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Sola Scriptura and Other Points of Confusion. February 6, 2007

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity.
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I’m either on the path to enlightenment or I’m treading on dangerous ground.  Unfortunately, I don’t know which.  After I finished reading Rome Sweet Home, instead of deciding that Catholicism is definitely stupid, I want to know more.

I don’t think I’ve ever really taken the time to consider many of the stipulations that my faith is based on.  I don’t have much trouble reconciling the faith/works debate, but one of the crucial distinctions between Protestantism and Catholicism is sola scriptura – is the Bible the only source of authority?  2 Timothy 3:9 is often used as the basis for the Protestant interpretation, but I never noticed that the verse said “All Scripture…” instead of “Only Scripture….”  At the same time, I’m very wary of the alternative – is it reasonable to put the church’s interpretation of God’s will over your own, considering many aspects of the Catholic church’s history (indulgences, supposedly having 3 popes at once, corruption, etc.).  One illustration, however, made a lot of sense to me. 

In American law we have the Constitution and case law (when a judge of a higher court interprets a law one way, you’re supposed to follow the ruling).  One of the points that Scott Hahn made was that sola scriptura would be like if the founding fathers gave us a Constitution without the courts, and that was it.  It would probably lead to anarchy, which, you could argue is the religious equivalent of the many denominations of Protestantism.

I’m still very unclear about the Catholic plan for salvation.  If it comes down to “be a good person,” I’m quite clear that that would notbe the answer.  I also have issue with the fact that most of the other kids in my CCD classes consisted of the worst-behaving students from my public school.  Regardless, my respect for the Catholic church has been steadily growing since my anti-Catholic days back in college.  I’m increasingly beginning to notice the Catholic church has been the only religious institution to take a hard-line stance on issues that I previously thought were non-issues.  For example, I don’t have a moral problem with contraception, but I can see how it could be bad for society as a whole. 

In any case, digging deeper into my faith and knowing why I believe what I believe is something that I have to do.  I have to be able to face God on judgement day and say that I’ve sought him with all my mind and my soul.  I feel like I have such a big task in front of me and I don’t know when I’ll find the time to read and research as much as I think I’ll need to.

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Multiculturalism January 27, 2007

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity, Politics.
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The first time I heard the term “multiculturalism” used negatively was probably a little over a year ago.  In school we were always taught that multiculturalism was a good thing. My college’s student center was known as the Multicultural Center.  Also, the opposite, for me as a minority, meant that everyone would have to act white.

One of the main arguments I hear against multiculturalism is that it promotes moral relativity, claiming that all cultures are equal.  I don’t think that they’re the same thing, though.  I’m not opposed to multiculturalism to the extent that it means diversity, but I do think that moral relativity is hogwash.  Every culture has different strengths and weaknesses.  In America, we should celebrate the stronger aspects of different cultures, but we should not be afraid to tell people that what they’re doing is stupid, detrimental, or wrong, even if it’s attributable to the culture they grew up in.

The Church today often celebrates multiethnicity.  My college fellowship was named Multiethnic InterVarsity.  Upon reading Divided by Faith (worthy of a separate post), I decided that as a Christian, diversity is important to God, and I should do my part in trying to bridge cultural gaps.  My home church is 50% Black, with a Black pastor, and I went so far as to join the Black Law Student Association in law school.  A fascinating post I recently stumbled on made me rethink all of it.  The author essentially argues that multiethnic churches destroy actual diversity because they unintentionally diminish ethnic diversity.  You can read it here.

I still believe that diversity is a wonderful thing.  I just don’t know what it means to be diverse anymore.

I’m Glad I Don’t Live In Europe January 26, 2007

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity, Politics.
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Today I was reading a thread on the BBC about whether Catholic adoption agencies should be exempted from gay rights laws.  A lot of the comments unsurprisingly were centered around either “the Bible says homosexuality is wrong,” or “the church is outdated and organized religions only spread hate.”

To me, this really comes down to two legal issues: freedom of association and the state’s interest in protecting its orphans.  (Granted I don’t know much about the British legal system.)  I don’t believe that children in adoption agencies will be harmed if Catholics are allowed to discriminate when deciding which parents to match their children with because Catholic agencies are not the only adoption agencies in England.  Forcing religious groups to alter their beliefs to what the government decides is “morally right,” is curbing people’s freedom to worship.  While the secular mindset isn’t an organized religion per se, it’s a set of beliefs all the same, and the proposed legislation is no different than Christianity/Muslims/etc. imposing their beliefs on others.  If Catholic agencies are not exempted from the gay rights legislation, I would completely support their decision to close their adoption agencies in Britain entirely.

There are some arguments that the church shouldn’t be above the laws of the land, and if the church were to be exempted, the legislation would be effectively meaningless.  However, anti-discrimination laws should not be applied to private and public institutions identically.  Everyone has the right to be racist/sexist/homophobic if they want to be.  The government just can’t endorse it.  In America, the church and the state are supposed to be separate.  Here, as in elsewhere in the Western world, it seems like instead of the church meddling with governmental affairs, the state is the one encroaching on the church.

What Shakes My Faith December 16, 2006

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity.
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I recently came across a college friend’s blog (whom I no longer keep in touch with), and I learned that he converted to Catholicism.  In college, I didn’t know him well, but we were in the same fellowship and we attended the same church.  I have a deep respect for him both in terms of his character and his critical thinking skills.

When people I know convert to another religion other than Christianity (as I know it), I often think that it’s because they don’t really understand the Christian doctrine.  But this guy knew the faith.  He understood Christianity theology better than I ever have.  His wife (who also converted) went on a full time missions trip after college.  It makes me wonder if there’s something I could be missing.

I think that my faith should be strong enough to stand up to challenges – that’s how I know I’m believing in the right thing.  Thus said, I’ve decided to read Rome Sweet Home by Kimberly and Scott Hahn over Christmas break.  The couple that wrote the book were both fairly hard-core protestants before converting to Catholicism, so I think that perspective will be helpful.

Am I seriously thinking about converting to Catholicism?  Not yet.  But I think it will be interesting to re-examine it after having grown up in the Catholic church, and then converting out.  Without having done any research into the merits of Catholicism, my main beef with it is that it’s very impersonal and maybe as a result of that, I see very little in the way of the “fruit of the Spirit” in the Catholics that I know.  (Not that there aren’t screwed up Christians, but as a whole.)

What I do believe: I (along with the rest of humanity) am a sinner, and I deserve to go to hell.  Jesus Christ is the son of God, who came to earth to die for my sins.  There’s nothing that I alone can do to reconcile myself to God.  I believe that I am saved through faith alone, but that faith without works means that my faith is dead.  I believe in the trinity and that only through Christ Jesus can men get to heaven. 

I don’t really know how God wants me to manifest my faith, although this is no excuse to be complacent and do nothing.  “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall finid; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” –Matthew 7:7.  Amen.

Answered Prayers November 29, 2006

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity.
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This summer I prayed for both our school’s Christian Legal Society and that I would find people to fellowship with and keep me accountable.  The Lord has blessed CLS with an unusually large and active number of Christian 1Ls as well as some awesome leadership.  I was initially worried about who was going to lead the group, but the two chairs have done a terrific job.  Among many other things, God is teaching me that I don’t need to be in control of everything, and that sometimes it’s just best to follow.  Additionally, four of the 1L women have decided to start a bible study, as I mentioned in my post supra.  The women are wonderful and the bible study is also a blessing.

Thank you, Lord for answering my prayers!

Running With Horses November 17, 2006

Posted by betweennaps in Christianity.
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Mentally, I know that there is only one God who is the same in both the New Testament and the Old Testament.  Yet one thing that has always struck me is how different the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament come across in the Bible.  The God of the Old Testament feels legalistic and stern, almost to the point of being heartless.  The God of the New Testament feels loving and gentle.  He seems to be more concerned with the plight of poor people and having compassion for sinners.

My perception of a dual-faced God is gradually being clarified.  The bible study I’m in just finished a six-week series on Jeremiah.   We started with God calling Jeremiah and sending him a vision of a boiling pot.  God tells him, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land…. I will pronounce my judgements on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.”  Jeremiah 1:14,16.  We finished in Jeremiah 29, where Judah has been exiled into Babylon, and God tells them “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters….When the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:6-7, 10-11.

I think it’s interesting that God exiles Judah into Babylon as a judgment for their sins, yet when they get there, his attitude isn’t “Gotcha!  …Bet you’ll remember to listen next time, bastards.”  Rather, he follows through with his word while at the same time loving them and wanting them to prosper.  “This is how it is, but they’re part of my plan and I still want the best for you.”

 I don’t know if God exiled Judah into Babylon because those were the natural consequences of their actions or to discipline them.  Perhaps both.  But God never lost his poise.  How awesome it is to serve a God who knows what he’s doing and who has plans to make us the best that we can be – even when we don’t think much of ourselves.  When Jeremiah (who initially had reservations about his age) asks God why the wicked prosper, God tells him: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?  If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”  Jeremiah 12:5

Perhaps one day I, too, will run with horses.