"Test all things"
1 Thessalonians. 5:21
There are many people with some desire to be religious, but not enough desire to dig in to read and study the Bible. Many of these just find a man, a preacher, and trust him. Whatever he says, they depend upon; he is their "man of God," in a sense beyond the biblical. They believe what he says; trust his answers to every question, resting the salvation of their souls in him. They still read and study the Bible some, but always take his word.
Not a good idea because no man is infallible. Regardless of how much you love someone, that affection does not make them infallible. Men may prove themselves to be educated, eloquent, charming and able to fill buildings with people. Yet they remain fallible, capable of error.
Those in Berea searched the Scriptures daily, to see if what they were hearing was true to God's Word (Acts 17:11).
John and Peter both warned of false teachers, and Jesus said they may come to us in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15; 1 Jno. 4:1; 2 Pet. 2:1). John said our duty is to "test the spirits," and Paul said: "Test everything. Hold on to the good." (1 Thess. 5:21).
There is one body of religious instruction that should govern all that we believe, teach and practice. That is, the Word of God. Nothing should be accepted as true; nothing should be practiced or recommended – unless it is taught in the Word of God. Each individual must take this obligation seriously.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 10.7; July 2003
The above certainly applies to anything we say or post here at The Christian Left as well. We are fallible human beings.
The above was the very first Facebook note on this page. It still holds true and it always will. If you ever get bent out of shape over something we say, don't say we didn't warn you. It's your job to discover the truth. We're only fellow travelers.
by John R. Coats
My maternal grandparents lived in a small northeast-Texas town with a communal zeitgeist more aboriginal than modern. Everyone believed. "Is there really a God?" would have been as silly a question as "Is there really air?" While separation of church and state was non-negotiable -- no one would tell them what to believe -- that was not to say that individual or community life should, or even could, be divided between secular and religious spheres. The Psalmist had said it, "Wherever I go, You are there," and even the town's worst sinners knew that God (both a Protestant and a dead ringer for Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel rendition) was watching, listening, judging their every thought and action, that Judgment Day was coming, and that redemption, so long as they could draw a breath, was never more than a prayer away.
Sunday mornings brought Sunday school followed by a church service, about three hours in all. After a quiet afternoon came Training Union followed by another service. Wednesday nights were for Prayer Meeting, a service that, like the first two, came complete with Bible readings and a sermon. Summer revivals meant one or more services per day, these delivered with the revivalist's particular, sometimes peculiar, nuance of evangelical showmanship. More than half of every summer of my childhood was immersed in that river of old-time religion with its certainty that Jesus would come again at the end of time. Yet from all the prayers, all the Bible readings and lessons, all those sermons, and all the hammering about sin, final judgment, and the fires of Hell, I have no memory of anyone mentioning anything called "the Rapture."
In fact, before 1830, no one had heard that "[i]n one cataclysmic moment, millions around the globe disappear," or that "those left behind, terror stricken, are desperate to determine what happened," which is what you'll find on the back cover of Tribulation, volume two of the Left Behind series. Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, along with the likes of Hal Lindsay, the late Jerry Falwell and others, are proponents of the work of English clergyman John Nelson Darby. It was around 1830 that Darby, having selected scripture passages from Daniel, Revelation, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and elsewhere, pasted them together, called them a whole, and invented the Rapture, a word not found in the Bible.
While Darby's ideas found little traction in Great Britain, they received a predictably strong reception when he toured the States between 1859 and 1877. But it was Cyrus Scofield who kept Darby and his ideas from falling through the cracks of history. A follower of Darby and, apparently, an avid note-taker, Scofield made his study notes into Biblical annotations for what became The Scofield Reference Bible, a bestseller in early-twentieth-century America that is still in publication.
The narrative is pretty straightforward: We live in the End Times. Soon, on a day when the world situation has become so critical that it could blow at any moment, Jesus appears in the sky, visible only to right-believing Christians who, in an instant, are bodily beamed up to be with him. Driverless cars, vans, pickups, semis, buses and other vehicles suddenly careen out of control (hence the bumper sticker that reads, "In case of the Rapture, this car will be unmanned"), and pilotless airplanes crash. What follows is seven years of Tribulation, with its earthquakes, plagues, famines, wars and the rise of a charismatic, power-happy, and murderous Antichrist (all of which might leave even the most casual observer of the first decade of our new millennium to wonder how we'd tell the difference). Finally, Christ returns a second time, defeats the Antichrist and reigns over the earth for 1,000 years.
Out of favor during the middle decades of the twentieth century, Rapture advocates, also known as Dispensationalists and Premillennialists, now are center-stage in American life and government. In his book God and Empire, Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan writes, "The full Rapture program cannot be readily dismissed ... [because] ... there are very specific connotations to American foreign policy in the volatile Middle East." Why the Middle East? Because Rapturephiles believe that their moment will not come until just before the final conflagration between the Jews and the Arabs. So Middle East hatreds and violence must be allowed, even encouraged, to escalate to the point of no return. Moreover, since the Rapture is God's plan, any attempt at peacemaking, such as the current Middle East peace talks, which Secretary of State Clinton frames in terms of a "last chance" for peace, are against God's will. But not the invasion of Iraq, nor any future action intended to drive the Middle East -- and the world -- to the brink, and over.
To the observer, the ironies can be overwhelming. However, having myself stood at the door of true-believerism, I know how its self-absorption can mask the ironies obvious to others. Take, for instance, my copy of The Scofield Reference Bible. It's a red-letter edition (the words of Jesus are printed in red), the irony hiding behind the realities of Rapture theology, which has little to do with the teachings and actions of Jesus. Where he voiced a radical vision of a humanity founded on the dual principles of agape (love) and koinonia (communion), Left Behind theology seems to be more of a Save Your Behind theology, one in which Jesus is more of a shill, a name appropriated in hopes of gaining legitimacy.
So, what's real about the Rapture? Its roots are in the nineteenth-century rebellion against Modernity with its scientific rationalism. Beneath the glare of uber-left-brain logic, the stories and myths that had carried the larger truths about being human in an overwhelming, frightening, awe-filled universe were declared to be nonsense -- which is nonsense, and begged an equal and opposite reaction, which came in the declaration that the Bible was literally true -- every word. The idea of the Rapture, then, is Modernity's shadow, the unexpected, unscientific, and nonrational child of the rationalism that made it inevitable. Its adherents don't care that its Biblical evidence comes from pasted-together passages written by different authors at different times in history. To them, inside their belief system, it is a coherent narrative that is to be followed to the letter.
And therein lies the problem. We are all living witnesses to what religious true-believers are willing to do to the rest of us. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center stood ready to burn the Quran regardless of the consequences, which promised to be bloody. Thankfully, they didn't go through with it, but others did, and still others will. Should the more sophisticated but equally zealous advocates of a Middle-East-cum-worldwide holocaust gain sufficient voice in the making of American foreign policy, we may discover that questions about the flux of history that delivered us to this point, or whether the Rapture can be defended Biblically, or the ongoing banter about who's crazy and who's not, have become irrelevant. We could say, then, that the realest thing about the Rapture is that it's an idea with the potential for making the earth into a graveyard.
Originally published here.
John R. Coats is the author of “Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters.” He holds master's degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary and Bennington College Writing Seminars. A former Episcopal priest, he was a principal speaker and seminar leader for the More To Life training program in the United States, Great Britain, and South Africa, and an independent management consultant. He’s married and live in Houston.
His heritage is Southern Baptist, but it was in a Roman Catholic church that, in the fall of 1958, a few months after his twelfth birthday, he had what was either an “ecstatic” experience or “probably an allergic reaction to the incense.” It was a split second in his six and a half decades, yet the man he’s become, and all that he’s done in his professional life--parish priest, speaker and trainer for an international foundation, management consultant, writer--can be traced back to that moment. These fifty-plus years later, he still don't understand what happened, but what followed from it has been quite a ride so far.
For more information please visit www.JohnRCoats.com
Kicking off at 8:15 this morning, Kathy Chambers and “Clergy for Justice” along with “Gideon's Army” gathered in response to Sen. Campfield's “Starve the Children” legislation, which will be up for vote on the Senate floor today. They met in front of the lower/main entrance to Legislative Plaza (6th ave side/6th and union) and left promptly from there at 8:15 to go inside Legislative Plaza.
They gathered outside the Senate chambers and awaited the arrival of the Gideon's Army Children's Choir and the State Senators. When they arrive, they will join with the children in several songs.
The children will be presenting the online petition with 2,500+ signatures from Tennesseans to Sen. Campfield as he comes out of a meeting, then they will walk with him to the Senate chambers. With any luck, many the senators should arrive around the same time, as they'll be leaving a meeting and walking together.
We will update this article as the day goes on, adding more information as we learn it and more photos as they come in.
An anonymous source informed us on Tuesday that a group Nashville reverends, preachers, and priests came to the office of each member of the Tennessee General Assembly on Monday to protest Sen. Campfield’s anti-poor agenda and the state's rejection of Obamacare. They dropped off two loafs of bread and 5 paper fish in every office. Each fish had a different bible verse calling on the members to help the poor and fund health care.
After we posted the news on our Facebook page we soon learned that the group responsible for organizing the demonstration is called "Clergy for Justice."
15 faith leaders from across the state delivered a total 133 baskets of loaves and fish with a letter signed by almost 100 clergy and faith leaders, calling Medicaid expansion “not only the right thing to do, it’s the moral and faithful thing to do.” The letter and names of the signatories are displayed at the bottom of this article.
Here are some of the reactions on our Facebook page:
"That is Christian activism. God truly bless each one of them." -- Vickie Bligh
"This Christianity I can live with, the type I was taught." -- Americo Nonini
"Finally some Christianity at work, instead of Right-Wing 'Self-Righteousness' !!" -- Donald Jecker
"So, dear Christians, could each of you go visit your own local leaders and let them know that you want them to follow Christ instead of the GOP? They need to know." -- Tina Bennett
"This is wonderful to hear. So often the faith community turns to the right which is not what Jesus had in mind. Thanks for the news." -- Barbara Mathieson
"I wonder how long it will take for these politicians to get the hint. We've had the "nuns on the bus" traveling to spread the word of the need for humanitarian works and now preachers lobbying against the extreme right. Good job!" -- Janice Henschel
"Go thou and do likewise...in Raleigh!" -- Don Saunders
"You mean this happened in my state....that's amazing!!! And unexpected!" -- Stephanie Hill Mumpower
"For once! I'm so sick of the Dominionist biblical revisionist garbage that says 'God loves the rich, and you're rich because you're better than everyone else.'" -- Brad Hunziker
"There are no words to describe how very much I love this!" -- Kathy Fairbanks Parker
"About time the clergy stepped up and did what their jobs." -- Rose McGuire
"They should do that in the Ohio legislature also!" -- Gloria Zebbs Anderson
"Absolutely Brilliant! It's nice to know there's some decent clergy and pastors left." -- Dana Norris
"This is great... Lets see if religious leaders in other states do something similar!" -- Nan A. Canter
"This should be done in every state." -- Sharon Casto
Needless to say, we'd like to see this kind of Christian activism sweep across the country. These are the actions Jesus was talking about when he said, "Go, and do likewise." Christianity has fallen away from its mission over the last 30 years. It's time to for it to return to its roots.
Naysayers say "none of this is the government's job." They're wrong. We recommend the following article: "Individual Charity Isn't Enough."
The complete letter. Please excuse the fragmented appearance. These are screen captures of a PDF:
You'd think you were trying to follow Jesus or something!
Matthew 22:37-40 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Matthew 7:12 Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Mark 10:43-45 Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of ALL. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
John 13:14-15 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.