Monthly Archives: March 2014

Fundamentalism (Part 2 of many)

The Bible is inerrant. Everything written is factual truth, every word, sentence, account, number, date, and sequence of events…

In Fundamentalism, the Bible is the ultimate authority.

I regard the Bible as the God’s Word, the ultimate authority.

It is not the Bible itself. It is how the person who uses the Bible.

I have no disagreement that the Bible is God’s Word. First of all, the Bible is not one book. It is a collection of literature, mainly Jewish literature. It consists of poetry, history, foretelling visions, warnings, letters, etc. Above all, the Almighty God used people to manually write, compose, and transcript the material. There are many helpful resources to show the canonicity of the Bible. I will not bore myself in discussing it here.

II Timothy 3:16 – 17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Usually, this is the proof text for the inerrancy of the Bible.

“It is God-breathed.” It does not mean that the Book fell from heaven. Over forty men wrote it over a two thousand year time span.

“It is God-breathed.” It does not mean those writers simply acted like court stenographers. Each piece of literature shows its own individual style, target audience, emotion, agenda, and cultural influence…

First of all, the Bible is not written in English. The Old Testament is mostly written in Hebrew. A few chapters in the prophecies of Ezra and Daniel and one verse in Jeremiah were written in a language called Aramaic. Aramaic was a common spoken language in Jesus time. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic. Some Aramaic words were used in the New Testament. The New Testament was written in Greek.

Since the authors of the New Testament were all Jewish, why did they use Greek? Greek was the predominant language at the time in that part of the world. The authors used Greek simply because it was the way they communicate in written form, even they might speak Aramaic. Many Jews could not even read Hebrew anymore. The Old Testament was translated into Greek called the Septuagint, and were widely used in synagogues.[1]

The English Bible is only one of the many translations from the ancient manuscripts. Here lies one of the basic complications. No translation can extract the full meaning of the authors’ original intent. Even if the translators do their best to extrapolate the meaning of the manuscripts; there are other factors to consider.

In the Old Testament, many of the sources are oral traditions. Stories were told from generations to generations. The transmission could be accurate, but the information flow was targeted to the generation of the time so they could learn lessons with regards to their God, nation, ethics, law, etc. It was not told with the intent of teaching science, mathematics, geology, or topics that were not even invented.

As I am trying to learn more about God through the Bible, I target on the lessons I can extract from the writings. I believe the intent of the author is the key to understand the Word of God.

 

[1] http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/bible-faqs/in-what-language-was-the-bible-first-written/


Distraction (Part 1 of many)

Distractions come and go. I was trying to write my part two of Fundamentalism. I noticed that another news item showed up. I do not call it a detour but this a consequence of fundamentalism.

World Vision USA reversed its hiring policy on same-sex marriages. It first announced on March 24, 2014 that it will no longer recognize only heterosexual marriages in its employee code of conduct, and that those in same-sex marriages will now be equally accepted. Then on March 26, 2014, two days later, World Vision USA took a U-turn on its policy.

As a Canadian, I know nothing about employment law in the US. In Canada, employers are not allowed to discriminate against sexual orientation. I do not think this policy could be applied in Canada. World Vision Canada quickly published a statement on their web site. I am glad I am Canadian.

If World Vision USA was trying to take a neutral stand on homosexuality, it failed catastrophically. The condemnations towards World Vision USA for hiring homosexuals are harsh and furious. Christianity Today reported George O. Wood, the general superintendent of the Assembly of God stated, “World Vision’s policy change now puts them at odds with our beliefs regarding sexual morality.” A web site reported that up to 2000 Christians withdrew their financial support. This is series. Franklin Graham was pleased with the reversal and he called for “Three cheers”.

In my previous post, I mentioned that the Fundamentalists tried to live in the straight and narrow, no alternatives. The world according to them is very narrow. One can only hire the narrowly like-minded people. Here comes the problem.

The real world is never narrow. How can World Vision USA guarantee that all people that they hire, including their contractors and sub-contractors have no homosexuals? These people include farmers, factory workers, pilots, translators, parcel handlers, cleaners, janitors, assistants… How can World Vision USA enforce this hiring policy?

Whatever World Vision chooses to do, it angers all sides. If I understand it correctly, World Vision is supposed to help the poor around the globe. What does withdrawing financial help accomplish? It definitely will not help the poor. It does not turn any gay person into heterosexual either.

What is the outcome of this binary thinking? They take their stand. Everyone gets hurt.


Fundamentalism (Part 1 of many)

Fundamentalism is a fearful term.

It promotes binary thinking. The conclusion can only be black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, us and them, secular and spiritual, good and bad…

For some, life is simple. The conclusion has already been made. There is nothing wrong with making a conclusion. It is the nature of the conclusion. Once the decision is made, it cannot be changed no matter what, no exception or in between.

The process of reaching the conclusion is also questionable. In order to reach a conclusion, the fundamentalists need a foundation to build their argument.

We all need a foundation or reasoning structure to build any argument. For Fundamentalists, their foundation is a particular interpretation of the Bible. I have no problem with the Bible. In fact, I love the Bible. I believe the Bible the Word of God. Well, this is where the similarity between my belief and the Fundamentalist ends.

This is how I see the process of reasoning of Fundamentalist.

This is the fundamental of the Fundamentalists.

The Bible is authority, ultimate authority. Strictly following the (interpretation of the Fundamentalists) directives of the Bible means the path to heaven. Otherwise, it is a direct path to hell, not good.

This is the ultimate binary thinking, heaven or hell. Hell instills the fear of eternal damnation.

  • Hell is final, no way out.
  • Hell means continuous brutal torture of the worst kind, and then more.
  • Hell is forever, never ending, and permanent.

The fear of hell is an extremely powerful motivating factor. The fear of hell indoctrinates the followers of Fundamentalist to live in the straight and narrow. Narrow it is. There is just no alternative.

Under this pretense, those who accept their narrow interpretation will go to heaven. Those who do not, may be only slightly different interpretation, will definitely go to hell. One does not only have to do the right thing, but they have to believe in the right thing. “Right” as the Fundamentalists define it. Those who believe and do the “right” thing will enjoy the eternal reward of gold pavement in and bliss in heaven. The “non-believers” are forever suffering from eternal torture next door in hell.  Can I change t he channel please?

This mentality dictates the worldview of the person. How do they view gender issues, sexuality, science, physical universe, history, arts and literature, national and international politics, cultural issues, etc.

I will try to write more on other beliefs of Fundamentalists in other days.


Consumerism

On the issue of consumerism:

A general definition of consumerism is “the belief that it is good for people to spend a lot of money on goods and services” or “the actions of people who spend a lot of money on goods and services”. [i] In most world phenomena, there are positive and negative sides of consumerism.

On the positive side:

  • It increases productivity and efficiency. Society can focus on what the market wants and needs. It minimizes the over-production of goods and services that are no longer relevant.
  • It encourages innovation and creativity. Since society is changing at a rapid pace, goods and service providers have to innovate in order to keep up with the demand. The society as a whole becomes more efficient.

On the negative side:

  • It is competitive. Since the consumer has the power to choose, those goods and services that are not chosen will eventually be deemed obsolete. It creates an accelerated “product cycle”. When the product cycle of the goods and services is near the end, a new cycle of goods and services must be created to facilitate the never-ending demand. Those providers who cannot innovate and satisfy the requirements of the new cycle will be eliminated.
  • It generates a never-ending desire and waste. The consumers are always looking for newer features. The existing goods may still be functional; they will be casted out as waste.
  • It minimizes commitment. Since the consumers are always looking for something better, they will abandon any providers without prior notice.

How does consumerism impact church leadership?

Consumerism is a phenomenon. It is neither good nor evil. Humankind has used consumerism to improve their livelihood. That is the reason we live in houses now instead of caves. We can even argue that it created the middle class and our motivation for advancement. These are some items of which we need to be aware.

  • There is no more brand loyalty. There no longer any “life long” Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Catholics… When one searches for any reason to stay or attend a church, denominational affiliation is not a major concern. Denomination, doctrine, and history of the church organization matter little on the checklist. The response of younger people is, “I am a Christian who happens to worship in XXXXX church.” He / she looks for the “services” the organization can provide. The major question one would ask? “Here are my needs. What can this organization provide to meet them?”
  • These are some possible items on the checklist:
    • Good youth, children’s program, child care
    • Good men’s, women’s or family programs.
    • Uplifting message
    • Life-cycle-relevant teachings and relationships
      • Stress management
      • Networking opportunities
      • Helping hand when needed
      • Exchange of ideas
  • Transparent and accountable leadership.  Can the leaders articulate logical, reasonable and legitimate reasons for their arguments and directions for their decisions? The arguments “God told me so” or “The Spirit told me to do it” will not hold water. ALL processes and decisions have to be fully communicated to the congregation.
  • For life-long denominationalists, stressing the brand name or tradition as Bible-believing Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, etc. will be a turn-off rather than an advantage. Responsible leaders need to concentrate on the present needs of the congregation. Formal and informal surveys have to be taken at regular intervals using scientific quantitative statistical methods to reflect the real needs of the congregation.
  • The leadership has to ride on the crest of the trend. There is no lifetime commitment to an organization. The congregants are committed as long as their needs are satisfied.
  • Integrity and honesty of leadership is key. The doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture wears thin compared with any cover-up of scandals. Coming clean, genuine apologies, and transparent checks and balances are more important than good doctrine.  (i.e. “My life is too short to stay around and wait for you to clean up your act. There are plenty of other churches that hold similar views. I’m not going to waste my energy and time.”) They are not necessarily “non-committal”; they are committed to making sure their goals are achieved and needs are met. They will not waste time or energy on distractions such as financial irregularities, sexual scandals, doctrinal disputes, lack of meaningful service opportunities, etc. They will walk away from the organization.
  • Change is inevitable and swift and no one enjoys it. The only people who like change are babies with dirty diapers. Managing change takes courage and foresight.

– By James Lai, March 23, 2014