Reform your faith

I was greatly honored to have received a wonderful text from progressive Christian Chuck Shingledecker. He encouraged me to reproduce it here which I did.

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Reform your faith
There is an important holiday celebrated on October 31st that has nothing to do with candy and carved pumpkins. It’s a commemoration of the day when a young Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It is Reformation Day.
Luther spent many years trying to follow all of the right disciplines of the church. He went to confession, prayed, fasted, served liturgy. But something inside of him was dissatisfied, tormented by what he held dear as the kingdom of God corrupted by the trappings of an oppressive secular power. Luther began to question what he’d been taught and all that he believed, first privately but then publicly by nailing a letter of 95 complaints about the church’s practices onto the doors of the Castle Church. Western Christianity has never been the same since.
Yet how many of us dare to do as Luther did? Sometimes we may talk about the need for reform in our church. But how many of us contemplate reforming our own faith? It turns out that a lot of us do.
Televangelists will tell us to look to Jesus for all our answers. To trust in God. To pray, fast, light candles, and do all of the feel-good things that give others, and ourselves, the illusion that we are changing on the inside. But that’s not real reform. At least not the sort that matters.
I’m talking about confronting our own faith in such a way that, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we dare to look at Christianity and all we hold dear and question it through the eyes of a skeptic. Let yourself be the troubled, hurting Christian who wants to believe but also to know the real truth. It’s what John Loftus calls the “outsider test for faith.”
That’s what Luther did on that late October day in 1517, at least when it came to the only faith he’d ever known. He certainly didn’t go as far as some of us in the modern world do. But it was a remarkable step, given his time, culture, and place. He questioned important aspects of the faith he loved and served.
I know how hard it must have been for him, because, though I’m certainly no Luther, I’ve done it, too. For many years I was tormented by my faith. I put on a good public display about it all, pretending to believe all of the right things and performing all of the right rituals. But my heart wasn’t always in it, must as it wanted to be. My mind wouldn’t allow it. I’d constantly ask myself, “Why am I doing this? What am I doing here? Do I believe any of it?”
The only answer I could give was that I was supposed to be there, supposed to believe the right things. My faith was dead, or at least dying. Until I did what no one good Christian is supposed to do, embrace the doubts and ideas that only “backsliding” Christians accept. Everything became subject to question: the Bible, the doctrines and authority of the church, and even whether or not I truly believed in God.
Yes, those are all forbidden things to question for many Christians. But so were Luther’s questions in his time. And just like the Reformation of the church, my own spiritual reformation hasn’t always been an easy thing for me. It has led to turmoil, both internal and interpersonal. I’ve lost some friends. And my faith is not what it once was.
It’s a faith that some would call incomplete or thin, no faith at all. And you know what? Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes I have no faith. Sometimes I, like the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who recently said, “There are moments, sure, when you think, ‘Is there a God?’‘Where is God?’” (bbc.com/news/uk-29255318), I’m unsure of whether or not God exists.
Sometimes I believe in God but not the Trinity. Sometimes I believe Jesus was simply a Jewish prophet whom Gentiles co-opted and made into a gentile savior. Other times I’m not sure what it is I believe. But that’s okay. Let me say that again. It’s okay.
I don’t say that to make myself feel better. I say that because I understand what torment it is to Charles Shingledecker – Reform Your Faith.
1 think it isn’t okay. And if you are tormented by your doubts about your faith, I want to say that you are not alone! There are tens of thousands—probably millions—in this country alone who feel just as you do. And if you’ve decided to slowly embrace those doubts, despite how scary it can be, then congratulations. You’ve nailed your own 95 theses to the door of your heart. It won’t always be an easy journey. But in the long run, it will be liberating, because you will no longer be afraid of doubt.

St. teresa of avila quote
A dear friend once told me to not fear my doubts. That was the first step on a long, continuing journey that I’m still on. Do not fear your doubts. Do not fear questioning authority, that of the church or even of God. We are not God’s slaves, but his children. And we are all in need of reform.
This is the lesson I take away from Reformation Day. Luther was far from perfect. At times,
especially later in life, he could be a bigoted and authoritarian asshat. But he did what few others in the history of the church ever would: He challenged its self-proclaimed authority, its long-standing practices, and he brought about reform. Not only of the church, but of his own faith. If he can do it, you can too.
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Chuck’s book Freedom to Doubt is available for the Amazon Kindle and in trade paperback. See FreedomToDoubt.com for excerpts and links. From October 30 to November 3, the Kindle version is being offered at a discounted price of just $0.99.

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I do hope this text will help some of my readers. Otherwise you might also appreciate my own advice for a struggling Christian.

 

 

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Von Luther, Hitler, und religiöser Verwirrung

English version.  Feel free to comment there!

Richard Weikart hat für Empörung gesorgt, nachdem er sein Buch “Von Darwin zu Hitler” veröffentlicht hat, wo er argumentiert, dass das darwinistische Konzept der natürlichen Selektion eine wichtige Rolle innerhalb der nationalsozialistischen Ideologie gespielt hat.

In dem gnadenlosen nordamerikanischen Kulturkrieg hat das zu zahlreichen hitzigen Debatten geführt, mit Menschen, die behaupten, dass der Nazismus eine natürliche Konsequenz von Darwis Ideen wäre, während andere Menschen behaupten, dass die Nazis den Darwinismus ablehnten und Heiden oder sogar Christen waren.

Ich glaube, dass die Wahrheit irgendwo zwischen diesen beiden Extremen liegt, aber dies wird das Thema eines zukünftigen Artikels sein.

Der mutmassliche darwinistische Ursprung der Holocaust gibt vielen konservativen Evangelikalen das Gefühl, dass sie im richtigen Lager sind, und dass die von ihnen bekämpften gottlosen Liberalen das Ende der Welt einbringen werden.

Dennoch werfen sie sehr selten einen Blick auf die Rolle des Gründers des Protestantismus in der Entwicklung des Antisemitismus.

Zurzeit von Luther hatte die römische katholische Kirche wirklich eine missbräuchliche Theologie in vielen Hinsichten und Luther dachte, dass er sehr hart zu arbeiten hatte, um seine Erlösung zu bekommen.

Ich glaube, dass seine Erfahrung von bedingungsloser Gnade und göttlicher Liebe echt war, aber dies führte ihn auch dazu, an die Lehre der Vorherbestimmung zu glauben, dass also Gott manche Menschen gewählt hat, an ihn zu glauben und gerettet zu werden, während er alle anderen zu einem Abstieg in die Hölle vorherbestimmt hat.

Luther hat versucht, die Juden zu bekehren und wurde ständig frustrierter, zu sehen, dass alle seine Bemühungen scheinbar umsonst waren.

Dies führte zu einem realen Hass, der in seinem Kunstwerk “Von den Juden und Ihren Lügen” zusammengefasst wurde.

Hier wurden aus der englischen Wikipedia die sieben Gesetze niedergeschrieben, die er ins Deutschland und vielleicht sogar anderswo einführen wollte:

  1. Jüdische Synagogen und Schulen sollten niedergebrannt werden, und die Ruinen sollten außer jeder Sichtweite weg gegraben werden.
  2. Von Juden besessene Häuser sollten auf die selbe Weise niedergerissen werden, während die Besitzer erzwungen werden sollten, in landwirtschaftlichen Gebäuden zu leben.
  3. Ihre religiöse Schriften sollten ihnen beschlag genommen werden.
  4. Rabbis sollte es untersagt sein, zu predigen, die Ungehorsam sollte mit einer Hinrichtung bestraft werden.
  5. Ein sicheres Verhalten auf den Strassen sollte für Juden abgeschafft werden.
  6. Wuchern sollte verboten werden, und all das jüdische Silber und Gold sollte entnommen werden und beiseite gespeichert.
  7. Die jüdische Bevölkerung sollte landwirtschaftlich versklavt werden.

In 1923 preiste Hitler Luther für seine Ideen, und nannte ihn den größten Geist, der “die Juden sah, wie wir heutzutage anfangen, sie zu sehen.”

Solche Schriften offenbaren uns viel über Luthers Herz. Es ist unmöglich, dies durch die Behauptung wegzueklären, er war “ein Mann seiner Zeit”.

Die Täufer lehnten die Gewalt völlig ab, und als sie grausame Verfolgungen eingingen haben sie am meisten darauf mit Liebe reagiert. Und mehr als tausend Jahre zuvor, war der Apostel Paulus auch frustriert, seine volksverwandten Juden nicht bekehrt zu haben, aber anstatt sie zu verfluchen, hat er Gott darum gebeten, er wäre selber verdammt, sodass sie errettet werden!

Kann man nun daraus schliessen, dass Luther wahrscheinlich kein Mann Gottes war, dass seine Erfahrungen und Glauben Betrügereien waren?

Ich denke es nicht.
Es ist wahr, dass der Hauptaspekt der Reformation  „Sola Scriptura“ anscheinend selbstwidersprüchlich ist.
Gott spricht autoritativ nur durch die Schriften, mit der Ausnahme des Tages wo die frühe Kirche sich entschloss, welche Bücher zum Kanon gehören und welche nicht.

Die Lehre von vielen progressiven römischen Katholiken, dass Gott zu uns durch die Tradition der Gläubiger über Jahrhunderte spricht, und dass die Bibel selbst eine solche Tradition ist, ist zumindest frei von Widersprüchen.

Aber ich denke, dass während dieser Period der Geschichte, ein großer Teil der Kirch eine missbräuchliche Theologie hatte, die Menschen dazu geführt hat, ihre Erlösung zu verdienen oder sogar zu kaufen. Ich glaube, dass nach seiner verzweifelten Einsicht, es war zu schwer  für ihn, Luther wirklich die Gnade und Liebe Gottes erfuhr.

Aber er hat dann frei gewählt, dem Hass und der Dunkelheit die Herrschaft über andere Teile seines Herzens zu geben.
Seine Doktrin, dass Gott manche Menschen zum Höllenfeuer vorherbestimmt hat, war zweifelsohne ein Gebiet, wo seine Gedanken völlig verdunkelt waren.

Aber dies wirft ein Problem auf: warum erlaubt Gott Menschen, Sachen über Ihn zu begreifen, während sie auch an gotteslästerischen Unsinne glaubten?

Ich begegne oft dem selben Problem in der Bibel, mit dem Buch der Psalmen, wo die Güte und Liebe auf eine wundervolle Weise gepriesen werden, aber wo Psalmisten auch Gott darum gebeten haben, die Köpfe der Kinder seines Feinds zu zerschmettern.

Und ich sehe das selbe Problem in meinem Leben: manchmal werde ich von der Liebe Gottes überwältigt, die ich auf meine Mitmenschen weiter giessen will, aber ich werde auch immer noch von meiner Selbstsucht und tiefsitzenden Befürchtungen angetrieben.

Ich glaube, dass Gott einem riesigen Risiko eingegangen ist, uns Freiheit zu geben, und dass eine totale Offenbarung von Ihm diese Freiheit erheblich verringern würde.

Ich glaube echt, dass Gott völlig fähig ist, für das dadurch verursachte Übel in der kommenden Welt zu kompensieren.

 

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A short introduction to Calvinism

Deutsche Version: Eine kurze Einführung in den Calvinismus.

Youtube Version

Many people have been (rightly) consterned about infamous assertions of the extremely popular Evangelical preacher John Piper such as God causing earthquakes to punish America for its sins or “It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.”

John Piper

Yet few people suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg.

John Piper is a staunch Calvinist. Also called reformed theology, Calvinism is a doctrine which did not begin with the French theologian Calvin but can be found in diverse authors such as Luther, Zwingli, Aquinas, Anselm of Canterbury and William of Ockham.   The man who introduced it to the Christian Church was Augustine, who (quite coincidentally) was also the first theologian to defend the use of torture against heretics, with all the historical consequences we know all too well.

One basis of Calvinism is divine determinism (which they call “sovereignty”) which means that every thing which happens (including rapes and genocides) has been desired and made certain by God before the very beginning of time.

john-calvin

The other basis of Calvinism is the so-called TULIP belief-system, whereby:

Total Depravity – As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sins. Man is unable to save himself (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).

Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate a response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response (Romans 8:29-30;9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12) because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to.

Limited Atonement – Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect alone. All whom God has elected and for whom Christ died will be saved (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25).

Irresistible Grace – Those whom God elected He draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds (John 6:37, 44; 10:16).

Perseverance of the Saints – The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14).

From this, it logically follows that God willed and caused most people to be damned and eternally suffer in hell (very few Calvinists believe in the Annihilation of the wicked).
In future posts, I will explore in more depth the logical aspects and implications of reformed theology.
 lakeFire
Disclaimer: I don’t agree with their use of these Biblical passages. I believe that many are taken out of context whereas some of them only support aspects of Calvnism  while contradicting others.

On Luther, Hitler and Religious Confusion

Deutsche Version

Richard Weikart created quite a stir after he published his book „From Darwin to Hitler“ where he argued that the Darwinian concept of natural selection played an important role in the national socialist ideology.

In the raging north American culture war, this gave rise to countless heated debates, with people saying at one extreme that Nazism was a natural consequence of Darwin’s ideas and other people asserting that Nazis rejected Darwinism and were heatens or even Christians.

I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, but this will be the subject of a future article.

The (alleged) Darwinian origins of the Holocaust gives quite a few conservative Evangelicals the feeling that they’re in the right camp, and that the godless liberals they’re opposing will bring the word to oblivion.

However, they very seldom take a closer look at the role the founder of Protestantism played in the developement of antisemitism.

At the time of Luther, the Roman Catholic Church had really an abusive theology in many respects, and Luther thought he had to work very hard to earn his salvation.

I believe that his experience of unconditional grace and divine love was a genuine one, but this also led him to believe in the doctrine of predetermination (Vorherbestimmung), that God chose certain people to believe in Him and get saved while predetermining the others to head to hell.

Luther tried to convert the Jews and became increasingly frustrated all his efforts were apparently vain.

This leads to a real hatred which is summed up in his infamous book „On the Jews and their Lies.“

Here I’ve copied the good English summary of the seven laws he wanted to introduce in Germany and perhaps even elsewhere:

    1. for Jewish synagogues and schools to be burned to the ground, and the remnants buried out of sight;
    2. for houses owned by Jews to be likewise razed, and the owners made to live in agricultural outbuildings;
    3. for their religious writings to be taken away;
    4. for rabbis to be forbidden to preach, and to be executed if they do;
    5. for safe conduct on the roads to be abolished for Jews;
    6. for usury to be prohibited, and for all silver and gold to be removed and “put aside for safekeeping”;
    7.  for the Jewish population to be put to work as agricultural slave laborers.[4]

In 1923 Hitler praised Luther for his ideas, and called him the greatest German mind, who “saw the Jew as we today are starting to see him.”

Such writings reveals us quite a bit about Luther’s heart. It is impossible to explain this away by just saying he was a „man of his time“. The Anabaptist utterly rejected violence, and as they underwent gruesome persecutions they most often reacted with love. And more than one thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul was also frustrated not to have converted his fellow Jews  but instead of cursing them, he prayed to God he would be damned so that they would be saved!

Can we conclude that Luther wasn’t probably a man of God, that his experiences and faith were fake?

I don’t think so. It is true that the main aspect of the reformation „Sola Scriptura“ doesn’t seem to be coherent. God only speaks authoratively through Scripture, except the day the early Church decided which books belong to the Canon and which not.
The doctrine of many progressive Roman Catholics that God speaks to us through the tradition of believers over the centuries, and the Bible itself is such a tradition, is at the very least self-consistent.

But I do think that during this period in history, a great part of the Church had an abusive theology leading people to earn or even buy their salvation. I believe that after his desperate realization he was not up to the task, Luther really experienced the grace and love of God.

But he freely chose to let hatred and darkness dominate other parts of his heart. His teaching that God predetermined certain persons to be hell-bound was certainly one area where his thoughts were completely darkened.

But this raises a problem: why does God allow people to get things right about him while also believing blasphemous non-senses?

I often encounter the same problem in the Bible, with the book of the Psalms where the goodness and bounty of God are praised in a wonderful way, but where psalmists also prayed God to crush the head of their enemy’s children against rocks.

And I see the same problem in my life: sometimes I am overwhelmed by the love of God which I try to pour on my fellow humans, but I am also still driven by my selfishness and deep-seated fears.

I believe that God took an enormous risk by granting us freedom, and that a total revelation of Himself would considerably reduce this liberty.

I do believe that God is completely  able to compensate for the evil caused by this in the world to come.

 

 

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