St. Benedict

In our last post, we quoted a prayer by St. Benedict.  St. Benedict is a Catholic saint who lived from 480 to 543.  He is probably most famous for his St. Benedict’s Rule whose “purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices, but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic life of such laymen as wished to live as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel”. [1]

Instead of practicing a theoretical Christianity he tried to practice a Christianity that could be lived in the real world.  “Benedict had the revolutionary idea that work was a necessary instrument of virtue almost on a par with prayer, and often indistinguishable from it. To him it was the natural condition of man, and he envisioned a state of life in which the physical components of work, prayer and reading were in all ways equal. He warned against outward expressions of piety and excessive mortification, especially when they were found to be, as is most often the case, an end in themselves. His was a voice of moderation and reason; his Rule is, indeed, a document about how a man can live with God in an imperfect world.” [2]

While I do not consider living in a monastery living in the real world, St. Benedict’s aim was noble.  Those of us who work in manufacturing or in call centers or in the medical profession or in a nonprofit organization do not have a St. Benedict to guide us; we must figure out for ourselves how to live with God in our profession.  It is odd that we see so little discussion on how to apply Christianity to our work.

_________________________

[1]  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm

[2]   http://christdesert.org/Saint_Benedict/St__Benedict_and_His_Order/A_Brief_History/index.html

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

A Book of Prayers

Recently I was at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, St. John’s Catholic Church just outside Batesville, IN for a wedding.  This church is in the countryside among the rolling farm lands of Indiana.  For some reason I felt really comfortable there.  It was like many a good soul has worshipped in this church.

I have not been to church much but when I do go I always learn something.  Maybe that is telling me I should go more often.

This church had a book of prayers and one prayer sums up what we are trying to accomplish in this blog.  It is a prayer of St. Benedict.

Gracious and Holy Father, grant us the intellect to understand you, reason to discern you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, a spirit to know you, a heart to meditate upon you.  May our ears hear you, may our eyes behold you, and may our tongues proclaim you.  Give us grace that our way of life may be pleasing to you, that we may have the patience to wait for you and the perseverance to look for you.  Grant us a perfect end – your holy presence, a blessed resurrection and life everlasting.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

Eyewitness

Christians often assert that we only need to investigate the accounts of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life to have certainty of the validity of what the Bible teaches.  But is this true?

Because of DNA testing, there have been scores of people who have been released from prison for a crime they did not commit.  Some were convicted based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses.  It is a firmly established fact that eyewitness accounts are not necessarily accurate.  We are all finite which means our perception of what actually occurred is at times faulty.

God made us finite so he obviously understands our limitations.  So how can he expect us to believe the historical events written about in the Bible are true?  Maybe he does not.  Maybe he is more interested in how we live our lives than in whether we believe a particular historical event is true.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

An Instant in Time

It is somewhat surprising that a movie about World War II raises questions about the Christian doctrine of salvation.  But the movie Fury does so at least in my mind.

In this film a Christian character, Boyd, displays his faith by holding the hands of dying German soldiers and urging them to “in their last moments to call on the name of Christ and be saved”. [1] So what is the question this scene raises?  It appears that Boyd is doing exactly what Christian doctrine says he should do.

The question is simple:  Why would God ordain that salvation be conditioned upon what we say or believe at one instant of time instead of what we do in our entire life?  Is what we do with our entire lives meaningless and of no regard because of what we do at one point in time?  The Christian doctrine of salvation would seem to indicate so.

 __________________________

[1]  Megan Basham, “Fire and Fury”, World, November 1, 2014, pp. 23-24.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

The Renovation of Our Soul

On this blog page you will notice a link to Amazon and to a book I have written.  This book documents with scores of scripture passages and 179 footnotes the logic behind the main theme we have discussed in this blog—namely that salvation is the change of our soul so it becomes like God and not through belief in Jesus.  Belief in Jesus is only a means to this end, not the end itself.

In all my discussions with Christians, I have not heard any argument that invalidates what I have written.  But then, more likely than not, I have not heard all the arguments against my position.  So read my book and let’s discuss!

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

Making Mistakes

I’m reading a book about beekeeping.  In the beginning of the book the author states that the most important thing we need to learn in life is how to learn and we learn by making mistakes.  Yes, we can learn from the mistakes of other but the primary way we learn is through our own mistakes.  He also states that the reason children learn so rapidly is because they are not afraid to make a mistake.  We adults let our ego get in the way of learning because making mistakes implies a certain deficiency—a lack of knowledge.  The result is that we do not push the boundary of what we know.  If we want to learn we will make mistakes but what is most important is that we learn from our mistakes. [1]

It is because we are finite that we must learn through our mistakes.  Because we are finite we will encounter situations where we will not know what to do.  If we do not know what to do we will try something and quite a few times what we try will be wrong.

When we make a mistake in the area of morality, we call it a sin.  Now most of the time we know what we ought to do but there are times where we do not.  Regardless, what is important in either case is that we learn from our mistakes (sins).  That is what God requires.  Ezekiel 33:12-16 and Ezekiel 18:20-24 tells us that Israel’s pattern of behavior was important to God and our pattern of behavior is determined by whether we learn from our mistakes or not.

God considered David to be a man after his own heart in spite of David’s failings because David learned from his mistakes.  When the prophet Nathan talked to David about his inappropriate relationship with Bathsheba, David could have told Nathan to take a hike or could have had him killed—after all David was king.  Instead David learned from his mistake and his repentance is recorded in the beautiful Psalm 51.

Each one of us will make mistakes throughout our lives.  The question is whether we will learn from those mistakes.

 __________________________

[1]   Michael Bush.  The Practical Beekeeper.  X-Star Publishing Company, 2001, pp. 12-13.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

Is Religion Bad for Marriage?

A recent book has as its premise that liberal states have a lower divorce rate than conservative, conservatives tend to be more religious so therefore religious beliefs are bad for marriage.  Well, I’m not quite sure of their logic since religion is only one element in a person’s life and also correlation does not necessarily equal causation.  However, my interest lies in the response of Christians to this idea.

Janie B. Cheaney questions this statement by asserting that if we make a distinction between religious affiliation and religious practice this statement does not hold because those who attend church regularly are less likely to divorce than those who do not. [1]

It seems that some Christians want their cake and eat it too.  Most doctrinal statements assert that only by belief in Jesus and his death for our sins can we be saved.  However, when issues such as the above come up they are quick to talk about practice not just belief.

If salvation is just a matter of belief, then why does it matter what our practice is?  I would like an answer.

__________________________

[1]   Janie B. Cheaney, “A little religion”, World, September 6, 2014, p. 21.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

Free Speech

Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air in the Roman Catholic Church.  His emphasis on helping the poor instead of enjoying the perks of his office is very Christ-like.  However, I do disagree with him when he states there are limits to free speech and that we cannot insult or make fun of the faith of others.  While I do not believe making fun of or insulting others is acceptable behavior, I am not willing to willing to support laws against hate speech.  Once you start to limit what people can say, it is a slippery slope to banning all manner of speech including religious speech that runs counter to the current moral climate of a country.

Jesus did not tell us to use the coercive power of government to silence our critics.  Instead he told us to “. . .Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28, NIV).  While being insulted for our beliefs is never a pleasant experience, we need to follow Jesus’ teachings instead of using Machiavellian tactics.

Posted in Reasons | Leave a comment

Divine Intervention

The tsunami in Indonesia in 2004 left a path of destruction that left little standing.  In the city of Banda Aceh, the only structure standing in many areas of the city was a mosque and as a result many lives were spared.  How did the mosques survive?  Was it the sturdy construction or was it, as some Muslims maintain, divine intervention?  Also, some Muslims believe the tsunami was God’s punishment for their lack of devotion to God. [1]

These beliefs of Muslims are no different that Christian responses to natural disasters.  We humans, regardless of our particular religious beliefs, have a tendency to attribute anything we cannot control or understand to God.  Is this response valid?  The 2004 tsunami killed around a quarter million people.  Did God determine he needed to kill this many people to persuade the survivors to be more religious?  If he did, that is a very brutal God.

_________________________

[1]  Andi Jatmiko, “Mosques gave refuge in tsunami”, Tulsa World, December 24, 2014, p. A13.

Posted in God's Sovereignty | Leave a comment

Bald Eagles

In some areas of the country, this might not be an unusual sight but here in Tulsa, OK I recently spotted a bald eagle in the wild.  It was the first time I had seen this bird in the wild.  Now I know there are places nearby where eagles have been released into the wild and one can see them at these locations.  However, to just be driving along a road and see a bald eagle just like one would see a hawk was a special experience.

I watched the eagle for a period of time and took some pictures.  As luck would have it just as I put my camera away the eagle took off flying so I was not able to get any pictures of it in flight.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Eagle 12-12-14 005 Eagle 12-12-14 011 Eagle 12-12-14 012 Eagle 12-12-14 015

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment