According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Of Blood Moons & Prophecy: "What Kind of God Leaves People Behind?"

The question of God's judgment upon a world of sin and woe has come up once again with the release of the latest Evangelical Christian film, Left Behind, asking the value that God has placed upon human life in these terrible times of unholiness, wickedness, and evil.

Time-and-again the bible reader reads within the ancient scriptures of a future judgment to come upon the wicked of the earth before a God who no longer will tolerate the evils of mankind. Who will reap the earth, wiping it clean of all its sin, gathering all sinners into the fierce wine press of his wrath that will spare none, causing all to perish as He once had done during the days of Noah's Great Flood.

Causing all who live during this time of wrath and judgment to be filled with fear-and-dread before the Holy One of Israel who sends forth His bloody angels to reap from the lands of the living its terrible wages of sin and injustice. So that on that day of Great Armageddon and Despair, shall even the great devil himself, fallen Lucifer of the heavens, with his demon minions, be cast into the great and terrible Lake of Fire. Emptying even hell itself on that final day of Judgment. A day like no other. A day described in the Bible as the Day of the Lord.

Thus is the Day of the Lord pictured by many readers of the Bible. A Day of Judgment and Woe. Of a Divine Justice come to reap freely and willfully over the unjust lands of the living. A Day where none escape its sickles of death and demise. Where all mankind will know the awful wrath of the Lord as prophesied by His holy prophets crying out for retribution and mercy.

But, there is a catch... as the movie Left Behind has so prominently shown... that those children of the Lord who have repented of their sins and live in a manner as pleasing this God of wrath will escape the divine judgment on that final day. That God's people will be redeemed from evil's deaths and harms, toils and fears. That the very church of God itself will be taken up (raptured) into the heavens above to witness God's judgment from the safety of His grace and protection.

Even so, this was my firm belief as taught from within its sacred time-hallowed halls of Christian liturgy, song, theologies, and tradition. That the gospel of salvation which I had learned was one where both body and soul will be spared some future day of wrathful judgment - if not in this life, than in the next to come, when death will no longer have dominion over my sinful soul protected by the blood of Jesus.

No less was my understanding of biblical prophecy with its dire warnings to repent and believe. To cling to the heavenly God above whose loving care and protection of His obedient children is the dearest desire of His heart.

And thus was my reading of the Bible of its rich metaphorical language and poetry of an ancient people filled with superstition and doubt. Who marveled at the works of God in their lives in fearful awe and mystery. Who like the church today, sought for a powerful God come to reap the world in His divine wrath and judgment, that had misplaced His gospel of peace and grace through Christ Jesus His Son. God of very God. Eternal Lord over all heavenly lords and earthly kings. Mankind's Redeemer who had come as God's unblemished lamb and Holy High Priest, and there took that same divine wrath and judgment of God upon Himself for all humanity for all time as even to ourselves this day.

However, long years have past and an impressionable youth has matured to realize that Christian theologies built of wrath and judgment do not reveal the God of light and love made weak for our sakes so that we may become whole, healed, restored. That such theologies too easily condemn those different from our faith rather than embrace those differences within the larger mosaic of a global Christianity that may be more unlike us than like us.

Decades later I now wish to see a Christian faith that understands the Day of the Lord as not just a future time in history but an everyday time in the here-and-now. A Day that is always present with us both in its love and its judgments. That continues despite the evil that rules so that love, forgiveness, and forbearance may be evidenced and displayed. Even as bigotry, pride, and greed are everywhere present so too must truth, justice, and avocation for the downtrodden, despised, and outcasts. These are the Days of the Lord.

That this Day of the Lord is an everyday Day which has come to every one of us to confront our sin and wickedness with God's good gifts of the Spirit who offers peace and healing upon the torn lands of our hearts, our families, our broken lives, abuses, and failings.

That Christian teachings of blood moons and future judgment are fictitious and unhelpful to those of the church who wish to "dig in and get their hands dirty" with the remnants of mankind grieving in sorrow at the wickedness of our own refusal to help. To be God's hands and feet for those crying out for protection and justice from the evil of their day.

That Christian prophecies voicing unwavering certainty over future events are built upon fanciful imaginations and not divine intent nor biblical truth. Such charlatans teach of closed futures with closed certainty against a biblical future that is never closed and certain only in that it will be redeemed. Even as the planner plans without knowing its future course, so does the Divine Planner speak redemption into the course of time's future.

That Christian prophecies which teach we must wait on the sidelines anxiously praying always for God's judgment to come are untrue, unwise, and profoundly denounced by Jesus Himself in the very narratives of the Gospels.

That our "biblical timelines, charts, and teachings" are more the imaginations of our heart unwilling to translate the bible faithfully, factually, and relevantly. Preferring to live in the metaphors and superstitions of our religious hearts than seeing the wonder and awe of the Lord everyday we wake up and every night we go to bed.

That we don't need a God of wrath and power but a God of love and weakness. A God who is bigger than the fears of our trembling hearts. Who is strong when we are weak like He is. Who are humble, kind, wise, and thoughtful. Who do not force heavenly truths upon others but who lives out God's truth in service, sacrifice, and selflessness.

These are the harder the commands. The more difficult commands. They are not the kinds of commands that give immediate solutions to deep problems. But like yeast leaven through the routines of life so that one day the small and insignificant mustard seed might displace the towering trees and craggy mountains in its wake. That it takes a church committed to staying in this world of sin and woe and not one that wants to leave it so quickly - or so dismissively - to blood moons and prophetic omens of doom.

Will there be a time of judgment? Yes, even as there has been past times of judgment. Think of Rome, the barbarous hordes, the crusades, the genocides throughout the earth from then until now. All the earth is in turmoil because of God's great gift of volitional free will that He has bestowed upon mankind.

Will there be a time when all the world must be judged by fire even as it was by water? To the degree that the biblical flood was limited regionally as a cataclysmic event in the lives of those ancient peoples along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers then even now does the earth experience nature's own turmoils and troubles. To live on this earth is no guarantee to live without hurricane and tornado, tsunami or earthquake, fire or calamity.

Does God send the wind and the fire? Yeah, He is its creator.

Does God control the wind and the fire? Nay, verily, He does not. He goeth where it will go even as we do in our very own lives.

Does God send us to do evil and sin? Nay, He does not.

Is God responsible for our evil and sin? Nay, He is not. We are free will creatures even as we live in a volitional (indeterminate) creation filled with chaos and disorder. No less is sin's effect upon mankind's free willed heart to do right or to do wrong.

So where is this God of creation and of mankind? He is here with us in all events.

Is God helpless to save? Perhaps He is, given the measure of volition He has endowed creation and mankind. But perhaps, given the volition of creation and mankind He is not.

Will evil be allowed to stand? Perhaps, given the responsibility He has placed upon mankind to do His will. To observe His command to love one another. To seek and to save and to help.To not oppress nor take the lives of others.

How will the End Times end? Let us assume for argument's sake that we are now, and have always been, in the End Times.

How will they end? It's really up to you. The kind of theology you preach. The kind of beliefs you allow to live in the midst of your heart. The kind of actions you teach and use. The kinds of hopes and fears you allow to be embraced by your words and deeds.

For myself, I believe in a God who will never leave anyone behind. Who will do all that He can to preserve and protect all the children of men. Not only those of faith but those of non-faith. Who seeks the lost lambs of life that none are forgotten nor neglected against the evils of our day.

I believe in a God who loves first and judges second. Who judges as He must but who seeks to embrace mankind within His atoning love every moment of our existence. Whose gospel is one of peace and goodwill. Whose ethic is to go out and love all. Even our enemies. And that the church is to make every effort in observing these commands as it can.

I believe in a God who is both strong and weak. Strong to save, weak before the decrees of His Word to allow us the freedoms of our hearts however evil or wicked. Who stands before the winds and commands its courses even as the winds on their own behalf go where they go in the chaos of their constitutions. This too is the decree of God.

And finally, whether we deem our time on earth as before the Day of the Lord, or as living in the End Times of His Judgment and Grace, to know that Christ is our Savior, God's Word our light, God's Spirit our Advocate and Counselor. To not be so foolish as to place our words into God's holy Word. Nor our ideas and superstitions upon the covers His speech. To be sound-hearted, common-sensed, and filled with fear and wonder at the mysteries of God in His daily commune and communication with His creation. Even mankind.

I don't believe in a God who leaves people behind. I don't believe in an evil God who sends calamity upon His children. I don't believe in thinking that my future is closed except as it is portended in the salvation of our Lord who will bring redemption to mankind by the fury and might of His own will.

R.E. Slater

October 8, 2014

"From springtime to harvest to the following springtime season, year-after-year,
season-after-season, all is the Day of the Lord. From the Passover of our Lord's
atonement to the gathering in of our fragile souls as His earthly tabernacles (cf, sukkot)

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