an Age of Terrorism has published an article about how to follow the practices of Jesus, specifically loving your neighbor, in a tumultuous world.  Do you agree or disagree with author, Dan Martin?  What are your thoughts?

Happy Earth Day!  Although slightly on the longer side of the videos we post on our blog, this 17 minute documentary brings forward the opinion of some Christians that Creation Care is a necessary part of Christianity.  So, now that you watched the video… what do you think?  (Sorry the video is duplicating in this post.  We are working on fixing the glitch but this VIMEO video is proving to be quite the challenge for some reason!)

The Intellectual Barrier to Worship

Nelson Cowan is quickly making a name for himself among the St. Matthew’s community as our new(ish) Modern Worship Leader at 9:45 on Sunday mornings.  Nelson’s love of our Creator is evident as he tackles the topic of barriers in worship in a recent post on his personal blog.

by Nelson Cowan

When I attend a worship service, or even sometimes when I lead worship, it’s easy to feel like God is not present. Our Western, educated context often tells us that we are too intelligent to participate in such mystic and ancient practices. But when you turn to your friends or other people that seem to be passionately worshipping God, you want their experience to become your own. There’s something innately beautiful about a human being captivated by the wonder of an all-loving, creator God.

When our minds are racing at such a quick pace trying to understand why we cannot replicate that experience, it is easy to jump to conclusions. Perhaps one conclusion is that God does not care for you, or maybe, you feel as if you are too unworthy for God’s acknowledgment. I have met many people who have arrived at these conclusions, myself being one of them.

For others, it might not be the emotional idea of an uninterested or even spiteful God. It could, however, be an intellectual barrier brought about by the seemingly irrational practice of worship. Such questions could be: why worship a God that demands such worship? Do I seem foolish participating in this worship? Am I even singing to something, someone - anything? What is the point of all of this?

All of these questions are valid, and I imagine there are more questions of similar magnitude, as well as some with very deep implications for our faith praxis. Answering these questions though is not the intent of this blog post.

I do, however, want to offer a series of suggestions; of thoughts that may or may not help you (and me) deal with our various intellectual barriers to worship. This is not to say that intellectual barriers are inherently bad. I would be more concerned of the opposite: people who do not have/perceive any of those barriers, but that’s a different blog post altogether.

One way to overcome this intellectual barrier is to enter the worship service with a sense of gratitude – perhaps being grateful for the life that God has given you. To some, this is perfect. To others, it will simply not work, or it might take a long time to feel this sense of thankfulness. I invite you to consider God’s work in the natural world: the beauty of the skies, the ocean, or the mountains. If the natural approach does not help, consider God’s work in the life of your family, friends, and relationships. Finally, and in all things, consider God’s faithfulness in your life. How has God worked miracles, comforted you in times of distress, empowered you to do something incredible, etc.?

These suggestions may come easy for some people, allowing them to enter into some kind of personal, mystic encounter with the divine. For others, this process could take a longer, maybe even spanning 2 or 3 worship services or more.

At the risk of generalization, I think the bible, particularly the NT, demonstrates the experience of God in worship as an immediate thing. We read these stories and can clearly see God moving in such a distinct and intentional way. It is important to know that these stories are beautiful, but they are not the summary of how people encounter the living God. If the bible shared with us every worship experience of God’s people, then we would get overwhelmed very quickly. Not to mention, if we accept the idea of a personal God, then we must also acknowledge that we all encounter God in a unique way. It would be highly unlikely to record each individual’s experience.

That being said, some people may not encounter the Holy Spirit in such an immediate and noticeable way. Let’s take a look at Acts 2:1-4:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” –NRSV

Quick disclaimer: in seminary, we get to “play” with the texts in class because we all bring our own context, social location, etc., when it comes to interpreting the text. Allow me to play.

The point is that these folks in the passage were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other languages “as the Spirit gave them ability.” Pay attention to that language. This key line could be interpreted in a couple of ways. 1 – as a general statement about God’s Spirit giving people ability, or 2 – a statement about the independence of the Spirit in the act of “filling” people. I’m going to choose the second option and say that because the Spirit is independent, not everyone in the passage received the Holy Spirit at the same time. Perhaps it was immediate for some, but the text doesn’t claim with certainty that it was universally immediate.

As the story of Acts continues, we learn about the witnesses of this miraculous event. Clearly, they did not receive the Holy Spirit in that moment. They even criticized those who experienced the Pentecost event, saying that they were “filled with new wine.” Later in the story, even these folks get to have their encounter with the Holy One.

So, whether we identify with the immediate group in Acts, the delayed group, or the group that first criticized, the point is that everyone at some point encountered the living God. They might have had intellectual or emotional barriers in their way, but they were ultimately open to receiving the unique work of the Holy Spirit.

If you are having these intellectual roadblocks in your pursuit of an encounter with the divine, know this: you’re not alone. Many people right now are experiencing the same thing, and I bet many of the biblical authors did as well. As our society progresses and postmodernism and pluralism become the hallmark of our religious landscape, I believe that the intellectual barriers between humanity (particularly Western, First World humanity) and God will increase in intensity. To counter this notion, I think and sincerely believe that if we remember God’s faithfulness in our lives, and constantly remind ourselves of that gratitude, then these intellectual barriers can be conquered. God is greater than our intellectual barriers – and our worship is a response to God’s goodness, to God’s in-breaking in our lives, and God’s activity in this world. May we constantly remind ourselves of this. Let’s worship, y’all!

Should A Christian Go To The Doctor? Does This Show A Lack of Faith?

Food for Thought: Do you ever question whether using medication or going to the doctor goes against being a Christian or your faith?  Find out the opinion of one blogger on this topic by reading Should A Christian Go To The Doctor? Does This Show A Lack of Faith?

Food for Thought: Andrew Sullivan discusses "Christianity in Crisis"

Jefferson Bible on display at Smithsonian

"I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God. What Jefferson saw in Jesus of Nazareth was utterly compatible with reason and with the future; what Saint Francis trusted in was the simple, terrifying love of God for Creation itself. That never ends."  Read more by Andrew Sullivan here.  Do you agree with Sullivan?  Let us know your thoughts.

Did Jesus Know How to Read?

Q: "Did Jesus know how to read? Someone told me he was illiterate."

A: "The vast majority of the population in Palestine in Jesus’ day would have been…"

Opinion - My Take: The case for including ethics, religion in science class

"Editor’s note: Editor’s note: Arri Eisen, PhD., is professor of pedagogy at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, Department of Biology, and Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts.

By Arri Eisen, Special to CNN

A referendum that would have restricted in vitro fertilization in Mississippi, disagreements on the causes of global warming, the question of how to allot health care resources for desperate cases at the beginning or end of life.

Many of today’s headlines and hyper-polarized political debates happen at the borders of science and society, especially where science meets ethics and religion.

At the same time, in at what first appears to be in an unrelated domain, President Barack Obama and others call for more and better science education in America to compete in innovation with rising giants India and China. This at a time when American science literacy appears to be decreasing, and even students who like science drop like flies from that pursuit once they hit college and its huge introductory lecture courses….”

Read the full article: My Take: The case for including ethics, religion in science class

NYTimes Opinion: "Americans: Undecided About God?"

"Apparently, a growing number of Americans are running from organized religion, but by no means running from God. On average 93 percent of those surveyed say they believe in God or a higher power; this holds true for most Nones — just 7 percent of whom describe themselves as atheists, according to a survey by Trinity College.

Nones are the undecided of the religious world. We drift spiritually and dabble in everything from Sufism to Kabbalah to, yes, Catholicism and Judaism.

Why the rise of the Nones? David Campbell and Robert Putnam, of the University of Notre Dame and the Harvard Kennedy School, respectively, think politics is to blame. Their idea is that we’ve mixed politics and religion so completely that many simply opt out of both; apparently they are reluctant to claim a religious affiliation because they don’t want the political one that comes along with it.”

Read more: NYTimes Opinion: “Americans: Undecided About God?”