You have probably concluded from the first three essays in this series that I am a Christian. You would be correct to assume so. I am one of the 2.2 billion people on this planet that shape their worldview based on the principle that Jesus of Nazareth was more than man. Like all Christians, I fail frequently in my attempts to live up to the standard set by Christ, and I rely on a belief that God accepts my frailty and forgives my transgressions as I recognize, repent from, and atone for them.
I would imagine my view of Christianity is slightly outside the mainstream. I am not a Biblical scholar by any means. However, I would guess I’ve read it more than most. It is a wonderful book. If you see no value whatsoever in religion, faith, or purpose it will still be the most important book you ever read. It is a brilliant text for political scientists, historians, philosophers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and teachers. But if I could describe the Bible as relevant to any subject of modernity, it would be psychology. In fact, I would assert that the Holy Bible could and should be the academic text book for the entire field of psychological counseling. Yes, I am aware that this idea sounds ridiculous to a secularist. Nevertheless, the demands, encouragements, and wisdom available to us in this manuscript make it the greatest self-help book in the history of civilization.
As great as my appreciation for the Bible is, I understand and accept that Christian tradition and reasoning are of equal importance to the mind of anyone searching for truth. Scripture is often and easily twisted to mean something so far from the truth that it can seriously damage the spiritual core of all those that aren’t on guard. Shakespeare even wrote about this when he penned:
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
My point is that even the Bible must be looked at through the prism of human reasoning in order to extract its truth. Every passage from Genesis to Revelation is susceptible to twisted interpretation and the misuse of context. As someone that vocally defends the Christian worldview at every opportunity I’ve heard countless atheists, communists, socialists, anarchists, and every other kind of “ist” cherry pick useful verses to advance their own issues and agendas. We have all been in those conversations. And the frightening thing is that it often works! At least in the moment, until we get a chance to think things through with some good old fashion God-given reasoning. Unfortunately, too many of the intellectually lazy accept the mistruths they hear simply because they don’t want to be defined as “bad” or “offensive” in this culture of blame that we live in.
While there is a great attempt on the part of non-Christians to hijack the words of Scripture, this is not nearly as damaging as the often well intended misapplications of the Bible’s messages by clergy and other people of faith. It is impossible to deny the occurrence of doctrinal misinterpretation, because there are so many divisions within the Christian faith that seem to be in constant intellectual opposition. However, I believe the misapplication of Scripture is a much greater problem among the faithful.
Sin, in it’s simplest form, is anything that distances us from the type of life we are called by God to live. If I were to explain this to an atheist I would say, “avoid these things and you and the people around you will have more good days and fewer bad ones”. Simple enough? However, because we are all unique individuals our sinful responses to life’s challenges can come across many ways. Consider this. Science tells us that we all possess a “fight or flight” response to immediate danger. There are some pastors, ministers, and priests that will claim that Christ was a pacifist and that we are called by God to flee violence and conflict. They will use verses from Scripture to make the case that all violence is evil and that we are better off to die a martyr than to save ourselves from such a fate through violent self-defense. I believe that anyone subscribing to this view is more than likely ruled by fear, which Scripture informs us is as evil as hate. Is a life of fear, abuse, and retreat what God had planned for us? I don’t believe so. I can not accept that this glorifies our Creator. Christ told us that the meek shall inherit the earth, not the cowardly. If it is fear that keeps you from defending yourself and your family, then I believe that to be a sinful mindset. I might be wrong, but I think Jesus’ words in in Luke 22:36 back me up on this:
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”
This not only defines the right of private property, but also the right to defend it. And as for self-defense, isn’t personal safety far more important than a money bag? When life and property are viewed as rights given to us by God, one more carefully considers his own obligation to preserve them. If fear is the primary reasoning for not doing so, I believe this to be a sinful opposition to the character and nature of our Creator. There is no Christ-like nobility in equating holiness with fear.
As far as the other half of our “fight or flight” nature, this is the part of our being that Christ speaks to when he tells us to love our enemies. He puts the fight to rest when he tells us to turn the other cheek after a slap to the face that is only damaging to our pride. Coherent human logic informs us of our own need to be safe and the needs of those around us. This logic is bestowed on us by our Creator and therefore intentional disregard of it is an abomination.
As I’ve said before in this series, I am no Biblical scholar. I’m just a guy. I am a guy that believes the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible make up the greatest compilation of knowledge ever assembled. I am also a guy that believes that the gift of Scripture pales in comparison to the delight and wonder of our human reasoning, which is also a loving endowment from our Creator. As I see it, any attempt to rely solely on cut-and-paste scriptural passages without the challenge of our blessed human reasoning is all too similar to the the legalism that Christ criticized so vehemently during His short time with us. Consider that the two should work together in a system of checks and balances. Again, I am just a guy, but I believe the Bible itself supports my belief:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
Romans 2: 14-15
In summary, seek ye first the Kingdom of God. Read your Bible and pray. If your motives are pure, your instincts will guide you to truth.
Essay 5 Coming Soon!
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