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Dogma Debate Forum
When Your Dogma Eats Your Karma
by: L. Louise
I was told recently by a parent figure that I was a lousy Christian. At first I was offended and thought that perhaps this person didn't have the depth or wisdom to understand what I was saying. Then as I thought it over, I realized that this apparent attack was not unlike many other attacks I've received via the "approved Christians". These experiences range from being thrown out of church because I was gay, to having the pastor drop by for a chat about my allowing a "divorcee" to be my "roommate" ( he never did figure out that we were really lovers), to being disowned and told by my parents that I was going to hell therefore they could have nothing to do with me, only for them to reappear a year later to nag me to death about not being gay so I wouldn't go to hell! This back and forth scene constantly replays throughout my life on yearly cycles. Through all of these struggles it had never occurred to me that maybe I didn't want to be a part of such an oppressive religious system any longer. Maybe I don't want to be a Christian, as the world defines Christianity. Maybe being told that I was a lousy Christian was another hidden gift from God to point me on a new road in my journey to discover who God really is and where I am suppose to go. Sometimes the most beautiful gifts of God, come in small, painful packages.
The criticism that I received sent me on a soul searching mission to figure out what I believed in. It seems to me that the only criteria to being a Christian is to believe in Christ. I believe in Christ, therefore whether they like it or not, I belong to their club. However, there are a lot of rules and regulations that go along with being a "good Christian." It's most of those rules that get me in trouble. Most of the time I don't tell anyone of my areas of disagreement. But that keeps me from getting close to other people. It's also very annoying to have one's silence, which is really an act of preserving a peaceful environment, mistaken for agreement. So I sat down and wrote out what I believe. It's a wonderful exercise. I recommend it for everyone. I called it, "My Personal Dogma". Allow me to share it with you. Perhaps some of my struggles will be familiar to you.
1) There is one true God of all Creation. The God of Moses, David, Jesus, and Buddha. God has many names -- Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah.
Now you can see where that one gets me in trouble right off the start. Good "Christians" don't like to acknowledge that Buddha had anything worthwhile to say, let alone may have spoken God's words. And to call God Allah, for the Christian, is inconceivable.
2) One can come to know God through honesty and searching, no matter what religion it is. There is truth to all religions and there are errors in all religious doctrines. No one has the entire picture. God is too big to be chopped up, bottom-lined and put in a daily Missal.
Same problem. Very few people will be broad minded enough to admit that their religion doesn't know it all. This also presents a problem for those who believe that the only way to God is through Christ.
3) Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sacrificed for the sins of humanity. We come to know God, by God's grace and God's revelations of him/herself to us.
This is the heart of Christianity. This should be the only definition of whether one is a Christian or not. Issues of whether you believe in the rapture or immersion style of water baptism or homosexuality aren't relevant! Many churches take the position of, "It's our way or the highway", philosophically. Or they tell their parishioners, "Keep reading the Bible and let us tell you what it is suppose to mean." Both of these philosophies are soul thieves. They distract people from their true personal search for God. There aren't any simple, pat answers. God is not so small as to only be seen in black and white. This type of spiritual thievery leads to a stagnation of spiritual growth. People think they're growing when in reality they are only meeting the expectations of a specific set of dogma, whether or not the dogma is stated.
4) God gave us the Ten Commandments as our guide to healthy happy living. Everything else beyond that is speculation.
God doesn't care if we're gay. God doesn't care if we marry interracially, or about many other of the modern social taboos. What God cares about is very specifically laid out. Why do we have to add lists of rules, to lists of rules? What, ten's not enough? Have you looked at them lately? There's a lot to work on in just those ten.
5) Our divine purpose on earth is to Praise God and walk with God as we can understand and know God. God will keep drawing us into more challenging and questioning places, if we are open to learn and grow in God's grace. This is the heart of suffering. Without suffering, we wouldn't change. The experiences that we've had, have molded us into who we are today. Gary Zukov writes of karma in The Seat of the Soul, "Every experience that you have and will have upon the Earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul. Every circumstance and situation gives you the opportunity to choose this path, to allow your soul to shine through you"(p.31). We personally, wouldn't be who we are today if we had been accepted by the straight church community. I dare to say, this magazine wouldn't exist, if we had been accepted into mainstream religion. Have you ever considered what it would be like if the world were 90% homosexual and 10% heterosexual? Would we be as cruel?
6) The Bible is mistranslated and full of errors. Some parts are inspiring, but it's up to each of us to decide which parts, on our own, are inspirational to us personally. This puts the main responsibility of spiritual growth on everyone individually.
The Bible is not, nor was it intended to be, a recipe book for the petty concerns of daily life. It was intended to remind us to look up, when those petty concerns become overwhelming. It is not written plainly, and the translations from the original languages have historically been a botched job. People argue over text passages that don't even mean what the English translations say. We're most familiar with the mistranslated passages using homosexuality instead of the more accurate "temple prostitute" in the Old Testament writings of Leviticus. Another glaring example of this is the Rapture theology that is taken from the book of Revelation. Trained Biblical scholars cannot agree on the meaning of the book of Revelation. Yet people will argue and insist that you're not a "Christian" if you don't believe that you're going to be raptured at any minute, while doing any task. Some even feel compelled to warn you with bumper stickers, that their cars may go out of control if the Rapture occurs while they're driving! If it weren't so sad it would be funny. People who can only look to heaven or "the great beyond", miss the blessings and joys of the walk with their God of today.
7) Finally, I believe that God is a God of compassion, kindness and love. As we grow closer to God, we become more like God. We can then view the world differently.
So our focus should be to follow God, as we feel led, no matter what others call us. Whether we're called Christians, New Ageists, or Sinners going to hell; no matter what labels they come up with. The pain can distract, or it can mobilize. We grow when we mobilize and move out because it hurts too bad to stay where we are. We need to look at books like Gary Zukov's Seat of the Soul, or Gerd Ludemann's Heretics, or Bishop Sprongs' Why Christianity Must Change or Die. We need to be open to the ideas that mainstream Christianity is afraid of. Plato said, "An unexamined life is not worth living", so too an unexamined belief system is not worth following. Take a moment and write down what you believe in. Own it. Everyone should know what they're personal dogma is. Many churches during the service have everyone recite an "approved liturgical dogma". Often this is the Nicene or Apostles' Creed. It's time for all of us to think out our own creeds, to direct our own pursuit of the God that we can come to know in an ever changing, ever growing reality.
Reply FCK TinyMCE
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Do all roads lead to God?
by Colin Webster
People often challenge me on the exclusivity of the Christian faith. They feel that Christians are arrogant and big headed by claiming that all other faiths are wrong and Christianity is right! This is understandable, after all, are Christians the only people who have a monopoly on the truth?
I agree that it does seem rather arrogant to make exclusive claims that Christianity is right and all others faiths are wrong. But the Christian claim is not arrogant if in fact it is true! For example, if I said to you that 2+2 =4, would you say that I was being arrogant? No, of course not. The reason why I’m not is simply because its absolutely true! On the other hand, if I said that 2+2=5 then you would be understandably annoyed if I claimed that this calculation was true. In fact you would have several questions to ask about the capability of my maths teacher!
What I hope to do within these few pages is to expose some misconceptions that people have about other religions and to demonstrate exactly why Christianity is the only way to God, and therefore why it is not arrogant to claim it is the only truth.
Many people are familiar with the analogy that God is at the top of a mountain and there are many pathways which lead to him. The analogy is both simple and appealing, but is it true?
Every summer, my wife and I go mountain climbing in Scotland. There is one mountain in particular that we’ve scaled several times, approaching it by different paths which lead to the summit. The one thing about the mountain is this, no matter what route you take, the top of the mountain never changes and the view remains the same. If all roads lead to God, then one would expect the same God to be at the top, and it is precisely at this vital point that the ‘one mountain many paths’ analogy falls down, since the God at the end of each religion is quite different.
There are so many religions in the world that space does not permit me to explore them all. Nevertheless I would like to concentrate on the four main religions of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism in order to show how even within these four faiths there are immense differences with the "God" at the top of the mountain.
To begin with let us briefly consider what each of these religions say about God.
Religion Their View of God
Islam There is one God (Allah) who is holy.
He cannot be known by us personally
Hinduism There are many gods
(in the Hindu faith there are over 350 million gods)
Buddhism There is no God
Christianity There is one God who is holy.
He can be known by us personally and wants us to know him
Immediately we can see that the ‘view’ from the top of the mountain is quite different (using our opening analogy). Clearly these four faiths cannot all be right. Besides if all roads lead to the same God then Buddhism is ruled out immediately because it doesn’t believe in a God at all!
Having established that there are major differences within these main religions, let’s see if there is an area where they agree. First of all, there are highly commendable elements within other religions. Many have high standards of ethics and morality within their faith which must not be rubbished in any way. But the big question is this: Are people capable of living up to those high ethics? The sad truth is that whether you live as a Buddhist in Bangkok or a Muslim in Malaysia, every person has failed to live up to the standards of their faith. Having failed to live up to them, the one thing that is needed is to be forgiven and saved from our many failings and sin.
The Big Issue of Forgiveness
In one form or another the different faiths all recognise that man is sinful, and that sin separates us from God because he is holy and we are not. Therefore if sin is the one thing that keeps us out of heaven because it alienates us from God, then we have to examine how these faiths effectively deal with the problem of sin.
Absolutely every faith (apart from Christianity) believes that if one does enough good works either by some form of religious activity such as praying, giving money to charity or doing good deeds then this will somehow compensate and so appease God. The hope is that the good in the person’s life will outweigh the bad - rather like the scales of justice. But here we encounter two huge problems. First of all, we have no idea how much sin have we committed! Indeed, few of us can remember all of the wrong things that we have said and done within one day let alone a lifetime! Besides, it isn’t just the things that we regard as being sinful that we have to take into account, it’s ultimately the things that God says are sinful, for if God is God, then he is the one with the authority to decide. Second, how much praying, fasting, or good deeds do you have to do in order to pay for any one of those sins? We don’t know! In fact, we can’t know, for only God can know these things. Therein lies our problem. We know that we need to be put right with God, but we have no idea how much we have to do to guarantee that we have paid for all of our sins in full. In other words, man is hopelessly lost and he cannot save himself.
If we cannot save ourselves, then it stands to reason that the only person who could save us is God himself, for it is He who will judge us one day. In the Bible, God clearly tells us that every person is sinful by nature (in other words, no-one is perfect). That’s why the Bible says, ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). Sin separates us from a relationship with God both in this life and in eternity. But God goes on to tell us that our sin carries a penalty and that penalty is death: ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). Nothing else can pay the wages of our sin but death.
Clearly we will all die if we pay those wages, and that is precisely why God stepped in to rescue us by sending his Son Jesus! Jesus died in our place to pay the wages for our sin in full. He did this for several reasons. Firstly, because of his immense love for us (John 3:16) and secondly, because we could never pay for our own sins (Proverbs 14:12).
If Jesus is both fully God and fully man, and He paid for our sins in full, then we can be absolutely certain that he has done just that! It is God that we have offended by our sinfulness and amazingly God, in the person of Jesus Christ, is the one paying the price for our sins. So we are guaranteed that our sin is paid for in full because God has paid the price. This is both the mercy and the majesty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To summarise then:
All world religions, with the exception of Christianity, rely upon man vainly trying to please God by means of religious activity or their good works. Whereas Christianity is totally reliant upon God reaching down to man in the person of Jesus Christ and offering total forgiveness through him.
This is why Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father, except through me.’ (John 14:6)
Jesus is the only person who completely pays the price for sin and makes us fit for heaven. That’s why the Bible says, ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Romans 6:23) ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.’ (John 3:16-18)
We started with the analogy that all roads lead up the same mountain to God. But I trust that you will have seen that they all, except Christianity, lead to a dead end by trying to approach God on man’s merits and not on God’s. Only through faith in Jesus will a person see eternal life precisely because he is the only person who sufficiently and fully pays for the one thing that keeps us out of heaven... sin. For Jesus is the way to God, the truth of God and the life-giver from God. I would like to leave you with a different analogy from the mountain one which we started with:
Let’s just imagine that you have the chance of flying to the sun in one of two rockets. The first rocket is built by man using materials found only on earth. The second rocket (and here is where we have to use our imagination) comes from the sun and is built from materials there. It has landed on earth and is now ready for a return flight back to the sun. Which rocket would you travel in?
Chances are you would choose to travel in the second rocket, which came from the sun in the first place. Because you are absolutely certain that it is capable of withstanding the heat of the sun for the simple reason that it was built there. The first rocket however gives you no such guarantee.
This analogy shows the fundamental difference between other world religions and Christianity. Other world religions are man trying to reach up to a holy God using man made materials. Christianity on the other hand is God reaching down to the world in the person of Jesus Christ who has already come from heaven and is therefore capable of carrying us back there too. Tell me, which would you put your trust in? In the man-reaching-up-to-God, or the God-reaching-down-to-man religion? If you don’t want to take the risk then put your faith in Jesus today (How to become a Christian).
For more information contact Colin Webster at Cornerstone church or why not join a Discovering Christianity Course.
© Copyright 2001 Cornerstone Evangelical Church
All Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE,
NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers,
A member of the Hodder Headline Group.
All rights reserved.
"NIV" is a registered trademark of International Bible Society.
UK trademark number 1448790.
Reply FCK TinyMCE
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