Again, an essay written a few years ago to follow the one on Christianity vs. Materialism. To dig into whether Christianity is merely a system:
In resuming of the train of thought begun in the last essay, I realized that the approach to the questions of whether Christianity is a system and whether it was relevant to modern man and how to present it, began a whole set of questions on viewpoint. Are we speaking of Christianity within the group of world religions? Christianity within its own history or the history of the world? In its permutations of types and philosophies? Read on to the resolve of this dilemma.
If viewed from the top down, this is a subject so unwieldy that whole volumes have been written of its history, the philosophies of singular points have involved books by great thinkers and academics. It was too great, too huge, an undertaking for which my lifetime, not mentioning my intellect, was unequal. But then, the amazing thing within Christianity is that it has its elemental parts which essentially express everything in a most defined way. Yes, everything. So, what is this, Christianity?
Christianity begins with the monotheistic belief of the Jew, the same Creator God expressed in the sacred writings of what Christians term the Old Testament. Within that, Christians believe in the person of Jesus Christ, as the early church fathers defined in history and stated in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds.
That is, Christians believe in a certain person who lived in history and have a set of structured beliefs about who that person is, the Son of God. Next, Christianity is defined by a set of written scriptures, which are called the Bible. Those are the three inalterable components of Christianity. It cannot be represented as Christianity if any of these three interlapping parts are missing. (One God, Only Begotten Son, One Word)
While defining Christianity, these basic blocks are only the outer representation. The body, but without the spirit. The one defining factor that I think sets Christianity apart from all other religions, is the person of Christ. Not just that he lived, or taught, or spoke, or did things miraculous or unusual, but that He is living now, and can be personally experienced and spoken with NOW. That is why we do not turn towards Mecca, or any Holy shrine to meet with Him. Studying His teachings is not enough, emulating His lifestyle is not enough. He is available to know now, and that immediacy of knowing and interacting is necessary. He himself has insisted upon it and pictures it with the vine and branches. Although sections of Christianity have differing ideas on shrines, nowhere is it a tenet that a Christian must meet with Jesus Christ within any Temple or certain Church.
This idea of a personal encounter with the Living God, available to any person anywhere, is basic to true Christianity, from its inception at Christ’s birth. It has grown through many changes, from the time when a person had to physically walk to where the person of Jesus was, through the opening of the faith to the Gentiles through St. Peter’s experience with Cornelius, to St. Paul’s apostolic journeys to the Gentile nations, to the Roman Church, to the dissemination of the scriptures to the nations, through today’s evangelistic calls. The same message is given, “Come and see”. That many diversions and conflicting vehicles for the message have come and gone is the history of the Christian religion, but I submit to you that the Person and the message remain. The person of Jesus is unchanged, and He may be met with as friend; but God has always had more to offer than friendship, His otherness has always needed a bridge which is termed a covenant. This, too, is the uniqueness of Christianity. The covenant takes place within the blood and life of the person of Christ, so His resurrection and continuous (eternal) life are inseparably important to our life. That is why St. Paul states that if Christ did not raise from the dead and were not presently alive and active in our lives, now, we would be “of all men most miserable”. So the life and spirit of Christianity remain “Come and see”.
Here is Christianity:
I hear of Jesus
I believe in Jesus
I follow Jesus
I meet Jesus in Spirit
I speak of Jesus
In finality, I meet Jesus in body, Physically
I am nevermore separated from the living GOD, and I will live forever with Him.
Now, to start with the question, is Christianity a system?
Since Christianity as a religion and belief system has influenced governments, has been found within the vortex of conflicts, and has birthed many institutions from hospitals to welfare societies, communities, and political parties, we might well be tempted to view it as a system of thought, government, or religion. And so we ask:
“Is Christianity a system?” Then,”Is it outmoded?” There have been many that believe the answer is yes to both those questions; even many within the Christian church. A number have come to this conclusion through the acceptance of the time/chance beliefs of those who embrace a philosophy involving the theories of evolution, deconstruction of religious writings, and eventually atheism (or the “leap of faith” ideas for religious diehards). These are all interrelated thought systems and lead to the same despairing conclusions. The majority of the people who take issue with Christianity, in my experience, have based their complaint upon the history of the institution, the Church, and usually give exception to the person of Christ, Himself and His teachings. However, while the institution of the church and individual Christians have often acted in ways contrary to Christ’s teachings, they cannot be entirely disassociated from each other.
While it is true that Christian beliefs, as embodied in the Gospels, do give rise to systems of varying efficacy and merit, they are not simply a system, or institution. So, in answer to the first question, no, Christianity is not a system. One of the primary reasons for this answer are the words of Christ,Himself: “My kingdom is not of this world”. That has not kept many of the proponents of his teachings from trying to prove otherwise, and this,in turn, has proved a point of contention for those who criticise the Christian religion. The efforts from Charlemagne’s hammering of the Saxons through many historical events such as the Spanish Inquisition and pogroms against the Jews exemplify the worst of efforts to build an earthly kingdom, or system, of Christianity. That is not to say it is without a form and effect within man’s policies and governments!
So how may we identify the proper context of the Christian and his beliefs within society? A way to define something is by describing what it is against what it is not: Christianity is not merely an institution, system, or even a religious belief. That is right, it is not simply a religious belief. As explained within the writings of the Bible, the analogy of an organism is used. As the human body is a system filled with interacting systems, and yet is more than a system, it is a life. A life consisting of the body, soul and spirit. This life is lived out on an individual and corporate level. The Christian lives in his society with recognition of authority and duty, yet not unmindful of the human propensity to oppression and abuse. So whether as an individual or in a group, Christians are required to function outside systems-even their own derived systems- should it deviate from the standards stated earlier(the teachings of Christ and basic Church beliefs based thereon). That is why I have to say it is not a system nor institution, per se.
Is Christianity outmoded for todays world?
Two definitions (as found in a dictionary) of outmoded are: something outmoded because it is discarded; something outmoded because it is no longer useful. As stated in the first essay, Christianity may not be termed outmoded as defined in the second sense. That it continues, and has always produced, stable humanitarian institutions such as hospitals and food pantries, along with many other commendable actions within modern society illustrates. In the first sense of outmoded, well, we often see periods of time and individuals which consistantly, and sometimes militantly, determine that Christianity is outmoded. But as the plight of the present Chinese Christians shall show, the will of some to discard it shall not effect the final outcome. No matter how fierce the oppression, or forcible the opposition, Christians continue to persevere. The history of the Church demonstrates that, whether persecuted from within or without, the faith of Christians remains viable, dependable, and effectual.
As events unfold, the Christians, not only of China, but of Laos, of India, within the Muslim walls of intolerance, and throughout many parts of the world, are facing ever increasing persecution, some laying down their lives. Our world is entering a face-off as dramatic as that between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in history past. The prophets of Baal are being given their hour to lash out, lacerate themselves and offer up their sacrifices to Baal, in the hope that power might remain in their hold; but the Spirit of Elijah is arising, pouring out barrels and barrels of water, of faith and expectation. Is Christianity outmoded? Is it merely another system of mankind’s making? The hour that Christians have longed for is arriving: when God, Himself, will exonerate His name. And that is what we, as Christians, are looking for, because we are only witnesses of what we have seen and heard of Him. And the Lord which we follow will answer for Himself, in His own time, in His own way. I say, “Maranatha”!
Some years ago I spent time on lists and forums. That has been replaced with blogging, but many of the conversations are the same because people grapple with basic concerns and because many of the cultural challenges are still the same as they were in the year 2000. I have decided to post this essay on my blog because it is pertinent to some of the discussions I find myself in at this time.
Below is something I worked on in response to discussions on the validity of the Bible. These are reasonings rather than proof in the scientific sense.
You need Christians like me. Your system needs us: Christians who believe in their God and the validity of their scriptures. You need us to volunteer in hospitals, visit the lonely and elderly, man soup kitchens and homeless shelters, help feed the hungry, share with the poor, giving sacrificially-so they might have shelter and clothing; give time, goods, and counsel in a thousand services to maintain and strengthen our society. You need us to raise our children with love and training so that they will be contributing to society after us. And in our belief system, we strive to do these things because we believe such actions please our God, our scriptures are full of directives and practical measures to show love and kindness to our fellow man, and how to live in a way that recognizes human dignity and worth. We believe we can sacrifice ourselves in this giving because we believe the reward from our God is sure and eternal. So, it is beneficial for you that we believe as we do and function as optimally as possible in carrying out these actions. The cudgels and pokers used to cow Christians and gut their faith works against this.
The difficulty is that your system cannot control us, your system that holds that all is made of time and chance. We keep insisting that our final allegience is to our God, and placing the requirements found in our scriptures above yours, and refusing to give creedance to your philosophies. We refuse to bow to Caesar, although we will obey him under our God. Thus, the cudgels and pokers.
The trouble with the system that holds ideas of the world and all its inhabitants being no more than chance combinations of molecules, that any or no idea of God is acceptable, that one persons ideas and actions are as good or as meaningful as anothers, (etc. ) is that while sounding equable, it gives no foundation to its adherents for a functioning society. A life of slacking is as good as a life of diligence-it is the individuals choice. A choice for abortion is equal to a choice of giving birth; a choice of philanthropically giving is equal to keeping ones wealth to oneself; an act of kindness no better than an act of cruelty. Of course, not all those adhering to this foundation live this way, many, many are giving and kind and selfless- but there is nothing in their system to warrant it. Why is it good to be kind? It just is…it is because I feel it is. Why is it good to help the impoverished and displaced? Or any other good work? Because they are humans.
Now, we enter another problem with this system of thought. What differentiates the humaness? How are these sets of molecules any more meaningful or important than any other set of molecules in the universe? Why should human life have any more meaning than a snake, or a tree, or the soil? All being interchangeable it will all come out in the wash……….won’t it? As long as people adhere to concepts of human worth, kindness, generosity, all the concepts we consider worthy, then society functions and holds together. As soon as groups of people decide, more and more, that there is just as much to gain and nothing to lose by destroying life or neglecting needs or obligations involving others, then some real problems arise. We are seeing this already, why are teen mothers leaving their babies to die in trash cans? Morally is it a difference to have an abortion rather than kill your baby with neglect or action at the birth? Why do students feel they can harm or kill a teacher? Or another student causing them mental pain? On what, O TIME/CHANCE adherents do you base your arguments? To what may you appeal? What if these persons JUST DO NOT CARE? So you bring out your authoritarianism, because in the end that is all you will have left. It is so because I say it is so, and I have all the guns.
So in the end, you are left with individuals desperate to find meaning and worth for their lives. Agonizingly desperate. I think this is one reason so many are looking into nature religions, they are hoping for some sense and peace and meaning; but they are still functioning in this system, and all they have is a palliative, an anaesthetic to ease their mind and give them direction…even though they cannot say it is anything more than an illusion -based on their system. Now, if you will stay with me I would like to quote one of your own and speak to you of some of the issues facing us, especially women.
Where Are We Going?
In a book I am reading , a published author,an eminent biologist and an athiest, Francis Crick is quoted and commented upon. I would like to quote here and add some of my own observations. The book I am reading is ‘Back to Freedom and Dignity’ by Francis Schaeffer and he quotes Francis Crick:
“I think one has to say that scientifically, astrology really is complete nonsense. I have tried very hard to think of a way it could make some sense and it’s too much. I wonder whether people who think that way should be at university.”
At this point, Schaeffer takes issue with the idea that one should be shunned from a university based on their beliefs. This is pertinent as an indicator of the arbitrary manner of judgement that is often applied to people in lieu of real standards.
[Crick,again quoted:] “Nonetheless, you must realize that much of the political thinking of this country (the USA) is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say, in the period of the American Revolution, when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystical validity in a religious context, but when you ask what you mean by all people being created equal, it is not the same as saying that they should all have equal opportunity. It’s not only biologically not true, it’s also biologically undesirable. If you had a population in which everybody was the same, any biologist would say that it was a very bad situation, that it was too homogenous. You must have variety in biological situations. Yet, this is not the sort of thing that is regarded as particularly tactful to say. But sooner or later people have got to be saying these things. We all know, I think, or are beginning to realize, that the future is in our hands, that we can, to some extent, do what we want.
Now, what is happening at the moment? What is happening is that we know that with technology we can make life easier for human beings; we can make changes. What we are really doing is learning to tinker with the system. But there is very little thinking at the fundamental level as to what sort of people we would like to have. In the long term, that is the question you are bound to come up with.”
…..”It’s the aim of medical research to try to cure as many diseases as possible, in particular cancer and heart conditions. Those are probably the major killers. But what is going to happen under that situation? What is going to happen is that you can easily work out the age distribution, under a stable population, from the death rate. It means that gradually the population is going to become very old. What medical research is aiming for is to make the world safe for senility.”
….”We’ve just seen that the discussion as to how many people there should be in the world has now, as it were, become quite acceptable. It is not acceptable, at the moment, to discuss who should be the parents of the next generation, who should be born, who is to have children. There’s a general feeling that if we are all nice to each other and if everybody has 2.3 children, everything will pan out . I don’t think that is true. For good genetic reasons,even though you have more medical care, transplantation of organs, and all these things, it would be an unhealthy biological situation. Some group of people should decide some people have more children and some should have fewer….You have to decide who is to be born. Biology is indeed a revolutionary subject when you look at it this way. It is, in fact, the major revolutionary subject. It is the one that is going to make the new concepts which will come into social thinking. Biology is not simply, as it were, what you think you can do with herds of cattle. There are much more intricate things involving people at the psycological level interacting in society, but I don’t think you’re going to solve all these problems by just tinkering with the genetic material. I think it will turn out that thinking along these lines will have to take place, and if you don’t do it in this country, it will start in another country.” [unquote]
This quote was taken from a lecture given sometime past, but the thoughts are not essentially different from any we might hear in a university or the media today. these thoughts raise many issues, but I would like to focus on the last paragraph, because of its pertinence to women. If such thinking is inherent in the general system of thinking (and I can find no reason why it couldn’t be) then what do women, by virtue of their biological make-up become? We become the breeders, or even worse -useless and defective for breeding . It becomes the sum of our existance, and now dear feminists, where is any idea of self-actualization at all? If a woman is considered valuable genetic material, where are her dreams of deciding for herself whether to have children, or to spend her life in other pursuits? Or the woman who desires children, but is considered a social liability genetically? In China we see how a society deals with pregnant women who are deemed as not contributing to the good of society as a whole. Forced abortions. Forced sterilizations are not unkown in modern history, either.
In the light of these things, I have no qualms, no hesitations, no apologies for my belief in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, or the idea that the writing of the Bible could not only contain truth, but The Truth, and the very words of God. And in the light of believing these things I will recognize the right of man, individually or corporately, to accept or reject these things, but to his own hurt. I will have to trust God to not allow the hurt to end in destruction, a trust no different than I hold today.
Now, for the question of which system of thought is right (accurate,true) or provable. I hold that you can neither prove your system unequivocally, and that I cannot prove mine. What I submit here is that my system produces results that TEND towards the benefit of mankind. As a “system” its weakness has always been that its adherents fail in applying its truths. But I have also submitted to you that the weakness of your system is that more proponents will succeed in carrying out its implementation. We may all come to a worse case, and that is that both systems discarded out of hand will lead to a system that will make the Nazi and Stalinist regimes look like child’s play. And the Bible has some things to say about that,as well.
Of course, this begs the question: is Christianity merely a system? And, outmoded at that? If not,why not? As the thoughts continue….. ?
Itâ€™s often been said that we never hear about counterterrorismâ€™s successes, only its failures. Thatâ€™s not always true. Today in a speech to the National Guard Association here in Washington, the President disclosed never-before-heard details of one of the successes in our fight against Islamic terrorism.
In 2002, according to the President, the United States successfully prevented a group of Malaysian militants coordinated by terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed from hijacking an airliner and flying it into the tallest building in Los Angeles.
Itâ€™s a very strange war weâ€™re fighting here. Our enemies are operating in secret, trying to slip through defenses which even our most strident government apologists admit are little more than formalities. When we thwart them â€” which, apparently, weâ€™ve done several times in the past five years â€” we canâ€™t advertise it, because we obviously donâ€™t want to tell our enemies how we beat them. We want them to keep making the same mistakes over and over again, so we can keep beating them over and over again.
Today we got only the slightest glimpse into a side of the war on terrorism that we rarely get to see. It was one of those weird moments when I was both fascinated, wondering just what else has happened that I donâ€™t know about, and mortified. Sometimes I think Iâ€™m happier not knowing, you know?
What it reminded me of is the fact that we are helped and protected every day. We have an unseen battle surrounding us, and just sometimes we get a glimpse of it.
For some reason this always takes us by surprise.
Jesus spoke of those who have ears to hear and eyes that do not see …. both referring to the fact that there is a spiritual reality and spiritual senses. Are we walking around unaware and is this why we have so little sense of balance in life?
Elisha asked the Lord to open the eyes of the servant…lots more was going on in a situation that looked like all the action was on the enemies side, rather like Jeff Harrell has observed here. And sometimes it disturbs us… as it does him.
Perhaps the open eyes and ears are a matter of habit. Making it a habit to run certain realities by our minds now and again.
I liked being in on Jeff’s revelatory moment because it reminded me of times – and not only my own- when the reality of God’s care and intervention, as well as the dangers out there, appeared on the viewing screen of consciousness.
other observations…. Continue reading Sight Unseen … and other wars
is basically an explanation of why secularism is, and will remain, helpless in dealing with Islam.
By the time Liberal PC thinking secularists will get around to dealing with this they will take a fascist tack. Because that is always the way the purely secular takes care of religious-based “problems”. I have looked at this in my essay, A Christian’s Response.
This is why we will see increasingly hard-line policy advocated within the country. And in lieu of that track being taken, more aggressive activity by Muslims, with people standing by helplessly, not able to address fanaticism, but not willing to abridge their cherished freedoms either.
Will Christians, born-again Christians, cower in the corner? I want to know. I want to know if we, as a group, have the courage to minister Christ in this volatile situation, or if we are going to try to preserve our comfy little niche? Are we going to go to war in this society to win more priviledge for ourselves? Or are we going to go the way of the cross and give ourselves to what really matters? Men’s souls….. caring for even souls of those deluded by Islamofascism?
Because those who speak of Christ to these men and women will find themselves in the crosshairs. They will neither please the secularists, to whom we are flaunting their demand that religion be totally private (unexpressed outside the walls of church and censored within), nor will we please those religions who want to keep their numbers and power intact.
A crosshair is surprisingly like a cross in this case, isn’t it?
Commitment to Christ has come pretty cheaply in recent history here in the States. There is a lot of whining about how we, as Christians, are not accepted, or not showcased well, etc.
But I tell you one thing: this scene, if it gets played the way it looks to me, it will be a filter for Christians. It will soon filter out the demanding self-filled ‘why don’t I get my place in the sun’ Christian men and women.
There are those who have -for a long time now- desired fervently that we would see the vital early church revived in our institution of Christianity.
Well, we may get that…just not in the way we imagined.
I thought of clarifying a few points.
Vash said “It makes more sense to see both religion and politics as open to question and the holder of any strong belief as capable of defending it.”
I really do agree with this. Although I want to be careful not to add fire to any martyr/heretic stakes, so that is my balance. Not all views are equally good and beneficial, but we are going to have to make great allowances to preserve freedom AND truth. We have to allow truth to fend for itself at times.
In my own view that Christ is the Truth, that God is True, I have to recognize that at times I must let Him speak in His own power- that I usurp His place when I try to force others by tongue or my sword.
It isn’t an easy balance to strike and mistakes are made, but if we don’t vouchsafe the freedom of speech and religion for all, we have betrayed it into oblivion.
So while I am a Fundamental Christian, in truth, I am not one in the definition that tries to paint that as a person who imposes their form of theocracy.
Because the trouble with all such theocracies is that they are not headed by God, but by the ‘US’ that happens to engine it. And then it is not truthfully a theocracy, is it?
Someone got deceived.
And everyone suffers for that.
I don’t want to make another believe- I do want to faithfully and emphatically present truth as it is given me. I will utilize my opportunities for that. I will use it in conversations, on message boards, in comments sections, and in posts and articles. I will use my vote, and my pen.
I will not apologize to anyone for doing so. I value truth, and the truth I see is Christ. Applications of the teachings I embrace will color everything I say, but I hope it will also help me make room for what you say- even if only for debate .
The system that the Christian sees God has set up is one that allows for error and wrong. The field of the wheat and the tares. And the trust that God will work out the threshing on history’s floor in His time.
This is not to say that we leave the fields fallow. We ought to use our citizenship priviledges to call for as just and merciful a system of government as possible. It is our government and we should work out our values together. Yes, there will be compromises…. but Christians must bow their knee to their God and recognize His saying: My Kingdom is not of this world.
That is what I believe. That is why I must allow for lack of perfection as I see perfection. I have found out that I have been less than correct numerous times.
God allows for that and I can do no less. Yet I am responsible to do my utmost to uphold the right- as far as I discern that.