Thursday, August 20, 2009

Religious Pragmatism

I read this quote somewhere:

'A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.'

While I don't necessarily agree to this (at least not in all the cases), I would probably agree to a slightly modified version of it:

A great many people think they are "proving" when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

Once my Mom told me, if you want you can prove that there isn't any God, using Bible verses. She is not a philosopher and I am pretty sure she heard it from someone else. But there is some truth in it.

Often times people go into the mode of 'proving' AFTER making up their mind. They confront others in an effort to make them buy their ideas while using Bible as a means. "Bible says so...", so I believe. A good example would be, today's churches using verses from the book of Malachi to establish the practice of tithing.

They search Scriptures after making up their minds. They find verses which support what they want to believe. It is like writing the story of the movie after fixing the actors.

This is exactly the mindset behind the religious pragmatism. They think truth is whatever works. If I get results it has to be good. Tithing works, it gives results, so it should be good. The next step is simple: find verses supporting it. "Law" works, it gives immediate results, so it should be good, then follow the simple step of finding the verses. Universalism sounds good, lets find verses supporting it!

To quote AW Tozer on this, he says it like this:

...Preoccupation with appearances and a corresponding neglect of the out-of-sight root of the true spiritual life are prophetic signs which go unheeded. Immediate "results" are all that matter, quick proofs of present success without a thought of next week or next year. Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure...

The sad part is, the results (success) achieved through these practices are merely external. It gratifies only feelings, emotions, insecurities, appearances and our superstitious fears. It isn't good for setting people free, instead it puts them into much bondage. It encourages people to fake.

Ask a Catholic, he would say he 'feel' good when he attend a Mass. So it should be good and spiritual. The thing is everything that feels good is not spiritual. Even, not all good things are spiritual. Everything that 'works' isn't spiritual either. Anything to be called as spiritual, it has to be based on some absolute, unmoving TRUTH. Such absolute truth is not of this world because this world and the people in it are not absolute and unmoving. What works today may not work tomorrow. Everything changes - culture, moral standards, ethics, climate, economy, technology, theology, religion and pretty much everything.

Churches have found a lot of things 'working' and made it into traditions - altar calls, tithing, pastoral authority, organizational structure, pew and pulpit system and all that.

God's grace is a contradiction to 'practical theology'. Grace isn't practical in human terms. It is the impracticality what makes it grace. If it was practical, why call it grace? This is where I have problem when people say God's grace enables them to obey the law. What an oxymoronic statement! You might feel good when you think you are obeying the law. But pls. don't mix grace with your stupidity. Grace is grace! You cannot comprehend it with your dumb mind. You can live in it if you have the mind of Christ.

Yes, it is a fact that our puny brain cannot understand God's grace. I think it is a good thing, because grace was never meant to be understood with our head. Grace is against everything our head want to believe. Our head is so very practical. Grace is totally contrary to any human logic.

It's a heart thing. It's a God thing.

And it comes to our heart through REVELATION. Our heart can accept an impractical/illogical thing only through revelation, not through education. So lets lean on God so that He will reveal this thing called grace, and once you have it, you can pretty much live the rest of your life in total amazement, with an overflowing heart of gratitude towards God. That is what Christian life is all about. It defiles human intelligence.


Ike said...

All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God. ~John Wesley~

Ike said...

“Cheap grace is the enemy of the church. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth . . . an intellectual assent to that idea is held to be sufficient to secure remission of sins. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance. . . grace without discipleship, grace without a cross . . . Costly grace is the gospel . . . It is costly because it costs a man his life, and grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his son . . . it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God . . . When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

introvertgirl said...

Thanks Bino, this is great. I think Darin Hufford put it another way, that we bring to the Bible what is already in our hearts, and interpret accordingly. I agree. One more example of how the American church tries to spiritualize instant gratification and quick results.

Leonard said...

Attention Bino's blogging buddies, today is Friday august 21st. otherwise known as Bino's Birthday.
Happy Birthday old man... wishing Punchys Papa the best birthday ever.

Jamie said...

Grace was NOT cheap. My savior wears the scars to prove it.

We cheapen it by trying to EARN IT!

Great post, Bino.

Anonymous said...

Bino M. said...

Ike -

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance.

I disagree. I think it is when we tie repentance (or anything) as a means for forgiveness, we cheapen grace.

Forgiveness was provided for the entire world, without ANY condition.

He loved us WHILE we were yet enemies...

That is the awesomeness of God's grace. It's UNconditional and it makes it illogical to a human mind.

Bino M. said...

Amy - Thanks! I agree.

Leonard - You are a true friend :)

Jamie - We cheapen it by trying to earn it. Well said!

centrality of gospel - It was never about what a particular denomination is doing. If we put our faith in denomination, that particular denomination is going to control us. If we put faith in a particular person/thing, that person/thing is going to control us. It's bondage.

But when we put our faith in Jesus, Jesus is going to control us - and that is Freedom!

Ike said...

I can also agree that forgiveness was provided for the entire world without any conditions. That is, Christ death on the cross is sufficient for all people, but it is only effective for those who believe. In this case, we exchange our sin for Christ's righteousness and have our sins forgiven by faith (Romans 4 & II Cor.5:21). We are not in a right standing or relationship with God until Christ's work on the cross is applied to our lives. This application of Christ's work on the cross takes place in time, in the individuals life.

In saying this, there are "conditions" man must meet in order to procure the forgiveness of sins and enjoy eternal life. For example: In Acts chapter 2:37-39, the crowd was cut to the heart by Peter's preaching and asked what they must do to receive forgiveness. Notice that Peter did not tell the crowd "do nothing, there are no conditions". Instead, Peter told the crowd that they must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins...and this promise of forgiveness is for everyone, even those who are far off. Likewise, the Philippians Jailer in Acts 16:30 asked the Apostle Paul "what must I do to be saved?". Again, Paul did not respond by telling the Jailer that "there are no conditions". Instead, he told this man that he had to meet the condition of faith (or belief). Over and over again, Scripture call's people to turn from their sin and turn to Christ for salvation.

Augustine famously said, "Grant what You command, and command what You will". In other word's, the "conditions" that God requires for sinful man to receive forgiveness of sins and enjoy a right relationship with Christ.... God Himself gives to fallen man as a gift. Repentance & faith (which are conditions for receiving forgiveness) are also gifts from God. They are part of the salvation Christ has provided for us. They are certainly not something fallen man is capable of doing on his own (John 6:44, 65). Your coming to Christ (a condition for receiveing forgivness) is a gift of God's grace. God has enabled you to repent and believe by grace.

Bino M. said...

Ike - I agree to the fact that the forgiveness provided for us on the cross has no meaning to you and me unless we apply faith in what Jesus did and receive Him for our salvation.

I think where we both disagree is that you are implying that salvation is nothing but getting our sins forgiven. But I am saying forgiveness is just a pre-requisite to salvation. (this is not to say that forgiveness isn't important) But salvation itself is receiving the LIFE Jesus offered. When we receive Jesus, we receive His resurrected LIFE, which resurrects us from the state of our (spiritual) death (a state we inherited from Adam).

Wages of sin is DEATH. We see that in the garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, they DIED.
What does a dead person need? LIFE!

But in order for us to receive the LIFE and being alive to God (born again), Christ had to deal with the CAUSE of death, which is SIN. He did that through his one time sacrifice for the entire world. Thereby, making the entire world capable of receiving the life they don't have (which they lost in Adam).

So, forgiveness is not salvation. Forgiveness enables us to go boldly to God and receive His Life.

Jesus said, "I have come so that you may have LIFE". What life is he talking about? The life we lost in Adam. He (the second Adam) came to give us just that.

The problem we have in Christianity today, most Christians don't even know what salvation is. They think salvation is getting their sins forgiven. Well, the issue is they are still DEAD!!! What is the solution to death? Life!