Category Archives: Theology
“What we need to ask ourselves today is, ‘Am I a civilian or a soldier?” This is how a civilian thinks: ‘God, I want to do this for you. I have these gifts, these talents and I’m this old and I want to do this for you, God. I love to play music. I want to play music for you.’
“But a soldier says, ‘Tell me what to do with my life. I don’t care what it is. Whatever you want me to do, I will do it.’ There is a tremendous difference.”
David Pierce, Rock Priest, page 254
If an African were to go to one of the great secular universities of the world, the professors would tell her that the solution to her fears was to see that there are no spirits, evil or good, that everything has a scientific explanation. Not only that, but all moral standards are person specific and relative to culture, and all moral values have to be self-authorizing. Ironically, her professors would say they wanted to affirm her culture and hear her “voice,” yet at the same time they would be taking the very heart of her Africanness out of her.
Christianity, Sanneh says, took a very different approach. It answered the challenge so that the existing African “framework was reconfigured without being overthrown.”
One of the unique things about Christianity is that it is the only truly worldwide religion. Over 90 percent of Muslims live in a band from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Over 95 percent of all Hindus are in India and immediate environs. Some 88 percent of Buddhists are in East Asia. However, about 25 percent of Christians live in Europe, 25 percent in Central and South America, 22 percent in Africa, 15 percent (and growing fast) in Asia, and 12 percent in North America. Professor Richard Bauckham writes: “Almost certainly Christianity exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion, and that must say something about it.” . . . It is no longer a Western religion (nor was it originally). It is truly a world religion.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 148.
People who ski happen to enjoy skiing; they have time for skiing, can afford to ski, and are good at skiing. I have found that I often treat prayer as though it were a sport like skiing— something you do if you like it, something you do in your spare time, something you do if you can afford the trouble, something you do if you’re good at it. Otherwise, you do without it most of the time. When you get in a pinch you try it, and then you call an expert. But prayer isn’t a sport. It’s work. Prayer is
work because a Christian simply can’t “make a living” without it. The apostle Paul said we “wrestle” in prayer. In the wrestling of a Christian in prayer, “our fight is not against any physical enemy; it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen powers that control this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil” (Ephesians 6:12, PHILLIPS). Seldom do we consider the nature of our opponent, and that is to his advantage. When we do recognize him for what he is, however, we have an inkling as to why prayer is never easy. It’s the weapon that Unseen Power dreads most, and if he can get us to treat it as casually as we treat a pair of skis or a tennis racquet, he can keep his hold.
Elizabeth Elliot, The Elizabeth Elliot Newsletter, January 2002
There has to be somebody whom you adore who adores you. Someone whom you cannot but praise who praises and lovesyou–that is the foundation of identity. The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards. However, if we put this power in the hands of a fallible, changeable person, it can be devastating. And if this person’s regard is based on your fallible and changeable life efforts, your self-regard will be just as fleeting and fragile. Nor can this person be someone you can lose, because then you will have lost your very self. Obviously, no human love can meet these standards. Only love of the immutable can bring tranquility. Only the unconditional love of God will do.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 135
Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes the four ways that we can assert and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out . . . if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We will let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior place–not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the Other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p 143-144.
Dr. Who is not a Christian show. But every once in awhile, I tune in because it is extremely creative and thought-provoking. Not your average sit-com by any stretch of the imagination.
Here’s the set-up: Clara’s boyfriend, Danny, whom she loves greatly, has been killed in a car accident. Clara has been grieving for weeks. The Doctor calls on her and Clara sets her plot in motion. She collects all the hidden keys to the Tardis (the Doctor’s time machine) to force the Doctor to go back in time and prevent Danny from dying. The Doctor refuses. Trying to force the Doctor to do her will, Clara destroys the keys, so the Doctor can never enter the Tardis again. Both Clara and the Doctor will die stranded in a strange time and land. It is then we discover that the Doctor has been letting Clara’s dreams play out in her mind, but not in reality. But the betrayal is what she planned and really would have done.
Read what happens next, or better yet, click here to watch the video.
Clara: What now? What do we do now? You and me? What do we do? . . . Doctor?
Doctor: Go to hell.
Clara: Fair enough. Absolutely fair enough. (starts to leave)
Doctor: Clara? You asked me what we’re going to do. I told you. We’re going to hell. Or wherever it is people go when they die, if there is anywhere. Where ever it is, we’re going to find Danny. And if it is any way possible, we’re gonna bring him home.
Almost every culture in the universe has some concept of an afterlife. I always meant to have a look around to see if I could find one.
Clara: You’re going to help me…
Doctor: Well, why wouldn’t I help you?
Clara: Because of what I just did, I just. . .
Doctor: You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust. You betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything I ever stood for! (shouts) You let me down!
Clara: Then why are you helping me?
Doctor: Why? Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?
This exchange between Clara and the Doctor shows so well what love and forgiveness in Jesus really look like. In the allegory here, for just a couple minutes, Clara represents all of fallen humanity and the Doctor represents Christ.
When I sin, I am betraying the trust Jesus has placed in me to be the light of the world. He is not here physically like he was 2000 years ago and he trusts me, and all who follow him, to represent him to this world. I betray his trust. I betray my friendship with him. I act in ways that totally contradict everything my mind knows is right and true…
Yet – Jesus. Still. Loves. Me.
There is nothing in the world He has created that can ever separate me from the love of Jesus. Neither life, nor death, nor principality, things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God. And if none of those awesome, powerful things can separate me, why should I imagine that just weak, simple, small me should be able to?
Jesus loves me, this I KNOW.
Dr. Who – Season 8 Episode 11 – Dark Water – About 13:34
Ordinary moralistic religion operates on this principle: “I live a good and moral life; therefore God accepts me.” Gospel Christianity operates in the opposite way: “God accepts me unconditionally in Jesus Christ; therefore I live a good and moral life.” In the first case you live a good life out of the hope of a reward, with all the insecurity and self-doubts that go with it. Will you ever be good enough for the reward? How will you know if you are, and how will you keep it up even if you are? In the Christian approach the motivation is one not of fear but of grateful joy. You live to please and resemble the one who saved you at infinite cost to himself by going to the cross. You serve him not in order to coerce him to love you but because he already does.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 137.
And here we see the richness, complexity, and startling distinctiveness of the Christian approach to identity. Paul can say, “God judges me,” not with alarm but with confidence. Why? Because unlike either traditional or secular culture, a Christian’s identity is not achieved but received. When we ask God the Father to accept us, adopt us, unite with us, not on the basis of our performance and moral efforts but because of Christ’s, we receive a relationship with God that is a gift. It is not based on our past, present, or future attainments but on Christ’s spiritual attainments. In the Christian understanding, Jesus did not come primarily to teach or show us how to live (though he did that too) but to actually live the life we should have lived, and die in our place the death – the penalty for our moral failures – we should have died. When we rest in him alone for our salvation, he becomes a substitute and representative for us. On the cross Jesus was treated as we deserved, so that when we believe in him, we are treated as he deserves.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 136