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The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013

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The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark


         “This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
         a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
         – Jana Riess


This is a powerful read.  Just powerful.
I’m often challenged.  I’m often stretched.  This book did both, but it did something else as well.  It “convicted” me.  I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it.  It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes.  That’s pretty much always a good thing.

So, yes, this is a book about questions.  It’s a book of questions.  Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning.  We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question.  He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go.  He knew the question itself, was sacred.

David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.

In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.”  Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives.  We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.”  “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”

From questioning God, we move to questioning religion.  We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park.  Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”

Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!”  Talk about a misuse of scripture.  Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended.  But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others.  “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack.  We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”

Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.”  We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it.  There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.”  And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”

Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5.  The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.”  Very interesting.

The sixth chapter has up questioning language.  “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.”  “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”

Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations.  “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.”  If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation.  “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”

Chapter 8: Questioning History.  I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school.  I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners.  That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament.  In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.”  It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.”  This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians.  It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”

As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures.  Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.”  I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”

Finally, we question the future.  We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.”  “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information.  There’s a lot to think about here.  Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has.  (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.)  David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing.  This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
All aboard!

– df

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t.  It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.

– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.

– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.

– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span.  There’s always more to a person than we know.”

– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers.  And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.

– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.

– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.

– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.

– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.



 

TORN November 23, 2012

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TORN
Rescuing The Gospel From The Gays-Vs-Christians Debate.
– Justin Lee

I’ve read a number of books and articles concerning “gays-vs-Christians.”  (I found Mel White’s “Holy Terror” to be very informative.)

Anyway, when I heard that Justin Lee was writing a book about the subject, I thought “Well. That’s nice.”

I figured it would be an OK book.  I mean, I’m a fan and promoter of his ministry. Still, with all I’ve read, I didn’t really expect anything, well, “special.”

Let me say now, this book is special.

I read one reviewer who said that, much of the time, it was like he was reading his own story.  There are strong marked differences between Justin’s story and mine.  Still, there is much here to which I can relate.

This is an incredibly intimate, raw, real testimony of an amazing young man (nicknamed “Godboy” as a youth) who’s heart for God is primary to his being. [The Force is strong in this one.]

“Torn” is a memoir, but it’s more than that.  It’s also an expose on misinformation.  And, it’s a call, not to arms, but to peace.  It’s written, not with animosity, but with truth spoken in love.  Love towards those whom, greatly due to a lack of understanding, continue to cause damage, oppression, and heartache to God’s LGBT children.

We’re told many personal stories.  If this were a work of fiction, the first chapters of “Torn” would be considered “character development ”  It’s like we really get to know Justin.  He tells us of his realization of being gay, coming out to family and friends, the rejection and hostility from those who should be providing help and support, and later, his experience with the ex-gay movement ( a movement with which I also have first-hand knowledge.)

Speaking of which…

If I have one “fault” to find in “Torn,” it’s that, while discussing the “ex-gay” myth, Justin more than once mentions gay men stuck in “straight” marriages they are not happy with.
That’s fine.  It’s a common occurrence.
But he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are those who,  while reconciled with and accepting of their same-sex attractions, are happily married and genuinely sexually attracted to their opposite-sex spouse, with that spouse being the only opposite-sex attraction.  [Many may fall into the EXex-gay category.]  Yes, these are a minority within a minority, but I’m finding there are more than one might expect.

Moving on.

In the 5th chapter, “Why Are People Gay,” the theories, research and science of why people are gay is addressed.  If you’ve never really looked at the facts that we have (and what we don’t have) this is good introductory material.

In the mid 70’s, someone in our youth group would jokingly say to another, “You know the way you are?  Quit being that way!”
In the chapter “South Park Christians” we examine the reality of that flawed philosophy.  We see that all too often, Christians end up imitating Job’s “comforters” rather that Christ.  Sometimes, sadly, a Christian friend is the last person you can trust.  Well-meaning people, generally loving people, can sow seeds of discord and hate when they think they know things that they really don’t know.

At one point, Justin discovers “The Other Side,” and gets to see what the “party” life is like for many gays.  The thing is, gay or straight, that kind of life is a dangerous road.  It’s a life that Justin knows simply doesn’t mesh with his belief system.

In “Back to the Bible,” we examine the historical, cultural, and “translational” context of the so-called “clobber passages” which some Christians are so anxious to quote (misquote).  Mr. Lee is by no means the first to offer this study, but I must say his presentation is one of the best I’ve read.  Again, his love of God and commitment to truth shine through.

We glean truth from “The Princess Bride, and later from “Fiddler On The Roof.”   Justin quotes from Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” which is a book I also highly recommend.  (Actually, I used that to teach a Sunday School class years ago.  It was that book that provided one of the first steps that led to my “coming out” of right-wing fundamentalism.)
Justin is also honest enough to show that he, too, is not immune to stereotyping the “other.”

There are many insights that Justin gives on how to relate gay friends and family members; material very much needed in the evangelical community.
We’re given suggestions on how to create a better world and “see the church become what God has called her to be.”

One very important factor to remember here is that Justin was not sexually active.  He was not looking for any justification of his actions.  He did and does believe in committed, monogamous relationships.  He was seeking God for whatever God wanted of him, no matter where that would lead.   You’ll be hard pressed to find a more “Bible-based,” Christ-centered approach to the subject matter than you’ll find in “Torn.”

As you read “Torn,” and as Mr. Lee shares from his heart and life, one of two things, I think, will happen:
Either your heart will soften, or it will harden.  I can’t imagine it would remain unchanged.

I check my blog stats often, so I know I have had hundreds of readers from all over the globe.  Most of them, of course, I’ve never met.  Many are now facebook “friends.”  I’ve no idea how many “non-virtual” friends or family members read my writings.  But to all reading now, near and far, known and unknown, if you ever considered reading a book I recommend, make “Torn” that book.
Wherever you stand on gay equality, or the Christian/gay “debate,” if you’ve the slightest interest in having an informedrational discussion of the subject, if you honestly seek understanding, if you want to be a part of reconciliation instead of alienation, you owe it to yourself, and really, to the gay and lesbian friends and family you may not even know you have, to read “Torn.”
I ask you, I encourage you, I implore you, please, read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


“The most important book I’ve read in years.” – Rachel Held Evans

“This is the book that every Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic Christian should read on the question of homosexuality.” – Brian D. McLaren

“This book is full of three things that are not always much in evidence in our debates on sexuality; fresh air, common sense and manifest love of Christ.” – Dr. Rowan Wilson, Archbishop of Canterbury

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


A few quotes:


– Though none of them knew it, they were talking about me.  Laughing at me.  condemning me.  And it was getting to me.

– Dialogue means we must set aside our own prejudices and language preferences for the sake of communication…
gracious dialogue is hard for a lot of people.  It feels wishy-washy to them.

– The church’s “antihomosexual” reputation isn’t just a reputation for opposing gay sex or gay marriage; it’s a reputation for hostility to gay people.

– Because of the way Jesus read and applied Scripture, I could no longer justify condemning a loving, committed, Christ-centered relationship based solely on gender.

– More than anything in the world, I wanted to represent my God well, and I prayed every day for the opportunities to do so.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Some parents have kicked their kids out, disowned them, and written them out of their wills.  Some have even told their kids they wished they were dead.

– Gay…straight…bi-sexual…These words don’t tell us anything about the person’s behaviors, beliefs, or plans for the future; they only tell us to whom the person is generally attracted.

– I believe our goal should be truth, not ideology.

– Outsiders say our hostility toward gays–not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals–has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith. (Kinnaman/Lyons in “unChristian”)

– I knew things were going to be okay.  And God was going to be with me.  The church, however, was another matter.

– A little information can alter our entire understanding of a situation.

– No one wanted to wait tables on Sundays…[Christians were] usually the most demanding, and they’re always the worst tippers…
if you see your table praying before a meal, you can mentally subtract a third from your tip.  [To see how this relates to the subject matter, Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

– So when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, it was a big deal.  Here he was, claiming to represent God, and yet he wasn’t even following one of the most important of all God’s commandments.

– The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.  Christ did not come to lead us to the law…
everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

– What if we were turning people away from God by misapplying the Bible?

– It is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements.

– Stephen Covey reminds us…”seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  We can’t skip the first step in order to get to the second.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Related Links:

Through My Eyes

GCN Online Teaching Videos

For The Bible Tells Me So

A Time To Embrace

Fall To Grace

Give A Damn: Faith

For some of my related experience, read

Tribbles

and

Here I Am

 

“The Naked Gospel” February 9, 2010

“Conviction or Counsel?”

Convict means to find guilty.  The root convict only appears eight times in the Bible.  And not one of those appearances has anything to do with the daily life of the believer!  The gospel of John contains the only passage that joins “Holy Spirit” and “convict.”  [READ John 16:7-9]
Who’s being convicted here?  It’s the world, characterized as people who do not believe in Jesus.

[The Holy Spirit is] our Counselor, or Helper, our Comforter, our Advocate — and the one who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  He prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26).  And he testifies to us concerning our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16).  Rather than dredging up the past, the Holy Spirit trains us for the future.  When sinful behaviors occur in our lives, he reminds us of Jesus’ work on the cross.  We need to know that we’re pure and made for good deeds.  Too many Christians succumb to the Accuser while wrongly attributing these attacks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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– My Review:

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Yet another great addition to my library. 
With all the ground that has been covered by previous readings, this book managed to cover new ground.  It really helps show how religion has added so much to the gospel that the true gospel is considered heresy by much of the “church.”  It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen from truth.
One of my favorite sections is called “Crossing The Line.”  It, alone is worth the price of the book.  It discussed how the dividing line of time, and covenants, was not Christ’s  birth, but his death and resurrection.  I, of course, knew this, but I hadn’t considered the full ramifications; especially concerning the teachings of Jesus under the Old Covenant.
There are some areas that are at opposition with my personal beliefs.  Andrew believes, like many, that Father-Son briefly lost fellowship at the cross. Despite what Jesus felt on the cross, the Father didn’t turn His back on Jesus.  God cannot turn God’s back on God’s self.  (For a great understanding of this, read “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
But, reading a book like this, and disagreeing with one or two points is no big deal.  I will add this to the short  list of books that I will give away multiple copies of.

I can see why earlier versions of this type of material were banned and burned by organized religion, and why the promoters of said material were tortured and killed.  Of course, Jesus was tortured and killed for pretty much the same reasons.   Anyway, thank you, Andrew Farley.

— dave
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Here are more excerpts from “The Naked Gospel,” by Andrew Farley

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“Jesus spoke truth to every audience he encountered. [But]We often attempt to apply directly to our lives every word Jesus said, without considering his audience and purpose. Jesus was born under the law. His audience was under the law, and they needed deliverance from it. Jesus exposed the futility of life under the law.

He exclaimed, “Gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” if you truly want to keep the law (Matthew 5:29-30), so that his Jewish listeners would reach a crossroad. They would decide to try harder or to give up. Once they gave up, they could consider a radical new way.
Jesus’ impossible teachings of “sell everything, sever body parts if necessary, be perfect like God, and surpass the Pharisees with your righteousness” are not honestly compatible with salvation as a gift from God.
Couldn’t we resolve all of this by realizing the dividing line in human history? Peter, James, John, and Paul wrote epistles about life under the New Covenant. Years earlier, Jesus was teaching hopelessness under the Old. The audience wasn’t the same. The covenant wasn’t the same. And the teachings aren’t the same.

Jesus’ harsh teaching aimed at the religious kill you every time. One thing about distinguishing the Old from the New – it always liberates.
Jesus was born under the law. As Hebrews tells us, the Old wasn’t replaced by the New until Jesus’ death.
Trying to mix Jesus’ teachings directed to Pharisees and zealous Jews with the epistles will inevitably result in confusion.

Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

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“There is no greater test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.  If my preaching and presentation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel…There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. –
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One hindrance to understanding the real gospel as life restoration is an obsession with “book knowledge.”  The life of Jesus in us is what matters most.  We shouldn’t equate “Bible smarts” with spiritual maturity.  They’re certainly not one and the same.  As in Jesus’ day, it’s often those who are puffed up about their good handle on what the Scriptures say (not what they mean!) who resist the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
(Jonh 5:39-40).

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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.”  They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it.  They were pursuing a form of godliness.  God never intended for humanity to take upon itself the burden of developing and following a code of ethics.  Adam and Eve reconsidered their confidence in God’s way and opted for morality instead.
Today, we can be deceived by the same offer.  We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fulfilling the law is something that God did in Christ.  Its fulfillment isn’t an ongoing event in the lives of believers today.  God set us free from the law, so that we’re not under it or supervised by it (Galatians 3:25).
The Holy Spirit isn’t motivating us to keep the Mosaic law, nor do I think we should consult the law as our guide in daily living.  This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us instead:  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).  Furthermore, if God were motivating us to adhere to the law, it would be the entire law, not just part of it (James 2:10). [By the way, God did write His laws on our hearts, not the law of Moses.  God’s law, according to Jesus, is “love God, love people.”]
I believe it’s quite clear that believers should have no relationship with the law.  Romans 7 explains that we’ve died to the law, and we’re now married to Another.  God views a return to law-based living as spiritual adultery.  Living by rules is cheating on Jesus!
Christianity was never rooted in the Law, not even in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians (Galatians 2:19).   In fact, the law causes more sinning (Romans 7:5,8).
Paul warns that if we add even a pinch of law to our life in Christ, He’ll be of no value to us (Galatians 5:2-3).  It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living.  We’re presuming that God grades on a curve.  But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.”  Law is a pass-fail system.  And one strike means you’re out.  The law only breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not.

[I’ve always heard people say “I know we can’t keep the law, but we should try and do our best.”  WHAT?!?!?  Scripture never says “Try to keep the law.”  It never says “Do your best.”  It says “Keep it all.  Period.”  The very scriptures they quote completely negate their proposal.  Neither do the Scriptures teach that we do what we can and Jesus does the rest.  God didn’t say that to make us try harder, but to raise the bar so high, we can never do it.  Thank God, Jesus did it for us.]
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.
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Sure, the flesh is delighted to coerce us toward obvious evil.  But the flesh is equally satisfied to initiate religious or moral living admired by others!
Don’t believe for a minute that the flesh is limited in its scope to producing ugly behavior.  The flesh will build any kind of identity, as long as it gains love, attention, and acceptance from someone.
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The Sabbath:  The reality is Christ, and a genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Him; ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God.
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The Tithe:  The same law that mandates a tithe doesn’t allow the pastor to own a home, own property, or own possessions.
(Also read “Tithing and Clergy Salaries.”  Click HERE.)
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Buy “The Naked Gospel” HERE.

 

 
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