Thursday, September 3, 2015

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ATHEIST PASTOR

In Toronto, there is presently a case of an atheist pastor who is facing a church trial for her suitability for ministry with the United Church of Canada. Rev. Gretta Vosper[1] is the minister of West Hill United Church. Here is a quote from their website.



In order to gain insight and wisdom, we actively seek out diverse resources that may inspire us or challenge our perspectives. We find inspiration in ancient and contemporary sources drawn from the arts, sciences and humanities. We regard all explanations of life and historical claims as human and, so, fallible, understanding that all ideas are formed in particular historical, cultural and personal contexts.  Therefore, we consider no text, tradition, organization or person to be inherently authoritative, assessing all resources on their own merit.[2]

While the UCC is generally recognized for its inclusion, often-liberal theology and a good emphasis on social justice, Gretta Vosper, the self-identified atheist presents a challenge for those in their ranks who believe that a church should be led by a Christ follower.

It would appear that Gretta’s congregation and many others of a similar mind may see the value of what the Scriptures bring to the table, but certainly not as a foundation on which to build their lives. They would see many philosophies and ideas from which to gain wisdom and that one should not be imposed over another. At its core, this is humanism placing humanity as the pinnacle of truth, not the God revealed in the Bible and in the person of Jesus.

Gretta Vosper has appealed the charges against her (though not renouncing her atheism.)

Atheists and agnostics do not share our high view of the Scriptures. While they may have respect for it as ancient literature or a moral treatise, they certainly bail out on viewing it as an indicator of God’s existence. Their minds settled that God does not exist (or is not likely to exist); the book becomes just a book. Our experience is simply circular reasoning in their minds. If however, they are wrong about God, their superior sense of reasoning will be a futile and a costly error in judgment.

If we as Christ followers are to believe in the God that Scripture reveals, we will hold a high view of the Scriptures through which our God is revealed. In discussing the idea of Christian meditation, we have stressed the importance of the Scriptures as the reservoir of Truth from which we fill our minds.

John Stott writes:

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behaviour.” [3]

Does the Word of God do that in your life? Scripture cannot really confront us or change our mind unless we have a high view of its authority to speak to our condition. If it is just another idea to play with, then it will decrease in its usefulness for guiding us to God. We will wander every road as a tourist and never find a spiritual home.





[3] John R.W. Stott, The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations, Westminster John Knox Press, p.19

Monday, August 31, 2015

TOO MANY VOICES


There is an abundance of opinionated voices telling us what’s wrong, what to believe and why. If you’re like me, you find yourself listening with some apprehension and suspicion to the rants and laments of religious and secular culture.




This is not new with our generation. Jesus spoke to his time and said,


John 10:
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 


In meditation with the Scriptures and the presence of Holy Spirit, we practice voice recognition. We sift out the thoughts that originate from other places. We experience the revelation of Jesus Christ with wisdom that brings us to life.

Paul talked to the church in Corinth about this phenomenon of hearing too many other voices.


1 Corinthians 4:
15 You may have 10,000 instructors in the faith of the Anointed One, but you have only one father. In Jesus the Anointed I have become your father through my efforts in spreading the good news. 16 So as your father in the faith, I want to encourage you to live as I have lived. Imitate my life. 17 This is one of the reasons I sent Timothy to be with you. He is my dearly loved and faithful child in the Lord. His mission is to remind you of the way I experience life in the Anointed. In all the churches everywhere I go, I teach the same lessons the same way, and I live out those lessons.
(The Voice)


Who are you listening to? You may hear 10,000 ideas and opinions but you will know when you hear the truth that brings you to life and leads you to grow. Let’s practice the mind of Christ as we process our lives. What wisdom and truth do you need to face the wilderness challenges of living in 2015?

Listen for God’s voice.



Friday, August 28, 2015

THE PERMEATED LIFE


Jesus was permeated with the Word of God. We can practice biblical meditation with most of the same factors in Jesus’ life. Let me illustrate with the analogy of a cup of tea. Picture a clear glass cup.



In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture.

Hearing God's Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea's flavour is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag.

Reading, studying, and memorizing God's Word is like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more permeating its effect.

Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavour has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown.

Meditation on Scripture is letting the Bible brew in the brain. Thus we might say that as the tea colours the water, meditation likewise "colours" our thinking. When we meditate on Scripture it colours our thinking about God, about God's ways and his world, and about ourselves.[1]

Could we say that this is simply a combination of passionate study and human discipline? What’s the difference between being permeated with the Scriptures or the works of Shakespeare?

When Paul is teaching the church in Corinth, he takes them beyond just a zealous, book learning approach when it comes to the wisdom of God. Scholarship and tradition are not enough to comprehend God’s message. Holy Spirit must be our teacher—our private tutor if you will.


1 Corinthians 2:
13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.


It is the involvement of Holy Spirit in our life that takes us into experiencing the mind of Christ. We can actually think thoughts that resonate with how Jesus thought. Think about it! Christian meditation with the Scriptures takes the message of God and creates a dialogue with Holy Spirit where we are imparted wisdom.

If you have experienced this, you know that God speaks through the Scriptures and has a recognizable voice. In meditation we discern the voice of the Good Shepherd.


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