Christians on the web

The movie short “What If God Had a MySpace” is a clever example of digital storytelling, but also raises some viable issues that are worth thinking about.

The scenes of the devil asking to be God’s friend, and having to be repeatedly denied, remind me of some of the friend requests I received on my own MySpace page before I wised up and changed my birth year to 1901. Based on my gender and age (when I was reporting my real birth year) I was getting friend requests that may not have been named “Satan” but were probably close in the thematic focus of their MySpace pages. 🙁

The scenes of people “asking for stuff” made me think about how many people view God, and how many people are missing a relationship with Him. Unfortunately I am too busy, quite often, and don’t spend the time with God that I need to and should be spending each day. Who do people think God is? That question seems to be raised by this video also.

The video also raises the issue of relevance to me– and exemplifies the need we have for more Christian voices on the web. What an amazingly exciting as well as shockingly horrible environment we live in today– in this flat world which can and does bring people together for common purposes, both good and evil.

iFilm (the site who owns the blog linked above) is quite an eye opener into the world of viral video. I first learned about iFilm a couple of summers ago, at the Digital Media Academy’s workshop on Digital Storytelling. Of course YouTube can be a bad place to explore as well– there is more there than any of us should go out and try to see and find. I have real mixed feelings about all of this. I guess in the online environment of the flat world, there are less “checks” and “boundaries” on individuals’ access to content of all types, good and bad. That is simultaneously exciting and horrifying. I wrote about some of this back in January 2005, in terms of the power of mere still images to powerfully affect the mind and the imagination.

Lots of thoughts raised here. We need more Christian voices on the web. Not because any of us have all “the answers” ourselves, but because we know where and to Whom we can and should turn for answers.

God is good

It has been pretty stressful at times to move from Lubbock, Texas, which I have called home for the past 13 years, to a new community and job in Edmond/Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The worst part was being separated from my family for about 1 1/2 months this summer, before they moved to join me in August, but many things about the moving process are stressful and challenging even when a family is all together.

Throughout this moving process, I have been encouraging my wife and myself with the words, “Don’t worry about the house. God is going to take care of it.” We actually had our Lubbock home on the market since March of 2006, because although we did not know then where He would lead us, we felt certain that we were called to move on to new jobs and new opportunities during the summer. The completion of my PhD coursework at Texas Tech along with many other factors contributed to this family decision. How joyful we were this past week to see the following sign in our front yard in Lubbock!

Our house is sold!

Last Friday we were back in Lubbock signing closing documents on the house. Yesterday afternoon, we received a phone call from our realtor indicating that the buyers had accepted and signed the contract, so at this point we are no longer homeowners. What a relief! Making a house payment along with a new rental payment has been challenging. Now we just have the rent!

I admit that although I KNOW from repeated personal experiences that God does take care of things, and that he does and will continue to care for me and my family, it was still a great relief to sell our home. It was also amazing to see how God worked through this situation. We were prepared to pay about five times more than we ended up paying to close our home– but it worked out that we did not have to pay nearly as much. Our realtor was amazed, and also said that “It was God,” not him. None of us predicted the sale would turn out as well as it did, in fact we all were bracing for a much worse outcome.

So, our challenges continue in our new home and situations, but my primary thought in writing this blog entry is, “Praise God!” God is good all the time, and yet again he has demonstrated his power to act in my own life beyond my own expectations.

I think some people have the mistaken impression that once you become a Christian, you do not struggle or go through suffering anymore. That is definitely NOT true. Struggles, challenges, and even suffering remain a part of our lives on earth for a variety of reasons– but becoming a Christian does NOT make a person immune from these experiences. Being a Christian and seeking to know God’s Son, Jesus Christ, does mean that in all circumstances I know who I can call on for help. Who I call on to take the burdens of my worries and stresses, and who I rely on to see me through each day. Praise God! I am so excited about being free of the debt of our Lubbock home I feel like dancing! 🙂

Inspiration from Irwin

I heard Irwin McManus speak at a Promisekeepers event several years ago, and when I started looking for Christian-focused podcasts I was thrilled to find his California church, Mosaic, regularly publishes Irwin’s sermons as well as other presentations on their podcast channel. Unlike some other inspirational Christian preachers who sell their sermons online, Irwin and Mosaic are giving their content away for free. The messages are Christ-focused and Biblically centered, and I really appreciate the scripture, thoughts, and insights they share as I continue on my own walk of faith. They are planning on offering archives of podcasts for sale eventually, but the latest ones are and evidently will continue to be available for free.

Irwin’s latest sermon, “Does God Care,” takes on one of the toughest questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is all knowing and all powerful, how could he let such seemingly senseless and evil things happen on earth?

I appreciate the fact that Irwin offers several perspectives on this answer, unlike Rabbi Kushner who wrote the book “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” which I read several years ago and found very lacking theologically. Irwin points out that one of the most important things to realize is that GOD CARES, and he acts in our fallen world that yes– does have evil and sin in it– because He loves his people.

I think catastrophic life events often either drive people away from God or can serve to drive us right into the waiting arms of God. I don’t have all the answers, and Irwin admits he doesn’t either, but I appreciate his perspectives and hope more people will hear the Gospel message through the Mosaic podcast.

Podcast3: Step Aside Satan!

This podcast is a recording of a sermon shared by Pastor Leo Wideman at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma on September 17, 2006. The title of Leo’s message was “Step Aside Satan!” His text was from the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew. Leo reminds us all to make sure we are focusing on Christ, and not falling into the trap of the enemy by focusing on ourselves or on the messages the world would have us regard as most important.

Program Length: 29 min, 18 sec
File size: 6.8 MB

[powerpress]

Show notes for this podcast include:

  1. Matthew 16
  2. First Presbyterian Church, Edmond, Oklahoma
  3. “Enter the Mystery” by Michael Popenhagen on the Podsafe Music Network

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Age of Catholic Christianity 70-312 AD

Notes from Pastor John Gruel’s lecture at First Pres Edmond 9/20/2006

Stratification of church which evolved during this period:
– Martyrs: (the Saints) those who died for the faith
– Confessors: those who stood
– The lapse: those who sin / fall short

Question came up: can renouncers be forgiven?
1- one answer: the church can’t forgive, only God can forgive
2- some said yes, the church can forgive sin
— at one time, a Bishop that was forgiving people who had been caught in the sin of adultery (Callistus)
— made analogy to Noah’s ark, clean and unclean animals together

2 groups
– those who said church must be kept pure, society of saints
– church is school of sinners, we need to be able to forgive

Sense that martyrs for who they were had a special level of holiness, had extra merit
– started talking about “treasury of merit” that eventually led to the selling of indulgences, praying to martyrs

Confessors were also thought to have a higher status

Cyprien, bishop of Carthage, said he wasn’t sure about martyr and confessor thing
– if you could make the penance match the level of sin, then you could forgive
– the decision of whether someone could be readmitted into the church laid with the bishop
– church started becoming this mix of worthy and unworthy
– power of the bishop to convey divine forgiveness

Main body of the orthodox church marched forward with “school of sinners”
– penance became a sacrament during this era
– salvation was at that point in the hands of the church, and specifically in the hands of the bishiop

When the church granted the power of forgiveness to the bishop, catholic christianity was complete

this model of leadership drove the church well through the era of the Roman empire

Christianity caught on, there was increasing interest among people of reason, the intellectual class
– some people like Paul began to write in a fashion more understandable to Greeks, communicating the gospel in a contextual way
– Tertullian was against this, didn’t want to reconcile the teaching with greek thought and philosophy

Are faith based approaches during this time, and reason-based approaches like what Paul wrote
– go to Acts 2 and read Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (fidaistic – faith based, more from the Hebrew tradition)
– go to Acts 17 and read Paul’s sermon in Athens (more contextual style)

These shows the contrast in these two preaching styles

struggle with gnosticism
– showed that greek thinking could be a threat, because of an inability to engage greek thought leads to heresy

Had a school developed in Christian gnosticism, was engaging the gnostic thought but providing orthodox answers
– fast forward to the 20th century
– think about CS Lewis: doing the same thing that Pandues was doing
– communicating with the philosophers of the day with where they are, he speaks their language, and inserts an orthodox theology
– read some of “The Abolition of Man”
– Francis Shaeffer also did the same thing

Sept 19th in Wall Street Journal
– what Pope Benedict thinks
– Christianity is informed by dialog between reason and revelation, the dialog between Athens and Jerusalem
– faith and reason are essential in the Pope’s view now

Student Clement become one of the first really Christian scholars
– combines with Christian thought and scripture
– “Just as the Jew had the law to teach his heart and guide him to the gospel, so too the Gentile had philosophy”

Origin succeeded Clement around the year 200
– carried on his work
– trying to bring all Christian truth into focus
– both stressed the aim of philosophy as the ethical, by focusing on that ethical they could reject the gnostic claim that creation is evil

Origin is noted for system for interpretation of scripture, threefold model
1- literal and plain meeting
2- moral application
3- spiritual and allegorical application (how does it relate to Jesus)

Origin: not all his allegories are as direct as Nathan’s story of the sheep to David, relating to Uriah and Bathsheeba

Origin was one of the first to do systematic theology
– at a basic level: this is taking the things we know from scripture, the doctrines we develop from those (revelation, creation, etc) and try to make those fit together in an organized way
– a system of thought that it all links together
– challenge is: there are always grey areas
– Origin did this for his desire to fit this into greek thought and philosophy
– got himself in trouble because he was kind of a universalist

Universalism holds that some day God will reconcile all people to himself

Clement and Origin took that risk of going too far to accommodate Hellenistic thought

Different philosopher-theologians crop up in history to interact with different types of thought: St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas

Prayers for Miguel and family

Please keep Miguel Guhlin, his father and family in your prayers. Miguel’s dad was hospitalized today and prospects for a recovery do not look good. Updates will be posted– but whatever happens this is a difficult time for the Guhlin family. May the God of peace comfort his sons and daughters in this time of suffering and uncertainty.

Podcast1: The Age of Catholic Christianity by John Gruel

This podcast is a recording of a Wednesday night adult Christian education class taught by Pastor John Gruel of First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. John’s topic was “The Age of Catholic Christianity 70 – 312 AD: Persecution and Orthodoxy.” Among many reference texts for this lesson is Bruce Shelley’s “Church History In Plain Language.”

Program Length: 1 hr, 6 min, 2 sec
File size: 15.9 MB

[powerpress]

  1. Text notes from this lesson
  2. Bruce Shelley’s “Church History In Plain Language.”
  3. First Presbyterian Church, Edmond, Oklahoma
  4. “Enter the Mystery” by Michael Popenhagen on the Podsafe Music Network

Subscribe to “Eyes Right Podcasts!” Podcast RSS Feed

The Age of Catholic Christianity 70 – 312 AD: Persecution and Orthodoxy

These are notes from our Wednesday night class on church history, this evening (13 Sept 2006) taught by our Associate Pastor at FPC Edmond, John Gruel. John is a former doctor and orthopedic surgeon, and has a wonderfully intellectual and insightful approach to ministry, as well as the interpretation and application of God’s word in our daily lives. John gave me permission to podcast his presentation this evening, which is the fourth session in a 15 part study on this history of the Christian church. For our primary historical text we are using Bruce Shelley’s “Church History In Plain Language Updated 2nd Edition.”

What does “catholic” mean? Universal. From the inception of the followers of Jesus through about the first three centuries, there really was just one expression of “Church.”

The early church was molded or formed by several things:
1- the exclusion from Judaism
2- persecution from Roman culture
3- the development of heresy (beliefs that challenged common thinking and led the church to develop its orthodoxy and common scriptures)

When we left off last week, Christians were really a subset of Jews (Romans had been giving some slack to Judaism)
– as soon as Christians were no longer a subsect of Judaism, they started to experience persecution by the Romans
– unlike forbearers, Christians were very active in proselytizing
– in the past you could become a Jew, but Jews were not very active trying to convert people
– because of several factors, Christians were seen as more of a threat
– in the 60s under Nero particularly, Christians began to be seriously persecuted

Interesting: that women in higher classes as well as lower classes were active in spreading Christianity

Reason Christians experienced persecution:
– called themselves “saints” (that didn’t mean perfect, but in a strong sense it meant set apart, holy ones)
– people are always suspicious of those who are different
– early Christians lived simply and by Jesus’ teachings, that becomes almost a condemnation of the current culture
– rejecting the Roman gods made them social misfits, couldn’t do any crafts associated with pagan temples, work in pagan hospitals, etc
– soldiering was a treacherous occupation
– were regarded as atheists, rejecting the gods: seemed in the culture to be people without faith
– different ideas about marriage and sex, about slaves, about economics
– in early times, Christians often worshipped in secret

Because worship was secret, some rumors about orgies (from the kiss of peace) and cannibals (drinking blood and eating flesh)
– because of worship without any images of the Deity and not worshipping Roman gods
– Nero blamed the Christians
– superstitions led people to blame the Christians for many things

At same time the growth of emperor worship was happening in Rome, Christianity was on the rise
– emperors began to be seen as the embodiment of Rome and deities: in death and later under Nero in life
– by end of 1st century, it was common to demand emperor worship and see him as a god/king
– emperor worship made compulsory in 3rd century

Uncompromising faith of the early Christians really got them in trouble
– led to increases in persecutions
– were 10 Roman Caesars in the Roman period before Constantine
– Nero probably had both Peter and Paul killed
– Domician was probably the one who banned John to Patmos
– Trajan passed laws against Christianity, had Ignacious burned at the stake
— you could be forgiven for

What was the result of this persecution
– the church always thrives in an era of persecution
– in Eastern Europe after the Berlin wall came down, mission
– it has always been the case that persecution strengthens the faith

As the church grew and develop
– heresy: “out of bounds” (too far in one area)
– orthodoxy: “in bounds” or accepted thinking
– these questions led to the rise of theology (God talk, words about God, the study of God) – theos = God
– theology is always a secondary enterprise, primary things are God’s revelation (through scriptures, actions of others– through the scriptures and through the life of Jesus)
– scriptures and their meaning are all subject to interpretation: the theology is the interpretation of these things

Our primary response to God’s revelation should be praise and worship
– secondarily: to seek to understand these things

In a community of belief, it is the community that eventually defines what is clear thinking and what is out of bounds. Several things led to the need for theological thinking:
1- movement of Christianity from a Jewish tradition into a Gentile tradition (Jews has a worldview already that included God’s active hand in the lives of his people. Greeks, however, did not and were more philosophically oriented) Jewish believers accepted Jesus as part of what God had been up to.
2- Gentiles

Creeds developed, from Latin “credo” (I believe)
– Romans 10: Confess with your lips and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord: this was likely a creed
– Things reinforced by creeds: Jesus came in the flesh, was bodily resurrected
– credo of the trinity was being developed, look at the end of Matthew

2 main flavors of heresies concerning Jesus
1- people who say Jesus was a great GUY but not God (emphasize humanity of Jesus)
2- People who emphasize Jesus’ deity

Orthodox thinking has attempted to hold together both views: That Christ was 100% human and 100% God
– Ebionites were one group that defined Jesus as a human primarily
– “Jesus Seminar” curriculum take the this tack also (Jesus was wonderful but in the end just a man)

Trinity
– had been traditions of God as spirit in the OT
– didn’t really hammer out the doctrines until the Councils started meeting, but these thoughts were already developing

Docetists said Jesus was all spirit (all God, not human)

Then came the biggest challenge: Gnosticism
– took hold around the end of the 1st century
– gnosis means knowledge or “to know”
– was a broad movement with several common elements
— 1- sense of secret knowledge (secret knowledge imparted by Jesus and it has been passed along, Da Vinci code is an example)
— 2-

Like orthodox Christians, gnostics did accept idea of one God, salvation
– had a sense of dualism: Universe is setup with balance of good and evil
– they saw spirit as good and matter as bad

Christian view of death is “I will be resurrected” but we still carry some of this spirit good/matter bad in our views
– Gnostics held that if matter is bad then God couldn’t have anything to do with humans
– have weird sense of material and spiritual, and the dualism that permeates gnostic teaching
– the gnostics did hold that Jesus came to redeem the world, but he wasn’t clear in his teachings so you need to get in on the secrets

Some of earliest Christian creeds: earliest written one was Apostle’s Creed
– these were statements that battle these three elements of heresy
– humanity needs salvation by a savior, not by secret knowledge
– salvation is through what Christ DID, not through secrets that he passed along

As church leaders were debating on orthodox beliefs, they had to determine which of the writings that were developing were authoritative

Formative event

Saducees just believed in first five books: The Torah
Pharisees

When did plenary inspiration come in? Mid 19th century. In those days religious leaders did not consider all scripture equally authoritative. Torah could trump later prophetic writings.

Paul used a lot of “echoes of scripture” in his writings (there is a book by Hayes that shows a lot of echoes of the Apocrypha in Paul’s writings)

What does “scripture” mean: something authoritative to you, that guides your life
– for us it has become a closed canon

Bible is formed by the witness of the worshipping community
– self-evidencing power to transform people’s lives
– if it is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking– it has this “self evidencing” quality– that is how it becomes scripture

Scripture has this ability: it is living an active, sharper than a two edged sword, separates joint from ligament (Hebrews)
– has this ability to be ALIVE
– that is one of the tests you can apply to scripture! Do this! Read some of that stuff that didn’t get included. It does not have the same quality and power
– that is how things become canon
– look at lists of books from early church fathers: Ireneus, Origen, etc (just like with the Jews, everyone includes Torah, most of major and minor prophets, and same was true with the four gospels)
– some cited gospel of Hebrews (none cite the gospel of Thomas!)
– most letters of Paul, first 10 at least
– some others are not always there: Revelation, Jude, others
– some books that we don’t have as our canon: Clement’s letter to Corinth, the Shephard of ____ (at one time these were held up as almost as authoritative of scripture, but they did not become part of the canon)

Apocrypha includes 12-15 books not included in the Hebrew canon
– apparently a dispute between Martin Luther and someone caused Luther to declare that Protestants do not accept the authority of the Apocrypha

One of the earliest lists of these books is dated to 190: The Muratorian Canon
– widely accepted by churches
– is a bit different from the Bible we have now

Books to be included had to either be apostolic or closely associated with an apostle (Mark associated with Peter, and is thought to have written Peter’s testimony)
– mid to late first century for books authorship
– within the next century, we had acceptance

Most gnostic literature was written later
– how were these letters distributed? It is hard to bind that type of material

Marcion developed idea that OT God was bad, and NT God was good
– threw out Matthew
– about 140 he was influenced by gnostics

Montanus around 160 began preaching as a new prophet with a new message about an imminent return of Christ
– this was a lot like Mormonism
– this was a challenge to try and add more to the canon

Key thing: the development of the Canon took place over time as a gradual process
– big question: is it worth dying for? Officials would come to kill a church leader or ask for their holy books
– some books would be kept, others turned over

The idea that Peter was crucified upside down is in “The Acts of Peter” not included in our canon

The development of what we would call a catholic Christianity

Next time: development of leadership of the church and theological thinking

Zero sum time and priorities

Chris Craft asks some very important questions about time spent blogging and in the virtual world, and the critical need our families, friends, and even casual acquaintances have for us in the face-to-face (F2F) world. He writes, in the context of time spent blogging:

But at what expense? Whose daughter wants mommy to trade the computer monitor for a picnic? Whose spouse is wondering what time her husband will stop coding and come to bed? I hope not mine.

So this topic of relationships has been circling in my cerebrum for some time now. Simultaneously I have chosen to undertake the daunting task of creating learning communities in my own classroom. I toyed with a number of ways to do so with a dozen or so open source software programs all supposedly interested in helping me create community. I will spare you the exhaustive list because the software itself is irrelevant; it is the underlying principle up for discussion.

The bottom line to this is simply that my own thoughts on relationship are centered on a need for face-to-face connectedness. I am not saying that there is no place for online community, rather that there needs to be time and attention given to intentional relationship building in a live environment in person.

I do not have the answer to this, but this is certainly an issue with which I contend and need to contend with more. I know at times my wife does resent my time on the computer. Late evenings (which tonight is an example) are the prime time when I generally blog– and the exclusive time when I blog here about my personal journey of faith. (I’m called to fulltime ministry like all other believers– but blogging about my walk is not something I think my employer would metaphorically “smile on” since it is not directly job-related!)

Time is zero sum, and it can be argued that it is one of our most precious resources. How are we spending our time? Are we blogging our lives away? If we are, is this time will spent? (I suspect it can be.) But are our families bearing a tangible penalty for our prolific writing and virtual work? On the basis of sheer prolific posts alone, I know Miguel deals with this question too when it comes to blogging.

I think the issue is one of balance and “digital discipline,” a term I hope to flesh out in an actual book sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have even gone so far (several years ago now) to reserve a domain name… but for now that remains a lower priority. Balance. Perspective. Time invested in the lives of those I love, and those I care for most deeply. These are critical questions with very tangible consequences. I guess I should ask my family to chime in on this one– they’re the ones whose opinion matters the most in this regard!

Images of God

This frontpage headline from USA Today caught my attention today: “View of God can predict values, politics.” According to the article:

A new survey of religion in the USA finds four very different images of God — from a wrathful deity thundering at sinful humanity to a distant power uninvolved in mankind’s affairs…Believers just don’t see themselves the way the media and politicians — or even their pastors — do, according to the national survey of 1,721 Americans, by far the most comprehensive national religion survey to date.

There were many findings from the survey, but the key one the article focused on was this:

Though 91.8% say they believe in God, a higher power or a cosmic force, they had four distinct views of God’s personality and engagement in human affairs.

The “four views of God” were named by the researchers as “Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant.”

Was there a survey response for “Holy” and “Intercessor?” And what about the question: Who do you say Jesus is and was? That’s a key question. Apparently it wasn’t asked in this survey, however.

Why did researchers assume that people’s view of God could be neatly compartmentalized into a single category? After all, we are talking about GOD here, the LORD– and even a cursory reading of Biblical passages (Old and New Testament) reveals that God has many names. We did a short study last Spring in our Sunday School class in Lubbock on the names of God– I knew many of them, but I hadn’t realized that when most English translations of the Bible spell God’s name LORD or Lord in the OT, they are actually referring to a different Hebrew word for “God.”

God is authoritarian, from the standpoint that He is holy– literally “set apart” and without sin. That is why we can’t approach his throne or even be in his presence without our intercessor who has paid for our sins– and washes us clean in God’s eyes. God’s word and his Holy Word (the Bible) are just that: THE WORD. He is properly understood as THE AUTHORITY. There is no higher power greater than God, there is no authority equal to or above Him. He makes rules, and expects us to try and follow them. Thankfully, he also is forgiving and overflowing in grace– but he does judge and he will judge. Authorities do this. God is THE authority. (See Psalm 66 and Hebrews 10: 19-39)

God is benevolent, because he extends the offer of eternal salvation through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, by GRACE– not through our works. This is benevolence defined. Thank goodness God does not simply offer us “justice.” We are all sinners, every one– and anyone who says differently is deceiving themselves and attempting to deceive others. (Romans 3: 9-19) If God wasn’t benevolent, we would all be headed for the pit. Thank goodness he is benevolent! 🙂

God is critical, because He is just. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t forgive us when we ask for forgiveness with a contrite spirit in the name of his Son– but it does mean that he judges. That is God’s role. There is right and wrong, there is moral and immoral behavior. To the extent that God certainly makes value judgments– he is the ultimate judge of morality in fact– he can be said to be “critical.” That may not be a politically correct word– but I don’t think God is “into” political correctness. God is “into” things like love, forgiveness, and compassion. But He is also quite definite on morality. He is critical of immoral, sinful behavior. If he wasn’t this way, he wouldn’t be God. (See Colossians 3: 5-17 and Romans 2)

Lastly, at times I think God can be accurately understood as “distant.” God is holy, we are not. We strive to be holy, to be set apart for God and his purposes– but we cannot on our own will alone become truly holy. There is a bridge which separates us from God, and that bridge is sin. Without Jesus and his atoning sacrifice– which paid for our sins and the sins of all humanity once and for all (this is “justification”) we would have no hope of ever being in God’s presence. The need for atoning sacrifice– for atoning blood in fact, is the reason the OT Jews regularly offered sacrifices on holy altars. We don’t see these types of religious rituals today, so the idea likely seems quite foreign, but in the days of Jesus’ physical life on earth it was well understood.

So, I think God can be properly understood as multi-faceted– and definitionally defying our meager, limited attempts to define, name, and understand him fully. He is GOD, He is THE LORD– He has many names, and each name we have for him attempts to better define His essence, power, nature and spirit. Coming from a Reformed perspective, I understand God to be three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not three gods, he does not have three personalities, He is the ONE GOD and His name is THE LORD. The trinitarian, triune nature of God is a divine mystery, but it is important to understand. God is multi-dimensional and is not bound by time and space in the same ways we are. I think we are, in our rational interactions, four dimensional beings perceiving height, width, depth and time. God’s perception transcends these four dimensions, because we know God is, was, and always will be. Infinite. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Who can comprehend this fully? Certainly not I.

To be fair, the survey researchers do point out in the article that these “views of God” are not “mutually-exclusive,” which means there is room for overlap in the perceptions of many:

The four visions of God outlined in the Baylor research aren’t mutually exclusive. And they don’t include 5.2% of Americans who say they are atheists. (Although 91.8% said they believe in God, some didn’t answer or weren’t sure.)

This finding from the survey is also significant:

Sociologist Paul Froese says the survey finds the stereotype that conservatives are religious and liberals are secular is “simply not true. Political liberals and conservative are both religious. They just have different religious views.” About one in nine (10.8%) respondents have no religious ties at all; previous national surveys found 14%. The Baylor survey, unlike others, asked people to write in the names and addresses of where they worship, and many who said “none” or “don’t know” when asked about their religious identity named a church they occasionally attend.

Often in political discussions today, some (perhaps many in the media) automatically assume that those professing faith as “Christians” must be conservative Republicans. Personally, I refuse to be defined in my political perspectives by a single label. I am proud (as well as humbled) to call myself a Christian. But that fact does not necessarily define all my political views. I am glad to read a survey that is recognizing this reality for many others. The media often (perhaps always) attempts to oversimplify the complex. In the case of people’s religious views, this certainly seems to be the case frequently. This finding actually seems to contradict the very title of this article, “View of God can predict values, politics.” Belief does not necessarily point to political viewpoint. (On some issues I think Christians should be together, but on many others I think it is natural and not a bad thing that we are a diverse bunch. That would actually be a good topic for a future post!)

Lastly, this finding shows the importance of discussing our faith and defining what we believe.

Rodney Stark, former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and part of the Baylor team, says: “We wanted to break from the past 30 years of narrow questions. ” ‘Do you believe in God?’ Everyone says yes. “If you ask ‘Are you a Protestant, Catholic or Jew?’ people don’t even know what denomination they are today or what the label means.”

If you say you believe in God, what does that mean to you? If you are not comfortable with a denominational label (and I think that is fine, because God and Jesus didn’t invent denominations after all– they are very much a human-creation) then how do you define what it is that you believe?

For me, my journey of faith continues. I do not have all the answers, but I am confident knowing where the answers can be found! I’m glad you’ve found this small space in the blogosphere where others are reflecting and sharing about their own Christian journeys of faith, and I hope you’ll always feel free and welcome to contribute your own ideas.

All voices are valid, all perspectives should be considered. Through dialog, listening, reflection and prayer, God does and will continue to lead each one of us closer to Him. 🙂

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