My husband is preparing a potpourri of Lenten Bible study passages, questions for discussion, songs to learn etc. for his annual Wednesday and Thursday night Lenten study groups in our churches. Some of the things we have talked about lately have me musing on some questions and ideas that are interesting to contemplate:
We have read so many articles and seen so many tv documentaries over the years giving various scientific explanations for the miracles of the Bible. I don't actually dispute most of those findings as real possibilities but what I find miraculous is the timing of those events and how they effected the lives of God's people. I am thinking of Moses for example as he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Yes, all the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea can be explained in natural terms, but to me the miracle is the way those events lined up to remove the Israelite people from centuries of captivity. Maybe sometimes miracles ARE natural events that would have happened anyway, but the miracle then to me is in the timing; in the connection between the event and the impact on the lives of God's followers.
There is a large movement within some of the Christian churches telling people that all religious folk ultimately serve the same God and so everyone should remain true to the religious tradition in which they were raised. They should not go seeking other paths to salvation in this life or the next. So, as Christians the best ministry we can have to people of other faiths is to assist them in remaining in and improving on their own traditions rather than proselytizing them for the sake of meeting Jesus. For example, if I have a Buddhist friend my ministry to her is to make sure she becomes the best Buddhist she can be. I admit I have a huge problem with this line of thinking. It disturbs me in a couple of ways. Aside from the obvious scriptural admonition by Jesus himself that no one comes to the Father except through him, there are a couple of other concerns that I have about this line of thinking. Firstly, does it not create tremendous bondage to tell people they should not be exploring other religions and cultures? Could it not be a subtle form of racism? Does it not strengthen the divisions that all ready exist between religious cultures? Does it not end up promoting more religious warfare, and ultimately more genocide? There are world views out there the bring their followers to the conclusion that those who disagree with them should be disposed of. We see the results every day on the tv news. Does it not hamper the very mix of peoples and cultures that North Americans in particular (the melting pot and multi-cultural mentalities) are so proud of trying to achieve? Secondly why, as Christians, do we suddenly have the right to tell people of other cultures and world views that they do not have the right to question their own religious and spiritual beliefs when the God of the bible encourages even his own followers, to seek the truth with all their hearts and souls and minds and strength? Why then would we who are Christians not encourage others to seek to discover spiritual truth at every opportunity?
If there is no sin then what do we have to be saved from? Sin is becoming a "four letter word" even in some movements within the Christian church. The sacrifice Christ made has been turned into a meaningless exercise. Personally I don't believe Christ died in vain for some wierd reason of his own invention. If we do not need to be saved from our own inclinations to remain separated from our Creator why does anyone need any kind of religious belief at all? If a good life in the world to come is automatic for for all of humankind then there is no need for discipleship, church, biblical teaching, Jesus or any other belief in any other kind of god. Each person should be able to do what is right in their own eyes and have zero worries about any sort of afterlife that there may be. Is this not only logical? Why then does it seem so difficult to figure out for so many? I admit I have more respect for people who refuse all belief in any god or religion based on their own reasoning than I do for people who promote religious viewpoints and attend places of worship and yet cannot tell me why they believe it is necessary.
So there are just a few thoughts rolling around in my head this morning. Just some questions I have to continue to pursue. Sort of a religious stream of consciousness upon awakening today.
And now: back to the wonderful world of printing church bulletins for services tonight and tomorrow morning, deciding what to feed our guest speaker and his wife for pre-church dinner tonight etc. etc. etc. It is the weekend...the time of the most work for any pastor and spouse.