OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020

A recent article in Christianity Today starts with, “Are American Christians really this bad at theology? Are we simply just a band of unwitting heretics? Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research’s recent State of Theology study seems to indicate that, yes, a large percentage of us are at odds at what we believe.”1

The article goes on to explain the statement. A Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research’s State of Theology study asked theological questions of Americans and found that Americans are not consistent in following the Bible and the basic teachings of the church.

I have stated on this website that the wide-ranging differences in the Christian community on a number of doctrines work to decrease faith. Paul’s charge to speak the same thing and to not be divided speaks directly to this problem. After all, when the acceptable state is that one church teaches that the manifestations of the spirit like speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings have ceased while another teaches the gifts are possible but won’t teach them while another teaches that they are not only available but people are getting delivered by them, what are people supposed to think about theological matters? Or that it’s okay to drink moderately while others say drinking alcohol is an abomination? Or that only men can lead while others teach that there are examples of great women leaders in the bible? Those are only a few of the disagreements among churches, denominations, and believers with the resultant confusion and decrease in trust in Jesus Christ and the word of God.

The study said they surveyed 3002 Americans but they did not identify how many of these said they were Christians. According to a recent Pew study, approximately 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.2 Look at the links in the footnotes to find and read more on this incredibly revealing study

As part of the study, they adopted the National Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition which includes, among other things, that the Bible is the highest authority for belief, that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that can remove the penalty of sin, and that only trust in Jesus Christ can enable one to gain eternal salvation.3 In giving the results I am including many of the actual survey statements to be clear as to what people did or not agree with.

Concerning the supremacy of the Bible as the source for truth the study found that most Americans say religious beliefs are a matter of personal opinion, “And that’s made clear by examining the varying, and sometimes contradictory, theological doctrines they hold.””4 Original Christianity as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles did not have the bible that we have today but were charged to follow the traditions of the Apostles which includes both the doctrines and practices the Apostles established as evidenced in their writings.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

Concerning the exclusivity of accepting the Lordship of Jesus as the source of eternal life the study found that most Americans agree with the statement, “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” If most people believe that God accepts the worship of all religions then they don’t accept the Lordship of Jesus as the exclusive path to salvation.

that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Rom 10:9-10 WEB)

Central to the Lordship of Jesus is the resurrection which is fundamental in Christ’s achieving our salvation. Only 45 percent of respondents strongly agreed with this statement, “Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.”

Belief in the risen Savior is crucial to salvation but it doesn’t appear to be crucial to everyone calling themselves Christian.

The Bible says in Romans 3:10 that there are none righteous and develops every believer’s battle with sin in later chapters. Most Americans, however, at least somewhat believe the statement that “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.” This is a critical element of good person theology where people are not compared to biblical standards, but to personal or group ideas of what constitutes a good person.

Not included in the National Research Evangelical Beliefs Research Definition but emphasized in the definition of orthodox Christianity is the importance of the Trinity.5

Concerning adherence to a doctrine critical to the Trinity, only 36% of Americans at least partly disagreed with the statement that Jesus was not God. More significantly, 55% at least partly agreed with the statement that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. Remember, the definition of the Trinity includes that Jesus is fully God and co-eternal with God. These results were despite the study finding that 72% at least partly did agree with the statement “There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” One article explained that this shows that Christians are better at recognizing orthodox statements than ones that Orthodoxy deems heretical, and thus are more compliant than understanding or fully believing the concepts.

A similar conclusion was, “One discouragement was that regular churchgoers were more likely to deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit”. Without believing that Jesus is God or the Holy Spirit is a person you don’t have much of a Trinity. While they have memorized key statements, it doesn’t appear that people really grasp or accept the concept. It appears that despite the ability to spot the orthodox statement in the positive and the willingness to say it is true the actual Trinity concept is beyond the capacity of the populace to really understand, especially in the negative. They either can’t understand it or they don’t believe it or both.

That said, since this website is focused on original Christianity, while the Trinity is a primary doctrine in modern Christian traditions, it was not part of the Apostles’ tradition. The power of the name of Jesus, not the Trinity, was what the Apostles emphasized, taught, and practiced.

Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Php 2:9-11 WEB)

The results of the study show a wide range of degrees of Christian faith among the American populace. Only 48% agree that the bible is 100% accurate in what it teaches. Only 51% agree or partly agree that the bible has the authority to tell us what to do. On the negative side, forty percent agree, partly agree, or are not sure (don’t disagree) that the Holy Spirit can tell someone to do something that is not in the Bible. Isn’t that saying a bunch of people believe the Holy Spirit will make sinful things not sinful for them?

But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.  (Mar 10:6 WEB)

Yes, 79% agree that God created male and female.  But, 52% disagree or somewhat disagree that gender is a matter of choice. 51% aren’t sure at least partly agree or aren’t sure about the statement, “Modern science disproves the bible.” It’s also close to 50/50 on issues like abortion as a sin, that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin, or that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality doesn’t apply today.

With all of this confusion over spiritual matters it is no wonder to me that most people, 58%, agree at least somewhat that worshiping alone or with your family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church despite the Bible’s charge to worship together:

not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. (Heb 10:25 WEB)

As the title of the article says the study shows a population that is not clear about Christianity and holds as much to modern science and public opinion as it does to adherence to biblical principle. The Bible talks about immature believers, children, being tossed back and forth and carried about with the winds of doctrine, and that’s what I see when I read these results:

He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ; (Eph 4:11-15 WEB)

The winds of doctrine are all the different theories, opinions, movements in the different cultures in the world.  The answer to children being tossed back and forth by winds of doctrine is the Spirit guiding apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors) and teachers in perfecting the saints, helping them mature with sound doctrine, teaching them the way that is Jesus Christ more fully. And consistency is a big key, all Christian leaders need to speak the same thing, and work to have no divisions among them, preaching the word of God in season and out.

1Our Favorite Heresies of 2018: Experts Weigh In, located at https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/evangelicals-favorite-heresies-ligonier-theology-survey.html

2Religious Landscape Study, at https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

3http://lifewayresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/NAE-LifeWay-Research-Evangelical-Beliefs-Research-Definition-Methodology-and-Use.pdf

4Americans Hold Complex, Conflicting Religious Beliefs, According to Latest State of Theology Study, located at https://lifewayresearch.com/2020/09/08/americans-hold-complex-conflicting-religious-beliefs-according-to-latest-state-of-theology-study/

5Dictionary.com defines orthodoxy to include the Trinity, “The form of Christianity maintained by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Orthodox means “correct in teaching”; Orthodox Christians consider the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches to be incorrect in some teachings, including the relations between the persons of the Trinity.”

 

October 30th, 2020 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

Global Warming

“The earth is heating up!” “We are at record warming levels.” So the global warming warnings go.
I’m watching Nova on PBS. The episode is Making North America: Origins. As the narrator displays palm frond and coral reef fossils he makes a startling statement. He’s finding these artifacts in Alaska. And he says this, “This palm grew here when the climate in Alaska and the rest of the world was much warmer (emphasis added).”
He’s talking, of course, about a period hundreds of millions of years ago by his dating. But the point still remains: The whole earth has been much warmer than it is today,
So the statement that the earth today is warmer than it has ever been is repudiated by this statement in this Nova presentation.
What this illustrates is that the range of temperatures that the earth has naturally swung from very warm to frigid cold over the eons and millennia.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be good stewards of out planet. Freon is a good example where it was proven both that something we were doing (using freon) was harmful and stopping it was worth the trouble.
Carbon emissions are certainly something that we should keep an eye on. But alarmist cries that we are heating up the earth to unprecedented levels is clearly untrue. We’re nowhere close to where the earth itself has engineered its own global warming levels.
Nevertheless, we are called to be good stewards of the earth. As Christians we are taught:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
(Genesis 1:28-30)

Man was charged with the care of the place in which he was placed.

At the same time, we individually are incapable of impacting more than our individual range of responsibility and we are often fully engrossed in just accomplishing the task at hand:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:34)

So if you follow this instruction while not ignoring the charge given to us in Genesis chapter 1, each of us does the best we can today with what we are in charge of so that collectively the earth is properly tended by all of us together.

But the emphasis is that we have to take care of today.

So as stewards of the earth we need to be responsible in this area today and everyday.

As individuals that means using more energy efficient products. We insulate our houses better, reuse bags, cover our pots while cooking, turn off appliances and lights when not in use, and recycle. There are websites devoted to how we as consumers can help.

On a larger scale, businesses and governments have the same responsibility to be more efficient and steward the earth.

Its one of the first charges God gave to man. God gave us this earth, to keep it in good shape.

June 30th, 2016 Posted by | Modern Christianity, Sermons | no comments

Carbon Dating Accuracy

All old things from fossil bones to caveman artifacts are radioactively dated.  Amazingly, the dates for these artifacts are presented in very definite terms.

Carbon dating has been used by scientists to show that man is older than the dates offered by Bible records.

One dating example is that of the Shroud of Turin.  For anyone that doesn’t know the Shroud of Turin is a piece of very old cloth that has an image on it that some say is the very image of Christ.

How this relates to the title of this article is this.  A few years back a number of scientists said the shroud of Turin has to be a fake because it only dates radioactively to the middle ages.

Well, it seems that there is a little more to the story.  Now Italian scientists say that this cloth could date to the time of Christ because of earthquakes.  In fact, an earthquake could have been the cause of the picture in the first place.

“Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino and his team suggest that an earthquake in Jerusalem in A.D. 33 — the time of the crucifixion — released neutron particles that could have fixed the picture on the shroud.

The Italian hypothesis would concur with a study conducted by geologists investigating seismic activity in the Holy Land, who in 2012 offered a theory on the date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3, 33.

The Italian scientists say that radiation from the earthquake could have elevated the levels of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which would interfere with radiocarbon dating.”[i]

How about that?  It seems that radioactive dating isn’t so sure after all if something that some scientists say is 700 years old is really three times that old.

Another example of carbon dating inaccuracy recently was brought up on the show Nova on the PBS channel in the USA.  On the episode titled “Lost Viking Army” (May 22, 2019) the archeologists had a problem with a skull carbon dating a century or two older than the other bones in the grave.  Then they made a fascinating statement; Bones would yield different carbon dating results depending on whether the people ate meat or fish!  The age of the carbon-14 in a bone depends on the age of the carbon-14 in the consumed food!

This is a relatively new development.  Scientists have now determined that the carbon 14 in the oceans is far older than that on land.  In fact, the program said that the age of carbon-14 in the oceans is centuries older than that on land!

The scientists said that they have a way to use chemical markers to determine the “fish” sourced carbon-14 in bones and thus make the adjustment.  In this case, they pronounced the older carbon-14 dated skull the same age as the others because of this.  Good for them!  It looks like they were able to discern quite a bit about Viking invasions of Britain circa 873.

But it sure is something to think about.  For example, a Huffington Post article says that the oldest caveman bones are 7000 years old.[ii] With all of the earthquakes that have happened in the history of the world, what is to say that the date is off a little, maybe enough to line up with a biblically based timeline that puts modern man, i.e., Adam and Eve, starting about 6000 years ago?  Or what about what they ate, what if the carbon in the food they ate was older than what was originally thought?

Or what other scientific finds are going to be made to show more variances in carbon-14 dating?  Carbon dating does not look quite as straightforward as we have been told in the past.

February 12th, 2014 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

Be Wary of TV Shows Promoting Rejoicing in Wrongdoing

There once was a serial killer. He had a dark passenger that drove him to terrible depths.  He had overpowering urges to kill.  And he acted on those urges, repeatedly killing ritualistically, stabbing his victims through the heart after binding them to his table, his altar of death.

Like other serial killers, he appeared normal.  He was a dedicated employee, respected in his job. He fit in at work.  He socialized with his co-workers.  He was a loving husband and father.  He had a sister that he cared for deeply

So, knowing all this, certainly people would want to see this man captured, stopped, killed if necessary, right?

No, actually a lot of people were rooting for him.  You see, he was the hero of a TV show. The show was Dexter.

And as odd as it sounds, Dexter was likeable.  Dexter was understandable.  Dexter had a code.  He only killed people that deserved to die.  He was a forensic scientist, and so he could use his skills to investigate. He made sure they were worthy of death before he killed them.  No matter that he thrilled on the act of stalking and killing these people, he was doing a valuable service, ridding the world of vermin.

It also didn’t matter that Dexter slowly involved his sister in the web of deception that was necessary to cover the grim tale that was his life to the point where she killed an authority figure to save him and continue his deceit.  People felt sorry for her but they rooted for her too.

Or that he had a girlfiend that was also a serial killer that he started to kill but couldn’t for reasons of the heart.  But she tried to kill his sister. But she came back.  And his son loved her so much.

They were both good people.  They were just complicated.

And the show was so interesting;  the social interactions of killers amongst themselves and among their mostly unsuspecting social circles.

And therein lies the seduction.  Its okay to root for the killer, the liar, the deceiver.  They are complicated, understandable, lovable.    They have such good reasons for their misdeeds.  And these are no little mistakes, these are big calculated cons, these are murders.

If we rejoice that they get away with  this stuff we are rejoicing in their wrongdoing, their sin, their evil.  Even if it is a TV show.

It’s not like anyone ever imitates this stuff.  O wait, they do.  Mark Andrew Twitchell[i] says was inspired by the show in his murder.  Andrew Conley[ii] likewise cited Dexter as inspiration for his murder of his 10 year old brother!

Some fans were disappointed that Dexter didn’t ride off into the sunset to Argentina with his loving killer wife and his son.

While possibly the most extreme Dexter is not the only show where the hero is performing criminal acts.

Suits is the story of a young genius who is so smart that despite never having gone to Law school he made extra money taking and passing the bar exam for others.  The development of that premise is that he eventually takes a job as a lawyer falsifying an Ivy League education in the process.

House of Lies is a drama where the consultants revel in the lies they tell to pull off consulting jobs with big financial gains.  Leverage is a Robin Hood story of sorts where a team of thieves and con artists pull incredible scams on guilty parties to avenge and restore the victims.   White Collar is the story of a top tier white collar criminal who is allowed out of jail to consult with the FBI while he secretly continues his scamming ways sometimes even in the pursuit of his FBI duties.

I am focusing on just a few shows but this is really just the start of the list.  There are shows today that promote adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc, etc, etc.

You might hope that somewhere in any of these dramas would be the concept of rehabilitation and redemption, that these anti-heroes reform their ways and get back on track.  But no, that would ruin the premise of the story.  The crime continues non-stop from Neal Caffrey in White Collar scamming every week to a non-stop parade of murders by Dexter.

So it needs to be said that Dexter is a murderer who should have been stopped and punished.  Likewise it is wrong to con and scam in all the shows from Suits to White Collar.   Adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc. are all wrong.

Otherwise we are celebrating misdeeds, rejoicing in wrongdoing.

It (love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV)

 


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twitchell

[ii] http://abcnews.go.com/2020/teen-kills-brother-loves-dexter-life-imitating-art/story?id=13161191

January 21st, 2014 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

A Wicked and Adulterous Generation – Repent

I have been watching Frontline, the episode titled The Untouchables. It is the story of the investigation into the banking industry concerning the meltdown was caused by bank industry practices of selling and reselling bad mortgages. These practices made a lot of bankers rich, but it almost caused a worldwide economic meltdown. It certainly caused a national economic catastrophe. And, amazingly, as the show points out and despite efforts by Senate investigators as well as the New York State Atty. Gen.’s office, none of these “fat cats” went to jail.  This is the opposite of what happened after the S&L crisis in the 80s where thousands of bankers went to jail.

One of the things that becomes apparent when you look at this debacle is that the scale of the thing. This was no isolated incident at any level. There were loads of people buying mortgages that had no business getting them. There were numbers of bank workers at every level that were aware that a lot of these mortgages were being secured by people without the resources to pay them off. To their credit, there were a number of people who tried to point the problems out to people that were higher than them but they were ignored. And there were the mortgage companies, and the banks whose only concern was profitability, and more specifically, that if it was okay on Wall Street and the moneymakers were making money, then it was not only a business that was okay, it was a business to pursue. In the words of the chief executive of Countrywide Mortgage, the motto was “fund em”,  that no matter what people’s circumstances were, there was a way to fund them, whether they had jobs, or assets, or not. The big banks made lots of money with this strategy.

However, this caused a big economic bubble, which crashed. It other times in history when this kind of reckless behavior was discovered people went to jail. Not this time.  The rich got richer. The poor have became poorer. (That is called “oppression” in the Bible)

What does that say about the society in which this kind of behavior thrives?

Jesus made an interesting comment after he was asked by some Pharisees for a sign:

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.  (Matthew 12:39-45 KJV)

Jesus called the generation a “wicked and adulterous” one. Wicked is just another word for evil. It means sinful, or unrighteous, or simply put, not living as God intends for us to live. Adulterous brings up the image of a person who is unfaithful to their spouse, but in this case it is an analogous term that refers to God’s people being unfaithful to him.

When God talks about a generation being evil he doesn’t mean everyone in the generation, just that it’s so prevalent that it’s something that marks the generation. One of the biggest things that marked the current generation is this Wall Street banking scandal of the early 21st century.

The Wall Street banking scandal clearly illustrates practices that are not what God would want. God believes in fair practices, a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, and a good price for a fair amount of product.

“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.  (Deuteronomy 25:13-16 ESV)

This sets a standard that says when somebody trades something that is so much weight it needs to be accurate. If you’re buying a pound of wheat or rice or gold, it needs to be measured accurately in order for the appropriate value to be determined. There is no leeway in the above standard.

The banking industry clearly did not hold that standard. They sold bundles of mortgages that were supposedly good while they knew they were not. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein not only admitted as such, but he presented the practice as part of “market making”. In his statements to Congress he was unapologetic and his arguments focused on what have become the standard business practices of the day, which includes taking both “long and short” positions on sales, that is selling things while taking a position in the market that the item being sold will fail.

Everybody else would call that selling a product that they know is not good, or fraud. The focus of the Frontline piece centers around citizens, Senators, attorney generals all calling this fraud while Blankfein and his cronies call it standard business practices.

According to Wikipedia Blankfein regularly earns in excess of $50 million a year, and in 2011 was listed by Forbes as the 43rd most powerful person in the world.

It certainly looks suspicious that the Obama administration has failed to indict any of these leaders especially considering that Blankfein is a known democratic supporter. Again, according to Wikipedia, in 2008 Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs’ employees and relatives helped raise almost $1 million for Barack Obama, making it the company from which Obama received the most help getting elected.

One of the questions asked in the Frontline piece was not only why didn’t anyone hold the American banking system to account but why hasn’t anyone held the American Justice system to account for not holding the Banking System to account?

All of this has happened while the person on the street has suffered, losing income and buying power steadily throughout this fiasco.   Unemployment is still high and the economy is still shaky.

The whole scenario is what the Bible calls “a wicked and adulterous generation” because these things didn’t happen in a vacuum.  There has been a widespread culture change in our country that has allowed this to happen.

So what would the Bible message be in response to this?  It would be “Repent”, of course!  People, we have a choice. Greed may not be illegal, but it is evil. Don’t be a part of it. Don’t be a part of any business practice that isn’t right. And while finances and the economy are important, it is very important that we first of all act righteously in our own affairs. And second, that we do business with people and elect political leaders that will help make us a generation known for righteousness rather than evil.

This is not always simple. It means we may have to clean up our work practices. Sometimes it may mean changing jobs and/or the people that we do business with.

Remember, just because it is currently acceptable in our culture doesn’t make it righteous.

But, if we are truly believers, then the question that we must always ask ourselves, down to a moment by moment basis, is, “Is what we are doing serving the Lord?

And to the mighty in the land there is this charge:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD.” Eze 45:9

Its time to make America great again for the common man.  We need to do our part by both living righteously and demanding the same from business and political leaders.

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

November 12th, 2013 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments