Such grace-based spiritual freedom is the best antidote to Jihadist exploitation and oppression. Existential freedom fully supports all people's right to choose their religion and values – and also to choose to change their religion and values. This is why the Gospel is transmitted by witness, not by warfare.
The Supreme Court was right to allow corporations to be exempt from the mandate to pay for abortion pills or contraception when their leaders have established religious reasons against them. Moral issues can stand as questions for the liberty of conscience – whether individual conscience or corporate conscience.
Yesterday we examined the wholeness of the Gospel that fully integrates the saving Gospel and the social Gospel. The Gospel is one, a unified whole like a precious two-sided coin.
What's truly tragic in an ironic way is that many of our divisions make no sense at all! For example, are you an American passionate about the health and safety of all babies being nurtured in the womb? If so, you are most likely against abortion-on-demand, and you are drawn to supporting the Republicans. However, are you passionate about the healthy environment of all people once they are born? If so, you are now likely drawn to supporting the Democrats and their programs for protecting and improving the environment.
The Bible text itself – especially in John 20:11-18 – suggests four reasons for her failure in recognizing the living Jesus, even though Jesus is standing right in front of her and speaking with her, and even though she is thinking only about Jesus at the time.
What we see with our eyes matters. Each of our "perceptual worlds" depends upon what is in front of us to see, to look at. But what we see also depends upon other factors, too, such as our knowledge, our interests, our experiences, our attitudes.
Yesterday I argued that doubt is necessary but unbelief is dangerous. As odd as its sounds, doubt is never a hazard to vibrant Christian faith. Rather, some sincere doubt is necessary to sustain the vitality of the Christian walk.
By contrast, I know of no Biblical passage where we are even warned against doubt! Perhaps this is because doubt and belief are fully compatible and because there is no slippery slope from doubt to unbelief. Actually, as odd as this may sound, doubt is never a hazard to vibrant Christian faith. Rather, some sincere doubt is necessary to sustain the vitality of the Christian walk.
We all can be vigilant, and be especially wary of those who bring their scissors to Bible study – intent on cutting everything away but their own preconceived, powerless, paper-doll "Jesus."
This season of Advent, beginning the first day of December, is full of the JOY of the Lord! What could be more wonderful than the Good News that the Savior is born, that God himself has come to Earth as the Messiah? The great prophesies are fulfilled, including these profound and awesome words of Isaiah:
We live now in a time of great courage. More people are suffering for their faith in Christ than perhaps at any other time in history. Christians are suffering in Muslim countries in many places in Africa, southern Asia, and the Middle East. Not only are churches burned with worshippers locked inside, and other Christians are severely tortured – but more "camouflaged" persecution continues, too, with harsh discrimination in jobs, education, housing and other necessities. In some countries like Afghanistan, no churches are even allowed, and it is a capital crime either to communicate the Gospel or to commit to Jesus Christ.
As we watch some of the leadership catastrophes in Washington, D.C. – in the White House, Congress and Supreme Court – and in countless other places, it is evident that our leaders lack something crucial. And perhaps most of us lack it, too, since we helped put these "leaders" into office. How else do we explain the chaos of American foreign policy (Syria, Egypt, etc.), health care policy (Obamacare, etc.), and budgeting the public treasury (debt explosion, etc.)?
In the present political posturing and race pandering, the real race issue is missed, even though this one race issue matters most to God and is most deeply addressed in our national documents. What is that real race issue?
Now, any appreciation of the precious power of words should awaken within each of us a compassionate desire also to help illiterate people. In justice, we must help men and women and children who find themselves fully or partly dis-empowered as people and detached from the joys Word-power.
The most basic and stable relationships are triangular. In the two Bible passages that Rachel and Maria just read, each references three elements – the two humans plus the love that "never fails," in 1 Corinthians 13, and the man and the woman and the "pure fire of the Lord" that draws them together into unqualified commitment, in the Song of Songs.
Because of the dense smoke and misleading mirrors surrounding so much of federal and state education policy, most citizens are puzzled by the education gap – the fact that nationally African-American and Hispanic-American youth graduate from high school at 66% of the rate of European-Americans – and then enter college at 50% of the rate, and finish college at 33% of the rate of European-Americans.
Some memories of our childhood remain persistent reference points the rest of our lives. For me, being the "school dummy" for six and a half years – kindergarten through the first half of 6th grade – is a reality that has helped shape every day since. An even deeper influential reference point is the miracle awaking initiated by an angel from heaven, Ethel Smith, who also happened to be my 6th grade teacher.
As a professional philosopher of science, I invented the term "methodological naturalism" in an essay that the respected Christian Scholars Review published in 1983. The very fact that we choose to focus on natural realities while we do science means that the Spirit and powerful spiritual realities are still there when we remove our valuable scientific blinders of "methodological naturalism.
One of the most subtle and influential religions of America is "Scientism." Not the ever controversial "Scientology" or the so-called "Christian Science" of the "Christian Science Reading Rooms," but Scientism, the voluntary limitation of our beliefs and behaviors to only what is taught to us by the natural sciences.
Now I have one repeated nightmare: I am walking down the streets in Superstorm Sandy-ravaged sections of New York City, my town – especially near the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island. As I walk, I grieve with immense sadness and anger when I see some churches boarded up because of their tragic superstorm damage. Perhaps some part of a floor is weakened or some electric wiring is damaged. It may be that some steps are broken or a dangerous level of mold has grown. Now failing our building code standards, these church buildings are closed, not to be opened to serve their communities, not to be opened for divine services.
It is stunning how policies in a country so blessed by God can turn into programs that severely undermine the good work done in God's name. This latest federal case is so insidious that it takes your breath away.
We live in a time of magical secularism. Right before our eyes the Gospel truth is ripped off, stolen, or at least seriously "dumbed down." For what reason do we allow fables to replace facts – even when the marvel and splendor of the facts far exceeds the secularist's ingenious fabricated fables.
We are set to celebrate the Grand Jubilee of the Emancipation Proclamation, and yet millions of our people unjustly languish from the horrific shackles of inadequate education—and hundreds of thousands, and their families, tragically suffer through the additional shackles of incarceration. How is this possible?
To us finite and flawed humans, for anyone to claim to be fully human and fully divine may seem blatantly contradictory. Still, from the Biblical record this momentous, paradoxical Christmas episode of the divine-human Savior is truly prophesied and fully produced.
"Our experiment of godless society has failed. We have tried to run our government by godless policies. We taught our children a godless worldview. Our biggest mistake was subjecting hundreds of millions of people to this failed experiment for so long, without recognizing or correcting its failures."