It is excellent to have very strong Faith, and to defend that Faith against any critics. Fine! It is excellent to Testify or Witness to others. But there should be a recognition regarding the limitations of our human brains and minds! And a consideration that Jesus tried to Teach us Humility, Tolerance and many other such things.
Many modern Christians, especially a lot of Fundamental Christians, are amazingly aggressive and arrogant regarding claiming that every single detail of whatever they believe is absolutely right and cannot be questioned under any circumstances. NO ONE better dare even question any aspect of whatever they believe. Again, having deep Faith SHOULD mean that you really believe what you believe. But when it goes too far, it becomes a sort of Arrogance, something that Jesus and the Bible Taught us to be cautious about.
I truly wonder if such Arrogant Christians even have any clue what it means to have Humility, or to be Tolerant or Compassionate!
Several Scriptural Passages directly address the issue of Arrogance, including 1Samuel 2:3; Psalms 12:4; Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 13:11. These (and other) Scriptures warn against become arrogant in any regard. This includes our Faith.
It has become common that many modern Christians, especially in America, have come to believe that they have absolute and total understanding of every possible aspect of Christian Faith, including every detail. IF any person could actually ever have such absolute and complete knowledge, that means that person either has or believes he/she has an entire and perfect understanding of the Plan of God for man. Such an attitude indicates a belief that the person is as smart as the Lord is, to so completely understand a Plan that has eluded billions of Christians before them, including many who spent their entire lives attempting to understand it. That is essentially the very definition of Arrogance, of an absolute smugness in one's own perfection that no one is allowed to ever question any aspect of it!
A sad detail is that the Arrogant Christians are so amazingly arrogant that they really believe that God's references to Arrogance do not apply to them! Wow! God stated rather clearly in Isaiah 13:11 that I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease (KJAV). Seems really clear to me, that such Scriptures are directly and specifically talking about believers who are Arrogant in their attitudes regarding Faith.
The central concept where this seems to be most totally demonstrated is regarding the absolute insistence of those Christians that THEY are ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED of Salvation and entry into Heaven. Again, this would be a wonderful situation to be in! It would also make being a Pastor a LOT easier if it was so extremely easy to achieve as to simply have selected the correct church to attend!
The fact that THIS presentation suggests that such an ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE may not be as absolute as they assume, has resulted in incredibly vicious attacks on me (a Christian Pastor) by those (alleged) Christians! Many simply say (these are NOT Theologians, but normal attendees of Churches, remember) that I am absolutely NOT a Pastor or Minister at all, and they sometimes use four-letter words in expressing that I am not even a Christian, for saying such a thing!
These people must not read their Bibles, or actually study them! The Bible does NOT provide ANY statement of any ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE of either Salvation or entry into Heaven! It repeatedly says something that seems similar, and THAT expression has been twisted into the ABSOLUTE GUARANTEES that seem to be announced by many modern Churches. You might note, however, that virtually always, that ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE ONLY applies to Members of "this" specific Church, and very definitely NOT to the Churches down the road! Just being a Christian is generally not considered sufficient, that one MUST follow the precise Teachings of "this" Church, and no other. So the claim in itself has to bring on some question as to why the Lord's Bible's Teachings would not equally apply to the members of the 330,000 other Churches in America! But the problem is actually far more basic than that.
Here are the most direct references to the fact that a person's Faith in Christ secures Salvation: John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 11:25; 20:31; Acts 8:37; 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Romans 9:33; 10:9; 2 Tim 3:15; 1John 5:1. These essentially all use the exact same Original Greek word, pisteuo, (Strongs 4100). (Only the Timothy Verse is not centered on that specific word, and its wording is actually quite interesting in that regard.) The word is generally translated into English as "believeth" in the King James, and as "believe" otherwise.
John 3:16 is the most commonly cited wording: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJAV). Is THIS an absolute guarantee? It is certainly understood to be so by those attacking Christians! And why isn't it? Because it contains a REQUIREMENT on the individual, regarding some standard of whatever "believeth" means.
When a Church decides it can define precisely what is required regarding "believing", then, yes, it appears to then be an absolute guarantee.
Well, countless thousands of Christian Theologians over the past two thousand years have tried to figure out PRECISELY what is required "to believe". Each has attempted to meet the standards that he felt applied, but virtually all also realized that they were destined to fall short! So, thousands of lives of Monks and Saints were lived, with incredibly strict personal vows of compliance to things that were felt required to meet the standards of Salvation. Many spent lives of never speaking, and of chastity, and of poverty, and many other things, and STILL they were never absolutely sure that "it was good enough" because of the basic unavoidable fact that we each happen to be humans and we regularly mess up.
We DO have an excellent example to study! We know that Abraham believed so absolutely in the Lord that he was about to sacrifice his own dear son, simply because he believed that God wanted him to do that. Yes, we can all agree that Abraham was certainly "guaranteed" of Salvation with that depth of belief.
Is that a level of belief that applies to you?
There are other Scriptures that relate to the main concept. Some resemble Hebrews 5:9 "eternal Salvation to all them that obey Him." This Verse (and others) are centered on "obey" or the Greek word hupakouo. We have the exact same situation as above. Exactly what is the standard to have to meet to be able to say one "obeys"? Strongs (5219) says "to listen, to harken". So, would it be enough to observe that "I know I am not SUPPOSED to cheat on my wife" and then still do it? Of course not. The Lord expects us each to SHOW Him that by our behaviors and thoughts, that we Devoutly believe everything about Him.
OK. Fast forward to the modern world. A person who might be unfaithful to a spouse, or who might lie and intentionally deceive others regularly, or who might intentionally mislead and lie in business dealings to achieve some sale of some product, goes to Church, lists off for the Lord (some of) these various Sins, and is then "wiped clean" (tabula rasa) for another week to do it all over again. THIS person thinks he/she has some sort of ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE of Salvation and entry to Heaven???
These people seem to try to apply an extremely legalistic definition of the words that are important, and then attempt to do that absolute minimum possible to comply with those defined rules. It is almost like they think they are playing some sort of game with the Lord, that He will not notice as they do everything they can to bend every rule they can! They seem to assume that the Lord ONLY can see them when they happen to visit His House on Sunday mornings, when they are on their best behaviors! Do they really believe that the Lord does not or can not see the business trickery they do to make sales and profits, or the times they lie and cheat friends and neighbors and relatives? That seems to be yet another variation of Arrogance, where they seem to believe that they can get away with such things from the Lord!
Look at the Strong's definitions for that Greek word pisteuo. There are quite a few. "to think to be true" happens to be the first listed. " to place confidence in" is also in there.
WELL, IF my job as a Pastor was simply to try to get people to accept that there was someone named Jesus 2000 years ago, wouldn't that mean that they "believe" in Jesus? Is that enough? There are some Christians who actually think it is! They are sure that they are guaranteed Salvation simply because they are willing to accept that there had been someone named Jesus alive 2000 years ago! Wow!
Other people, and most Churches, add in additional requirements. One must not only accept that a Jesus Lived, but that He was "Special". Most specifically, if a person makes a very simple statement, ONCE, regarding Jesus being a Personal Savior, THAT is considered to be the sum total of what is required to PROVE the "believeth" part! THIS makes Christianity incredibly easy and convenient! No matter what you have ever done, and no matter what a jerk you might be now, just say a simple sentence, ONCE, and instantly be forgiven everything in the past and simultaneously receive an absolute guarantee of Salvation! Who could pass on THAT?
That IS a description of ONE TINY PART of Salvation, what is called Justification. Yes, Justification proceeds exactly in that way. HOWEVER, that is NOT all there is to Salvation! You might think of YOUR part of Justification as being a Letter of Intent to the Lord. But at that instant, you have not (yet) SHOWN the Lord anything!
Beginning at the instant of Justification, the person is REQUIRED to then spend the remaining LIFETIME in something called Sanctification. Every minute, every day. I sometimes describe it as somewhat analogous to Finishing School. If someone received an Invitation from the Queen of England to some enormous Ball (the Invitation being like Justification, the RIGHT to attend), the person then would need to "refine one's manners and behaviors" in order to actually BELONG in the presence of the Queen of England, by attending some Finishing School. If a Christian thinks that simply by casually stating a simple sentence, that he/she is then fully prepared to be in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, I might remind them of all those Sins that they feel free to keep repeating now! The entire purpose of Sanctification is to gradually get each Christian to Sin less often, and eventually, hardly ever, in order to be more suitable for being in the Presence of the Lord. (I have a suspicion that using foul four-letter words in insulting a Christian Pastor might not be what the Lord is looking for!)
SO! You people who insist on absolutely believing your own Minister's assurance that you are GUARANTEED SALVATION because of his own interpretation of that Greek word, fine, you can believe whatever you wish. You can even consider me worthless pond-scum (because I will not repeat the actual words used to describe me) and a total failure as a Christian Pastor. However, I would guess that you could probably use some "Finishing School" that is, an actual effort at IMPROVING one's Christian Walk.
It is quite sad today that there seem to be millions of people who call themselves Christians who see absolutely no reason to even consider trying to improve themselves in any way! Since they ALREADY have their ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE into Heaven, they see no reason to "waste time" on such things. I guess that IF they are actually correct about that guarantee, maybe that sort of behavior would get by! But if Jesus is anywhere like what we Ministry keep claiming that He is, then how could He be Pleased with "lazy Christians"? Among Catholics, they are called Non-Practicing Catholics, which means that they CLAIM all the benefits but do not want to bother with the chores or responsibilities. Of course, many similar Protestants make a big point of always attending Sunday Church Services, and even mostly listening! And then they (arrogantly) go off feeling that they have done EVERYTHING REQUIRED. Did they? Does Jesus run Heaven where a legalistic set of rules of entry apply, and as long as you got a C- grade in loyally attending Church, then you really do have a GUARANTEED TICKET IN? In all the Bibles I have read and studied, Jesus does not seem remotely like that!
Even that simple matter of having a foul mouth. There ARE many people who insist they are Christians who seem unable to say any sentence which does not contain foul words. Does Jesus Welcome such people into Heaven, expecting their response to include such nasty words? Don't they see something wrong with that picture?
Our tiny Church likes to think that we have some idea about that subject, since our official name is A Christ Walk Church. And in case you didn't notice it, we are not named THE Christ Walk Church because we realized that would be very Arrogant to claim some implied monopoly on Teaching a Christian Walk! We are merely "A" Church that attempts to have a focus on Sanctification, that is, lifelong Christian behavior, and constant effort at improvement.
In any case, this results in our having extremely strong confidence that our Teachings of Christian concepts contribute to our Members being Saved and being welcomed into Heaven. Does it include any absolute guarantee? No. I guess we wish that we COULD do such a miraculous job of Ministry that we were able to offer such a guarantee. But we think it would be incredibly self-righteous of us to even CLAIM that we could offer any absolute guarantee of it. THAT is the difference, as we see it, in this apparently violently emotional issue!
IF the concept of Faith involved ABSOLUTE GUARANTEES, then that is not Faith at all, and is rather a clinical and legal guarantee.
This attitude of Arrogance of many modern Christians spills over into another related Sinful behavior, Self-Righteousness. The Bible has a lot to say about that, too, including Deut. 9:4; Job 9:20; 35:2; Proverbs 12:15; 16:12; 20:6; 21:2; 30:12; Jer 2:35; 2 Cor 10:12: Rev 3:17.
It seems to be a tremendous incentive for such people to then "talk down" to anyone else who does not possess that perfection of absolutely total knowledge and understanding! I have seen many Christians talk in amazingly disgusting ways, often to other Christians (always from some other Church, which apparently Teaches badly!). Dozens of Christians have even "talked down" like that to me, knowing that I am a Christian Pastor! It is almost as though they wished they could spit in my face but are limited to words in e-mails! It is not that I deserve any special treatment, because I don't. But when some Christian starts lecturing me on a laundry list of many errors and flaws they attribute to me, (generally in a remarkably short period of knowing me!) the main thing I see is that they clearly completely missed an important part of what Christianity is supposed to be! Jesus was Humble. He was Compassionate. He was Considerate. He was Tolerant. He tried to Teach us such behaviors. He never went around saying "I am smart and you are not!" When a Christian starts to decide that he/she has the right to "lecture" anyone, he/she really better have really solid ground for anything they might say. Specifically, the equivalent to a Degree in Theology, at least regarding the subject they choose to lecture about!
Such people seem to forget that they are intrinsically flawed, and imperfect. That is a basic assumption of our Christianity, that we are all affected by Original Sin and incapable of being anywhere close to "perfect". As soon as they start lecturing others, especially other Christians who attend other Churches, regarding their flaws (and their own perfection), they are forgetting that casting stones is not advisable as they also live in glass houses!
But the reality is that many Christians whose knowledge and understanding of Christianity virtually entirely came from some single Minister in their own Church, (and their own individual attempts at understanding the Bible, based on Sermons by that Minister) now commonly feel free, and even expected and encouraged, to lecture (and often also insult) nearly everyone else! They see themselves as perfect experts!
That is a very misguided effort at fulfilling the Bible's guidance toward Witnessing (John 15:27; Acts 1:8, many more). Witnessing, as a humble Christian, is one thing, quite admirable, and even required. Lecturing as though one is an absolute and perfect expert, is something entirely different! Witnessing is a wonderful thing. Jesus would clearly want all Witnessing to demonstrate the Humility He tried to Teach us. He clearly would NOT condone any arrogant action of claiming superiority to those being lectured to! As soon as any Christian starts to "ANNOUNCE" the Truth, that person is unintentionally demonstrating an enormous gap in his/her Christianity. It should quickly be repaired before further attempts are made at Witnessing.
I would point out that Jesus NEVER spoke or acted with the intention of making anyone else feel "small". It seems to be a grand desire of many Christians today!
In fact, if anyone should even bring up any tiny criticism regarding any possibility of their non-perfection (such as a Minister from a different Church, such as me), their response seems to be virtually universal. The response is to entirely ignore the comments, and smile broadly (in their Pride), and then go into a personal attack on me, often telling me that Satan is leading me, because no Christian would ever criticize them!
It seems to me that for anyone to LEARN anything, a TEACHER is often beneficial. As a Pastor, a main function of mine is to be a Teacher. It seems to me that my job description REQUIRES me to speak up! My intention has never been to "criticize" such people, as I don't think it's my place to do so. Instead, I feel a responsibility, as a Christian and as a Pastor, to attempt to "plant a seed" regarding possibly improving one's Christian Walk. But it appears that such people feel that they have ALREADY completed their Christian Walk, that they are already "perfect in their understanding of God's Plan and everything about it". They don't need no stinkin' seeds! I do not claim to be the smartest person on Earth, but I still find it very sad that they see exactly zero value in my comments which are intended to try to be of benefit specifically for them.
After a number of such tirades (all before any food was even ordered!), I finally said something, which was the gentlest possible approach to the matter of this text. Of course, I did not use any terms that were harsh, and I tried to be as diplomatic as a quiet Pastor can be! Once she realized that I was trying to suggest CHANGES in her words, she said something that is really terrifying! She said "MY Salvation is guaranteed! YOU are the one who has a lot of doubt about getting to Heaven!" In just two sentences, she managed to demonstrate nearly everything that Jesus Taught against! She was extremely arrogant in her claim, as well as denigrating and insulting to me! She implied that I was a truly ignorant and stupid Christian Pastor! We had just met for lunch at a restaurant, and I told her that I was about to get up to leave. And she had no clue why! In her mind, she was just expressing "absolute facts"!
Wow! My understanding is that even people like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas and all the other famous Christian Fathers, still felt an uncertainty regarding their Salvation. That has always been my understanding, that you did your best at becoming the best Christian you can during your life, and then Jesus would evaluate how well you did! Yes, it is tempting to think that a Billy Graham or a Mother Teresa probably had a real good chance of getting into Heaven! But when a Christian simply says that she is GUARANTEED in, I tend to suspect that there is something wrong!
I had hoped to possibly simply plant a seed regarding her possibly doing some introspection regarding that issue, enhancing her Christianity. But the response was amazing and vicious, including references to Satan leading me! And it was quite clear that she truly believes that she has no NEED for introspection! She even tried to turn it around, in telling me that she was feeling sorry for me that I was so much under the influence of Satan! Really amazing! It was a very, very sad experience. I can only Pray that she figures this out before the day when she might have the opportunity to meet Jesus.
I guess it must be quite convenient to ASSUME that you know absolutely every detail, combined with the easy response of always claiming that anyone who disagrees with them in the least is Satan leading you! That takes care of every possibility, doesn't it?
By the way, I am NOT claiming that I have any brilliance or advantage here! Not at all. I am merely a simple Pastor, whose function it is to be a Tool of the Holy Spirit. In addition to my education in becoming a Pastor, the 16 years I have spent in assembling the BELIEVE web-site has provided me with a LOT of information to read! My understanding is that in my function as Pastor, I am supposed to attempt to spread seeds when I think that there might be a need. It does NOT mean I am always right, regarding when, how or even if! I believe that He expects me to just do the best I am capable of!
It is terrifying that many modern Churches Teach that THAT is the whole show! Once you make that statement, your Salvation and your ticket to Heaven are absolute and guaranteed! Wow!
If that were so, we could really throw away nearly all of the Bible, and just keep the few pages that refer to that!
That might be really convenient, but that is NOT what the Bible nor Christianity Teaches! First, that sentence is ONLY supposed to be valid IF the person is extremely Devout and fully understands what he/she is committing to. Second, it is only the "flashy" part of being a Christian, generally referred to as Justification, and soon followed by a public water Baptism.
The critically important part that seems to often be left out today is that Justification is actually only a transition, into a state where Sanctification can occur. This Sanctification is actually a far more significant part of what Christianity is supposed to be, a life-long PROCESS of continual learning and growth.
We sometimes describe this as Justification being akin to your parents signing you up for school, while Sanctification is the 12 years you spent actually doing the learning. Not a lot was really accomplished by them just signing you up, it really depended on YOU and whether you paid attention and learned, whether the entire process of "education" worked very well for you!
Look at this another way. If YOU say a specific sentence, and therefore receive an absolute guaranteed Salvation and entry to Heaven, doesn't that sound extremely "legalistic". It would really be saying that the Lord would never again have any say in whether you are Saved or get to Heaven, no matter what you might ever do or say or think. Didn't He show a displeasure regarding the Jews being legalistic about applying the Old Testament Law?
Now, I suppose it would really simplify things if all Christians really are absolutely guaranteed of Salvation and entry to Heaven. As a Pastor, my job would be far simpler, just having to get people to recite a sentence! I have never thought of my job as that simple! The understanding of our Church is what we think was nearly the universal attitude prior to maybe 50 years ago. We study, get Saved, get Baptized, and constantly try to learn and grow from things we hear in Church. Then, when our Earthly time is done, we show up at the Gates of Heaven. Our understanding is that, AT THAT MOMENT, the "status of our heart" is evaluated by the Lord. IF the Lord is Pleased with that status, we feel that person is welcomed in. IF the Lord is not Pleased with that status, we believe that He sends that person to the other place.
It seems unimaginable to our small Church that there could be people in line with "guaranteed tickets" where they might as well just push everyone ahead out of their way "Step aside! Step aside! Guaranteed ticket here!". I guess it would be hoped that they don't knock Jesus down as they barge into Heaven!
Wow! If THAT is the way the Lord runs Heaven, it sure doesn't sound like the Heaven I have always envisioned from the Bible! Our Church sort of assumes that only people who behave and talk and think properly would get in (based on that status of the heart business). In any case, we really do NOT see any basis for ANYONE to brag about having a guaranteed Salvation or guaranteed entry to Heaven. It sure doesn't seem to be the Bible we use (King James).
In fact, I personally wonder if people who carry such self-centered attitudes are EVER even allowed inside Heaven. Would Jesus really want to be around people who thought and spoke so self-centeredly?
But, if they are right, and there is no evaluation necessary, I guess they are right to be arrogant and self-righteous. And I suppose they also therefore know more than this Pastor does about what Christianity involves! However, I still intend to keep Teaching the Christianity that our Church believes the Bible presents, and TRYING to live a life which I think Jesus seemed to encourage, such as involving humility and compassion and tolerance and all the rest. We have not found any Scripture that talks about absolute guarantees.
I would welcome finding that the Bible DID forbid abortions, but the Scriptures in our King James Bible do not seem to express but the most vague and indirect reference to the concept. And even those indirect references seem only to be in the English translations and not in the Original Greek or Hebrew.
It might also be true that the correct interpretation of some Scripture might establish the valid basis for it. In any case, given the responses I have gotten from this essay, where Christians who believe they have absolute guarantees think they are allowed to do anything, I start to see how and why some would decide to bomb clinics and kill doctors and nurses. They actually think they are doing such things FOR CHRISTIAN REASONS! (and out of the other side of their mouth, they express vicious revulsion regarding Muslims who do the very same things!) They actually feel that their Salvation cannot be endangered! I can only say, Wow!
Again, our Church is aggressively against the casual sex that is everywhere in society today, and strongly against the casual attitudes that seem to exist regarding women getting abortions. However, we cannot see that Jesus would have ever expressed any ABSOLUTE rule regarding such a subject. Read the Bible. Get a sense of Who Jesus was! Didn't He ALWAYS show Personal and individual attention to each unique situation which He confronted? And then He chose a response that was amazingly insightful? So, imagine that the Bible might have mentioned some incident where Jesus met some young girl who had just been raped, by some criminal. Jesus would certainly have asked her to sit down and describe to Him the situation, and He would not have interrupted her. And once she was done describing what had happened, Jesus would have offered His amazing insight. If He sensed that the girl was suicidal, would He have really ordered her to have and raise that baby? Such that for nine months, AND for the rest of her life, she would have the most vivid possible reminder of being raped? Doesn't it seem at least POSSIBLE that Jesus might have concluded that such a life for her would be totally worthless? That even if she would somehow avoid committing suicide, she would not likely ever have her remaining life amount to anything? Would Jesus really force her to have a clearly worthless and empty life? I am not sure. In other words, even though we know that Jesus would not be enthusiastic regarding that raped girl having an abortion, we think that MAYBE He might Decide that she could be so much more productive in her future life if He suggested that course to her? In terms that might be more understandable to the right-to-life proponents, would Jesus see that there would be NO chance that this girl would ever have any happiness, or marriage, or future children? What decision would Jesus have made if He knew that she had the potential of raising four healthy and happy babies later in life OR in never raising any other children other than the one that would always represent pain and suffering to her? I cannot answer that question, as I am not Jesus. I merely note that He MIGHT have considered such things. But the modern view is ALWAYS simply for the short-term implications regarding whether a tiny fetus actually represents a human yet or not. Doesn't it seem at least POSSIBLE that Jesus might evaluate a "bigger picture" including the girl's entire future life, where He might have seen some "best of many undesirable courses?"
It actually seems somewhat surprising that the right-to-life advocates do not find flaw in the fact that each month, an unfertilized egg is lost (wasted) from each woman! Isn't that egg essentially 99% of the start of a fetus? What is the difference?
It seems to me that many Christians might have supported a possibly wrong viewpoint in a related situation several years ago. There had been a (young) woman in Florida who had been in a serious traffic accident around 1990 (Terry Shaivo), whom medical doctors had needed to attach to a lot of equipment to maintain heartbeat and breathing. The doctors had all agreed that her brain had been so damaged as to functionally be dead from the start. After FIFTEEN YEARS on that equipment, some of her family had decided that it was time to disconnect that equipment, as she had shown no improvement and no indication of awareness during those 15 years. Millions of American Christians became violently opposed to that, even including the American Congress (which passed a Law specifically about her situation) and President Bush (who even made a special trip from Texas to Washington, DC, just to sign it).
The Christians who so aggressively support right-to-life may or may not be right about many things, I do not know. But in this one, it seems to me that they may have been extremely wrong! IMHO, as a Christian, the young lady SHOULD have had the opportunity to be WITH JESUS as early as 1990. But the right-to-life advocates would have forced her to NOT be able to be in Heaven with the Lord for another thirty or forty years. Doesn't that seem that they were actively DENYING her the most valuable of all things? I am not saying that their GENERAL attitude is wrong, but just that SOMETIMES it might be short-sighted. There are merits in some aspects of some things they say. But the Bible did not provide many of the vicious ideas they seem to often promote, and those ideas were clearly just dreamed up by HUMANS who had their own personal opinions. The fact that they became so fanatical about this one woman's heartbeat continuing seemed to be a clear example (to me, at least!) that they had entirely lost sight of the POINT of what they were trying to argue for! Since medical science keeps improving, and the woman was so young to start with, it does seem impossible that medical science might have been able to keep her heart beating for a thousand years! And right-to-life advocates would certainly have bragged that they had accomplished that for her. But I truly suspect that IF they had been able to ask the young woman's opinion, she would certainly have told them "Let me go so I can be with the Lord!"
Again, nothing wrong with right-to-life, but people need to realize that WE are merely humans and that we sometimes become illogical or fanatical about subjects that we feel emotionally about, and that there probably are exceptions to every rule. Many modern (American) Christians seem to assume that ABSOLUTE rules must apply to many subjects, where there can be no exceptions allowed ever. If Jesus were here today, He would certainly describe that as Legalistic, which He was very much against when trying to apply God's Laws. It is as though we have not really learned very much in 2,000 years!
I can already see that additional thousands of people will be irate at me regarding this, and will be adding to my hate-mail from this essay! It always distresses me that (alleged) Christians send me death threats, (many hundreds of them so far). Didn't they learn ANYTHING in Church? Rather than ranting or citing supposed references to Scriptures, I would ask that the ACTUAL WORDING of the Bible be included in such attacks on me, from either the NIV or the KJAV. If you then want to rip into me, do it on the basis of THOSE WORDS from the Bible and not from some rhetoric that some Christian writer or speaker has said.
It is really disappointing, but virtually all Christians seem to have absolutely no clue regarding what actual science is! Of course, they all THINK they do, and therefore they feel free to express pretty much unlimited OPINIONS. They are actually probably MORE capable of expressing their personal opinions regarding different procedures of brain surgery, but they do not seem interested in trying to convince anyone of their view in that field!
There is a MASSIVE difference between what most Christians think is science and what really is science. It might be seen easiest by an example.
A Christian FIRST decides on some statement he wants to claim as true. Then he SELECTIVELY looks for and finds data and logic which appear to support whatever it is that he intends to "prove"! Christians do not even seem to be aware that DIFFERENT Christians often claim exact opposite positions, and base all their claims on the Bible! Around 1840, nearly all major American Churches split in half, because some insisted that they had proven that the Bible is against slavery, and others insisted that they had proven that the Bible is for slavery. Several of those giant Churches existed as two identical Churches for over 100 years, only joining back together fairly recently. The point here is that the two groups each STARTED OFF with the conclusion they intended to prove, and clearly, both groups felt that their side had found words in the Bible that convincingly proved their case. Could BOTH SIDES have been right?
Regarding virtually every social issue today, there are Christian groups which cite Biblical Scripture to allegedly prove both sides of the argument!
The problem is centered on the fact that it is DECIDED what the results will be before they even start, and in that way, the various claims by alleged Christian scientists ALWAYS turn out to be true!
REAL science is incredibly different from that! True, a researcher usually begins with a hypothesis. However, the reality is that MOST scientific experiments have the result of proving that the hypothesis was WRONG! It is relatively rare when experiments directly prove an initial hypothesis to be correct!
However, in science, that is NOT seen as a bad thing! Such failures of experiments simply acts to eliminate one possibility regarding finding an answer to the problem at hand. The scientific attitude is to do enough failed experiments until you eventually narrow it all down enough to achieve a successful experiment. It is well publicized that Thomas Edison spent years attempting thousands of different ideas regarding a light bulb, all of which failed! But THAT was actually a good thing! Each failure told Edison that some possibilities were not useful, and each failure narrowed down the remaining number of possibilities. Eventually, Edison came upon one approach that actually worked, and we now have billions of light bulbs!
The great difference was that Edison NEVER knew how an experiment would turn out. I have done a large number of rigidly scientific experiments during my life, and a lot of them turned out to prove my initial thoughts to have been wrong. So the difference is that actual science DOES NOT absolutely insist on what the results would turn out to be, but it also involves the scientists always examining ALL data and all logic, and not just the parts which might seem to support what he might have hoped for.
Christians never seem to understand this distinction! They see claims made by some people who call themselves Christian scientists regarding the Earth being formed 6,000 years ago, and think that such claims are as valid as the claims of actual science. They are not, usually because of that selective use of data and logic, in proving a specific expectation.
Christians generally assume that the true scientists simply cannot handle the competition, and they don't see any difference in quality of the claims made by Christian scientists and by actual scientists. In contrast, the actual scientists see the difference to be HUGE! Bigger than huge! Because the logical sloppiness is usually really obvious in such efforts by those Christian scientists, the true scientists do not even bother to pay attention. I find it rather amusing that Christians seem to think that scientists HATE Christianity. I have never known any scientist who has had such strong emotions for Christianity or any other religion, because instead, they simply consider religions to be illogical, and therefore irrelevant. Since serious scientists do not have any respect for the poor methods used by those Christian scientists, they simply ignore Christians and Christianity, NOT having any hatred or ANY strong feelings!
The most publicized subject, of course is regarding Creation and Natural Selection (which is popularly called evolution). In an interesting process of working both sides of the street, Christians commonly seem to think that it is not actually necessary to understand such subjects, but are quickly willing to express intense opinions on all the things that they think are wrong with science! How can ANYONE rightfully express severe criticism about any subject that he intentionally has avoided ever learning about? IF such a Christian critic would actually ever learn enough about true science to understand what it is, THEN they would be in an excellent position to express criticism. But none ever do that. It is most peculiar. They insist on not knowing or learning about such an important subject, but still aggressively announce that they are right! (the Arrogance part!)
Many Christians have the most bizarre ideas of what evolution is! Whether they personally dreamed it up or whether it was their Minister that dreamed it up, many are really, really funny in being so poorly thought out! Most seem to be in either of two categories. One is where a LIVING creature somehow changed spectacularly into becoming some totally different creature. The other is where a creature such as a dog has a litter and they turn out to be goats or cats or chickens. People have seen far too many science fiction movies!
Such bizarre ideas have been found my some Ministry to be great at creating intense emotions and hatred in uneducated Christians. So it has been a very popular subject to rant on. Without the Minister ever learning anything upon to base solid opinions, and since the Bible never actually mentions any of that, each Minister is free to use his own imagination to dream up any outrageous statements to insert into a Sermon! Truth or honesty or accuracy is irrelevant!
ACTUAL Natural Selection is so slow that it is extremely hard to even detect in many species. But YOU are likely to be taller than your grandparents and great-grandparents. Good food is part of the reason, but the result is that you might be one inch taller than three generations ago. Imagine that good food continues to be available for the NEXT 100 generations of your descendants. If such a height effect would continue, then those people of 2,000 years from now might be around 33 inches taller than we are! Note that we hardly even notice that we are much different than our parents or grandparents, but if even very small effects kept repeating for a long time, big changes can occur.
THAT is the sort of thing that is ACTUALLY what Natural Selection is. Each generation might be a tiny bit different in some way from its parents, and they always are, but if those minor differences occurred for many generations, then really large changes can eventually be seen.
Did you know that there were only a handful of breeds of dogs just 500 years ago? But breeders have intentionally given preference (of survival) of certain puppies, and we now have over 400 official breeds of dogs, after only around a hundred generations of dogs. No one calls that Evolution, but it really is the same exact thing, but in that case, there have been artificially chosen advantages and disadvantages. Not all changes are GOOD ones, even when they are artificially generated! A small dog which recently won Top Best in the All-England Dog Show, is so deformed due to such artificial changes, where its face is extremely flat, cannot breathe properly! AFTER winning, that dog had to be placed on a block of ice, to cool it down and slow down the needed amount of oxygen, just so it could survive! That happens in Nature, too, and a lot! Many young birds and dogs and every other kind of animal does not even survive to become an adult. THAT is actually what Natural Selection is, where an animal that has an inferior trait never gets to get old enough to produce a next generation. The ones who DO are thereby Naturally Selected!
Even Christians do not believe that a Cocker Spaniel can change into a cat! Or that a Chihuahua could have a litter of puppies that included a Great Dane! The field of Animal Husbandry involves rather minimal changes from one generation to the next. A breeder sees one puppy that does not have a black spot, and decides that is desirable, and selects that puppy out to later mate with another one that does not have that black spot. Eventually, after a few generations of dogs, he MIGHT get a whole population of dogs without that black spot. THAT is what Evolution is, but in this case it is driven by artificial choices. Natural Selection is essentially the same, where a white or lighter colored baby might blend in better in a snow-covered area, and therefore not be seen as easily by predators. A SLIGHT survival advantage might help that particular creature to survive to grow up and have babies. A baby in that snow-covered region that happened to be born with all black fur, MIGHT still survive, but the ODDS are not good! And if the black-furred creature is eaten before it gets old enough to have its own babies, then any preference regarding black-fur might disappear. The result of thousands and millions of generations of creatures in polar regions has tended to result in nearly all (surviving) animals having white fur. It ain't that complicated!
For the record, penguins in Antarctica generally are NOT all white, they have large black areas of fur! The scientific explanation for this is pretty simple. There are no large predators in Antarctica! Whether a specific penguin is bright orange would not necessarily endanger its survival there. Anywhere else, such a penguin might have very little chance of ever surviving long enough to grow up.
In any case, it will some day require some Christians to dismiss their sense of perfection and arrogance before actual scientists would even be willing to listen to them. I personally believe that BOTH groups will greatly benefit when such conversations become possible. I don't see it happening any time soon, because the people who call themselves Christian scientists are too arrogant about themselves, the methods and their results, for them to give any of that up any time soon.
But that particular subject area seems to have a really interesting detail that no one seems to have noticed! The Bible certainly identifies Adam as UNIQUE (Genesis 1:26). The ENGLISH TRANSLATION(s) all refer to a PHYSICAL resemblance of Adam to God. But a careful examination of the Original Ancient Hebrew words shows that those words really did NOT actually refer to any PHYSICAL resemblance at all! We believe that the actual Hebrew words of Genesis 1:26 were referring to the fact that God Chose to take an EXISTING creature of His, and ADD A SOUL to him/it, to create an entirely new and unique being, Adam. In that single Act, God made Adam (and all of his descendants, including us) absolutely unique in having a Soul and therefore totally different from any of God's other creatures. This single adjustment in interpretation has enormous implications. First, it makes a LOT of the Bible a lot more logical, like regarding where Cain went to live when he left Eden. (He went to live with CREATURES which happened to LOOK just like Adam, but which did not have Souls.) Or regarding WHY the Flood was later necessary. Or countless other parts of the Bible. But it also would allow Christians to find 100% value in science and Evolution, without threatening the claim of uniqueness of us! We MIGHT then have had earlier antecedents that were of simple creatures, during Genesis, but that wonderful distinction of having a Soul has made us absolutely unique ever since Adam. This even allows a wonderful explanation for why it is possible for blood transfusions from many types of apes could be used for human operations, which might then be seen as totally Christian!
But Christians tend to be set in their ways, and I wonder if any or many might adopt such a view in even a hundred years from now!
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C Johnson, Pastor,
A Christ Walk Church