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Destination Truth: The Road Goes Ever On

Yes, I borrowed the title of this post from a television show and my favorite author (J.R.R. Tolkien). The topic of this post has been on m...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Which god(s) do you follow?

I have enjoyed participating in discussions about various blog topics pertaining to things Divine (especially those that involve the teachings of Herbert Armstrong). Nevertheless, that participation has underscored for me the fact that many former Armstrongites have merely exchanged one god for another.

Think about it. Instead of the Bible or HWA/GTA, many folks have seemingly turned to newer and better god's to replace the old ones. For some, it's science. For others, it's an advanced degree from an accredited college, a scholar, an expert, an elaborate theology, a high IQ, etc. For most of these folks, something or someone has to be able to decipher or explain everything.

Unfortunately, many of them seem destined to go from one disappointment to another. It's like some of us are blinded to the truth of that old proverb that warns us that it is dangerous to place all of our eggs in one basket.

Yes, science is great, but it simply cannot supply us with all of the answers we need. Likewise, a good historian will use multiple sources to arrive at his/her conclusions. Yes, there are primary and secondary sources. Some sources are clearly superior to others, but please explain to me how choosing to rely on one source is superior to relying on many. Doesn't perspective and outcome improve when many different kinds of sources are tapped?

I appreciate and rely on the expertise of many individuals. I welcome the input of scientists, scholars and intellectuals; but I have to remind myself that they are only tools in a larger quest. Too many of us look to our gods to help us to triumph over our enemies. That may provide a temporary thrill or feeling of intellectual or moral superiority, but it doesn't get us any closer to the real God.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Will God judge everyone by the same standard?

A guest post over at Ambassador Watch about the evidence (or lack thereof) available on the Web regarding allegations that a now deceased religious leader (Herbert Armstrong) was guilty of incest (during the early and formative years of his ministry) has generated a lot of commentary. It has also provoked a great deal of thought/reflection by this blogger. Of particular interest to me, was the fact that almost everyone who contributed to the discussion (ranging in opinion from guilty to not guilty - and somewhere in between) attempted to offer a rationale/set of standards for reaching the conclusion he/she arrived at.

That got me to thinking about the way that God judges. Hence, the question: Will God judge everyone by the same standard? I think that most Muslims, Jews and Christians would be inclined to answer that question in the affirmative. Of course, if you dug a little deeper into what that standard might be, you would most likely receive a wide range of opinions.

However, it would be hard for any Christian who professes any degree of confidence in Scripture to answer that question with anything but an emphatic NO! Why? Because it is apparent that many of the authors and characters of the Christian Bible (including Jesus Christ) believed that leaders would be held to a higher standard than the laity.

Jesus said that anyone who wanted to be a leader within the movement he founded would have to be the "servant of all." (Mark 9:36 & 10:44). He also is reported to have said that the scribes and Pharisees occupied Moses' place for that generation and would consequently "receive the greater damnation." (Matthew 23:1-14) Also, in the Parable of the Faithful Steward, Christ is quoted as saying: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required..." (Luke 12:41-48) Christ had also apparently told his followers that they would be judged by the same standard they employed in judging others. (Matthew 7:2)

This same attitude regarding God differentiating between how the leadership of the community would be judged relative to the average Jack and Jill is evident in the writings of Paul and James. Paul said that he held himself to a higher standard so as to set a good example for others. Indeed, he wrote to the saints at Rome and Corinth that personal conviction and conscience would play a significant role in God's judgment. (Romans 14 & I Corinthians 8-10) Moreover, in his epistle to Timothy, he makes it very clear that leaders must meet a higher standard. (I Timothy 3:1-13) Finally, James said that people should be very careful about pursuing a position of leadership within the community because "we shall receive the greater condemnation" OR, as the NKJV renders it, "we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)

In addition to these more stringent requirements for leaders, it is also reasonable to suppose that those folks would also be subject to the same instructions regarding proper Christian conduct which Paul offered to the Thessalonians to "abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) This fits with the qualifications for a bishop which I've already referenced: "he must have a good report of them which are without..." (I Timothy 3:7)

Hmmm, what do you think? Will Christian leaders be judged by the same standard as their flocks? Does God expect more from them?

Monday, May 9, 2016

God As Mother

Another Mother's Day has come and gone, but the notion of mother lingers. The regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I almost always place masculine references to God in italics. WHY? Because, if the God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures exists (and I believe that to be the case), then we are forced to acknowledge that this entity embodies characteristics that are typically associated with both genders (male and female).

To be sure, the paternalistically inclined human authors of the Old and New Testament preferred to envision God as a male - the ultimate paterfamilias. Nevertheless, God's female side is implied in many passages. In the book of Genesis, we read that God created mankind in "His" own image - male and female (Genesis 1:26-27). This notion is further reinforced by the insistence that the two (man and woman) constitute one whole person - the clear implication being that each one is only half of the whole when separate.

Merriam-Webster uses a number of interesting words in its definition of mother. Consider the employment of terms like parent, "superior of a religious community," one who is old, the source/origin of something, and the rearing of children with tenderness/affection. Couldn't those same terms be applied to the God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures?

William M. Thackeray once said: "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children." (brainyquote.com) If that's true, and Jesus Christ said that we must become like little children, what does that suggest about how we should perceive God?

Like many of my fellow Christians, I have derived much inspiration and comfort from picturing God as a loving Father. But does that notion accurately/completely encompass God's TRUE nature? When we only consider God from the paternal perspective, haven't we created a distorted image of God in our minds (and thus violated two of the Ten Commandments)? Can you imagine God in the guise of a loving Mother?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Has God gone berserk or is the world coming to its end?

Looks like it's going to be Hillary vs The Donald this year. I'm sure that some of the folks on the Fundamentalist side of Christianity are wondering if God has lost control (or "His" mind). Others will conclude that the end of the world is finally within sight.

Just wait, I prophesy that (very soon) there will be numerous articles on just how far the United States has slid into the toilet (and, with elaborate detail and relish, just how far the old girl still has to go). In two months, you're going to be calling me a prophet! Look out Bob and Gerald, here I come!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The ability to contribute

In a private response to my previous post, one of my friends made the following comments:

"Did you run out of ideas?

But to address your comments: how about we ask 'How can a person who is 2 years old, never read a thing, and doesn't even speak in sentences possibly have anything of value or interest to offer in the way of insights into God or his purposes and expectations? Of course, such a question implies that literate, articulate adults have made nothing but stellar contributions in this regard.' The fact is that one doesn't imply the other, nor does the reasoning demonstrate that attributes are not limiters.

There ARE characteristics that do limit a person's ability to contribute. I'm not suggesting you have any of them, but your implication seems to be that nothing could limit a person's contribution. I disagree, but I prefer to examine an argument rather than its author."

This prompts me to ask: What are the characteristics that limit a person's ability to make meaningful contributions to this topic?

My friend's substitution of the two year old into my statement is a case in point. Does a two year old have the capacity to offer insights into God and "His" character that could be considered superior to what a reasonably intelligent and well educated adult might be able to contribute? Jesus Christ seemed to think so. In addition to quoting this passage from the Old Testament: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise," he said: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."

When considering some of the attitudes that we bring to the table in trying to answer such questions, I am reminded of just how impaired our judgment can be on occasion. The story of how God chose David to be king is a wonderful illustration of this point. In the final analysis, everything that Samuel had considered to be an important quality for a king was dismissed by God as unimportant.

I have a cousin with Down Syndrome. I will not dispute the fact that she has a low IQ, or that her intellectual abilities are severely impaired. Nevertheless, she continues to surprise me with some of the things that come out of her sweet little mouth! She has made her mother a better person, a better Christian (she has made me a better person).

In my original post on this subject, I referred to the story of the poor widow's mite. The crowd was impressed with the contributions that the wealthy folks had been able to offer, but Christ was impressed with her meager offering. Indeed, he said that her offering was superior to all of theirs. They had contributed from their abundance, while she had given everything she had to give. Clearly, the ability to contribute doesn't necessarily trump the willingness to do so.

In the book of Genesis, there is another story that I regard as a very interesting parable: The Tower of Babel. In the story, God is purported to have said: "this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." They wanted to build a tower that would "reach unto heaven." In the story, only the restraint imposed upon them by God prevented them from achieving their objective. Are there real limitations on our abilities to make meaningful contributions to this topic? OR are most of the things that we consider to be limitations only imaginary? Is imagination the factor that allows us to supercede our limitations?

And, in answer to my friend's first question: No, I haven't run out of ideas yet!